Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmas Bingo

A wonderful, worthwhile re-post. Enjoy!

A few weeks ago, I went to Basketball Bingo. It was a fundraiser for the high school basketball team, and the prizes were giftcards to local stores and restaurants. I didn't win anything, but it reminded me how much everyone loves a good game of chance.

Recently my younger son brought to my attention that he didn't feel like it was "Christmas." He misses my older daughter being excited with him to find Stanley (our elf) and he feels like everything is rushed. Now that his sister is in Junior High, she's gone for school before he even wakes up.  

And let's just say he doesn't have the same bond with his younger sister. Finding Stanley with her would involve much bickering and maybe even some tears.

I can tell he misses his older siblings being home and being as excited about Santa as they used to be. There is a difference in Christmas when there are less "believers" in the house.  We still rejoice over the true meaning of Christmas, and we still bake cookies and decorate the house. We've watched a few family movies, and we've donated gifts to needy families. 

There just isn't that chitter chatter about Santa's workshop and the reindeer.  It's different for sure. And while I explained to my son that Christmas is in your heart, and you have to work to keep that magic alive, I understand where he's coming from.

To get some excitement back into the house, I decided to set up Christmas BINGO tonight. I printed cards (you can find them free at Crazy Little Projects) and I bought some small and simple prizes.  I set out candy bars, Christmas socks, dollar bills, small toys and $1 scratchies. Christmas music was on, and the kids happily gathered around the table to play.

There was a catch as well.  After your first win, if you won again you had to gift the prize to another player. After all players had a prize, you could choose your own again unless you had two wins in a row.  A consecutive win meant gifting your next prize.

Tis the season of giving.

Tonight, it was all about Christmas Bingo. It was time we slowed down and had fun together, and tonight we did both.  There was no television or video games; after dinner we cleaned up and set up BINGO. The kids laughed and cracked jokes,and they knew for certain wins they had to gift their prizes.

And there were no complaints. They even were happy to let their sibling come up and pick their own prize. I felt the night was exactly what we needed.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week of family time and memory making!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Homemade Turkey Pins!

I've been on the go so much I have literally abandoned my blog. It's a sad sight, posts are weeks apart. I'll do better. I promise. 

The shocking news is that November is here.  Like a punch in the face.  I've been suckered into Hallmark Christmas movies already and I'm on the hunt for this season's must have toy.  It's called a Hatchimal.  And I can't find the f*cker anywhere.

With holidays on the brain, I'm posting one of my all time favorite crafts for Thanksgiving.  

Turkey Pins.  
My daughter made these what seems like forever ago, and we sold them for $1/piece at Thanksgiving (my kids are little entrepreneurs...nothing is free).  She made a few dollars and I still have my pin in my jewelry box.  They are totes adorbs and super festive.  A huge bonus is you can use old cereal boxes and you only need to purchase a few small things to finish them up. 

If you start prepping now this can be an activity your kids can work on these this weekend.  You can then  A. sell the pins to family at Thanksgiving B. Give them freely on Thanksgiving C. Use for classmates and/or teacher gifts.

You decide. 

Unless you stockpile craft supplies, you will need to purchase two items for this craft:

Googly eyes and adhesive pins.

Along with your googly eyes and adhesive pins, gather:

Empty cereal boxes
Two different sized bottle caps (I used a cap from an Iced Tea Jug and one from a beer.  Classy.)
Glue
Scissors
Pen for tracing


Trace caps onto cereal box.  There was no method to my madness other than to vary the colors for each circle.  I was aiming for colorful pins.

Have your munchkin cut out the circles.  Separate large and smaller circles.
If you are anything like me, you will take over circle cutting after about five minutes.  I then assigned my munchkin feather snipping duty on LARGER circles.  Snip lines 1/2 way around circle to make feathers.


While munchkin is feather snipping, find a yellow part of cereal box and snip out triangular beaks.


Paste smaller circle on top of larger one, towards bottom (away from feathers).  Hand turkey to munchkin to glue on beaks.



While glue is setting, trace several more smaller circles, and cut them in half for wings.  Set aside pairs of googly eyes.


Paste wings in place on sides, underneath smaller circle (away from feathers).  Slightly tuck edges under smaller circle to help hold them in place.

Hand almost finished turkey to your munchkin for googly eye placement.

Making certain turkey is right side up and that pin is going directly across back, peel adhesive off pin and stick to back of turkeys.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Confessions and Realizations

I have a confession.  I’m always more focused on what I could have done rather than on all the things I do every day.  It haunts me.  I go to bed thinking about what I still need to do, what I didn’t do that I should have, and what I could have done better.

I was leaving the house yesterday disappointed in myself that I didn’t heat up raviolis for my two youngest before leaving with my older daughter.  I had to ask my husband to prepare their dinner.  This is not a huge deal, by any means.  Hubby is capable of warming up dinner.  Yet I still felt this pang that I could have done it for them. 

Regardless of the fact that I signed homework, cleaned two bathrooms, switched laundry and got the dogs out – all between 3:40 and 4:25 – I was still disappointed in myself.

Where does this come from?  This need to do everything and be everything?  We all need to let go of this desire to do it all.  It’s impossible.  There is only so much time in a day and some of that time we deserve to rest.

Rest.  What a beautiful word.

I realized as I pulled out of my drive yesterday I was beating myself up over raviolis.  The kids were fine.  The bathrooms were clean.  The house was standing and their dad was perfectly capable of heating the ravioli.

Did I get complaints about the ravioli later?  Minimal.  Dad didn’t put enough Parmesan cheese on one and the other had too much.

But everyone survived.  And I realized I need to cheer myself on for all the good stuff I do every day. So much of my self worth comes from what I do for everyone else.  I crave happiness for my kids and I’ll go to the ends of the Earth to give them happiness.  Even if it comes in the form of raviolis.

But the kicker is by letting them experience things on their own, or differently than what they’re used to, I’m teaching them resilience.  I’m giving them tools to be out in the world.  I know this and it’s a work in progress.

It’s what I teach them to do for themselves that will make them successful well-adjusted adults.   I can’t do it all, and I shouldn’t.  Every day I’m also accomplishing so much more than I’m leaving unfinished.  And that’s a good thing.  It deserves applause. 

I just need to stop and breathe.  We all do.  I need to think first about all the good I’ve spread in my home on a daily basis instead of focusing on the five minutes I lost my patience.  I need to remember the one hundred things I checked off my list instead of the one thing I didn't.

We’re only human.  We do the best we can and our kids will survive on Dad’s ravioli’s.

I promise. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Getting it Done

My goodness its been awhile.  I have never left my post for such a long period of time.  It was a much needed break that involved back to school, the start of football season, visits from family and much running in preparation for my upcoming half marathon.

It's safe to say I'm a busy mama. Four kids (all in sports), working full time and juggling playdates and school activities sucks up much of my schedule.  It's a fabulously exhausting existence that I wouldn't change for the world.  I don't like to offer up much in the ways of advice, because I certainly don't feel like an expert in any arena.

I'm a survivalist.  I do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

End of story.

But the truth is, that is my secret.  I hear "how do you do it?" "I can't imagine having four kids..." and so on.  There is no trick, there is nothing that makes moms to large families different than moms to smaller families.  We are stretched for time, yes.  But we learn early to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

Do not push off the laundry.  Do not leave the dishwasher unloaded.  These tasks pile high at rapid rates with several kids.  If you leave it, it will multiply.  We have to get it done to stay above water.

Which creates a habit (for me anyway) of getting everything checked off my list as quickly and efficiently as possible. When I sort and deliver laundry, it gets put away.  When I come home for lunch, I sweep the floor and prep dinner.  I'm constantly thinking of what I can do to lighten my load for later in the day.

It's all about getting it done. 

And that's my two cents for the day.  I don't like anything hanging over my head.  It ruins my vibe.  When my "to do" list stretches past three or four lines I get anxiety.  I can't relax.  Staying on top of the pile is a better way to operate...no one wants to be buried underneath.

Happy Thursday Mamas!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

12 Things I've Learned Training for a Half marathon

Half marathon training has been a life changing experience.  I've been forced to find time for myself in a schedule jam packed with my kids' activities.  I never thought running for over two hours would be something I would choose to do, but it's taught me about perseverance.  Every run is different, some of them starting great and ending horrendously, others starting slow and ending phenomenally. 

The key is to get out there, get going, and keep going. 

Here are twelve lessons I've learned while training.  So much of them mimic real life.  

1.  Runner's high is a very real, addicting feeling. 
2.  Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.  Water is your friend.
3.  Just because you feel like shit at mile 3 does not mean you will feel like shit at mile 8. 
4.  Sleep is vital to health and energy.
5.  You can't run on empty. Fuel is just as important as hydration.
6.  Don't skip workouts. If you do, get back on track as soon as possible.
7.  We all have bad days. get up the next day and try again.
8.  The hardest part is getting started. Every. Single. Time.
9.  When you run twenty five miles a week (or more) your feet get very ugly. Buy good shoes. 
10. When you feel like you can't, keep going.  There is more in the tank than you believe to be there. 
11. Take a rest day. We need them.
12. Don't compete against anyone but yourself.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hello August...

Last week I was on vacation.  It was lovely in every sense of the word.  Time spent away from the hustle and bustle regular life brings is necessary.  We all need to rejuvenate and last week was my rejuvenation for the summer.  Even if I was doing laundry it wasn't the kind of laundry I despise.  It was beach laundry.  

Damp towels and sandy bathing suits. Smelly football gear and barely worn school clothes have a different vibe.

Now it's back to work. And back to the kind of laundry that doesn't suit me.


The alarm went off too quick Monday morning, and nights are quickly becoming more hectic as school looms ahead.  I'm already running the boys to football practice which is like a huge slap in the face.

How can we almost be in full blown football season?

While I adore the fall and all it brings...summer is definitely the speed I prefer.  It's taken me awhile to appreciate it, but as a thirty six year old mama of four I'm here.  I'm appreciating the break from lunches, homework and school anything.

Cheer to the last few weeks of summer sun.  Catch some fireflies. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My New Touchscreen Air Fryer (plus Giveaway!)




It's not often I go nutty over home appliances.  I do my thing in the kitchen, and I clean up.  That sums up my excitement over the current appliances available today. 

Until last night.

I recently received a Touchscreen Air Fryer by Phoenix Trading Company.  I'm sure you just read that and thought "huh?" because what the heck is an air fryer?  At least that was what I thought when I opened the box. I'll tell you what an Air Fryer is - heaven. It is absolute heaven for a mom like me in the summer.  We all need one.  I say this for a five reasons:

1.  An Air Fryer cooks anything that can be cooked in the oven (pretty much).  I didn't try confections, but I'm not putting it past this bad boy.  Don't get caught up in the "fryer" part of the name like I did.  This bakes and steams as well. The possibilities of this appliance amaze me.

2.  It cooks these items without heating your kitchen.  I'm not sure about anyone else, but there is something that screams "I'd rather stick needles in my eyes" when I think about cooking when it's ninety degrees outside.

3.  It's quick. I mean very quick.  I cooked chicken in twelve minutes last night.  I made french fries in the same amount of time. I didn't even mention the fries were healthy - not deep fried.  The chicken as well.  Baked to perfection. 

4.  The Air Fryer does not take up much space.  After one try I made room for it on my counter (serious real estate).  The fryer takes up about as much space as a mixer. 

5.  It is so easy to use I showed my teenagers how to make their own food.  This puts me at ease because they don't need to operate the oven or the stovetop.  They toss the food in the Air Fryer and it is done in half the time, without the worry of a hot stovetop burning someone. 

I made dinner in the fryer last night.  Yes, dinner.  An entire meal.  I made baked chicken with barbecue sauce and french fries.  We had a salad as well but that wasn't made in the fryer so I'm leaving it out. 

Although it was delicious.

The food that comes out of this fryer amazes me.  The fries were crispy, and I only added a drizzle of oil.  The chicken was baked, not fried.  It was heated through, juicy and tasted delicious.  All I did was toss the fresh cutlets in the air fryer topped with a little barbecue sauce.

It's that easy.

I visited Phoenix Trading Company online and not only do they sell home appliances, they sell shoes, bags, regular and plus sized clothing, home and garden goods and more.  I would never have considered myself someone to go online and check out products from a company based on one product I've tried, but I was online looking last night.  I have never been so pleased with an item as I was with my new Air Fryer.

Visit Phoenix Trading Company on Facebook, or online at PhoenixTradingCompany.com.  There are hundreds of items that are sure to please. 

*I received the Air Fryer for review purposes. This is an honest review because I'm a mom who loves moms and I love easy products like this one!*


Monday, July 18, 2016

Rest


I've been training for a half marathon. 

I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.  For as long as I can remember, I've always been a runner. Or shall I say a "jogger."  In high school it was to get in shape for field hockey season, as an adult it's been my therapy.  My escape.  While I never enjoyed it in high school, I've learned to love it after having children.  

I've always said running three or four miles was enough for me.  I've done countless 5K races.  I've done many five mile races.  My preferred jog has always been thirty or forty minutes at a pace I can breathe and think. 

This past year, I've been surprising myself a bit.  Stepping out of my comfort zone.  I never ran in the winter. NEVER. I'd wrap it up in October and pull the sneakers out again in April.  This winter, after hearing many people talk about winter jogs, I decided to bundle up and try it.  I realized that thirty five degrees and sunny with no wind is actually great running weather.

I prefer seventy and sun with a breeze, but I can do winter runs. 

The past several weeks I've been running with a buddy.  My friend Jen is also a mom, and she appreciates a good sweat as much as I do. While I was content with four miles being my longer run, she pushed me to five.  Then we tried six.  Now I'm signed up for a half marathon and I've run eleven miles without stopping except for water.

I never thought this would be me.

I'll tell you, I thought I'd be a metabolic machine burning more than I can eat with all this mileage I've been putting in.  I'm not.  So let's squash that before I even continue this post. 

I have however, realized the importance of a rest day.  Even before we decided to get involved with half marathon training, I was pounding the pavement every day. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  I ran every day, not taking a break. I needed it. I wasn't content unless I dedicated an hour a day to dripping sweat.

When we started doing long runs (seven miles and up) I started to feel the difference in my legs.  I was tired.  Still, I pushed through and refused to listen when Jen told me we needed rest days. I didn't really accept it until I was trying for ten miles.  I hit the wall every time.  If I didn't hit the wall I struggled with heavy feet or jelly legs.

I needed rest.

I finally took a "rest day" after I could barely finish eight miles even though I'd run more than that a several times. I was dehydrated, tired and I knew my body was begging for a break.  I finished that run and I was exhausted.  Not my mind, but my body. I rested the next day, and my next run was the best I'd had in a long time.

WE ALL NEED REST.  

As mothers, we go and go and GO.  We wake up, tend to babies, work, help with schoolwork, make lunches and snacks, run laundry and errands.  We do all this before we even do anything for us.  When we do try to squeeze in time for us, we feel guilty.  If we don't feel guilty we still feel pressed for time.

We need rest.

Have you ever had a headache, but you lay down and feel better after some water and a small break?  Your body is craving rest.  We all need to just retreat sometimes.  We retreat to emerge stronger than we were the day before.  

I promise you, you will feel stronger.  Revived.  Ready to tackle what life is tossing at you.  You will be better for you, your spouse and your kids.  They don't want you exhausted and unable to give your energy.  They deserve your best version of yourself.

Trust your body when it tells you to rest.  The signs are there, listen.  Don't wait for heavy feet and jelly legs.  Give yourself the break you deserve.

Much love to you this week.  Treat yourself kindly. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm constantly printing Pinterest recipes and stashing them in my cookbook (anyone else?).  I have stacks of cookies, cakes, frostings and meals waiting to be made.  This past weekend, I actually made one.  I usually tread lightly when trying a new recipe, because I've had many epic fails that make me furious I used up my unsalted butter sticks.

Those things are not cheap.

These cookies do not waste butter sticks, I promise.  I tweak every recipe to work for my kitchen, but this recipe was adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction.  I have made these cookies for years now, and they are my "go to" favorite.


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp cornstarch
dash salt
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (light works too)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups chocolate chunks

Mix first four ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  

In medium bowl, whisk the butter and sugars until smooth.  Add egg then yolk.  Whisk in vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with large spoon.  The dough will be thick.  Fold in the chocolate chunks (or chips).  Scoop (I use an ice cream scoop) dough onto cookie trays.  Chill in freezer 10 - 15 minutes before baking.  

Bake at 325 for approximately 11 minutes.  You want to remove them from oven when the centers look a tad raw, and edges are beginning to lightly brown.  Leave cookies on sheet for 3-5 minutes after baking and they will cook through.

If you can resist allow them to cool.  These cookies did not last the day in our house.  

Stay cool!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Comfort Zones


We all have a comfort zone. It’s that place we feel safe. Where we aren’t challenged and we remain comfortable.

After each of my children, I retreated into my comfort zone. Every birth sent me further into a place where I could relax and recharge whenever possible. That place was my pajamas. My television. A nice three mile run. A bowl of ice cream. The key is that I was home and with my kids as often as possible.

Those places are still my favorite. With four kids I think I’ve earned the right to hide in my pajamas every now and again. The problem is when we sit in that comfort zone for so long we lose the desire to do anything else. We lose that urge to go and explore. I lost the desire to be out with friends, to push myself farther than four miles when I run. I never wanted to be anywhere but home with my kids and my ice cream.

Lately, I’ve been trying new things. I’ve been seeing friends, and running farther. I have started to step outside of what is my norm and live a little. My favorite place is still surrounded by my kids, but I’ve learned its okay to have some time away.

I never thought I would enjoy running for an hour. I do. My runs were three or four miles and that was enough. Now I’ve been pushing myself to achieve more, and I’ve been running eight and nine miles. I never realized I could, or that I would want to. It took a friend to say, “Hey, let’s do five today!” to even think about it, and I’m so glad she did.

I was always hesitant to leave my kids for a few hours, or even overnight to do something I enjoy. I still am, but I’m trying to give myself the permission to go and be with adults. This has given me time and memories with my husband and friends that I cherish.

We all need that adult time. We need to give ourselves permission to do something for us. We get lost in managing everyone else and we become an afterthought. I’ve realized I want my kids to see me enjoying adult time and pushing myself to achieve new goals. It’s healthy for them and for me. I want to set an example that shows them balance.

Comfort zones are great, but we can’t sit in them forever.

The past year I’ve seen myself learning and growing. It’s scary, but necessary. There is a saying, “you may be on the right track, but if you stay there too long you’ll get run over.”

How true. You can be comfortable, you can be doing well. But we need to keep reaching beyond what we feel is our norm to continue to grow.

Hope you are all having a fantastical summer. Do something different today. You may surprise yourself.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Summer Bucket List

Today I started my summer vacation.  No more up at 6am, running to get some exercise in before the day starts.  Well, for the next few weeks anyway.  There is no better job for a mom than working in a school. 

Summer is my time to recharge.  To spend time with the kids and go on new adventures.  I've realized when you work full time, time at home becomes cherished.  Every minute counts. 

This summer, I am making my own bucket list.  I've decided I want to stop talking and start doing.  I want to experience new things and relive old favorites.  I want the kids to be together, and I want all of us to make the most of these days home.  Some of my bucket list items are small, some will take more planning.  Either way, they will keep me motivated to keep moving forward and make more memories with my kids.


This summer...

I want to take the kids kayaking
Go to an amusement park
Make smores
Eat dinner on the deck and linger over good conversation
Play a game of family baseball
Go on a hike
Hit the beach
Play a board game
Teach each of my kids a new life skill
Go to the park

Let's embrace these next few weeks and really enjoy our time with our kids.  Sit back, relax and make some memories.  The laundry will get done.  I promise.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Teacher Gifts!

If you teach my children stop reading.

I'm 99% certain that warning was not needed.

If anyone else in the United States is also STILL in school, this post might come in handy.  Most of you are already enjoying your summer vacation with your kids.  Or you are ready to pull your hair out because your kids are all home, ALL day, with YOU.

If that's the case save this post for next year.  Or use it for a camp counselor.  Or a birthday gift.  Or make it for yourself and eat the candy when your kids are driving you mad and you want to stick needles in your eyes.

These candy jars are very easy to make.  And they require little extra supplies if you have some basic craft items in your house.  A glue gun is worthwhile investment if you don't have one, as are jelly/jam jars.

Jars are very versatile, and glue guns are awesome.  

These jars are whimsical, fun, and they can save you money if you are in need of a few teacher gifts.  

Two important tips for these jars.  

#1:  You are going for color.  Bright colors work for ribbon and candies. 
#2:  Use what you have in your home.  Don't go crazy purchasing special ribbon or tissue paper.  Find something that will work in your basement or closet and USE it!

"Super Sweet Teacher" Candy Jars

Supplies:
Jars with lids (I recommend Pint Jars or larger)
Candies (Skittles, M&M's etc)
Colorful ribbon (curling and craft ribbon)
Colorful tissue paper, wrapping paper or regular paper
Printer
Scissors (craft and regular)
Glue Gun (or use Elmer's if you must)
Cellophane or plastic treat sacks if attaching gift card


Wash and dry jars and lids.

Full with assortment of colorful candies (I used Skittles and M&M's).

Cut tissue paper in squares to fit over jar lids, leaving about 2-3" around edges.  Screw lid on gently.

Measure craft ribbon alongside rim of jar, and cut.  Using glue gun, secure in place.

If attaching a gift card, wrap in cellophane.  Cutting down those plastic treat bags works well too.  Tie curly ribbon tightly around cello (or party bag).  Leave enough slack to tie this ribbon around jar (leave about 12" to be safe.  You can always trim it down).

On printer, print out "Sweets for a SUPER SWEET Teacher"  or "Thanks for being a SUPER SWEET Teacher" card.

Cut card into square with craft scissors (or regular if you don't have them).  To spruce up card glue it to a piece of colorful cardstock or construction paper.  Cut to size and punch hole in top left corner.

Tie card onto front of gift card using curly ribbon.  Loop the curly ribbon around the neck of the jar, cross in back and tie in front (in front of gift card).  Curl ribbon with scissors.

If desired, secure curly ribbon on back of lid with glue gun.

Voila, teacher gifts, in just a few minutes!
One major bonus to making these jars??

You can eat the candy as you make them!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Why I Hate Tests

It’s the end of the school year and I think we’re all feeling a bit of the burnout.  We’re done with homework, done with packing lunches, we’re pulling from the dirty laundry pile and fighting bedtime battles.

Who the heck wants to go to bed when the sun is still out beckoning us at 8pm to get outside and play?  I know my kids don’t.

Along with the exhaustion I’m feeling something else.  Frustration. I’m frustrated that with all the advances our society has made in so many other arenas we haven’t come up with a better way to assess our children’s intelligence and progress than standardized tests.

Yes, it’s testing season over here.

And it makes me cranky.  Or shall I say, in honor of testing, cantankerous.

I was a good student.  School was easy.  I didn’t fret about tests or studying.  If I didn’t study I could still pull my own weight.  I know for so many other kids this isn’t the case.  I have a child who is not a good tester.  This child studies.  This child knows the material.  All of this goes to crap when a piece of paper with numbered questions is placed in front of said child.

As a parent it is heartbreaking.  Projects, homework, behavior, participation…that is how my kid keeps the grades up.  We can be cruising through the month with an A average until test day.  Then we drop a quick ten points. 

It stinks.

There are classes that this isn’t the case.  Some material sinks in well, and the format of the quizzes seems to jive with the way my dear child’s brain works.

Other classes, not so much.

I just feel we should teach and test the way our kids learn.  Measuring their intelligence with paper, a pencil and questions about a bunch of material is not an accurate method.  I know this because I’ve seen it fail.  I’ve seen my child fail, and I know all of my children are brilliant.  They have different gifts, different ideas and opinions.  They have different mannerisms and preferences.

And this system is not serving all of my children.  This system is failing so many children who learn and perform better when a test is a discussion and not a quiet room.

Life, after all, is all about interactions.  How can tests that take hours measure anything other than a kid’s ability to sit still, pay attention and behave?  Maybe we can gauge how good their memory is and how well they recognize what they’ve learned.  But what about the kids that did learn it – and know it – but they don’t recognize it on that paper?

Epic fail. 

To all the non-testers out there:

No test can measure your intelligence.  Yes, there are fields of study that require them.  There are fields that you will not be able to venture into if you can’t sit and test and remember a bunch of material.  I was able to do that and it served me wonderfully.  This system is not serving you.  The good news is that here are also fields – tons of them – that welcome the creative, antsy, quirky, smart kids that don’t test well.

Find yourself, and find your niche.  No test can tell you anything other than how well you take a test.

That’s all for now folks.  Is it summer yet?

Friday, April 29, 2016

What's New in Disney World 2016

Walt Disney World is constantly evolving.  I feel like I just finish a post and a new Disney renovation is underway.  I’ve been to Disney World over 40 times and even I can’t keep up.  As my teenage son would say #thestruggleisreal.

With more and more to experience on an annual basis, this post is my attempt to “catchup” on all things new and exciting in Disney World for 2016.


Animal Kingdom

The safari is now going to offer rides after sunset.  The Animal Kingdom has long been considered a “half day park” and this is one of Disney’s attempts to keep visitors exploring past 5pm.

A new eatery, Tiffins, is opening this spring. Open for lunch and dinner, this restaurant will offer indoor and outdoor seating with waterfront views.  The menu is inspired by places Disney Imagineers visited while creating and developing the Animal Kingdom.

Epcot

My heart broke a little when Disney decided to close the Maelstrom ride in Norway and renovate it to create a Frozen themed experience instead.  This year we get to see what that new ride is all about when Frozen Ever After opens in the World Showcase.  While I’m sure I won’t be disappointed I’ll always have a place in my heart for the original. 

Soarin’ is another ride I was hesitant about Disney renovating.  I’m realizing with this post I am not a fan of change.  However, I am thrilled to announce that Soarin’ Around the World opens this summer.  I couldn’t imagine a trip to Disney without a turn on one of my favorites, even if they did change the experience to include new landmarks.

Hollywood Studios

I’m not a Star Wars girl.  I admit it.  However I know there are many Star Wars fans out there, and Hollywood Studios is opening a new experience that will thrill tiny (and adult) clone troopers.  The fireworks and laser show Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is slated to begin this summer.

I can’t even believe anyone had to suffer through a trip to Hollywood Studios and not be able to ride on Toy Story Mania. However, the third track should be finished sometime in 2016 and the ride’s debut is sure to be hit with all ages.

Magic Kingdom

The long running stage show Dream Along with Mickey is being replaced with Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire, which debuts in June.  The new show will feature characters from "Princess and the Frog," "Tangled," and "Frozen" along with classic characters Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy.

Now if I can only get that bakery in Hollywood Studios, The Starring Rolls CafĂ©, to start making my favorite cupcake again all will be right with the world. 

A girl can dream right? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

LifebankUSA: Giving Families Hope Every Day


With my third and fourth children, I seriously considered using a cord blood bank in case we ever needed cord blood in the future. With a large family, I always wanted to do everything I could to ensure we would have what we needed in case of (heaven forbid) a medical emergency.

What I never even considered (or knew about) was placenta banking. Placenta blood is blood from the placenta, and saving it can potentially double the number of stem cells that are preserved. Similar to the stem cells found in cord blood, stem cells found in the placenta blood can be used to treat diseases such as leukemia, certain metabolic abnormalities and inherited diseases of the immune system or red blood cells.

A few more facts about placenta blood:
  • Studies have indicated that transplanting more stem cells can improve transplant success rates. 
  • Preserving more stem cells gives you more options as far as treating more than one disease or family member. 
  • Placenta blood increases other types of stem cells that have shown promise in replacing or repairing damaged tissues and organs. This emerging medical field is called regenerative medicine, and it can involve cases of trauma, disease, congenital defects and more. 
I’ve worked with LifebankUSA before on my blog because I believe so strongly in the work they do every day. They are not just a cord blood bank, they offer placenta banking as well. Since 2006, LifebankUSA has been the only private cord blood bank to offer this service to new parents. As of July 2015, LifebankUSA has utilized 19 placenta blood units for transplant in patients ranging from 3 months old to 45 years of age.

LifebankUSA is saving lives and giving families hope every day. I just read about a little boy named Quentin, who was saved by his newborn sister’s cord blood shortly after her birth. Diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer at four years old, doctors suggested Quentin’s pregnant mother bank the cord and placenta blood of her newborn baby. Quentin was the first ever case of a transplant involving not only cord blood, but placenta blood as well.

More than two years later Quentin is in a continuous state of remission. You can read more about Quentin HERE.

I can’t even imagine being faced with the news my child is sick and would need any kind of transplant. LifebankUSA gives families the opportunity to be prepared if heaven forbid they ever face these kinds of circumstances.

For more information, visit LifeBankUSA's webpage.

Monday, April 18, 2016

No "I" in Team

Lately I feel that the concept of being on, and working as a team, gets lost.  There is so much competition among athletes, students and families that the focus becomes who is the best.  The strongest.  The fastest.  The smartest.

It’s exhausting.

I see with my kids how easy it is to comment about other players on the team.  How all too often parents get consumed with playing time, who is playing well, who isn’t playing enough in every game.  I’m guilty too.  It’s a slippery slope.  We want so much for our kids that we lose what it means to be a TEAM.  To play as a team.  To behave as a team.

There is a kid at school who approached my son to tell him how his dad said my son isn’t a good fielder.  There was more said (unfortunately), but you get the idea.  There is so much about this that bothered me, but what bothered me most is that off the field the concept of team was being ripped apart.  The idea we should all cheer for eachother and encourage eachother was null and void.  It became “let’s sit in the kitchen and talk down about the players” instead of “let’s sit in the kitchen and talk about what’s working.”

It’s poison.  And I know we are all guilty to some degree of the exact same thing that I described above.  I had to remind my son that just because someone said something doesn’t make it true, and his abilities are being attacked to make someone else feel better.

That’s a hard lesson to teach, and now my son looks at this boy’s family like they are out to get him.  Which is pretty distracting when you’re trying to play a game.  All of it is unnecessary, and it reminded me to not to behave in a manner that causes the cycle to continue.

I realized a few years ago that when I just enjoyed the game, and cheered for everyone on it, the experience was more fulfilling.  My kids were happier too.  The focus was on growing as individuals and as a team.  Which is exactly what team sports is all about.

Every player makes mistakes, and every player needs to grow in a different area.  This holds true in school and other activities as well.  We all have our areas of strength and our moments of weakness.  And it isn’t right, especially when dealing with children, to set an example that brings down other children.

We need to build eachother up.  And we need to teach our kids to do the same.  At the end of the day, this isn’t a race.  We can all be winners and support eachother along the way.

This world needs much more “you got this.” Let’s start the trend now.




Friday, April 8, 2016

Chicken and Rice

There are a handful of meals that bring me straight back to my mother's kitchen.

Let me rephrase.

There are a handful of meals that bring me straight back to my mother's kitchen in our old house.  I am in my mother's current kitchen several times a week.

I am one of six kids.  My mother prepared simple, easy, delicious meals and we enjoyed them all-you-can-eat family style.  She had to prepare enough food to feed a small army and it was set out in the kitchen for all to enjoy whenever they cruised through.

My stomach ate itself every time I caught the aroma of this dish cookin'.  I lingered in the kitchen, probably driving her crazy, while I waited for dinner to be ready.

And now, I'm sharing it with you.

Enjoy!


This fed our family of 6 and we have leftovers in the fridge.  Makes 4 adult sized servings.

2 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice (NOT Boil in Bag.  I used Minute Whole Grain Brown Rice)
1 lb thin sliced chicken breasts
1 can Healthy Request Cream of Chicken Soup
1 Packet Lipton Onion Soup
Chopped Carrots (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease bottom and sides of 9x13 baking dish.

Spread uncooked rice evenly on bottom of dish.  Top with chicken breasts.
Spread soup over top of chicken.  Fill empty soup can with water and add to dish, using fork to slightly mix in.  Repeat with another 1/2 to 3/4 can water.
Sprinkle soup mix on top.  Add carrots for color if desired.  Cover dish with foil.
Bake at 350 for 60 minutes.  

Savor the meal and enjoy the leftovers!  Happy Friday!