Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blogging Holiday Hiatus

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday!

As you have probably noticed, I am on a mini blogging hiatus for a variety of reasons but mainly because we have had family visiting and my husband has been on vacation from work for the last week.  We have been spending a lot of time together as a family.

This Friday, I will be back to posting the weekly freebies and deals on that particular page.  I will be back to posting regularly next Monday with lots of stories to share.  Hopefully, we will all feel rejuvenated with a fresh new year beginning!

If you haven't yet entered, don't forget the Chex Party Mix Prize Pack Giveaway.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When Mommy Ends Up on The Naughty List

Emmy was that child the other day at her preschool Christmas party...

After the children put on a short Christmas program, we went downstairs to enjoy cookies and punch.  My husband, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and her boyfriend were also there (to witness my humiliation).

Santa made an entrance a short time later.  The look on Emmy's face was priceless.  She had just taken a bite of cookie when she spotted Santa.  Her eyes grew wide and her mouth dropped open.

Needless to say she had no problem abandoning her cookie for Santa's knee. 

Sitting on his lap, her shoulders hunched forward, mumbling what I thought was her Christmas list, I snapped several pictures. 

Her teacher looked at me and laughing said, "Mom I don't know know what you did but Em is telling on you!"  Apparently mommy was on Santa's naughty list, according to my daughter.

After hearing from a friend about how she was holding Santa over her three year old's head, I decided to try it the one day when Em wasn't being particularly nice to her sister. 

I guess I shouldn't have told her that if she wasn't good Santa wouldn't bring her any presents and he would give them to another little girl.

Of course that would backfire! Emmy had sat down in the middle of the kitchen and cried like her little heart would break.  I scooped her up and tried to repair the damage I had wreaked.  Emmy is a sensitive soul and I should have known my child would not take that threat well. 

I explained to her that sometimes while we are bad we have to apologize and try to be good even though it is sometimes hard.  She had to be nice to her sister and to her friends not just because we didn't want to make them sad but because it is the right thing to do.  She doesn't like when they are not nice to her so she needs to remember how that doesn't feel very good. 

I had hoped she had forgotten that day but apparently not since she told Santa!

Needless to say, Mommy has not used that threat since and I don't think she will ever again.  She has certainly learned her lesson.

Sometimes even Mommy slips onto the naughty list.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Following Your Dreams

Emmy came home singing a new version of "Jingle Bells", aka "Stinky Bells" two weeks ago.  I had my suspicions where she learned it. They were confirmed two days later when I overhead two moms talking outside of her preschool classroom.

This past weekend, Em suprised me again by the things she picks up with her little ears.  My husband was putting her train tracks back together.  Emmy stood next to him watching intently.

All of a sudden, she patted his arm and said, "Follow your dreams, Daddy.  Follow your dreams."

My husband who is rarely floored just looked at her and called out to me from the other room, "Where does she learn this stuff?"

Uhm... us, tv, conversations she overhears in the grocery store...

I could go on.

We laughed at her statement and also told her that was a very sweet thing to say since we should always follow our dreams.

Yet, how often do we really follow our own dreams once we are parents?

Last week I wrote about my New Year's Resolutions.  They were my goals for the upcoming year but also things I wanted for my family-not just myself.

What are my dreams?  What are the things I enjoy?  Traveling...learning.  I think I want to add going back to school this year to my resolution list.  Not to teach. Certainly not to earn a degree.  I already have two of those and have no interest in adding homework to my to-do list.  But, our local community college has all kinds of classes that I could find myself enjoying.

Cooking classes, craft classes, flower arranging...classes where I can learn something new.  I didn't realize I missed that until I sat down and thought about what I wanted for myself this new year.

What I want for myself seems to get lost in the shuffle of parenthood. I don't mind that because I love being a mom.  Occasionally, I go out with friends but I have never gone away for a weekend alone.  Unless you count the time I went to Florida to stay with friends who had just lost their father and father-in-law. Usually, when my husband asks what I he can do or what I want, I ask for an hour alone.   Just reading or laying around if that is what I fancy.

I keep saying I am going to go away for a weekend with friends but I never do.  I need to.  This year I am putting that on my list to.  Just for a weekend.  The decision will be where.  It really is true that you feel a lift in your mood when you plan a trip.  Just thinking about it has made me excited.  Maybe New York City or even Hershey.  I love the hustle and bustle of the city and it has been to long since I have seen a Broadway show.  Who wouldn't love to be pampered at The Hotel Hershey?  Taking a bath in chocolate, a chocolate fondue wrap, and even a cocoa facial?  I would think I have died and gone to heaven.

It took my daughter's innocent comment to her dad to really make me think about what my dreams are for the New Year.

What dreams do you have for the New Year?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chex Party Mix Prize Pack Giveaway

If your like me, you entertain a lot during the holidays.  I like to have a few favorite things in my pantry and cupboards to whip up some easy recipes whenever we have guests. 

Chex makes it easy with lots of Chex Party Mix recipes to choose from based on what I have in my pantry.  Their recipes are divided into categories that make it easy to find something for everyone including salty, sweet, 15 minute recipes, gluten free, and even tasty desserts.

Some of my favorites:
Next time you are at your local Wal-mart check for free recipes cards for Chex Apple Pie Snack Mix, Tex Chex Party Mix, and Chex Lemon Buddies.

Want to make Chex Party Mix yourself?  TPMG is giving away a Chex Party Mix Prize Pack that includes a stylish tote bag, a set of measuring cups, and one box of rice Chex.

Mandatory entry (if you do not complete this entry all others will be void): Leave a comment about your favorite Chex Party Mix. (1 entry)

To receive additional entries:
*Become a follower or a subscriber of The Practical Mom Guide and if you already do so just leave a comment stating that you already follow (1 entry)

*Follow TPMG on twitter (1 entry each)

*Become a fan of TPMG on Facebook (1 entry each)

*Tweet (maximum of once daily) about this giveaway and don't forget to leave your twitter name
Copy and paste: Win a Chex Party Mix Prize Pack at #TPMG. Ends 12/31.  (1 entry per tweet)

*Add The Practical Mom Guide to your blogroll or display our button (5 entries)

*Post about this giveaway on your blog (5 entries)

This giveaway will end on Friday, December 31, 2010. I will announce the winner on January 1st here at The Practical Mom Guide. If I am unable to contact the winner or they do not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Contest only open to U.S. residents.

Good luck and thanks for participating! 
*This giveaway was provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.  I also was provided a Chex Party Mix Prize Pack in order to faciliate this review/giveaway.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A New Year And New Possibilities

Every year around the holidays, I begin to reflect on the past year and to marvel at how fast the year has flown.  Can it be almost December 25th already?  Can the year really be almost coming to a close?  I start to think about what I want the new year to hold.  New resolutions for a new year are part of the New Year's celebration in our house on December 31st.  My resolutions used to be all about me. How much weight I wanted to lose, how much money I wanted to save, or what experiences I wanted to have in the new year.

It is no longer just about me.  I have a family and we are growing.  I am finding that my new resolutions for the upcoming year and any plans I make for the future are no longer about just me and my wants but what I also want for my family.

I want my daughters to know me and who I am even after I am long gone.  Obviously I want them to learn from my actions while I am alive but I also want them to know what I was thinking to.  I am horrible at journaling and have been blogging as not only an outlet but to also document my family's life.

Part of my New Year's resolution is to start writing just thirty-four words each day in my journal-a personal journal.  I am not a concise person so I can't just write a sentence but I can write a few sentences about my day.  One word for each year of my life.  I will be turning thirty-four in three short months. So my goal is to write at least thirty-four words every day.  I figure when I am older and my kids are grown I will have more time to reflect on my days and more time to write.  That is if I can keep up my journaling resolution. 

How hard can it be?  I know it will not be so easy especially in the summer months when the warm evenings and a chair on our patio beckons along with a nice glass of iced tea. Or if it has been a long day and all I long for is to stretch out on my bed and to close my eyes.  But I hope that unlike some of my past resolutions, I persevere and try to keep this one. I am doing this for my children and for me for when I can no longer remember those precious minutiae of our daily lives. 

I never make just one resolution but I do limit them.  Both my husband and I want to give back to our community.  We want our daughters to learn from us about the joy in giving back and in helping others when we have so much.  This year we put money aside to give to charity during the holiday season.  As a family we are deciding how the money will be spent.  Even though the girls are young, we want them to be a part of our decisions and to have a say.

Yet, this year I realized this wasn't enough.  We are not active enough in the community.  It isn't just about giving money to help out but also time.  Not just in volunteering but also in attending community events.  I'm active in our local mom's group and even sit on the board but in all honesty that is about it.  I want to be more involved.  We also haven't taken advantage of the events in our local town and often find ourselves taking advantage of the events in the local cities instead.  We want our daughter's to have a sense of community and the only way for that to happen is to become part of the community.  

I have two resolutions that matter to me.  I want to to keep these resolutions.  I have already decided on the journal I want and plan to go the book store to pick it up next week.  My favorite black gel ink pens will be my writing instrument of choice.  As far as my other resolution I have already started thinking of ways to get more involved.  I've already started a list.  Now if I can just follow through once the clock strikes midnight on December 31st and a new year is rung in.  It is just about wanting it enough.  I do.  I really do.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network blogging program, for a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

When You Shudder At The Thought of Going to the Mall

I love to shop.  Just not for certain things.  And just not at this time of year. Going to see Santa and going to get new eyeglasses are two completely different things.

Recently I decided to take advantage of our eye insurance and get new glasses.  Not to mention that our yearly FSA expires on December 31st.  It had been over two years since I had got new ones and since it was almost the end of the year, I figured I had better shake it to the doctor's office especially since I had started getting more headaches and I suspected it was because my prescription had changed.

Can I tell you that I am pretty decisive when it comes to clothing shopping and even car shopping but eyeglass shopping ranks up there with deciding on what new haircut to get.  I rely on Consumer Reports and friends recommendations when car shopping.  Clothes are easy-just pick whatever looks good and is comfortable.

Glasses?  They are another story.  I can spends hours trying to pick out a pair of frames.  I've had gold wire frames, clunky black Ralph Lauren ones, and in high school (long before Harry Potter ever came along and these glasses were in vogue) small round brown wire frames.  Looking back I shudder at how ridiculous I looked in those glasses and my prom dress.  Recently I was faced with it on Facebook when a friend had posted pictures from our senior prom.  Lovely.  Just lovely.

Then they throw in the choices of whether or not to get insurance (I have toddlers after all) or special lenses (deal with the glare or get no glare-whatever that means or get ultra thin lenses) and it makes it even harder.  Apparently my lenses (even though my doctor says my eyes are not that bad) would be thicker than most and that limits the types of frames I should get unless I get special lenses.  That is according to the salesperson who helped me.

Normally, I wear my contacts but since I have astigmatisms in both eyes my contacts are thicker than regular ones and dry out easily.  There are some days where my eyes get easily irritated or dry and I end up wearing glasses so I want to like whatever I get.

My choice?

The color of the metal frames reminds me of maple syrup.  They also have an abstract pattern on the sides.

I have decided that glasses are like shoes.  You might have several pairs but you can always use a new pair.  You get comfortable with them and it isn't until you need to that you venture out to replace your favorite pair.

Thank goodness I won't have to do this again anytime soon. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Cookie Dilemna

This past weekend Emmy's preschool had a bake sale.  On Tuesday, notes came home with a request for donations of baked goods by Friday. 

Not a problem.

My husband made a batch of banana nut bread Thursday night and Friday morning I churned out a couple dozen vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing and sprinkles for both the baked sale and a holiday party we were attending on Saturday. 

It was easy deciding what to make. 

But for the life of me I can't come up with what kind of cookies to make for a cookie swap.  On the invite it said regular old chocolate chip cookies would not do.  Do my favorite homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies count?

People are bringing Linzer cookies, mexican wedding cookies, chocolate chip biscotti, and the list goes on...
I am clueless and overwhelmed by the options out there.

I had no problem buying Christmas gifts this year, choosing which decorations to put up (we are going light on decorations this year since a one year old can wreak havoc pretty quickly), and even who was hosting Christmas this year (not me for the first time in a long time).

But I am stumped on this whole cookie thing.   

I don't want to spend a lot of time making these cookies since I need to make 8 dozen.  I don't want to deal with anything that requires an electric mixer with special attachments (like paddles) or a food processor.  The less steps the better.

I'm a purist.  I love sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies.  Snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies.  I hate any cookie with fruit or nuts like pecans or walnuts.  I want to make something that I like to eat to because how will I know if it is edible good otherwise. 

My mom is coming down Wednesday and bringing Michigan rock cookies and some other kind she made.  She was so excited since she used my grandmother's recipes.  She forgot that those are her favorite cookies.  Certainly not mine.  The girls don't eat them either and Bob will be tempted but he has been showing how strong his will power is since he started dieting.  He won't be eating them either.  I didn't have the heart to tell my mom that though when she called.  We go through this every holiday.  Nor do I eat pies yet every holiday my family tries to force me to try a piece of lemon meringue or strawberry-rhubarb or pumpkin pie.  I do not like pie, says I.  They never listen.
Do you see my dilemna? 

Choosing a cookie recipe that is suitable (ahem, fancy smancy enough to stand up to the other cookies) and that I like is looking like it is going to be a difficult task.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What Our Family And Friends Are Getting in the Mail

They finally arrived!

Our Christmas card order.

I was so excited I immediately ripped open the box.  I always listen for the mailman in the afternoon especially around the holidays for all the goodies that come in the mail.  One of my favorite parts is the Christmas cards and letters that we get from our friends and family.

There were only about two pics from our last photo session that we could use for our Christmas card.  Madison and Emily had just napped before we went so they were little bundles of energy.  We hadn't had a family portrait done since the Christmas after Emily was born and I was determined that we were getting one this year.  We have maybe two pictures with our whole family in them from this year.  Either my husband or myself are usually behind the camera.

I almost wish the girls had been a little more tired for the session.  One went one way and the other went the other way.  As my husband said, "it was like herding cats."  I now understand the expression.

Emmy now also walks around putting her dolls on her head and saying "aaa-choo" so that they fall off her head just like the photographer did to get them to smile.

Inside the cards we did a timeline of sorts of our year.  It wasn't until after I placed my order that I realized the typo on the card. Emmy's birthday isn't in July.  I doubt anyone will even notice. Okay, I hope not!

Now all I have to do is print out the mailing labels and send them in the mail.  What, you actually thought I hand write all fifty of those envelopes?  Not this year, I'm not.

What kind of Christmas cards are you sending this holiday season?

Monday, December 6, 2010

What Wonder Looks Like Through The Eyes of a Child

Emmy is a huge Disney fan.  She is especially enthralled by anything princess related.

We had a girl's day on Saturday.  Just me and her while her daddy had some quality time with her sister.

We went to see Tangled.

Emmy had never been to the movies before and as I watched her she seemed to be starring with huge eyes at her surroundings.  You forget how different everything looks in the eyes of a child (especially one who is only about three feet tall).

We ran to the theater trying to get out of the chilly wind.  Luckily we didn't have to wait in line since I had picked up the tickets when I was out running errands earlier.

Standing in line for popcorn she spied a huge cardboard sign for what I assumed was another Pirates of the Caribbean.  It had a skull on it which Emmy didn't particularly like.  That was when my worrying started.  I worried a little that she was to young to see a movie.  What if the theatre was to dark or it was to loud or what if there were to many people?

Armed with our popcorn, a bottle of water for Emmy, a soda for me, a box of M&Ms which I was hoping to not need to break open, and our tickets, we made our way to the theater.

Emmy wanted to sit in the very front but I convinced her the middle was the place to sit.  It took a minute of convincing but we settled into our seats at the end of the aisle.

I never even thought about bringing a booster seat.  Emmy had to sit at the edge of the seat.  When she moved back, the seat started to close up on her.  It looked like it was trying to swallow her up whole.  She was to light for the seat!  She didn't mind sitting on the edge though and turned down my offer of sitting on my lap.

The nice gentleman sitting in front of us who was there with his family offered us the use of their extra booster seat but Emmy didn't want to sit on a booster seat so we politely declined.  How nice of him to offer though! 

Emmy's excitement was evident from her head to her toes.  Her feet kept moving as she swung them forward and back.  Her little arms clutching the bag of popcorn.  It was as though she was holding on to precious cargo.  The sides of the bag all squished in from her holding it so tightly.  Her fingers were all salty and buttery from the popcorn on which she munched.  Her head kept moving from side to side looking at the people and then the screen.  Her little body wriggling in her seat as the commercials came on. 

"Where is Tangled, Mommy?  Why is it so dark, Mommy?" she whispered. 

"Because it makes it easier to see the movie and these are just commercials," I whispered back, smiling.

She finally moved onto my lap as the movie began.  She was completely still as soon as it started.  The popcorn in her hands forgotten as the story unfolded.

She was engrossed until the credits began rolling at the end.

"Can we come again, please, please, please?" she asked as we gathered out coats and things.

"Of course we can," I replied wondering if she looked like I did at my first movie The Muppets Take Manhattan.  I was about seven when my mom took my sister and I to see it.

What was the first movie you ever saw in the theatre or that you took your children to see?  What were their reactions?

Friday, December 3, 2010

If You Hear a Mysterious Noise... Ignore It

The other day I heard what sounded like our cat swatting around one of the girls' toys on the floor.  That was what it sounded like at least.  When I went into the room, the cat wasn't there nor were there really that many toys on the floor or at least not really any small ones that I saw that were paw-swatting size.

I shuddered wondering if it was a mouse.  It has gotten really cold here and we even had big wet snowflakes falling on Thanksgiving.  What animal wouldn't want to take refuge in our nice, toasty warm house?

I hate rodents.  I get shivers down my spine just thinking about them.  I am not ashamed to admit I do not do mice.  That is my husband's job.  That is one job that he can have.  No remarks from me about spousal equality there.

Anyway, the sound had stopped when I went into the room.  I had checked out the room thoroughly and there was no sign of any living creatures in the room (besides me).  Okay,...

Call it denial.  I figured it may have been the cat who had just snuck out before I entered the room.

Then, the next day I heard it again.  It always happened when the girls were napping.  Fate telling me to get away from the computer, perhaps?

I decided to be more stealthy in my approach to check out the noise.  I needed a weapon.  You know in case it was a mouse.  I needed to be protected.

I grabbed the first thing I saw that would work in a pinch.  It was my daughter's mallet from her Parents Pound-a Ball toy that happened to be sitting next to her doll house in my husband's office. Not that I would get anywhere near enough to use it since I am a wimp.  Not to mention I could never bring myself to even hurt a mouse but if it was a mouse and it came to close I could always throw the mallet to scare it away.  Well, that was my thinking anyway.

I tiptoed into the doorway and the sound continued.  It was coming from underneath the coffee table.

You know what it was? 

Emmy's bag of Mega Bloks had torn and I had repaired it about a month ago using tape (of course) and the tape had lost its stickiness. I had tried to repair it using the same tape and just readhering it the other day when I had noticed the Mega Bloks spilling out of the bag.  Incidentally, it was the same day as the mysterious noise.. 

The mystery was solved.  I had found what was making the mysterious noise.

It was just the Mega Bloks spilling from the bag.  As I watched a few fall out, more continued to gradually spill out.  The reason it kept happening when the girl's were sleeping?  We do their before-nap clean-up before they go upstairs and that included picking up their blocks which the bag refused to hold due to my lousy tape job.  At night, they weren't falling out because the bag usually sat up against the wall which helped hold in the blocks.

I laughed at my own foolishness and then heaved a sigh of relief at the thought that no mouse had indeed taken refuge in our house (and that I wasn't going to have to whip out the Clorox and thouroughly clean every blessed toy in the room). 

Then, I was glad that the girls weren't awake to see me in all my cowardly glory.  Big bad mommy is afraid of a few measly (albeit noisy) Mega Bloks.

What would you have done if you had heard this mysterious noise? 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Pickle Man

We ventured out to a local farmers market for the first time the other weekend.  My husband was looking for some quality health food items that the local stores didn't really carry. 

One of the booths was called The Pickle Man.  There were a lot of people crammed inside the little store/booth.  A jolly man, aka The Pickle Man, handed over a large dill pickle wrapped in a white napkin already soaked with pickle juice to a young woman.

An entire booth devoted to pickles?  Seriously?

Inside we went. 

Emmy watched excitedly, staring at the pickles as they were scooped out of the barrels, placed into little plastic tubs and handed over into her daddy's hands.  She loves pickles.  She would eat an entire jar if we let her.

The Pickle Man asked if she could have one.  Would we be able to stop her since she was staring openly at the pickle he had already chosen and was ready to hand her?  Her arms were already stretching forward ready to accept it as soon as we said it was okay.

She bit into it enthusiastically and smiled.  And then the humming began.  Yep, it was good.  Really good.

He asked if Madison could have one. She watched everything from her seat in the stroller.  I said she could but warned that she probably wouldn't eat it.  He readily handed one over proclaiming she needed to try one.

I put it on her little tray.  She poked it, wrinkled her nose, and pushed it away.  Unlike her sister, she is not a fan of pickles.

Madison refused even a nibble.  Emily though didn't mind since it meant one more for her. 

Emily takes after me apparently.  My parents loved to tell the story of when my paternal grandmother had given us a jar of her homemade pickles during a visit to their home in VA.  When we got home, I had opened the pickles, ate them all, and proceeded to drink the pickle juice.  My response to the story was always, "...and you let me?  What if I had got sick?"  They even admitted that they were surprised that I hadn't.

Ewww.  Just thinking about it makes my stomach turn.  Needless to say, we rationed the pickles but Emily had about four of them even before we got home.  Luckily she doesn't seem to have a penchant for pickle juice.

We'd really be in a pickle if she did.