Monday, April 28, 2008

Better Late Than Never

There are few people in this world that I would do this for.

But it was well worth the wait.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Keeping Healthy

Lately I have been thinking a lot about my heath. Vitamins, nutrition, exercise, screening, etc. I believe it is a good thing to reevaluate how I am doing with my overall health especially as I get older. Also, I need to be as healthy as possible so I can care and raise my children as best as I can.

Having said that I am taking several measures to do the best I can in that area including:

1. Daily vitamin intake - multi vitamin, calcium with D vitamin, and omega 3 vitamin
2. Eat 6 small meals each day which includes a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast (two slices of 100% whole wheat toast + natural peanut butter + sugar free preserves), yogurt at least once a day, and a few cups of raw and cooked green vegetables.
3. Drink lots of water - I am a horrible Diet Coke addict and it's really my only addiction (well other than my hobbies). I must concentrate on this a lot if I want to be totally committed to better healthy eating habits. But I do drink a lot of water so hopefully that counts for something.
4. Exercise - this is a tough one because I try to get to the gym as much as possible with my busy schedule. I am lucky because we recently were given some weights and a spinning bike by the owner of a newly built gym that my better half's company built. We transformed the garage into a gym so I ride that spinning bike for at least 30 minutes each day in the event that I cannot get to my local gym. That has helped tremendously in maintaining my weight and overall cardio health.
5. Health screening - I religiously go for my proper screenings such as mammograms, yearly physicals and I take advantage of the free health screenings offered at work. Today I did the cholesterol screening and I was off-the-charts good. My LDL (bad cholesterol) was 38 which is fantastic (less than 160 is good). My total cholesterol is 120 (less than 200 is good). My glucose is 84 (less than 100 is good).

Everything is pretty much in check. Just have to work on that Diet Coke and I should be in total working condition.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Meeting Milestones

My princess just turned 5 and I am so pleased that we have reached most of the goals that I have set for her to this point.

1. She is 100% on board in handwriting and able to write words in both upper case and lower case. In fact, last night she wrote her first thank you note for one of her birthday gifts. Of course, each word had to be in a different crayon color but she is an artist so who am I to argue.

2. She is able to add single digit numbers and we are starting on learning money and coins. I work with her all of the time on counting real life applications and also on paper with her homework and online tools. There are so many real life opportunities to count things that it just takes observation.

3. Princess is reading full sentences. Woo Hoo. This is the biggest milestone to date. I love the look of excitement she gets when she reads. I have been reading to her every night since she was born and it has proven to be a time investment that has had a huge payoff.

4. Shoe tying - this was a no brainer and I actually taught her this skill over the Thanksgiving holiday when I was off from work. It happened by accident when I was tying her shoe and a light bulb went off in my head that perhaps she could give it a try. After about 30 tries, she did it and has been doing it since.

I have noticed over the years that my kids love to achieve. They love to hear that they did a good job. They love verbal encouragement. They are competitive so they love to win the game no matter if the game is baseball or report cards. I believe it is important to positively reinforce achievements and discuss failures. It is necessary to let your children know when they failed but also to help them to learn what they did wrong to be able to learn from the failures. I have found that with my older boys this works pretty well. For example, if one of them gets a bad grade in school, they never feel good about it and that is how I want it to be. That means they have a desire to achieve. Instead of tearing them down about it, we sit down and review what went wrong and how to move forward. I try to explain to my kids that a bad grade is NOT the end of the world just as most mistakes we make in real life. Rather what is important is how we move on from those mistakes. Can we turn them into positive learning experiences? Can the next test grade be better than the last? Did we LEARN from it? It's an important coping skill that needs to be taught as they move into real adult life.

Wow. Sorry for digressing.

Yesterday was cap and gown photos. Unfortunately I could not be there to see the photos taken which ended up being a good thing. Her teachers said I would be nicely suprised when the pictures come out. Oh, my little baby girl is growing up fast!

I have always loved witnessing all of my children reach milestones and achievements. They are such proud moments for me as a parent and I think one of the absolute joys that all of us parents should embrace.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Back In The Day"

Oh how we loathe when a conversation with our parents starts out with those four words. "When I was your age" or "Back when we were kids"...aggghhhh....I want to run and scream, "but it doesn't snow here and we don't live 7 miles from our school!"

Still, I find myself doing the EXACT same thing with my own kids. Funny how that works. I try to use different words as if that might make it seem better that I am making comparisons of their childhood to mine. It's still not flying even with the different words. They are definitely on to me.

When they complain that their TiVo stinks because they can only record one show while watching another I politely remind them that "back in the day, we had only three channels on a TV with an antenna made out of tin foil." When they complain about their veggies or dinners in general, I let them know that when I was younger we were always eating broccoli soup with noodles and were not allowed to complain or we would go hungry. "Mom, we need a new car with a better air conditioner" always emits the response, "Ask your uncles about our 1966 Dodge Dart with the crazy built in air conditioner called WIND coming from opened windows." "Can I get a fancier ipod?" follows up with "maybe I will get you an 8-track player and see how you like that fancy piece of machinery."

When I was a kid we didn't get shiny new bikes. If we wanted a bike we would find an old one from the woods or at the dump and take them home and paint them and make them new again. Our first cars certainly weren't anything remotely close to being new. My first "job" was at 10 years old when I used to do chores for my elderly next door neighbor. She was kind enough to pay me decently for doing all of those things around her house that she couldn't do.

We had a lot fewer materialistic things but I can tell you matter of factly that I coveted the things I owned because it usually took me so long to save up for them. Remember when those fancy multi-colored click pens came out (you could click from 4 colors and the circumference of the pen was so thick you could barely hold it)? I got one as a birthday present. My kids laugh at that kind of stuff but it was one of the few birthday presents I got as a child that I clearly remember. How bad could it have been. I certainly was not spoiled.

It's ok to remind our kids of the challenges of our generation just as our parents did with us. Just try to pick words other than "Back in the day" and you should be just fine.

Grocery Savings Rocks

I have blogged about my grocery savings for awhile now but I believe it often bears repeating. If you have not been to this site you don't know what you are missing. I don't get paid one penny to advertise this here but I do know how happy I get when I enjoy immense savings at the grocery and drug stores.

Last night I was watching the national news on NBC and there was a story about the ever growing rise in price of food. Milk up by 30%, eggs up by 40%, tomatoes up by 25%. But I snicker inside because, for me, my grocery bill has never been lower.

How is that possible? It's because this site retrained the way I shop for food. If you have an aversion to going to this site (believe me it's not a scam) I will give you a few pointers in what I have learned over the past several months. I can say I am somewhat of an expert shopper now considering I never pay more than $100 a week for groceries and drugs for my family of 6 and that includes one child in diapers and two teenage boys.

Here is my list of do's in order to save the most:

1. Don't be a slave to name brands. Decide which brand names you can cross over to other brands. Don't turn your eye to generic brands. A lot of stores offer many wonderful generic brand alternatives.

2. Stockpile, stockpile, stockpile. This takes some clever pantry use especially if you don't have a very big pantry unlike my sister in law Cindy who has a pantry that is the size of one of my small bedrooms. But if you are not her, don't sweat it. Get creative with the storage space you do have.

3. Strive to NEVER buy an item at full retail price. Sometimes this is not possible. You always seem to have that one NEED item that you cannot do without. That's ok. But limit it as much as possible by stockpiling and planning ahead. If you go to the Grocery Game website and sign up, you can print out lists that tell you when an item has hit a rock bottom price. When it does, go out and buy it and as much of it as possible. (I remember the day when my store had peanut butter on sale for $1 a jar. I was so ecstatic that I bought 10 jars. I wished I had bought more. My husband looked at me like I was nuts. I have not seen it on sale like that since which means that it is destined to go back on sale like that soon).

4. Except for perishables, you can never have too much of an item (unless of course you eat it once a year). Things in this category would be cereal, pasta, canned veggies or spaghetti sauce, cake mix (yes at one point I had about 7 boxes of these in my pantry), peanut butter, jelly, jello, olive oil, etc. You get the point.

5. Don't be a slave to any one store. I used to be a Publix purist. I never wandered anywhere else. Not any more. My new favorite store is Winn Dixie. Why? Because they send me $10 off coupons in the mail. They also offer great sales every week if you sign up for their free customer card. Publix sends me nothing. Not one coupon. In fact at Publix they won't accept printed online coupons. Winn Dixie is ok with that. Winn Dixie always has their meat on sale and great sales too. Buy one get one free. You can't beat that for chicken, fish, and steaks. Publix never has meat on sale like that.

6. You must go into CVS and sign up for one of their store cards as long as you have one in your area. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about that. If you have a card you can always get a gallon of milk there for no more than $3.99. Some weeks they run a sale for $3.49. That is almost a dollar less than at the grocery store. When you go into CVS you can get free coupons with your card. Most stores have a scanner machine where you can scan the card and coupons start popping out. Many times they are $10 off with a total purchase of $50 or more. Can't complain about free money. Also at CVS certain items go on sale every week where they offer to give you extrabucks back. That is like FREE MONEY toward your next purchase. In addition, for every dollar you spend at CVS, you get 2% back at the end of every quarter. They are paying YOU to shop there. The prices are no more than any other store. In fact with the coupon machine there, the extra bucks and the 2% back, it just doesn't make any sense to NOT go there. (Sorry Pauline, I know you respectfully disagree).

7. I know I mentioned stockpiling groceries but it is also important to stockpile toiletries. If shampoo is on sale buy one get one free buy a lot of it, unless there is a specified limit. You should see my bathroom closet. It is FULL of enough toothpaste to last me a few years....shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, shaving cream, dental floss, q-tips, facial scrub, makeup. All of it was bought at rock bottom prices. I will never NEED any of that because as my stockpile decreases I will be on the look out for it to hit rock bottom again.

8. The stores generally cycle their products to go on sale. If you keep your eyes open you can tell when something will go on sale. For example, I drink diet coke and my husband drinks pepsi. I have stockpiled 6 cases of Pepsi for him and I am down to my last case of Diet Coke. The CVS flyer came in the mail today for sales starting Sunday. Guess what soda is on sale.....Diet Coke! I could have predicted that because I am starting to run low because it's been awhile since it has gone on sale. The reverse will happen in a few weeks when his Pepsi stockpile runs low too. Strange how that works.

9. Notice how I have not yet mentioned clipping coupons. The reason for that is because if you do #1-#8 you can already enjoy savings in the 30%-50%. I know I do. Now if you are a SERIOUS saver and want to really step it up in the savings category, get your Sunday paper every week, take out all of the coupon flyers and clip EVERY COUPON out. You will need to get a small little organizer for them but if you do it right you will enjoy even more savings. You will come to realize that stores know which coupons are being sent to regional areas and it's amazing how many items go on sale when a coupon is being offered in the paper. And if you happen to shop at a store that offers double coupons (25cent coupon gets you 50 cents off) you may have the store paying YOU for your groceries.

Ok. Now that I have talked your ear off, the best advice I can give you is to read my bullets and get into the savings game. I can tell you that there is nothing like going to the grocery store and having the cashier tell you that the total is $80 and then saying "you saved $90 today" and having the person behind you look at you in shock.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wanna Sneak Peak

At my latest project I am working on? ( I wish I had a better camera). I have many other samples but just have been frustrated with the difficulty in photographing.

Blog and website coming soon to a theater near you.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Graduation Song

This was my first look at the Pre-K graduation song. I am crying today. I can only imagine how I will be on June 6. I am sure I will be a mess. Time for waterproof mascara.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Handwriting Progress

I am so proud of my princess. Her handwriting is improving so much. Now if I could just get her to write the hanging letters on the correct line.....sigh.....

Learning How To Read

I absolutely love this book and so does my little princess.

I don't remember where I got it but she pulled it out of her library to read to her last week. When I looked at it to read, I stopped. I turned to her and said "no. You are going to read it to me today." She looked at me strangely and I told her that I would help her with any words she could not figure out on her own.

Little a had a box.
He said, "I will fill my box."
Little a put on his hat and went for a walk.
He found apples, apples, apples.
He put the apples into his box.
Little a found an alligator.
He put the alligator into his box.
Little a found ants, ants, ants.
"In you go, ants," he said.

She read most of it...slowly....but on her own. I had to help her with the words "walk, found, and said." The rest she sounded out and figured out.

The next night she wanted to try to read some more. Great! She did it again. I helped her with the same words. She wants to read it again tonight except I am wise to this. She tends to memorize her books so I have to be careful that she learn how to read and not memorize. I decided I would need to switch it up a bit.

So I went online to find the boxed set and I found a really nice set on ebay. I am so excited for it to come so she can read more and more. I am very confident that by the time kindergarten comes in 4 months, she will be more than ready.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Taking Toddler to Church

This post reminded me of something I was going to write about regarding another memorable Easter Sunday mass a few weeks ago.

I have been going to our Catholic Church now since 1991. I love our pastor and this church so much that I became a eucharistic minister several years ago. All four of my kids have been baptized there, two have had their First Holy Communion, and one has been confirmed there. My better half and I officially had our church marriage there last year. So it stands to reason that we are long standing parishioners of the church.

When our church was built back in 1973 by our pastor who is still the current pastor, he tells us that he purposely did not build a "cry room" for the children of the church in the event that they make noise. The purpose of this was that he didn't want families to feel isolated from the rest of the congregation and that since Jesus welcomes everyone to His house noisy children should be included too.

He was smart enough, though, to add a balcony which has somehow grown to be the place where we take our children in the event that they are restless but still feel a part of the church. The regular parishioners know this and has been pretty much adapted as our own "cry room."

Which is why I am amused every Easter Sunday when people come to the church and have either never been to church before or have not been to this church before. This past Easter I was with my family up in the balcony because my littlest tiger still can't totally sit still in his seat. No problem. Except for the fact that when we went up to the balcony there was a couple sitting in front of us who were extremely agitated with our much so that they kept looking back at us with sour faces as if to tell us that somehow we didn't belong there because Tiger wouldn't sit down. He wasn't even making any noise but they could hear him doing the whole stand-sit-stand-sit ritual. But that didn't matter to me. How dare people come to God's church on the highest holy day of the church year and make nasty faces in judgement on myself or my children. Weren't we there to celebrate the rising of Jesus Christ our Savior King???? Hadn't we prepared ourselves for the past 40 days of Lent?

I celebrate this day with Easter Bunnies, candy, and colored eggs for my children and it is so festive for them. But I celebrate this day at Church because that is where I am called to be. I feel blessed on this day NOT angry. Why would others feel anger toward me? I am not sure of the answer.

Maybe that couple was never blessed with children to understand how difficult it can be to juggle taking little ones to church. Maybe they are not filled with grace so as to tolerate the children who are there brought by their parents to learn about the Lord.

I took the opportunity to pray for them that they would find grace and patience and perhaps that they would return to church next week to learn even more.

Speaking Of My Tiger

His newest thing now is to refuse to get dressed. He usually picks these moments just as we are having to leave the house to go out. He stops and off come the clothes...diaper too! I don't quite understand this. None of my kids did this. He is certainly unique. What do I do?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Strange Coincidence

I walked into my princess' preschool yesterday to pick her up and I noticed a sign on her classroom door for her upcoming preschool graduation. It was the first news coming out regarding the date. I can't believe this day is quickly approaching. She has grown and learned so much. She is so totally prepared for school and I am so pleased with the choices that we made to place her in the preschool that she is in. I moved down to see the date of the ceremony and after party.

June 6, 2008

I didn't have to look at my calendar to recognize the date. My heart sank. I remember that I have prepared myself to be sad on this day. You see this day will be the 10th anniversary of the death of my mom. Even though I try to ignore this day every year that it comes, it is tough. This year I promised myself I would be sad on this day. Now I have to rethink my strategy because it will be a wonderfully happy day for my little girl and my family all of whom were too young to remember the date or not around to even know her.

Maybe that was God's plan. Maybe there is a tie there that is way beyond my understanding. My mom never knew my princess. But somehow they are now tied together in a bittersweet way. Maybe this was God's way of allowing me to be happy on this day. God sure does work in mysterious ways, doesn't he?

For now I will follow His plan and be happy on this day. I think that is what my mom would have wanted.
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