Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Laughing with you, not at you...

Last night, we had ECFE (Early Childhood & Family Education). Bascially it's a 1/2 hour of structured play/arts & crafts with our kids, then they go off with the teacher for an hour and the parents have "class" where we discuss relevant parenting topics.

Our topic of discussion was 8 "L" words in raising your child, including love, live, learn, labor, etc. Laugh was one of them, and we discussed how we should laugh with our kids, not at them. I couldn't agree more! Let's have fun and do fun stuff, and enjoy our lives and our little girl. But you know what? Sometimes she does some funny stuff without even realizing it. The things she says or the facial expressions she makes - sometimes you can't help laughing at her. But not in a malicious way, so I think it's kind of okay then. She'll laugh at me a lot when she's a teenager and I'm not the cool mom that she wants to make cookies with.

But it's okay if she does that. I have a secret up my sleeve. I present to you Blackmail Evidence #1:

See? My kid does funny stuff! Here she is wearing a shirt, undies (they're there!), zebra leggings, and her winter hat. We were not going outside at all, FYI. She's also still wearing diapers. She just so happened to want to wear undies this day. She didn't understand why I was giggling at her, but how could I not? In any case, this will be a great photo to whip out for potential boyfriends when she's older. *evil face here*

Do you have funny blackmail photos of your kids or yourself?
What kind of funny things do your kids do, if you have any?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Runners Tell All: a link up!

Ok, so this is a fun blog hop/link up thing/I'm not even sure what I'm doing here. You can get back to Amanda's blog, The Lady Okie, for more information at the bottom of this page. The topic this month is "How or Why I started running in 250 words or less". So here we go!

Why I started running? Simply put: I had a baby. The multitude of reasons being I wanted to lose weight, I needed to do something to be active, and running was cheap (or so I thought). The idea of just walking out of the house, going for a run, and being done was completely appealing to me.

I started doing the Couch 2 5K program via Cool Running's site in early 2012. I was also spurred on by a Biggest Loser competition at work - which I won! My original goal was just to run a 5K. The first summer, I did that and was pretty dang proud of myself! My time was 30 minutes and some change.

I kind of slacked off during the winter, but was determined to come out fighting last Spring. I ran another 5K that Spring with a PR of 27:00 and thought "that was really fun!" Then I got the crazy idea to do a half marathon. I'm not sure what part of my brain thought 5K to 13 miles was a natural jump, but I'd signed up and committed before I knew it.

After a long, painful summer, where I wanted to quit many times, race day arrived. I was incredibly nervous, but I knew my training would kick in and carry me through. And it did! I finished my first half in 2:03:01, and couldn't have been happier! I've been bitten by the running bug. Next half-marathon: June 2014. Here I come!

About to cross the finish line of my first Half-Marathon!

Check out Amanda's story and more!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Heat Wave!

We're finally hitting temps at or above freezing this week. Hooray! Although they are not forecasted to stay around, and it will likely be down to 10ish again by this weekend. Sad face.

But I'm trying to stay positive! I'm hoping that three days of warm weather will be enough to melt the gigantic snowbanks we have on either side of our driveway. They're so tall that it makes seeing around them slightly difficult. I've brought you photographic evidence:

Here is the end of my driveway. I'm not really sure what the streak is going through the bank. Maybe Travis was trying to do a little snow art with the blower...

Here's a shot just for reference. That's the top of Trav's truck peeking out from the top of the bank. We don't officially have an extra space over there, but we do have a dip in the sidewalk for a driveway there, so it's become the third parking spot. Travis plows around his truck, too.

He plowed out a bit of our back sidewalk/patio area. I'm pretty sure that's over 2 feet of snow. If you look in the back of the picture, you can see that the snow comes up to the windows of that building. Got snow?

For the most part, the city does a good job at keeping the roads plowed. Business owners utilize tractors and plows to clear out parking lots. Although it's hard to get down to the pavement, so parking becomes a fun game when there's no lines.

I've been tempted to run outside again this week since it's warmed up, but these snowbanks worry me. I'm a little afraid of coming around a corner or up to a stop sign and not being seen by a driver. So I think I'll just plod along on my treadmill for a little while longer.

Speaking of Spring, I'm running in the Hope Springs 5K at the end of April again this year, and I'm really looking forward to it. This is a great, local charity that provides support for cancer patients. They supply things like gas cards and grocery store gift cards to help supplement the patient's income while in treatment - knowing that many cancer patients have to quit their jobs or go on an unpaid leave due to the ill effects or sheer amount of treatment. If you'd like to donate, you can visit my page at: Alison's Page.

I have zero donations so far - help a sista out!

So, with that in mind...

What kind of crazy winter weather have you had this year?
What are you most looking forward to this Spring?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies

I'm kind of a dork when it comes to holidays. I will admit this. I like to decorate and have fun and get excited about the little things. Because what is life but a series of little things that make one big, great life? Right? Ok, that's my moment of being deep for today.

So Valentine's Day is coming up. Very soon! It's Friday, just in case you forgot and still need to get a card or something for your loved one. Travis and I exchange cards, but we usually don't make a big fuss out of the actual holiday with gifts and such. But I do like to decorate the house a little, and now we get to make fun Valentines for Emily's daycare friends. Thanks to Pinterest, I found this cute little idea which was surprisingly easy to make:

I mean, aren't these the cutest? Those are glow stick bracelets, and what kid doesn't love glow sticks? Emily was thrilled to play with the leftovers.

My book club also happens to be meeting this week of Valentine's Day, so I got all corny and decided to make a V-Day related food item. Which is actually kind of a huge deal because usually I bring something off this list:

a) a bottle of wine
b) cheese & sausage plate with crackers
c) some other store-bought shenanigans

So actually making something IS a big deal. I decided to go with these cute cookies. The fact that they are pink also helped sway my decision.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies
From Mom On Time Out
Typically, I like all things chocolate. Strawberry is good too, but not what I would choose out of the two. Luckily, this recipe combines the best of both worlds with strawberry cake mix, chocolate m&m's, and white chocolate chips. Let's all say "yum" in unison here, k? "Yuuuuuuum!"

Here's the recipe for those of you who don't want to click:

1 box strawberry cake mix
1 stick {8 Tbls} butter, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz Neufchatel cheese {light cream cheese}, room temperature
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 c M&Ms


  1. Combine, butter, egg, vanilla, and cream cheese in a bowl. Mix together thoroughly.
  2. Add cake mix, half of the box at a time, mixing until well combined.
  3. Stir in chips and candies by hand.
  4. Refrigerate for at least one hour and then roll dough into 1 inch balls.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Place dough balls onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 9 minutes - you don't want the cookies to brown at all! Set a timer.
  7. Let cookies cool on a baking sheet for several minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 4-5 days.
  9. Makes 3 dozen cookies.
The only thing I would have done differently is less of the chips and m&m's. I ended up having a lot left over that wouldn't stick into the cake mix. Also, I put 3 pans in the oven at once, so my cooking time was a tad longer. But you really do have to watch them! One pan did get a little brown. They're still a bit soft when you pull them out, but will harden up as they cool. Mine aren't quite as pretty, but they're still tasty! 


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: Her: A Memoir

We're still dealing with frigid temps here in the Great White North, so I've been doing a lot of reading. I just finished Her: A Memoir, which is a really touching recount of one twin's fight for survival after her identical twin dies suddenly. 

According to a statistic that the author read, 50% of the time the surviving twin dies within two years of the first twin's death. Cara Parravani died due to an overdose on heroin, a habit she started after a brutal rape a few years earlier. After losing Cara, Christa came very close to becoming a statistic. She stopped eating and turned to prescription pain killers. Pills to tell her when to sleep, when to wake up, when to feel hungry, happy...anything like normal. She moved from house to house, had affairs, divorced her husband, and even wound up in an inpatient psychiatric center. This novel traces her steps deep into despair and onto survival.

Losing a sibling is always difficult. Losing anyone is difficult. But I could really feel for Christa, the surviving twin, in the fact that losing your identical twin IS different. Maybe not worse or harder like some other reviewers question, but different. Identical twins share DNA. They are of one egg, separated during the first few days of conception. The second twin emerges from the original egg, pulling vital nutrients with it to survive. Often the "original" twin is the smaller of the two. Smaller and weaker? I'm not so sure.

Christa really shows her strength in this book, although I'm sure she felt nothing close to strong during the years after Cara's death. To lose the person whom you shared everything with, whom you knew better than even yourself - it's like losing half of yourself. But I think that maybe it's in the "original" twin's nature to be a survivor. Afterall, she survived losing half of herself at the very beginning. 

Christa does a good job of laying everything bare for the reader to see and discover in this novel. She hides nothing. She openly admits to drug use, recreational sex, abortions - you name it. I feel like Christa wrote this novel not for critical acclaim, but as a cathartic experience to make sense of her grief and loss. While it certainly could be a depressing read, I appreciated the knowledge about being and losing a twin that is presented. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Book Review: Sharp Objects

I finished this book last week, but I've been having a hard time collecting my thoughts on it. I know that I love Flynn and loved this book, but it's hard to explain why. As always, Gillian Flynn delivers a novel that will have you staying up late into the night just to see what happens next. Flynn writes about difficult subjects that you may not want to know more about, but soon you can't look away and need to know more. Her characters are so broken, and she doesn't promise a happy ending. But I think maybe I like authors that do not feel the need to wrap things up in a neat little bow for their readers. So, here we go: 

"WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart. Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. ..."

As a Chicago reporter, Camille has seen her fair share of horrible and gruesome stories. It's all part of the job. But her boss learns that a girl has gone missing just 9 months after another young girl's murder in Camille's home town of Wind Gap, Missouri. Anxious for a break on the story, he sends her down there despite the fact that Camille hasn't been back in years. 

Wind Gap holds no fond memories for Camille. Having grown up with a cold, controlling mother, Camille was anxious to escape right after high school. Upon her return, she learns that she is an oddity in this small town where quarterbacks marry the homecoming queen, have babies, and continue gossiping about each other as if no time has passed at all. 

After only a few days back at home, the second girl's body is discovered and it becomes official that a serial killer is on the loose. In a small town like Wind Gap, every one becomes a suspect while no one can believe that one of their own could be the killer. Camille is forced to stay at the home of her mother, Adora, and step-father, Richard. They have a 13 year old daughter, Amma, who is the queen bee in middle school, and heaven help everyone once their group enters high school. 

Staying in her childhood home brings up many long-buried emotions for Camille. Her mother is a perfectionist, and always loved primping, preening, and being the center of attention. Adora, the daughter of an uncaring and aloof woman herself, openly admits that Camille was hard to love. Camille had a younger sister, Marian, who died at a young age. Interestingly, Adora was overly caring and doting for Marian, who would "accept" Adora's love in the form of nursing her to health whenever she was sick. Adora's lack of affection and love for Camille leads her to start cutting - but not just cuts into her flesh but words. Words that burn and flare for Camille whenever she feels something. Her skin speaks to her, tingles and buzzes and needs to be calmed. Camille did spend some time in a psychiatric hospital for her disease, and being home again causes her to struggle with the temptation and need to cut again.

As the investigation unfolds, Camille becomes entangled in the details and starts to regret her decision to come home more and more. Despite her budding relationship with the homicide detective on the case, Camille starts to learn that maybe she doesn't want to know the truth about the Wind Gap murders. 

This was technically Flynn's first novel, although it is the third one I have read of hers. It is a very good start, although the reader can see that her talent has progressed with each novel. I felt like the subcharacters were not quite as developed in Sharp Objects as they were with Dark Places or Gone Girl. Still, this novel is one that I will recommend to anyone that will listen. 

Flynn is so good at making the reader think they know what's going on, and then giving a twist that will shock you at first but then having you thinking "well yea, why didn't I see that!?" About halfway through Sharp Objects, I was sure I knew who the murderer was. So much, in fact, that as the last chapters began to unfold I thought "yes! I knew it!" only to have the rug completely pulled out from under me at the last minute. 

Dear reader, if you are looking for a book to fall into, this is the one for you. I wouldn't steer you wrong. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Don't Know How She Does It

Have you heard of this movie? "I Don't Know How She Does It" stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, and Greg Kinnear in a film about a working mom who drives herself into madness by trying to be the perfect mom, perfect employee, and perfect wife. Parker works at a large investment firm where she scores a big project and has to travel a lot, leaving her kids in the hands of her husband and nanny. At the same time, her husband lands a big gig so he's working more as well. Their kids have school functions and speech development issues, birthday parties and bake sales. Their love life falls to the wayside as Parker tries to keep up with everything.

The movie deals with all the guilt that working moms feel when trying to grow their careers and be involved in their children's lives. It really got me thinking though, how realistic is this? Is it possible to really have it all?

I think the answer is yes and no. I don't think it's possible to be the super mom who bakes, exercises, makes wholesome meals three times a day, checks homework, provides stimulating crafts on weekends, cleans, does laundry, and works outside the home in a challenging career. At least not all alone. It definitely takes two parents these days, and two actively participating parents at that. 

Travis does his fair share of chores around the house, plus cooks dinner almost every night, and takes his fair share of one-on-one time with Emily. I think in this century, it is unfair for a Dad not to do these things. It shouldn't be placed all on Mom's shoulders to do everything. But times are turning and we are starting to see more of a balance when it comes to parenting. 

However, I found this in a study through a quick Google search: 

Among mothers with children under age 18, the share saying they would prefer to work full time has increased from 20% in 2007 to 32% in 2012...Among all adults, only 16% say the ideal situation for a young child is to have a mother who works full time. A plurality of adults (42%) say mothers working part time is ideal, and one-third say it’s best for young children if their mothers do not work at all outside of the home.
How is that fair? Why does the mother have to stay at home? Why should either parent have to stay at home? Emily goes to daycare 5 days out of the week, and she has flourished. She has wonderful social skills, verbal skills, and motor skills. I attribute this largely to the fact that she goes to daycare with a mixed-aged group. She wants to keep up with the older kids, so she tries harder to do so. I know that staying at home is good for plenty of children, but daycare was the right decision for our child.

The pressure these days on moms to do it all is enormous, and frankly I think it's ridiculous.  Movies like "I Don't Know How She Does It" really aren't helping. In the end, Parker has to tell her boss that she's going to work more on her own schedule so that she can spend more time with her family, but I don't think that is realistic either. How many people can say that to their bosses? I think fewer than most think. 

I think the key to having a happy balance is letting go. Let go of the things that are not necessary or urgent. Focus on the activities you and your child like best. Kid hates piano but loves soccer? Drop piano. You like to clean and hubby likes to cook? Split it up! In a world where we feel like we have to do and be more just because social media says so, I think the better choice is to choose what is best for our families and to let the rest go. We don't have to do everything to be perfect. You're already perfect, just the way you are :o)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Creating a Pantry

One thing that really irks me about our house is the kitchen. It is woefully small. Ridiculously tiny. Really. In a 1700 square foot home, we have a one-person-only sized kitchen. Here's a good picture to show the size:

As you can see, it is barely wide enough for the oven door to come down. I promise you that two people in my kitchen is a party with one too many people. What also irks me is that there is no pantry. To the right of this picture is one little upper and lower cabinet in which we house drinking glasses and platter sized plates. To the left is the refrigerator. Directly across from the sink is our eat-in nook. So there is no great place for a pantry. Over time, what happened is that we chose one upper cabinet to house all of our dry-goods that do not belong in the fridge. Unfortunately, that led to a bit of over flow.
Over flow
As you can see, there's some bread on the counter, fruit, a bag of coffee, some oils. This is a good day. This was prettied up for the camera. The cabinet itself looks like a disaster zone, and it's hard to find anything. 

However, just off our kitchen we have a good sized mud room with a very large, under used closet. 

Light-bulb! Why not purge out that closet and turn half of it into a pantry? It was full of jackets and coats that I don't wear. Some that maybe I should be wearing and just forget about, and plenty that could just be donated to Goodwill. So, in the space of a nap-time, this became my weekend project. I ordered a garage-storage type shelving unit from Lowe's for $30, and bought some baskets from Wal-mart for about $12. After a couple hours work, here's the finished project:

Isn't it beautiful?! We were already storing extra paper towels, toilet paper, and Kleenex in the closet, but now they are organized and pretty. One of the baskets is even empty! I'm sure it will fill up soon as we get used to working with the pantry a bit more. For now, the top basket has loose odds and ends, small packages of what-not. The full basket on the third shelf contains all matters of liquid sauces and oils that are not used every day. I lined the basket with wax paper to avoid icky messes, just in case. For now, I'm really liking how this turned out. Also, I've gotten a bit of my counter space back.

This may not look quite as organized to you, but it is worlds better than the before picture. I promise!