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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Week of Birthdays....

Jules here-

March is the busiest month of birthdays in my family: Mom-mom & Ems, Aunt Caryn's, and then both girls within 5 days of each other.... lots and lots of cake.....  Of course, we used our party-planning tips to create a fun, budget-friendly, and delicious party!  Grace and Lissie agreed on a mermaid/under-the-sea party about a month ago, so we began cutting out fish, seaweed and more to decorate the house...

Grace made a paper chain with the pattern: 10 blues, 3 whites; this way it would like like white-capped waves in the background!  Grace was dying for a pinata, but I was not daring enough to attempt one-- and I could not believe how pricey they could get! So we settled on a pin-the-crown-on-the-mermaid-princess game....

Can you tell it's homemade? :) The girls dot-painted it....
We typically host our parties at a brunch-time as it works best for naps; my mother and sister helped out with the main dishes of different salads (chicken, shrimp & tuna).  Delicious in croissants!! We also had homemade hummus (much cheaper than store-bought).  I found some pinterest-inspiration for this one:

 As for the cake, I surprised them with a sandcastle cake (with graham cracker crumbs & ice cream cones) and mermaid-tail cupcakes.  They tasted great and the girls were thrilled!

I highly recommend graham-cracker crumbs-- easy to make a cake when you don't have to make it perfectly smooth!!

The party was a success: the girls had so much fun decorating and planning; the family was able to get together; and we all gained five pounds.

Easy Rule #329810- If you can make your kids happy without spending too much- it's worth it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Top Ten Things I've Learned from Working with the Elderly

Jules here-

As some of you know I do have a side-job to my homeschooling, homemaking, and parenting- I am a home care occupational therapist. I wanted to work in healthcare since I was 5 years old when I read a story about Clara Barton; at thirteen, I volunteered at a nursing home, and I eventually worked there for five years.  I had read this book about a girl who volunteered with the elderly, and it seemed so interesting and fun!
Working with the elderly (and I mean 80+ years old....) can be rewarding, challenging, and just plain funny.  After 20 years of interactions with the senior population, I have definitely gleaned some wisdom from them.

10. All bodies wear out.  As much as Maybelline ads try to convince you otherwise, wrinkles and sagging happen to everyone.  I have had former Rockettes, models, and athletes; yet, gravity and the sun reduce all of them to a wrinkled shadow of their former beauty.  Does that sound sad? NO! Instead, it makes me realize that beauty is only skin-deep. The elderly who embrace their age (I'm not saying that they "let go" of themselves) always age more gracefully.  They wear age-appropriate clothing, they don't slather "young" make-up all over their faces, and they keep their hair manageable.  There is a beauty in aging; I've seen hundreds of elderly bodies and their scars, wrinkles, and sagging tell the unique story of their lives.

9. Old people are people. Sounds obvious, right? We had a 98-year-old guest lecturer teach a class in college, and she began it by asking us to describe old people.  Words such as "cute, confused, crotchety, smelly, grumpy, sweet.." etc. decorated the board.  She then asked us, "Which of these words could only describe an old person-- we couldn't find any.  Do you know some grumpy, rude 30-year-olds? Guess what? They typically turn into grumpy, rude 90-year-olds.  I've had the sweetest, smartest elderly patients, and I've had the meanest, rudest ones too...

8. You can always wash your hands. Anyone who has worked in healthcare knows how gross our jobs can be.  From adult diapers to wound care, I have experienced some revolting things.... however, I have the mantra, "You can always wash your hands" and wear gloves.  So when I had children and had to change an infant diaper, I thought, "Well, this is easy."  I never cringe when poop gets on my hands or vomit hits the floor (o.k... vomit gets me a little) . 

7. Use your brain. A lot.  Dozens of studies have reinforced the logical assumption that if you use your brain, you won't "lose it".  Engaging in challenging games, completing crossword puzzles, and reading books/newspaper can help keep your brain "young" as you age.  Patients who play cribbage or learn new games to play with their grandchildren always are more engaging and sharp-witted.  So that's my excuse for my online word-gaming addiction and hoards of sci/fi & fantasy novels....

6. Never say never.  Many people develop living wills when they are in their 40s and 50s thinking, "I would never want to be tube-fed" or "I would never want to live if I couldn't walk!"   From 14 years of rehab experience, you will never know what your actual situation will be. I've had people who have a swallowing dysfunction who need to be tube-fed, yet still can walk, think, and even talk!  So you might want to appoint an advocate to interpret your living will, so doctors don't do it for you.

5. With age comes wisdom.  Are all elderly people brilliant? No! BUT, think back to yourself in high school, wouldn't you want to yell "WHO CARES WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK?!" or some other choice words? I look at myself three months ago and want to scream sometimes.  Imagine being 97 years-old and working with a "young-un"--their words to me are often so much more poignant and credible. Their perspective often helps me view a personal situation with more clarity.  Always ask an elderly person about "their story," I often find out the most fascinating war stories, romances, and accomplishments of my patients just by engaging them in conversation.  I've had the patient who created the door mechanism on the infamous Enola Gay, a national geographic photographer who survived a shark attack, and had a couple who had been married for 77 years....of course I want to learn something from them!

4. Moderation works. Don't get too fat OR too thin.  That's my best health advice for living a long, full life.  Obesity contributes to heart failure, diabetes, joint discomfort/break-down, etc.  Conversely, being too thin contributes to osteoporosis, weak muscles, an increase in falls, etc.  Keeping your muscles active and strong helps moderate your weight and prevent weakness.  Not smoking or drinking heavily helps too....

3. Forgiveness should trump everything.  I have had patients who have long-standing feuds with sons and daughters; their own resentment and loneliness taints their entire perception.  Resentment festers inside people, and my most crotchety patients typically have burned every bridge in their family. Some of my oldest and wisest patients have admitted that their own stubbornness created their lonely existence.

2. Social connections matter.  When an elderly patient is connecting with his/her community, he/she has an unparalleled support system.  I have a patient right now that never married, yet, she was a volunteer with Meals-on-Wheels for twenty years, attended church regularly, and hosted a bridge club.  Since coming home from the hospital, she has had dozens of visitors who bring meals, flowers, and well-wishes.  Though she is in chronic pain, her friends and neighbors offer her the hope, kindness, and physical assistance she truly needs.

1. Empathy.  Any profession involving caring for the sick, dying, or disabled requires patience and understanding.  As a rookie O.T., I often cringed at some of the menial and disgusting tasks that I had to perform.  One especially caring coworker of mine said once, "Imagine if this patient was your mother or grandmother. How would you want someone to treat her?"  So no matter how challenging a patient is, I reflect back on those words.  I try to recognize the humanity in each of my patients, and try to give them dignity, respect, and kindness.  And if they are especially cranky, I try to imagine how lonely they must truly feel.

And for a heartwarming tale, watch this:

I will eventually do a post about the funny side of working with patients-- I might have some guest-contributors for our top ten favorite hospital stories....

Easy Rule #3908- Let's be a society who appreciates the wisdom of the elderly, and treats them with respect and kindness.

Easy Rule #59098- Working with patients isn't for everyone... but if you do--appreciate what they can offer you as well!

Easy Rule #459- Always wear sunscreen.

Monday, March 24, 2014

One Car Life Lessons

Ems here:

Two months ago when the lease on our Honda minivan terminated, we decided to take the plunge...NOT to choose a sparkly new vehicle from the lot despite tempting offers, and instead, survive solely with one (giant) van.  I admit, I was skeptical about this plan. Although the Scrooge-ish side of me understand the value of only having one monthly payment, the practical side of me was kinda freaking out--activities, shopping, appointments--how was this going to work out??

Where all the magic happens.

So here are some things I've learned with this new experience of Solo Vehicle Living:

1. Planning, planning - Bri's work schedule is up on the calendar and I really look at it because it really matters. What days is he home early? What days is he off? With that information, I can schedule appointments, plan grocery store trips, initiate play dates, etc. Essentially, spontaneity is out the window, but it doesn't mean that all activity stops...we just have to color within the lines a bit more.

2. Team Family - We need to work together as a family. If I'm out of milk and Bri is on a work stretch, he will have to grab it on the way home even though he's super tired since I won't be able to leave the house the next day. On other days, it's either we all go someplace together or someone stays home--there is no going in opposite directions! It creates a One For All, All For One mentality..and we go more places together, even if it's just to WalMart.

3. Humility - I HATE asking for help. Like, it's a serious pride issue.  The boys are very involved in soccer, but there are just some practices to which we just cannot get them, and I've had to call on other parents to transport my kids. People are so kind. They truly don't mind, I can tell. We reciprocate when we can, but mostly I just have to be humble and say "Thank you. I really appreciate it." Because I really do.

4. Savings - We needed the financial breathing room (I mean, who doesn't?), and it has been so helpful to have more money each month, plain and simple. Check out the new couch we finally got! We were able to ditch the 12 year old ripped one at last.

*Pillows are subject to change

5. Bunkering In - You know that feeling you get when a big blizzard comes and you can't leave the house but you have milk, eggs, and electricity so it's ok? That's the same feeling I get when Bri leaves for work and I am in the house with no escape. It's almost freeing in some weird way. I feel like I have no other choice than to clean house and get things organized and take care of the kids....not that I do anything different any other day necessarily, but having choice taken from you sometimes allows you to act without hesitation. Like when the teacher provides you with a specific essay prompt--there's no dithering with the decision of 'which should I choose?', you just have to make do and run with it. This is me running with it. And the introvert inside is a happy girl. Except on phone free Fridays. Lent is rough.

You get me through many a long day, my little phone.

I'm not sure how long we will be a one car family. I don't know that I would recommend others dropping a vehicle if it wasn't necessary. But I do know that like everything in life, there is a silver lining to sacrifice. Wait, that's my Easy Rule.

Easy Rule #3114: There's a silver lining to every sacrifice.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mmm... Appetizers

Jules here-

Personally, I can go to a restaurant and order an appetizer and be happy... just kidding, I order five! From hot wings to mini-crab cakes, I love small delicacies.  When the tapas style restaurants became all the craze, I hopped right on that band wagon. 

So, in part TWO of the neighborhood cook-off, we chose the category of appetizers with a focus on dips.  After scouring cookbooks, the Internet, and pinterest, we each came up with some fantastic dishes.  We once again split on the spousal votes; however, we wrangled an additional neighbor to be a guest judge, and she chose Don's as the favorite this time:

Hot Reuben Dip
1 lb. diced corned beef
8 oz. shredded swiss cheese
1 14-oz. can sauerkraut, drained very well (place in strainer & press out liquid)
3/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. Thousand Island dressing

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Spoon into a serving dish that can be placed in the oven (a 9″ pie plate works great!). Bake at 400° for about 20 minutes, until it is bubbling and nicely browned. Serve with toasted Rye Bread crackers.

Don's homemade rye bread crackers sealed the deal on the victory--very, very tasty. He also used the leftovers to make yummy sandwiches the next day!

 My second-place recipe was also quite tasty-- Don's wife voted for mine.... but his was definitely more unique. I love the seven-layer taco dips, but I wanted something warm and yummy; I found this pampered chef recipe.  

Hot Taco Dip

* 1 can (9 ounces) bean dip
* 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
* 1/2 cup sour cream
* 1 Tbs. taco seasoning mix
* 1 garlic clove, pressed
* 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
* 1/2 medium tomato, diced
* 2 green onions, thinly sliced
* 1/4 cup olives, sliced (but I left these out)
* 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh cilantro
* Tortilla Chips

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Spread dip over bottom of pan.  Combine cream cheese, sour cream, taco seasoning mix and garlic.  Spread cream cheese mixture over beans.  Top with grated cheese.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Top with diced tomato, green onion, and cilantro.  Garnish with extra sour cream if you would like.

 Hope you enjoy some new appetizer recipes for your party repertoire!  Next up for our contest is the Main Dish Chicken category-- stay tuned for some other fantastic, award-winning recipes!!

Easy Rule #49298- The best contest to lose is a cooking one. No matter what happens you get to eat delicious food!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Killing Time Till Spring

Ems here--

Our St. Patrick's Day wasn't quite as fun-filled as Jules'...ok, I admit it, I forgot it was St. Patrick's day till about 10 am. Then I talked to Jules on the phone and was immediately guilted into doing something "Irish-y." So I made green scrambled eggs for lunch, whereupon Gabe declared they were "poisoned" and refused to eat them:

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Then we tried to find the St. Patrick cartoon movie that we watch every year, but of course, we only found the empty VHS box and had to watch the 3 minute YouTube version instead:

Finally, feeling like I needed to do a bit more, I found some good quotes from St. Patrick and had the children copy them in their best handwriting. So basically, my kids came away from the holiday feeling grumpy, bored...and possibly queasy.

Besides ruining feast days, we have been finding some more productive ways to keep busy until the weather finally warms up and the kids can play outside again:

1. Planting!

I've done a small corner yard garden in the past (the years I didn't have a newborn during the summer), and this year I thought we'd get a jump start on spring and grow seedlings inside. Thanks to Walmart, I didn't have to be creative with the design, and bought a plastic greenhouse planting system that can house 72 seedlings for $5.68. With a small bag of potting soil and a variety of .20 cent seed packets, planting was an affordable and easy project. Each child has 12 squares to his/her name and watching the seedlings is such a fun daily activity.

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2. Cleaning!

Yes, yes, I clean occasionally. Don't you see that Swiffer in the picture up there? I enjoy a clean home, I just realize that with this many children underfoot 24x7, there's no point in stressing if it doesn't happen regularly, often, or well. However, if there is ever a time that I almost enjoy cleaning, it is in the spring. Opening a window and letting the cool, not frigid, air inside the house is truly a joy to me. Clean out those closets, move that furniture, sweep, dust, wash windows--put the kids to work, too!

Jo ADORES using the magic eraser on my cabinets and fridge! She's a great helper :)

3. Getting the Stomach Flu!

Nothing passes the time like waiting for the next child to get hit with diarrhea and vomiting. These past 12 days have just flown by! Here are some charming vignettes from our plague:

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If you want some more (much more useful) ideas, please refer back to Jules' post about waiting for spring.

In the meantime, I pray you all remain healthy and happy!

Easy Rule #1893: To every thing there is a season...a time to plant, a time to clean, a time to comfort a sick child. A time to eat a whole chocolate cake.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Fun

Jules here-

Hope you all had a fun and family-friendly St. Patrick's Day!  With a family of red-heads, this is the one holiday to embrace our pasty complexions and freckled noses!  As our avid readers know, we do tend to "do-it-up" at the holidays--though we try not to go crazy...  Simple things like shaped-pancakes and cutesy crafts can keep my kiddos happy!

We started our day with some green M&M pancakes (remember my after-Christmas shopping candy-hoarding? It pays off...) and of course we donned our green apparel:

Shamrocks are even easier to shape than hearts! After breakfast, I read the true story of St. Patrick to add to our normal school lessons, and they enjoyed hearing about some Irish Leprechaun lore as well.  Of course, I face-painted them shamrocks (which they loved!) But, most of the day was spent during our normal activities: school, library, cleaning...

All face-painted for the library!
 For meals, however, I wanted something Irish-esque for dinner-- yet I honestly dislike corned beef and cabbage.  I can eat one serving and then the crock-pot full of meat ferments in my fridge for a few days until I gain the courage to open the tupperware...

So, instead I made my favorite "leftover potato soup", crumbled with lots of bacon on top. It was delicious, warm, and most of my children liked it.  I decided to get creative with dessert, and I bought a pint of vanilla ice cream and sliced it into circles, then half-circle arches. Decorating the ice cream arch, I used sixlets candy(I like chocolate on ice cream, but skittles were my back up).   One pack of gold coins made this dessert complete!

The kids loved all the junk food, of course, and Grace instantly said, "You must put this on pinterest!"   So I shall.

Finally, we listened to Irish drinking songs throughout the day, inspiring this quick video:

Easy Rule #317 Learning the traditions of different countries and the history of your faith can be fun!

Easy Rule #4891 Two year olds never nap on holidays-- could be the sugar-intake....

My troublesome Leprechaun!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spelling Bee and Other Trials

Ems here:

Such a busy couple weeks! Firstly, Theo (age 10) was able to compete in the Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday, although he was technically the alternate--shout out to John Paul, the local winner (unable to compete because the Scripps bee requires participants to be in the 5th grade)!  We had a couple months to prepare for the Bee utilizing a list of words provided....14 pages of insanely challenging words from various countries.

It's so funny "studying" with a lazy smart kid. Basically we did 15 minutes of word study a day and then he would casually exit the room while I was distracted by, you know, a baby or a 2 year old or a phone call. Or I would remind him to look over the words only to find him 4 minutes later reading a book with the list strewn over the back of the couch.  However, with a few days to go till the Bee, he suddenly got a case of the What the Bleep Am I Doing internal freak-out: headaches, insomnia, random bouts of late-night word list review. It would have been hilarious if I weren't so concerned.

As my youngest sister, Bets, pointed out wisely, "It's all part of growing up." She's right. I remember being a ball of stress before (and during) piano recitals; I remember being on stage during the mandatory school plays and wanting to crawl into a hole; I remember trying out for All State Choir realizing MUCH too late that my voice was only so-so compared to the other talent out there.  I know that these experiences shape us, mold us, change us and ultimately help make us the people we are today. It doesn't make it any easier watching a child go through it.

Bri and I gave him daily pep talks of the variety:

"It will be fine! You've studied, you're smart, just do your best!"
"Well, if you were this worried, you should have been studying more all along!"
"Just relax and you will do alright."
"Try not to be the first one out, mmm'kay?"

When the big day came, we piled into the van and headed downstate 20 miles. The adventure was magnified by the fact that we decided to keep driving post-Bee and visit Bri's parents who live 4 hours from our house, in the same direction.  As such, our morning was full of laundry and packing and last minute word studying.

We walked into the large elementary school building and after signing in, Theo was immediately whisked away to join the other time for last minute advice or hugs--tear :(

After a long and very tedious hour of waiting, Theo and the other 48 children made their way across the stage. He looked so little! But I was so proud that when it was his turn to answer the first practice round question and give his name, grade, and (virtual) school, he did so very calmly and collectedly. No fainting or crying or whispering. I felt like he had already won some small battle.

Theo is the little one behind the microphone. In the front row, of course. I was PRAYING he wouldn't do something embarrassing. The worst was a case of excessive lounging due to obvious boredom. Homeschool kids aren't used to sitting still that long....I clearly need to lecture more.

Finally, the real Bee began:

Quesadilla! Contiguous! Transect! Sayonara! Infinitesimal! Lieutenant! Pennant! Mascot! Verboten! Maraca! Paddock! Incorruptible! Discipline!

The kids were dropping like flies. Theo made it till Round 3, put out by the word "Kabuki." Oh well. That's the luck of the draw in a spelling bee. The girl after him got "toucan" much to Theo's jealous dismay.

All in all, Theo placed 12th and received a $25 Visa gift card, as did all the participants.  Top 10 got trophies, and the winner is headed to the Big Bee in D.C.

When I asked him afterwards if he would shoot for the Regional Bee again, knowing all that was involved--the studying, the stress, etc.--he looked at me like I had two heads, "Of COURSE I will try to get here again! You get $25 bucks just for showing up!!"

So, all my fears allayed for the bargain price of $25 bucks. I will remember this.

Well, off to deal with the latest round of diarrhea and vomiting due to the LLSFERBM virus (Longest Lasting Stomach Flu Ever Recorded By Man).

Sayonara! Go eat a quesadilla and discipline your kids! And having an infinitesimal amount of sugar is surely not verboten, even during Lent. Perhaps you can catch some Kabuki theater on NetFlix.

Easy Rule #3867: The kids are alright. Breathe. Experience. And then protect them more till next time.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Picture It - The Rosary

First, thanks to Julie for picking up my slack over the past week! I will have more posts coming--I owe you, sis:)

We decided to say a decade of the rosary every night this Lent--so of course, tonight is the first night we remember. 

It started with Gabe (2) pronouncing, "I don't like prayers. Mom, you're fired."

Then this happened:

 I will leave you with this.

Easy Rule #1002: Sometimes all you can do is take a picture and mentally go to your Quiet Place.

Easy Rule #977: If at first you don't succeed...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

When the Time is Right

Jules here-
When Grace wasn't ready for preschool, I secretly vowed to never have my other kiddos go through that trauma either. The curriculum at preschool seems quite basic to me: learning letters, numbers, shapes, and social interactions.  Developing your own preschool at home is quite simple with the Internet and most resources you probably have at home.

Getting your child to sit and listen-- is another story.  Felicity has a much more--let's call it "stubborn"-- personality than Grace.  Since the beginning of our preschool year, she has not been into learning. I have come up with dozens of creative, fantastic, and enjoyable learning activities that she attempts for 5 minutes and says, "I'm done school now."

During Grace's history lessons, she usually sits and listens; she always enjoys stories and the fantastic video lessons I find, but she did nothing related to preschool. 

So around the holidays, I kind of gave up...  I just let her play during school time and threw my "curriculum" out the window....

Suddenly, in the past 4 weeks, she has started requesting worksheets like Grace has.  Luckily I am a homeschool-hoarder and I have an insane amount of materials.  Her fine motor skills have finally improved enough to do the worksheets: tracings, connecting lines, and circling things.  She is so proud of her "math" pages that we have dozens hanging on our wall right now! (Of course, the "recycle-fairy" will come and purge some of them during nap time...)  She somehow can easily recognize all her letters and letter sounds, numbers to 20, most shapes, and all the planets.

I am not a hippie-homeschooler when it comes to "let your children learn at his/her own time" but before the age of four-- I am definitely more flexible. As an occupational therapist, I am all about encouraging fine motor development; however, one must wait until the child can physically handle the tasks.  It baffles me when I see mothers forcing their 2-year-olds into a tripod grasp and trace letters!  Lissie did not have the ability to do many of the handwriting tasks required for preschool worksheets, and she preferred playing Leapfrog games and simpler tasks.  Personality-wise, she also hated being unable to complete a task, and she usually gave up in frustration.

As children reach kindergarten-age, I believe most are able to handle some "pushing" with regards to school-related activities.  Next year, I plan on starting Lissie in Kindergarten, and she will not have the choice to suddenly give-up on tasks.  She will have to learn to persevere through challenges and to take quick breaks to regroup and try again.  For now, I'm letting her learn at her own pace--and she's finally catching up with writing, math, and early-phonics.

I have friends who have 3-year-olds that have unbelievable writing skills and even early-reading tendencies-- Lissie's not there yet, but I am not comparing! Every child does learn at different developmental rates, and sometimes patience pays off.
Sweet, Silly & Stubborn: Our Felicity
 From potty-training to writing, try not to put your own expectations above what your child can developmentally perform.  If your child is not physically ready for a challenge, it can result in nightmarish power struggles between parent and child.  I gave up on potty-training Lissie at 2 1/2 because I was so tired of cleaning up messes... and the very next day-- she never went in her pull-up again.  Grace said at the time, "You know Mom, I think Lissie is doing better since we stopped potty-training her."

For now, I am just happy I have a little girl who can finally write her name. Even though her S's look suspiciously like 5's....

Easy Rule #9871- Relaxing your standards can make for a happier learning environment at home! Play is learning--so make it fun!

Easy Rule #98023-  Sometimes it takes giving up on something for it to finally click. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Agony and Joy of Technology-Free

Jules here-

As the first Friday in Lent has passed, I want to reflect on how I survived the first "Phone-Free Friday".  First impression: It was AWFUL!!  I had not realized how much I relied on the escapism of technology to manage my days.  Admitting one's dependence on something is the first step, right? Well, I am dependent.
Kindle Time...

Upon awakening at 5:30 AM without news or a DVR'd show.... I stared at the clock, minutes passing... slowly.  My girls don't usually wake up until 7 AM; James and I have an early morning of breakfast, news, and cuddling.  Instead, I had to actually engage my brain in meaningful "play" activities before seven....ugh. I'm not a parent who loves playing (is that terrible to admit? I would much rather set up my kids with an activity rather than pretend to be a My Little Pony Princess), so having to play race cars for 45 minutes was a bit much.  But, I must admit-- James loved it. He engaged me in constant conversation and beamed with pride when his cars slid down the little ramp I made.

In all honestly, the kids survived the technology-free day much better than I! After they were told that there was no TV, computer, or Kindle games- they simply went off and found other things to do.  I was amazed at their nonchalant attitude as they typically pester me for a "quick 10 minute show" or "Kindle-time."  We also took them to the SEE Science Center to pass the morning time and we were blessed with some sunshine to go for a walk as well. 
Play kitchen at SEE Science Center
 As a stay-at-home-mom, most of my social interaction occurs with my children; when I do finally get to speak with an adult, sometimes I feel as if I prattle incessantly to random strangers.  My phone calls to Ems and my mom often are my "sanity-moments" of the day: time to share kid-stories, reflect on favorite books/TV, and simply talk about daily activities. Not being able to pick up the phone and call my sisters or mom truly was a sacrifice and I suffered all day.
SEE Science Lego Display (that's all Legos in the back)

Of course, our mom suffered too-- the first thing she said to me on Saturday morning was, "Well that was the worst day ever!"

My children did learn to say a decade of the Rosary, and we were able to have some meaningful family time as well!  I don't like the feeling that I am "addicted" to something- so this once a week "purge" of technology should help strengthen my resolve to be more attentive to my family's needs.

And-- I fell asleep at 8:30 PM... probably from boredom.  Actually, I was reading in bed and without the TV or Kindle to stimulate my neurons, I could NOT stay awake....

Hoping all of you are trying to recognize your own "technology-infused" lifestyle and realizing that you could change it a bit-- hanging out with your family can be fun :)

Easy Rule #45901- Sometimes it takes giving something up to realize how often you use it- try and be aware of how you spend your time!

This picture has nothing to do with this post... I just wanted to brag about my ADORABLE newest nephew Charlie-- Gabe has some competition for cutest nephew now.... And I might steal him too :) Note: Pirate Pug  James very jealous...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Surviving winter's last laugh

Jules here-

Seven. Seven degrees is how I started my day-- it's frigid here!  The expression "In like a lion out like a lamb" doesn't quite do this cold snap justice....  Two years ago exactly, my children looked like this outside:

Note no jackets and no snow....
And now this March:

Note: Snowbank taller than children.

We are getting a bit stir crazy in the house, and if the weather ever climbs above freezing (I'll take even 33 degrees) I pack the kids up for a forced walk.  How can I survive another few weeks of winter?  Here is my mini-list of things I plan to do while the weather traps us:

1. Museum trips- I know I have spoken of them before, but winter months are the perfect time to see a museum for a few hours. Many children's museums have ample space for them to stretch their legs (aka: run around), and of course they secretly learn stuff too.

2. Indoor picnics- My kids love picnicking outside and anything "different" is always exciting.  I spread out a blanket and let them have a tea party by the fire.

3. Play-doh-  Ems loves setting up play-doh, and personally I abhor it.  I hate how it gets everywhere, but it does occupy them for a long time.  I move my mini-play kitchen near them so they can "bake" their treats.  I plan on doing more play-doh until Spring, because then it shall be packed up until a rainy day...

4. Baths- during the day.  What a fun surprise to give me a mid-day bath with bath tub paint or colored ice cubes! The kids love the "crazy" schedule-change and they can play for as long as the water doesn't become frigid.
Glow stick bath!

5. Party-planning- As we have many March birthdays in our family, my girls love to plan the parties! Scouring pinterest for ideas and getting cake-decorating books from the library occupies my eldest for hours... 

So get your end-of-winter bucket list ready and prepare for the rest of this cold weather-- don't give up spring will come soon!

Easy Rule #4222- Change your perspective and try to appreciate each season for what it is-- at least you don't have put sunscreen on the kids!