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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Snow Day with Friend- Picture it!

Jules here-

As I am resolving to post a bit more, and I have a new laptop :) - no more excuses! This is the first Christmas since I moved to New Hampshire eleven years ago that wasn't white.  I was quite thrilled with the mild fall; however, our ski mountains and tourism industry has suffered.  Tuesday, the "true" winter has begun with our first 5-6 inches of snow.   The children gleefully watched as the lawn (and driveway...) filled with fluffy white snow. 

We had a sleepover guest- Grace's best friend- for TWO nights due to snowy weather! She got to partake in our annual tradition of snowman pancakes.  I simply make 3 different sized pancakes and give them a variety of toppings to make their own snowman.  James's turned out a bit like a Picasso snowman, but it still tasted delicious.


Later in the day, I suited up to snow blow and snow shovel my driveway-- AHHH! It was quite cold, and I am not in snow-shoveling-shape. My sore muscles ache today, but I did a thorough enough job to get my minivan out!
This is the "Before" picture... before it felt as if the wind had frozen off my face.

The children wanted to go outside too- and after 25 minutes of suiting them up, they lasted only 15 minutes outside in the 17 degree day....

I was so cold after my outdoor endeavors, that I had to bake a ton when I got back inside. I made the classic easiest pumpkin muffins and an apple pie muffin to help warm my house.

For dinner, I made some quick homemade pizza using the Betty Crocker dough recipe and the kids were able to add the toppings. Yummy and fun!

We were blessed with a plethora of board games for Christmas, including my favorite Bananagrams! Grace and Sophie played for hours; though they needed some "Is this a real word?" help they did great!  

It was a challenge to keep the little ones from knocking the puzzles...
We also could not have a sleepover-snow day without a movie night! We watched the classic Balto which is a snowy tale about sled-dogs. Quite entertaining and also safe for all ages- it's hard to find a movie to entertain all kiddos.
Cozy kiddos watching a film

 Having four kids on a snow day made it TONS of fun! We loved having a "best friend" who experienced sledding, pancakes, games, toys, and movies with us- thanks for loaning her to us Chrissy!

Side note- Yes, I am blogging on New Year's Eve-I lead a crazy wild life here!!! Hope everyone has a blessed, safe, healthy, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Easy Rule #41321- Even though snow can be a bit daunting for a homeowner- it can be lovely to experience through the eyes of the children.

Easy Rule #4324- You can always take a hot shower and bake muffins when you're recovering from the cold.

Bonus picture- Took this from my car window on my way to work- seriously-- New Hampshire is gorgeous!!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Top Ten Reasons I Slacked

Jules here-

I did it again. I did NOT heed my letter to myself from two years ago and once again baked, crafted, gifted, traveled, etc. all in December- and I even added a few things to the list.  But, as Christmas day is winding down... I have no regrets (well, except that I didn't blog....).  So here are the Top Ten Reasons I Slacked Off this Month:

#10- Dated Technology.  One of the things I am saving for is a new laptop. My current one is 6+ years old, which is quite "dated" by today's standards. Unfortunately, I have to keep saving my posts as my computer often freezes when I have multiple-tabs open or I attempt to upload a picture.  I can't stand typing on my kindle or smartphone, I prefer a keyboard.  Here's the one I am saving for:

Oooh... so fast.

#9- Healthcare at the Holidays- Similar to shopping malls, hospitals fill up quickly this time of year. And since I work in home care, the hospitals try to send all the patients home before Christmas. We become very busy around the holidays... So my work has been quite busy and evenings are often spent with treatment plans, evaluations and notes.

#8- Children remember traditions now.  Could I skip doing homemade Christmas ornaments? Could I skimp on driving around looking at Christmas lights while delivering cookies? Could we skip singing carols at the nursing home? No- because they now remember what we did last year... They keep asking when they are going to get to their favorite things. THE PRESSURE!! AH!

Marshmallow paint (using sweetened condensed milk)

#7-This Whole "Real School" Thing- Lord- getting the kids to school on time every day and remembering to pick them up- who has time for this at the holidays? I almost wanted to keep them home from school to have uninterrupted prep time.
At School Holiday performance

#6- Helping out Siblings in Distress- Betsy decided to host an overwhelming large party while having a 3 month old and a two year old- needless to say she panicked a bit prior to the start. I am so grateful that I live within driving distance of her so I could help prep, plan, and implement her AWESOME Christmas shin-dig in her new place.  (Yes, Betsy, I am using you as one of my excuses for not blogging).
Rory with his hands full.

Who could stay mad at this cute little guy? Cutest nephew!!

#5- Christmas Concert- Having some of my nights been taken up with piano lessons and even a Christmas concert at the school really slowed my blogging progress.  Though having my kids be involved in a real "performance" was worth the time away :)

#4- More Christmas Baking- O.k. I am insane. After 250+ cookies, 300+ pieces of candy, I had a thought that I might have gone a bit over board. But honestly, from teachers, aids, support staff, friends, coworkers, mailmen, etc.--- I had over 20 cookie plates to deliver.  The children were super helpful this year and we were a little factory of truffle makers and sprinklers.

#3- Christmas Pageant- Who knew that having a sheep and an angel sing Christmas carols would require hours of practice.  We spent several Saturday & Sunday afternoons in December rehearsing for the main event last weekend.

#2-Squeezing in Shopping, Working, School, etc.-- NO TIME LEFT!  - So apparently, I have no time left after all those commitments. I am looking forward to trying to relax (which I don't know if  I know how to relax) and maybe doing a jigsaw puzzle this week- I am so happy to have time with the girls!!!

#1- Dance Parties I'll leave you with my lamest excuse- We dance A LOT at my house. Here's our post-Christmas, new pajama dance party!!

Easy Rule #122515- Yes, Christmas time is crazy and I should probably allow more time for reflection, but the kids LOVE the traditions and I do love spoiling them with love and thoughtfulness :)
The reason for the season. Christmas Day Mass- very peaceful, holy and takes a moment out of the selfish present unwrapping!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cinderella Party

Jules here-

Before the onslaught of the holiday season, I decided (well, Grace and I decided) to throw a Cinderella viewing party. Ems and Jojo had seen the movie in the theater last year, and they raved about the new live-action movie.  I didn't want to break my 7 year streak of not entering a movie theater, so we waited until it came out on DVD.

When I allow Grace on pinterest, things get crazy. Parties escalate. We started with having 2-3 girls over, and it ended up being 13 children and 6 adults.....

Everyone came in costume!
After we sent out scrolled invitations, we developed our menu to fit our theme.  We wanted to make the children happy, but have a few grown-up taste dishes as well.  Veggies and dip (ranch & hummus) are a staple at our parties as it's a way to get kids not to die of scurvy from all the other sugary stuff I feed them... So we called this area "Cinderella's Garden". We also had clementine "pumpkins" in this area. Of course, I forgot to take a picture but they looked like this:

We also served the classic cheese and crackers- but when we added a little whimsical mouse figurine and a label saying "Gus's Cheese and Crackers" voila- fits the theme!
The children devoured the fruits, veggies, cheese and crackers- but I still wanted to give them some more filling food before the movie started.  I think "pigs in a blanket" always is a favorite- who doesn't like hot dogs and crescent rolls?  So how could that fit the theme? I decided to go with the original Grimm's Cinderella and called these treats- "Stepsister's Toes" as they looked kind of like chopped off toes... gross, I know.

For the sweeter side I made fruit wands, a Cinderella gown cake, and I made chocolate dipped pretzel wands as well.  We gobbled all of this up rather quickly during intermission from the movie:

We also decorated our home with lanterns, a painted, bejeweled pumpkin and loads of streamers (all leftovers from previous parties). 

We had a great time planning, implement, and eating at our party. But the highlight WAS the movie-- highly recommended for the good values, acting, and entertaining take on the classic tale.

Easy Rule #432342- Why plan a simple movie night when you can go all out? 

Easy Rule #34234- Definitely make extra food at a party- twice as much as you think. I had enough- but I feel as if I could have done more!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Little Habits

Jules here-

I've posted in the past about fitness, nutrition, and staying motivated. I try to stay on top of the most recommended medical advice for my patients as well as for myself- and here's a few daily habits that have really improved my quality of life!

Water, water, water-
I became very dehydrated when I was nursing James- I often had problems with low blood pressure, dizziness, and even increased heartburn from the struggle to keep enough water in my system.  I started the habit of drinking 8-16oz of water AS SOON AS I AWAKE every morning.  Before I eat breakfast, get dressed, or even get out of bed, I down the glass of water on my nightstand.  By the time I eat lunch, I am usually well on my way to the 6-8 glasses of water recommended for the day. And since I front-load my water intake, I have less frequent middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks.

Don't believe me? Here's some evidence: 
I buy those cheap dollar store ones- fresh blade every day, $3 a month
Shaving Every Shower-
Many women joke about letting their leg hair grow all winter and only shave sporadically in the summer.  As an Irish lass- I am quite prone to razor burn.  Then I started shaving EVERY time I shower rather than a few times a week.  My legs no longer need to be lathered in shaving cream- I can simply use regular soap without any ill-side effects.  Then I spoke with a dermatologist who simply said, "Either shave daily, or never at all." Hmm... my experiment is legit.  Making sure you moisturize and exfoliate is key too.

More shaving tips here:

 Sunscreen in Lotion-
Once again, my Irish skin can NOT handle the sun.  I went into a Coppertone "see your skin damage" booth and it was an enlightening (well, horrifying) experience. Every freckle I have ever had was visible; every wrinkle that I will have popped up, and every area that "could" turn into skin cancer became glaringly obvious.  After crying, I decided to lather on sunscreen every day- and the easiest solution was to add it to my morning lotion. I prefer Oil of Olay as it's reputable and affordable, but there are dozens of choices.

Here's a video on why sunscreen is important every day:  

Being a Bit Unwashed-
Hairdressers have been saying it for years, but in our ultra-clean, overly-hygienic society, the idea of NOT washing our hair sounds gross.  BUT, we have a tendency to dry out our hair with over-doing shampoo. If you can hold off on scrubbing your locks every day, you'll find your styles will last longer and it will maintain its natural sheen.  If you work out, you can always you dry-shampoo to alleviate any sweat!

More on your beauty regime:

Or, just eat cereal.
Personally, I can't imagine NOT eating breakfast. I am starving in the morning.  BUT, so many Americans skip the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism enabling you to burn more calories and feel more energized.  Add some protein, dietary fiber, and you are good to go!

Tons of research has gone into the breakfast benefits: 

From Yoga to Jumping Jacks- find what you like!

Just a Bitty Bit of Exercise-
20 minutes- that's all you need to reap the benefits of cardiovascular health, mental well-being, and the ability to fit in your pants.  Seriously, online there are thousands of free work outs ranging from walking to high intensity interval training. As long as your heart gets pumping, your energy level will keep you upbeat all day. Well, maybe not if you have kids...

Just a bit of exercise goes a long way:

Making a Choice-
This isn't really a "healthy body" habit- but it is a healthy-mind choice.  Take a moment to remind yourself that YOU choose your mood, attitude, and perspective.  Instead of blaming misfortune or other people's decisions for your own grumpiness- choose NOT to be grumpy.  Choose to be loving, kind, and happy- it's as simple as making that decision.  Putting others' needs before your own is a good start in finding an inner peace and satisfaction with daily life.

A little reading on how to be happy: 

Easy Rule #1190938- Start with the little steps for a healthier life.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lessons this Week

Jules here-

As usual, I am constantly evolving as a person and I am not ashamed to admit that I learn something (the hard way usually) every day.   Here's a sum up of what I have learned this week:

Grace Face Paint- obviously professional, not my work.
I'm Not Regretful of Lack of Effort
As James's birthday neared, I kept asking him what kind of cake he wanted- he said a golf cake then a football cake, then a hockey cake, etc. So, I planned nothing. I wasn't really doing a party for him- so I wasn't stressed out.  A couple of hours before cake time- I whipped up a 30 minute "hockey" cake for him with using Halloween candy and melted white chocolate. It looked really, really homemade, and I even bought (*gasp*) icing.  James LOVED the Hockey Theme and constantly said, "This is a perfect cake. This is exactly the hockey cake I wanted" etc. It was really sweet.  But then, he took two bites and looked at me and said, "Mommy, I hate the cake, o.k.?"  I DIED laughing. He really doesn't like store bought icing I guess, plus he likes Halloween candy more than cake.  So he ate a Kit Kat instead. No harm done :)
Sometimes Advocating isn't Being a "Helicopter" Mom

Since both of my parents are teachers, I have the tendency to have the mentality that the teacher is always right. Compared to the mindset of most "helicopter" parents, this is a novel concept.  I have made a conscious effort to respect the teacher's decisions, support the assignments, and not question curriculum. BUT, I have a highly-anxious 2nd grader who is not exactly sports-inclined (James must have gotten all of those genes).  Gym class was becoming a weekly panic attack for her- I needed to do something.  I sheepishly approached the gym teacher with my concerns.  I did NOT question her teaching, methods, or style; instead, I spoke of Grace's needs: reassurance, specific instructions, a chance to ask questions, and assistance with challenging gross motor demands.  The teacher was surprised that Grace was so nervous, but she agreed to reassure her more.  Grace was NOT crying this week after gym class just because the teacher simply asked her if she needed help or more time, that was fine!  Quick fix that I hope keeps working.

This is so true.

My Idea of an Emergency Pales Compared to REAL Emergencies

I have made it 7.5 years before I have had to take a child to the ER-- woo hoo! But, my streak is over.  James, while rough housing, hit the hard wood floor ledge with his chin last week.  After surveying the wound and gushing blood, I decided a few stitches were in order.  Luckily I grabbed a handful of Halloween candy before heading out the door, as I knew ERs have notoriously long waits-- but I did NOT expect a 4 1/2 hour visit.  Four ambulances and a helicopter arrived while we waited anxiously dripping blood into gauze pads-- some lobby-mates were getting irritated and upset at the tedious wait.  I, however, was surveying the gurneys with heart attack, stroke, and respiratory distress patients and I was grateful for my dripping chin little boy.  4 stitches for his 4th birthday!!

Always Prep Your Kids- No Matter The Age.
We volunteered at our church's Christmas craft fair last weekend- yes, Christmas.  I think the church does it early so that we can get the first crazy Christmas consumers of the year.  We helped with the kids room: cookie decorating, Santa visits, face painting, etc.  Before James & Felicity sat on Santa's lap, I reminded them to think of a toy that they wanted him to bring. James chose a toy car (as if we don't have 3,000 at home) and Lissie asked for a tiara.  Grace meanwhile was busy getting face painted. When it was Grace's turn, I didn't think to even prep her before sticking her on Santa's lap.  When asked what she wanted for Christmas, Grace answered, "I really want new toothpaste."  Seriously. Santa and the other church lady looked at me as if I was an abusive mother who does not provide basic toiletries for my child.  In reality, Grace usually gets stocking stuffer toiletries that she looks forward to- but still, I really blushed. 
See the blank expression.

All the kids!
Nature Can Best Even the Biggest Tightwad

I mow my lawn, garden, take out my garbage, paint my rooms, etc.  I do not budget for a handyman- though I do sucker my dad into helping me with dead mouse removal and hanging pictures from time to time.  This fall, I decided to rake my own leaves and bag them.  After 4 hours of raking, I didn't even DENT my yard. I was overwhelmed- so my mom said, "I'll help rake!" She came down while I was working and said, "You are going to need to hire someone, this is impossible!"  I filled ten black leaf bags with only 3 of the 15 piles I have in my backyard (not my side or front yards...).... so I gave up. I have a landscaper coming to help next week- and to cut down on the price- I am babysitting their two boys (I know the landscaper at least!). 
Ah, my home with the pretties trees on the block.

View from behind.... leaves are about 4" thick throughout.

Once again. lovely trees.

And... my driveway is there somewhere.

Easy Rule #343234- Know when to throw in the rake, er, towel, when needed.

Easy Rule #4324- Next year, I am just making "candy" for James's birthday cake. Not worth the effort at all :)