Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 New Year Resolutions

The New Year is upon us. For me it is always a double celebration. I turn one year older every year on the day before NYE. Yes, tomorrow is my birthday, so not only am I making resolutions for a new calendar year, but also for what I plan to achieve from one birthday to the next.

Now that I've reviewed my resolutions of 2011 (you can read how I did here), I'm ready to set new goals. Are you? Let's talk for a minute about how to set effective, achievable goals that won't get thrown out the window in 2 weeks time.

Set goals that you can keep. How?

Be specific.
Don't just say, "I want to lose weight." Say exactly how much you want to lose and make it achievable. Maybe losing 50lbs would be great, but in 12 months, a slow steady, healthy weight loss would be more like 25lbs. It's not as much, but it's easier to grasp.

Make a plan.
How are you going to lose those 25lbs? Are you going to go on a crash diet, lose them all in 3 months and spend the next 9 gaining them back? Or are you going to make small changes in your diet and lifestyle? 25lbs is just over 2lbs a month. You can do that. Incorporate more activity, even if it means you will just run up the stairs instead of walk or jog in place while you brush your teeth like I do (and I lost 10 lbs this past year). Small changes add up when it comes to calories too - take your Grande Mocha down to a Tall. You still get the enjoyment, but you've just cut about 300 calories! I apparently need to write a whole weight-loss post, so I'll stop here. You get the picture.

Stick with it.
Most people want immediate results, but that's not how healthy weight-loss happens or how any resolution is kept. Big changes require baby steps. Habits take 3 weeks to make or break. You might not lose 25lbs quickly, but one year from now you'll be happy to weigh 25lbs less than you do right now. If you do nothing, you achieve nothing.

So, on to my own resolutions for this year. Many say you should only make 1 or 2 resolutions, but I'm an over-achiever, so on with it!

By December 31st, 2012 I will have:

1. Lost the final 5lbs, putting me back at my pre-baby weight of 125lbs (that's 3 babies in 6 years, in case you don't know much about me). In fact, I'm really going to lose 7 and get to my truly happy weight of 123lbs. I'm only 5 "4, so this is a healthy weight for me.

2. Reduce my family's dietary intake of animal products to a maximum of 30% (that will help with my weight-loss goal!). I really want to get down to 20%, but I don't feel that's an achievable goal this year. We're at least at 60% animal based today, so cutting that in half will be a challenge, but one we can achieve. Watch for my review and recipes from Forks Over Knives coming soon! Read my brief review of the movie here.

3. Be a published, author, in print. The least I'll settle for is a contract and an advance for my picture book! I will also consider myself successful in this goal if I publish an e-book that sells!

4. Earn a viable income from writing. At the least, I want to earn enough to pay the bills and buy the groceries. At the most... well, why put a ceiling on income?! By this time next year, my writing will support my family and income earned from our retail business will be extra. Goals #3 & #4 go hand-in-hand, I think.

5. Give my blog a face lift. This one is already in progress (do you like my changes so far?)! Who says you have to wait for the ball to drop before getting started on those resolutions!

There they are! My 2012 New Year Resolutions. What do you think?

What are yours? What is the one resolution most important to you and what is your plan to acheive it? Leave a comment and let me know! Putting it in writing is a good first step!




Monday, December 26, 2011

New Years Resolutions of 2011 - a review of myself

I was perusing through the past year's posts, considering revisiting this week my five favorite or most commented on posts of 2011. My first, written on January 3rd was about my New Year resolutions. So, how did I do? Let's review.

Here's a snapshot of what I wrote:

This year I resolve to:

- Finally lose those 15 lbs!
- Get healthy and in-shape!
- Have a positive outlook on life
- Teach my children by example
- Inspire my readers



Let's break it down, now.

Resolution #1: Finally lose those 15 lbs - Result: I lost 10lbs this year!
I am thrilled to be 5lbs away from my pre-baby (that is, pre-three-babies) body. I go up and down a couple of pounds, so sometimes I'm only 3lbs shy. The holidays have me at 5! But I'm very pleased and know I'll shed those last 5lbs this coming year.

Resolution #2: Get healthy and in-shape - Result: I am healthy and in better shape than I've been since having children. Exercise is hit and miss with my busy schedule, but I did get into a great routine for awhile until my store opened. I am active throughout the day and try to take a few exercise breaks here and there. This can be anything from stretching when I wake to doing 50 jumping jacks out of the blue to jogging in place while I brush my teeth. I've had a cold or two this year, but overall my health is fantastic.

Resolution #3: Have a positive outlook on life - Result: Most days I do! I am very proud to report that this year I've been more positive than negative and have had a sense of retrieving my pre-parenthood optimistic, happy self. I took myself off the low dose anti-depressant I'd been on since my second was born and I feel much better overall. I'm reading inspirational material from masters of the law of attraction and feeling and thinking emotionally well.

Resolution #4: Teach my children by example - Result: Needs to improve. My honest assessment with this one is that it is an area where I still have a lot of work to do.  I lose my patience too quickly. I shout too much. I tell my children to speak nicely and ask calmly, but the truth is that I often snap at them. There are plenty of reasons, but none of them are good excuses, so I'm going to keep working on this one for as long as it takes!

Resolution #5: Inspire my readers - Result: I did a fair job of this, but am keeping it on my list for the New Year. I feel good about many of the posts I've written. I think my outlook in life has inspired many of you and your kind comments reflect it. The many thank-yous I've received over the year tells me I'm doing something right. I want to continue to keep my blog focused on my journey to a better me - wife, woman, mother and everything else. I want to keep touching you and inspiring you with my journey of self-improvement. Reviews and Giveaways are fun, but rarely inspiring, so my blog will continue to be swayed toward what I learn each day living this life, with just a sprinkling of the other stuff.

Overall results - How do you think I did? What was the one resolution you kept? Which one will be back on your list this year? I'd love to hear about it, so please leave a comment!

Next Post - My New Year Resolutions for 2012. See you soon!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Link up and show off your best post of the week


The First Ladies Blog Exhibit

Altair of That Chief's First Lady has created a wonderful link-up for us to showcase our best post of the week. Did you have a post that you were particularly proud of? Perhaps one that didn't get as many comments or views as you thought it deserved? Well, link up and give it one more chance!




How: Select one of your posts, copy the URL and paste it in the Linky below. It actually doesn’t matter if the post is from your archive or is a new one, as long as it is the one you really want to share.

If you're interested in hosting an upcoming week, visit Altair and let her know! Be a bloggy friend and follow her at That Chief's First Lady and please follow me on GFC as well!

If you're a member of the Blogfrog community, you can join our community here. Grab the button you will find here and paste it on the entry you are going to submit or your sidebar. Linky widget is open until midnight Saturday.

Enjoy the best of the best posts from The First Ladies Lounge

And the Winner is...

Laura of Our Virginia Home! Congratulations and enjoy those delicious tomatoes! I opened up the can of sliced tomato with zucchini the other day. It was so delicious I ate a quarter of it straight from the can while preparing dinner!

Enjoy!

Thanks to everyone who participated in my first giveaway! I look forward to hosting my next one soon! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

5 Tips for Baking Christmas Cookies

When baking your Christmas cookies this holiday season, keep these 5 tips in mind:


5. Out of granulated sugar? Replace it with brown sugar! Still tastes great, no change to texture.

4. Whole wheat flour works just as well as white and is much healthier for Santa and your little taste-testers.

3. Out of chocolate chips? Break up some baking chocolate into small pieces. The kids won't mind!

2. It is not necessary to taste the dough every 5 minutes. It doesn't change. Really.

And my number 1 tip when baking Christmas cookies, or during any season at all, is:

1. You do not have to eat one cookie from each batch just to be sure they came out alright! Honestly, they all taste pretty much the same!


Here is my super easy chocolate chip cookie recipe for your baking and tasting pleasure:


  • Heat the oven to 375
  • Stir sugar, butter, vanilla & egg until blended (use a mixer if you prefer)
  • Stir in flour, baking soda & salt (a little less salt is ok too!)
  • Add Chips & mix them evenly
  • Drop balls of dough on cookie sheet
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes until light brown (cookies will appear browner if using whole wheat)
  • Let cool
  • Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Missing Piece to a Perfect Life

As a society we tend to focus on what we lack, instead of all that we have. It's true of us mothers when we say, "You never listen" and "Your room is always a mess!". But those extreme comments usually aren't true. "Never" and "Always" are more often really just "sometimes".

We always need more of this and more of that and there's never enough time to complete the "to do" list. I'm guilty of the same mindset. Yet, on my journey to a better me, and together with my husband on our journey to a better "we," I've learned to change my frame of reference. I have to practice my new way of looking at life from a gratitude perspective every single day, but more often than not lately, I'm achieving my goal.

We have a beautiful family. Our three children are smart, funny, healthy and gorgeous. We are so grateful. We have a beautiful marriage because we've put effort into it and created our dream marriage. It's imperfectly perfect. We have our health. We have a beautiful home that shelters us and keeps us comfortable. We love our jobs as owners of an awesome store that is getting noticed and picking up in sales and customers. We have all of these wonderful things.

We have just one problem. We have no money. No income, drained savings, nada, zip, nil. Am I freaking out about this on a daily basis? Yes, I am. Sometimes hourly. We need to generate some income. A brick & mortar store doesn't do much beyond covering costs for the first year or two and ours is hardly doing that yet. I love to write, but $20 a month and a free can of tomatoes doesn't pay for the mortgage or cars. It's flipping scary.

Still, when I look at the big picture... it's a small problem. Relationships take years to repair when broken, health can be painful to restore when it's possible. Things are just things. Money is just money. It comes and it goes and it usually comes around again. We have to have it, but it isn't what makes life beautiful. I have an amazing life and a fabulous family. Now I just need to generate some cash.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Easy, Healthy, Home-made Pizza

I love making home-made pizza for my children. They love "pizza man pizza" but I can't bear actually allowing it into their precious bodies more than once every few months. I do, however, enjoy making it at home. I found a great 10-minute, no rise dough recipe online, which I modified slightly and the girls love making it with me.

The ingredients for the dough:

2 cups whole wheat flour (whole wheat white works well too - I prefer King Arthur's, but anything unbleached will do)
1 tsp salt (or slightly less)
1 packet of quick-rise yeast

Mix the above ingredients with a fork to distribute them evenly, then add:

1 cup warm water (very warm, not very hot or it kills the yeast)
A splash of olive oil (I never actually measure this)
A squirt of honey (optional)

Stir the ingredients with a fork until combined Add more water, necessary to combine all of the flour. Add more flour if it is too moist. When it is a reasonable consistency for kneading, do so. Knead the dough into a ball, adding more flour as necessary, but remember that a slightly moister dough makes a better pizza (or bread). Knead until the ball of dough is elastic, then place in a bowl with a touch of oil coating to bottom and sides to prevent sticking, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and place in warm spot. It should actually rise a bit. "No-rise" means you just don't need to leave it for hours and hours. 10 minutes does the trick.

While the dough is rising you can make your sauce. The can of Red Gold I reviewed yesterday for a giveaway (go enter - it's free food!!) was a perfect start to my ultra fortified pizza sauce. You can choose whatever vegetables you want to sneak into your children. Literally, anything works because you're going to blend it up anyway, so use whatever fresh veggies you have. Just watch how much green you put in because you want to keep it looking like pizza sauce.

I usually add a bit of :

Red Bell Pepper
Carrot
Zucchini
Broccoli stems (tops optional - think texture)
Mushroom
Garlic
Onion
Coriander (we always have this on hand)

And it looks like this! Let everything cook together just long enough to soften the firmer veggies, about 10 minutes. Turn the burner off and leave it for another 10 minutes to cool.

Your dough is ready now, so roll it out to the desired thickness. This recipe can make one large thick-crust round, one large medium-thick rectangular pan, or one medium-thick round with a few breadsticks (after trimming off the excess crust and rolling it into a new ball). Or, a couple of smaller pizzas. After you roll the dough, put it onto a non-stick pizza or cookie sheet.

Back to the sauce. Time for blending. I have a hand held which I can just plug in and turn my chunks into a smooth sauce. You can also pour it into a blender, or use whatever means you have. Afterwards, it tastes like a very good tomato sauce and it looks like this:

Time to put together your pizza. Kids love to do this, so you can let them choose their own favorites. I tend to avoid pepperoni because it is so processed. Instead, if we have it in the house I'll use salami (yes, it's also processed, but much less than pepperoni!). Otherwise, we top it simply with shredded cheese (your choice - as natural as possible) and sliced tomatoes. Sometimes when my girls are really getting into the cooking thing they'll add whatever fresh herbs we have on hand, olives, fresh cracked pepper and artichoke hearts.

Once assembled, cook on 450 (I have gas oven and all ovens run differently, so adjust time and temp as necessary) for 15 minutes (give or take 5).

And out it comes, looking like pizza man pizza, or much better when they get daring with the toppings, but you know exactly what is, and isn't, in it! I forgot to snap a picture when it came out and it didn't last long at all! The whole process takes just 45 minutes to an hour before your children are happily consuming all sorts of veggies they swear they hate!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

You Say Tomato, I say Review and Giveaway

We love tomatoes in my house. Whether they are topping a home-made pizza, the star of a mozzarella (caprese) salad, stuffed with cous cous, tossed in to a simple pasta dish, a hearty soup, or as a base for a full-blown spaghetti sauce. Tomatoes are a healthy, versatile, dietary staple for my family.

During the summer months I happily grow tomatoes and various herbs in pots that cover my deck, or buy locally if my yield is low. Michigan winter hampers my home-grown and local tomatoes, so I turn to canned for sauces, and greenhouse grown from who-knows-where for my fresh tomato fix.

I was thrilled, of course, when I was contacted to do a review of Red Gold's Culinary Classics canned tomatoes, in two varieties! Yes, I'm a bit of a kitchen geek, but proud of it! Domestic Goddesses, aspiring or otherwise, should be! And it just so happens that this line are sold exclusively at my favorite local grocery store, Meijer, in the Grand Rapids and Detroit areas.

I received two 28oz cans: Chef's Cut Tomatoes with Basil in Puree and one Sliced Tomatoes & Zucchini with Onions, Celery & Bell Peppers. Today's review is based on the first and I'll include my recipe for an incredibly healthy pizza for you and yours in my very next post. I'll post another recipe and review for the second can, but this post includes my very first giveaway!

The can of Chef's Cut Tomatoes with Basil in Puree was perfect for a quick soup with nothing needed but a side of garlic bread (fresh garlic, please) and a glass of Chianti. The basil could have been more prominent, but I'm crazy for basil and use a ton of it in season! The tomatoes had a natural sweetness, and there is no added sugar. Instead of soup this time, I used the product for the base of the pizza sauce for the pizza mentioned above. Please see my next post for the recipe.

I'm also pleased to report that the tomatoes are grown right here in the northern Midwest. Red Gold, based in Indiana, grows its tomatoes within 100 miles of its facility at farms in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, where we have the perfect weather and soil for growing excellent tomatoes.

The Giveaway! A gift pack of the aforementioned cans of tomato, cutting board, measuring spoon, magnet and coupon! This is my very first giveaway, so be nice and enter!

There will be 2 cans of tomatoes for you!

How to Enter:

Too often, I find giveaways to be so complicated to enter, that I rarely enter them! So, for my giveaway you can enter very simply:

1) Follow my blog and leave me a comment telling me your favorite way to eat tomatoes!

Please be sure to include a way for me to contact you, either through your own blog or an email (you may send your email to me privately if you prefer - adgmommy (at) gmail (dot) com, but still leave a comment on the blog.

Bonus Entries:

*** follow me on Twitter! I finally joined Twitter yesterday! However, I'm still trying to figure out the whole Twitter thing, so I don't have any snazzy buttons yet. Just follow me at: http://twitter.com/dgmommyblogger and let me know that you did so!
*** Visit www.redgold.com and tell me your favorite product of theirs!
*** Re-tweet this giveaway and let me know when you do (you'll gain me as a follower too!)

This giveaway is open to anyone in the US! No need to be a Midwesterner to enter! The package will be mailed directly to the winner. Giveaway ends on 12/21/12 at 11:59pm EST. The winner will be contacted within 48-hours and will have 48 hours to respond with shipping details.

Thank you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To Judge a Mom

Yesterday, after school, I took my three little monkeys to the library. We have an awesome library with this wonderful kids area. It has all sorts of cool developmental activity centers, including those magnet tables with spiders & bugs, a farm house and a Thomas the Train table/track/set.

I can browse for chapter books to read with the girls while still able to see the kids. When the boy (he's 2) gets a little feisty, I'm just footsteps away to shush him! How do you spell "shush"?

Anyway, yesterday there was another mom of 3 in the same area. She had three boys, the dear (read this for my take on nurture vs. nature), but it seemed like more as they came from all directions constantly. She had a nice, big bump indicating the arrival of another within a few months. I could only shake my head in empathy and wonderment (I am not meant for more children! We stop at three for the sake of my sanity).

As anyone with 3 or more young (mine are 6, 5 and 2) children knows, it is very difficult to keep them all rounded up. The littlest one is inevitably the fastest and most curious and always runs away from mom. It's a great, wonderful game to run away and be chased! And the middle child is constantly offering up attention getting behavior just when mom is busiest.

As the clock edged toward the dinner hour, both the other mom and I headed toward check out. Older kids love to do this themselves at our library. We have self-checkout just like at the grocery store. I'm laden with books and kids and my little guy tries to escape. Fortunately, the doors are heavy and there are two sets before getting outside. I wrangled him and continued helping my oldest scanning her books (while he is of course wriggling and screaming to get away). My second daughter is suddenly standing by the exit door. It isn't far, but I like to keep my children within arms reach in public. You just never know.

The other mom was fairing similarly. Chasing her youngest while the oldest stands staring off at the wall between the two sets of doors. The middle child walks right out the second set of doors and is standing outside. The mom sees him and to no avail, tries to get the oldest to help her get him back.

I'm summoning my middle child at the same time, still clinging to my squiggly, loudly protesting toddler. It must have been quite a scene for the observing librarians and other patrons.

Finally, my children all with me, and books checked out and placed in the bag I remembered to bring this time, we walk out. The middle boy of the other woman, who is still wrangling her toddler and checking out books, is still standing outside.

We live in a relatively safe city, but safety is relative. And there's a scary sort standing in front of the building smoking. I asked the little boy to go inside with his mother. Stranger danger has been taught well enough and he pushes his face into the corner without responding. The door was still open, so I called to his brother, but he also ignored me. So, we waited with him. Just standing there to make sure he stayed safe until his mom, who was nearly finished, came out.

When she did, she thanked me and then our attention was turned to this older woman who jumped out of her car and hollered to the mom, "You lucky I don't call 9-1-1 on your a$$! I'm about to call 9-1-1 on yo' a$$ you leave him out here all this time!" Then she got back into her car grumbling the same over and over as she drove off.

Whoa! Give a mom a break! How quick she was to judge this woman. How was she to know that this poor mother hadn't been frantically searching the library for her kid? She couldn't see the mom from her car, only the boy.

I agree she should have stopped what she was doing and come out to get her middle child, but it isn't that easy and instead of judging, lend a hand. Instead of shouting at someone when you don't have a grasp of their situation, take a breath and seek to understand. Reserve your judgement, extend a patient, helpful hand.

It still takes a village to raise children. We just don't have the same villages anymore.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The lost lost tooth (no, that's not a typo!)

My oldest daughter's tooth has been wiggly for the past couple of weeks. It was the first tooth in and last night it became the first tooth out! She was playing around trying to pull something with a scarf she had in her mouth, like a horse with reigns, and out it popped!

"Mommy, look!" she cried joyfully. "My tooth!" She was bleeding a bit, so I gave her a damp paper towel to hold in place for a few minutes while I rinsed her tiny, little tooth.
She ran upstairs to get the beautiful white tooth pillow we've had since before she was born and brought it back down for me. Together, we put it in the pillow and I sent her to put it on her bed. Then I realized I needed to take pictures and followed her upstairs while my other two sat down to dinner.

We took a few pics and put the tooth back in its place. She told me she wanted to keep the tooth. She didn't want the Tooth Fairy to take it. "No problem, I said, "We'll write her a note just like the kid from Super Why."  She was supposed to put the tooth pillow back on her bed while I headed back to the kitchen with her following.

Later, when it was nearing bedtime, I walked my youngest to his room, which is next door to his sisters', I saw my daughter frantically tossing her bedding around.

"I lost my tooth!" she cried, this time joylessly, holding out a toothless pillow.
"You lost your tooth?" I replied incredulously. Seeing her throw her bed pillow and comforter around her cluttered mattress, I knew the tooth would not be easily found. My girls can't exactly be described as tidy individuals and their room is a constant clean-up project.

After a  minute, while I'm searching under the bed among many little toys and scraps, I started laughing at the hilarity of the situation. My baby girl lost her first tooth, which is a very exciting milestone for parent and child. Then, she lost it! It's so perfect. She's a smart, funny, wonderful child, but also clumsy and downright silly. She did not find the situation nearly as funny as I did, so I tried to be serious. It was hard!

After more fruitless searching, she divulged that she had run around the house with the pillow. It was no where to be found. So, instead of writing the Toothfariy a note to explain that she wanted to keep the tooth, my darling daughter and I wrote a note explaining the loss and asking for fairy magic help to find it the next day.

My magic-loving girl wanted to write a spell and make a potion, so we did! We grabbed a little jar and threw in some cloves, star anise and whatever else magic-like herbs and spices (she's 6, everything is magic!) I had on hand and then by the light of the full moon coming through the kitchen window, we chanted:

Dear Fairies, help me see
Where it is my tooth may be
By the full moon's light, grant me fairy power
To find my tooth at day's earliest hour

We still haven't found the tooth (yuck!), but she was sure happy with her $1 coin the following morning! And we both still believe in magic and fairies.



Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Poor People Love Santa

I've been gently pushing an "attitude of gratitude" with my daughters, ages 5 and 6 lately. We're in a tight spot. They've lived a financially stable life up until this point and we're trying hard not to let them know we're struggling. I told her a year or so ago when she started asking about poor and rich that we were neither, but comfortable. We were then. I explained to her that we couldn't have everything we'd like, but we had plenty. Now we're leaning toward the poor house, though I'd never go in reverse and give up going into business on our own.

I've wondered if my 'teaching' was getting through to them. Then, a few days ago my 6-year-old said, "Poor people must really love Christmas."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because they get things they want," she told me.

"How?" I already knew her answer.

"Santa!"

Of course. The beauty of her innocence and belief in magic inspired me. I felt uplifted by her thoughtfulness and I can see the first true blossom of gratitude. I am truly thankful that the seeds I've been planting are starting to grow.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Checking Out

I'm not talking about shopping, here. Have you ever just felt the need to completely check out from your life, especially your children? How guilty do you feel about it?

Tonight, I simply needed to have a break. But, the eternal question begs, how do you check out when it's just you to take care of the kids?

So, thank you again, Netflix (I wish I could be their affiliate!!!). My life is painfully stressful right now, though I continue to listen to Deepak Chopra's wonderful audio book, which helps. So, to escape the fact that the bills are piling up (serious, serious piles) and I have no idea how Santa is going to be visiting this house (when I'm just feeling lucky to still have it), I grabbed earphones and my smartphone and plugged in to Pandora.

Thank you to Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne and a few others I can't name. Though I can't currently identify with their relationship angst, I can enjoy the dance-beat and the belt-it-out singing style. Those girls and a couple of glasses of a cheap, but lovely white wine called Famega got me through the evening. I put on a movie for the kids, poured myself a glass, plugged in the earphones and cooked my man some dinner. What a lovely break from worrying and trying to find a real paying job online.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Kind of Blogger are You?


Tell me your blogging secrets!
When I first forayed into the blogging world it was simply to let off some steam with my favorite creative outlet - writing. I felt I had something to share with other women and parents in the cyber world and through blogging I often found insight and peace in my own situations.

Today, I'm turning from casual blogger to someone who is more focused on gaining a true readership and income from my writing. So, from a personal blog to a blog business. Childcare for 3 kids would cost more than any hourly job would pay and it's been years now since I was truly in the workforce; a decade since I worked for someone else in the US!

Yet, I have no desire to turn my blog into a haven for couponistas. I appreciate the many of you out there, helping everyone who wants to save a buck here and there, but I've never been one to utilize the things regularly! Where are the coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables, I ask you? You certainly don't see farmers offering a $1 off here and there. No, it's major manufacturers of processed food and products.

What kind of blogger are you? What motivates you to put fingertips to keys every day and what do you gain from it? What do you hope to get out of it and are any of you actually making any money by blogging?

Let me hear from you!

Learn to relax and your children will too

Most parents eagerly await that moment when the children are tucked away in bed and all is quiet. Finally, you can relax. But do you really know how to relax?

If you think just sitting down for a few moments when the house is silent will promote a calm feeling within, you may be surprised to find out that relaxing is actually a learned skill. For our children this means that if we don't know how to relax then neither will they.

Your children can learn to be
calm and cool like this little guy
Children learn many skills and behaviors simply from observing and modeling their parents. Remember the first time your little toddler picked up a toy and used it like a phone, murmuring into it and sounding startlingly like you! If we lose our temper easily, they likely do too. If we are calm and know how to relax, then our children will also learn to relax.

There are plenty of different ways and techniques to relax, but for newcomers, five minutes a day is a quick but effective way to begin to practice relaxation.

For babies and very young children, put on soft music, dim the lights and cuddle together just listening. Be still or rock very slowly and gently. Be sure to rock back and forth. Sideways rocking is stimulating, the opposite of your goal! You're promoting the skill of relaxation as well as sharing a meaninful moment of bonding with your little one.

For active preschoolers, help them recharge in the afternoon or settle down to sleep at night by having them lay still and close their eyes. Instruct them to take a deep breath in and out of their nose. Invite them to notice how the air tickles their nostrils as they breathe. Then, have them take one deep breath in and another out as you count. In on "one," out on "two" and so on. For an afternoon recharge stop at twenty. To help them drift off to sleep continue to thirty or fifty, or even one-hundred!

For older children, sit quietly and comfortably together for five minutes. Before you begin, encourage them to breathe naturally and put their mind's focus on their breath. Then, with your eyes closed, breathe in and out. Let all other thoughts come and go, always returning your focus to your breath.

Learning to relax is a skill that benefits every aspect of our health and development. Eventually, your child or teen will be able to practice relaxation on their own whenever they need to and so will you!

*** The origianal version of this article was published previously by me on Examiner.com,but I found it to be particularly relevent to this wonderful time of holiday stress!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Live Life As If...

How would you finish that title? What is your motto in life? On the way to my store this morning, I was listening to an audio book by Deepak Chopra. When I heard him relay the advice of a psychologist to his patients, I felt an intense shift inside of me.

Before I tell you what he said, I'll preface why it touched me so deeply. For the past several months I've worked around the clock between 3 young children and the wine store my husband and I recently opened. I've felt scattered, anxious, tense, stressed as well as some very positive emotions as well! But I feel like an earthquake most of the time and I've been seeking a way to quiet my mind and better handle my load. Since I've very little time for leisurely reading, I've opted for audio books to listen to while I drive to and from the store, or wait for my girls to walk out their school doors. It's a few minutes here and there, but it's what I have.

The chapter Dr. Chopra was reading was about time. The cells in our bodies live timelessly, functioning nearly perfectly every minute of every day around the clock and calendar that means nothing to them. We can live better lives by ceasing to try and beat the clock. Instead, he recounted the aforementioned psychologist's advice, "Live every day as if you have all the time in the world."

Take a moment and repeat that in your mind. "Live every day as if you have all the time in the world." Feel it. Isn't it amazing? Isn't it liberating?

I was filled with this joy and peace that lasted all day... just until dinner time with the 3 monkeys! Even through the kiddie chaos I was able to hold on to a remnant of it and now that mealtime is over I have it back in my grasp. It feels so much better than the usual saying of living every day is if it is your last; feeling like you have to cram everything into one short moment. Instead, live every day as if you have all the time in the world. Cherish every moment. Be in every moment. Focus on each task instead of multi-tasking until there are bits and pieces of your mind in every corner of the world.

How do you live your life? How did you feel when you read the words that I find so transformative? I'd love to hear your thoughts and invite you to share this with a woman (ok, men too!) who would do well to slow down for a moment.

- DGMommy

PS: You can find the book here or likely at your local library (like me!)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cyber Bullying Mommy Style

As parents we all take it upon ourselves to protect our children from bullies, whether on the playground or online. As our children approach the age of social networking we take steps to assure their safety from cyber-bullying. But were you aware that mommies do it too?

Peruse through any parenting website's discussion board and you'll inevitably run across the scenario of a new mom seeking support and advice from her peers only to find her parenting berated by scores of judgemental mothers. I've seen it on sites like BabyCenter and others; while they are a tremendous resource for parents, the discussion boards often read like dialogue from daytime television!

But fellow mommy-blogger and aspiring writer (that is, we aspire to be authors in print and in bookstores!) Elizabeth Flora Ross has set out to end cyber bullying mommy style with the Mom Pledge.


As a mother who supports freedom of choice in parenting, I immediately took the pledge. You can too. We can end the trend of mothers bullying mothers by taking the Mom Pledge and sharing with all of our mom friends, online and real-world. Let's support one another in the wonderful, but challenging, job of motherhood!


The Mom Pledge
I am a proud to be a mom. I will conduct myself with integrity in all my online activities. I can lead by example.
I pledge to treat my fellow moms with respect. I will acknowledge that there is no one, "right" way to be a good Mom. Each woman makes the choices best for her family.
I believe a healthy dialogue on important issues is a good thing. I will welcome differing opinions when offered in a respectful, non-judgmental manner. And will treat those who do so in kind.
I stand up against cyber bullying. My online space reflects who I am and what I believe in. I will not tolerate comments that are defamatory, hateful or threatening.
I refuse to give those who attack a platform. I will remove their remarks with no mention or response. I can take control.
I want to see moms work together to build one another up, not tear each other down. Words can be used as weapons. I will not engage in that behavior.
I affirm that we are a community. As a member, I will strive to foster goodwill among moms. Together, we can make a difference.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chocolate is a whole-food, right?

Last night hubby and I decided to take a night off from shop-talk after putting the kids to bed and actually watch some TV. Except, we don't really have TV since I scaled down the cable to virtually nothing, so we thank goodness for Netflix! I like to watch romantic comedies, he likes to watch shark programs. We both agree on Monty Python and the occasional food and/or wine documentary. We agreed on Forks Over Knives, a documentary on the whole-food movement and the research behind it.

As a self-proclaimed carnivore, this movie has me reeling. The studies done by the two featured doctors, separately, world-wide and over the course of decades clearly shows that people with diets high in animal products and processed foods have a much higher occurrence of cancer and heart-disease. They also show that the rates drastically reduce when those same people switch to a whole food, plant based diet. That is, fruits and vegetables as nature intended and whole grains like rice.

Is an animal based diet killing us?
 Like any good farm girl, I have always believed in an animal-based, protein dense diet for myself and my family. We try to be healthy and stick to unprocessed food as much as possible, while still enjoying a sweet treat now and again. I make my pancakes from scratch, my pasta often too. We eat plenty of fruits, we need more veggies, especially the kids. But lots of meat and dairy. Lots as in 5 times a week for meat and 7 for dairy, including cheese and yogurt.

Suddenly, I feel an urgent need to reassess and potentially overhaul our diet. Will my husband and children go along? Do I have time for such a thing? Of course they will. My kids are smart cookies (no pun intended) who care about what they put into their bodies. Of course, I have the time to put the health of my family first. I doubt we'll ever become vegan, but we can certainly slim down on animal and increase the vegetable.


Have you seen this movie? What are your thoughts on the science behind it? What do you feed your family? What's the healthiest thing your kids love to eat?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Extra cash for the holidays!

Get this deal here!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, like the Vista Print Holiday Cards deal to the left, are all well and good unless you don't have enough cash to utilize them! Lucky for all of us, there is Prosper. I've written about Prosper before because they were a life-saver for us being able to pay some bills while starting our new business.

And the deal they are offering is better than any other out there! Today only, if you apply for a loan through them before the end of today, you get a free ipod! Prosper is a peer lending site, so you apply for a loan and it gets funded by people who want to help! Of course, they get a nice return on their investment as well, but rates are significantly lower for borrowers than a credit card would be. So, either get a loan or become a lender and feel good about helping out those of us in need of a little extra cash!

So, what do you need to do? Have a credit score of at least 640 (that's just on the fair side), apply and see what you qualify for. Applying does not effect your credit in any way, which is a very important thing; The loan is only reported to credit agencies once funded. Once qualified, post your listing. They offer step-by-step directions and suggestions. Once funded, you get an ipod! Whoo hoo! Money to pay bills or for holiday shopping and an ipod. That's what I call, "Happy Holidays!"

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Traditions, No more

For the past 11 years, the day after Thanksgiving my husband and I have gone out and bought our Christmas tree. Forget about Black Friday, for us it's all about green & red! We decorate while playing cheezy Christmas music or, since the kids have joined us, watching Rudolph or Frosty. This has been our tradition every year since we met.

But this year we are retail store owners and it's Black Friday. And we're still open Saturday and Sunday too. Then Monday the kids are back in school. They asked today, "Are we going to get our Christmas tree and decorate?!"

It's hard to tell them "No." Today they'll spend 8 hours with a babysitter while Papa and I work at the store. Tomorrow they'll go without me to get the tree and then I'll likely decorate with the kids while Papa works.

I'm thrilled that we have a business that we love and we're working hard to get it off the ground so that we stay in business. But my heart hangs heavy today knowing things are so different this year. This is normally a family weekend spend celebrating and decorating and laughing and building new, beautiful memories.

I'm thankful for the wonderful day we shared together yesterday. I can only hope that next year we have an employee we trust enough to run the show for us so that we may resume our family holiday tradition.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories

It's almost Thanksgiving! I have wonderful memories of this holiday from childhood. I grew up next door to my paternal grandmother (who just turned 100! She is still awesome!) who still lives right between two of her 5 sons. The three houses span over 30+ acres. Some Thanksgivings there would be 30 family members celebrating together. Sometimes at our house, sometimes at Grandma's and sometimes at my aunt & uncle's.

All of the children, about 15 to 20 of us, would be ushered outside to play while dinner was being prepared and then again once it was finished. We would run and run because we had so much room to do so. There was an abandoned speedboat that we would climb into and pretend to be on some high-speed chase adventure. From there we would run to the tallest tree with its tire-swing, imagining it was the only safety from a pack of wild dogs that could come from the woods at any moment!

Another huge, old tree went in different directions. That was our apartment. One section was the sleeping area, another the kitchen and another sort of a living room area. On warmer days I would spend hours up there with a book, reading until my mom called me home for dinner. It hung directly over a deep pond, but still, we children climbed as high as we could and jumped as often from it!

There was no adult supervision. The older children were in charge of the younger ones. Our imaginations flourished and so did our sense of freedom and confidence. It was a beautiful time. I'm ever thankful for my childhood and the wonder and beauty that I was fortunate enough to experience. I feel saddened sometimes by how protected our children are today. Mine don't leave my sight for a moment. I doubt I'll ever feel comfortable letting them walk the 15-minute promenade to school. It's a different world today. But I'm grateful for being a part of it and I'm thankful for the wonderful memories that will always be a part of me.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Finding Your Niche

I've been doing a lot of reading recently on how to actually make money writing online, specifically with a blog. One of the key factors mentioned is to find your niche and stick to it. If you have a coupon blog then, you write about coupons. If you have a design blog, you write about design. If you have a baby blog, you write about babies.

Well, I have a Parenting/House & Home blog. Essentially, this means writing about my life as a woman with a home, husband and family. My niche is life in general as a woman, a wife, a mother, a writer, a business woman, a baker, a home-maker, and everything in-between. I write about first days of school, big boo-boos, parenting mistakes and triumphs, moments in life that make me ponder, marriage, simple, healthy recipes, blogging, business, money, and everything in-between.

My niche is a woman's life. We can't be pigeon-holed into one focused area because we are more than one thing. We are everything; We do everything. And you know what? I love nearly every minute of it. I love being a woman. I love that I've found my niche.
We are all of these women






My first Guest Post: Teaching Thanksgiving

Are you ready for Turkey Day?
It's a busy week with Thanksgiving and Holiday shopping kicking off! That's why Jen over at Making Life Matter invited some guest posters to keep things moving along. So, do me a favor and click over for a visit and read my post on Teaching Thanksgiving to my three little darlings.

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Make Money Writing What You Love

Give me some of the green stuff!
I've been writing this blog for over a year now. It's not a moneymaker, though I've had the opportunity to review a few books and a costume, all of which I got to keep. I was hoping it would help to bring in a little extra cash, but it hasn't been the case. No matter, I love writing it!

So, how can you make some pocket money writing online? One of my favorite ways is through Examiner.com. You earn little more than pennies per page view, but it's a lot more than most of us make blogging and it's fun. Plus, if you desire to actually be a writer, as opposed to a blogger (not that there's anything wrong with that!), it is a good addition to your writer's resume. You have samples at your fingertips anytime one is requested from you in your search for paid gigs. Keep it local and you add $1 to each article and that does help with the grocery money!

Another option is Sponsored Blog Reviews. You'll find that link at the top left of this page. You can bid for paid posts and make anywhere from $3 to $100 as you build your ranking. I rarely get any of the jobs I bid for, sadly, but every so often I'll get contacted to do a post. The last time I made an easy $20 for 30 minutes of my time! These opportunities come few and far between for me, but since I always welcome the chance to get paid to write it's worth becoming a member (which costs nothing and they don't bother you with emails!).

Have you found a particular platform where you actually earn an "income"? If you have, please share! I'd love to hear from you! Happy writing!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Parent Teacher Conferences

Does it mean I'm a complete nerd if I absolutely love Parent-Teacher Conferences? Granted, my children are only in Kindergarten and 1st Grade. The two in school are girls and so much better behaved there than at home. Their teachers love them, they are "model citizens" and meet all expectations on their little report card style assessments. I love it. Perhaps I'll dread these conferences a few years from now when the boy hits primary. I doubt it.

It's so rewarding to hear teachers rave about my children. How interesting and articulate they are. It makes me so proud. And grateful. Grateful that my children have such a different experience from so many of their peers. They are growing up in a multi-cultural home, speaking two languages fluently, they've traveled overseas already (one was born in Asia!) and have family all over the world.

I think it's perfect that conferences come a week before Thanksgiving, because it reminds me of how lucky I am to have such wonderful, intelligent, healthy, kind-hearted little beauties. How lucky I am to have such a lovely family. With all the stress in life, I have this bubble of warmth watching my children play together, loving each other, loving us, loving me. I am happy. I hope you are too!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

When panic attacks strike, breathe deeply and drink wine

My little boy is vacuuming, the girls are coloring. I'm sitting here to quell my panic attack and ease my anxiety. A cold glass of white wine is my nearest companion and I'm taking slow, deep breaths.

Not me, but close enough.
Photo by swan-t via Flickr
Following your dreams is a wonderful, amazing and liberating move. But, when the bills come and there's no money to pay them, it's far more frightening then any Halloween horror film. Our store is awesome. It's different, unique. People are starting to discover us and everyone has given us wonderful feedback, so it's only a matter of time. Start-ups require time and money. We're running quite low on the second requirement. No banks will lend us money, but fortunately we can borrow wine from ourselves.

The 42-page application for State aid that I was half-way through was lost and I need to begin again. My work laptop was attacked by a trojan virus and 360 tracking cookies. Now it sits idle. I do not, however. In the midst of all of this, I am grateful I still have the laptop I'm using now. So what that it has to lean against a wall because some part is broken and it can't stay up on its own. It works. It is virus-free.

I sit. Breathing deeply. Inhaling the subtle fruit scents in my Pinot Grigio. It's hard to identify any individual scent. Perhaps because of my cold. But it still tastes good. And it helps to breathe.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back to blogging

It seems the more I write the more I want to and the easier it gets to pop out a quick post. I'm blogging now on my business blog, writing about wine for an online new service and of course, sometime right here where my blogging began.

So, I've decided to go ahead and get back to blogging here on a regular basis. Hubby and I are splitting shifts at home and in the store until we make enough income to afford childcare, and what better way to get there than to write! Perhaps I can earn a little money blogging after all. You just never know!

I might only make pennies, but
pocket change can add up!
I'm not going to become a coupon queen of any sort, though there are some good ones here, but I may as well provide links that can help other bloggers as well. See that box on the left side? Sponsored reviews is one great way to earn a little extra. Like everything, it takes time to move up the ranks to earn more cash, but $5 here and there can add up! You may as well try it out!

Besides, it feels good to write to you. It's like I'm chatting to a good friend. Necessary to stay sane when one has a two-year-old! And you don't seem to mind him screaming and running around like a madman at all!

Happy blogging!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Random thoughts from a home-bound Mama

I've decided to get crazy and post two days in a row. I'm standing here, still in pajamas while one child rides circles around me on a car with sirens and horns. The other two are watching Horseland. One should be in school today, but she came home with a fever yesterday and it got worse throughout the evening until around 4am when I gave her fever reducer. She's still feeling rotten, poor babe.

I must vacuum, do some laundry, feed and care for the three children, secure a babysitter for my store's grand opening, and resist eating like crazy. I'm hungry and craving pasta and bread (damn pms!) and chocolate (typical). But I suddenly realized that we're going on the local news program next week to publicize our event and I should probably drop those few pounds that have snuck on since working next door to Starbucks. Oh, to resist the lure of the Peppermint Mocha is something I just can't do. I have switched to non-fat, but I still take the whip.

Did you know that lack of sleep actually stimulates your appetite? Because I was up most of the night with my daughter, I forget all of the details involved and I'm too lazy to google them right now to verify, but I do recall that it's our body's way of making up for something we lack. Not enough sleep? Better eat! So, if dieting, be sure to get enough sleep! I shall nap when the boy does and encourage the girls to do the same.

It started here, I'm sure of it.
Photo by Jencu via Flickr
Any tips on how to get children who are too old to be sucking their thumbs to stop sucking their thumbs? I'd love your advice. This is the reason they frequently get sick when school is in session. I need to get them to keep their thumbs out of their mouths at all times! They don't do it in school, but immediately after. I try hard to catch them with the hand sanitizer, but they are fast and furious about their thumbs. Tips?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Babies and Taxes

Opening your own business is a lot like having a baby. It really is like first-time motherhood when you worry over every little thing and can hardly sleep at night whether baby is sleeping or not. It's always on my mind, I'm always working, I never have a day off, even on my day off (today).

And, like having a baby, there is a huge learning curve. From how to price to what to put on my shelves and how to put it there to encourage my customers to buy it, to liquor laws and of course, inevitably, taxes. Yes, I have to learn about taxes. I am not naturally gifted in this area, but I've generally managed. When I was a student I did my own with those blissfully easy online services like Turbo Tax. That was very useful when I lived overseas as well, especially because you could easily file tax extensions online (by the way, if you've done so, your deadline is looming!). Which I always did. Since coming back to the States and having children we have filed promptly, if not early, for that beautiful refund check.

But, I won't be seeing one of those for a long time! Now I have to learn about sales tax and business tax and which items to tax and how to get an exemption for non-taxable items and tax this and tax that. My state has plenty of rules for me to learn about. And even though I now have an accountant to guide me in the right direction, I still have to understand everything to be able to give him the information he needs and comply to all the rules. All this while trying to learn as much as I can about every other aspect of business, including my product!

And that's the best part. The bit that helps me relax and smile even with all there is to do. I'm in the business of wine, and it's always enjoyable learning more about that!

Hard at work: Studying the color of a lush red wine

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bloggy Anniversary!

I didn't even realize it, but September 4th was my 1-year blogging anniversary! I knew I started around the time school began last year, but these days are so busy!

To reflect, I had hoped to make a little extra money through blogging, but I discovered along the way that being a truly monetized blog just isn't in me. I want to write from my heart and not post coupons or daily deals. That's not who I am. I hardly even use coupons! Though there are some good ones on my coupon tab right now... wink, wink!

Blogging does indeed take time and every person has to figure out for themselves what things in their lives deserve priority time. I was blogging 3 or more times a week in the beginning, mainly because I love writing and feel I have something to share with other parents. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes, maybe you can learn what I've learned, and often I can learn from or be comforted by you.  These days my 'real' business is taking priority over most things, including my house and certainly this blog! So, though I blog today, I must also spend time with the two children who are home, do all the mountains of laundry in the house, blog for my business (we open in 2 days!) and try to catch a short nap (more on how my Train-obsessed 2-year-old wants to watch The Little Engine That Could at 2am another day!!!).

I love my blog, I love my readers and I love life! I really do. Every extreme moment and all those in-between.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Responding to comments

For some reason I'm not able to respond to my own comments! It tells me I'm not allowed access! What a crazy thing. I hope its a short blip in this blogger conversion they are doing. You can't tell from viewing, because my blog looks the same as always, but the inner workings are different!

So, to Losing Brownies, I thank you for continuing to follow me and make thoughtful comments even though my posts of late are few and far between! And to anyone else out there reading, I thank you!

Friday, September 2, 2011

School supplies aren't just for school kids!


Moms of toddlers up should head straight to the nearest super store and LOAD UP on crayons, glue sticks, pads of paper, washable markers and the like. Seriously, shop for the entire year. At my local store, a 24-pack of crayola crayons are just 40 cents! I went for the cheaper brand at 20 cents a box!!! I bought 10 boxes for what would have normally cost me for 2!

Pads of paper were also 20 cents for a lined 1 subject notepad. I love these for my ever-creative daughters because instead of having 30 pieces of paper all over the dining table, all of their precious drawings are kept in one place.

Pencil boxes to contain arts and craft supplies, glue sticks, dry erase markers, and so much more (like the stores say) were also major bargains. So, get your booties to the store and stock up for a year of preschool creativity!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Working Parents

I'm starting to understand the conflict of the working mother. I've only worked from home, really, for the last 6 years. Now, with our retail store opening in a few weeks the reality of life as a working mother is setting in.

It's more than just being a working mother, it's being working parents. Parents who will, at least at first, only be together with our children before school/work and on Monday evenings when the store is closed. Otherwise, Papa will be with the one or two who are home in the morning and I'll be with the three of them after school and weekend afternoon/evenings. But Papa won't be home until after bedtime 6 days a week. Two of those days whoever is at home will likely spend their day with a babysitter so my husband and I can work together in the store.

I feel good about showing my children that it's a good thing to take a risk and follow your dreams. I feel good showing them that an adult can absolutely love the work they do. I want to be careful to show them that I love being with them just as much as I love going to work. Even on days when the boy does nothing but shout toddler orders at me, like this morning. But as I watched my husband step out the door to work at getting the store ready for opening, I wished I was going with him. I feel 'stuck' at home with the kids and the laundry. I feel guilty about that feeling!

I think I'll put away the wine and retail books for a day and read the book I linked to above left. Maybe humor will help!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why?

Why does my weight get stuck every 5lbs lost?

Why must the boy throw all of his remaining food on the floor when he's finished?

Why do stuffed animals multiply as if by magic?

Why do children suddenly scream after long periods of quiet play - just when you answer the telephone?

Why does everyone always need something at the very same moment?

Why does the laundry multiply like stuffed animals?

Why is childcare so expensive?

Why don't my children love to sleep as much as I do?

Why, why, why.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The best day ever!

Je pense que mes enfants... oh wait! I'm beginning to think in French!

I think my children may have just had the best day of their young lives! At least the girls, ages 6 and nearly 5. France is growing on all of us and hearing my daughters speak so fluently in their 'other' native language makes my heart soar.

We are staying in a small village in the Midi-Pyrenees. So small the houses have names instead of street numbers. Nearby is a lovely "Cite Medievale" (sorry, I don't know how to get those accents in there!) called Lauzerte. There, we've had a few lovely walks and lunches. Within the city's borders is an equestrian center. I'm not sure what pony rides are like in your neck of the woods, but where I'm from they involve 6 ponies going round in a circle for about 2 minutes. Not here. Here, pictures will express it better than my words. Regard:







The sheer beauty of this countryside fills my heart so that it may burst. Then, to see my children beam as brightly as the field of sunflowers we pass by each time we descend our borrowed vacation home (regard:)


makes everything even more special.

And the simplest afternoon, spent in the pool. Again, pictures say more than words:





I doubt bedtime will bother me at all tonight.

Monday, July 4, 2011

I hate bedtime

Whether you're in the breathtaking countryside of France, a mid-West suburb or anywhere else in the world, bedtime remains the same: parent wants child to sleep but child wants to stay awake. 

My little fellow, who is not quite so little anymore at 21 months, had finally become a good sleeper in the month or two prior to our vacation. Now, after two weeks in France, the only time he falls asleep outside the arms of my mother-in-law (watch for a tribute to her in the coming days) or me is here: 


or here:



We had a good routine at home. He never failed to go to sleep on his own. He woke up regularly, which was a problem for a long time, but was better. But he always went to sleep on his own crisis-free. Now, to put him into the portable crib it is as if I am showing him the face of the devil himself.

For the first several days of our vacation I tried the usual routine and just let him fall asleep in my arms. Now he tenses up and clings tightly to me if I walk near his bed. I'm at a loss. But his sleep, or lack thereof, is not my biggest problem. It is that I seem to judge my success as a mother by whether or not I successfully put my children to bed. Clearly, at this point I am a failure. My daughters flat-out tell me "No" when I tell them it's bedtime. Only threatening and severe yelling seem to work, which only reinforces my sense of absolute failure.

What must my mother-in-law think of a woman who can't even put her own child to bed? She has happily taken on bedtime this week by swinging with him outside until he is lulled to sleep on her shoulder. Even that doens't work for me.

Having time alone with my husband, by myself or with other adults is critical to my sanity. When my children refuse to sleep, I become so frustrated and am overwhelemed with a sense of parental failure. What kind of a mother can't even put her children to bed?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moment by moment

Life is made up of a sequence of moments. Some blissful, some filled with agony and many more in-between. Do you live in each moment you experience? Or do you live in painful memories of past moments and worry about the next ones? Or perhaps, better, in the memory of happy moments.

Vacations with young children can be harder than regular everyday life at home. Time changes, sleeping adjustments and meeting many new people, even if they are family, is stressful for them and therefore for us.

Things after Paris were thankfully uneventful. We traveled safely from there to a house on the ocean front in a small villaged called Piriac-Sur-Mer. Piriac on the sea. The house was very old and lovely. The view was of the ocean, sailboats and a seemingly endless coast lined with stone walls to keep the sea at bay. Our garden, or back yard, if you may, had a rope swing and a wooden swing for the children to play on. They loved it! Up the creaky stairs were three bedrooms. Two with lofts. The girls chose the room closest to ours and my little boy shared our room. And usually, our bed.

The girls were allowed to stay up late and dine with the adults and the little guy got to play until he seemed ready to fall right to sleep. When we completed our bedtime ritual and I placed him into bed he screamed. Every time. So, we developed a new ritual of him falling asleep in my arms and then I put him down into his cot. I would get an hour or two with my arms free and within a few hours of putting myself to bed, the little guy would wake, call out, "Mama," and be brought to sleep in my arms.

One for structure and routine, I was not happy with this new system of sleep. Naps were typically in the car, the over the shoulder carrier or very short in the cot. I did not work to correct it, as I was on vacation too. A vacation with young children, though, is hardly a vacation. Just a different location.

Our next location with a night another part of the coast called La Rochelle. The area is beautiful, with an island connected by a bridge. This island has been named by some 'body' in France to be one of the most beautiful and charming cities in the country. France is filled with beautiful and charming cities, so this one is quite special.

We left early for a long drive into the French countryside. A friend of mine from our time in Singapore offered the use of her second home, which is near a wonderful wine region called Cahors. After reviewing the vacation budget, we decided a trip inland was a great idea! And was it ever. The drive was just over 4 hours, which we broke up with a stop at a wonderful zoo near Bordeaux. The children loved it and they were each allowed to choose one toy. We left with a stuffed white tiger, the favorite of the boy; a stuffed baby black panther, my oldest's choice and an elephant shaped container of bubbles for my practical middle child.

As we drove on, the scenery changed. Breathtaking hillsides and conifers repleaced rocks and sea. Chateaus could be seen now and again and fields and fields of sunflours began popping up. How beautiful to look out and see an endless view of tall open sunflowers greeting us!

And finally, the house we were to stay in. An exact address could not be supplied, just the village and house name. The houses in this small village are named instead of numbered. Thank goodness for the GPS that guided us to the right area. A converted barn with a cinderella gate was enough of a description for us to find it. The old key turned the lock to the gate and assured us we were in the right place. The house looks nothing like a barn now. Remember, French barns are not red wood and rust, but stone and brick and style. The conversion of it to a house was nothing short of stunning, and much more than we could have ever afforded without the generousity of an old friend opening her home to us.

We all happily cleared the cobwebs and spiders who had made themselves at home in the absence of the owners, who live primarily in Zurich. We cleared and cleaned, ate and played until nearly 11:00 o'clock in the night when we all collapsed into deep sleep.

Yesterday, we wallowed in the beauty of the property and discussed the possibilities of staying a bit longer than we had planned. It is too lovely of a place to visit and leave in just a few days. The boy refused his nap, waking and screaming each time I tried to leave him in his own bed. There was no sound machine or lapping ocean waves to soothe him and cover the frequent squeals of his sister. Frustrated, I gave up. Finally, last night with the help of a radio tuned to fuzz, and complete exhaustion, he fell asleep and stayed that way. Just long enough for me to enjoy one glass of wine. Back to work.

But it was in this moment with him that my vacation began. A song from a favorite musical popped into my head, the lyrics, "This is just a moment in the woods... life is full of moments, many kinds of moments... all are worth exploring..." And I realized my real job was simply to enjoy the moment of my gorgeous son, comforted by his mother's arms.

Life is full of moments. Savor the good ones and simply wait for the bad ones to pass. Now, more than a week into our trip, I can finally relax.