Archive | Not About Kids RSS feed for this section

Five Random Things

29 Oct
This is the oldest photo I could find.  2009 isn't 2005, but it's close enough, right?

This is the oldest photo I could find. 2009 isn’t 2005, but it’s close enough, right?  Tiny Doodlebug with short curls!

Look out!  It’s 2005 and we’re blogging like in the good ol’ days!  To be honest, I didn’t start blogging until those good ol’ days were already just a memory, but I’ve really enjoyed reading other writers’ random things (Including Kim from Red Shutters, who tagged me), so I’ll join in with mine.

1. I love video games. I’m solid with a sniper rifle or shot gun, and my favorite magic powers usually involve invisibility or shooting fire at my enemies. But I absolutely refuse to shoot “real” people.  Aliens?  Wizards?  Fine.  World War I soldiers?  Street walkers?  Nope.  So far my favorite game is Borderlands 2.  I suppose some of those characters were “people,” but they were futuristic space people and half-mutant, so it doesn’t count.

2. I have terrible social anxiety.  I hide it well, but speaking to small groups of people terrifies me.  I own a room of hundreds, or a classroom full of 9 year olds with ease.  So if the next time I’m at your party, you think I’m outgoing?  I’m probably pretending you’re 9.

3. I’ve performed on stage at Carnegie Hall.  My college chorale performed one Christmas with Skitch Henderson and the NY Pops (though I didn’t realize at the time how famous Skitch was).  I will always regret turning down the chance to play with the orchestra.  See?  I’m not a vocalist.  I joined the choir just to go to NY.  And when one of the woodwinds found out I played flute and invited me to take a seat with the orchestra, I was too shy to say yes.  ::face palm::

4. I am married to my elementary school sweetheart.  No, really.

5. Before I was a mom and PPD advocate, I was an elementary school teacher.  I adore the ages nobody else seems to love – I’m at home with 4th graders, 5th graders, and middle schoolers.  And as several people have pointed out to me recently, that teacher self?  Resonates in most everything I do.

So there you have it!  Five random things that maybe you didn’t know about me.

I wonder who I can rope into this next.  How about Lindsay from With a Little Love and Luck, Story from Sometimes It’s Hard, Melissa Lee of Sweetly Voiced, Rach Black from Life Ever Since, and Tabatha Muntzinger from So Tabulous?

Momcraft: Moms Who Play Minecraft (and love it)

10 Aug

I was first introduced to Minecraft by a student.  “I built you a math stage!” he announced during a private tutoring session, “It’s a theater for you do to math in, because you love math so much!”

I will admit, when I first downloaded the game, merely to use as an educational and motivational tool, I was underwhelmed.  I just…chop down trees?  And dig for stuff?  How is this fun?

But as I used the game to teach arrays, fractions, and logic, curiosity got the better of me.  One night, after coming home from teaching, I opened the game and clicked on “survival mode.”  Instead of a plain world in which to build anything I wanted, I was plopped into the middle of the pixelated wilderness, with nothing but the clothes on my body.

Minecraft Spawn

That’s me. I get to be Supergirl in Minecraft. Oh, look! Pigs!

Minecraft is an open-ended survival game.  There are goals and challenges to complete.  Secret lairs and dungeons to discover, but you can just as easily spend your time farming and raising pigs or creating a herd of rainbow-dyed sheep.  So as I chopped down my first tree, the possibilities were endless.

After playing by myself for a while, I began to get lonely.  So I found Vikki, who became addicted to downloaded Minecraft after watching her son come down the stairs in tears after a particularly terrible gaming night.  Vikki and I met in front of a pumpkin patch on a private server I begged my husband to build, and it was almost as good as being with her in person.  To this day, there’s something wonderful about seeing her pixelated blue hoodie walk my way, knowing that my friend is practically within imaginary arm’s reach.

Together, we built a town.  We farmed and mined, creating something from nothing.  And slowly, other parents joined in on the fun.  We battled an incessant monster infestation, built fountains that resulted in our own drownings, and laughed at the arrows in each other’s butts.  Jessi explored, Lizz built a house (that I filled with chickens on her birthday), and Addye braved it outside the city walls.  We now have a hot tub, a diner, and an armory, along with sheep of every color, and a clubhouse to rival even the most exclusive.  And as of this week?  Momcraft even has a dad.

The town the moms built.

The town the moms built.

And though Vikki and I have graduated to a more public server (complete with a gold-based economy, stadium for games and shenanigans, and teenage players who can build circles around us), we long for the good ol’ days, where newbie parents battled the virtual elements together.  We have both found ourselves growing closer to our kids because of a shared love for the game, and I’m so grateful for both the fun and perspective Minecraft have provided.

As an educator?  I love the open-ended structure, the problem solving, the spacial reasoning, and the circuitry the game presents to players.  As a mom, I love that I have something I can play with my almost-six-year-old – not too violent and not too hard.  And as a gamer?  I love the fun.

Unless, of course, a creeper blows me up while I’m carrying 3 stacks of gold and the enchanted infinity bow I *just* made on my anvil.  Then, you’ll probably see me slam my laptop down in solidarity with all the 8-year-olds out there.  Like I said, perspective.

======================

Wanna join us?  Want to try the game out before deciding if it’s right for your kids?  Want to see why your children are screaming at the computer screen and have tears rolling down their cheeks because of a “zombie pig man?”  Come say hello in our closed Face Book group or leave a comment below!

I promise, you don’t need to know a thing to play.  You just need a computer, the game, and a username.  We’ll take care of the rest!

Momcraft Header

Warrior Mom, Climber of Mountains

22 Jun

I slept for almost 13 hours last night after climbing 4.2 miles and 4,300 feet up to the summit of Mt Washington for Climb Out of the Darkness yesterday. 13 glorious hours. And as I massage my sore muscles, I am struck by the fact that I just accomplished an amazing feat.

In the last five years, I have struggled with three lumbar disc ruptures, a neck strain that sent me to physical therapy, and have been diagnosed with kidney disease. I have birthed two babies, leaving my core in ruins and with little time or energy to care for myself. And I have found myself fighting to love my body where it is while also wanting it to be better – stronger and more healthy.

Conditioned by society and pop culture, despite the wisdom of my rational mind, I have pulled and tugged at my stomach, cursed my thighs, and wondered how I would ever teach my girls to love their own bodies, when I could find only criticism for mine.

But today, in the shadow of yesterday’s glory, I am inspired by what my body was able to do and the courage it took to continue up the mountain. One rock at a time, I ascended 4,300 feet into the clouds. Though my back ached and my legs wobbled beneath me, I pressed on, honoring my body’s strength for the first time in a very long time. I am filled with gratitude for each and every pound that carried me up the hills and traversed the ravine.

As I crawled up the final push yesterday, I said out loud, “this is for every morning I thought I couldn’t get out of bed. For that moment when motherhood so overwhelmed me that I wanted to run away and leave it all behind.”

I have always been a Warrior Mom. Now, I’m also a mountain climber. Watch out world, there’s nothing I can’t do.

20140622-110742.jpg

Melissa and Juli, Andrew and Saige, and my husband Adam. I could not have done it without your support. Thank you.

You can learn more about Climb Out of the Darkness HERE.

How Is It May?

18 May

I’m sorry. How is it May already?  It’s like one day my yard was barren and grey, and the next day the whole thing had been colorized a la Wizard of Oz.  I keep finding myself surprised when my windows are full of green.

I’ve been neglecting the blog as of late.  And blogging in general.  I keep wondering who is reading all these blog posts that people write.  I barely have time to brush my teeth, and yet somebody is, because we all keep writing them.  I’d like to set aside an hour a week to just read and comment.  But which hour?

Elephant HatWhat have I been up to? Crocheting.  I want to have a new line of hats for babies and toddlers for the fall, and that means prototyping.  Nothing’s quite as horrible as spending four hours on a project only to finish it and decide you don’t quite like the look of it.  But I’m excited about the successes that have come out of all that failure and can’t wait to debut them in the shop.

Now that it’s nice out, I’ve been hiking, biking, walking, and jogging.  I’m supposed to climb a mountain in 34 days, so I’ve been working out in hopes that I won’t return from Mt. Washington in pieces.  I’ve actually GAINED weight (UGH) but I feel stronger and I have noticed my endurance improving.  It’s a good feeling, knowing that I’m taking care of my body and teaching my kids to be active and healthy.

And if I happen to pick up my computer?  I am writing, but it’s been sponsorship emails to hospitals and pieces for local media.  Between the Climb Out of the Darkness and the Warrior Mom Conference, I’m getting a crash course in marketing and PR – and thank goodness I’m a quick study.  Oh, did I not mention that I’m co-chairing the first ever Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom Conference?  Honored.  Overwhelmed.  Determined.

There really do need to be more hours in the day, because I just can’t find enough for all the things I want to do AND to watch Grey’s Anatomy while eating a sleeve of Oreos.  But I am still here.  And I’ll be back blogging before you know it.

On A Budget: Week Four (in which I crawl back on the wagon)

31 Mar

There’s something about the winters here in New England – being stuck inside where the germs multiply like rabbits and the air stagnates is a special kind of torture.  And it seems like once a virus breaks into our home, it’s guaranteed to take down every last one of us.

We spent almost three weeks fighting colds, viruses, and a nasty stomach bug, which meant that no one wanted to each much of anything.  Good for the budget, bad for our health.  When we did eat, it was scrambled eggs or toast, and dinner was whatever could be scrounged from the deep freezer.

But here we are, healthy and back on track (mostly).  I’ve planned the week’s menus and scheduled groceries for pickup tomorrow morning.  No matter that I forgot to buy bread while at Whole Foods today or that I’ve been to Target twice this week and each time forgot to buy Kleenex (my southern roots are showing, aren’t they?).  I’m trying to be kind to myself as the whole family attempts to get back to normal.

This Week’s Menu:

  • Monday – Grilled chicken with chipotle seasoning:  Good for fajitas, burritos, sandwiches, and more!  Tonight we’re having it on a bed of Texmati rice with a side of black beans.
  • Tuesday – Cooking a big batch of spaghetti sauce to freeze! Spaghetti with meat sauce, frozen mixed veggies
  • Wednesday – My mom cooks dinner.  SCORE!
  • Thursday – Chicken and cheese quesadillas.
  • Friday – Grilled Salmon with honey/soy glaze, roasted asperagus
  • Saturday – Pizza night (because I fear there will be a mutiny)
  • Sunday – Leftovers

The Spend:

  • Whole Foods: $59.33  I’ll buy the salmon Friday morning so it’s fresh, adding another $10 later in the week.
  • Stop and Shop: $44.31
  • Total Spent this week: $103.64, $113.64 after the salmon.
  • Savings this week compared to the original $140 weekly bill: $26.36, bringing my total savings since beginning this 4-week budget experiment to $136.36!

This is my last week to post on the blog about my adventures in grocery shopping and budgets.  What did I learn?

  1. Small changes in your purchases can really add up.
  2. Shopping in the store isn’t necessarily worth your time.  If you have delivery or pick-up options, shopping online is worth the additional $5-10 you may spend, depending on how much time you have and how hard it is to shop in person.
  3. You don’t really have to sacrifice quality or the foods you love to decrease your weekly grocery bill.  Planning ahead, keeping in mind what’s on sale, and choosing meals that you can adapt for other nights can all help keep costs down.

On A Budget, Week 3: Meal Planning and Coupons

11 Mar

My goal this week was to fit in some new recipes while stretching the foods I knew we already had in the pantry and fridge.  Honestly?  My fridge and pantry are hot messes.  The best thing I can say for my pantry is that there is nothing growing in it – my fridge, on the other hand, is a science experiment gone awry.  I’m too sick this week to tackle it, though, so as I pushed past what used to be sour cream, I made note of what was still hanging out, waiting to be eaten.

In the freezer, we had spaghetti sauce from a couple of weeks ago, along with some mexican-flavored shredded chicken.  I also knew we had some burger buns that were gathering ice crystals (I just knock those buggers off and warm ’em up in the oven…unless they are too far gone and even the bread has crystalized).

This week, our menu is:

  • Monday: Stove-top “grilled” burgers, oven-baked fries, and steamed frozen veggies
  • Tuesday: Whole wheat thin spaghetti with meat sauce (left over in the freezer)
  • Wednesday: My mom cooks up at her house and sit back and drink wine.  Bliss.
  • Thursday: Enchiladas with the leftover shredded chicken.  This was a hit last week.  Not really healthy, I suppose but at least the chicken was free-range organic? (let me have my delusions, please)
  • Friday: Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken.  I know we have some boxes of couscous in the pantry to go with this.
  • Saturday: Pizza night.  I’ll be saving up some calories for this, folks.  I can pack away 4-5 pieces.

Whole Foods Coupons

Last week, Amiyrah and I talked about couponing.  She has found it’s not worth her time and I have to agree.  Most of the Sunday paper coupons are for processed food or H&B products, not really my jam.  But I do print off the Whole Deal coupons each week from the Whole Foods website each week.  This week, I saved $3 with three coupons!  Worth the time.

Budget Week 3

This Week’s Spend:

  • Whole Foods: $69.89.  But I timed the shopping trip poorly and had to buy both kids a hot lunch to eat in the store’s food court.  Easily $15 of my cost.  So let’s subtract that from the “eating out” budget and count only the groceries:  $54.89.
  • Stop and Shop Curbside Pickup: $42.81.  See that $3.00 in parentheses?  Because I hit up S&S each week, I made VIP status.  I know, you’re impressed.  For my “queen of the grocery store” award, I got to pick one free gift.  It was spaghetti sauce.  For $3.00.  Store brand.  Yay.
  • Total Cost: $97.70.
  • Total Savings vs. my original weekly bill of $140: $42.30.  So far, that’s $110 since beginning the budget project!

 

On A Budget, Week 2: Lessons in Frugality

4 Mar

Well, we are on week two of grocery shopping and I’m pleased with how a few small changes are affecting our budget.  Especially considering the money I dropped in a boutique up by Loon last weekend (oops).

I decided to go back to the Stop and Shop curbside pickup this week.  The savings compared to shopping in person in Market Basket just weren’t worth my time.  You can see the comparison by clicking here.

I started by checking the Whole Foods website for coupons, sales, and their weekly special circular.  I noted any items that I wanted to add to the list for meal planning, and made my meals from there.  Because I made extra spaghetti sauce, spicy shredded chicken, and vegetarian chili last week, I had three meals already complete and in my freezer.

  • Monday: Soup and Sandwiches – Prepackaged fresh soup was on sale at WF this week.
  • Tuesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce  – leftovers from last week in freezer
  • Wednesday: I spend the night in NH and my mom cooks dinner.  WINNING.
  • Thursday: Chicken Enchiladas – chicken filling from last week wrapped in tortillas and smothered in sauce and cheese.
  • Friday: Veggie Chili and Quesadillas – leftover chili from last week
  • Saturday: Our Anniversary – Going OUT!
  • Sunday: Hamburgers or Sloppy Joes – buns in the freezer, meat on sale at WF, frozen veggies, and sweet potato fries

As a special treat this week, Amiyrah from Four Hats and Frugal was kind enough to visit with me and give me some pointers for keeping our food budget low but our meal quality high. I won’t give away all her secrets.  You’ll have to visit her wonderful blog for that, but I’m excited to try some of the things she suggested:

  1. Budget the impulse buys.  If I know I’m going to want a vegan scone and a coffee with almond milk, put it into the budget.
  2. Don’t be afraid to overspend one week to stock up.  Chances are, the next week, you’ll find your costs lower and it all evens out.
  3. Plan themed meal nights.  It makes it fun, adds to the meal variety, and can help you stock up.

So, how’d I do this week?

Grocery Collage

  • Whole Foods: $60.17
  • Stop and Shop Curbside Pickup: $21.24
  • Total Spent: $81.41
  • Anticipated Additional Shopping this week: $15
  • Savings compared to $140 original bill: $44
  • Total savings On a Budget so far: $68

I have a few things to get later this week, including an anniversary dessert and apples (which S&S ran out of after I ordered them), so I expect another $15 before Friday, but even $96 is a marked improvement!

Tell me.  What is your favorite trick for planning meals and keeping costs low?

On A Budget, Week One: Grocery Store Challenge

25 Feb

Yesterday, I explained why I’m pinching grocery pennies and hoping to save $2,000 a year while still eating wholesome, healthy foods and mostly home-cooked meals.  Today, I’m putting the proof where the pudding is.  Or showing you the meat.  Or … I give up on the pithy sayings.  Y’all are gonna keep me honest, okay?

Now, I only want to do this IF it will save me money and not detract from my happiness.  My time is valuable, and well worth $40 an hour.  So in order for this to be worth it, there’s gotta be a system, and I have to not be miserable while using it.  Mine has three parts:

1) THE PLAN

I already menu plan each week in my family binder.  This week was easy because we’ll be out of town Friday-Sunday.  I try to plan things that make at least one night of leftovers or can be used for alternate meals.  And I always check my deep freezer and pantry to see what we still have to use up.

If you’re not already meal planning, I highly recommend it, both for budget’s sake and for a little less stress in your life.  Sew Curly even has a planner for sale that is simple and stunning.  I happened to win one a few weeks back and it’s gorgeous.

This week it’s:

  • Monday – Spaghetti with meat sauce.  Homemade from The Pioneer Woman’s recipe.  I’m making a big batch to freeze.  Homemade rolls. (The rolls were missing a little something, sugar maybe.  Will be looking for another recipe to substitute in future weeks.))
  • Tuesday – Chicken burritos.  Stick some chicken breasts in a slow cooker with chipotles in adobo, green chilies, and some garlic and it’s perfect for filling burritos, tacos, quesadillas, you name it!  We have plenty of rice and black beans in the pantry already.
  • Wednesday – Veggie Chili.  I’d like a few vegetarian meals each week and I’m hoping this one hits the spot.  We shall see.
  • Thursday – Quesadillas with leftover chicken from Tuesday.

Weekly Menu Plan

2) THE LIST

I buy organic meat and eggs, if possible, and do that shopping at Whole Foods.  The welfare of the animals matters to me and we find animals who are raised as naturally as possible result in not only a better conscience, but also better food.  I try to buy organic produce for things where we eat the skin, but even when it’s conventionally grown, the quality of the produce is just so much better there.  But there are just some things that the great WF doesn’t have, like Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  With two stores to visit, I’ve got to be organized.  I checked out each store’s circulars and coupons online and made my lists.

What?  You don't write your grocery list on crumpled pieces of torn construction paper?

What? You don’t write your grocery list on crumpled pieces of torn construction paper?

3) THE SHOPPING

It was easy to hit Whole Foods with the toddler while the preschooler was at school – it’s right down the road.  I walked out of there sans coffee and vegan chocolate chip scone (boo hoo), but did so for $69.33!

But will I have to give up my Stop and Shop curbside pickup?  By putting all the items from the list on the right into my Peapod app, I came up with a total of $55.62.  The same foods at Market Basket cost me $46.75, saving me $8.87.

I think I can save $20-$40 a month just by being more cautious when planning meals, but I can save an additional $8 by walking into Market Basket instead of getting my groceries curbside at Stop & Shop.  Worth it?  I dunno.  That’s another $32 a month, $416 a year.  But it’s also an hour with two kids at the store.  Probably a wash.

Grocery Store Challenge

THIS WEEK’S VERDICT:

  • Whole Foods: $69.34
  • Market Basket: $46.75
  • Stop and Shop Virtual Shopping Basket Comparison: $55.62
  • Total Spent: $116.09
  • 4 Nights of Meals with 2-3 additional meals from each cooking session for leftovers and future meals.

So far, I’m please with what I’m learning and with the lower bill this week.  At least it’s progress!  Compared with last week’s bill of $140, I saved almost $24.

On A Budget

24 Feb

I’m very fortunate to be able to stay home with my girls and work part-time for myself.  Privileged.  And while there is an element of luck to everything my husband and I have, we also put in many long hours.  He worked for years in an industry job that crushed his soul in order to gain the experience needed to apply for his current job.  And because of his incredible work ethic and talent, he won both a salaried sabbatical from work and a scholarship from a prestigious ivy league school.  His PhD candidacy comes to a close in a year and a half (this is when I will begin calling him “The Doctor” and it will be awkward for everyone).

This is his dream, just as mine is to work for myself as a teacher and writer and mother.  So the upcoming “lean times,” as we jokingly call them, are worth the sacrifice.  You see, for the last year of his program, he will be unsalaried.  We will be living on our savings alone (and whatever small amount of money I bring in teaching).  It has me adjusting my expectations and budget.

But this comes at the worst time, because the next year holds big things for me.  Conferences.  Writing gigs.  Opportunities that require a little investment.  And though I (really and truly) don’t judge mamas who work full-time to support their families and lifestyles, I’d rather adjust our lifestyle than go back to work full time.

Where is it that we try to cut back when times are tough?  Grocery-shopping.  I’m a firm believer that our culture is obsessed with cheap food – it’s all we have known.  But the more I have learned about where our food comes from, the more I am convinced that food is the fuel you give your body.  Isn’t it worth spending more of our budgets on?  Amyirah of Four Hat and Frugal shops for $70 a week!  I know I can’t do that and continue to buy my organic meats and produce at Whole Foods.  But maybe with some adjustments, I can bring our weekly grocery bill down from $140 a week to $100.  $40 a week is $160 a month – or over $2,000 a year!

So bring on the coupons, the sales circulars, and the actual setting-foot-in-the-grocery store.  I’m taking a break from the Stop and Shop curbside pick-up to see if the money I save by shopping IN Whole Foods and Market Basket each week is worth the time it will cost me.  It might not – that hour-and-a-half-with-two-kids-in-tow might be worth the extra 40 bucks.  We shall see…Wish me luck!

Full Circle Mess

18 Feb

My friend Story tells me I should just start writing. And when I warned her that it will be one big, rambling mess, she rebutted with, “I love your mess.” Words thrown back at me from an earlier conversation when I insisted she doesn’t have to be perfect (or even close to perfect) in order to be loved – to be happy.

Why is it I am immune to my own wisdom? Well, not all the time, but it seems that often the hardest advice to take is my own.

And another thing. I auditioned for Listen To Your Mother a few weeks ago and had a blast. Met some great people – bloggers from my actual neighborhood instead of my virtual neighborhood. It’s always nice to have faces (and hugs) to put with the websites. But as soon as I got home, I realized the piece I auditioned with? Wasn’t done. It was a work-in-progress and I fear didn’t really dig deep enough. I wrote about my conflicted feelings about my 5 year old – how much I mourn for the loss of the baby and toddler she used to be. And before the audition, I was really happy with it, but looking at it now, it misses the mark. It doesn’t really show the depth of my sense of loss or how much it keeps me from enjoying her now. I expect not to make the cast and that’s okay. I will audition again next year. I will keep writing. I’m just disappointed that I missed the chance to really polish something.

Adam tells this story about when he was at a dinner (or meeting, I can’t remember) with his PhD program advisor. The professor recounted a visit he had with an academic, crypto celebrity. He explained that as he admitted to the well-respected expert-in-his-field-PhD that he felt like a fraud, expecting to be discovered for his lacking at any moment, the crypto-god said “I feel the same.” I wonder if other experts ever feel this way. Does Yo-Yo Ma ever shrink back from his cello?

There are so many things in my life right now that are sucking the confidence right out of my spirit. I rely on that confidence to tell me that I am okay, so its disappearance is always a warning sign to me that I need to stop and take stock of my mental health. I’m so very worried about my girls, for different reasons. We are really struggling with some difficult behaviors with Doodlebug and Bean is falling behind on her growth charts. And because I love them both so fiercely, the fear that something may be seriously wrong leaves me trembling. And though I try not to borrow trouble, it’s been hard this week to stop the worry cycle.

And it’s snowing. Again. It IS pretty, falling gently from the clouds, unlike the windblown, rainy mess from Sunday. Today’s snow is a magical one, but it would be better if I had a fireplace. And some palm trees. On a beach. With no snow.

This piece? Is not polished. I don’t think I’ve ever published one of these hot messes. Maybe that’s the exercise today – to let go. To find some peace in the unpolished, the unfinished.

Well, shit. We’ve come full circle, back to my friend Story and her love for my mess. Funny how that happens. You write and write and write and then all of a sudden, you feel like you can breathe again.

Thanks, honey. I needed the push.

%d bloggers like this: