Monday, December 31, 2012

Giving...yeah I'm down for that but how do I choose where?

So as the minutes tick down to 2013 those of us thinking about our year and, let's face it - tax deductions, how do you choose where your giving goes?  I mean let's be honest here, there are a ton of organizations that really need the help, not to mention all the institutions calling for money (as though it is not enough that I give you all my money and signed away my first born to attend your school (totally worth it!) you still want more?!), and then there is your church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious institution.  Of course in a perfect world (eh, that must be in some alternate universe 'cus it sure isn't here) you would have given all year and not just in a monetary way, but we are talking penny pincher tactics at this point!  Don't worry we will get to other ways to give in a future post!

Here are a few ways I use to help my family make this decision:

  1. What organization has helped me in the past and I may continue to benefit from?  This one is a little selfish but you do need to soul search a bit.  My husband and I met in college (did not date until years later when we ran into each other - a story for another time) and both believe the scholarships, assistance, support, socialization, and education really helped to mold us into the people we are today and we hope to continue to share that with many others.  This could also be your place of worship, YMCA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or any place that is "feeding you" physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. 
  2. If you could give money to a cause in hopes that one day they will never need your money again, how great would that feel?  Think money for a cure for... you fill in that blank.  Most of us have been touched by some sort of disease or tragedy in our lives and would love to do something about it so our kids never will.  Maybe this is the Alzheimer's Association, The American Cancer Society, or MADD - Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  How wonderful would it be to someday be able to say I gave to a cause that cured that disease or ended drunk driving?!? 

     3.  Quick if you had $100 to give and had to give it to charity, who would you give it too?  Your gut is a powerful thing.  Just pipe down and listen.  I will just say that rescue animals will win for me 9/10. 
Who would give up this face? She saved me too!

     4.  Research.  A duh.  Of course you should check into areas of giving that interest you before you give willy nilly (ha that was even funnier to type than to think!).  Remember some of the Hurricane Katrina money that did not go to the people of New Orleans?  Yeah, that is low but well there are some pretty rotten people out there so beware.

Charity Navigator is America's premier independent charity evaluator. They help charitable givers make intelligent giving decisions by providing in-depth, objective ratings and analysis of the financial health and accountability & transparency of America's largest charities. Use Charity Navigator's simple searchable database to find a charity you can trust and support.

      5.  It never hurts to go with a charity you like that is also offering the ability for a match.  This may mean your own employer will provide a $1 for $1 match or maybe a % of your donation match.  Or maybe someone with a nice wad wants to help a little more and offer more incentive to others to give and offers a match.  Either way you have to think you are possibly doubling your giving without actually spending the extra.  Win-win-win!!

But the real lesson of this is just to get busy and give!  Trust me the benefits of giving far out way the extra latte you were going to get this week.  Just think, you could feed the hungry and watch your  weight by cutting eating out one time a month - that might be $5 a month but for a year that is $60 to potentially feed a family for up to a month in some situations.  How awesome is that? 

So get busy and give.  Oh and Happy New Year to all of you!!!!

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

I never knew how pretty my bathroom ceiling was (or thoughts while crying on the floor)

This is what I thought of as I laid on the floor of my bathroom crying my eyes out and glancing up at the ceiling. I had to laugh. How did I get here? Literally, I lay down to cry after another night of not being able to get my son to go to sleep in his own bed. Figuratively, well that's what I wanted to know. How did I become the mom who cannot get her child to self soothe? Why can't I just put him into his bed, and he go to sleep? Why am I a terrible mother? That is where this ends up.
That is where so many issues with motherhood end up with me. Do I truly believe I am a terrible mother? Sometimes. Like when I yelled at him this evening to just go to sleep. I let my frustration get the better of me. But then I think of all the good things I am doing for him. Healthy foods, teaching him to count his fingers, and more hugs and kisses than Hersey's can produce!
I know that this too shall pass. But in a world of Pinterest, Facebook, and blogs we all see and read these portrayals of perfection and when we hold the mirror up to ourselves we see those "epic fails'. Now I do not write this for a pity party. Any mom who is being honest will tell you they have had these days. I should say any parent or caregiver who cares has these days.
When I worked with people with dementia I knew they were not acting out because they chose to. They acted out because the disease took their ability to choose to act the way they would have wanted to. I have so much patience for them. I have to remind myself a child is no different. They do not really choose to act out. They act in the only ways they know how. If they do not have the tools to express what they want, what are they supposed to do?
So I guess I am saying to be kind. Be kind to the older woman who is asking you for the 10th time where her baby is. Be kind to the child who cries when you do not do what they want. But also be kind to yourself. Care giving is hard whether it be for a 1 year old or a 101 year old.
So what do I do next? I take a deep breath, a bite a chocolate, and remember he won't always feel or act his way; and get back in there! Parenting ain't no place for wimps!
Oh and a late Merry Christmas to all of you and your's! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Put the credit card down - new toys are everywhere Part 1

Your house is filled with toys - that you already own. No, not the crazy loud toy with all the buttons and lights. But to the penny pincher's delight, there are so many things you can use as toys! I have turned around a toddler tantrum with some of these gems and you can too!

We all know about the beauty of cardboard and kids. But it never hurts to look at it in new ways. I have pinned many a new idea on my Pinterest page and I have kept more boxes than my hubs would like. In fact when I see something I need to throw away I start thinking, "Hey nut job what else could you do with this before you throw it out?" (Yes I call myself names, it's cool,  me and the "others" are just like that.) You will see what I mean as you scroll. Just please don't call Hoarders, by not buying toys (that is a Grandparent's job right?) and using everyday stuff I have kept my house just out of the range of natural disaster.

Standard disclaimer - don't try suing me. I may be a penny pincher but I still have no money - see my career choice! Anyway, always supervise your kids as needed, make sure items are appropriate, yadda yadda - aka use some sense and if you don't have any... well may Mr. Rogers be with you!

    1.  Laundry Basket - are you kidding me this is a standard for years of fun. I remember my brother and I pushing each other down the icy ramped driveway in a laundry basket in high school. Yes, you read that right - never stop playing! But early on it is great to put a kiddo in with warm towels out of the dryer - start teaching them to fold and sort! Push them around in it like it is a go cart - add a steering wheel by giving them a large plastic lid. Sock balls are fun to play with but if you wanna spend a little, take your sweet buns to Target and pick up a bag of 150 plastic balls for $14.99. Instant ball pit!! Hours of fun - dumping the balls, picking up the balls, diving for hidden objects in the balls. You could also use the good ol' laundry basket as a cage like I liked to do with my brother, but some frown on that.

2.  An old wallet and "credit cards" - you can use those fake cards you get in the mail, used, empty gift cards, reward cards you know you are never gonna use but you signed up for because that girl behind the corner was pushy and you felt trapped, shoot my kid loves a good business card. They love to take them out of the slots and try to put them back in. Older kids love to think they have cards like their parents.
3.  An old wooden foot massager makes a great musical instrument either a drum stick or use something else to run up and down the ridges - great sound.  It can also be used as a phone or microphone as my son loves to do.
4.  Egg carton (cardboard is the best) - fun for sorting items, storing small toys, and best if you have some of the plastic Easter eggs.  I like to put small snacks in them.  He loves to shake them and find out what's in there!  Snack time and play time all in one!!!!  It's fun for pretend cooking too.
5.  Paper- Yep I give this kid all junk mail, printer paper to recycle, wrapping paper scraps, magazines, little pads of paper from hotels (you know you take them too).  Wrap up boxes with a snack or old toy in the box - some of the fun is unwrapping anyway.  Paper airplanes - My kiddo loves to chase them and then run back with it for me to throw again - until the day I first tried this I forgot how much fun it can be to fly paper airplanes!  Magazine are fun because they love the bright colors and even better if it has pictures of kids! Paper ball fight, laundry basketball, or volleyball. Oh the possibilities of paper!

Trust me I have many more and I will share but this is getting long!  Use your imagination and you are teaching your child to use theirs!  See what everyday items you can turn into great new adventures and share with the class!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why I will not talk about the tragedy

I actually wrote this as a post on Facebook but as the innocent souls are laid to rest, I felt it poignant to share here, because I am not the only one who feels this way.  And that is okay.  No one can ever tell us how to grieve or how to find a way to go on.
As people have tried to engage me in a discussion about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, I have had to ask them to stop or I walk away. I cannot talk about it. I cannot think about it. It isn't because I do not care. It isn't because I want to pretend it didn't happen.
I will not talk about it because once I start to let it all sink in and really think about it... I am afraid. See as many of you know my husband is a teacher and my father is a teacher. So many of my family and friends are teachers on many different levels. I cannot bear to think about how those teachers felt and will continue to deal with this. I cannot stand to think about the families they left behind. As I was reading the early information about the shooting I got a text message from one of our news channels and all that I saw there was an evacuation of North Side High School where my Dad is a teacher. I fell apart right then. Lucky it was just a small fire, but the what if's are too much.

I cannot even get into how the children and families have been affected. I am choosing not to. My little boy, only 1 1/2, will someday go to school. That is a fact. He will not always be right by my side. Another fact. Though I would give my life to protect him every moment of everyday, I will not always be able to. A fact that I already struggle with everyday.

So I choose not to think about this, or discuss it at this time. You can think I am heartless. But my heart needs to be filled with hope. Hope for my child. Hope for my family. Hope for those people. Hope for all people.

What a season to feel such sorrow. I do pray, as hard, and as much as I can for peace for all touched by this and for all people.

May Peace, Hope, and God's Love find us all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


There are just those days. Days when you are pretty sure a gloomy rain cloud is following you around a la Eeyore. Ya gotta get outta that funk and fast!

One day when I was in a particularly dumpy day, I had an idea to write a list of things that make me feel better. I call them Brighteners. They just brighten your day. They can be whatever makes you smile, laugh, or feel better. Some people like a little retail therapy - some not so much - I'm a penny pincher so I will not be seen at the Coach store anytime soon. For others it is volunteering. Even just the thought of helping others less fortunate can make you feel better.

So what is on my list? Well these are some of the things I came up with. I am sure there are many more and some may not even make sense to anyone but me, but hey that's why it’s my list!!!

·      Making lists - yes I am that person - judge all you want - it soothes me!
·      Organizing - chucking stuff, putting stuff away - it clears my mind - ahh so Zen.
·      Pinterest - okay this is more an addiction but it's like dreaming with virtual Post-its.  Follow Me on Pinterest button
·      Crafts - creating something feels so good! All the better if it is recycled from stuff lying around!

Shameless plug for my company - Musing Tree Creations
·      Exercise - yeah I hate to exercise but I love to dance, take a walk, and play with my dog and kiddo - it all counts!
·      Dive into another obsession - Dave Matthews Band. So this might mean some light Internet stalking, listening to their music, watching their concerts, anything DMB works for me!!!
·      Pampering - okay I cannot afford the spa (see penny pincher note above) so I like to do mini home spa stuff. A foot scrub, a microdermabrasion at home - you can get those handheld dealies and a little of my fav. face scrub St. Ives Apricot Scrub - works wonders and so much cheaper than the real deal! In essence, whatever makes you feel fabulous and pampered. I like to think of the episode of The Middle when Frankie put the pad over her eyes like an eye mask, lit a candle, and relaxed in the car dealership bathroom!
·      Give! - give your money, time, stuff you want to pass on, a hug, a nice note, whatever makes your soul smile! This can be a whole other list in and of itself. - Ohhh perhaps a post for another day!

·       Dog time - Oh my sweet Gracie. Just cuddling with her on the couch makes me so much happier. She doesn't judge me - even when I am eating my 8th cookie of the day. She doesn't demand things of me other than a little food and love. Done and done my friend!  And since my son was born we don't always get the time we need. This has resulted in her trying to chew her toe off, and me making her wear the sock of shame but it is all in love! Time, just her and me - so precious! 
·      Cuddles with my sweet Coen - cuddles with a wiggly 1 1/2 year old are somewhat fleeting. You gotta soak them in when you can and if that doesn’t make me feel good - time to check my pulse!
·      Reading - if you have kids you know this is a luxury! At this point I am excited if I get through a page in a magazine. A chapter in a book would be bliss!
·      Nap - what more do I need to say people?
·      Sing - I love to crank up the music and sing at the top of my lungs like I am The Next Top American Voice Idol! Am I any good? Eh. I can sing but I am not winning any awards. I like to think I can sing Christmas music and Country songs pretty good but that might just be in my head. I have not yet been booed by my son or the dog so... yeah I am pretty good!
·      Date night with my husband! - yeah it doesn't happen often enough but even looking forward to it just does something to make me turn my mood around!

I could probably go on but that is more than enough! I hope you have been inspired to write your own list. Post it somewhere you will look at it often and put a little bit more of those things in your day! It could spread - hopefully like Nutella and not like a fungus! I encourage you to share your brighteners with me!!!!

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Monday, December 17, 2012

First ramblings of this Nut!

     So here it is my first blog post. So much pressure to be so captivating right of the bat! Where to start? Well, how about the question my husband asked me? “Why do you want to right a blog anyway?” First, why not? Second, if nothing else this is a great way to have some records of recipes I love, crafts I have done, and so many stories I want to share. I don’t do the diary thing and I have not been so good with that whole baby book business. Plus since it is kinda therapeutic, it saves me money on therapy!
    Then I have to ask myself what do I have to offer? Well technically I have a Master's degree in Applied Gerontology (working with older adults), undergrad degree in Sociology with minors in Communications and Gerontology. I have worked with older adults for 14 years, as well as people with disabilities. I am also a mom to an amazing little boy named Coen who is 1 1/2 and a busy, busy guy! I have my first baby, Gracie, my almost 10 year (gulp - dogs should not age!) Italian Greyhound mix. She is a rescue and a rescuer - if you have ever rescued a dog, you know what I am talking about! If you haven't, well, we will talk later! I love to cook, craft, and; I know we all think we are funny, but...I can at least say I have funny stuff happen to me if I am not indeed funny!
    So here we are. First post almost complete, but first a few disclaimers. Though I do have a lot of experience in several areas, any advice I may give is simply based on my experience and is in no way the end all be all. I always encourage people to do their own research, check with experts, and go with your gut! I plan to share my own recipes, crafts, and tips but I do not pretend that they are all originals. Some might but who knows, as one of my favorite movies said (well at least sort of) "nothing is original; someone else probably already did it." - Garden State. Okay and I think finally, I welcome your comments, ideas, and tips but I ask that you be respectful of others. I do not pretend I am a squeaky clean, nothing but sweet words coming from my mouth but I do hope to keep this family friendly - it is after all a blog revolving around the family!
Alright, enough of that. Plus I hear a kid getting into something and have to get to him before he gets into my jewelry again.