Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Looking for a Camera - I need your help!

CLOSED - Since no one has given me any suggestions as of 9/16, I am ending this giveaway.  Either you don't have any good cameras either, or you just want to keep them all for yourself.  :o) Either way, I've decided to use my gift card to bribe people to join my facebook page instead. 

I don't know if any of you have noticed the pictures that I put up here, but the quality isn't very good. I'm currently using a HP photosmart 635 2.1MP 12x zoom. I know what you're probably thinking - they haven't made that for years! You're right. I got it in the early 2000s, before the birth of Peanut, but after I started my job. It was a great deal and I really did love it. It took "good" pictures and was VERY easy to use.  When I was teaching, I let my kids use it for school projects and never worried about them breaking it.  After I had my girls I could make it work, even with exhausted mommy brain.  It was a good camera.

The usefulness of my HP 635 has now passed.  I need something more compact with better resolution and perhaps a little more functionality.  I can handle a little more complexity, but it still must be generally user friendly.  I want a camera that is small enough to take anywhere, but durable enough to withstand a few short falls.  I'm thinking that it can't be more than 4 feet from my kids' hands to the ground, right?

In a dream world I'd be able to find a tiny little keychain camera with good resolution.  I can't even count the number of times I've seen something unexpectedly picture worthy when out and about and without a camera (No, I don't have a cell phone camera.  As a SAHM I don't use my cell phone often enough to warrant a monthly fee, so I have a prepaid plan and a basic flip phone.)  Also, there are so many times that I intend to bring my camera and just forget.  Wouldn't it be handy to always have one with me?!

So, I'm open-minded and need your help.  Please - does anyone have a camera that they just love and couldn't imagine life without?  Let me know what you have.  Be sure to tell me why you love it as well as if there is anything you would change about it.  I'd love a direct link to the camera as well.  Just for helping me out, I will give one lucky person a small gift card.

Giveaway Rules:
  • One entry per person for telling me about a camera that you love.  If you don't have a camera that you love, then you can get an entry for sharing this post with your friends on twitter, or on your own blog.  You'll just need to post a link to the tweet or post.
  • I will draw a winner using random.org
  • Please include your email address if it is not publicly available
  • I will keep this giveaway open for at least a week, but not more than one month.  I will close it once I have a suitable number of camera alternatives to investigate. 
  • This giveaway is not sponsored by anyone other than MomOnTheEdge.  I have several low value gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, CVS, Walmart, and Staples that I have received as rebates, for surveys, and as gifts.  At the close of the contest I will give the winner the option of choosing one of the gift cards I have available.
  • I will be responsible for shipping or emailing the gift card, but am not responsible for any lost or damaged mail.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Sweetness of Life - Milano Moments

Life is sweet in so many ways. My Thankful Thursday posts are evidence of all the ways that I enjoy and appreciate my life. From a surprise nap to the most sincere smile, my kids are full of sweetness that is often unexpected and always a joy to behold.   One of my favorite moments of sweetness from this summer occurred when I was dropping my girls off at my parents for a short summer vacation.  As I was giving hugs and saying goodbye, each girl said to me separately, "I'll take care of my sister if she gets sad and misses you."  I've always encouraged the girls to look after each other.  My sister and I are amazing friends, and I want the same for them as they get older.  Apparently they are on the right track - and nothing is sweeter than that!

*Disclaimer - Some information from this post came from One2One network.  I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this post, but am eligible to win a gift card.  If you want to experience a Milano Moment, you can go here to get a coupon for $1.00 off.  Also, be sure to check out the Pepperidge Farm Facebook page to read about and perhaps share your own Milano Moments.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ten Tips for Planning a Unique Baby Shower

Baby? Did someone say BABY?

No mom, I am not pregnant . . . as much as you might wish otherwise.  We are done with babies in this house.  That doesn't mean I don't oooh and aaaah over every pregnant woman and new baby I see though.  In fact, every time a friend tells me that she's pregnant or posts a picture of her chubby faced cherub on her facebook wall, I get a small tinge of jealousy.  Baby's are sweet, innocent, and pure joy - even if you don't realize it when they are crying at all hours of the night.  These precious bundles of joy deserve a party to celebrate them that is as special and unique as each one of them is.  That is why the baby shower is very important.  How does one plan a baby shower that is fun and unique?  Here is where I'd start.
  1. Theme - Every party deserves a theme.  A baby shower is no exception.  Do you know if it is a girl or boy?  Do you know what the nursery theme is going to be?  Do you know that the baby was conceived in Hawaii or that the mom has had a name picked out since she was 8 years old?  There has to be something special about this baby (even before it is born).  Find something unique in this birth and center your party around it. 
  2. Invitations - Select invitations that reflect the theme.  Perhaps include a lovely ultrasound picture.  If your couple is up for humor, use one of those sites that merge two faces to create a baby and include that on the invite.  The sky is the limit when it comes to an invite.  Just be creative.  If you need some ideas, you can check out TinyPrints Shower Invitations here.
  3. Location - Not all showers need to be in a hall or in a private room in a restaurant.  Have a shower in the park, at a bowling alley, or someplace special.  You can have it at the place where mom and dad met, got married, or celebrated another special occasion.
  4. Games - Some people love games and other people hate them.  If you want to have a unique shower, search for uncommon games and activities. 
  5. Advice - Every past and future mother wants to give advice.  Allow them to give it at the baby shower.  Give each person an index card where they can write their best serious, humorous, and beneficial advice.  The mom-to-be might want to ignore it, but when she hasn't slept in 2 weeks, she might just pull it out and she if there are any pieces of useful information anywhere.  No matter how many times you've heard it, when you're sleep deprived you won't remember the most basic advice.
  6. Food - Perhaps you can have all child-friendly finger food.  Or maybe you want to go with foods that the mom-to-be is sure to miss after junior arrives.  If you have a good theme, you can do foods to reflect it. 
  7. Decorations - Have kids of various ages help with the decorations.  You have to get used to child-proofing and kid-friendly decor sooner or later.  Why not start now?
  8. Gifts - Instead of the traditional registry, set up a website where everyone can go to post a gift that they're bringing that they could not live without when they had kids (to prevent duplicates).   If it is something small, have everyone supplement with a gift card to a specific store.  That way, the mom can get what she wants and each person can bring something unique.
  9. Kiddos - Why is it that baby showers are almost always child-free?  Are we trying to avoid scaring the new mother with what she can expect shortly.  I say that if you want to have a truly unique shower allow the kids to come.  
  10. Thank yous - While not directly related to the planning, I think that a unique thank you is one that is personal and specific to the gift.  I like to include a picture of the mom-to-be with the gift and/or gift giver.  Also, if the gift is one that can be used shortly after the baby is born, wait and include a picture of the baby wearing the outfit or using the item.  People really like to know that their gift was appreciated and used.
*Disclaimer - I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Tiny Prints blogging program, making me eligible to get a Tiny Prints gift code worth $50, plus 25 FREE Tiny Prints greeting cards—a total gift value of $149.75! For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Five Tips for a Bright Healthy Smile

I just recently posted about the value of a tooth here. While I still don't think they are worth $10, I do think that the value of a healthy tooth far outweighs the value of an unhealthy one.  Because of that, I encourage my children to develop healthy habits for their teeth which will lead to a bright and healthy smile.  I'd love to hear some of your tips for how you get your kids to keep their teeth clean.  Here are a few of mine:
  1. My girls aren't able to brush their teeth after every meal, but they do brush at least twice a day - after breakfast and dinner.  
  2. To ensure that my kids brush long enough, they sing while they brush.  The alphabet gets sung 4 times - once for their upper teeth, once for the lower, once for the fronts of their teeth (say cheese!) and once for the accessory parts (tongue, roof of the mouth, backsides of the teeth).  They like how they sound when humming with their mouths full of toothpaste, so the time just flies by.
  3. The girls drink only water throughout the day.  I read somewhere once that it takes 20 minutes for your saliva to get all the sugars from sodas and juices off your teeth from a single drink.  If you are a constant soda sipper, then your teeth will be exposed to sugar constantly throughout the day.  By limited the juices to only meals, we prevent excessive sugar exposure.
  4. Have you seen those commercials where the kids are getting into all sorts of trouble and when the parents ask them what they're doing, they say, "Fighting cavities."  Those really crack me up.  Besides that, they have been a good reminder to keep sugar free gum in my purse at all times.  That way, when we're out and about and the girls get a treat or a snack.  They can follow it up with some gum to keep their teeth healthy, even if they can't always brush.
  5. My final tip is to find a dentist that you and your kids all love.  My girls love their dentist.  They look forward to going twice a year to have their teeth "tickled".  Our dentist is great with the girls and very patient - even though he isn't a pediatric dentist.  Get recommendations from family and friends, and don't be afraid to "shop around".  You are definitely more likely to go and take your kids if each experience is a good one.

Disclaimer:  I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Trident blogging program, making me eligible to get a $25 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Healthy Family Meals

What's for dinner?

Do you ever get tired of hearing that?  I know I do! 

Another thing I get tired of . . . trying to come up with healthy meals that everyone in my family will eat.  With two growing girls in the house, I want to teach them smart food choices.  I'm not with them all the time, so I like to make sure that the meals we do spend together are well-chosen.  Every night can't be chicken nuggets and pizza.  Even though that would really be an easy fix to my meal planning issues. 

When twittermoms gave me the opportunity to participate in a blogging program where I could share my recipes and tips and read other people's recipes as well, I couldn't turn it down.  I am always looking for a few good recipes, and those tried and true ones that will come from fellow bloggers seem like a great place to start.  (Unfortunately for those of you trying to take my ideas, consider yourself warned that they aren't that grand.)  Blogger or not, I'd love to hear your recipes and tips for planning healthy family meals that taste great too.  I'll start by sharing a couple of mine.

Tips & Recipes:
  1. Reduce the quantity of sodium, sugar, etc in the recipes you already have.  If you reduce the amount little by little, it is likely your family won't even notice.  For example, I always put 1/2 cup of sugar in their Kool-Aid rather than a full cup.  I started by decreasing the amount to 3/4 cup, then slowly worked down to 1/2.  While it still isn't the healthiest option, it is at least a little better.
  2. When possible, instead of using salt in a recipe, find a good sodium free option, like Mrs. Dash.  I personally love to use Tomato Basil Garlic in many of my soups and stews.  It adds great flavor without the sodium.  One of the easiest recipes I make using Tomato Basil Garlic is my Leftover Soup.  You start by taking all of the leftover veggies that you have throughout the month and continuously add them to one container that you keep in the freezer.  Once the container is full, you can add some Sodium Free Broth or Vegetable Juice, a little seasoning, then simmer for a quick easy delicious meal.  If you feel like it, you can even add some meat or pasta to thicken it up a bit.  I especially love it in the fall and winter with some homemade bread.  YUM!
Disclaimer:  I wrote this blog post while participating in the Mrs. Dash and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - An empty tire swing

The first day of school . . .
An empty tire swing . . .
A hole in my heart . . .

Who knew I'd miss them so much :o(

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." --Elizabeth Stone

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Have you heard of SafeSocial?

SafeSocial, a new AOL product that launches today, can help you protect your children, even if you aren't a social media expert. SafeSocial helps you:

Find out where your child has online accounts

Know who your child is "friends" with online

Get notified if your child is in a conversation about violence, suicide or drugs

See photos your child has posted online, and others' photos in which your child has been tagged

Another benefit? You can monitor all this activity without being a "helicopter parent." Your child will have to agree to be monitored, but you won't need to connect with them on the social media accounts, or hover over their shoulders in person.

*Disclaimer:  All information for this post was provided by Global Influence.  By posting, I am eligible to win a $25 gift card.  I will provide my thoughts and ideas about SafeSocial in a later post. 

The Great Tooth Debate

What is the value of a tooth?

Seriously . . . how much is a tooth worth?

This is a serious debate in our house.  "When I was a kid" we got a quarter for every tooth we lost.  According to the inflation calculator, what was worth a quarter in 1983 is now worth $0.55.  So, I would think that any teeth lost and placed under a pillow should earn approximately two quarters . . . maybe three if the tooth fairy is feeling generous, likes to round up, and can wrangle three quarters from the bottom of her overstuffed purse. Sounds fair, right?

However, upon talking to some other family and friends, the going rate seems to be between $1 and $5.  Some really generous fairies even give $10.  Seriously?  Ten Dollars for a tooth?  It isn't like losing a tooth is a difficult task.  Without any work at all they will eventually fall out, right?  I know that Peanut (and probably all children) wiggle and fiddle with them incessantly, but that isn't necessary for the end result.  Doesn't that seem a little high?

I want to teach my children the value of a dollar.  I want them to understand that you have to work hard to earn money...Money doesn't grow on trees...A penny saved is a penny earned...and other such famous sayings.  However, I don't want them to wonder why the tooth fairy likes their friends' teeth better than theirs.  Do you think kids compare how much they get under their pillows?

Right now, Peanut gets 6 quarters for each tooth lost.  We've decided on 6 since she is 6 years old.  If one day the tooth fairy can't find 6 quarters, she might get 6 dimes, nickels or pennies, but almost certainly not 6 dollars.  This tooth fairy just can't rationalize that kind of spending.

What is the value of a tooth in your house?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

WINNER - Sam's Club Gift Card

Random.org selected #80 out of 117 entries for the Sam's Club Gift Card Giveaway. The winner has been contacted and has responded with her mailing information. Congrats Heather!

*Thanks again to MyBlogSpark, Sam's Club, and General Mills for sponsoring this giveaway.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Unstuff Your Life by Andrew J. Mellen - A Brief Review

Raise your hand if you have a cluttered house, drawer, room, shelf and/or car!
  • For those of you that don't have your hands up . . . Are you serious?  You don't have one place that has "stuff" that you need to organize, throw away or find a new home for?  WOW - I am jealous!   You may still want to keep reading though, because everyone in your life can't possibly be as organized as you, right?  
  • For those of you with your hands up, look around.  You are not alone.  Keep reading, because I may have found something that will help you "Unstuff Your Life" if you're at the point where you're ready and willing to put a little work in. 
I consider my home to be fairly neat and tidy.  Most everything has a place where it belongs.  We don't have anything on our counters in the kitchen and pictures are few and far between.  In fact, our house looks almost "sterile".  This is due primarily to the neurotic anti-clutter man I married.  However, there are still places that definitely need some help.  The girls' closets can sometimes be described as a disaster.  I guess I figure if I can shut the door on it so Doc won't see it, then it is good enough.  I have a junk drawer that is my vice.  It is a place I keep all my "stuff" that really should find its home elsewhere.  That is why, when I was given the opportunity to read and review Unstuff Your Life by Andrew J. Mellen I couldn't in good conscience turn it down.

I received the book and began reading, somewhat skeptical that reading anything would really help me to organize my life.  I actually thought that, if anything, this book might add additional clutter.  It is another object I have to find a home for, right?   So far, I am surprisingly intrigued.  After reading the first couple chapters, I am hooked.  Andrew J. Mellen does a great job of making you understand your perspective about what you need, what your "stuff" really is, and why you feel guilty getting rid of some of the useless items in your life.

In order to provide a true and accurate review of this book, I've decided to begin my own journey to organize my life.  Beginning on September 1st (Mellen recommends beginning at the start of the month.  Besides, there is no better time for a fresh start than a new school year.), I'm going to read and commit to "unstuffing my life".  I will provide updates to you all as I make my progress, and will let you know at the end of my journey how successful the book was for me.  Wish me luck!

Book Description (from Amazon)
One of the country's most sought-after professional organizers makes his foolproof rescue plan available for everyone

Arguably the most organized man in America, Andrew J. Mellen has created unique, lasting techniques for streamlined living, bringing order out of chaos for a client list that includes attorneys, filmmakers, and even psychologists. With Unstuff Your Life! he puts his powerful program in the hands of his widest audience yet. Acknowledging that it's often the "stuff behind the stuff" that holds people back, Mellen offers an action-based plan to redirect clutterers from dwelling on their feelings. This simple shift yields immediate results that will help everyone achieve organizational bliss-from the chronic key-loser to the hard-core hoarder. Mellen's mix of humor, honesty, tough love, and foolproof strategies motivates readers to work through their feelings and make real behavior changes that will have long-lasting effects.

Written in Mellen's signature no-nonsense yet hilarious tone, Unstuff Your Life! brims with personality, along with approaches not found in other organizing books. Built on the principle that we must distinguish ourselves from our possessions, Unstuff Your Life! starts with truly achievable goals and works toward the nightmare projects everyone tries hard to avoid. From the basement to the bedroom, the kitchen to the car, and more, readers will learn:

•where to find a permanent home for your keys and wallet

•how to sort the mail in a manageable and time-effective way

•what it means to group "like with like"

•how to tackle bills and budget

•how to problem-solve with your new skills, and more

The result is absolute freedom from the burden of clutter-and more free time than you ever imagined possible.
*Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  I did not receive any compensation for this review and am in no way obligated to provide a positive review.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Funny Friday - A Hilarious Letter (taken from Ginny at Praying to Darwin)

As I mentioned yesterday, after an exhaustive search for Crayola Tropical Markers (per Peanut's school supply list) I was beaten down and a bit frustrated.  The one thing that was able to make me laugh was a post  by Ginny from Praying to Darwin, I can almost guarantee a laugh (or at least a nod of the head in agreement with one part or another).  I highly recommend that you read her post A Letter to My Child's Teacher. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A quick trip to Sam's for back to school

Today I did some intense back to school shopping.  I was prepared with my lists of supplies, snacks, and a few grocery items.  The first stop on my list was Sam's Club.  The main purpose of my trip to Sam's was to get snacks for Peanut's school lunches.   While I was there though, I needed to pick up my upgraded Plus card (thanks to myblogspark, General Mills, and Sam's Club).   I just have to say that the people at the membership desk couldn't have been nicer.  They upgraded my card, told me about all the benefits, and even walked me over to the computer to print off my list of preloaded coupons.  While I didn't use any of the coupons today, there were definitely some good ones on there that will get used.  I'll update you all later as the year goes on to let you know if I think the Plus membership is really worth the extra money or not.  When I got a chance to look around for the items on my list, I was thrilled to see my favorite snacks with bonus box tops.  Peanut will be thrilled to find Chex Mix in her lunch on the first day of school!

After my trip to Sam's Club I headed to Target (followed by ToysRUs and Staples) to pick up the last of the school supplies.  As I searched futilely for Crayola Tropical markers and a 10 pack of pencils (Target only carried, 8, 12 or 24 count).  I remembered an email that a dear friend sent me last year that fairly accurately describes how I am feeling after my shopping expedition.  You'll have to wait for tomorrow's Funny Friday post to read all about it though.  Just so you know - I ended up paying almost $6 to order an 8 pack of those stinkin' markers online.  :o(  Hopefully they'll arrive in time for school.

*REMINDER: Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a Sam's Club GC from MyBlogSpark, General Mills and Sam's Club here

*Disclaimer:  Through MyBlogSpark, General Mills and Sam's Club have generously provided me with an upgrade to my membership, a $25 gift card, and some of the information provided above.  They will also be sending my winner their Sam's Club gift card.  All opinions are my own.  Others may have different experiences.

Thankful Thursday - Life is Good!

Last night, after dropping the kids off with their aunt, Doc and I came home to a quiet house. We looked at each other for a minute, wondering what we should do. "Do you want to take a boat ride?" he asked. "Sure" was my reply. With that, we took the boat out...

On a lake as smooth as glass...

The only boat on the water...

We watched the sunset...

Listened to music...

And just enjoyed the company!

An evening as simple and perfect as ours makes you thankful to be alive!

(Note: This is not a picture from last night, but one of my favorite sunset pics. I need to remember to bring my camera with me more often.)

Edit:  I came home to this sunset tonight and had to get another pic!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to School Preparations

Can you believe that back to school time is here already? Where did the summer go? It seems like just yesterday we were wiping tears away and making plans with friends so that Peanut wouldn't miss them so much over the long summer. Now that school is about to start, half of our plans never quite made it to fruition. The time flew by too fast! So here were are . . . a week away from the start of school . . . exhausted from trying to squeeze in the last bits of summer fun . . . off the schedule I worked so hard to get them on . . . and really needing to get ourselves ready. With so much to do and so little time, what are your best tips for getting your kids ready for school? I think I'll start here:
  1. Back on Schedule - As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."  My girls need their sleep.  Since they'll have to get up early, we'll have to make sure they're in bed early all this week.  
  2. Reminder Lessons - During the summer, the girls periodically work in their workbooks to keep some of the things they learned fresh in their minds.  However, they've not been doing this as often as I'd like.  This week, we'll be sure to make sure we remember our sight words, practice counting in the car, and read a little extra each night.  
  3. Picking out food - Breakfast is so important for my kiddos.  We make sure we have enough time to eat each day before leaving for school.  After all the work they do in the morning at school, lunch is a necessity too.  My girls aren't "packed lunch" fans though.  They prefer warm foods and leftovers to sandwiches.  We'll have to go out together to pick out healthy foods that they will eat for their lunches.  Fresh fruits and veggies are usually a big hit with both girls.
  4. Back to School Supplies - Nothing says back to school like picking out supplies.  I still love the smell of a new box of crayons and the feel of a crisp new sheet of paper just out of the package.  To mentally prepare the girls for the return to school, we will definitely have to go out supply shopping together.  Once everything is labeled and packed in their backpacks, they'll know it is really time to get back to the routine of school.
I'm sure I'm forgetting something important, so I'd love to hear your tips for back to school preparations too!

Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms blogging program to be eligible to get a HarperCollins book set. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Thermos Funtainer Kit Winner

Random.org selected #31 out of 63 entries for the Littlest Pet Shop Funtainer Kit Giveaway. The winner has been contacted and has responded with her mailing information. Congrats discoveringthemeinmommy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Just Another Review Blog Cedar Point Giveaway

Just Another Review Blog is giving away a four pack of tickets to Cedar Point.  Personally, we LOVE Cedar Point and think winning would be just FABulous.  If you feel like trying your luck, you can go here to enter too.
Good luck!

*Disclaimer:  I earned 5 extra entries by posting this on my blog.  :o)

Thankful Thursday - A Walk with a Friend

Last night, my neighbor and I walked approximately 6 miles together.  Whenever she is around and Doc is here to watch Peanut and Pumpkin, we make an effort to go.
  • Is 6 miles a huge distance?  No
  • Did we walk in record time?  No
  • Did I burn enough calories to make up for those no bake cookies I ate?  No
However, even with all those "no"s and the massive number of bugs that found their way down my shirt, I am grateful to have walked.  A walk with a friend is beneficial for me in so many ways:
  • I feel good about myself - that I took the time out to exercise.
  • We talk about everything and nothing.  It is downright therapeutic.
  • It is an escape from the norm.  When I'm home with my monkeys I'm always a mom first.  When I'm walking, no one interrupts me.  When I'm walking, I'm actually me again . . . if only for an hour. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Fish Heart

Each Tuesday this summer, my children were able to attend a program at the local nature center where they learned about various topics.  They dissected owl pellets, held snakes, learned about bats and even watched a fish being dissected.  In this picture, Peanut has the fish heart on her wrist.  We were amazed that even out of the body, it would keep beating in time with your own pulse. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

What We Have by Amy Boesky

To be completely honest, as I write this review, I have a headache.  It is an emotional headache.  One like you get after crying for too long at the loss of a loved one.  That is exactly how I feel right now.  I am emotionally drained.  I want to call my mom and sister and tell them how much I love them.  I have already hugged my girls with a strength similar to what I did on their first days of school.  The kind of hugs that you give as much for yourself as for the recipient.  The reason for my headache, my emotions, my hugs - What We Have by Amy Boesky.

From the inside book flap:
At thirty-two, Amy Boesky thought she had it all figured out:  a wonderful new man in her life, a great job, and the (nearly) perfect home.  For once, she was almost able to shake the terrible fear that had gripped her for as long as she could remember.  All of the women in her family had died before the age of forty-five - from cancer - and she and her sisters had grown up in time's shadow.  Urgency colored every choice they made and was amplified now that each of them approached thirty-five - the deadline their doctors prescribed for having preventive surgery with the hope that they could thwart their family's medical curse.  But Amy didn't want to dwell on fear now:  she wanted to spend time with her husband, plan for a new baby, live her life.  And that's just what she did.  In a way that only someone who is so acutely aware of passing time can, sh e chose to put her anxieties aside and relish life's simple pleasures.  In What We Have, Amy shares a deeply transformative year in her family's life and invites readers to join in their joy, laughter, and grief.  Unparalleled in its optimism and wisdom, What We Have celebrates the promise of a full life, even in the face of uncertainty.
The book began like many others, an author telling about her life, her family, her story.  From the beginning, however, her story resonated a bit more than others had with me.  She has a sister that reminds me of my own.  (In fact, my sister and I found out we were pregnant for the first time on the same weekend and had our children within about 1 week of each other.  We were fortunate not to have experienced the same outcome they had.) She grew up in Michigan, not unlike myself.  She vacationed in Charlevoix, barely a stone's throw from Traverse City - my favorite family vacation spot.  She spoke of places I knew, relationships that felt like my own.  She could be me.  Her family could be mine.  All of her joy and suffering could have just as easily been anyone else's to experience, including me.

While this book is not a light, easy, beach read, it is definitely worth reading.  I started the book on Saturday night and finished it this afternoon while my girls were resting.  Once started, it immediately pulled me in.  The familial relationships were familiar, relatable.  The way that Boesky brings her knowledge of literature, time and watches into the story makes it unique and educational.  The perspectives she shares and knowledge she imparts give you more to take away from the story than you would expect.  Reading this story made me want to take one of her classes (though I am in no way an English Literature buff).  As the story ended, I asked myself what I would do if given the option to know the future.  I wondered if I would want to know.  I thought about my own children and what lies ahead for them.  Is it better to know what is coming, to plan, to be prepared?  Or is it better to live in the present, enjoy the here and now, experience the joy of life without fear or anxiety?  Whereas before I read this book, I thought I knew the answers to those questions, I now realize that those questions, and the answers we give are actually quite complicated and multi-dimensional.

I have only one negative that I can share about this book.  Boesky will mention a family member early in the book, then bring the name up again later without a reminder explanation.  While that won't bother most people, I am not a name memorizer, especially when reading a book "for fun".  I would have loved if she'd had a glossary of names that I could refer to when reading.  Since she doesn't, I recommend that you pay better attention than I did when reading this book. 

Do I recommend this book?
Yes - This was a great book that almost demands a follow-up discussion.  I think it would make a perfect book for a book club.  Doc and I will be having a childless weekend soon while our kids vacation with my parents and I'm curious to hear his thoughts on the various topics brought up in this book.  I had previously discussed the idea of going back to school to become a genetic counselor with him and this will be a good starting point for deciding if that is something I'm still interested in pursuing. 

*Disclaimer:  I received a copy of the book for review purposes.  I did not receive any additional compensation in exchange for my review.  All opinions and experiences are my own.  Others may have different views.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sam's Club and Box Tops for Education

All of my long time followers know that I am a Sam's Club junkie.  I have had a membership for many years and am always trying to win gift cards that other bloggers are giving away.  While not all of their items are great deals, the snacks, frozen food items and ICEEs make it well worth the trip for our family.  In addition, I really enjoy just browsing the store to see the new and seasonal items they bring in.

For those of you that aren't currently Sam's Club members, you should really stop by this weekend.  Sam's is offering a weekend of shopping without the usual upcharge on August 6th - 8th.  This would be a great opportunity for you to try out Sam's and see how much money you could save by becoming a member.   Take a calculator so that you can compare costs, and be sure to check out every department.  You'd be surprised at the items you can find at Sam's.

In addition to the open house, Sam’s Club is also giving you the opportunity to earn Box Tops for Education when you upgrade to a “Plus Membership".  If you have school-aged kids, I'm sure you've heard of Box Tops for Education.  Around our house, we guard those Box Tops like they're gold.  Every time the kids see a box of General Mills Cereal or a bottle of Juicy Juice, they shout, "Don't throw it away mommy, its a Box Top!"  From August 6 – August 13, or while supplies last, you can visit the Member Services Desk of your local Sam’s Club and receive a certificate for 150 Bonus Box Tops with your Plus Membership payment.  Now that is a whole lot of Box Tops! 

Sam's Club is also having a Back-to-School event from August 11 through August 31 where you can earn more cash for your school.   Participating General Mills products will have 6 Box Tops for you to clip and save.  I don't know which products this will include, but I'm really hoping to find some on the individual serving size boxes of Chex Mix.   Those are one of our favorite travel snacks!   For more information on how you can take advantage of the Back-to-School event at Sam’s Club, visit www.samsclub.com.

Now that you've read all my thoughts and opinions on Sam's Club and Box Tops for Education, I'd love to hear yours.  Just for sharing your thoughts, you have a chance to win a Sam's Club gift card for yourself.

Mandatory Entry:  Which General Mills Box Tops item will you purchase during the Sam's Club Back-to-School event?  Leave me a comment.  Be sure to include your email address if it is not visible in your profile.

Optional Extra Entries:
  1. Follow me on Twitter.  Post your username in the comments.
  2. Tweet about this giveaway using @rmgm and #myblogspark  Post a link to your tweet here.  This can be done once daily.  
  3. Follow me publicly on Google Friend Connect and post a comment with your username.
  4. Comment on any of my non-giveaway posts.  Leave a comment here telling me which post you commented on.  This can be done once per non-giveaway post.  All comments must be relevant.
  • Only open to US residents
  • Winner will be chosen using random.org
  • Giveaway ends 11:59pm ET on August 21, 2010
  • Include your email address in your comment if it is not available on your profile page.  If an email address in not in the comment or on your profile page another winner will be chosen.   I will not contact you through Twitter or Facebook.
  • Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.
  • Prizes will be sent directly from the sponsor.  I am not responsible for prizes that are lost or damaged during shipment.  If you win a prize and do not receive it, please let me know.
*Disclaimer:  Through MyBlogSpark, General Mills and Sam's Club have generously provided me with an upgrade to my membership, a $25 gift card, and some of the information provided above.  They will also be sending my winner their Sam's Club gift card.  All opinions are my own.  Others may have different experiences.

Googly Bands Rings and Necklaces

The Googly Band craze is upon us in full force.  Just when I thought they couldn't come up with any more designs or ideas, I received an email telling me about the latest products in the Googly Band family - Rings and Necklaces!  While I'm not sure that I love the necklaces -

 (I think I need to see them in person.  They look a little bulky from just looking at the picture)  

I think that the rings are very cute. 
The butterflies are my favorite design, but I'm sure my girls would love them all.  My only question is if they will fit all fingers.  I'm afraid that they would either fall off my kiddos, or pull the little hairs off of mine (leading to tears in either case).   If I am lucky enough to win some, I'll be sure to let you all know what I think in a follow-up review.

*Disclaimer - By posting about these new products I am eligible to win some.  Images were provided by Googly Bands.

Funny Friday - Anita Renfroe (Dadsense)

While this might not always be the case, it is definitely true in some instances.  I thought it made a good follow-up to the post from last week.  :o)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thankful Thursday - The Occasional Nap

I really wish I had a picture for you, but I'm not crazy!  There is no way I'm going into Pumpkin's room and risking waking her up, just so you can see how adorable she is when she naps.   Instead, you'll just have to close your eyes and imagine you're looking at your kiddos while they are sleeping (or if you're reading this late at night you can just go in and peek at them).   If your kids are older and no longer at home, you'll have to see how good your memory is.  If you don't yet have kids, just wait . . . I'm confident that you'll be smitten by their angelic sleeping faces with their cheeks all squished and their mouths hanging open.  Seriously, it doesn't sound attractive, but it might just be the most beautiful sight I've ever seen.

Pumpkin is 4, almost 5, and she rarely naps anymore.  I can tell when she really needs one though, and today was definitely one of those days.  After lunch, we crawled up to the top bunk and said prayers.  After prayers I rubbed her back for a bit while she relaxed and fell asleep.  Did I need to rub her back?  Nope!  She falls asleep just fine on her own.  Did I need to stay in her room and just watch her sleep for a while?  YES!  My babies are growing up fast and I want to cherish the memories of their napping faces, their spontaneous hugs, and their unadulterated joy.  I am thankful for all the little things that won't last forever, especially the occasional nap!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tiny Prints Appreciates Teachers

As a former teacher, I know how hard good teachers work.  They are generous with their time, energy, love, patience, and  money.  They love and care for each of the children in their classroom as if they were their own.  They spend hours, days, or even months trying to figure out how their children will best succeed.  Once they've figured it out, they provide their kids with the tools for success and help them to find their way on their own so that they can experience the joy of their achievements.  Some days they go home exhausted, frustrated, frazzled and at the end of their ropes.  Luckily, other days they go home smiling, laughing, energized and proud of what their kids have accomplished.

During my years as a student, I was blessed to have many amazing teachers.  They were the ones that challenged me the most.  My best teachers set the bar high, and expected me to not only meet, but exceed my goals.  It may have been difficult to make them proud, but when I did, I knew that I had really achieved something of significance.   While I don't know if I ever thanked them in person, I have thought of them with appreciation often.   Now, as a mom, I thank Peanut's and Pumpkin's teachers when I see that they are going above and beyond their "job" as a teacher.  I think that an expression of gratitude is the least I can do for someone that sees my child more than I do during the school day.

Apparently, I'm not the only one to show appreciation for teachers.  Several businesses provide discounts or even free products for teachers to make their lives just a little bit easier.  One of those businesses is Tiny Prints.
To honor teachers everywhere who are preparing for their school year, Tiny Prints has designed greeting cards to meet their needs. They can send each student a personalized welcome greeting card, connect with their student's parents with a thank you card and celebrate their students with award cards. In support of building a connection between teachers, students and parents, Tiny Prints is offering these personalized greeting cards for free starting Monday, August 2nd through October 31, 2010. Teachers will just need to apply the code: Apple2010 at checkout.
In addition, you can participate in a Tiny Prints Teacher Greeting Card Twitter Party with the tag #makeitpersonal this Wednesday from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. ET/1:00 to 2:00 p.m. PT.  This should be a great time to learn more about Tiny Prints and see what they have to offer.

*Disclaimer:  I received information for this post from Global Influence.  In exchange for posting about Tiny Prints and the Twitter Party I have an opportunity to win a Tiny Prints gift card.