Thursday, January 31, 2008

Vacation Planning Advice Needed

So I am working on planning several vacations, and am hoping some of you can help me.

1) DISNEY!!! We are hoping to take the girls to Disney (Big Man will stay home with Nana) for 3-5 days in November. I have never gone with kids (and haven't gone myself in about 10 years- but have probalby been10-15 times, just not recently). Give me all the tips! I found this great disney mom board, but am looking for other sources too. First, - where to stay. I am leaning towards the value resorts for money reasons, but also towards the Contemporary for proximity to the Park. We are thinking of only doing the Magic Kingdom this time (3 day pass) - and will probalby want to take at least one break back at the hotel during the day (the kids will be 6 and 4). Which would you chose? What other tips - should we keep it to one park, or could we also do Disney Studios or Animal Kingdom? MUST sees? Great books to get? Any advice would be VERY appreciated.

2) Ocean City, MD. We are thinking of going to Ocean City, MD for a few days in July. Where to stay? I think we want to be on the boardwalk to have easy access to amusement for the kids. Recommendations?

Thanks for any tips from you experienced mom and dads out there!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Making Life Easier

We all need things to make our lives a little easier. I have a few.
1) laundry - I have someone who comes in every two weeks and does 6-8 loads of laundry, folds, and puts the kids stuff away. I know this sounds totally frivolous. I mean, I can do laundry. And I did (and do). But putting it away just never seemed to happen. When we got home from work, we had catching up, homework, playing, dinner, baths to do. After that the kids were asleep and I didn't want to wake them putting their stuff away. This REALLY helps. 2) Dinner Done. This is a dinner-prep place, and I love it. The food is great, and I LOVE not having to think about dinner. Now I just look at my list of foods from my freezer, and on Sunday nights, plan it out on my calendar. Which leads me to
3) My weekly calendar. This is a BIG calendar that hangs in my kitchen. Everything goes on it - meal plans, school events, classes, work commitments, ticketed events, etc. Helps me see what is going on in one glance. 4) house cleaner. Normally, we have someone that comes in 2x month and takes care of general cleaning - bathrooms, kitchen, vacuuming, dusting, changing sheets on beds, etc. Our most recent one moved away a month ago, and we are still without one. This I must get on soon! These are what Work for Me!

What kinds of things do you to make your life easier?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dodge Grand Caravan Review (long post) – B+

So this last week I was part of this test drive program, and got to drive the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan for a week. I really wanted to love this car. I was so excited to get it, and when it arrived it was so sparkly and cool and new. But I just didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it either. There were some things I really loved about it, and some things that were great in concept, but execution was somewhat lacking. Overall, I would say this new edition brings Dodge up to be competitive with the level of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. But it could have been better.

First, a few things you need to know. I have a 2004 Toyota Sienna and LOVE it. I have three kids – ages 1, 3, and 5. While we currently have an entertainment system in our minivan, it is only used for trips over 2 hours. However, for this test drive, we let the kids watch tv/videos when we were just driving around, to test it out.

The other big thing to know. The minivan they gave me had some problems. As they told me when they dropped it off – the doors were acting weird – automatic open not always working, although both could be done manually. The automatic stow and go was not working. Given that the car only had 3500 miles on it, this definitely gave me some pause. I mean, I know a lot of different people have driven it, but still, I’m surprised stuff was already going wrong. That said…

There were several things I loved about the car. However, they are features you can now get on many high-end cars. 1) backup camera. Anytime the car was in reverse the backup camera images popped up on the center console screen. VERY cool. Made parallel parking (even in a big minivan) easy. 2) Remote start. This was so cool. It was cold this week. I loved being able to turn the car on from inside the house and let it warm up. 3) Center console media center – on the center console there is a big video screen. It contains all the media/gps you could even need. Easy to use/easy to see. The car had satellite radio and satellite tv. Very cool features. Although I doubt I would ever pay the monthly fee – certainly not for the tv. But it was nice to not have to have videos with us. But I would hardly ever use that in real life. The GPS was great too, and the satellite radio included traffic updates which was great in our congested city.

There were several things I loved the idea of, but could use some more refining. 1) Swivel seats and table. Everyone I mentioned this car too asked about the table first. I was excited about it too. So when they delivered the van, I asked them to setup the table and swivel the seats, so as soon as I picked up the kids they’d see it. The marketing people said, “you have three kids? You can’t use the table. Not enough room.” I was like, “what??!! The commercial shows 4 kids around it.” I had them set it up. Sadly, she was mostly right. The table is a great idea. But with kids in car seats, and small backseat area, the table was pretty crowded. When the kids are just in boosters or less it will probably be better, but then there will be leg room issues. That said, my kids loved being able to color back there while I was driving. With about 3-5 more inches, it would have been perfect. Set up and removal of the table were pretty easy – but difficult with car seats in there. The table stows easily in floorboard storage. The swivel seats were cool. Even without the table, the kids like facing each other. Of course, the back-facing row couldn’t watch tv. 2) Automatic stow and go. Again, great idea, but it was not working in the car I got. We did get it to go once, and it was very cool. No more pulling and pushing on the seats. But if it is broken in a car with only 3500 miles, how reliable is it?

The trunk space is very big. In fact, I wish they would take a few inches out and put them in the backseat. But it is probably all needed for the stow and go. There are lots of great storage spaces in the car, and they use every bit. Lots of cup holders too and great in floor storage units. They have a backseat conversation mirror (I call it the bus driver mirror) that is great - even better than the one in my Sienna, and behind it you can stow your sunglasses. There is cool ambient lighting in the back that is nice. The car drives well. It handles as well, if not better than the Toyota due to a V6 engine - although the Sienna has a better turning radius.

Overall rating – B+ I wanted to really love this car. It was good. They thought of everything, at least in the fully loaded model I drove. The extras are great. The storage is great. If you take alot of road trips or have a very long commute with kids in tow, this is a great car for you.

DH will probably weigh in with his thoughts...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Book Review: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

I just finished reading the book Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood . And while it was good, it just didn't do it for me. I am not sure why. The book recalls the childhood of a young British girl being raised all over Africa. It was kind of like a bunch of short stories from her childhood without a lot of continuity. Some of the stories were really interesting, but the book left me with more questions. Like why were they in Africa in the first place? The lived kind of this nomadic existence...why did they do that? I wanted to really like it, but I just didn't. It wasn't bad - and like I said, parts were really interesting, but I was hoping for something more.

I am now reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugneides. It won the Pulitzer Prize. I am really liking it.

I guess the writer's strike is good for something - I am actually reading books!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Is this cool or what?

So I was in the drugstore picking up Orajel a few nights ago (poor Big Man is getting his molars), and saw this product. Oh my gosh - what genius! It is a nail polish brush/pen. You open it give it a few pushes, and nail polish comes out on the end of the brush, and you just apply. I tried it last night and it was AWESOME! So easy to use, and dried likity split. I used a very light color, and it came out fine. Not sure how it would work with a darker color, but this thing is great!

Say it isn't so!

Trader Joe's has stopped carrying frozen avocado halves!! What is up with that? I love avocado, but don't eat it often enough to keep it fresh. TJs was the perfect solution - frozen avocado halves - what a great thing. I nearly always had a bag in the freezer to dip into. Well, recently I ran out and went looking for them. I was informed that they no longer carry them. What the %$(*$%&??? I am so bummed. I have written to corporate TJ and begged them to bring them back. I refused to even buy anything on that trip, I was so disappointed.

I hate when stores discontinue products with no warning - I would have majorly stocked up!!!

If you liked these too - please go here and tell them to bring them back!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I must be in an alternate universe

I recently had the best customer service experience EVER! After all the Verizon crap, I was getting used to bad service and then - wham, I go to the DMV. Yes, the Department of Motor Vehicles. And it was awesome.

I had to renew my driver's licence and had to go in person to get the vision test. So, I looked online - VA has this cool thing were you can see waiting times at several local DMVs in real time - and saw mine had a less than 3 minute wait, so I hustled out the door and drove over there. I walked in, got my number and before I could even sit down, was called. I did the vision test, paid my $20, and they told me to go across the room to sit and wait for my picture. I did, pulled out my blackberry, and before I had typed more than 2 words, was called to take my pic. Then I sat down to wait, and again, 2 minutes later - they hand me my new license. I swear I was in the place for about 7 minutes total. AMAZING.

I am going to write a letter to the state and thank them. unbelievable.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Memories of the King

Yesterday while we were coming out of the freezing cold into a McDonalds, K tripped and fell on her face. How do kids do that? Do they not have the reflex that makes you put your hands out??!! Seriously, she fell hard right onto her face. I almost started laughing, except she was bleeding like crazy. (that makes me a bad mommy, I know!) Her lip and nose were both bleeding all over. The other customers at this VERY crowed McD were very nice and quickly handed us piles of napkins and wipes. She was hysterical and blood was on her coat, her pants, her sneakers and the floor. Poor thing. The line was forever, so we didn't manage to get any ice. But after a few minutes the bleeding stopped, and a vanilla milk shake seemed to make things better.

But now she has a slightly red nose and a big top left lip. I think she kinda looks like Elvis. Of course, she doesn't even know what that means.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Big Man by Any Other Name

So apparently Big Man has a very common name. I mean, I don't think its common, but in our daycare - in HIS classroom of what 11 kids - there are now 3 kids in his class with the same first name AND the same last initial!!!! Seriously! There were already two of them and yesterday at drop off I see parents with a cute little 4-month old. I ask what his name is, and when they tell me I say "well at least your last name doesn't start with "b""...they say, uh, yeah, it does. I couldn't believe it. What are the chances??!! I mean, his name didn't even make it in the top 50 names for 2007. Really bizarre. Good thing I have always called him Big Man, and the whole center calls him Big Man, cuz it would get really confusing really fast.

Course when he is 5 and weighs 75 lbs, Big Man probably won't be that cute anymore. Hopefully his kindergarten class will have less kids with his name, so maybe we could actually use it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Test Drive Dummy

So, I was recently selected to partake in a marketing campaign for Dodge Grand Caravan. In fact they suggested I was "one of only 50 influential women in the Washington" selected - hee hee! Anyways, I get to drive the van for a week, and then tell them what I think of it. For those who haven't seen the commercial the Caravan is the cool minivan with the table and the swivel seats. I can't wait to try it out. I will let you know how I feel about it once I get it... We have a Sienna right now that I love, but that table and swivel seats sure sounds amazing!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Big 4-0 is my birthday and I am forty. I have to say, I feel like a grown-up. Even for 80-year olds, 40 is middle age, so I think I am officially not a kid. I kinda like that feeling.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Saving the Planet

So I am not a big environmentalist. Do I believe in global warming? yes. Do I think its a man-made problem? yes. Do I want to do my part? yes. But mostly in little ways - i recycle, we are changing our light bulbs to the "green" ones, I am trying to cut down on my use of bottled water. But I have an idea that I think will be my little push to try and save the planet.

(drum roll please) Eliminate subsidies on bulk mailing. Can you imagine?! If the government did not provide direct mailing for like 1cent - we would get virtually NO junk mail, that we just end up putting in a landfill. They could do it like the do-not-call list and allow only those business you have a pre-existing relationship with to mail you, and if you tell them "no" they would have to take you off their list. Wouldn't that be amazing? Think of all the catalogs, credit card solicitations, etc that we wouldn't get and throw away! Think of how much less trash/recycling we would all have!!! And maybe our stamps wouldn't keep going up while the junk mailers pay virtually nothing.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It just makes me smile

Do you have an item of clothes or jewelry that every time you put it on, it makes you smile? There are some clothes I wear, that I just LOVE.

For example, my zebra print short trenchcoat. LOVE IT! Seriously. Every time I put it on, it makes me happy. Same with my pink suede fake-crocodile shoes. I mean, why on earth does one need pink suede fake-croc shoes??!! Because I love them, and they make me happy. I also have these bead rings that I love. When I wear them, they make me giggle.

I am sure that Oprah or the like would tell me I should only buy/wear clothes that make me feel like that. And that would be great. But thus far I can't say I can do that. But I do have some pieces that work. What do you wear that makes you happy?

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Design

Oh my gosh, don't you just love my new blog design? I am very excited about it! It was created by Judith Shakes- isn't it great? If you have a blog - I highly recommend her. She is so easy to work with, gives you exactly what you want, quickly, and cheaply! So great. Thank you!!


So we needed to have phone jacks wired in our new spaces. Our contractors did some of it, but we needed the phone company to come and hook them up. This was first requested in early December. It is now mid-January and no phone jacks. So far DH has taken 3 days off from work, plus one Sunday spent waiting around all day. The first time or so they sent the wrong tech - "I'm here to fix your line" - "no, install" - "oh, I don't do that". At least 2 other times they just completely didn't show up. When DH has called he gets no resolution other than for them to write another ticket and then just not show up. It is truly ridiculous.

I looked into other local phone services - but it looks like they can't do the jack hook up - only switch existing service. Monopolies SUCK.

If anyone has a snailmail or email addess for the Board of Directors, we would LOVE it.

From the Mouths of Babes

So I love when my kids say funny things. Especially when they don't even realize it. We were playing I-Spy in the car the other day - an adventure on its on when you are playing with my 3 year old. For B, whatever she spies is a moving target - it is usually the first answer she likes, or the first thing she sees of the color she randomly picked 5 minutes ago, or as soon as her older sister can convince her that her answer is the right one.

Anyway, yesterday we were playing and the color was "gray" - as in, I spy something gray. Now my "thing" was the fence in the median of the highway. After much thought B says "your hair!". I was like "WHAT??!!!" First of all, my hair is brown. Those parts that are aging are WHITE not gray. I said "My hair is gray??!!!" At this point both girls are laughing hysterically - even though they don't know why - they just think it is funny that I am incensed. B finally says, "no, brown!" - she thought we were looking for something brown.

Perhaps I wouldn't be so sensitive were a BIG birthday not 3 short days away. Actually, I thought it was funny too. Then last night she told me she had sprinkles on her hands. I look and don't see anything. She keeps pointing - I finally realize she meant "wrinkles" from her bath. Good thing she didn't tell me she could see my sprinkles.

Friday, January 11, 2008


So Harvard University has started this cool thing with tuition. If you make less than $ can send your kid to Harvard for FREE. FREE! They still have to get in (good luck with that), but the tuition will be free. If you make less than $180,000 you won't have to pay more than 10% of your income. The number decrease from 10% to ZERO as you move down the income scale. That is HUGE people. $18k or less for a Harvard education?! I know people who pay nearly that much for private elementary school. (I think they are nuts, but that is another matter altogether). I am hugely impressed by this move. You can read all about it here. Lets pray some other schools start doing similar things (not that my darling children won't be going to Harvard, but just in case they prefer a different school! ;) )

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This could get addicting

So I found this cool site the other day. It is called KIVA. It allows everyday people to loan money to burgeoning businesses in 3rd world countries. It is so cool. You can read a story about the person, their business, and see the record of the sponsoring agency in repaying the loans. And all you have to contribute is $25. In fact, that is their current limit on individual (although you can go over by just increasing the amount on the pay screen). Then, over a pre-set amount of time the loan is repaid, and you get your money back. You can invest in someone else, or take you money out. The overall default rate for KIVA loans is .17%!! The average loan time is just over 10 months. So while you won't get any interest on your loan -- you will get the good feeling you get when you donate money to a charity -- but chances are you will also get your original investment back again! How cool is that??? I highly recommend you check it out!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I am Raising a Cave Man

Let me start by saying that I ADORE my Big Man. Really I do. But man, he is such a boy. My first two are girls. And while I will laugh at this 10 years from now, they are pretty easy going. Even as toddlers, they both listened, they could follow simple directions, they could talk. Big Man is completely different.

I knew it from about 3 months. He would happily sit in his car seat cooing and smiling - but at all times his toes and fingers were wiggling and jiggling. Like he had so much energy in there. Well, its out. At 17 months he is a maniac. No really, I mean its not like I expect him to be a gentleman, but it would be nice if he would be a member of the human species instead of some kind of rabid bear.

He climbs, he throws, he grunts, he whines, he hits, he eats. He is, basically, a cave man. He has words, but the only ones he chooses to use regularly are mama and dada. Other than that, you can hear a word one time and not again for 3 weeks. He said MILK on Saturday - a word I have been trying to get him to use for MONTHS. He said it because I apparently gave him a malfunctioning sippy cup. I handed it to him, he tried to drink, then banged on his tray, said Mama - MILK and thrust the cup at me. I was so excited! I was like, yes, Big Man, that is MILK! But he kept banging his tray and I finally figured it out. Its like he will only talk when he wants to. He said Bye Bye clear as a bell to his caregivers at school about 4 weeks ago - one time and never again. He said Blueberries on Saturday night - when he was demanding more. Mostly he grunts and points.

Except when he has a speech to give. Every once in a while he will stop what he is doing and with a lot of gestures and pointing will give a 2 minute oratory. Of course it is in Big Man-ese and completely unintelligible to the rest of us, but I am sure it is the next Gettysburg Address. I particularly enjoy it at 3am.

He climbs on everything. If he can't reach what he wants, he will pull and push furniture around til he can get enough stuff together to climb onto to get to what he wants. He got to a big carving knife around Christmas. And when we saw him with it he thought it was a game to see how far away he could run with it without us catching him.

He likes lifting heavy things and throwing - such a great combination! He lifts chairs, stools, big boxes, etc. Then he usually hurls them to the ground. The other day he kept throwing a stool into the bathtub, while the girls were in it. He throws smaller things too. Its like he thinks if he smashes it on the ground perhaps it will open to reveal the secrets of the universe.

He LOVES the toilet. Seriously. His favorite thing is to grab the extra roll of toilet paper, dunk it in the toilet (which may or may not have been flushed by my 3 year old) and then drag pieces of it around the house. We had to get toilet locks which have resulted in several accidents by my 3 year old, cuz she can't get it off. He also dunks stuff in the toilet and drinks the water. So lovely.

Its a good thing he is such an adorable cave man. How could you not love this face??!!!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Family-style Workouts

So we took the girls ice skating on Sunday. We had tried a few months ago and although K did get out on the ice, she quickly dissolved into tears because she said she was scared because there were too many people. On Sunday morning, while they were at Sunday School, I was running errands and happened to notice the rink was nearly empty. I figured this was our shot. K took lessons last fall, and I really wanted B to try it.

So I picked them up from Sunday School, dropped by and got DH and DS and we headed over. Thankfully it was still quiet. Me, K and B all got out on the ice. DH was willing to go, but we weren't sure Big Man was up to it. I think he needs to be a little older. I was not looking forward to it, as I haven't skated in years, and the last time I hated it. It was actually fantastic! We all had fun. They had painter's buckets kids could use to lean on and B LOVED them. She didn't even want me pushing her or helping she was so proud to be doing it herself. K stuck to the wall much of the time, but would come out on the ice holding my hand.

We skated for almost an hour! That is quite a workout let me tell you! But it was a blast, and we all can't wait to do it again.

Mental Exercise

I had a great run this morning. Its been a while since I could say that. I have been pretty good about keeping up the running - but the actual runs have been mediocre at best. Lots of walking in between some running. Its amazing to me how mental running is.

You can train your legs and your lungs to handle the run, but your body (or I guess I should say MY body) just doesn't want to do it. So it becomes a mental game - mind over matter - just decide I am going to run the whole way, I am not going to stop, I CAN do it. This morning I just woke up with a different attitude and decided I would do my regular run and I would run the whole way - no stopping, with a surge at the end. And I did. But my body definitely had moments where I wanted to stop. And I just had to ignore it, listen to my music, and keep pushing.

Lets hope I can keep this attitude up!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

So cute!

Nana took the girls to get their hairs cut last week. B was insistent that her hair was too beautiful to cut. Not surprisingly, she had it cut the exact same way as her big sister anyway. They look so adorable!

Friday, January 4, 2008

House Updates

So we are mostly moved into the new space. Here are some pictures of the great room. I have to say we LOVE it. We used it for Christmas and it was perfect. Very versatile! On Christmas morning we turned one of the sofas around so it was facing the tree. Perfect for Nana and Grampa watching all the opening madness! We even put our big expandable dining table in here and ate Christmas and New Years dinners. The last picture is of my scrapbook area. Yayy! Now I can scrapbook in the big room with everyone.

Here is one of our porch. I will post some of the bedroom/bathroom in the next week or so.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Fun Stocking Present

So in my Christmas stocking, I got these awesome camera filters called Jelly Lens. (Ok, I put them in my stocking, but anyway...). I have two -- the starburst and the diamond. They are little plastic sticky things that you can put on the lens of any camera and get these cool effects. Aren't they great??

I would tell you that you could find them at the Container store for like $4 each, but they are way sold out. I found more on Ebay.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

An exercise in excess

Christmas was great. Everyone got what they wanted and MORE. LOTS more. Here is the evidence. In our defense, the pile of pink boxes are the closet organizers. But all the bags and boxes, etc. All Christmas remnants. Horrifying really. The good news is that before Christmas we had the kids go through their toys and we got rid of a minivan full of stuff. Nana and Grampy took it to the Food Pantry where they volunteer and donated it. Even still, more will be going in order for it to fit into our already WAY over-burdended play room. It will be great when Big Man gets big enough that we can actually get rid of an entire class of toys. Having three kids so closely together means we have toys for all ages. From infant up to 6. We've never grown out of any of them. We are finally getting rid of the infant stuff now that Big Man is 17 months old. But really, the toy situation is out of hand.

I apologize

I have been a bad bad blogger. Completely ignoring this for the last two weeks. Sorry. Especially after I send out my blog address in my Christmas cards, then I fail to publish. In my defense, things have been crazy. HUGE kudos to all the stay-at-home parents out there. The last 11 days have assured me I could NEVER do what you do. Seriously. Being home with my kids 24/7 for the last 11 days was EXHAUSTING!!!! I mean, it was great, but it was also very exhausting. I was so relieved to be going to work today.

Part of it was probably due to expectations. We moved into our new bedroom and great room about 5 days before Christmas. So while we were off from work all the time, we figured we'd get the closets all put together and clothes and everything moved. We did get much of the closet work done. Some clothes are moved. We are sleeping in the new bedroom, and hanging in the new great room. So, all in all a victory. But trying to do these things with three kids running around who want to play was nearly impossible.

At about 4pm yesterday DH said he really didn't think he would make it til the kids bedtime. So, we went out. Thank God for malls with play areas. We let the kids run around, got a bit of a break, had dinner out and were ready for work this morning.

Will probably be updating a lot this week, as I had much to say, just no time to get it all down.