Monday, March 28, 2011

Let The Sun Shine!

Already day dreaming about my next day at the beach!
 Hallelujah, my lovelies! It is a sunny day...I watched the forecast this morning and by mid-week we should be looking at a sweet 80 degrees! I don't think that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I do think my mood is very affected by the weather. I guess I am just lucky I live in CA and its usually not so bad. But last week it just rained non-stop, and it was really starting to get to me!

I took the week off from running last week due to the weather. I could have hit my treadmill, but just wasn't in the mood. I was still adjusting from that darn time change - I know, it's ridiculous...I should totally be over that by now! But even though I was tired in the morning and not inspired to head out into the rainy darkness and run, I made sure I did DVD workouts 5 out of the last 7 days. I really hope to get back on track with running this week. My running buddy had a change in schedule so we just need to get adjusted. This WILL happen, dammit!

So I have started off my week feeling happy, and well, just good all the way around. I did tons of laundry yesterday and a good chunk of house-cleaning. I have already planned a play date for Monkey for this week, and also have a girl's night planned for Friday. If I can just get a few runs in, life will be simply smashing. 

Wishing you all a fabulous week!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thrifty Mama Gym: Netflix

I've been getting the little red packets in the mail for about 6 years now. I love Netflix for many reasons. First, the "No Late Fees" pitch that got me hooked. Then I realized, I loved the convenience of having pre-chosen movies arrive in your mailbox, the variety of movies available, and the cost was very reasonable. It wasn't until I canceled my gym membership at the end of 2010 that I realized another fabulous benefit to using Netflix that I had never even thought of!

I had gone back to work full time and could no longer make it to the gym enough to make paying $80/mo. worthwhile. I could have gone to a 3 other less expensive gyms nearby, but that didn't really solve my problem. All I would end up doing is going 1-2x per week and wasting less money, but still wasting money.

I started to notice some of my running group friends on Facebook mention that they were getting workout DVD's from Netflix. I run pretty consistently but still needed something else for the purpose of cross-training and toning.  I had my Body By Bethenny DVD, which I just love, but sometimes my hamstrings would be so sore that my runs would suffer. So I decided to try Netflix, and I have had a blast trying out different DVD workouts! I only get one DVD at a time though, and I like to do the DVD's several times, so I have decided to select from the "Watch Instantly" section, so that I can stream workouts over the internet and still get films sent to me on Blu-Ray that I can watch on the weekends.

What I love about this - I can keep switching up my work out. I can try different things and if I don't like it, no sweat (no pun intended, really). I can choose different workouts of varying lengths depending on how much time I have. And, my muscles don't get complacent - I can keep them guessing. I have tried Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown, Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred, Crunch Bootcamp, Pick Your Level Weight Loss Pilates, Crunch Fat Burning Pilates, and many others. If I find something I can't live without, then naturally I will buy it but for now this is fun and incredibly inexpensive. I can workout in the comfort of my own home, before my family even wakes up and I don't have to leave the house in the dark and the cold. Netflix really has been my sanity-saver this winter!

Do you have any favorite fitness DVD's? I'm always looking for suggestions.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why I Love Hump Day

sking Pictures, Images and Photos
This is what I feel like on Wednesdays!

I love to call Wednesday "Hump Day". I know the word "hump" is also a juvenile reference to sex...and I think it's funny! Ok, so I never said I was mature! But Wednesday to me is the "hump" in the week, and once we get over it, its a fast downhill race to the weekend!

I live for the weekend. That is when I get to hang out with my family and do fun things with my kids, or perhaps have a date night with my husband or spend time with friends...sometimes, unfortunately, I am forced to spend time cleaning after avoiding it for too long. Then other times I do absolutely nothing. I might read, flip through magazines, or watch TV. And this time that I cherish so much, it goes by WAY too fast. Probably because I try to do everything during the weekend that I can't do during the week, due to this thing called work that I do every day. Like, spend the check that I get twice a month that somehow disappears shortly after I get it!

I have found a way to make my weekends seem to come around quicker. I will share my little secret with you. By looking forward to "Hump Day", rather than the weekend, I have a shorter week. Try it. After a glorious weekend, look forward to only have to wait 2 days! Then, after you reach Wednesday, there are only 2 days until the weekend!! Then, after your fantastic 48 hours of free time, there are only 2 days until its "Hump Day" again. I swear, it keeps me sane, and keeps me going. Plus, I really look forward to saying "Happy Hump Day." Heh heh,  I said "hump". Heh heh. Ahem, ok, sorry.

What keeps you going throughout the week? What different things do you do on the weekends that make your weekends special?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Need a Swift Kick!

Image from Infobarrel
Feeling Sluggish
I don't know what is wrong with me lately. I've been blaming the time change but I don't know how 1 measley hour could ruin my entire week! I think that every night, it was hard for me to go to bed on time so I was staying up later than normal, and still getting up early so each day I was getting more and more behind on sleep. I did manage to run 3 mornings, (12.2 miles total), but did nothing else. And I mean NOTHING. I usually do DVD's on my off-days: pilates, yoga, or whatever. But I was just so tired. I hated waking up in the morning and having it be pitch black outside. I just wanted to stay in bed. I told myself I would do my DVD's this weekend, and so far, nothing still and its Sunday and I've just resigned to start fresh next week.

Fighting Sickness
Both of my kids had yucky coughs last week, and my husband had the dreaded flu and now has a nasty, and I mean, nasty sinus infection. How I have managed to avoid the plague so far, I don't know. But I also think that's why I was feeling was taking all I had to fight the germies. I had a mild but annoying head ache 3 days in a row that is finally gone I think. Head aches make me want to do nothing but SLEEP too.

Looking for Inspiration
I belong to this great running group on Facebook that totally inspires me. Women of all levels, from new runners to seasoned triathletes share their triumphs, their struggles, fears -  and seek and give advice. I don't always have time to participate in the discussions but I read them all. The last few days that I haven't exercised (last day I ran was Thursday), I have run vicariously through my online friends. It helps to keep me from losing my focus, or losing sight of what I should be doing even if I am not up to it. I hope this monsoon-like rain stops soon, its supposed to be the first day of spring and I am feeling instead like I should be wrapped up in a blanket and hunkering down for the winter!

Staying In-Tune with ME
I had a big appetite this week and knew I was eating more than I was burning. (I had pizza twice). But, I think my body was telling me something. It was saying, REST. And NOURISH yourself. And I listened.

How has the time change affected you? Is it feeling like the first day of spring where you live?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fun Day Thanks to Mamapedia!

2011 SF Ocean Film Festival

 I'm a little behind on posting due to the flu bug hitting our house (or shall I say, my husband) at the end of last week. Last week I got free tickets for my whole family from Mamapedia for the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival. We were so excited because first of all...Yeah! I won free tickets!...and it was a great excuse for us as a family to spend some time in the city at Pier 39. There was a "family program" on Saturday morning, with 6 family appropriate films ranging from 2-44 minutes. The purpose of film festival was to bring about awareness of the ocean as a vital ecosystem. My Monkey is obsessed with the beach and the ocean, and plus with a number of films in varying lengths I was hoping it would keep his interest. Plus, the plan was for all 4 of us to go, so we could take turns handling the Buddha as needed.

Well, Chip was bedridden and there was NO way he was going to make it, but we had been talking up this day with the kids and I decided to suck it up and make it happen. We needed to get out of the house so he could get some rest. Plus, I saw it as sort of a challenge. Hell, in my 20's I traveled all over Europe for 2 months with no reservations and nothing but a backpack. I could DO THIS, right? We got ready, I packed food for the kids because they are absolute nightmares if they are hungry, and we hit the road. We had an awesome, sunny drive up to SF which took over an hour. Parking was conveniently located, and we crossed the skyway from the parking garage to the Pier and easily reached the theater.

We saw a great film about surfing, and short film with a young boy not much older than Monkey talking about saving the whales, and part of a film about killer whales. Monkey was so enthralled and mesmerized by these films. I was so proud of him that he was behaving so well, and very happy that he seemed to enjoy them so much. Buddha, on the other hand started getting antsy about 15 minutes in. I tried to keep him mellow as long as I could with snacks, but that didn't last. Once he started to walk around and paid no attention to me when I kept asking him to come back to me and sit down, I knew our time was up. I prepped Monkey and told him his brother wasn't minding me and that we were going to have to leave. On the count of three we got up, grabbed the Buddha (who didn't go quietly) grabbed the stroller and out we went.

Gorgeous day in SF

There could have had something to do with the tsunami, and people afraid to be near the ocean, because I was surprised that Pier 39 wasn't swarming with people on a sunny day. But I was glad. We walked around, got some food for me - an AMAZING crab cake sandwich for $6.99. Found a coffee vendor who sold me some milk for the Buddha in a coffee cup with a lid, for the price of a small coffee. I must add, in case you forget your sippy cup and your child can drink from a straw - the coffee cups with the lids like Starbuck's uses work excellent as the opening is small enough to grip the straw pretty well for minimal spillage. We strolled over to the water so I could show the boys Alcatraz.
Enjoying some cotton candy and milk

And, we saw a leprechaun!

Pretty cool, he took pictures with any one who asked. My kids were not interested!
We rode a double decker carousel, which was $8 (pricey) for the three of us. It was kind of a short ride, but both kids really enjoyed it. Monkey asked to go on it again, and of course the answer was no!

We also went to Aquarium of the Bay, which I am embarrassed to say I never even knew existed. Our Film Fest tickets also gave us free admission to the aquarium. It's not terribly large, but as something to do for part of your day it is great. My kids LOVE starting at fish tanks...and the Buddha had never been to an aquarium before. It was awesome.

They found Nemo, Dorrie and Bubbles in this tank!
My kids ran back to this small tank several times
They also had a few tanks with Jellyfish, which are my favorite to look at.
I don't think I've ever seen sand dollar jellyfish before

This is not a painting next to Monkey! It is a tank of jellies!

The best part is we got to walk through a tube that went "under the bay" and got up close to many of the bay inhabitants. Because it wasn't crowded, the moving walkway wasn't on so we got to hang out and watch the fish for as long as we wanted!

Buddha thought it was awesome, watching fish and eating a pb sandwich
Heading back to the car, one last photo spot!
Parking was $7 per hour. There were restaurants that would validate your parking, reducing the cost by 1 hour. However, you had to purchase $15 worth of food. I couldn't eat that much food, and it wouldn't have helped me that much since we were only there for 4 hours. I spent $28 on parking but kind of expected it. With the milk, cotton candy, carousel, my sandwich, 3 FREE film fest tickets and 3 FREE aquarium tickets, we spent about $48 plus gas. That's about $16 per person which is not bad considering all we did and that most of that money was spent on parking.

I must say that 2/3 of us we really enjoyed the SF Ocean Film Fest. Now that I am aware of it, we will make plans to attend next year. Thanks again Mamapedia for turning us on to such a great event! We had a fun time!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wanna-be Crafty Mom - Leprechaun Trap

When I heard we had to make a leprachaun trap for my son's pre-K class, my thought was "How big is this thing supposed to be?" I know leprachauns are small but still the size of my son, right? Hopefully not the size of the leprachaun we saw at Pier 39 in San Francisco, who would require a large net and a big box!!

My kids were too afraid to take photos with this guy
After doing some online research, I will show you what we came up with. Everything we bought at Michael's. You will need:

2 packs of wooden discs
Glittery Gold Paint and a paintbrush
2 paper plates, one for your paint, the other to place your painted discs
A box (a shoebox will do
Foil, to cover your box inside and out to make it shiny
Stickers to decorate the trap
Some Easter basket grass, some glue, tape and a 4 inch stick/branch

Super easy. I had Ryan paint all the discs on one side. We let them dry on a paper plate. When they were dry, we flipped them over and painted the other side. He really enjoyed this part.

Meanwhile, we wrapped foil around our box, on the outside and lined the inside and taped it in place.

Then, we took the Easter basket grass, spread it around on the inside of the box (after squirting some Elmer's glue around haphazardly inside).

We placed the dried gold coins amongst the blades of "grass".

Ryan decorated the outside with shamrock stickers.

We took our stick, which we broke off a tree branch from our yard, and propped up our lid.

***If you are using a shoe box, use a stick that is about 2-3 inches taller than the box "bottom" so it will be propped up. Put the lid of the box on the bottom. You can always poke a little divet in the top and bottom of the box to keep the stick in place.

This was really fun and my son was occupied for a while with the painting. He also loved sticking the stickers on. I let him tape the foil in place, the putting the foil around the box and measuring it out is really the only part I did on my own. This project cost about $8.

What fun St. Patrick's Day projects are you working on at your house? How do you celebrate?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cheap Fun for Kids: My Museum

I am always on the look out for inexpensive family fun. My kids have a lot of energy, they run all over the place, and may not be the quietest. At the end of the work week, I really want to enjoy the company of my kids. I hate it when Saturday finally comes and we end up in a place where I am having to chase my children all over the place trying to get them to be quiet, keep still  or occupy them  because whatever we are doing is boring to them. Or worse, yelling at them. Sometimes, these circumstances are inevitable. And I'm not being a lazy parent who doesn't want to keep an eye on my kids or discipline them, I just know its perfectly normal that they want to let loose and have fun, and don't want to spend my first free day with my kids harassing them. Plus, it's ideal for a mother of two boys to find some place that kids can be their naturally noisy selves and run around (read: burn off wild boy energy until they pass out for a very, long, time).

San Francisco Bay Area Kid Fun
I don't know why I had never heard of My Museum in Monterey, CA. I have a cousin who lives nearby who is invited to a birthday party there, and one of her daughters has been there on a field trip. We took our kids, ages 2, 4, 3, 6, and 10 there one morning when it opened at 10 a.m. I was in awe of how perfectly awesome it is for my kids age group!

There are all these different stations: a toddler area that was an ocean theme, complete with a boat, "sand castle" building with large foam blocks, and a slide. There was also a golfing area with a golf cart, mini clubs, and balls. After going into the cup, the balls go down to an underground crawl space and end up in a bin. There was also a tractor, a "Farmer's Market" and "vegetable garden"where the kids could pick fake vegetables, stomp grapes, play "store" at the market and sell fake food. There was so much more - an ambulance with an injured person on a stretcher, a hospital with a life size game of Operation, a stage complete with themes and sound effects where children can choose from hundreds of costumes they can put on over their clothes in a dressing room. There was also a construction area with tools and building materials, a Dr. Seuss house with a loft and a kitchen...a tree house with a bridge leading to the golf course, a giant bubble maker that basically engulfs your body in a giant bubble with the pull of a rope...and a large craft area full of supplies for your child to make whatever they want. FOR $7. I couldn't believe it. Under 2 is free.

Your $7 admission is for all day, so you can leave and come back, which you may want to do as they do not sell food. I brought snacks for my kids which they nibbled on here and there, but there wasn't anywhere to really sit down and eat. This place is really for the 10 and under set, there is plenty to do and space for your kids to run around and enjoy the place, but not so big or crowded that you get stressed out. Most people seemed to be out of there after a couple hours (probably for lunch and naps). If we lived closer a membership would probably be the way to go. Memberships are only $90 for a family of 4, and you get one complimentary pass each time you vist, say if Grandma wants to tag along. Plus, membership includes invitations to special events and other discounts. Since we are an hour away that won't work for us, however, we will be back and looking forward to it!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Thrifty Mama Therapy: GNO

Girls Night Out. At my age, it doesn't mean squeezing into tight dresses and hitting the clubs. Really, it means plain and simple - just the girls, and the night involves talking, eating and drinking. Last night, we had an evening planned at a new restaurant downtown, just my 6 oldest and bestest girlfriends. We had been planning it for almost 2 months. Unfortunately the day of, 2 of our girlfriends had to back out. I was bummed, but 4 of us still planned to meet at a restaurant we all love that is close to all of our homes. Aqui serves fresh, natural and organic food at very reasonable prices. And they make the BEST margaritas!

Definitely Not Us Last Night

I wasn't feeling particularly lousy, maybe a little PMSy, but I just needed to get out. Considering the small amount of free time I get, sometimes I am just itching to do something. I need to talk and vent and its nice to speak to someone who is taller than 3 feet and doesn't need me to take them to the bathroom. I don't even think they realize it, but I felt SO much better after the night was over. I didn't go out looking for therapy, but I came home healed!

Ok, this is a little more like it - although none of us are strictly "housewives"
For $20, these are some things I learned last night:

  • My 4yo Monkey is not going to need me to lay down with him and read books until he falls asleep forever. I should be enjoying this time because one day he's going to tell me to get out of his room.
  • There is no reason I should feel rushed for my 2yo Buddha to be in a big-boy bed. There is no harm in keeping him in the crib until he is trying to climb out.
  • Monkey will eventually learn to control his impulses and not react so dramatically when things don't go as planned. He will grow out of it. Don't panic.
  • I shouldn't stress about my children's schedule next year with one in preschool and the other in kinder and both getting out and different times. I should be able to find a carpool, or utilize the school bus.
  • Don't feel guilty about being a working Mom. Period.
  • Just wait til they have homework. My friend Jessica is so sick of homework and having to constantly ride her daughter to get it done, or help her do it. Little did we know when we graduated we weren't done with school yet!
  • I think Jessica also felt good about venting about that and work related stress/irritation...working Moms have a whole other set of people we have to deal with that we can't tell what to do "just because." Wouldn't that be funny if we could threaten our co-workers with, "I'll take your iPhone away if you don't do that spreadsheet for me right now." Or "Give me that promotion or we are keeping you home from the company party."
  • It doesn't end here - my friend Susan has a college age son who is having a hard time finding a job in this economy and has the appetite of a lumberjack. According to her, when he notes that they are out of milk, she tells him "Go buy some. I can't sh*t out a gallon of milk."
We shared a lot of laughs. It was so good to see a couple of these girls for the first time since the holidays. I have known them since the '80's. Gwen is actually my running buddy, and it was so nice to see her in a different setting. We weren't sweaty with our hair up in pony tails...we had normal clothes on and actually got to see what we really look like!

Every time I have shared parenting concerns with Susan and Jessica, they have always been so understanding, so helpful and full of answers. They both had children when they were in their 20's, so my kids are starting school and theirs are graduating. It's kind of funny but I am so lucky to have their wealth of knowledge to tap into. They have been through and done everything that I am going through and they always make me feel so normal. Thanks ladies, I am so lucky to have friends like you! I can't wait until the next time we get together!

Do you have a good friend that you just love to get together with? How do you take a break from being a wife and mother - which is really a never-ending 24x7 job?

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Guardian Angel

Grandpa & Grandma 2002

 It has been seven years since my Grandma passed away. I almost can't believe it. And when she left us, she was gone just like that.

Her whole life, she had been the sweetest, kindest lady you could ever know. Always so loving, so giving, always wanted to take care of you. Of course, she was my Grandma, so I got the best of it. I was the first grandchild, the only grandchild for 10 years, and the only GIRL grandchild for 16 years. My mother had me at 21 and divorced when I was 2, and had to work. My grandparents took care of me and I often spent the night at their house. Sometimes, I would stay for several days. It just made it easier for my mother to not have to drop me off and pick me up each morning, plus I know my Grandma wanted to keep me there every day!

She always made me special breakfasts: waffles, pancakes, eggs with bacon and toast, or these yummy things she called "banana dumplings." They were basically delicious fried dough dumplings with bananas in them. They were fantastic.

I also remember how clean she was. Not only was I always clean, but she kept a very tidy house. While there were some years that I can remember as a young child that she worked in the cannery, I also remember other times that she stayed at home. I learned to help her at a young age to do dusting, fold laundry, etc.

She never had an unkind word to say to or about anyone. She never spoke sharply or raised her voice. She never spanked me or swatted me (although I'm sure I needed it sometimes) and was always looking out for me and protected me.

Once I started school, I went to the school in her neighborhood. I had really long hair in those days, and bangs cut straight across in the front. She always did my hair really nicely for school, either parted with barrettes, in a braid, pony tail or bun. I always had nice, clean clothes and if it was cold she made sure I was bundled up. I walked to school with my friend across the street and her older sister. My Grandma did not drive, she was too nervous...although she did hold a license and drove me to school once when it rained. For years I reminded her of "the time you drove me to school." She always asked me what I wanted in my lunch, I could pick out my sandwich and get it exactly the way I liked it.

My mother remarried when I was in 3rd grade, and I changed schools to the neighborhood school where I lived with my parents. I didn't see my Grandma every day, and sometimes not even on the weekend. I missed her, and I know my absence was hard on her too. There were times through out the years when my grandparents would drop me off at school or pick me up, or I would spend the night with them. We always remained close.

She was incredibly thoughtful and always gave me little gifts, whether it was a lipstick or nice jewelry of hers, or something new she picked out for me. She once gave me a lapel pin, a gold angel that I carry in my make up bag. I put it there because if I ever go out of town, my make up comes with me. And its like my guardian angel.

When I was in my 20's, I wanted to be independent and get away from my parents who were driving me crazy. I moved several hours away, and would come home only to visit on holidays for the most part. I would still talk to my Grandma on the phone every couple of weeks.  Her health was failing, and after 6 years of being away,  I moved back. She was so thin and frail...was becoming forgetful and clumsy. It broke my heart to see her this way. But she managed to continue on for another 4 years and after a while I got used to her being that way.

My Grandparents and sister on family trip to Morrow Bay, 2003

My family always got together for dinner at my grandparent's house every Sunday. We had all gathered as usual, had a lovely night and then all parted ways. The next day, my Grandpa called me on my cell phone and told me to come to the ER right away. Grandma had been up all night, she couldn't keep any of her food down. The ER doctor said there was an intestinal blockage and they needed to do an exploratory surgery.

Turns out my poor Grandma had cancer spread throughout her body. They removed all of it the best they could, but she was so weak they did not know how she would respond to the rigorous follow up treatment. All we knew is that we couldn't let her just go like that without a fight. They told us that if they just closed her up and kept her really comfortable she would be gone within days.

It turns out we didn't buy much more time with the surgery. We had her conscious in our lives for one more day, got to talk to her and hold her hand. But then she succumbed to pneumonia after another day and that was it. We would never get to hear her sweet voice or be able to look her in the eyes again. She was on life support but she wasn't coming back, and there was no sense in drawing it out. The night they removed her from life support, my whole family was there, holding her hand, stroking her hair, talking to her, hugging each other. When she finally went, we all swear we saw an angel rise up out of  her body and float away. The angel she was in life, she was also in death. That was seven years ago today, and I am wearing my pin to honor her, and thank her for being such an inspiration to me.

Monkey visiting Great-Grandma's grave with me

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

My 2 yo's current favorite book

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
-- Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss would have been 107 tomorrow. My kids absolutely LOVE all of his books, which we have been reading to them since they were infants.

The characters, the illustrations, and the rhyming whimsy have brought all of us great joy, smiles and laughter over the last few years. Most of all, he has instilled a love of reading in my 4 year-old.

Thank you Dr. Seuss. Your legend lives on in the hearts of children (and adults) everywhere.

Do your kids enjoy reading any of the Seuss books? Or watching the movies? If so which are their favorites?