Friday, June 29, 2012

attitude of gratitude

Being grateful, being focused on and thankful for what you're blessed with, is one of the secrets of life.  When I'm really on top of my game (or have a moment or two for free thought) I try, to at least think about that for which I'm grateful.  Sometimes I have the energy to even write these things down in a gratitude journal; an idea that I wholeheartedly believe in but never really got off the ground for me.  If you were to look at my journal, it would appear I've only had grateful days about seven times in the last three years.  Not an accurate account.

Reading Judy Belmont's uber-inspiring post from yesterday on Stepcase Life Hack,  I couldn't help but be moved to try again.  I want to cultivate an attitude of gratitude every day and one of the ways I do this is through my writing.  Belmont's post reminded me of the attributes of a grateful person, and couldn't have done a better job describing the person I strive to be.  The Top 10 Habits of Grateful People is a must read if you're in the mood to cultivate the 'tude.  This, my friends, is good stuff.

In the meantime, sometimes you've just got to spell it out.  Here are a few random things I'm grateful for, right at this very moment:

1.  A good friend who has kids with the same age, gender, interests and schedules as mine.  I honestly have no idea how I'd survive this summer without the willing carpool schedule I share with her for a multitude of activities.  (Thanks Merritt!!)

2.  Hot coffee.  It's the only way out of the Keppra morning fog.

3.  The fact that one of my daughter's most loved activities recently relocated to our town, shaving about 40 minutes of rush hour driving off our days.  Not to mention the amazing new Phenom Gymnastics facility!

4.  A semi-successful summer chore system in the works.  There's still room for improvement, but we haven't thrown in the towel yet!  (This is already an Anderson summer record.) 

5.  Brave, optimistic kids.  I am amazed almost daily at my children and how they fearlessly face challenges that come their way.  Whether they're standing on the block of the pool waiting for the gun, dealing with the loss of someone they love, accepting things that come with growing up, performing for the judges, shaking off something that hurts emotionally or physically, or standing up for themselves with their pals, they are courageous at some point every single day.  They make me want to be better.  For them and for myself.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

finger trap

Yesterday we played hooky.  Mike and I both threw caution to the wind, pushed work aside and took the kids to Raging Waves Waterpark.  It was a great day, although by lunch time the lines were brutal and the lazy river looked more like a crowded Florida beach on spring break that anything remotely relaxing.  Regardless, the kids had a blast, which is all that really matters, and we did, too.

While the girls went off to try another slide, Mike and I reluctantly agreed to ride that river with Finn, once again.  I am not a fan of EXTREMELY crowded public pools, so this was truly a labor of love.  We found two tubes, plunged in, linked up and popped Finn in Mike's lap.

I'm not sure what the deal is with kids of all ages being allowed to walk, run, splash, dive and swim without tubes in the lazy river.  I can't tell you how many times they swam right under my tube, tried to pop up between us or forcefully moved us out of the way so that they could continue their game of chase or chicken.  It was the exact opposite of relaxing (whatever that is.... parenting, maybe?)

In the few moments my mind was actually able to wander while we were shoved and knocked around,  Mike and I linked hands to stay connected to each other.  We weren't holding hands, but instead had our palms both faced downward, with our fingers interlaced and pointing toward each others' wrists.  Each time we were pushed or pulled away from each other, our fingers locked and tightened effortlessly, just like a Chinese finger trap.

It's funny, I thought, a good marriage is like a Chinese finger trap.  (Bear with me here.)  We're linked up and all intertwined, constantly combating things like demanding children, obligations and circumstance that attempt to pull us away from each other.  But the link of a solid marriage is strong, like a Chinese finger trap.  The harder life pulls or pushes, the stronger the bond.  Working together, whatever the goal, is the only option.  So, no matter what life brings, we can face it together, head on, and emerge even better than before.

"Trap" is a definitely a bad word choice and we've certainly faced greater challenges than the lazy river, but you get the idea.  If this is a trap, I'm grateful to be in it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

shoestring living: just say yes

A recent blog post inspired a Shoestring Living column, too.  Here's why you should say "yes" -  in print and on video!

Related posts:
give in.  say yes. 
shoestring living:  tips on giving kids allowance
shoestring living:  tips for reviving old routines


"There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling."- Mirabel Osler

For me, this is true.  I could work outside in the yard all day long, without interruption, without worry or concern about the things I'm not getting done elsewhere, all with a smile on my face.  I yearn for unencumbered hours that allow me this true and simple luxury, to learn and urge on the living things that greet me each time I walk about the door of my home.

And with each passing year, they deliver.  Reaching and winding and grabbing on, roots and vines deepen our connection to each other, turning house into home, vacant canvas into art, and backyard into haven.  And each summer, our garden bears the fruits of our labor and love and we eat endless tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers and herbs with vases full of peonies, hydrangeas and lilies that bring the beauty indoors.

Helping something else grow, someone else grow, seems to be a theme for me as it's the basis of this blog as well.  Tending to my real garden, or the garden of my life, fills my soul and leaves me with a smile on my face and in my heart each and every day.  Here's to finding the life's work that puts the smile in your heart.

Monday, June 25, 2012

keep on holding tight

This time of year, as I wrote about last year (and the year before) is all wonderful and summery, but with an undercurrent of dread.  For the last several years, I've let the kids fly on their own to go visit Grandmom and Granddad in North Carolina before our annual summer vacation.  Even though summer is off and running and we're enjoying it to its fullest extent, occasionally my mind goes to the fact that in a few short weeks, I'll be putting a subset of my kids on a plane.  That will fly in the sky.  Without me on it.

And this year is different.  For the first time, it's not a subset, but a full set.  The three most precious little people in my world will look back and wave, board a plane and happily take off into the wild blue yonder.  Fearless and filled with a spirit for adventure, they'll speed away.

I already know this will be the worst two hours of my life and I'm already thanking my lucky stars that it's only two hours.  For someone who likes to hold the reigns, this is the epitome of letting go.  Once they're there, I'll be fine.  I love that they're going.  That they have these memories with their grandparents who live far away.  That they don't even entertain hesitation - they just fly.

Even though he waivered a bit in the begining, I'm sure Finn is ready.  However, I see something in his eyes when we talk about going, the logistics, what it will be like.  He looks at me as if to say, "Will you be okay?"  Even if I've said nothing at all, this little old man of mine knows how I'm feeling.

Last week, while walking around the Naperville Riverwalk, Finn grabbed my hand as usual.  Whenever my grip loosened, he repeated, "Hold on tight.  I like it when you keep on holding tight."  And since then, anytime we're near each other, he grabs my hand and says the same thing.

While watching a movie on Friday night, he took my hand and placed it on his chubby, dirty, boy foot.  He pressed down.  "Hold tight.  I like it when you keep on holding tight."

Either he's going to miss me or he knows I'm going to miss him.  I suppose both are true and he's easing us both through by reminding us to keep on holding tight.  I so love this little dude.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

super sausage sluggers

As with almost any recipe that I create, this one came from necessity.  Another night out, on the baseball field this time, and the desire to cook and not purchase subs, again, led to these yummy hoagies on the go.  It was my intention to serve them at home, but the clock ran out and the natives were starving, so I wrapped and we went.  Here's what you need:

1 package of Italian sausage, spiciness to taste
1 bell pepper, any color
1 onion
1 can Hunt's Diced Tomatoes with Spicy Red Pepper
hot dog buns
fresh mozzarella cheese (I usually slice a plain log, but I had these tiny balls left over from caprese bites I made for a party last weekend, so I just sliced those.)
olive oil

Prep time: 5 minutes, Total cooking time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice onions and peppers in half moon shapes.  Place sausage in bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Top with sliced peppers and onions and tomatoes with juice.

Cover tightly with foil and cook for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove foil and stir.  Cook another 30 minutes, uncovered.

Remove dish and turn on broiler.  Place one sausage link, topped with a heap of tomatoes, onions and peppers and some sliced mozzarella in a hot dog bun and place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining sausage links.  Place tray under broiler.

Watch your Sluggers; cheese should melt and begin to brown in about five minutes.  Remove from oven.

If you're on the go like we were last night, line a sheet of foil big enough to wrap your sandwich in with parchment or wax paper, and roll up from the corner.  They stay hot FOREVER.  We enjoyed them about an hour later and they were perfect.  By the way, Mike LOVES these and I don't really eat sausage and I LOVE them, too.  They are the perfect consistency and offer loads of healthy veggies to boot.  For all of you low carb loving carnivores, they're great without the bun, too.  And my girls who hate sausage?  They thought they were the bomb!  (Or maybe they really were starving??)

Full tummies, happy kids, parents that eat before 9 PM and a Yankees' win.  What could be better?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

give in. say yes.

Last night we said "yes."  Yes to 8 kids who wanted to go to the pool at 7 PM.  We were cranky and tired and didn't want to go, but we said yes.  And they were so happy.  It made me realize that we need to say yes more often.  If you could have seen our kids' faces and the neighbor kids' faces when I said, "We'll take as many as we can fit in the car!"  Well, they were priceless.

As they joked and laughed and squealed from their squished, seatbelt-less positions in the back of the van, all I could think was that this is something they'll remember.  A late night trip to the pool with pals on a super hot summer night.  I even, probably ridiculously, imagine them as teenagers or young adults sitting around a bonfire or something reminiscing about it.  (I know, I'm probably getting ahead of myself here.)  But I mean, we've lived here for 5 years already and they used to look like this:

And now they look like this:

Time is flying.  Give them memories.  Say yes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


"Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it." - Eckhart Tolle

We probably all come into this world with insufficiencies in small areas.  I think it's part of our mission to identify the ways in which life is letting us know what lessons we need to learn about those insufficiencies and to do our best to overcome them.  I have no doubt what life has tried to tell me, time and time again.  No one sums it up better than Eckhart Tolle in the quote above.

Oprah Winfrey is dead-on when she says that your life speaks to you, first, in whispers, and the longer you ignore the signs that change is needed, the louder the whispers grow.  Listen people, the last thing we need is life screaming at us!  Still, so many of us let things get out of control or go on for so long that we have no choice but to wake up when we're finally hit on the head by one of life's rocks. 

Learning to go with the flow instead of fighting it and accepting life by finding the good in every day is the message that my life, God, the universe has been sending me from day one.  As a child I worried about things beyond my control, as a teen I focused too much on body image or others' opinions and as a young mother diagnosed with a chronic illness, I temporarily became paralyzed by the thought of my own mortality.  Each time I conquered my concerns about whatever it was eating away at me and I was able to see the situation for what it was:  another opportunity to accept.

So now, another health setback has left me reeling in recent days.  It's nothing life-threatening, just scary and blanketing me with a total loss of control (note the theme here.)  For those of you following, my ongoing struggle to control frequent migraine headaches has become a more complicated battle with the diagnosis of "low threshold for seizure."  Having never had a seizure, this is hard to grasp onto.  But grasp I did and ingested the first few months of brain chemistry modifying chemicals, even though I hated to add another pill to my sometimes daunting ulcerative colitis treatment regime. 

Following a second EEG last week, I've had no improvement whatsoever.  My dosage now increased; I'll be retested in six weeks.  I've heard terms like "probable seizure disorder" and "additional meds" and "left temporal lobe sharps", too much for my liking.  I dread the increased fatigue that makes exercise a near impossibility and the occasional effect on my short term memory.

But I can't deny one other thing:  yet another chance for me to accept what life is giving me and move through it.  No matter what the severity of our circumstance, the only thing that matters is right now and the good we can take from this moment.  And acting as if we have chosen this experience, no matter what it is, allows us to take ownership of it and grab the reigns of our life with more drive and direction then ever before.

To avoid the risk of louder life screams, I accept.  Ever a vigilant advocate for finding good doctors and playing a major role in our own healthcare, this doesn't mean I won't question, research and implement lifestyle changes that will, hopefully, eventually, get me off all these medicines. 

So, I have chosen this thing that life has offered.  I accept it.  And I move on.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


This post is for YOU.  YOU know who you are.  You're the YOU of all you's, my one and only and most importantly, the greatest father on earth.  On Father's Day, more than any other day, I revel in the fact that, of all things, I am certain of one:  I chose right. 

It is such a pleasure, honor and thrill to help you raise our three amazing little beings, to see you pass along your patience, your good-to-the-core nature, your tireless work ethic and endless generosity.  You are the epitome of what "father" means and I will never tire of watching you in action.  You never cease to amaze me.

What a perfect Father's Day this year - we got to witness your Nascar Riding Experience with your Dad and Mary.  I'm sure the Driving Experience is next!

For all that you do, for everything that you are, for the dream you have for our family, I thank you and I wish you the happiest Father's Day.  In my humble opinion, no one deserves it more than YOU. 

You're the very best, so deeply loved and forever appreciated.

Friday, June 15, 2012

just a little boy

As parents, we need this.  Especially at a time when Finn's games become more competitive with each swing of the bat, and I can see his heart break for a moment if he strikes out or misses a play.  Baseball, swimming, gymnastics, whatever - this is the time to build them up.  "This is a moment a man you can make."  Love it!

At Monday night's game, a little dude on our team rounded second base and was heading toward third.  The ball had escaped the outfielders and a single turned into a big hit.  As he came toward third and the third base coach (also his Daddy) he sweetly asked, "Should I go home Daddy?" 

That's exactly how young these little guys are.  It amazes me that we've seen over-the-top parents at almost every game!

Source:  Facebook, I was unable to locate the origination point. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Some people think I'm a bit looney to share so much on the wide open Internet.  They question my decision to endanger our privacy or place pictures and names of our children online.  I've wandered into controversial territory once in awhile and likely conveyed too many personal things at times.  But I've realized that I'm comfortable here, in front of everyone and no one in particular.  I have grown to love this blog and look at it as the true essence of me, on the proverbial page.  For the world to see, yes, but more importantly, for my kids to know.

This collection of words now nearly five years in length is among a short list of my most prized possessions.  (How ironic that one of my most prized possessions is virtual!)  A list of celebrations and stories of our good and bad, some so small or seemingly insignificant that they may have been forever lost if not captured here.  I read through its history from time to time and remember cherished moments, hilarious infractions and unbelievable comments my children have made.  I see the faces of those I love the most growing, moving through their unique life experiences.  I feel how the earlier days of motherhood left me completely physically exhausted and see how it's now more of a physical and emotional consumption.  I witness how we're all changing, evolving together and on our own.  How we all continue to try to find the good in every day, to become wiser.  And better.

I am forever grateful for the inspiration I felt in 2007 to begin this adventure of chronicling our days.  It is, to me, the best baby book of all time (the three that belong to our children have barely anything written since 2007), among the best decisions I've made and hopefully, a lifeline to all that we were, are and will be.  Even if I live to be 100 someday, but lose my ability to tell these stories, I love that they've been told.  I love that they'll be able to be read.  And felt.

Good and bad, this is our true story.

I'm sure that someday, our descendants might not be so interested, and that the Internet will have morphed into some other type of thing.  But for now, I'll continue to remember, to retell, to relish this life of ours.  All-consuming and challenging as it may be, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

my ATA sandwich

Sometimes I think the best meals are the result of neglected grocery shopping.  Here's what I came up with for myself while cleaning out the fridge to make the kids' lunch the other day.  Who needs meat?  Not me.

I don't know what it is about this combo, but this sammy was the bomb.  Here's what you need to make it:

Avocado-Tomato-Arugula Sandwich
2 slices sourdough bread, toasted
2 T. mayonnaise  (I used light)
handful of arugula
tomatoes, halved or sliced, depending on variety
half an avocado
salt and pepper

Spread mayo on toast slices and layer slices of avocado on one side.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Place handful of arugula on top and cover with tomato slices or halves.  Sprinkle again with salt and pepper and top with second toast slice.  So simple, but screaming with fresh summer flavor.  Can't wait to this with our own tomatoes in a few weeks!


Recent recipes:
crazy-good feta potato salad
my name is molly and i'm addicted to rosemary

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I remember reading Erma Bombeck when I was pretty young.  Even then, I thought she was funny and I loved the humorous and simultaneously heart-touching take she had on everyday, simple things.  She rests among my top writing idols and I strive to produce work that follows in her footsteps, even though they can never be filled.

I keep a piece written by Bombeck on my refrigerator and thanks to my father-in-law asking me once how often I actually read it, I now regularly do.  It's good advice for all, not just moms, but especially for moms who deal so deeply in the minutia of endless schedules, plans and deadlines that it's easy to sweat the small stuff.  This timeless excerpt from Erma Bombeck rings just as true today as it did when she penned it for a column in December of 1979.  Take it to heart.

Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.  My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, 

I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.

Bombeck lived 20 more years after writing this.  I wonder if she followed her own advice.  I wonder if we will....

 Let's stop and smell the Lantana.  I love Lantana!

Monday, June 11, 2012

not too early for back to school savings

This week's Shoestring Living column focuses on back to school shopping.  I know it's early, but if you think ahead, there are lots of savings to be had.  Check out my tips in this week's column and associated video, both for the GateHouse News Service.

Check out other recent Shoestring Living columns and videos:
Tips of giving kids allowance
Plan summer activities now
Tips for your frugal garden

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Throughout my childhood, I always had a fondness for my last name.  While other kids were uttering mouthfuls of "Schumaker" and "Humperdink", and learning to spell complexities like "Vanderplow", I was grateful for "Logan".  It was simple and made for easy new school introductions throughout our repeated transfers all over the Midwest during my young days.

I remember being thankful for that name and feeling that I was lucky to have it.  I even thought ahead about what an atrocity it would be to marry someone with a complicated or silly name someday.  Out of nowhere, the name "Hamburger" stuck in my mind.  Oh, the hilarious horror of becoming "Molly Hamburger" in the future!  I didn't obsess about it or anything, it just made me laugh.  Of course, this was before I walked into Mr. Brandon's sophomore English class and met the man of my dreams.  But that's another story.

"Hamburger" made me chuckle all through the years as I imagined myself or my friends with this silly surname down the line.  And as my life unfolded, I was relieved when my knight in shinning armor came attached to "Anderson"; just about as good as "Logan", if you ask me.  Still, I couldn't totally part with my maiden name, so I took it as my middle name to avoid being Molly ANNE ANderson.  And, admittedly, to hang on to it a little bit longer.  We then went on to name our firstborn daughter, Logan, too.  Lots of "Logan" for me.

But my personal penchant for "Hamburger" made a resurgence when I had a new young audience to entertain and I soon began telling my kids what a funny name I thought it was.  "What if you marry someone with the last name Hamburger?" I joke with my kids.  They laugh.  They think it's just as funny as I do.

Last night, while driving to gymnastics drop off and then to a baseball game, the kids were having a usual raucous discussion, this time about great movies.  One of our favorites, The Princess Bride, came up.  Logan was so adorably preteen sweet when she asked, "What's the only thing the farm boy says to her?"

"As you wish," I said and thought, I just love that.

And Logan said, "Oh yeah, I love that!" 

Then Riley asked, "What's that guy's name again?"

"I think it's Prince Humperdink," I answered.

And all three shouted, "Hamburger!  What if his last name was Hamburger?!"  Frenetic laughter broke out in the backseat.

And I laughed, too.  Hard.  It's nice to know these three kids really get me and that I'm leaving my mark on them, even if only via my bizarre history with the word "Hamburger." 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

a new look at mcdonald's

I am weird about food.  When it comes to ordering in a restaurant, I'm admittedly snobby, snubbing lots things that are probably perfectly fine.  I've always been atop an ethical fence when it comes to meat, spending months in Vegetarian Land only to return to occasional carnivorous ways; usually in response to some sort of braised, rich deliciousness whispering my name.  I falter.  I'm human.

But a few years ago, I saw Super Size Me and Food, Inc., quickly followed by a YouTube video claiming to display McDonald's products that had lasted eight years without spoiling.  This trifecta of scary food news was enough to permanently change my eating habits in many ways, lead me to give up McDonald's since then and kept me off meat for nearly a year.  Like I said, I'm weird about food.  My kids saw the YouTube video and gave their beloved Happy Meals up as well. 

So, when I received an invitation to attend a McDonald's event aimed to introduce new healthy products and dispel myths associated to their food and the way it's prepared, I jumped at the chance.   The Libra in me needed to ask the hard questions, balance out the scales of information and hear what McDonald's had to say - after all, the information that has led to my reaction is completely one-sided.

Let me tell you, this event, the first of its kind at the downtown Chicago anniversary store, was impressive.  Guests, who included moms, writers, bloggers and Chicago movers and shakers, tasted delicious new items and heard about healthy options from a registered dietician.  We learned how McDonald's has made healthy changes that impact our children in good ways and what substitutions or a la carte choices exist that make meals even more healthy.  I learned that McDonald's will meet any special request when it comes to salt or seasoning and will help you limit sugar whenever possible.  Did you know you could buy a serving of fresh, plump, seasonal blueberries at McDonald's?  Did you know you could replace your Happy Meal fries with them?

I tried the Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken.  (Yes, I made myself eat meat.)  And it was great!  I'd say it was even on par with restaurants I consider to be a step above McDonald's in terms of taste and health.  While I didn't like the chicken wrap I selected, the Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal was amazing and the Fruit N' Yogurt Parfait delectable.  As a infrequent flyer when it comes to meat, it's good to know that there are plenty of choices for someone like me, all day long.

How many Happy Meal fries have your kids wasted over the years?  I can't count the number that I have shoved, cold, into my mouth because I couldn't bare to see those delicious nuggets go in the trash.  (Part of motherhood's "No Food Left Behind " plan.)  Well, thanks to a fry revamp, there will be no more waste.  For those of you that choose fries, they will come in a perfect and adorable kid-sized package.

By the way, I did ask the hard-hitting questions about allegations in the movies and videos previously mentioned.  While I didn't get a runaround, I'm not sure I got what I was looking for.  But I did walk away feeling that McDonald's has gotten a bad rap, even though they meet all USDA regulations and go beyond most health standards compared to those we have at home.  For instance, how long would you keep an undressed salad in your fridge?  A few days?  At McDonald's it's 8 hours, max. If I have issues, it seems I should set my sights on the people who set the regulations, not the organizations following the rules.

Is McDonald's my idea of perfection when it comes to the best healthy options for my kids? No, not perfection.  But I now know that McDonald's is making decisions, creating alternatives and preparing and storing food in ways that I can respect.  What a relief to have this convenient and yummy option back in our lineup without worry.  They continue to step up their game when it comes to healthful eating and I'll no longer think about them as a fast food option, but instead, good food, fast.  With so many on-the-go meals needed in our busy lives, it's a relief to have McD's back in the game and assisting parents with our number one priority: raising healthy kids.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value.   Regardless, the opinions expressed are solely my own and I only endorse products or services that I personally believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Saturday used to be my favorite day of the week.  No early wake up call, no early bedtime; the perfect sandwich of sleeping and waking freedoms, if you ask me.  But kids came and my night owl tendency morphed into early bird survival and I soon fell prey to a comfy place to fall around 10 PM, Saturday or not.  Now my favorite day is Sunday.

My childhood may not be chock full of Leave it to Beaver simple, happy days, but it was good in its own way.  One memory that I replay often, or that I've stitched together from a few different ones lodged in my mind, involves Sunday nights.  I remember staying in after dinner, following long, hot summer days.  We'd each take our turn getting showered or bathed and don our PJ's.  Then we'd settle in on our butts around the coffee table and eat ice cream.  We might still be able to hear the neighbor kids outside making the most of warm weather and late nights, but we didn't care.  We enjoyed our treat and got to eat in front of the TV.  And if I'm right, I think we watched 60 Minutes.  We must have really liked that ice cream, because it fails to occur to me how four kids sat for an hour and happily watched that show.  I still love it.

Thirty years later, I ache for Sunday nights all week long.  I'm hesitant to ever plan anything, as I know an endless, busy week will be taking its toll by then and I'll just want Dove soap-scented, fresh-air-filled, rosy-cheeked kids snuggled up to us on the couch.  I look forward to the sore muscles from lots of yard work and a nearly accomplished to-do list.

This Sunday night we did just that, and we added couch-eaten ice cream. I flashed back thirty years as I looked at my kids' faces, with chocolate smudges and laps balancing big bowls of our favorite treat.  We didn't watch 60 Minutes, but we did hear the neighbor kids' happy young voices stretching out the weekend to its fullest extent.  There was not one complaint.

These are my favorite kind of moments.  Laughs, love and ice cream goodness with those you love.  I breathed in their youth as we sat there, focusing for a moment on each of their beautiful faces and holding tight to my patience as Riley and Finn argued about who would sit next to me on the couch.

"Tomorrow we'll have a 1st, 3rd and 5th grader," I thought.  Amazing.

And then, after my last spoonful of the most delicious ice cream ever made, Oberweis' Blueberry Pie, I promptly fell asleep on the couch.

Life is good.

shoestring living: tips on giving kids allowance

This week's Shoestring Living focuses on how to effectively implement an allowance system with young kids this summer and beyond.  I struggle and have failed with this every summer so far, but not this year!  Read about my plan in one of the papers running it, the MexicoLedger.

And, if you're so inclined, take a peek at the associated video running on the Star Courier.

I'm so excited about this new system and can't wait to put it to work for us on Monday, June 11th.  I figured we needed a few free days before starting our engines.

Check out some of my other Shoestring Living articles and videos:

Shoestring Living: May 24th:  Plan Summer Now
Shoestring Living: Tips for your Frugal Garden
Shoestring Living: Making Mother's Day More Meaningful

Monday, June 4, 2012

shoestring living: tips for reviving old routines

My column this week for the GateHouse News Service

For our family, summer is just one more school day away. Parents everywhere are screaming for a change in the routine and I am no different. I’ve announced a moratorium on lunch making, can barely push myself through our get-out-the-door rituals and updated my Facebook status this morning with, “Will this school year ever end?”

Read more.....

Friday, June 1, 2012

someone new, this day, comes

I am crazy-excited!  Sometime today, or in the wee hours of tomorrow morning, my third niece or first nephew will arrive!  My brother Tom, his wife Michelle and their two daughters, Emily and Ellie will be welcoming someone, gender unknown, into the world.  I can't wait to help welcome this new little life.

When someone I know well is on the verge of ushering in a new baby, I just can't get it out of my mind.  I doubt this feeling of excited anticipation of what's to come will ever diminish for me.  It takes me right back to the three most cherished days of my life, when we were blessed beyond words with the most precious responsibility and honor this world has to offer.  There is no way to describe that feeling, those treasured moments.  I am at a loss.

I love that I have a version of that wonderment again today, with this tiny little extension of our family on the way, ready to love and be loved and show us all how much more our hearts can hold.  Will it be pink or blue?  I can't wait to know and share the news with you. 

For now, a walk down my memory lane will have to do. 

For these moments of our own... I am thankful each and every day.