Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Wrapping Required

I'm certain that everyone can relate to the dilemma of the trivial gift exchange, the ornament exchange or the Secret Santa.  You know... extended family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, groups you belong to and more.  So many people try to keep it trivial as in "You can't spend more than $5" while others keep it simple by making it a white elephant exchange.  It's all stuff.

And while I appreciate that it is all about the thought, I'm trying to get out of the habit of acquiring stuff that I don't need.  I'm trying to change my mindset and get rid of things when I'm emotionally ready to do so.

So when a member of Collective Bias inquired if anyone wanted to do a Secret Santa or an Ornament Exchange, I politely declined.  Instead, I offered up an alternative.  How about a virtual exchange where we take a little time to get to know a fellow member and share a little about that person.  After all, it doesn't cost anything, doesn't need to be wrapped, doesn't require shipping, doesn't leave a carbon footprint and it doesn't add clutter to a closet.

One member coordinated it and assigned each of us a colleague.  I was lucky enough to draw Eliza of Home Mom 3 who I didn't realize was so diverse!  In addition to The Life of a Home Mom, she writes for Tom Cruise Watch and Sales Weekly both of which she started in 2008 and Babies in the News which is a little younger.

But how did she get her start and when?  Well, Eliza has been freelancing for years and put roots into her blog in 2005 when she logged on to tell about the gifts her daughter received for her birthday.  Her blog has evolved in the years since that to include everything from Wordless Wednesday photo posts to giveaways to more personal stories

Why did she start blogging?  Well, Eliza was the wife of a deployed soldier - making her fill the role of both mom and dad.  Her blog was a way to share their life from afar.  (BTW - Mr. HomeMom3, Thank you for all the years of service you gave to our country.)

I've known Eliza for quite a while.  If I recall correctly, she was among my first blog friends.  She's one of those bloggers who leaves comments because she feels moved to... because she cares... and not because she's trying to improve the stats on her own blog.  She's someone who is a friend of mine on Facebook that I actually enjoy chatting with!  And she's among the people I look forward to meeting in person someday.

In order to participate in this roast, we were asked for some tidbits about ourselves and Eliza shared that she's inspired by frogs.  Actually, she specifically said "I believe my "muse" is a 6ft tall frog, at the age of 26 I went out and got a tattoo of a frog on my right shoulder blade. He looks very much like the WB frog but in a jester's outfit."  Frogs have been her thing since she was a kid.  Good thing, because with all the leaping and jumping that she's had to do as the mom of 4 and military wife, she's needed the role model!

Merry Christmas, Eliza.  You're a great blogger and a wonderful person.  I'm proud to call you my colleague but even happier to call you my friend.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holding Hands 45 Years Later

Dear Mom and Dad - 

It's funny the things that stick in your head...

When I was in high school, I remember sitting at a wrestling meet at North Scott High School.  Donna D. and I were hanging out, chatting in-between matches when she said something that I think of often.  I don't recall the exact words but it was something like this:

"Your parents are so cute.  Look at them. They still hold hands."

We looked at the two of you from a distance and watched as you held hands while sitting next to each other on the bleachers.  You would chat and smile.  Donna and I talked about how obvious it was that you were still so much in love with each other.

That was some 25 years ago but I have no doubt that Donna and I could have that exact same conversation today.

At Don and Sandi's 50th wedding anniversary party, Sandy told me that we were one of the most memorable couples they had for marriage preparations.  Mainly because of something I said to her during those sessions. She asked me what I wanted in a marriage and my response was "I want one like my mom and dad."  Certainly I don't recall saying it but I absolutely can hear myself saying it.  It's something that I've felt for a long time... maybe spurred by the conversation Donna and I had so many years before that.

If there's one thing you've done, it's to be models for a loving relationship.  You hold hands, joke and giggle like a couple of newlyweds.

It's wonderful having parents who are still in love 45 years after they got married!

Happy 45th Anniversary.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

For Half of My Life

Have you ever had a day that meant so much that you marked it on your mental calendar and quietly remember it each year?  Today is one of those days for me.

20 years ago today, I met DH.  Yes, 20 years.  Half of my life ago.

On September 15, 1990, the fraternity I belonged to at my college boarded a bus and headed for St. Louis.  At the same time, the chapter of the same fraternity at his college did the same.  It was actually DH that spearheaded the event between three schools so I guess he can say he took control of his fate that day.  Never would I have imagined that a baseball game between the Cubs and the Cardinals could have such a profound impact on my life.

I could recount the entire story about how we were introduced or how he was actually on a date at the time. but I won't.  This post isn't for everyone else as much as it is for DH.

You see, what do you get for the man who doesn't want anything?  The one thing that I call my own is my writing... so this post is for him.  It's to let him know that 20 years ago he changed my life.  He put me on a path that I never expected to be on.  We've traveled and have a beautiful family.  He has given me material possessions more than I ever expected I would have in my life.  

But most of all, he has made me happy.  He cheers me up when I am down.  He helps me when I am stressed.  He loves me even when I am at my worst.

He's wonderful and I'm glad to have spent half my life with him... look forward to spending the rest of my life with him.

DH - I love you and thank you for planning that trip so many years ago.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Call Me The Bag Lady

No, you aren't seeing things. This isn't a duplicate of my prior post. You know how I previously said that DaySpring is giving money to Adopt-A-Classroom for each blog post and Facebook note? Well, they aren't the only ones. So is Elmer's - up to $10,000.  That's a LOT of money. And since it's for a good cause, I might as well spend a few minutes to ensure another $10 goes into the till for Adopt-A-Classroom.

Just like before, all it takes is a post or a comment by you to help this worthy cause. I'm doing my part by posting right here. If you feel like it's an intrusion, I apologize but it's for charity... on someone else's dime and I'm totally okay with that. Of course, since I know a few people who I think would help with this project, I'm calling them out! Julee and Marismom... think you can spare a minute to help with the virtual bag-it-forward program?

And YOU. Yes, YOU. If you have a few minutes, you can help too. Here's all you need to do:

* Copy and paste these rules into your blog post or Facebook note.
* Create a post giving a “virtual bag of school supplies” to other bloggers or write about your Back to School shopping trip at Walmart.
* Link back to the person who gave you a bag of school supplies.
* Let each person you are giving a virtual bag of school supplies know you have given them a bag.
* Leave your link in the Elmer’s Virtual Bag It Forward comment section. You can also find the official rules of this virtual #bagitforward program there.
* Elmer’s is donating $10 for each blog participating in the Virtual Bag It Forward Donation to Adopt-A-Classroom (up to total of $10,000 for blog posts written by September 10,2010).
* Please note that only one blog post per blog url will count towards the donation.

So there you have it. That's all there is to it.  $10 for Adopt-A-Classroom, thanks to Elmer's.  I'm starting to feel like a bag lady with all these bags I'm giving away!

Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post other than the donation being made by Elmer's on my behalf. My name will be put in a drawing for a chance to win a computer.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Purpose - An Important Thing to Learn

Last month, in preparation for back-to-school, we had the opportunity to participate in a service campaign for DaySpring, the faith-based division of Hallmark. Essentially we received a stipend to purchase a backpack full of supplies for a family who might be having trouble affording school supplies for their school-bound child.   Here's a sampling from my post:
From the time I was in sixth grade until I graduated from college, I attended a Catholic school. Through high school, we had dress codes so that all kids have a foundation of equality.

Equality. It's an important thing to learn.

We had rules there that we didn't have when I was at a public school. In 6th-8th grade, when the principal came to the classroom door, we were required to stand beside our desks and greet him. "Good morning, Father (principal)." When he responded, we were allowed to sit back down and resume our studies.

Respect. It's an important thing to learn.

I remember a lot about those years because it was so different than what we did at the public school. We started each day with a prayer and the Pledge.

Faith and allegiance. Important things to learn.
I'm not going to rehash the project but ask that you please read my post at SahmReviews.com highlighting how important it is to have purpose in our lives.

I was provided a stipend to participate and completed the task with great pride in my children. Aside from the charitable shopping trip campaign, DaySpring also has a public campaign running that includes a Virtual Bag-it-Forward. Something that everyone, people like you, can help with. And it doesn't cost you anything. DaySpring has agreed to donate up to $5,000 to Adopt-a-Classroom and all it takes is people like you going "Back-to-School with Purpose" by supplying a virtual bag of school supplies.

Huh? A what?

Seriously, it's easy. For each blog or Facebook note that is created for the Back-to-School with Purpose campaign, DaySpring will donate $10. All you need to do is write a Facebook note or a blog post that includes the following details:

* Copy and paste these rules to your blog post.
* Create a blog post or Facebook note about what it means to you to go Back to School WithPurpose and identify others who you feel are Living With Purpose in their lives – you can recognize as many individuals as you want.
* Link back to person who gave you a DaySpring Award
* Let each person you are recognizing know you have recognized them.
* Leave your link at btswithpurpose comment section. You can also find the official rules of this #WithPurpose blog campaign, and more information about Back to School with Purpose with DaySpring there.
* DaySpring is donating $10 for each blog or Facebook note participating in the Virtual Bag It Forward Donation to Adopt-A-Classroom (up to total of $5,000 for blog posts written by September 08, 2010).
* Please note that only one blog post per blog url will count towards the donation

When you're done, leave a comment on this post at DaySpring to ensure that your post is counted. No matter how good Google and Bing searches may be, DaySpring cannot possibly find all the posts. So to get your $10 virtual bag of supplies donated, you'll need to make sure you leave the link to it. If you create a Facebook post, just make sure you change the sharing option to "public" so that everyone can read it.

Yeah. It's THAT easy. This post - the one that you are reading right now - means $10 for Adopt-the-Classroom and I'm proud to say that I made a difference to someone.

Disclosure: I did not personally receive any compensation for creating this post. However, as a result of this, DaySpring is donating $10 to Adopt-a-Classroom.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Have you checked in?

Places.  As of a few days ago, it has a new meaning for a lot of people.  If you have a smart phone and are accessing Facebook then you've probably already figured out that they launched a new feature called "Places".  It just rolled out and is wrought with controversy.  

If you haven't a clue what I'm talking about, let me briefly fill you in.  Places allows people to announce via Facebook exactly where they are.  "Checking-in" and announcing where you are isn't a new idea. Companies like Foursquare, Gowalla and Whrrl have set the groundwork for this and users have been posting their check-ins on Facebook.  Seems only natural that Facebook would try to cash in on the craze.

Some people love this idea but I'm just not sold on it.  I know a ton of people using Foursquare and Gowalla and I often joke that it's like an announcement that people can go rob your house.  You're obviously not there.

Although Places isn't available here in the Quad Cities yet, it will be soon.  When it is, I'm curious how many people will flock to using it.  Me?  Not a chance.   At least not until they work out some things.  While other location-based social networking programs allow you to personally check-in and work to achieve various titles, Places allows other people to check you in also.  That kind of freaks me out.  Friend or not, I'm not wild about the idea of someone else having control of announcing to their friends where I'm at.

But as much as I hate the idea of location-based social networking, I find myself drawn to Whrrl.  At Whrrl, it isn't just about the check-in features; that's only one small part of a larger picture.  On Whrrl, you're able to upload pictures and create stories related to your check-in.  It's a very cool feature that I've used for both marketing campaigns as well as personal digital scrapbooking.

So how is it that I swear I won't use location-based apps yet I throw praise at Whrrl?  You see, I can check-in, take advantage of specials and promotions, participate in recommendations people make, make recommendations of my own, join societies, create societies, post pictures and create slide shows yet not lose all my anonymity.  Whrrl's "Just Me" option is what makes all the difference.  No matter what I do, I'm able to choose the level that I want to share with Whrrl members, as well as whether I want to share on Twitter or Facebook. I'm also able to go back later and amend the privacy settings of a check-in to make it more (or less) public.

Over the course of the past month, I've found myself more and more interested in it.  A Whrrl contest even prompted me to create a society of my own.  After participating in various car-related activities, I decided to create a society called "Under the Hood".  I couldn't find any society that involved automobile maintenance so I created Under the Hood and added the following description to it: "When you neglect your automobile, it will begin to neglect you! Don't forget about general service, oil changes, tires, car washes, window repairs, paint... It's all about taking care of our vehicles."  Automobiles... That's what the Under the Hood Society is all about.  If your business offers car-related services or sells car-related products, check out the merchant program to see if Whrrl can help drive customers through your door.

As a social media participant, you may decide that location-based services are a waste of time.  You may find that Foursquare, Gowalla or one of the other services is best for you.  You may decide to go with Facebook's Places feature. For me, I'll stick with Whrrl.  It's well rounded, thought out and offers a lot of cool features.

...Now I'm waiting for all my favorite merchants to discover the benefits of it, too.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Back to School with Bonus Box Tops

It's time for the kids to head back to school. As much as they love each other, they're ready to not be in the same house with each other 24x7. And as much as I love them, I'm ready to have a quiet house for at least a few hours a day.

In preparation for back to school, we're stocking up on all the things we need. School supplies, clothes, shoes, backpacks... all those essentials.

Then the other day, I received an email from the school. The lunch schedule for August.

As I surveyed the schedule, I remembered that my girls aren't fans of all the cafeteria food. Miss M takes a lunch about 1-2 times per week and Miss K about 3-4 times.

Then I realized that I hadn't given any thought to lunches. A trip to Sam's Club was in order.

Perfect timing, too, because MyBlogSpark had a back-to-school campaign for General Mills and Sam's Club. Heck, figured I would be there anyhow so I might as well participate in the campaign!

General Mills has provided bonus boxtops on participating General Mills products. 6 extra box tops on each. While this might not mean much to parents without kids in school, those of us who do have kids greatly value the Box Tops 4 Education program.

I had some of the information in hand from MyBlogSpark but wanted to confirm with my local club since I didn't recall seeing anything in the local paper. We headed to the Sam's Club in Davenport, Iowa and I spoke with Linda at the customer service desk. Despite being very busy, she didn't mind spending a few minutes answering my questions.

While the schedule will vary by club, our Sam's Club organized their event to coincide with Iowa's Tax-Free weekend. That's this weekend! For people who upgrade to or sign up for a Plus membership from August 6-13th, they'll receive an additional 150 bonus box tops. 150! That's the equivalent of 150 boxes of Hamburger Helper. As an added bonus, our Sam's Club will include a free pepperoni pizza or rotisserie chicken to introduce you to their "Fresh" departments.

So why a Plus membership instead of a regular? Well, for one, the hours. You are allowed into the store when regular members are not. As someone who has done this, I have to say it's the best way to shop... quiet... not crowded... and often free coffee at the front door. Check out the membership page, but among other things, you also can participate in their eValues program.

I put together a Whrrl story to show you how our trip went!

Not sure if Sam's Club is your thing? They're having a free open house this weekend (Aug 6-8) for you to test the waters! That means no membership required and no add-on fee.

In the meantime, here's a chance to win a $25 gift card to put toward your next purchase at Sam's Club. Keep reading at SahmReviews.com for details on how to enter!

Disclosure:  As a thank you for participating in this campaign, I was given a $25 Sam's Club gift card by Sam's Club and General Mills through MyBlogSpark at no charge. In addition, they offered to upgrade my account to a Plus Membership to take advantage of the bonus boxtops but I declined since I already have a business membership. They will still provide the bonus boxtops.  In addition, an additional $25 gift card was supplied for the giveaway. No additional compensation was received.  I've been a long-time Sam's member so the statements, comments and photos provided here are my own and were not impacted by MyBlogSpark or General Mills. Sam's Club, however, can take credit for the great service and club that make me keep coming back!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Are You Done Yet?

When I was in high school, my parents gave me the benefit of participating in Project Close Up.  Aside from the government related things that I expected to learn, I attained one valuable piece of etiquette.  As we prepared to eat one of the meals, I vaguely remember being told the proper way to indicate (for the servers) when we were done with our meal.

With this being a holiday weekend and a lot of people eating out or away from home, I thought it would be nice to share this. (Let's just hope I am remembering correctly.)

When you are done eating, place your knife on your plate, then cross the tip of the fork over the top of the knife, with the tines facing down.

More or less like I displayed in this picture... sometimes I end up with the handles a bit closer or off to the side.  It all depends on whether there is food in the way, of course.

After searching Google, I haven't been able to find any pictures online. I read some posts that indicated to cross the utensils when done and one post that said you place both utensils side by side on the plate to indicate you're done.  But no pictures. 

Crossing them is how I remember it and this is what I always do.  More often than not the server will either just take my plate away without interrupting my conversation or will say "Let me get that out of your way."  It's much nicer than hearing "Are you done with that?" or "Are you still working on that?"

First, I'm curious if servers are taught to watch for utensil placement. I would also love to hear if I have remembered it correctly all these years later!  And if I have... do they teach this any more?

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring are in the air!
(or in our case... in the street)

And here's the view from above.
(Yes, I was too lazy to take the screen off the window.)

Ahhh... Spring. Being outdoors. Fresh air.

...And sidewalk chalk.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A New Slant on Technology

We know we're turning our kids into techno-geeks when we go to a fast food restaurant, get them a drink to share and hear this:
Let's do two-player!

But it gets even better...

Last week, I was playing with Miss K when she said pointed to the area she had designated as the play area and told me "Don't go off the screen."

The following day, while playing Littlest Pet Shop dolls with the girls, Miss M needed to run upstairs for something. She waived her hand over the play area and, without missing a beat, requested that we "Pause the game" until she got back.

Can't wait to hear what they come up with next.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Simple is as Simple Does

Considering that I'm a stay-at-home-mom, it's surprising to me that I don't have more time than I do. I mean, the kids are in school all day so how can I NOT manage to find time to keep an immaculate house, organize the finances, cook healthy and fabulous meals while maintaining a workout schedule?

I don't know why I can't. Each morning I wake up discouraged and go to bed wondering where the hours went. Am I spending a lot of time on Twitter or Facebook? Some, but not that much.

Do I sit on the couch eating bon bons and watching Oprah, Ellen or soaps all day? Heavens no. Days go by that I don't even turn on the TV while the kids are at school.

How is it that someone like Dara Torres can be an Olympic superstar, a mom and so much more without missing a beat? I guess it's because she incorporates tools into her life - like an HP Mini 311 laptop with Windows 7 on it.

Plus, she's just more organized. Can't get to be an Olympian with cluttered and disorganized methods of training and living. Right?

In the "Simplify My Life Sweepstakes", Mom Bloggers Club is working in conjunction with HP and Microsoft to offer three bloggers (and three lucky readers) the opportunity to walk away with their very own HP Mini 110-1100 by Studio Tord Boontje PCs.

Do I need my life simplified? While I would love to say that I staged this photo for dramatic effect, I didn't. My desk is seriously always this chaotic. (Psst... HP - notice the snazzy HP Photosmart D5160 in the corner. Hubby says we can hook it up to his computer instead but I like it too much to let him have it.) In addition to bills and blog stuff, my desk becomes the depository of school stuff that needs to be sifted through. Nobody to blame but myself though because I'm usually the one who puts it there.

How would winning this help me get organized? My desktop computer would be regifted to hubby who seriously needs a new computer... bought a new external hard drive for him for Christmas because his computer has crashed so many times in the past year that I was afraid we would eventually end up losing all our digital media (AKA photos and video of the kids since birth). The HP laptop would become my primary computer - taking up much less space in my small kitchen desk area. I would also be able to take it along to the kids' lessons and practices to be able to get some work (AKA blogging) done while not at home. But even more, I love the new Windows 7. Many people are skeptical about switching operating systems, but this one is phenomenal. From the way it helps organize media to the ability to easily put windows side-by-side for dual-tasking.

How else would it help? This HP is so portable, I could even lift it up and carry it into the kitchen to look up and use new recipes - running "How-To" videos as I cook.

Do I need it? If I have to be honest, I'll say no. Simplifying my life would probably include having NO computers at my disposal. Simple is as simple does. But since having NO computer isn't reasonable, a quality HP laptop with Windows 7 on it will be the next best thing. Mom Bloggers Club, HP and Windows 7 - please help Simplify My Life!

Want a chance to win also? Just leave a comment on my post or any of the other participants. Three winners will be randomly selected from all the entries at Mom Bloggers Club. Be sure to Tweet that you entered!