Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Smoked: A Guest Post by Harper Atkins

I smoked my mother.

I challenged my mother to see who could reach 1000 first, and I won.

I was supposed to read 1000 minutes in March. I read 1045 minutes.

Mom was supposed to sell $1000.

And . . . she didn't. She wiped out. She only sold $557. That's pretty good, but, I think she can do better.

Seriously, she could do better.

What I get for reaching 1000 minutes is being taken out for ice cream and I get a reward. All I get for the reward at school is a star on blue paper.

My favorite book read during the challenge was "See Ya Later, Gladiator." It was really good. What was good about it is that they go into this book and they get trapped and stuff. It is really cool.

I felt really good about this.

Thanks for being a guest poster, Harper!

Dedicated to the One I Love

This post is dedicated to Timber Creek Organic's, Myron Crockett, everyone sitting at our table during Sunday's potluck, and, new Beaver friend, Riki.

"Mom! More brussel sprouts, please!"

Guess who said that.

Come on.

Try harder.

I'm trying to make this a participatory post.

We got brussels sprouts in our Timber Creek order two weeks in a row. Myron can't stand them, so Alyssa makes sure they go to my box when we divide the goods. Then there was that full table of witnesses to Zane's most recent eating habits during this Sunday's church potluck . Habits which consisted of maybe a bite of fried chicken, a carrot or two, and then anything chocolate that wasn't nailed down. See, Zane tends to go hog wild at these events since the only sweet I keep in the house nowadays is Nutella.

And Riki. New friend Riki, whose love affair with brussels sprouts may just border on obsessive. She's a pusher. I'm certain of it. Don't be surprised if you find me sneaking around her place in the dead of night looking for a brussels sprouts fix when I relocate to Beaver, as I am now hooked on the little green yummies - especially when roasted and crunchy.

Same with Zane.

I know it's hard to believe, but picture my boy at the dinner table this evening. One hand clutching a drumstick (and actually eating it). The other wielding a fork with a tiny crunchy sprout of God's Green Goodness speared to the end.

Down it went.

"Mom! More brussel sprouts please!"

Kale for Harper.

Brussels sprouts for Zane.

Fried chicken, pizza, buffalo wings, ice cream, and popcorn for their stressed out mama who while prayerfully waiting for God to sell this house is eating everything in sight.

Brussels sprouts included. To my credit.

Seven Can Be a Lucky Number (If you believe in that sort of thing)

Ever since our house went on the market, I have worked hard to keep this home in tip top condition on a daily basis. Thankfully, I have a winner of a husband, who is better at housekeeping than I can ever hope to be. Seriously, the man would do it all if I asked him, and frequently does, even when not asked.

I know.

That's hot.

However, we have definitely been more of a team since putting our house up, and the result has been a darn right nice place to live in.

There have been some items that we've been doing every day to help with the upkeep:

  • Making the bed right away
  • Emptying all garbage cans
  • Keeping the kitchen sink empty
So, imagine my GLEE, when I stumbled upon this list, known as the "Daily 7" that Stephanie O'Dea over at Totally Together Journal put together in order to stay ahead of the cleaning game. This is the same Stephanie from A Year of Crockpotting fame.

Yes, I have a bit of a blog crush on her. I am blogstruck. No apologies.

Here are the "Daily 7". They work - whether or not your house is on the market. And if you know of my Mt. Laundry woes, you will understand why I am so very elated about this list of chores to hit EVERY DAY! Check out her site and read in more detail about these lucky 7 tasks.

  1. Make the beds right away
  2. Do one complete load of laundry
  3. Empty all garbage cans
  4. Keep your kitchen sink empty
  5. Clean up after yourself and help children do the same
  6. Bathroom wipe-down
  7. Before Bed 10-minute clean up
We have to continue working on #'s 5-7, but I'm making strides. Last night, the entire family put away clothes together. At one point we were all stuffed into Zane's tiny bedroom. We had a blast.

Good to know, as if this house doesn't sell we could all end up living in an efficiency or studio apartment. Nice to know we could live on top of each other and still make it out alive.

As for the laundry suggestion? Brilliant. For the past three days I have done one complete load of laundry every day (yes, we can very easily have a full load of items every day), which means the items were washed, folded, and put away.

Say it with me: Washed, folded, and put away!

Never in the history of our laundry has this phenomenon ever occurred.


So, this week is sponsored by the number 7.

Give them a try and tell me what you think. Ah, read that again.

Don't tell me what you think without first giving them a try - we all tend to default to saying, "That couldn't possibly work for me" before trying something new, don't we?

Let me know how it goes.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


George gave Zane a much needed haircut tonight.

He then had a much needed bath.

He ran downstairs in his pajama's looking and smelling just downright adorable. And he was working it with all his snuggling and talk of love going back and forth between us. He had me.

He had me at hello.

And then, as if realizing that he was erring on the side of being too adorable and lacking in cheekiness, he promptly turned to George and mooned him.

Yes, that's right. Mooned him.

George goes, "Zane! Don't be doing that!" Which was not so very convincing through his muffled laughter.

"Why", Zane asked, "Is that INAPPROPRIATE?"


Zane's new big word of the day. Inappropriate.

I feel the need to remind you that he is four years old.

And yeah, mooning can be considered inappropriate. Unless, of course, you happen to be your father as a freshman on the Ohio University Wrestling Team who decides to join his team (as if he had a choice) in mooning your mom's dorm room in the middle of an afternoon during a "fun run" through campus.

Of course, then, the act of mooning isn't considered inappropriate. Just, manly.

I guess you've learned from the best.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Speak Up!

So today's edition of "Thrifty Thursday" may be a stretch.

My helpful tip for the day?


Do you realize how much stuff your friends and family have accumulated in their basements, garages, and sheds?

Do you realize it is Spring and that traditionally around this time of year many folks begin the annual ancient rite of "Spring Cleaning"?

Do you realize that these people actually HAUL their stuff to rummage sales and second hand stores, or place ads on Craig's List or Ebay in order to purge themselves of these unnecessary pieces of excess baggage?

For goodness sake! We can help them! We must save them from this tireless exercise of hauling bags and boxes.

I can hear you saying, "This task seems too large, Joline. How can I, one person, actually take on the ritual that is "Spring Cleaning"?"

How, you ask?


Is there a particular item you need? Say a bike with training wheels for your 4 year old son? And, perhaps a helmet thrown in for safety and good measure and all that?

Well, here's an idea.

If you are in need of something, how about asking those around you if they are planning on discarding the said item before going out to spend the money on something new, or gently used?

Worked for me. Thanks, Klamm's!

Oh, and for goodness sake, if someone DOES have the item that you need, and they are willing to just hand it over to you, go pick it up yourself. Friends don't let friends make deliveries of freebies.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Better Late, Than No Art At All

I was rereading some old posts and realized that I never posted Zane's "Jabba Art" as I promised back in December.

And so, here you have it.

Jabba the Hutts
by Zane Atkins
December 3, 2008

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why Do I . . .?

I have been asked many questions as of late that tend to begin with,
"Why do you . . .?"

These questions seem to be based, I assume, on the intent of following up with me about my quest to become more thrifty. I have addressed the two following questions in earlier posts.

Why do you use PaperbackSwap?

Why do you use/sell Mary Kay?

So, it is no surprise that I was asked the following question just last month - although not prompted by a blog post, but rather, a night of scrapbooking, for 5 hours.

Why do you spend money and time on manual scrapbooking when you can just create books electronically through several websites?

At the time, I struggled with my answer. A month later, I have figured out WHY.

Once a month, I gather with other women, to create scrapbooks for my kids. I've been doing this for about three years now, having jumped on the bandwagon a bit late (and am thus constantly playing catch-up). Harper has a book from Birth-2 years, 2-4 years, and a book for the Kindergarten and First Grade school years. Her Second Grade book will be up to date as of tomorrow night. Age 4? The year of Zane's birth? Nothing. I'll have to go back to that.

Zane has a book for the first year of his life, and half of his second. I have alot of back tracking to do with him.

All the books are missing brief journaling entries here and there, as I have yet to schedule a day where I just focus on journaling.

I digress.

Why do I do this? Afterall, photo stores and online photo developing sites can do this for me. I could simply choose the page design and the mattes, and then quickly upload my photos. In less time, and possibly cost, that it takes me to create a scrapbook, it can be done on a computer, and delivered to my door.

My answer, quite frankly is the following:

Scrapbooking is an offering of my creative handiwork for my children.

As everyone knows, I write. My children will both receive cd's of this blog when they are older.

I do not, however, sew, knit, crochet, paint, draw, sculpt, or create ANYTHING with my hands. There will be no treasured samplers to pass down to my children. No, "oh, my mother made this" when my children share our family heirlooms with their children.

I realize that I could save time and money by going the electronic scrapbook route, but if I did,
the finished product would be missing my personal touch: my handwriting, my unique page designs specific to each child, even my smudges and mistakes.

I realize that I could save time and money by going the electronic scrapbook route, but if I did,
I would miss out on valuable fellowship with my friends, as we sit around at these "crops" talking and sharing our lives (which are literally scattered all over the work space) with one another.

I realize that I could save time and money by going the electronic scrapbook route, but if I did,
I would wind up spending even more time in front of the computer, rather than with people. And let's face it, I already share many a cup of coffee with my computer.

  • Scrapbooking is an example a my handiwork to pass down to my children.
  • Scrapbooking is a form of fellowship.
  • Scrapbooking insures that a computer addict, like myself, chooses "face time" over "screen time".
Are there any pieces of handiwork, items created by the works of your own hands, that you are planning to leave behind for your children?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mommy Take-down

Harper not only purchased a Wall-E chapter book, for her brother, from the school bookstore yesterday, but than sat and read it to him for 20 minutes last night. 5 Chapters.

That was on top of reading for 24 minutes earlier in the day.

She is smokin' me.

I definitely think this is one of those contests where you just go ahead and let your child win.

After all, it's a legitimate win . . . although I do have 2 appointments and 4 guests scheduled for facials next week. So don't count me out just yet.

I may be down, but I'm not out!

Thrify Thursday: Reuse, Reuse, Reuse

Anyone who has ever moved understands "box obsession".

I believe it was Jerry Seinfeld who found the humor in one's aimless pursuit of boxes during the packing phase of relocating. I get this.

But not necessarily for the obvious reason you may thinking. For yes, I'm moving in June, but I've not yet begun the process of hunting down empty corrugated cardboard prisms in every grocery store and business in town. Not yet.

However, I am still obsessed with boxes and packing materials.

I keep every single box that I receive via MK Corporate. I hold on to all envelopes (padded or flat) that I receive from PaperbackSwap deliveries. I hoard packing materials from gifts that we have been sent.

I keep them all in my closet.

Why? Because I turn around and ship product to my customers - and do you realize how much boxes cost? Now, when I move, and my shipments become more frequent, I may need to invest in more packaging, but right now, I have the supplies to ship at least 15 orders.

Why? Because I turn around and ship books via PaperBackSwap. A well placed label and packing tape can cover all rips on a used padded envelope. And when I don't have an envelope handy, I place the book in plastic (unfortunately some MK products come in plastic bags - so I just reuse them), and then wrap the order in brown paper from a grocery bag.

Why? Because I refuse to pay extra for materials that will be thrown away.

I have the same issue with wrapping paper. I equate wrapping paper with taking one's cash and throwing it in the trashcan. I cringe when I see a gift wrapped in expensive paper, only to see it ripped to shreds and thrown away. You won't find me on the school fundraising committee for Sally Foster. Sorry. If a store offers free gift wrap - then, perhaps, I will think about it.

During the pregnancy years of my circle of friends, there was one particular "new baby" gift bag that must have made the rounds at least 3 or 4 times. I have continued the tradition of keeping gift bags. Another new tradition is that of saving the cover of Christmas cards, cutting them into shapes, and reusing them as gift labels.




Oh! And how can I forget to mention that Timber Creek Farms has been sending "green bags" with my produce order! I've accumulated three of these bags which keep the produce fresher for a longer period of time. No extra charge! Sa-weet.

On a side note, I had a friend ask me recently why I use PaperbackSwap when I can just get a book from the library for free.
  • I do frequent the library. Between myself and the kids, we take out about 25 books a week. However, I am TERRIBLE at getting things back on time. I end up paying fines. Fines that cost more than PaperbackSwap.
  • Two: at the rate that I read, it is at times difficult to get the particular book that I would like from the library. With the library, you can only put a book on hold that is currently checked out. You can't just create a shopping cart, have someone pull your choices, and go pick up those books in the morning, or have them delivered. With PaperbackSwap, I can order what I want, when I want, and have them sent to my front door.
  • Three: I have books in my home that I don't care to keep, and rather than just bringing them to the thrift store, it is way more fun to send them off to someone who may want that title, (thus getting rid of clutter in my house), and then turning around and choosing a title that I DO want.
  • Four: shopping from home. I rarely get to the library by myself. Ever lost a kid in the stacks? I have.
  • Five: I can't afford to buy books and yet there are titles that I would like to own. So, now I can own them for $2.00.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Keeping Tabs

Just an update on the challenge Harper presented to herself, and her Mary Kay peddlin' mother for the month of March.

Thanks to a special event at our church where Brad Sherrill presented a one-man live performance of the entire Gospel of John, Harper raked in 140 minutes of reading time (reading time can either be Harper reading to herself or being read to). We figured if she was able to sit through Brad's performance, for which he MEMORIZED THE ENTIRE GOSPEL, we should give her points. She scored big that night.

So, drumroll please!

Totals to date:

Harper: 770 minutes

Mom: $470 sold
(Um, does it matter if I were to mentioned that I didn't work at all March 3-8? And I have a new team member? No? I should just take on the challenge and get to work? Ok.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: When Cheap Actually Costs More

While traveling along this journey towards thriftiness I have realized that there are some items for which spending less has actually ended up costing me more.


Yep. Quality does indeed trump a cheap price when the item in question fails to perform well, thus resulting in a big 'ole waste of money.

So, I thought I would take today's post to list a few items for which I would rather pay more simply because they out perform their cheaper alternative's.

Ritz Crackers
My children love, love, love, Ritz crackers. Harper develops recipe's with them. Zane eats them every day.

We have tried the store brands of imitation Ritz crackers. They are certainly less expensive. Almost $1.50 cheaper. But, they are also a crumbly mess. They can not withstand the salsa and cheese and nuking that my daughter does to create her Ritz cracker pizza's. Heck, they can hardly withstand the trip from the shelf, to the belt, to the bag, to the car, to the kitchen.

Several times, enticed by the cheaper price, I have purchased Target's brand of "Ritz" crackers. I am disappointed every time and end up chucking one entire roll of what should be crackers that are actually in one piece. Sure, I could keep them to sprinkle on soup, but honestly, I don't eat the stuff. The funny thing is, I've done this again and again and again - tempted by the price - only to be frustrated with the quality.

And the crumbled one's just make the kids sad. We've had entire boxes come home crushed. And who really wants to waste the time and gas to drive back to Target to return a box of crackers? Doesn't it make sense to just purchase the better brand?

The imitation just doesn't stand the test.

Nutella is the nectar that gets my son to eat his vegetables and 100% whole wheat, fleck included, breads and bagels, and fruit. He's just not a nutritious eater, but dab a little Nutella on the plate and every vegetable disappears.

I've tried the store brands. Zane has tried the store brands. He won't eat them. How has that saved me any money?

They just don't spread well. They just aren't creamy.

They just aren't the friend I call Nutella.

Ok, this one is for the ladies.

Ladies, forgive me for sounding like Oprah here, but PLEASE purchase a quality bra to hold up the ta-ta's. Seriously, ladies, unless you are a A or B, a $9.99 bra ain't gonna do it. I can't stand watching women walk around with their girls hanging down by their belts, or their shoulder's hunched forward due to extra frontal weight that isn't being properly supported. These situations just are not necessary if one has the right equipment. Yes, in my case, bra's are pieces of equipment.

If you don't think I'm qualified to speak on this subject, take a good look at me . . . ahem, I know what I'm talking about.

THREE YEARS AGO I purchased two bras for almost $60 a piece. Ouch! Right? Well, think again. That was THREE YEARS AGO. I had a proper bra fitting at Nordstrom's, and then INVESTED in two that I wear every week. Every week! I haven't bought a new bra since that visit.

I wash them in a lingerie bag to keep their shape, I hang them up to dry, and I've even had a tiny rip repaired.

When the time comes, I will invest that amount again. And again. And again.

Mary Kay - yeah, I know. Enough with the Mary Kay!
I don't really need to write anymore about this, except to say that the Mary Kay brand is not the least expensive brand out there. I've never said it was inexpensive. However, it's certainly not the most expensive either.

Priced higher than drugstore brands, (although have you seen the number of skin care lines they now carry at CVS? There are like a trillion of them along the wall as you enter the store and they are priced pretty darn high for a drug store), but less than the department store brands, Mary Kay falls right in the middle.

I'll continue paying for the stuff.

In the past, I found that some cheaper brands just didn't have the staying power - more product was needed to get the desired result, (both in terms of skin care and color), resulting in having to repurchase items more frequently. Plus, not all stores guarantee that a product can be returned for a full refund once used - many will just offer store credit.

So, that's that. Not a very full list - just a smattering.

Ritz, Nutella, Bra's, and MK. A crazy list to be sure.

Are there items that you are willing to pay more for even though a less expensive alternative is available?

Please share!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sharing My Life Lessons: Finishing Well

Once again, here is a recent post for Blissfully Domestic. In the absence of an editor for the Family Bliss channel, for which I am a contributor, I am going to post here - mainly because I am now in the habit of writing at least one piece each week and want to hold myself accountable to continuing that discipline. Enjoy.

No matter how hard you rehearse, there are times when the dreaded brain freeze is just downright unavoidable.

It’s unfortunate, however, when that freeze comes mid-song. And I’m not talking about forgetting the lyrics when, say, you are playing the home version of American Idol in your shower.

No, it’s unfortunate when that brain freeze rears its head during an audition.

Such is the background for my most recent discussion with my daughter where I used my experience as a young child actor to share with her the value of finishing well – even when being stumped mid-stream, or, rather, mid-lyric.

It was one of my first auditions. I was young, 10 or 11, and had been prepped for the audition by a mentor of mine – a high school student who went on to become a professional actress in New York City. She had alerted me to the area audition for The Music Man and encouraged me to audition. To assist, she provided me with the song, “Hey Look Me Over”. She then rehearsed me on staging/choreography. I was prepared. Confident. Solid.

The audition started fine. The piece fit my voice and personality. I started strong, hit the bridge on a roll, and began winding down to the conclusion when, out of nowhere, I blanked. Seriously, out of nowhere.

“I’m a little bit . . .”

Brain freeze. Um, line? My mind scrambled to rewind and proceed again.

“I’m a little bit . . .”

Nope. Nothing. Stark white canvas.

My sister and mother stood outside the door, no doubt animatedly mouthing the words silently, hoping to channel them my way. Apparently, I was on a different channel.

I was not going to give up. I smiled and wound up my choreography to give it yet another go, not unlike the revving of a frigid car engine needing a bit more juice to get going – just hit the gas one more time – it will start. It WILL start. Come on, come on, come on.

“I’m a little bit (brief pause) short of the elbow room, but let me get you some. So look out world here I come!”

And . . . scene.

I could have stopped when the freeze took over, mid-lyric. I could have resigned myself to finishing on "I'm a little bit . . .". I could have believed that's the best I could do, thrown out the customary "Thank you" to the director, and then, head hung low, exited the room.

I could have. But I chose to end on a different note.

I chose to finish well.

Don’t hesitate to share personal childhood experiences with your children.

Whether it’s a mistake you once made, or a hurdle you jumped, sharing a personal story with your child helps them get to know you better, and to see that even YOU have hit speed bumps along your journey. And yet, you still managed to make it to adulthood! Good job!

Photo by Richard Whitesell

I Never Thought I'd Hear . . .

"Mom! Would you PLEASE stop eating MY kale!"

Um, ok, Harper.

Who would have ever thunk it????

And yes, Zane did eat his also.

Only his was wrapped in bacon.

We may eat more vegetables since receiving our vegetable box every week, but, just to be clear, I never claimed to be a vegetarian house.

Mmmm. Kale.

Mmmm. Bacon.

Mmmm. Kale wrapped in bacon.

I'm afraid my vegan, kale worshipping friend, Andrew, may. have. a. cow.

But, he'll never eat one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Word!

"Ex-pear-ee-mint is a big word, Mommy."

"Yes, it is, Zane."

"God helps me say big words", he adds.

"I can say, 'ex-pear-ee-mint', 'en-vi-ro-mint', and 'announce-mint'. They all end in 'mint'. I don't like mint gum. But, you know, do you real-a-lize that my bones can move?"

These are the sort of conversations I have been enjoying with Zane as of late. The boy is just growing. Like a weed. How very cliche of me.

And then, while watching some science show on PBS:

"Mommy, transformation is a big word. You know, actually, the flowers grow under the ground and then sprout."

George started Fellowship of the Ring with Harper and Zane last night. For all my writing and talking about how important it is to read chapter books with your children, I am shocked that they sit for this. Really, truly, I am.

This morning Zane gave me an earful about the story. Details like Bilbo and Frodo's ages. How Bilbo is rich because he took the gold from the Smog in The Hobbit. Harper, who we barred from commenting, as we were pretty hung up on seeing how much Zane retained, was offended.

"What am I? Invisible?"

She went off to finish her own books. Shortly thereafter she announced, "I finished my books about King Tut and George Washington." She is currently enjoying a historical fiction series called The Time Warp Kids. She has also set a goal of reading for 1000 minutes this month - way above the teacher's expectation of 330 for the month, which she's already reached. And it's only March 10. 1000 minutes of reading.

She then turned around and challenged me to sell $1000 this month. Um, ok.

I best get cookin'. I mean, how do you say no to that kind of challenge from your kid?

I'm speechless.

Yeah, right. When have I ever been known to be speechless?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Cutting Out Waste

Paper towels.

Plastic sandwich and snack bags.

Household cleaners.

Three items which have successfully disappeared from my home. Inconvenient? Sometimes. Cost effective. Most definitely.

From paper towels to Micro-fiber Cloths
I used to buy paper towels in bulk. I was a paper towel snob and would only purchase Bounty, because, yes, one sheet could indeed absorb more than the cheap variety where I would have to pull off several sheets to do one job.

And yet, even though I was using less sheets per clean up, I wasn't very conscious about throwing the used paper towel in the recycle bin. Nope. Into the trash they went.

So, not only was I throwing my money into the trash, I was also throwing my trash into landfills. I know, I know, don't go throwing the fact that I used disposable diapers back in my face. At least applaud my small efforts.

I now use Micro-fiber cloths to clean. Everything. You can get them anywhere. My tip? Go to the automotive department at a store like Target, where I picked up 10 for something like $6.00. If you go to the aisle with household cleaners, sponges, etc, you will end up paying more. Save money by hitting the aisle where the guys with the cool cars go in order to get a soft cloth to keep their machine sparklin' for the ladies.

(Yeah, I don't know what that was all about. I just read an article on writing and am working on not censoring myself mid-thought.)

I hear that Williams-Sonoma has an incredible kitchen towel which is well worth the money. I'll double check what variety and get back to you . . .

From plastic sandwich/snack bags to Reusable Containers
Unless you are someone who is conscious about drying out plastic baggies, say, on a baby bottle rack, or something similar, I just can not see any reason for using plastic bags. There I've said it. Have I offended you? Do I sound like a green snob? I don't mean to. I just want to impress the importance of thinking long term, rather than convenience.

My kids take their lunches to school. Even the 4 year old. I send them with reusable containers, and no, I didn't buy expensive one's. I looked for sales, used coupons, and purchased those containers which are supposed to be "one time use". They lie. "One time use" containers can be cleaned over and over and over again. Top rack of the dishwasher or by hand.

And yes, the kids bring them home. We use them for everything. Lunch. Snacks. Leftovers.

From purchasing household cleaners to Making Household Cleaners
Simply put, water, vinegar, and baking soda can go a long way. Check out this article on Blissfully Domestic for Earth and money saving ideas when it comes to cleaning your home! Seriously, have you really checked the price of household cleaners? Not cheap. And, if you go "green", the cost goes up. I'm done. Making my own cleanin' moonshine these days.

Challenge: For the month of March, try to go without paper towels and plastic bags. Purchase a spray bottle and try out one of the "recipes" on the link I posted above. You can do it!

Let me know how you do!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Time When I Just About Fell Off Harper's Loft

Harper's physical affection towards me was downright dangerous last night.

We have noticed an incredible hike in her confidence this year. George and I have been in tears several times over the past few months as we watch her blossom and flourish. As I reread my posts from last year, I celebrate her "rebirth", if you will.

She is hilarious: her comedic timing is right on. Polite: she is conscious of her manners around the house. Helpful: her ability to play with and include Zane is so comforting. Focused: watching her sit and read to herself sends a surge of "ahhh" through my spirit. Self-assured: "Mom, I like myself", is what I hear her say (and not in a haughty way) compared to last year when we heard self-deprecating talk to the tune of, "I am so stupid", and "I am a jerk". Words that broke our hearts. So, these current traits, as well as a few others, were MIA last year.

She's also physically affectionate. Our baby, who has never been one to cuddle and snuggle and hug and kiss (she is quite different from her brother) is all about sitting on our laps and giving spontaneous hugs and the rare kiss on the cheek. And last night? Last night?

Last night, right before bed, she gave me complete surprise in the form of a hug and smooch right on my lips. A gesture so unexpected that I just about fell off the ladder attached to her loft. Seriously, I was so taken off guard that I slipped and had to grab the top rail to steady myself.

"Mom, are you going to cry now?"

"Um, I think I just might."

She went in for another hug.

"Well, don't. Because I might cry, too."

And then I fell off the loft.

No, I'm kidding.

She, and Zane, I must add, are both experiencing transformational growth spurts right now. Right now, oddly enough, during one of the most stressful times in our lives. Here, George and I are consumed with selling a house and preparing to move, car issues, and then there's the issue of the oven breaking today, and it is the children who are creating a beautiful stability in our home. They are actually alleviating stress for us. I know, that sounds completely reversed.

Zane is ALL about being a big boy. He will remind us that while he is "young", he is actually a "big boy." I could listen to his voice all day. I can't keep my hands off his adorable little head.

And Harper?

Well, if she keeps it up I may just end up in a cast.

Photo by pomegranates

Sharing My Life Lessons: Perserverance

Sadly, I received an email just this morning from my editor at Blissfully Domestic sharing that she has stepped down due to personal reasons. This post was scheduled to be posted today, but in her absence, didn't. Not sure who will be picking up the editor position of the Family Bliss channel at the site, so until then, I'll post my stories here. OK, just a minute after posting this, my story went live on the site. So, either read it here or there. Doesn't matter where. Just read it.

“Mommy, tell me a story from when you were little.”

This is a frequent request from my daughter who enjoys hearing of my childhood experiences. These requests tend to come right before lights out.

She is well skilled at placing me in the spotlight in an attempt to stall her inevitable bedtime.

I cave. Every time. I like the spotlight.

Recently, I shared a personal story of perseverance, both as a means of bonding with her and to communicate how each of us has the ability to continually pursue what we love.

I was a theater kid. Community, dinner, professional theater, and commercials. As a child, it was rare to find me without a stage. My daughter is very different from me - in this respect. She has never shown interest in performing, nor have I encouraged her to follow after me. As a private coach for young actors, I know all to well how performing must be the choice of the child – not the parent.

And while she doesn’t share my level of interest in performing, I have found that I can use my childhood experiences from theater to teach her the value of perseverance.

As in the case of Bobby Philips.

I had just completed a horrible audition for The King and I. I can’t remember the details of what made it sub-par, but even then, I knew enough to realize that I may have botched getting cast in the coveted role of Princess Ying Yawolak – the only princess with a name and actual lines.

Thus, my mom and I concocted a plan. I was hesitant at first, but I knew that one day I could share this teachable moment with my children.

What?! No! The idea was completely insane.

The next day, a boy named Bobby Philips auditioned for The King and I. He had pizazz. He had flair. He projected and sang with gusto and character. He was magnetic.

He was wearing a wig.

And he was a she.

He was me.

I used an old wig from my 3 month stint playing one of Fagin’s Gang in Oliver, to disguise myself as a boy and re-audition under a different name. And a different sex - which could have made clinching the role of the Princess a bit tricky.

Thus, at the end of the audition I whipped off my wig.

I got the role.

My daughter was stunned. I think, having seen my scrapbooks, she always assumed that any type of performing came easily to me.

Sharing this story helped her to see that even I experienced moments when failure stared me down.

And I stared back. In my wig.

Don’t hesitate to share personal childhood experiences with your children.

Whether it’s a mistake you once made, or a hurdle you jumped, sharing a personal story with your child helps them get to know you better, and to see that even YOU have hit speed bumps along your journey. And yet, you still managed to make it to adulthood! Good job!
Photo by BigPru