New Year’s Eve Hoarders Unite: Let’s get it together for the New Year!

New Year’s Eve tonight means tomorrow is New Year’s Day and the beginning of those pesky New Year’s resolutions no one keeps past January 23rd.  Which is most popular I wonder: "Losing Weight" or "Decluttering the House”?  

Hoarder’s TV show would loooooove my cluttered basement.  I put my Beekeeper Dad on their show so I would know. (Deborah & Jim Season 2) Dad agreed to do it and we just expected a week of humiliation with a clean and tidy house in the end.  We got WAY MORE THAN WE EXPECTED.  They were kind, considerate, warm and understanding.  And funny.  I wish they would come back.  I haven’t been there lately but I am pretty sure the living room painting project Dad started last New Year’s is....going to be restarted this New Years.  One year of living room covered in drop cloths?  I love that man!  I just don’t take the girls to visit that man.  How lucky we are he comes to our house every week instead. He is awesome, just not much into housekeeping.

So there.  

I’ll bet the Hoarders show would love YOUR basement too, so do not start assuming there are dead cats or a community of poopy diapers under piles of....what have you in our basement.  Our basement isn’t lurking with ickiness.  It is just boxes of memories and things we are donating and things we used but do not use now.  John and I both had separate lives and separate houses and then a bigger house together than we have now.  We have two little bitties who keep us tired out and organizing an unfinished basement hasn’t been high on our priority list.  

The basement bothers us though.  We know it is there.  So finally I have been working down there this week.  I found amidst my five huge boxes of “Heather- Sentimental” debris a scribbled up sheet of paper with “Questions for the New Year” on it from Revive Our Hearts.  John and I went through them together four or so years ago.  It was fascinating to read back into our married past, into our pre-baby lives.  Portia would be born two months later. Libby another 22 months later.  WHEW.

I’m pleased to say my answer to one of those old questions,“What habit would you most like to establish this year?”  (Exercise more) has been a resolution I  have kept.  Otherwise our answers are the answers of new parents desperate to not screw up the little person God gives them to raise:  Pray more often, raise our baby to love God and People, a healthy child, watch less television...

This year we are having a few friends for a Happy Hour New Year’s Eve.  Everyone has small children so no one stays up late.  Good New Year’s Eve TV doesn’t start until 8pm.  So we are having cocktails and snacks and I have Tsh Oxenrider’s (Simple Mom) “Refection Questions for New Year’s Eve”  cut into slips of paper in a crystal bowl.  I hope the kids get distracted enough to let us adults pull slips and read them and share with each other what 2012 memories we will cherish and what we hope to find in 2013.  Here is the link for those if you like.  I also found a groovy little kid’s Scavenger Hunt from Cozi Calendar & Meal Planning we will do with the toddlers.

But for now I am working in the basement.  Unearthing treasures and donating...the not quite treasures we have grown out of or grown past. We have a little house and I want to get more out of it.  I know being organized and decluttering will help me find more useable space for our getting bigger family members.  And I do not really want to do the Hoarders show again. I think both top resolutions will be on my list this New Years.  Perhaps they will be unnecessary next New Year’s.  Any gambles?

The question I look forward to hearing answers to is “What was the best way you used your time this past year?”  

How will you answer that question today, and then a year from today?

In The Event of My Death

I’m ready to die.  

I am always ready to die.  

My mom died when I was thirteen years old and so I KNOW PEOPLE CAN DIE.  They are here and they they are not.  Each time I got pregnant, even the miscarriage, I gave that tiny, tiny life right back to God in prayers, thanking Him for the gift of this life.  I think that might be my most used prayer for my girls, for John, for my friends and family;  “Thank You”, second only to “Please keep them safe”.  I know the small daily joys of my life could be fleeting.

My husband chuckles often, embarrassed at how much I say to him about my love for him.  I think he likes hearing my appreciation of him, the value, strength, wisdom and love I see in him, but it also makes him feel...something else. 

In the event of my death I want to be certain John knows my heart for him absolutely.  So I keep telling him.  I do the same for the girls.  I tell them I love them, I am lucky to be their Mama.  I tell them God loves them.  I tell them they are beautiful and smart and kind and brave.  I speak into their little lives everything I can when I am not yelling at them, ignoring them, absorbed in my own silly, shallow wants and needs.

The drudge of laundry and dishes and the mundane details of caring for tiny children were disrupted the other day.  A simple text from my Dad, letting me know one of my many ‘Mothers,’ Sandra Winicur, had passed away.  The service, he texted, was that same day.  I took the news in stride, then fell apart in tears.  I have great friends who took my children in.  I dressed beautifully and went to a Jewish temple.  I hugged old friends, cried.  At the graveside service, Jewish tradition invites the mourners to shovel up dirt and pile it into the grave.  The Rabbi said it is the one service a person cannot repay.  I didn’t shovel, but I watched, prayed and mourned.

My friend’s daughter, Paula stood watching too.  Her husband held her and they looked so beautiful I took a picture, déclassé of me as it may have been.  It was so bittersweet I needed to keep that memory and later offer it to Paula.  If you have someone to hold you in your grief and your joy, you are beyond blessed. God holds you, whether you believe in Him or not.  He believes in you, holds you, loves you.  Sometimes by using just people.

Then the Horrible happened.  The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting the same week.  My heart was broken each time I stumbled across memorials here in Valparaiso Indiana, specifically for the children killed.   I cannot understand it and my little brain won’t let me think on it much.  I already know all life is fleeting.  My heart is already broken.
These sad days made me think about my own death.  I wanted you to know some things, in the event of my untimely death.  I needed to write them down and tell you the following:

1) I want to be cremated, then scattered near our cabin in Estes Park, maybe in Europe where I may never visit and Lake Michigan.  Plus if there is someone who is a jerk to you and would be freaked out about it, feel free to toss a tablespoon their way, aiming for the face.  My ashes will NOT be sacred, trust me!  A gravestone somewhere would be great, so family would have a place to go if they wanted.  I’m grateful for my Mom’s cemetery spot in Sterling, Colorado.

 2) There had better be rocking music and or course some wake-worthy booze.  I have brought many a bottle to funerals to help out my friends.  I would say cheap champagne at least, apricot brandy (Jean!) and of course my Dad’s flask.  (Yes Jen & Jean, I will expect you to shmoke a square for me.)  (No that isn’t lingo for drugs, just the good old fashioned tobacco we’ve all matured enough to give up but still somedays miss.)

3) If there are not A LOT of folks there at my services and really upset, I will come back and haunt you people.  I have worked hard to be awesome since seventh grade.  I expect results.  

4)  I’d like crazy fabulousness in attire.  Feather boas, glitter, lots of red instead of traditional black.  I felt trollopy at Sandra’s graveside, there is me, in a sea of somber winter coats in my lipstick-red-full-length-down-parka with a fur trimmed hood.  Ummmm embarrassing but still, so very moi.  So please wear red like normal folks wear black.  (OR that marvelous Turquoise I love. My Ya Ya Jenny sure wears both together well!) Wear that Wonderful Thing you cannot seem to wear anywhere else...full length or flannel just tell them you are wearing it for Heather.  Yep.  That would be AWESOME.

5) If you prefer, donate moolah to any charity you love.  Or do something pampering for yourself like a pedicure instead of buying flowers or donating if you need to.  Most of you NEED to! Of course I’d like wildflowers or houseplants, and the excess after a service party should go to homeless shelters or  nursing homes.

Most importantly, know that I lived WELL.  Sure I make mistakes and have some small regrets.  But overall, to this day, I live life as if it is fleeting, I love folks to the best of my ability and I cherish my days more often than not.  I am so grateful to God for grabbing me by the heart and opening my eyes to living for him.  Many of you know becoming a Christ Follower was a big jump for me.  I have never preached at you about Heaven or Hell, I respect differences in belief and I know God can find you and your heart anywhere.  

In the event of my death, or right this very minute, I DARE YOU to find a bible, even online.  Maybe read something from Ephesians, my favorite book and where I started reading.  I challenge you to challenge God to show up in your life.  Dare Him.  I did.  I said to him "I do not have faith but I would like to.  If you are real, I would like to believe in you."  I felt Him show up.  You might not.  But I dare you to start the conversation.  Call him 'Phil’ like writer Anne Lamott does.  Call him 'Ol Padnah' like I do, from Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood.  Find your own name or just call her God.  Read The Shack for my picture of God.  Forget the ugliness you see in some Christian people. All of you, all of us, are ugly too.  Forget the judgment and religion, just have an honest chat with God...He loves you and thinks YOU are awesome.  And so do I.

Maybe I will live to 86 years old, maybe I will die sweetly in my sleep.  Maybe I’ll die in a car accident tomorrow. Regardless of when, "In the Event of My Death", I will have lived well.  I will have known Joy and been loved by God through many, many friends, family and strangers.  Thank you, each of you.  And Live Well.  TODAY.   God bless you.

What one thing do you want people to know about you, in the event of your death?  I’d like to hear your thoughts on this weighty tome of a blog post.  Please.  Don’t leave me all vulnerable and hanging. I got tons of comments on my Fat Fanny, Skinny Jeans Post....please show this one some love!

Random Things #6: Yarn Bombs and Fireplaces Warm My Heart

I still cannot quite get over “Fireplace For Your Home” on Netflix.  We do not have cable, so our handy ROKU feeds the instant Netflix stuff(They just got DISNEY, PEOPLE!) through our TV.  I LOVE candles, a fireplace.  I have little monkeys for children so there are like two places in the house I can burn real candles.  I’ve started collecting the led ones...not too bad, really.  Our house doesn’t have a fireplace, but with this channel we TOTALLY DO have second best.  It snaps and pops like a real fire and it is good enough.  Now they have the Yule Log ‘episode’ too & it plays CHRISTMAS CAROLS behind the snap and crackle of the fire.  PLUS if I burn a scented candle that is woodsy....mmmmm welcome, Winter!

I think wearing a $2.50 (thank you TARGET) turkey hat on Thanksgiving is a thing that should nevah happen again, You?

I lovehate that as an adult I never really enjoy McDonald’s anymore.  But who should?  UGH.  Do you see the * after cheddar?  Turn that cup of chemical laden Coke Zero evil and see it isn’t really cheese.  But we knew that.  UGH (Thank you Carrie for hooking me on Coke Zero, and thank you Liz, because of your inspirational changes I am quitting Diet Coke & Coke Zero too!)

My Funny Hubby stick a broken pen doohickey into a random crayon.  I am endlessly blessed that I married someone who makes me laugh.  

I really resonated with this wall installation in Chicago, it is in a pedestrian walkway towards Navy Pier.  Advocate.  Action.  I need more action in my life and I am creating that into reality.  This week at least.

Yarn bombing, yarn graffiti, it has many names.  An urban hobby of placing a small bit of soft fiber in an unexpected place like a tree, doorknob, statue!  It makes me happy to bring a small spot of irreverence into other people’s daily lives.  Plus it is faster than making a scarf or whathaveyou.  This sad little notion was to honor one of my mothers, Sandra, who died this week.  It is on a tree trunk outside her temple and I pray it makes someone smile no matter what.

7 Ways to Tell if You are FAMOUS

Hope you enjoyed my post on being famous earlier this week.  Can you BELIEVE nobody knows I'm famous? At least I think I am marvelous once in awhile.  And YOU are marvelous look these over and tell me, are you famous?

1) You are ready for your close up.  You almost always leave the house prepared to be photographed.  You never know when a photo op will happen and that pesky paparazzi could be anywhere.  Like Santa's lap.

2) Everyone is just as excited to hear your story about you as you are to tell it.  Even if it is boring and stupid and only about how you decided which shirt to wear. Oh...wait....uhhh...

3)  You smile like a movie star.  Beam like Julia Roberts just in case somebody thinks you are maybe famous and just hanging out at Target with two little kids as your public shield.

4) You know how to drink too much and trash a room, famous style.  Except the drink is 3/4 of a beer you manage to drink before falling asleep on the couch at 8:30pm.  And the trashed room is just because you were too tired to pick up all the debris today. And yesterday.

5) You pamper yourself.  You are spoiled but instead of an entire  spa day with candles and a massage during your pedicure, you at least light a candle and lock the door for your three minute poop shower.

6) You dine well.  And during your dinner people chant your name while you wish you could eat in peace.  Unfortunately your spouse won't  make the children eat in another room, so you chew coldish food to the roar of MAMA! MAMA! MAMA!

7) You know how to enter a room.  Confidently, loving yourself, forgiving yourself, and telling yourself everyone makes an entrance wearing black yoga pants(the new sweats, admit it) marked with orange Cheezit cracker crumbs and toting a wailing small person under your arm.  Just rock a gorgeous scarf and a red lipsticked smile and you are MONEY, Baby!

Share this with somebody famous, you'll make their day & mine!

Are You a Shiny Mom?

I am Mumbling.  Again.  It has been too long but they have kindly allowed me to let it all hang out, or not.  Find out which it is in my post over at Mumbling Mommy where I share my thoughts on being a perfect mama and gorgeously polished in  both self and progeny.

Nobody Knows I'm Famous!

Nobody knows I'm famous.*  

That got me thinking, are any of you famous?  
Some of you are authors,mamas, bloggers, aging pop stars (Thanks for reading, Madonna!) 

I was in an Oprah commercial in my professional acting hey day.  Annnnd that was it.  I did some industrial films, a trailer for an independent film, took acting classes and improv at Second City in Chicago. I was an extra on films like The Fugitive, With Honors, Miracle on 34th Street, League of Their Own.  (And there was that time a friend saw me on an MTV special about the making of "With Honors" and I guess you could see me really well, so they wondered about me and this Joe Pesci movie! WHEEEE!)

Wow.  This sounds like the bragging of a stay at home mom wearing a leopard bathrobe with one sleeve dipped in bacon grease, black socks, pink slippers, dirty rumpled hair just crashing over the age of 40!  Yup.  

Shall I go on? 

Yeah?  OK!

Annnd I might have had a few tete a tetes with Oliver Stone and Woody Harrelson...but that is a whole 'nother conversation.  Over martinis. (Like the "Hot and Dirrrty Martini" at Paparazzi here in Valparaiso....WOW. Seriously.  Can you become an alcoholic for one drink you have like once a week?)

Lately my fun has been the NPR radio pieces through WVPE 88.1Fm in Elkhart.  Doing those make me feel like a million bucks.  I heart NPR BIGTIME.  I also had a few years at my wonderful old church Granger Community Church doing dramas with them in front of  five thousand folks every weekend....that was one of my favorite things.  After not acting for a long time, I got to honor God with my gifts and feed my only child lookit me lookit me lookit me at the same time!  

So some people know me.  I might even be small town famous.  In two towns.  YEAH!  But you are famous too.  Some of you are so precious and important to another person that they would rather see you than Brad Pitt/Justin Beiber.   Some of you are so generous with your time and love and friendship I would rather have lunch with you than Oprah.  Some of you are quiet and reserved and you honestly do not think you matter much as long as some kids have lunch made for them and the house doesn't burn down but you are WRONG.  

You matter deeply and your life makes a HUGE impact whether you know it now or not.  You matter to God, you matter to your friends and family and to that one neighbor you sometimes wave at.

Enjoy the follow up to this post "7 Ways to Tell if You are Famous."  Then, can I have your autograph?  I'll pay you!

There is a song, "Nobody Knows I'm Famous" which is my HILARIOUS new theme song by Peter Meyer. He is concert THIS WEEK at Front Porch Music check them out.  We are going on Friday for Libby's birthday, she has listened to his music since birth.  Feel free to join us for a thinker's song set.

Bodacious Blog of the Week: Happiness Project & Anne Lamott

I think I need to be reading  and enjoying more blogs, so I am starting this bit of fabulousness up again, the weekly Bodacious Blog.  

Funny, I went straight to the Happiness Project blog and found.....drumroll.....Gretchen Rubin is interviewing Anne Lamott today.  In the meantime she gave ten writing tips from Lamott's book "Bird by Bird" which I currently have from the library and am going to be searching under couches for today.

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors and I've only read ONE of her books, Traveling Mercies, but I am currently reading two others now, All New People and Bird by Bird.  

Long ago a friend in bible study gave me the first Anne Lamott book, saying she reminded her of me.  As I read the book and the hot mess of faith and cynicism and humor and desire for God in a real (hilarious & cussing) woman I totally understood why.  I found a place where my reality clambanging into my faith was OK.  Not even ok, but someone else felt that way too.

The book I am writing and have been writing for years and years will be titled from a line in her book and I just cannot wait.  Anne Lamott has a way of writing that is so gritty and real that you feel all your hidden idiosyncrasies and insecurities are actually endearing like hers!  

Thank you Gretchen Rubin for increasing my happiness one hundred fold today.  Both of your books bless me mightily and I talk about parts of them when I speak to groups. Thank you Thank you Thank you.  I cannot wait to read your interview.

Mamas: Do You Know Where Your Breasts Are?

Let me just start with a highlight of my birthday being my very own cleavage. Yesterday I was sitting on the couch reading my bible and sneaking glances at my tatas. (LOOK! Those words can go in the same sentence!  I think I hear Jesus chuckling.)  (At me, again.) It is hard to feel sexy when you are somebody's mother.  It just is.  Not to mention what having that somebody or somebodies does to your body.

Sass is courtesy of Cacique
I now remember what the fuss is all about with Victoria's Secret.  

Since having my first babe and going into a "Vicky C's" three years ago to get new bras and leaving crying after witnessing the horrific delflated  truth about my 'milky bar', I haven't set foot in that store. (Plus my fanny does not appreciate their paltry XL selection.)  I bought my scanties at Target (where I buy everything else).  I thought I was doing fine.  I was thrifty.  I still had pretties. I thought it was all OK.  

It wasn't.  

Darling Liz, I am endlessly grateful that you dragged me lingerie shopping.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.  

Disclosure for my male readers:  You can skip this post, just go buy your wife a Victoria's Secret gift certificate or if she is super curvy/fluffy/huggable or whatever get a Cacique gift certificate for Christmas, OK? And no, it is not for you, it really is for her!

And you mamas, you ladies....if it has been awhile, and you have $50 to spoil yourself skip the mani pedi and git thee to a Victoria's Secret.  NOW. Let them fit you.  Let them wait on you.  Let them usher you around and sell to you. If you have $100,  they have a buy one get one half off and you can get two bras and 5 cotton panties for $25 or one pair of gorgeous gossamer heaven for $28.  Oh Do it!!!! I have a few friends who got a look at my uplifted self and are heading to the land of consumer femininity ASAP.  

And if you are a curvier  CURVIER girl...try Cacique, it is Lane Bryant's answer to Victoria's Secret and it feels like a Victoria's Secret (not a LB). They have THE BEST silky flattering panties for girls with more...uhhhh fanny personality?  Trust me.  WOW!

Any of you mamas who have nursed a kid or two can appreciate the joyous delight in seeing The Girls up above your elbows and how that can make you feel like you have lost twenty pounds.  Even if you haven't.  At all.  Because it was your birthday weekend month.  I felt like a million bucks all weekend and for a dragged out hung on tired mama THAT is worth the money.

p.s. I am writing a talk for January about getting your Mama Mojo back and this is definitely going in there.  Please let me know your thoughts/troubles/tips either in the comments or via email to help me help other women feel sparkly and fabulous.

Wishing for What I Have?

I blew out five candles yesterday, on my birthday cake.  Because I am five years old.  Or thirty something, who's counting?  (Well maybe Erica is counting, since she wished me a "Happy 41st Birthday!" on Facebook. I'm coming for you, Blondie!)  I am thirty this year.  That is still thirty something, right?

So as I blew out those five candles, on a mouthwatering German Chocolate Cake my veryownhusband made me, after eating a fabu comfort food lunch my friend Whitney made me, wearing a new MEOW! birthday outfit you shall hear more about tomorrow, I thought about my wish. 

My almost four year old Portia asked "What is your wish, Mama?"   What was my wish?  I don't want a pony anymore, that standard of little girls' birthday wishes everywhere.  I have an old house I love, a God given hubby I barely deserve and some special new presents like my Fitbit, clothes and indulgent perfume. My kids are mostly enjoyable, cute and funny as a Jim Gaffigan comedy tour.  All the people I love and like are healthy and for the most part enjoying their lives.  Me and God are doing well, I'm in a great bible study and feeling rich in that relationship with Ol Padnah.  I'm making healthier choices and now that my foot is healed no excuses in the fitness department.  My life is GOOD.  Very GOOD.  

I think about people with sorrow, deep wrenching sorrow in their lives.  I cannot imagine the life of someone who's child is seriously ill.  People who struggle to make the bills each month, or cannot make them at all.  Struggles with addiction, marital strife, or health issues.  There are a lot of pains in the world.  Even on a daily basis the little things can wear a person down without even weighing these big things.  I know people with these troubles.  I love people with these troubles.

At this time in my life, at forty thirty something this fine month of November, these are not my troubles.  I have known some of these troubles very intimately at times over my years.  Even earlier this week, I was an ugly mess and unhappy and dissatisfied with whatever small things were going wrong for me.  

But today.  Today all is well.  I sat looking at my candles and thinking of my wish.  In a life full of good and evil, I know all of my days will not be great.  That is OK, without the crummy days I do not appreciate the good ones enough. Well, I never appreciate the good things enough.  

So that was my birthday wish this year.  I wished for more of what I already have, and a deeper appreciation for it.

It can be your birthday today too, what will you wish for?

Burt's Bees Intense Hydration BUZZ AGENT Review!

Thursday, October 25th I got my box in the mail about 3:35pm.  I thought there would be one full size product and some samples. Imagine my thrill at THREE full size products (Burt's Bees Intense Hydration Night Cream, Burt's Bee's Intense Hyrdation Treatment Mask and Burt's Bee's Intense Hyrdation  Cream Cleanser PLUS a bunch of samples(and coupons!) to share with friends.  

My first thought was to slather on the mask from my cushy spot on the couch.  Smells FABULOUS and I know from my aromatherapy work that Clary Sage (a main ingredient of their Intense Hydration line) is fabulous for skin.  The mask was cool and yummy and my skin tingled slightly.  After I realized my friend Amber was coming over, I slicked it into my skin and waited for compliments!

It felt slightly tacky and reminded me of cold cream in it's wonderfully moisture rich feel.  As the next few days passed and I used both the cleanser and the nighttime moisturizer, I found myself wondering if the make up of the  three items including the mask were close enough to each other that Burt's could market one 'do everything ' version of the Intense Hydration products.  I know the daytime lotion would have need SPF in it, but the rest would be so fabulously simple if only one cold cream-esque product.

No dry skin here, just fabu hair, eh?
I passed the samples and coupons out to friends, my bible study girls and neighbors.  Most folks know and like Burt's Bees but noone had heard of the new Intense Hydration line.  We had a great time talking cosmetics & cleansers and as always I encouraged them to take their current face products and run them through Cosmetic to see if they are bad for your body or not.  Burt's always scores well.  I love that about them.

As the first few weeks wore on I did begin to use my old anti aging stuff interspersed with the Burt's Intense Hydration.  I do not think my skin is dry enough to need THIS MUCH help but as I hit my 40's I sure do need anti aging.  I am going to check out my Burt's Bees anti aging line and see how that works.  I feel really good using their products and avoiding both animal testing and nasty petro chemicals I wouldn't clean my kitchen counters with, let a lone my face.  Burt's Bees offers wonderful everything, and if you have dry flaky skin on your lovely face, be sure to check out this new product line for an affordable, thoughtful solution!

THANKS to Burt's Bees & Bzz Agent for giving me a fun try at a great product!  BUZZZZZZ!

Liportia and Polibby

Before you begin to wonder about my creative baby naming, let me reassure you I did not name my children Liportia and Polibby.  Nope.  But you wouldn't know that if you spent any time at my house.

Yep, my precious daughter Portia is rarely called such.  And that Libby?  I rarely get her name out either.

I know my girls. I am around them EVERY DAY.  One is about three feet tall, thirty pounds, a curly mop of brown hair.  The other is two feet tall, twenty pounds and pretty much bald.  (When we dress her in anything non pink and she looks like a boy, I call her Finn, the boy name I wanted.) So they do not look alike.  Yet I call each by the other's name.  A lot.

Am I just so busy?  Do they both just move so fast?  Is it that 8% of brain capacity we loose while pregnant?  (8% TOTAL, not PER DAY, Hubby John.  NOT per day. UGH)

Is it too much to ask them to wear nametags?  (On top of their heads where I am sure to see them as they blaze by.)

They keep me busy and these days it is hard to write.  I don't even really read email often.  When I get online I pretty much delete the un-urgent and read super urgent emails and skip anything not from  I am behind on things.  Like vacuuming.  Folding little clothes.  Washing diapers.

I miss writing but I know these two little busy girls are my priority and when I leave them to their own devices it gets TRICKY up in here!  Like PK today at my desk on our new cushy office chair.  I was blow drying my hair. She was dribbling honey on my desk papers (for Chicago Toy and Game Fair !). I'll admit I was impressed she got a spoon out to go with the squeeze bottle of Heather Valley Honey I foolishly left on our kitchen counter.  This is typical.  

So I do what I can, what has to happen.  I choose thankfulness and praise and chocolate to guide me through these crazy days.  I ask my girls to bear with me, forgive me, and occasionally leave me alone.  And sometimes I even call them by their proper names.  Whatever the heck they actually are.

I would just love to hear some of your cockamamie names you have called the kids, the pets, or otherwise.  

p.s. Did I mention the singles church retreat I mc'd where I introduced the two male leaders using only one of their last names?  Corey and Mark Waltz!  Yeah, names are tricky for me....YOU?  Tell em all about in the comments!

Cheat on Your Husband Book Cheaper than Lingerie & Better!

Hubs sent this to me when he was traveling for work! (Our first date was for coffee.)
Earlier this week I woke up at 5:00am in order to be productive.  I decided to get  up and write a little.  My husband also woke up at 5:00 am in order to "be productive" although he wasn't thinking of writing.  We were downstairs on the couch "drinking coffee" when our three year old daughter also decided to get up at 5:00am, for neither coffee nor writing and we were not delighted to see her cherubic face. At. All.  

You see, as married parents of two little people under the age of four years old,  it might have been awhile since we drank coffee together, and we might have been feeling irritable enough about it to just chug some down.  But not around our children. We turned on My Little Pony (at 5 o'clock in the morning!!!!) and went back upstairs to bed.  To drink our coffee.

So it's like that.  (If you are laughing it's because you drink the same coffee, I'm willing to bet.)

Marriage to even the best of mates ebbs and flows in its wonder and challenges.  I jumped at the chance (actually requested) this book Cheat on Your Husband(with Your Husband): How to date Your Husband  By Andrea Sytash to review it.  I have no desire to cheat on my husband, but as a formerly wanton woman in my younger days, I would like to recapture some of that and bring it along into my marriage.  Being a mother is so great and so draining at the same time.  Some days I go to bed at eight o'clock when the kids do because I cannot face the sink of dirty dishes, or the toys on the floor, or the thought of walking not only down the stairs, but back up them again. 

I already take time for myself.  I get out of the house and color my hair and buy myself little things here and there, but still.  It is hard to feel like a sexual woman when I've been whined at and cuddled and needed and yelling and taking deep breaths and cleaning the same messes up all day.  So.  This book.

I thought it would be full of sexy games or tips to basically be someone else...but truly it was more educational about how to be more of myself!  Andrea Sytash really filled Cheat on Your Husband(with Your Husband)  with different approaches for any woman to see herself in and apply to her marriage. She said,

     "Every day single women approach me for advice about how to keep the men they're dating intrigued and interested and how to stay interesting themselves.  I recently realized how few of us in long term relationships ask ourselves these questions..."

I know I try to remind myself to pay attention to my husband with the same engagement and zeal I did when we were dating.  I find him quite interesting so usually this is simple, but some days, if I have something I want to say or do I remind myself to stop and pay attention like we were dating.  I also know men like to pursue, so I try to offer him that too!

I know from watching other couples that another gem form the book 
"Your perspective influences you every day."  Is true.  She asks, 
     "What's one of the negative perspectives you have about your husband?...Is there a more positive perspective you can focus on?"  I swore from the beginning to only talk my husband 'up' to my friends.   I only share serious issues with one or two close friends.  I've witnessed wives complaining about their husbands so much that my only impression of the husband is negative...and after talking about them so badly, so often how could the wives feel  positive about them either?  It can be tricky, but I follow Sytash's advice and focus on something positive instead.  (Honestly, I did win a husband lottery...praying to God for my husband meant I got a MUCH better deal than I deserved.)  But.  He actually has a few flaws.  I am able to step back and be aware that they are tiny, they are not character flaws, and I focus on something better instead of getting weighed down in petty things. I believe this is part of why our marriage is so good.  Seriously.

In the chapter "This is not your Mother's Marriage" Sytash talks about all the varieties of challenge we as modern women may face in our marriages.   One topic that hit home for me was screen time. When I was single, I didn't even own a TV for over a year.  When I did, I certainly didn't eat in front of it.  Then when I got married, even though I adore my man and we have a strong marriage, I would honestly rather plop on the couch after the girls are in bed and stare at that screen, with John at the other end of the couch, of course.  And one of us will have the lap top out checking football scores, Facebook or Pinterest.  Quality Time?  Rest? UGH.

After reading this section, I proposed a tete a tete each night after the girls go to bed.  We would go sit away from the TV in the sunroom.  On the couch looking at each other for half an hour or something.  My Hubs was game, we tried it and it was WONDERFUL.  Embarrassingly wonderful to sit and LOOK at each other and have simple uninterrupted conversation.  We felt connected and THEN we did go watch TV together, but taking that time beforehand really made a difference.  It made me remember my friend Luanne and her husband Michael who had a fairly unbreakable 10:00 am coffee date on  their couch on weekend mornings.  I haven't talked to her in over a year, but I still remember that little thing they did to spark up their marriage. ( And no, I do not think they were "Drinking Coffee", either.) 

Later in the book Sytash offers some things to think about like finding that thing called BALANCE.  She encourages us to look at the "pie chart of our life" and consider what might be out of balance.  She asks good questions about our Career, Health, Significant Other, Money, Friends and Family, Personal Growth and Physical Environment.  I have know for A VERY LONG TIME the only person I can control is me, so I loved seeing this "Turn Me On" chapter.  I've often said we as women CAN NOT look to our men for our only validation.  We MUST give that to ourselves first.  Just this weekend on the way to a wedding I complained to my hubs he hadn't told me how gorgeous I was.  (I'd just colored my hair super flame red and rocking a beehive hairstyle, velvet jacket and tightish jeans.  I was darling.) My precious man replied, "Between getting the girls, all three of you, out of the car, packing the car getting myself ready and heading out, when have I had the chance???" He was right and I knew it.  UGH.  Good thing I'd already complimented myself!

The chapter of Cheat on Your Husband(with Your Husband) I actually read first was "Take a Time Out: Cheat on Your Kids" it was great at addressing the mama challenges I have already lamented and it also explained why date nights seem to be so elusive for parents.  I was inspired to take that tete a tete I mentioned earlier from her 15 Minutes a Day section in this chapter. Sytash reassures parents that kids like date night. She said that kids who witness a healthy, loving relationship with kissing and hugging(don't eat each others face off or anything, that is gross no matter who is watching) feel more secure in their daily lives and go on to have more satisfying marriages themselves.  

Sooo, date night?  Not too inspired?  Too much money to hire a sitter?  Swap childcare with another couple.  Take a day date or morning date and use a younger sitter than my might if they had to put your kiddos to bed.  Feel too guilty leaving a crying child?  I say picture yourself as a crying mama who needs to feel gorgeous and valuable and pursuable....just GO.  Your kids need a break from you even if you (and they) do not realize it.  GO. 

In the book Sytash offers several clever ideas for cheap or free dates.  She also gives ideas for date nights in, including making a romantic dinner together after the kids are in bed.   We  tried that too.  I put on world music, lit candles on the floor(no kids to mess with them!) and got carryout from fabulous Meditrina Cafe.  We sat on the floor,  ate with our fingers and talked. Experiencing such a  change in our daily life was quite novel.  Since we eat together as a family every night, any time it is just John and I we head to the couch.  Sitting on the couch to eat feels indulgent and wonderfully lazy, but we don't look at each other, we look at the TV and the sense of intimacy and romance is sooooo not there.  Now we try to eat at the table sometimes.  Or the floor.  Or the front porch.  Conversation is never a problem, and just taking that small pause to look at each other really increases our intimacy outside of the boudoir....which usually gets us closer to it!  

Speaking of the boudoir, when you read the book Cheat on Your Husband (with Your Husband) by Andrea Sytash some of the most interesting chapters are towards the  back. You will learn what a GFE is and why men (and probably women) would pay money for it.  You can learn how to be more grateful in your realtionship.  You can learn about King/Queen for a Day and how that could work for you.  You will see the small stuff you WILL want to sweat, and what you shouldn't worry about.  You might decide to take a Me-Cation. (LOVE!)  There are tips for handling a crush you might have and so much more.  

Andrea Sytash is a dating and relationship expert , on air personality and advice columnist. She has contributed to over a dozen relationship advice books and has appeared in NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, USA Today and others. Tweet Andrea or check out her website here.   Cheat on Your Husband (with Your Husband) by Andrea Sytash is a solid, entertaining, educational and worthwhile read for every married couple's library.  Pour a good cup of hot coffee and turn some pages. Take time for yourself and take time together as a couple.  You might develop an even better and more satisfying marriage than you already have.  (THANKS Andrea!!!)

My tickled coffee drinking thanks to Rodale Publishers and author Andrea Sytash for sending me a free copy of this book for review.  I was THRILLED with it.  You will be too. Buy it here, it is cheaper than a new top and more effective than lingerie!

Also, found a fantastic interview with Andrea Sytash on the website HITCHED, read that here.

Two Rules for Centerpieces

My simple Fall Decor
I love a well decorated home.  Mine however, is not one of them.  For starters, we just do not spend our money on much, especially amazing decorative things. For finishers...ummm...I really do not know how.  Our 1920's Craftsman home is beautiful with its woodwork, vintage windows, built-ins and hardwood floors.  The wall colors painted two owners ago work wonderfully with our furniture and our tastes: BONUS.  As it is a small house, we do not have a lot of space to add things, yet I long for a more 'finished' feel.  For cheap.  Without looking cheap or fresh out of a boxed set.
Trisha's Table Display
When I was single my style was typical "Wild Woman Eclectic" AKA  Shabby Chic: Anything I loved and could afford plus an old place with hardwood floors.  When I got married and moved into my hubby's nicer newer modern style home with wall to wall stuff didn't look chic, it looked shabby.  So the difficulties began.  

Now we are back to a vintage home and hardwood floors, but we live in an area where lots of folks have moolah.  Big houses, new cars...while we chose to downsize our house to save a bunch each month for our future and avoid credit debt.  My "new" car is eight years old and we JUST bought it a month ago, LOL! But I walk into other people's homes (or the Target decorating aisle!) and I swoon a little.  (And I might bring a REALLY big purse to start swiping borrowing decorative items for a bit.)  Sometimes the homeowners are just as thrifty as I am and collect over time;  sometimes they buy sets of beautiful things all at once.  I envy their taste, their budget, their savvy.  Envy isn't pretty, either.  

My things start looking dull and unworthy.  I hate feeling the desire for unnecessary things in my life creep up with such passion.  I don't get a lot of catalogues because it fuels my wanting.  I don't window shop often because it makes me want to just buy the things we want NOW instead of thinking about how we want to live and what shopping for fun really costs.  It is a struggle for me, one that I am glad to entertain because at least I am more fully engaged in my purchases.

As I sat admiring my simple centerpiece for Halloween, I realized I kind of know what I am doing with decorating, as far as simple, non crafty and cheap centerpieces go.  If your current centerpiece is more likely to be a pile of unread magazines or a kid's toy than something pretty, here are some stylish ways to bring joy to your heart without paying a lot for it.
See how lonely this looks, floating?
Ditto this trio, needs an ANCHOR!

There are two simple rules I discovered when doing a centerpiece.  First, have a single focus point of one item or several items in an odd number (3,5,7).  

Second, have an them on something to root them in the space.  This makes it look more "finished" than just setting something down on a table. (For you fashionistas, this is like your pants, shirt and jacket.  If you want to add "jewelry" or other accessories, you certainly can but I cannot advise you there, Babe!)  These two simple rules can make almost anything work as a centerpiece.  I would LOVE to hear your thougths and see your before & after pictures.

Maybe too busy, but colorful & fun! 
The lantern and placemat were each $2.50 at Target
Not the best anchor, but better.

If you want to add an extra element, knock yourself out, but these two things simplify the whole process and I realize I have been doing this for a while now.  When I want a centerpiece...or to decorate our dining table.  Here are some fun things my friend Trisha did in her house....note how she has the anchor and the focal point too?
Trisha's Pinterest Table Runner as Anchor!

DECORATING WITH SMALL KIDS:  Centerpiece + tablecloth = STUPIDITY  
Have you ever seen the magician pull a table cloth out from underneath a table setting?  If your child is under the age of 46 it is unlikely they will be so slick.  Make your centerpeice child proof and use a placemat or smaller item to root the display.  Remember that anything you find visually interesting, kids will also find visually interesting.  And they often have peanut butter on their fingers, knowhatImean?

A little busier?  Good?
I would love to see your centerpieces, or hear your other easy peasy decorating rules.  Or disasters....I like to hear about the disasters too!