Friday, April 1, 2016

Playlists that Everyone Will Love

Weird Confession: When I was a music teacher, I didn't listen to music in my car.

Odd, right? I spent my days encouraging students to expand their musical horizons, make music part of their daily life, and share what they loved. Then, at the end of a long day, I'd get in my car, plug in my iPod, and listen to...

...anything but music. I was a big fan of podcasts. I was (and still am) a huge fan of Lost, and I'd spend my forty-five minute commute listening to grown-ups talk about the physics of time travel and the symbolism of the literature and all the details, and I'd let the sound of adult conversation wash over me. It was interesting, it was relaxing, and it made me feel like such a fraud. If the music teacher doesn't listen to music, how can she encourage anyone else to?

Of course, now that I'm not saturated in folk and classical and children's music all day, I do love listening to music in the car. But most of the time, I'm not alone. My kids are with me, and that means I need to make sure that what we listen to is something we all love.

My girls swept through the Raffi stage pretty quickly, and once Madison got her first taste of Kidz Bop, she was hooked. The girl loves to dance, and she can car dance with the best of them. We just got the chance to try their newest release, and both girls love it.

But sometimes I'm tired of Kidz Bop, I'm not feeling the radio with all the commercials and moments of inappropriateness, and I just want something different. Something they'll like, something I'll like, and something different we can all enjoy. I went scouting recently and made a new playlist of artists, albums and songs we all really get into. Check it out here!




Monday, March 28, 2016

Best Place for the Deep Conversations

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine with older kids was telling us that she realized her daughter had read those "growing up and liking it" books she'd subtly left around. They hadn't had "the talk" yet, and the mom was kind of dreading it, so she figured she'd just leave a few books around to see what the interest was.

Turns out the interest was there, and her daughter brought it up in the car from school to her afternoon activity. It's not my story to share, so I won't share details, but tough questions were asked.

As this particular mom recounted her story, we all cringed along with her as she told us the questions her daughter had asked and how she had answered them. Those of us not yet there thanked our lucky stars that we weren't there yet, and those who were past the first awkward conversation congratulated her on the successful initiation to the club. And we all suggested wine.

Then the location of the "talk" came up, and that was intriguing to me. While some moms said that they would have driven off the road, and others said they would have shut it down until a better time, I admitted that I sort of loved the venue for this awkward conversation. I really did. Think about it.

No one can run away from the topic. You can't just get out.

Eye contact isn't a possibility (prolonged eye contact, at least), so the discomfort is lessened.

You have a finite period of time.

I mean, for an awkward conversation, it's sort of perfect.

Now I'm not suggesting that this mom confine all her uncomfortable conversations to the car, but honestly, it seems like a win in this case. The ice has been broken, the conversation has been started, and it's been started in a way that let both mom and daughter have a bit of detachment from the cliche of the official face to face.

And it got me thinking about how I can better use my car time. In a way, I already do this. But I know that I can use our ample car time for good conversation to flow. I started coming up with starters that will really help us connect, and I know I'll be using them.

And I'm still thanking my lucky stars that we're not there yet.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Car Scratches? There's a Fix for That!

There are a few places I dread going these days.

One is the dentist.I promise you that I take care of my teeth. But I walk in for a cleaning, and I find out I have cavities. I walk in for a filling, and learn I need a crown. I go in for the crown, and I need another filling. By the time that's over, I'm scheduling my next cleaning and we're starting all over. I've never had great teeth (a combination of genes and a bad dentist during my teenage years) and I've never had the experience of going in for a cleaning and leaving with nothing more than clean teeth and a six month reminder card. It's always something. It's time consuming and expensive and incredibly annoying.

Another is the repair shop. My car is getting old. I go in for an oil change, and I find out that I need a few filter, or a leak fixed, or a battery, or shocks, or something. Time consuming. Expensive. Annoying.

Now I can deal with both of those. If I want to continue to have teeth, I need to go to the dentist, no matter how much I may hate it. And if I want my car to continue to drive, I need to make sure all the important mechanical parts are working. These are no brainers.

However, I was at the car wash the other day, and one of the guys there was clearly angling to make my list. In addition to the regular wash, this place runs a detailing service. As he was spraying my car down, he observed to me that my doors are full of small scratches. If I got my car detailed, they could fix those right up!

No thank you, car wash man. I'm not letting you join the list. My dark paint shows every little shopping cart bump and key rub, and I'm not paying buckets of money to get my car detailed, and then hear that my windshield needs fixing, and then that I should deep clean my upholstery, and then by the time we're finished my door are scratched again. Not worth it.

So, like I do, I started looking for DIY fixes, because now that he'd pointed them out, these marks were really bothering me. And not only did I find one, it really worked!

Now I just need to find one for teeth...


Friday, March 25, 2016

One Step (or Kick) Ahead

Every time I think I've got a good handle on my housekeeping, the girls throw another curveball at me.

We get a handle on toy pick up, and they start spending the afternoon with the craft stuff, which is an entirely new set of rules.

We get a handle on our daily routine, and then the schedule changes.

Most recently, I've been really working on keeping the car in decent shape. I'm really itching for a new car, and one of the ways I'm measuring whether or not I'm ready for it is how clean we can keep the backseat. I've written about how we're trying to make that happen. I've deep cleaned the car seats, I've washed the floor mats, I've tried to come up with systems for trash and toys. I built car clean up into my regular schedule.

Then, as I was vacuuming out the crumbs at the car wash the other day, I noticed a neglected area: the backs of the front seats.

I suppose I never really thought about these too much. But now the girls both have legs long enough to rest their feet (though they have been conditioned not to kick!) and just climbing in and out of the car leaves dirt and grime. It took a lot of scrubbing to get these looking decent again, and I'm not excited to repeat that. So, like I do, I started searching for ways to prevent the mess from happening again.



I love Amazon. I'll have no idea that something exists, and when I go to search for it, I find crazy amounts of options. With organizer or without? Plastic, or leather? Washable? I love it. 

In lots of ways, my current car is a lost cause. It was a family car for too long. But now it's the trial space, where I learn exactly what I'm going to do to make my new car the best it can be, no matter what the girls throw at me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Top Five Easter Gifts

Is it me, or is Easter sneaking up on us again?

Easter is my holiday to host, and every year, it feels like we jump right from the end of February into Easter, and I'm never as ready as I think I should be. I'm still putting away boots and scarves, while my mother and mother-in-law are asking what they can bring to a meal that has barely made it on my radar. I feel like I should have plenty of time...and then I'm scrambling last minute to clean the house, plan the menu, grocery shop, get the dining room switched from homeschool central to, you know, a dining room, get Easter dresses and shoes and cardigans squared away, and, most importantly to my kids, get the Easter baskets ready to go.

When I was a kid, Easter baskets were candy. Just candy. Actually, now that I think of it, they usually included some sort of stuffed bunny that we brought to church with us, and maybe an Easter book. But the majority of our basket was jelly beans, chocolate eggs, a big chocolate rabbit that we'd nibble on gradually, Peeps, and, if we were lucky, Cadbury Creme Eggs.

Now it seems that Easter baskets are basically Christmas stockings. Candy might be included, but it seems like stores want candy to be the garnish on a basket full of toys. Not just a stuffed animal, but toys.

I'm not a big fan of this one. My girls have plenty of toys around the house. It feels like the Christmas toys are still new. The girls have just finished spending their Christmas gift cards. Reagan has just had a birthday, which is another influx. I don't want to stuff the Easter baskets full of toys.

But...there is something to be said for cutting down the candy. There has to be a balance somewhere, and I think I've found it. Here are my TOP FIVE EASTER GIFTS to balance the tradition of candy, the minimalist toy strategy, a budget that seems logical, and a fun morning before a long church service.



***Our baskets aren't big, so we do a selection of these, and because my girls can get competitive, I have to make sure that the baskets are balanced. Make sure you work within your own budget and comfort level.***

5. OUTDOOR TOYS

Sidewalk chalk, sand toys, pool toys, jump ropes, anything that says "get outside and play!"

4. SUMMER PREP

We spend our summers at the pool. The girls are also learning golf and tennis. Our Easter baskets include some of those things that I need to buy anyway. Bathing suits, goggles, water shoes, golf balls, tennis outfits, flip flops, and maybe even a towel.

3. BLIND BAGS

My girls are still obsessed with these things. The novelty has not worn off, the desire has not faded, and if anything, they are better at knowing what they want and which bags are the most sought after. They still work hard for their weekly surprise, but a holiday bonus of their favorite currency is pretty great. My favorite for Easter is the Glitzy Globe, because there's an element of crafting, and, of course, they come in an egg!



2. ARTS AND CRAFTS

Speaking of crafty gifts, something that will keep them occupied during church or a long family afternoon is a win-win addition. Crafts stores, grocery stores, and big box stores all seem to carry little craft sets with foam eggs to decorate, scratch art, sticker and coloring packs, pretty much for every ability level and interest. We bring a small coloring book (with new crayons!) to church, and save the bigger projects for home when we're waiting on Easter dinner.

1. BOOKS

The girls know that books are my weakness. We own more books than I can count, yet I'm always willing to add to our collection if it bolsters their love of reading and stories.

What? No candy????

Just because it didn't make our top five doesn't mean that we don't do candy. I love candy, and you can't steal what isn't in your house to begin with. So yeah, there's candy. And I usually suspend any and all "candy rules" the day OF the holiday, before packing it up to dole out slowly.

If you're itching to let your kids try some new toys, but you don't want to turn Easter into a gift giving occasion, or you are already feeling overwhelmed, Pley is a great company to check out. For one low monthly price, you can rent a toy, play with it until the interest fades, then send it back and get a new one. It's great for pricey building kits, like Lego and Playmobile, but they have options for every age and interest. 

What do you put in your Easter baskets?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

Last week I really wanted to cry over spilled milk.

Actually I went through plenty of emotions. I wanted to cry, I wanted to yell, I wanted to throw things, I wanted to just give up the thought of ever having nice things.

Recently, Madison has gotten into a habit of trying to cover up her mistakes. I'm not sure where this perfectionist streak came from, but it's a phase we're trying to rush her through. We can solve a problem when it happens, or I can discover a five year old's attempt to hide a problem later, when it's had time to really marinate and grow.

Let me be more specific. Last week, Madison took her leftover milk from lunch into the car. We'd been to Panera, and Madison had a Horizon milk box. She didn't finish, so she brought it into the car and put in in her cupholder. I knew this. I was fine with this. We went on with our day and multiple ins and outs of the car, and I can honestly say that I didn't give the milk a second thought.

The next day I realized that the majority of her school stuff was missing. I remembered that we'd put it in her backpack, and that her backpack was still in the car. When I went out to get it, I was greeted with a very...unpleasant odor. A jacket had been arranged over the backpack, but it was clearly there. I picked up her backpack and saw that it, along with the floor under her seat, was soaked with milk.

Apparently, when she was climbing into her seat, she'd knocked the milk onto the floor. Rather than tell me, she threw her coat over the mess and kept her mouth shut. I'm not sure what her plan was for to do when we needed her backpack again, but whatever was in her head, her secret was discovered, her books were wet and sticky, and the car smelled like sour milk.

So now we had a threefold problem.

First, address the cover up. (We did. She's getting better, but it's a work in progress).

Second, clean up the bag. (Mostly done. We washed the backpack and salvaged the books, although some are still a little mangled and sticky).

Third, deodorize the car.

This last one is tricky. Fortunately, I had experience with this from previous stinky situations and I knew that a basic clean up and a vent clip weren't going to cut it. I gathered up some tips, and managed to get my car back to its normal state within a day.

These tips definitely keep me from losing my mind when confronted with spills. Because I can't get too mad at Madison when I know I've had to spend time cleaning up spilled coffee...with milk.


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