Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Why We Move

Having moved away from my good friends and strong social network, I frequently find myself wallowing in self pity. Poor me, no good friends that I can visit at the drop of a hat. No one to discuss books we've read over Indian food and a glass of wine. No one around that really knows me with the exception of my kids and husband. When I'm stuck in the moment of self pity, there is no saving me. I just want to pick up and move back to Cincinnati so I can spend Friday night out with my girl friends rather than then endless nights and weekends spent without socializing.

Today I got a wake up call from Craigslist. I posted an ad on Craigslist to get rid of the last of our moving boxes. What a better way to recycle than to have them reused. The first person to respond to my ad said she could be here in a about 15 minutes, she was coming from the next town over. As with all of the people that come to get the boxes, and we have had many, I always am excited to hear where they are moving to, mainly to make small talk, and mainly too because I don't have any other adults to chat with throughout the day. I remember six months ago meeting a couple that I could have seen hanging out with on the weekends. They were excited to be leaving the NYC area to start a new life teaching in North Carolina. They had had enough of the long commute, especially with a new young baby. They told me about what papers to read, what websites have great lists for what is going on in town and what to avoid. They were also very grateful to have the free boxes. I met other people along the way who were only there to pick up boxes and didn't want to even say "hi" or "thank you". They just wanted to get on with their move without having to chat to someone excited for a harm body at her doorstep.

The woman that showed up today was different than all of the rest. She came in her old two door sports car that had certainly seen better days. It was a car clearly on the end of it's final miles but had been at the height of car fashion in a prior decade or two. So when she came, the dogs immediately started going crazy over a visitor, so I yelled that I would meet her at the garage. Upon properly greeting her, I apologized for the manners of the barky beagle. She only replied, "I would love a dog someday, but I can't have one". Figuring allergies or a stuffy building that didn't allow pets, I left it at that.

"So, where are you moving to?", I said in an overly excited voice as if all moves are always exciting and happy occasions.

"Well, the boxes are going into storage with all of my stuff, but I promise to recycle them when I'm done. I will post them back on Craigslist", she quickly said to me as if I was the recycle police to the world beyond my house. She ended the conversation since she knew I was going to ask again if she didn't offer it up, "I'm moving into a shelter for awhile".

I didn't know what to say, so I just wished her the best on her move.

As we loaded her small car with the boxes. She was embarrased over her messy car and appologized, which was nothing compared to my minivan with litter constantly falling from the doors on windy days. I commented on how much space she had with the hatchback and reclining seats. She said there was a lot more room with the car seat gone. "Luckily my son was sleeping so I could leave him there". It look me awhile to realize that she most likely left her sleeping son at home alone while she went to get the boxes. Obviously she wouldn't have been able to leave him if he was awake, so she did luck out.

Hopefully her car made it back without breaking down, or before her son woke up. What more can I say, she is moving without a choice. She isn't moving to better her life, to have an adventure or to be closer to family. She was moving for the simple need of shelter.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Our First Fall Nature Hike

We don't hike like we used to. I remember constantly loading the kids into backpacks as we hiked for hours in the parks of Ohio. Now that we are surrounded by endless parks, beautiful landscape, and unforgettable scenery we seldom make it out for nature hikes. Sure, we are busier now with unpacking a new house and having a puppy, but really it's just finding the motivation to get everyone out and dressed properly for time outside.

Sunday I finally found the motivation. I got the girls excited about a nature hike with the dogs, and it was warm enough I didn't have to obsess over hats and mittens. The youngest even went hiking with fancy shoes and a dress, like I said, the battle was just getting out the door.

The leaves on the trees were colors that really can't be duplicated. It's hard to believe such a bright red is really found in nature, but it exists in the North East, really it does. The hike was invigorating. Everyone was so happy to be outside, the rocks sparkled and the girls were convinced all of the boulders must hold crystals since everything was sparkling. A fellow hiker we met at the start of the trail told us of a great lake for dogs to swim in, so the girls couldn't wait to find it to see if our new lab could swim.

After hiking for an hour, we didn't find the lake, and I wasn't finding the trail to be a circle as the map had promised. My mind started to panic. I had this vision of my cold wet girls huddled in a corner of the forest as my husband cleaned the warm basement at home without a care in the world. He doesn't worry like I do, so I pictured the end of daylight savings time bringing a 3:00 darkness where we would never find our way out of the forest. Certainly he wouldn't start looking for us until long after dinner, assuming we stopped to get a meal without him, while we were out and about. Again, he doesn't worry, so there is no way he is going to look for us. I worry, so my mind was starting to bring wild animals to our remote location.

To my hiking wonders' disappointment, including my own, we turned around after hiking for an hour and went back the exact way we came. Panic mode required that I review the photos I took to compare where we had been to give me the confidence that I did know where we were. I didn't let the girls know I was worried about getting home before famine and hypothermia took over (not really that worried about either, but I did want to be home before bedtime).

What I learned:

1. Study the map if you have never been to the place before and take it seriously.
2. Take a photo of the map so you can reference it when you want to turn around or keep heading forward, either way, it's good to have a copy of the map.
3. Bring a cellphone if it's really not too remote. This place was bigger than I thought, but certainly having the cellphone would have given me the false confidence I needed to keep going.

The kids had a great time since I didn't let on that I was needlessly paniked. No need to make them fear new trails!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why Can't She Walk to School?

When we lived in Cincinnati my kids walked to school everyday. Of course I walked with them since I had a first grader who was afraid of a hedge apple rolling down the city streets. My oldest daughter is rather timid so I couldn't accept the fact that I knew even at the end of first grade she might not be ready to go it alone. Once my then preschooler started kindergarten, I knew they would have what it takes to walk to school together as a team. She has enough confidence for us all. I knew I would face unbearable judgement from the woman across the street who walked her 6th grader to school everyday, or for that matter, all of the parents that walked their kids to school or drove them hastily to school. I liked the fresh air and better yet, I liked that we got exercise in even the worst rain or cold temperatures.

I had visions. I dreamed of the stories my girls would come home to tell me about as they walked together without my influence or protection. I pictured tattling going something like this, "she crossed the street while the crossing guard was still in her car smoking". Or something to that extent- no, our crossing guard didn't smoke, but she did wish us a "blessed day" up until the last when I told her we were moving. Walking together I thought they would be able to conquer the world problems together as they got older, maybe not the world problems, but the playground issues they were dealing with or what ever it may be.

So when I read the article in the NYtimes entitled: Why Can't She Walk to School? I got so nestalgic for the town we left behind. No we didn't live in the suburbs like the article depicts, we lived in the city proper. Crime, sure there was lots of it, but I really believe everyone has their fears in life. I don't believe my children will be abducted the statistics are too low, they won't be bitten by a bat (really this is a true fear of one of my dear friends) but let me give you the twenty hour quiz if you want to drive my children in a car in the backroads of our new rural home. We all have our fears in life, can't one of them be to let our children find their way to school, get some exercise and see that the world is not out to kidnap or rape them?

But do I need to mention that my kids now take the bus? When they asked if I could drive them, the answer was a quick, "no, it's better for the environment to ride together". I drive everywhere now as one does in the country but I certainly miss the days of walking to school and really seeing what was going on in the neighborhood not to mention saying hello to other families and getting to know the kids on the walking bus. Even living in the rural suburbs of NYC, we aren't outside as much as we were living in the city. We don't have an automatic walk built into our day like we once did. We simply walk to the end of our driveway and the bus picks up every child at his or her driveway. Simple.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Babies in Our Tummies

I know better. I have read everywhere that you should refer to being pregnant as having a baby in your uterus. Not sure why, but I do remember reading about it and thinking it all makes perfectly good sense- they aren't in our stomachs food goes there, so don't teach an incorrect fact.

This morning Penelope and I were having a snack of yogurt (she calls it Ogurt, much like Shrek food) at the dining room table and we were chatting about various things like the Halloween decorations we put up last night and the funny berries in the Yogurt, when she asked if she could go back into my tummy where she came from. She was ready to return. I gave her the sad news that she doesn't get to go back, it's a one time free ride. "But I really liked it in there". Okay freaky if she really remembers it. But all the same, I said "no".

So how did I get there?

Rather than getting into a long explanation about the facts of life at three, I stated that she was pretty much like a seed growing there. She started out so small, then grew big enough to come out. But how did I get a seed in there? Did they cut you up to put my seed in there? Can we cut you up so I can get back in?

All valid questions how could I argue with such logic?

They did cut me up to just a little to get you out since you were stuck, but that isn't normal.

So if they can cut you up to get me out, can't they cut you again to get me back in there, I really want to be back in your tummy.

Realizing we aren't getting anywhere, I try to finish it up by saying it's just not an option again, you only get one chance to ride inside of me. Starting to lose interest too she finishes up with, "So it must be just magic I guess. It must be the tooth fairy putting the seed inside you. I just love the magic tooth fairy."

Me too, sweet girl, me too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Get Back to Nature- Get Outside

When moving to NY, we spent a few weeks trying to find where outside the city to live. It was pretty easy to fall in love with Westchester county. We loved all of the trees and parks at our finger tips. For a family that spends so much time outside, it seemed like a smart choice for us.

The town of Bedford offers a class through the Recreation and Parks Department called the Wonders of the wild. The class is for parents and children to get together and spend time in nature at various regional parks. Being new to the area it seemed to make sense, I might meet other parents that enjoy being in nature with their little ones, and I might find a new park or two. The class starts next week, I'll keep you posted.

On the weekends, I found myself Googling parks and trails where we could take the kids and dog. As I was driving around I would keep my eyes open for trails I hadn't found yet. I thought I had found everything within 15 miles of our house, until I discovered this map and website. There are hiking trails only minutes from our house! How long might it have taken me to find it without this fabulous map?

Also included in the website is a great printable book on things to do in nature. I'm not certain I'll print in, but without a doubt, we will use it for suggestions before heading out when we need a little motivation.

The time U.S. children spend outdoors has declined 50% in the past 20 years, according to the Ad Council. The Forest Service is hoping to change this startling statistic through a PSA campaign entitled “Where the Other You Lives.” I can't wait for my older two to get home from school to show them this website and let them help me pick out what to do on our nature hike.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

How to Exercise Without Knowing It

I know this isn't a weight loss blog, but I couldn't help but want to share this smart article. I come from very thin people, both of whom follow all of these practices. It certainly is more fun to work in the yard than go to the gym... not sure if it's more fun than yoga with friends, but it's a start.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cozi Central

I'm in the middle of yet another move and I always seem to take the time to focus on tasks that I should have done long ago. I'm taking a break from cleaning and packing to get organized through Cozi.com. Our family has been using Cozi for a year now and I keep finding new things that I love about the site. It's an online calendar and organizational too which hooks up to my husband's work calendar so he always knows what's going on at home too. One of my favorite features is the list section. I'm a list maker, but I usually make a million on little scraps, so I can never find them when needed. So now I make them store specific in Cozi. I have one for Trader Joe's, Target and one for Stop & Shop. Now when I'm making a list, it suggests things that I bought there in the past, for example, peanut butter from Trader Joe's and coffee, staples but often forgotten. Need I mention that I took a break from packing to do a "To Do" list and found my last moving "To Do" list that I used 6 months ago. Most of the chores were the same, so I added a few new to the list and deleted old.

I spent a little too much time in the getting organized for school section this morning. I'm forever trying to figure out how to keep everything straight, now you can download your school calendar right into your family calendar.

Okay, I really can't say enough great things about this site. Give it a try, it could change your life. I will say I do miss the old feature where the calendar didn't need an internet connection to access it, but I understand the need for advertising on the site, so I will put up with the slightly slower calendar access for the great services Cozi offers.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Now I Remember Again Why I Don't Work

It's been a while since I thought about the days of picking up my first born daughter at daycare to have the teacher tell me she rode in a swing for the first time, or sat up by herself. I recall asking the teacher if she could hold off on the stories so I could think I was there for all of her "firsts". I lived in fear of picking her up to the words we all long to hear, "she took her first steps today".

My kids have been fighting endlessly for what seems like weeks. I'm certain it can't be all of the time, but it really feels like it. A day without rain, we went to the pool today which usually last for about an hour when someone starts to cry or fight, then we head home because I dream of nap time where they all sleep or play quietly in their rooms and I have a few moments of peace.

I have been holding my middle daughter's mid section for the last few weeks, knowing she was getting really close to swimming, then she took off today. I wouldn't trade the excitement for a trip to the moon. I can't replicate with words the excitement the four of us felt as she turned around to announce she had done it! I actually felt sorry for my husband missing it while he is working, when for the last few weeks I've been so envious of his departure out of our house in the mornings, prompting a need to find full time work again. So with the simple act of swimming, I'm back to loving being a stay at home mom again. Thank you Audrey for learning to swim when I needed it the most!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Nu Toy Store

As I mentioned in my previous post, my trip to the library brought many gifts. My love of free local publications prompted me to pick up a copy of Westchester Family Magazine. Living in Westchester county, I thought certainly it would give me some suggestions of things to do this summer. To my amazement, they created a list of places I need to visit with the kids this summer. Some are free, some require a bit of cash, but here is a recap of our first stop on the list.

A Nu Toy Store in Tarrytown, NY. 36 Main Street Tarrytown NY. I'm not a fan of toy stores, mainly due to the consumerism involved, not to mention the overload of Hannah Montana and Dora. The ad stated that they buy used and new toys- sounds like a brilliant business to be in in a slumped economy, not to mention a environmentally focused store- the ultimate in recycling. I couldn't wait to check out the business model of this smart mom. I called ahead for advice on what we could bring to trade, stuffed animals were out, which is standard everywhere, so I had the kids go through their stuff to try to part with some of their treasures. I warned them that most likely we will have to pool all of the cash we get back to select one toy to share. I know from past experience, just because you spent $100 dollars on something when new, it's most likely worth a whole lot less.

We had luck with the stuff we brought in, but I have to admit, I spent a whole lot more. I was in love with the store! They carry mainly Melissa and Doug toys, and really, almost everything in the store was high quality and merchandised well. I bought a few birthday gifts for my nephew and a great chore chart for the kids. Really, it's sad how hard I work to get them to do anything around the house. I thought this might make it fun.

Their website mentions Family Game Night is back by popular demand! Friday July 24th. For $25 your family can pick a game, play the game, have dinner (pizza or hot dogs)and take the game home at the end of the night. Meet some great families and spend some quality time with your own!!

The store had a large selection of games not found in the typical toy store, Target or Wal-mart.It's a great independently owned business. If you live in the area, it's certainly worth the drive. Even if you don't live in the area, it's worth a trip to the store just to see what's on the shelves.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

It's been five months since we moved to NY, and I'm just now finding the time to visit our local library- it was a weekly stop for us in Cincinnati so I'm really not sure why we delayed our first visit here. We went to get a library card, a few books, some time in air-conditioning and to join the summer reading club. Our trip ended up being the perfect way to start the summer.

Joining the summer reading club was all the inspiration that my girls needed to kick the TV habit and start the summer with reading. I hate to admit, but since we moved to NY, I've eliminated all rules that controlled the amount of time the kids spent zoning out in front of the television. Our move seemed to be the perfect excuse to lighten up on the rules in so many ways. But all is good now, the girls seem to remember the days when we surrounded ourselves with books, and they immediately went back to reading endlessly or listening to me read stories. The best news is that my daughter going into second grade can now read at a pace fast enough to keep the younger kids interested.

Every year for the last three we joined the Cincinnati Public Library's summer reading club. The prizes were what I thought motivated my children. After reading a set number of books they were allowed to select a small plastic toy from a box behind the desk. After reading a higher amount, they got to select a book from the back room to take home for their shelves. If they completed the entire sheet, their names were entered into the library drawing for a free bike. Good news, one year we actually won the bike. My oldest is just now able to ride the three year old bike since it was designed for older kids and looked HUGE at the time.

Funny thing, I thought I knew my kids. When I saw that the prizes in the NY library were getting to hang your name on a wall for reading the first level I thought to myself, "this isn't going to work since we are used to REAL prizes". The librarian continued explaining that the second prize was a coloring page, the third level was stickers....and they continued to be about the same level of medicore prizes. To my amazement, that was all the girls seemed to need. It was enough to get them excited to mark off the sheet of what they read. I guess it's impossible to truly understand what motivates your kids from one day to the next.

We are proud to say, it's now day three of TV free days, they are continuing to read and I'm keeping motivated to not fall back on the television everytime a fight breaks out. Hopefully I will report back as the number increases.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Playing School

Today is the last day of school for my oldest daughter and I've been trying to think of creative ways to continue the learning for her and my soon to be kindergartner. In the past, for my oldest daughter, doing her summer math book or reading list has been as fun as taking out the trash. Today I tried to make it fun using my two younger girls for practice. I brought up the seldom used chalk board from the basement and said we were going to play school this morning. I went through the workbooks we have collected over the years and was able to drum up assignments for both my three and five year old children. Of course I had to change some of the assignments around for my three year old since she wasn't able to draw a triangle, so instead I drew it and she was assigned to color it in. I interrupted the learning with coloring pages and of course the highly anticipated snack.

I can't believe I never thought before to call it "playing school". I remember as a kid spending hours with my sisters teaching or sitting quietly at my desk, or was it causing trouble that I would never really get to do at real school? It was my sales technique that kept everyone interested, it's school, not doing work- and it's yet another way that I can "play with my kids" without having to play dolls or Polly Pockets. Playing with my kids, I'm going to get better at it, it's just taking some time to remember that I can lead the activity in the direction I want to play. I can only take so many games of Trouble before I fall apart.

P.S. That is self applied blue eyeshadow on her face, I haven't started beating my children.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Endless Battle Against Junk Food in Schools

I have often been mocked and ridiculed over my lack of junk food offering to my children. Never do I bake without tossing in wheat germ or whole wheat flour, and trust me, I seldom bake. We don't keep chips, candy or other junk around the house. When my children are offered sugar drinks and unaltered juice, they drink as if they just trekked across the Mojave dunes.

Once in kindergarten I started to let go of the reins. I looked the other way when my daughter's fabulous teacher would pour cheese puffs and cookies onto their snack napkins. I pretended not to judge the quality of food our monthly fees were going to in support of the horrible nutrition that was most often served before lunch, leaving my daughter's lunch intact when she arrived home. I discussed with friends what our options should be. Should we just let it go and know we are doing the best job teaching healthy choices at home or should we demand that our children eat the healthy snack we packed from home? Should we offer to do the monthly snack shopping for our teacher, and volunteer our time to chop apples and celery sticks? Should we take action for the whole school to change how the all of the children are eating?

I chose the first option while my friends experimented with the other two. In the end, I think we all learned to let go a little the longer they were in school. With that said, I'm all the more shocked to read this article in the NY times about a mom that just can't seem to lose a bit of control over the food that goes into her kids mouths. If there are twenty children in a class, isn't it fine to have your kids eat 20 cupcakes a year? Will a sugary Popsicle really change their outlook on life and no longer eat the 100% juice watered down Popsicles offered at home? Certainly not the case around here, my kids are still happy to chew on 100% water ice cubes, given the chance.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Baby Shower Gift Idea

It's been a few years since I've needed to buy a gift for a baby shower, but my daughter recently got an invitation to a baby shower at school for her teacher. What a better gift than these adorable "Organically Grown Baby" products currently at Sears. 100% certified super soft organic cotton on a padded hanger $12-38.00. Makes a fabulous shower or new baby gift. (The shirt reads, "Plant a Tree Watch it Grow")

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Great Way to Meet Neighbors

For my readers that don't know, our family of five moved from the city of Cincinnati, OH to the bustling city of White Plains, NY. It's been a move with plenty of ups and downs, with the biggest down being our lack of friends and family.

We moved in February, if that doesn't say enough about not getting to meet neighbors. It was snowing endlessly while our moving van was being unloaded. Kids and adults were already bored of the snow, so going outside sledding in neighborhood we still weren't able to meet anyone- no one was to be seen in this complex of 165 houses. We have a community playground, and the winter time crowd there was limited to just our family. Once the pool opens for the summer, I'm certain to be sharing lunch with fellow mom and kid combo's, but summer seems just too far away in New York.

As the weather in New York started to warm, snow was melting all around us, but the neighbors weren't rushing over with welcoming cakes and pies. We were lucky if people on our tiny court would lift their hands to wave a simple, "hey, welcome to the street" or a non-committal, "hello". So gloom started to settle in our normally chipper household.

Looking forward to summer, I thought I better get onto the task of finding a kennel for our lone dog. I placed a call to the first one Google found in the 10603 area code. I made the reservation, and due to my lack of friends and social connections in the area, I started chatting to the woman on the other end of the line. I mentioned that we would be getting a dog soon since we had to put one down over the last few months. Well, one thing certainly lead to another, and I committed to fostering three of the cutest puppies in the White Plains area.

The best thing about fostering puppies is that we have really gotten to know the neighbors as we head out with these cute dogs on leashes. Currently our housing situation doesn't come with a fence, so we have found our neighbors lending their fences, and their love to these sweet little dogs. People that I would wave to while driving down the street, are suddenly waving as if we are long lost best friends. These puppies have been such a blessing, but I must admit, I'm looking forward to them going to new homes this weekend. Borrowing puppies is the way to go, I seemed to have forgotten how much work goes into raising a dog from Puppy to adult. I'll take the lazy adult dog years any day!

These dogs are available at the Dog Day Festival this weekend in downtown White Plains! Check them out- they are lab/boxer and should get to weigh about 40-50 pounds.