Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

I hope you and your family celebrate and ring in the New Year with fun and joy! 

Coming up next week...
  • An update in the Book Club
  • Some fun crafts I've been doing
  • New ideas for helping kids stay organized
  • Fun in the Snow!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fantastic Family Calendar...

I try to be vigilant about keeping a Family Calendar.  Especially during sports seasons when it feels like we moving in a hundred different directions, it helps to have things written down.  We have a calendar hanging on the wall in the kitchen that holds all the family appointments, sports schedules and routine maintenance checks.  Every Sunday evening, I sit down with my iPhone and make sure my personal calendar and the family calendar match.  This is important because I also have a calendar at work and I need to make sure that overlapping appointments are on all three.

Recently, I found a calendar that helps reduce all these steps.  The Cozi Family Calendar is fantastic!  You register online and build your family calendar...each family member is color-coordinated.  From the free online view, you can print a day, week or month.  I also downloaded the app for my iPhone and for my husband's.  Appointments and events can be added online or on either phone and will appear in all three locations.  Reminders can be scheduled to be sent via text or email also. 

This is the best family calendar I have seen in a long time.  I love that it was developed to be managed by both adults in the home and can be customized for all family members.  It's so easy to schedule a reminder as well...we've sent reminders to make dental appointments, to pick up ice for a party and even to make sure we remembered to pick up cash for the baby sitter.

My other favorite feature is in the iPhone app.  The app includes a shopping list and a to-do list.  I have previously downloaded apps for both that were cumbersome and required moving back and forth between the calendar app and the to-do list.  With Cozi everything is in one place and it's all easy to use.  You can also build your list on-line and access it on your phone.  For the busy families everywhere...this is perfect.

Disclaimer:  I have received nothing from Cozi...I read a post similar to mine in early December and started using Cozi on my own.  The online calendar is free and the iPhone app has a small charge.

How do you keep your busy family organized and on time?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


 I don't really believe in New Year's Resolutions.  In part, I think it's because I live in the school year and we're nearly halfway through, not just beginning.  I also see so many "Resolutions" hyped by the media in January...and I see the influx of people into the gym.  For the month of January and into February, I need to be at the gym a little earlier than usual to get my spot in class...then the crowds abate as people fall off the resolution wagon.

That said, I do the power of goal setting.  Knowing where you want to end up and then planning how to arrive there is extremely empowering.  I don't have new goals specifically for the New Year...but I am in the middle of working towards a couple things...
  • I plan on running an Olympic distance triathlon this summer.  Over the past two years I have run four sprint distance triathlons and this summer I will run two sprints before my Olympic.  This fall I needed to learn to love running...which I have!  Starting in January I will head back into the swimming pool once a week in addition to my weekly routine of running, spinning and weight lifting. 
  • I am writing an article / book on a professional development protocol that I have been facilitating at work.  In early November, I presented the protocol at a symposium and it was so well-received that I finally have the confidence to put it into print.  
  • I have twelve pounds left to lose before my birthday in April.  Since joining Weight Watchers last spring I have lost quite a bit...slow and steady.  I knew that what I really needed to learn was portion sizes and nutritionally filling options.  With those in place, I am not on a diet but working towards a much healthier me.
  • I guess I do have one resolution...a conviction rather than a goal.  I have slipped into the bad habit of being a bit of a push over with my boys...not drawing a firm line.  The result has been kids that push and push thinking they will get their way...because they have.  I have resolved to be more firm with expectations up front so that everyone will be happier in the long run.
I am linking up today with the other working moms at Working Mommy Wednesday!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Aiden's Bedroom Makeover...

Back in April, when my son Connar turned 11, he got a "bedroom makeover" for his birthday.  It was really fun to give him - Connar's Bedroom Makeover -  for his birthday.  Ever since that makeover, my youngest has been asking for a new bedroom for his birthday.

Aiden got to pick his theme - Football & Soccer - and my husband and I planned the rest.  Aiden's grandparents invited him and his brother to an overnight, so that we could do the work on his room without "help".  Since it's Christmas vacation, Aiden was actually able to receive his new bedroom on his birthday!
As you can see, he was pretty excited!  

Here's what we started with...

 Aiden has a lot of toys and it's been quite a while since we've done any purging.  He also had some elements left over from his baby nursery decor and layers of toddler through big kid.  One thing he needed, was a good system to organize his toys.  His #1 request, "I want it to look sporty.  So everyone knows a sporty kid lives here."
I started with fabric for curtains and throw pillows.  (Aiden's existing curtains had been hanging since he was born...he was done with the cute stars!) All the sewing and projects were done ahead of time.  I had sketched out my ideas so I was able to order and shop for the new elements.  This way, the day of the make-over was cleaning and assembly.
The new curtains are striped and have a football border.  I made the shelf several years ago (actually for the nursery of my's been handed down.)  I love the way the curtain hangs.  I just stitch up a long rectangle, gather it onto the shelf and staple it on.  The ribbon border is added with hot glue to cover the staples.  The shelf is a great spot to display school projects or other things that aren't played with regularly.
Aiden loves to wear jerseys and my husband had the idea to display his jerseys in a way that he could also wear them easily.  We used heavy-duty hooks on the walls, and I bought black hangers for the jerseys.  He can switch out which ones are on display and wear them whenever he wants.  I also bought new posters...a soccer player and a football player...and hung them in inexpensive poster frames.  This makes the posters easy to switch out, but makes for a cleaner look on the wall.  Aiden also loves the big vinyl football player shadow. 
Simply rearranging the furniture went a long way to creating the look of a new bedroom.  While we rearranged, I sorted through toys.  Aiden hasn't noticed anything missing and he has more room for the toys he plays with.
Rather than a toy box, I moved three sets of plastic drawers into his closet.  This makes it easy to see where toys are and easy to find what you're looking for!  The labels are covered with packing tape and attached with velcro dots.  The packing tape creates an eraseable surface, so Aiden can change the labels easily with dry erase markers. 

Aiden told me later, "I didn't expect to have it be so different.  It feels so good when I sleep!"
I couldn't ask for a better thank you!
Happy Birthday!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter Vacation...

I've been luxuriating in winter vacation...those precious two weeks in the middle of the school year.  The break is long enough to feel full rested at the end - and to work in some great play time with the kids.  It's also short enough that I don't feel guilty while basking in laziness!

Next week I'll be back at my typical efficient working mommy-ness...but this week...
  • I am enjoying long mornings in my jammies carrying my cup of coffee around with me
  • I have been reading some great books...a couple light and fluffy ones and one that is very thought-provoking
  • I have been reveling in "Crafting Coolness" with my new Silhouette :) Merry Christmas to me!
  • We have plans to visit with friends and eat lots of great food
  • There's at least one more great day of skiing this week
  • The boys have some fun new toys and games that need to be tried out
What are you up to this week?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas...

Wishing all of my wonderful readers a very Merry Christmas!  Enjoy the day, the week, the season!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Technical difficulties...

I am not sure what's wrong with the internet technology at my house. I just know it's not working properly. And since we have holiday plans and a birthday party and more holiday fun it may be a few days before I'm back on line. And...Chase-ing the Dream is getting a makeover. Stick around... I'll be back soon with a new look and lots to share.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gingerbread House Spectacular...

My kids love making {eating} Gingerbread houses.  One of our annual traditions is to make gingerbread houses.  This looks different each year...we've gone to workshops, parties and created them at home.  This year, I found a kit that had all the gingerbread pieces ready to go. 

Building the houses together was a fun project for a cold, rainy afternoon.  (I wish it had been snowing!)  I was a bit disappointed by the size of the houses in the kit but no one else seemed to mind.

The houses turned out great...I wonder how long it will be before Aiden starts to nibble on his!
What are your favorite traditions and activities?  Have fun celebrating the season!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Working Mommy Wednesday...

I love linking up with the Working Mommy's each Wednesday!  Today's prompt...A Motherhood Confession

I am laughing at this prompt, because this has been a week...really, and it's only Wednesday.

Monday afternoon I had a meeting after school and my kids went to work at the local Toys for Tots distribution center with their grandparents.  After my meeting,  I snuck in a couple of errands, relishing the fact that I could move around a store at my pace...unencumbered with "help" from my boys.  I got home just a couple of minutes ahead of the kids.  Sounds like a great afternoon...right?

Sadly, while the boys had a great time volunteering and fun at dinner with grandma and grandpa, they were not at their best for me.  Cranky and whiny about homework, daily jobs and bath nerves were on edge.  Couple that with my oldest son's preteen angst and I couldn't wait to get them in bed.   When they continued to argue about...literally...every little statement I made, I finally just yelled at them.  {I HATE being a yell-y mom...I wish I could always handle them without breaking a didn't happen Monday night}

Of course the Christmas book they opened on Monday was "Elf on a Shelf"...we were all sitting there wondering what our Elf would tell Santa that night!  Aiden actually mentioned out loud that he hoped he wasn't fully on the naughty list.

Finally, it was bed time.  I realized that in my haste to run a couple errands, I never had dinner.  I reheated some pizza poured a glass of wine and headed to bed with visions of catching up on Grey's Anatomy dancing in my head.

Walking up the stairs...I tripped on my pajama pants.  I tripped up the remaining stairs...spilling red wine all over the top of the landing.  That's when the swearing really started!  As I watched the remnants of red wine soak into the carpet and uttered my last rarely-used 4-letter word, my youngest son yells, "Mommy, Fyn has something coming out of her butt!"

Sure enough, our 2-year old Devon Rex had eaten at least a yard of green ribbon.  The portion that had already passed was indeed hanging out, and she was curled up mewing in discomfort.  At that point the boys were wide awake, I was standing in a puddle of red wine and my cat was...well I won't give you the graphic details...use your imagination.

Call my husband, who is at work.  Call the emergency vet.  Discover we have no carpet cleaner.  Hope cold water and sponging will help.  Settle down both boys.  Rub vaseline on Fyn's paws hoping it will help with passing the remaining ribbon.  Give up on dinner and Gray's Anatomy.  Tuck the boys in again with reassurances that I am not mad and Fyn will not die in the night.  Set the alarm to wake every 2 hours to check on Fyn.  Wonder if this happens to any other mom.  Fall asleep...briefly.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Cup Cakes...

I have been looking all over for a great Teacher Gift, for my kids teachers.  I recently came across a recipe in Family Fun magazine which my boys and I modified Check out The Science Mommy for the whole story!  The result was this great gift for our teachers...

A Make-Your-Own Cup Cake for One!

* One chocolate cake mix...this will make 8 individual cup cakes
* 8 c. powdered sugar
* 8 tbs. cocoa powder
* 8 mini cans of Diet Coke
* Snack size zip lock bags

We set up an assembly line to put these gifts together...

 1.  Put 1/2 cup of cake mix into a bag labeled "Cake"

 2.  In a bag labeled "Frosting" put 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and 1 tbs of cocoa powder

3.  Put both bags into a mug and add this label with cooking directions to the handle  Cup Cake Label (printable) The cup cake is made by mixing the cake mix with 1/3 cup of diet coke in the mug.  This is placed in the microwave for 3 minutes.  While the cake is cooking, add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the frosting mix and mix in the bag.  Cut one of the corners off the bag and frost your cupcake before eating!

The boys decorated gift bags for their teachers!
This was quick and easy to assemble.  For 8 gifts, it didn't cost too much.  Anyone would love to make their own cup cake!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Memories...

Aiden, my youngest, was born on December 22.  When his older brother, Connar, visited him in the hospital there was some concern that Santa wouldn't know Aiden had arrived.  In order to put Connar's mind at ease, we stopped at the mall on the way that Connar could introduce his little brother to Santa.  While it was a crazy thing to do, one look at the proud big brother's face says it was the right thing to do.  Santa was a little freaked out when I handed him Aiden.  Apparently, Aiden was the youngest visitor Santa had that just under 24 hours old.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Favorite Books of 2010...

For the Book Club this week, I am going to share with you my favorite books of 2010! 

  • The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larson...I read all three of the Millenium Trilogy books but this one was my favorite.  Reading them out of order, I read this one first, and was completely captivated by Lizbeth Salander.  This is a must-read series!
  • Resistance by Anita Shreve...This book is set during WWII and tells a compelling story about a Belgian woman and an American pilot.  The title says it all...on many levels...  This is my favorite of all of Anita Shreve's books that I have read.
  •  Baker Tower by Jennifer Haigh...I love an epic and this was also the first book I'd read by this author.  She tells a 60 year story about a mining town and the relationships & connections between the people who live and work there.  It was an excellent book!
  • The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan...Kids need amazing and compelling stories to read!  Rick Riordan captivated my 11 year old and I just had to see what the fuss was all about...his stories appeal to the imagination, blend historical fiction and twisted fairy tales, and pull you into a great hero's journey!  Fantastic!  {The movie was ok...but you have to read the books first}
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett...I avoided reading this book for a long time and I'm not sure why.  I finally picked it up on the suggestion of a book-loving friend {thanks Colette} and I was hooked.  This is a story that I hadn't really considered before.  One of my favorite types of books are those that set the reader down in a time and place that are unfamiliar and teach you something new about a way of life.  This book accomplished that brilliantly!
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Schaffer...This is one of the best books I have ever read.  For weeks after I finished it, I tried to talk everyone I know into reading it for themselves.  It's so artfully written and tells such a compelling story.  I love books with rich character developement, so much so that you feel each character is a real person.  This is brilliant and you won't regret reading fact pick it up right now if you haven't already read it!  You must read this book!
  • The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen...I just got swept away by this author and read everything she has in print.  I wrote in my book journal that this was my favorite of all her books.  She artfully combines just a little bit of magic into an otherwise lovely story about life.  Just that little touch of magic lends such a touch this book, books follow the main character Chloe around, as a way of telling her something important.  This is a really fun, relaxing read.
  • The Last Time I Was Me by Cathy Lamb...I also got swept away by this author and read all of her books this summer.  She has such an irreverant style of writing, that simultaneously cracked me up and reduced me to tears.  Her books handle heavy life issues with this touch of serious irreverance and the result is a truly satisfying read.
  •  The Things We Do For Love by Kristin Hannah..This was a delightful summer read.  Her characters are well written and this was a really good story.  Loved it!
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins...I read all three books in this trilogy and the first one was my favorite.  There so many dimensions to this story line, and frequently I thought about how I would teach this or discuss it with my own kids.  Reading the trilogy, especially Mockingjay, also challenged my opinions of censorship for kids.  I enjoyed the challenge and the opportunity, if only within my own mind, to use the book to examine my opinions.  These are pretty powerful books.

So there it is, my top 10...although I cheated a little and included series and trilogies.  It was hard to narrow down a whole year's worth of reading to just 10 books.  Are any of these on your Top 10?  Are any of these decidedly NOT on your Top 10?  I'd love to hear your opinions as well as your favorite books of the year!
Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Home Tour...

I am joining the Holiday Home Tour, sponsored by LeeLou Blogs.  Pop on over to check out everyone's beautiful holiday decorating ideas...

Leelou Blogs

These are a few of my favorite Christmas decorations...

I collect snow men and enjoy leaving many of them out through February...a couple of lucky ones get to be out year round!

The wooden tree on the left was given to me by my Aunt Jo when I was a freshman in college.  Each month in a care package she would send a new set of ornaments.  {The snowmen will go on in January}

I made this table runner a couple of years ago...I love the look of wool applique.  I have one with turkeys in progress.

Snowmen just make me smile :)

We don't have a fireplace so we reclaim shelves, that have pictures on them during the rest of the year, to serve as a mantle.  I made Kyle and I stockings for our first Christmas together and then the boys for their first Christmases.  Fortunately, Santa fills all the stockings!  My mother-in-law solved the problem of a chimney when my oldest son was about 3, and quite worried about Santa's entrance.  You'll notice a key hanging with Aiden's stocking.  It's a Santa key and the boys hang it on the outside door knob on Christmas Eve...allowing Santa access sans chimney. 

I keep a small scrapbook with all the boys Santa pictures and display the current year's picture in the frame.  {It's still last year's photo...Santa pictures are Saturday!}

We don't have a themed tree...I have several different collections of ornaments and I look forward to putting them out every year.

One of my favorite sets of ornaments are framed pictures of the boys each year...sometimes with Santa and sometimes other candid winter shots.  I'll tell you more about this picture next week...stay tuned!

This is from a collection of bells that have been handed down...the story is that my Great-grandfather brought them with him when he emigrated from Sweden.

The boys have their own tree in our family room...

...their ornaments are mostly toys &'s so much fun!

Thanks for sharing my Holiday Home!

Christmas is coming...

Last night, thanks to grandparents and my husbands work schedule, I got to spend a few hours Christmas shopping.  It was a weeknight, so the stores weren't crowded and it was so much fun!  Shopping alone and relaxed, gave me time to think.  Here's some of my favorite things about the season...

  • I love shopping at Christmas!  I never do any Christmas shopping before Black Friday, which is when I start with my husband.  I love being in the stores and the mall with all the decorations, and the's so much fun!
  • I love finding the perfect gift.  I have been looking for something that will keep my Gram warm...she's always cold.  Last night I found the perfect fleece, bed jacket that's soft and warm and blue.  I can't wait to give it to her! (If you're reading this and you're related to me...don't tell Gram!)
  • I love holiday flavored coffee...especially when I am shopping!
  • I love buying presents for my kids.  You could easily make the claim that they're spoiled...but it's the good kind of spoiled :)  They are just so stinking cute and fun, that everywhere I look I find something new I want to give them!
  • I love having the best idea for my husband!  He can be kind of hard to shop for but this year I had the perfect idea.  Of course, he tried to buy one for himself and I had to hint and now he knows what it is...but I am trying to pretend that it could be something else!
  • I love opening books every night with my kids!  They're excited and I am excited and it's so cozy to read in front of the Christmas tree.
  • I love the way the house looks all decorated.  My husband does all the lights and outside decorations and even though it was about 10 degrees the day he did the lights, he went all out.
  • I love the magic of Christmas...the sense of surprise, the ability to settle into the little girl-ness of the holiday and to relish the moments with family.
I really love Christmas!  This year I am remembering to take time to enjoy the moments rather than hurry through everything.  This year I want to settle into each moment and remember it!

What are you enjoying this season?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jobs for the Kids...

My boys have two sets of that are done daily and jobs that are done on the weekend.  Check here for more details.  Recently, I updated their jobs and made new reminders...

 For each boy, I printed out his jobs in a check list format.

 Then, I slipped the job list into a magnetic acrylic frame.

The job lists go right on the refrigerator and the boxes can be marked with a dry erase pen.  This is an easy way to keep us all organized and working together.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fresh Organization...

I have a craft cupboard that needed a little help.  Last summer I cleaned out my whole storage room, including all my crafting supplies, but I have to admit that I ran out of steam at the end of the project.  The final details are being added slowly but surely. 

I don't know about your kids, but it seems that every time I turn around, my kids need more school supplies.  This year I anticipated the need and over-purchased supplies in August (when they were practically free!)  They were just sort of tossed into the store room, but now they have a home where the boys can easily grab whatever they have run out of.  The sneaker balls are also a necessary school supply for sporty kids...they have these in their sports bags and Connar keeps one in his PE locker.

The school supplies now sit on top of a family hand-me-down chest of drawers.  I love this was my dad's as a baby, mine as a baby and my baby - Aiden's - as a changing table.  When he moved into a "big boy" dresser, this cupboard moved into storage and became my craft storage.

I have wanted to label the drawers for a while, but I didn't want anything permanent.  I came up with the idea of making little gift tags with the label, tied to the drawer knob.

They worked out perfectly!

Little ideas, but I love organized corners of the house.  What little corners have you recently organized?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Decorate Your Blog or Email...

I've been playing with digital scrap booking, and while I am still new at it, I wanted to share some of my creations.

Click on any of the buttons to save them and use them as you gift to you!  
All of the buttons were made using Adori Graphics Christmas Greetings and Let It Snow digital scrap booking kits.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!