First, the "second-hand selling" part: we sold some baby and toddler stuff, mostly clothes and some toys, to our favorite children's resale place, Once Upon a Child. We've been selling to and shopping at OUAC since Thalia was about 2 months old. They pay cash for your stuff and sell gently used clothing, shoes, toys and baby stuff at good prices. We bought a never-used wood high-chair there in 2001 for about half the price we would have paid elsewhere. One Rubbermaid tub of clothes, shoes and toys got us $54. Not bad. And that was probably the smallest haul we've ever brought in to the store. We even picked up a pair of Levi's for Thalia for the bargain price of $7.60, which they conveniently deducted, tax-free, from our $54.
Next, we sold books and magazines to Half-Price Books, just about my favorite book store in any city. We always have fun browsing in the kids' section while they price our "buy." We made $16 on one brown paper bag full of books and mags. Seriously not bad. And I can't even tell you what was in the bag, that's how unwanted those items were! The girls got to choose one new (used) book each, paid for with our earnings.
We swung by Goodwill to give away whatever wasn't sold at OUAC plus about two garbage bags full of clothing and shoes (mine and Dylan's). Our closets are looking much leaner and lighter now without the stuff we weren't wearing!
Overall, we think our regular visits to different charities to give things we don't use anymore has made a very positive impact on the girls. They are very aware of what "charity" is and the different ways our donations help local charities. We occasionally go through all their toys and pull out the items they've outgrown or tired of, sell the ones that are like new, and donate the more used ones. Also, selling our things to OAUC or Half-Price teaches them that recycling clothing and books is a good thing--someone else will buy them at a good price, and we can use the money we earn to buy clothes that actually fit them and other books they haven't read!
Some back story: Over the summer we decided that storing all of our music CDs (over 2oo of them) in large binders would be a great idea. All of our CDs fit into two binders that fit on a shelf underneath our TV. We no longer needed the 4 ft x 2 ft CD shelf from Pottery Barn. However, I was loathe to get rid of it. It was in perfect condition and could be useful for . . . something. Well, it sat empty for most of the summer and fall. We allowed Thalia to use it to house her Littlest Pet Shop collection, but when she routinely forgot to put her toys away and left everything on the floor, I took the CD storage back.
Meanwhile, in the past few weeks I've been thinking of ways to tame my out-of-control craft station. Michaels sells a Making Memories Embellishment Center, which looks like this:
It retails for around $75. I thought it was a great idea. It also reminded me of something I had in my own house--the CD shelf.
So today, I turned the shelf into my own embellishment center:
I bought the same Making Memories plastic storage jars at Michael's (need to pick up some more) and started filling them.
I also discovered a box of Creative Memories Consultant supplies that I had received earlier this month but had not opened yet. Inside the box was a demo kit for the custom framing options that are no longer offered by the company. I wondered what I was going to do with the frame samples, and then realized that the black easel that held the frame samples with velcro (much like the frame samples at Michael's custom framing department) would be perfect for storing other things!
I ripped the velcro off the frame samples and attached them to some of my new storage jars. So now I also have a new storage system for small items:
A long velcro strip down the center of the easel is perfect for attaching the lightweight jars. I whimsically attached them to the easel!
Unfortunately, some of my embellishments were too large to fit in the little jars. So I found a new use today for a very old hanging jewelry organizer:
It's now my hanging embellishment organizer!
And finally, to get handle on the many, many spools of ribbon I buy, I created my own ribbon organizer:
The design is painfully simple--a bamboo skewer stuck into a block of styrofoam, which in this case was actually one of my "fake cakes" for demo!
As they say: Reuse - Renew - Recycle!
Last year I went all out for Thanksgiving on account of my two aunts who were visiting from the Philippines that week. They'd never celebrated an American Thanksgiving before and were excited and curious about it. I wanted them to experience a true, traditional Thanksgiving. I bought a lovely new centerpiece that practically ran the length of my dining table, picked up new serving dishes, cooked all the traditional dishes including the turkey (which is a very big deal), and basically went crazy doing everything Thanksgiving-ish!
When I looked at the photos we took that day, I realized we didn't take a single photo with everyone in it, despite the fact that both my aunts AND my parents AND our own little family were all there at the table. My Dad wasn't in any of the pics at all! One of my aunts was in exactly one photo, as were Dylan and I. We only got a shot or two of my beautiful table, and not all the food was on it yet. And we didn't manage to even get a family pic with the four of us. I was so disgusted with our collective photo abilities. I vowed we would do better next year.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2008, yesterday at our friends' house. Despite our best intentions to get pics of each family there and the food, we didn't get around to taking the individual family photos until around 9 pm, and we'd been there for almost 6 hours already! Several of the guests had already gone home. We took no pics of the fabulous vegetarian spread. But at least we did get a family pic, which is an improvement upon last year. I guess we were all having just too much fun to be bothered with photographing it!
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melody Beattie
Today I asked the girls what they are thankful for. Thalia said "my family and friends. And my toys." Carys answered "my Webkinz, Mommy, Daddy, Thalia and friends." In that order, by the way. Perhaps children already know the secret to a full life; they are grateful for all things, large and small.
Thanksgiving Day is over, but the reminder to be thankful each and every day will hopefully stay with us for the next 365 days to come.
This morning Thalia and I worked on her Christmas list. This is the first year she has created an actual list of things she wants. Last year, she wrote a polite and friendly note to Santa requesting "whatever you would like to give me." Good gracious, what a difference a year makes!
We worked on her list using my laptop while cuddling together under the covers. No sheets of notebook paper or pencils. Her list is saved as a MS Word file (she dictated, I typed). No Sears Wish Book or any other 600+ page catalogs spread out in front of us. Just several browser windows open to Amazon.com and other pertinent sites, such as Nintendo.com when listing the DS games she wants. When she would come across something that looked interesting but knew nothing about, we would read the reviews on Amazon. If others said it was lame, then it wouldn't make the list. She added the top selling DS game on Amazon, based strictly on its popularity with other kids.
We had a great time working on her list, which isn't quite finished yet, but it really struck me how times have really changed! Next year she will certainly be able to navigate her way around the Internet enough so she can write her Christmas list herself. Of course, she still added some items that she knew were cool because her friends have them (that will never change) or had seen on TV or online. But gone are the days when a handful of big department stores sold everything you needed or wanted and poring over telephone book-sized holiday catalogs for your Christmas list ideas was the thing to do.
There were friends' birthdays to celebrate:
Special events to attend:
Thalia is all-smiles moments before going onstage with her fellow campers at the all-camp showcase.
Thalia (white dress in the back) and her camp friends, led by their counselors, perform a very mellow, breezy Hawaiian dance. Very mellow.
Thalia and her best bud's crazy luau dance on the last day of summer camp!
And then finally it was time to go back to school--early bedtimes, new schedules, new rules, school supplies, new clothes, lunchboxes, haircuts, etc.:
We have been invited to share Thanksgiving dinner with our very good friends in town who are vegetarian. We've done Thanksgiving with them before, but the last time was at our house and the husband wasn't completely vegetarian yet so we did serve some turkey breast slices.
This year, however, their entire family is totally vegetarian, and the menu is meatless of course. Dylan and I are completely ok with that, and everyone knows that it's the side dishes that make the meal anyway. We'll have sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry, vegetables, cake and pie, in addition to some unique gourmet vegetarian dishes our friends are preparing. Yum-o!
When I informed Thalia and Carys that we wouldn't be having turkey on Thursday, I was quite surprised at the response I received. They were actually upset and indignant at the thought of a turkey-less Thanksgiving! It's not like we don't get enough turkey on any given day; they get turkey sandwiches nearly every day in their lunchboxes. Thalia informed me that "Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without the turkey." I told them they wouldn't even miss it. They were unconvinced.
This morning, amidst the 20-40 pound turkeys for sale at Costco, I spotted some tiny little roasted whole turkey breasts that would be perfect for our family's brunch on Thanksgiving (we're eating around 4:30 pm at our friends' house). So I gave in and bought a teensy bit of turkey. So now I'll have to make my special gravy, which I am known for. And maybe I'll prepare my wild rice stuffing to go with it, since we'll be having bread stuffing in the afternoon. Possibly some green beans too, although I don't know if those will be on the menu later either. Ha! So much for my no-cook Thanksgiving this year!
Thalia and all the other kids in the troupe were busy all semester learning their lines, song lyrics and dance routines for this musical. Thalia never missed a single rehearsal, despite having only one spoken line in the show! We were so pleased that several family members and friends were able to share these special evenings with us. (Thanks to everyone who came to see the show!)
Dylan and I were so proud to see our not-so-little girl singing and dancing on stage again! The play was really funny too, with all the modern additions and improvisation. Unfortunately, I can't really post any pics of her on stage because I don't have permission from all the other actors and their parents, but we did take pics of our little Mouse after each show:
somewhere all the time. Time was flexible and could be stretched in different directions.
I Wish You Well
A carousel to wish you well
Spinning round and round
Until you've ridden to your heart's content
And hopped back on the ground
I wish you well... I wish you love
I wish you all I can
I wish you peace... I wish you hope
Until we meet again
Blessings to the birds I hear
Flying up above
Bringing song into our lives
Nestling in our hearts with love
I wish you well... I wish you love
I wish you all I can
I wish you peace... I wish you hope
Until we meet again
Oh, this old world can seem so big
Everywhere you go
But we can choose to become a friend
With anyone we know
I wish you well... I wish you love
I wish you all I can
I wish you peace... I wish you hope
Until we meet again...
Until we meet again
Until we meet, my friends...
For Halloween, Carys and Thalia received treat bags from our good friends, and Carys's godparents, in Austin. They are always spoiling our girls with the most clever and interesting gifts, and this was no exception. Inside the bags were these absolutely positively adorable Japanese boiled egg molds! Carys got the bunny and teddy molds while Thalia got the star and heart ones. They were bought online from Ichiban Kan. You pop a hardboiled egg into the molds like so:
Then seal it and refrigerate or cool in a bowl of ice water. Then voila, you have some really, really cute eggs for your kids' lunchbox. If I were a bento-packing Mom, I might then go on to make rice balls or onigiri, cut fruit and vegetables using "food cutters" and arrange bits of cooked meat in little shaped containers. But as I'm not that kind of Mom, my kids were already so excited to have "bunny eggs" or "star eggs" in their lunches. We also found that the large and jumbo eggs work the best.
The girls have gotten a bit spoiled with the shaped eggs now; they wrinkle their nose at regular old egg-shaped eggs. And I'm loving all the cool, strange stuff at Ichiban Kan's website.
Hello, And thank you for reading this email and for opening the attached files. My daughter's girl scout troop and service unit is having a food drive to benefit the San Antonio Food Bank. I know what your thinking, more hand outs, more expenses. With back to school, PTA, Sport, and Scouting fund raisers, and now it's Thanksgiving and soon Christmas, my pocket book won't get a break until the end of January. But I keep telling my self we have jobs with benefits, we have our house & cars, we have money in the bank (living paycheck to paycheck), our 401k and IRAs are down, but it will be awhile before we retire so it has time to recover. And yet all you hear is companies closing, unemployment is up and charitable organizations are struggling. How much is it going to cost me to take a few items from my pantry, can of soup $1.50, spaghetti sauce $1.82, pasta $1.18, wow that's the cost of a mighty kids meal. If you have the time and the opportunity please pass this email forward, take a copy of the flyer and tape it to your mail box, post it in the employee lounge at work. Make copies and send it to school with your children. . . Please stop by on Sunday drop off some food and say hi to these girls who are trying to make a difference. Hope to see you soon. A Girl Scout Leader
Apparently tonight was that time of the month again--CiCi's Pizza Night to raise money for our cash-strapped elementary school. CiCi's has kept a running tally of all the money each classroom has earned for the school, and Thalia's classroom was in 1st place out of six area schools (WOW!) as of yesterday.
Thalia begs us to take her to CiCi's at least once a week, and now her sister has become enamored of CiCi's as well. Yesterday Thalia explained to me that we had to go to CiCi's so her class could win the prize, whatever that is. "We can go anytime between 5 and 9 pm, Mommy. We could even go at 8:57." Whatever.
Today was a particularly crazy day with me running countless errands, leading Girl Scouts, Thalia's theatre troupe in tech rehearsals all week, and Dylan having to attend a 5 pm meeting at work. So tonight we went to CiCi's!
While we just missed Thalia's teacher, who had of course eaten her dinner there as well, the CiCi's cashier told us when we arrived that her classroom was still in the lead! The place was full of kids and their parents and some teachers as well from our school. Thalia was excited to see several of her classmates and friends from school.
But even more, she was in raptures about eating her favorite pizza-- CiCi's Macaroni & Cheese Pizza:
her penchant for this odd combination of flavors and textures, but she really does love it. Unbeknownst to me and Dylan, Carys also likes the Mac & Cheese Pizza. By the time Carys demanded her own slice, they had already run out. She made Dylan go and ask for more, and they said they would, but it was a busy night and after 15 minutes there still wasn't any on the buffet. She was very disappointed. We finally convinced her that a bowl of the macaroni with alfredo cheese sauce was just as good (in my opinion, far better).
Carys did try the kind-of-good-for-you Spinach Alfredo Pizza and loved it! So adventurous!
We're sad that you had a frustrating day on what was supposed to be your day off. Hope our crazy faces make you laugh and forget all about it, at least for a while! We love you.
Your Girls (all 3 of us)
We had tickets to see Tuna Does Vegas at the Majestic Theatre downtown. We are big fans of Jaston Williams and Joe Sears' plays about Tuna, Texas, and have seen them perform all of them. They are laugh-out-loud-falling-into-the-aisle funny, especially if you are from Texas. We've also seen them perform together in The Foreigner, which is also very, very funny. Tuna Does Vegas was a hoot.
After the show, we took advantage of being momentarily kid-free to go shopping at Costco! While this may seem like an odd choice out of all the places we could have gone, it's actually really fun to go to Costco sans kids. You can linger over things like electronics and not have to fetch 'samples' every other aisle for demanding little children. Of course our side trip to Costco added an extra $15 to the babysitter's tab, but it was worth it.
We usually do a "lunch date" a couple times a month, meeting at a restaurant where our kids our unlikely to eat the food (ie. Indian) or where we must actually wait for the food (ie. not buffet or cafeteria-style). It's always a treat to meet your husband during the day, because really, unless you work together, how often do you see your spouse in daylight hours?
Carving out 'alone time' for just the two of us is almost impossible these days. So it was a pretty exciting day to get away for a few expensive hours!
She's always loved her room just as much as I have, but lately she has noticed that "all" of her friends have had bedroom makeovers, going from cutesy little girl decor to tween themes. One friend has an entirely Hannah Montana bedroom. Another has a girl diva room, with lots of satin and bling. They also have "big girl" toys, like iPods, computers, phones, plasma TVs and DVD players in their rooms. For a long time, Thalia didn't seem to notice the changes and was content with her sweet little garden room. But now she seeks a change in her room as well, and I'm afraid that Dylan and I actually got her thinking about it in the first place.
Thalia sleeps in a twin bed with a lovely white iron headboard and footboard. However, in the past several years, Thalia has literally outgrown her narrow bed. As the 2nd tallest girl in her grade at school, she has impossibly long limbs and arms that flop over the sides of the bed because she sleeps spread eagle each night. Dylan and I have more than once had to push and rearrange her back onto the bed as she has fallen or nearly fallen off. Recently we concluded that she needs a bigger bed, at least a full size mattress, to accommodate her growing frame.
A new mattress would mean a new headboard and frame as well. I did a search online for iron headboards similar to the one she has. Then we found this one:
(photo from RoomsToGoKids.com)
Thalia loves the possible new bed. And that's got her thinking about changing her room colors and adding some more new furniture (a nightstand, new desk) and cool bedding as well. While this is entirely appropriate, it also makes me a little sad. She's growing up and leaving her little girl room behind!
by Sara Hickman
I pledge allegiance to my family
and to the love that created me
I promise to honor and respect
my liberties at hand
And all that is wondrous in each of us.
To listen, and to be listened to
To help, and ask for help in return
To right wrongs
To be a friend
And to recognize that each and every child is
deserving of love, shelter, education, healthy food,
freedom from terror and fear
and an entire life
of liberty and justice for all.
Thursdays evenings are "girls night" for Thalia, Carys and me--Dylan plays tennis regularly that night. Often we'll eat out, just the three of us, and it's a treat. Yesterday, on the way to Nordstrom for dinner, we were listening to Sara Hickman's Big Kid CD at Thalia's request. Sara Hickman is an indie/rock/folk/children's singer and songwriter who lives in Austin. We love her children's music; her songs are quirky and different. We even got to meet her at the Texas Book Festival after her performance and she signed our CD!
Anyway, there is a pledge (no music, just words) on the CD that I loved last night, not having heard the CD for a while. It seemed so appropriate too with the recent landslide election of Obama. Sara Hickman's Pledge is what I wish Obama would also say when he takes the oath of office in January.
Here's a story: On Halloween, Dylan took the girls trick-or-treating while I handed out candy to what seemed like mostly little Jedi at the door. Of course the girls were super-excited and already hyped up on sugar when they returned. Dylan casually mentioned that Carys had tripped in her new silver shoes on someone's driveway and skinned her elbow. A bandage was slapped on by someone and everyone went back to counting and eating candy.
I have to mention that Carys loves band-aids. She likes to wear them even when she doesn't have a boo-boo! So when she does have one for a cut or scratch, it's hell getting her to give it up finally. We usually have to trick her or just rip it off when she's had it for too, too long. So she was quite happy to wear her pretty Disney Princess bandage on her elbow for an extended period of time, and we, her parents, pretty much forgot all about it.
Fast forward a week and a day to the next weekend. Carys had a low-grade fever all weekend, although it didn't really stop her from doing anything in particular. Thalia had stayed home from school for 3 days of the previous week with a virus, so I assumed that Carys was going through the same. She had also developed some kind of rash on part of her chest and tummy. Carys was still a bit feverish and tired on Monday, so she stayed home from school too. That evening, after her bath, she held out her arm to me and said "My arm smells bad." It did. I couldn't figure it out, she'd just had a bath and usually smells of baby shampoo right after! I looked at her Disney Princess bandage, lifted it up and we were knocked out by the stench and sight-- the area under and around the bandage smelled awful and had turned red, raw and immediately started dripping blood when I lifted it up. I. Freaked. Out. There was a HOLE in her skin at the elbow where a little scratch had been before. OMG. Actually, we couldn't even remember why there had been a bandage there to begin with, and then Carys reminded us of her Halloween scratch. Clearly her little skinned elbow had become infected.
I yelled for tissues, towels, bandages and neosporin. Carys started freaking out too. So then I had to calm down to calm her down. We stopped the bleeding, which was hard to do, applied the neosporin, and wrapped elbow in gauze and waterproof band-aid tape.
The next day, we checked again, and there was blood immediately again upon lifting the bandage. So we repeated the cleaning and bandaging process of the night before.
Hindsight being 20/20, I know now at that point I should have started to put things together and realized that her fever, rash and infected elbow were all related. But I didn't.
The next evening, her elbow looked exactly the same. I called my Dad, who is a physician, to ask his advice. He ordered us to go to the doctor immediately--Carys's symptoms sounded like a staph infection. OMG. Carys was already in her PJs at this point, but I calmly explained that we needed to see a doctor so he could give her a 'special band-aid' for her elbow. She was so good--instead of freaking out, like I was inside, she got excited about the possibility that the minor emergency clinic we were going to might have a TV and some toys. Off we went and I drove very fast to the Tex Med Clinic.
It was pretty late, around 9 pm, and we thankfully did not have to wait long. Yes, it was a staph infection, but did not require oral antibiotics. A topical antibiotic ointment should do the trick. Lucky! We rushed to Walgreen's and got there 5 minutes before closing to pick up our prescription, as well as a little treat for Carys for being such a good sport at the clinic. She chose a Hello Kitty sticker/coloring book and Hostess cupcake. She quite reveled in the whole late night adventure! She was back in her bed by around 11 pm, slightly hyper after the Hostess sugar-rush.
Today, the elbow already looks much better after 3 applications of the antibiotic. However, the rash on her chest/tummy is also on her bottom, and looks more like little boils than an actual rash. I've already put a call in to the doctor about this. Not taking any more chances!
So the moral of our story is: Don't forget to clean every little scratch, nick, cut, prick your precious little ones get on their skin! We are usually pretty good about this, and I even have a travel-size Band-Aid Wash with me when I leave home, but we dropped the ball in all the excitement of Halloween eve. I've wanted to cry for not figuring it out days sooner and feel guilty for not being more aware. Certainly my Dad has chided me for not taking her to a doctor before last night. Parenthood is so scary sometimes. But Carys has taken all of this in stride, and when I apologized to her again today for not taking better care of her boo-boo before, she told me it was ok. Unconditional love from my little one humbles me. I am so blessed.
Dylan's team of employees carved and painted these patriotic pumpkins the day before Halloween as part of a timed carving competition at work. They came in 4th place. I think they were entirely appropriate given his workplace, USAA, and also just ahead of Veterans Day.
Needless to say, we still have quite a few boxes left, and at the same time, this week are gearing up for Cookie Sale 2009. Uh-oh. We need to get rid of these cookies. I served several flavors at our recent Girl Scout Pot-Luck at our house, but we still have so many left.
I remembered tonight that I have this awesome recipe to use up Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, and I am posting it just in case someone else out there ordered a few too many cookies too:
Thin Mints Pizza Supreme
From Every Day with Rachael Ray, April 2007 (but I got the recipe originally from my friend Casey's friend Kathryn who is a great cook!)
1 18-oz pkg refrigerated choc chip cookie dough
1/2 box Girl Scout Thin Mints (about 20 cookies)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (6 oz)
2 Tbsp. heavy cream or half-and-half
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12" pizza or 9x13" baking dish with parchment paper. Using fingers, press cookie dough to fit pan. Break Thin Mints into quarters and gently press into dough. Bake until golden brown, 15-20 min. Let cool.
2. Meanwhile, in a double boiler, whisk together the white choc chips and cream until chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Using a fork, drizzle the topping over the cooled pizza. Cut into slices.
So easy! I am going to be making this one several times during the Thanksgiving-to-New Years rush. Cookie Sale starts January 1, 2009, so I'll just have enough time!
(Photo from Mrs. O blog)
Melissa says: Thalia continues to be keenly interested in the new President-elect. Today, while I was listening to the news on NPR, she commented that Obama is not the president yet. I told her she was correct but that he would be soon, and there would be a parade, speeches and a really big ball. "Can we go too?" she asked hopefully. "No. It's too far, in Washington DC." "Can we watch it on TV?" It's really cool that she is so interested in the future First Family.
She is particularly interested and excited by the fact that there are two First Daughters moving into the White House, and one of them, Sasha, is the same age she is. And she pointed out today that "Malia (the 10 year old) rhymes with Thalia!"
I too recognize that First Mom (that's how I think of her because she's keeps it so real) Michelle Obama is only a few years older than I am, and her daughters are three years apart in age, as mine are. I look forward to having a "friend-in-my-head" in the White House who is my contemporary, instead of a First Lady who is my Mom's age.
The White House hasn't had kids this young since Amy Carter! Even Chelsea Clinton was well on her way past the tween stage when she moved into the White House. I think having 'First Girls' at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be fun for those of us who also have similarly-aged daughters, and they will be a frame of reference as all of them grow and change in the next four (possibly eight) years.