Wednesday, November 12

Why I'm Not Asking for Anything this Christmas

My husband is a pro at managing our money. 

I can say this today, because after almost a decade, several thousand dollars in debt, a couple of bailouts and lots and lots and lots of hard work, my husband is a pro at managing our money. 
Still, things are tight for us right now, financially. I have two part-time jobs, and he has a full-time career, plus a part-time job. We pay our bills on time, we put gas in our cars and food on the table, but there's not a whole lot of wiggle room after payday. 

Which is why I'm not asking my husband for a Christmas present for myself this year. 

My husband is an excellent gift-giver. He consistently gives me things I've asked for, things I long for, and things I didn't even know I wanted. He has surprised me with perfect gifts every Christmas- from an ornament & a diamond ring marking our first holiday together, to a pair of deliciously fuzzy slippers that replaced an old raggedy pair, to- on two separate occasions- a new computer. 

Our kids were at church choir practice tonight, and we had our once-a-week-for-one-hour alone time. I looked at him with my Bad News Face and told him we had to discuss Christmas presents. A couple of years ago, after our third baby was born, we adopted what has become my favorite gift-giving model: 

Something they want,
Something they need,
Something to wear,
Something to read. 

I forgot where I first heard that, but it's genius, I'm telling you. 
It falls in line with my philosophy on bikinis for little girls- if I refuse to let my toddlers wear teeny triangle top bikinis, then that'll still be a rule for them as they grow up. There's no backsliding, "but I wore one when I was nine!" when they're teenagers. 
If we buy them each four gifts every year, they'll never be disappointed when they have four presents down the road (or worse, expect more as they age). 
And as I've learned with every hard-and-fast parenting rule, I'm certain it'll bend every now and then. I'm sure I'll agree to a tasteful monokini someday, just like I'm sure the gift list will eventually expand. But what I have to keep in mind is that these kids have three grandmothers and lots of people who love them who are all happy to shower them with presents. 
Our showers on them will just be more like sprinkles. 

A few minutes after our Christmas-for-the-kids talk, my husband asked me what I wanted. I fought the urge to give him a long list to choose from, like I have for the last ten Christmases, and instead said, "just a nice set of fancy sheets for you and me."
And I really meant it. (I may or may not have used the demure trick, "oh, just something small," when he knew I was lusting after a new laptop a few years ago.) 
I will be a happy girl if I have just one gift under our tree. 

This year, I want us to really focus on Christmas as a family. I want to buy decent, meaningful presents for my children. I want to get a gift for his mother and mine, even though they both swear we don't have to. I want to carry on our tradition of filling three Operation Christmas Child boxes, and filling one shopping cart with Christmas feast food to donate to a local women's home. I want to buy some bees from Heifer, and make sure each of our children buy one small, thoughtful gift for their siblings. 

I don't want a thing. Well, that's not true. I want hundreds of things, but I don't want anything from my husband for Christmas, except a nice set of fancy sheets for the two of us.


Saturday, September 13

Loving the Lalaloopsy Girls!

A few weeks ago, the Bee Girls were introduced to the Lalaloopsy Girls

We're pretty familiar with Lalaloopsies, as both girls have received Lalaloopsy dolls for Christmas for several years in a row. But! Lalaloopsy Girls are a whole new line of "fashion dolls" aimed at slightly older girls. They have their own school (the LaLa Academy!) and everything.  

It's safe to say that the Bee Girls absolutely love the Lalaloopsy Girls. 

I'm pretty wary of "brand name" toys. I've managed to avoid Bratz and Monster High toys altogether. (Plus, my girls have pretty discerning taste. They won't play with no junk!)
I have to say, The Lalaloopsy Girls are pretty awesome. Each Girl comes with a little animal friend. One of the Girls we got has magic color-changing hair. Another came with a dress AND pajamas. The Girls are sturdy enough to hold up under my girls' rough love, and they come without any pre-determined play... which means my girls get to make up whatever situations they want, and their imaginations have run wild! 

These dolls have become the centerpieces of my girls' playtime together. They've made up elaborate back-stories, they've created entire dioramas for the Lalaloopsy Girls to inhabit... they are incorporating so much free play into the dolls, and I'm loving it. 

The Bee Girls put the Lalaloopsy Girls to bed each night. 

I can't wait for the entire line of Lalaloopsy Girls to be released. I love watching my girls play with them. I've even joined the Lalaloopsy Insiders, a sort of club for Lalalovers with all kinds of intel and news about the Loopsyverse.

My next post will be all about the adventures of using the Lalaloopsy Baking Oven!!
Won't you join me on #TeamLalaLoopsy!?

I have received this product from MGA as part of their toy testerprogram.

#spon: I'm required to disclose a relationship between my blog and MGAE. This could include MGAE providing me w/ content, product, access or other forms of payment.

Tuesday, September 9

Loss. Or: Why Friendship Smells Like Old Books

I tried to explain to my husband how the loss of a person I hadn't spoken to in almost exactly nine years had rattled me to my bones. 
It wasn't that he was unmoved, or cold, or lacked sympathy. It's just that he'd never really known her. Or, more, he'd never known her + me.


She and I met in fifth grade. We disliked each other almost immediately. I was small and quiet and nearly invisible (yes, there was such a time), and she was large and loud and demanded an audience. She knew who she was, and I wanted to be anybody other than myself. 
In sixth grade, our science teacher paired us up for the year. I don't remember the switch from hate to love, but isn't that how all romantic comedies work? One moment you can't stand the sight of each other, and the next moment well-whaddaya-know, you're inseparable. 
We rode the bus to her house after school, and I marveled that it stopped right in front of her mailbox (I'd never been on a school bus in my life). I met her big, loud parents and her floppy, useless hound. 
We giggled about boys. 
We cruised the mall. 
We DIY-ed facemasks. 
We were in band- she a first-chair flute, I a nearly-last chair trumpet. 
We watched age-inappropriate movies. 
We got snowed in. 
We at spaghetti next door at her aunt's house. 
We held garage sales. 
We snuck into the kitchen and mixed a cup of her parents' red wine with a cup of our red Kool-Aid.
(We never drank red wine again.)


When I moved school districts the next year, I refused to utter a single cheer for my new team. I secretly rooted for her school during the football game. I spent every single Friday night of seventh grade, and most of eighth at her house. 

We slowly, slowly, imperceptibly grew apart. Not even apart, just away. Same trunk, spreading branches. Every so often we'd stretch and our leaves would touch, and we'd know things were fine. 

I started rooting for my new football team. 
She started smoking weed. 
I was happy, and loud, and knew just who I was. 
She was miserable, and losing sight of herself. 
I took off for college.
She took drugs I'd never heard of. 


She called to tell me she was pregnant. I sighed in relief, thinking this would settle her down. She'd grow up. She'd straighten up. 
On the day she went into labor, I walked in the delivery room and told her to show me how to do it right, because I was next in line. We were twenty. 

Her daughter is six months older than my son. I'd dreamed that motherhood would draw her back to me, back to her senses, back to sobriety— instead it sent her crashing. Back to booze, back to drugs, back to choices I couldn't bear to watch. 


Some months later I saw her at the mall with her mother. "I'm getting married!" I squealed, as I showed them my ring. "Will you be my bridesmaid?!" It came out before I could even weigh the consequences. But it didn't matter. She looked good. She looked healthy. I wanted her with me at the front of the church. 

We made it all the way to the rehearsal dinner. Looking on it now, it's clear she was still using. She slumphed around the church. She complained about the food. About where she had to stand in line. About how the other bridesmaids weren't including her. When we left the church to go back to my house for the night, just us girls, she "got lost" on the interstate and found herself in the hotel room of one of the groomsmen. 

She never showed up at the church the next day. 

I haven't seen or talked to her since. 


I tried to explain to my husband that it didn't matter that I hadn't spoken to her in nine years. "She's a book I know by heart!" He looked at me the way you watch a wounded bird trying to flap it's way into the sky. 

Without even trying very hard, I can smell the medicine cabinet in her bathroom, hear the hardwood floors creak in her parents' house, taste the Schwan's pierogies her dad loves so much. I can still pick out the dog treats her pup favored if I see them on a grocery store shelf. Her life was a book I'd memorized, even if I hadn't opened it in nearly a decade. 

There are some friendships that are shiny, new, spine-uncracked best sellers. They're fun, but haven't been tested. 

There are some whose covers you recognize, whose faces you recall fondly, but not forcefully. 

Then there are the friendships that, even after sitting on a dusty shelf, have the power to move your soul by title alone. 


I have promised to visit her daughter, to introduce her to my son, to tell her stories of how we sat them in side-by-side swings and imagined that they'd get married some day. 
I will tell her daughter how I'd marveled that her mother could play the piccolo so fast and so well. 
I'll tell her that her mother always had better shoes, better skin, and better hair than I had. 
I'll tell her how much her fifth-grade self looks like her momma's fifth-grade self. 
I'll tell her that I loved her mother, and that I'll never get over her loss, and that she'll always be one of my favorite stories.

Thursday, May 15

Simple DIY Teeth Whitening Tray

I've been on a DIY (read: cheap & easy) kick lately. Add that to my "more natural" (read: fewer unpronounceable ingredients) kick, and my hippy roots are showing wildly. 

My newest health/beauty obsession is an easy peasy, quick & painless, cheap & natural teeth whitening tray. 
You know, like the ones that cost a minimum of $15, but usually $40, and up to several hundred dollars elsewhere. 

Wilson adult size athletic mouth guard: $0.97
Arm & Hammer 16 oz baking soda: $0.92
Walgreens brand hydrogen peroxide: $1.19
(Rubber ducky not included.)

For a grand total of $3.08. No coupons even, which I bet you could find if you we're looking.  

And, as promised, it's super easy to whip up a batch of tooth whitening paste. 

Initially, you have to "boil & bite" the mouth guard to mold it to your teeth. I even had to snip off some of the back and some of the top (around molars and gums) before I fitted it to my mouth. That takes an entire minute and a half. 

Next, in a teeny bowl or cup, mix 1 tsp of the baking soda with 1/2 a tsp of the peroxide until pasty. 

Schmear it in your new custom-fit mouth guard and pop that sucker in. 

Leave on your teeth for 5-10 minutes, and entertain yourself by scaring the bejeebees out of your children as you pretend to have rabies, what with all the foaming at the mouth you're doing. 

Remove tray, spit, rinse, repeat every three days or so. 

So fresh. 
And also so clean, clean. 

(Keep in mind, I'm a writer, not a dentist. This is intended for use on a healthy grill. If you have any questions, call a professional.) 

Wednesday, January 29

Five Great Ways to Use Coconut Oil

Listen, we need to talk about something. Do you have enough coconut oil in your life? You probably don't. I didn't, until a few days and an exhaustive Pinterest search ago. 

I have some deep-seated hippy tendencies. I've made my own laundry detergent, and sometimes I don't shower. Ok, so those are just two weird hippy things, but still. 
Recently, I've been on a "more natural" (as opposed to a strict "all natural") kick. Instead of harsh chemical carpet cleaners, I've been using baking soda + vinegar. Instead of (again, super harsh and chemical-ly) bathroom cleaners, I've been using hydrogen peroxide and tea tree oil and baking soda. They are all easy switches, and an easy Google/Pinterest search away. 

My latest find is coconut oil. Honest to goodness, I hate all things coconut-related. Just the very thought of shredded coconut makes me gaggy. But once I read some of the benefits of coconut oil (and, you know, didn't gag), I'm a coconut convert. 

For those of you who are skeptical, or just now embracing your hippy side, here are five easy and effective ways to use coconut oil. 

(First, there are several kinds of oil to choose from. Best bet is one with a label that mentions being organic, virgin or extra virgin, and cold-expeller pressed. Make sure it mentions a "chemical-free extraction process" and that it is *un*refined. I bought my jar at a local health-food store for about $12.00)

1) Use instead of shaving cream. 
Coconut oil at room-temperature is a solid, but melts very easily in your hands or in the shower. Smoooove all over your legs and use just like you would shaving cream. You will end up silky soft. Yay!

2) Use as massage oil/cuticle oil
Coconut oil makes a lovely (and lovely-smelling) massage/cuticle rub. It's packed with antioxidants and vitamin E, and it's even safe to use on babies for a sweet after-bath massage!

3) Use as eye makeup remover
Sure, you can stick to your (chemical-ly!!) manufactured eye makeup remover, or you can go au naturĂ©l! Dab a little coconut oil on a cotton ball, and rub over those luscious lashes of yours. Makeup comes off quickly and the oil leaves your lashes healthier and stronger than before! 

4) Use to boost your smoothies 
It seems as if ingesting some coconut oil on the daily has a bazillion benefits. Adding just two tablespoons to your morning smoothie can boost energy levels, amp up your metabolism, aid in digestion, and even alleviate some allergy symptoms! 

Number five is actually my number one favorite way to use coconut oil:

5) Replace your (CHEMICAL!) facial moisturizer entirely
I have super-sensitive skin, prone to being both oily and dry (lucky me!), and now that I'm 30, I get to enjoy both acne and wrinkles! Ugh. I've been a Clinique 3-step devotee for a hundred years, but I'm weaning myself almost entirely off the store-bought stuff. I wash my face now with Dickenson's Witch Hazel cleanser, and follow up with a coconut oil moisturizer. 
Scooping up a teeny tiny baby pea-sized amount of the oil and letting it melt on your fingertips will do just fine. Spread and smooth a light layer all over your face and neck, then marvel at the wonder of super soft skin! 
Seriously, I've been on this coconut oil facial regimen for about a week now, and I'm beyond amazed at how soft and smooth and evenly-toned my skin is. 

There are dozens of ways to use coconut oil in your everyday life. Check it out for yourself, them come back and thank me later. :)

What are some of your favorite DIY natural remedies? 

Monday, January 27

#DestructoTot & Me

Everywhere we go, it happens all the time. People *literally* gasp and do double-takes. 
"She looks just like you!"
"She's your mini-me!"

I don't see it as often as strangers do, but when it's there, it's undeniable. 

That's me on the left, around three. And B3 on the right, right before she turned five. 

Someone said something about a small clone?