All About Me!

I’m so excited to participate in the CDP Exchange again, here are some short and long questions and answers so you can get to know me better if you don’t already!

What is your favorite color?
Blues and greens and deep plum purple. I like more muted earth tone colors. The only colors I DON’T like are neons and pastels.

What is your favorite season?
Fall (see longer answer below) and a hypothetically perfect winter-snow, cold but not frigid temps, no ice, roaring fireplaces.

What is your favorite treat?
Oh man. I drink an INSANE amount of coffee, I enjoy many adult beverages (BEER!!! GIN!! WINE!!), chocolate, cookie butter, chips…I’m also a carb addict. I’ve been trying to make healthier food and portion choices, so not too many delectable treats.

What is your favorite scent?
I like fresh, clean scents: Lemon verbena is a good one. I also enjoy some flowery scents as long as they aren’t too heavy. There’s this scent I think is to die for, Pink-Pepperpod by Moulton Brown.

What is your favorite ice cream coping mechanism?
Anything chocolate. Brownie based, caramel swirls, PB pieces or swirls…all GOOD. I still need to check out some of the Ben & Jerry’s Core flavors.

What do you like to do in your free time moments?
Read, nap, organize things (please note this is different than cleaning for me) running, cooking (which again is different than the food prep slog I do all.damn.day. with the children in the house). I got a sewing machine for Christmas and I’d like to find some fun projects to work on, and I’d love to start knitting again and learning more than just the knit and purl stitches. I like chatting with my friends, drinking coffee, admiring others’ crafty ventures.

What do you not enjoy doing, and why, but have to do anyway?
Unloading the dishwasher, especially the silverware drawer. Getting up in the morning, as I’m not a morning person.

If someone gave you money with the instruction that you had to spend it on something frivolous for yourself, what would you buy?
Makeup? Jewelry? Shoes? It depends on how much the amount was. I hit 30 and it’s like my body decided to start the aging process in full force, so I’m suddenly taking an interest in things like anti-aging creams and makeup so I don’t look so haggard. I’d say books, but I have a pile of over 100 to work through, so I’m trying to be on a book-buying hiatus. Pens! I love pens! Home decor stuff, craft supplies, clothes. I’ve bought one of those Fab Fit Fun boxes recently (similar idea as the CDP, really) and was super pleased with the items. I’m thinking next time I have extra money I might do the PopSugar Must Have box.

Do you have any decorating themes in your home/office?
Not really. I’m actually making an effort this year to work on some decor. Our office has sort of a nature theme. I’m partial to MCM design styles. I love clean lines and the uncluttered look.

Is there something that you REALLY, REALLY like? (Burt’s Bees, horses, cats, fairies, unicorns, birds, patriotic stuff, babies, chocolate, Diet Coke, etc….)
Beer and gin and wine. Penguins. Books. Spill-proof coffee mugs. My close friends. Tote bags and pouches and notebooks and washi tape and organizing things (really. Can I organize your closets?).

What is the VERY! BEST! present you have ever received and why was it the best? (The purpose of this question is to give people another idea of the sorts of things that make you happy.)
A book light. I love to read late into the night, but the light bothers my husband. I’d sometimes get up to go read elsewhere, so the light wouldn’t bother him. He randomly got a book light for me one time so I could read amid the comfort of my bed (one of my favorite places).

 

 

What was your favorite food when you were a child? Probably baked potatoes or pickles. I was VERY picky as a kid (I’m not anymore though. I LOVE to eat A LOT of different things), so I really didn’t have much variety. The pickles thing is funny, though. My best friend in elementary school loved pickles as well, so during sleepovers we would dip pickles in ketchup as a snack.

What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod? Probably any song by Damien Rice or the Weepies. I went through a really bad break-up that DR helped me get through, and then a handful of years later was in that embarrassing emo stage where one minute I would want a happy song, and the next a sad, and the Weepies fit the bill perfectly. Our wedding favor was a mix CD, and we actually included a Weepies song on there. Also Ryan Adams,Ben Folds, Ben Harper, Megan Trainor and Taylor Swift as of late, and we just got tickets to see DMB this summer!

What is one of your favorite quotes? “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.”
-Dickens, Great Expectations      I spent MANY years of my life being told by many people that I was too sensitive or that I had thin skin. Both true things. However, I’m finally at the point in my life that I’ve accepted who I am, and really value how my emotions shape me. I spent a few years trying to not cry or be as emotional, and I was basically pretending to be someone other than myself.

What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity? Indoor: Reading, hands down. That and sleeping, I suppose. Outdoor: I used to be a fairly avid runner, but that’s a rare occurrence these days with the kids and not a lot of baby sitting options and a crazy busy spouse.

What chore do you absolutely hate doing? Cleaning the toilets, emptying the silverware out of the dishwasher, and constantly having to hound my family members to pick their clutter up off the damn floors! (I found a 18 hour old bath towel in my stepdaughter’s closet on the floor, stinking up the joint, and I’m always moving my husband’s razor back to the bathroom from the oddest places)

What is your favorite form of exercise? Running. I ran cross-country in HS and since then, it’s always the most effective way that I can push myself, get healthier, or burn stress. I find I somewhat enjoy some Jillian videos, but I can’t take too much repetition.

What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year? I’m a fall person all the way. I HATE summer humidity, and there are so many things about fall that just make me so cheery. The cool weather, the drinks (cider!), tailgating season, chunky sweaters are all part of my happy place. Month? Probably May. My husband is an accountant, so we spend the months before in a complete whirlwind. May seems a slow-motion month, and I am better at remembering to really enjoy how important time is for all the good things in life.

What’s your least favorite mode of transportation? Biking. This is only because I live in a suburban area, so imagining a bike as an actual mode of transportation is slightly horrifying.

What is your favorite body part? My hair and my eyes. I’m a natural loose-curled brunette, and I seem to live in the land of ‘straight blondes are where it’s at’ so I like that it is a visual reminder to people that I’m different. I have very deep brown eyes, which isn’t especially common either, it seems. From the time I was a young kiddo, I get so many compliments on how gorgeous my eyes are (thank heavens, I hope it draws them away from the acne I think I’ll never rid myself of)

What sound do you love? I love the sound of waves lapping and waves hitting the shore. I’m a Pisces, and LOVE the water. I also find the sound of the El trains in Chicago quite comforting. I went to school in the north suburbs before I failed out/got super depressed, and visited the city quite often. The clanking on the tracks, the hustle and bustle of people…it all reminds me of being a small speck in a giant world. I would always get so giddy standing on the platform as the train would approach, and the gust of wind would flurry my hair and made me feel so alive.

If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do? I’d pay off all our debts, and give my little brother some money. Then, I’d go back to finish school and get my degree. I finally have intellectual pursuits I feel passionate about, and I want to show my kids that finishing something you believe in is vital character development, and I also want to enrich and contribute to my community in better ways. Then I’d do all the silly adult things, such as money for college for the kids, investments, retirement planning (I’m a worry wart and grew up with fiscally unsound parents, so I’m trying to break that cycle). At that point, I’d think about a new house on some land, so we had room to run and play, and so I could have some bad-ass chickens to hang out and produce eggs for me. My lottery splurge? Either a vacation property in Hawaii or Colorado. Or both!

If you were reincarnated as an animal/drink/ice cream flavor, what would it be? Animal: Penguin. I don’t know the reasoning of how it came to be, but forever now I’ve been pretty convinced they are the most phenomenal animal alive. Drink: Hmmm…so many choices! Maybe a spiked, warm, apple cider? Ice Cream: I’m a chocolate addict. Think Ben & Jerry’s Brownie Batter, but with more chocolaty chunks thrown in.

If you could know the answer to any question, besides “What is the meaning of life?”, what would it be? Maybe not the best answer, but I’d want to be able to not only know what someone else was thinking, but why.My brain seems to work SO differently than everyone else, I wish I could peek inside their brain and understand their process. I like to be able to understand everything, so man would this help me worry about so many less things (at least, hypothetically it would. Realistically, I know I would probably end up even more confused).

If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose? Two of my favorite books ever are Little Women, and The Giver. I always identified with Jo growing up, because I’ve always been a voracious reader. Asher, on the other hand, is burdened with so much but has such insight into how things could be different. I don’t profess to have his wisdom (nor will I ever) but it always reminds me to think critically about lots of different situations, and that sometimes dissent can be a wonderful thing (as well as differences, but that’s obvious).

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Oh Bother

I’ve known for weeks that a call to my therapist would be a good step; a step down the path to a happier definition of normal, a door to a better understanding of where my depression and anxiety stand, and how parenthood and marriage are holding up (spoiler alert: not great).

I’m worried if I call in the morning, she’ll try and fit me in later that afternoon, and I’ll have to bother someone to watch the kids, or drag them along and bother her while we’re trying to meet. If I can’t find a willing volunteer, of which there aren’t a lot, we’ll then have to pay for a sitter, and money doesn’t grow on trees, and what a bother to waste a paid babysitter on a stupid therapy appointment.

I’m worried if I call midday, I’ll be interrupting the lunch hour. One of her few moments of quiet, when she’s trying to eat or get paperwork done. I worry that she’ll be in session with another client; the ringing phone derailing, bothering an important segment of thought or the middle of a breakthrough.

I’m worried if I call in the evening, in hopes of leaving a neutral voicemail, that she’ll instead worry it’s an afterhours emergency, and then I’ve bothered her unnecessarily and she’ll be hesitant to re-accept a client who has such a blatant disregard for specified office hours and her desire for a life outside of the office.

I’m worried that the recent revelation I’ve had about how I’ve been raised will be too bothersome for her to help me work through; unpacking the how and why it’s happened, and how to fix the brokenness, how to move forward with some semblance of dignity and self-worth, if there’s any in there at all. I worry that once we get my depression under control, then she can’t bill insurance, and it’ll be too much money to keep going to therapy. I worry, every month, every day, every minute, that I’m a bother. To you, to my family, to the general public. Practically every decision I make has a good component of ‘otherness’ embedded into the final product. I order the same thing when eating our 95% of the time. I know I like it, so I won’t take extra time looking at the other choices, it won’t waste money, and I won’t waste even more time by having to reorder something new if I had gotten a dish I actually ended up not liking. Even though I desperately could use it, I find it difficult asking anyone to babysit. Watching kids is hard, especially when the age range and interests are wide. Surely they could be doing something more worthwhile than coming over to watch my kids so I can do what? Go read in a coffee shop? Try on shoes without the circus in tow? Going for a quick workout? Psh. I don’t bother having the conversation with my husband that so desperately needs to happen about equality of household work division because it’s his busy time of year, and I’m anxious that I’ll yet again have him try to tell me that’s just how I feel, it’s not how it actually is. Is the bother of a potential (recurring) fight worth it? Or is it just easier to continue being the one that shoulders the load? Do I just resign myself to the fact that I’m a stay-at-home (works very part time) maid, or do I bother the status quo and fight to do more stay-at-home (works very part time) momming?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I was raised to not be a bother. To my mother, or to anyone. I was raised to stay the hell out of the way and create as few waves as possible. To silently trudge ahead, asking permission, thinking of everyone else, and somehow along the way losing myself. I don’t mean to sound like a martyr; one of those people who thinks she has to ‘do it all’ because everyone else around her is too stupid to participate. I get legitimate anxiety worrying about negatively impacting someone else’s life. Which, really, is probably just as detrimental to those around me as trying to claim I’m a martyr. They probably think I’m bad at delegating, or don’t trust them to watch my kids, or so on, and all I can focus on is the negative impact asking for help or my fair share of the pie might have on them. I don’t have any desire to become a selfish person. But I long to be self-aware. I long to advocate not just for others, but for myself. I want to stop trying to think it’s my job to carry everyone’s burdens, and ask them to carry some of their own. It’s funny, because so much of this has become clear over the past few months, but it’s one thing to see it in words and another thing entirely to try to fix it in your everyday life.

Seven years ago, on April 11th, I called my mom to ask a quick question as I frantically tried to complete my taxes. The tone of her voice immediately betrayed something horribly wrong; which she wouldn’t share over the phone. Being the dense person I am; I asked my hysterectomied mother if she was pregnant. My mind was trying to process what my heart refused. I dashed away from work, and confronted her at home. She was having an affair, had gotten in a fight with her lover, but still finally had decided she wanted to go file at the courthouse. A teary conversation ensued, and I remember few details, but I’ll always remember the following. She admitted marrying my dad (the man I know and call dad is actually my adopted father; I don’t know my biological father. Another story for another day) because she was just so tired of having to be my mother without any help. She was pinning her marriage, affair, and subsequent divorce on the fact that it bothered her to mother a baby she chose to have. I have bothered the world from Day One.

Do you know what I want? I want for my husband to be in love with me enough to make the coffee every morning like he used to, as a small gesture of love and knowledge I’m not a morning person. I want for him to be able to make a joke and be able to laugh with him, rather than worry it has an underlying critique.

I want to tell my old best friend (who was in my wedding party a short five years ago) I’m so sorry I lost touch, but I had ante-partum depression and her life deserved to go on without having to comfort me from thousands of miles away, or that I always felt awkward calling with kids in the background because I didn’t want to bother her. She’s getting married the end of May. I’m not invited.

I want to matter. I want to be enough of a bother to myself to see that it’s ok to be broken, ok to be depressed, and matter enough to seek help. I don’t want a parade, I don’t want the world to stop turning. I just want to stop putting myself last, so others will too. But first, I still have to figure out what the best time is to call my therapist.

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Bullet Journal Convert

I’ve tried for a few years to find an effective way to manage our family calendar and my to-do lists. It’s always been the ‘eh, this works well enough’ type system, but nothing really stuck or felt life changing. I’ve struggled the past year as Asher came into our lives, Poppy started preschool, I started some part-time work, and Mac and I both dove a bit deeper into volunteer commitments. More BUSY. There are so many different lists and schedules and it felt like I was always dropping something. Whether forgetting the one item that was the sole reason for the Target trip, or not getting a volunteer email sent in time (it wasn’t like we were forgetting kids at school or missing work) things were happening to cause chaos and stress for our family (I suffer from general anxiety. I know forgetting the butter at the store isn’t a big deal for some people, but it can be for me, so please don’t think I’m just throwing the word chaos around lightly). I was at the point of potentially dropping big bucks and buying one of those Erin Condren planners everyone seems to love. THEN. The amazing Zoot posted about how she’d started a bullet journal and it was possibly changing her life. I watched the video and was really intrigued. Part of my problem always seemed to stem from the fact that I’d make lists, but they’d always end up not in my purse or at my desk, so it quickly wasn’t in the thinking space of my mind, just more as ‘there’s a list somewhere,’ and that thought wasn’t actually getting anything done. I’ve tried a planner with a monthly page and a daily page, which worked well for managing scheduled items and immediate to-dos, but since I didn’t have ALL my to-do info, it was hard to effectively manage everything. I tried an electronic calendar (Google) a few times. It was great for detailed management of scheduled items, (color coding! Electronic reminders!) but HORRIBLE for me with task management items. Mac was not great about adding items (read never) so it would still have some holes. Once I started staying home and wasn’t in front of a computer all day, it was much harder to diligently update it. Really, nothing seemed like an ideal solution, so the fact that the Bullet Journal was customizable without costing and arm and a leg? Major plus.

I decided at the beginning of the year to give the bullet journal a try. One of the big reasons I finally felt comfortable was that Zoot posted some PDF calendar pages on her blog. I need a visual of the entire month; it’s hard for me to take a list of events and process them the same way as the calendar, as shown in the video.  My work shifts don’t follow a pattern (I work in the nursery at my church) and Mac and I have at least five meetings a month; again, they don’t always follow a pattern. Vee takes clarinet lessons and does a couple extracurricular clubs at school, and I also like the visual of highlighting her weekends with us (we do a 5-2-2-5 rotation, so very regular, but again, I need the immediate visual when I’m planning stuff). These PDFs gave me the ability to incorporate the calendar into the journal.

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Two months into the experiment, and I feel safe sharing the fact that it’s making a profound difference in my life. I feel more prepared to face each day. I’m better able to manage my time, and as a result I feel more in control of the chaos I’m trying to manage. I’m up to 19 pages so far. Here are my favorites:

-Important Dates: This includes birthdays and anniversaries for family and close friends. I can sit down and notate in my monthly or daily list to prepare appropriately (cards, gifts, etc).

-Running To-Buy Items: These are items like dishwasher detergent, shampoo, Kleenex, and cleaning supplies. If I see we’re running low on something, it goes on this list. (We don’t have a Costco and don’t belong to Sam’s. I do a lot of our basics at Target and CVS, since I base a lot of our spending off of ad prices.) I always reference this list when I’m looking at the weekly ads, so I’m not just notating all bargains, but ones that are applicable. I also reference this list before I check out at Target. I used to enjoy errands before having children and staying at home. Errands now are figured in child math. Factors include number of kids, weather, time since a diaper blowout, etc. I don’t mind hauling the kids to Target if I know it’ll be my only trip and I’m not going back two more times because I was stupid and forgot important crap. I know I’ll never be perfect, but I HATE forgetting important things and adding extra errands when I could have planned better to avoid it. This helps SOOOO MUCH with that problem.

-Running Grocery: Ongoing list of items basics we keep on hand. Again, I shop a lot by ad, so I’ll usually craft a grocery list based of our meal plan and ad prices. Inevitably, before my bullet journal, I’d perpetually forget we were running low on a staple, and then we’d be out a resource for planning a last-minute dinner later in the week (you can see right now that we’re out of brown rice, and we’ll need more fruit for smoothies soon).

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-Gift Ideas: Lots of times, we’re at the library or a store or some other random place where the kids get fixated on a particular item. I’ve started jotting down these things, so that I’m not just filling our gift lists with random items that will elevate the level of crap in our house. For Poppy, she had a pair of toy binoculars break a while back. Something Mac bought on a whim once that she ended up loving. Honestly, it wouldn’t be something I’d retain in my brain, but since I jotted it down, it’ll be something we either gift to her or suggest to relatives for her upcoming birthday.

-Date Ideas: Some items on this list are event specific, but others are more general. Aside from my birthday weekend, we’ve been on one date in the past two (three maybe?) months. I don’t always like doing the routine dinner and a movie, so this is a good motivator to find different and fun ways to have couple time. It’s also a good motivator to see looming dates (concerts, food or drink festivals) and make an effort to attend. I’m very much that person who hears about something 4 months ahead of time, and then because life=busy, I inevitably forget until it’s passed or it’s too late to secure childcare.

Here’s a picture of my index page, so you can see what other pages I have going on. (I only have A and B pages because they originally had stuck together, and I’m a little bit, uh, particular, about order and precision, so I didn’t want to have to cross anything out or try to rip out the blank pages and potentially damage the binding.)

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I like having a place for all my lists, and this keeps them organized and with me at all times. It’s not in the form of random slips of paper or sticky-notes. They aren’t getting lost or crumpled up, and since they all have a standardized format (the journal) they stay much neater and relevant. I’m pretty horrible about long-term project management, and having a place to make and keep these lists, and then reference when I’m doing my monthly planning and daily planning really helps me stay on top of being accountable for what I need to manage. The monthly to-do lists are something I like more than I thought I would. I thought it would be a hassle, but it helps me see what I’m not completing (and therefore, maybe isn’t a priority and needs to be dropped), and what does get completed. It’s also very much a mind game for me, in that I’m not continually lengthening a list; starting a new one triggers a fresh start mentality for me.

I probably make a daily to-do five out of seven days. On days I’m super busy, it helps my recall ability, and to not leave anything out. I don’t write down everything I may end up doing, just things that I’ve decided absolutely need to take priority. Last week vacuuming made it onto the list one day, but I also cleaned up some of our spare room, which wasn’t on the list.  There are some days where only one item on my list may get crossed off, but I am less anxious because I’ve had the chance to reference all the other pages and know that putting something off for a day is made from a time management standpoint, not because I’m lazy. According to Mac, I’m my harshest critic, so when things don’t get done, it’s hard for me to just see it as an item on a list, and not a personal failure. I think this is slowly helping me see that I DO manage a lot, and there is no expectation for me to be perfect from anyone. I’m excited to see how its use holds up as the year progresses. I think there are a few changes I’ll make when I get a new book, or as the opportunity arises:

-Color coding items on the monthly calendar. I put a few items on here that aren’t mandatory, but I like to know are going on (library story time, PAT playgroups, etc). I’ll probably try a month of two colors (mandatory and non-mandatory) and see how I like that.

-Tabs. Zoot talks about using tabs for frequently referenced pages. Now that I’m over a dozen pages, this does seem like it will be something that will be helpful

-Adding a ‘random notes’ page: I struggle with this one. I’ve created a page for books I want to read, and I think I’m going to do a TV show and movie one, but sometimes I want to remember something less categorizable. Maybe it’s an interesting piece on NPR, a helpful medicine recommendation, or some info about a new store opening up. I’d love a page to jot these all down, but I worry if it’s too general of a page, it’ll become cluttered and nonconstructive. Once I figure out an acceptable (to me) format, this will make an appearance. BUT! If you’re not as peculiar as me, this would be a great page to add.

-Upgrading to a Moleskin: I found some clearance journal (about the size of an iPad) that I like, but is a bit big. It has a very light dotted grid, but I would like to go ahead and find something lined. Now that I know this works? Fairly cheap investment when you look at the average price of commercially manufactured planners.

In terms of the pages not being grouped together? (All the monthlies in a section, daily to-dos on consecutive pages) It really doesn’t seem to be too big of an issue. The index is absolutely the key (and I think tabs will be too). I usually find that I have to add the next month about mid-way through the current month. I have a page (again, similar to Zoot) where I keep long-term dates, such as VBS in July. My current journal has a slim pocket in the back, which I keep a couple upcoming months printed out and stored there for easy access. Right now they’re being added much sooner because our schedule is nuts from January-May. (I added April two days ago). I think it also helps that since I use the PDFs and they’re glued it, it’s sort of a physical differentiation that make it a bit quicker to find it (again, tabs would do this same thing. I really do think that it’s a game changer, organization wise. It really is the best, and I probably owe Zoot some major Swistle points for sharing such an awesome tool.

Other organizational notes of importance, so you’re not under any illusion that the bullet journal is a single end-all answer to family organization:

We use a big desk calendar on the side of our fridge so that everyone else can see what’s going on and I’m not the only one with this information. I sit down a few days before the month starts and copy whatever is on my monthly in the bullet journal. I also have a calendar (an adorably cute one that was a CDP!) where I’ll write down our meal plan for the week. I do the majority of the cooking, but this way it’s somewhere public so the task can be delegated. I’ll put notes about where to find the recipe (cookbook, Fresh 20 file, etc) and I want to start writing down prep time. I’m not constant with this (I just looked and had notes for 10 days in February), but it’s nice to have a centralized place to put this info.

If you have any questions I’d love to try to answer them for you. Or, if you use the bullet journal style and want to share your successes or other tips you find helpful, please do!

 

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New Year, New Decor

Confession:

I’m BAAAAD at decor. I love the idea of decorating my house, and having things that help make it feel like home, but I don’t know where to start. Part of it is not knowing the style I like, and how to shop for items that fit my taste. Second, budget. There’s really no extra money at this point for lots of superfluous items in the budget. So it would be great to run through a store (Target, TJMaxx, I’m not highbrow) and buy everything for one room, and call it done, but probably too much money at once. BUT. When I think about piecing things together over time, the idea of finding pieces that “work”, changing my mind, coordinating fabrics, etc. makes my anxiety radar start beeping. I’m not expecting to ever have a house that looks anything like you’d find in a magazine spread, but I’ve made it a goal this year to have more than six things hanging on the wall in our 2300 square foot house. (One of those things? A whale poster in Vee’s room from our honeymoon to Maui. I told you it was bad).

The first room I plan on putting some effort into is our family room. We spend about 80% of our time here, so I think if I can make a few changes, and feel positive about them, it will give me more confidence to move forward with other changes and ideas.

The mantle is my first big hurdle. I plan on whitewashing the fireplace this spring, so it’s a more uniform color. I also desperately want to paint the walls. I’m a cool color person, so the desert mauve or whatever the crap is on my walls has got to go. Dreamily, I’d love to paint/replace the dated honey-oak woodwork. However, our house value is at the top of the market for comps in the area, so we don’t want to sink money into expensive items (woodwork, counter-tops) because we will get no return on them. Yes, it would be lovely to do them just for our happiness, but again, budget. I don’t think we are up for painting them, either. With little experience, kids, etc. I think this would put us squarely in the ‘tried a DIY task and now it looks crappy’ camp. Back to the mantle. I can’t decide if I should get a big, single focal piece to hang in the center, or find smaller, grouped items (frames, vases, knick-knacks) to just reside on the mantle.

Now for the pictures!

Super Boring Mantle

Super Boring Mantle

Wide view of family room

Wide view of family room

Reverse view of Family room

Reverse view of Family room

In the fist two pictures, I’m standing in the hallway area you can see in the third picture, and in the third picture I’m standing up against the hearth. We are pretty happy with the layout (and the current plastic child chic decor that is our overriding theme). It works for what we want out of the room-play area, TV viewing, child safe area. The area over by the bookcase and basketball goal is the door to our backyard.

I have thought lots about color and keep coming back to grey. I think it would help the room from being too dark, and would be a nice neutral to add lots of color accents in. I’d love to also replace the curtains, because beige carpet is enough beige for me. Living in the smack-dab middle of the country also prevents us from removing the ceiling fan. We need circulation in the summer, and pedestal fans are a no-go, (I don’t understand how bloggers remove fans and have ones that children can reach instead. Their kids are obviously more docile than mine.) but we might update it if we can find a good style and price.

If you’d like to come over and decorate my house for me, I’d love you forever and bake you lots of goodies. Oh, I’d also supply tasty beverages too.

If you have any suggestions, tips, or helpful websites to point me to, it would be much appreciated!

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Christmas Gift Rundown-Kid Edition

Here’s a rundown of what the kids all snagged for Christmas, from us and the family.

Poppy

Santa Presents and Stocking

  • -A Chapter book about Tiana. We have princess fever in our house. Which is fine. I can only handle so much ‘stuff,’ so a book is a nice way for us to indulge the princesses without adding to the toy pile.
  • -This set that has a fabric tail for an Ariel doll, as well as an approximation of her wedding dress. She has an Ariel doll, but wanted ‘one wif a tail!’ and I can only handle stepping on so many sharp pointy princess hands. This met the tail requirement without adding a duplicate doll. (As an aside, I remember when I was a girl, there was a giant wall of clothes to buy for your Barbie. I get they just want you to buy all the dolls, but you’ve gotta draw the line somewhere).
  • -Webkinz cat-These were super on sale around Thanksgiving, so we picked them up for the girls and the donation box. We’re trying to soften her fear of cats. I’ll let you know how it goes.
  • -Candy, Buzz Lightyear toothbrush, $1 princess crown and $1 hand mirror

Presents from Us

  • -Ariel costume dress. I found this for $4 at Aldi’s right after Halloween.
  • -Personalized blanket. Disney ran a special after Thanksgiving (before? I can’t
  • remember) so we snagged a Rapunzel blanket with her name embroidered on it. It’s a decent quality, too.
  • -Tangled-She loves this. We’d already own it, but her love for it didn’t happen until this summer, after her birthday. We’ve cut down a lot of the ‘just because’ presents, so I’m glad to finally own this and not hear pleas of renting it every time we drive by the movie store.
  • -Shirt-Long-sleeved shirt with her initial on it. Clothing and educating simultaneously!
  • -Plush Elf-So we’re Elf on the Shelf people. Lazy ones. Forgetful ones. But the kids love it. She’s super great this year about understanding to not touch Eddy. This one came with a note saying he could be cuddled and all that jazz and not lose his magic. I doubt we’ll ever routinely hide him, he’s mostly just a festive plush.
  • -Snow White Doll-We’re trying to round out the ridiculous collection of Disney princess dolls she owns. Checking this one off the list.

Baby

Santa Presents and Stocking

  • -Melissa and Doug magnetic animals
  • -Toothbrush set
  • -Puffs

Presents from Us

  • -Pair of Jeans ($2 at the consignment shop!)
  • -Big Dump truck (About the same size as a FP Little People Bus)
  • -Truck for his VTech play-set

Vee

Santa Presents and Stocking

  • -Nail Polish, Candy, picture frames,
  • -Lego Friends convertible (Yes, we buy pink Legos. Get over it).
  • -Drawing Set-Just a basic set from the craft store with more technical instruments than
  • her regular pens/pencils. Different sized graphite and all that jazz.

Presents from Us

  • -Disney Infinity (We scored this before Thanksgiving when it was super on sale at Target,
  • so that was a nice break on our budget
  • -Extra DI Character
  • -Fleece Zip-up jacket
  • -Yoga/Lounge pants and new long-sleeved sleep tees
  • -Book (Spirit Animals, Book 1)

Now we move on to the portion of the show where the children get a ridiculous amount of gifts from relatives. It’s always so much. My husband’s side does a cousin gift exchange, and they just trade names, but one very generous SIL always buys for everyone, so sometimes you have a kid that gets more than slated. (My husband is one of four boys, they’re all married, and there are 10 grandchildren. LOTS of people). My parents are split, so that doubles the gifts they get from my side. I love how loving and generous everyone is, even though the chaos of toys for three kids sometimes causes me a decent level of anxiety.

Poppy-Yahtzee Junior, Ariel Duplo set (ILs), Anna doll and Anna dress (cousin exchange), Princess Tiana baby doll, Rapunzel Infinity character (my dad), veterinarian kit and some Littlest Pet shops (my brother), Melissa and Doug cookie set and a Princess book (my mom)

Miles-Sleepy soothing giraffe, Elmo lift-the-flap book (ILs), a couple really neat chunky books and flap books (cousin exchange), Fisher Price pirate ship (extra cousin gift), hand-held sized chunky pull back cars and a few books (my mom), vTech Go Go Smart Wheels airport and wooden block train (my dad), vTech vehicles for the airport and a shirt (my brother). He also inherited an Imaginext Batcave and Pirate Ship from one set of cousins that cleaned out their basement. Because of this, we’ll probably take back the FP one. We will also exchange the soothing giraffe. This was on the gift wish list in the midst of sleep training. Since then, he’s latched onto a stuffed animal we already had, so we don’t want to mess with success.

Vee-Tapeffiti set, lotion and body spray (cousin exchange), Lego set and the latest Dork Diaries book (ILs) Nerf Rebelle blaster, Lego set, and a small Lego storage case with a base-plate (dad), Infinity Toy Story character pack (my brother), Dolphin bracelet, sharpies, and something else that escapes me at the moment(mom).

Honestly, after Christmas day (when we celebrated just the five of us) and before the family celebrations, I felt as if maybe we’d let the kids down, not gotten enough. Thankfully, we were disciplined and stuck to our original list/plan. Our kids got SO MUCH and are so blessed. After the family celebration? We’re drowning in new gifts and not enough space to put them. They truly don’t need anything more at the moment.

I’m looking forward to doing Magda’s Christmased.com email plan for next season, to hopefully help with the general stress and anxiety of the season. Sarah also tweeted about how they did a ‘Something I Want, Something I Need, Something to Wear, Something to Read.” This sounds so lovely, and most importantly, thoughtful. I’ll probably get into it more in my goals for the New Year post, but I want to not just blindlessly stumble through life (in this case just buying random crap just to have purchased stuff), but live life with more intention. I’m hoping this goal with carry over into our gift-giving habits.

What did you get your kids for Christmas?

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So You’re Worried About the Bullseye Breach

I figured a post about the recent security breach at Target would be easier explained in a post, rather than clogging everyone’s Twitter feed.

(Background: I worked in a bank as a Personal Banker for almost six years, so much of my job was being informed on electronic regulations, customer rights, and how it all worked. I left the job market in July of 2012, so I’m not as up on the regulations as I used to. This information is mostly for you trying to understand the situation and what’s next for consumers.)

If you’ve recently used any type of plastic at Target recently (in store only), you’re card data has been compromised. Six days before Christmas!!! Commence…non-freak out. Some scum somewhere has what amounts to giant files with your card number, expiration date, and that security code from the back. The goal behind this is to sell the data to people who will use this info to try online purchases or to make fake physical cards to use.

The chance that you’ll actually see any loss or suffer from the breach is pretty slim. Target is required to inform the card networks (Mastercard, Visa, American Express) and through that notification individual banks are notified (Bank of America, US Bank, ABC Credit Union, XYZ Bank). The bank will then decide how to proceed when it comes to your card and chance of loss. The bank I used to work for (10 branches across 3 towns) would take a proactive stance and order brand new cards for the customers. We’d get call sheets for customers assigned to us as a bank officer (A few years back there was a TJ Maxx breach; I vaguely remember contacting around 90 customers), and call the customer at the most recent number on the system, and send out letters. We’d explain what happened, and that a new card would arrive in approximately two weeks. In the mean time, their current card would still function as normal, but we’d ask them to carefully watch their account (you’d be SHOCKED to know how many people don’t balance their account, much less track/verify their activity). We’d also try to contact the customer around delivery time to verify the new card showed up, so when we were getting ready to cancel cards we wouldn’t have any confused customers as to why their card was suddenly being denied. More than likely, you’ll get some sort of notification from your bank in the next week about the data breach (if they’re good at customer service, it’ll contain info about new cards being issued).

Behind the scenes, bank cards (debit cards) can be manipulated in lots of ways. Each bank has default spending limits, both for swipes and ATM transactions. While I can’t speak to all institutions, we had the ability to increase these for temporary amounts of time, in case you felt you wanted to purchase a new refrigerator with your card. Our spending limit was $300 in a 24 hour period, based on data averages. $300 doesn’t sound like a lot, but realistically most people don’t do all their ‘big’ shopping in that time frame (My town is a town of about 150k citizens, with a middling cost of income). Yes, there are spending outliers to this amount, but again, averages are goooood things when it comes to risk prevention. Again, this is specific to my former employer and the market they operate in, but your bank likely has similar controls. They also contracted with a third-party company for card data management. This is where the really cool (to me, at least) stuff starts.

The company that directly oversees the card data will have various algorithms (I think this is the right word? I’m all about the financial literacy side of this discussion; technology information, not so much) that analyze your previous purchase history. So if you live and work in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 98% of your physical purchases will happen within that area. If you stop by your local diner for lunch, and then 45 minutes later a successful (fraudulent) purchase is made at a Quik Trip in Blue Springs, Missouri, a red flag will most likely happen within that system. Our system would close your card, so if you happened to stop by the pharmacy on the way home, you’d get REALLY confused and frustrated as to why your card suddenly doesn’t work. As much as possible, our third-party company would try to contact us to then we’d contact the customer. Sometimes we’d catch you before your next swipe, but in today’s electronic world, it’s hard to have 100% success rate. To some extent, size of purchases would also flag the system and cause a temporary closure. If you’re almost always following the same pattern, a few days worth of transactions out of the normal sphere would be worth our time to try to be proactive. I know it’s frustrating and embarrassing to have your card declined, but it would be more inconvenient for you to have to fill out additional paperwork due to multiple fraud transactions.

If you have a Red Card, you’re probably even less at risk. Since they can only swipe at Target, their value is less for the thieves. Yes, I can spend just as much as you can at Target, but they’d much rather attempt to buy a scooter or some other big-ticket item. They probably don’t have a problem with clearance items and spaving like I do. There might still be some risk (again, I’m not a professional, just someone with a small amount of knowledge of the situation), but if they don’t already have a fraud prevention algorithm, you can bet your last dime they’re working on one as we type.

If you’ve used a card at Target during the specified time frame (let’s see a show of hands…so that’s all of us then!) try to not worry too much. Maybe take some of these next steps and know that this is actually a very common occurrence-it recently happened to a local restaurant in my town.

  • Carefully inspect your bank account, credit card account, or Red Card account.
  • If you feel worried and/or want to be proactive, contact your financial institution and see if they will order a new card for you.
  • Continually check your statements until your compromised card is closed.
  • If you have a Red Card, be cautiously patient. Target’s one of the nation’s largest retailers, and it’s SIX DAYS before Christmas. They’re already swamped, hack excluded. While in an ideal customer service world they’d be able to handle the call volume, emails, etc. in regards to your account. It’s not ideal, though. They can’t just farm out these calls to a new call center or sales associates that don’t have normal training on these topics. While waiting sucks, getting someone clueless or wrong to handle your problem is worse. I promise. Again, check your statements, monitor online, etc.
  • Inform yourself. When you are issued new plastic, you’re required to receive a copy of Regulation E, the laws that deal with consumer rights. If you take time to read through this boring stuff, it’ll contain much of this info. Card limits, how to recoup your losses if fraud occurs, bank and network (Visa, MC, AMEX) numbers to call if you think your card has been compromised. I know it’s really boring, but it does help empower you in situations like this.

In conclusion, this is a big deal, but not a critical one. The news outlets probably LOVE this headline as we’re all rushing out the door to go buy more presents, wrapping paper, and copious amounts of chocolate to push ourselves through the next few weeks, but it’s not as bad as they make it seem. As mentioned previously, hacks like this happen a lot, on national, international, and local levels. Realistically, Target is better equipped to handle crisis-management than your local cupcake shop is. It’s a good reminder to be financially educated and not slack on monitoring your bank account.

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Motorin’

Asher, just like big sister, has decided that motor skills (fine and gross) are his cup of tea. I’m under no illusion that he’ll have table ready manners any time in the next year, but it’s a good exercise for his brain, and he’s just so proud of himself!

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We definitely needed a bath afterward, but I’ll take 10 minutes of self-entertainment and giggling any day.

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