Megali - adjective, noun - adjective 1. great or big in Greek -noun 1.. A nickname derived from my first and middle names

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gifts


Gift giving.  Not my picture.  Wanna know how you can tell?  Those gifts are wrapped.  I don't do that.  But I want to try my hand at making that cake for the next birthday in the house

Save New Year's, the holidays are over.  The gift giving ones anyway.  Aside from the nasty tradition we've unwillingly adopted of getting sick as often and awfully as an Oregon Trail family (you have died of dysentery) whenever R's home for a period of longer than two days, they were enjoyable.   I'm particularly proud of how little I spent!  I didn't track it exactly, but the present tally for Slim and Curly was right around $200.00.  Next year I hope to spend less.  I accomplished this by purchasing most of their gifts at the Here We Grow Again consignment sale.  I also perused Craigs List for months, trying to find specific items.  Santa found a fantastic grab bag deal for $9ish at the Kansas City Zoo and the animal/zoo themed calculator stocking stuffers were the second favorite toy!  I didn't get as much on Etsy as I had originally intended, but am already arranging a little something with an Ohio friend's SewAppealingShop.  Yup, I'm getting a jump start before 2012 has even hit!  And honestly, the main reason I am able to keep spending down is because they don't get much.  Each boys gets one present each for seven of the nights of Hanukkah and Santa typically brings two big toys intended for sharing.

Here's a few of my personal favorites from this year:

Slim, in his red and blue cape

Curly wouldn't model for me.  His cape is blue and cranberry

The coolest Hanukkah present were these spectacular capes.  Please check out DiscoveryDenim on Etsy.  The price for her Blank Little Hero Capes went up since I made my purchase, but they are so worth it, even at the new price.  Definitely quality made - I love the material and the snap closure is a thoughtful touch.


All the Craigs List scouring paid off, because Christmas meant a used, wooden kitchen that didn't scream, "No Boys Allowed" and came complete with a lot of wooden food, tin pots and pans and play cleaning supplies.  Plus a grocery cart thrown in for good measure.  I've already experienced several gourmet meals the kiddos whipped together.




The best gift wasn't one, not in the traditional sense anyway.  Have you ever been overcome by God's presence, or, for the non-religious, complete calm and serenity with existence?  On Christmas Eve, the fifth night of Hanukkah, while watching the candles burn down, I was overwhelmed by such a sense of peace. I felt thankful and filled with love. I said out loud to R, “I love the world. I love you. I love the boys. I love God. I am just so in love right now.”  It was a temporary feeling, but while it lasted, I was glad to think all was right with life.  I seem to have two modes - sickeningly sweet and overly PC as R describes it, though I prefer to jokingly call it acting Canadian or psycho hose beast from PMS hell.  So I'll take the divine moments when I can get them and recognize them for the gift they are.

On that note, I'll just leave this quote here.

Each day provides its own gifts.
- Marcus Aurelius

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Raising Ethical Children

I hope you're not reading this hoping for answers on how to raise ethical children because I have absolutely no clue. I'm just stumbling my way through parenthood.  But I have goals that I strive for as a mother.  And my biggest intention as a parent?  To raise intelligent, happy, well adjusted, and contributing members of society.


Thanks to my Mom and Gran, I have a soft spot for the British Royals.  As an American, I know little to nothing about how they are truly perceived and imagine a fair bit of press about them is propaganda.  However, I've admired how Princes William and Harry opted for military careers and continue involvement in charities like their mother.  The above photo is from a visit to a London homeless center.  I can't think of any American celebrity who has served in the military since WWII off the top of my head, can you?  And while some Hollywood stars are active in charity work, I don't know enough of their past to say whether that was a quality bestowed from their parents.  Princess Diana did well as a mother in this regard - her boys make a difference through their efforts. 

Frankly, I don't think I'll know if I'll have done as well until my boys are adults themselves.  The ways I try to instill this behavior is through living by example, taking advantage of teachable moments, and encouraging respect of the world and empathy for fellow people.  Which is great and all written out in mission statement-like form, but how?

I think kids (mine anyway) learn best through hands on involvement.  Hanukkah ends tonight, but it is a perfect example of how I utilize holidays to facilitate a volunteer attitude.  We incorporate tzedakah, a concept I talked about in my last post, in every holiday and try to too in everyday life.  Whenever gifts are received, as they are this time of year, we donate existing ones and talk about how some kids don't have any toys and it's great to give and make them smile.  And one of the eight nights is dedicated to giving back.  This year we are getting some items from Heartland SPCA's wishlist.  They want to give the animals who have yet to find a forever home toys to play with while they await their new owners. We've planned out a mini shopping spree at PetSmart tomorrow.  This is especially meaningful to Slim and Curly because they know we adopted Emmett from this very shelter. 



Which leads me to the next way I have managed some success - make a connection.  I know that I want to give money to organizations that mean something to me.  BzzAgent was generous and sent me a handwritten holiday card with a gift card to make a donation to a charity of my choice via JustGive.org.  What an amazing thank you idea, very pay it forward!  I searched the charities in the database (which seems limitless) and selected one that means a great deal to me: La Leche League, in honor of my former nurslings. Likewise, I see my guys more excited about volunteering when it means something to them.  They like to help when it has to do with other children, or animals, and for a while there, Slim was quite the Captain Planet - all eager to recycle and plant flowers and veggies, thanks to the school garden at his JCC Preschool in Florida. 

They genuinely do seem to care about other people.  I hope that the foundation I'm attempting to lay will also help them care about making the world a better place one kind action at a time.

What ways do you encourage responsible stewardship of the Earth and charitable actions towards people, animals, and places in your children?  I'd love to hear your success stories!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

From the outside looking in - my perspective on Hanukkah

As of now, this is my favorite Hanukkah memory.  Slim was so proud of the menorah he made.
Happy Hanukkah!  I am not Jewish.  But R is.  And Slim and Curly are. 

I don't know what I am now. Aside from an amalgamation of beliefs.  I do know that I love God. Who R likes to envision as Mr. Wizard. And I know I love learning about and celebrating Jewish holidays and that doing so has enhanced my life. I'm thankful we are raising the boys Jewish, but I will respect their choices if they decide not to be. R and I joke that they can be anything - just dont let them be punks with their jeans belted around their upper thighs and their damn underwear showing. Excuse me, I think my #getoffmylawn! is showing.

I gotta admit, this picture helps me see R's point.  Mr. Wizard does look rather God-like here.

I grew up as a Presbyterian.  We still celebrate Christmas in our household.  In a secular way and as a way to teach them about my side of the family.  They know that they have Jewish grandparents and Christian grandparents and aunt, uncles, and cousin.  The best way I ever heard how we do things was described as follows: kids are smart enough to know that when they go to a friend's birthday party, it is not their birthday.  But it's still fun to attend.  Likewise, kids are able to recognize that Christmas may not be their holiday, but it is important to people in their life, and therefore nice to share in the festivities.

I'm doing a lot of reflecting on the holiday thanks to Hanukkah Hoopla, a collection of 16 Jewish bloggers' reflections and ideas.  "Each ... agreed to write something Hanukkah-ishy.
Taken together, you will see [they] represent a broad range of Jewish experience. Some ... are Reform. Others are Conservative. Some are Orthodox. Some ... have converted to Judaism.  Two ... are rabbis!  Some ... keep kosher; others, not so much."  Whether you are Jewish or not, please be sure to read each day.  I've found their experiences helpful, funny and touching in turn.  Plus, there are 16 chances to win a #HanukkahHoopla gift pack. 

video

On Twitter, @SmartBitches shared how the shamas, or "helper" candle used to light the menorah (the tall one in the middle and why there are nine candle spots when there are only eight nights of Hanukkah) has an extra purpose - reminding us that we can and should help one another every day.  It is messages like this that have caused me, an outsider, at times truly on the periphery, at others actively participating, to embrace Judaism.  Strangely and funnily enough, I think my religious beliefs, what I believe God has commanded of us, can be summed up in a quote from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, "Be excellent to each other."

And so, we try to incorporate tzedakah into each holiday and our lives in general.  One night of every Hanukkah in our household is dedicated to giving back.  This year, Emmett, our second dog and newest shelter pet, inspired our charity recipient: Heartland SPCA. 

There is so much beauty in the world, if only we could see it.  I've been married to R for nearly nine years, with him for nearly 14.  Without him, my eyes would never have been opened to the beauty inherent in Judaism and the opportunity to have a dynamic and growing faith in God.  It is the greatest gift he has ever given me.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

MommyParties Hosted by Oral-B Stages

All of the great items before getting packed in goodie bags!
Recently, I held a Pajama Party and a Morning Movie at my home through my mothers' group.  It was all thanks to Mommy Parties and hosted by Oral-B Stages.  Mommy Parties are a mashup of social media and playdate.  Companies utilize Mommy Parties for the power of reaching moms and spreading word of mouth in a natural and engaging way. 

Attendance was lower than we'd hoped; December sure is a bustling month, plus illnesses and a sudden visit from out of town family dwindled the expected numbers.  We ended up having five children ranging in age from 9 months to five years and three moms.  Interestingly enough, all the kids were boys!  I don't recall the last time having a get-together without it being mixed gender. 

A closer look at our guests' gifts

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, and child body wash

My Oral B Stages party kit included:
  • 11 Oral-B Stage I Brushes
  • 11 Oral-B Stage II Brushes
  • 11 Oral-B Stages Pastes
  • 11 Bottles of Disney Lavender Wash
  • Disney's Winnie the Pooh Movie DVD
  • Recipe & Activity Ideas (that would be the flash cards featuring the happy kid and toothpaste with Pooh Bear above)
  • Balloons
  • Popcorn for guests
  • Guest Gift Bags
Slim and Curly were super eager to have friends over - from the time they woke on the morning of the event, they were jumping up and down asking if it was pajama party time!  Because I'm weird, I changed them out of their actual pjs after breakfast and into a fresh pair.  Then, it was time to set up.

The boys wanted to decorate with the bears they made at the previous week's bear themed storytime & craft we hosted.



Our menu directly tied in to the film we'd be viewing, 2011's Winnie the Pooh.  We served:
  •  Winnie the Pooh popcorn
  • Rabbit gummies
  • Kanga cookies
  • Hundred Acre Wood trail mix
  • Backson (a key part and character of the movie) box juice
  • And for the moms, coffee or tea with hunny

Table set up to welcome our friends
Goodie bags were stocked, balloons were blown up, and my personal favorite,


the giant toothbrush and plastic dental teeth model were displayed so that everyone could practice their toothbrushing skills.

Curly making a comfy, cozy spot for himself
Our guests arrived, and given everyone's mood, we started off by playing the movie.  However, the lure of toys not theirs called the other guys and we soon headed downstairs to the playroom.  I will say, as the photos below attest, that what was watched was greatly enjoyed!


While the kids played, the moms socialized.  We talked about our child(ren)'s sleep patterns, how differently we handle a second or later kid, and past and upcoming events of the mothers' group.  Of course, we also discussed Disney's Winnie the Pooh, Oral-B Stages and taking care of our sons' dental health.  I have often argued that I don't understand why movies geared towards kids have to have such incredibly scary and dramatic moments or such evil bad guys.  Frankly, Slim does not care for movies that scare him.  So, even though he is five and likely aging out of the Winnie the Pooh targeted age group, their innocence and mild scares are much more up his alley.  My mother-in-law took him to see Winnie the Pooh in the theaters this Summer and the Zooey Deschanel song, "So Long" has been an oft requested one ever since.

 

One of the other moms said that Winnie the Pooh was her two year old's first going to the movies experience and he loved it!  She was amazed at how easily it captured his attention for the entire film.  At this point, we started talking about how things like character toothbrushes help our children get more into wanting to brush their teeth.  We agreed that anything that could aid the process along (some of our kids have or still do fight brushing teeth) was a plus.



Taking the playroom from immaculate to well-played in and many rounds of jousting in which, surprisingly, no one was hurt, the boys worked up a big appetite.


Despite the varied menu, the Rabbit gummies (from Annie's) were the runaway hit snack.

Before our friends went on their way, we gave each child a goodie bag and I allowed the moms to select a toothbrush appropriate for their son's age.  Even though Slim and Curly knew what was in each bag, they took items out with great anticipation.  Just goes to show, that dental hygiene can equal fun!



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Root Candles Product Review

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post as a way to attract BzzAgent's attention and earn a spot in the Root Candles BzzCampaign.  They liked what I had to say and I received three candles in exchange.  Since then, I have been declaring my (already existent, but further deepened) love for them and suggesting Root Candles as a perfect holiday gift in person, on Facebook and Twitter.

Adding both visual and olfactory appeal to the season

The three scents that arrived on my doorstep were:




I Tweeted right away that the box smelled so good and I hadn't even opened it yet.  Seriously, so good.  All three are great, but my favorite is the Lemon Frosted Scone.  R and I jokingly call scents flavors and it is apt in this case because it smells mouthwatering.  Even reading their description, "Sour-sugared, fresh-bright lemon, clove and subtle lavender melded together with buttery bakery notes, caramelized sugar and creamy whipped vanilla." makes me say, "Yum.  I want that flavor candle."  I didn't care for the scent of the unlit Pinot Noir at first.  It was thisclose to being cloyingly sweet.  However, burning it made all the difference in the world.  I am a wine loving gal and the way they tell you about the candle feels like a wine aficionado recording their tasting notes, "Bright effervescent red-grape notes drop down to touches of raspberry and currant as strong tannin notes mix with dry, woodsy oak and cedarwood."  Much like how I don't taste the subtleties of apricot in my current star Chardonnay, my nose doesn't pick up on all this either, though I would certainly explain it as a rich, berry scent.  If Lemon Frosted Scone was good enough to eat, then Pumpkin Spice Latte is good enough to drink.  It was ideal for those crisp, Fall days.  I adore the way they utilize scent memory by listing the ingredients, "Espresso blended with sweet notes of creamy milk mix with nutmeg, cinnamon and the traditional spiced-blend of warm baked pumpkin. Notes of rich butter and vanilla sugar warm the deep, black coffee notes." - change the words a bit and you could imagine this written on a cafe menu.

I won't rehash all the history of Root Candles, as I had posted about that before.  But I do want to address their logo, the BEST candle in America.  I can tell you several reasons why they deserve that title.  Their stunning, inspiring flagship store in Medina, OH.  When I lived there, the staff was darling and helpful.  They are an American company.  I have never, ever been a gung ho buy American person.  I likely never will be.  But I have absolute respect for products that are made in the USA.  I also must direct you to the Root Candles blog.  Love.  The blog writer also handles the company's Twitter (and Facebook and other social media I think too, but definitely Twitter).  And her name's Meghan.  Spelled with an "h" like me.  It's the little things sometimes.  Her blog post, a picture tour, showcases Medina in a way that, to me, demonstrates how the town and the company are uniquely and perfectly linked in awesomeness.

If you're encouraged to go and get some Root Candles for your home, as a present, for me *hint hint*, through 12/12 using Promo Code (now expired) you can spend just $5 standard shipping on any order.  Or use the store locator to find a retailer that carries their fragrances near you.  Seeking suggestions aside from the three above? Now that we're swiftly approaching Winter, I tend towards scents that evoke Christmas and Victorian Fantasy does just that and  is available at a 25% reduced price because it is the fragrance of the month .