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Friday, December 14, 2012

Old School Christmas Shows and the Flu - It's a Family Tradition

I don't know why I can't seem to get back into a blogging rhythm.  This blog has been such an important part of my life for the last 5 years and it pains me that I have lost touch with what inspired me to start blogging/writing in the first place.  But I don't want to analyze tonight.  I just felt like I needed to give I Am Boymom some post love, so my blog knows I haven't forgotten or abandoned it.  

So...in reference to the title...Christmas in our house is probably not like Christmas in most houses.  Some of that has to do with my upbringing.  We lived with lots of different people and got bounced around a lot.  Consequently, we didn't really get to establish "family traditions" in the normal "Christmas-y" sense.  My husband's family tries with this big family party at his brother's huge house.  It's a tough crowd.  Let's just say they have their own special brand of dysfunction.  Not judging!  Soooo not judging.  Just stating the facts as I see them.  

Back to the point...So even at this late date, as my kids are becoming teenagers, I am still trying to establish some fun and memorable holiday traditions.  I suck at it.  I never know what they will enjoy and I think I try so hard to make things work that I end up being stressed, which makes everyone else in the house stressed and before you know it, everybody's frustrated and no one is having fun and I feel like a failure.  Again. 

Well, tonight it kind of hit me that we do have a few traditions of our own.  They may not be GREAT and WONDERFUL traditions, but by gosh, they are ours and the fact that we have anything at all that we repeat each Christmas is progress.  And maybe my epic FAIL at trying something new tonight is making me lie to myself about whether what we do is indeed a tradition, but at this point, I'll take what I can get. 

First tradition we have is TV.  Not a great tradition, I know.  But at Christmastime it works for us.  We try to catch every Christmas movie or special on TV, starting on Thanksgiving and going through Christmas day.  What we don't catch on TV, we rent.  It was fun when we grew up to watch Rudolph and Frosty and Charlie Brown and it's even more fun to watch them now with my boys, who laugh hysterically at the thought that we found these shows enjoyable when we were kids.  "The graphics suck!"  "Why do they make the adults talk like wierd aliens?"  We try to explain that we didn't have Computer Generated Animation then!  Puppets and stuff were state of the art, dudes!  What I love though, is that no matter how much they yammer on about how "lame" some of our holiday shows were, they always sit down and watch them with us.  We bond over Old School Christmas TV shows. 

Another tradition we have is that we always put together a few stockings full of food and water, soap, razors, snacks, shampoo...little things like that.  Then we find someone in need, maybe someone living on the streets or in a shelter, and the boys offer the stockings.  We've had some amazing conversations after giving our stockings out about charity and how life circumstances can turn on anyone and land them in a position to be in need of help.  The boys understand how important it is not to judge people based on immediate circumstances or appearances. They are compassionate young men who have empathy for others and they look forward to giving their stockings to people every year.  I'm glad they have the chance to serve and share with others who are struggling even more than we are.  It's good to see the world from another perspective once in awhile.  I hope this tradition is something they will carry on when they leave our home.

The last tradition we have is not one we choose, but one that seems to get thrust upon us almost every year.  It's a really crappy tradition, literally and figuratively, but the one thing it does is force us to slow down a bit and regroup during the hectic season.  For whatever reason, someone always ends up sick with flu or a horrible cold during Christmas!  It makes me crazy!  One year my husband woke up on Christmas Day unable to move his head or neck and in excruciating pain after he stretched!  He stretched, people!  Didn't know you couldn't do that on Christmas morn without repercussions! 

Being sick makes whoever is sick cranky.  Christmas isn't a time for crankiness!  We are supposed to be happy and focused on family and giving and the spirit of the holidays!  Instead, someone is sneezing and hacking or pooping and puking and downing Nyquil or Thera-flu by the gallon trying to be functional for all the events. No one can enjoy the dysfunctional family Christmas party when they feel like crap!  It's hard enough to enjoy it when we are well!  But like I said, the one thing it does is force us to slow down and prioritize.  Do we really need to attend 8,000 Christmas events?  Do we really need 100 homemade, hand decorated sugar cookies or can we be happy with refrigerated, store bought cookie dough and sprinkles this year?  It compels us to take better care of each other in a season where we talk of Christ and try to focus on the "reason for the season."  It brings us closer to one another as we serve and nurture each other. So while we would not necessarily choose the "Christmas illness" tradition?  We have learned to live with it and it has kind of just become part of the Holiday tapestry we are trying to weave.  Weird, I know.  But it's something, and as far as traditions go, isn't something better than nothing?

So that is my recap of our family traditions.  Not great, but we have forward motion.  And as I'm writing this, I remember that I had a whole other, much shorter post planned.  Pictures showing the results of my attempt at Christmas Craft night.  And when you see it, you will know why I started this post by trying to convince myself that we are making "tradition" progress and why I don't always have the gumption to push forward with finding new ones:


My oldest, who deals with fine motor skill issues and absolutely hates crafts, put this bad boy together with some pipe cleaners and a foam ball.  I know.  A cat with tape on its paws could do something nicer.  I had a picture for him to look at, but after about 10 minutes he was bored and thoroughly frustrated.  This from a kid who will spend hours precisely placing army guys in formations for battles.
 

This is one of those scratchy things that starts out all black and then you scratch designs in the back to reveal the colors.  My youngest started a design then decided it was taking too long and scratched off the entire black cover and then walked away from the little pile of black shavings that were all over his work space, declaring he was done and "by done, I mean I'm going to bed.  I don't feel good again."  In his defense, he has been home sick with some kind of stomach issue for 3 days (maybe the illness portion of the holiday came early this year and we can relax and enjoy the next few weeks).


This would have been a really cool ornament cover had I actually been able to sit down and do some beading, but the sick kid and the bored kid finished so fast that I had to give it up and mediate the fussiness that ensued.  I called it a Christmas Craft Night FAIL at 8:30 and everyone went to bed.  

Maybe we'll try Craft Night again next year.  Or maybe not.  Maybe we'll just watch National Lampoon's Christmas vacation, drink some cocoa and call it good.  And we'll have "the hap hap happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny freak-ing Kay!"  Clark Griswold understands my pain.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Green Refrigerator Machine Review

I'll start with a little confession...I have been known to throw away fruits and veggies on occasion because I didn't get to them fast enough and they ended up going bad on me before we could get them eaten. And once in a great while I have found things hidden in the back of the refrigerator that look like a science experiment. And it makes me mad that I have to throw stuff away that I spent good money on!


I tried those funny green bags that were advertised on TV, but it was a pain to bag everything up and then make sure no moisture got in to the bags...too labor intensive. I am a woman who needs things to be convenient. So I was thrilled to find the Green Refrigerator Machine by Ozonator. It is a handy little device that goes right in your refrigerator and uses ozone to neutralize the chemicals inside there that make your fruits and vegetables to decay quicker. Ozone increases the storage life of foods by oxidizing some chemicals and by neutralizing ammonia and ethylene. Ozone is a safe and natural alternative for protecting perishable foods so using the Ozonator keeps perishable foods fresher by bestowing a clean environment inside your refrigerator. It eliminates waste and saves me money and I am definitely for that! 

The true test was to see how it did in my fridge. The first thing I noticed was that there was a funny little odor that appeared when I first turned it on, but that odor dissipated pretty quickly. What I did NOT notice after just a little while was the onion smell that had been hitting me in the face every time I opened the refrigerator door. It was completely gone.  Awesome. Okay...so that was one good thing I noticed.  I had to wait a week or so to find out whether or not it helped my food stay fresh longer and I am happy to say that my lettuce and celery hasn't wilted like it usually does.  So I'm putting that in the "win" column. 

  Not my fruit pic, but I have had many berries end up looking like this! This is from the Ozonator website! 

So for about $50 plus the cost of 4 D batteries, I would say that the Green Refrigerator Machine is definitely worth the investment if you find yourself throwing out food on a consistent basis, which I was.  And I found it does a much better job than baking soda at keeping the odors at bay.  

I was just sitting here thinking about all the people in my life who might love this little GRM by Ozonator!  The Green Refrigerator Machine might be the perfect holiday gift for your vegan friends, your clean freak mother-in-law or the the neighbor who loves to grow her own produce!  There ya go...just knocked at least three people off of your gift list!  You're welcome! Aaaaaaand...there's a linky over to the right of this post, that will give you a $10 discount off of the regular retail price so you only pay $39.95!  So now I just helped you save money AND time!  Again - you're welcome!

Don't forget to check out the Ozonator Facebook Page for great tips and more information on food safety and freshness!


**Disclosure:  I was not compensated for this post.  I did receive a Green Refrigerator Machine courtesy of MomSelect and Ozonator to help facilitate this review.  As always, the opinions stated here are my own and are always honest.**

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving

It's kind of weird not being close to family during the holidays.  For years we have lived within driving distance of sisters, brothers, parents and long time friends, so holidays were always busy with visits to family and friends.  I didn't realize how much I would miss that when we moved.  Even though it can get kind of chaotic having to juggle schedules to fit everyone in, the time we all spend together reminds me how blessed we are to have such good people in our lives. 

We had a real low key Thanksgiving this year.  The Youngest helped me cook and Big Brother and the Mr. played video games and kept the holiday programming rolling on the tube. 

In between cooking sessions, we decided we needed to get out into the sunshine, so we took a quick walk down by the river (everytime I say that, I think of Chris Farley) and found our favorite tree.  This is seriously the tree of every kid or photographer's dream.  It is huge and easily climbable and has a big flat base right in the middle where a kid could build a wicked fort.  it has lots of character and texture and limbs and one day I will get some really great photos there.  For today, you will have to deal with my crappy cellphone shots.


The weather was beautiful and uplifting and we had a great time finding things to add to our Holiday Centerpeice, which I will explain in the next post.  The Boy was ecstatic about his excellent find when he ran across "the perfect stick" while exploring the river banks. 


I swear, it doesn't matter where we go, the kid always has to have something in his hand which will allow him to poke, stab, swordfight, dig, whack or otherwise interact with whatever happens to be around him at any given moment.  I have to say, it is a pretty great stick.  Notice the nice natural handle with the claw-like hook on the end.  Sooo many things you could do with a claw hook like that! (Like accidentally gouging  your brother's eye out while trytrying to hook him by the neck...or something equally worrisome for a mother of active boys.) The stick now joins about 12 others in the corner of his room and in the trunk of the car, all waiting for their shots at being the weapon/tool of choice for the next adventure.
 
We got home just in time to find the turkey ready to remove from the oven.  It was a little underbrowned, but the meat was perfectly done so we decided to opt for moist turkey rather than brown turkey skin.  Nothing burned and I had no major incidents in the kitchen, so I considered the day a major win!  For which I was thankful.


The day after?  A little bit less successful.  Major sinus migraine made it hard to function.  I attribute my illness to lack of pumpkin pie with lots of whipped cream.  My family wiped out our one pumpkin pie before I got a piece, the freaking horkers!  My fault for believing them when they said one would be enough this year.  At least we had lots of leftovers so I didn't have to cook today!  That made dealing with the headache so much easier.  And it was nice to just chill and look at all the Black Friday ads while dreaming about what I would buy with the 2.7 million dollar Visa card that the guy from Nigeria said in a very nice email he would send me since I was having so many issues trying to transfer my money from his Capital Sure Bank.  I'm pretty sure it will be here any day now, which means I shoud have less of a headache for Christmas. Those Capital Sure Bank guys sure know how to help a gal feel better! 
  

SodaStream House Party

It's been too long since I last posted!  I've kind of had writer's block.  Oh...and a job that took up a LOT of my time and energy.  But the job is gone, so now I have no excuses. 

The good news is I have more time to do fun things with my friends and my kids!  Like make and drink our own soda!

Last Saturday we hosted a SodaStream House Party.  We received the Source model and a bunch of flavors, along with the carbonation cartridge to make the fizz!  Set-up was simple and in a matter of about five minutes we were adding bubbles to everything from water to juice!
 
 
The boys and a few of their friends went first and had a great time making their own sodas and mixing and matching flavors. They tried really weird combos like rootbeer and lemon-lime.  Why?  Because their boys and they do weird things.  That rootbeer/lemon-lime combination?  Was disgusting.
 
 
Then the other moms and I all took our turns.  Our favorite flavor was Cranberry-Raspberry mixed with Lemonade.  It was light and bubbly and delicious and the SodaStream was so easy and fun to use!  All the moms agreed that the 1 liter bottles that come with the SodaStream are the perfect size.

 
One of my camera shy friends - photo by one of the other 5 camera shy friends!
 
 

 
Really bad picture of me giving a demo...fire the photographer!

Here's a video of how it works, not sure you can see it all that well, but it will give you a general idea about how the SodaStream works. Ignore the ridiculous conversation taking place as I film and try to control mother my children.  Oh...and please turn your cell phones to vibrate so you don't disturb the other viewers...it's that good.  You won't want to miss a second of this high quality video. 
 
video
 
 
So...we enjoyed just about everything the SodaStream has to offer.  The only negative thing I would bring up is that many of the flavors I received to try contain sucralose or Splenda.  I am not a fan of sucralose or Splenda.  But the good news is that SodaStream offers some all natural flavors that do not have the artificial sweetner, so I am looking forward to trying those.  I am a fan of sparkling juices though and I think that we can save a lot of money making our own sparkling cider and non-alcoholic mimosas using SodaStream!
 
The other great thing about SodaStream is that it is great on the environment.  Their reusable 1 liter bottles mean no more empty 2 liter bottles going in the garbage or ending up in landfills.   
 
SodaStream is definitely going to be put to good use in our home.  We already have plans to include it as part of my youngest son's b-day party and it makes an appearance every family movie night as well. 
 
I have three $20 rebate coupons left over from the party if anyone is thinking about buying one for Christmas.  Shoot me and email, I'll be happy to get the coupon to you via snail mail!
 
 
**Disclosure:  I was not compensated for this blog post.  I did receive a SodaStream kit from SodaStream and House Party to help facilitate this review.  My opinions are always honest and are my own.**
 



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

JT SplatMaster Review

My boys are getting older now, so lots of toys they had when they were younger are starting to lose their appeal.  It's like torture kind of hard sometimes to keep them occupied and finding gifts other than electronics and video games is getting more difficult every day!  Keeping them active and happily playing together is constantly a concern. I want them to love spending time together doing fun things so as they grow up and move on in life they have shared interests and passions that will help them stay close to one another.

With Christmas coming, I am especially aware of their changing preferences for play things.  So I was really glad that my family was recently invited to try out something new for kids, called JT SplatMaster. 
 
JT SplatMaster is an outdoor sporting goods product that shoots color-filled biodegradable ammo resulting in a SPLAT that you can see! In other words, it's a kid-friendly version of paintball.  Yes - I said it...paintball. 

I know. You are immediately thinking about messy paint and possible injuries.  How do I know?  Because that's what I thought of when my boys first asked if they could go paintballing with some friends.  I hear the guys at work talking about their "weekend wars" and showing off their paintball welts and my first response to my boys when they asked to go was  "I don't think so."  I'm not sure they are ready for that.  Or rather, I'm not sure I'M ready for that. 

Well, the makers of JT SplatMaster realized that there needed to be a more kid-friendly version of the game and came up with a paintball gun that is low impact, spring loaded and shoots at a velocity of 110-140 feet per second.  Less velocity means lower impact, which means less chance of injury! Don't think that less velocity means weak shots though.  Those paintballs really fly and make a pretty big splat on impact, which the boys found to be "AWESOME"!
 
JT SplatMaster is all about safety and proper training!  They make great eye protection goggles and extra face protection gear to go along with the guns.  I was pretty sure I was gonna hear lots of groaning about the goggles, but surprisingly, the boys found them to be a very cool part of the whole "look" and experience.  For them, the goggles and safety gear are an integral part of the uniform.  Which I find "awesome."  Less worry for Mom!  Their website is full of training and safety videos that guide and direct anxious and excited kids through proper handling and usage of SplatMaster products. 



I really love that the makers of JT SplatMaster created all kinds of game options that don't involve the boys shooting at each other!  But if when they do decide to have a paintball war, I know that the product they are using is safe, as long as precautions are taken.  Having said that, I think the key to having fun with JT SPlatMaster is adult supervision.  When the kids know an adult is present to enforce the rules, they can relax and enjoy the games and not have to worry as much about another kid making a poor decision that might result in injury.

We took the SplatMaster z200 out in the backyard for a test run and the boys had a blast! Here are a few action shots:

 
   
 

 
 
The consensus?  JT SplatMaster really is a safer version of paintball and the non-toxic paint cleaned up easily with a quick spray from the hose.  The little biodegradable paintball capsules dissolved after a day or two and left no trace of the target practice that had taken place a few days earlier.   The guns are surprisingly accurate and easy to use and come with safety plugs to block the barrel while strategies are being discussed, as well as working safety switches on the actual gun to prevent accidental firing.
 
The boys would like to be able to get some of the gear they saw in the videos, like the cool facemasks and flak jackets which are not currently available anywhere that I could find.     The only other complaint they have at this point is that we can't find more ammo anywhere here in Boise yet, so I'll have to order it online, which means we'll have to plan ahead.   
 
JT SplatMaster is a mega-hit in our house and the boys are definitely the envy of the cul-de-sac right now.  If I understood the weekend confab with the neighborhood boys that took place in my backyard correctly, the plan is for ALL of them to try to get one for Christmas so the group can have a paintball war on Christmas Day.  Not sure how the other moms will feel about that, but I think it sounds like a heck of a way to get some outdoor activity during the holidays!  It'll give new meaning to yellow snow!
 
JT SplatMaster sets are currently being sold at Walmart, at various sporting good stores and paintball stores all over the country for between $25-$40, depending on the model and accessories you buy.  You can check out the website and use their store locator to help you find a reatailer near you.  OR you can take advantage of this awesome promotion and save money by buying online! 
 
 
 
Starting October 29th, for a limited time and while supplies last, anyone purchasing a JT SplatMaster z100 or z200 one free ammo grenade  (50 ct ammo, $7.99 value) free!

Warning:  They'll go through 50 rounds in about 10 minutes so you'll wanna stock up.

**Disclosure:  I received no monetary compensation for this review.  Kee Action Sports, LLC  provided me with a JT SPlatMaster z200 to facilitate the review.  As always, my honest opinions are always my own.**

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bertolli Classic Risotto Review and Giveaway - Closed!

Bertolli Risotto Winner is.....



Evelyn Damptey!! 

Congrats Evelyn, I'll be contacting you to send you the coupons for Free Bertolli Risotto!  They are sooooooo good, I hop eyou enjoy them as much as my family does.  They have become a staple in our meal rotation now!



With the weather already starting to cool down here in my part of the country, it's been a great time to start reintroducing soups and heartier foods back into our dinner menu.  Luckily I have had some help from Bertolli!  Their Meal Soups are wonderfully warm and filling and make a quick and easy meal option for my family on busy nights.
 
Having said that, my boys need variety.  Man cannot live on meal soups alone.  Which is why Bertolli is continuing to expand it's line of frozen meal options to include some SERIOUSLY AMAZING risottos.
 
 
 
I love risotto, but it really is a LOT of work to make, which is why I have only ever made it one time and it didn't really turn out all that great.  I don't have the kind of patience it takes to do risotto the right way so it comes out creamy and delicious.  Bertolli Classic Risotto was made for people like me. 
 
It's full of high quality veggies and meats and it only takes about 12 minutes, from start to finish, to cook.  It comes out of the bag looking like this:
 

 
 
After 12 minutes and a few stirs, it looks like this: 
 

 
 
My family was equally divided between the Roasted Chicken and the Garlic Shrimp flavors.  I absolutely adored the Bertolli Roasted Chicken Risotto, which was full of asparagus, portabello mushrooms, big chunks of roasted chicken, all mixed with italian rice in a creamy parmesan sauce.  
 
You guys know by now that I kind of have some weird texture issues when it comes to food.  I hate mushy veggies so I'm always a little skeptical about the vegetables in frozen meals, but found the asparagus to be perfectly cooked.  The rice wasn't mushy eather.  It still has a nice "tooth" to it, even after cooking in the sauce.  The whole dish had a nice earthy flavor from the mushrooms and the chicken was moist and flavorful. 
 
My boys both loved the Bertolli Garlic Shrimp Risotto.  It was chock full of italian rice and garlic shrimp with decent size chunks of zucchini, yellow squash and red peppers in a white wine cream sauce. Again, none of the veggies were overcooked, which is actually pretty amazing, considering that it doesn't take much to overcook squash.  The Garlic Shrimp Risotto had more of a garden fresh taste to it.  The red peppers really livened up the dish.  And there was plenty of shrimp so no one felt like they got gypped with the seafood. 
 
The only problem I had at all with cooking the risottos was that regulating the heat on my electric stove so that the rice didn't stick to the bottom of the pan (I really miss my gas stove).  I turned my head for just a minute and when I got back to my pots, the Garlic Shrimp Risotto had begun to stick to the bottom of the pan, but I caught it in time to salvage the dish so no harm was done.
 
I am excited to find more quick and easy options for family dinner time.  Bertolli offers a wide variety of frozen options now that give busy moms some great options for quick, easy and healthy meals. 
 
Wanna Win Bertolli Classic Risotto? Bertolli has graciously offered two coupons for free Bertolli Classic Risottos to one of my readers!! Go check out the Bertolli website and then leave a comment telling us which Risotto you wat to try first
Want extra entries? Do any of these and leave a comment with links to your posts, tweets or status updates:
  • Follow my blog
  • Tweet about the contest
  • Post a link to this giveaway as your status update on Facebook
  • Mention the giveaway on your blog
Contest will end on October 30th at 12 midnight MST. Winner will be chosen by random drawing using Random.org and notified if chosen. Please make sure to leave your email so I can get in touch with you if you win! Thanks for reading and good luck!
 
***Disclosure - Bertolli provided me with products to help facilitate this review. However, the honest opinions shared on this review are my own.**

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Bertolli Meal Soup Review and Giveaway - CLOSED!

Winner Winner, Bertolli Meal Soup Dinner!!

Here is the result of the giveaway:

Congrats to latanya t !! 

I'll be contacting you so I can send out your coupons!! 

 
A few months ago I was given the opportunity to work with Bertolli to help them introduce their new line of Meal Soups.  We are a big fan of Bertolli spaghetti sauce and their olive oil is awesome!  But I was a little bit skeptical that a "Meal Soup" would truly be more like a meal than a soup.  I have to feed two active, growing boys and a husband who prefers more hearty meals to salad and rye crisps.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Bertolli Meal Soups actually live up to their name!  My first experience with the soups was great, so of course I am more than happy to work with Bertolli again to help them introduce two new flavor addition to the Meal Soup line.
 
 
Our week has been absolutely packed with work, school and evening activities, so the timing could not have been better to have a quick and easy meal to prepare for my family.  On two different nights I prepared Bertolli® Italian-Style Wedding Soup and Bertolli® Ricotta and Lobster Ravioli in a Seafood Bisque.  Both nights I served the soups with crusty Italian Bread and a salad ( I never said I was creative with my meal accessories) and had the entire meal ready in about 20 minutes!  How awesome is that?  And how much more awesome is it that everyone loved the soups and walked away full and happy two nights this week?  And even more awsome than a full and happy family?  I saved so much time on dinner prep and clean up that I was able to sit down and watch a chick flick before bed on a weeknight for the first time in FOREVER!
 
 
So how tasty are the soups?  Well, my mom has a word that fits these soups perfectly:  Mighsty.  It means mighty tasty.  And they are.  Mighsty I mean. 
 


The Ricotta and Lobster Ravioli in a Seafood Bisque (possibly the longest soup name ever) was full of shrimp and lobster/ricotta filled ravioli, both floating in a creamy seafood bisque that I think had a tomato base.  There were little bits of carrots and celery  to add some extra flavor and crunch.  I loved the carrots, but was not a big fan of the celery.  It seemed out of place in such a rich soup.  No one else in the family seemed to have a celery issue, so maybe it's one of those "texture" things for me.  At any rate, the soup was elegant and delicious and there was not one drop left at the end of the meal.
 

 
The next night we had the Italian-Style Wedding Soup.  This soup was the total opposite of the Ravioli in Seafood Bisque.  It had a much lighter base, but was still very filling because it is chock full of Mini Italian-style meatballs with spinach, bacon pieces, carrots and ditalini pasta in a savory broth.  My astute 13 year old immediately identified the bacon that I somehow missed as we were sorting through the bowls to identify all of the ingredients.  Little Man, my little carnivore, was excited to find plenty of meatballs and I loved the broth, spinach and pasta combo. 

 "Uhmmm...you have a little...uhmmm...thing...on your...uhmmm...you know what?  Nevermind."

BTW...the bag says Meal Soups for Two, but with the bread and salad, all four of us had a decent size bowl and felt completely satisfied after the meal.
 
Wow.  Two great meals from Bertolli that tasted yummy and helped our family eat healthy and hearty dinners, despite our time crunch!  The week was a lot less stressful because we had alternatives to fast food that didn't take a lot of time to prepare and allowed us to be home together around the table.
 
Bertolli also has a new line of Risottos that I am dying to try if I can find them in this podunk town! I may have to drive out of my normal 15 mile radius to find them.  Check back for a bertolli Risotto review and Giveaway in the next week or so!
 
Wanna Win Bertolli Meal Soups?  Bertolli has graciously offered two coupons for free Meal Soups to one of my readers!!   Go check out the Bertolli website and then leave a comment telling us which Meal Soup you think your family would love.  Easy Peasy, right?  Just like dinner is with Bertolli! 
 
 
Want extra entries?  Do any of these and leave a comment with links to your posts, tweets or status updates:
  • Follow my blog
  • Tweet about the contest
  • Post a link to this giveaway as your status update on Facebook
  • Mention the Giveaway on your blog
Contest will end on October 15th at 12 midnight MST. Winner will be chosen by random drawing using Random.org and notified if chosen. Please make sure to leave your email so I can get in touch with you if you win!  Thanks for reading and good luck!
 
 
***Disclosure - Bertolli provided me with products to help facilitate this review.  However, the honest opinions shared on this review are my own.**
 
     
 

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Forgot How Back to School Works in My House

Whew!  Back to school and so glad to have some kind of routine again!  Everybody seems to have settled in to new classes and schedules and both boys are glad to get back to the business of making new friends while they whine about learning new stuff.
 
I have to say, I was surprised that I was caught off guard by Little Man's annual first day of school meltdown this year.  None of his friends OR their parents OR his teachers ever believe me when I say the kid can throw a major fit because he is "such a good kid!"  Well, he IS a good kid, but when he decides he has a problem, let me just tell you he verbalizes it loudly and incessantly. 
 
The issue this year is the same issue we have every year, which is that he needs to know that the teacher he has is going to take the time to get to know him on a very personal level.  He needs to bond.  And he really despises a classroom that seems too structured.  He needs to know he has some wiggle room to be himself.  The weird thing about that is, he really doesn't do anything that would go against any kind of structure in the classroom.  He just needs to know that if he wanted to be a little talkative or wiggly at his desk, he could.  And he gets himself ALL WOUND UP until he figures out how to function inside the sytem of his new classroom, EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. 
 
I know, I KNOW!  Another crappy phone pic.  Can't afford a new camera!
 
I guess the fact that he was excited for school to start this year made me think he was past the First Day Freakout.  WRONG!  That evening at bedtime, after an afternoon of "school was fine" conversation, the tears started rolling and the declarations that he would not go back to school if he couldn't have a different teacher were loudly and angrily proclaimed over and over again.  "Mom.  The teacher spent all day just telling us the rules.  There are so many rules.  We just talked about rules! You have to talk to the principal and get me out of his class!" 
 
He was amazingly unhappy with my response, which was that I would not remove him from the class at this point because "YOU BARELY MET THE GUY!  And you were only in his class for half a day!  Three hours is NOT enough time for you to make an assessment about whether he is evil or poopy or hates corn or throws tape balls at kids who misbehave!  (I did NOT tell him that I sometimes make assessments about people in 3 minutes, especially customers who call in with ridiculous questions that could easily be answered by actually reading the words on the bill that they are holding in their hand while they are on the phone with me, but he will learn about those kinds of people soon enough, so for now I will encourage him to look for the good in people before passing jusdgement.)
 
Again my logical and well thought out reply was eschewed for hystrionics and declarations that if things weren't better the next day he would go to the principal himself and tell her he needed a new teacher, to which I replied, "Go for it, Buddy.  Knock yourself out.  Good luck with that and let me know how your conversation with her goes."  Who am I to stop a kid who is unafraid to take his concerns up the chain? 
 
Actually, I figured things would get better the next day, but secretly I was feeling pretty lucky that I had an out and could let the principal take the heat on this one.  Sweet!  I wrote her a note to let her know what was coming and to tell her I would support her decision to let him learn to deal with a teacher who may not meet my son's personal agenda. Unless the guy is a total dillweed.  Then of course I want him moved.  I didn't say that last part because it occured to me that this particular school is not really  big on hiring dillweeds.  I digress.  The point I am trryyyyiing to make here is that I want Little Man to understand that he will have to interact with lots of teachers and bosses that he may not adore in his life and he needs to learn to deal with those people and situations, because we can't always change the circumstances that put us in their sphere of influence.  Nor should we.  At least not until those people make you so crazy that you want to flatten their tires or spit in their coffee.  THAT would probably be a good time to look at changing those circumstances.  But he ain't there yet.
 
So what was the end result of all of this First Day drama?  Nothing.  Second day was fine.  Mr S. is OK.  According to my kid, he's not as good as Mr. T was last year, but apparently he passed muster.  And the principal, who LOVES my son and can't imagine him EVER having such a fit because he is such a polite and well-behaved boy?  She laughed hysterically and was a little disappointed that he didn't come marching into her office with a list of his demands and expectations.
 
And me?  I made a mental note to remember not to forget about the First Day Meltdown next year.   

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why I Watch the Olympics

My husband and boys were not very interested in watching the Olympics this year. They don't get my obssession with watching the games. They sat and watched a few events, like Phelps racing Lochte or a few gymnastics events, but by and large, they didn't pay too much attention to the whole Olympic thing.

I, on the other hand, LOVE watching the Olympics.  At least I used to, before NBC's crappy coverage this year.  Back in the day they used to show as many of the sports as possible.  Now they only show the few they think will give them the best ratings.  Which is sad.  Because we miss out on some really compelling and moving stories and competitions from lesser known sports and athletes.  I get that shooting and fencing might not make for the most interesting TV, but the athletes have unique and inspiring stories and their struggle for gold is no less real or difficult than the athletes who play basketball or swim.  I'm just saying, it would be nice to get a greater cross section of coverage for the games that showcase the best of the best.  Okay...enough of my rant.  I actually have a point to be made here.

Part of the draw of the Olympics, for me anyway, is the chance to see people who have overcome the odds just to participate in the games.  For them, win or lose, it's all about the journey.  I am always so impressed and amazed by people who have the discipline and determination needed to push themselves beyond the challenges and obstacles that might keep them from becoming world class athletes.  I think I admire them because I struggle with those characteristics.  Discipline does not come naturally for me.  So I love watching athletes who have given all they have, both physically and mentally, for a shot at being the best in their field. 
 
It gives me hope I suppose, to see Kieran Behan,  the gymnast from Ireland, the guy who was told he would never walk again, step onto the mat and do an amazing floor routine.  Did he win a medal?  Nope.  Not even close.  But he won my heart.  Because he proved that the human spirit is always stronger than we think. 

Kieran Behan - Photo credit: Ian Walton/Getty
 
A tumor, broken bones, torn ligaments and a traumatic brain injury threatened not only his athletic career, but his very existence on more than one occasion.  You can read more details about him here and here.  Somehow Kieran pushed through the pain and obstacles and in 2011, his perseverance finally paid off.  He won three World Cup medals, becoming Ireland's first World Cup gold medalist in the floor exercise.  Then he won a spot in the Olympics.   And he did all this with no sponsors!  There were no corporate conglomerates like Guiness or some sports drink to back him.  His mom and dad held bake sales and fundraisers and he worked to earn the money he needed to compete and travel.  All of this sacrifice and effort...because the boy who saw his first Olympics when he was maybe 6 years old wanted to be an Olympic gymanst himself.  In my eyes, he was a winner before he ever stepped into the Olympic Stadium. And I wish I had his courage.        

Stories like this are why I look forward to the Olympics.  I wanna hear about the kid from nowhere who bursts onto the scene and makes a name for herself.  Or the 71 year old Japanese equestrian who competed in dressage this year.  I get caught up in the drama as the competition unfolds and I have to decide whether to root for the underdog or the defending champion.

But my enthusiasm for the games is also emotional and sometimes brings on a bout of depression.  Because I want to me more like the Olympians I watch.   I want to be better about developing characteristics that propel me forward in life, rather than wallowing in the emotional baggage that keeps me trapped. I want to be better at facing and overcoming challenge and adversity.  I want to believe in myself to the point that I am willing to push beyond my preconcieved notions of my own capabilities.

This year as I sat and watched the gymnast from Ireland, I wondered out loud what has to happen in my life to motivate me enough to set some clearly defined goals and pursue them with Olympian style passion?  Why is there nothing in me that screams so loud that it forces me off of the couch and out of the house toward the successful completeion of something great?  Where is that drive?

I am 48 years old and the mother of 2 boys who rely on me to instill in them the qualities and characteristics they will need to be happy, successful, functional adults.  I want them to have the kind of determination and discipline required to overcome setbacks and succeed in life.  How can I teach them what I don't have?
 
So I decided to have my own closing ceremony this year when the Olympics ended.  I want to close the door on my past.  I wanna quit wondering and analyzing how I got so screwed up and walk away from my insecurities and self doubt.   I want to find my path and walk it, regardless of the challenges that are presented along the way.  So I wrote down a list of things I want to work on for the rest of the year.  Then I created an Olympic torch that looked a lot like my backyard BBQ, ran a really lame lap around my tiny backyard and then dropped some little pieces of paper with fears and doubts written on them into the fire and watched them burn.  Then I cried.  A lot.  I don't know why.  I wish Kieran Behan was here so I could ask him what to do next. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

What My Family Learned from the Andy Griffith Show - Part 1

Image Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

It was a sad day at my house a few weeks ago when Andy Griffith passed away.  Little Man was especially affected by Andy's death.  I know.  It's weird that a little kid in this day and age would be affected by the death of someone who played Matlock, right?  I mean, Andy Griffith's shows aren't exactly hits with the young people these days.  But after almost a year of watching at least 2 episodes of the Andy Griffith Show EVERY SINGLE DAY,  Little Man feels like he knows the characters personally.  He has invested in each character and storyline, paying attention to little details that make each town resident unique and loveable (or not so loveable...he thinks Ernest T. Bass is the most annoying man in the world).  

Of course he completely identifies with Opie (Ron Howard), which is the reason he started watching the show in the first place.  Someone once told him he looks like Opie, so he wanted to find out who Opie was.  We found the Andy Griffith Show on Netflix and introduced Little Man to Mayberry and the rest is, well...history.  One episode of Andy Grifffith and my son was hooked.  He is now a certified Mayberry "junkie" who can't make it a day without at least an hour of his favorite show. 

He loves it so much he wants to move to Mayberry when he grows up and buy Floyd's Barbershop and eat ice cream at Walker's Drug Store.  He wants to fill up his gas tank at Wally's Filling Station and sit out in front of the Courthouse with a soda and watch the people drive by.   I kind of half heartedly tried to explain one day that Mayberry has almost certainly changed since the show was made so many years ago, but part of me wondered if maybe it would be better to let him have his dream.  I love that my child is still innocent enough to think that Mayberry would remain the same town that it was 60 years ago.  I love he recognizes and seeks out the simple morals and values that existed on the Andy Griffith show and in small town America during that era.  And I absolutely adore the fact that he aspires to be a successful and prosperous member of such a community some day.


We've learned a lot about ourselves and each other while watching the show.  It sounds stupid to say that, but it's true!  The other day while we were talking about Andy's passing, we started talking about our favorite episodes and why we liked that particular show.  It was really interesting to hear the things my kids picked up on and how what they saw and heard impacted them.  I'll have to write another post about the lessons my family has learned while watching The Andy Griffith Show.  Like how EVERYONE has a Barney Fife in his/her life.  You know it's true!  You are thinking about that person right now and nodding your head.  "Oh my gosh!" you are exclaiming in surprise. "You're right, Geri!  I DO have a Barney Fife in my life!"  I know you do.  We all do. I'll elaborate more on the next post.  In the meantime, I'm gonna follow Andy's example and take my son fishing.  Rest in Peace, Andy Griffith.    

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms Review and Giveaway

About a month ago I was honored to be chosen as a "Don't Sweat" Mom.  The title doesn't come with a cool tiara or a guest spot on Ellen or anything like that.  What it does come with is an opportunity to share some insights and support with lots of other moms out there, many of whom have held me up during more than one difficult parenting situation. It also comes with an awesome new book called Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms, by Kristine Carlson.


Kristine Carlson is a mother and grandmother and the wife of the late Dr. Richard Carlson who authored the highly successful "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" series.  Kristine created her own very successful Don't Sweat series by writing 3 bestsellers of her own, including Don't Sweat the Small Stuff in Love and Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Women.  

In her latest book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms, Kristine talks to moms about finding joy in everyday parenting and reveals how to:                                                          
  • be a mom (not a friend)
  • balance being a woman and a mom
  • pursue your passion (but not at the expense of your children)
  • and reclaim your family time.                                                                                   

Personally, as a mother, I tend to be a "sweater."  I DO sweat the small stuff.  Everyday.  All of the time.  I know why I'm that way.  I have this overexaggerated need to make sure that my kids have a home life that is very different from the kind of home life (or lack thereof) that I experienced.  Many times though, that drive creates the opposite effect and my micromanaging makes things very unenjoyable at home, for ALL OF US!  So it's been good for me to step back and get some input from other women who have figured it out, ya know? 

Kristine's book lays out some good advice, in short concise chapters, that helps busy and stressed out moms gain some perspective as they navigate the daily challenges that sometimes prevent us from enjoying our families more. One of the most helpful chapters for me as a mom at this particular time is called "When Things Fall Apart".  
"Then, they enter puberty and somehow we feel as though we've hit a wall.  We are exhausted; we've lost all confidence in ourselves, in our future, in our ability to mother with the wisdom and pleasure we once had.  What happened, we ask ourselves.  Nothing much - unless you notice that our own lives are convulsing too.  One might think that Mother Nature is playing a terrible joke when we stop to realize that our kids' teenage years are taking place alongside the emergence of our own midlife issues that can exacerbate the stresses we feel with our children."

BOOM!  Someone just defined exactly how I am feeling!!  How relieved am I to know that a) I am not the only person who does not feel at all prepared to deal with teenagers at this particular juncture of my own messed up life and b) that this midlife crisis thing that I feel like I have been going through for-freaking-EVER is also a somewhat normal, albeit unpleasant, part of the parenting journey?!?  I don't know that this realization will make this part of the process any easier, but at least now I have a definition of what the problem is so I can work on developing the parenting tools I will need to make sure my family survives this period of growth.

It is truly amazing to me how things and people come into our lives when we need them the most.  This is the second book I have read in the last few weeks that has spoken directly to the issues I am facing as a mother trying to hold her family together during a difficult time and as a woman looking for fulfillment in her personal life.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms reminded me that I'm not going to get everything right when it comes to raising my boys.  I know that, but it's hard to let go of the warped idea that just maybe, if I try hard enough, things might go exactly as planned and my two boys might have a shot at being amazing people.  I get too uptight when things go wrong, which seems to happen a lot the last few years.  And knowing how it feels to be on the receiving end of someone else's poor choices or mistakes, it causes me great pain to think that I might wreck their lives because of choices I make.  So I try to control everything and I fail miserably and we all end up depressed.  As Kristine says, "there's no such thing as a perfect mom."  As much as I want their childhood to be safe and happy, things are going to happen that will be difficult for our family to navigate and no amount of micromanaging is going to change the fact that life is messy and my kids might get a little dirtied up trying to figure it all out.  The best gift I can give them is to let go of the "small stuff" that undermines my confidence and find a way to be happy with who I am.  When I can learn to do that, I will be free to create a home that allows them to feel safe and loved while they figure out who they are and what they want from their own lives.

So...now that you know my thoughts about Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms, wanna win a copy of your own?  To enter, leave a comment that tells us some of the best parenting advice you've recieved.  Contest will end on June 9th @ 12 pm MST.  Winners will be chosen at random and notified by email or announced on this blog.

To extra entries you can do any of the following, just leave a comment letting me know what you did:

Didn't win the giveaway?  Don't sweat it!!  (Did ya see what I just did there?  Sorry, couldn't resist.) Everyone's a winner here! You can still get a free gift!  Kristine is giving moms a chance to get the first chapter of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms for FREE!!  Woot!  Just click the link below.



**Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms to facilitate this book review.  My thoughts and opinions about the book are honest and are my own.**