Busy Life

California. . . Knows How To Party

SNL CaliforniansIt is 9:30 am on Sunday and I am sitting in a Starbucks inside a Barnes and Noble. I just dropped my family off at the airport and I am officially both a Californian and alone. Quick! – Someone tell me how an adult in a brand new place where they don’t know a soul makes friends. Is there a book I can check out from the library?

I’m avoiding reading about the tragedy in Orlando, as I just don’t have it in me today. I’ll focus on some good news instead. . . I have an apartment! I’m so happy to be out of a hotel and especially glad the family was able to spend a night there with me (even if it was only with sleeping bags and a slowly deflating air mattress).

We ended up in our first choice complex in Foster City. I actually like a building in Burlingame better; it had wonderful 1960s architecture, but couldn’t compete with the other’s location. We actually had two options opens in our preferred complex. Both with the same layout, but different plus and minuses due to their building locations. Eventually, the high ceilings and extra windows beat out the more private location. Our balcony overlooks another building, but it is a small price to pay for the extra bonuses inside.

I feel a little bit like a college student. I have only the most basic and inexpensive essentials. No point duplicating what we already have in Arkansas. I’m also on that aforementioned deflating air mattress, so that is going to be a problem. It isn’t going to make it until when the bed arrives at the end of July, so I’ll have to find a new solution. I am not sleeping on the floor for two months.

I’m also not going to have internet or television until the family gets here. We need to keep expenses low – operating two households is an odd balancing act. Especially when one of those households is in one of the most expensive areas in the country and when one of those adults is still on an Arkansas salary. And a nonprofit salary, at that! No extras for a little bit, but it is hardly something to complain about too much.

Door-to-door, the new place is 1,958 miles from the old. I think the new place is going to be nice. It will be an adjustment, for sure – we’re moving from a three-bedroom home we owned to a two-bedroom apartment we are renting. It feels a bit like a hotel and I wonder how long it will take for us to stop whispering in the hallways. The noise is going to be a big adjustment for us too. It seems to be a fairly complex, but people are everywhere and there is noise. Plus, the windows are open 24/7 since the weather is wonderful in the bay area. We were officially welcomed to the building by a fussy baby in the next building over. I’m going to try not to be cranky about it.

Other bonuses of the new place – there is an Asian grocery, Starbucks, pizza place, and Korean bbq place in the shopping center next door. The library is only a couple of blocks down the street (already signed up for my card). Travel a couple of more and you’ll find Target, Safeway, and Costco. Asian food is in abundance (duh) and the family loves Asian food. You’ll hit water just about any direction you go and the heated/covered pool overlooks a canal. There is a dog park just across the water. It has a full size washer and dryer, none of that stackable nonsense. Parks everywhere. Very walkable, including kids going to and from school.

Well, I can smell real food heating up at Starbucks. That is probably a good cue to move on. See you Wednesday!

This is Real Life, Ya’ll!

We had our house appraised last week while refinancing our mortgage. I’m pretty excited about the refinancing – we are saving good money and really should have done it a couple of years ago – but I was less than thrilled about the appraisal. Why? Well, a lot hinged on it. We have done a fair bit of work on our house these past eight years, but it still needs siding work, the laundry room is a minor-disaster, and the interior isn’t finished.

I had three numbers in my mind: 1) the “can’t be below this” amount, 2) the “well, not bad” amount, and 3) the “yes! reach for that dough” amount. To get as close to #3 as possible, we cleaned our house non-stop for a week. We weren’t just looking for clean here; we were going for all-out perfect. It was time to highlight the positives and sweep the negatives under the rug. Or behind furniture. Or behind that painting hanging the hallway. You know what I’m talking about.

One big negative is our laundry room. Plumbing issues when we bought the house forced us to jackhammer up the floor and tear out part of a door jam. When the plumbing was fixed, replacing the two destroyed tiles and re-framing the wall wasn’t really on the top of the list. So we haven’t done it. For seven years.

Let’s be honest, there really wasn’t anything we were going to be able to do about that on short notice, so it was very important to make sure the laundry room was as good as possible.

I should probably mention that we have a regular, old-fashioned laundry room, not one of those pinterest-beauties that is big enough to live in. When laundry starts to pile up, it looks like junky mess. When we get really behind in laundry, it looks like a scene from Hoarders. And well, it was certainly Hoarders territory the night before the appraisal.

Our solution? We put that shit in my trunk.

No, really. I drove our dirty laundry to work with me. Here is photographic proof of my shame.
You guys know I’m not really ashamed of stashing the laundry in the trunk. If I was, this would be a pretty crappy post to write. Or a self-imposed punishment, I guess. No, I’m pretty proud of our lazy-family solution. I am ashamed of one thing though – the laundry is still in my trunk. When it was time to wash a load, we just walked out and retrieved a handful from the car. As you are reading this that laundry is probably hanging out in the parking deck across the street from where I work.

This is real life, ya’ll.

Month of Mayhem

I don’t know how it happened, but this next month has really just exploded in our house.
So. Much. To. Do.

Here is my May:

Junior League yard sale – Okay, I’ll be honest. This one was last weekend and I bailed because I felt like crap. I was supposed to help sort and tag items Friday night for a yard sale fundraiser the next morning, but just wasn’t up for it. Big thanks to my husband who not only dropped off our donations, but woke up at 6am on Saturday morning to help load some random bits of furniture also headed to the yard sale. There is a bit of good news that comes out of this whole thing though – my dining room is no longer a storage area. Yay!

CopyrightX exam – I’ve been taking a copyright course this spring and it is finally exam time. The exam went live Friday afternoon and is due Monday (today!). It is supposed to take around eight hours to complete, but since I’m not a lawyer I suspect it will take me longer. Great class though, really loved it.

Freelance article – Another thing due Monday (today! – let’s hope I’ve sent it on its way by the time you read this).

Preparing for the reappraisal – We are refinancing our mortgage (something we really needed to do a couple of years ago) and planning for an appraisal later this week. Our household is on a big cleaning/finishing projects/yard work binge in an effort to get every last dime we can out of this process. I’ll be happy when it is all over and we can go back to being bums again.

Doctor appointment – This isn’t a big time suck, but is more of an amazing annoyance. I’ve been switching up my birth control and have to go back to the office on Monday (today!) for a pregnancy test so I can move on to a different option. I just had a pregnancy test when I tried to start this whole process at the end of March. I’m not pregnant. Promise. Still have to go pee in a cup though.

Hair appointment – Okay, this is just fun for me. I’m allowed to have something fun on the list, right?

Saturday school (detention) and Saturday school (regular) – The daughter had Saturday school detention over the weekend for being tardy to class three times in one week (not my fault – these were tardies to individual classes – parents are in the clear!). She also has a regular Saturday school day later this month to make up for a snow day. None of us are thrilled about having to wake up early.

Birthday road trip – Something else fun! I’m taking my husband on a meat pilgrimage road trip for his birthday. I can’t say anymore than that; he reads this blog and is still completely in the dark about this trip. I’m surprising him. [Not only does he read this blog, he got on to me earlier for letting too many typos slip through. Sorry I write when I’m sleepy, ya’ll.]

Cheerleader fundraisers – Four cheerleading fundraisers, to be exact. No complaints here. All of the money we raise = money that doesn’t have to come out of the parent’s pockets. But it does make for a busy month (longer actually, this will continue in June). My kid will be able to attend two, maybe three, of the four.

Conference – I’m unexpectedly making an appearance at the final day of the annual meeting of my regional career organization. I was planning on skipping this year, but ended up being elected to a position. I’m super excited about this opportunity and want to make an in-person connection since it has been a year (or more) since I’ve seen any of these people. Fun, but busy. Right now I’m looking at flying in on Friday afternoon, hitting up some events, then flying out on Saturday. I’m not the kind of person who travels well like this. Fair warning.

Dance recital practice – The daughter’s dance recital is coming up the first weekend in June. At the very end of this month, she has a final big practice (not the dress rehearsal, but just before that).

Junior League annual meeting – Time to close out another League year. This year has been a little weird for me; I haven’t been as involved as I’m used to and even called out sick for my first meeting ever. Really I just haven’t felt as “plugged-in” this year. The annual meeting is always a ton of fun though. I love seeing our year recapped.

So, that is my May. And here is a ham:
Get it?! Get it?! May-ham? Ha. I’m so clever. Me = cooler than the other side of the pillow.

We Are So Wimbledon

I’ve been neglecting the blog a little bit lately. This post . . . isn’t really going to make up for that.

Sunday – wracked by allergies after eating dinner practically outside, I spend most of the day on the couch. The husband, also wracked by allergies, does the same. When I am asleep, he is awake. When he is asleep, I am awake. This goes on for most of the day.

The only way I’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors in the future.

Remarkably, the little man decided to cooperate; he happily watches television and plays with his toys. Aside: When the little man was three, he had a less-than-stellar teacher for about a month. Three days in a row, she sent his sheet home with a note saying his was “uncooperative.” Perhaps she had never worked with toddlers, disabled or otherwise, but my head nearly exploded.

Monday – we roll out of bed to get the daughter to school then head to the local Children’s Hospital for the little man’s appointment with his neurologist, including an EEG and Botox shots.

It didn’t look anything like this.

Everything went fine. The little man’s brain waves are “remarkably good” (woo! way to go brain!) and shots sucks. I almost fell asleep in the room, but fought past my allergies and made it home. With a bonus cup of hot chocolate from the café in the lobby. I fell asleep on the couch for a couple of hours, and then slept off and on for the rest of the evening. The husband was feeling tolerable, but I was majorly dragging.

Tuesday – I woke up feeling moderately better – maybe 50% better – and headed to work. I started my day with great news in my email inbox (can’t share yet, but you wouldn’t find it interesting anyway). After several hours of business, I rushed to meet with our mortgage broker. We are refinancing our home and I had all sort of paperwork to sign. Toss in a little extra talk about good books to read and it was a pretty nice mortgage meeting. In general, mortgage meetings are pretty pleasant when people aren’t questioning whether or not you can afford the loan and you save money in the end.

Looking good, piggy bank.

Back to work for a few more hours before picking up the girl at dance. Except she called in sick to dance and I got to go straight home for a short talk with the little man (I’m assuming he told me all about his day and what an awesome mom I am) and a quick ten-minute dinner.

Stressed from a non-stop schedule, I listened to Wimbledon by the Rich White Ladies to brighten my day. Works every time, although my significant other hates it.

The husband went straight into a conference call about cheerleading while I prepared for a phone interview for some freelance writing I’m doing. Finally, at 8:30 I sat down on the couch, enjoyed a glass of wine, and typed this up for you, dear readers. Still fighting off allergies.

The One Where I Ask the Internet For Validation

So, I got an email yesterday at 3:15pm letting me know about a cheerleader fundraiser conference call at 7:00pm. I’ll start by saying that even though I hate talking on the phone, I don’t mind these conference calls. In fact, I think it is a great system. Who wouldn’t like having a quick discussion and getting all of your questions answered instead of digging through a bit email chain and reading people asking the same thing over and over again?

I also think it is pretty awesome to have someone coordinating our fundraising activities so we aren’t floundering about or counting on the coach to do everything. I know how hard it is to get people to take on that responsibility (I am a Junior League member, after all).

Sure, I have time to talk.
Sure, I have time to talk.

The true effectiveness of these calls is just one great big assumption though, because I haven’t made it to either one scheduled (the first being similar short-notice). Now, I realize I am busy. I do a lot of things. I work an odd work schedule (two longer days, three shorter days). And I realize the little man complicates my life. But . . . lots of people are busy, lots of people work different schedules, and lots of people have things that complicate their life. Am I really all that different?

We are also supposed to bring something by “after school on Friday.” I’m sure that doesn’t mean “after Stephanie gets off work on Friday,” as there won’t be anybody at the school by then. I’ll be sending with my kid to drop off with her coach during school. Sorry.

It reminds me of dealing with the little man’s medical supply company. It took us many, many months to make them realize we were never going to be home when they tried to deliver in the middle of the day. Constantly reminding them to deliver to the husband’s work. It was like the concept of people needing a medical delivery in a household with two working parents was simply unfathomable. We still have difficulty with them.

Somebody tell me that I’m not too out of touch with reality. Could you make it to a meeting – conference call or otherwise – with just a few hours notice on a regular basis? Please tell me I’m not the only one with commitments outside of my family and home?

I’m not stressed or really even frustrated by this, just confused. It seems to be happening more and more often.

How to Survive the Great Wolf Lodge

I’ll start out by saying that this post is not sponsored by the Great Wolf Lodge.* We have been four times and friends/family/coworkers/etc. always ask about it. I have mostly good things to say – the place is super fun – but I always add one big caveat . . . it is expensive. If you don’t plan ahead, this place will drain every spare cent from your bank account. Be prepared to amputate a limb on the way in.**

It doesn’t have to be that way though. If you pay attention to my tried-and-true tips, you can keep your costs at a minimum and still have a great time.

I’m writing this from my experience staying at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas. The rooms and amenities are pretty much identical, but there are some differences and extra activities vary so check your location for specific information.

Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, Texas (March 2015)
Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, Texas (March 2015)

1) Book smart.
A quick look online*** shows rooms at Great Wolf Grapevine currently ranging $200-$400 weekday and $400-$500 weekend. Last minute spring break is not a good time to plan an impromptu trip to this kind of resort. Instead, book early and look for special deals (the website nearly always has some sort of promotion going on if you are booking more than one night). Great Wolf pops up on Groupon all of the time. These deals don’t always save you that much on the nightly rate (we used one this time and saved about 20%), but they include things like food and activity credits. Also, it is very important to remember that your nightly rate includes waterpark passes. For a family of four, I would say that probably works out to about $100 of your rate (I didn’t do any real calculations here, just thought about tickets I’ve purchased to similar things). This brings us to number 2.

2) Use the waterpark.
You have access to the waterpark from the time you check in through the day you check out (you can and are encouraged to continue to access the waterpark after standard checkout time). Do not book a room at Great Wolf unless you plan to spend at least 75% of your time at the waterpark. Just the waterpark, not activities that cost extra. Personally, we usually spend at least 85% of our time on-site to get our money’s worth. This is not the kind of place to stay if you plan to spend a couple of hours swimming and the rest of the time out-and-about doing traditional vacation stuff. If that is what you are interested in, find a hotel with an awesome pool and do Great Wolf some other time. Seriously.

3) Plan your food.
Okay, now we are getting in to the more important money saving tips. Great Wolf has a number of snack bars and restaurants on-site of various prices and cuisine. Think about what you want to eat and plan accordingly. For example, they have a tasty (and fully-stocked) buffet at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You probably don’t need to visit the buffet at each meal, especially if you are going to be swimming all day long. Maybe hit it up for morning fuel and do a cheaper snack bar option for lunch. Or pick up a $15 pizza for dinner (also on-site). You have a refrigerator and microwave in your hotel room – use this! Bring your own breakfast items, snacks, and drinks. You can’t always take these things into the activities, but since you room is only a short walk away they are always available. And while a lot of the food is priced like traditional restaurants, the more snacky items and drinks have your typical resort mark-up. This is what you want to supplement with your own supplies. I grabbed two bananas and apples on the way out of the breakfast buffet for mid-morning snacks. Worked perfectly and it was healthy! Mom win!

4) Don’t attach your kid’s band to your credit card.
One of the really nice things about Great Wolf is the wristband you get at check in. These are your “tickets” to the waterpark, but can also be your room key and credit card. We usually do room key/credit card for the adults, room key for the daughter, and just the regular band for the little man. This means you don’t have to take anything down to the waterpark except yourself; everything you need is on your wrist.
Now, you might think it will save you a lot of time by putting some money on your kid’s band, but I disagree. Let’s think about this scenario: You give little Johnny $20 for souvenirs and snacks. He immediately buys a $12 giant icee. It comes in a cup that gets free refills, so he argues that it will be a good deal (but are you really going to let him drink a bucket of soda with every meal?). Then he buys ice cream and a bag of chips. We know how kids are, so this all happens in the first two hours. Suddenly it is lunchtime and you head to the buffet. Little Johnny isn’t hungry though, so he just picks at his food. Then 2pm rolls around. Little Johnny is starving, but doesn’t have any money left and you have to pay out-of-pocket. See? Just don’t do it. Stay in charge or you could blow all of that money-saving planning.

5) Don’t do the extra activities unless you are staying for more than two nights.
Let’s be honest here – the other activities in the hotel, especially various Quest games, is simply a way to get the kids out of your hair for a little bit and burn off the sugar they have been consuming. With the questing game, you have to purchase a wand (reusable, but who is really going to remember to bring that back next time?) and pay for the game. Do you really need to pay for a couple of hours of silence if you are only staying for a short time? If you are staying longer however, buy that game, push the kids out of the hotel room, and put your feet up. You deserve that!
Just staying for a night or two? Explore some of the more cost-effective options. At Grapevine, the ropes course is a great option if your kid needs more than the waterpark. For $10 they can visit it as many times as they want and – bonus! – get to burn off energy while they climb.

Ropes course, Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, Texas (March 2015)
Ropes course, Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, Texas (March 2015)

*Email me, Great Wolf Lodge! I’ll gladly try and report back on all of your services. ☺
**Because it costs an arm and a leg . . . get it?
***Last week when I wrote this.

Playfullytacky’s Official Holiday Survival Guide

I think I’ve already mentioned many, many times that I love the holidays. [Well, I love Christmas. . . Thanksgiving is on its own.] I realize not everyone is as excited as me however, and lots of you out there let the inherent stress of multiple family gatherings, parties, cooking, and gift-giving bum you out.

Never fear, Playfullytacky is here to help. My Official Holiday Survival Guide provides all of the essentials you need to ease your stress leaving behind holiday mirth a plenty.

Note: Flowerily language aside, Playfullytacky makes no promises about the effectiveness of the suggestions in this post.

Holiday Essentials

Holiday Essential #1 – Pajamas
I consider this a year-round essential. You need to be comfortable in your own home – own those silly pajamas you love so much or rock that mismatched lounge wear. Maybe you have things that actually match? Awesome. I don’t. I look like of like a stereotypical crazy cat lady in the evenings, minus the cats. But you know what? I am never more comfortable than when I wearing worn out pajama pants with some probably holey tank top and random long-sleeved shirt or cover-up. Embrace the comfy. Throw on some real pants when company comes over and you are all set. I’m very much against dressing up for dinner. My almost twelve year-old owns an onesie with a hood. My whole family wears our pajamas to the state capitol building on Christmas Eve to see the decorations. We are better people for it.

Holiday Essential #2 – Bob Evans Refrigerated Side Dishes
This might be an unpopular opinion, but your family is not going to care if everything on their plate is homemade with love. Really, have you seen people’s holiday dinner plates? Piles of food everywhere. Head to your local grocery store and buy some side dishes from the refrigerated section then you can concentrate your limited time on more important dishes. I prefer Bob Evans, but get whatever works for you. Now, I’m sure there are a lot of you arguing that this can never be a substitute for homemade . . . except, it can. The Bob Evans mashed potatoes taste amazing and your family isn’t going to notice or care. Store-bought food isn’t going to take away from your “perfect” holiday. And I promise no one is going to complain about the time mom (or whoever) ruined Christmas with those purchased mashed potatoes.

Holiday Essential #3 – Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. . . . your choice.
I’ve already told you how my family is a Netflix and Amazon Prime family. Depending on your line of work, you are likely going to have at least a few days sitting around the house – maybe with a stomach full of food – with nothing to really do. You aren’t going to want to use your holiday time-off for chores, so you are going to need something to watch. A service like this will give you access to just about anything – good, bad, awful, classic, amazing, whatever. Just the other day I watched Christmas specials from Curious George and Winnie the Pooh. [Yeah . . . I have kids.] This goes especially well for essential #1 and essential #4. Feel free to mix essentials all willy-nilly like.

Holiday Essential #4 – Oreo Balls/Truffles
If you have not eaten an Oreo ball, your life is not yet complete. These addictive little spheres are super simple to make, easy to package and share, and delicious to eat. Life seems a little bit better when you pop one in your mouth. Here is all you need to do: crush you cookies (a lot) and mix in a block of cream cheese. Roll your mixture into bite-sized balls and chill for ten or fifteen minutes (this makes them easier to handle). Dip your balls in chocolate (I prefer white, but anything is great). You can cover these anyway you want – I usually go for a simple dip it in and spoon chocolate over it process, but if you take more time these can turn out as perfect little balls. Chill the things for about an hour. Eat one. Make a delicious face and eat another.

Have you heard of a company called Man Crates, a purveyor of pretty cool gifts and the inspiration for this post? They have geat gifts for the hard-to-please left on your shopping list. According to their manifesto, “We say ‘no’ to ugly neckties, cologne samplers and executive trinkets. We don’t save wrapping paper, we don’t do ribbons. We ship bragworthy gifts for guys. Gifts that you can’t wait to arrive because you know the recipient will love opening them. Gifts that people gather round at the office, people following the sounds of wood being torn from wood by the included, laser-engraved crowbar. We are Man Crates, and we deliver awesome gifts for men.”

*I did not receive compensation from Man Crates for writing this post.

Playful and Productive

I am a busy person with a family and lots of commitments. It is very important that I use my time as wisely as possible to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Today I am going to share my five best tips for increasing your productivity. Share your own in the comments!

1. Consciously select your music or background noise
Okay, this one is pretty much a given on any productivity list you can find out there in google-land, but it is there for a reason. It works. You need to find something that calms you, but doesn’t take up too much brainpower. For me, a television show or movie I know by heart is my first choice, followed by classical music (with harpsichords, if possible).

There are many websites and apps out there that provide the kind of ambient noise you would experience in a coffee house or restaurant. I’ve tried these before and it does seem to work for me as promised. Placebo effect? Maybe. Who cares?

Lifehacker has a great list of the different types of music/sounds that seem to work best. It is a great place to start if you are trying to find what works for you.

2. Find your best time of day
I can get just as much work done in my prime hours after dinner than I can if I sat myself down in front of the computer at 10am and tried to write all day. I just work better in the evening. Why waste all that other time and stress over what I’m not getting done? Don’t try to force yourself into a schedule you think you should be keeping; it isn’t going to help your overall productivity.

Are there days you just don’t get anything done? Friday evenings for me are a total blow-off. I regret it instantly if I ever make the mistake of planning or saving an activity that requires productivity for those evenings. The same goes for Tuesday evening – my daughter has dance class and I go grocery shopping, I prefer the rest of the evening to be unscheduled.

Not sure when you are really at your best? Try energy mapping your day. Finding the patterns in your life will help you determine what hours – or even what days – you will be at your best.

3. Sip on some iced tea (or some other beverage of your choice)
I find that having a drink with me when I am writing or working on a project really increases my productivity. It keeps me alert and satisfied. More importantly, it gives me something to do – something that isn’t the internet or television – when I need to take a very short break or even just a moment to think. Having a drink keeps me on task.

I prefer iced tea. It is cold and tasty without a sugar or caffeine high. Coffee can work, but unless it is takeout I find myself more interesting in enjoying the experience of drinking the coffee more than the work I should be doing. I have a lot of coffee mugs. They are distracting. If I’m at home settled in for the evening, I like a good glass of wine to get the creative juices flowing. Added bonus – if you are a food grazer like me, having a drink nearby will keep you out of the snacks.

4. Learn to say no
This should probably be number one. The best way to remain productive is to avoid taking on too many tasks. I found this quote on Goodreads that kind of sums up this whole point “My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” ― Francine Jay, Miss Minimalist: Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify.

Understanding my limits is often a hard thing for me. I’m a busy person with numerous commitments who likes taking on new things and has a hard time saying no. Each of those things could be a massive blow to my productivity if I don’t keep it in check.

And please don’t feel guilty about saying no. According to Fortune, saying no gets you ahead.

5. Make lists
You all know I love my lists. A good to-do list is a must-have in my house. Want to know my secret weapon for making your to-do list effective? Put things on it you have already finished or will be finishing very soon. There is something very satisfying and extremely motivating about seeing things crossed off of your list. Feeling like you have accomplished something already can make it easier to tackle the next thing on the list. I know some people probably disagree with this strategy. They might argue that I’m sacrificing quality for quantity or falsely inflating my accomplishments. Pashaw, I say! Whatever works; you do you!

Bonus #6: Procrastination
::sigh:: I’ll admit it – I work better under the pressure of a deadline, especially if that deadline is creeping ever closer and freaking me out because I’ve waited too long to get started. I wouldn’t suggest this as a productivity strategy though.

This list is inspired by Kabbage a company providing loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs using a seven-minute online application. Check out their site for more information.

*I did not receive compensation from Kabbage for writing this post.

The FALL Challenge

It is no secret that I love this time of year. Winter is my absolute favorite season, so when my birthday passes, the leaves start to change, and the temperature starts to dip, it only means we’ve begun the ultimate countdown to the time when I’m at my best.

In honor of this wonderful time of year, I’m issuing myself challenge. I’ve scoured the interwebs looking for the best, the most fun, the quintessential, and the stereotypical to create a list of all the activities that represent fall. I call it “Stephanie’s Freakin’ Awesome Legendary List” or FALL for short.

No complaints about what is or isn’t on my list. A few things got nixed right at the beginning because I really dislike them or they just don’t fit in with out still-pretty-warm climate.

I’m going to try to do all of these things on this list and report back here for your enjoyment. Time frame = today through Thanksgiving. If I do all of these things, you can live vicariously through me and just stay on the couch.

Some ground rules: 1) Completing this list cannot interfere with my actual obligations. 2) The husband and kids will not be forced to go along with any activity they don’t want to complete, but I reserve the right to coerce someone else into it. 3) The husband has the right to tell me to cool it if my activities get out of hand – not that I would ever do something like that. Oh no, not me. 4) Completing the list has to fit into the regular budget.

Stephanie’s Freakin’ Awesome Legendary List

1) Take a drive to look at the changing leaves
2) Drink a pumpkin latte
3) Eat something that really shouldn’t be pumpkin flavored
4) Carve a pumpkin
5) Create a centerpiece with gourds
6) Visit a pumpkin patch
7) Go trick-or-treating
8) Buy candy corn, but probably don’t eat it
9) Tell a ghost story
10) Smores!
11) Drink cider
12) Poke cloves into oranges for another centerpiece
13) Wear an adorable knitted hat
14) Roast pumpkin seeds
15) Create a fall-themed wreath
16) Make a turkey out of a handprint
17) Watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”
18) Make food that tastes delicious, but looks like something scary or disgusting
19) Go apple picking
20) Make an apple pie


Updates! [Enter Clever Title Here]

The Daughter: [She still doesn’t have a fun blog nickname. I’m just not creative enough.]
She started sixth grade; it has been good, but a little bumpy. Apparently, the entire grade spent the first week utterly confused by their lockers. I get it, that lock is pretty weird the first time you encounter one. Tardies were had all around, but the teachers understood. Another adjustment – she just switched from two teachers to eight individual periods. Again, another shock for the sixth graders.

I think she is adjusting well here too, but the homework load has been fairly heavy. I feel like they are being asked to tackle junior high-level activities with middle school-level work ethics. We will all have to make sure she is able to stay on top of things. And ugh, math. The daughter is in advanced math. At her school that means she bypassed sixth grade math and moved straight into seventh grade concepts so there is a lot of learning multiple steps at once. Apparently, I needed sixth grade math because I’m pretty lost.

She starts archery tomorrow and a jewelry-making class next week. Girl Scouts also starts back up this week, so her week is pretty busy. Archery and jewelry-making are both after-school activities. I don’t count those to her “one activity + Girl Scouts” limit since it only means I have to pick her up an hour later.

The Little Man:
No real update here, he is as happy as ever. He has officially stepped up into pre-k at his school. That means the next year is the big K and. . . I don’t really know what that means. His health is holding steady, so it is time to start meeting with the school district to see what kind of placement we are looking at next year.

If I’m going to make his update all about me – and it is my blog, so I can do that – it feels extremely odd at this age. I have many friends and acquaintance with children starting kindergarten (for those who didn’t get an early start on kids, this is a pretty common age to have). I don’t get invited into conversations about kindergarten. Sure, I can (and will) insert myself if I want to join, but it is just a bit depressing to have another reminder how different the little man’s childhood really is. I mean, he will be starting kindergarten too. I have a lot of the same concerns and fears (although admittedly, many of mine are very different). I guess I just want someone to pretend our life is normal . . . just for a minute. Okay, whine over.

Sick and busy pretty much sums up the last few weeks for me. Well, I’ve only been sick for the last week, but [as of writing this sentence anyway] I’m considering going to the doctor. This seems to have lasted way too long for a simple cold. At this point, I’m just waiting for the holidays to get here. Everything is easier at Christmastime.

Yeah, that sounds like a big downer. Really we are just super busy and haven’t yet adjusted to the new back-to-school schedule. It will calm down soon, I’m sure. The big things on the family list are 1) finish getting stuff ready for the big children’s consignment and drop them off, 2) finish up the financing paperwork for the new siding and windows and 3) finish the little man’s huge paperwork update. The big things on my personal list are 1) finish reading through this Central High stuff, 2) draft an article for the local history publication, and 3) make a plan to finish up the Junior League archival stuff currently stored in my bedroom. All quite do-able.