Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!

We have festive weather today - gray, rainy and gloomy! Just need the hot chocolate...

E has the day off and we have a few errands, the preschool party, maybe lunch out, and then some rest time (Peanut's Halloween?), before a wedding tonight. We are excited for Miss P's flower girl debut...

What are you doing today??

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Musings of the week...

Add in some pictures of me corraling kindergarteners as they paint on themselves and assert their 'independent spirits' (wink) and there you have my week!
Alright, so I can't quite stop there...time for the quick and dirty on several topics...
* * * * *
*Last Saturday our playgroup had its big Halloween party (photo 1). It was a blast. One of the final activities was for the kids to 'mummy wrap' the dads with TP. As we 'wrapped up' the party, the kids found a way to entertain themselves. This was on actually very little sugar...
* * * * *
*Sunday morning after church we decided to go for broke and head to Gilroy Gardens, a family theme park and (as the name implies) gardens. It was decked out for Halloween with scarecrows, pumpkins and they had a treasure hunt. If you can believe it, Miss P literally had to be dragged crying, Ok driven crying. It was one of those 'do I, or don't I' parenting moments. Before we had fully decided to go, we mentioned to Miss P that it was a possibility. "I'm too tired," she told me. Despite that, E and I decided we really wanted to go, make use of our season pass, and have a fun outing (as opposed to staying home and inevitably cleaning the house). We kept putting P off with, 'let's just keep thinking about it,' however as I pulled onto the freeway onramp, she could no longer be fooled and wailed about going. Do we turn around? Commonsense says yes. But we had the sense that her mood would change on a dime once we arrived. And, survey says...yes! it did! (Photos 2, 3 and 4) Score one for mom and dad.
* * * * *
*My students were not in the finest form this week. They had a sub last Thurs and Fri, which may have contributed, and it is Halloween Week. Next week is going to be better! I am going to try and build in a little more downtime for the class, which I think will help. Also this week, I headed up Family Fun Night for our Upper grade students. We had a Halloween-themed dance night. So fun! Thriller, Ghostbusters, a 'dance off' to 'Stayin' Alive.'

*Last night we had the rehearsal for my brother in-law's (Halloween night!) wedding at a winery in Los Gatos. Miss P and her cousin (last photo) are the flower girls. The matching dresses they are wearing were birthday presents from the bride. At the dinner both girls received hot pink jack 'o lanterns filled with treats including Halloween undies (the hit, which Miss P immediately donned this a.m.), and an orange tracksuit from Gymobree. We are looking forward to the extended family get-together.
* * * * *
*Coming up: this Sunday my mom and I will venture to my cousin's wedding shower. I'm looking forward to it, but will the madness ever stop? Will this post.....?

Friday, October 24, 2008

The cupcake!

The pictures really tell the story here. Miss P spent the majority of tonight's school Halloween carnival playing a dancing game where you walk (run) around a circle with numbers and, similar to freeze dance, stop when the music stops. Then a number is pulled and if it is yours, you win a cupcake. Initally Miss P was so moved by the music and desire to demonstrate her dancing prowess (not much for the beag bag toss, our Miss P), that she beelined from the face painting/hair streaking booth (the other fav) to the music spot. After awhile of piroutting around the circle and dramatically posing at the freeze, she was ready to pack it in. I was quite impressed, as I'm always trying to push being active. Anyway, just as she was starting to leave the game and shed her 'dancing queen' blinders, she clued in to the real objective of the activity: winning a cupcake. That girl was back on a number so fast. She played with the best of them. And damn it, if she didn't earn that cupcake finally. A half-a-sugar induced hour later, E was trying to pry her from the basketball hoop and finally carried her to the car. Aaah, I love Halloween!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Somebody get me a collar and fast

Yo. Doggy here. Man, I've been busy. Miss P pulled me out of her cubby yesterday (rousing me from a nap) and instead of going home I was dragged to her mother's classroom. Yuck - snails and worms had just been delivered and suddenly Miss P was all 'excited' over the "live" pets. Hmmpph! Anyway - would you believe she FORGOT ME THERE. There I was, stuck hangin' with the classroom teddy bears (I am more of a Barbie guy, but whatever). Actually, I was kind of starting to have a good time, when, whadda know - in walks Miss P's mom at 8:30 p.m. "Yep, that's right, I'm chopped liver during the day, but come bedtime suddenly everybody wants me." At least that's what I tried to say. Well, Miss P's mom certainly got her comeuppance today!!! I was again in the classroom (like, get a life lady) when Miss P's mom shook a bottle of blue paint that had a loose top. mmm hmmm. Bright. Blue. Paint. everywhere. Want the topper? After all that, she left me again in the room (albeit, only for a few minutes) and then again in P's Auntie's classroom (again just for a minute). Will those two ever learn? I finally made it to dinner and snuck in a few bites of burger, fries, and a beer. I heard something about a Pottery Barn Kids concert tomorrow. Hope I'm not left there. On second thought, I have been eyeing a certain doll....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hooray for Halloween

Today kicked off our official Halloween season. After church we headed to Then there were two... 's house to have a final planning meeting for our playgroup's Halloween bash next week. I think it's going to be amazing! With 4 year olds, we are beginning to feel quite the experienced moms - ha ha. To be fair, we have done a handful of these gigs, beginning when these little ones were just starting to walk.
We are expecting about 20 families so we want to be organized, and so far we are right on target. Here's our rough plan: Families arrive and kids play at various stations including pumpkin bowling, apple bobbing, arts and crafts and the standard bounce house. Then, we will do whole group activities like freeze dance to Halloween tunes and "Witchy Witchy" (see bottom of post for directions). Group games will be followed by dinner. After dinner, we'll do a mummy wrap activity, a practice trick or treat, and finally a parade around the neighorhood. The party will end with a Halloween Hunt in the front yard, with whatever 'treats' we have left. Then it's 'adios!' (Except for those of us cleaning up). All that in about 2 1/2 hours or less! Should be a great time.
The pictures at the beginning of this post are from today's Halloween party. We left the 'planning get-together,' and drove straight to a friend's Halloween spooktacular. I was so thrilled with both my NEW CAMERA and the decorations that I couldn't resist snapping a bunch of pictures and posting them. Besides the gorgeous decorations (these pictures actually do not do them justice), and the yummy treats, the highlights of this party were the bounce house (even Paige, a non-Tigger, hopped in - once the crowd cleared), the crafts table and multiple pinatas. Next up - our school's Halloween walk-a-thon and Carnival Friday night.
"Witchy Witchy" Directions: The 'witch' (ideally wearing a witch hat, and usually a grown up for the younger set) stands at one end of the yard with all of the children standing in a horizontal line at the other end. Children call, "Witchy Witchy, what time is it??" The witch chooses any time (except 12 o'clock, or midnight), such as "4 o'clock." Children must take that many steps (4) forward. Then the children ask the question again. Play continues until the children are very close to the witch. (The witch will often tease, by saying 'One clock' a few times at the end, so the children are verrry close.) Finally, the witch yells, 'Midnight!!!!!' Makes a scary face and chases children back to the starting line. Once the game is clear, children take turns being the witch, and play continues until each child has had a turn.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

On my own time

So a girlfriend was kind enough to forward some pictures from our girls' weekend which was....sigh....last weekend. There I am on the end in the white sweater. The wine wife (husband and wife winery team) posed us 'gals' for the picture with the refrain 'glasses at the hips ladies, glasses at the hips!'

I was fortunate to have the weekend away! Last night, as I snuck in a bit of computer time as Miss P readied for bed and E was doing somethingorother, he announced to me that I needed to hop off the computer to assist her and return 'on my own time.' Just to confirm, I asked him, 'when is my own time?' Response: 'Early in the morning before P and I are awake.' Just checking. Guess what, I hauled my happy arse up extra early this a.m. with visions of coffee, my tivo'd Starter Wife, and computer in my head. Within 15ish minutes the telltale patter of little feet exuberantly greeted me. As soon as my feet hit the floor, an alarm sounds in her room saying it's 'go time' for her. So now she is Dragon Tale-ing it up. Love, love love the fam. Love my own time. : )

(Have to add: He's really a great guy! And I have nothing to complain about, I'll be meeting a friend for lunch today to celebrate her birthday)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"You like really like me..."

All Things Southern & Preppy surprised me with a smile award last week. What? You aren't familiar with the smile award? Let me fill you in:

Characteristics for the Smile Award:
1. Must display a cheerful attitude. After some coffee, yes.
2. Must love one another. This is true about me. I even like people who are a little iffy about me. Drive E crazy with always sticking up for the other person (i.e., "No, no, really. I know she basically trashed me, but I think it was just a bad day.")
3. Must make mistakes. You bet!
4. Must learn from others. Ditto.
5. Must be a positive contributor to blog world. Workin' on it.
6. Must love life. Every day.
7. Must love kids. Have I mentioned I teach kindergarten?

These are the rules for the Smile Award:
1. The recipient must link backto the awards creator. yes!
2. You must post these rules if you receive the award. got it!
3. You must choose 5 people to receive the award after receiving it yourself. easy.
4. You must fit the characteristics of the recipient of the award. think so.
5. You must post the characteristics of a recipient. my pleasure.
6. You must create a post sharing your win with others. done.
7. You must thank your giver. and done.

The five people that I choose to keep this award going are the following:
(I noticed some of them recently received it. However, I wanted to keep the list I had in my head, upon originally receiving the award last week.)

3 Peanuts : Such a gracious, stylish and intelligent mom of three! A lot of class on that blog!

Happy Homemaker: Her blog is private and I was so happy to be able to keep reading. Love hearing about the special relationship she has with her daughter. She is a great mom to both of her kids, and seems like a really fun person.

Biscuits are NEVER Boring : Very creative lady who throws the best parties. Have saved her descriptions of birthday celebrations (following clues around the house to find all the gifts) and admire all of her school and church volunteer efforts.

my happy little life : Amazing writer who speaks passionately about things that matter.

One Fabulous Mom :Very fun and savvy gal with an innovative style. Speaks her mind and really works to connect with her readers.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

By the Numbers

5 - Glorious hours of unwatched excitement on Tivo, waiting for me and the gleeful after bedtime hours...

4 - Brand new, crisp, shiny magazines waiting to be thumbed through and devoured.

3 - Days since I've indulged in Starbucks (and instead used my affordable substitute, General Foods International Coffee Cafe Francais)

2 - new Tafetta Belle skirts (on sale, chi-ching) from J. Crew. One in mustard yellow, the other in "Fall Blue" according to the salesgirl (oh, the marketing genius).

1 - more day of work this week!

Have a good one!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Girls' Weekend!

If you haven't done it.... I highly reccomend a girls' getaway weekend! This is the second year the moms in our playgroup have made it happen. Last year we went in December to San Francisco for two days of checking out decorations, shopping, eating, relaxing and girl talk. Oh, and we squeezed in some 'spirits' and a night of dancing.

This year we tried something different - an Autumn wine tasting weekend. One of our ultra-organized gals had the idea to jaunt off to a sleepy town about an hour northeast. Livermore has a growing quaint-ish downtown and at least half a dozen wineries, but not much else. We nabbed a two bedroom suite for the six of us at a dirt cheap price, making it hard to say no. With dads and kids set up with food and plans, we made our getaway at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. By noon we were picnicing and tasting at our first winery. Oh, it was heaven - the best medicine for stress. Although, I had been trying to not succumb, I had been feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything going on in the world. Even though, we are not yet directly affected by the financial crisis, I find the 'worry' about it contagious. That, along with a host of other concerns that made me feel a bit overwhelmed, had been wearing on me. Yet, as we talked and clinked glasses, I had such a feeling of empowerment. I felt ready to go back and tackle everything! Meanwhile, I tried to take in all the fun of the moment. We hit three really different, eclectic and lively wineries, sat in the hot tub, chatted tons, had a very nice dinner, and capped off the evening with a viewing of Sex in the C*ity in our apartment-type hotel room. Today we breakfasted, shopped, and lunched before heading home.

We are already in discussions for the next getway. I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to escape again, but it will happen eventually!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yay for me!

Me: "I did 20 parent conferences this week and gave all the parents really good information about where their child is at school!"

Miss P: "I can draw a little girl with long eyelashes!"

Me: "Yesterday I did all of your laundry!"

Miss P: "I shared, even with children who were not using their words."

Me: "I wrote this week about ways to feel happier, which I hope will help people."

Miss P: "I tried some new foods!"

Me: "I have done a lot to get to get our schedules and money organized."

Miss P: "Sometimes I fall down really hard, but then I get up."

Me: "Yay, for me!"

Miss P: "Yay, for me!"

You? What's your yay for me? Comment!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Today, we are talking about...

Positive Visualization! It can be fun to picture what you would like life to be like. Whether you imagine yourself speaking confidently, looking your best, or staying calm under duress, positive visualization is a surefire tool. Here are two tricks:

1) Best Self Journal: Get yourself a pretty journal, a pen, something delicious to drink and steal about a half an hour. Now, imagine your life one year from now. Pretend everything you have hoped and worked for has happened. Describe in detail what life is like. Try repeating the same exercise but making it five years from now. How about 10 years from now? The objective is to first help you figure out some commonalities; what is it you really want in life? Second, it can help you to build optimism. What I found worked is to really shoot for the stars, yet still keep somewhat within reason (i.e., I didn't win the lottery or move into my dream house. I did feel healthier and had better self esteem). Through this exercise, you can really start to see that a lot of what you want is reachable. The idea is to repeat it regularly, and slowly you'll find your life evolving to meet the ideals you are writing about.

I actually did this excercise with a group of friends and it was really fun!

2) Board of Directors: When you are feeling a bit low, or not very confident, you might try this strategy. Think of a couple of people you really admire. People you trust, respect and feel comfortable with. It can be your mom, grandma, or a celebrity. (Mine are Oprah and a friend who is really supportive and amazing). Next, picture a favorite place (mine always involves a couch and steaming mugs of something, but the details - wraparound porch, beach, in front of the fireplace - vary.) When you need a little lift or some guidance, imagine yourself in that comfy place with your very own 'board of directors.' Imagine what you'd say, and then the helpful, uplifting way they might respond. (Of course, talking to real friends is ideal, this is just another option to try.)

Tomorrow, I will post about savoring life's joys, with a focus on my favorite things!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A shout out for gratitude

Counting your blessings, and not just at Thanksgiving, is a definite mood lifter. Studies show that it may be almost impossible to feel negative emotions while you are focused on being grateful.

Here are a couple of quick ideas:

1) Think of someone you really appreciate. Maybe it's a parent or in-law who is readily available to help with your children. Or a friend who is a good listener. Someone who inspired or taught you something. Take a few minutes and write that person a letter detailing what he or she did for you and how it has affected you. You will find pleasure both in your own description, and in the pleasure you know the other person will feel when reading it. (You might also consider reading it out loud.)

2) Play the gratitude game with your child. Very simple, passes the time while driving, waiting in line, etc., And once again, models an important practice. Simply take turns sharing back and forth things you are thankful for. (With really young children you might be doing most of the sharing. Eventually they will get the idea!) Consider child-friendly ideas, such as 'I'm thankful for tonight's yummy dinner,' or even, 'I'm thankful for pizza!' Another plus of the gratitude game is that it is just a great conversation starter. And, a way for you to learn more about your child and how he or she thinks.

These are just two ideas. Anyone have another? Share!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Well Being Week continues....

Did you know that you can easily feel happier almost every day? Research shows that a large part of how happy you feel on a daily basis is due to your habits and behavior. When we think or behave in a negative way over and over, we are wiring our brains for unhappiness. (Similar to the cravings we develop for chocolate or junk food if we eat it on a regularly). The good news is that scientists have now learned that through changed habits and conciously altering your thinking patterns, you can increase how happy you feel (even though on paper your life is the same as always). You can read more about this in books such as The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky and Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff.

Happiness Tip #2: Yesterday, we talked about setting our intentions. Here is a way to help that positive intention grow. Let's say your intention is to feel more joyful. Throughout the day, make a game of noticing things that bring you joy, whether it is that first sip of coffee, falling yellow leaves, the color of the sky, children's laughter, a great book, or a hello from a friend. See if you can count 10 joyful moments in an hour. Like setting intentions, this could be a game to enjoy with your children. What a wonderful practice to share with them! The fantastic thing is, this intention flicks on the reticular activating system (RAS) in your brain, which is responsible for turning on your memory system. Meaning the more you do it, the more automatic and effortless it will be to find the joy.

Let me know if you try it!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Feel the Joy, Day 1

Welcome to Happiness Week! It's no accident that this blog is named Life is what you make it. I really believe this, although sometimes I need reminders! This week I will share my various strategies for keeping a positive attitude. Why am I so passionate about this? I've always felt strongly about my outlook, but having Miss P around really solidifies this. I think, arguably, the most important thing I can teach her is how to find her own happiness (not wait for it to come find her) and how to be resilient, especially when the chips are down. Similiarly, life can't be much fun if mom is gloomy, so I work to stay 'funk-free' (most of the time.) These ideas come from books, articles, conversations, and my own (ahem) wisdom. They are not new, but perhaps something will resonate with you this time. If so, let me know!
Today's Happiness Hint: Try starting the day by setting your 'intention.' This is a great practice to share with your children. Happiness is (most of the time) a choice. Decide how you will feel that day. Will you focus on being content, finding humor, or feeling joyful? Choose how you'd like to feel and conciously make a decision to evoke that feeling throughout the day. If you find yourself straying away, or losing the feeling, remind yourself of your intention. Use music, jokes, excercise or just close your eyes and visualize something to bring the feeling back. I personally will do silly yoga poses with my daughter, make funny faces, and sing loudly. Laughter is really the best medicine. If you are home with your kids, check in with each other about your intentions. They are almost never too young to start. Even if they can't make their own yet, they will learn a lot from hearing you talk about yours.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Tricks up my sleeve...

Decided to take a page from Jen on the edge awhile back and start a tradition of Thursday nacho night. (As we arrive home late from swim lessons and need something fast and yummy.)
(This is said to give the impression that on other nights I make something more time consuming. I do not.) Anyway, they were delish! Miss P does not care for most foods outside her general rotation however. How did we get her to the table? Offer bribes? No. Threaten punishments? No. Demand? No. Here's what I did:

Me (sitting at the table across from E, while Miss P plays in her room, 'not hungry'): "Hey daddy let's play a game!"
E: "Yeah, sounds fun. What?"
Me (loud voice): "Diamond Castle girls! I'll be Liana, with the dark hair, you be Alexa with the light hair!"
Miss P (horrified voice, from the other room): "Liana has the LIGHT HAIR mommy! Alexa has the DARK HAIR!"
Me (to E): "Look, here are some heart shaped stones, Alexa. We could make special necklaces."
Me (Stage whisper to E): "Best friends, today, tomorrow, and forever."
E (repeats in loud voice): "Best friends today, tomorrow, and forever."
Miss P (shrieking): Best friends today, tomorrow, and ALWAYS daddy!
Miss P runs to join the table and continues to further explain and act out the intricacies of Diamond Castle (finally eating the nachos)
Her verdict on the dinner: "I love it."
And that's why I get paid the big kisses and hugs.