Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fun with the Fishtank

Imagine with me, if you will, a quiet Monday morning.

Fresh coffee still warm in a cup. Quiet toddler watching cartoons in the living room. A blissful mother not even a room away having a moment to check her email and make a much needed phone call. 

Mornings like these don't happen often in my home. In fact they are so rare that when they do happen I become instantly suspicious.

Paranoid? Maybe.

But as it turns out, I had every right to be. Because when I went to check on the all too quiet toddler this is what I found:

Yes. This at one point was my beloved fish tank. And now, apparently, it is a water sensory bin for my toddler.

How the heck he was able to accomplish this when I was just in the dining room (and if you've seen the tour of my home, you'll know that the dining room and the living room are practically the same thing). It never fails to amaze me that a child who can be so loud; always running, jumping, and yelling can become so quiet when they are doing something they don't want you to know about.

Here's a closer look...

Yep, that was a Little Tykes drill and hammer you saw. Uh-hunh, your eyes aren't lying. There is a batman car and a helicopter in there. Swimming right next to the lego.

I think what gets me the most (if I were choosing to be impressed and not COMPLETELY irritated) is how much stuff he got into the bowl! The fish tank is only 2.5 gallons; But he got about one of every toy he could find in that sucker!

If I could just find a way to harness the abilities for packing and creativity this child has I'd be rich. 

And as you can see, the fish is just fine. He had a little more excitement in his life than he usually does but has recovered well and probably doesn't remember a thing. Which will save his sanity should my children attempt to torture him in the future.

Please tell me I'm not the only person who has children that like to make the most interesting messes in the world. What are some of your crazy parenting stories?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Decorate For Thanksgiving in $20 Or Less

After spending all my money on Halloween costumes and candy, then having to turn right back around and fork over a fortune for Christmas presents. It can become very easy for Thanksgiving to get lost or pushed to the wayside.

This has never been more evident than this year with stores opening on THANKSGIVING DAY for "Black Friday" sales (which I'm not Okay with, but we wont get on that soap box).

So, with such tight budgets and very little time, what can we do to make decorating for Thanksgiving a pain free thing (on both us and our wallets) but still grab onto that wonderful fall/Thankful feeling? That's where I come in.

Cheaply decorating for holidays has become one of the things I pride myself on over the years. And this year, because you've been such great readers, I thought I would share with you some of my tips and tricks for creating some great Thanksgiving  decorations in under $20 that will have the in-laws salivating (and who doesn't like to get compliments from the Mother-In-Law?)

  • One of the biggest tips I can offer for you comes a little late for this year, but will make life so easy comes this time next year. When you buy decorations try to find ones that are season themed instead of holiday themed. That way you can add the holiday pieces to the seasonal pieces and it still looks nice, but you haven't had to pay the money decorating for 2 holidays.
  •  Something else I do every year is to try using things I already have around the house. From ribbon to popcorn seeds, pine cones and acorns from the yard. Even candle holders. If I've got something sitting around the house that I think will work, I try to use it.
  • If you go through the holiday section at any department store (especially the higher end stores) you'll notice that those wooden "quote" signs are really big this holiday season. Well, I don't know about you, but finding the money in my budget for those signs isn't really an option. At least not until they go on clearance at the end of the holiday. So to get the look of the wooden signs without the price tag, I turn to Pinterest. If you search for Free Thanksgiving Printables on Pinterest you will find a plethora of items that can be printed, cut, and framed. (Or you can just hop over to my Thanksgiving/Fall board and use the ones I have, which I found here and here.) The best part? You don't have to feel guilty next year if you find one you like better!

  • Hitting the clearance section at the department store is also a great way to get the nicer decorations you like with-out paying the larger price tag. And this year, more so than others, those items seem to have gone on clearance really early. Making it nice for adding to your Thanksgiving decor right away!

  •  One thing I did this year that has, I think, really made my decorations "pop" was to hit the produce section of my grocery store. There I found some great pumpkins, gourds, and squashes that look wonderful in my decorations without paying big prices for them. I got some pie pumpkins 2 for $3.00 the day after Halloween! (And Bonus: Since my grandmother loves to make pies and casseroles with this type of produce, they wont go to waste when I'm done with them!)

  • And finally, my go to stop for anything decoration is the Dollar Tree. As I've said before, I love this store for easy and cheap decorations any time of the year. They always have some great stuff that when put together correctly looks like you bought at one of the more expensive home decor stores. Can you tell what I've bought there?

So there you have it! I think sometimes people think it costs a small fortune to decorate for the various holidays, but I'm here to tell you that they are wrong. Over the years I've learned that I don't have to spend more than $20 to have my home look like a hundred bucks and these are the tricks I use to get it that way.

What are some things you do to make your home festive without using all your Christmas present money? Send me some pictures! I'd love to see!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

5 Roadtrip Phrases I Wish Existed 20 Years Ago

When I was growing up road-trips were very different than they are now.

There were no great places to stop if you had to pee while on the Ohio turnpike (much to my mother's dismay), when going through the mountains in West Virginia you gripped your seat for dear life because the roads were narrow and your dad drove like he was trying out for NASCAR, and roadtrip dining didn't mean trying all the great restaurants along your route. It meant the homemade trail mix and PB & J sandwhiches your mom made before you left home, which had become soggy after a day in the cooler at your feet.

Which is probably why I used my motion sickness as an excuse to drug myself and sleep through those family bonding experiences. 

So when we set out with our little car loaded down onto the open road I found myself slightly jealous of my children. They were having the road-trip that I had only dreamed of as a child; complete with portable DVD player, neck pillows, and an endless supply of things to keep them entertained. 

Children live such hard lives these days.

All of these wonderful things led me to realize I was saying things to my children that would've sounded much like the Hallelujah Chorus when I was 10.

In honor of that, I thought I'd share with you 5 phrases I wish my parents could've said to me when sitting in the car for over 14 hours (and I'll explain why they are so wonderful so you don't roll your eyes at me):

1. Quiet down and watch your movie. I can't tell you how many times as a child I dreamed of having a watch, dvd player, or vehicle that would allow us to watch movies while on long trips (or in ballet class) as opposed to playing a 10,000th round of the alphabet game. If technology were only 20 more years ahead of itself...

2. You're getting hungry? Ok baby, we will find a place. 'Nough said.

3. GPS says we will arrive around 7:00. This for me was a pretty big deal. As a child I always wanted specifics about our trips; where we were going, who'd we be with, when we would get there, what would we be doing, etc. and my parents' answer of "around 6:00 if we don't get lost" never set well with me.

So having this miracle device that not only told us our specific arrival time but also guaranteed that we wouldn't get lost would have probably made most of my car sickness dissipate immediately (maybe).

4. Just put your pillow on and take a nap. We are going to have quiet time. This one shouldn't have been such a joy to me, but I remember those trips growing up where we had so many people in the car that we weren't able to unbuckle and lay down (it was the 90s, car seats weren't such a big deal). That neck pillow made our trip go so smoothly! And anyone who has ever taken a trip knows what I'm talking about.

5. Let me just finish this chapter... As I've said before, I have one of the worst cases of motion sickness that I've ever seen. And no matter where I sit in the car I've never been able to do anything without making myself sick. But since the wonder of technology has finally caught up with my dreams, I'm now able to read on my kindle without making myself ill. I still can't use my phone, or check out any of my apps but who cares when you are able to read to your hearts content.

Obviously, it is technology that has made my adult road trip experience completely different than my childhood one.

I'm not denying that that is one area I allow my family to have free reign on the devices. And the only thing I can ask myself is why it took so long for these wonders to come about? Why are my kids the lucky ones? *Insert my pout face here* Brats.

Have you been on a long trip recently? What did you find was something that made the trip easier (other than drugs, I can't advocate for that)?