Tuesday, December 28, 2010

All the Whos Down in Whoville Like Christmas A Lot

What a wonderful Christmas!  After my post about expectations, I tried my best to not have any about the big day.  Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.  Yes, I had carefully selected gifts that I was sure would be the best ever.  Yes, I planned big meals that I hoped would be delicious and eatten by all (all the adults anyway).  Yes, I dreamed of sweet children sharing their toys and delightfully playing all day.  BUT, I knew most of that would not happen and I would not be sad when things didn't turn out the way I hoped.  My plan was to do whatever was best in the moment.  Kids crazy - time for DORA or The Grinch.  Food picked at - make some nuggets. 

Fortunately, the kids loved their gifts and did play all weekend with them.  I think there was only one meltdown Christmas day (by Jack).  Gwen did admit she was jealous that Maddy got the same dolls as her, I guess she thinks DOLLS are Gwen territory, but she was very matter-of-fact about it and moved on.  John and Jenna both liked their gifts and I LOVE my NOOK COLOR that John got me. 

The food was delicious, but the kids mostly wouldn't eat anything new.  Who cares - I got to eat Monkey Bread, Aunt Anne's cheesy potatoes, ham, cucumber salad, brisket and wine.  The kids were happy with their mac'n'cheese and rolls. 

This Christmas was GREAT!  Looking back two years ago to our first Christmas as a family of five, things have improved dramatically.  I'm looking forward to next year already, but not setting any expectations that will disappoint me.  Whatever will be, will be!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Focus for January

I plan to follow the Happiness Project for 2011.  Gretchen chooses a focus of the month and has an activity or thought for the week each Monday.  BUT, my personal January focus is money, or more specifically spending.  I'm not in debt or living beyond my means by any account, but I am unhappy with my spending habits.  I definitely enjoy spending money, but later feel guilty about it. I also don't think that I appreciate the wonderful things that I do have.  My other concern is the effect this has on my children.  They are not awful brats - yet.  I can tell them no at the store and they know they don't always get treats, but I frequently buy things just for the hell of it, like toys/coloring books/more of what they already have. 

My first step is defining what I do NOT want to spend money on.  This is the start of my list -
more toys!
more craft supplies (I have to use what I have, same for the kids)
shoes for me (how many flats can one girl own? don't answer that)
handbags (rotate what I have more often)
pointless things for the kids
eat the fresh produce I buy!

I need to remove myself from emails or blogs with "HOT DEALS" and take away the temptations. 
Make a list of "wish list" items to look forward to, if I truly still want them a month later, look for the best deal.
Consider if each purchase is a want or a need

2011 is Nearly Here

2011 is nearly here - 5 days left in 2010.  Since this is a time for setting those traditional resolutions, I thought I would post a link to THIS ARTICLE from the Happiness Project blog with tips for keeping your resolutions.  Here are some that I liked -
1. Be specific. Don’t resolve to “Make more friends” or “Strengthen friendships”; that’s too vague. To make more friends as part of my happiness project, I have several very concrete resolutions like: “Start a group,” “Say hello,” “Make plans,” “Show up,” and “No gossip.”

3. Review your resolution constantly. If your resolution is buzzing through your head, it’s easier to stick to it. I review my Resolutions Chart every night.

10. Keep your resolution every day. Weirdly, it’s often easier to do something every day (exercise, post to a blog, deal with the mail, do laundry) than every few days.
13. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Thank you, Voltaire. Instead of starting your new exercise routine by training for the marathon, aim for a 20-minute walk each day. Instead of cleaning out the attic, tackle one bureau drawer. If you break your resolution today, try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Expectations

Article from Simple Mom

I liked this article about setting expectations for the holidays.  This part especially:


2. Let go of expectations.

Expectations are planned disappointments because we are too attached to the outcomes. When we go into a situation with a desired outcome already set in our mind, we will wind up disappointed.
The key, then, is to let go of expectations and allow things to unfold in the moment. After all, the moments when we are truly surprised, grateful, and happy are when the unexpected happens.
“Gratitude is the key to happiness and anything that undermines gratitude must undermine happiness. And nothing undermines gratitude as much as expectations. The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have.” -Dennis Prager

3. Be present in every situation.

You’ll more fully experience each situation when expectations are reduced and events are allowed to simply unfold. You’ll connect more with your children. You can listen and spend richer time with your spouse. You’ll give of yourself more freely.
When you are more present and engaged, you can give your family the greatest gift of all – your presence and your love – with no strings attached! And what a great holiday gift that will be.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bowling Buddies Craft Project


In the bag

Jack's Bowling Boys
Lady Bowling Buddies
A few weeks ago I saw this idea in Family Fun magazine and decided to try it.  These turned out super cute and will make a fun Christmas gift for the kids. I left some of the 'heads' blank so that Gwen could draw them herself.  The game is to set up the 'Boys' like bowling pins and use the ball to knock them down.  I predict my kids will not use them for this purpose at all.

Only thing I did not like was that some of my Sharpie markers bled on the wood so I had to be careful to test them out first. 

Jingle Bell 5k with Gwen

Gwen after her race
Last Sunday Gwen and I participated in the Jingle Bell 5k at the Domain in Austin.  It was very cold and very fun.  Gwen ran the kids k first - well, sort of ran.  Poor Gwen.  She was SO excited to go with me and run, excited at the start line and took off with the other kids.  After about 2 minutes we turned a corner and headed into the wind.  Gwen slowed down, her face turned red and she was trying not to cry.  We walked for a moment before she started to cry and asked to be carried.  I put her on my back and ran for her.  When we could SEE the finish line I made her get down to finish.  She took off like a bunny and sprinted the rest of the way.  She got a medal and was happy. 

I pushed Gwen in the 5k portion and finished in 25:14, 4th place in my age group.  It is pretty hard to push a 4 year old and run but I was glad to enjoy the race with Gwen.  Normally I run in the mornings before the kids even get up, so I took the opportunity to show her that Mommy runs and it is a lot of fun.  Post race we had juice and cookies, and picked up doughnuts for the family on the way home. 

Merry Chrismas with the Cowboys

In front of Cowboy's Stadium, Dallas
View from our seats - giant video board

For John's Christmas gift, I got him tickets to the Cowboys vs. Eagles game at Cowboys stadium.  I wish I would have kept it a secret until the day of, but he knew about it ahead of time.  Our babysitter watched the kids all afternoon/evening and John and I headed up to Dallas.  We had dinner and got to the stadium early.  The stadium lives up to it's reputation, this place is crazy.  Music pumping, people everywhere, fountains, dancers, cheerleaders, and some football.  The game was good too, even though the Cowboys lost.  It was a fun afternoon.  Merry Christmas John!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Traditions - Baking Cookies Edition

Holiday traditions can be meaninful, fun, a pain in the butt, and change from year to year as we grow.  I remember making and eating homemade cookies with my mom growing up, but maybe I remember it more fondly than the reality, or maybe we didn't really do it every year.  For the past 3 years I have made cookies with Gwen and we did it again this year.  I let her pick which kind to make - Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies and we made the dough together.  She was disappointed that it had to sit in the fridge 2 hours before rolling it out.  In that time frame we made and decorated Spritz cookies.  By the time we got around to rolling and cutting the gingerbread cookies we were getting tired and cranky.  Maddy helped some, which she enjoyed.  Before dinner, I gave each kid a cookie, mini M&M's and frosting to decorate their cookie.  Jack dove into his snack and demanded more cookies.  Maddy touched each M&M to the cookie before eating it.  Only Gwen pain stakingly placed 300 M&M's on one butterfly cookie before eating it. She also decorated a few more with Alex.  I quickly covered any remaining cookies with icing and sprinkles to finish them off.  It was a long day, and I remember in kid-free years past making 5 different kinds of cookies in one day.  I can't imagine getting that much done now!  Maybe next year I will let Pillsbury make the dough and the kids decorate while I make the more elaborate cookies. 

Other holiday traditions for the Mills family -
Driving around to see Christmas lights (yes, I'm my mother's daughter)
Leaving cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer
Opening gifts Christmas morning (not Christmas Eve for us)
Not attending church - this isn't a NICE tradition, but I can't imagine the tourture of 3 little kids and long Christmas service.  This will change eventually.
Dad decorating outside - John put up the inflatables and lights, the house looks lovely
Mom decorating inside - Tree is up, Christmas village is lit and the stockings are hung

Traditions to begin -

Elf on the Shelf - Jenna sent it last week, I'm looking forward to having a good behavior weapon

Special holiday meals - since my kids refuse to eat anything consistantly, we don't have a favorite go-to-meal that is special.  Last year Aunt Jenna made lasanga, which was awesome.  Growing up Christmas Eve was Busha's pierogis, golabki (stuffed cabbage), mushroom soup and her special rolls.  Christmas Day was ham, Cheesy potatoes, shrimp, green jello and Grandma's coconut cream pie. 

What are your holiday traditions?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What is a Happiness Project?

Your "happiness project" is your own project to take specific steps to boost your happiness. Start now!


To help you identify changes in your life that might make you happier, answer the following questions:


What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing?


What makes you feel bad? What are sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life?


Is there any way in which you don't feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change jobs, cities, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for yourself? Does your life reflect your values?


Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth? In what areas of your life do you find progress, learning, challenge, improvement, and increased mastery?


Answering these questions provides a good roadmap to the areas that you could tackle and the Tools will help you stay engaged with your happiness project.
- from Gretchen Rubin's Project Toolbox (link below)

The Happiness Project Toolbox
The Happiness Project Blog
Happiness Project

In her book, Gretchen Rubin chooses a focus each month to work on, adding goals to those from previous months.  I am working on my list of ideas to focus on.  Here are some things I'm considering (in no particular order):
Money
Parenting
Fitness/health
Wife-ing (Marriage)
Organization
Spirit
Fun
Simplicity
Challenges
Work
Extended Family & Friendship
Appearance
Volunteering
Values
Cooking

I'm not sure what any of these would entail, but they are areas I would like to improve on or at least consider re-evaluating my current way of dealing with them.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gift giving simplicity

Simple Mom's Blog About Gift Giving

I check out Simple Mom's blog occasionaly and watched this video about her holiday gift giving tradition for her kids - 3 gifts.  One hand made gift, one book and one toy.  Oh my!  What a wonderful idea, but how do I actually execute that??

Just yesterday I was thinking about MY version of simple gifts, one major gift per kid like a dollhouse or train table.  Hardly "simple".  I have been wondering if I am spoiling my kids too much (I am) and making them unappreciative of what they DO have.  If Gwen has 15 princess dolls, does she really appreciate them?  If the kids play with anything a lot, I tend to think MORE would be even better, but I don't think that is always the case.

Just some food for thought today.  I have gone totally overboard the past 3 Christmas seasons, I don't expect this year to be any different. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving

Oh my!  What a week, I'm still recovering.

Saturday - depart for Florida at 7am.  Found out Madeline gets car seat to the point of throwing up and that Jack really doesn't like to sleep in his car seat.  Driving through Louisiana before the LSU game was poor timing.  John was a trooper driving most of the way and the kids did pretty well. 

Sunday - arrive at Grandma's 3:30EST.  Oye!  We all crashed and slept for a few hours then hung out at Grandma's house.  Madeline met the love of her life - Mr. Bojangles, Bo for short, Grandma's dog.  She followed that dog the entire time we were there and he tolerated it as best he could.  We headed to the Tiki Bar for lunch and met up with John's brother and his family.  The 9 of us headed to the house we rented, had dinner and put the kiddies to bed.  Sharing a house was great, the kids enjoyed spending time together and it was a nice place with it's own pool.  We also got to eat our usual breakfast at home every morning and had a place to relax in the evenings. 


Monday - Sea World!  The kids LOVED the dolphin/acrobat show, after that it was down hill.  Note to self: next time plan something shorter for the first day after an 18 hour road trip.  In the afternoon we got to meet Jake, our newest nephew.  What a cutie!

Tuesday - Disney's Magic Kingdom.  What fresh hell is this?  Note to self: next time don't try to do 2 theme parks back to back with no naps.  Today I learned my lesson about ever picking up the kids.  Poor John had to peel somebody off me at least twice and remove them from my presence because of a major shit fit.  We did have some fun between the tantrums, but it was a long day.  My favorite part was when everyone raced to get into the stroller as we headed for the car, I made them all walk and let the bags ride in the stroller instead.  No one was happy with Mommy.

Wednesday - I managed to get an early morning run in.  9 of us went to T-Rex for lunch in downtown Disney.  This place was pretty cool, a brand of Rain Forest Cafe, totally done up with dino's.  The kids enjoyed it and I had a margarita.  We had dinner at Grandma's - delicious ribs and birthday cheesecake for me!  Thanks for all the lovely gifts and cards!  Gwendolyn made me a beautiful hand painted box, so cute!

Thursday - Did my own Turkey Trot in the morning and started out the day by celebrating Christmas in the morning!  Since John's family isn't usually all together for Christmas, we celebrated early this year.  The kids got lots of cool gifts they immediately tore into.  Madeline continued pursuing Bo and succeeded in getting him onto her lap.  After naps, it was time for the Thanksgiving Feast!  Wow, 2 turkeys, hams, all the fixins and desert. It was quite a meal and a lot of fun with the family.  The kids did amazing and had fun with their cousins. 

Friday - we took off at 7:45am and arrived home at 1:30am Saturday morning.  Same as the ride there, Maddy gets car sick and Jack does not like sleeping in his car seat (or Mommy's lap or any where else).  We were all happy to be home and in our own beds. 

Saturday - recovery day.  The kids were up at their usual time (ugh) and up to their usual antics.  They seemed happy to be back and enjoyed tearing up the house today.  Gwen was a little moody, but it was her turn to have a bad day I guess.  We are almost unpacked and back to normal.   I don't feel very 'rested' from our 'vacation', but it was a good trip overall. 

Now - on to decorating for Christmas and the next holiday!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cuties

She didn't like to hold it here, cause "my boogies get on it"

Mmmm chocolate pizza at Double Daves

Hiding from Mommy to avoid a diaper change

Count down

Things I'm counting down to:

Thanksgiving - also coincides with our first family vacation in about 18 months, several hours in the car, turkey and my birthday.  I'm counting down to this with excitement and trepidation. 

Christmas - really going to try not to go overboard this year for the kids, but I have a hard time being frugal when it comes to my kids.  My sister will be spending the holiday with us if she can tear herself away from the cat (seriously).  Aunt Jenna has also procured tickets to take Gwen to her first ballet - The Nutcracker.  We know that she will love it!  And of course this time of year brings all the holiday decorations, movies, cookies and traditions that I love!

New Year's Day - I'm working on my "Happiness Project" plan that will start January 1.

Austin 1/2 Marathon - races are fun!

Friday, November 12, 2010

More travel observations

1. Limes, lemons & oranges from the bar are full of germs. Makes sense but I dont care.
2. 2 blue moons make Amanda ... Not sober
3. Delayed flight means I can't pick up the kids. So I'm sad. I knew that before the 2 beers.
4. Not checking work email makes me nervous.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Notes on business travel

1.    If a piece of paper is still on the note pad and has things like phone numbers and addresses, IT IS NOT TRASH.  (I’m looking at you cleaning lady)

2.    Traveling with the sales guy is awesome.  Apparently they don’t have a budget.  Or at least not the budget measly people like me have. 

3.    Every city in America has the same exact restaurants, strip malls and coffee shops. 

4.    We ate at 2 Texas themed places this week – in VIRGINIA. 

5.    I have a low alcohol tolerance. 

6.    Watching live TV is ridiculous, where is the DVR?

7.    Some people are WAY too technical.

8.    Running on the treadmill is incredibly boring

9.    I miss my babies!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Malek Halloween Party



The 8th Annual Halloween Spooktacular was last night and I had a great time.  Renee picked up Jennifer and I and we headed to the Malek's house.  They had up their fabulous Halloween decorations and Christina prepared her usual spread of great food.  Jonathon made me some delightful drinks and I took advantage of having a designated driver.  The evening ended with me taking a lot of silly pictures in their bathroom and closet - sorry Maleks!

Dell Halloween Party


We took the kids to the PG Dell Halloween Party in John's building.  As usual, I was glad we arrived early, it gets packed.  Maddy LOVED wearing her lady bug costume, and has wanted to wear it all day, every day since.  We borrowed a spider costume for Jack but he absolutely refused to wear it, so he wore his skeleton pajamas.  Gwen dressed up as a butterfly.

The top photo Madeline is horrified watching me eat cotton candy. 




Halloween Fun - Post 1

 Last weekend we painted the pumpkins from Sweet Berry Farms.  I got out the finger paints, brushes and a stack of newspaper.  The kids were cleaner than I expected and really liked loading up the pumpkins with paint.  We haven't carved pumpkins with them yet, but I"m sure we'll be doing that in the next couple of years.  For now, painting works for everybody.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

First Place Finish

10/10/10 - Pflugerville Pfamily Pfun Run at 10:10am.  The race was around Lake Pflugerville, with is just short of 3 miles, so we overlapped the route a little bit.  I was not feeling to pumped at the start.  Sometimes having too much time to think about running is a buzz kill.  Did I eat enough, or too much?  Did I drink enough water?  Do I have to pee again?  This was a race on the crushed gravel trail, so I situated myself at the front of the pack, that way I would not have to pass walkers and slow pokes on the narrow path.  The gun went off (air horn) and after a half mile I realized I was going a bit too fast - 7:10/mile.  I did slow down after that, by the time I finished I had nothing left.  I normally like to pick it up and dash to the finish, but that was not happening.  I finished in 24:08 - 1st place in my age group!  Yeah! Go! Me!  Jennifer finished 3rd and Christina 4th. 

My medal has joined my collection at work!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

John is Becoming More Texan - Ya'll

 For John's birthday I bought him a smoker (or I sent him to buy himself a smoker).  We are only short a pair of wranglers and some chew to complete the transformation into full on TEXAN.
 John cooked his first brisket Saturday while watching football and enjoying the morning while the rest of us went to Sweet Berry Farms.  This is John admiring his meat before applying a homemade rub.
We were permeated with the smell of smokey meat all day, it was mouth watering.  The brisket turned out delicious and was even better a couple days later for left overs.  Great job John!

Sweet Berry Farms Fall 2010

My parents and I took the kids to Sweet Berry Farms this weekend.  On the drive to Marble Falls I suddenly remembered how our last trip to SBF ended - with a lot of crying. 

There were LOTS of pumpkins in shapes and colors I have never seen.  They had a hayride, corn maze, pony rides and pumpkin painting, we didn't do any of that.   But we did get some pumpkins, ate homemade ice cream and the girls got their arms painted.

 Again - Maddy has to drive

 First time getting painted

He did have a good time, just not at this exact moment

We followed up SBF with lunch at McDonald's.  I don't know why I am always surprised when McDonald's doesn't go well, but this was a bad scene for us.  I rarely lay my head down on a table in public, this was one of those meals.   Why would McDonald's take 20 minutes to make 3 Happy Meals for the love of all things holy????

State Fair of Texas 2010

 After touring the petting zoo (which was awesome - giraffes in a petting zoo!), the kids posed for a picture.  This was the best of the 15 photo series.  Gwen is being a Moose (not in the petting zoo)
 We toured the auto show portion of the fair and the kids loved climbing all over the cars.  Madeline insisted on doing all the driving.
 Handsome Jack
Handsome Jack begging for elephant ears.

The fair was a lot of fun and I am so glad my parents came with us.  The kids were great, even without naps and we will surely do it again in a couple of years.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Here come the grandparents

My parents are visiting us this week, which is always a nice break.  I still have to work, but it feels a little bit like vacation and a good excuse to put things off.  Their visit was a good reason to get the house in order, finish little projects and do a solid cleaning (ahem - pay for a maid).  Gwendolyn is especially looking forward to their visit since Nana has been telling her we will celebrate summer birthdays all over again.  Bring on the ice cream cake!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

John is Awesome!

Finished dining room. John did an excellent job on the paint and trim.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Leopards and Lilies



This cute 5x7 magnet board and 5x7 cork board were made by my friend Renee at Leopards and Lilies.  They are on my desk at work, keeping my most important notes.  I think they will make great teacher gifts for the holidays, and we have SO many teacher gifts this year!  I think I count 10 for all the kids activties. 


Monday, September 20, 2010

Hobo Jack

I am getting concerned about this kid. He wants everything to be his, so he started filling up a bag and carrying it around, yelling "my bag". Then it became two bags. Now it's two bags and a shopping cart. No one can touch the cart or the items inside it. "My cart!". I think the cart needs to go bye-bye for awhile.

Sept 20 Posing Cutie

She asked for this picture, hanging with the animals

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14 Reading

It's book fair week at school, so we have some new books.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 12 When Tacky Flies

Come on! This would rock my dining room, no?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

September 5 More Cake

Yes, I love my bundt. This is Melted Ice Cream Cake with Chocolate Marshmallow frosting.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Turns into this

Tada.  I wanted them both in one post, but can't figure out how do to that from my phone yet. 
But you get the idea.  6 loads of laundry is a whole lot of stuff to fold. 

August 31 90 minutes later

This is 5 loads of laundry, plus one in the dryer.  I don't mind the laundry, I just wish it wasn't NEVER ENDING. 

August 31 Two Happy

Getting ready to watch their favorite show with their buddies

Monday, August 30, 2010

Look who's TWO!

Hard to believe that 2 years have gone by and I have felt every one of them.  Lots of good days, and quite a few frustrating ones.  Our family has grown so much but we are very luckly to have 3 beautiful, healthy children that make us smile every day.

August 30 - 7 Years!

7 years ago today we tied the knot. 

And spent our honeymoon in Jamaica

Look at those 2 kids!  They had no idea all the blessings and challenges life had in store for them. 
Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29 Ender

This is what I needed after a very LONG day.  I feel much better now.

August 29 Brief Smiles

Rough day, but had a few smiles

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Maddy's Cake

Happy 2nd Birthday Maddy

August 28 Jack's Cake

Banana cake with Carmel frosting

Friday, August 27, 2010

Things Heard in Our House This Morning

"Open this door" - Madeline
"Go away" - Madeline
"NO JACK" - Madeline
"What a pinhead" - Gwendolyn

The last one Gwendolyn said in reference to her father.  John and I were both so surprised we decided to ignore it completely.  We're pretty sure she picked that phrase up from a cartoon, probably something from the 80's since 'pinhead' isn't something you hear very often anymore. 

August 27 More than One Way

Mommy's lap is a coveted spot.  Gwendolyn cried yesterday when she had to share the lap with Jack.  Sharing a lap is just not the same, you really want to be right in the middle to be comfortable.  This morning Jack got a book and ran to my lap, Maddy followed close behind but knew she would not beat him.  She threw herself on the floor to pout, then went and got her own book.  She returned and calmly slid in right behind Jack before he understood what was going on.  We're calling this Toboggin Style.  It actually worked out ok for about 8 minutes until Jack used his head to force her out. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26 Oh Hell No

I don't even remember what this was about but he was uber pissed this morning at me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Night Out

Websites for Tracking Your Goals

http://simplemom.net/

check it out!  She did a review of some great sites for tracking your financial, fitness and life goals!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010