Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thankful Thursday - People are Awesome

I posted yesterday about a collection going on in Fairfax, Virginia to be delivered to those in need from Sandy.  It was so heartwarming and I hope a lot of people take advantage of this time to do something so huge for people so in need.  
While I was trying to figure out screen shots to share the information - I saw something else that just made me so thankful and happy and get all weepy.  My favorite place to go for drinks and dinner, Vino e Formaggio, shared some information on their wall about Thanksgiving:

Doesn't it make you cry?  Its beyond sweet and I can't wait to hear how it goes.  Maybe I can install hidden cameras or something so I can sneak a peak at the happenings while we are doing our own Thanksgiving.

And then my friend Kristin posted this on my wall: 

This was such good news as I wouldn't be able to drive out to Fairfax tomorrow and we really don't have the funds this week to buy extra.  Now I can get into the attic for our extra coats, pull together the clothes I had set aside for donating, and check sale ads for deals on items that are needed.  Yay!  

Source -

So besides being thankful for these people in my life and in my town who want to pull together to help others, I have spent a lot of time this week thinking of how thankful I am for the little things that others might not have had with Hurricane Sandy and then with the Nor'easter Athena. 

I am so thankful for my home, my 75 year old furnace that heats my home, my silly striped socks that keep my feet warm in my boots, my favorite blankets that I keep in each room ready for snuggling.  I am thankful for my old wood floors that don’t ever seem cold on our feet.  I am thankful for my coffee maker that brews my favorite organic, fair trade coffees for me. I am thankful for my not so creepy basement that has a french drain and keeps it from flooding.  I am thankful for neighbors who look out for each other and my great location so we can walk anywhere.  When I was 9 months pregnant with Liam, Tim was out of town and we got the first of two huge snowstorms. We had 2 feet of snow on the ground and I was home with the 2 boys thinking that if I went into labor - I could just walk to the hospital!  

I am thankful for old friends and new friends and knowing that I can count on people if we need anything.  I am thankful that today I got to have lunch with Tim and Liam and Kyle at Kyle's school.  We even stayed for recess and got to see Kyle keeping an eye out for Liam and Liam hold his own with the big kids.  We got to get lots of hugs from Kyle in front of his friends.  And once we got home Liam brought me a teddy bear that was scared of a raccoon and we worked it all out.  I am thankful that the Angry Birds people made a Star Wars edition because it has made my kids so happy from the moment it was downloaded.  I am thankful to be here and to get to enjoy all of this every day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How to help after Sandy - really really help

Today I read this awesome Facebook status update from some awesome, crazy women I adore. 

I am so not on top of this screen shot stuff but I wanted to get you all the info.  Please help in any way you can!  Something as simple as picking up an extra $10 worth of groceries (things that are ready to eat would probably help most.  We don't know if cooking  is an option).  Coats that you or your kids don't wear (seriously - you know you have some you won't fit in, don't like the color of, don't wear often, is so last year).  Towels (Target and Walmart have surprisingly nice towels that are inexpensive).  Imagine needing diapers or formula or hand soap.  Think of things that you would bring to be comfortable camping:  those facial wipes (I love Simple brand), granola bars, toys and games to keep the kids busy and to keep you all sane.  These people need us.  Please help however you can. 

Check out Rants from Mommyland's awesome blog here.  And enjoy.  You're welcome.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thankful Thursday - After Halloween and the Hurricane

Let's start with the most obvious on this dry Thursday afternoon.  I am thankful that my friends and family were largely untouched by Hurricane Sandy.  I was trying to not obsess about the storm but wanted to stay on top of storm coverage and be completely prepared to lose power for several days with 3 kids under the age of 7.  So of course- with all that - obsess I did.  I shopped and shopped to make sure we had battery-powered light sources, dog food, diapers, water (even though we don't lose water when we lose power), boxes and boxes of Cheez-its and Triscuits, and tons of hummus and peanut butter.  Plus fruit and soup and vegetables to saute for wraps and sandwiches.  I watched NBC 4 and checked Twitter every 30 minutes.  I worried about the dog next door who's owner moved the dog in although he and his family haven't moved yet.  This poor dog spent a cold, rainy Monday shivering and curled up in his half doghouse.  I finally called Animal Control after noticing the owner's truck come and go several times throughout the day without taking the animal indoors.  Animal Control came and then the owner came and put the dog in the shed or garage.  I felt like I could breathe again!  I was so relieved that this poor dog wouldn't have as miserable a night as he would have exposed to the elements.  Definitely thankful for the animal control officers who must have some of the hardest jobs ever. 
Poor dog! 
My two younger boys ended up falling asleep early in the evening on Monday so I played Battleship with Kyle and then Go Fish with Star Wars cards.  He creamed me.  I bowed out and asked Tim to take over and Kyle destroyed him in War.  I read to Kyle from The Hobbit at bedtime and gave him a headlamp and flashlight in case the power went out.  I assured him I would wake up and camp out with him if it did.  I tried to relax knowing I had my family at home and that we still had power and no trees on our house.  I had an IPA, texted with some friends and went to bed early.  Tuesday brought us light rain and cooler temperatures but we didn't get snow like some friends in the mountains.  So I spent that day checking Twitter and seeing the devastation north of us.  I checked in with my family and was so thankful that everyone from Richmond to Brooklyn was doing fine and hadn't even lost power.  

We were able to move on from Sandy unlike those north of us.  We sent the boys to school on Wednesday and met at a friend's Wednesday night for a gathering where the parents got to have a beer and the kids got to run around outside before we set out trick-or-treating.   The kids had a blast and were ready to head back home about the same time as me.  Tonight is Cub Scouts and we will be touring the Government Center and learning about the changes in our town from 50 years ago.  
Iron Man, Jango Fett and Peter Pan heading to a Halloween party.  Peter Pan refused to dress up.

Spending 4 days cooped up inside with my boys (with the exception of a great Halloween party on Saturday night) means that there is a little too much TV, a little too much bickering, and too little space.  I should have planned some fun activities for us to do, but Tim was in NYC over the weekend and I was still getting over my strep and some days I just get the bare minimum done.  One thing that I was able to enjoy was Zac's voice!  He was singing so much, reciting songs from You Tube videos that he started watching in preschool and reading books aloud.  He also surprised me on Tuesday by saying "I want to have milk please."  I was so excited I jumped up and hugged him like the maniac mom I am!  Its so exciting to hear him make a sentence without prompting.  And its not even one I ask him to use!  He used it again later asking for peanut butter and I was just the proudest Mom ever.  It makes me realize once again how lucky we are to have the amazing teams he has had at school these past 3 years.  From his bus drivers and aides to his teachers and therapists.  Everyone works so hard for my child each day and I get to enjoy all these little moments because of that.  

And I am also thankful for moments like these:  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thankful Thursday - only late - but with a doctor's note!

So I was all un-me and making lists of things I am thankful for as they come up in preparation (not procrastination) for these posts.  And then I got strep and spent a couple of days thinking that rest and fluids will magically fix me (didn't happen)  So I caved and called my wonderful Doctor at Skyline Family Practice and today I am thankful for the one remaining antibiotic I am not deathly allergic to as I am almost back to functioning normally.  

I am also thankful for my friends - there are so many people in my life who surprise and amaze me every day.  Just being sick brought friends offering help and food and asking what I need from the store.  My friend Martha took Kyle to Cub Scouts last night so I could veg out and half watch E News and not infect our pack.  Especially since my doctor's son is in our pack and he would call me out.  

Even when there are letdowns - which are so common as a Mom - why do we plan anything? - I try and remember that things are still pretty awesome.  I had plans to go hiking with my friends last week.  I was bringing Liam and Charlie to Andy Guest Shenandoah River State Park and we would hike and be merry!  And I thoroughly enjoyed the drive there and refrained from stopping along 340 to take pictures every 500 feet.  But only because the inside of my windshield is remarkably dirty.  And I only once said: "Yeah - we get it. It's pretty.  Speed limit people!" 

We get to the park and this is what we see:

 And these were my guys I was going to hike with:
But the cute one in the stripes?  He decided to sit down in a muddy puddle.  And soak his shoes, socks, pants, and sleeves.  Because it was a foggy, cool fall day and what better to be than wet?  So after searching the car and realizing I could redress him several times - if  he just wasn't concerned with pants and shoes - we headed back out of the park to go home.  Liam and Charlie both cried on the way home but I kept playing the It Could Be Worse game.  We got home and had lunch and went for a walk downtown and all was well.  The mountains will still be there next week if I wish to tackle them again.  Hiking with a 2 year old isn't really all that great - but I enjoy the challenge.  And the park is only 20 minutes away. And Skyline Drive is 5 minutes away.  So I really can't complain.  I can - instead - be thankful.

And I hate to say it but I am so thankful for social media and my smart phone.  If I wasn't on Twitter - I wouldn't have known that Virginia State Parks has an app that has lots of great features for people who can pay attention to their phone without a child sinking into a mud puddle.  Or for people who are traveling and want to stop and visit a State Park.  Or for people planning a trip and want to camp or kayak or hike.  Or who know how to use a GPS.  Its probably all over my head right now but someday I might figure it out.  
And if I hadn't been searching for that app - I might never have found the Virginia Tech Tree ID App which can help me answer "what is that thing Liam is squishing in his fat little palms?" (Answer: Persimmon).  And if I remember to bring my phone on a walk at a friend's house I could identify the thing I found on the ground instead of sending it out on Instagram.  

And because I am getting my appetite back - I am thankful for food porn.  People share these incredible things they cook or eat and post them online and even though my food never looks like that - it gives me (an incredibly indecisive person) an idea about what to cook for dinner.  And I can make it vegan and leave out ingredients and I don't get stressed out by too many steps or specific measurements.  So tonight I will be making black bean salsa to toss into fajitias with vegetarian refried beans and sauteed peppers and mushrooms.  And whatever else might sound like a good addition.  All because someone had a picture of something similar somewhere in my scrolling today and its sounds like what I want.

So I am off to make salsa and be thankful and not at all paranoid about Hurricane Sandy.  Have a safe weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Thanksgiving is approaching!  I am so excited because I get to watch the Macy's Day Parade and football.  We make something gooey and terrible for breakfast and enjoy being together on a crisp fall day.  I have visions of games of football in the yard when my kids are a little bigger and love when family comes down.  My kids were never big eaters on Thanksgiving and this will be my second Thanksgiving where I am not eating meat.  Luckily Vegetarian Times has some amazing recipes so I won't be stuck with Tofurky (I always thought that was just a joke).  But Thanksgiving is still 6 weeks away and my intentions of posting about it today are to start on my Thankfulness journey.  

I have been reading books on decluttering and streamlining my home (The Joy of Less by Francine Jay) and books on finances to curb our spending and get a handle on living beneath our means (The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey).  I am also constantly trying to get a handle on eating right, drinking minimally and exercising.  All the concepts are pretty easy:  
  • Do you really need to keep that huge box of Dean Koontz books when you can get them all from the library and you have read them all at least twice?  Do you really need 22 saucer plates?  Do you need to hold onto 75+ DVDs when the only time you watch them are when they come on cable?  How many extra sets of sheets can one queen sized bed use?
  • Stop spending money you don't have and then wondering why you don't have money.  Write a budget and stick to it.  Don't use credit cards.  Use cash.  Cut back on extra expenses (like eating out - there aren't any vegan options around here anyways!).
  • Eat mostly vegetables and whole foods.  Go for a walk.  Pick up your weights - and use them!  Take the kids outside to play.  Beer is a treat - not a thirst-quencher.  Drink water.  
I know what to do and how to do it but find myself turning to other sources to hear someone say it in a way that will make it click.  Plus there could be some secret magic formula that I don't know about (right?  There could be!)

So after turning 30 last week and thinking self-improvement thoughts - I know I need to balance out making changes with self-appreciation.  While I was heading out for a meeting on a cold day - I decided to treat myself to my free birthday soy latte from Starbucks.  I enjoyed every sip and sat in my car with my warm boots, my oversized cardigan, and my heated seats and I thought - I am so lucky.  And then Wild Thing came on the radio and Liam was dancing and singing in his car seat and I thought - I am really really lucky! 

I have always been a "look on the bright side" kind of girl. I want to save the lobsters from the fish tank at Red Lobster and comfort the crying baby at the grocery store.  I want to take any animal home with me who could possibly need it.  I give the crazy lady who cut me off in my quiet neighborhood the benefit of the doubt - she could be heading to the hospital with a sick kid.  When everything is falling apart and I can't get the kids to leave the playground - I think - it could be worse!  They had a great time and I got to enjoy it with them.  Now we get to go home and finish reading the Spiderwick Chronicles.  The problem is keeping those thought from being drowned out by negative thoughts.

I am going to do Thankful Thursdays up to Thanksgiving as a way to remind myself that I am lucky - each and every day.  I have 3 beautiful boys who love me and love each other.  I have a husband whose adores me and who I look forward to seeing when he gets home from work.  I got to spend the day at the pumpkin patch with just my Zac (and pet baby cows!!!).  I get to go hiking tomorrow with my friends and Liam and Charlie.  I get to experience the Shenandoah Valley in the fall just walking out my door!  I can spend the morning drawing on a chalkboard with Liam and listening to his stories of crocodiles and Peter Pan.  I get to build Star Wars Legos with Kyle and listen to his dream of Storm Troopers taking my car without asking!  I have the best dog in the entire world and a fish who dances for his dinner. 

Isn't is amazing that this is my life?  Losing weight and making a budget doesn't seem like such a downer when I have so much already.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oh the guilt!

I started this blog as a way of holding myself accountable to make sure I was doing good - for myself - for my family - for my community.  And I definitely got off track (last post was in June!). And like anything else - instead of jumping right back into it, I procrastinated my way into a deep hole.  I am a terrible procrastinator!  Instead of facing things head on, I ignore them and hope they don't go away.  I actually did that with my bills when I was 19.  My mailman left a note me for to check my mail because it was getting too full.  Once I stopped fearing the task:  I sat down with all the bills, a calendar, and started planning.  I figured out when I could pay each bill (or a portion of each) and had an end date in sight.  And then I felt awesome!  Invincible!  Throw it at me - I can take it!  Too bad that feeling doesn't ever last.  Its like that saying that motivation doesn't last and neither does bathing - that's why we do it every day?

Luckily I am surrounded by awesome people who inspire and amaze me each day.  I have friends who tackle a workout that is daunting (Michelle blogs about it here), who plan meals and grocery shop with total efficiency, who start to minimize (check out my inspiration Kristin), who decide to tackle their finances and don't let little things get in their way.  Now obviously these people aren't perfect (and most of them don't blog so I can't link them) - but I see them as total inspirations and feel ready to try again.  You would think the overwhelming guilt I experience when I procrastinate would be enough motivation . . .
I will be 30 on October 10th.  I do not fear 30. I keep saying I am ready to take on a new decade.  I started my 20s working at a law firm, dating my darling guy, living with my sweet puppy, in my own apartment and still totally unsure of myself and what I should be doing.  Since then, I have had 3 kids, gotten married, bought a house, adopted a new home town, and tackled things that I would not have been able to imagine years earlier.
And while I don't expect my 30s to suddenly make things make sense - I am determined to take them on with a new mindset.  Yes, it is probably hard.  No, this first step won't be the only step.  Yes, there will be setbacks.  No, giving up is not easier.  I don't have a big plan.  As with anything - it is steps.  And I will applaud myself for each step and give myself full credit even if I only get 15 minutes done.  It will be sporadic right now - and that's just how I do it!
So here is what I am looking at:
Today I got up and worked out at 5:30am.  I didn't complete the workout before Liam came out coughing and asking to snuggle.  But I got most of it done.  Worked up a great sweat.  And didn't drag myself to the coffee pot.

Yesterday I planned meals and grocery shopped.  With a list.  For a lot of healthy foods to make healthy meals.  Tonight it is Country French Barley Vegetable Potage from The Plant Powered Diet.

 I also started going through the living room for items to donate to Front Royal Women's Resource Center's Yard Sale on October 13th (more on that later).  That day is also the Festival of Leaves downtown.  My oldest will be marching in the parade with his Cub Scouts troop. (Sooooo excited!)

On a more positive note:  check out my cute kids and the adorable moments when I wasn't blogging! 
Zac at a Front Royal Baseball Game
Liam at the fountains in the Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Apple Picking
Selling Cub Scout Popcorn

Tree Huggers at the Park

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tropical Smoothie Fundraiser!

Come and join us for a fundraiser with Tropical Smoothie Cafe!  15% of your sales will go to MOMS Club of Front Royal and our Clean Birth Kits service project (be sure to mention this fundraiser!).  Tropical Smoothie Cafe has great variety of menu items for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a post-workout refuel.  I am very excited to indulge with the Hummus Veggie toasted wrap (minus the pepperjack cheese - of course!) which I would enjoy with the Lean Machine smoothie (dairy free!).  You can view their menu online and then check the nutritional calculator to see what items you want to add or change to customize your order to your liking!  
I love that the fundraiser goes all day so that I can bring my guys in for an early lunch before the pool or a summery dinner after a day at the park.  The kids menu options allow you to pick a fruit, chips or cookie to go along with their meal (and your sanity level).  I hope to see you all there!   


Did you know that every minute a woman dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth?  99% of these deaths occur in developing nations.  For every woman who dies in childbirth, another 30 women incur injuries and infections which are often preventable.  (Source: World Health Organization.)
The MOMS Club of Front Royal, VA is excited to announce that we are working on a service project to help reduce maternal and infant mortality in developing nations.  We found a program that provides Clean Birth Kits to very poor areas around the world.  The Clean Birth Kits include eight simple items in a plastic bag including a piece of soap, plastic gloves, squares of gauze, cotton string, a utility blade, plastic sheeting, a clean cloth to wrap the baby, and a pictorial diagram.
As stay at home moms, this project is very dear to our hearts.  As Americans we have access to state of the art medical services.  These small bags of supplies could help ensure that moms in developing nations will survive the birth of their child to raise them into adulthood.
Please consider donating supplies, gift cards, and/or money to help the MOMS Club achieve the initial goal of 250 Clean Birth Kits by the end of July 2012.  The MOMS Club of Front Royal, VA is a 501(c)(3) publicly-supported charity registered with the IRS.  As such, your donations may be tax deductible, check with your tax advisor.

Thank you in advance for your support with a life saving project!

The Clean Birth Kit Project Committee
The MOMS Club of Front Royal, VA

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Teacher Gifts - Round 1

Teacher Gifts for Zac's three main teachers:  A book made out of 4 pages with pictures from his very first days of school (Sept. 2010) to recent days.  With his cute little one-letter-on-top-of-the-other signature. 

Zac plugged his ears when overwhelmed
Top:  Open House    Bottom:  2011 Graduation ceremony

And my little guy hamming it up.  I have a hard time really expressing how much it means to me to have him say "Cheese" and smile for the camera.  It's amazing!  And I have some teachers to thank! 

The 2 bus drivers (he has a morning and an afternoon bus driver) and 2 aides also get little cards:

And of course everyone got some homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I know today will be emotional!  I can't believe that this is the end of preschool for Zac.  I anticipate lots of tears from me as well as his teachers!  But I know my little guy is going to shine in kindergarten.  And we will have a busy summer to keep me from getting too worried.

Next week I will be pulling together gifts for Kyle's teachers - and I will probably be doing it last minute - because that's me!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Second Summer of Giving: Planning Teacher Gifts

I have been asked whether we will be doing Summer of Giving again (yes!) and I am excited to do it - then I realized that all my boys will be home in one week.  Zac's school wraps tomorrow and Kyle's last day is next Tuesday.  So summer starts soon!  I am definitely a procrastinator but I think our Summer of Giving will start today with teacher gifts.  

Photo Source
I have a hard time with teacher's gifts.  We have been so lucky to have such amazing teachers for the boys.  I wish I had millions of dollars to pay off their mortgages, or increase their salaries to the numbers they really should be getting (definitely 6 figures).  I wish I could send them on vacation or even afford to send them to a spa for the day.  But what I really want them to know is how incredible they are.  These women (they have all been women so far) have a huge place in our hearts and our lives.  They literally take my children each day and help them grow and learn.  I get all weepy just trying to think of what to say to them to express how much I appreciate them.  Between Zac with his autism and his intelligence that is a little hard to pull out, and Kyle who is also so smart but is a 6 year old boy who likes to play with his friends (at inopportune times), these teachers have helped us overcome obstacles and found new ways to approach problems.  They have taught my guys reading and math and social skills.  They have braved field trips and dealt with accidents and meltdowns.  They have the kids walk in lines, take turns, use iPads and Smart boards.  They somehow manage to do all this with a class full of children and then they go home to their own families.  They worry about an entire room full of children in addition to their own children.  I lose sleep and stress-eat just dealing with my three!  

So I want to thank my children's teachers - and all the teachers out there.  You get up each day and make a difference in the lives of your students and their families.  You will be the ones that are remembered long into life.  You aren't just teaching them from a book - you are taking them and helping them develop into their future selves.  You are making a huge impact and you are some of the most important people that will ever enter into our children's lives.  Thank you!

I will try and post pictures as we make the gifts today - the boys love doing it and I am excited too!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Brainstorming for the Summer and Bloggers for Birth Kits UPDATED

Oh things have been so busy!  I am so glad to finally have an empty day on my calendar today.  Which of course isn’t really empty – I am using today to catch up on blogging and planning meals and de-cluttering.  Lucky for me, I was spoiled for Mother’s Day.  I actually had 2 nights out at Vino e Formaggio last week – one night with friends from our MOMS Club of Front Royal and another night out with my darling sister, Suzie Robb, of Twitter and BBB fame.  And my Mom got me the Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook so I can refresh our meals and get ready for summer vacation.

We recently had Zac’s IEP which went very well.  I am excited for him to start kindergarten in the SCCIP program and I am putting off any anxieties until school starts.  No use worrying about them now!  He has been playing on Zac Browser so much lately that he has started repeating French, Italian and Spanish words around the house.  I am having a hard time thinking of anything cuter!

We just had our Board Elections yesterday for MOMS Club of Front Royal and I am President for another year.  Most of the board stayed on and we have one new Board Member who I absolutely adore and I am excited for a new year with some amazing ladies.  We already have a really big, exciting service project – Clean Birth Kits which I learned of through Rants from Mommyland and Bloggers for Birth Kits.  A few of our MOMS will be meeting in the next week to start brainstorming fundraising and donations.

Photo Credit Adriel Booker, The Mommyland Memos

Here is a list of the items needed for the Clean Birth Kits:

1. Soap (for the birth attendant to wash her hands). Use a hotel-size soap or cut a regular bar of soap into 1/8-sized pieces. (Microwave the bar of soap for 30 seconds to soften it for cutting).
2. One pair of plastic gloves (for the birth attendant to wear).
3. Five squares of gauze (to wipe the mom’s perineum and baby’s eyes). Gauze pieces should be about  3×3 inches.  These need to be sterile and kept away from the soap. 
4. One blade (to cut the cord). You can buy individually wrapped sterile blades at the pharmacist or buy utility blades (much cheaper) at the hardware store. We teach the women to boil the blades for sterilization, so utility blades work just fine.
5. Three pieces of strong string (2 for tying the cord, 1 for “just in case”). String should be about 10 inches long.
6. One plastic sheet (for a clean birthing surface). Sheet should be approximately 1×1 yard and can be purchased at your hardware or paint store.
7. One sandwich-size ziplock bag (to pack the contents).

Thanks to Adriel Booker of The Mommyhood Memos for all this amazing information and receiving the birth kits.  

Local Giving:

I am ready to brainstorm for this Summer of Giving which is approaching quickly!  I obviously want to continue helping out C-CAP as they give back so much to our community.  We have tons of clothes ready to donate and I plan on another food drive.

Liam and I will be working at the 4H Vegetable Garden next week and I am really excited.  Mostly because my plants have come back this year so I feel a little more comfortable and don't think I can destroy their earth and any chance of things growing.

I will be contacting the hospital to see what kinds of things we can donate to patients (books, magazines, homemade cards or sun-catchers).  I also wanted to get in touch with some of the retirement homes.  Kyle's school collected donations for seniors and we donated some new blankets.  Their wish lists included other items such as toiletries and large print books.

I was excited to join the Front Royal Women's Resource Center and someday I will make a meeting.  They are so amazing and I was disappointed to miss out on their Annual Dare to Dream Breakfast this year.  They awarded over $8500.00 in grants!   I look forward to contributing to this group as much as possible. 

Save a Life: 

I almost forgot that I was on the Bone Marrow donor registry until I received a letter from them asking about further tissue typing.  I called to authorize the tissue typing and was actually a little disappointed that they did not have a potential match!  Bone marrow donation tends to have a lot of people worried about donations (ever see Dr. House take a bone marrow sample without anesthetizing?).  But in reality - the donor is in a hospital and under general anesthesia and most report lower back soreness after donation.  Another, more common method of donation is called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation.  This is done at a blood center or hospital and is also outpatient.  These donors receive injections for 5 days to increase blood forming cells.  The blood is taken from one arm, passed through a machine to separate our the blood forming cells, and then returned to the patient through their other arm.  All in all - a little discomfort to save a life.  According to Be The Match, about 70% of patients in need of a bone marrow transplant will not have a match in their families.  The Be the Match registry could be the patients only hope. has lots of information on how to get on the registry, donate, or spread the word. 

Another way to easily help save a life is to donate blood.   Our area regularly has blood drives through the Red Cross and I try to arrange child care so I can donate.  I don't eat animal products so I try to pay attention to my iron intake during the 24 hours before donating, but as long as I remember to eat my levels are usually fine.  I am O- so my blood type is universal.  Its amazing to know that something so simple can help 3 lives!  Check out for blood drives near you. 

Touch a Life:

The World Needs More Love Letters is one of the cutest ideas ever.  I love the idea of leaving a random note somewhere for someone to find and help brighten your day.  (Kind of like our Rock project last summer).  You can also nominate someone to receive a batch of love letters and sign up to be a letter writer where you will get an assignment sent to you to help touch a life.  I have received assignments for a Mother whose son was in the Middle East and a nomination from a girl whose stepmom was in the hospital with cancer, after having cancer several others times.  I have a hard time writing these notes - but I hope to find one that flows easily onto paper so I can help.

Milkshake is a great site that finds products and events that give back globally.  It was through Milkshake that I learned of The World Needs More Love Letters and Pure Vida (adorable bracelets) and a number of other causes.  If you are like me and want your shopping to do a little more, definitely subscribe to this site as well as Milkshake Kids.

Liberia Orphan Education Project is an amazing program, run locally, that helps provide education support and development to teachers and school supplies and books to orphans and vulnerable children in Liberia, West Africa.  It is a strict not-for-profit and has no overhead cost.  To learn more about this incredible organization, and how you can help, check out their website here.  

I am hoping to include more organizations that I adore - but my cluttered brain only let 3 squeak out.  Do you have any organizations you would like to share - globally or locally?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Puppies need home! UPDATED

A friend of mine has recently under gone a tragedy in her family and she has asked for help in placing the 2 new puppies they have.  They are 20 weeks old, rottweiler/pit bull mixes, and have been raised around and are good with children and other animals.  They are currently located in Linden, Virginia and placement is needed.  If you are interested in fostering or adopting - please contact me at, on twitter @KatieCarr29, or on Facebook at

Thank you!  Please share with anyone you think might be interested.

Thanks for all your help in spreading the word.  The puppies have found a wonderful new home together!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Front Royal is Quietly Amazing

I really adore our little adopted hometown of Front Royal.  But it can be sneaky in its ways!  You have to do a little searching to find out about the great events that happen here.  Luckily, my friend Andi Robinson keeps posting suggestions on her blog,  Between her blog, the newspapers,, Front Royal Women’s Resource Center newsletters, and Facebook status updates, I am starting to feel like I have a sense of what’s going on around town. 

The Front Royal – Warren County John Marshall Speaker Series kicks off Tuesday April 24th at 7pm at the Warren County Community Center.  Their first speaker is Holocaust survivor Marcel Drimer. Check their Facebook page:  I cannot begin to express how much I am looking forward to attending this event and listening to Mr. Drimer speak with us.   

I am also excited to help out the Front Royal Women's Resource Center's group during the UNITED WAY OF FRONT ROYAL-WARREN COUNTY DAY OF CARING on Friday April 27th from 8am to 4pm.  Volunteers work together to paint, haul trash, prune, and plant flowers among other jobs. Skilled volunteers, including carpenters, electricians and plumbers are especially needed.  As a thank you, sponsors and volunteers are all invited to attend our annual dinner that evening. Beer, wine and lots of good eats!  For more information contact the United Way office: 540-635-3636 or 

Setting off on Fox Hollow Trail
It's National Park Week!  Free admission to all 397 National Parks from April 21st to April 29th.  We happen to have a pretty amazing National Park just down the road, Shenandoah National Park.  There are plenty of hikes whether you are looking for one that it easy, or one that is more challenging.  You can hike to a waterfall (like Dark Hallow Falls), do a stroller-friendly hike (like the Limberlost Trail), or a hike that isn't far up on the Drive (like Fox Hollow). 

Take some time out to enjoy our town this week!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Cleaning for Good

Bluebells blooming along Luray Avenue

Spring always brings to mind a new beginning.  The weather turns from cold and unforgiving to warm and welcoming.  The grass grows lush and green and trees and plants start blooming.  The days get longer and everyone from the bugs and birds to children and adults enjoy it.  People get out their bikes and start riding.  Gardeners get their hands in the dirt and start making magic happen.  We will soon see the reopening of farmer's markets and the grills will start up for the season.  Spring also brings to mind some not so pleasant things.  While I have no cure for your allergies:  Spring cleaning can be made a little more – well – clean. 

First step is always de-cluttering.  I love to get rid of things.  But I have a hard time getting rid of the kids' stuff.  Something about taking their toys or books and getting rid of them makes my stomach ache.  What if they want to play with it again?  It’s easier around Christmas and the birthdays to start purging because I know more will come in.  But toys multiply faster than rabbits and it’s easier to say goodbye to items when you know they will be doing more good outside of your home than in.  Our MOMS Club of Front Royal does a SWAP table at our monthly meetings.  Everything from clothes (both MOMS and kids) to toys, dishes and books find their way to the table. Anything a member doesn’t want to take home gets donated.
Decluttering for Spring by Kevin Sharkey
We donate clothes to C-CAP and toys and household items go to Second Chance Thrift Store.  There are a lot of thrift stores in our area but Second Chance benefits Harmony Place Women’s Shelter and so that is usually our pick.   Books can go to any number of places:  Check your local library (I donate my books to Samuels Public Library).  Also check doctor’s offices and hospitals and your local schools.  A great place to donate blankets and towels is your local Humane Society.  They even take washers and driers!  Here is a great article about other places to donate used items to help those outside your community:  Milkshake Spring Cleaning with a Purpose.  

Before just piling stuff in your trunk and hauling it to a thrift store – you should call ahead if you have any large items and also inventory all items for tax purposes.  My receipts totaled around $600 last year from all our donations.  And I didn’t inventory well!  Now I make notes and then staple it to the receipt and file it in our tax folder.  It should save me and our wonderful tax people at MRS Tax Services time this year.  They even let us send in receipts before our appointment to take less time while we are actually in the office.  

Check online for places to recycle items you would normally throw away.  I check sites such as Earth911 to find out what we can recycle, where and how.  Some items, such as the microwave that shoots sparks, tend to stump me.  I can’t donate it because it isn’t safe but I would hate for it to just end up in a landfill.  Other items such as the computer that died can be taken to Goodwill and will be recycled.  It takes a little GoodSearching but in the end it feels better to know that your items are not going to be harming the planet or cluttering your home. 

Are you feeling up to a little cleaning?  If you aren’t on Pinterest (seriously – you aren’t?) then there are plenty of places to find recipes for natural cleaners.  One of my favorites is Vinegar and I use it on everything from glass to the drain to the microwave to the coffee pot.  I even poured vinegar in a carpet cleaning machine rather than super strong chemicals.  Some other items you can use to clean are lemon juice, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Here are some links to check out:

If you aren't up for making cleaners there are two green cleaning lines I love:  method and seventh generation.   

And remember the essentials!  Two items out for every one in (fight clutter before it starts!).  Take your shoes off at the door.  And make sure that everything has a place!  Baskets are a common find in thrift stores and can help corral everything in your home.  Another big clutter item is paper and if you follow the "one touch" rule you will find that paperwork is more manageable.  Once a paper comes into your home - whether mail, school papers, medical documents - handle it immediately.   You should decide to recycle, shred, file, or take action on it as soon as you touch it.  I tend to print on the back of any one-sided school paper that comes home.  

Now that I have finished this post - I guess I should get started on my own spring cleaning.  But first . . . another cup of coffee.

Friday, March 16, 2012

IEP's and Why being Autistic is more accepted at Monkey Joe's than the hospital

When I was preparing for my son Zac’s first IEP (Individualized Education Program) – I did what any Mom would do: I researched until my brain hurt.  I looked at the Commonwealth’s special education laws; I read through IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act); I researched IEPs on Special Education sites; I talked to others through online social networking sites; I read books.  I heard and read so many negative things about the Big Bad School vs. the helpless, meek Mom.  I read that I would need to come prepared to the IEP meeting, loaded down with documents and research and evaluations, and ready to fight for my child.  I told my husband, “We will not sign.  We will not decide anything today.  We will take this home and have it reviewed.”  I needed to repeat it over and over to make sure I was entering the IEP meeting as a Mama Bear, ready to protect my young.  This IEP meeting would determine my child’s education, his future, and my status as a Special Ed Mom.  All this for preschool.

Well – I couldn’t have been more wrong about how the IEP meeting went.  It was wonderful.  Everyone was warm and welcoming and asked questions about Zac.  I had written a letter about Zac in order to remind us all that he is an amazing, loving child – not just “moderately autistic”.  They loved the letter and I adored them all immediately.  We determined the conditions of the IEP and I was excited with what they hoped Zac to accomplish in his first year of preschool.  And yes, I signed the IEP.  It took everything I had not to add a huge smiley face after my signature.  I was so happy with how it went – I was talking a mile a minute in the car on the way home.  Tim teased me about signing at the meeting but really I don’t think it could have turned out better.

Lining up cars at Target
Our IEP for Zac’s second year of preschool went just as well (only with much less stress on my part).  My preparation this time was reviewing his previous IEP and baking a breakfast cake to bring in.  We had the meeting in Zac’s classroom so he and the boys could play.  It was so easy, I didn’t even think of it as an “IEP meeting”. 

Zac has had his ups and downs in preschool.  He is not verbal enough to tell me why he doesn’t want to go to school some days but he is a great speller and reader.  He is counting to almost 100 and saying things like “milk” and “banana” when he wants one.  This is huge!  He is dressing himself and loves playing with his brothers. 

And now we approach kindergarten.  The biggest question we have had to ask ourselves is whether to put him at his home school (where Kyle will be in 1st grade) and attend regular kindergarten or to keep him in the Special Ed program at his current elementary school.  We have to decide how much change to give him and how hard to push him.  He is smart.  He can do the kindergarten work easily – but he does get anxious and he does regress with change.  So right now we have decided to keep him in the SCCIP program at his current school.  He has been in the same classroom with the same teachers for 2 years, so a new classroom and new teachers will be big change.  It should push him forward and that is what I love.  I know I will have to continue facing these decisions each year and there will come a time (hopefully sooner than later) when we will decide to “mainstream” Zac.  

And that is what brought me to write about this now – getting a phone call from Zac’s teacher to check out some kindergartens and an article I read in Parents Magazine “The Play’s the Thing” (Parents magazine, April 2012, page 106).  It’s about the Wolf Performing Arts Center, which is a non-profit theater program in Philadelphia.  What struck me most is what the program founder Bobbi Wolf says of their program, “Wolf PAC is not a theater program for children with disabilities.  We’re a theater program that includes children of all abilities.”  The article goes on to talk about “inclusion” rather than “mainstreaming”.  The hardest thing for me as a special needs parent is not isolating Zac because of his autism.  But we do it at his school.  And at this point I think that is what he needs.  I can’t see putting Zac in a class with 17 or 18 other 5-year-olds and all the drama that is inherent in kindergarten classrooms.  This is the year lots of kids start school if they didn’t attend preschool.  And they need to learn how to be in school for 6 or 7 hours.  They need to learn how to wait in line and eat in the cafeteria and raise their hand and then wait to be called on.  There is one teacher and one assistant teacher responsible for all those children and if Zac decides it’s too loud in the hallway or that he needs to use the bathroom – he could very well melt down and they would have a crisis on their hands.  I worry about his social skills and I don’t want it impacting the kindergarten work he will need to do. 

Hands on House in Lancaster, PA
Autism is hard because I don’t want it to be an excuse – but it does present a different set of problems and concerns.  When taking Zac to the doctors and hospital recently I kept saying “He has autism.”  Each doctor or nurse or X-ray tech said “That’s okay.”  I lamented on Facebook afterward because I wasn’t apologizing for Zac – I was explaining.  You don’t look at him and think he won’t answer your questions or will cringe from your touch.  So instead of an awkward exchange – I start to explain to them and they automatically say “That’s okay.”  I think I should have prepared a speech ahead of time because I never had a quick comeback until after leaving the hospital. 

Interestingly enough – the best people to deal with Zac have been teenagers.  Whether we are visiting Dutch Wonderland or bringing the kids to play at Monkey Joe’s or the Sportsplex, teenagers who work at these locations have always been awesome.  I don’t tend to automatically tell people Zac has autism but sometimes the situation presents itself if he is going to be touched or not responding to someone else’s directions.  Teenagers have always been helpful, smiling, understanding, and open to suggestions.  Sometimes they even give me helpful suggestions!  I wish I could let them know how great they are – and how they should never grow up because someday they might be saying “That’s okay” instead of just being awesome.

Zac at Dutch Wonderland
Are teenagers more accepting of disabilities in children because not long ago they were children themselves?  Being a teenager is hard so maybe they are more likely to remember that sometimes being a kid can be hard too.  What is it about being an adult that we suddenly have to be able to handle everything? 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Front Royal Preschool Fair!

I haven't blogged in a while - this winter has brought mild weather (yay for hikes!) and lots of viruses that won't go away.  But it is March now and spring is in our midst.  It is also time for our:   

 MOMS Club® of Front Royal, VA
3nd Annual Preschool Fair

Are you planning on enrolling your child in preschool for fall 2012 and don’t know where to start?  Do you wish you knew what preschools were available and what they have to offer your child? 
The MOMS Club® of Front Royal is hosting a gathering of preschools in the area. This is a great way to get information on many of the preschools and programs for young children in the area while only visiting one place.
Come join us at Samuels Public Library, White Meeting Room in Front Royal. The Fair is FREE and open to the public. 

Saturday March 3, 2012 from 10am-12pm

For more information or to participate, contact us at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finding My Fit

We have a cute neighborhood coffee shop, the Daily Grind, which has incredible dark coffees and cases full of sweets (including vegan options!) and it is just a cozy and wonderful place.  I love walking there with Liam on weekday mornings and I always envision us sitting together me with my coffee, him with his juice, people-watching, and sharing something ridiculously delicious.  It normally works out to me trying to keep him wrangled near the table without me spilling my coffee or tripping over a table leg.  We stopped in last week before browsing the thrift stores and an older gentleman started talking to me while I was putting up our dishes.  He began by telling me about a friend or relative who had written a computer program and ending up selling it to pay for college.  He kept saying that one day Liam was going to go to college and that computer science is where it’s at.  Being that Liam is only 2 (and was not doing a good job staying out of trouble) – I was trying to just be polite but ended up leaving with a lot to think about.  The moral of his story was to figure out what you want before you go to school.  He had thought about being an engineer - and before he took the steps to go to school - he sat down with 4 or 5 other engineers to ask them questions.  He wanted to know what they loved and what they would have done differently.  He said of the 5 only one was really helpful and it led him into a very interesting career as an engineer.  He said that his chosen field was limited to mostly military and government - so he didn't feel he had a lot of latitude if work wasn't around.  He words definitely struck me and I believe it is definitely something that everyone can benefit from.  

When you are a high school student, most conversations with adults revolve around college and your choices of schools, majors, minors, and all the rest.  I am sure I was asked these questions and I am sure I blew them off.  College never seemed an option for me.  I worked full time and didn’t want to think about more school when I couldn’t even think about the following weekend.  Finances were a part of it (although I know my family would have found a way if I really had my heart set) but it was more the huge decision of what I wanted to go to school for.  In my experience, it seemed you either knew what you wanted to do from around the age of 10 or you went to school hoping to figure it out on your journey.  And then there were those people who went to school and graduated only to be unable to find a job in their chosen field.  This was 10 years ago – I can only think things haven’t changed much.  So do you go to school with an idea of what you really want to do and then have a back-up plan (or 3)?  Or do you choose something you hope will still be a big field when you graduate?  It makes my stomach hurt.  How can a 17 or 18 year old make this kind of decision? 

I began working at a law firm when I was 20 and stayed there for 3 years.  I loved the attorneys I worked for and loved researching and liaising with clients (and using phrases like “liaising with clients”) but after 3 years I was about to have a baby and I realized that family law was too depressing.  I detested too many of the criminal law clients and all other kinds of law were too boring to even begin researching.  While I was busy with having two kids in 15 months, I didn’t think about work, let alone school.  Then when we were buying a house I watched lots of HGTV and I spent my waking moments trying to figure out how to make our house (and others) more perfect.  After writing the Biggest Loser program for our MOMS Club – I thought maybe health would be a career to pursue.  But then I got into this blog and realized how many great non-profits there are in my town alone.  So I think non-profit is where it is at.  One idea that has remained constant is the idea of helping. 

But non-profits are still such a wide range!  I have been researching and came across some websites and blogs (of course) and I have decided to join up with some of the non-profit groups in town.  The Humane Society of Warren County is obviously a very fitting choice for me – my Dad used to call me Ellie May as a little girl because I wanted to adopt every animal I saw.  Another group I am interested in is the FrontRoyal Women’s Resource Center.  They seem to be made up of such an interesting group of women whose goal is to help other women in all areas of their lives. 

I am looking forward to a 2012 that will hopefully send me down the right path – or at least shine some light on my options. I am ready to find my inspiration and get moving!