Monday, July 17, 2017

Desert Dwelling

We're officially established in our fourth state as a married couple. The kids have claimed three states as their own and Claire has decided she is all done moving. Girlfriend doesn't like change as much as the rest of us. Meanwhile, Benjamin has requested we take him to see "the whole world." They're different personalities, those two.

 Scottsdale Library + our favorite ice cream shop


I finally hung the last of the lingering pictures on the walls this morning (along with calling 748 people to manage bills and doctor appointments, etc.). That's the WORST part of moving anywhere. I almost want to stay here forever just so I don't have to pay another deposit, establishment fee, or search doctors covered under insurance and make appointments for a whole family for dental, dermatology and primary care. That adulting stuff is seriously the pits.
 ASU Art Museum, Diamondbacks Game with Aunt Mansa & Phoenix Children's Museum
As for us, Arizona hasn't brought all that many surprises, but it definitely has delivered the majority of our expectations. It's hot. We've killed as many cockroaches as we have lived here in weeks. (They also happen to me my least favorite creature on the planet.) The pool is our friend. The water bill is not (hello $480! We also know this isn't normal and we're taking action.). The electric bill is also not at $430.

 Swimming at Uncle Justin & Aunt Anna's House and post theatre production happiness with Tweedledee.                                  

Y'all, I'm not sure we've ever paid more than $100 for a water bill (which would've been extremely high because we're fairly water wise). And even in the heat of a Midwest summer, we never spent more than $250 on our electricity, with the average about $150 in the summer months. This house is about 1/3 smaller than our Illinois two-story home with basement, so it's both baffling and cringe-worthy. With that said, I'm told that winter brings bills that are mild and breezy.


Moving to the Sonoran Desert in the summer was a unique choice.
T-ball, cool parks, s'mores and slurpees. Basically, Hashtag Summer.

The kids haven't been on bikes or scooters since leaving Reno and won't likely be back to riding until the fall. Parks just sit vacant, because while the rest of the country is flocking to the local parks, it's impossible here. We'll catch up in January when it's a perfect 75 here, though. Not complaining.
Cabazon Dinosaurs & Dinner with Family

In the 1.5 months we've been here, we've visited the Phoenix Children's Museum, Arizona Science Center, ASU Art Museum, gone to a Diamondbacks game, hiked Camelback Mountain, eaten at countless incredible restaurants, visited libraries, and spent time at pools and rec centers for swim lessons and t-ball. Benjamin had theatre camp at a local theatre (and loved it, of course). The final presentation of Alice in Wonderland was awesome and we plan to sign him up again this fall. Both kids attended VBS one week and Art Camp another week.

We've had three sets of visitors stay with us and I took the kids on a road trip to LA to quickly see the family before sprinting back here. It sure was a boring drive, but the fake dinosaurs near Cabazon, CA were an interesting bunch to break up the monotony.

It's only a high of 98 here today and I legitimately felt a breeze in the air when I was packing my car up with stuff to take to my classroom tomorrow. You know you've acclimated when 98 feels "breezy" to you.

Off to lather up with sunscreen and hop in the pool. #required

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It's Just... I'm Busy

...and I don't presume it will get any easier with two kids in school and both of us working full time.

The things looming through my head are all teacher-related and hypothetically planning lessons, buying way too many resources on Teachers Pay Teachers and buy things to make my classroom #thebestever.

It's probably boring for the masses... so I just keep those thoughts to myself. Except, I do want to talk about the cute furniture I bought for my conference/conversation corner of my classroom.

I have big visions, you guys. I want tables and no desks. I want some standing tables for kids to conference about projects. Shoot, I want a standing desk for myself! I want a lowered table for kids to work at floor-level. I realize I'm in a new school, so I'm not getting too crazy (okay, a little).

Here's a quick tour of the classroom *I think* I will have. They brought me through and it sounded like unless the team decides otherwise (doubtful), it's mine. It walks to the outside and much of the school is indoor. It's a hybrid campus, but I'm happy to have a classroom with fresh air access. The stuff in the center is from the former teacher who used this as a pullout resource room last year.

All the teachers say "OOOooo, storage!"

 Wifi is going to be fast-- it's in the corner there. ABC chart coming down! It's being replaced with this.
A sink! (Okay, I've never not had a sink...)
That area in the left corner is going to be my conference/conversation nook. And here's what I'm putting in it (currently sitting in my bedroom waiting for classroom access-- hopefully next week).
IKEA PS VÅGÖ (x2)


IKEA LACK side table (re-purposed from this post 3.5 years ago)

IKEA Hampen rug

This is not the exact pillow fabric, but it's close... I can't seem to find the right one?! (IKEA)

So, fun story on the chairs. I really want the dark blue or teal. I love teal. But, the only IKEA in all of Arizona (eye-roll emoji) only carries the white. I was willing to design around it. I tracked the stock prognosis for a week and all was well. They had a dozen in stock and sold maybe 5 the whole week prior. The following day, I checked and NONE! I was super bummed, especially because they're a seasonal item that doesn't typically get restocked. We decided to press forward and head there anyway, only to find a single one, in semi-scuffed state. They dropped the price for me, but I was still pretty bummed. Then, as we walked through the store, we spotted another in a display! They dropped the price again and gave us both for $40. Not perfect, but for 33% off, so obviously I'll take it. And did I mention that Claire is finally tall enough for the IKEA Smaland and we had a glorious hour sans kids to poke around IKEA? That alone made her day (and mine, if I'm being honest). It was like a mini date with my husband!

I have a ton more stuff for the space, but I'm mostly excited about the cubbies (since we won't have desks) and built-ins that I won't even come close to filling with the stuff I have. I feel like I'm at a stand still though, because while I'm buying great lesson ideas and resources from TPT like there's no tomorrow and have a million of my own plans in my head zooming around, I can't access my official school email or get started collaborating in our Google Classroom space because I'm not technically on the clock for another 2 weeks. My colleagues are in there planning and I'm in waiting. #soongrasshopper #iknow

I'm hoping to get in there next week and at least make the space semi-ready and organized so I can hit the ground running with the planning process. I'm so pumped about the school, planning with some great colleagues and creating a truly unique and purposeful learning environment for my students. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

$4 Grab Bag Reveal

It's not the first time I've done one of these posts on Michael's Grab Bags. I placed a teaser on my Instagram account and obviously now I have to deliver.

I knew the grab bags were out, as this happens about 3-4 times each year and some of the bloggers I follow had been posting about them. Around June, they stuff all the "Class of 20xx" junk into a bag and label it with a grab bag amount (though usually it's $2! Hello inflated prices!). I've definitely been stuck with jumbo graduation ballpoint pens and other junk, but this time I set out to avoid that. There were 4 bags to choose from and two double sets of graduation frames.

Two bags were loaded with the "Class of 2017" junk, so those were out. The other two were similar. I knew they had comparable items. I narrowed it down to this one, now wondering if I should've gone with the other!
The whole enchilada.

I'm attempting to do most of my lesson planning through Google Calendar this year, but I still need a paper planner for the quick list info and to have something to grab quickly for meetings, if technology goes down, etc. I bought a cheapie planner at Target for $11 but was hoping this grab bag would give me a planner I could use for the simple notes. And I thought the 18-month (that I could see through the bag) would've done the job. I was hoping it was from January 2017-June 2018. I could've only been so lucky.

I wasn't. #wuhwuh
 
These, in fact, are the 2016-2017 versions, ending in December. Total bummer. With that said, I'm still thinking about using the large one and just changing the dates as we head into January. It might not be pretty, but I already own the darn thing and I will be saving paper and recycling! {Seriously though, where do all the leftover, already printed calendars go? Straight back to paper pulp?}
I mean, look at the cute heart and gold binding! It really is adorable. And the smaller one is also cute but has the same problem. I think I'll put that in my student VIP supplies as a "log" to sign in when you are VIP for the day. And again, we'll go to January (wrong year, but whatevs) to end the school year. Of course I had to check out all the other Happy Planners on Amazon and was jelly.
The rest of the loot was:

  • One Heidi Swapp "Cinch Insta Album Kit" and I'm not entirely sure what that is, but it's going for $10 at Walmart (and more at a ton of other retailers, says my Google search).
  • Two packs of 30 mini clothespins that I'll definitely use to hang student projects
  • One Heidi Swapp Foil Rub Kit that I'm sure I can use to decorate something...

Anyone else pick up a grab bag? I love these things. It's my kind of gamble. :)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Back in the Saddle

I'm currently sitting poolside (as the kids swim) getting started on reading for my NEW TEACHING ASSIGNMENT!

I posted here about how I really hoped to get back into teaching this year. I transferred my credential to Arizona, cleared my fingerprints and just started applying. I've had a credential in 4 states at this point. I was pretty picky about being in the same district as my kids for proximity and school schedule reasons. We're also not in dire need of more income (though it's always really nice!) and if I couldn't land a job in the district, I would just find myself subbing until it happened.

My flexibility has changed considerably since having kids and the thought of going full time with two small kids is already overwhelming. I didn't have much to worry about, turns out, because I landed 3 interviews within a week and ended up interviewing from our empty guest room, sitting on a couple pillows with my tripod and iPhone propped on a moving box. Our furniture was out of the house and the first two interviews were done via FaceTime. I would later cancel the third interview for a school that was likely the worst fit for a tech-savvy teacher like myself. I don't believe in top down, teacher directed learning. I most definitely would've been a phony in that environment. Plus, it meant a real commute of over 10 miles. #nothanks

Place where dreams are made.
As luck would have it, my first and second interviews were 20 minutes apart and I felt like I couldn't have done better at them. It proved to be true because I received a call 1.5 hours later offering me my first choice position, first choice grade level and first choice school in the entire district. It's a STEAM focused school, 2.2 miles away from the school my kids will attend and only 4 miles from our house. I didn't get the second job, which also baffles me because I was so prepared and felt that was probably the best interview of my life, even having read their PTA meeting minutes and quoting their programs. It's all water under the bridge because they weren't my first choice either and at the time of finding out I didn't pass their interview, I had already received and returned my contract for my first choice school.

Pinch me. (Okay, pinch me again because Arizona salary is 48th worst in the nation). Teaching is semi-public servant role and all fueled by the love of learning and student relationships. Despite a MA+22 and years of teaching experience, I'm getting paid worse than my first teaching assignment at age 23, but regardless.

I'm officially on payroll starting July 25th and kids start August 7th. Other than feeling utterly overwhelmed by the juggling of kids and working and basically being a first year teacher again, I'm over the moon. I'm also back to being a student myself, as I just signed up for a course focused on STEAM teaching to bump me up to the next pay scale and to get me back into the teaching mindset.

Poolside, right now, I'm starting with STEAM Makers, followed by at least 5 more books on using Google Classroom. I feel like I started teaching too early. Like, now schools have finally arrived to teaching the way I have always wanted to be part in designing. I have a lot to learn, but here's to getting started.


Updates on life: It's a warm one here, folks. We are totally loving having a pool in our backyard. We spent 3 nights moving things from the moving truck after the kids were in bed and that proved to be the smartest move. No more boxes are around and we're feeling mostly normal with internet and a full fridge of food, creating ways to avoid turning on the stove for dinner. Which means, we also bought our first gas grill and even had our toaster oven outside to avoid heating the house. Living the Sonoran Desert dream.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Chit-Chat with Ben & Claire

Claire: How long before I get my orange?
Me: After you finish your dinner, I'll get you an orange.
Claire: Awww. That's {a} bummer.

Ben: Why does the world need money (for things he wants to buy)?
Me: Because the people who make the things we want have to buy the things they need, too. That means we have to pay those people so they can earn the money they need.
Ben: That's horrid.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Reno 5000 Downtown River Run Half Marathon

The babysitter was late, but I made it on time for the race. I knew I would, but mentally I wanted to be focused and not just have read Curious George Goes to the Hospital for the 12th time this week as we sat and waited. I wanted to be in the zone.


Back in August, I was running fast and well. I had the sub-2:00 goal in the bag. I ran the 10-miler in under 1:30, setting a clear pace example for the half. In fact, I signed up for two. I had to opt out of the first one because we were in Arizona for spring break. This one though, I wasn't quitting. If you'd have asked me back in August if I would have met my time goal, I would've given you an almost definitive yes. However, this was 8 months later, looooooots of long runs to keep myself race ready (that I was getting tired of, frankly) and winter was semi-brutal with training on icy roads and then ultimately having some IT discomfort rear its ugly head.

But alas, I would still run. I cooled off running for the entire month of April, running maybe a total of 10 miles the entire month. I was still speedy on those miles, but didn't want to push it and instead focused on an hour of indoor spinning 3x/week followed by abs and LOTS of rolling and stretching along with yoga 2x/week. My cardiovascular was up and I was feeling good about things, but still not confident with recent injuries, that I'd meet my time goal I set back in August.

My concerns for race day:
- intestinal issues
- IT or sciatic nerve discomfort/pain
- hot weather or worse, windy weather
- crowded
- elevation gain intensity

Most of those concerns were not an issue, thankfully. It was a wonderful, if not hot day for a run, petering around 75 degrees as the high (which was the warmest day we'd seen in 2017 so far) and the sun just felt super hot. But, NO WIND! It's been windy nonstop here in Reno lately, so that was a real concern and one that sounded miserable to manage for 13.1 miles!

The race wasn't crowded at the start, but the course was at times, giving narrow space to run. We ran along the Truckee River (hence the race name) and some of the terrain was paved trails and the other were wooden slat bridges (6 to be exact) and the road. We weaved through some neighborhoods I didn't know existed and while some parts were definitely beautiful, I somewhat craved wide open spaces so I didn't have to concern myself with giving up space to other runners.

There was a steady amount of incline running and not a lot of decline relief.

Those three issues were semi-bothersome, but oddly I didn't experience any intestinal issues or ANY pain anywhere! In fact, I honestly can say that my legs didn't even feel like they ran 13.1 and I could very well have hit the trails the following day (but didn't.)

A concern I didn't anticipate was to run out of race fuel! In all of my runs (including one that had me at sub-2:00 time for 12.66 miles), I've never had an issue with fuel and often don't even bring any with me on long runs! I started the race with full view of the 2:00 pacer in front of me. I saw him clear to mile 8. And then... he was lost around all the twists and turns and I never recovered to see him again because at mile 9, I hit a wall. My legs felt great and I was happy to keep running, but internally I was feeling like I needed more fuel-- more electrolytes, more gummies, bloks, goo... something. And it just wasn't there. The water stations were few and far between and the sun was getting hotter and I was beginning to sense a light dizziness come over me for the last 4 miles and my hands and feet feeling a bit tingly. I dropped my pace a bit and resolved to finish without making myself sick, knowing my 8-month old sub-2:00 goal was gone. (I sure wish I would've brought along more fuel or brought along my handheld bottle filled with Gatorade.)

I made sure to drink loads of water for a full 3 days prior to the half, ate two KIND bars, a banana and drank another 32 oz. the morning of. I thought my body was well fueled. It wasn't. This was probably a rookie mistake and in the future, I'll make sure to come well prepared. I was so concerned with being comfortable with the mileage that I focused all my training efforts on speed and distance and nothing on fueling. Total #rookieprobs

I crossed the finish line at 2:03:30, practically holding myself back from puking once I stopped running. I quickly jetted over to the drinks and chugged a Powerade. It was not only delicious, but I was instantly better. My hands and feet were no longer tingling and I felt like I could keep running.

This girl was well ahead of me (and our pacer) for the first 8 miles. I passed her at a water station and didn't see her again. He husband was pacing her since it was her first half (too). He told the pacer guy to "not let her fall behind him" just to be friendly but something was causing her to slow . I'm sure she was prepared for a sub-2:00 finish as well... #sameboat
In all, I'm pleased with my run considering the circumstances and have plans to run my next half in January (which is forever away and I won't start "training" so early). When I opted out of the San Francisco Rock n' Roll Half in March, they granted me a freebie to another RnR race. We're moving to Arizona next month and it's fitting that I save this one for January. With that said, once we move at the end of May, running won't be a verb I associate much with for awhile. Why? Because #arizonasummer. Helllllllllo spin bike in air conditioning.

Oh, and when I arrived home about 35 minutes after I crossed the finish line, I asked the 17yo babysitter if she needed a ride home. She told me she didn't because she just got a new car. So I watched her drive away in her brand new blue BMW. #eyeroll

When I finished the race, I totally hoarded three vitamin waters and a bunch of other snacks to bring home to the kiddies. I grabbed a shower,  picnic lunch and this blanket and we spent four hours at the park with Benjamin practicing his new swinging skill and playing with a new friend for hours. The sun was super hot and laying there felt great.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Anti-Zen Exercise Routine

You know what's not relaxing?

Yoga when your kids are home.

I have a half marathon in a few weeks that I'm not all that excited about running. Back in October when I signed up, I was super trained, pretty fast and feeling great. And I was pumped. I would've ran that sub 2:00 half easily and with zeal. That was 7 months ago. A lot can happen in 7 months.

Winter happened. The longest and most snowy winter Reno has seen in ages. I ran in the wind and cold temps and eventually became bored of it all. And slower. I'm not sure I'm the type to be a long distance runner and I definitely have no desire to ever run a full (though I'm so amazed at my friends who do and love keeping up with them!). The 5-7 mile range is definitely my happy zone. A few weeks ago, my IT band started giving me problems and I'm seriously convinced that runners are always injured. I've had a groin pull and this IT band issue now and I've only been consistently running for a couple years.

For two weeks now, I haven't ran at all. Instead of my long runs, I've been spinning for an hour (bonus, I get to watch TV!) three times a week followed by 20 minutes of abs and stretching and doing 30-60 minutes of yoga the other two weekdays through Amazon Prime. I'm hoping with all this stretching and resting from running that my upcoming half won't be a total disaster. Whatever it is, I will run that race in completion, even if it takes me 25% longer than I was originally trained to run. 13.1 miles are 13.1 miles no matter how long it takes you.

My neighbor even commented on my "abs" the other day that she could allegedly see protruding from my shirt (which I totally doubt because I have open diastasis). From the right angles before eating anything, I can pull off a unicorn ab or two.

But back to the main focus. Practicing yoga that I'm only average at while my kids are building forts around me and traipsing on my mat and periodically yelling at one another really doesn't give me that whole namaste feeling. For reals.

We do yoga together, but you know the attention span of preschoolers-- it's minimal. They start and then stop within a few minutes and then carry on with their chaos.

Maybe this is why all the moms at preschool have gym memberships.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Itching.

I'm going back to work this fall. I'm not sure what I'll be doing or if I'll even have a job, but the kids are going full time and I'll be free to join the working class once again.

As much as I'm grateful for the 5+ years I've spent being home with my kids, I'm so ready (more if you count our Germany experience and sub teaching during my entire pregnancies with my two boys).

In fact, I'm antsy. I'm finding myself counting down the months until that will be my new reality. (I know, the grass is always greener and some people would kill to have my position!) I love my kids, I do. But, as they grow more self-sufficient, I find myself seeking intellectually challenging life outside the home. It could be that I'm also watching my husband in a job that he just loves and talks about how "fun" it is to work there and how it's more intellectually stimulating than his last two jobs. Gimme a piece of that. I'll take what he's having.

The thing is, I wouldn't take a day back of this full time mothering experience, despite knowing I'd be further advanced in my career and with options galore. Because what I did do when I chose to be at SAHM for those years, was shelf those advancements, pension... and contacts. I have zero recent or relevant networking to my name. All of my professional contacts are at least 4+ years old. It doesn't help that we've moved twice and plan to move once more before I officially find myself back on campus.

Teaching is an interesting career. It semi-favors parents, because you can leave and return with relatively little risk, but when it comes to switching states, that's not entirely the case. Each state, though "reciprocal" as they claim, favors their own. For whatever reason, the candidate who was educated through their system, attended their in-state university and student taught in their zip codes has the upper hand in the process. People, even at educational institutions, favor familiarity. It's more comfortable (and easier) to compare their needs, interests and even personal hobbies with someone who has been on their turf the longest. They're a presumed easier fit and even truer, an unlikely flight risk (which admittedly, I am).

It's been 11 years since I first interviewed for a teaching position. Recently, I went through the screener interview (with the only district I'll consider in Arizona). If I'm being honest, it wasn't my best interview. There were 12 questions and I aced 11 of them, but that 12th was a total brain drain for me. I drew a complete blank. I'm definitely rusty on the interviewing front and that was likely evident. (Forgive me, as I spend my days repetitiously reading the same Mo Willems stories.)

The mediocre interview was for the district my kids will attend school and frankly, I feel uncomfortable having my long-ago network of employers and colleagues writing recommendations for the laundry list of districts that exist. I'm a hustler, but I don't expect my retired boss from 2006-2008 to have emails blowing up her computer. I've chosen to stick with one district. If it means I'll be a substitute for the first year or so, great. Being an elementary teacher is one of the most sought-after teaching positions around and the shortages are in the least desirable positions. Perhaps I should've considered that when getting my degree in K-8!

For the record, I spoke with the hiring coordinator for the district and she assured me that contracts aren't due for awhile and she requested that if I did get a job elsewhere, to let them know so I could be removed from their list (which obviously means my totally bombed question didn't eliminate me from the pool entirely, but I'm not naive to assume I'm anywhere near the top of the list of those 60+ interviewees).

I guess substitute teaching won't be so bad, anyway. I will be able to make my own schedule for awhile, as my kids will have unique needs in the beginning of this new journey (i.e. early dismissal) and it will allow me to learn a lot more about the area, district, and create those networking contacts I desperately need to update. I'll just have to set my ego aside and enjoy the ride. I'm sure before long I'll be reminiscing about those carefree park days with my friends and lamenting having to pack lunches for the whole family every single day, except the husband, who lives the #dotcom life and has catered meals every day.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Three Products I USED to Hate...

But now I love!

Seriously, I tried these three products semi-recently and they all sat there in closets quickly after, not catching my attention until I tried them all again. You can say they were an acquired taste, I guess, like beer or coffee. I truly don't know what my deal is, but now I can't get enough.

Somehow I found myself using all three items in the last few days and connected my hate-then-love relationship I had with each and figured my writer's block can be cured (hah) by posting these to my blog. Also, I love reading what people like, so here's my short list.


Yankee Candle Sage & Citrus Scent: If you like a musky smell, this is definitely in that category. I wouldn't go as far to say the candle smells like sage or citrus (though I love both and both scents), but it's definitely something I'm loving right now. It's a bit masculine (if a scent can have a gender anyway... eye roll).

Little Secrets Peppermint Dark Chocolate Candies: These are better quality m&ms for sure. At first, I was hoping for... m&m flavor. But then, as I savored each one (after shelving them for a couple months in between my first impression and second-- now obsessed), I loved the flavors and texture. No artificial anything and fair trade cocoa. And they're available at regular grocery stores and Whole Foods. Kinda thinking teacher gifts possibly. To go along with the Whole Foods soaps I already bought and a box of yummy tea.

Kiehl's Facial Fuel Energizing Scrub Skin Buffer for Men: The name is stupid, because what makes it gender specific? But anyway, if you can get past that part and get past the first wash or two, then it will grow on you. The first two scrubs with the light exfoliation were rather unpleasant, in fact. I hated the smell. I'm not really sure how to describe it, but it ends with a light menthol scent and cooling feel and is more of a neutral scent without the additional musky smell most "male" personal products tend to possess. But now? I literally find myself looking forward to my mini spa facial in the shower each night. It's not cheap, so maybe that's why I love it a little more (you know, because it's so expensive that you (I) automatically assume something has more value). The little things.

Anyone else have any products that took a little adjusting but they ended up loving after awhile? Link me up to them!

And... what about teacher gifts? What are you guys doing? School ends next month for most of the country, so the time is coming!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

No Shortage of Places to Live

We're currently under contract for three different rental properties.

I'm sitting here in Reno in our perfect-fit rental with all the upgrades we want, just enough space and the ideal price point that makes you feel less uncomfortable about throwing away the equity. The kicker is that Elliot isn't working in the state of NV anymore, so we're merely here to finish up school and get things packed and moved.

During weekday evenings and during our family spring break trip to Tempe, Arizona last week, our one-bedroom rental there is occupied, but typically it's only Elliot as he travels each week for work. It's mostly empty, but during spring training, we needed to procure a rental because the hotel rates skyrocketed to multiple hundreds of dollars per night. It's really just for sleeping and for securing spots for school for the fall because they required an AZ address that we didn't previously possess. It's served us well for the 3-month lease we wanted, but we're looking forward to a bigger place outside the university center life soon.

And then there's the house we just signed the lease for in Scottsdale, AZ. It's about as big as the two aforementioned combined and has a pool-- something we swore we'd never have (unless we moved to FL or AZ). I've never seen it, but Elliot gives it a thumbs up, so we're in.

In case you didn't gather, we're making another move, but this time to the border state of Arizona. It's an 11+ hour drive (to match our total of 11 months in NV) and we made it once already, so one of our cars remains in Tempe while the other is here with myself and the kids. On Memorial Day weekend, we will bid farewell to Reno as we look ahead to full time school for both kids starting in August... in a new state again.

The story is simple and in short, we never wanted to leave Reno, but we're adventurers and a cool, unexpected job opportunity grabbed us away from the beloved mountains once again and here we are back on our journey, this time to the Sonoran Desert.

I'm not quite sure what's possessing us to move during the extreme temperatures of the desert at their peak, but that pool is about to come in handy BIG time. Expect instagram pictures to be on overload with backyard pool pictures starting approximately June 1. #becausearizona #abouttobuystockinsunscreen

Any AZ natives out there and want to give us tips on how to A. Not melt, B. Keep our energy bills low(er) and C. Recommendations in general about your favorite local hangouts, we're up for hearing all about it!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Chit-Chat with Ben + Claire

Me: Do you want to take a bath?
C: Yeah, but a short bath. Not a long bath.
Me: Why not a long bath?
C: Because my fingers will get lines on them.

-----------------

B: [Sigh] OH. That guy is smoking.
Me: Where? In that truck?
B: Yeah. But it's okay, because he's a grandpa.

-----------------

C: Um, hey Mommy. When I'm four, I can, um... drive the car.
Me: Silence {and big eye emoji}

Saturday, March 4, 2017

National Reading Month with Nat Geo Kids

March is a fun month for reading. The kids had a great time exploring literature when Dr. Seuss came to their school on Thursday to kick off Read Across America and National Reading Month. Claire was a little frightened of the hat-wearing creature, but equally excited.

Speaking of National Reading Month, Benjamin is starting to read some leveled readers and is doing an awesome job sounding out words and using sight words and context clues to guide him. I'm so proud of him. We even went for froyo this week when Gawbee was in town because he mastered his ninth sight word list of the year and received another certificate.
We received a package from National Geographic Kids full of a variety of their kid readers that range in levels. Sticking to Nat Geo's name, they have incredible graphics and are non-fiction reads which are essential to develop critical thinking and increase vocabulary. My kids love fiction the most, like most kids, so it's nice to have more non-fiction readers for us to stick into our rotation.
One of the new ones is a Level 1 reader with a page on the left for the parent to read and a page on the right for the new reader (like Benjamin). It gives the kids a break to be a listener and then opens up the floor for them to practice their skills.
We even received a Spanish reader, which is awesome because we're heavily considering a bilingual preschool and kindergarten program for the kids starting in August.

These aren't our first Nat Geo Kid readers. Benjamin was excited to point out all of the others we own as they are highlighted in the back covers of the readers we received. We're kind of leveled reader junkies right now because they're so easy to transport (thin! lightweight!) and they have a fewer words per page, which allow my kids to focus on both the content and the pictures. Leveled readers like these also often focus on high frequency sight words, which we're kind of obsessed with over here.

There are also tons of non-fiction games, videos and additional readers available online to connect the learning and add the technology component to build on understanding. I may or may not have played a few games myself over the last few days...

Nat Geo Kids is on Instagram, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Pinterest. We're digging our new reading material and love that even older kids who come to visit will have something interesting to read. Benjamin's rocking the pre-reader Hop, Bunny! and can read about 75% on his own, but the Level 1 and Level 3 books we received will be used as an adult read aloud for awhile. Because the content is so great, I don't mind one bit.

I received this product for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my honest opinion on my blog. The opinions posted are my own.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Parenting Hack: Mystery Books

It's not earth-shattering or anything, but my kids love it.

In order to break away from the same repeat favorites and delve into some more buried titles in our enormous collection of children's books, I've implemented "mystery reading" books before bedtime a few times a week.

Our routine is much like most families, I presume.

Dinner is followed by bath/shower, pajamas, teeth brushing, bathroom use and books before getting tucked into bed for prayers and negotiations (because it's not always high on their list to lay in bed).

I usually grab out up to 10 books before bed, depending on the amount of time we have before the 7:30 bedtime. I hide them and one-by-one, grab one out and read. They have no say in the order, no say in the book choice and it eliminates fights over whose selection is first, last or in between.

Parenting is something else. I spend at least the majority of my time bribing, convincing, and pulling negotiations with the small people to get them to perform (more efficiently/better/at all). But this little trick is one of my favorites, because then I get to read the books I love more often, too. #winwin

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Five and {very} ALIVE

If you would've told me that in 2017 I'd have a five-year-old almost kindergartner when I was drowning in my own tears circa 2010, I wouldn't have believed you. Okay, I would have wanted to believe you.

I truly cannot believe we've made it to five years with our rainbow. Some days (okay, months), I wanted time to speed forward because my rainbow wasn't always so cheerful. He's a bit of a handful if I'm being honest. As time progressed, he definitely developed and thankfully progressed beyond only challenging. He's actually quite fun most days. He's my adventure buddy to the fullest.

He's learning a ton, swimming like a fish, skiing very well and showing me who's boss with his early reading skills. He is totally digging U.S. state geography and can tell you the five border states of Nevada (and a few other states-- thanks for the puzzle that spurred his interest, Gramie & Grandpa!). He's a junkie for travel and we sure hope he keeps that spark for adventure.

He's an introvert. Perhaps even a loner, he wants to please and is challenged by his own emotions sometimes. Anxiety can get the best of him and the unknown and uncertain and new both excites him and makes him nervous. He truly does want to please, but expresses this in a much more subtle way than his sister, who will flat out ask you about your emotions and if you're pleased with her.

His own person for sure, he's a pink-loving, princess-adoring, hotel-exploring, movie and Disney-obsessed kiddo. Life is going to throw this one some curveballs because of his tough exterior and difficulty expressing himself sometimes, but I sure hope it's kind to him. After all, this one saved us. I tell him all the time, but I will love him, forever and always. He saved us, literally speaking, from our emotional turmoil after his big brother died.

We've made it five years with a living child. With hope. Because before he was born, the hope was looking pretty bleak in the family growing department. This day five years ago gave us that second chance at parenthood. It started off rough but was worth it all. In some ways, this is also a grief birthday. Even five years and one day ago, we were fearful, anxious and unhappy. Then all of a sudden, our worlds were brightened.
He picked out his own fabulous cake-- round with chocolate in the middle and pink flowers on top with sprinkles, to be exact. We really couldn't be more different, this boy and I. But man do I love him. And here he is. All five and glorious (and sometimes exhausting) years of rainbow love.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Interactive Play + Preschooler Talk

I was sitting there enjoying my new hilarious library book, You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein, relishing in the fact that both of my children were engaging in interactive play with an another kid during our stay-and-play time at the library. Just after storytime ends, the librarian lets the kids loose with coloring sheets relating to the book theme and pulls out some LEGO and STEM toys for kids to play with for the next hour, if interested.

A nanny and the two kids she brings each week were sticking around along with a bunch of other kids. My kids colored pictures of unicorns as the theme from one of the books we read, Not Quite Narwhal (which is adorable, by the way). We laced boards and they moved onto building a DUPLO fortress with another boy Benjamin's age. That's when I grabbed my new book from our book bag and started in.

I kept reading, finishing up the first chapter, feeling grateful for the free reading time and the break from all the education books I've checked out lately. And then I heard something that caught my attention. Having no idea how this conversation was spurred, I just kept listening...

Friend: "...and then we will die and not go to heaven." (maybe he was talking about their fortress and someone capturing and killing them? Death is a hot topic with my kids, so I wasn't the least bit alarmed.)
Benjamin: "My brother is there. He is in heaven."
Friend: "Your brother died? When?"
Benjamin: "When he was a baby."
Friend: "He killed his self?"
Benjamin: "I think so."
Friend: "What age was he?"
Benjamin: "I think like 5." (because everyone is 5 when you're turning 5 this week.)
Friend: {yells to nanny} "My friend's brother died when he was a kid."
Nanny: "Sometimes that happens."
Friend: "Why does that happen?"
Benjamin: "I don't know."
Friend: "I don't know why your brother died. You tell me."

{Librarian enters to end our stay-and-play time, thus ending their engagement and my free reading time.}

Just a little light conversation between preschoolers to cap off the storytime about unicorns, penguins, narwhals and pigs. None of this made me uncomfortable. If anything, it made me delighted to hear Benjamin talking about Andrew and connecting his understanding of death and heaven to his brother, who we talk about regularly. I didn't interject, even when the nanny was involved.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Playdates Suck

We have a ridiculously great group of friends here. We meet at the park every Tuesday, gab on about who went skiing this weekend, what mountain they hiked or what trail they ran. Who has a race coming up, who is traveling on vacation and which kid is riding a 2-wheeler on their own. We high-five each other, throw out sarcasm like it's confetti and just enjoy being outside and having a breather from the hard parenting stuff.

The people are so similar to me, it's scary. But, we haven't had a playdate. Like, at someone else's house. We've never seen each others' houses, actually. Tuesday, there were 6-8 of us, plus all of our kids. Collectively, we probably had about 20 of us at the park on a gloriously 55-degree, warm and sunny day. It's not that we're against playdates at houses, it's just... they're complicated.

Once you're in ones turf, the precedent changes. There are pretenses that adults have to deal with. Who will be the first to initiate? And should I clean the house? Will they like me once they finally see my mess of a life?

More than all that though (because honestly I don't personally care what they think of my junk and worry more that our small rental is too small for 20), it's about sharing. Not sharing my things or my space, but MY KIDS and their kids amicably cohabiting, sharing and being KIND. Because if it's anything like yesterdays 3.5 hour playdate at the park where almost zero bickering happened, that's not how it's going to go down when we're sharing space and practically living amongst one another for 3+ hours.

It's literally impossible for about a dozen kids (or even two) to share space and belongings without some issue for 3+ hours. Or with that many kids, at least 286 issues.

Benjamin has a sweet friend at school that he's been wanting to have a playdate with. He really wants to go to her house, but I can't exactly invite him over, so I invited her over... with the hope that we could swap playdate time and he could have his wish to visit her house, too.

That's not happening. For the first time in a long time, I had to endure one of those out-of-body tantrums he used to present us with multiple times a day. And it was totally embarrassing. I'm sure she's telling her mom all about his horrible behavior. Ugh. Thankfully those days are mostly gone, but I saw it again today, complete with the removal of clothing, destructive behavior, loud shrieking and need for restraint. Ugh.

He's lost treats, tablet time and sadly, that opportunity to visit the friend's coveted house next week. I just can't risk it. I honestly thought this afternoon would be super fun. School was great, they did their favorite activities and we were having a playdate where my kids would be so occupied sharing their toys with their sweet friend that I would park it on the couch with a book. Did. not. happen.

Sharing is hard. I know. Parenting is hard. I know that, too. And playdates? Well those just suck.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Grateful Weekend

We had one of those weekends that really couldn't have gone better.

Elliot is commuting for work regularly now, so we only see him on the weekends, which honestly isn't much different than with the last job he held, since the kids were almost always in bed before he arrived home for the evening. It's temporary, but different.

I'm not sure if the weekend was that much sweeter because we missed Daddy, but starting it off with both kids climbing into our bed and Claire laying her head on Daddy's chest and showering him with kisses couldn't really have kicked it off any better.

We went to the park to celebrate togetherness and warmer weather, visited the NOMA, enjoyed meals together and spent the warm and sunny Sunday up at our ski co-op where both Benjamin and Claire shined and beamed with pride at their ski accomplishments.

Benjamin is getting easier to understand. For awhile, he was so angry and difficult that we were merely tolerating our parenting with him and not enjoying him for who he was born to be. It's becoming more evident that he's just an introvert who still really strives to please us but often gets anxious and fears failure. At the end of one of his mini ski runs yesterday, he asked Elliot, "Dad, what do you think of my skills?" in a subdued, almost solemn manner. We praise him often, but it's becoming ever more clear as he ages that his frustrating behavior often stems from his fear of disappointment.

He occasionally asks to ski on weekdays and we can't. But come weekend ski days, he clams up and almost builds a wall of defense, stating he will not be partaking. But when he's out there, he truly loves every minute.

I'm dreaming of ski vacations where we're all on skis and gliding down mountains a mile long and then warming up in the lodge with hot cocoa. I think we'll be there before we know it.

Just before bed, we placed those sticky glow-in-the-dark stars all over their rooms that were sent as a gift from their Aunt Mansa. The kids took flashlights and shined them on each star to cause the stars to shine brighter, taught to them by their dad.

Benjamin's birthday is approaching in almost two weeks. Our rainbow baby, the baby who saved us, as we tell Benjamin often, will be turning five. We're grateful beyond measure.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Remember Book-It!?

As a kid in the 80's, I was all about the Book-It! program. It's still in action, people! It's been around since '84, which is right in the zone of my elementary years.

You mean I could read books, get star stickers on my scratchy holographic-looking shirt pin and when I filled the pin up, I could get a free mini pizza from Pizza Hut? The one that had an arcade inside with video games?
I thought it was a total deal. Like really, free food, Mom and Dad! (Except it wasn't free at all. I got a free $3 pizza but then my parents spent an extra $20 for dinner for the rest of the family. Being a parent makes you see things much differently.)

But regardless, it was a program that motivated kids and rewarded them with delicious pizza and made them not only excited, but PROUD to be a reader. I love literacy promotion however you can manage it, even if that means bribing kids with pizza. Bring it.

So it turns out Chipotle has their own program now and if you're a teacher or a librarian or a student or a principal or a parent of a student in K-5, you should totally get behind this. I love books and I love Chipotle and my kids will actually eat there, so obviously I can get behind a program like this!

Maybe this program gave me an excuse to take a trip down memory lane. (I bet I still have that pin if I look hard enough.) And to think I will have a kindergartner that will actually, finally be of age to participate in such programs makes me super stoked.

And Chipotle burritos are totally better than pizza, right?

*I was not paid to advertise this. I just got an email about it and will totally be bringing this program up to Benjamin's future elementary school and wanted to share. Jury is still out if I'm planning to take part in the PTA. Any PTA parents out there? As a teacher... it's usually a no-go...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Musings of a Winter Wednesday

Claire woke me up at 4:30.

And 5:15.

And 5:45.

And 6:00.

And 6:20.

Then Benjamin came in at 6:45.

I grumbled my way through preparing their super fancy and not at all GMO cinnamon Eggo Waffles, grabbed their lunches, stuck them into their already picked out clothes (and yes, I dress them on school mornings because HEAVENS. We would never be at school on time!) I also realize this goes against everything I believe in and still, I do it. Because paying for preschool for two kids is legit and I want them there on time. Because that time is also my time and after a morning like this one, I needed every last minute.

We've been driving the Accord because the husband is working out of town and both cars are in the garage. And the weather is finally chilling out and the temps are climbing, resulting in little need for the AWD of the Subie. Sister got a new carseat in the Accord, so we have a total of 4 now, which we've never had. Until now, we have been schlepping the extra carseat between cars, so I finally bit the bullet and bought a spare. Man, it's glorious.

And while I sure love our Subie, that synthetic oil change isn't as fun because the price tag is triple. These are the things I think about as we're buckling down with some changes coming up soon and a tighter budget for the next 4-5 months. But really, the kids choose which car we drive when both are available because I'm a cool mom like that. But fewer expensive oil changes? Total perk.

Dropped the chickens off at preschool and headed out for a 5-mile run that left me 1/2 mile from home with strange pain in my left hip. I bought some new running shoes. I hate them. So I bought more. I'm hoping these are the shoes dreams are made of, as I've jumped onto the Hoka One One train. But this time, I bought them from REI so I can return them if they totally suck.

I've been thinking a lot about getting old lately. That hip pain quickly turns into panic over the possibility of that being an arthritis zone eventually. I mean, I'm in my mid-30s already and most definitely not getting any younger, judging by the ridiculous soreness I felt after Monday's 11-miler. I'm questioning whether signing up for a half marathon in April was a good idea, but my new motto is just to finish and be kind to my body. I definitely can get under my 2:00 goal and run that distance, but at the expense of hurting myself, I'm not up for that.

I ran and indulged in some reality television, a long hot shower and lunch all by myself. Two pieces of crappy white enriched bread with a slather of guac, hummus, mustard and a couple slices of cheddar stuffed with some salt and vinegar kettle chips followed by too many mint Oreo cookies. Oreo cookies and crappy white bread sandwiches taste 10x better when eaten in silence and while watching junky television. It's a fact.

I rectified the crappy bread situation this afternoon by baking up a loaf of crunchy wheat-rye bread after picking the kids up and scheduling a playdate for the bigger one next week. I'm also scheduling a trail walk with friends next week as the weather appears to be warming up in our neck of the woods. Of course we hope the snow sticks around at 7,000 feet, as ski lessons are going well-- as well as they can be for a kid who always fights us, but then ends up rocking his lesson and killed it on the tow rope for the first time ever this past weekend.

My brain has been looming about getting back into the classroom this fall. I'm doing it. In some regard, I'm back in action come August. I'm making steps, but also putting some of the latest education books on hold at the library to binge read. My head needs some re-training. The teaching part, that's my jam.

The kids are watching a movie, it's raining outside and the house smells of freshly baked bread. I need a nap, but the kids' bedtime is just 3 hours away. Caffeine.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Gender Coloring Sheets

So I didn't march. For a few reasons, but mostly because I wanted to enjoy the day with family, the leader has already been elected (who obviously doesn't care about gender equality) and there is a free conceal and carry law here in Nevada. You never know.

But what I do know is that gender should not dictate what toys children are allowed to play with or what pieces of paper they are allowed to color.

I've been spending a lot of time at the doctor's office with my darling daughter, so when we saw a file holder on the wall with two specific files labeled "FOR GIRLS" and "FOR BOYS" and coloring sheets inside, I wanted to drop those file folders in the garbage as a protest for gender equality.

In every sense of the word, equal means EQUAL. As in, men and women, boys and girls are entitled to play and learn together. With the same toys and especially the same coloring sheets. Like really. It's paper.

Inside these gender specified files were coloring sheets of Santa Claus, elves, Pooh Bear, etc. I imagine that during the normal months of the year, they have My Little Pony, Barbie, Ninja Turtles and Superheroes. And I'm just going to go ahead and assume that girls get pink, purple and submissive roles and boys get to save the world and be domineering.

Benjamin walked over and went to grab a Pooh Bear Merry Christmas sheet but realized it was in the FOR GIRLS file. He announced to Claire that he can't have that because he's a boy. I grabbed those files and immediately distributed the sheets inside (Pooh + elf) that they each requested, correcting him that there is no such thing as a gender specific coloring sheet and the files are inaccurate and unnecessary. And that having those divided was ridiculous. Apparently I was loud enough because both the secretary and another patient turned around, laughed and spoke words of agreement.

For goodness sakes, friends.

I'm finishing up The Good Girl's Revolt on Amazon Prime and I highly recommend it. It's empowering and maybe even had me more up in arms about the divided gender coloring pages than usual. It's based on the true story written in the book with the same namesake by Lynn Povich, who was one of the researchers at Newsweek Magazine that filed a lawsuit citing gender discrimination in the workplace in 1970. Women at Newsweek were not allowed to be writers; only men. It's shocking to me that these lawsuits weren't that long ago, and even more striking is to see that in everyday places, this sort of separation still exists.

A woman's place is in the revolution, indeed.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Pee Protester

It seems partially fitting to include this post the day after a new... eh... leader... has been inaugurated. I'm unable to suck in my pride enough to call that person the POTUS, so I'll just leave it as leader, which I think is generous enough.

On inauguration day, I spent the day in the doctor's office with my very own protester (as her mother was silently protesting the day's events in a different way in her mind).

On Thursday, Claire complained of painful urination. She even rejected all attempts for me to convince her that peeing was downright necessary after one has slept for 12 hours and before preschool. There's something not cool about peeing in your carpeted preschool classroom you are brand new at attending.

No pee at home. Finally, pee at school. In a potty.

I pick her up from preschool after a glorious morning of me-time and heard that she and Benjamin exchanged hugs while in line to use the restrooms before lunchtime. (Oh how I love this.) But no speak of urinating herself.

Complaints of needing to pee and it hurting continued. Refusal to pee continued. It's around 4:45 p.m. and I suspected a UTI, so I called the doctor's office that sent me immediately to a message that told me to call back in 15 minutes due to high call volume, precisely when they were closed for the evening. Clever. Doctor, 1. Brandy, 0.

Called the urgent care and they told me they were closed until SUNDAY. Excuse me, what? You're urgent care, right? Like, when I can't go to a primary care because they are closed or it's uh... urgent? Apparently all of their docs are sick. So they closed the joint down! For three days! The closest next urgent care? 18 miles away. And a call to them at 6:10 p.m. informed me that they took their last patient of the evening already. I'm not understanding this definition of urgent care, clearly. The closest next was like 25 miles away and I just cut my losses.

The on-call doctor just recommended I monitor her and wait until the morning. I booked an appointment for 11:15 a.m. Friday.

She begged for me to take her to the doctor who she was angry with just two days prior for updating her immunizations at her 3-year well visit. Finally, with insane amounts of crying, screaming, and potty dancing, the full-bladdered little lady peed all over the wood floors. And I never thought I'd encourage my potty-trained children to pee as much as possible right there for me to clean, but I needed it out! She was relieved. I was relieved. Bedtime it was.

The following morning, the same resistance to urination continued. "Ouch," I was reminded. Instead of waiting for the appointment, I just threw a bunch of games and books in a bag, dressed the kids and got them moving. In the car and arrived, I was hoping someone missed their appointment due to large amounts of snow falling and Reno having a huge lack of snow removal equipment (because omg, if they cancel or delay school anymore for 3 inches of snow, I'm gonna start shoveling this joint myself!). We showed up to no appointment. The nurse failed to actually book the appointment she offered me. Instead, they got me in earlier!

Pushing liquids, Claire and I had a 1-hour standoff in the doctor office bathroom as I attempted to get her to pee 168 different ways. I offered all her favorite things: looking at baby dolls at Walmart, chocolate shake at McD, playing at the dirt hole playplace there, tablet use... I was going there.

Finally, the nurse insisted that the doctor just wanted us to head to the ER so she could get a catheter because it had been nearly 18 hours since her last urination. We clothed the struggler and headed back to the office to be written our document when the nurse pulls out one last stop.

"Claire, what's your favorite candy?"

"Chocolate." (Nevermind that I offered this myself and the opportunity to choose ANY candy bar at the store she wanted.)

The nurse comes back in with two mini-sized Hershey bars and offers them to Claire if she pees. The nurse asks if she will try for her and asks if I wanted to accompany them in the bathroom. I decided to stay behind, thinking that the nurse might have more clout if Mama wasn't present. Not three minutes later, seven ounces of golden liquid were presented in the pee hat.

Are. you. kidding. I was basically promising Claire a freaking pony and she still wouldn't pee for me. And this nurse offers her two small pieces of chocolate and she makes things happen? And quickly?

An antibiotic prescription given (and sending me to two different pharmacies and difficulty with insurance, because of course) and finally we had the glorious bottle of medical magic in our hands. We're still recovering and had one more major dance-off and small pond on our wood floors, but I think we're finally on the mend.

Might I note, Benjamin was the most supportive and awesome brother ever during the pee standoff and waiting game. He earned himself a chocolate treat from that nurse as well.

We had our very own monumental inauguration dance and celebration here, too.

And let me tell you, it was YUGE. ::smirk and eye roll, obviously::

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Recent Favorites

Well, look who decided to show up and dust this thing off? Yeesh. I have plenty of excuses, but my favorite is that I drove 9 hours with the kids around the mountains to avoid snow that eventually got us to Los Angeles to visit my family. Then, on Sunday during the bucketing rainfall and massive flooding in Reno, I drove TEN hours back. It's an 8-hour drive that I added 150 miles to with road closures and crazy weather, but after that insane day, we were safely in our cozy little Reno rental.

As I was sitting eating my favorite new popcorn today listening to more rain fall, I was thinking of all my new (to me) products I've been enjoying as 2016 came to a close and we're already into our second week of this new year. I love a good list, so here's a list of some of my new favorites:

Qalo (wedding) ring: I'm totally that person who takes off all jewelry the moment I enter my house. And when I'm running, forget about it. We actually dabbled in the silicone ring business just enough to have a prototype made, but with some steep competition, we closed that idea down and left it to the experts. This ring is one of the samples we purchased from Qalo. I have a pink one that has a small heart on it. Sitting and having a beer with some good friends in LA, we realized we both jumped on this train. So much better for an active lifestyle and I don't think twice while washing dishes. For $20, it's a total steal of an idea.
Quinn Snacks Popcorn: I typically pop my own on the stove, but these are great for a quicker snack with fewer dishes. Delicious. My kids are requesting these daily now. These are popped in compostable bags with no chemicals or plastics and it's organic and Non-GMO. And available on Amazon for delivery. #duh
Amazon Fire Stick with Remote: We don't have cable. Haven't for years. We don't even really watch TV. But when people are in town or a babysitter is coming, it's nice to offer them something, so we got this to stream our free Amazon Prime videos. It's awesome. Currently hooked on a series about feminists. A la Pan Am (remember that awesome show)? You're not surprised, right?
Good Girls Revolt: Currently Reading. The Amazon Prime series I referred to above is based on this. The husband bought this for me at Barnes & Noble when I was driving approximately 589 hours back home from LA the other day. He said it's because he knows I don't like flowers. I mean, when you married a feminist...

Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable Sling Bag: The last has been potty trained, but I'm still toting around stuff and have full hands. And there's no reason this couldn't be a diaper bag. I never carried one anyway. This bag doesn't fall when I bend over and has a great spot for keys/phone or a bottle of water. I love it so much, I bought two. I have one in Adriatic Blue and one in Black. The husband commented about how much more crunchy I look wearing it, but obviously I consider that a compliment. #westcoastroots
NibMor Daily Dose Dark Chocolates with Cacao Nibs: Ridiculously delicious and just the right amount of dark chocolate to sustain your chocolate cravings. We're smitten. And also, they're so freaking cute.

Yankee Candle Scented Snowflakes - Sparkling Snow: I realize these are no longer a thing because holidays are over, but I'm obsessed with the smell. In addition to having a "fun" backpack made for the kids for our long drives to/from LA, I had a pack of these my SIL gave us and whenever the cows came out to play (often), I'd hand the kids one of these to smell. Claire's gag reflex is impressive, and the only way I can get her to calm it around stinky odors is to mask it with something pleasant. I think I might find my way into our local YK store tomorrow to pick up a few more. I never realized how people could become obsessed with this sort of stuff but I can't get enough!

Crayola Model Magic 1-oz Packages: This has been one of my favorite items to tote around during long car rides or to have in waiting rooms for a long time. I keep two individually wrapped packages (comes with 75! I've used for B-day party favors paired with some markers as well) in my bag to whip out when needed. Super clean and can paint, draw on with markers, cut it, make creations of all kinds. Wait for the price to drop on Amazon to about $15 or get an Amazon Warehouse Deal and you're golden. These were another hot ticket item during our long road trip this week.
What are some of your new fave items? Let's hear it!