Friday, January 30, 2009

Chasing Away the Gray

It's January. The holidays are over and for the next several weeks, I'll be trying to survive the remainder of winter.

Now, before you go rolling your eyes -- because I know what you're saying ("She lives down South, for crying out loud!"), it's true that we don't have the bitterly cold temperatures to deal with. But, this is also the part of the year where we get our highest percentage of cloudy days.

And it's the clouds.

They get me every time.

I can withstand the coldest of temperatures (I did once live in Michigan) if the sun is shining. But the gray days. Ick. My mom and sister will vouch for me on this one -- a gray day can turn me into the biggest grump on the face of the earth.

I may have a touch of that whole Seasonal Affective Disorder thing.

I even may have considered purchasing a light box at one point (for the sake of my loved ones).

I can't help it. The gray. It gets to me.

So, while I was at the beach the other weekend, my sister and I managed to squeeze a trip in to my most favorite place on earth -- the Tanger Outlets -- for a little retail therapy. I was already kind of crabby, because not only was it raining when we woke up (the weatherman had predicted sun!), but it was pretty cold, too.

Yet, I managed to drag myself to the outlets anyway. (It's a tough life I lead.)

While browsing through the stores, I noticed a certain color that must be "hot" for spring. It was this super-bright electric yellow.

It made me think of this:

And this:


And most importantly, this:

I'm telling you, just looking at it lifted my spirits on that miserable day.

Now, while I don't think I'd be bold enough to buy a jacket, dress or pair of slacks in that particular color, an accessory is a different story.

I snapped up one of those faux pashmina scarves in the brightest yellow I could find.

I've been wearing it on the grayest of days, and can I just say, it takes me to my happy place.

It really is the little things, isn't it?

And at ten bucks, it's a heck of a lot cheaper than a light box.

Do you dislike winter? What helps you get through the bleak winter months?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What I Learned This Week: Change the Game Plan

After I agreed to play along in Jo-Lynne's "What I Learned This Week" carnival, I kind of broke out in a cold sweat.

Part of the reason had to do with the fact that I was in the midst of the stomach virus that has now plagued each and every member of our family. But the other reason was, I wasn't sure I really had much to share.

I mean, what had I learned this week? That Clorox wipes are a gift from the gods?

But, just when my concern began to blossom into full-scale panic, I was hit between the eyes with the biggest lesson of the week.

It was Sunday night and four of us were laid out in the great room suffering through said stomach virus. Josh (4), who had recovered from his bout a day earlier, was the only one back to fighting form. He comes in the great room and asks if he can go over to my parents' house to play because he was bored.

Earlier that day (before my other two kids got sick), my parents had generously offered to take the kids to Walmart. On the way home, Grace (19 months) began puking in the car. So, I kind of felt like my parents had had their fill of us for one day.

"No, Josh." I said.

"But, why. I'm --"

"Josh. No. I said no. Mimi and Papa have already done enough today."

That's when my husband piped up, "You don't have to holler at him."

"I didn't holler," I protested.

"Yes you did. You just don't notice it because you're always in holler mode with him lately."


Was that really true?

I thought about my husband's comment for the rest of the evening.

Of all three of my children, Josh is the most challenging. He is a debater by nature. He can be stubborn. He has an answer for everything. Something as simple as asking him to put on his shoes can turn into a 15-minute, "But why can't I wear my flip flops when it's 40 degrees and raining?" episode.

Josh's personality is diametrically opposite to mine. I don't like conflict. I don't enjoy debates. I was the type of child who tended to do as she was told, without question. A lot of times I find myself wondering, "Why can't he just take my answer and leave it at that. Why is there always an argument?"

In short, the constant drama exhausts me.

While I still don't agree that I was "hollering" at Josh the other night, I can't deny the fact that my communication with him did have a certain "edge" to it. The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that every time I talk to Josh lately, I tend to have my boxing gloves on and ready. I'm almost anticipating the fight. Doing so practically ensures an argument every time, while encouraging the same petulant behavior in him (what am I modeling, after all?).

And as a result, I fall far short of the mother I'd like to be.

What I learned this week is that sometimes you need to change up the game plan. Parenting from a defensive position -- particularly when dealing with a strong-willed child -- will not get the job done. The answer doesn't lie in "winning the fight" and forcing Josh to succumb to my will. More often than not, the answer lies in more patience and focus on my part, not more vocal volume. (This post from Simple Kids sums it up perfectly.)

Ultimately, I've got to remain mindful of my own behavior and response. Because, in the end, the only behavior I can control is my own.

If I can master that, I stand a much better chance at influencing the behavior of those around me, especially my children.

To learn what other people learned this week, head on over to Musings of a Housewife.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bloggy Giveaway: Superhero/Princess Cape and Mask Set

***UPDATE: We have a winner! Congratulations to Stephanie, who blogs at My True Loves! And, thanks to everyone who took the time to play along! ***

I live with a pint-sized superhero.

In practical terms, that means I often trip over rubber boots left in the hallway. My pot lids do double-time as shields. And my hand towels go missing when my hero needs a new cape.

That's why I fell in love with babypop Designs -- a one-stop shop for the superhero or princess in your life.

Sherry, a 15-year apparel industry veteran, designs and hand-stitches all babypop garments using quality satin and felt made from recycled materials.

My son Josh received a cape, mask and glove set for Christmas, custom-made in his favorite colors -- orange and green. To say it was a "hit" would be putting it lightly. He adores it.

And, I've finally reclaimed my hand towels.

Here's the best part: babypop has generously donated one custom cape and mask set (featuring one initial in the colors of your choosing) to a lucky winner!

To enter:

1) Head over to babypop's Etsy shop and let me know what your favorite item is. (Comments that don't answer that question will be deleted.)

2) OPTIONAL: Get a second entry for twittering the contest. Just be sure to leave a second comment so you get your second entry.

3) OPTIONAL: You can get a third entry by subscribing to Life with Three. Again, just leave a second comment saying you did so.

This giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. Eastern (8:59 p.m. Pacific) on Saturday, January 31st, 2009. Winner will be determined by the good ol' random number generator.

So get commenting -- and don't forget to go and check out the hundreds of other fantabulous giveaways going on this week as part of the Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival!

Good luck y'all!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bloggy Giveaway: One Free Year of Menu Planning

***UPDATE: Congratulations to Angela who blogs at Nine More Months! And, thanks to everyone who took the time to play along! ***

Each week, I sit down and create a plan for our weekly dinners.

It has never been my favorite chore. It takes a good deal of time and involves me shuffling through a lot of recipes.

But I do it.

Because you know what's worse than planning weekly meals?

Walking into a grocery store at 5 p.m. on a weeknight with three kids in tow and asking, "What should I make for dinner tonight?"

That's pretty much my definition of hell on earth.

So, I choose to menu plan. I used to do it begrudgingly (and with a fair amount of complaining), until a couple months ago when I discovered Relish!.

Relish! is a menu planning service. Each week, they email me a new list of 10 dinners I can choose to prepare. I choose five meals from the Relish! list, then print out my ready-made grocery list and recipes.

It. Is. The. Bomb.

Meal planning now takes all of 10 minutes.

The delicious recipes are super-simple and are labeled with tags like "kid friendly," "vegetarian," and "lower calorie" for convenience. This week we're enjoying Chicken Stir Fry Lettuce Wraps with Ginger Rice, Spinach Pie with Pine Nuts and Apple Salad, and Pacific Flat Iron Steaks with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Pears.

What's more, Relish! even offers customized menus for family movie nights (think Kung Pao Chicken for a screening of Kung Fu Panda), theme parties, lunches and monthly freezer menus.

Now, here's the great news: The ladies over at Relish! have generously donated a one-year subscription to their service to one lucky winner.

That's one-year of having someone plan your weekly dinners! The only thing better than that is a personal chef , and unfortunately, I couldn't find one of those to give away. ;-)

So, here's how to enter:

1) Leave a comment telling me whether or not you sit down and make a weekly meal plan. (Comments that don't answer that question will be deleted!)

2) OPTIONAL: Get a second entry for twittering the contest. Just be sure to leave a second comment so you get your second entry.

3) OPTIONAL: You can get a third entry by subscribing to Life with Three. Again, just leave a second comment saying you did so.

This giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. Eastern (8:59 p.m. Pacific) on Friday, January 30th, 2009. Winner will be determined by the good ol' random number generator.

So get commenting -- and don't forget to go and check out the hundreds of other fantabulous giveaways going on this week as part of the Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival!

And...don't forget to check out my other giveaway for a custom-made cape and mask set -- perfect for the pint-sized superhero or princess in your life!

Good luck y'all!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Because I'm sure y'all are waiting for my words of wisdom...

My bloggy pal Jo-Lynne over at Musings of a Housewife is hosting a brand-spanking new weekly carnival called, "What I Learned This Week."

Isn't she too clever? I can't wait to play along -- not because I have weekly earth-shattering epiphanies, but perhaps writing such a post will help me be able to recognize the beauty in the small moments, yanno?

The idea is for the carnival to be fun and easy. Just write a post on what you've been learning over the past week -- it can be serious, funny, heartwarming, you name it. (Seeing as how I've been ankle-deep in vomit for the past three days, you can bet my post is going to be PRO-FOUND. I'm sure y'all will be on pins and needles all weekend wondering what words of wisdom I will espouse. Ha!)

All you've got to do is put your post up sometime on Tuesday, January 27th. Then, link up the post's permalink over at the Mr. Linky on Jo-Lynne's site. And, be sure and link back to her in your post so people know what's going on.

Then, go read some of the other participating posts and leave lots of comments. Everyone loves comments, y'all. Seriously. It can make or break a blogger's day. :)

That's it. Easy peasy. See ya next week! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Just so you know how we're holding up around here...

So, today was quite the day. Poor Josh felt horrible for most of it, with his lifeless little 4-year-old body sprawled out on the couch in the great room, watching TV. I spent a good part of the day running back and forth from room to room in response to Josh's frantic pleas for help. It would go something like this:

"I'm gonna throw up! I'm gonna throw up!! I'M GONNA THROW UP!!!"

Josh would end this announcement with a scream that could shatter glass.

At this point, I would immediately drop whatever I was doing and sprint for the great room, calling, "Get your bowl! Get your bowl!"

This little scenario played out about 20 times. He only ended up tossing his cookies four times, but that didn't make the other 16 calls for help any less nerve-wracking.

When my husband came home at 6:15 and asked if I was going to karate tonight, my answer was: "Uh, yeah."

I needed a little break.

Josh is bunking next to our bed tonight. I figure this will prevent my having to run at full-tilt down the hall to his room when I hear him screaming, "I'm gonna throw up!" over the monitor. There's nothing quite like being startled out of a sound sleep and immediately forced to sprint. So, I'm trying to make life easier. We'll see what happens.

Ah, stomach virus season.

There truly is no end to the joys you bring.

Hey there! Remember me?

I'm a little "off" this week. Over the weekend I headed to Myrtle Beach with my sister for a scrapbooking retreat. It was the first time I picked up my scrapbooking supplies in months. It felt so good to catch up on our albums. But somehow, even though I was gone for only two days, I feel like I've been gone a week. It's been hard to get back in the swing of things -- and this poor little blog has been sorely neglected.

To top it all off, Josh came down with a stomach bug early this morning, and I'm starting to feel a little woozy myself. But, before things really go downhill, I wanted to share a couple neat things with y'all.

It's been cold in Georgia, but not nearly as cold as up north. If you're looking for the perfect winter comfort food recipe, try this Creamy Chipotle Chicken Tortellini with White Beans and Cilantro that Jenny posted. I could eat the entire pot in one sitting. Unbelieveably good.

Jo-Lynne gave me the heads up on this next one. Audrey's tip on how to fit pants without trying them on is amazing and really works! It will forever change my shopping excursions with kids in tow. Where was this information two kids ago? :)

Finally, I recently discovered a pure, organic "magic soap." It's now a staple in our family. Curious? Go check it out.

With that, I'm off to be nurse for the day. Stay warm and healthy, y'all!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Simplifying Mealtimes

Today I'm going to share a tip that has the power to literally transform mealtimes with little ones.

In our house, at each meal, I have three plates worth of food to cut up. One plate requires small, "non-chokable" bites for Grace. Another requires medium-sized 4-year-old bites for Josh. And then there's a plate of regular-sized bites for Jilly.

Y'all -- that's a lot of cutting. It's rather tedious and, if you happen to be eating something like pizza, the cutting can get a little messy.

The solution?

A humble pair of Kitchen Shears:

Many of you probably already have a pair in your kitchen utensil drawer, but, if you're like me, you had no idea what to do with them.

With the kitchen shears, I can cut up three kiddie dinners in about 1/3 of the time with the precision of a samurai chef. Seriously -- it's such a time saver. And for pizza? It's golden. You actually manage to keep the cheese on the crust, instead of tearing all the cheese off the pieces you try to cut with a fork and knife.

I've also been known to tuck my shears into the diaper bag for birthday parties and the like, because the only thing worse than cutting food into small bites with a fork and knife is having to do it with a plastic fork and knife.

For more great ideas and tips, head on over to Works for Me Wednesday!

And -- it's the last day to enter the book and beauty makeover at Chic Critique. Be sure to check it out!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

2008: The Year in Books

One of the best things to happen to me in 2008 was the Hollywood Writers' Strike. It provided the motivation for me to finally break away from the T.V. and get back to reading for pleasure (something I love, but hadn't done in a good, long while). So, with the help of Paperback Swap (which, by the way, if you haven't looked into, you really should), I compiled a reading list for the year. Here's what I ended up reading:

The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir: Now, I realize British history isn't for everyone, but Weir writes non-fiction in such a way that you would swear you're reading a novel. I was also captivated by the life of Elizabeth I -- daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, she rises above incredible adversity (even imprisonment in the Tower of London) to become one of England's most-beloved queens -- all during a time when men dominated the political landscape. I found her life incredibly inspiring.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: After all of the English history I had been reading, the Kite Runner's stark language was a welcome reprieve. Touching, but painful in parts, this story of friendship is well worth the read.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger: While I found the story somewhat bizarre (I kept feeling like I was missing some big, profound symbolism), the writing is stunning. I'm a girl who loves language, and the way Enger strings words together left me awestruck.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: I loved this one. The writing is vivid. The story is engaging, full of action and sticks with you.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: Gothic literature at its best. In much the same vein as Jane Eyre and Rebecca (two of my favorites), I was sad to see it end.

For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn: This book has the power to transform relationships. Honestly. I learned so much from this one, that I plan to re-read it at least once a year. The conversational style makes it a super-fast read.

The Shack by William P. Young: This is another one that goes in the "to be re-read" pile. There's so much to gain from this book, it's hard to get it all in one reading. It's not easy to read -- it forces you to re-live a parent's worst nightmare -- but if you've ever wondered why God lets bad things happen to good people, this is food for thought.

The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child by Dr. Robert Sears: It's hard to find unbiased information on vaccinations, namely because most of the literature out there is either written by vaccine advocates or detractors. This book is a refreshing change of pace. Dr. Sears does a great job of walking you through the various required childhood vaccinations and outlining the pros and cons of each. It's the closest to "unbiased" that I've found and gave me the information I needed to make informed choices.

The Twilight Saga (Books 1-4) by Stephenie Meyer: Yes, it's young adult fiction. Yes, I fell in love with a fictional vampire. Yes, it's borderline hokey. But I relished every page. It's a guilty pleasure to the "nth" degree. By far, my favorite read of the year. (And -- just for the record -- despite the fact that every 12-year-old girl in my niece's class has read the books, I would NOT suggest it for anyone under the age of 16. Just my two cents.)

Uncharted by Angela Elwell Hunt: This is Christian literature -- and super thought-provoking. I finished it about a month ago, and find myself still thinking about it. It's been described as "Lost meets St. Elmo's Fire." That's a pretty accurate depiction -- with a little bit of eternity thrown in to boot.

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart: Brin recommended this one, which is set in northern England. It started out kind of slow, but the twists and turns the story takes makes it worth the effort in the end.

So, there you have it. My 2008 Reading List. Did you discover any great (or not-so-great) books last year? If so, let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Green Beauty Guide

Be sure to check out the super-fantastic giveaway at the end!

When I was first offered an opportunity to review The Green Beauty Guide, I’ve got to admit, I was initially skeptical.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for healthful eating (I don’t do high fructose corn syrup or trans fats, and I buy organic when I can), but when it comes to “green” beauty products my knee-jerk reaction was something along the lines of, “C’mon. That is such a ploy to get you to spend more money. Does it really matter if my moisturizer is ‘certified organic’?”

Well turns out, it actually may. (Read more at Chic Critique)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Checking in...

Just a quick little post to let you know that we are all alive and well at the Life with Three household. We returned from a week-long trip visiting family in sunny Florida on Saturday.

I discovered over vacation that, this post notwithstanding, my morning cup of coffee is like liquid gold. My brother-in-law and his wife don't drink coffee, and by Wednesday, hubs and I were stumbling around in a decaffeinated haze. We finally hit the local Dunkin' Donuts in search of caffeine. At the first sip of that coffee, I can assure you the heavens did open and the angels did sing. It was a beautiful thing. Oh, morning caffeine. How I have missed you.

The kids are in school today -- all except Grace, who is happily playing at my feet. I'm so behind in my blog reading -- I've missed you all! Hopefully, I'll be tackling my reader in the next few days to see what y'all have been up to.

In the meantime, I've got to get the house sorted -- it looks like a bomb went off. There are bags to unpack, laundry to do and a Christmas tree that is STILL up (so much for my plans to take it down the day after Christmas!).

I am posting over at Chic Critique tomorrow -- and I'm giving you the heads up now -- it's going to feature a fantabulous giveaway. Really. You don't want to miss it.

Happy New Year, everyone!