Monday, December 21, 2015

Make Time for Quality Time!

Every year I have the best intentions for what I think will make a special holiday season for myself and my family.  Newsflash -- nothing ever works out the way I plan!  This year, one of my big goals has been to try not to get too caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday and make sure that we are making time for quality time together.  For example, while I would love to get my gift wrapping done as soon as possible, I am choosing to NOT lock myself up in my room wrapping while my kids are downstairs playing.  (That happened last year...)  So I still have wrapping to do, BUT, I had fun yesterday afternoon baking with my littlest cutie pie!  And then last night, after dinner, we all sat down as a family to watch "A Christmas Story" which we watch once a year and we all find it entertaining (my little dolly relates to the boy who can't bend his arms because his mother has him so bundled with snow clothes to keep him warm!).  While we did that, my little one and I sat at the coffee table and colored in a Christmas coloring book that she found in her book case -- I always love to color, and we don't do it as often as we should!

Our town does a lot of fun things this time of year and sadly, we seemed to miss most of them this year!  I was sick the day the town did their annual tree lighting, and we were out of town celebrating an early Christmas with family when the town had caroling, hay rides with Santa, a holiday tree festival and activities for the kids.  But, the weekend before that we took a drive up North to meet my aunt and to go to a Holiday Stroll!  The girls and I went and it was fun to see the live nativity scene, the lights and our favorite -- a tiny horse!  So adorable!!  Lots of people there, so my little one opted not to see Santa, but we were all glad that we made the trip to spend some time with our aunt and just to enjoy a nice night of Christmas music and Christmas lights and holiday cheer!

It's good to stop and remind ourselves that the season is not about the gift giving, and that long after the kids have forgotten what is under the tree, hopefully they will still remember the special times shared with loved ones!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Remembering Our Year Through Christmas Ornaments

One of my favorite ways to remember fun and important times in our lives is to collect Christmas ornaments for our family's Christmas tree.  This is always something that I keep in mind when we do something special as a family or go on a vacation -- my favorite souvenir, aside from the pictures that I take, is a Christmas ornament to add to our collection!  Sometimes, it is easy to find a ready-made Christmas ornament in a gift shop, for example, this year our family went with the Girl Scout troop on the famous Cog Railway up Mount Washington.  In the gift shop, much to my delight, they were selling these cute little replica cog railway ornaments -- perfect!  When I got home, I took my trusty black marker and wrote the date on the bottom and wrote that we went with the GS troop and my daughter's friend.  What a cute addition to the tree, and a nice memory when we hang it on the tree!

Another fun day trip that we took this year, was with my aunts, uncle, and my cousin's kids and we took a lobster boat out to the Isle of Shoals!  This was another great day that I wanted to make sure to remember, and for as small a place as it is, they had a gift shop -- no Christmas ornaments, but they did have these cute little replica lobster buoys in different colors and with different numbers.  I picked this one because it had a "9" on it -- the exact number of people in our family that went on the trip that day!  Again, when I got home, I took my marker and wrote everyone's name on the back along with the date of our trip.  I think it is so adorable and it will always remind me of all of the lobster buoys we saw in the water as we headed out to the islands!

After the girls got out of school in June this year, we were fortunate to take a trip to California for a family wedding.  While we were there, we surprised the girls with a day trip to Disneyland!  We had taken them to Walt Disney World in Florida twice when they were younger, but our little one was 2 the last time we went and she has no memories of the trips.  We were so thrilled to be able to take the girls to Disneyland and our little one now fondly remembers it as one of the best days of her life!  Money was tight on that trip -- as was space, with how expensive it is to bring luggage with you on a plane these days!!  So, I used my spending money on souvenirs for the kids but when my dad and stepmother were asking me what I would like for Christmas this year, a Disneyland ornament popped in my head immediately!  And they were the perfect ones to ask for it, because they went with us that day!  We celebrated Christmas with them last week and this Mickey & Minnie ornament was one of my favorite gifts!

The girls and I helped our Girl Scout troop decorate a tree for our town's Festival of Holiday Trees and we had a theme of "Winter Wonderland."  This adorable hat is one of the ones we made for the GS tree and now it has a nice home on our family tree!  Our tree is also filled with handmade ornaments that the girls have made over the years, which makes it even more special to me!

We have another new ornament on our tree, to commemorate another important event in our life this year -- this beautiful ornament was given to us by my aunt and it comes from the hospice organization that cared for my beloved Gram in her last days this past October.  It is a beautiful ornament to remember a beautiful life.

Your "memory" ornaments can be anything -- handmade, store-bought, etc. -- whatever they are, try to keep your tree in mind throughout the year.  You and your children will cherish the memories of times spent together and it makes such a nice tradition to get to reminisce while you are decorating your Christmas tree!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Card Photo Outtakes

We have made it a tradition to send a photo card out as our annual Christmas card.  Some years I get a great idea and a great photo and I get the cards ordered and out early to mid-December.  Some years, we are lucky to get it all together before Christmas!  This was one of those years...  We have had no snow here and for some reason it has left me less than inspired for the Christmas card picture -- which is funny, because we almost never do an outdoor photo, so what does it matter if we have snow or not?  Anyway, last night I finally got a burst of energy and had the girls put something mildly holiday-ish on (red sweater, "Smile it's a snow day shirt", Santa hats) and set them up by the tree to get some pictures.  Here are some of the outtakes -- I did get some good ones and ordered the card online last night, so we're getting there!!

Nothing like a little holiday wrestling match for the Christmas card!

I was trying something -- did not look as good in reality!  And my eldest daughter looks like "Elf on a Shelf" here!
 Hope you have better luck with your cards!  :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Getting Into the Swing of Another School Year

It's been a busy, busy summer -- less visitors and less things scheduled (or so it seemed) than last year, but somehow it ended up being even busier!  My eldest was feeling slightly despondent the eve of the first day of -- GASP -- HIGH SCHOOL (how did that happen?).  She said she felt like she just got out of school and was not looking forward to going back.  I told her that it was because the summer was so busy -- it went by in a blur, as opposed to if we had no plans and the girls were sitting around bored day in and out -- it would have felt like it went on forever!

Anyway, here in New Hampshire, our kids start school before Labor Day, and because Labor Day was late this year, they were in school for almost two weeks before their Upstate NY friends!  So, we have eased into the school year and we are feeling fairly well adjusted to our school routine.  Although, I am feeling tired...  It is a glorious thing to sleep until 8 in the summer!  My eldest catches the bus at 6:30am, so I make sure to get up between 6 - 6:15am to hang out with her until her bus comes.  If I were Mother of the Year, I would get up at 5:30 and make her a wonderful breakfast!  (But I'm not, so I don't...)  My youngest daughter's school added 30 minutes onto their day this year -- they start 15 minutes earlier and end 15 minutes later.  I believe, if I recall correctly, that they added 10 mins to math, 10 mins to science and 10 mins to recess.  But don't quote me on that.  I am letting her wake up at the same time that she did last year, it just means we rush a little more in the morning!

We are also trying to get in a new routine with bedtimes.  For years, my girls have gone to be pretty much at the same time (as each other) regardless of the age difference.  My eldest daughter has to get up by 5:30am, so it seemed reasonable that she should get to bed earlier.  Until this year, when she is now in high school and in spite of her early rising in the morning, she has exposed the injustice of being in high school and going to bed earlier than her friends!  So, we are working through getting the younger one to bed while the elder one stays up later.  And I still go to bed about the same time that I have for years, but my body has been telling me this week that it needs some extra sleep!  That's my own personal struggle, because while I love my family, I also love that feeling of relaxing on the couch, in the still of the night when my girls are tucked safely in bed and the house is picked up -- it's a beautiful thing!

We are getting back to the homework routine -- my high schooler has always been disciplined to get home and settle right in to get her work done (God bless her!).  My 4th grader eases into it -- she likes a snack (today I actually made cookies!  Overcooked a little, but cookies nonetheless!) and she needs a little nudge in the direction of her homework.  Her teacher this year has been sending a packet home on Monday and the kids need to pace themselves and do a little each night -- 20 minutes of reading, read 1 poem aloud to an adult (a different poem each week), and several pages of math.  I actually like that -- you know what to expect, based on your week's schedule and your child's energy level, if they need/want to do a little more one night and a little less the next, it all works out! 

My high schooler is in band but in high school, band means concert band, pep band for the basketball games, and marching band for parades and football games.  Tomorrow she tries out for jazz band -- she's really nervous, but she's been working hard at it -- I hope for her sake and all of her effort that she gets in!  Our lives this year (and most likely the next 3) will be dictated by the band schedule, but my husband and I love going to the parades and the games -- we could not be more proud of our girl! 

Girl Scouts starts next month -- my little one is a Junior now, I am a leader for her troop this year, and my eldest daughter is helping out with the troop.  And then Sunday School starts again. 

Somehow I don't think this school year will be any less busy than the summer...

How are you easing into the school year? 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Happy 9th Birthday!

Happy 9th Birthday to the sweetest little princess that I know!  ;)  This year our little dolly wanted to spend her actual birthday at home with her family -- lots of fun activities were offered: a children's play in town, a fairy house tour in town (we loved that last year!), candlepin bowling, a movie...  She picked breakfast in bed (a tradition for a few years now), opening gifts and playing with the one gift that she had been longing for -- Disney Infinity!  Then she wanted Mommy's roast chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner, and finally, red velvet cake for dessert!  Mommy was going to be spending the entire day in the kitchen -- which I would have happily done for my girl -- but Daddy, who had unexpectedly surprised us with having the day off, went to the store and bought a red velvet cake!  That save a bunch of time!  It was a very relaxed day but lovely to have the 4 of us all together all day celebrating our new 9 year old!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day - Fairy House!

 My husband was off work today and he and our littlest girlie spent a busy Earth Day going to the Recycling Center (we do not have garbage service - we take our garbage, MUCH less than we used to accumulate! - and our recyclables -- MUCH more than we used to accumulate! -- to the town's Recycling Center!), then came back to work on cleaning up the yard.  They also worked together on setting up our daughter's sweet little fairy house!  This is year 2 for the fairy house, and she has gathered quite a large number of adorable items -- some from gifts, lots of natural materials, some recycled materials.  It's such a fun project! 

What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Out of Hibernation - Welcome, Spring!

My pretty girls at the big party!
I see looking back at my January posts that I have been failing my 2015 New Year's Resolutions...  Diet was going GREAT for a month, as was the writing on my blog!  Then things kind of fell by the wayside...  We are all thawed out here from a particularly long, cold, hard winter -- one TINY little pile of snow left (about 1 foot by 1 foot) and LOTS of yard clean-up to do!  Winter was chugging along just fine and then my husband had an accident which was very traumatic for our little family, BUT, thank God he made it out virtually unscathed!  We were so blessed and are so thankful, but it took us a while to shake that off and get back to normal.  We are happy to say adios to the snow for this year, that is for sure!!

In spite of all of that, we have been busy with work and school and this and that!  Valentine's weekend we had all of my in-law's up to visit for the weekend -- 18 of us in all!  16 people stayed at our house, including 8 children between the ages of 1 - 14, and 4 dogs!  The weather was terrible -- snow storm, cold -- my husband had to work the day everyone arrived.  I found myself saying things like, "WHY is there a toy bird in the glass chandelier?" and arrived home from church to find the POLICE in my driveway (my sister- and brother-in-law called Animal Control because a dog had been wandering around out in the bitter cold for over an hour!).  The house was a wreck and I did take a sip or two of wine (medicinal), but we always have lots of laughs when the whole family is together and it was wonderful that they made that trip in spite of the weather!  It also was a week before my husband's accident, and so I think we were all so thankful that we had that time together, because you just never know what life will throw you -- great example of jumping at every opportunity, making the most of every moment! 

In March, we traveled to Long Island for a whirlwind weekend to attend a magnificent surprise party for my brother-in-law.  It was a wonderful party and it came about 3 weeks after my husband's accident, so it was therapeutic for everyone in his family to see him and for him to see his family.  And my sister-in-law threw an amazing party -- it was like a wedding!  Beautiful venue, dj playing great music all night, dancing, wonderful food.  So good to see everyone and my girls, as always had a fabulous time with their cousins -- dancing and chatting the night away!

My girls had a fun weekend in CT with their cousins, and then the CT cousins and one of my aunt's from NH joined us for a lovely Easter!  

Our 14-year-old went to Washington DC for her school's 8th grade trip -- she was very nervous leading up to it -- would NOT let her mother pack her any pictures of her family or any notes to read on her trip, for fear that she might cry if she saw them!  The kids were not allowed to bring any electronics, so no phones, no iPods, etc. (My cousin teased that since my girl has an old-fashioned "flip phone" surely that did not count as an "electronic" - ha, ha, ha!)  She and the other kids survived without all of that, and I as a mom survived because her school put up a website and her band director (and one of the chaperones) posted pictures of the trip every day, so I got to go on the website and catch glimpses of my girl!  I also reminded myself that back in the Dark Ages (before cell phones...)  when I was in school, I went on two band trips one to VA and one to Canada and I also went to Girl Scout camp for a week or two every summer -- all without a cell phone or any other electronic device.  And lived to tell the tale!  She was gone for a week and had a fabulous time, saw a lot of wonderful things, learned a lot, had fun with friends, took wonderful pictures and came home with lots of stories to tell us!  She's been home since Friday and has already created a DVD of pictures of her trip set to music.

We are winding down with Girl Scouts for my little one this year, and this past Sunday my girls and I had the last Sunday School class for this year (YAY!  I survived teaching the 3rd grade class!!!)  My 14-year-old is practicing for her All-State Band Concert -- we're so proud that she was picked! -- and my 8-year-old signed up to be in the elementary school talent show with a group of 20 girls performing "It's the Hard-Knock Life" from Annie, so she is attending rehearsals for that.  We have a trip to NY for my dad's birthday coming up, a Girl Scout day trip, my mom is coming up for the All-State concert and Mother's Day, and then my mother-in-law and her sister are coming out for Memorial Day (my girl is in the marching band!).  And that's just in the next 5 - 6 weeks!  Summer is starting to book up too!

In the meantime, we are looking forward to cleaning up the patio, cleaning up the gardens, and opening up the windows for some fresh air!  (We've done that off and on this week, but the past two days have felt more like fall than spring!)

How are you and your family celebrating Spring?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Menu Planning Helper

I don't know about you, but I tend to feel like we get into a rut with dinners in our house.  As each season moves along, I find myself looking forward to the next season and the different types of meals we will have -- right now, I'm so looking forward to Spring and Summer when the snow will melt and we'll be able to find the grill again!  Halfway through Summer, I'll be longing for comfort foods and my beloved Crock-Pot!  I have been looking for some ways to get out of this food rut and here is what I have come up with:

- I bought a little whiteboard that I put up on the inside of one of my kitchen cupboards.  This helps me in two ways.  Actually, three!  1) I post a list of meals on the board so that I can keep track of what we have eaten recently, so I am not boring everyone with the same thing over and over.  2) Having my meals planned out and listed there helps to keep me on track with grocery shopping - I know that I only need to get things for the meals on the board - and keeps me from wavering and deciding to order a pizza or other take-out -- it's on the board, that's what we're eating!  And 3) My girls used to ask me SEVERAL times a day "What's for dinner?"  I could tell them, and then 10 minutes later they would forget and ask again...  "Go check the board!"

- I think I mentioned this a few posts ago, but I recently blew the cobwebs (not really, my house is a little cleaner than that...  a little...) off of my recipe box and pulled out a few recipes that I had not made in a while, and even found one or two that I had NEVER made yet!  It's fun to go through and find recipes that you forgot you had, or maybe you have Grandma's famous recipe for (fill in the blank) and your kids have never had the pleasure of trying that!  And of course, my favorite place to look things up -- Pinterest!  I have literally over 1,000 recipes pinned on there...  I am trying to use those more when I am feeling tapped out of ideas.  I found an amazing roasted chicken recipe on there that has become a family favorite and this weekend I am making "Dirt Cake" for my teen's birthday sleepover (Dirt Cake was her request -- went on Pinterest, found the recipe!).

- And finally, my new favorite idea that came to me last week!  Do you ever go grocery shopping and you are standing by the meat case and you are thinking, "Ugh, what can I do different to chicken this week?"  Or, pork chops, or beef...  I tend to draw a total blank, especially if I don't have a great shopping list.  I will stand there and feel compelled to buy meat knowing that I will have to make dinners for my family, but have NO idea what I'm using it for, serving with it, etc.  And frequently, because I don't know what I'm making, I won't end up buying the other things that I need to make the meal and then I'm running to the grocery store 3 times a week (or sending hubby...).  That is not only a waste of time, it's super expensive!  Here's what I came up with -- I made a list of all of the meals that I could remember that are in my "repertoire" and then I sorted them by whether they were a pasta dish, a fish dish, chicken, beef, pork, etc.  I LOVE LISTS!  I put this one in the "Notes" section of my iPhone, but if I didn't have that, I could easily write it on a piece of paper and put it in my purse.  Now, when I am planning the meals for the week, or the grocery list, or if I'm in the store and see that something's on sale, I can quickly look at my list and see all of the possibilities of things I can make!  Love it!  And, by the way, I was pretty impressed with my list!  I have a lot of recipes that I make -- I can really mix things up to get my family out of the dinner doldrums!

What ideas do you have for menu planning?  Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share?  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happy 14th Birthday!

My sweet girl, my first born, turned 14 years old today!  How did that happen?  Where did that time go?  As my girls grow older, I sometimes miss them as the tiny infants they were, or the adorable little toddlers, but I also find that I can't dwell on the passage of time and need to enjoy every minute we have together!  My sweet girl is 14 and I am thoroughly enjoying this time in her life.  I love that she thinks of me as her friend and that she confides in me, asks for my opinion and advice, and enjoys following me around the house to tell me the stories of her day.  Recently, we enjoyed sitting at the island in the kitchen, me with my coffee, her with her hot cocoa, sitting and talking -- it practically could have been me and a friend at a coffee house!  I love the person she has become, smart, caring, funny, talented (I'm her mom, a little biased, but not too much!), pretty confident and comfortable in her own skin.  She has blossomed here in our new town, in her new school.  She had a wonderful birthday because she had close friends at school that made her day enjoyable and her loving family together with her tonight.  I look forward to many more years of long talks and laughter with her, and many, many, many more wonderful birthdays for her!

Happy birthday, Liv!!  XOXO

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Encouraging Your Children to Try Different Activities

Are you a parent that gives a gentle nudge to encourage your child or are you a "shover?"  My husband and I are definitely more nudgers, but that nudge can go from gentle to firm depending on the situation.  (Speaking metaphorically of course, not advocating actually physically nudging or shoving your child...)

When our teenager was younger, she was not necessarily interested in any activities, but my husband and I both feel that if it is at all possible, we want to encourage our kids to try different things to see where their interests and passions lie.  When her younger sister was born, we wanted our elder daughter to have something special to do that summer and not feel like the whole world revolved around the new baby, so we signed her up for a dance summer camp.  Week-long summer camps are a GREAT way to try things out -- they are not as big a time or financial commitment and it gives your child a chance to test the waters and see if they would be interested in doing something long term.  Our daughter loved dance camp, made a friend who ended up going to elementary school with her, and both girls signed up for dance in the fall.  Our girl loved dance at first, but then she seemed to find it a drag and she was not as interested.  We "nudged" her (firmly) into staying through the year (she had been in for months) because we explained that there was a recital and they were counting on her to be there.  It was mildly torturous for all of us because she did not want to be in dance and frankly, we did not want to hear her whine and complain, BUT, we are sticklers about honoring your commitments and we all suffered through.  The recital day arrives and lo and behold she LOVED it -- had a great time, wanted to do dance again!  She stuck with dance for two more years and then decided she was no longer interested and ready to try something else. 

She became a Girl Scout and loved that and stuck with that until we moved, and now she helps out her sister's Brownie troop when she can. Thanks to the generosity of Gramby and Grandpa, she (and our little one) took swimming lessons for a number of years, and she also thanks to G & G took a couple of years of sailing lessons which she really loved until the last day of the last year she did it and some boys were really nasty (with comments) to her and made her cry.  There was no getting her to try again the next year. 

In the 4th grade in NY, it was time to pick an instrument and have the opportunity to learn to play and join the band.  She wanted to play and we nudged her toward clarinet because I had one already.  She got into band but hated to practice and there were some fits and tears and again she wanted to quit but again, we firmly nudged her into sticking it out because of her commitment to the band concert.  In 5th and 6th grade in NY she was in band and jazz band and enjoyed that more than she had in 4th grade.  When I researched towns in NH for our move, I made sure to look to see if the schools had band and in particular jazz bands because she really enjoyed that!  Before we moved to NH, she was a little hesitant about starting up with band here, but we gently nudged saying that's the best way to make friends -- you instantly have something in common with them!  She joined band here last year and impressed everyone immediately, because she started school here one week before the holiday concert but she was ready (the band director - now her very favorite teacher - said she was more prepared than some of the kids who had been here the whole year!).  We nudged and nudged to get her to try out for jazz band this year and guess what?  She got in, she loves it, and her very best friends (5!) are girls in the bands!  Sometimes we parents know what we are doing!  ;)  

One thing that she has always done, is write.  She is a very talented writer (teachers have told us for years -- it's not just a mom's bias...) but since we moved, she had really gotten out of writing.  I had a long talk with her last week about picking it up again.  She had wanted to be a writer since 3rd grade and then this past year switched her goal to screen writer and was saying that she doesn't like writing any more because scripts are easier, she sees things in her head of how she would film them, etc.  I told her that she's a talented writer and it's like a muscle that you should keep exercising and that regardless or what type of writer she wants to be, the best thing is to write, write, write -- anything!  I told her that we've never been the type of parents to shove our kids into things (I used the example that her dad would never force sports on the girls if they weren't interested), but when things are important for them we will give a gentle or firm nudge if need be.  I reminded her about band and how we nudged and how well that turned out.  I also reminded her that her dad is an excellent skater -- played hockey for years, used to teach "Ice Babies " (skating for little kids), ice skates and roller skates / blades -- but when he had tried to get her on the ice or on roller skates she adamantly refused, so now she does not know how to do those things.  And she wishes that she COULD do those things.  I wish my parents had pushed me to continue to take piano lessons -- I took them for  awhile, hated to practice, whined, and they (Dad?) let me quit (after the recital!).  I would dearly love to really be able to play!

After that conversation, my girl grabbed a notebook and started writing about the daily happenings at school.  She wrote and wrote that first night and the next night she decided to type all of that up on the computer and she's been writing just about every day since, adding to her original story.  It's quite entertaining, and she's really excited about it!  I'm glad I nudged!

We're parents, we know our kids, we know what it's like to be a kid, and we know what life brings as an adult.  I have no problem nudging a little to make sure my girls get opportunities to discover what is really important to them, and where their interests lie.  Being a well-rounded individual will only benefit them in life.  And my little one?  She's in Girl Scouts now, and in two years she will be nudged into trying an instrument (doesn't have to be a clarinet -- that one's occupied these days!  Did I mention she's first chair, first clarinet?  ;) or joining the chorus, or trying out for a sport!  Nudged with love and the best intentions for a full life! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Starting Another New Year!

Life has been so busy lately -- gearing up for the holidays, getting through the holidays, winding down after the holidays...  My brain feels a little overwhelmed lately and not always cooperating when I want to go online and post on my beloved blog!  But it is January, the start of another new year, and I have yet to grow tired of my resolutions -- amazing!  One of my resolutions is to show my little blog more love and attention.  I just realized 2015 is the start of my 9th (!!!) year of The Fine Art of Motherhood!  How crazy is that? 

So, back to resolutions...  Here's what I have on my plate so far this year:

- The old "New Year's Resolution to Diet" -- but I'm using the "My Fitness Pal" app on my iphone which makes it super easy to count and track calories.  I've gone 10 days straight which is pretty good for a New Year's diet!  I did not clear out the cupboards of the house, I did not proclaim snacks to be hereby banished from the house -- I'm just counting calories which means portion control!  I've also used this as an opportunity to try to get my girls thinking about portion control.  Bless their hearts, these lucky girls take after their dad so far and they are tall and thin (lucky!), but it's never too soon to be aware.  There is a fine line, as many of us women know, between making your kids (especially girls, I think) aware of what they eat and trying to make healthy choices -- and giving your child a lifelong struggle with food and their body image!  We're working with the "you can eat what you want, but in moderation" and let's try to make healthy choices mentalities.

- My husband and I have resolved to go on a date once a month!  Our 8-year-old hates that idea (she's not a fan of Mommy and Daddy not being home), but we remind her that it's nice that her Mom and Dad love each other and want to spend time together -- that's a good thing for the family!  Our dates don't have to be expensive -- even just getting out and going for a walk together, going to a movie, taking a drive, going out to breakfast (all while counting my calories...).  I always think that children benefit from seeing their parents in happy, loving relationships -- hopefully we set a good example for our children to follow in their own adult lives.  I am blessed to spend a great deal of time with my girls -- I am here with them before and after school, evenings, weekends, I help out with my youngest daughter's Girl Scout troop, I teach her Sunday School class, I go to church with my girls (and Daddy when he's not working), I sit around and chat with my teenage daughter and we frequently text each other when she's not with me (school bus, friend's house...).  It's nice to also get to spend a little time with my hubby, too!  :)

- Writing on my blog!  Even if no one else ever reads another one of my blog posts, it's a great record for me and my girls of our lives and their childhood.  2014 wasn't my worst year of posting, but it certainly wasn't my best!  Let's see if I can't do better in 2015!  ;)

I think that's a pretty good start for 2015!  2014 had it's ups and downs -- mostly ups, thankfully -- I'm hoping that 2015 is even better!