Monthly Archives: May 2013

How to make a two person swing for a tree

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I got a little bored the other day.  The kids wanted to go to the park and I wasn’t feeling the park love.  Having just knocked out a wall in our basement, we had some 2x4s lying around waiting to be thrown out or used.  I thought to myself “I know!  I’ll make a swing!”  I’m really not a very handy person.  I am an impulsive and determined gal though.   I also thought it was perfect for a double swing, something I haven’t really seen before, but would prevent fighting over a new toy in the back.  Bonus: you only have to push one swing!

First, I gathered tools.  I just used the board as it was.

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I clamped the board down on the work bench and chose the Spade or Paddle bit you see here (and yes, I totally had to look up what the actual name for this was.  “Weird thingy” was a bit vague.):

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This bores a hole large enough to tie rope through.  I made three evenly spaced holes.  one on each end and one in the center.

Then I picked a tree and a sturdy branch.

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I had Nylon clothesline rope and used it, measuring lengths and taking into account that the branch wasn’t a straight line.

I also cut a bit of hose to stick the rope through to avoid damaging the tree or fraying the rope while in use.  I tied my best knots, (boy scouts would probably laugh hysterically, but they hold.) and had my big girls test it out first before trimming the rope back.

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It worked!

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Filed under Crafts and Gifts, DIY, Family

Mom Ideals–The Inner Battle

No one ever tells you as you are swaddling a new bundle of joy, that the first few years of feeling utterly clueless, just keep going… and going.  Well, maybe it is just me.

I had in my mind –pre-baby, mind you– this picture of a hot but tasteful soccer mom who danced with her kids in a sparkly clean kitchen, baked cookies, rocked out a bit when she needed to and was very active in school life.  Granted, I have come close to a lot of those things, but never in the same day, week or sometimes month… fine.  Year.

The first rude awakening was the hot part.  That for some reason, maybe because I was 19 when I had my first baby, seemed like a surreal Nancy Kerrigan moment.  “WHY ME???” The stretch marks added up and my metabolism decided it hated me and the cookies I wanted for breakfast.  –Honestly, like Chips Ahoy are that much worse than pancakes?  In my head, I still feel like the pre baby me, which means I’m holding myself to my 19 year old expectations of life, thinking what the heck happened to my curves?  They reversed!

I did bake cookies quite a bit, so that one I have down, but my kitchen wasn’t sparkly.  It was all I could do to have any clean dishes by dinner, sometimes.

Cooking was fine. As was baking. I could creatively mom my way in and out of most situations. I totally broke out my fantastic spazzy mom moves and hoisted my kids around, singing into spoons to anything from Broadway to Bell Biv Devoe while we tried, often unsuccessfully, to make that kitchen shine.

The first child into Kindergarten was interesting.  She patted me and told me everything was alright while I fought back the tears and hoped I weren’t making my face blotchy.

Now I have two in school and I feel like I’m dating again, only it is other moms and I don’t have that trusty teenage “It’s okay if I’m a total dork, because they think I’m cute” thing.  Instead, the witch cackle breaks out, or the “Holy crap a grown up is talking to me” ramble on about things that likely don’t matter to anyone but me.  I’ve made a couple of really good friends, and I have a lot of people that smile and wave, but overall, the problem lies in that I’m pretty hard on myself.

Turns out I am not the PTA mom.  I love parties, people, and helping out. You’d think I’d be great at it.  Yet, between being a care taker, having teeny tiny little siblings that will rip a classroom apart given the opportunity, and a brain that is always on 50 different wavelengths giving me a minuscule attention span, well, it doesn’t pan out. I’m lucky to remember the date. It shouldn’t be such a big deal, right?

This past year, we found out I suffer from depression.  Weird.  While it isn’t clinical and isn’t constant or manic, it still doesn’t match the stigma for me.  I rarely hate life, or feel like I hate my self or anything, really. But this year, I’ve had a hard time finding energy, and my temper is worse.  I find that touchy, girly side of me is larger than I want it to be and I take things way to personally. I’ve been unhappy and unaware of it.  It took quite a few dramatic trials in a short amount of time to surface the reality of the situation.  Apparently, the stuff it down and suck it up, thing is a no-no.  It turns into a dark ball of emotions that rears it’s ugly head at the worst moments isn’t quirky, but is that inner, I wish I were better thingy I stuff down, rearing it’s ugly head.

I’m far from alone.  So many of us hike into the school, some dressing up like for a date, others defiantly in sweats, or hair wet from the nap time shower we finally get to wash that spit up or snot out of our hair and line up worrying that our kids will fit in while telling ourselves we don’t.  Some of us go back home, comparing ourselves to others, but I personally am still stuck in my own ideal from before I met reality, wanting to be that Vision of Mom.  Motherhood has this weird aspect to it that leaves us all trying to find the balance of “Mom me” vs. “Actual me’ and where they are the same.

I want the clean house, the perfect temperament and to be the cultured, sophisticated, domestic diva, room mom. As it is, my nature is to share.  I talk.  About pretty much everything. I am easily excited.  It is something that I am proud of and also one that mortifies me.  How many times do you have to think “Geez.  Did that really just come out of my mouth?”  But I’m genuine, if very flawed.  My therapist did a great job of helping me to see that I beat myself up more than other people ever would, and it makes sense.  Some of the best people I know do that.

I only hope that as I stop kicking my own butt down into the dumps and start kicking it up toward some semblance of confidence and feeling like me again, that I’ll be able to help instill a better self esteem in my kids that doesn’t rely on lack of stretch marks, a perfect kitchen, and time and energy to be a PTA mom.  Perhaps, my spazzy mom moves and cookies will sink in and when I realize it is okay not to be everything at once, they will too.


Filed under Family, Motherhood

DIY Project: The Cinder Block Raised Garden

This is the first in my quest to take back the over-grown, once amazing back yard we bought.  It has been three years of weed eating, hedge trimming and deciding that I need a green thumb to make it beautiful.  This picture here is taken from my daughter’s birthday party a while back and you can see that even with weeds, it is really pretty.  I want it better.


My thumb is not green in the slightest.  It is more like a sickly black.  Gifting a plant to me is like giving it a death sentence.  I like plants.  I like the lush green and the way they light up a room or accent a garden.  But for some reason, they all die in my care.

To be fair, I’ve never had a garden.  Most of my poor plants have been inside.  Yet, there is evidence of this house once having had a beautifully landscaped yard to go with a gorgeous view.

 Soooo, with out further ado, here’s my Pinterest found answer to a garden.  I still have to keep them alive, but building this was easy and cheap, and if it works, I’ll do more.

i had just ripped up the one plant I actually want dead and out of my yard: the Juniper Shrub.  It left a lovely space for my project.


Next, I layed out the blocks in the shape I wanted and lined it with newspaper.

*Next one of these I make I will lay down the paper first.  I thought I was avoiding ugly paper sticking out, but we’ve had 2 weeds poke up on corners.


Then you fill with soil appropriate to your plants:


Then plant away!


Two weeks later:

THEY AREN’T DEAD!   There may just be a bit of green in my thumb.

*knock on wood*


We have so much more work to do and this is just one half of the back yard!


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10 things you need to know about school Bullying

1. It doesn’t just happen to the “weird” kids.  All it takes is someone with a chip on their shoulder finding someone else to take their issues out on. It isn’t just being different.  Sometimes it can merely be a power trip.  How they justify that is varied.

2. There is no singular advice that “fixes” bullying and no perfect way to go about it.  Bullies are different shapes and sizes and personality types with very different backgrounds.  What works with one might not with another. as a parent, you need to go with instinct and what you think will help your child feel safest.

3. There are options, but you have to be ready for the consequences of non-action vs. action vs. reaction.  Give your child comfort and understanding.  You know your child, help them know they are safe with you and that you want to help them be safe at school.

4. Teachers and faculty have to jump through a lot of hoops to resolve a situation and no one wants to label a child a “Bully.”

English: the picture consist of articles on bu...

English: the picture consist of articles on bullying, I obtained it from public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5.  Labels are big no-nos now for both the bullied and the bully.  You’ll have better luck not using words like “Picked on” or “Bullied” or “Tormented.”  Instead when discussing the problem with both children and faculty, just explain the situation and ask questions.  Calmly explain how you feel and listen to what they say, even if you don’t like it.

6. DOCUMENT.  Bullying is hard to prove.  Every scratch, scrape,  and bruise you know is coming from a bully, document.  Schools need “proof” now.  Once you know there is a problem, record the time, place and situation, every time your child comes home crying or upset at name calling or being excluded, etc.  Write down names of witnesses or if things happen at a certain time or place.

7. Communicate about what you want to do to help, and how it will happen with the victim. Give them options. Ask them if they want you to do that.  You need their cooperation to get help.  i.e. if you talk to school administration and want action and they see your child playing with the bully at recess like there isn’t a problem.  Or they interview your child and your child says it wasn’t a big deal and they just want to go.  It’s hard to work with.

8. Policies and legislation are different everywhere.  So are the definitions of bullying.  Do your homework and make sure your particular issue goes along with those guidelines the school has and DOCUMENT to support your claims. USE THE RIGHT CHAIN OF COMMAND.

9. While trying to make sense of the situation, a lot of victims start rationalizing how they deserve this treatment.  Listen to your child.  Make sure you don’t imply that they have a reason to be bullied, but ask if they think there is.  Those thoughts can be dangerous.  It will help your child in the long run, to know where their mind is.  Remind them that everyone has worth and a right to be safe and free of harm and ridicule.

10. Get advice.  There is a horrible issue today about keeping quiet about these things.  You don’t want your child to fight the battle alone, and there’s no reason for you to do so either.  So many people have dealt with this that can give you expert advice and even those who offer extreme suggestions can be learned from.

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Filed under Education, Family

House Hunting -Looking at the Budget


It seems I have found myself in the thick of house hunting once again. I say “once again” because I happen to come from a family that moved every few years when I was a child…and so preconditioned to do so I have perhaps unintentionally maintained the tradition into adulthood. In fact in my short lifetime I (or when I was young -my parents) have filled out a change of address form 25 times. This being the case I thought perhaps I would take a few posts to pass along a few tidbits I have learned over the years…and a few new ones I have come to learn recently.

Before you head to the bank for loans or drive neighborhoods picking your favorites, or meander through the home improvement stores to pick out paint colors…manage your budget!

When I say manage your budget I don’t mean ensure you can pay your current bills (although that is extremely important), I mean go through things with a fine tooth comb! Write out a list of your expenses. Start with your standard bills, the ones that you can’t change or deduct -rent (include energy, water, etc), CC debt, loans (cars, school, personal, etc). Now create a column for all the little things that you just can’t live without such as – phone, internet, cable, subscriptions (if you pay on it monthly put it here). Finally go through a few months of bank statements and really scrutinize how much you spend on the rest – food (restaurant and grocery store trips), gas (transportation), shopping (clothing, starbucks, books, games, hobbies, etc), and fun (what ever you do regularly mini golf, movies, theatre, etc).


Look over your total. Many people at this point will say “Oh my Gosh! I had no idea how much I really spent every month!” This will be followed up very quickly with “but of course I can cut most of these small expenses out.” This is where I want to throw up the warning flag. You may in fact be able to cut things out here and there, BUT be reasonable! In order to really regain that money every month you need to be able to give up those things permanently…not just until you get into a new home. If you can’t give them up permanently, don’t try to add that money back into the monthly pot. Now…how much money do you have coming in versus going out. How much do you really have each month to spend on a mortgage and all the little things that come with a house?

Many people simply swap rent for mortgage…don’t make this mistake! A house is far more expensive than the mortgage. You have house insurance, mortgage insurance (if you have less than 20% down- and if you are a first time home buyer that may very well be the case),  closing costs on the home, increase cost of utilities including water (especially if you have a yard to maintain at your new home), possible HOA fee’s, and all the regular maintenance of home ownership including roof/gutter/paint/windows/etc. This may seem daunting at first, but owning a home is still a great idea. The important thing is you factor in these additional costs before you buy the home…so you don’t find yourself in sticky situation later.

In addition to ensuring you have enough money for the extra initial costs of buying and regular maintenance of a home you want to have some cushion at the end of each month for savings. This last step is crucial. It is important to have a little left over at the end of each month (once you have paid all the categories we discussed at the top) to account for accidents, unexpected needs, and life changes. You are single, or newlywed, or starting a new career now…but where will you be in the next few years? Are you planning to go back to school, get married, start a family, change careers, etc? All of these things will change your financial situation. If you know you are going to be making a change, don’t forgo the mortgage for rent…just make sure you plan for the extra expense up front. If you can, set a low budget and try to find the right home within that budget instead of finding the right home and then trying to make your finances work.


If you do things right, when you go to your lending institution you’ll be able to set a sound budget you can work with for years to come.

Coming up Next on House Hunting: Questions to ask your lender, what documentation to bring, and why you ask for an itemized report before you go.

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Filed under Budget, First time Home Buyer, House hunting

Teacher Appreciation Gift

Teacher Appreciation Gift

This week is teacher appreciation. Today’s theme was Flowers. Thinking there are only so many flowers a teacher wants at a time, I decided to head toward the school supply isle and tweek the theme a bit. And the plus side? It took 5 minutes to make and about $5 per teacher as opposed to the $12-20 actual flowers she/he doesn’t know what to do with would cost.

Yay for teachers!

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by | May 9, 2013 · 2:55 pm