Monday, November 29, 2010

A Giveaway! A Giveaway!

For a long time I've struggled with the idea of having a contest or giveaway on my blog. I'm not against blog contests at all. In fact, I enter them whenever I get the chance.

But the thing I always have to remind myself is that I'm a writer first, a blogger second. If there were no such thing as blogs or even the Internet, I'd be writing anyway. It's in my nature and it's what I've always done since I knew how to write the alphabet. (No, seriously, ask my mom. She's kept all the stories I wrote when I was in elementary school.)

A good writer never writes for the money or the fame. I truly believe that when other motivating factors come into play, the quality of the writing suffers greatly.

That said, it sure does feel good when someone thinks you're a good enough or popular enough writer that they want to give you monetary resources to do so.

So a few weeks ago I said yes when Time To Play invited me and a few other Minnesota mom bloggers to a private toy shopping event at Sears in Mall of America.

At first I was really nervous to attend. I am not the kind of mom who hunts down the hottest toy in town just so my child might be excited for two minutes come Christmas morning. I tend to buy things my kids need (think undershirts or toothbrushes or fun underwear) and have them pose as presents. I will then buy one or two big ticket toy items that I know will stand the test of time. Last year William and Lucy received a play kitchen set from Santa and that thing still gets played with almost every day.

But instead of getting bombarded with toys that need 16 AA batteries and are loud and obnoxious (there was that too, don't get me wrong) I was pleasantly surprised to find The Toy Guy and Sears very balanced in their suggestions.  Instead of Christmas being all about the quantity and cost of presents he stressed that kids appreciate gifts a lot more if they received only a few quality items.  And isn't that the truth even for adults?

So to get your Christmas shopping started Sears has offered to give away a $50 giftcard to one of my readers.

Fun, right?  I means Sears has anything you could ever need to help widdle down your Christmas list.  Appliances and kitchenware and linens and toys and clothes and, my personal fave, LANDS END!  Who wouldn't want a Sears giftcard, right?

Here's how to enter:

1.  Leave a comment telling me the most memorable gift you received as a child.  If you don't answer that question your comment will be disqualified.  For this first entry you may only leave one comment per person.

2. Please remember to include your email address in the comment form so I know how to contact you if you win.  (I will be the only person who can see your email address.)

3.  The contest is open until Monday, December 6  at 8:00 p.m. Central Standard Time after which the winner will be chosen at random.

And, since it is my first giveaway ever I'm going to allow two additional entries per person that are entirely optional but you must complete the first entry above to qualify.  You can do both, one or none.
Option #1 - Link to this post via your Facebook page.  Leave a separate comment telling me you did so.

Option #2 - Link to this post via Twitter.  Leave a separate comment telling me you did so.
Good luck to all!

Sears provided me with one $50 giftcard for myself and another to give away.  However, opinions are still all my own.

**UPDATE: Congrats to Commenter #52, Autumn B., who won the $50 Sears giftcard.  This contest is now closed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nash Christmas Cards Through the Years

William was born very close to the holiday season and I remember when we finally brought him home I thought, excitedly, "I can do Christmas cards this year!"

Of course, you can do Christmas cards without kids but it's just not the same, is it?  I just love going to the mailbox in December and opening up everyone's photo cards.  Many of them come from friends who I don't get to see that often.  Sometimes Christmas is the only chance I get to sneak a glance at their little ones.

The year William was born I decided to send out a combo birth announcement and Christmas Card.

2006 Christmas Card

Isn't he just the prettiest baby you've ever seen in your whole life? [Ignore those weird rectangles that mysteriously found their way into that image.]  Lucy was a dang cute baby, for sure, but I don't know if I'll ever have a newborn as pretty as William was.

I remember coming home from Church one day, putting him in his bouncy seat and snapping away on my camera.  Afterward I uploaded all my photos to Shutterfly and made my cards.  I was so excited to drop them in the mail and show everyone my brand new baby boy!

The following year I clearly had way too much fun with my little boy because I included four pictures in our Christmas card.  And only one of those pictures was taken by a professional.  How could I choose just one?!

2007 Christmas Card
And 2008.  Who could forget that year?  That was the year that I announced we were expecting another baby by including a sonogram photo.  A college friend of ours told us it was the coolest Christmas card he had ever received.  Yeah, us!

2008 Christmas Card
And then there was last year when we had two children to brag about.  Last year was tough getting the perfect picture with Lucy's head surgery being so close to Christmas.  I love how their individual pictures turned out but I'm still not happy with the one where they are together.  I tried a thousand different takes but it just wasn't happening.  So I finally picked one that was good enough and went with it.
2009 Christmas Card
This year I'm really excited because for the first time we took professional pictures of all four of us together.  The picture-choosing process is going to be really easy.  And so will the card-making process!  Every year I've used Shutterfly and every year I've been happy with the results.

I like that Shutterfly offers chic and modern card designs at every price point.  Because, let's be honest, most people throw those cards away after the Christmas season has passed.  While that cardstock might feel so good in your hands and make your pictures look so pretty, I just have a hard time justifying spending hundreds of dollars on something that will be in the trash in a month!  But spending half that price without compromising taste to put a picture in the hands of a friend or relative who see my kids rarely or ever?  That I can live with.

What about you?  Do you do Christmas cards yearly?  Sometimes?  Never?

P.S. You'll have to wait until Christmas to see our 2010 card!

**In writing this post Shutterfly has offered to give me 50 free holiday cards but thoughts and opinions are all my own.  Want 50 free cards of your own?  Click here to find out more!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Interview With A 4-Year-Old

Today was William's birthday.  Four is so old, isn't it?  Full-fledged kid for sure.  Their own mind.  Their own words.  Their own thoughts.

I thought it would be fun to capture it all in a little interview.  So after dinner one night, while his dad and sister were already upstairs for bathtime, I asked William some questions.  He was quite the little interviewee.  He got all upset if I wasn't writing every little thing he said.

"Mommy!  Write that down!"

So I did.  And when it was over I asked him if it was OK if I typed this on the computer so that other people could read it.  And he said, "Sure!"  So here it is.  With his permission.

Q: How old are you going to be?
A: Four!

Q: What's your favorite color?
A: Green

Q: What's your favorite food?
A: Noodles

Q: What's your favorite show on T.V.?
A: The Cat In The Hat [Knows A lot About That]

Q: What's your favorite movie?
A: Toy Story 3

Q: What's your favorite thing to do outside?
A: Play on the swing

Q: What's your favorite book?
A: The fairy tale book when Daddy reads it

Q: What color are your eyes?
A: Blue

Q: What color is your hair?
A: Um, I don't really know that one

Q: What's your favorite thing to do with your sister?
A: Play Hide 'n' Seek

Q: What's your favorite thing to do with Daddy?
A: When he pushes me on the swing

Q: What's your favorite thing to do with Mommy?
A: Hug her!

Q: What's your favorite game?
A: Candyland

Q: What's your favorite song to sing?
A: California Gurls

Q: What do you dream about?
A: Ellie {a dog} and Halloween

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: A policeman

Q: Who is your favorite person that babysits you?
A: Uncle Jo-jo

Q: What's your favorite sport?
A: Football

Q: Where is your favorite place to go?
A: Trader Joe's

Q: What's your favorite treat?
A: Chocolate

Q: What's your favorite part about church?
A: Walking there down the alley {I thought this was really funny.  It's like saying recess is your favorite part of school.}

Q: What's your favorite season?
A: Winter.  I love the snow!

Q: How many brothers and sisters do you think you might want to have?
A: Five.  Their names will be Jake, Lucy, Sally, Samuel, and another girl that I don't know what her name is. {Wow, we need to get to work.}

Q: What do you think you might want for a birthday present?
A: Buzz and Woody

Q: Anything else?
A: Nope!  That's all!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Still Breathing

The last 72 hours have been a bit challenging around here.  The other shoe did drop.  It's been throw-up central.  At least for Brian and me.  The kids are fine.  Which makes it even more challenging, no?

But we're on the other side.  We made it.  I was going to title this post Still Standing.  But Still Breathing gives me a little leeway.  Everything's still a little fresh to be standing for any sort of time period longer than is absolutely necessary.  So we're focusing on breathing.

Which is why I'm going to a yoga class in ten minutes.  To breathe.  Maybe I'll stay in Child's Pose the entire hour.  That would feel good.

Anyway, this is to say sorry if I haven't been responsive to comments, emails, Facebooks or Tweets.

But I'll be back.  In a big way.  For one, there's a certain four-year-old's birthday tomorrow.  For another, Mama Nash has her first ever giveaway.  And it's going to be one everyone can use.  Promise.  Stay tuned.  And stay healthy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tiny Cheers

I looked at the calendar today and it said November 16.  It's no one's birthday.  It's not a holiday.  I don't have any parties to go to.  So what was it?  Why was this date etched so deep in my memory?
Then I remembered.

One year ago today Lucy underwent surgery on her skull to correct her craniosynostosis which was discovered during her routing four-month exam.

For two months we knew she needed this surgery and for two months seeing November 16 on the calendar put a pit in my stomach.

I didn't know how I was going to hand over my baby for some surgeon to cut through her precious little head.

But we made it!  I won't sit here and write all about how it was no big deal, a walk in the park, a piece of cake, because it wasn't.  Surgery and hospital stays with a baby are no fun at all.

There were nights she barely slept because her face was so swollen her eyes were sealed shut and they itched like crazy.

There were days I barely recognized my petite little girl who suddenly looked like a sumo wrestler.

And then there was that spunky personality that disappeared for a couple of weeks due to heavy pain medication.  She was in my arms but where was she?

But she did come back.  And we got to say our 6-month-old baby had plastic surgery and isn't that funny?  It's one year later and we made it and look at this beautiful little girl who can't remember a single second of that whole ordeal.  But we remember and we got through it and we're stronger because of it.

Her head is gorgeous.  Her scar isn't so bad.  Really, I think I'm the only one who can see it.  I part her hair on the side instead of down the middle and it totally disappears.  Side parts look better anyway, don't you think?

Our child is healthy.  She always was.  We had a minor blip on the radar.  We're a lucky bunch.  Some are not so.  So we'll cheer for this tiny milestone in our family's story.  And then we'll go back to laughing about how obsessed she is with shoes.  Because, after all, she's just a girl like any other.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

How to Have the Best Family Day Ever

First, you need a pretty big snowstorm.

This is our street.  Not even kidding.  It was almost 70 degrees three days ago.
And that snowstorm has to be be somewhat unexpected.

They said we might get anywhere from a dusting to a couple of inches.  We were just shy of a foot.
Next, when the kids get out of bed and are so excited to see all the snow that you hope they don't wet themselves, you will need to dig through every closet in your home to find any snow gear that might fit.  Seeing as it was 68 degrees just a few days ago, you will be totally unprepared.
William's old snowsuit and non-waterproof boots and mittens.  At least the hat was pink.  A snowsuit's a snowsuit, right?  I may just use this for her all year long.
You'll need some sleds.
And a shoveling husband. (The snow will be much too wet and heavy for that fancy, dancy snowblower you've got.)
You'll need a snowball fight.

And booger noses.

And a giant snowman.

The tears indicate we may have pushed lunch/nap just a hare too far.
And finally, this is the important one, to make sure you have a really, really, really good family day, you must lose your electricity for the entire day and night.
A real, wood-burning fireplace will help.  As will a board game and some hot coffee.

You will eat dinner at the bar just down the street since all of your dinner options require an oven or a stove.  And you're too scared to light your gas stove with a match.

And when you return from dinner you will use the one flashlight with working batteries to help light all the candles in the house.

The battery in your camera will have died by now with no way to charge it.

You will dress the kids in layers for bed and snuggle them in under down comforters.

You will come downstairs to find your husband making you a cocktail.  And just as he begins to stir it you will hear the familiar whir start up again.  And the clocks will blink 12:00.  And some lights will pop on.  And you will sigh.  A sad sigh.  Because it was all kind of fun.

So you will turn off those lights.  You will take your cocktail and sit in front of the fireplace.  You will leave the television off and the candles lit.  And you will finish your game of Monopoly.  And then you will go to bed, shut your eyes and start replaying the events of one of the best days you can remember in a long, long time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

After Bath, Before Bed

I love this picture.

I love that they are sitting together.  And that William isn't annoying Lucy.  And that Lucy isn't whining because William is annoying her.

I love that William has on his monster jammies.

I love that Lucy is wearing an old pair of William's jammies because who says all her jammies have to be pink and purple and everything girlie?

I love how Lucy is holding Jellycat Bunny.

And that she's draped with her favorite pink blankie.

I love the magnetic alphabet on the radiator cover in the background.  A sure sign that kids live here.

I love the unopened clock in the background that hasn't been hung yet almost one year later because kids live here.

I love William's smile and how he ever so slightly is leaning in next to his little sister.

I love how I can almost smell the lavender from their just-washed hair.

I love how I soft their cheeks look after just being lathered with Eucerin.

I love how Lucy's hair is pulled back but a few stray bangs have escaped the barrette.

I love how patiently they are waiting to watch "just a little bit" of Mister Roger's Neighborhood before I march them off to bed.

I love them so much this time of day.  Just after bath.  Just before bed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sometimes, For No Reason At All

On Saturday morning William threw up at a neighborhood birthday party within two minutes of entering the home.  With a red face and my tail between my legs, I walked him back home.

Since then I've been on edge.  Snapping at the kids and at Brian for nothing at all.  But I didn't realize it until last night.

Do you ever feel like you just want to break down and cry but you have absolutely no reason to?

Do you ever feel that you are so exhausted you might collapse even though you got plenty of sleep the night before?

This was me the last few days.

I'm pretty sure Lucy has an ear infection.  But I'm also pretty sure we won't treat it.  It never bothers her all that much and they seem to go away quicker than if we were to bring her in and fill a prescription anyway.

So she was cranky and cried through our an entire family dinner.  And threw all her food on the floor.

"Please get her out of here and in the bath now," I crabbed to Brian.

And he did.

I should have done the dishes while he was upstairs.  Or at least emptied the dishwasher.  But it all seemed so overwhelming.

So instead I brought William upstairs and gave him a bath and put on his lotion and helped with his pajamas.  He took a long nap that day and his mood showed it.  He was so sweet and made no mention of my sour attitude.

"I'll make you deal," I said to Brian, "Wanna clean up the kitchen if I fold the laundry?"

"Sure," He said.

William came downstairs and instead of asking to watch TV or play on the computer before bed he just asked if he could draw me a picture on his Magnadoodle.  But then he decided he'd rather match up the socks in my laundry basket.

After a minute of staring at the basket of clean, unfolded laundry I deserted it and went into the kitchen to find Brian standing at the sink.  I wrapped my arms around him and hugged his back.  Brian is one of those guys who is bigger than he looks because of his fierce dedication to the weight room and it felt good to feel so small for a little while.  Feeling small gave me a reason to allow myself to feel overwhelmed even though I had no reason to feel that way.

"I feel like I want to cry," I told him, "But I have no reason to cry."

"That's OK," he said, "You can cry for no reason."

So I did.  Just a little bit.

I heard William's footsteps come into the kitchen.  His feet stopped for a minute, probably wondering why Mommy was holding on to Daddy's back so tightly.  Then he started again and walked behind me and hugged the back of my legs.

My boys.

I knew I had been on edge ever since William threw up.  Waiting for the other shoe to drop.  For us all to start puking.  Thinking my stomach hurt when really it didn't.  Not wanting to sanitize one more room or wash one more load of laundry or make up one more bed.

It was all silly, really.  Because no one else got it.  It's been almost five days.  Are we in the clear yet?  And even if we aren't, what then?  I realized I had been holding my breath.  And my life.  And in the process I was annoyed.  Which is really silly because who am I to think we can be the exception when it comes to stomach ailments?

So I breathed.  And I prayed.  And He said it's all going to be OK.

Then I went back in the living room and folded all the clean laundry.  And last night turned out to be a pretty good night.  And today turned out to be a pretty good day.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pay It Forward Friday

When helping out the elderly there is a fine line between being kind and completely crushing their ego.

This Monday Brian and I treated the kids to breakfast at a cafe just before their doctor appointment.  The cafe is located in small, indoor mall.  The cafe is open to the rest of the mall except for a small waist-high wall that serves as its border.  We were seated right in front of this wall.

While we were eating our omelets and Mickey Mouse pancakes I saw a woman sitting behind us gasp.

"That man just fell!" She said.

I stood, peered over the half wall and saw an elderly gentlemen lying on the floor save for the one elbow he had managed to prop himself up on.

"Do you need help, sir?" I asked.

"It's that rug that needs help!" He cried out.

The rug at the entrance of the mall had bunched up causing him to trip and fall.

"I can see that," I said, "Here, I'll help you get up."

The woman who had originally seen him fall was walking all the way around the half wall so that she could get to the man.  But I knew I could get there faster if I simply got over the wall.

So, throwing socially-acceptable behavior aside, I hoisted myself up and threw one leg and then the other over that wall.  Brian would later replay the events for me, laughing.  "You just jumped that wall without even thinking!  That was awesome!"

I got my arm under one of the man's arms and helped him to his feet.  By now the other woman had arrived as well as the restaurant host.

"It was the rug's fault," I explained, "It was the rug that made him fall."

The truth was, the rug did make him fall.  But had it been any other able-bodied adult, they probably would have tripped but not fallen.  Or even if they did fall, they certainly would have been able to pick themselves up quick enough not to draw too much attention.  But I said this because I knew the man was embarrassed.  I knew lots of people were now watching us because of the crazy lady that jumped the wall.  And I knew the man felt like a small, helpless child.  So in an effort to give him just smidgen of his ego back, I blamed the entire thing on the rug.  And that felt good.


This morning I had a Pay It Forward Friday entry sent to me via email.  I will share it here:

Yesterday as I was exiting a Fleet Farm store with two cases of recreational vehicle antifreeze and a duffle bag riding on the top of my cart, the bag and one of the cases of antifreeze fell off the front. No big deal, right? A fella coexiting stopped and said, "Let me help you."  Before I knew it he had both items back in my cart.

When the items fell I immediately thought, "With my sore shoulder this is going to hurt." How did he know?

I thanked him. He said, "Sure." Not only did our eyes never meet, we did not even see each other's faces.


Your turn!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

8 Reasons I Chose To Give my Kids the Flu Vaccine

On Monday William and Lucy had their 4-year and 18-month well-child checkups, respectively.  At this appointment I opted for both of my children to receive the flu vaccine.

There are many, many bloggers out there voicing their reasons for not vaccinating their children or for putting their children on a delayed or limited vaccine schedule.  For those families, that's what works for them.

But often times I come away from those posts feeling like a bad parent for choosing to vaccinate my children with the recommended schedule.  Viewpoints of vaccines have gotten very polarized and I don't feel that the pro-vaccine message is getting heard enough except from sources like the AAP or your own pediatrician.  So here's my own, non-expert, just-a-regular-informed-mother, viewpoint about the reasons I chose to give my kids the flu vaccine.

1.  We live in Minnesota.

Time and again Minnesota [and many other states in the North] ranks as a state with some of the highest flu statistics.  Outbreaks, hospitalizations and deaths.  I blame our climate.  From mid-October through mid-April you can bet every house in this state has their windows shut tight and doors sealed from any of that cold air seeping in.  This means that every indoor building receives very little circulation.  And you know how the flu spreads?  Through the air.  So even if you're diligent about dodging germ-prone areas or constantly washing your hands, you still can't hold your breath all day long.

2.  My kids go to school.  But that's not a good reason.

William being in his first year of preschool factored zero into my decision to vaccinate.  A lot of times I hear "my kid isn't in school" or "I don't send my children to daycare" as a reason not to vaccinate.  Unless you lock yourself in your house for seven months, you are exposed.  Do you go grocery shopping? Do you go to the library?  Do you have playdates?  Do you go to church?  Everywhere is sure to be a germ factory.

3.  I don't like playing the odds game.

If I don't vaccinate, what are the odds my child will get the flu?  Pretty low.  If they do get the flu what are the chances that he/she will be hospitalized?  Even lower.  And, really, what are the chances that they will die from the flu?  Virtually nill.

But you know what?  I've lost many, many times at the odds game so I don't like to play it.  What are the odds my son would have a spontaneous hole in his lung following birth?  What are the odds that an easily-curable hole in his lung would turn into a critical, life-or-death, so-not-textbook case?  What are the odds my daughter would need skull surgery at the tender age of six months?  See what I mean?  I suck at the odds game.

4.  I don't get mad at the flu vaccine for not doing what it wasn't intended to do.

So many people don't even know what influenza is.  Influenza is not the stomach flu.  It does not protect against the so-called "24-hour stomach bug" or food poisoning.

It also is not a common cold vaccine.  It does not protect against your everyday sneezing, coughing and runny nose.

Most people have never even had the flu.  The flu has common cold symptoms and is combined with extreme body aches, tiredness, and a high fever.  The flu often lasts a week or longer and most of the time prohibits the patient from maintaining their normal daily routine.  My brother had it last year and I think his comment sums it up best: "It feels like I'm going to die."  Probably a little sarcasm mixed in there but you get the picture.

5.  I know that the flu vaccine won't cause my kids to subsequently get the flu.

This is a fact, people.  Sometimes the person vaccinated will have a short bout of some mild flu-like symptoms.  Following his shots William had aching legs, a slight fever and was irritable.  All were manageable with Tylenol and all symptoms were gone within 12 hours.  Lucy had no side effects.

It's true that the vaccine does not cause you to have the flu.  However, this does not mean that you can't get the flu after having the vaccine.  Do not confuse the two statements.  The vaccine is not 100% effective and only gives you better immunities against fighting the flu.  It does mean, however, that if you are vaccinated and still contract influenza, you will probably experience more mild symptoms or you will be able to get well faster.

[Quick side story:  I breastfed William exclusively (meaning no formula supplementation) for 13 months.  But no matter how much I read about how much healthier it made him and how it protected him against all kinds of illnesses the kid still managed to get chronic ear infections.  I made my complaint to my pediatrician wondering if breastfeeding was doing any good.  She reminded me that if I wasn't breastfeeding who's to know if he wouldn't have double or triple the amount of ear infections and that he would have probably needed the surgery to insert tubes.  Bottom line, William's body was prone to ear infections but supplying him with antibodies through my breastmilk helped ease the severity to which he experienced these.]

6.  I've followed the money.

It is relatively easy to get the flu vaccine for free.  If the vaccine is combined with a preventative care appointment most insurance companies will pay for it.  In my mind, those big, bad, money-making insurance companies know what they're doing.  They've done the research.  They know the statistics.  They know that paying for an inexpensive vaccine will actually save them money in the long run.  If they can increase their chances that a patient won't get the flu then they can also increase their chances that the same patient won't have an office visit or be hospitalized.

Same with many workplaces.  Many employers are giving their employees flu shots for free.  Why?  Because they know if they protect their workers against the flu it means less sick days taken and more money in their pockets.

Whenever for-profit companies are offering something for free, you have to ask yourself what their motive is and what kind of research backs it.

7.  I'm not mad at the big, bad pharmaceutical companies for making so much money off the flu vaccine.

In fact, I feel pretty lucky.  Having big pharmaceutical companies that make a lot of money means that they can mass produce large quantities of vaccines and they can do it for cheap.  It means it's easily accessible for all.

Think of places like Africa where so many people die each day of easily-curable diseases.  Many of which have been completely eradicated from the United States thanks to vaccines.  I bet some of those developing countries wouldn't complain a bit if a Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline opened up shop in their backyard.

8.  I trust my gut.

Let's face it, you can dig up information to back almost any vaccine stance you want to take.  But in the end you have to make a decision from your gut and from your heart.  For me, I'd rather do everything in my willpower to keep my kids healthy than watch my kids get sick and wish I had decided to do more.

In no way was this post meant to bully anyone into doing something they don't want to do or make them feel bad about their decision.  Rather, I felt the need to defend my own position.  But still, I'm curious: Did/Will you give your children the flu vaccine?  Why or why not?
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