Monday, August 31, 2015

Momma & Miles Monday: Kids Artwork

I thought I would change up the format of MM Mondays and instead of a random selfie dump, I'd give them some purpose...with a few selfies (or just pics of miles) thrown in.  Something I've learned as a result of being Miles' momma or some tip to share with other moms & moms-to-be...and still have a spot for a selfie dumps on the weeks that I have nothing to talk about.

Today, I'm tackling kids artwork.  All of those things they bring home from daycare or school, make at camp, or color at home on a rainy day.  What do you do with it (after a suitable replacement is found to display on the fridge, of course)??

I am a horrible packrat.  It's been bred into me, I think.  My parents kept everything from when I was a kid.  I love it - I love looking back on those things with fond memories, things I had 'forgotten' that come flooding back just by reading a story or holding a painting.  I appreciate and am thankful that my parents gave me that gift.  But it also comes at a bit of a price.  Those things spend most of their life in a box in a basement somewhere and only really get taken out when we're doing some kind of major cleaning/rearranging or moving.  Right now, they're all in a storage unit living an in-between life until we get to move into our new house...and then we'll have to decide where they'll live out the rest of their days, because our new house won't have a basement.

Chad is much less sentimental about things...well...about everything in general, but things especially.  Perhaps it's because he has a mostly eidetic memory, so he doesn't need to see or touch those things to be able to remember the events that led to their creation.  Perhaps it's because he's just a less emotional person overall.  I have an abysmal memory, and without a trigger, it's a wonder there's anything in my head, ever.  I need those reminders in order to have the memories - and I enjoy having the memories every once in awhile.

So, inevitably, when we moved, Chad encouraged me to purge.  A lot.  And I acquiesed to many of his requests.  It was a painful process that truly felt like throwing my childhood into a giant dumpster...maybe because that's what I was doing.  No but really...I cried a few times.  And despite all that, we still have a massive storage unit full of stuff that will continue to live in boxes that get opened *maybe* once every few years, that I just can't bear to part with (because that story I wrote about a cat named Cupcake in second grade is a masterpiece, dammit.  I typed it on a typewrite and bound it in wallpaper.  You don't just throw that shit away)!

So what does that have to do with my kid's artwork now?  Well, the fact is, he is starting to bring home a lot of arts and crafts now.  And I want to keep ALL. OF. IT.  But I can't.  I have too much of my own crap sitting in boxes that there's just no room for more...(god that sounds terribly selfish...but it's true).  I have to figure out a way to handle my need for sentiment while not instilling the same pack-rat nature in my son (and handling some of my own hoarding issues as well - that makes it sounds much more selfless doesn't it??).

I've decided to start taking pictures of all of Miles' art and storing it digitally, after its lived its full life on the fridge, of course.  There will, inevitably, be some special pieces that get saved, but the day-to-day stuff is going to be photographed and recycled (or as Miles' puts it risossled).  I started the process this weekend while we were cleaning up the kitchen.  This past week, daycare sent home all the artwork he had done throughout the month - so there was a rather large pile just chillin' on the kitchen table.  It was hard.  I struggled with it and I felt like a terrible mother once I actually placed those items in the trash can...but I took comfort in the fact that by storing them digitally, it would keep them in their original condition forever.  I'd never have to worry about things getting ruined in a flood or fire and not being able to get them back.  The only thing I really have to worry about now is my redundant back up system failing...the pictures are saved on my phone, and backed up to Dropbox and Google.  I hope that means they're safe!  Someday, I may think about putting the images together into a photo book or something, but that sort of defeats the purpose...I don't know.  We'll have to wait and see.

So here's his artwork album so far.  I do have some things in storage as well that will need to be photographed and added - but I'll continue to add to it as we get new things.  And while I know there's nothing really special or novel about this idea, I'm proud of myself for thinking of it.  And I hope Miles' inherits my sentimentality and appreciates it someday as well.

Photo Gallery by

How do you store and organize your kids' artwork?  Do you feel like a horrible monster when you throw something away, like I do?  Let me know in the comments!

And because no MM Monday post is complete without a picture of Mr. Miles - here he is yesterday afternoon...4 pm, playing on the floor with Grammy's ceramic shelties, and passed out sleeping out of nowhere.  Luckily, he still went to bed on time (actually, lil' angel went to bed early for being naughty...if you can believe it).

Until next time friends,

Friday, August 28, 2015

Are we we are, are we we are the waiting...

One of the great things about moving to Tennessee is that we have babysitters!  Chad and I have actually been able to have date nights on a pretty regular basis.  Before we moved it had been...awhile.  Another cool thing?  My new employer regularly does ticket lotteries for cool things around Nashville and lucky for me - I won the first one I entered.  Sweet.  So last Friday Chad and I went to go see The Circle Players' production of American Idiot at Tennessee State University (it was a community production - not a college was just performed at the campus).

We started the night with dinner at ML Rose Craft Beer & Burgers.

They had a fairly limited menu, but if you know what you're good at, that's not a bad thing.  And the burger choices were pretty creative.  I was not feeling particularly creative that night, so I just went with a basic cheeseburger with waffle fries.  It was pretty delicious though.  Chad was bummed that they didn't have his new favorite beer (the Vanilla Creme Ale) - which is brewed in Tennessee, but apparently not carried anywhere locally. Would I go back? Meh.  If someone else wanted to go, sure.  But I probably wouldn't choose it on my own.

So after we finished eating we headed over to the theatre.  Our neighbors were supposed to go as well, but their daughter got sick right before they left so they had to stay home.  That was a bit of a bummer, but luckily we were able to get their tickets transferred to the next night's performance for them.

We were really early, so we got our choice of seats - front and center (well...not front front.  but toward the front. They were good).  I didn't know what to expect from the theatre can be pretty hit or miss.  I also didn't know much about the show itself.  I knew it was all music from Green Day's American Idiot and I read the Circle Players' synopsis and gathered that it was a rock opera about 3 guys trying to find their place in a post-911 world.  I took that to mean Rent in the 2000s (without the AIDS) - naturally - and I kept waiting for someone to die of a drug overdose (spoiler alert - nobody does).
American Idiot Cast | Source: Circle Players

Overall, I really enjoyed the show.  I have to say most of that came from the exceptionally talented cast - I felt like the story line was a bit weak (and it really was a bit like Rent Lite).  But the music was great (I've loved Green Day since Dookie came out when I was in the 5th grade) and the cast did an awesome job performing it - the leads and the ensemble.  I was especially impressed with the actors playing Tunny and Will (Taylor Novak and Steven Griffin) and the female leads - Whatsername, Heather, & Extraordinary Girl, and Alysha - who is not really a lead but girl rocked it (Julia Nettles, Sarah Shepherd, Carrie Estes, & Rae Roberson).
Tunny, Johnny, & Will | Source: Circle Players
I've pretty much had Are We the Waiting in my head since we left the theatre...and it definitely makes me want to check out more Circle performances in the future (especially their upcoming performance of Sister Act)!
Tickets are still available for this weekend's performance, if you're in the Nashville area, I would highly recommend you check it out!  If you're not in the Nashville area, check out some of the community theatre companies in your area and give them some support - it's a great way to get an inexpensive night out, some culture, and to support your community!

Source: Circle Players

All in all, it was a great date night (and I'm looking forward to another one tomorrow...thanks, Dad)!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Erin Condren Life Planner - A Review

When I was resetting the blog, I re-posted my anticipatory post of the launch of the ECLP - Erin Condren Life Planner.  If you haven't, you can read that here.

Quick take - My excitement over the planner itself has waned since getting it.  I still like the concept of a paper planner, but in general, I think the ECLP is overrated.  There are alternatives that are essentially the same at a much better price point and going forward, I'll probably explore those options.

To give you a little more detail about why I feel that way - I ordered my planner on Launch Day.  I chose the Horizontal Layout in the Ready to Ship option ($55).  This meant that I did not get a personalized cover, but my planner would come with a coupon code for a free cover that I could order later (more on that in a minute).  I also chose to get the Party Pops markers ($10) and a set of Do-It-All Dots ($4).  I opted not to get the expedited processing (which is now $35, though I believe it was $20 at launch), but I did opt for FedEx Ground Shipping over USPS ($9.95 vs $7.95 - there are also 2 additional shipping choices: Fed Ex Express for $11.95 and FedEx Priority for $19.95).  After tax and shipping, my order total was $78.95.

I consider myself among the lucky few who received my order in the time quoted at checkout.  I placed my order on June 9 and received it on June 13 (3 days before my expected delivery date).  I did an unboxing video, so you can see my reactions to that...

Almost instantly after I placed my order, I had a little bit of regret.  I wish I would have gone with the vertical layout.  Horizontal was what I had always used and liked in college, but after seeing so many Plan With Me videos and fun layout images, I thought I would have enjoyed the vertical layout more.  I still feel that way.  I've finally gotten into a rhythm with my horizontal, but it took a minute to figure out how to organize it.  
Here's how the layouts differ:
Vertical (Source: Erin Condren)

Horizontal (Source: Erin Condren)
Besides the basic layout differences, there are some differences in the design of the two layouts as well.  The vertical planner has a bold, bright color scheme with the Party Pops design.  The horizontal layout has a more muted color scheme with the Prism design.  I really preferred the color scheme and design of the vertical, but was stuck on needing the horizontal layout when I ordered.  I kind of wish they had offered both color schemes in each layout.  

Also after ordering, I started reading various reviews from blogs, youtube videos, and on the EC facebook page that made me a bit wary.  I will say this - I did not personally experience any of the issues related to launch/customer service/credit cards.  BUT, if I had read these various posts/reviews prior to ordering, I never would have gone through with it - I would have looked into alternate solutions.  Because I didn't experience these issues myself, I don't feel right adding them to my review.  I will encourage you to go research for yourself and make a choice based on the knowledge you gain.  The option to leave a review has been removed from the EC facebook page (if that says anything...) so you would need to look at the "Posts to Page" section to get information.   A lot of the launch day stuff has quieted down, but if you went back just one month - you'd see a lot of it.

I did have a couple issues with my planner in general, however.  One was one of the major issues that came out of this launch.  My coil is not coiled properly - the ends are not finished.  You can see below that the ends should be tucked in at a 90 degree angle.  Mine are too long and barely bent, so the pages at one end or the other are constantly being uncoiled.  Then, because the ends are too long, the stress put on the pages is causing them to tear.  And finally, while I love my personalized cover - it's also starting to fall apart, again I believe, because of the stress from the coil.

My preferred solution to all of this would be to uncoil the whole thing and rebind - either by putting into a binder style planner cover or by ARCing my pages and using a disc bound system.  I really want to use the discs, but that would be an expensive fix to something I can live with.  Plus, by re-binding, I lose the use of my cover.

Speaking of the I said, I ordered the ready-to-ship version which came with a code for a free personalized cover.  Once I got it, I went online to choose and personalize my cover.  This is a really fun process because there are several designs to choose from, then you can customize the colors, the text, and even the layout for an additional fee.  Non-metallic, personalized covers using the default layouts are regularly $10.95.  But there's a catch!  Even with the free cover code, you still have to pay for shipping.  And the shipping costs are exactly the same as the planner (with $7.95 for USPS being the cheapest option).  Because my planner was my first order, I also got a generic $10 coupon.  When I tried to apply that to my cart, to cover the shipping cost, I could not - because EC does not allow you to stack coupons/codes.  So no matter what, I was going to be stuck with a cost of about $10 for my *free* cover.  Pro-tip: If you're going to order something with a code or a coupon, order as much as you can to save on shipping fees.  I will probably not end up using my $10 code because I don't want to get stuck paying $10 shipping on another $10 item.  And look, I get that shipping costs money.  There are supplies and postage and fees that businesses have to deal with and I'm totally in support of covering those costs if I have to.  Here's my problem though - it does NOT cost the same amount of money to send 2 laminated pieces of paper (cover - sent in a document mailer) and a 3-5 lb planner with accessories (sent in a fairly large box) - so charging me the same amount to send 2 very different items (with very different weights) feels like a rip-off.

All that goes back to my quick take - I like the idea of the ECLP, but the value vs. the cost just doesn't add up for me.  If you're looking for a paper planner and cost isn't a factor, please feel free to check Erin Condren out.  There are a lot of great products that I really would like to try. If you've never visited their site, you can earn $10 off any purchase, just by creating an account if you follow this link.  My understanding is that the referral credit works like a gift certificate not a coupon, so it can be combined with another offer (feel free to correct me in the comments if I'm wrong.  I signed up without a referral link and did not get ten free  Despite my luke warm review, you don't lose much by going to check things out for yourself, right?  

I'm already looking for my next planner (and finding that elusive planner peace).  I still have 16 months to go in this one, so I'm making the most of it...but planners gotta plan, amiright?  Some of the other planners I'm considering are The Happy Planner, Glam Planner, and the Plum Paper Planner.

Here's a few close-ups of the planner from the unboxing --

Next week I'll have a post about how I intended to use the planner vs how I actually use the planner - don't miss will be riveting.  Trust.

Until then...

Disclaimer - this review was not prompted by Erin Condren and I have not been compensated for writing it.  However, I do receive a $10 credit for everyone who signs up for an account at using my referral link.  All thoughts an opinions expressed on this post are my own.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Miles & Momma Monday - Life Update pt. 2

This is part 2 in a short long series about what's been going on in our lives since my last real post a year ago.  Since it's Miles & Momma Monday, here's what you've missed in the world of the cutest lil man you ever did see.

First - check this out.  This was one of the last pictures I posted of Miles:

This was Miles last Thursday night: that even the same kid?  Besides being a year older, Miles has gone through some big stuff since last August.  We started him in Early On, which is the State of Michigan's early intervention program.  We felt like he was a little behind in his language development so we started some bi-weekly meetings with a speech-language pathologist to help push him along.  

We also decided, after an endless stream of ear infections, that we needed to go ahead with getting tubes in his ears.  The quick surgery was scary (I don't care how routine something is, letting your baby out of your sight to be put under general anesthesia and sharp blades run through his eardrums is some scary shit), but took less than 10 minutes and we saw a VAST improvement in his language right from the start.  You could see a huge change in his demeanor right away too - it was like he was hearing things for the first time.  He screamed - a lot - just to hear his own voice.  It was pretty amazing to see.  Here's little man before and after the procedure:

I'm working a little bit out of order here...but whateva.  In December we discovered that Miles was allergic to penicillin.  That was AWESOME, let me tell you.  So - as I mentioned before, kid was pretty much a non-stop ear infection for the better part of a year.  His pediatrician always prescribed amoxicillin.  The infection would clear up for a few weeks then come right back.  The only saving grace was that having an ear infection didn't seem to bother him much.  His only symptom was ever a runny nose - so while he was constantly having ear trouble, he wasn't in pain, which I guess is good.  For whatever reason, the pediatrician was not so hot on him getting tubes (I actually had to push for them when we got concerned about his speech), but just kept telling me - spring is coming, let's just get through the winter and he'll be good.  So he kept getting round after round of antibiotics...I digress.  So anyway, he was on the last day of what was honestly on his 9th or 10th round of amoxicillin, just after Christmas.  We noticed a couple of bumps on his back that looked like some sort of bug bites.  We decided to keep an eye on them (because it was the middle of winter in Michigan...there were no bugs).  The next day we woke up and his left eye was completely swollen.  It was awful.  

We took him to the doctor and they decided it definitely an allergy - most likely to the penicillin.  Luckily, his ears were cleared up and we didn't have to worry about finishing the meds.  She told us to give him benadryl and we went on our way.  The next morning we woke up and he wasn't any better.  In fact, he was worse.  

His entire face was swollen and red.  Those 2 little 'bug bites' on his back and turned into one giant full-body hive.  So back to the doctor we went...he had to be put on steroids.  The doctor told us it was one of the worst penicillin reactions she had ever seen and he would, more than likely, not be a candidate for re-introduction later in life (my husband, mom, and sister had all been allergic to penicillin as kids but can take it with no issue now) as each reaction would get worse and he may end up with anaphilaxis.  Sweet.    Here's my poor, miserable boy a few days into the steroid treatment (yeah...even with the steroids, it still took almost a week for that rash to go away completely...needless to say, we had to cancel our appointment for family pictures).

As if an interstate move isn't enough change for  little guy, we've also had to change his day care situation quite a bit in the last few months, which has been pretty rough.  It didn't help that we loved, loved, LOVED our day care provider back in Michigan.  She was amazing and Miles adored her.  He got so excited to go see Heather every day, got mad at us when we made us leave each afternoon, and never cried or fussed at drop off - we were lucky if we could get a kiss goodbye, because he already had Heather and his friends.  
When we first moved to TN, my mom watched him full time.  The first few days were tough, but once he got used to her, his days with Grammy ended up being pretty similar to his days with Heather, minus the drop off and pickup.  He especially loved all the time he got outside (which was a major change from the snow and cold we left behind).  After a few weeks, we all decided it would be best to put him in daycare part time - he needed the socialization and grammy needed a break (keeping up with an energetic 2 1/2 year old is tough)!  
We found a daycare center that is close to where our new home will be.  It's a bit of a trek for us now, but in the long term, it's a great location.  And it's one of the highest rated centers in the state and affordable and offers part time enrollment (which surprisingly, is very rare).  So, while the center itself is great - it's a very different atmosphere than what we're all used to with Heather's in-home daycare and then staying home each day (and continuing to stay home twice a week) with Grammy.  I think that transition has been the toughest for him.  Drop offs have been so, so hard.  I've had to fight myself a few times to not turn around and bring him back home.  But his teachers assure me that as soon as I (or Grammy) leaves, he stops crying and has a great time with his new friends.  And slowly, but surely, drop offs are getting easier and easier.  I think it's just a slower transition - but we'll get there.

Miles Stats:
Height: ~34"
Weight 20 lbs
Potty Trained? No, but starting to talk about it, and he sits on the potty at daycare (but doesn't use it).
Diaper Size: 6
Clothing Size: Shirts-2T, Pants-18 mos, PJs-3T
Favorite Foods: French Toast Sticks, Mac & Cheese, Grilled Cheese, Protein Granola Bars, String Cheese, Apple Sauce, Black Olives, Beans (Black, Refried), Hot Dogs, Fruit Snacks, Lemons (whole lemons...rind and all)

Favorite Toys: Spiderman Pillow Book, Stuffed Collie, Pete & Patty Pirate, Crane (pictured above - made by Miles' papa for Miles' momma 30 years ago), toy cars, toy airplanes.
Takin Pete and Patty for a walk

Favorite TV Shows/Movies: Super Why, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sesame Street (Elmo!), Barney (ugh), Dora (ugh), Ruff Ruff, Tweet, & Dave, Big Hero 6, Avengers

Other Favorites: 
Airplanes (everything airplanes) - we live in the airport path, so there are constantly planes flying overhead.  And when he hears one, we have to drop everything to watch it fly over.  THEN we have to pretend to be airplanes and fly around the driveway.  
Water - his water table, the hose, squirt guns, playing in the rain - if it's wet, he loves it.  Unless he has to go in a pool.  The bathtub is ok.  
Letters - most especially, the letter R.  No clue why.  but you better believe if he can see an R, he will get so excited about it.

He's growing into a little kid - he's definitely not a baby anymore.  It's so fun to watch and learn all his little personality quirks.  And kid definitely has some Chelish in him...

So that's it for our 2 part update.  More (or less) exciting stuff next time.  Until then...

A life Update - Part 1

I totally forgot to post this on Friday...oops.  So you'll get 2 posts today.   Please to enjoy...

So, prior to this week, it had been 6 months since my last post and that post was just an announcement that I was shutting down this blog.  So really, it's been 11 months since my last post with anything meaningful.  Well...but that was just a photo dump.  So my last post with real, written content was over a year ago. That's so crazy to me.  It definitely doesn't seem like it's been that long, since I sat and typed some rambling dribble about my life to whomever randomly navigated over to my little section of the Internet.

And a LOT has changed in that year.  So much so, that I need to break it up into multiple posts. Part 1 is what's been going on at Chateau Cooper in general.  Come back Monday for a Momma & Miles update (which we all know is what's way more interesting)!

So a few highlights - I had pneumonia in October, which occurred as a result of my continuing to work through a cold, which had turned into the flu.  Apparently, it is important to rest when you're sick...or something.

We took a trip to Tennessee in October.  We visited the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel, went trick-or-treating at the zoo, went to the aquarium, a children's museum, and a petting farm.  We had a great time, but basically reaffirmed that we would never move to Tennessee.

I made a big investment in my Jamberry business and decided to attend the Regional Jamberry Conference in Columbus, OH.  I learned that in some dueling piano bars, the waiters will take their shirts off and dance on the pianos.

Despite never wanting to shoot or own a gun, my husband convinced me to go to the range with him one day.  While there, the instructor on duty convinced me to try it.  Turns out, I'm sort of a natural.  By the end of the session, he had invited me to join his competitive shooting team.  He did not invite Chad (teehee).  I politely declined, but was excited to have a new skill.  By the end of the year, Chad and I both got our CPLs - though I still have no desire to actually carry anything.

In January, I lost my great aunt, Sr. Kathleen.  We had been very close when I was younger - she was really like a 3rd grandmother to me, but she developed alzheimer's and we lost touch at the end of her life.  I feel very guilty that I did not continue to write and send Christmas cards each year.  I'm sure she would have liked to be remembered, even if she didn't remember me.  I thought about her all the time, but I still feel like I didn't do enough.  My most fond memory of her was staying at her apartment and reading the Warm Fuzzy tale.  After we had read the story, we made our own warm fuzzies then went around and gave them to the other residents.  She always told me that the rule of fuzzies was that they must always come with a hug.  So we passed out these fuzzies and hugs and it made all of our nights.  So for her funeral, I made up a bunch of warm fuzzies and gave them to the other attendees, along with the required hug.  I feel like she would have appreciated that.

In the time since my last post, I attended 3 Tigers games and TigersFest (which was a disaster and could be another post all on its own, so I'll spare you that).  This season is not turning out well, but I love my boys and I will anxiously await a big turnaround next year.

So now for the big stuff.  Remember how a few paragraphs ago, I said we had reaffirmed our desire to NEVER move to Tennessee?  Well....

In May, Chad was recommended and hired for a new job.  The catch?  The job is in Tennessee and he started 2 weeks later.  Woah.  We had been casually discussing the possibility of making a move to Tennessee in the future to be closer to family, but our goal was to get there before Miles started kindergarten...not anytime soon.  But it was an opportunity we could not pass up, so of course, he took it.  And we started prepping for a huge move, and put our house on the market.

One of the big questions was what would I do for work?  We figured if we sold the house quick enough, we'd be OK for  a little while on one income, but I'd need to hit the ground running once I got there.  Well...luck was apparently on our side.  When I called my boss to give my 2 weeks' notice, I mentioned that I would be willing to stay on and continue to work remotely.  Maybe it was just good timing (2 high level employees had also quit that day), but she agreed.  I mean...could it have gotten any better than that?!

About 24 hours after our house went on the market we got an offer.  It was a terrible offer, but in the end, we decided to accept it.  The money we made off of it would cover most (if not all) of a down payment on a new house and we wouldn't have to worry about the mortgage.  The closing process took entirely too long and we almost backed out a few times, but in the end, we got it done and we were no longer homeowners - which was awesome.

We had hoped that once we got settled in, we would find a new house and be out of my parents (who had graciously let us stay with them until we found other arrangements) in a couple of months.  Well, our first weekend in town we found the perfect house.  Only problem?  It wasn't built yet.  We have wanted to build since we got married, so we jumped at the opportunity.  This means that we're staying where we are for a little longer than we had hoped...but if it means getting into an amazing house - it will be worth it!  Our expected move-in date is December...hopefully we'll be in our new home by Christmas!

About 2 weeks into our new life in Tennessee, I got a call from an employment recruiter for a local company.  They had a few departments looking for Business Analysts and he thought I would be a good fit (I didn't apply for this company...this guy found me on LinkedIn and reached out on his own).  I went to two interviews and got 2 job offers.  Holy Crap.  I had an ideal work situation...working from home at a job I knew and did well.  But this was an opportunity that would allow me tremendous potential for growth (something I didn't have at my current job) and a big salary bump.  I couldn't, realistically, pass it up.  I felt awful - because my company had made a lot of special accomodations to let me keep working.  But...this was the best decision for my family and my career so I had to do it.  I also agreed to stay on as an as-needed contractor with my (former) company for 2 months during the transition in case they had something that they just couldn't do without me.  They haven't called yet... :-)  But I'm loving my new job and I'm so excited about everything I'm going to learn here.  

And now...I think that's just about it.  You're caught up with more information than you ever wanted to know.  So until Monday....