Family, Opinion, Organization, Uncategorized, writing

New Year’s Resolutions and/versus Goal Setting

I confess that I am indeed one of the millions of Americans who year after year make resolutions for the New Year.  If I am entirely honest, about half of the resolutions I make- those such as exercise more, give up caffeine, cut back on carbs, etc.- I make with the intention of not keeping them.  Carbs are delicious, and while I have had to cut back due to an unfortunate allergy, I don’t plan on giving them all up. I could stand to target my exercise routine better, but I do exercise on a regular basis.  We’re not even going to touch the caffeine thing. This coffee-fueled blogger would consider the thought of giving up caffeine on the border of some sort of blasphemy.

All that said, there are real goals that I try to set for myself and my family every year.  And as the old year passes, and the new rolls ’round, it is timely to reflect on those aspects of life that I need to continue working on.  After all, the goals I set this year are typically ones that I have set for myself in years past. And while I have seen progress in some areas, such as better organizing my schedule or actually getting on an exercise routine,  there are other areas that are definitely works in progress. I am still not the best communicator especially with my spouse, and while I can come up with a budget, it can be hard to stick to one. Especially when I’m at Target. Or Anthropologie. Okay, confession time is over…

This year I have come to the realization that in order to make real progress, I would have to follow the S.M.A.R.T method of goal-setting. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Saying that I want to stick to a budget isn’t a goal in itself.  Rather, that would be a means to an end.  Why am I sticking to a budget? For what end am I giving up that cute top at Anthro? What am I saving for and for how long? The goal is not specific enough, and so it is easy for me to lose sight of why I am “depriving” myself. Now if I say that I am saving up for a vacation to Disney World in July, the focus is much more clear. I can either spend now and not go or I can save up for that wonderful experience later.

So as 2017 comes to a close, I reflect on all the good things of this past year: watching the kids as they grow and sharing in their accomplishments and struggles, actually going to Disney World (yay!), finally starting this blog. And as 2018 approaches, it is time to make those New Year’s resolutions, but this year in a smarter way.  By setting specific, simple goals that are measurable and realistic, I can make steady, but lasting change.

And no, I’m not giving up my morning coffee. Or my afternoon one. Here’s to a wonderful 2018. Cheers!

A snapshot of 2017. Here’s to 2018!
Hiking, Organization, Pets, Shopping, Travel, Uncategorized

Great Hikes: Be Prepared

Welcome back to my two-part series on hiking with dogs. Today the focus will be on how to prepare for a hike with your best pal.

As with just about everything in life, there are some inherent risks in exploring the great outdoors.  Weather, unexpected terrain, wildlife (by which I typically mean insects, though we have seen a couple bears in Monrovia Canyon) can easily turn a pleasant day out into a practical nightmare. Fortunately, however, most potential issues are easily prevented with some preparation beforehand and consideration once on the trail. I cannot claim credit for most of these tips. Most of these guidelines are borrowed from Scouting.

Things to consider:

As mentioned in the previous post, keep in mind your ability as well as your dog’s. Research the trail ahead of time, taking into account distance, terrain, slope grade, and whether the area offers shade. Be sure to check the weather and other conditions, such as pollen, as this can impact your experience and safety. And always be sure to have a trail map.

Water and treats for my buddy

What to bring:

Much of this is based on the Boy Scout “Ten Essentials.” This provides a good guide for what to bring on a hike or day trek.

Food: Bring ample high-calorie trail snacks. Foods such as nuts, granola, or dried fruit are good picks. The kids and canine also like meat jerky.

Water: Hydration is key. Many issues that develop on a hike happen as a result of improper hydration. A rule of thumb is 16 ounces for every hour of hiking, however this can vary depending on the individual and weather. I’d say bring at least that, and hydrate ahead of time. If you feel thirsty, it’s already late. For your pal, REI sells a few products that can be used as a dog bowl. I personally like the Ruffwear quencher collapsible bowl. It’s easy to stuff in a daypack, and easy to clean after a hike.

First aid kit: A good hiking kit will have a wrap bandage, small ice pack, band-aids, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, antihistamine cream, and small packs of NSAID painkillers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) and Benadryl. REI sells day packing kits in soft pouches that are easy to clip to your daypack. REI also has a few ready-made kits for canines If applicable, be sure to bring your rescue inhaler or EpiPen as well.

What’s in your daypack?

Map and compass: Know and stay on your trail. This common sense advice given me long ago will keep you from getting lost most of the time. For those rare occasions when one might get lost, a map and compass can quite literally be a lifesaver. Any reliable compass will do, but I personally like a clear compass, as this is easier to line up with a map.

Attention-getters: We always carry both a whistle and a mirror.  The mirror doubles as a hygiene (or get Instagram-worthy) tool and a signaling tool, just in case.

Weather ready: We always carry sun protection and a hat, regardless of how much shade will be on the trail.  We also will carry ponchos and a lightweight jacket just in case. Weather changes quickly in many areas, so it’s good to be prepared.

This is not a comprehensive list of what one can bring on a hike. You know yourself and your pup best. I would not recommend bringing too much extra for a day hike. Too much extra weight can lead to added fatigue and a sore back. Also, remember to pack in and pack out.  Some areas will not have trash service along the trail, so bring bags (including poop bags) to carry waste out.

As we say in Scouts, leave no trace.  Take only photos, leave only footprints, and kill only time.  Happy trails!


me and my dogggggg
In the Angeles National Forest. Happy trails!
Kids, Organization, Uncategorized, writing

The years are short, but the days are busy

This is what October looks like. And not every practice is even written down!

I’m back, after a crazy busy week working our elementary school book fair, balancing the kids’ activities and my own schedule, and trying to stay sane through it all. Don’t get me wrong. I’m incredibly blessed to have these four children, and for them to be so involved in great activities. Jacob is part of a smaller, but award-winning marching band, and Emily is on one of the country’s top-ranked Speech and Debate teams. Those activities and their practice schedules are enough to drive one bonkers. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So I keep not one, but two calendars. I like many these days, rely in part on my mobile device to keep my schedule. We have a family iCalendar which I update so that the husband and I have things synced. I learned that this does not take the place of actually communicating the schedule with him once a week, but that’s a work in progress.

I suppose I’m ‘old school’ in that I also depend on my paper planner book. I guess I’m more visual than I thought, because seeing the color-coded blocks in the family schedule really helps me to remember who needs to be where when. I use a weekly planner small enough to throw in my purse and carry around, but large enough to write significant details. I like that there are two sections for each day of the work week: one for calendaring and one for to dos. The to do section is where I keep track of what I need to accomplish for the day, along with significant completed tasks or events I want to remember, and my daily spending. I have not gotten into the bullet journaling trend. I like my calendar separate from my actual journal, but functionally my planner is probably a sort of hybrid of ‘traditional’ calendaring and bullet journaling. Whatever my color-coded method can be called, it works for me, and that’s what’s most important.

What are your tips for keeping your day organized?

Hobbies, Kids, Organization, School, Scrapbooking, Uncategorized

Our last picture day of elementary school, scrapbooks, and what to do with class photo pages

Today was Picture Day at the elementary school Sami attends. It was the last Picture Day that I will pay Lifetouch good money for, in anticipation of that envelope of three-by-fives and wallets to pass out to relatives out of state and overseas. Samantha is in fifth grade this year; next year she will be joining her brother at the middle school. After 12 years fixed at the school by our home, we will be finally moving on at the end of the school year. I think I need a tissue… there’s something in my eye.

I tend not to be a hugely sentimental person, but I do hold tight to certain memories, especially as I am forced to acknowledge the fact that the kids are growing up very quickly.   I have already two in high school. In another two years, we’ll be sending the oldest off to college. It seems like not too long ago that they were babies. It wasn’t that long ago that they were babies.

I suppose I enjoy scrapbooking for that nostalgic sentimentality . Even with the ease of Shutterfly and other digital photo book options, I still like the tactile nature of laying out pages, cutting paper, picking out cute little embellishments to accent the photos. The kids each have several albums: a birth-preK, kinder-high school, a baby book album with their firsts, and one for Fifth Grade Outdoor Science School. Each album is the product of stress, lots of love, and money- scrapbooking isn’t exactly cheap. However I have given in a bit: for the kids’ weeklong Scout camps and hikes, I order photobooks from Shutterfly.  Let’s face it, it’s much easier to digitally ‘scrapbook’ 139 camp photos. And it takes up much less space.

Shutterfly photo books document the kids’ Scout camps
For traditional scrapbook albums, Michaels and JoAnn have a decent selection of scrapbook paper and embellishments.  I found that the brick-and-mortar store with the best selection, at least in my area, is Hobby Lobby.  They have several aisles of paper, embellishments, albums, etc. with almost anything a scrapbooker can dream of. Amazon tends to be good for basics such as glue, photo squares, and glue dots (

Science camp albums
The older kids’ Science Camp albums from their weeks at Camp in Malibu, Ca.

What to do with those large class photo sheets:

I found that the class photo sheets look awkward just glued into a traditional album. So I cut out the individual photos and label them with the student’s first name and last initial, and create a page for that grade. For the boys I would pick a theme, such as robots. The girls were stuck with some really girly pages.

Sami's grade page
Cutting and arranging the individual photos on the class photo page allowed for more room to create a custom grade-level page.

However you choose to preserve your child’s sweet memories, have fun as you look back on those moments.  The days are incredibly long but the years are short. And almost as quickly as you can turn a page in their baby albums, they will be grown up. Here’s to that journey.


Home Improvement, Kids, Organization, Uncategorized

What to do with all those Tsum Tsums…

And other small toys:

Tsum Tsums in every size.

It is by no means a serious issue, but one of the challenges of having children, especially multiple children, and especially multiple girl children, is what to do with all their collections.  My daughters are notorious for finding the next “it” thing of cutesy-ness and going nuts with it.  They will sucker aunts, uncles, close family friends, and especially grandparents into feeding their toy addictions. Most of the time, the collecting phase is short-lived, and the toys are relegated to one of the Sterilite containers under their beds. For some collections (I talking about you, Shopkins), we were able to limit what was purchased, and once the interest died away, the toys found a new home somewhere out there. But there are a few toy collections that have been well loved and held on to. Thomas the Tank Engine trains and American Girl items have a permanent place in our home, and will most likely be kept after the kids grow out of them until the grandkids grow into them. That’s years down the road, but what’s a few Sterilite boxes for the sake of our future grandkids?

The girls have been into Tsum Tsums since they made their way across the Pacific in the form of adorable stackable Disney plushes of all sizes.  Emily has many in the small and medium sizes, and at least 70 mini Tsums.  That’s way too many Tsum Tsums.  And of course, the girls both wanted to display them all. Sterilite boxes, will simply not do for the Tsums. So we solved the problem by using racks and box shelving to display the Tsums on the wall.  There they’re easily accessible and on full display for the girls to enjoy.

How do you manage to keep kids’ collections organized?

Shelving and display cases on Amazon