Random Acts of Kindness Week


Last week was BUSY.  Little Lewie and I made s'mores Valentines for his classmates ("I wish I had s'more friends like you.")  Then we were baking cookies and creating Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) packages for our friends.  Since our friends live in all different parts of the state, we had a little bit of traveling to do, so our last package wasn't delivered until yesterday.

Little Lewie and I started celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Week when he was four.  Similar to now, he would help me bake cookies, put packages together, and then come with me on deliveries.  I thought it was a good tradition to start, and now I'm committed to it for life.  The goal was to teach Lewie to think about others.  It was meant to show him how a little bit of kindness can have a lasting impact.  It was also meant to teach him that the secret to our own happiness often rests in how we treat others.

By now, my friends usually anticipate something will be coming to their home during the month of February.  Even if it's not a surprise, I still hope the gesture adds some sunshine to their day.  Since life is short, we might as well make it short and SWEET.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day and a great RAK week too.   "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."--Aesop

The Kid Behind the Blog - February Edition


February is one of my favorite months. With Valentine's Day, Random Acts of Kindness Week, and February vacation coming up quickly, there's a lot to celebrate.  Ultimately, it's a month about spreading love and kindness, and since Random Acts of Kindness Day falls right during Lewie's vacation (Feb. 17th), I'm looking forward to skipping work, so I can stay home with Lewie to bake cookies, create little "care" packages, and spread some cheer to friends and family.

Last month, I participated in "The Kids Behind the Blog" link-up hosted by Secrets of a SAHM, Hall Around Texas, Wife Mommy Me,  The Adventure Starts Here, and  Our Pretty Little Girls.  I love the concept.  Each month, I "interview" my son and share his comments with other moms.  At age eight, I know Lewie might be older than some of the other little ones that are interviewed, but his comments are still just as precious and innocent...

Here are the two "loves" of my life...

What does the word love mean to you?

"It means someone who is very close to you.  I love you (Mommy), Daddy, Grammy, Sarah, Ninny, Papa (who is deceased), my aunts, Uncle Moises, and Lily and Brooklyn--well kind-of."  (He loves his younger cousins Lily and Brooklyn, but he has more of a sibling relationship with them!)  "I mentioned pretty much everybody, right?"

Kids choice!  How do you want to spend Valentine's Day?
"With Sarah giving gifts and playing Xbox."  (Sarah is Lewie's "older cousin."  He looks up to her like a big sister.)

Do you have a Valentine?  If so, who?
"No, I don't."  (At this point, I ask Lewie if I can be his Valentine.  He answers, "Well, you're my mom, so you kind of already are.")

How many days are in the month of February?
He runs to the calendar and announces, "thirty-one."  (I think he may have been looking at January...)

How do you show someone you love them?
"I have no idea.  Hold on...  By hugging them!"

I'm looking forward to linking up again with Beth of Our Pretty Little Girls on March 8th. Her February linkup is here:  http://ourprettylittlegirls.com/2017/02/kids-behind-blog-february-2017.html/ 

Roller Skating


We have a secret... Since February 2015, Little Lewie has been taking roller skating lessons.  We don't have lessons every Saturday morning, but if I had to venture a guess, we've probably been to 70+ lessons over these past two years.

At age 3, Lewie went roller skating for the very first time.  We were so excited to introduce him to Roller Magic because it was the skate rink that both Lew and I went to as kids.  I had roller skating birthday parties there at ages 9 and 10, and Lew went there faithfully every weekend until he was a teenager.  If there wasn't a five year difference between us, we often joke that our romance would have first started at Roller Magic as kids.

When we took Lewie at 3, we quickly learned he was still too young.  He seemed to like the music, but he was a little scared of all the people on the rink.  I was even scared of all the people on the rink! With lots of bad skaters, sooner or later, someone would get into a collision with us.  We attempted to go back when Lewie turned 4 and again at age 5.

In January 2015 (when Lewie was six), I saw flyers at Roller Magic advertising their Saturday morning skating lessons.  For just $15 per session, Little Lewie could have a private lesson and have the entire rink to himself!  It was a no-brainer; I scheduled our first lesson, and we've been back ever since.

Lewie loves his teacher, Ms. Christine, and he loves the individual lessons.   When he first started, he clutched her hand in fear of falling and moved slower than molasses.  Now, almost two years later, he's skating confidently and slowly learning how to do tricks like "scissors" and skating backwards. He's been taking his time (my son is non-competitive and likes to do everything at his own "slower" pace), but he's learning.  (Pretty soon, I want to go for lessons, too, so I can practice skating backwards.)

I'm still searching for Lewie's first video at roller skating lessons; it's fun to see the progress.  Even when Little Lewie was first born, I often dreamed of an opportunity to take him skating.  Now we're looking forward to many family skate nights (especially in the summer when the rink is a little less crowded)!  We're so glad that good ole Roller Magic is around for another generation.

The Kid Behind the Blog (January Edition)


A blogger friend of mine, Stefanie from Lexie Loo, Lily, Liam, and Dylan Too, recently did a post for "The Kids Behind the Blog."  I thought her post was so adorable that I decided to join in on the fun.

At age eight, Little Lewie is at the stage where he says both really silly and really profound things; he's also at the age where he LOVES being interviewed, especially for a blog.  I can't think of a better way to capture this snapshot in time.

What’s your favorite thing to do or play inside?
I like to play games like Minecraft, Roblox, Train Simulator, Turbo Dismount, and Scrap Mechanic.

Have you ever seen or played in snow?  If so, what’s your favorite snow activity?
To sled.  (We haven't had a chance play in the snow this year since it's been unseasonably warm!)

What was your favorite Christmas or holiday gift you received?
Portal 2.  Santa is just the best.  (This was one of the three items he placed in Santa's letter this year.  It's a game for Xbox; my son has really gravitated towards technology--trains, robots, 3D simulators, etc.)

What’s your favorite winter vacation you went on? Why?
Santa's Village because we went to see Star Wars Rogue One.  (You can read about our family adventure here (http://mommyspirit.blogspot.com/2016/12/santas-village.html); we went to Santa's Village the weekend before Christmas.)

Would you rather live where it’s warm all year round or have the seasons?
I would rather have seasons because then it would just be the same thing over and over again, and I wouldn't really enjoy it.

I'm looking forward to linking up again with Beth of Our Pretty Little Girls on Feb. 8th. Her January linkup is here:  http://ourprettylittlegirls.com/2017/01/kids-behind-blog-january-2017.html/  February should be fun.  Maybe by then, we'll have snow!

Second Grade Homework


Weekdays are tough.  Depending on my work schedule, I can come home as early as 5 p.m. or as late as 9:30 p.m.  On early days, I make something for us to eat, and then homework begins somewhere around 6:30 p.m.

We usually start with 20 minutes of math, followed by 20 minutes of spelling (Fundations), and 20 minutes of reading.  My favorite part is the reading!  Math and Fundations are foreign to me.  The math, which follows the common core, uses number lines, number bonds, arrows, and bar graphs.  If I learned math this way in the 80's, I suppose it would make sense to me; however, since common core math follows completely different strategies, I'm lost.  I find myself checking my son's addition and subtraction problems for the right answers, but I usually don't know if he chose "the right" way to get there or if there even is a "right way."

Here is an example of some of the strategies he may use; there are at least three more ways he's been taught to add and subtract too.  Most of the time, I'm confused as to which strategy he should be using...

Spelling fundations confuses me as well.  When I was eight years old (now I'm starting to sound like my parents), I was given spelling tests each week.  We were required to "memorize" the spelling of our words.  Now second graders need to know how to dissect the words as well.  Does the word have a closed syllable, an open syllable, or a v-e syllable?  A month ago, my son brought home a spelling assessment that was completely correct.  However, he lost a significant amount of points because he didn't "dissect" the words properly...  In my opinion, Fundations turns spelling into this weird form of word algebra.  As a college English professor that loves to write and spell, I'm not a fan.

Little Lewie and I save our reading for the end of the day.  We both love stories, so reading ends the homework on a good note.  In the past year, he's grown so much as a reader, and I'm happy to say that he no longer needs intervention at school.  (The continuous reading during the summer and the flashcards worked!)  Lewie has taken interest in the Magic Tree House series, so each week, we find ourselves on a new adventure; we travel to far off lands like China, or we visit local places like New York City during the Great Depression.  This week we're learning about Leonardo da Vinci as the two characters, Jack and Annie, travel to Florence, Italy in the early 1500s.  I, personally, like to follow the Magic Tree House series in order--the books are numbered, but Lewie likes to take them out randomly--his decision is usually based on whether he likes the cover of the book.  Since school started, we've probably read about 20 Magic Tree House books in all.  We've learned lots of fun facts, and The Magic Tree House Fact Trackers (companion books to the stories) help us learn even more about history and geography.

Homework is certainly different from the 1980's.  I'm not sure I always see the reason for the change or the benefit, but like most parents, I have to have some "blind faith" that my child is learning good techniques to help him through grade school, college, and life...  For now, in my spare time, I'll continue to "re-teach" myself new math and spelling strategies, so I can be a tutor and mentor to my second grader...

Do you like these new strategies?

A Quiet Start to 2017


So far this year has been, well, quiet.  We met up with two of my best friends from grammar school (and their families) to welcome in the New Year, and the next day (New Year's Day), my mom treated us out to eat at our favorite restaurant--the G.W. Tavern; (the G.W. stands for George Washington).  

This weekend, it snowed and was bitter cold, but Lew and I took a drive back up to the Northwestern Hills of Connecticut for our bi-monthly date.  This time we treated ourselves to the Boathouse Restaurant in Lakeville, CT--a new favorite.

One thing that I adore about our relationship is that we both love old, rustic places--and there are plenty to be found in New England.  The G.W. Tavern was once a colonial home (circa 1850) that contains a fieldstone fireplace and hand painted murals from around that time.  We love its charm. (Many homes in the town of Washington are even older--from the 1700's.)

The historical ties of the Boathouse Restaurant building is less known.  It appears to be from the 1800's, but the town itself, Lakeville, goes back to pre-Revolutionary times.  Some of the homes around the restaurant are from the 1700's, and the prestigious Hotchkiss (Boarding) School (right around the corner) was founded in the 1890's.

Here are just a few pictures of the G.W. Tavern, courtesy of their website:

The G.W. Tavern

The G.W. Tavern w/ its fieldstone fireplace and tribute to George Washington.
Here we are on New Year's Day at the G.W.

Here are pictures of the Boathouse Restaurant...

The Boathouse Restaurant in the summer... Picture it covered in snow...

Besides being quiet, I guess the start of this year has also brought some great dining opportunities. Rarely do we get a chance to eat at our favorite restaurants two weekends in a row!  It's probably not helpful with upholding my New Year's resolutions, but the ambiance, the company, and, of course, the food is oh so good!

Happy 2017!


I have to admit that New Year's Day, particularly New Year's Eve, is my favorite holiday.  There is something healing about knowing we can "begin again."  Sure, each year has its own rewards and challenges--expected and unexpected--but on December 31st we can review the old year, take what we've learned, scrap the mistakes, and use our new wisdom for the upcoming year.  It's a beautiful thing!  And since I am one of those people, in general, that enjoys pondering life and planning for the future, today, then, just gives me one more excuse to do it!

Do I have a list of resolutions?  You bet I do...  Each year I try to fool myself into thinking I'm a little bit wiser.  Last year I wrote down philosophies to live by; the year prior, I chose the mantra, "Live, Laugh, Love."  This year...I'm back to listing resolutions again...  The only difference is that this year, I will be following the S.M.A.R.T. method for goal setting--specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-limited.   My vision board is rocking new pictures on it too.

1.  Consume less sugar and eat more fruits and vegetables.  (I recently learned that 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon or sugar; women are advised to have no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.  My current diet actually triples this recommended serving.)  This year, I will be substituting more raw foods like nuts, fruits, and vegetables to replace the processed snacks that I bring with me to work everyday.

2.  Drink 8 oz. of water daily.  This is a challenge for me; I get so involved at work and home that I forget to drink anything--especially water.  I might have to find an app on my cell phone to send me constant reminders throughout the day.

3.  Take walks everyday during lunch and do exercise videos three times per week.  This will be a weekly goal.  If I miss a few days, I'll simply hit the restart button each Monday. 

4.  Learn how to "turn-off" work to be more available and present for my son.   Each day, my goal is to arrive to work earlier, so I can be home earlier to help Lewie with homework and to spend quality time with him (such as walking, playing board games, building LEGO sets, etc.)  Some days I'm required to come home late from work, but I will work around those days as much as possible.

5.  Plan two date-nights (or more) with hubby monthly.  The goal is to go out on a date every other weekend to make sure we continue to nurture our bond.

6.  Visit one of our National Parks (national treasures) each year.   This year, in June, the plan will be to visit the Grand Canyon; I want these trips to be both educational and memorable for Little Lewie.

7.  Create a stronger savings portfolio for retirement.  Like most people I know, I don't allocate enough of my salary to retirement or savings.  I will create a budget this January and automate a process to have a portion of my money go directly into savings.  By February, I "should" have a diversified portfolio...

8.  Be a good person.  This is one of those generic goals that don't have much meaning unless I create some tangible ways to measure it.  Hmmm...  I hope to celebrate friends and family more by remembering birthdays and sending them special notes throughout the year (especially during Random Acts of Kindness Week).  I hope to create special surprises for my mom, Lew, and Little Lewie as a way to show how much I love and cherish them.  And for people I don't know or know less, my goal is to be more empathetic, thoughtful, patient, and giving.  I developed the mindset of seeing each person as a child, and you know what?  It works.  There is something cathartic in forgiving, sending blessings, and letting go. 

9.  Be grateful.  Last year I've made it my practice to silently thank God for all my blessings whenever I have a chance (during my drive to work, in the shower, on a walk).  I've recently taught Little Lewie this practice, too, and so each night at bedtime after our prayers, we say at least one thing we are grateful for--it could be something more common and fundamental like food, or it could be something very specific that happened that day.  Sometimes his comments bring me to tears--"Today I'm thankful for spending time with my mom."  Awww....

10.  Smell the roses.  Work is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it is my gateway to financial freedom.  It allows me to save up for trips and experiences; it allows me to do things like put a pool in our backyard.  Still, at times I feel married to it.  I worry about taking days off from work, not checking emails, and  not giving my 100%.  When I do this, my family comes second, and I come third.  This year I'm taking more full days and half days off.  I am limiting my email time at home, and I am delegating more responsibilities to others.  We only have one life, and I intend on enjoying it--all of it.  I want my son to learn how to enjoy it too.  Yes, there is a time when work and homework are important, but there are other times when going for a walk, eating at Friendly's, and visiting friends is just as important.  I will be "scheduling" down time in the beginning with the hope that by the end of the year, it won't have to be scheduled; fun will be something that comes fluidly and spontaneously...

As always, I wish everyone a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2017.  Last year had it's challenges for sure, but in the end, our family came out more united for it.  I learned that hope and faith aren't just words--they are a way of being.  These are the life lessons I plan to take with me during this New Year.  As for this year's resolutions, well, they're fun to make.  We'll see if these habits of mind stick, or if they end up becoming resolutions again for next year...  After all, life will always be a work in progress.