Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Winter Storage Solution that Saved My Sanity

For two cold, Michigan winters we lived in a tiny student housing apartment with 5 or 6 of us (baby was born the second year). It was tight and there was absolutely no usable storage space besides the unfinished basement. After about a month of no one being able to find their hats, gloves, or scarves on the way to school, and dumping the entire basket of winter items on the floor of the family room every single morning, I knew things had to change.  
This $15 over the door shoe holder changed our lives! Instead of shoes, each person had one row to use for their winter items, the youngest on the bottom, the oldest on the top. The 4 pockets on each row were enough for gloves, hats, scarves, and something extra. No more dump outs and no more mornings with cold hands! 

In our apartment we hung it over the front door. In our next house it was over the laundry room door which was next to the garage, and in our current house, we hang it on the door of the first floor bathroom. It has saved me hours of sanity! 

I am no organization expert and I'm pretty horrible at staying with any kind of system, but this one is incredibly easy to keep up and has been perfect for our family! Hope it helps make your mornings a bit easier too!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Love You Too Much to Get You a Phone

According to my 4th grader, we are the only parents who don't let their kids have their own phones, iTouches or tablets. When he asks why, my answer is constant:

"I love you too much to give you one."

I am not opposed to phones for conversation, but I despise them as tools of mindless occupation, dangerous gateways, confidence breakers, and accidental (or intentional) bullying.

Kids everywhere are experiencing life with their heads down. They are missing the best parts of living while locked into a screen. I would hate for my boys to know the inner workings of their cyber world and miss the wonder and beauty of the physical world.

We have long Saturdays with endless games and countless errands to run. It would be infinitely easier for me to stick a device in each child's hand and let them zone, leaving me in peace. But then they would miss cheering for each other, finding bugs with their toddler brother, fighting and learning to resolve conflict, driving me absolutely crazy, making new friends on the sidelines, eating old popcorn under the bleachers, getting too hot to wear a sweatshirt, crossing the monkey bars, learning about the cost of food and healthy choices, and being introduced to 90's rock.

They miss childhood! Is a little peace and quiet for me enough to justify them losing out on these chances for growing relationships and real life goodness? 

With electronics they often trade goodness for filth. Giving them a phone with Internet, Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat is as one friend declared, gifting "pocket porn." I am not naive to the places this junk can be accessed which is why we have regular conversations and open communication about what they see and hear in our home (yes, we have TV, computers, a gaming system and a tablet) or in other places that might make them feel uncomfortable. 

While I know postponing personal electronic devices doesn't solve all problems, I am willing to battle this any way I possibly can. Keeping access to these types of moral traps limited is one way I choose to fight.  My kids deserve time to grow and mature physically, emotionally and spiritually before they are confronted with images they cannot process, make sense of, question or discard. Raising boys who see women through eyes of respect and equality is incredibly important to me and it cannot happen with a mind steeped in pornography. 

At 8, 9 and 11, my kids like who they are. They have good friends that are kind. They see themselves as interesting, smart and fun. I would hate that outlook to change because of their number of "followers" or "likes." I have no desire for my kids to see pictures of a party they weren't invited to or read snide comments about the braces they have to wear or wonder why more people didn't wish them a happy birthday.

Being young and innocent doesn't last long and surely this will change at some point, but I will not be the one responsible for hurrying it. I want them to be able to be their authentic self for as long as possible and enjoy a small sliver of time without worrying about constant social approval. It will happen soon enough, I understand that it will, but for now, I want them to put their energy into living their own life, not wishing they had someone else's.

When tweens and social media collide, strange things happen. Girls post pictures, asking for a rating on their hotness and boys publicize who is not hot. Kids SnapChat things we don't even like to think about and text harsh comments in the name of sarcasm and humor. I am more than happy to keep my boys away from this little microcosm. I'm hoping there will be a time when they are mature enough to shy away from hurtful games or brave enough to stop them, but while I can, I will "Let them be little."

My decision to stay away was cemented as I watched my kids partake in a little of the tween/phone/social thing over the holidays. With a borrowed phone there were lots of heads down, a little sneaking, some face timing with girls (what??), and insults thrown through texts. Needless to say, the phone was not available for long. And, what are they really missing out on? Looking cool? A chance at popularity? Bragging rights? In reality, I dare say, absolutely nothing.

Perhaps these devices are less harmful for girls or work okay for other boys, but for us, I'm holding tight. Kids have too much youthful potential to hurl it all into a video game or let it be whittled away by negative comments from so called "friends."

I want my boys to be conversant and interested in more than Clash of the Clans and FIFA. I'd like them to chat about real world problems and actually play soccer with their feet not just their fingers. I want them to read books, not status updates and pose for goofy pictures without worrying about who might see them.

And so my answer, for now, remains the same. Why didn't they all get phones for Christmas? Simply put, Because I love them too much.

You might also like:

No Leprechauns, No Valentine's Boxes, No Elves, and why that is Okay

To My Boys Before the First Day of School

I left my phone at home. The results were priceless.

I Never Thought I Wanted Kids but I Was Born to be a Mother
Why we are taking the FUN out of life

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

 Hope you have a wonderful holiday with those you adore!
At this time of year, I am especially grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who directs our lives and consistently shares His love and goodness with us.With Him, all things are possible.
  This video perfectly sums up my own feelings today. Take a moment to watch, you will be glad you did! 

Merry, Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Great gift: M is for Me Personalized Book from I See Me

My friend ordered the CUTEST book for her little girl, and I was absolutely smitten. It is called M is for Me from I See Me booksIt is a personalized book just for your child that goes through the ABCs with them, highlighting the very best qualities each letter has to offer like:

A is for Active
E is for Extraordinary 
I is for Imaginative
O is for Optimistic 
U is for Understanding, and more...

New! M Is for Me Personalized Book
You will also see his or her name appear multiple times in the book. The illustrations are absolutely darling and I imagine it will be a cherished item for a very long time, no matter what the age.  

New! M Is for Me Personalized Book

Do you love it already? I know I do.

If you want to know more, you can watch the video on the I See Me site. The cost for each personalized book is $34.99. Not sure if it is too late for Christmas, but you can certainly inquire. If we are too late, order one now and save it for a birthday or give it anyway. Surely no one will mind!

For other gift lists and ideas, click HERE

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bookworm Wednesday: Lizzy and Jane and a Giveaway!


This book just made me smile! Lizzy and Jane reminded me that clean, contemporary, well written novels can still be relevant. I enjoyed the characters and relationships and liked suspending my reality for a bit while I delved into this book. There were faults (some story lines that were not fully flushed out or themes that reached a bit), but I was excited every night to pick it up and stayed up way too late to finish it. When it ended I had a smile on my face and wished that there were still a few more pages to go.

Highly recommended to those who like Dear Mr. Knightly, contemporary Jane Austen-like books, or clean chick-lit.

The publisher is giving away one copy of Lizzy and Jane to a lucky Mom Explores Michigan reader. Just comment on my facebook post, HERE, and tell me your favorite book of all time. I will do a random drawing on Friday night for the winner!

Goodreads.com summary: Lizzy and Jane never saw eye to eye. But when illness brings them together, they discover they may be more like Austen’s famous sisters after all.

Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. But as her magic begins to elude her, Paul, Feast’s financial backer, brings in someone to share her responsibilities and her kitchen. So Elizabeth flees again.

In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. But her plans are derailed when she learns that her estranged sister, Jane, is battling cancer. Elizabeth surprises everyone—including herself—when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past.

As she tends to Jane's needs, Elizabeth's powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. Then Paul tries to entice her back to New York, and she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Family Games we love!

I love games. Mike thinks they are okay, and my kids range from thinking they are mediocre to amazing. But, it is so much more fun to play games than watch movies, so I have had to be very particular about the games we play. One thing I have noticed with my boys is that they like playing games that keep moving...if we have to wait too long for anyone to decide on strategy, they are wrestling when it is not their turn or throwing a ball to each other and I get frustrated very quickly when that starts to happen. 

So, these are the games that have passed the Romney boy test. They all move quickly enough to keep us engaged, and kids and adults find them enjoyable. Many are classics, but there are a few awesome new ones out too. I would love to hear the games your family loves. Can't wait to add them to our rotation!

Wackee Six Card Game
This is a new game to our family. Similar to the card game Nertz, Wackee Six makes everything a bit more simple so the younger ones can play too. It is best for 3-6 players (You can play in teams and have up to 12 playing. Teams are a good option if younger ones want to play, but not for adults). The game is simple, super quick, competitive and lots of fun for kids and adults. ($25)

This is a dice game that even the 3 year olds can participate in. You just roll the dice until you get all of a certain number. It is fast moving and everyone is engaged at the same time. A great option for a family game night. One Tenzi tube is for 4 players but Tenzi is fun for 2 players on up. I think the more the merrier with this one. ($14)

Ruckus - Family
Ruckus is a card matching and stealing game that moves super fast. We all love it. Great for 3-6 players. ($12)

If you have a family that likes math or a bit of a spacial challenge, this game is so much fun. It can get a little intense on the strategy side, so if you want things to keep moving, you may want to time each turn. It teaches such great concepts while you are having fun together. The only downside is that you really need to play it with 4 players, no more, no less. ($20)

This is the greatest game for the little ones in your family! It is BINGOesque but so much more fun. Our 3 year old loves it, but our 11 year old is happy to play too. I also love this game because 2 people can have fun playing or more are welcome, perfect for when I am home with my toddler. ($19)

This is a new marble strategy game that can be super quick, or you can keep score and turn it into a longer game. It is a little luck and a little strategy, so it puts everyone on equal footing. It is a fun way to mix up your play. ($18)

I loved this game as a kid and I am so excited to introduce it to my boys. There is a little strategy, but not so much that it ruins the fun for younger players. It also teaches great sequencing skills. ($13)

There is something about this classic game that keeps us all happy to wait for our turn. It is simple, but requires a little thought and lots of good counting practice. To keep people engaged from the beginning, let everyone start with one player on the board. ($8)

If you have kids 6 and under, this is an awesome counting game. We played it for hours when my older ones were little. It's about time to get it out again! ($9)

This game came out when I was a kid; I loved it then and my kids love it now. It is so nice to have a game that is fun to play with only 2 players. ($24)

Another game that only needs 2 players and is perfect for a little older audience. ($13)

This is the card game that really can't be beat. It is a family classic. Best for 3 or more players. ($6)

This word finding game is great once kids start to read...challenging and fun all at the same time. Can be played with 2 or more players. ($15)

We love getting the dice out for a quick game of Yahtzee. My 3 older ones really understand the concept now, so it's pretty fun. Love that this one can be played with only 2 players. ($15)

All 3 of my boys always want to play Life. I enjoy how it helps them understand the concept of money/sacrifice/luck/education in their pretend world. We have found it goes the best if I am just the banker...keeps things moving. ($22)

This is a one person game where you race against the clock. It is great fun! ($11)

Party Games 
(these games are better with 4 or more players and are great with a crowd)

Probably our overall favorite family game. This is timed charades and we have been playing it since the kids were little and love to bring it out when we have company. It brings out the goofy and competitive side in everyone! ($38)

Apples to Apples Junior - The Game of Crazy Combinations!
This can be a super funny game when it is played right. Best with at least 6 players and the most fun when someone keeps the game moving. ($33)

The old version (non-electronic) is easy enough for a younger crowd. This is a great one for a large group! ($40)

Making up the definitions to crazy words is a lot of fun, and this game keeps everyone thinking the whole time. A great way to mix things up. ($33)

This one has been around forever, but it is still a ton of fun. Works best with at least 6 people and is great for a crowd. ($20)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

P.F. Chang's Opening in Ann Arbor!

I have had a love affair with P.F. Chang's since I was a little girl and got to go on my first "adult dinner" in San Diego with the grown ups. They always dined at P.F. Chang's and they always ordered Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Mongolian Beef, Orange Peel shrimp, and Brown Sticky rice. I had never eaten anything so good! I remember savoring every single bite and stuffing my belly until it couldn't hold one more morsel. As years and careers took us to D.C. and Arizona, we continued celebrating special occasions and regular date nights at my favorite Asian spot.

When we moved to Michigan, I was hoping for a P.F. Chang's in my neck of the woods, but no such luck...until now.

P.F Chang's opens its doors at the Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor on Monday, December 15th so...get there! During the holiday season, the new Ann Arbor location will d├ębut a four-course, prix fixe “Holiday Menu for Two” which will allow guests the opportunity to explore contemporary, Asian-style dining at its best for a fixed price of $60.00. It is the perfect spot for a holiday date night or girl's gift exchange (I love eating there family style, with a crowd), so grab your reservation now. 

If you've never been, it will certainly be a love at first bite experience. If you have enjoyed P.F. Chang's for as long as I have, there is nothing like having your favorite restaurant right around the corner!  

For more P.F. Chang’s news, promotions and store openings, or to make reservations, visit www.pfchangs.com, or follow on Facebook and Twitter @PFChangs.