Happy Good People Day 2009

Recently, as a hobby away from the kiddos, I have been exploring social media. On my journey, I came across a dynamic Internet celebrity named Gary Vaynerchuck. Today for the second year, Gary is dedicating this day to praising the people that are awesome and good – the people that have helped you become who you are, or the people that have shaped your approach.

Unfortunately, I am not a video blogger – I have no Web cam, and if I did, I would not know how to use one, so today I write to you. The person who is awesome and good is NOT a blogger, NOT a Twitterer and currently does NOT even have Internet access. Her name is Polly Jeanne Lewis, and she is my paternal grandmother.

The reason I honor her is because she has shaped the way I raise my children and approach life. When I think about a motherhood, my grandmother, grandmommy to me, always comes to mind. I asked her for one piece of advice as I was preparing to have my first child, and she said: “Your children will come into your household, and they will leave when they are adults, but you hubby will be there the whole time. Don’t forget about him.” Those words resonate in my head still. Social media is amazing – I can blog about what it is like being a mommy, and I can stay connect with old friends and meet new people through facebook and twitter, but at the end of the day, it is my hubby that is by my side.

Another piece of wisdom that my grandmommy told me was to ALWAYS forgive people even if you do not know why they did what they did. Complaining and bickering only produce the fruit of bitterness, but forgiveness gives you power and freedom. Life can move at a fast pace, but sometimes it is nice to stop and smell the roses with special people like my grandmommy and just listen to how awesome and good they are.

As an adult and a mother, I have come to appreciate the wisdom of my elders. The lessons I learned from my grandmommy, I hope, have carried over into my life to be passed on to my children. I encourage you to have a chat with your grandparents, and just LISTEN. They have such great stories about where they came from and what the world has become. Today I honor my grandmommy for Good People Day, and I am thankful for wisdom and advice!

How to Help Stay-at-Home Parents

I was flipping through channels and stopped on an interview of Dr. Laura Schlessinger speaking about her new book called “In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms.” Love her or hate her, she wrote a list that was right on. I’d like to add stay-at-home dads to the list, though, because they are working just as hard as moms.

5 Things Dad’s Can Do to Help Stay At Home Moms

  • Cut out complaining or bragging
  • Find something to compliment about the home
  • Find time to talk to your wife as “your woman”
  • Brag about your wife and kids in her presence
  • Provide break or “girl” time for your wife

Even though I stay at home with the kiddos with no monetary compensation, it is the best job I have ever had! Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.”

$imple $aving Ideas

As many of you know by watching the news or listening to the radio, we are in trying times. A poll estimates 67% of American households are cutting spending (source: Washington Post Poll: High Anxiety Act). After sharing some ideas with some girlfriends on how to enjoy life on a tight budget, I’ve decided I should share with others. I hope this helps at least one reader on how you can live a “posh life” without breaking the bank – no pun intended 😉

First, let’s talk about one of the greatest words in English dictionary – FREE! Did you know that if you sign up for e-mail newsletters from retailers and restaurants, they will send you coupons, discounts and possibly a free meal? I have been fortunate enough to receive a $10 gift card from Sur La Table, free food from Krogers Co. (or Fry’s for those on the West Coast) and free meals on the month of my birthday and anniversary from various restaurants. Before settling for McDonald’s for dinner, plan ahead and sign-up for newsletters at restaurants that you enjoy or you’d like to enjoy. It is amazing how many will send you a welcome coupon for a free appetizer or dessert.

Next, reevaluate the stuff in your house. This step was revolutionary for me and my family. We decided that we could not afford to move into a bigger house, and we need to be content with the blessing that we had in our home. As many of you know, with children comes a lot of stuff – most of which you only use for a finite period. I read an article in the Better Homes & Garden Storage magazine that adviced you to go into a room and go through every single item in it. Ask yourself: “Do I really need that item? Am I happy that it’s there? Or, would I be just fine if it were not?” If you can find stuff to get rid of, get rid of it – it just creates clutter and it might have some value to others. Clean out your closet. Try selling it on craigslist or donate it for the tax deduction – all of which turn old stuff you don’t want to use any more into money in your pocket. Not only that, it’s often a psychological load off your mind to clean your house. BTW I am the hugest fan of craigslist – I have sold over $50k worth of goods on it and met some amazing people along the way 🙂

Sell books, music and DVDs cheaply on the internet via services like Half.com. Also, if you need to buy books, check it out – Half.com has new and used books, and even cheap textbooks! It also has a great selection of DVDs, plus inexpensive Blu Rays.

Rethink cable. Instead of spending money on cable, we have chosen to subscribe to Netflix for under $20. With Netflix, you can get movies and television shows in the mail and also on you computer. I’ve also heard the Redbox is great. Did you know that most cable shows can been seen on their web site or over hulu?

Finally, dig into your community calendar. There are often tons of free events going on in your town that you don’t even know about. Check out GoCityKids or your local newspapers & magazines. You can often get free meals, free entertainment and free stuff just by paying attention – even better, you’ll get in touch with what’s going on around you.

On the Road Again

Moving can be tough on kids, especially when daddy is away. I know this personally since I moved twice in a span of a couple years when I was a teenager. It was not easy on me or my brother. I did not want my kids to feel like they didn’t have any control and that they were never part of this big move. To ensure my kids felt like they’re involved, I began making a list of things I wanted to make sure to do before we moved from Arizona and also things I wanted ready for them in Texas.

First, notify the teachers far in advance that you are moving. I had my oldest enrolled until the day we boarded the plane. I needed that time when she was in school to get packed and do last-minute tasks for the move. I think it also helped her be distracted by classmates. On my oldest’s last day, her class put together a great good-bye book for her. She read it on the plane to Texas. At the same time, start looking for a new school for your child. This was really important to me – Is it accredited? Is it more like a school NOT a day care? Is it close to home or to work? As you can see, I am a detail person. After deciding which school, show your child pictures and talk about the new school to build excitement.

Next, start talking about where you are moving to. Tell them about the neighborhood/area and all the things you can do there. I think my oldest and my youngest thought Texas was “The Promised Land.” Well, I know others call it that, so I guess they weren’t off the mark 😉

Plan good-bye parties for your kids! Do not wait for others to do this for you, even though I was fortunate to have friends who did. I took lots of pictures, and my oldest and my youngest love looking at their Arizona friends. It is a great way to remember their “old” friends. Saying goodbye is an important step in the moving process.

Next, make sure living arrangements while you are in transition are “fun”. We were privileged to stay at good friends’ home in Arizona, which felt like a big slumber party. We also stayed at “Abuelita’s” home when we arrived in Texas. Let’s just say the week before moving into the new house was more like a vacation for the kids than a hard, long-distant move. As you see, I bolded “for my kids” because it felt more like the latter for my hubby and me.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you in Arizona and Texas who helped me along the way to make this move as smooth as possible. You not only blessed me but also my kids. So that is my final item on my list – ask for help! For such a big life-change, you cannot do it alone.

Home, Sweet, Home

As I mentioned in my previous post, the family relocated to Texas. In September, my hubby’s company flew us out to check out the area and look at houses. After a crazy weekend of house hunting, I began to reflect on the question, “What makes a house a home?” To me, proximity to everyday activities, a nice, safe neighborhood and place that can hold my family and future guests is perfect. A “house” indicates a physical structure. While it may have four walls and a roof, it does not have any charisma beyond that. Conversely, a “home” offers a sense of place in addition to giving shelter. My family adds our personal touches that it makes it our perfect home 🙂

BTW, it was not until the last house we saw that my hubby realized what he wanted. Therefore, I left the house hunting to my hubby, and I knew the kids and I would make it a home. Fortunately, after a few weeks of searching, we were blessed with the following:

  • A spacious front yard where the kids can play
  • A quiet street with little to no traffic for my kid’s safety
  • A nice neighborhood with playgrounds, pools and tennis courts to keep us active
  • A backyard for the kids to play, so they are not watching too much TV
  • Carpet and tile floors
  • An office for privacy and “mommy time”
  • Three bedrooms
  • Two bathrooms
  • A room available for a kid’s play area for those rainy days
  • A laundry room – in our old house we did laundry in the garage which was SO HOT!
  • A spacious kitchen for entertaining family and friends
  • Upgraded countertops for easy cleaning
  • A fireplace for the cold, winter days
  • A garage for the car and storage of bikes, etc.

NOT Waiting on the World

As I was sitting at a red light, John Mayer’s Waiting on the World to Change came on the radio. It began to make me think. What motivates us to change things and why should we wait? My conclusion is passion or “zeal.” Zeal is described by Webster’s Dictionary as an, “eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something.”

Motivation is an interesting and often unstable human drive. It requires setting realistic goals and dealing with setbacks and sidetracks. Once the initial thrill of a decision is over, it is not so easy to make the effort to keep going. In the past few years I have lost my passion and become lazy, and I did not even know it. Instead of aggressively pursuing my dreams, I have been waiting for opportunities to come to me.

When I was younger, without children, learning and experiencing new things, zeal was easy, and I was motivated to change the world. I could not understand people who became complacent and were no longer excited about life. People said I would settle down once I had a little more experience with disappointment and defeat. I disagreed then, and I hope to always disagree.

Zeal and passion that cannot survive the disappointments and defeats we encounter will become laziness that prevents us from making a difference. Being zealous and having a passionate spirit are necessary to change the world, but laziness can creep in and quenches our spirit.

As a mom, I cannot be everything to everyone. (BTW, this is daily struggle of mine.) I understand that people and circumstances can distract me – most of the time unintentionally. I know I need to recharge and not try to be the Energizer bunny. I was talking to an older lady recently who treats herself to tea at a nice local resort and enjoys a book in the quiet lobby. It refreshes her and gives her time alone to reflect on life 🙂

I need to learn to make time for myself. Since I have had two kids, I have become a “home body,” and I put a lot of my focus on my children. I am sorry, honey. It is easier to put the focus on them than myself because it is exhausting volunteering and serving others. But in the end, my children are going to leave home, and what will I have? Where will my time and energy go?

At the end of the day, I am a mother, a wife, but most of all I am Jennifer who is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” My dreams are my dreams. I need to not lose sight of my purpose. There are people who need me, and in the end, they will bless me more than I bless them.

Even though I get tired physically, spiritually and emotionally, I want to remain zealous and passionate. I want to change the world. I want to be zealous, even if it takes me a little longer and I have to go a little slower. Life is too short to be lazy. The world is ending, and I am not getting any younger. And, I do not want to be a spectator. I do NOT want to wait for the world to change. I want to be a part of it.

10 Best Trader Joe’s Items

1. Trader Joe’s Organic Mango Passion Granola 
Each serving has four grams of fiber, six grams of protein and an utter lack of things like cholesterol, trans fats and artificials. The clusters of oats give it a satisfying, substantive crunch and the mango pieces provide a sweet-tart chew – enough to evoke a good deal of passion among its admirers.

2. Trader Joe’s Multigrain British Muffins
Not only do they have all the great taste and convenience of English muffins, they also boast a good dose of multigrain nuttiness. Each British Muffin contains much more fiber than the average English muffin.

3. Trader Joe’s Steelcut Oatmeal (found in frozen section.)

4. Trader Joe’s Greek Style Nonfat Yogurt 
It features the creaminess you expect from Greek-style yogurt and is made with the milk of cows not treated with rBST. It’s also higher in protein than most yogurt—each eight ounce serving has 22 grams of protein!

5. Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels
These pillow-like nuggets have the perfect balance of crunchy pretzel and smooth peanut butter.

6. Trader Joe’s Chicken Gyoza Potstickers (found in the frozen section.)
Steam, boil or fry Trader Joe’s MSG-free potstickers for a super-easy meal. Serve over rice with a splash of soy sauce or toss into some chicken broth for a simple soup.

7. Trader Joe’s Organic Tomato & Roasted Pepper Soup 
It’s a velvety smooth concoction with a subtle tomato base. Its depth of flavor comes from the flavorful spices and the slightly sweet finish is courtesy of the roasted red bell peppers.

8. Joe’s Diner Mac ‘n Cheese (found in the frozen section.)

9. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
They’re bite-sized cups, just big enough to make you want another one. The size of the package is ideal for gift giving, and it’s also very helpful for portion control.

10. Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (Seasonal)

When Life Comes at You Fast

Last August, I could not have written or planned about the life-changes that would happen to me. First, my hubby gets a call from a company with a job opening in Texas. To make a long story short, he accepts a job in Richardson, Texas and will be starting in October. The same morning that he accepts a job, a close and dear friend of mine is also having a life-changing moment. Her 3-year-old son, Aaron, is rushed to Phoenix Children’s Hospital where he is later diagnosed with a rare-bone cancer. As quickly as I was excited to move back to Texas, I became gravely saddened by this news.

As I was sitting with Aaron’s mom waiting for one of his many tests, we talked about being a mommy and planning for your children. As mommies, the day we get the news from the doctor that we are carrying a baby, you start planning AND worrying. You start thinking about how you will decorate the nursery. You ask yourself if your current car fits a newborn. You might even be like me and set up the baby’s college fund. As a mommy, you also worry. “Am I eating the right food during pregnancy or is the baby eating ‘Super Foods’?” “Are the toys educational enough?” You might even stay away from ALL kids during RSV season. (I confess – this is me. I am sorry to all my friends who did not see me from November to March.)

All this being said, you cannot always plan for everything. My mind know this, but when an event comes to me unexpectedly, my heart is in shock. When I heard the news of Aaron, I did not know what to do or why this was happening. Aaron’s mom, like me, is very involved in Aaron’s life. She researches about what toys are good, what foods to eat and what vaccines Aaron should have. I know this because we would be on the phone researching together early in the morning and late into the night:-) But, cancer is a whole different galaxy – an unknown. Who has a savings account for cancer? I have admired how Aaron’s family have pulled together at this time of great tragedy. They have fully trusted in God physically, emotionally AND financially. What I have learned from them is when the unknown presents itself to you – all anyone can do is TRUST God. “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things.” 1 John 3:20 He knows the unknown – our health, our finances, our future. In the end, planning is great because it gives you hope, but when life comes at you fast, remember God – He gives peace (Ps 29:11)!

***If you’d like to help Aaron and his family during their journey, a trust is set up at Bank of America under Aaron D. Robinson Medical Fund. The account number is 457011740339. Your donation will be tax-deductible :-)***

Fringe Observes Alternate Universes

229292_16534198667_9070_nFringe from creator J.J. Abrams’ has transformed from a freaky, cop procedural into a sprawling saga full of alternate realities and parallel universes, Abrams’ strange creation remains as grisly and creepy as ever.

The title refers to fringe science: psychokinesis, parapsychology, reanimation, you name it. And the Fringe Division at the center of the investigatory action is a joint federal task force supported primarily by the FBI. I love the truly, mad scientist named Walter Bishop, whose last full-time job was downing the pudding at a local insane asylum. I kinda love how he enjoys Red Vines as much as I do when trying to figure out a problem. 😉 While the glad-to-be-free Dr. Bishop is busy dissecting brains and experimenting with psychotropic drugs, FBI agent Olivia Dunham busts the “bad guys” along with Bishop’s jack-of-all-trades son, Peter, who also makes sure his dad doesn’t wander away.

I’d recommend Fringe for kids older than 12 years-old, as there are some blood, gore and squirm-inducing scenes. If you enjoy solving mysteries or sci-fi drama, Fringe is just the show for you.

Family Camp Worth the Money


I have been meaning to write more regularly on my blog, but life has distracted me. One of these things was a great vacation this past summer to a family camp. I know you might think this is only seen on movies, but there are actually great places around the country which allow the family to bond for a week with no distractions like TV and Internet. My trip to family camp was life changing, and I challenge your family to go to one.

Family camp is run much in the way a youth camp would be including activities for families together or apart such as kayaking, hiking, swimming, rock jumping and arts and crafts. Meals at family camp are eaten together in the rustic dining hall, but here is the catch. Parents are not always responsible for their children at all times. We attended Forest Home in Mill Creek Canyon, California. At this camp, they provide or you bring a CCA (Childcare Assistant). During the late afternoon and evening times, she watches your children meanwhile you and your honey bond over a good message or quiet, couple time 🙂 This was a great week long vacation that was hard to leave. My daughter still talks about the great times she had at family camp. This great experience will be a tradition in the Buxton household, and I hope in yours. This next year, we will try another camp called Pine Cove.

If you too have had a great experience at family camp, please share where and what was great about it.