Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Chill Day

I say that I'm a 
"Stay-at-Home-Mom who is never home." 

We are always out and about. 
Anything from visiting places (zoos, play scapes, etc) 
to outdoor play (hiking, playgrounds, etc) 
to basic shopping (Wegmans, Target, etc). 
We almost never have a full weekday at home. 
Or at least, not unless someone is deathly sick. 


To tell you the truth, 
I'm terrified of actually being home all day. 
Being home for a few hours gives me cabin fever. 
I am a person who needs the outside world. 
I go stir crazy long before my kids have lost it. 


Which is why last Friday was such an anomaly. 
We had grand plans to go for a very chilly hike in the morning 
(think: temps in the high 30s)
But I was just so damn tired. 
Adam has been working death hours in Big Law Firm World 
(think: 16+ hours days, arriving home at 1:30am) 
and I don't sleep well when he's not home. 


So when Aaron crawled into our bed at 6:30am, 
I asked: "Do you want to go hiking or stay home?" 
Him: "Stay home so I can wear sweatpants all day." 

(We have a rule that sweatpants are only for home. 
Otherwise, its jeans or khakis. 
I know, I'm a mean mom. 
I also know I'll lose this battle with Oliver.

We had a lazy morning breakfast, 
followed by some basement play, 
before I piped up with: 
"How about we watch Moana?" 

We don't watch a lot of full-length movies, 
so this was a big moment for the boys. 
We snuggled into the couch and watched Moana 
and. it. was. awseome. 



After Moana, I glanced at the clock 
and realized with a bit of horror that we had 1.5 hours till lunch. 
But some quick thinking solved that: 
We decorated gingerbread houses! 

Ok, not really gingerbread, 
but rather graham cracker houses. 

I had never decorated gingerbread houses as a kid 
(or at least we didn't do it with any sort of regularity) 
but it is something I want to instill as a memorable tradition in my family. 
Problem is, I hate gingerbread. 
I hear making it yourself is a nightmare. 
And I hear loads of complaints about those kits from Target. 
Pinterest to the rescue! 

I followed this site here 
and, for once in my life, it went smoothly. 
The Honey Maid crackers sawed well with a serated knife. 
The icing was PERFECT as a "glue" 
and Aaron absolutely loved it. 

Assembling and "gluing" the houses 


He got three houses and I got one (of course)

I texted Adam a few pictures 
and he was like: 
"Um, where is Oliver?" 
Me: "I don't know???" 
JK. 
I had brought up a box of "new" toys from our Toy Rotation hiding spit, 
so he was in all his glory rediscovering "long lost toys." 

Proof he had fun: 



Following that, 
we had leftovers lunch 
(of Ina Garten's Weeknight Bolognese which is Adam's new favorite 
and the boys both devour it, despite it being pretty spicy). 
At this point, I realized Oliver was covered in bolognese sauce, 
while Aaron was totally CAKED in hardened royal icing from the decorating. 
So mid-day bath it was. 

Following bath was nap, 
where I indulged in my very favorite productive holiday activity: 
present wrapping. 
It is so oddly satisfying to turn my tub of gifts 
into beautifully packaged boxes under our tree, 
waiting to be delivered at the next Christmas/Hanukkah party. 

After nap, we took it slow in the basement again, 
then the boys watched Thomas 
while I made another favorite Gruyere Bacon Mac & Cheese 
(it was a heavy pasta day for us). 


Dinner complete, I realized we again had time to kill before bed. 
An hour and 15 minutes to be precise. 
So we loaded up the car 
and drove through Philly rush hour traffic 
to get to Candy Cane Lane. 
It's this tiny little neighborhood lined with lit-up candy canes. 
It is the cutest and one of Aaron's favorites memories from last year. 
I'm incapable of figuring out how to post videos on here, 
but I posted two videos on my IG (LittleLoomis).  


I usually don't do recap posts on my blog. 
But this day in particular was especially sweet. 
A little reminder to myself that sometimes 
being a stay-at-home-mom 
(not an out-and-about-mom) 
can be fun too. 


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Donations

Donations. 
And no, I don't mean that giant pile of house crap 
that gets picked up from my doorstep every few months. 
(Thank you, Greendrop!)

By donations, I mean monetary donations. 

Do you donate to charity or a cause? 
What charities? 
What causes?

Growing up in a very religious household, 
my parents taught the 10% rule, 
whereby 10% is "given back to God." 
I understood this as meaning a church, 
and so as a child, 
I dutifully set aside10% of my allowance 
and donated it to whatever church we were attending at that time. 

But as I grew older 
and became more and more disenchanted with the modern church, 
I stopped setting aside any money, 
because there was no one to give it to. 


Randomly, the first time I started thinking about donations again
 was the book "It Ends With Us" (reviewed here). 
While not a central part of the book, 
the main character values giving to charity,  
and regularly uses it as a question to gauge a person's character. 
As in: "Do you give to charity?" 

Rather like a light bulb going off in my head, 
it occurred to me that there are in fact, 
many many many charities out there that I would like to support. 
I may feel passionately about a cause, 
but it is important to take the additional step forward to do something. 


And to share, 
here are the charities / causes we have donated to this year. 
Some a little, 
some a lot. 
Some are big organizations
 or political groups, 
and some are teeny tiny charities put together by a couple. 


This isn't meant to toot my own horn, 
but rather to record (for myself, outside of Quicken) who/what I valued. 
Plus if anyone finds one of these inspiring, 
I hope you will donate even a little too! 


(In alphabetical order)


I have followed the Windtraveler blog for years, 
and "watched" Hurricane Irma 
decimate the British Virgin Islands through their facebook feed
This couple have worked tirelessly 
to get the things needed for the BVI's to recoup, 
from chainsaws to tarps. 
Basic level supplies that are needed to kick start progress. 


This charity raises money for kids cancer research. 
I blindly assumed that kids cancer was well funded. 
After all, you see commercials for St Jude all the time! 
But after reading this article by The Mom Edit, 
I was aghast both at the terrible treatment for kids cancers 
(many children die from the treatment, rather the cancer itself) 
and the sorry lack of funding for research options. 


Won't lie, I give to this charity out of 
sheer anger for Trump's anti-environment policies
Clean Water Action doesn't just focus on drinking water, 
they also focus on climate change, pollution, and trash cleanup. 
AND they also pursue legal litigation to combat new policies. 
In a time where I get red-faced angry any time the government is proposing new legislation, 
this is a teeny tiny middle finger move. 


Local Library
We love our library so much. 
We visit it at least once a week to play in the kids area, 
and usually every other week for story time. 
We have checked out hundreds of adult books, 
kids books, and DVDs. 
Yes, this is funded by the government, 
but with as much we use it and love it, 
I wanted to give a little more too. 


This grassroots organization focuses on "gun sense" policies. 
No, they don't want to take away everyone's gun. 
They want background checks on all gun sales
They push for gun reform for domestic abuse 
(I had no idea how many domestic partners are shot to death). 
Did you know Ohio passed a law to allow guns in daycares? 
WHY WHY WHY. 
They worked with thousands of daycares to forbid guns on premise. 

They also educate parents about asking: 
"Hey my kid is coming over to play.  
Do you have guns in the house?  
If so, how are they stored?
I still get squeamish about asking this, 
but I figure that if someone is offended by that question, 
or doesn't want to answer how they store their guns, 
then that's probably not the right house for my child to play in! 


This relief organization focuses on "the forgotten communities" 
and is willing to go where no one else will go. 
They focus on Iraq, Syria, and the US. 
Do you remember the terrible siege at Aleppo by ISIS? 
They were in the thick of it. 



Nestled within Philadelphia city limits, 
this nature center is chalk full of woods and streams 
and all sorts of beautiful trails to hike. 
I take the kids hiking there and, 
granted a 1-mile loop takes us 1.5 hours, 
but it is absolutely wonderful. 
They have a wildlife clinic where my friend brought sick, abandoned baby rabbits. 
And land restoration programs to bring back native plant diversity. 
I love places that work to save our environment. 
And the fact that this is within the Philadelphia city limits is very impressive. 
(Also, again, some prompting for this brought on by Trump's agenda)





If you follow me on IG, 
you will see many many stories of the basement here, 
the "dungeon" which is setup as a traffic area, 
complete with working traffic light, 
for kids to buzz around on all sorts of scooters. 
That's Aaron's favorite part. 
Oliver's favorite part is the MASSIVE outdoor playground outside. 
And my favorite part is the architecture of this gorgeous old mansion, 
turned into room after room of toys for kids. 
It's 100% free 
and located in the "not so nice" area of Philadelphia, 
which means it is a beautiful blend of cultures, 
kids playing side-by-side.





Z = Anyone

Ok, not really, anyone
but generally if someone is signing up for a race, 
or a walk, 
or a bike charity, 
or a mission trip
I will try to give something. 

I respect people who are willing to do something to raise money. 
Granted, as a runner I understand the concept of: 
"well I'm running this race anyway
might as well raise some money" 
which is totally fair too. 

On a similar note, if there's a tragedy that strikes close to a friend, 
or a blogger that I follow (see above: the BVI), 
I believe it's important to contribute. 
If I'm sending "thoughts and prayers," 
then I should be sending some money too. 
e.g.: Just this week, friends of Jenna Wilber 
(someone I follow on IG whose child gave me the idea for the name Oliver)
 had their house burned to the ground in CA from the wildfires. 
I figure if we can spend $20/week on Adam's Starbucks habits, 
we can contribute $20 to someone else's recovery. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Play vs Academic Based Preschools

I have embarked on my quest to find a preschool for Oliver next year, 
starting in September 2018, 
which is almost nine months away. 
However, preschools fill up quickly around here 
and I'm beginning to feel like we live in Manhattan, 
where I should have started my preschool application 
as soon as the two lines appears on the stick. 

Why not send Oliver to Aaron's preschool? 
Well, I say that Aaron goes to a local "preschool," 
he really goes to a part-time daycare. 
He was used to the daycare setting from when I was a Working Mom, 
and when I became a SAHM, 
I simply scaled him back to part-time schedule (8-12:30, MWF). 


For Oliver, though, I'm looking for a more tailored preschool. 
A preschool that is, in fact, an actual preschool, 
versus a part-time daycare. 

So herein lies this new conundrum: 


Play-Based vs Academic-Based Preschools


I won't attempt my butchery job of describing the two, 
so instead I am copying/pasting directly from


Play-Based Schools

"In a play-based program, children choose activities based on their current interests. The term “play-based” is often interchanged with “child-centered,” which could be used to describe the majority of available preschool programs. The play-based classroom is broken up into sections, such as a home or kitchen, science area, water table, reading nook, space with blocks and other toys, or other areas. Teachers encourage the kids to play, facilitating social skills along the way. “Even though it seems like they are just playing, they are learning valuable skills, including important social skills and cooperation with others, learning about signs (as most items are labeled), and early math,” says Jenifer Wana, author of “How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child.”

e.g.: Reggio Emilia schools 

Academic-Based Schools

"Alternatively, there are academic programs, considered didactic, “teacher-directed,” “teacher-managed.” In these classrooms, teachers lead the children in a more structured way, planning the activities, then guiding the children in doing them. This design is aimed at preparing kids for the kindergarten setting. For the most part, classroom time is devoted to learning letters and sounds, distinguishing shapes and colors, telling time, and other skills."

e.g.: Montessori school, Waldorf school, etc. 


It's probably true that the "average" preschool is a mix of the two, 
but disagreeing with PBS, 
I feel like in general the "average" preschool 
gravitates much further towards academic than play-based. 
At least that's my observation from touring options 
both for Aaron and then years later for Oliver. 
PBS and I will agree to disagree on this. 

***

Let me pause here and state clearly: 
I believe the vast majority of children can thrive in either setting

Children are highly adaptable creatures, 
much much much than we give them credit. 
Yes, some children may find one environment very chaotic, 
versus finding the other very rigid. 
But I hear the parents say 
"my child loves their school!" 
that's simply what the child is used to. 

Unless the child is actually splitting time between preschools,
 there's not much comparison. 
In a very rare example, 
my friend sent her kids 3 days to a "regular" preschool and 2 days to Montessori. 
Her children preferred the "regular" preschool 
because they felt they had more freedom to play, 
but she explained if she had sent them to ONLY Montessori, 
she is absolutely convinced they would have loved it there too. 

In summary, as long as the environment is safe and nurturing, 
a child can thrive in either play-based or academic-based preschools

***

Now, back to my predicament with Oliver. 
In the 15 minute radius of our home, 
we have two academic-based preschools 
and one play-based preschool. 

Both academic-based preschools have a very similar curriculum, 
and fairly similar structure. 
Essentially, it's your "average/normal" preschool. 
It has play time, but it also has an established curriculum 
(maybe less so with younger kids, but definitely with older). 

The play-based one, though, has me totally captivated. 
It is a nature-immersion school located at a nature-center 
with over 300+ acres of woods, rivers, ponds, etc. 
The kids are outside the whole time,
 regardless of rain or snow. 
(Think: full-body snowsuits as the daily "winter uniform")
The kids spend their 3 hours together as a class, 
exploring, getting messy, and soaking up nature. 
The kids dictate the subjects of lessons. 
During my visit, the week's theme was "worms." 
The next week was going to be "sticks." 

To me, this is heaven. 
To Oliver, this is heaven. 

Problem? 
The writing curriculum. 
As in, there is no curriculum
The teachers incorporate the alphabet and letters 
into the current week. 
"Worm starts with 'w'.  Look these sticks make a 'w.'
But it's not the sit-down workbook-style of most preschools. 
She did explain that most children begin to show interest in writing later on, 
as once they do, the teachers start to incorporate a little more. 
But again, totally child-based. 


Now, this next part I'm going to say is highly controversial. 
Ready?

If Oliver doesn't know how to write his alphabet by kindergarten... 
SO WHAT? 
Like, isn't that the purpose of kindergarten? 


And here's where the research studies get interesting. 

The NY Times released an article in May (here
citing that children who attended a more rigorous, academic preschool, 
outperformed their peers by the end of kindergarten. 
However, there is no study yet that follows children past kindergarten. 


On the contrary, the New York times also published an article (here
describing how play is in fact more important than academic study. 
Play is learning! 

And then the nature part is a whole different part. 
Nature has been proven time and again to be incredibly important, 
which is why parents and schools are encouraged to get kids outside as often as possible. 
One of the academic-preschools doesn't go outside AT ALL. 
This was appalling to me. 
I'm not linking a particular study here but a google search will yield you dozens.  


But back to specific academic vs play-based. 
Clearly, there is evidence in both directions. 

And so, my conundrum comes down to this: 

Oliver would LOVE an outdoor, play-based preschool. 
He would thrive and it would be great. 
The problem is, am I (including Adam) ok with Oliver 
not being 100% top-notch "prepared" for kindergarten? 

My gut here is: 

"He's going to spend his whole childhood in school. 
Why not let him play now?" 


Oliver and Aaron in the rain. They love it so much. 


Your thoughts? 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Christmas 2017 Wishlist

Kicking off the holiday season with my annual 
Christmas Wishlist!




in black leather 
$295

After a few years of reading The Mom Edit
I have finally succumbed to their go-to, be-all-end-all "purse" of choice. 
While I still desperately love my Lily Jade from last year's wishlist
and still intend on using the Lily Jade for day-to-day, 
I find more and more than I want a large, stylish backpack 
for things like school field trips and city trips. 
And while I have my trusty Northface backpack, 
I want something that feels a little more "adult-ish."






Hunter Short Boots 
in Ocean Blue 
$140 

I have the original tall in black, 
but my thick calves make for a tight fit. 
And with that tight fit, 
it's very hard to take them on and off. 
Thus, as a busy mom always on the go, 
I rarely wear them. 
I want to get a shorter pair easier to slip on and off. 
And also in a fun color. 




Kate Spade Pointe Clock 
$49

I am one of those obnoxious people who likes a clock in every room. 
And our front room, even with a TV, cable box, and all those shelves, 
still has no clock. 
This is an adorable small clock, 
and a huge pop of color. 
It makes me smile. 




Mini Steamer 
$25 

I hate wrinkles, 
but I refuse to iron. 
My way to get out wrinkles is to throw the wrinkled item back in the dryer 
with a wet shirt, 
and let the steam take out the wrinkles. 
Or, the more sophisticated approach, 
would be to own a steamer

I'm asking for the Mofir Mini Steamer
because someone somewhere referenced it




An Actual Diffuser 
Stradler Form Jasmine Aroma Diffuser 
in Metal 
$60

NO NOT THE DARK SIDE OF OILS! 
NO NO NO

Don't worry, I'm not going to become an oil fanatic 
(famous last words) 
but I'm a little sick of my trusty old glass jar + reeds 
and would like to actually have something a little more... cool?




Emergency NOAA Radio 
with Hand Crank 
and Smartphone Chargers 
$21

After this summer of hurricanes, fires, 
and other disasters, 
I decided we need to up our emergency prepardness kit. 
I checked Ready.gov for suggestions, 
but theirs was a little intense. 
Being in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia, 
we are not in a prime disaster zone. 
We do not get tornadoes nor major hurricanes. 
We live on a hugeeee hill so any flooding short of Noah's Ark is not an issue. 
Really, our biggest disasters are blizzards. 
And even in the worst blizzards, 
we could trudge to a nearby grocery store (they all have backup generators). 

So I scaled back to a very basic level of emergency kit. 
We have a 30-day lantern, 
along with half dozen flashlights 
and stock supply of batteries
We have reserved 2 gallons of drinking water, 
plus an unopened package of bottled water. 
But the only thing we are missing is a radio and charger. 
The Epica Emergency Radio was recommended as a great budget radio. 
So here it is!




Bluetooth Speaker 
DOSS Touch Wireless 
$34 

I love music, 
but we have no sound system in our house. 
For a while I've survived off of crappy little plug-in speakers, 
but now that Apple changed the headphone jack, 
they no longer work. 

While I want a decent speaker, 
I don't want to invest a lot. 
(We are not a Dance Party House.) 
I found an article "Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2017" 
and settled on the DOSS Wireless budget one at the bottom. 


Old-Fashioned Board Games: 
Building up the stash for future family game night. 



Parcheesi
Because there is nothing so deeply satisfying 
as bumping someone allllllllllll the way back to the beginning 
and then getting 20 moves out of it. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How to Shop at Wegmans

As the super mecca grocery store begins it descent down/across America, 
I want to dedicate a little [long] post to it's glory. 
Or in other words: 
How to shop at Wegmans


(It was a dreary day when I remembered to take photos on my weekly pilgrimage)

If you're starting this article thinking : 
"'Wtf is Wegmans?" 
Then I invite you to read the Washington Post's 

An employee gave Oliver a free balloon - solid entertainment!


1. First and more important, 
accept these truths: 

A. You will be totally overwhelmed. 
B. Nothing will be where you expect it to be. 

As stated in the WP article, 
the inside of Wegmans is equivalent to 8-10 normal supermarkets. 
It is an incredibly massive store. 
And it's structured very different from the average supermarket. 




2. Download the Wegmans app. 
And take the hour+ ahead of time to enter 
everything you are shopping for. 

I've shopped at Wegmans for years 
and still very much rely on this app. 

It sorts my list by aisle 
and totals my price at the bottom, 
so I know roughly what to expect of my grocery bill. 

Also, it can be logged into by multiple phones. 
In a perfect world where Adam got out of work before 10pm (humph), 
he could make a stop after work without me texting him the grocery list. 

A few caveats here: 
a) The search function needs major work. 
I can search by brand name OR product. 
For example, I can search by "Chobani" or "nonfat greek yogurt" 
but putting the two together yields no results. 
Wegmans, seriously, work on this! 

b) If I am buying something that is $/lbs, 
the app will calculate the price as though I am buying one full pound. 
If I am buying freshly shredded cheese, this will inflate the price. 
If I am buying meats, this will underestimate the price. 
Beware!

c) Certain departments like frozen & organics 
do not list by aisle 
and thus can be incredibly frustrating. 
Again, I've been shopping at the same store for years, 
and still end up asking where the quinoa is in the organics section.


3. Set aside a hefty chunk of time for your first trip. 

Rushing the first trip = DISASTER.  
You will be angry
 and fed up 
and most likely drop f*bombs in the middle of the store. 

Also, avoid bringing children to sustain brain power. 


4. Get a map. 

When Wegmans opens new stores, 
they have maps to give a rough guide of departments / sections. 
A map is CLUTCH. 
If they aren't available at the front, 
ask customer service. 



(This represents about 1/8th of the total Cheese Department)

5. Enjoy exploring. 

Every once in a blue moon, 
I'll go to Wegmans alone at 8pm 
and spend a luxuriously long time going up and down aisles, 
finding products I'd never found before. 
I read labels,
 compare products, 
and try new things. 

While I can't devote as much time to exploring on my weekly trips 
(because Oliver is a devil who hates to be contained in a cart), 
I usually try at least one new item each time. 

***

If you have never been to this wonderful mecca, 
but want to read more about it 
(LOL, jk, you probably never want to read another word about it) 
here's two fun reads: 


Buzzfeed's Take on Wegmans - my fav is #23: 
Alec Baldwin tried to get his mother to move to California 
and her response:
 "And leave Wegmans?!?!" 
I get it, Mrs. Baldwin, I get it.