My Real Life

December 31, 2012

Our Rockin’ New Year’s Eve

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

So, it’s New Year’s Eve and my guess is that many of you have plans to go out and celebrate with friends and family.


We have our own New Year’s tradition.

Every New Year’s Eve, we rent two movies…one for the kids and one for Real Man and I.

We get subs from the local QuikChek (hate that spelling) and something for the kids for dinner and a lot of snacks.

We watch the kid movie together in the living room, snuggled on the couch, then the monkeys go to the basement to watch kids television shows while Real Man and I watch our movie.

Then we bring the kids back up, watch some more television together while snacking and chatting and at 11:55 we wake Monkey in the Middle (who tries valiantly to stay up but never makes it…Monkey Girl and Baby Monkey are usually still going strong)…and, to be honest, sometimes they have to wake me up, and we watch the ball drop.

Then we all hit the hay.

Is it flashy? No.

Is it exciting?  To the monkeys, yes.

Yet, it is my favorite night of the year and my very favorite holiday tradition.

Seeing the old year out and the new year in as a family is exactly where I want to be.

December 30, 2012

Twenty Wishes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

I’ve been a member of the Frugal Village website since July 2001.

I started visiting the site when I was on maternity leave with Monkey Girl and then finally joined that summer.

Over time, the site owner, Sara Noel, made me a moderator who dealt mostly with the Home Organization threads in the Forums, and even though my attendance has been spotty in the past few years, she has allowed me to maintain that status. ūüôā

I spend the majority of my time at the village reading and posting in the forums, but the entire site has wonderful articles and resources for people who are looking for ways to live more simply and frugally.

One of my favorite parts of the forums is the “Challenge” section.

People post yearly challenges for all types of things.

If you can think it up, there is probably a challenge for it at the village, and we use the threads there to hold ourselves accountable.

One of the challenges that I’ve decided to join for 2013 is the “Twenty Wishes” challenge.

The way the challenge works is like this: (and I’m just quoting directly from the 2013 challenge thread here)

The premise is simple, execution may not be! Make a list of twenty things you would like to accomplish in 2013. Your list may include self-improvement goals, decluttering, spiritual growth, finishing off those pesky UFOs (UnFinished Objects), remodeling projects, or whatever you would like to see completed by New Year’s Eve, 2013. Choose your list of items carefully. Don’t make it so difficult you can’t possibly complete the list, but do push yourself a bit to get through some things you may have been putting off.

I didn’t join in 2012, but I decided that 2013 might be a good year to join.

So, I came up with my list and entered it today.

Most of what I came up with goes along with my goals for the new year, (which I’ll be sharing on January 1st).

1. Take the family to DisneyWorld.¬†We’ve been talking about doing this for quite awhile and just haven’t done it. I want this to be the year.
2. Get a playset for the backyard. I want the kids to play outside more, and I know my kids and a playset would definitely do it.
3. Get weight down by 9 pounds AND KEEP IT THERE. 
4. Incorporate more vegetables into the family diet.
5. Make $1,000 by selling on eBay.
6. Get blog readership to 200 per day average.
7. Make home office neat, organized, and functional.
8. Read 50 books (and keep track!)
9. Get pictures hung.¬†We’ve been here a year and a half and haven’t hung up our pictures yet. Drives me nuts.
10. Have family photo taken.
11. Really go through my closet and be ruthless with getting rid of what I don’t wear.
12. Play piano at least once a week.¬†I teach piano lessons, so I am always at the piano, but I rarely carve out the time to play for myself. I went to college as a vocal and piano performance major and I feel like I’m neglecting that part of myself.
13. Only eat out once a week, if at all.
14. Write in my journal more often.¬†I only wrote in it twice in 2012, so anything would be an improvement! I think keeping the blog up every day takes it’s place, but they have different purposes and I don’t want to neglect my journal writing.
15. Really learn about self-publishing to see if it is an option for my novel.
16. Re-edit my novel.
17. Shred and pare down all of our files.
18. Sell the van.
19. Take more pictures.
20. Spend more time outside.

Some of the items are small, some are large, all are manageable, I believe.

Do any of you have a similar list? ¬†Do you have any things you hope to have done by December 31, 2013 that you’d be willing to share? ¬†I’d love to hear what you all will be working on in the new year!

December 28, 2012

Five Question Friday

Filed under: Five Question Friday — Amy @ 8:51 am

1. If you had to give 1 million dollars to just one person (not your spouse), who would it be and why?

Wow. ¬†That’s tough.

I’m answering this question last because it is a hard one to answer.

Would I give it to Monkey Girl with the stipulation that she must divide it equally between she and her brothers when they all hit a certain age?

Would I give it to someone who needs it the most, as in one needy person or would I give it to someone who could help the most people with it, like a philanthropist?

I hate the “just one person” part of the question, because I’d love to give it to a school district or I’d¬†really¬†love to give it to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

I really don’t know.

I have a feeling this is one I’ll never need to worry about, but it is interesting to think about.

2. What bathroom stall do you typically go to FIRST? 

The last one.

That way, no one is walking by, casually looking to see if there is someone in there.

I’m an observer of human behavior, and in every crowded public bathroom, in which I’ve ever been, I watch the women cooly look out of the corner of their eyes through the slots in the door (because they are never fully private) to see if someone is in there.


I just bend over and look for feet.

I seem to be in the minority, which is why I take the last stall.

3. How do you prefer to shop: In-store or online?

That’s a hard one.

I like to shop online because it frees up my time.

I don’t have to drive anywhere, I don’t have to take four kids with me, I don’t have to change out of my jammies.

However, I like to shop in stores because I like to see what I am buying, as I’ve been tricked before by pictures online and have been disappointed with what showed up at my home.

I guess I’ll go with online being the preference, however, in certain circumstances, you gotta get to the store.

4.¬†What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods?

It’s been windy, it’s been snowy, it’s been rainy and it’s been darn cold.

Nothing out of the ordinary for winter.

Just yucky.

I’m ready for a real snowstorm with a lot of good packing snow so the kids can go out and play in it without it disappearing in their hands.

That’s winter.

5. Do you own a pair of Tom’s and what do you think? Overrated, underrated or about right?

I do not, and while I like the idea of them donating a pair to a child in need every time someone buys a pair, I think the shoe, itself, is overrated.

I also have flat feet, and have very, very few pairs of flat shoes because they hurt my feet, so that could certainly play in to my feelings about Toms.

December 27, 2012

Cards From the Kids

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

I think my favorite part of Christmas, this year, was the fact that the kids made cards for everyone in the family, including each other.

They usually make cards for Real Man and I, but this year, they decided to each make a card for every single one of us.

I loved them.

They made me smile and laugh and just feel good.

So, I thought that I’d share some of my favorites with you.

They are my favorites for a lot of different reasons, but if nothing else, they are pretty darn cute.

Here are a few…


From Baby Monkey to me…”Mom I love you. ¬†Thanks for the great year.” (Thanks for the great year…too funny.)


From Baby Monkey to the whole family…”Mom I love you. ¬†You’re the best. ¬†Dad you’re the Dad I love! Patrick I love you. ¬†You’re fun. ¬†Julia you’re the best and fun. ¬†Michael you’re cute and fun.”


From Monkey in the Middle to Monkey Girl…”Julia, You are the best sister anyone could have. ¬†Without you, I couldn’t do all the cool things you taught me. ¬†I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”


From Baby Monkey to Tiny…”Michael, You’re the best baby in the world.”


From Monkey Girl to Real Man…”Dear Dad, Merry Christmas! Thank you for all you do. ¬†You are the best dad in the whole wide world!!! ¬†I love you! Love, Julia ¬†Dandy¬†Awesome¬†DaBomb!”


From Monkey in the Middle to Real Man…”Dear Dad, You are the best Dad ever. ¬†I’m sorry for clogging the toilets all the time. ¬†But, I wish you a merry, merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” ūüôā


From Monkey in the Middle to me…”Dear Mom, You are the best Mom anyone can have in the world! ¬†I hope you have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. ¬†I hope you get what you want for Christmas. ¬†Well, merry Christmas again.” ¬†(Cracks me up that he ran out of things to say and just went to “Well, merry Christmas again.” ūüôā )

Then we had two drawings from Baby Monkey for Real Man and I. ¬†His gift to us was to draw our portraits. ¬†Love them. ¬†Totally digging my awesome red jumpsuit and loving Real Man’s rainbow inspired get-up.


December 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Scenes from Christmas

Filed under: Wordless Wednesday — Amy @ 6:00 am
















December 25, 2012

Christmas Dreams

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am



Right now…

Right now is when I get hit by the Christmas spirit.

It seems to elude me as we move toward Christmas.

When you are a child, you spend your time waiting for Christmas, and that anticipation makes it seem so magical.

When you are an adult, you spend your time preparing for Christmas, and that work can be exhausting.

Yet, in the quiet of the night when all the presents are wrapped and the stockings are filled…the house is quiet.

In that quiet, I find myself anticipating, once again.  

Anticipating the pitter-patter of excited little feet rushing down the stairs in the morning, and the squeals of excitement before they run back up the stairs to wake us.

And just like that…the magic is restored.

Whether you are celebrating Christmas today, or not, may today be full of love, joy, and magic.

December 24, 2012

This Guy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

There’s just something about Baby Monkey.

I’ve never met anyone as completely comfortable with himself as he.

I’ve also never met anyone who can entertain themselves as fully and for as long as he can.

One day, you walk into the kitchen and he’s doing this:

SONY DSC(Why he’s wearing his jacket, I don’t know…he and Monkey in the Middle never take their jackets off when they come home from places.)

Scissors, tape, pens, paper…creating something that will wind up being taped to a wall somewhere in our home.

The next day, you walk into the living room and he’s doing this:


Confiscating items from our the house to create a reflective light tunnel.


Because he can.

He doesn’t necessarily enjoy being the center of attention, but when he knows it’s inevitable, he makes the best of it.

Like wearing his brothers suit to his choral concert, even though it was a bit too big, because he wanted to look “extra fancy.”


Yep…there’s just something about this guy, and maybe it’s the fact that he keeps the real him hidden in public and only shares himself with us. ¬†Like we’re all in on this little secret of his utter and complete awesomeness.

I don’t know, but I can tell you that if there are any guarantees of kids on the nice list, this guy is at the top.

December 23, 2012

Hanging With Daddy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

Every night, we have a nice, family dinner.

After dinner, however, the monkeys are off in a million different directions.

Real Man and I usually sit and chat about our day, at this point, as during dinner, there are four different conversations going on at any time, as the monkeys chatter away.

Normally, Tiny goes with the big kids, as always, eager to be a part of whatever it is they might be doing.

Friday night, however, Tiny decided to hang with us, and climbed into the chair next to Real Man, cup in hand, and just began to chat with his Dad.

IMG_3945 IMG_3948 IMG_3950 IMG_3952 IMG_3953 IMG_3954 IMG_3957 IMG_3959 IMG_3960 IMG_3961 IMG_3964 IMG_3962

December 22, 2012

Why I Say Happy Holidays

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

I realize this is a touchy topic.

I realize I’m trying to get more readers, not alienate the ones I already have.

However, this comes up every single holiday season (yes, I said holiday season) and I feel like I want to address it.

I really don’t understand why people are becoming so resistant to saying “Happy Holidays” to strangers, instead of “Merry Christmas.”

No sooner do the Thanksgiving dishes get washed and put away than people begin putting on their “Christmas Armor,” preparing for the battle that, they alone, seem to want to fight.

Message boards across the net light up with topics like “Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?” and tempers begin to rise.

Then the annual “Prepare yourselves, Christians…they (oh, the evil “they”) are trying, once again, to rip the Christ out of Christmas!”

People in stores yell “Merry Christmas” to each other in tones that, on the surface, sound happy and bright, but with an undertone of anger and challenge and you can almost hear the implied “Damn it” following their “well” wishes.

Why the fuss?

What does it cost you to say “Happy Holidays” to someone you don’t know?


Not one thing.

I am increasingly concerned by the egocentric view more and more people seem to have of the world.

It’s not as though anyone is asking Americans not to say “Happy Thanksgiving” to each other.

No one is taking issue with “Happy Memorial Day!”


Because when you live in the United States, you expect to be celebrating American holidays.

Just like if you lived in France, you’d expect to celebrate Bastille Day.

These are holidays that you can reasonably expect everyone in the country is celebrating.

Christmas is not.

It’s a religious holiday and in a nation that was founded by people seeking religious freedom, it makes sense to be inclusive with our religious holiday greetings, rather than exclusive.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the Dalai Lama.

He said, “My religion is very simple.¬† My religion is kindness.”

Shouldn’t that be all of our religion?

To those who feel that being inclusive somehow takes away from their own celebration of Christmas, I can’t help but wonder what is behind that fear.

I keep hearing about “the attack on Christianity in America.”

I keep reading how public schools have shunned the Pledge of Allegiance and those that still say it have removed “Under God” from the words.



Because I teach in a public school and every single morning we stand and say the Pledge…the words “Under God” still intact, and in my broad network of educator friends that stretches across the country, they all do it in their schools, too.

I had a friend write on Facebook the other night that she was thrilled to finally get to go to an actual “Christmas” concert and followed up with “I LOVE Catholic school.”

Yes…Catholic school would be the absolutely appropriate place for a Christmas concert.

But why would you ever expect a public school, which educates students of all faiths, to not hold a concert that was inclusive of all of their holiday celebrations?

My Catholic children have participated in “Holiday” concerts their entire school career.

They know the principles of Kwanzaa (which is not a religious holiday, but a December celebration that many of our local families celebrate), understand the story of the festival of lights, can speak some Hebrew, play the Dreidel game like champs, and still manage to maintain their Christianity.

I’ve seen the poster that says “Dear God, Why do you allow terrible thing to happen to schools?¬† God’s Response: Because you’ve taken me out of the schools” more times than I care to think about in the past week and it makes me sick.

The separation of church and state isn’t what is wrong with this country.

What’s wrong with this country is a culture where people believe that they are superior to anyone who is different, and those who are different do not deserve to have their feelings, experiences, or beliefs validated.

Do I think the whole idea of a “Holiday Tree” in the White House is a silly idea?


You wouldn’t have a “Holiday Menorah” as it is a symbol that is specific to the story and celebration of Hannukah.

The Christmas tree isn’t such a symbol (it’s a pagan symbol that, like so many other religious symbols, was co-opted by the Church, but that’s another story) however, it is clearly a Christmas symbol.

I’d be on board with the Obamas having a tree in their private apartments and some other type of inclusive holiday symbol on display to represent the nation (because, no matter how many times people say we are a Christian nation, we are a nation of many faiths) but I don’t know what that symbol might be.

And now I’ve digressed.

My point is, saying “Happy Holidays” doesn’t make you any less Christian.

In fact, I think it makes you more so.

Love thy neighbor, anyone?

So, this is a very long way of explaining why I say “Happy Holidays” and why our holiday cards said “Peace, Love and Joy.”

If I know you celebrate Christmas, you’ll get a “Merry Christmas!” from me.

If I know you celebrate Hannukah, you can be sure I’ll greet you with a “Happy Hannukah!”

If you celebrate any other holiday, I will greet you with a greeting appropriate to your celebration.

However, if I don’t know what your religion, beliefs, or background, I’ll smile and say “Happy Holidays!”

Because I think everyone’s traditions are important and it doesn’t cost me a thing to acknowledge that everyone I meet doesn’t necessarily celebrate the way that I do.

December 21, 2012

Five Question Friday

Filed under: Five Question Friday — Amy @ 7:30 am

1.¬† What’s something gross you’ve seen or tasted recently.

I made salad in August.

I made it in the Salad Spinner.

We didn’t have enough room for it in the inside fridge, so I put it in the fridge in the garage.

Forgot about it.

Found it the other day.

Don’t want to talk about it.

2.  What movie this holiday season are you most looking forward to?

I can’t wait to take the monkeys to see “Legends of the Guardians.”

We’ve been waiting for that since we saw the previews this summer.

Real Man and I are excited to see “The Hobbit.”

We are enormous LOTR fans, and this is something we’ve been waiting for for a very, very long time!

3.  What makes one photographer better or worse than another?

Finding something in a scene that no one else sees.

I think it’s amazing when a photographer takes a photo of something so simple, so common, and makes it seems absolutely unbelievable.

It’s that vision…that eye.

4.  What specific, annual part of the season makes you feel all the positive feelings again.

It used to be the 11 pm Christmas Eve service at my church.

Something about the lighting, the candles, the music, the hushed nature of the service just made the magic come alive.

However, I haven’t been to that service since we had children, so I guess it would be on Christmas Eve when we track Santa with Norad.

The monkeys get SO excited to track his progress across the sky.

When they go to bed, they are positively vibrating with excitement.

It’s wonderful.

5.  What are your thoughts on eggnog?

It’s a drink.

It’s okay.

I don’t like the kind that’s spiked with alcohol, but the regular old eggnog is okay for a few sips once a year.

I wouldn’t make it a habit, though.

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