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Days like this.

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#Makeabetterworld

Sick Days

Kiddo and I have both spent this whole week sick with bad colds and fevers. I think – knock on wood – we’re getting better, but it’s been a slow and tough and tiring few days.  I’m really bad at being sick, since I’m generally always thinking about things that need to be done and not good at just resting, but I’ve given in this time around.  We missed a bunch of things this week – swim class, a playgroup, a trip to the Children’s Museum, a musical – and I’m actually okay about it. There’ll be time, and being healthy is the most important thing.

Along those lines, here’s what we have done this week.

We’ve napped…a lot. Mostly on the couch.

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We’ve listened to lots of music, especially Laura Doherty’s “Shining Like A Star” album.

We’ve watched copious TV/movies..like “Chopped”, “Sid the Science Kid”, and the My Little Pony movie, “Equestria Girls”.  I don’t usually advocate tons of TV, and try to keep it to under an hour a day, but it’s hard for me to talk right now without going into a coughing fit, so reading aloud isn’t an option, and I’m allowing it.

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PS – Equestria Girls is pretty fun.

We’ve done some small art projects (mainly with stickers) and some light playing inside. It’s cold as heck here, so taking little Mr. Germ-bot outside isn’t really an option.  Thank goodness for Mega Bloks and train sets.

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Here’s hoping we’ll be back to healthy before next week/Thanksgiving/my Dad’s visit! Stay healthy, my friends!

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According to Target, Michael’s, radio stations, and everything everywhere the Christmas season has begun – despite the fact that it’s not yet Thanksgiving.  This time of year gives me super high anxiety, because there are a million things that need to be attended to perfectly, and it’s all very financially/emotionally straining. However, this year I’m applying some of the frugal/non-consumer principles I’ve adopted over the past year to help me get through it

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1. The Thrift Store Stocking. My 3 year old son has a billion toys, and when you ask him what he wants for Christmas he simply says, “MORE TOYS!” While I’m happy to indulge – after all, he’s 3 and this is all still magical – I know that he’d like a Hot Wheel car from the thrift store just as much as he’d like a brand-new Hot Wheel car in the packaging, so I’ll be finding him cute little things on my trips to the thrift store.  This doesn’t mean I’ll buy him any junk, and of course I’ll clean everything before gifting. This past weekend, I hit up my thrift store and found the items in the photo above; two brand-new (in bag) Trash Pack blind bag toys, which he’s actually been noticing in Target lately, and a diecast old-fashioned Campbell’s soup truck. He doesn’t currently have any old-fashioned trucks in his collection, so I’m sure he’ll love it. (Update: Googled it. It’s one of the 100th anniversary celebration trucks!)

2. Holiday Potluck. Everyone brings something, gets together, and has a good time. Maybe there’s also a White Elephant gift exchange. Maybe we all wear stupid holiday sweaters. Who knows? It’ll still be more financially prudent than a big fancy cocktail party or buying everyone you know a present.

3. Make some presents.  Most people in my life have enough stuff, and it’s not like I can buy them houses or vacations to Greece or anything out-of-this-world spectacular. What I can do is cook/bake/can/pickle things to delight them. So that’ll be happening. There will be cookies. Oh yes, there will be cookies.  Also, I know how to make a delightful lip balm, so maybe some of my friends get that, too!  I can also sew, and have a pile of fabric just waiting to be turned into fun things. Here goes.

4. Plan Well. Every year, I make a list of people who need gifts, and every year there’s someone I forget and have to scramble to get a gift for.  Whats that saying? “An inability to plan ahead on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” – exactly. Avoid expensive emergencies, and plan ahead.

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5. Remember the Reason.  Despite my love for bargains, I won’t be shopping on Thanksgiving Day for any pre-Black Friday sales.  While I understand that there are places like gas stations and hotels that need to be open on the holiday to make society happen, stores like Target and Wal-Mart forcing their employees to work so crazed shoppers can behave rudely on a quest for cheap TVs is terrible and I don’t support it. I know there are employees who want to work on those days and need the $, and I say go for it. However, mandating it of their employees isn’t cool. (K-Mart!) I’m more of a Cyber Monday girl anyway – crowds make me crazy.

How are you keeping the holidays from draining your bank accounts and your sanity?

 

As someone who leans toward the frugal/DIY/non-consumer side of life, children’s boutique chain The Land of Nod is a tricky subject for me. While the things in their store are totally adorable and I absolutely got my son one of their famous cushy chairs (on end of season clearance, because apparently the robot pattern we liked wasn’t cool anymore) and a few other small items, I often find the products to be very high-priced and the whole vibe more appealing to a different kind of person than me.

*It was one of their $200 play tents that inspired me to bust out my sewing machine and make my son his own tent, which came in at a fraction of the cost and is just as functional for a 3-year-old to romp in and occasionally pull down from the ceiling because that’s what toddlers do.*

That said, since I’ve purchased from them before I’m on their email list, and I hear about events at their Chicago location all the time.  They do a great variety of concerts and storytimes, and when I received an email saying Suzi Shelton would be playing at the store with special guest Little Miss Ann – who my son digs – I RSVPd immediately.  The concert was wonderful and all the kids in attendance had a great time, even if it was a little bit of a madhouse.  There was dancing and singing and clapping and my son even got in on the action partnering up with an older girl to dance!

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Post-concert, my son had a great time perusing the store as well, and let us know exactly which items he liked  such as this plush race car, retailing at only $249.  ;)  Considering he already has two ridey toys in our apartment, I think we’ll pass.

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The Land of Nod is a beautiful store, and I admire all the items there.  The North and Clybourn location is great, and the staff is super friendly.  If it’s your thing, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s just not my thing.

 

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We had a lovely visit to the Chicago Children’s Museum yesterday morning, taking advantage of Grandpa’s gift of a membership. Now that we’ve been going for about two years, I’m familiar enough with the space and the exhibits to know how much CCM my 3-year-old can handle in one trip.  If we try and do everything, we get tired and flustered and it doesn’t end well. Yet, if we pick one or two activities, things go smoothly and we can truly delve into an activity and enjoy it. My intention yesterday had been to visit the “Snow Much Fun” winter-themed room that recently returned for the season. We had a great time in the room last year, ice skating in our socks and riding around in a sled. Yesterday, though, the room was packed with school groups (tis the season!) so we steered clear and instead spent a great deal of our time in the newly re-opened Water Play Room.  Kiddo had a great time getting soaked, playing with boats, and discovering a brand new part of the room that we’ve somehow missed in all our previous visits – the “Paint with Water” wall! Essentially, it’s a wall of rock tile that kids can paint on after dipping their brushes into troughs of water.  It was the hit of the day, and I’m sure it’ll become a part of our regular rotation when we visit.  So much fun!

**My piece of advice when visiting CCM – If you plan to go into the water room, bring a change of clothes. There are raincoats and smocks for the kids to wear, yet my son always manages to get soaked even while wearing these. Just pack extra clothes, and it’s not an issue.**

 

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After Ponyville Ciderfest..

imageSo we went to a My Little Pony convention in Milwaukee this past weekend – a first year convention called Ponyville Ciderfest.  Kiddo and I are both big fans of the show, and it seemed like a fun reason for an adventure and mini road tip.  We had a nice time, and I’m certainly glad we went.  There were definitely some awesome moments – like my kiddo getting to high-five the actress who voices Apple Bloom, and meet and paint a birdhouse at a kids event with Andrea Libman (voice of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy).

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With the lovely and charming Andrea Libman.

There were fun panels with the voice actors each day, and I also attended a panel featuring G.M. Berrow – who writes the books that accompany the series.   Her panel convinced me I should buy some of these books for read-alouds with kiddo, as he adores these characters and would most likely be riveted, even though they’re chapter books.

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There was also a dance floor with deejays who played house music all day long, which my son adored. Most of his time at Ciderfest was spent getting his dance on with the other kids in attendance.  On the second day, a girl cosplaying as Pinkie Pie blew up balloons and danced with them and it turned into an incredible kids dance party.  On the whole, the female cosplayers we met were lovely and sweet and the very embodiment of the lessons of friendship and kindness that the show is about. (I’d also like to shout-out to the dude dressed as MLP character Cheese Sandwich, who was great with kids and very sweet.)

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All of the above things were awesome, and worth our admission costs and the costs of the trip.  I scored some amazing merchandise, and again – I don’t regret going.

However, if I may vent for a moment, this convention seemed to be having an identity crisis. Now, this was my first My Little Pony convention, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if other MLP conventions have this same problem; My Little Pony is a show created for kids, and enjoyed by kids, but a majority of convention-goers were adults, and male.  I assume you know what a “Brony” is, right? It’s a term for adult male fans of the show, and that seemed to be who Ponyville Ciderfest was geared toward.  While there’s nothing wrong with this, and I totally believe in loving what you love and expressing it, it creates a jumble.  Yes, there was a great kids room and a few family-friendly panels, but there were also panels about the X-rated MLP fanfiction and whether bronies are furries. (I’ll leave it up to you to Google Furries, though you might not want to.)  On the vendor floor, there was more than one seller dealing in rather adult art featuring these ponies, and it wasn’t set apart from the regular merchandise or even up above kid level. I’m not even going to go into the fact that, when you get large groups of awkward fandudes together, they drop profanity like no one’s business. I get that the “Bronies” are going to be the ones dropping cash on hotel rooms and merchandise at events like these, but if it’s going to be a Bronyfest it should be labeled as such and not try to be “family-friendly”…

What I’m saying is – Attendance numbers say there were about 600-800 people in attendance over the course of the weekend.  If 100 of them were kids, I’d be surprised. I’d believe more like 50. I was surprised there weren’t more kids in attendance, but now I get why more parents didn’t bring their kids. My kid is three, and not aware of a lot of the more adult things happening around him, but for the older kids in attendance things could have been creepy and confusing.

I’m thinking about returning next year and looking around at other MLP conventions to see if this split personality issue is common.

Kudos to the organizers of Ponyville Ciderfest for throwing a great and pretty smooth-running convention, and for trying to keep everyone happy.  The Ciderfest staff members I encountered, especially in the kids room, were darling. Before next year, though, it would probably help to sit down and focus intentions a bit.

 

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