Birthday Boy

John suggested we celebrate his birthday a day late since UnityPoint was hosting a Celebrity Bartenders night at the Iowa Brewing Company. Tips to the bartenders were donated to cancer research at UnityPoint.

We scheduled a babysitter and convinced Katie and Bob and my parents to join us downtown for the evening. Since Fong’s Pizza moved in just two blocks from the brewery and they offer delivery, this was an easy and delicious dinner decision. We went with The Iowan and Street Taco.

Even though Elijah and I ran out of time this week to bake John Fruity Pebbles birthday cookies, we’ll just extend the celebration through this weekend.

Thanks for giving us a reason to breakup the routine of a week, John.

I celebrate you every day.

Peppermint Walk

“Santa, How’d you get here?”

Unlike last week, Elijah was not afraid of Santa on Friday during Marion’s Peppermint Walk.

Santa arrives at this event by a firetruck and suddenly Elijah was interested in this mysterious man in the red suit. Elijah ran through the park following the firetruck and was not afraid to approach Santa and ring the bells he was holding.

This free event is a great kick-off to the holiday season. (We attended last year, too!) Popcorn, carriage rides, and even a reindeer were all a part of the night. The characters from Frozen were scheduled to arrive later in the evening, but we were cold. We took our bags of popcorn and headed home to warm up in front of the fireplace.

Aside from the firetruck fascination, having Aunt Debbie and Kaylie join us was the highlight. Thanks for braving the cold, Debbie and Kaylie.

Apple Tracking Screen-time

I mentioned in my last post that I recently got a new iPhone. My last one was so old and the memory was so full that I couldn’t even do the most recent updates.

When Apple released an update in the summer, newspaper headlines read “Apple wants you to use your iPhone less”.

If you have an Apple phone and have updated it, it’s tracking your screen time. You can now check your overall screen time and how much time you spend on specific apps. In addition, you can set limits on certain apps.

Knowledge is power.

While we all know we spend more time on our phones than we care to admit, it’s shocking to open Instagram and see how many minutes I average per day. (It’s actually only 12, but that’s just one app.)

Want to check how many minutes you’ve been on an app this week?

  1. Open the “Settings” app in iOS, then choose “Battery”
  2. Scroll down to the “Battery Usage” section of settings and then tap on the little clock icon.
  3. Under the app name in question, see exactly how much time an individual app has been used.

You can also set your phone to a Bedtime Mode, which allows you to set the times you’re willing to receive messages. This means that if you don’t want messages to show up on your screen while you’re sleeping, you can check the time on your phone and not be distracted by messages that have come in since you went to sleep. (If all of my students used this feature, they’d get a lot more sleep!)

Why would Apple want us to use their product less? 

  • Though it may seem against their interests, Apple and Google know helping people use their phones less is good for their businesses.
  • With very few exceptions, when a product harms people, they use it less or look for better alternatives. Apple and Google have an incentive to fix harmful aspects of their products just like car makers have an incentive to make cars safer.

While I tend to utilize time-consuming apps the most is when I’m either procrastinating or needing time to zone out and just scroll, knowing my time is calculated and available to me might just make me pick up a book rather than my device.

Do you check your phone usage or limit yourself to a certain amount of time within an app? What if your phone shut off after you reached your limit?

Lately I’ve been…

Making: smoothies with frozen cauliflower. Weird, right? It’s basically tasteless and adds a vegetable to my morning.

Watching: “Homecoming” on Amazon. Julia Roberts is unlike we’ve seen her before in this TV series.

Searching: for flights. Arizona is on our winter travel list, and we’re still discussing a spring break destination.

Reading: Becoming by Michelle Obama. I finished this book last night, and it honestly made me sad to be reminded of the giant step backward we’ve taken as a country since this family left the White House.

Grading: sports articles. This is where the transition in my journalism class takes place. I’ve taught the legal standards of journalism and provided notes on how to format articles. It is now up to the students to find a great story and tell it in a unique way. I’m enjoying this part of the semester where I can sit back and coach them on the writing while they do the work.

Listening: to Christmas playlists on Amazon. The Polar Express playlist is great when Elijah and I are busy in the kitchen, and I’m always a fan of the “Glee Christmas” playlist. But no matter who is singing, I always get excited for my favorite Christmas song, “Mary, Did You Know?” 

Planning: A birthday celebration for John. December birthdays tend to blend in with the holidays. I try my hardest not to let this happen. Even though John doesn’t want cake or cupcakes, Elijah and I might pretend we didn’t hear that request.

Loving: my new iPhone X. The picture quality on this thing is out of this world. As much as I take photos, this upgrade was long overdue. Elijah, thanks for being my favorite subject.

What are you making, watching, searching, reading, grading, listening to, planning and/or loving?

Still not sure about Santa

Compared to last year’s visit to see Santa, we’ve made some major progress with Mr. C.

Elijah had no interest in talking to Santa, but the candy canes Santa’s elf had in her basket were a different story. A blue candy cane? He’d take a picture next to Santa (but not too close) for that treat.

If you live in the area, I recommend NewBo Market to see Santa. This is the second year in a row we have gone this totally free route. The bonus is that there wasn’t even a line. Santa will be at the NewBo Market from 12-4 during the following dates:

December 9
December 16
December 23

Annual Christmas Stop

This is our third year making the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City a part of our Christmas season. They post a “Wish List” on the website and this year we focused on household items (laundry detergent pods, dryer sheets, soap..) and lots of individual personal care items (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste). Panera gift cards are also an important donation for us because John and I shared a few late dinners there during our commutes to and from the NICU.

We shopped and delivered our donations on Saturday. It’s so important to me to make this a family effort. It’s easy to write a check or pick up a few items when I am already at Target/Walmart, but making all three of our family members present for the shopping and delivery make us put more effort into the day.

The only downside of the day was that Elijah misunderstood where we were going with our donations. When we said The Ronald McDonald House, his mind went to Old McDonald’s Farm. He thought we’d see hoses, pigs, and cows during our outing. He wasn’t upset, but he couldn’t stop talking about all of the animals we were about to see…even after we had already dropped off our donations. Whoops.

If you’re interested in donating to this awesome cause, it’s as simple as ringing the doorbell at the house and dropping your gift off with a volunteer.

Last year’s post.

We’ll be back to the RMH in April for our Easter tradition and May for the Red Shoes Run. Consider yourself invited.

Thanksgiving

As Oprah says in her Super Soul Conversations podcast, “I believe that one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself is time — taking time to be more fully present.”

Amen.

This Thanksgiving break included time to be fully present.

I sent Elijah to daycare on Wednesday and knocked out 20 essays with a break in between for a lunch date downtown with John. Grading half of my essays allowed me to be fully present for too many laughs, snuggles and treats to count. I’m sure I’ll regret letting Elijah order a cake pop at Starbucks, but I like to think that by making him order it himself and tell the barista “thank you”, I’m teaching him some valuable social skills.

We spent time with extended family for Thanksgiving lunch and dinner, and my grading continued during two different naptimes. Among all of this, I honestly felt like I had a chance to just be present with my husband and son. I made it a priority.

I learned a valuable lesson last Christmas and I won’t make the same mistake again. In running around and trying to please everyone who wanted to celebrate Christmas, we didn’t leave any time for our own family. I ended my Christmas break sad and worn out. Lesson learned. Thanksgiving was a test to make sure we plan unplanned family time during Christmas, too. I’m already excited to bake, catch a movie, and just “be” with my family during this magical season.

Reflections in the Park

Dubuque’s Reflection in the Park event put us in the holiday spirit early this year.

We traveled to Dubuque on Wednesday evening to join my cousin Casey and my goddaughter Lillian for an evening of Christmas lights. The park is only open for people to walk through one night of the year. Admission was $10 for adults and all of the proceeds benefitted Hillcrest Family Services. Even though the walking tour night has passed, cars are invited to drive through the park ($10 per car) the remaining days of the holiday season.

I encourage anyone who wants to check out Christmas lights to add Murphy Park to your holiday plans. In fact, grab a peppermint mocha, crank your favorite holiday playlist, and donate to a great cause this Christmas season. The park is open every night from 5-10 p.m.

Becoming

Aside from getting out for some early Christmas shopping and a visit to Fireside Winery in Williamsburg with a friend yesterday, this weekend has been spent wrapped in sherpa reading Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming.

As much as I love to read, I rarely buy books for myself. This was an exception. I only wish her book tour stopped in Iowa.

And if you think it was too early to Christmas shop, the weather told me otherwise. While I was gone, John taught Elijah how to build his own “Frosty”.

Non-Clinical PT Spotlight

John didn’t even tell me about this article. My brother Matt saw it through LinkedIn and emailed the link. I decided it was my duty to share my husband’s success story.

I’m proud of John for knowing his strengths, working on his weaknesses, and living by the words that a true leader is measured by how he/she can get other people to improve their own performance.

I recently finished The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon and thought about John’s approach to leadership a lot within the examples.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “To run a successful organization,” I say, “you must learn to manage people’s energy, including your own.” 
  • “Serve Them—A great leader once said, the higher you get in an organization the more it is your duty to serve the people below you rather than having the people below serve you. The key is to serve their growth, their future, their career, and their spirits so they enjoy work, life, and being on your bus.”
  • “A man goes to the village to visit the wise man and he says to the wise man, “I feel like there are two dogs inside me. One dog is this positive, loving, kind, and gentle dog and then I have this angry, mean-spirited, and negative dog and they fight all the time. I don’t know which is going to win.” The wise man thinks for a moment and he says, “I know which is going to win. The one you feed the most, so feed the positive dog.”
  • “Your positive energy and vision must be greater than anyone’s and everyone’s negativity. Your certainty must be greater than everyone’s doubt.”