The Hula Hoop

May 29, 2009

Recently, my kids and I were at my parents’ house for lunch. It was a gorgeous day outside – full of spring and full of hope. And, I must admit, it kind of made me feel young again.

We were playing outside when my daughter brought out the hula hoop she keeps there and proceeded to demonstrate how good she’s gotten at hula hooping over the last few months. (I guess she’s been practicing during all her visits to Grandma’s house.) This was actually the 3rd hula hoop my mom has bought for Jordan. The first two were destroyed at our house – most likely by her 2-yr-old brother jumping on them and bending them so out of shape that the “hoops” had lost all their “hula.” After the last one was ruined, my mom told Jordan she could only keep the toy at her home.

Jordan asked if I could hula hoop. Could I hula hoop? Of course I could hula hoop. I was the queen of hula hooping when I was a kid. I could keep it going forever. In fact, there was a point in my life where I was selected to continually hula hoop in a toy store’s glass display window to generate sales. Could I hula hoop? Who did my kid think she was messing with?

I took that pink and white, candy-striped hula hoop from my little girl and brought it up around me. I spun it around and began to move my hips and waist. The only thing is, instead of the hoop going round and round, it did a half spin and clamored to the ground. Hmmm. That wasn’t right. I tried again. This time it made a full rotation before falling. My two oldest children began to giggle. I tried again. And again. I couldn’t believe it! It seemed that not only had my daughter’s first two hoops lost their “hula,” but so had her mom!

How could this be? What happened to me? Did the hula go out of me when I reached a certain age? Did it pass through my body when I gave birth? Did the first child do it to me or was it that third baby that finally did me in? And the thing is, I didn’t even realize it was gone! I still thought I had “it.” I’m not old. I’m not fat. My hips still move. So does my waist. So why couldn’t I keep that dang hula hoop up? When did my wiggle become not good enough? And not only that, when did I become short of breath from trying?!

For a fleeting moment, I actually thought about buying myself a hula hoop and secretly practicing. I thought, “I’ll become the best hula hooping mom on the block. Those kids of mine won’t laugh at me next time. I’ll show them, those little twerps.” And then, reality hit me and I realized I was never going to buy one for myself. What mom has nothing better to do than learn how to hula hoop? When would I fit in these secret practices? Between Girl Scouts and quizzing my daughter on her spelling words? Wouldn’t my husband notice the rattling sound that occurred every time I snuck off into the garage? And, honestly, who cares anyway? I realized that, despite my hurt pride, I really and truly did not. So, I let the kids continue to giggle. And, I tried a few more times. Despite my best efforts, the hula hoop never did stay up. But, what did stay up were the smiles on my kids’ faces. And, I realized at that moment, who can ask for anything more than that? (Even if it did take a little humiliation on my part!)

Save Money with

May 28, 2009

Another website that I really enjoy (and have pretty good success with) is Freecycle. It’s name pretty much explains the concept but, just in case you don’t understand, I’ll explain.

The point of this website is to “recycle” things you have around the house by giving them away for FREE! And, in return, you can find things (some great, some not so great) for free on the site. The best part, though, is that if you are searching for a particular item, you can post a “want” ad and hope that someone has the item you need and is willing to just give it to you. As I write this, the Freecycle Network consists of 4,721 groups with over 6 million members worldwide. Unlike Craigslist, you need to become a “member” in order to participate in the website. The good news, though, is that it is, of course, free to join!

When you go to you will be asked to type in your geographic location (i.e. state or city) to find the closest group to you. For me, I typed in Austin, TX. Once I have joined my local “group” I can begin to post. In the past, I have given away a blender (that worked, but had a broken handle) and a vacuum (that needed a new belt). The best success I had, though, was when I was in search of a cowboy boot cake pan for my daughter’s 5th birthday. We were having a cowgirl theme that year and my mom (a fabulous cake decorator) had agreed to make the cake. We found the pan we wanted online, but I hated to pay $15 for a cake pan (or anything else for that matter) that I’m only going to use one time.

So, I went onto my Austin Freecycle group and posted the kind of cake pan I needed. I said that I would be willing to just borrow it for the day, if someone was willing to lend it to me. And, wouldn’t you know, within a day or two, a woman had emailed me that she had the pan and I was welcome to borrow it for my daughter’s birthday celebration. She lived pretty far from me, so she sent the pan to work with her husband (who worked closer to our house) and I went and picked it up from him. When I was done with it, I made my way back to his office to return it. There’s a reason the expression “the kindness of strangers” exists. Because, I have found, very often strangers are just that – kind. And, many of those people I’ve found on Freecycle.

As I browse through my local Freecycle group tonight, I see that people are giving away such things as lamps, shoes, a double stroller, coupons, an area rug, a dresser, a TIVO box, and a computer. I see people are in search of roller blades, a filing cabinet, and electric blanket, hermit crab supplies, even a dressmaker’s mannequin. You never know what you might be able to get for the low price of FREE on Freecycle. If for no other reason, the site is worth checking out because you might find that your trash could truly be someone else’s treasure.

A school project

May 27, 2009

My daughter’s 1st grade class has a project due this Thursday involving the collection of a bug. Already, I am grossed out. Bugs, collected for school or just flying around (or, heaven forbid, in my house) are just not my thing. But, it’s her project and she (and her two –year-old brother) are already quite excited about it. For the past week they have been collecting rolly-pollies outside and I am constantly saying such things as, “No bugs in the car!” or “Get those disgusting things out of our house!”

The project entails collecting (that’s a nice way of saying, “Killing, but not ripping off any essential body parts or squooshing into a big mess”) an insect or spider. (Gross! Spiders are even worse than regular bugs!) Since pretty much all school projects fall on my shoulders (as opposed to, of course, my husband’s very broad and capable ones) I began to stress out over what we were going to do about this “collection” event.

And then, I thought my problem was solved. (Well, in a sense. In all actuality, it was the start of a whole new problem – you’ll see what I mean in a minute. But for now, we’re focusing on the school project.) My husband came home one morning, from his insanely early trek to the gym and announced that when he walked in the house, he found a cockroach on our kitchen floor. (See. Right there. That’s my NEW problem. But, I’ll save that for another post.) He told me that he “saved” it in a plastic baggie so that, when I called the pest control people (Oh yes, I should mention tasks like that also generally fall upon me) that I could show them what it looked like and they would know how to treat for them. At first, I wanted to vomit. A cockroach on my kitchen floor. It doesn’t get much worse than that, does it?

And then, a wonderful and brilliant idea struck me. We now had an INSECT (fully unharmed – except for the fact that it was dead, of course) in a plastic bag in our house. THAT could be the insect for the 1st grade class project! I wouldn’t need to search for or kill or “collect” any other bugs.

I shared my glee with my 6-year-old. We have a bug! What kind? Oh, it’s a cockroach! But that counts as an “insect” – 6 legs and all!

“Mom, do you realize we have to attach our bug to poster board?”

“Yep! We can just tape the plastic bag onto it.”

“Mom. We then need to describe it and tell about it.”

“No problem! That’s what Google is for!”

“And then, Mom, we need to say where we found it.”

Pause, pause, pause.

“What am I supposed to say, Mom? That we found a cockroach on our kitchen floor?”

More pausing.

She had a good point there. My 6-year-old is a smarty, I must say.

Did I really want the kids (and, of course, their parents) in her school – her private school, may I add – to know that we brought not only brought in a cockroach, but we brought in a cockroach from our kitchen, for the bug project.

Probably not.

What to do, what to do.

“Okay, I’ll take you outside tonight and we’ll search for bugs. How does that sound?”

It sounded great to her.

It sounded positively disgusting to me.

See Our Family on PBS's Retirement Revolution

May 13, 2009

About a year ago, my husband, Rob, and I were featured in a PBS documentary entitled Retirement Revolution. Hosted by Paula Zahn, the two-part show explores the challenges and opportunities of those who are headed into retirement. The show also discusses what it means to grow older and to retire, giving practical considerations that can help ensure a retirement on one’s own terms.

If you’d like to read about our family, and watch a video clip of us from the PBS show, click here. - A GREAT way to save money on dinner out!

May 12, 2009

One of my favorite new sites - well, maybe not so “new,” but new to me – is

The great thing about this site is that you can go there and buy a $5, $10, $25 (or sometimes more) restaurant gift card for less. For example, if you were to go to their site right now, you could purchase a $25 gift card for $10 which can be used at literally thousands of restaurants. All you do is type in your zip code and they tell you which restaurants in your area accept their gift cards. Once you make the purchase online, you just print out the certificate and take it with you to dinner.

The best thing, though, is they often run coupon codes – I usually find what that week’s code is on the website for For example, this week’s code is: Special

Once you type in the coupon code, you can often get a $25 gift card for around $3! Now, that’s a deal.

You can also purchase “Dinner of the Month” gift cards – for yourself or to give as a gift. A 12 month subscription (where the recipient receives a $25 gift card, once a month, for a year) is $120. With their coupon codes, however, you can often get this deal for $24 (which also includes a free $25 gift card for yourself!) What a great gift to give someone!

My husband and girlfriends and I have tried out some great restaurants that we’ve never before frequented by finding them on and printing out gift cards. Not only have we saved a bunch of money on dinner, we’ve also found some great new places to eat!

I just want to note that there are restrictions for most of the restaurants. Often, they require something like a $35 minimum purchase with 2 dinner entrees. But, even still, if you only pay $3 for the gift card and need to spend an additional $10 to reach the minimum, $13 is still a great price for a meal for two in a nice restaurant! And, if you go out with a girlfriend, and split the check, you could both walk away with a great meal for just a few dollars!

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