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Sleepless Mornings

Updated: 2018-02-15T21:59:28.242-08:00


New to the Family


Something I never mentioned in my last post was another family change we had over last summer.  As you may recall, we lost our beloved Husky Simba to cancer back in February, and we spent some time recovering from that.  But by spring we were all thinking about the one thing we could never have in the same house as our former hunting dog -- kittens!Our family always had cats in the past (pre-Simba) and we were longing to have that same feline element in the house again.  One afternoon I was perusing the site of a local no-kill shelter in our town, when up popped a picture of a mama and her two tiny kittens that had arrived.  The two kittens were popping up from behind her with the yummiest little faces, which for days I could not get out of my mind.  So that weekend I spontaneously said to the family, "Who wants to go take a look at some kittens?"  Naturally everyone was on board, so to the car we went.How do I describe how we all felt when we first laid eyes on these two kittens?  I know no better way to explain it was meant to be. By the time we walked out of the shelter that afternoon, we had started application paperwork to adopt these two sisters as soon as they were old enough.  We couldn't stop smiling!  As we were walking to our car, Charlie noticed some flowers growing near the building and pointed out that they were similar to ones we grew at our old house.  I told him he was right, and they were called "Iris."  It took him about ten seconds to note that he liked the name, and then suggested it for what would be his kitten (the black one).  No joke -- by the time we reached the car, Iris was her name!  As we started driving home, Noelle pondered what she should name hers.  I suggested keeping with the floral family and had her google flower names to see if there was one that struck her.  Two minutes later I was fighting for Primrose, but she then saw (and fell in love with) "Zinnia."  And there you have it -- Iris and Zinnia were the new members of our family.Of course we still had to go home and finish our applications, hoping that the shelter would choose us.  But as it goes, because we were the first to apply and we wanted them both, it was a bit of a no brainer.  In the mean time, we visited them constantly and also volunteered at the shelter quite a bit, helping with anything we could.  These girls were not hurting for attention or love.By May, they were weaned, spayed and ready to come home!  We really planned ahead, making our family room a safe space for them that was separate from the dog.  (A baby gate between them let them meet without any danger to anyone.  By the time we took the gate down, dog and kittens were just fine with each other.)  Since then they've been growing like weeds and making us all very happy.  Sure, they have their quirks -- like when Iris decides she wants to play fetch at 4am and wakes me up by dropping a piece of balled up paper in my face.  That's fun.  Or Zinnia and her 6am love bites on Noelle's chin or nose.  Not aggressive, but not fun when you're trying to sleep!Welcome to the family, sweet girls!  We're so happy you're here!  [...]

Out with the old, in with the new


A few more months have passed us by and here we are at the tail end of summer.  It's been a good one, overall.  Charlie did have some summer school, so there were a few weeks of early mornings and homework, but once he got that out of the way we were free to enjoy our freedom.  We swam...we rode roller coasters...we played games...we slept in...we overall enjoyed the chance to enjoy life without a lot of "have to's" mixed in.  I am grateful.

With the beginning of school comes the usual routines that we are often less than enthusiastic about.  Early mornings.
Too much homework.
Grumpy kids.  (Is that a routine?)

I myself am fairly enthusiastic about another year of subbing because I now have a car payment to make every month!  Yes, we finally traded in our beloved minivan that kindly carried us from here to there for over 14 years, because frankly the old girl was losing her looks.  Sure, the engine was still running well, but when you have duct tape holding your door's interior in place, you start to feel a little embarrassed.  Plus the auto door could no longer be opened or closed, so everyone had to get in from the other side.  And let's not talk about the the little dinging noise coming from my side of the car that would only get louder and LOUDER as I accelerated.  I think my sanity is worth something - don't you?!?!

And so out with the old, and in with the new -- a 2016 Chevy Equinox that I am thoroughly enjoying.  All the bells and whistles work, the interior is in place, and there's not a bit of duct tape in sight.

Funny how your standards change!

The more exciting news about the start of school is a big one for us: both kids are going to be in high school this year!  Finally, one location to carpool to!  And we're genuinely excited that Noelle will be a freshman because she's what you might call a "participator."  She will want to go to the football games, the dances, the rallies -- you name it!  I personally like being involved in such things, or at least attending the games, so we'll be out there with the cheering crowd and being a part of things.  I can't wait!

I envy my kids being in school together again.  My brother was five years older than me, so I was far enough behind that I didn't start high school until after he graduated.  For my kids there will always be someone on campus who will have their back.  And like me, my daughter will know a lot of upperclassman because she's the younger sibling of one.  I remember getting hugs and hellos from various seniors when I was a freshman -- it felt great to be singled out and noticed by these "kids" that basically looked like adults.  I felt safe.  I hope it's that way for her.

Now I'm off to enjoy our last cookout of the official "summer."  We're never done with the bbq, but tonight there will be burgers, a bonfire and s'mores.  Because if summer has to end, it needs to end with a BANG!

The Perfect Goodbye


It's been five and a half weeks since we said goodbye to our Simba.  While it was difficult getting to that place where a decision had to be made about his life, once we were there, we had complete peace.  There stopped being any question of "is today the right day?" when that morning he could no longer climb the stairs in our house.

It was a peaceful day, and it couldn't have gone any better.  We kept the kids home from school and the entire day was all about Simba.  Noelle baked dog cookies that she'd received for Christmas -- each one in the shape of a bone.  While Simba wasn't interested (because he was barely eating anything by then), Marley was delighted to enjoy both shares of the baked goodies.  We sat around as a family and spontaneously started sharing favorite Simba  We laughed at his antics and wept at the thought of missing them in the future.  We ate tri tip from our favorite local vendor for lunch so that his last meal would be something delicious and special.  And we probably took way more pictures than he cared for.

Late in the day we piled into our minivan and drove down to our vet's office.  We were the last appointment of the day, so it was quiet.  We brought Simba's favorite big pillow, which we laid on the exam table, making it a comfortable place to be.  We huddled around him, petting and loving on him, making sure he heard from each of us one last time that we loved him and were so grateful to have had him in our lives all this time.  Those are the last things he heard.  And then he was gone.

Lots of tears and hugs and laughs about his barking later, we are feeling better day by day.  There's a little shrine to him on an end table with his ashes, his collar and a rather perfect stuffed Husky that has a suspiciously similar look on his face that we used to get right before Simba barked at us with what we called his "crazy eyes."  We miss him so much, but I can honestly say that I miss the Simba he was before he got sick.  After he was sick, he wasn't himself, and I could tell he was less and less happy with life as each day passed.  Our timing was perfect and he is at rest.

Goodbye, old friend.



My regular readers *cough my parents cough* have eagerly checked in to see if I'm writing.  Much to their disappointment, I haven't been.  And so here I am to share a bit of insight into the life that they created.  (Thanks guys!)I took today and the next two days off from a long term sub job to deal with something terribly painful.  And by the time you even read this, the worst part may already be over.  That's what I'm having the hardest time with -- the idea that life will go on beyond Friday.  Beyond something our family is dreading.  Somehow there will be a weekend, and then work, and the usual business of life.This terrible thing is that we are losing our sweet Siberian Husky, Simba.  He had started to lose weight last fall when I was walking daily like a madwoman, and at first we thought it was all the exercise.  But alas, it was not.  It was the dreaded thing that we all pretty much live in fear of: cancer. It took two vets and a pricey ultrasound to find it, but find it they did, and we've known since December that we were living on borrowed time with our sweet blue eyed boy.We've tried very hard to make his last days with us wonderful.  Or as wonderful as we can guess an eleven year old Husky would want them to be.  For Simba this mostly includes walks in the park, jaunts in the nearby field and delicious food.  We drive him to the park now so that he can use his little bit of energy to enjoy his time there.  And I don't think he's complaining about the amounts of fresh chicken and steak in his life.  Here are some latest fave pics -- photo cred goes to the kids.This gives you a sense of where our lives are at, and what we'll be dealing with in the coming hours and days and weeks.  I'm thankful we will have each other, and I know that grief gets easier with time, but I know my kids will suffer.  My son is especially sensitive to change and upset, so I'll be all over him like a helicopter.  Being the mom is the hardest part, really.  Making the decision, making the appointment, making us all talk about it.  Nobody on this earth loves this dog more than me, but I will be the comforter and the caretaker.  Because that's what we do.[...]

The Latest and it's all Good


Big things have been happening at Sleepless Mornings lately!

  • I'm officially a classified sub in our school district.  I can sub in the office, in the lunch room or in the classroom as an aide.  So far I've done lunch room once (at Noelle's school, which led to many amusing moments with her and her friends), and several weeks of being a para-specialist for special needs kids in their classrooms.  I honestly walked into that job feeling like I would be inadequate and under qualified, but the teachers know their stuff and I picked up whatever I could.  More importantly, I fell completely in love with the children in a way that I never saw coming.  I discovered that the best feeling in the world is when one of these incredible kids comes running towards me first thing in the morning for a hug.  Or crawls into my lap to cuddle.  Or smiles with pride when the answer they were searching for comes to them.  There is no better feeling in the world, and I would happily go back every day.
    • However, it should be noted that today we started Thanksgiving break, and my tired body is SO ready for the break!!
  • Inspired by my beautiful and hilarious friend Angie, who to date has lost 80+ pounds over the last year and a half, I have begun a regime of walking daily and eating well to get myself back into a shape I can be happy with.  On my first day I was super proud of the one mile I was able to accomplish, but as of now (2.5 months later) I am pleased to say I'm jog/walking 4 miles daily when I can fit it in.  Russ is a runner so he joins me when he's not working, but I do enjoy my alone walks, too, as a bit of quiet meditation.  I'm dying to post some before/after photos, but so far I'm not there yet.  But the weight is trickling off slowly and I am enjoying buying some new clothes.  (Especially running clothes -- who saw that coming??!)
  • Just this morning I was delighted to discover a FB message from my high school bestie, who I'm sorry to say I was not in touch with for quite a few years.  We both had some explaining to do about what happened between us, but most importantly I'm grateful that I finally had the opportunity to apologize for hurting her all those years ago.  It weighed on me for a long time, knowing that I could have handled things differently, and I always hoped I'd have that opportunity to tell her.  Today that opportunity came and we are both the better for it.  Yay us!
  • Thanksgiving is at our house this year, and the first at our new home.  I'm thinking we'll have to finally pull the dining room table into working position and eat on it.  (We usually use the eat-in kitchen table that we bought.  Or sometimes the coffee table.  So?)  Noelle and my mom and I are having fun arranging the menu, and of course there will be too much pie for all.  Isn't overeating what Thanksgiving is all about??  
    • PS I suspect my gall bladder is on the way out.  Too many attacks amidst too much healthy eating = unhappy Merrie.
  • I turned 41 a few weeks back, and it was fabulous!  Great day with my family that included my walk, a great movie (Arrival) and dinner/shopping in a nearby town with great shops.  I came home with books, including the book that Arrival is based on.  This made up for the 40th being not so great.  :o/

That's all I've got for now.  Happy November all!  I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Everything is going to be juuuuust fine


I think I have some insight now into what the seventh level of hell looks like.  I can't describe it perfectly, but it's something along the lines of that place you get to when all Google does is send you in circles trying to renew your blog, all the while sending you warnings that your blog of eight years will soon be "available to other users" when it doesn't renew by tomorrow.I was literally sobbing in front of the computer when my daughter came in to comfort me (and rescue the dogs, who hate sobbing.)  All I could envision, as I chased my tail online, was that all of my posts and the history of my life would be gone *poof* in an instant.  I was not a happy camper.That is, until I found the ONE little itty bitty thing I was missing as I went round and round (like a record, baby), which saved the day.  I am now renewed for the year and FINALLY able to log into my admin account for the first time in a while.  What a relief!My daughter has since left with her friend for the college preview night at the high school.  They're only 8th graders, but they're both on that wonderful college track and already excited about where they might continue their education.  I couldn't be happier about that, truly.  While she's gone, I will be calming down and hopefully catching my breath for the evening.  I don't think it helped my emotional see-saw that I only got about five hours of sleep last night.  Nobody's fault but my own -- I just couldn't seem to fall asleep and decided it would be more interesting to watch some tv.  Thank goodness for DVR items because after midnight there truly isn't much worth watching.  My fun choice?  Killing Reagan!  It was actually pretty good and I'm hopeful that it was historically accurate.  Because I'm definitely not going to be fact checking. Noelle and I went to the Reagan library over the summer and were knocked out by how impressive it was.  Funny story: my mom and I both feel a connection to him because he and my grandfather looked so much alike!  Walking through his library and seeing so many pictures almost felt like being around my beloved Grampa again.  I love that.  Unfortunately, it made their burial site a bit more emotional than expected and there were definitely tears.  Noelle thought it a bit strange until I pulled up a picture of my grandfather for her to compare.  She got it then.While on the topic, here are some photos of our day!Seeing a piece of the Berlin Wall was pretty powerful for both of us.[...]

Tweens and Tours


Oh the joys of these You Tube sensations that our kids call "celebrities."  Do your kids talk about any of them?  Some of them are decent enough, and my twelve year old daughter will be the first in line to tell you how amazing Cameron Dallas or JC Caylen are.  Never heard of them?  Try living with a twelve year old!

I don't know that any of them really has any talent other than finding a fan base in tween girls, which prods them to post even more You Tube videos so that eventually they can be contacted by a PR company that is smart enough to say, "Hey, what if you did this crap on a stage and we charged ridiculous amounts of money for it?"  Bingo!  I confess, I am one of the mothers who has shelled out more than a few dollars for her daughter to have the "experience of a lifetime," at least according to said twelve year old.

Exhibit A - Noelle and Cameron Dallas.

This picture came by way of tickets, VIP passes, standing outside in San Francisco for six hours with homemade signs and tee shirts, and then following my kid through a sweaty mess of tweens for meet and greets, signed posters, "merch" shopping and a show.  I was in so much pain (thank you Plantar Fasciitis in my feet) and quite deaf by the end of the day.

But you know what?  She was happy.  She went home with wonderful memories and stories to share, making all of it worthwhile.  Would I do it again?  Maybe not THAT show, but we are heading down to Los Angeles this summer for another show of another "celebrity" that she adores.  I managed to score front row SEATS (actual seats this time) so she can yell and scream and ooh and ahh, whilst I SIT in my SEAT with my iPad.  Maybe the show will be fun for me too, but mostly I'm looking forward to a getaway with my daughter to southern CA.  I can't put a price on that.

My Achy Breaky Body


I might possibly have turned 40 last November.


I'm still a bit knocked out by that because I don't feel 40 on the inside.  I'm not sure how old I feel on the inside, actually.  I know I'm not stupid 15 or naive 25 -- I just know I feel young....ish.  On the outside however -- that's another story.

When did the aches and pains become "normal?"  And since when does a four mile walk with a friend leave my heel feeling bruised for weeks after?  And what's the deal with spicy foods affecting my insides for like three days??  I used to have a stomach of steel!  Now I eat a few jalapeño poppers and suddenly I'm popping Tums like they're candy.

Overall I suppose I shouldn't complain.  Except for the aches (and weird weakness in my hands that makes me drop EVERYTHING), I can say that I basically have my health, as does the rest of the family.  We keep busy and enjoy life, despite the constant of homework and housework.  During February we had something to do and somewhere to be every single weekend, so Russ finally asked if March could be a non-social month.  Our big plans for this coming weekend, amidst a big rainstorm, are Redbox movies and family time.  I think we're all ready for some down time.

What were we up to that kept us so busy, you ask?  Well I'll tell you!

  • A trip to San Francisco led to the most delicious pizza I've EVER EATEN at a fabulous place called Capo's.  I went to high school with the owner, who happens to make the best pizza on earth, and we have vowed to return as often as possible.  On that same night we saw the band Guster at the Fillmore, which was a fantastic concert thanks to them being so talented and hilarious.  Seriously, they played Frozen songs during intermission, which was one of three choices the audience got to vote for.
  • An overnight trip to Monterey with my daughter over ski week, which included more yummy food, incredible Pink Berry yogurt and a new purse in my life that I am very happy with.  We came across it in a window and kept going back to see if they would ever be open so that I could purchase it.  When they finally did, the owner felt so badly about making me wait that she knocked more money off.  I love a deal!
  • A day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with friends, followed by dinner with friends and cousins, which was also followed by one of the best glasses of wine I've ever enjoyed while taking in a view of the moon on the ocean and three of my favorite people in the world.  No complaints here!
  • A Valentine cocktail party where the fancy drinks were cotton candy with dry champagne poured over it, and something with rum called a "leg spreader."  Yeah.  You read that right.  I didn't actually try the latter, but I'll bet it was delicious!  My friend always throws a great party and we had a wonderful time seeing old and new friends.  
  • A surprise birthday party for one of my dearest friends from high school -- she turned 40 this last week and we needed to celebrate.  Her husband (my bff) set it all up and did a terrific job.  Fun was had by all and I think she was genuinely surprised.  Not an easy task!
Those are the highlights.  If you're still with me, I will say goodnight.  I just popped some Tums and I need to rest my heel.  It's 9:07pm and I'm wrecked.  Goodnight!

New House, New Experiences!


Here we are in September and it's been a whirlwind few months.Some good things...some bad things...all around, nothing that our family can't survive and grow from.  I'm so glad that the four of us have each other.  What would life be without the core people you are surrounded by that have your back while you have theirs?  I'm definitely grateful.The biggest life change -- we moved!  Yes, we bought a new house, sold our old one (though not necessarily in that order) and transported nearly everything we own about 1.5 miles across our small town.  And let me tell you something: I am NEVER doing that again!!Sure, I say NEVER and maybe right now I actually mean NEVER.  Maybe I even mean NOT IN A MILLION YEARS.  But who knows what the future holds.  To be honest, if the future holds another move, it will also hold a day where I throw almost everything I own away just so that I don't have to move it again.We were diligent about tossing a LOT out as we packed.  I mean, twice we had a junk hauler come and haul piles and piles of STUFF away so that we wouldn't bring it to the new house.  And yet somehow, three months later, we still have a garage FULL of boxes that we can't seem to get unpacked.  I actually hate the sight of boxes now.  I'm having what doctors call "cardboard rejection syndrome."  It involves a lot crying and huddling in the fetal position in a corner when I see more boxes.Okay, not really.  But it feels like that sometimes!We're back into the swing of things with school that started way too early.  Charlie is a high schooler now and we are feeling pretty impressed with the high school so far.  More importantly, we're very proud of the efforts he's making to get decent grades and stay on top of his work.  And I was super excited to find out today that he's going to be reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" this year in school.  That was a favorite of mine back in the day and I plan to follow along with him in the book when they start it.  I foresee great conversations in our future about Atticus and Scout and Boo.  We really enjoyed his time reading "The Outsiders" last spring, which was my first time actually reading it, so I have some inkling of what I'm in for.Noelle is in her second year of middle school and so far having a great year.  I'm a little too thrilled that she is taking Drama and LOVES it.  The theater geek in me wants to see her pursue it in high school, too, so that I can go to all the plays and tell everyone she gets it from me.  Maybe I should bring my best actress award with me in my purse, just in case they don't believe me.KIDDING!  (About bringing it, not about winning it.)See?  Theater geek!  But that's where I met my best friend in the world 23 years ago, and we're still best friends to this day.  Check us out -- because why not??Herb and Rose Zigkowski -- a nice older married couple that love the Cubs.  I very cleverly took my hair out of the grey bun before pictures.  What you can't see is my very sexy crocheted purse that I'm carrying.  And apologies to my mom for turning her very nice, not-old-lady sweater into part of my costume!Anyway, the point is this -- if Noelle participates in Drama for the next few years, I feel strongly that she'll make lifelong friends and incredible memories.  I know I did.I guess I should go unpack a few boxes now.*sob*[...]



I had the incredible opportunity today to view the movie I wrote about a few posts ago -- NOBLE.I knew going in that it was about a real woman who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children in Vietnam, but I didn't realize I would be so powerfully moved by what she herself went through to get to that place.  The movie takes you through the life of Christina Noble, an Irish woman who was presented with challenges through much of her life, beginning at a very young age.They broke everything but her spirit.  They took everything but her dream.  NOBLE, the award-winning feature film, is the incredible true story of a fearless Irish heroine driven by her daring vision  who escapes the slums of Ireland and risks everything on the streets of Vietnam.The drive that fills Christina is inspiring -- she never gives up and never loses hope in her efforts to change lives for the better. NOBLE, in theaters May 8, stars Deirdre O'Kane (Moone Boy, Paths To Freedom), Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey, The Raven, Ailsa), Sarah Greene (The Guard, The Cripple Of Inishmaan), and Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones, Hunger, Safe House).While not all of us are going to be led to move to another country and take on such a major endeavor, hopefully each of us who sees NOBLE will feel the desire to make changes in our own lives that will positively affect others around us.  Even the simplest of gestures that bring a smile to someones face are worth it, and I know that I myself feel inspired to see how I can do more of my part and teach my children to do the same.Be sure to see NOBLE, which arrives in theaters May 8th.  You won't be sorry, and if you're like me, you'll be wishing you could give that lady a hug by the end! The website is chock full of information:[...]

Spring Break and a Broker


Spring has sprung, and spring break is upon us.  The kids are jumping for joy at not having alarm clocks or homework for a week.  Meanwhile, I still have kids that I babysit being dropped off at the crack of dawn, meals to prepare and a house to keep in order.  Some break!The biggest chaos in our lives at the moment is that we have our home on the market.  Actually, we sold it a week ago, but we're "contingent."  I didn't understand how big the word "contingent" would be in my life until recently.  For those of you living contentedly in your homes and not obsessing every second about realty, this basically means that we will really and truly only sell if we're able to buy another house.  In our case, within 10 days.  And wouldn't you know it -- in the last ten days every house we were interested in was snatched up by another buyer.  So here we sit, praying that an amazing house pops up on the market and we edge everyone else out before the deadline.Naturally, there are a bunch of houses out there for sale that are similar in price to the one we're selling.  But we happen to be looking at the next level up for our next home, where the pickings are slim.  Apparently we're not the only ones out there trying to upgrade from a three bedroom to a four, or from a one story to a two.  And to make things worse, if we don't find another house and we pass our deadline and fall out of contract, we're right back where we started.  Not the end of the world, but I admit I was a bit pleased at the prospect of not having to live in a "show ready" house every minute of the day.  Because these guys and their hair make that difficult.There are highlights to having gotten the house show ready, though.  Like finding out there's such a thing as chemical cleaning for your carpets, which makes them so clean that you no longer see the "clean" spots under area rugs.  And the fresh paint on top of the fresh drywall means I don't have to hide holes that made their way into our lives over time. A downside?  The garage has become the drop off point for anything we don't want showing, making it the most embarrassing place in the world for people to see.  I actually feel like apologizing to anyone who sees it, and then explaining that it's not my fault -- we were forced into it.  But of course anyone who has ever sold a house knows, the garage is your relocation space.  "If you don't use it every day, it goes in the garage."  That was good advice from my kick ass realtor, who by the way spent an entire day tackling our yards to make them better.  He even took out a bush that I'd always hated AND brought new rock over to cover up the older stuff.  We've since gone a step further and did this where the bush used to be.Definitely an improvement.And that's my life.  The usual routine with the fun addition of obsessing about house sales.  I guess it wouldn't be me if I wasn't obsessing about something![...]

She is Noble -- Enter to Win Contest!


What does it mean to be a noble woman?It's living fearlessly and loving recklessly!She is Noble is inspired by the life of Christina Noble, an Irish woman who traveled to Vietnam after experiencing an unforgettable dream.  As a result of her journey, she rescued millions of abused and homeless children.  Her story is told in the new movie NOBLE, coming to theaters Spring 2015.  The She is Noble campaign is designed to honor and celebrate inspirational women who change the world around them.Who is that woman in your world?  In your neighborhood or school or church?  Whoever she is, we want you to have the opportunity to tell her story.Find the time and nominate a noble woman at  Include a brief description, your name and email.  Done!  A team of storytellers -- from writers to videographers -- will take it from there, ready to take your nomination and tell her story.But that's not all!  Not ONLY could you win a trip to Ireland for you and $10,000 for her work, but if any of MY readers gets their submission published on the She is Noble website, they will receive a $25 Amazon gift card!  (To be disbursed in early May.)When you enter, use my unique referral code of sleeplessmornings (all one word) so that you can tie your submission back to me and hopefully win the gift card too!  It's that simple!I look forward to reading everyone's published submissions.  My hope is that it will inspire people, including myself, to go forth and do more wherever we can.  I don't think there's a higher calling than that!To check out the movie website, go to http://thenoblemovie.comThe contest will close at 11:59PM EST on Monday, April 27th. The winners will be notified on or about April 28, 2015, via email, phone or mail.Good luck!!I will receive the same $25 gift card for all referred published submissions on  All opinions are my own.[...]

Christmas... with a throwback to June!


The tree is decorated.The presents are wrapped.  (Not sitting under the tree, of course.  We live in fear of the Husky peeing on them down there, so they are wrapped and sitting on an ottoman.  Makes sense, right?)The kids are on vacation.  (Which means I'm on break, too!)And the Christmas cards are in the mail.  The fun part about the card is coming up with just the right pictures to include.  Because as we parents all know, you have to make sure there are an even number of pictures of each kid, or there will be hell to pay.  Just as I had suspected, the first time each child saw our card they started counting.  Noelle felt a little cheated because one picture barely shows her.I guess she's right.  Clearly we don't love her.Never mind the preciousness of the un-staged photo.  *sigh*I also wanted to show my wedding dress off because....well isn't it obvious?  I was the bride and I loved my dress!  Plus I love this shot of Charlie.And if there's one full shot of Charlie, there has to be one of Noelle, right??Not that I minded.  Isn't she lovely?Now we're just kicking back and finishing all the final details that go into hosting Christmas at our house this year.  On the agenda for Christmas eve we have cookie making, dinner cooking, chocolate fondue fountain flowing and a relaxing end of the day with "It's a Wonderful Life" on the television.  If we can cram it all in, I'll be impressed.What's that?  You'd like to see another wedding picture?  Well okay, if you insist!Yes, I am tall.  And I might have picked the perfect combination of tall and uncomfortable in my wedding shoes.  They lasted until about 20 minutes after the ceremony.  Then I was barefoot and perfectly happy about it!I loved having my girl as my maid of honor.  She was the perfect choice.This next fantastic pic is our reactions right after Charlie said, "Russ...there are only two words you need to know to be happy in this marriage.  Yes, and Dear."And so it goes.  We're attempting the living happily ever after scenario.  What the fairy tales never mention is how that ever after is chock full of life and craziness and drama and homework and a husky that pees on your Christmas tree name it.  But that's life, right?  The best part is that the happily is there... and I can't ask for more than that.[...]

Schooling at Home


Happy New Year!

That's right, it's been THAT long.

It's gotten to the point that my dad is asking if I'm ever going to blog again.

Personally, I blame the company I work for.  Shortly after I started they put a block up on blogger, making it impossible for me to write at lunchtime.  Because I swear, that was the only time of day I would ever post during the workday.  I swear. 

Please disregard the tic in my right eye.

That meant that blogging could only take place during the evenings or my sleepless nights, and I'm happy to say I haven't been having those.  (Sleepless nights, not evenings.)  Evenings are typically taken up with cooking, cleaning up and homework.  By the time Russ and I get to crash on the couch for some Game of Thrones or Silicon Valley, I'm falling asleep and missing everything. 

To blog or not to blog?  *snore*

Another new time taker is that I'm officially a Home school mom.  Yes, I finally (what took me so long??) pulled Charlie out of that horrible situation at school and started him on the home school program.  It took him some time to start recovering from the damage that the bullying caused, but little by little he's coming out of that emotional wreckage and enjoying life a lot more.  I still haven't quite figured out what action I'm going to take in the advancement of anti-bullying, but I know it's going to be more than just the ridiculous repeating of "Always remember to just be nice" by the principal on the loudspeaker every morning.  I don't want to be another one of the adults at that school, claiming I don't tolerate bullying, and then not doing jack squat about it.

I could really continue on with this, but I think I'll save that for another post.

So how am I finding the time now?  Well, we're actually all sitting here at the dining room table as a family, doing home work or helping with homework, etc.  Russ is Noelle's math tutor and I'm letting Charlie work on his science.  Nothing like the Musculoskeletal System to keep someone busy!  The dogs are here, too.  A mutt and a chewed up Husky.  (Again, another post to come.)

One big happy family.  And I love it.

Friends & Family 2013


I feel like doing a blog catch up, and I feel like doing it with pictures.So here's some insight into our lives these last few months.  Enjoy!In August we celebrated Charlie's 12th with friends, food and video games.  They were happy.In September we celebrated Noelle's 10th with a swim party at my cousin's house.  My cousin is wonderful -- she even disappeared with her husband for hours so we could have the run of the place.  Not too shabby.In October Noelle and I escaped for a girls getaway weekend.  We scrapbooked, slept in a little cabin-like room and took walks to see redwood trees and deer.  We loved it so much that we're going back in April!A few weeks later, Russ and I headed to his home state of Wisconsin to see family, his old digs and most importantly -- the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field!!  That was a dream come true.Naturally we brought home goodies for the kids.  They weren't too excited.  ;o)And then of course there's Halloween...In November I turned 38 and managed to have the 3rd annual birthday celebration with my cousin, who is one year and a few weeks younger than me.  We've been close since we were kids and I love that we still spend time together when we can.  Aren't we cute?Another favorite gathering that month was meeting up with my best friends since high school and their son for a day at the aquarium.  You'd think I would have taken pictures of the sea life, but instead I got a lot of pictures of the hugs that were happily doled out.  I love this about our little "family."November is also the month of giving thanks, which as you know we happily did in Monterey on Cannery Row.  The food was pretty good, but the company was better.  After our delicious filling meal we went back to our home town and saw "Catching Fire."  It was a perfect day.Don't be misled by Russes unhappy face in our picture.  What you can't tell is that he's thrilled to have me next to him, and not in fact grossed out.  I swear.And now here we are in December and we're NOWHERE on pictures.  My company party took place this last weekend, and after Russ and I got all dolled up, we took zero pics.  Genius.  Our plan for this weekend is take a family photo near a Christmas tree so that I can attempt to get a Christmas card out in the mail before Christmas is actually over.  We also hope to get decorations up and a tree in the house before New Years.  I know, I set the bar high.Merry Christmas!![...]

Giving Thanks for the Week Ahead


Thanksgiving is approaching, and there is so much going on in our lives right now!

Currently, even literally as I type this, my wonderful fiancé is packing up his life's belongings to make the final move over to my house full time.  It's been an easy transition, doing a little at a time, but now we're in the final week and it's getting busy.  With a four day weekend approaching, it just made good sense to us to use that time to complete the transition and get him settled in.  Hence, we pick up a big moving truck later this week and will be trekking back and forth from his town to mine.  That part will be exhausting but worth it, and I look forward to having the satisfaction of a job well done.

Of course, this throws a wrench into Turkey day with the family.  My folks were wonderful about it when it finally dawned on me that trying to host the family and cook a big meal right in the middle of this move would have been CUH-RAZY.  I would have lost my mind, and in that scenario nobody wins.  In the end, my folks understood (thanks Mom and Dad!) and are spending the holiday eating out with some friends, instead.

That left us with the dilemma of "what should we eat and where?" when Thursday arrives.  I couldn't see skipping the holiday altogether, but I knew there was no way we'd be cooking anything, either.  So I did a little research and found a few places that are serving meals as usual, or that are doing a fancier buffet.  It didn't take long to lean towards the buffet for multiple reasons.

1. I loved going to the Officers Club on Thanksgiving when I was growing up -- they always had an incredible dinner and dessert buffet that was delicious and totally satisfying.

2. Charlie's not a lover of restaurants, at which you have to do a lot of waiting.  While he has improved and we do eat out a little more often with him, I know that being able to walk in and grab a plate will be appealing to him.  To be honest, it's appealing to me, too -- after moving furniture and boxes most of the day, I'll be famished and ready to EAT.

3. Who wouldn't want to have their Thanksgiving dinner on Cannery Row in Monterey??  Nobody, that's who.

I'll miss our usual turkey dinner with my grandmother's stuffing, but the consolation is that I'll get to enjoy it at Christmas when my brother is flying in from Hawaii and we can all be together again for the first time in a year.  I've missed having him close by after a lifetime of never being more than an hour from him.  I think it will feel like old times, which all of us needs right now.

In case you don't hear from me, have a Happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones!

Hunger Games -- Catching Fire GIVEAWAY!


As you may already know, we're fans of The Hunger Games at our house.I've even blogged about the books and first movie here.So when I was asked to participate in a Hunger Games: Catching Fire giveaway, it was easy to say YES!If you're living under a rock and not familiar already with Catching Fire, check out the trailer here: don't know about you, but I'M EXCITED!  We're all planning to be there the weekend it comes out to see more of the beautiful Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdean.On to the giveaway...I have one Catching Fire prize pack for you, which includes- One (1) movie poster- One (1) official movie T-shirt with Mockingjay logo- Two (2) wristbands - One (1) iPhone cleaner- One (1) iPhone dot   To enter, leave me a comment with your email address, and if you feel like mentioning why you love the Hunger Games, go right ahead.  One entry per person, please.  --> Contest ends November 20, 2013 at midnight PT. You must include your email address or your entry will not be counted.  Winner will be contacted and have 24 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen.Good luck! The giveaway is open only to U.S. and Canada residents, ages 18+.[...]

Halloween and What Not


We're coming up on Halloween, and the new company I'm working for --

 -- what's that?

A job?  Why yes, I do have a job!  Thanks for asking! 

Okay, okay, I haven't exactly been on top of the "big news in my life" category recently.  But can you blame me?  112 followers, and not one word or comment of "congrats!" when I note that I'm actually ENGAGED.  To be married.  In a wedding.  You know, "I Do?" 

Anyway, the other news of late to share is that I have started a fabulous new job at a fabulous new company that is actually closer to my home town than any job I've ever had.  Less commute time makes this girl happy.  I've also discovered that, like the other construction type company I've worked for in the past, they like to enjoy the holidays.  I think it has something to do with being an older company run by a lot of the same people, and sticking to old values and traditions.

One tradition that I'm enjoying is the upcoming Halloween celebration this week.  There is a whole hoopla of events scheduled, and people can participate in multiple ways.  Our group is fantastically doing a fun theme that will include decorations, costumes and even a dance.  That's right!  It's going to be interesting.  I will hold off on sharing additional input for now, but rest assured there will be pictures coming.

The kids have had fun putting costumes together this year.  Charlie was a little unsure of the direction he was going to go until he found a bright green hoodie sweatshirt that goes ever so perfectly with a Minecraft creeper mask that he'd had his eye on.  There was some drama surrounding getting our hands on one after they sold out at our Target, but it didn't take me long to track one down elsewhere.  Mom's are good that way.  Unfortunately his first experience wearing it, to the junior high dance, ended badly when the bullies we've been dealing with were right there at the entrance and couldn't wait to start taking shots at him.  He left immediately and wouldn't go back.  Can you blame him?  Some of these kids have been knocking him to the ground and yet there they are at the dance with no consequence at a social function of any kind.  No, I'm not happy.  Yes, I am taking steps to escalate this above and beyond the principal.  This mama bear has had ENOUGH.

Noelle's costume is a bit more unique -- she has fun finding bits and pieces here and there to come up with something completely different than everyone else, which I totally dig about her.  I always call her my little Carrie Bradshaw.  Her taste in clothes is wild and eclectic, and even when she puts things together that I would never even consider, she pulls it off and looks amazing.  She definitely does not get that from me!

What's everyone else's plans for Halloween?  Are you dressing up?  Do you have a family theme or decoration you love?  Share or link to your blog and I'll check it out!

Life Changing News!


See if you can figure out the news from the picture below.

Still with me?

Yes, I’m getting married!! Russ proposed when we were in Napa, California for our anniversary weekend. It was a sweet moment that happened atop a castle tower on a beautiful day, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

We’re planning a June wedding that is already underway. Originally I was in no hurry, but once I realized that dates next year were going to book up, I suggested we get that part out of the way. It wasn’t hard to find a venue once we did some research, and after just a couple of visits to a lovely winery (one of which included seeing a dear friend get married there), we were decided. I love it when things come together so easily. All the other details will follow over time. We’ll taste cakes and see flowers and shop for dresses here and there. For now, I just want to enjoy this time of celebrating our future. It’s not often one is engaged – at least you hope. I’m finding joy in using the word fiancé and having fun seeing how things unfold for us. Overall, we are so blessed to have found one another, and I’m grateful for that every day.

A happily engaged Merrie

The Little Mermaid -- GIVEAWAY!


Wonderful news for all you Disney fans out there..."The Little Mermaid" is being released on Diamond Edition Blu-ray 3D, Blu-Ray and Digital formats on October 1, 2013!""The Little Mermaid" tells the magical tale of the mermaid princess Ariel and her lovable underwater friends, Sebastian and Flounder.  Now, viewers can experience Ariel's adventures like never before with sparkling high definition picture and sound, then explore the making of this modern family classic with all-new bonus treasures."Some of the bonuses include the "Part of Your World" Music video performed by Carly Rae Jepsen, Disney Intermission (Crab-E-OKE Sing-Along) and an intro to a deleted character, Harold the Merman.  These are all bonuses I know I'll be checking out with my daughter.  There's also a great deal of behind the scenes footage that I'm looking forward to watching.I personally loved seeing The Little Mermaid back when it was released in theaters in November of 1989.  I was a high school freshman, and I fell in love with all of the characters in the movie.  Well, perhaps not Ursula the Sea Witch, but she was still well respected as a Disney villain!  I can't wait to see the new release in all its glory.More details can be found at the official website, which includes clips, activities and games. now, on my website, you can win a copy of THE LITTLE MERMAID Diamond Edition 2-Disc Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack with Digital Copy!* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * G I V E A W A Y * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  To Enter:Leave a comment on my blog and share with me your favorite character from The Little Mermaid, and be sure to include your email address.** For an additional entry, follow my blog and leave a 2nd comment verifying that you did. --> Contest ends October 1, 2013 at midnight PT. You must include your email address or your entry will not be counted.  Winner will be contacted and have 24 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen.Good luck! The giveaway is open only to U.S. and Canada residents, ages 18+.I received a copy of the movie in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.[...]

Holman Ranch - Carmel Valley, CA


Last week I was the luckiest blogger I know, and it was all thanks to The Mom Reviews and the fabulous people at Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, CA. We had the opportunity to travel out to their beautiful site and experience a little bit of what they have to offer.   "Holman Ranch: Where the Past is Always Present. Tucked away in the rolling hills of Carmel Valley, historic Holman Ranch provides a unique and memorable setting for weddings, special events, family gatherings, corporate retreats, and team-building events. With its charming gardens, stunning mountain views and serenity, this private estate affords old-world charm while providing modern day conveniences. This impressive property includes a fully restored stone hacienda, overnight guest rooms, vineyards, olive grove, horse stables and a tasting room where guests can sample our wines." When we arrived in Carmel Valley, our first stop was their Holman Ranch Tasting Room.  It was conveniently located near several others right on Carmel Valley Road, making it a lovely place to stop whenever you're in the area.  Inside the beautifully decorated tasting room we met Pete, who was extremely knowledgeable and friendly when it came to talking about their wines -- or anything, for that matter!  He's absolutely the kind of person you want to chat with in a tasting room, especially when you want some insight on the wine your tasting.  Jen and I differ in our tasting, with her leaning towards whites and me preferring reds, but we're both always intrigued to try new things, and we both advise the other if we think the other is missing out on something great.  I would happily sample wines with her any day of the week!  On this particular day, she stayed on the white side and tried their Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.  She enjoyed both, while I partook of their different Pinot Noirs.  One is called Hunter's Cuvée, and the other is called Heather's Hill.  Both had a delicious flavor and aftertaste, without being either dull or overwhelming.  I don't know if I can say one was better than the other -- I loved them both!  One fun opportunity we had was to try some of their freshly harvested pinot grapes as we drank the pinot noir.  A very nice before and after experience!  The last wine we tasted was their Rosé of Pinot Noir Blushing Bride.  I don't think I've ever tasted a Rosé from a Pinot grape, and I appreciated the unique taste.  It was also lovely and refreshing on a warm afternoon.  I could imagine myself in a lush garden on a sunshine filled day with a glass of that to relax with.   Once our tasting was through, it was on to the Ranch.  Just a few curves up the road was the entrance, which was easy to locate.  As we climbed up into the Carmel Valley hills, we once again appreciated how blessed we are to live so close to this part of California.  The views were phenomenal on this clear summer day, and will continue to be the majority of the year.  Getting settled into our room wasn't too difficult.  There aren't a lot of rooms onsite, making it an intimate setting for wedding or event guests.  There are several cabins laid out, with each containing several rooms.  Jen and I found ours and were happy to find very comfortable and spacious accommodations.  The beds were comfortable, the views incredible and I truly appreciated that they had wa[...]

5th Grade and 7th Grade!


We're nine days in, and I'd say we're doing pretty well!  Sure, we've had a few hiccups.  Some bad blood between Charlie and a non-friend...some poorly spent money at the book fair by Noelle...and I discovered another mom has me blocked on Facebook for some reason or another.  But beyond that, the kids are loving their schools and Charlie is rocking it as a Junior High kid.  I met his principal this morning and she's wonderful -- seriously, I could hang out with her!  We definitely see eye to eye on Charlie, and hopefully it'll help the year flow well with him knowing she's on his team.  After last year's nightmare principal, this is a gift like no other.Everyone out there has the cutest pictures of their kids on the first day of school, so I tried to be clever, too.  I decorated our very cool fridge chalkboard (thanks for the inspiration, Kari!) to note the date.  Never mind that I never thought to note the actual date and the grades of the kids.  *sigh*  Still learning!Now the thing to note before looking at the picture is that Noelle was suffering with a terrible toothache that decided to show itself the day before.  I had hoped that it was just a little "nothing" that would fade away, but by the time she woke up on the first day of school, she was crying from the pain.  Any other day I might have kept her home until we could see the dentist, but it was the FIRST DAY -- what can you do?  So I drugged her up with painkillers and told her to smile for the camera.  This was the best she could muster.Is that the saddest face you've ever seen?  Yeah, me too.  Thankfully we got her into the dentist right after school, and she was on antibiotics by that evening.  Life continued.One clever project that I took on in the midst of school starting (like 3 days before) was re-doing Noelle's room.  She had a few too many "kid things" going on in there, like a toy bin and mini-dresser that I had put together for her about 8 or 9 years ago.  Wanting to make it a little more grown up, we went into attack mode and got rid of about half the space-takers in her room.  After that we moved some furniture around, and then I built a desk.  I did have a few hands to help me when dealing with the heavy pieces that require multiple people, but I otherwise built it myself.  Here are the final results, which include a happy girl.   Not a bad deal for an on sale item at Staples.  If she takes care of it, I figure it can last her through at least high school.  So far she's done her homework there nearly every day, which makes the sore muscles I had from all the screw driving totally worth it. This weekend I'll be ditching the children with their kind and loving grandparents for an anniversary getaway with the beau.  We're heading to wine country for tasting and eating and relaxing.  I feel like we've earned it, with an entire year of a great relationship behind us.  Who knows what the future holds, but I suspect it will be a good one.[...]

Nine Down, One to Go


I am sad to report that we are winding down the summer and prepping for school to start in five days.  Thankfully, it was a good summer with a lot of action and travel, which we love.  Here are a few pictorial highlights.MONTANAYELLOWSTONEWhich for some reason I called "Yosemite" about 893 times.  COUSIN TIMENoelle flew (alone!) to Oregon for a visit to her aunt and cousin.  The cousin then drove Noelle all the way to California, where we had a great visit up at my parent's house for our annual berry picking / jam making / river swimming trip.     Now the backpacks are bought and filled with new binders and paper and pencils.  There's much enthusiasm that it will be a great year for everyone, and we have high hopes for wonderful experiences. Check back with me in a few weeks to see if any of that has worked out.[...]

One Down, Nine To Go


We've finished our first week of summer.

Hmmm, back up.  Let's start that off right.

IT'S SUMMER!!!!!!!!!!!!

No more lunches, no more homework, no more early mornings -- my three least favorite things about the school year.  For seven days it's just been a blissful blur of games and late nights and movies and sleeping in.  I know it can't last forever, but I think we had it coming to us.  It was a rough year for all of us in some ways.  For Charlie it was the bullies (both kid and principal alike), and for Noelle it was the first real struggle of having to fight for a good grade.  Most things have come fairly easy to her, but like me, she struggles with math.  In the end, hiring a fantastic tutor and getting her back on track was the way to go.  She finished strong with all A's and a B in math.  Honor Roll!

To celebrate her hard work and Charlie's survival of Elementary School, they both received a little "somethin' somethin'" from mom.  For me, the 10 weeks off is gift enough.  My hope is for us to enjoy leisurely days by the ocean, active days in the hills and quiet days at home.  I don't want the summer to pass us by and have regrets that we didn't take full advantage of it.  Never mind that beach days equal sand mess and washing of towels and bathing suits over and over, not to mention the lunches and snacks to be packed.

Hmmm...what about my blissful blur?

Ah well, at least the chores will be for the good of the summer.  I can live with that.  Even if it's only for another nine weeks.

Random Fact Thursday?


Let's do a little random fact post, shall we?Easter was a success!  Despite the rain, which led to the big EB hiding eggs and baskets in the house, the kids had a lot of fun and my family enjoyed a nice visit.  It was Russ' first time at my parent's house, as well as his first Easter with us, and I think he enjoyed himself.  A nice highlight was going to the cute downtown they live near to eat some lunch, browse some shops and enjoy some ice cream.  That afternoon brought me more peace then I've felt in a while.Still job hunting!  I do have a few good leads, and am arranging interviews, but for now I'm really enjoying my time at home with my kids.  They're on spring break this week and it's nice being off with them.  Eventually responsibility will lead me back to an office and high heels, but until then, I'm all about the stay at home mom biz.Speaking of spring break -- we went to the beach yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine and water.  (Me the sunshine and Noelle the water.)  The insane highlight of that trip was when a pesky seagull, who'd been circling me and my delicious sandwich for a bit, actually leapt up from behind me and took the 2nd half of my sandwich!  It was heavy so he fell, and I got up too fast and fell, so we really looked like a couple of fools.  In the end, he took off with the bread and I was left with a sandy BLT.  That was the end of that.  He heard me exclaim as he flew out of sight, "This just reinforces my hatred for all of you!"  Meet the Parents.  This weekend I'm meeting the parents of a friend that I really like.  They actually want to meet me because they've met Russ and they want to meet the girl that is hopefully good enough for him.  I'm always good with parents, so I'm sure it will be a delight to meet me.  ;)  I kid.  But seriously, you can take me anywhere.  Now to offer to bring dessert, and after that, figure out what to make!Reviews!  I've been doing a lot of reviews lately for my friend Jen at The Mom Reviews.  ("A lot" is actually not that many compared to what she does full time, but for little me, it's a lot!)  Here are some faves, in case you're interested."Must. Have. Wine.  A Toast to Motherhood."  Book review (The writer actually sent me a thank you note for the review!)Plus Motif tablet cases - love them!There are more (a few of them possibly involving alcoholic beverages) which you can find if you look around on her awesome review blog.I'm off to enjoy some girl time with my girl now.  She's feeling a little punk so we're going to put a firelog in the fireplace and watch a chick flick.  I LOVE having a girl (most days.)[...]