Saturday, December 13, 2008

You Divide. I Choose. Finally!

This morning was monumental for me.  Oh, and for the girls. 

There was one piece of cheese left from the brick and Miss M put her claim on it.  Miss K said "I want some too."  (Probably because she heard us talking about it being the last one.)

Instead of taking it and cutting it in half, I said "Miss M, break it to share with your sister."  So she did... and more generously than normal.  It was a 25% / 75% split.  She held out the smaller half for Miss K and proudly offered "Here."

"But I don't WANT that. I want THAT."  (Duh.)  And the fight began.

So I said to Miss M, "Let her pick which one she wants. You divided it, you let her choose."

Guess which one Miss K picked. (Duh)

Since I intended it to be a learning experience and not just a lesson, I took the 25% and said "I'll take this one.  Miss M, you can divide the rest to share with Miss K.  But I'm telling you right now, she gets to pick which one she wants so keep that in mind while you're breaking it."

With complete concentration and precision, Miss M divided the cheese.  Until this point, I was not aware that a kindergartner had the ability to divide a piece of cheese so completely even that if both pieces were weighed they would be exactly the same.  Amazing.

Miss K glared at each piece but couldn't figure out which was bigger.  She finally just randomly picked one.  Neither child was happy but at least they weren't fighting or crying.  They were both just dumbfounded.

I have been waiting for this day for so long that I'm giddy.  While they each savored their non-victory, I told them "From now on whenever we share stuff, one of you will divide and the other gets to choose."

It's already obvious that they will learn quickly - Miss M looked at Miss K and grumbled "Next time you divide."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some Things Just Backfire

I hate to say it, but we're going to need to lock Miss M in the house when she gets a little older.  When she started the Mommy & Me class when she was two, there was only one other girl in the class.  It was virtually all boys.  The preschool at three... she was the ONLY girl.  Then preschool at four... same thing.  Last year she had a few girls in her class but her favorite friends were boys.  She enjoys hanging around with the boys because that is what she's used to.

Now that she's in Kindergarten, we're hearing how she 'loves' a few certain boys.  Her teacher jokes that she's bossy to one of them - "Hurry up, Sam. Do this, Sam."  And Sam just shakes his head and does what she says.  They eat lunch together, they sit together on the bus.  They're dating, I swear.

Near the beginning of the school year, Miss M came home one day and claimed that "Sam tried to kiss me."  Oh, and she giggled.  I'm so not looking forward to the real dating years.  Anyway, DH says to her "You tell Sam that he can't kiss you until he buys you a ring."  He drilled it into her head - and Miss K's too. They both said okay.

I'm not sure whether to say "fortunately" or "unfortunately" but they've recited it to their classmates.  We know because their parents have told us... and they laughed.  And we laughed.


Miss M came home yesterday proudly showing off the ring that Sam gave her.

We never expected it to backfire on us... let alone this quickly.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Power of a Single Clap

For quite some time before moving back to Iowa, I was not handling the stress of being a mom very well.  We didn't have a babysitter and didn't have anyone close enough that we trusted them to watch the kids. The only quality time together (without the kids) that DH and I had was when family came in from out of town - typically two times per year for my parents and 3-4 for DH's mom. 

It wasn't until we had already committed to moving back that a friend told me that most YMCA's offered free childwatch for people with family memberships.  While you can't utilize them as a babysitting service, they do watch your child while you are exercising.

We moved back Memorial weekend, May of 2006.  On June 8th, I decided to join the YMCA.  I was tired of being out of shape and felt like I should take a new approach to my health.  When I first started, I was doing the elliptical.  In August, I was talked into taking a cardio class (you can read about that story here.)  Every class is different.  Sometimes we do circuit training, sometimes kick-boxing, sometimes step.  It takes a few months before we see a repeat class.

The very first class that I took was a routine involving a row of steps lined up side by side - like a 40' wide/long step.  Half of the class (Group A) was on one side of the room, Group B was on the other side.  Group A would traverse the row of steps doing something like tap up/tap down to get to where Group B started.  At the same time, Group B would do something like lunges across the open floor to get to where Group A started.  We would do that about 4 times then do a different type of activity.  Over the top and back of the benches and moving squats on the way back.  The activities continue to rotate and one of the more challenging tasks is the inchworms.  Basically, it involves walking your hands into a push-up position (push-up optional) then walking your feet to your hands... continuing to the other end of the room.  Ugh.

I remember being dead tired and Leah even announcing to the class "If you need to take a break, walk the track."  She doesn't single people out unless they are doing something that could cause injury or if she knows they don't mind.  But since I was new, I didn't realize that she was indirectly directing her comment at me.  This time, she looked me straight in the eye, swung her finger in a circle in the air and said "If you need to take a break, walk the track."  Then she smiled.  Then I started to walk the track. 

Once I got comfortable with the class and the people, every time we did that workout I would say "This is the first workout I ever did."  Leah got to the point where she waited for me to say it when I arrived and saw the setup.

Well, this Wednesday was a little different.  Most of my regular friends were absent for the holiday so I didn't blurt it out.  Part way through the class, Leah announced "This is Nicole's class" (maybe she said workout or routine... I don't remember because I was already very tired.)  Anyway, it isn't my favorite routine in terms of activity, but emotionally, it is.  It is an absolute gauge of how far I have come in two years. 

As usual, I did my best - working at a high impact pace when I could and doing low impact on things like jumping jacks (because I have bad knees.)  I went strong on every pass across the row of benches and was able to smile as I remembered how difficult it was on that first day.  Lunges, squats and all that stuff are becoming easier but still are challenging in the midst of our exhaustion.  The inchworms were the true test.  While progressing through, Leah reminded us that the push-ups are optional.  When she saw that many of us were pushing ourselves to do them anyhow, she decided to jokingly add "Okay, you can add a clap in the middle if you like."  So on my next inchworm, I did just that.  I did a push-up with a clap in the middle... something I haven't done since my high school and college days of being in shape.  Leah acknowledged it as did a few classmates.  It made me feel great.

Granted, I have a lot of weight still to lose, but I feel so much better these days.  That one clap in the middle is a powerful reminder that with continued commitment, anything is achievable.

(The first photo was taken at Christmas 2006. The second one was just a few days ago when I tried on a fitted shirt that DH bought me.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Giraffe Must Die!

Note from Nicole:  This is a guest post from DH.  Enjoy!

Toy stores.  What red-blooded American doesn’t love a store that sells absolutely nothing that you need, but almost everything that you want?  I can now put myself on the short, but growing list of consumers that dreads hearing the “I’m a Toys “R” Us Kid” jingle. My recent visit to our local store has prompted me to write an open letter to Mr. Gerald Storch, CEO of Toys “R” Us.

Dear Mr. Storch:

I recently enjoyed an article on that highlighted the successes you have had in your short tenure as CEO of Toys “R” Us.  Many of the great changes you have made with store redesigns, new management and superstore openings are sure to increase the bottom line of your new private investors/owners.  However, I want you to be aware of some of the ever-intrusive policies and procedures that are turning away customers every day.

“May I have your Zip Code?” For years, I have been asked that question at checkout at the beginning of the transaction, and I reluctantly gave the information knowing that it was probably being used simply to gauge which customers were going to which store. I always felt uncomfortable giving this information out, but did so knowing that if you wanted to come to my house to take back the Monopoly game I just bought, you’d have to go door-to-door in a large area to find me. But, this has changed – leading me to…

“May I have your Phone Number with area code?” This has replaced #1 at the checkout line, and I will refuse to volunteer this information every time.  Please understand, the ONLY person I want to hear this question from is a 19yr old co-ed, preferable one who received some type of ‘augmentation’ for her 18th birthday.  I do not want that number given/sold/traded to some overseas marketing company so they may call during dinner to tell me about the upcoming sale on Tickle Me Elmos. I also do not wish to be contacted by a survey company asking how my shopping experience was.  And I certainly don’t want all of my purchases to be associated with a phone number – I like my family to be surprised on Christmas Day, not have the ability to find out what Dad purchased last week/month/year.  And most of all, I do not want ANY grief from the cashier when I politely decline to provide this information.

“Would you like to join the Birthday Club?” Quite honestly, the birthday club is a nice bonus. My girls love spending the $3.00 gift card sent to them each year. BUT…what is it with the overachieving attempts to get everyone who walks through the door signed up for it?  I’m guessing they get a bonus for most signups? On my last visit with my daughters, I was asked SIX TIMES by FOUR EMPLOYEES to sign my girls up for the club. Yes, two of the employees asked me twice in different parts of the store! This was all in the span of a 20 minute visit! Just take one or two of those employees and park them in a checkout lane so the rest of the customers don’t have to use the customer service line to check out.  Oh, and the last time I took my daughter to spend her gift card (wearing her TRU birthday crown and carrying her free balloon), yep you guessed it, an employee asked me if I’d like to sign her up for the birthday club…

“May I have your age?” What?!  I’m not buying liquor!  And even if I was, I am 40 years old and look every bit of 39.  I haven’t been carded in a bar in over a decade – why do I need to provide my age to buy a video game?  I was actually asked this question, along with #1 and #2 in the same transaction – so the teller wanted my zip code, phone number and age! And she wasn’t 19!  Frustrated, I asked if next she’d want a background check and a urine sample. She didn’t laugh.  Neither did I.

“Service Plans” Which brings me to the last item that put me over the top and the reason for writing this diatribe.  In an effort to beat the holiday rush, I stopped by one of your stores to pick up a couple board games as presents from Santa for my daughters. After declining to provide my phone number, the gal at the register begin ringing me up.  Mind you, the ONLY thing I was buying was three common board games (Monopoly Jr., etc.). After each one she asked me, “Would you like to buy a service plan to cover this game?”  I was dumbfounded and completely speechless.  In the past I laughed as overpriced service plans made their way from $2,000 television purchases all the way down to $16 alarm clocks. But a service plan on a non-electronic board game?! What exactly is this plan supposed to cover? If I lose one of the Community Chest cards, will I get a new one? When I step on the box cover, tearing the corner, will just the cover be replaced?  Or will the whole box? Will I have to mail it in first and hope it is not rejected for “abnormal wear and tear”?  Each and every game I bought, the computer prompted the teller to ask me this question. When she saw how ludicrous I thought this offer was, she joked too, “yeah, they make us ask that, but I don’t understand it either. This is a cardboard item – what exactly is this policy supposed to cover?”  At least she didn’t give me grief about not giving my phone number.

I know all of these procedures probably had some reasoning behind them when implemented, and I’m betting they were all instituted by different departments, as no one in their right mind would subject their customers to all of these questions/etc. in one visit on purpose.  So forget the remodels and train the new management to give the consumer an enjoyable shopping experience, not an inquisition.

Scott B.

I’m not expecting miracles from this post, but it does feel better to get it all out in the open. For now I’m buying my toys on Amazon...oh wait…they want my address and phone number too…

Monday, November 24, 2008

Best Christmas Presents - The Other Side

Yesterday, as part of a contest at The Present Professor, I posted about one of my best Christmas presents - a lesson learned. But I have to admit that the material side of me is aching to tell one of the best stories ever. And since it will haunt my brain until I type it up, I just need to do it. As I said in my contest post, I've been blessed with a wonderful husband that tends to buy me the things he thinks I would want.

When we first moved to California from Iowa, DH moved in September and I followed at Thanksgiving. I wanted to get used to being there so we agreed that I wouldn't look for work until after the first of the year. I spent my days basking in the non-snow weather, watching Los Angeles TV shows, surfing the internet, swimming in the apartment pool and using the apartment gym, walking the mile to the downtown shops, having coffee at the downtown coffee shop, going to the small grocery store and even played bingo at the center once. We only had one car so I was limited on where I could go, but I was okay with that. It was a new place, new things to do, an entirely new life.

The plan was for me to start looking for a job after the first of the year. In December, we stopped by some car dealerships to test drive a few cars to get some idea of what I might want to own. I didn't really have a preference as long is it was trustworthy and had lots of gadgets, compartments and pockets.

On Christmas morning, I received an awesome Christmas gift - a video camera. It was one of the first presents DH had me unwrap because he wanted me to be able to record our first California Christmas. One of the last presents I opened was a set of keys. Video camera in-hand, DH walked me out to the parking lot. There, in our carport was a Pontiac Bonneville... with a giant red bow on the top. It was an absolute dream; a car as a Christmas present. And the bow? I had always commented that those giant bows were the coolest and DH remembered that. So he told the salesman when he bought the car that it needed to have a giant red bow.

What made this extra special is that DH had managed to pick out the car, make the arrangements for the loan, get the car delivered and the keys under the tree - all without me having the slightest clue. He's quite a guy, let me tell you. In reality, I should have posted this story for the contest, but I didn't want to seem shallow. It wasn't the fact that he got me a car for Christmas that was great... it was the fact that he cared enough to make the holiday perfect.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Baring My Soul for a Zune

Have you ever done something that made complete sense at the time but you later realized it wasn't such a good idea? Okay, okay. Let me rephrase... In a non-intoxicated state of being, have you ever?

Well, The Present Professor is running a contest. Entrants (that's me) post a story on their blog (you're reading my entry) about the best/worst gift they ever received. Once all the entries are in, a poll will be posted on The Present Professor's site and readers get to select the winning entry. The person with the most votes will receive a Zune 80GB Digital Media Player. I'll be honest, I've read some of the other entries and they're pretty good so I feel the need to bare my soul in order to have a chance at winning.

First things first. If you're reading this, Mom, you need to take an extra step that nobody else needs to. In the upper right corner of your screen, you'll see an "x". Click it.

Okay. Just don't want mom to think any less of me. Now that she isn't reading, I can get onto the business of my entry.

I'm not in the least bit spoiled. Really. I never ask for anything for Christmas because I have everything I want. Hmmm. Maybe I am spoiled. Anyway, my husband has graced me with some wonderful gifts both for Christmas and for no reason. Things I've wanted but never asked for. Things I've not known I wanted but realized I did once he bought it for me. Growing up, my parents always tried to give us what we wanted also. I really can't complain because even when money was tight, my parents always managed to make Christmas special. So I did some brainstorming to figure out what my entry should be.

But the Christmas gift that stood out the most was something immaterial - a lesson learned. Once we got to the age where we knew that nobody would be sliding down our chimney, my mom was very blunt. "The presents are in my closet. If you want to know what you got, you're only ruining your own Christmas."

One Christmas, I let my curiosity get the best of me. As I cracked open the closet door, the item at the very front caught my eye. It was a pink button down shirt. I was instantly giddy and closed the door with the feeling of complete and utter satisfaction. What's the big deal about a pink shirt? Well, it's two-fold. First, it was the 80's and that was THE thing to have. Second, I attended a Catholic school with a strict white-shirt-required dress code. Any shirt that wasn't white was coveted even though we couldn't wear it to school. But pink? The icing on the cake.

It wasn't until the Christmas chaos dust had settled and I was surveying the loot that I realized the pink shirt wasn't in my pile. Actually, I didn't remember opening it. That's when I realized that it wasn't even a gift for me. It was a gift for one of my brothers. There it was... in his pile. The pink button down shirt wasn't even for me.

Let me say that it didn't ruin my Christmas because I was very happy with what I did receive. Physically, the gifts from my parents were great. Emotionally, the gift to myself was priceless. Sometimes things aren't what they seem so it isn't worth peeking in the closet.

Edit 11/24 - The contest poll is up. Would you please consider popping over to The Present Professor and voting for mine? They're accepting votes until 11/30. Thanks! Here's the link - the poll is the big black box and my entry is #11.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Is Early Intervention Worth the Trouble?

When Miss M was born, I was pretty much on my own while DH was at work.  Miss M and I would venture out to the store, sometimes go on walks and occasionally hang out with the neighbor who was only a few days older.  But we didn't participate in any kind of mommy and me groups, structured programs or hang out with other peers.  We didn't have any family living nearby either.

We had a lot of great one-on-one time and I loved it.  I took pictures of her, played with her, read to her, helped her learn her alphabet.  If I needed to microwave something, I would pick her up, point her finger and say the numbers as I helped her push the microwave buttons.  "3-zero-start"

What we recognized as she started to get older is that her rote skills were very strong.  I didn't realize it at the time, but the lack of interaction with other kids was having an impact on the development of Miss M's communication skills.  Before she turned two, we noticed that her ability to express herself verbally was below what "the books" said she should be.  During a visit to her pediatrician, I asked for his opinion.  He told me that it's like a light bulb for some kids - it just turns on and they start spitting out words left and right.  But he didn't have any guarantees so he explained that he could give me a referral to the Regional Center when she turned two or I could self refer.  In California, there are Regional Centers that are funded by the state to help kids that are behind their peers - physically, mentally, developmentally, whatever.  It was broad based and provided the testing needed to make sure Miss M was where she should be.

Well, I decided to self refer since I didn't want to wait until she turned two.  As a result, she was tested and it was determined that while most of her skills were age appropriate, her cognitive and receptive communication skills were significantly below her age.  We had one person, I believe a psychologist, test her and unofficially (yet inaccurately) diagnose her as autistic.  Thankfully, the pathologist that tested her a week later reassured us that she wasn't anywhere near autistic on the scales; she just didn't know how to communicate well. 

So we got an IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) approved through the Regional Center that included a Mommy & Me program a few days a week supplemented by in-home speech pathologist visits.  When she turned three, her IFSP was changed to a school district based IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and she started a speech and language preschool program.  When we moved to Iowa, the IEP followed us and it required the local school district to continue the services that were determined necessary by the people in California.

I fought hard for all the services that I thought she needed.  I opened my mind to any suggestions they had to help improve her communication skills.  I didn't worry about the "special education" stigma that she might carry with her through school.  My priority was getting her to where she should be.  Period.

Well, during Miss M's parent-teacher conference last week, we were informed that they didn't see a need to continue IEP services.  The had evaluated her on several different abilities and said Miss M is caught up with her peers in communication abilities and exceeds many in other skills.  On one of the tests, she scored the highest in her class.  They recommended we not renew her IEP when it comes due in January.  To ensure that it's the right approach, they'll do a 45 day trial of no-services where they will discontinue any special education, speech therapy, etc.  If we don't see a lapse, then we know she's good.

So I know that all the proactive therapies, teachers, IFSPs, IEPs, tests, classes and whatnot - all the early intervention work - paid off.  It was all worth the effort knowing that by the time Miss M reached Kindergarten, she was caught up with her peers.  If I had to do it again, I would take every single step, every headache and every heartache.  And if anyone ever asks my opinion on whether they should be proactive with their child, even if they are unsure, I would strongly encourage it.  People may say that their child is delayed because of older siblings "talking for them" or isn't walking because they just think it's easier to crawl.  Whatever the delay or whatever the reason, just ask your school district or physician if there are services available to have your child tested.  You won't regret that you did.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Traditions Start Somewhere

First, I want to say thank you to everyone who inquired about my well-being during my blogging absence.  I chose not to blog for the bast few months because I was experiencing a time in my life where I wasn't able to express my thoughts in a positive manner.  Rather than have my blog become an outlet for negative energy, I opted to maintain a private paper journal.  But things are on the mend and I want to share a story.

Several months ago, DH attended the funeral of his grandmother.  It was in a different part of the country and he had other family business to attend to at the same time.  Sadly, we opted for him to go alone while I stayed home with the girls.  While at the visitation, he removed the girls' school pictures from his wallet and sent them on with his grandmother. 

Last weekend, at the seasoned age of 93, my grandmother "GG" passed away.  I'm proud to say that she was a wonderful woman that lived independently until her last day.  My daughters loved her and DH often suggested we pick up fast food and swing by to see her.  She always welcomed us and we always enjoyed seeing her.  A feisty little Italian, she was fun to spend time with. 

She was fun to tease, too.  When she would have trouble sleeping, I would suggest that a little whiskey would help her sleep.  She always laughed; taking it as it was intended, as a joke.  One day when I took her to a doctor's appointment, I suggested that we hit a club on the way home and she joked that she may find herself a young guy.  When she said she wasn't feeling well or was hospitalized for any reason, I always asked if she had run out of chocolate - which often was the case.  On more than one of her hospital visits, I smuggled in chocolate and told the nurses that it was her medicine and she needed it.  We both agreed that chocolate was what helped her make it to 93.  (This picture was taken of her just this past May.)
Although skeptical, we took the girls to the visitation and the funeral.  We prepared them ahead of time as much we could, explaining that we first were going to someplace to be sad with other people who were sad that she passed away.  Then the next day we would attend church to say goodbye for the last time.  We answered any question as best we could.

At the visitation, we kept them at a distance until they asked to go closer to see her.  Surprisingly, they weren't scared or freaked out.  They were sad and wanted to touch her.  Miss K was very curious, continually asking questions about the whole thing.  Miss M was just sad that she wasn't coming back.

At one point, DH and Miss K were alone at GG's side.  DH removed Miss K's picture from his wallet and let her place it in with GG.  He got Miss M and allowed her to do the same thing.  Both girls were proud to give GG their pictures.

Shortly thereafter, one of my aunts gave Miss K a few photos of their family and her grandson helped Miss K add their pictures to the ones of my girls.  After that, a couple of my tween cousins got their school photos, wrote goodbye notes on the back and added them to the collection.  By the time visitation was over, there was a photo of almost every great-grandchild...ensuring that GG wouldn't be alone on her next journey.

Although it was a sad time for our family, this small ritual seemed to give the children a connection and closure they might not otherwise have had.  What started off as a simple gesture by DH at his own grandmother's funeral will become a tradition in our immediate family.

Monday, September 15, 2008

He's NOT my boyfriend

I realize I haven't been posting much lately.  It's partially because I've been uninspired and partially because I've had other things clouding my brain.  I really haven't been myself lately.  When I have found a few minutes of clarity, I've spent it working on SAHM Reviews, my review site.  I've been getting some really great stuff to review along with some fun extras to give away to my readers.  I didn't realize how addicting and overwhelming it would become.

Before I go any further, let me tell you something about my personality.  I put a great deal of value on a person's name.  If I say "Hello" to someone, I like to be able to address them by name.  It's more personal and more inviting.  When someone new starts taking the same class as me at the gym, I'm the first one to ask her name.  Whether it be the top executive or the janitors, at work or a social location, I try to learn their names.   It's something I've always done and I think it makes people feel important.  And it makes me smile to know that they care enough to address me by name, too. 

I've known my mail lady's name since we moved here.  Each time we relocated, I would wait by the mailbox on one of the first days so that I could introduce myself.  But it wasn't until I started getting stuff several times a week that I realized I didn't know the name of the UPS driver yet, the Fedex driver or the DHL driver.

But the other day, UPS showed up with a package I've been anxiously awaiting.  The truck pulled up outside and DH jokingly yelled "Honey, your boyfriend is here."  Followed immediately by both my girls yelling "Mom, your boyfriend is here!"

Yes, he brings me stuff.  Yes, I look forward to his arrival.  But good grief, he ISN'T my boyfriend.  I don't even know his name!


Thank goodness for 15 wonderful years of marriage and a husband that can joke about the UPS guy being my boyfriend.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hole in the Wall or in my Head

After seeing some really cute commercials for Fox's new reality game show "Hole in the Wall", I added it to my DVR list.  Apparently, it's based on a Japanese game show that's a huge hit.  I was really excited about it because it appeared it was going to be a type of puzzle game show and not only do I love game shows but I also really love puzzles. 

Contestants stand in a designated area in front of a pool.  A moving wall with various cutouts moves toward them and they need to figure out how to get through it.  If they are successful, they earn points.  If unsuccessful, they get knocked into the pool.  Puzzle plus game show for me is a TV match made in heaven. 

DH and I watched the premiere episode of it a few nights ago.  Two teams of three people compete for $25,000.  The show's host is a loud mouth with his lovely assistant equally not-interesting.  Certainly more show in this than game.

The contestants wear what I can only describe as the collision between Devo suits and a vacuum sealer.  (Or as DH says "This show is sponsored by Jiffy Pop.)

The holes were impossible to maneuver through in most of the cases which made it more a show of "lets watch people get smacked by a wall and fall into the water"... and less of a game show where they were trying to realistically make it through to the other side.

The eye-candy male and female lifeguards are probably the best thing showing up on camera - even though they only get a tiny bit of air time.

We figured it was the preview and said to each other "It can only get better."  So we left it on the DVR and figured we would give it another shot.

We were wrong.  It didn't get any better.  It is no longer on our DVR list and I pray that Fox comes up with something better to fill the time slot.  Quickly.  But don't take my word for it, go watch a few minutes of "Hole in the Wall" and come to your own conclusion.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Overheard in the bathroom

A week or so ago, I was in the restroom at Target.  As I'm inside the stall doing my thing, this is a little of what I heard...

Woman walks in talking on her cell phone.  "I'm going to need to take out a loan to pay off my cell phone bill."
Woman uses the toilet while still talking. "I have to call during the day because at night it's too late."
Woman flushes while still talking.  "I don't know. I don't use text or anything. I just go over on minutes and it costs a ton.  I need to switch to..."
She washes her hands and walks out, all the time still talking.

Me (grumbling under my breath after she left):  "Maybe if you didn't talk on the phone while going to the bathroom you would save some minutes." 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Who Doesn't Love Free Drugs

If you're here for anything other than legal prescriptions, move along please. This is just for honest people looking for a way to save some money on their prescriptions. In this case, nothing tops getting them free.

I've talked before about how we don't have insurance. I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to save money on bloodwork or prescriptions. Although I haven't posted about it, several pharmacies have gotten on the $4 generic prescription bandwagon. Even better, $4 for a 30 day prescription or $10 if you get a 90 day prescription. When we lived in California, I surfed my prescriptions. In other words, I moved from pharmacy to pharmacy based on who had the best prescription transfer coupon floating around. My copay was $10 so I ended up either even or $10 up since most transfer coupons were either $10 or $20 (with an occasional $25).

But I stopped surfing my prescriptions when I found out that Sam's Club had awesome prices. They were one of the first to have discount pricing for non-insurance prescriptions. But now that there are so many companies doing that, the transfer coupons are back in play. Last month, I transferred my prescription to Target using a $10 transfer coupon. I received a 90 day supply for $10 then received a $10 gift card to use on a future purchase. I essentially walked out with 90 days of prescription for free.

But I didn't bother to mention it since the transfer coupon was expiring... Until now. In today's Target ad (at least our local one), there was another $10 prescription transfer coupon! If you have a regular prescription or even have a non-regular one that needs to be filled, it's worth finding out if it's on the $4/30 day or $10/90 day list. Take advantage of the coupon, transfer your prescription to Target and net yourself some free drugs. When you're ready for another refill, you can always transfer it back to wherever you had it before or somewhere else if another coupon shows up. Nothing better than getting something you need for free.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

When Karma Fights for You

I hate to admit that it's been a rough month for me.  I'm out of my regular routine. Little things here and there, DH sick, kids sick, chaos with the kids starting two new schools. Just life in general. It's been getting me a bit down and I haven't put in the blog time I like to.

I have spent a few minutes each day entering blog contests though. Not the most productive way to spend the few minutes, but it makes me smile.

With all the things that haven't been perfect lately, Karma decided that I needed a little help...
This is what arrived in the mail the other day.  Two T-Mobile cell phones thanks to a contest at Tech Savvy Mama.  A Blackberry Pearl and a Nokia 5310 Music Phone.  I entered it thanks to my friend, Nyssa, and couldn't believe that I actually won! If you have kids that have cell phones or you are thinking of giving cell phones, be sure to check out T-Mobile's Family Allowance plan. It's a slick service that allows you some controls on what they are using their phone for and when.

To top it off, I also won a Laurie Berkner CD from Mommy Goggles and Snacktrition nuts and fruits from One Book Two Book.

Maybe things are looking up.  Thanks Karma!

Update - I just received an email this morning (9/3/08) that I won a set of Matchmaster Soccer games from Mommy Daddy Blog!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear

As I mentioned in my prior post about fishing, we recently spend some time visiting my MIL in Alabama.  The trip wasn't intended to be anything other than a chance for the girls to see their grandma.  (And having an on-site baby sitter so we could go to dinner and a movie for our anniversary was a bonus.)

We spent a lot of time swimming (that post is still in the queue) and most of the time just relaxing, but the one very noteworthy thing we did was to visit a safari zoo.

You know how phonebooks have those "community" pages up front with maps and golf courses and points of interest?  Do you ever look at it?  Me either.  Before this trip, anyhow.

MIL's neighbor stopped by one day to deliver a pie.  Incidentally, it was one of three desserts she delivered during our short visit and I personally blame her for the 5 pounds I gained while on vacation.  Not the buffet and other dinners out, not the movie popcorn, not even the gummies that BIL brought over.  Nope.  One awesome blueberry cheesecake/coffeecake and two pies.
Anyway, after setting down the pie, Pie Making Neighbor immediately pulled out the phone book and pointed to a listing in that community section of the Huntsville, Alabama phone book.  It said "Harmony Park Safari" with an address phone number and short description.  It didn't really say much and Pie Making Neighbor had never been there.  She just said that she had driven by it and thought it might be something the girls might enjoy. 
After she left, I headed to the computer to Google "Harmony Park Safari" and was surprised to find that they don't have a website.  I had a few hits through travel sites but no real meat that told what exactly the place was.  By total coincidence, just the day before, Hillary at The Dunham Diaries had been to Harmony Park Safari just the day before.  Being overly concerned about the welfare of my car, I emailed Hillary and was delighted when she emailed back with nothing but positive things to say.

So we headed off to the safari zoo and were amazed at what was in store for us.  When we pulled up to pay our fee, we could see the animals congregating on the other side of the fence.  There was a fee for all of us, but with five paid admissions, we got a free bucket of corn.  Since we were in a mini-van, there were only two of us with windows that opened enough to launch food.  I can image how much more fun it would have been if we had more windows that could distribute food.

Although the animals are not tame, they certainly are used to being fed by random vehicles driving through their home.  All the animals mull around your vehicle waiting for you to toss out some corn.  Before entering the park, staff provided a warning and list of rules. They explain that you need to roll up your window quickly because the animals are known to put their heads in the vehicle.  In the case of the camel, that is very dangerous.  For that reason alone, the task of throwing corn should be restricted to adults and older children.
There was a great variety of animals at Harmony Safari Park.  We were able to get some really exciting pictures - like of a buffalo crossing in front of vehicle. Or a shot of the ram following us around, right after butting the back of the vehicle.  The alligator peeking out of the water.  And of course, the turtle crossing the road.  Kidding, the turtles were all inside a pen that we were allowed to walk into.  Just wondering if you were still paying attention.  There was one monkey in a cage but aside from the alligators, the rest were roaming freely.  (Wouldn't have much of a zoo if the alligators were uncaged, right?)  From the time we drove through the gate, we had plenty of attention.  The camel never came near our vehicle; he was busy grazing in a field nearby.  But as you can see from the pictures I HAVE included, several other animals did.

From what we were told, there are only 19 of this type of safari zoo in the United States.  It was a lot of fun and if you are ever in the vicinity of one, it's worth a stop.  Everyone in our car thoroughly enjoyed this adventure.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Be Careful What You Brag About

You know what happens when you brag about your garden boxes over and over and over again on your blog?  Your MIL puts in an order for one of her own when you visit on vacation. 

I thought it was funny because I did all the boasting about how great a job DH did creating the planter boxes then he ended up with all the work.  Isn't that they way it should be?  He didn't have to work solo though.  Assistant woodworker, Miss K, was on-hand to help out with the assembly.  The rest of us pitched in to help paint it when he was done.  Mine are not painted, but since she lives in an association neighborhood, she didn't want anyone to find any problems with it. 

It was a nice family project while we were visiting her in Alabama... despite the ridiculously hot weather.  Thank goodness we had access to a pool!  In all fairness, MIL was here visiting when we originally built mine and she was a big help.  So I can't complain too much.

Now, with her own raised bed, she will enjoy being able to plant tomatoes - the one thing that she will drive out of her way to a farmer's market to buy.  Maybe I need to tell her to start a blog so she can share pictures of all the progress! 

Oh, and I'm ashamed to say that I didn't get a picture of the final product!  When we were done, Miss M took some artificial flowers and 'planted' them in the bed.

8/22/08 Edit: MIL graciously sent along a picture for me to post on the blog.  Notice that she added trim to the outside of her bed after we left. Guess it wasn't classy enough.  Maybe the fact that I kept referring to it as a coffin made her want to jazz it up a bit.  hehe   Thanks MIL!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is it Fishing or Catching?

There's been a bit of a break in blog posts lately. I know, you missed me. Thanks. I missed all of you too. Really. I've been miserable and grumpy because my schedule has been all out of whack.

Well, I have a perfectly good excuse. We were on vacation. We were away visiting my MIL and celebrating our 15th anniversary. DH had wanted to take us on a family cruise but I didn't realize that children's passports only last 5 years. It's okay, I had a great time and so did the girls.

Anyway, my laptop went kuh-flooey and I wasn't online as much as I had hoped to me. I have a whole slew of blog posts to do and I only got one done - my anniversary one! That was the important one, anyhow.

So here's an example of one of the blog posts sitting in queue... better late than never, right?
My MIL lives in a neighborhood where all the houses are built around a lake. While we were there, she took the kids to WalMart and let them pick cute little kid fishing rods. We got up one morning and headed to the stocked lake to let the girls go fishing. Our first family fishing outing!

Of course, only some of the houses have yards against the lake so we headed off to a house owned by one of MIL's friends.

Unfortunately, we stood there and watched the fish congregate several houses down. Private property though, so we cast our lines and waited. After a few minutes, the owner of the house came outside and tossed something into the water. Apparently he does it a few times a day and now have the fish trained outside his house! He invited us to use his yard so we moved all our gear down to his place.

DH did all the yucky stuff like bait the hooks with the really smelly stuff, remove the fish when we caught it and toss it back in. Grammy was official photographer and I got to do all the fun stuff. You know, giggle as the girls caught the fish then help them reel it in.

While DH was trying to get us situated, Miss K caught a fish! Literally, that fast. Before we had hers off the hook, Miss M caught one.

They both thought it was cool and wanted to fish some more! DH baited up the line and we went to work again. And each caught another fish that fast. Again. Those of us that know what fishing is really like were absolutely amazed at how quickly the fish were biting. But hey, they were used to getting their morning chow while the owner was having his morning coffee. Who were we to complain?

We didn't want to overstay our welcome and at the same time, didn't want to sour what had turned out to be a wonderful experience. We called it a day and now know that catfish and carp can be trained with dog food.

We brought the fishing rods home with us after vacation and hope to find a lake nearby that can match the excitement. My only concern is that the next time it will be more like genuine fishing and less like catching!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Heads-Up: Precious Moments giveaway

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I'm hosting a giveaway (on SAHM Reviews) for this adorable Precious Moments figurine. There are only a handful of entries, so be sure to pop over and comment for a chance to win!

Here's the direct link: Precious Moments Giveaway

I'm drawing a winner tomorrow, so hurry!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

15 Reasons Why I Love You

Hey you. Yes, you. If you're reading this, don't go getting any funny ideas. Even though I may love you for reading my blog, this post isn't for you or about you.

You see, today is my anniversary. It's been 15 years since that wonderful day when I became Mrs. DH. As a bonus, 16 years ago today, he proposed to me by hiding my ring inside my fish tank. On a shell kind of shaped like a finger. If it weren't for reflection caused by the sun shining in on it that afternoon, I don't know how long he would have hidden it there.

But that's a story for another day. Today, it's about DH. For DH.

15 Reasons Why I Love You
(If I list the rest of the reasons, I wont have anything to type next time!)

15. Your eyes make me smile and your smile makes me melt. I've thought you were handsome since the day we met... and as we age, I still think you are and even more so!
14. You joke about my faults to make me realize they aren't that big of a deal. When you know something trivial is bothering me, you tease me until I laugh.
13. You love me despite all of the things that are wrong with me.
12. You are constantly thinking. No matter what you are working on, whether it be the computer, your profession, something with the kids - you are always looking for ways to improve it, make it better, make it more profitable. I see a jungle gym in the winter and you see a potential igloo.
11. You never hesitate to help my family when they need it.
10. You are not afraid to learn something new. So many years ago, when the job market was tough, you taught yourself computer graphics (among other things). You put those skills into practice and they are what ultimately got us to where we are today. Whenever you have the chance to improve yourself, you do.
9. You encourage me to make decisions on my own based on what I think is best. Even when you know there may be a better solution. And you don't even say "I told you so." Sometimes.
8. You are fun! I tease you about being my 3rd child, but really, you are a lot of fun to be around. You play with the kids, find new places to explore, take the family to the movies, festivals and conventions, and even suggest a picnic lunch with the girls.
7. You're funny. Although I roll my eyes and groan at some of your jokes, you are quite comical. It was apparent on our first date when I walked you around our campus and showed you the various sculptures of "Ascend." As you put it "I ascended you a letter?"
6. You are creative and talented.
5. Sears Tower. Comiskey.
4. You are always supportive. No matter what I venture out to do, you stick with me and encourage me. Whether it be joining the gym, participating in an activity, starting a new hobby or just spending time with my friends. Even when I wanted to stop working to become a stay-at-home-mom, you supported me.
3. You are modest - which is why I have to tell you these things.
2. You are a wonderful father and our girls are fortunate to have such a great dad.
1. You are a thoughtful and caring husband. I never ask for anything because you always get it for me or do it for me... sometimes even before I know I want it!

I am blessed to be your wife. Thank you for the past 15 years. For all the great times and memories. I'm looking forward to all that is still to come.

I love you.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

First, I apologize in advance to anyone receiving this twice.
It's cross posted on
SAHM Reviews

Thanks to DH, I finally have a button for each of my blogs. I wanted to make it look similar to my page with pictures of the girls, but 125x125 isn't much room to work with. Those would have been two very tiny girls! He worked his graphics magic and this is what he came up with.

You know what? I love it!

If you want to add my button to your side bar, here's the code!

SAHM Ramblings
SAHM Ramblings 125x125 Button Code

SAHM Ramblings
SAHM Ramblings Banner Code

SAHM Reviews
SAHM Reviews 125x125 Button Code

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Distant Cry of Chainsaws

When I lived in Los Angeles, I was often asked how I felt about the earthquakes since I was a transplant from an area without them. In all the years we were there, I only felt shock waves of one really big one miles and miles away. It woke me in the middle of the night and I was more frustrated and annoyed that I couldn't get my glasses from the nightstand since everything was moving. My answer was always the same, "I would rather have an earthquake than a tornado any day."

It's not that an earthquake is easy, because it's not. The devastation is harsh. But the advantage is that you don't know it's coming. It's just there. Then it's done.

But with a tornado, you have the watches and the warnings and the sirens. The news casters saying "Tornadoes have been spotted..." and "Conditions are ripe for tornadoes." You stand at your windows and you watch the storm clouds and wonder if that cloud right there is going to turn into one. It usually goes on for hours as the storm clouds make their way toward your home, over your home then ultimately beyond. It's that anticipation, that uncertainty, that makes it so difficult.

This past Monday in the wee hours of the morning, the winds picked up, the rains thrashed and the storm moved in. It was quick but it was powerful. There wasn't any kind of warning.

But the destruction it left was undeniable. This was not just an ordinary storm. From what I understand, the winds reached 100 mph in some areas. A call from my mom indicated that the winds in their neighborhood were severe. They lost their two apple trees along with a maple - trees that were among the first landscaping they did back in the mid 1970s. A fourth, a smaller tree along the front lane also fell victim to the storm. Branches on other trees were broken and flipped upward into the trees, over the limbs they were originally connected to. One of their neighbors had a windmill that was bent in half and another neighbor lost his flagpole that had been rated to withstand winds of at least 80mph.

DH and I spent the better part of Monday helping my parents clean up the chaos. We were hauling and stacking the limbs as fast as my dad would cut them but 35 year old trees are huge when you start to cut them apart. Each time my dad would cut the power on his chainsaw, we could hear at least one chainsaw running in the distance in one direction or another. Seems there was a lot of cleanup going on Monday.

With as nasty as this storm was, I'm thankful that my parents weren't injured, nor were any of their neighbors. I regret to say that one 4 year old child lost his life when a tree fell on their tent during a family camping trip. If you're curious what a 100 mph storm can do, check out some of the pictures on the QC Times website.

So as I sit here today, here in Iowa, I can honestly say that I prefer an earthquake to a tornado. Any day. Still.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

How does your garden grow?

First, my name is not Mary. It's Nicole. AKA Mom. But the garden is growing just fine none-the-less! However, if I were to finish the nursery rhyme, it would go something like this:

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. How does your garden grow?
With one red bell and toe-may-toes and lots of carrots-all in a row.

For those of you who were with me in the beginning, or even when I saw my first sprouts, thanks for all the encouragement. We've come a long way. I seriously didn't think I had a knack for gardening but family and friends assured me that it would be okay. That I could do it.

We built just two beds to see how I would do and how I would like it. DH commented that he can tell I'm already planning for more beds for next year's garden. I guess he can see the proud gleam in my eyes.

The girls have been great about helping me weed it. They were very confident with pulling the weeds until it became so overgrown that they couldn't even find the dirt any more.

I'm quite proud of where we're at now. With six tomato plants creeping over the fence. Six different varieties already preparing a nice yield. One red bell pepper plant surrounded by cooking onions and edged by a row of spring onions. We pulled and cut one of the large onions the other day and it was delicious.

My onion. From my garden. Delicious. What a lovely sound.

The bed of carrots is huge. In the beginning, I worked diligently to thin them as much as I could. Three zillion tiny carrots that are so close together that you need tweezers to thin them properly. No, I didn't do that. I did what I could then figured I would have lots of baby carrots in the beginning... THAT would be my thinning method. Well, those baby carrots are making a tasty addition to my salads these days. The girls and I pick a few each day.

And then there are the banana pepper plants... producing far more than what I could possibly know what to do with. That's okay though, we'll figure out something.

On the down side, we're having a major problem with Japanese beetles. It's annoying, but the girls and I are making a game of it. Each day, we head outside with our jar of soapy water and proceed to catch any beetle that dare raid our garden... or our bushes.

It has all been a nice bonding experience. The gardening and the bug collecting. And it's been a confidence booster, too. I love my garden and can't wait to have fresh tomatoes!

Monday, July 14, 2008

On the Fringe... 20 Years Later

When I was in high school, I wasn't part of the "IN" crowd. Actually, I was one of those kids who worked very diligently to screw up the bell curve in any class that I possibly could. Honest, it wasn't out of spite - it was because I wanted to be at the top of the class.

Socially, I was raised to get along with everyone. That's just how it was. Although I didn't hang with other crowds, it didn't prevent me from mingling with them, talking to them or going places with them. I often crossed into different cliques so long as it didn't mean trashing my true friends.

One day in high school, a classmate told me how phony I am. She said "It's impossible to be friends with everyone, so since you're friends with everyone, you must be fake." Nice. Truly the words of a snobbish, clueless high school (ummm) young lady. But I was genuine and really just wanted to be able to talk to anyone. I'm still that way today and people that know me as an adult really get it. People at the gym refer to me as the welcoming committee because I'm the first person to greet a new person to class. Why? Because being new somewhere is uncomfortable and I like making people feel like their presence makes a positive difference.

When I graduated, I didn't look back. I maintained a few high school friendships in college then kept in touch with nobody. Zilch. Moving to California gave me the perfect excuse for not having a clue as to any of the gossip surrounding my classmates. When I received an invitation to my 10-year reunion, I had absolutely no intention of spending money for a trip back to Iowa for it.

A few months back when I received an invitation to my 20-year reunion, I felt like tossing it into the trash. The difference, however, is that I'm now back in Iowa and have run into a few of my classmates. You know what? They grew up. They matured. We all did (for the most part). I've been in contact with some of them either through preschool or the gym and I've enjoyed talking to them. They convinced me that going to the reunion wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Well, this past weekend was the reunion. Yes, I went. No, it wasn't horrible. Yes, I loved seeing some of my old friends. Particularly Meg, someone I called one of my closest friends in high school. Who, by the way, aged beautifully - as you can tell by the photo. You may notice that I blurred out our name tags. My concern was my sanity, not my identity. The name tags displayed our FRESHMAN picture next to our name. Ick.

As Meg and I walked around, we caught a glimpse of a bunch of the "in" crowd gathering for a group picture. Meg elegantly raised her glass to me and said "Here's to being on the fringe."

Yup, Meg. Here's to surviving the fringe. Cheers.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

When is a Cupcake NOT a Cupcake?

When it's a bath bomb!

As I've mentioned a few times recently, I created a new blog for doing reviews and giveaways. I like my SAHM Ramblings blog to be focused on my life and the kids (and other what-not) but I will be posting heads-up messages over here so people know that there's a contest running over at SAHM Reviews. I apologize if it's out of place for anyone but I hope it won't send anyone rushing to hit the "unsubscribe" button!

With that said...

I'm really excited to have the opportunity to host a giveaway sponsored by Beyond the Bomb. Head over to SAHM Reviews for details on how and what you can win!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

One Photographer. One Gold Digger.

We went a different route this year for the 4th and headed to a small festival near where the fireworks would be on display. Typically, we go to a large open area a few blocks further outside the worst of the chaos-zone but this year I suggested we try something new.

By 7:30 when we arrived, they were already shutting down all the bouncers and other kids activities. Since there wasn't anything for the girls to do, we pulled out our blanket and chairs and set up camp with two hours to go before the fireworks would begin. I had not brought anything for the kids to do since I figured we would be killing time at the festival. They entertained themselves for the most part, but when Miss M asked if she could take a picture with my camera, I said "okay." After a few botched shots, she actually pulled off a good one.On the flip side... The other night at dinner, DH decided to have a conversation with the girls about what they could be when they grow up. Astronaut, doctor, judge, banker. He would say something in-between bites and the girls would ask what "that" was. He would explain it and they would respond whether it sounded good or not. I apparently appeared to be spacing off and in true jokester fashion, in an attempt to see if I was paying attention inserted "Gold Digger" into the list. Yes, I was listening and no, milk did not come out of my nose. Miss K asked "What's that?" to which he replied "Someone who digs in the ground and finds gold and jewels." "Oooh! I want to be THAT. What was it called?" So he repeated it and so did she. At bedtime that night, she reiterated that she wanted to be a gold digger when she grew up and dig jewelry and gold out of the ground. The following day, she proudly told me AGAIN. Followed by the desire to tell her Grandmas about her new found interest. Since she is going to be seeing one Grandma tomorrow and the other in a few weeks, I figured I better be proactive about the story!

Think I'll go charge the battery in the metal detector so she can start practicing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Following Through. Starting Another Year!

If there's one thing I do well, it's getting bored and moving on. Let me put it in more realistic, less fluffy, terms - I don't finish what I start. As my husband so eloquently puts it "You're full of good intentions." Despite my knack for creative discussion (cough, argue, cough), I would lose that debate time and again. I love to start things but if I'm not 100% invested then it just doesn't happen.

It's really not a new thing. As much as I want to blame motherhood, senility, whatever, I just can't. I've been presented with evidence that this problem goes back to childhood. Sigh. When we bought our first house, my mom and dad delightfully delivered all my childhood memories. They cleaned their basement and made a trip to California - delivering anything they could find that was marked as "Nicole". Crap I saved for a really long time. Can I say crap? Sorry. Stuff that I saved for a really long time. No need to point out that my pack rat tendencies stem from my childhood, as well.

Within that mess of childhood tchotchkes was a beginner loom. Attached to the loom was the original purple yarn and a makeshift scarf... a work in progress dating back to the 70's.

Before my nephew was born, I jump-started my crochet hobby. Selecting yarns to match our bedroom set and picking a patch-together pattern that I could do over time. I never finished the afghan and our bedroom set has long since changed color schemes. I even purchased yarn to make a baby blanket for my nephew once I got the hang of crocheting again... he starts junior high this year.

To my credit, the gym is one thing that I have continued with - having just passed the two year mark and still going strong. Oh, and hubby... I'm sticking with him until he gets tired of me. That's a blog post for another day.

But the title of this post is "Following Through. Starting Another Year." It's about my blog. I just want to say that I've come a long way since my very first blog post on July 9, 2007. One year ago today. I'm excited and energized about it. I don't post as often as I would like, but I post when I can. I started a new review/giveaway blog and have several things in the pipeline for that.

Best of all, I'm enjoying my blog. I've met a ton of great people. Read a lot of wonderful stories and posts. Vented a lot of steam. It's therapeutic. It's fun. It's something I can call my own.

Thanks to all my readers for helping me with this accomplishment.

(and special thanks to DH for all his help and encouragement.)

Friday, July 4, 2008

You Have to Be Sad Like Mom

Last night we took a dinner cruise on the Mississippi on board the Celebration Belle. It was a three-hour cruise beginning with some free time for relaxing, followed by a small buffet dinner and dessert topped off with more relaxing and some music. I really thought that the boat would be packed, but there were only 22 of us.

After having tea and lemonade at our assigned seat along the window (with only 22 guests, everyone was assigned a table by a window), we set out to explore the paddle boat. We headed up to the top deck and enjoyed as much of the view as we possibly could with two antsy little kids with us. DH and I really started to question whether this outing was a good idea when Miss M constantly asked what time it was and when dinner would be served. We just wanted them to enjoy the scenery but getting them to hold still was tough. I haven't figured out how I managed to get a few beautiful pictures... thank goodness for digital cameras and the ability to take 15 photos and delete 14.

While topside, we pointed out the bridge we usually cross and how the girls could see other cars crossing if they just paid attention. Miss M was very excited when she recognized a landmark associated with where one of her preschool classmates lives. Since she rode the bus every day, she saw that landmark every time they picked up and dropped off her friend, Zachary.

Dinner was okay - nothing fabulous but it wasn't horrible. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly kid-friendly. But we were enjoying it anyhow.

After dinner, we spent time looking at the scenery then eventually headed to the dining hall where the band was playing a variety of tunes. With such a small number of passengers, I wasn't surprised when Miss M and Miss K had sole reign of the dance floor.

Now let me tell you, my girls are not shy on the dance floor. We're not sure where she learned it but Miss M claimed to be break dancing. Can you picture this firely little red head running the circle then spinning on her back?

When DH mentioned that we should request "Wheels on the Bus" just to see what the girls would do, my brain about exploded. The completely selfish side of me took over and any thoughts of requesting a song for the girls went out the window. I looked at him and asked "They're taking requests?" He said "Yeah, they said that at the beginning." Ummm. Oh. "Well then maybe I'll request our song. Will you dance with me if I request it?" He rolled his eyes as I was asking because he saw it coming. But no sooner had I finished the sentence when the band played a warm up four bars for their next song. DH and I looked at each other. Tears welled in my eyes and I could see a sparkle in his. When they started back up, they played something entirely different. I was totally deflated so when they approached the end of that song, I put in my request.

DH and I headed to the dance floor. I wrapped my arms around his neck and blissfully rested my head on his chest. Miss M saw us and tried to mimic it with Miss K. After a few minutes of jockeying for position, Miss M loudly explained "No K! You have to be sad like Mom! See." They finally gave up and just joined us.

Despite a few tears here and there, I wasn't sad. I was actually quite happy. It was a beautiful night with my favorite people in a wonderful setting. What could there possibly be to be sad about?