Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So We Teach the Kids to Cheat

First, I want to say thank you to anyone who voted for me to win the HP TouchSmart computer. In case you didn't see the comments attached to the prior post, the contest was deemed null and void and nobody won.

It was quite a messy thing, actually. The nature of the contest - the voting process - is designed to encourage viral marketing. Spread the word to help a friend out. Post everywhere you can think of in order to garner the most votes. The front runner when the contest was closed has a large fan base on YouTube as well as the backing of his gaming community. A few of us were working various Mom Blogging communities, Craigslist, various hobby forums and other networks. I even found out that my brother put in a plea to his business associates just so I would “owe him” if I happened to win. If you’re a sibling, you totally understand the notion of holding something over another siblings head.

Unfortunately, the problem with such voting programs is there isn't any real control over the actual votes. Hackers can do anything and blog widgets like these don’t exactly have Fort Knox security built in. So guess what happened... there was vote tampering. The guy who was in the lead had people openly bragging about having voted for him multiple times with one even offering to show others how easy it is. To make matters worse, it was discovered that someone (or multiple people) were running scripts to hike the votes. HighTechDad was able to easily locate and remove 2000 votes from the guy in the lead but he didn't run through it with a fine tooth comb. But before he even had a chance to do so, his site was hammered by an automated system that not only shut down his site but caused his service provider to suspend his account altogether. Basically, he declared the guy in front to be the winner and within minutes, the attack on his site halted. After reviewing additional information and the subsequent cease-fire once he announced the winner, he decided the contest was null and void. Although I would have preferred to win it, I'm glad that it ended the way it did rather than the front runner unduly being given the prize.

I hated that people were cheating, but what bothered me most is that it was being done by kids. When HighTechDad announced the winner (and the site attack stopped), it pretty much showed those kids that yes, cheaters could still win. Although the guy in the lead may or may not have been involved in the cheating didn't really matter. The fact that people... kids... cheated on his behalf just set a bad example. When he saw those kids bragging about it, he should have blasted them. Blocked them as friends. Publicly scolded them. Contacted their parents if he knew how. Taught them a lesson in values and ethics.

Although I would have preferred a charity receive this in lieu of nobody, I'm glad HighTechDad opted NOT to show kids that it's okay to cheat... or even to stand for someone cheating on your behalf. Regardless of whether you were aware of it or not.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Do you have a minute to spare?

Every once in a while, something comes along that has the potential to really make your day. Since I tend to spend a bit of time entering contests on various blogs, sometimes I win fun things like movie passes, gadgets or board games.

Well, tonight I found out that I'm a finalist to win a new HP TouchSmart computer from HighTechDad and HP. Just in time for Christmas, too. It's very exciting to be name one of 10 finalists. Yes, I have a 1 in 10 chance of winning. Sort of.

It's a popularity contest. The person with the most votes this Thursday at noon Pacific time will win. I hate popularity contests. But I feel like I have a great network of friends in the blogging community that can help me win. It only takes like a minute to click over and vote. There are no strings attached, you don't even have to leave your name. It's so easy that even a cave... (I hate those commercials but it just seems to fit here.)

So all that I'm asking is for you to Click here and vote. I'm #7 (SahmReviews)

...and hopefully, you'll spread the word to friends and have them vote too.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

If I had to do it all again...

I don't consider myself one to get writer's block but I do get overwhelmed and find that I just do not make time for writing. Today, however, I'm writing a letter to my younger self. Why? Well, I could say that it's because I'm inspired by the holidays... but that wouldn't be entirely honest. I'm actually entering a contest at Chocolate Covered Daydreams where someone will win a Wii Fit Plus. It's not a random drawing, but is being judged. Of course, I'm hoping that all the winner will be me but this contest had an unexpected outcome. Once I started composing the letter in my head, I realized it was pretty therapeutic. I went back and changed my letter entirely. With that, here's my letter to my younger self:

Dear teenage Nicole,

What would you think if I said that 25 years from now, you'll be married to a fantastic man, have two beautiful daughters, have seen some wonderful places and be retired? As you look around, that doesn't seem very realistic, does it? You feel unpopular, ugly and sad. But I'm here to tell you that it's all true. It will happen if you stay on the right path.

You're going through a rough time, I know. I remember. But seriously, it's really not as bad as it seems. The braces will come off and you'll shed the glasses for contacts. You'll do great in school, too. Believe it or not, you WILL eventually have a boyfriend. You'll smile with confidence and make people feel at ease around you.

But I'm not going to say everything is rosy. The hard truth is that you'll find more difficulties in the future, too. Depression, an eating disorder, financial strains, infertility and depression (again) to name a few. But you'll get through it and you'll come out stronger on the other side. Alongside your husband, you'll become financially savvy. Your children will make you feel old and young at the same time. You'll see some family members leave way before their time and others live to see great-grandchildren.

Just keep a few things in mind:
- You're not perfect. Nobody is.
- You won't have the perfect life. Nobody does.
- Realize there's a difference between being hard on yourself and beating yourself up.
- You're a good person, even when you are at your lowest.
- You'll have some friends who stand with you and help you... you'll have others who use you and abandon you.
- Experience will show you that life is not fair. Some people lie and cheat to get ahead while others work hard just to make ends meet. You will get passed over for job promotions but something better will come along if you maintain a positive attitude.

It all works out eventually.

When I started this letter, I had every intention of telling you YES, apply for West Point or Harvard like you (will) consider. But then I realized that the decisions you're about to make... that I DID make... got US to where we are now. And if I had to do it all over again, I would. The same way. With all the mistakes, hardships and all.

I'll close this letter by simply saying "Hang in there. Just keep your chin up and have hope because good things happen to good people."

A much older, much wiser and much more confident you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Do You Shop

Every time I turn around, I swear I'm hearing about They started off selling shoes but now they've extended into housewares, too. It's only a matter of time before they add electronics and whatever else. Why do I say that? Because earlier this month, Amazon completed the acquisition of them.

I've never purchased from I've never done a review for their products on, my review blog. I don't even participate in their affiliate programs. But by way of my public relations contacts, I do receive information about various promotions and contests they are running. As part of a recent press release, I found out that for THIS WEEKEND ONLY, they have opened up their VIP Club registration. Free. The offer is only available until midnight on 11/30.

So what? You don't shop there? As I said, neither do I. But once upon a time, I didn't shop at Amazon, either. And now that Amazon owns Zappos, who knows what will come. Who knows what the VIP program will bring in the long term. What I DO KNOW is that their VIP program offers free overnight shipping for life. Seriously.

I'm not being paid to share this information and I'm certainly not getting any cool products (or I would be talking about this on!) I'm sharing it because I think it's a great opportunity. Go ahead and sign up for the VIP program. It doesn't cost anything.

Oh... and by the way, once upon a time Amazon only sold books.

Friday, November 6, 2009

To the Bettendorf Box Scrounge

Dear Box Scrounge in Bettendorf,

I woke up this morning to find cardboard strewn across my driveway. Thank you very much for putting your need for boxes over the clean way I attempted to recycle my cardboard.

You see, that very nice huge box that you took was holding all my other recyclable cardboard. When you took that box, you left behind an unsightly, unorganized mess. Thankfully, there weren't strong winds last night carrying my cardboard all across the neighborhood.

If you were in need of boxes, you could have come during the daylight hours, knocked on my door and asked. I would have said "Sure, I know what it's like to need boxes during a move or cleanup project." I probably would have even logged onto the local Craigslist and done a search for moving boxes. Then I would have given you my boxes and found another way to keep my cardboard organized for the recycling man.

If you found it necessary to take boxes in the middle of the night, you could have at least had the courtesy to bring twine along and clean up the mess you left behind.

What ever happened to common sense?

Nicole, Bettendorf resident

Saturday, October 31, 2009

How to Repair a Trick-or-Treat Pumpkin

It's trick-or-treat time!  We own two orange pumpkins and one purple pumpkin.  After careful discussion, the girls mutually agreed that Miss M would use the purple pumpkin for last night's festivities and Miss K could use it tonight. 

...Except that Miss M managed to break the handle last night.  Both girls were disappointed.

So superdad, DH, promised to fix it so Miss K could use it tonight.

To the untrained eye, this is just a Halloween trick-or-treat pumpkin. No big deal, right?  Well... all you geeks out there will appreciate how DH fixed it!

(Yes, he created a handle out of Cat5 cable then crimped network ends to it to hold it in place.  If we need to hook up a computer while we're trick-or-treating, we're totally set.  Gotta love having a geek husband.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tooth Fairy's First Visit

Last Friday morning, Miss M lost her first tooth!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Free for Des Moines Moms of Young Children

If you're a Des Moines area mom to a child who doesn't attend school in the afternoons, please keep reading. If you're not but know someone in the Des Moines area who is, please forward this link to them.

I've made a lot of great contacts as a result of my review blog, and I'm fortunate enough to find out about a lot of great events. Since SAHM Ramblings has local readers, I wanted to make sure to share this wonderful event sponsored by "got milk?" representatives for the Milk Mustache Campaign.

It's a sad fact that 2 out of 3 kids don't get enough calcium. But get this, kids who drink chocolate milk or other flavored milks have higher intakes of calcium than kids who don't. Duh. Chocolate milk tastes really good... I can't believe that all kids don't consume it! hehe Chocolate milk is offered as an option at my daughters' elementary school and they both often (or always) select chocolate milk to accompany their lunch.

Anyway, in an effort to raise awareness, the "got milk?" crews are on a 25 city Halloween tour around the nation. Des Moines is one of the select 25 cities celebrating this Halloween-themed event!  Here's what they sent me:
Event Activities:
• Receive quick tips on how to make this Halloween a safe and healthy one
• Snap celebrity-inspired chocolate Milk Mustache photos to take home as a souvenir
• Participate in Halloween activities and answer the latest “Twivia” question posted by @MilkMustache on Twitter for a chance to win fun prizes
• Taste and learn how to make fun Halloween-themed recipes
• Sample delicious and nutritious lowfat and fat free chocolate milk from local milk processors
• Interact with fun educational museum exhibits

Sound interesting?  Here are the specific details:
Date: Wednesday, October 7
Time: 12 - 2 p.m.
Location: Science Center of Iowa
401 West Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway
Des Moines, IA 50309

And it's free... Did I say that already?

If you think you'll be able to make it, please leave a comment or email me with your name and the number of people who will be attending with you.  My representative said if  I'm interested (or my readers) in attending, that she could bring along some goody bags especially for us!  She has also offered some prizes for me to give away on my blog, and I'll be sure to post a link when I get the contest details and prize photo posted.

This should be a fun event! Be sure to follow the Milk Mustache team on Twitter for information and a chance to win prizes or keep up on their tour by becoming their Fan on Facebook. You can also check out the Why milk? website

Don't forget to leave a comment or email me if you'll be attending the event! Not in Des Moines or can't make the event? Join the Halloween Twitter party on 10/13/09!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

And that's why they closed...

DH and I decided to have lunch at Bishop's at Southpark Mall yesterday.  The last time we ate there was before we moved to California.  But I had a B1G1F coupon and Bishop's French Silk pie sounded awesome.

After we ate, we walked around the mall and were amazed at how many stores were no longer in business. I guess traffic at the mall just isn't what it used to be.

I pointed at one such store by the name of "G Spot" that was obviously empty.  Quick-witted DH responded "It probably closed because nobody could find it."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Front of the Line Fashion Sense

I couldn't put my finger on my 1st grader's funky sense of fashion lately.  I've been trying to give her some independence when it comes to selecting her outfits but I've also tried to give her a little direction.   For instance, she'll pick out a piece for the day and I'll give her suggestions about what might match it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fashionista - quite the opposite.  But I try to make sure that the different pieces work together... more or less.

Well this morning, Miss M just wanted to argue with me.  She wanted THIS shirt and THAT pair of shorts.  The shirt was mostly dark pastels with purples, greens and blues with a small pattern.  The shorts a few shades of pink, yellow,  and red with large daisies and butterflies.  No matter how many times I tried to tell her that they didn't work together, she just didn't want to listen.

Then it finally came out.  The reason for her misguided fashion decisions lately...

"But Mom, I want to wear lots of colors so when the teacher calls a color I can get in the front of the line."

Sigh.  That explains so much.

Monday, September 7, 2009

How Did My Photo Get There?

During the course of the BlogHer Conference in Chicago, I took pictures with various people that I was excited to have the opportunity to meet. Celebrities, fellow bloggers, people I admire. Mel, my roomie at the event, brought a fancy film camera to BlogHer. I took several candid shots for her so she wasn't always using her film.  Following the conference, I shared all my digital photos with her and was surprised to see all of them end up on her Flickr account.  No big deal though since there wasn't anything personal, private or embarrassing.  Mostly just photographs of the event, the people and the chaos. I didn't think twice about it.

Well, imagine my surprise today when I noticed that Mel posted a message on Twitter a few days ago.
I don't know how many of you surf the BlogHer website but the masthead is a photo bar that BlogHer regularly updates with fresh photographs.  I've never considered submitting a photograph to it so I had no clue what Mel was talking about in her Tweet.  I popped over to BlogHer to find this:
The picture on the far left is me with Donna Byrd, Publisher of The Root, following a keynote presentation at BlogHer09.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When Free Just Isn't Good Enough

In an attempt to gain some control over the effects of the recession, restaurants like IHOP have been offering special promotions.  IHOP, specifically, is offering "Kids Eat Free" where you get one free kids meal from the "Just for kids" menu with the purchase of each adult entree.

Yum, IHOP.  I decided it sounded like a good plan for dinner because, well, I didn't have anything thawed and didn't want to cook anyhow.  And IHOP was offering free dinner for the kids.  I love free.

So we headed off to IHOP, with Miss M exclaiming she wanted pancakes AND some of what Dad usually orders.  Miss K proclaiming that she only wanted what Dad usually orders.  What does DH usually order?  Country fried steak with pancakes, hashbrowns and eggs.  Think they have it on the kids menu?  We hoped so.  Did they?  Unfortunately not.

So we asked the kids what they wanted instead.  Miss M agreed to just have the chocolate smiley face pancake but Miss K stood her ground.  She can be a difficult eater and if she doesn't eat well then DH and I don't enjoy our meal.  It's frustrating, a waste of money and a pain because then she wants to eat something else when she gets home.

So we had a plan.  I would order what I wanted and get Miss M her pancakes as part of the "Kids Eat Free" program.  DH would order what he wanted and get a second entree free using a coupon from either the paper or our restaurant book.  Everyone would get what they wanted.  Sure we would end up with leftovers but that's okay because both kids would eat well and we would all enjoy the meal.

You know what they say about the best laid plans... When the server came to take our order, he said that we couldn't combine the offers.  It says so on the coupon and on the sign.  He explained that it's their policy that even if we split the check, the fact that we were at the same table prevented combining of coupons.  He was polite, but we were frustrated. 

We asked for a few minutes so Miss K could decide what she wanted and she decided she wanted Chick-Fil-A which was just two building over.  Miss M agreed.  DH knew I was in the mood for IHOP but I said to him "Yeah, but I won't enjoy my meal if she's going to be difficult."  So we agreed to leave.  We hadn't ordered anything except water at that point so IHOP wasn't out anything except our business.

But as we walked out, a gentleman (who had been seated at the booth right next to us shortly after we sat down) stopped DH to say he overheard the entire conversation.  "Good for you. It's hard enough to afford to take kids out to eat; I thought it was ridiculous that they wouldn't honor the coupon.  I left too.  I just wanted to let you know that you have my support."  So I guess IHOP was our business and his.

Yeah, I realize that IHOP has their policy, but we weren't asking for two free kids meals at the price of one entree.  We were simply trying to get the foods that the kids would eat utilizing the resources we had on hand.  If their goal is to bring in business then they need to think outside the box because if it isn't something you want, then free just isn't good enough.

...and as a bonus, Chick-Fil-A let us use two B1G1F coupons from our restaurant book.  Nice.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mistakes You Only Make ONCE

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Are We Wasting Taxpayer Dollars?

In just a few weeks, Miss K will begin Kindergarten.  My baby.  In school.  Full time.  It's just shocking.

But I'm not concerned because I know she's ready.  We've spent a lot of time reading to her, educating her, practicing her alphabet, numbers, word recognition and (gasp) even multiplication.  But we also enrolled her in preschool for the past two years and that helped prepare her socially for school.

Her first preschool encounter was a 2-days-per-week program through one of the local churches.  She enjoyed it and I felt she was making incredible strides.  Last year, she participated in Iowa's Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program.  Many parents in Iowa aren't familiar with it so if you're not from Iowa, I would be surprised if you were.  Whenever I strike up a conversation with a stranger in say, the doctor's office waiting room, I ask if their child is enrolled.  Heck, I even asked someone at a yard sale last week to make sure they knew.  To sum it up, the state has a program where preschools can apply for grant funding to help facilitate a Kindergarten readiness program for four year old children.   The primarily purpose of the grant is help increase opportunities and access to quality preschools.  Last year, we actually transferred preschools to be able to participate in the grant.  It's not that we thought our preschool was sub-par because it was great.  It's because the grant is typically used to offset tuition.  In other words, it was free.  Yes, free.  Thank you, Iowa taxpayers for paying for my daughter's preschool education. 

Some schools put signs out advertising that their preschool program is free.  They're proud of it because it's a community service and it's win/win for the community and the school.  Preschools get increased enrollment and money to replenish supplies, update toys/equipment and improve teacher wages while on the flip side, families can welcome monetary relief especially in this economic downturn. It's a great program - mostly.  It has a few flaws that I would like to explain...

I thought it was the norm - that preschools participating in the grant utilize the grant funds to subsidize the tuition.  But I recently found out that's not always the case.  In a few very rare cases, the preschools have opted to continue to charge tuition which seriously restricts how the grant funds can be utilized.  Since you only need so many consumable items such as supplies and educational materials, that leaves salaries as one of the few remaining allowable spending slots.  In these few instances, rather than pass the savings along to the community, the teachers are lining their own pockets because (to quote one) "I did a lot of hard work to get this grant and I think I deserve it."  Having worked with grant accountants during my days as an accountant for the city I lived in, I would have been shocked to hear "I applied for this (road construction) grant so I should get a raise."

So I'm stewing and feeling like my tax dollars are being wasted on a few greedy individuals rather than spread out to provide a quality education for families who might otherwise not be able to send their child to preschool.  I don't have any control over the situation other than to inform and educate so that (hopefully) the masses will let it be known that it's NOT okay to reap wages that are 50-100% higher than their peers are getting just because they took the initiative to apply for a grant.

If you live in Iowa and have a child who will be entering Kindergarten next year (2010-2011) then it's worth checking to see if your local preschool is participating in the grant.  If your child isn't enrolled, then what are you waiting for?  Preschool is a great jump-start in preparing for Kindergarten.  However, if your school is participating in the grant AND they are STILL charging tuition, ask them how much of a pay increase they received pre-grant versus post-grant.  If it's exorbitant, go elsewhere.  Those teachers are being self-serving, utilizing the very stringent grant restrictions for their own personal benefit.  I'm certain that I wouldn't want my child being taught by someone whose primary interest in applying for a grant is so selfish.  It's a total waste of my tax dollars.  What are your thoughts?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Back from BlogHer. Wow.

I returned home yesterday from BlogHer and I'm still in shock at how amazing it was. Although I don't have any photos downloaded yet or any wonderful blog posts ready to publish, I have so many things to share that I just don't know where to start.

The event itself is like any trade show - seminars, vendors, food and swag. But at BlogHer, it's the traditional trade show on steroids. Seminars are intense and informative with fantastic peers as the moderators. The vendors had tons of information as well as product samples. There was never a lack of food around although I seldom took the time to actually stop and eat.  (I lost like five pounds at BlogHer!)

Then there's the issue of the people. Lots and lots of people. Mostly non-judgmental., mostly warm and welcoming.  Once I got my feet firmly planted, nobody ever made me feel like the small blogger than I really am. People often said they recognized my business card and "I've been to YOUR blog" and seemed sincere about it. Established bloggers offered advice about how to get to the next level in the blogging community.  The celebrities, Carson Kressley, Rick Bayless, Tim Gunn, Brooke White and Paula Deen were all unbelievably human. As I swoon about "Oh my, You're (insert name here)" and ask them to sign an autograph, they were all so kind.

BlogHer was fantastic. Unbelievable. Informative. Wonder how long before I talk myself into registering for BlogHer 2010! I bet not very long!

More to come on this site and SAHM Reviews as I organize my photos, my swag and my thoughts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thank You, Kind Strangers

The storms around here have been quite ridiculous.  Nasty gusts strong enough to knock trees down, fling patio furniture and move the BBQ grill several feet - even with the wheels locked.

Oh... and fling open the gate for the fence.

That wouldn't be so bad if I had actually noticed it.  But I was up around 5 AM fighting lower back problems and simply wanted to find the Ibuprofen.  For the most part, I adhered to my normal morning schedule - I let the dogs out, took my medicine, got something to drink, made sure the dogs had food then let them back in.

Well, at least I think that's how the morning went.  Nestle wanted in and out a few times which was driving me crazy since I just wanted to stay in one spot and let my back stretch.  I'm sure I let Glacier in once then she wanted back out later.  I don't know what time that was though.  The girls woke up earlier than normal, I read the paper while they played and somewhere in there I stretched out on the ground hoping the back pains would go away.  It's all kind of fuzzy since I didn't get much sleep last night.

Then shortly before 9 AM, I went into the laundry room to get something and through the window could see the gate to the back yard wide open.  I ran into the kitchen and told DH that the gate was open.  He called for the dogs while I waited to visually see them come to attention.  Nestle did.  Glacier didn't.

I ran through the house looking in all her usual hiding spots and had just walked out into the front yard when the phone rang.  The nice gentleman on the other end of the phone said "We have your dog."  He proceeded to give me directions and I was amazed at the distance she had managed to get in what I didn't think was a very long period of time.  Several blocks.  And when I say several, I mean a good few minutes drive worth.

I headed off to pick her up as the guy, Shawn, an employee of the City of Bettendorf and Debbie, the driver of a red minivan waited patiently on 53rd Street.  Yes, my Glacier had escaped and was running down the middle of one of the busiest streets in town.  Thankfully traffic was stopping for her.

It's a good thing the cars saw her because she had difficulty seeing.  She had a tumor in 2004 and had one of her eyes removed.  Her depth perception is totally off and she can only see things on the right side of her body.  What a sight it must have been for drivers on 53rd - a fluffy white one-eyed American Eskimo dog running down the road.  Thank you for not running her over!

But most important, my heartfelt thanks go out to Debbie who pulled over and coaxed Glacier into her arms and to Shawn who pulled over behind her and telephoned us with the good news that she was safe.  If you know Debbie or Shawn, please pass along how very thankful I am for what they did this morning.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Everyone Will Do it if it is Easy

When we lived in Los Angeles, I remember how easy it was to recycle. Maybe because California is such a liberal, tree-hugging state. Or maybe the rolling blackouts and water conservation issues forever remind you that resources are limited. But one thing is for sure, recycling came easy there.

How is it so different there than here? Well, for one thing, pretty much everything could be recycled... and in the same bin. Cans, bottles, boxes, newspapers and any plastic that had that recycling triangle, no matter what the number. They were all placed together in a recycling bin that was a tad bit larger than our garbage can and picked up weekly along with our garbage. We didn't have to prep anything or sort it. Ooh, so easy. I literally had a garbage can for regular stuff and a paper bag for recyclables.  As it got full, I just dumped it in the recycle bin.

Here? Glass, cans and plastics with a "1" or "2" only. And newspapers, cardboard, magazines are separated. Granted, the recycle bin is the same size as the garbage can, but it's divided in two. We can't throw the newspapers into that half until the night before pickup because the weight is just too heavy for the divider.  What makes it worse is that it is only picked up once a month. 

It's all petty, I know, but having been exposed to the easy way of doing it just makes me want to throw up my arms and say "Why bother." However, by not participating, it's only hurting future generations and I'm not willing to let my frustrations keep me from doing the right thing.

But it was over the top this morning when our regular garbage bin was not emptied. You see, we're doing some yard cleanup and removed a bush that was unruly. The city has a yard waste recycling program but not only does it require that you purchase special bags to put everything in, but you also need to purchase a sticker for each bag that you put on the curb. Well, the bag says to only include certain things and the sticker says only certain things. Nowhere did it say an entire bush was okay so we threw it in the garbage. It isn't like we were trying to avoid paying the ticket fees because right next to the garbage can was a yard waste bag, with proper fees adhered, that wasn't even full.

So why does it get me all in an uproar? Because in Los Angeles it was so much easier. We actually had a third full-sized bin strictly for yard waste. All yard waste. In the same giant bin. You know how easy that made it when we had to prune the trees? To top it off, there weren't additional yard waste fees - it was all included in our monthly garbage pickup. I guess they realized that making it easy and economical translated to more people doing it. I recall that the last city we lived in had one of the highest participating percentages in the country. No wonder.  You could recycle almost everything and it was just a matter of putting it in the right color-coded bin.

So to wrap up this long, grumbly story... As soon as I noticed that our garbage wasn't picked up, I went out and removed the bush from the can.  I chopped it up enough to put into one of those bags then put my paid fee tag on it. I called the city and the man from public works that I talked to was kind enough to have the drivers swing back by to empty the garbage. But honestly, the whole thing really ruined my morning. Here I thought I was doing the right thing and it just bit me.

Recycling can be so easy if the cities would just do things a little differently. That is definitely one thing I miss about California.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

37, 38, 39... 20!

The girls and I were sitting around and chatting after we finished eating dinner.  Somehow we got on the topic of my age (39).  Miss K said "You were 37 before your last birthday."  I said "No, what comes before 39?"  She said "38 but you were 37 before that."  I confirmed what she said and told her good job.  Then I asked "So what will I be next year?" 

Miss K knows her numbers but for some reason, she's told me this before and I've decided I like it.  She enthusiastically responded "20!"  Miss M graciously intervened and said "No, 40 comes after 39." 

I'll stick with Miss K's birthday counting practices... I'll turn 20 on my next birthday.  Hope she still remembers it next April.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Generosity and How it Applies to BlogHer

The other day I received an email from Prizey, one of the best sites for blog giveaways.  They've changed their format which will allow more listings to post.  When the email came in, I didn't have time to sign up right away so I flagged it to do later.

I finally signed up yesterday then realized I hadn't surfed the ZRecs Network lately. (Nothing against them because I haven't surfed any of my favorite sites lately as I mentioned in yesterday's whiny post.) So this afternoon, I took a few minutes and stopped by ZRecommends to see what they've been up to.

Aside from some great reviews, I found out that they offered a giveaway for a BlogHer ticket and only had a handful of entries.  I would have entered that if I realized it but it's been hit or miss lately for me.  But in the midst of my reading, I found out they are giving away a three night stay at the Chicago Sheraton, the host hotel for the BlogHer conference!  I thought I missed out on two great giveaways until I read the fine print that said they're accepting entries until 11:59 p.m. (CT) on May 1.  My heart dropped a little as I looked at the calendar and said to myself "That's today!"

So here I am, typing away my entry in hopes that I can score not just a room, but an awesome room.  An executive perk stay. Here's the quote from their site:
We've just confirmed arrangements with the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, host of the 2009 BlogHer conference, to give away a three-night, executive-perk stay at the Chicago Sheraton for the nights of July 23-25. Those nights include the night before the BlogHer conference begins, plus the two nights of the conference, and the room they've reserved for our winner is on the hotel's Executive Club Level, with no strings attached - no rack rate, no taxes, no access fees, just a free three-night stay at one of Chicago's top hotels.
What's the big deal about executive?  Well, the Executive Club Level not only has a nice lounge with incredible views, but they offer daily complimentary breakfast, hors d'oeurves each evening and snacks and beverages throughout the day.  The BlogHer room block has high-speed internet access, but that's a perk that BlogHer put together for their room block.  The executive, however, offers free high-speed internet, office supplies and PC/Mac workstations as their standard fare. 

Although there isn't much time left to enter, if you're quick then you can do still make the deadline.  Head to ZRecommends for all the details!  And if you aren't entering, at least wish me luck because I would love to win!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Where Does the Time Go?

I'm not sure what has happened to all of my free time.  Each day starts and each day ends and in the middle I feel like I'm getting nothing accomplished.  My mornings start with getting Miss M ready for school then I try to hit the gym for an hour.  Lunchtime means getting Miss K ready for school then I have an hour or so while she's gone before I need to run to pick her up.  Once the kids are home... well, we all know what THAT is like.

It's really not a bad thing, I guess.  I'm not getting anything accomplished because I've changed my priorities a bit.  Miss K is constantly craving attention and asking for someone to play with while Miss M is at school.  For quite some time, I was spending so much time on my blogs that I didn't make time to play with her.  She's four and has plenty of toys that she can play independently with.  But she wasn't very happy every time I said "Maybe later" or "Not right now".  I could see her little heart break when her "Plitty Please" requests went unanswered. 

Lately, I've tried to be a better mom and dedicate more time to her each day.  Sometimes she'll help me with cleaning, but more often than not it's what she wants to do. It's either a game, coloring or something like Polly Pocket or Barbie... but we do it together and I try to make sure she knows that I'm not ignoring her.  Next year she'll be in Kindergarten all day and I'll have plenty of time on my hands.

Instead, for now, I'm ignoring my blogs a little.  I pop online and check my email several times a day and work on draft posts for my review blog.  But I'm actually behind on that also.  I enter a contest here or there (and actually won a big one that I can't discuss on this blog because I think it violates the BlogHerAd agreement).  I've worked hard to establish some great contacts for my review blog so I need to keep it up but family needs to come first.

I try to keep my blog positive and upbeat but I haven't been able to put it together.  There's so much I have running through my head that I want to talk about, but sitting at the computer for only a few minutes at a time just isn't enough to get the thoughts on virtual paper without sounding all muffled.  But honestly, muffled is how my thoughts feel these days.

So for now, I'll play with Miss K and blog when I can.  I just hope my friends will all still be here reading when I finally get my groove back.  Please bear with me while I find my footings... I'll post when I can and hopefully that will be a little more regularly one of these days. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Want to Come to My Party?

Before Miss K was born, DH and I followed the South Beach diet. I've tried a few of their products but it's been a while so I can't really comment on them. Since I believe in the diet and the products, I applied to host a South Beach House Party but didn't make the cut.

In the meantime, House Party launched a new aspect of their site - the "AfterParty". I was invited to participate in it. For a House Party, I would have received a goodie bag of products to share with any of my friends that attended the party at my house. But the "AfterParty" doesn't include any kind of kit, samples or swag.

I asked myself, "How on earth can I promote an online party for a product I know so little about?" Why would I want to even 'host' an un-party like this? I didn't sign up for it but was selected to host it simply because I applied for the original HouseParty. Sigh. If I don't do something, I'll likely get blackballed from other HouseParty events. That wouldn't be any good since I've had a lot of fun with the Hershey's Bliss, Aveeno and XBox 360/Netflix ones that I have participated in.

So I'm going to do something different. I'm going to ask if anyone is interested in being invited to an online party for South Beach products. What's in it for you? Special offers and promotions, coupons, recipes and who knows what else. House Party has promised it will be worth the effort.

Either leave me a comment with your email so that I can invite you or send me an email requesting to be invited.

Keep Believing

Dear Angie -

Heartfelt "Happy Anniversary" to you.

Keep Believing...

Dear Readers -

Angie is the author of Keep Believing. Today is her anniversary - somewhat bittersweet since her husband, Brian, lost his battle with cancer this past March 17th.

If you are interesting in helping, Keep Believing Fund has been set up to assist the family.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

In the Beginning, There was Dirt.

Some of you may recall my green thumb series last summer... the story of how I started my first vegetable garden followed by a few progress reports.
2008: My first sprouts2008: It's edible!

Throughout the winter, I continued to enjoy the fruits of our labor in the form of soups, chili and spaghetti sauce. Each time that I pulled another container of tomatoes or bag of carrots out of the freezer, I smiled at my little piece of success.

There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to plant another garden this year.  Unlike last year, I'm not waiting until plants and seedlings are almost gone from the local stores. This year we're planning things out better.  I sat down and thought about what I wanted to put in the garden this year.  While I enjoyed having carrots, I didn't feel that they were a good use of space.  Instead, I want lettuce, more onions and shallots.  I surfed the net for different types of tomatoes and decided that I wanted grape tomatoes for snacking, a beefsteak tomato for everyday use and some orange or yellow tomatoes for variety.  I picked out the types of onions and shallots that I preferred and handed the list to DH.

He hopped onto eBay and purchased most of the seeds that I had requested.  Didn't know you could purchase seeds on eBay?  Yes, you can. (What CAN'T you purchase on eBay? Wait, don't answer that because the things you CAN'T purchase on eBay are the same things that I don't mention on my blog.) 

If you have never checked out the produce section of eBay, you will be completely amazed.  There are some awesome varieties available.  Looking for a white tomato, a red cucumber or a purple pepper?  Only have a certain amount of room?  Shooting for container gardening?  Need something that is fool-proof for the beginner gardener?  Read the descriptions and you'll be surprised what you can find.  Some are outright funky.  As a bonus, you can probably get everything you want all from the same seller and save on shipping charges.   

2009: It just looks like dirtA few weeks ago, we planted seeds into four prefilled biodegradable containers.
(1) Beefsteak tomatoes and grape tomatoes
(2) Texas onions
(3) Maui onions
(4) Several varieties of peppers

2009: One lonely sproutI kept them in a warm, sunny place and spritzed them with water every day.  When they didn't start to sprout when they were supposed to, we moved to plan B.  We placed the trays inside greenhouse boxes and filled the bottoms with about half an inch of water.  We covered them and let nature take over.  The onions and peppers are showing little progress, but the tomatoes are doing very well.
2009: Some tomato plants emerge!2009: 34 out of 36 tomato plants break through!
This is a project that DH and I are doing together and once the garden is ready to plant will become a family project.  I'm very excited about the fact that something I put into the ground (or pseudo ground in this case) is actually coming to life.  I don't have a green thumb and am often afraid to bring plants into my home because they usually die.  Thankfully DH is helping out!

Stay tuned... There's more to come, including the assembly of another raised bed!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tracking Your Spending

In this time of spending concern, we're all thinking twice about many of our purchases.  A lot of people are putting off purchases of larger items.  But is that really the solution for you?  How do you know where to cut back if you don't really know where your money is going?Get $50 Cash Back from Discover!

I'm a huge advocate of using financial software like MS Money.  As part of a review tour through BlogHer, I had the opportunity to discuss this in more detail along with talk about the new Spend Analyzer that Discover launched. 

I encourage you to read "I Spend HOW much on Fast Food?" at SAHM Reviews to find out how DH and I started on our path to financial accountability as well as some scoop about the Discover's Spend Analyzer!  It's honest and true and it's not a sales pitch so please stop by and read it...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is a Goldfish Considered Bribery?

Yesterday at the gym, they had a table set up doing dental screenings for children.  My girls were quite excited to get brand-spanking new toothbrushes.  They act like they never get a new toothbrush!  I digress... As I was talking to the woman who set up the table, I noticed a stuffed Nemo as part of her display.  I laughed and as I recounted the goldfish story to her, I realized that I hadn't shared it on my blog yet.

Oh, where to start?
How about before Christmas.  Yup.  That's a good place to start.

Miss M wasn't even 6 yet and Miss K had just turned 4.  Our family dentist said that children can't brush their teeth effectively until they are much, much older.  So what I do is let the girls brush first then I follow up with my more thorough approach.

Brushing our teeth has always been a natural part of our bedtime routine.  But for some odd reason, probably chaotic schedules, morning brushing hasn't exactly been a priority.  Yeah, that's my fault but when I'm busy and running around trying to get Miss M ready for school while juggling getting myself and Miss K ready for the gym, I tend to get a bit flustered.  As many times as I would ask them to go brush their teeth by themselves in the morning, they seldom would.  "Tsk, tsk, Nicole.  They're only 5 and 4 - what on earth would compel you to believe they would do it on their own?"

In the meantime, someone besides me decided that the girls needed goldfish.  Probably because every time we went to WalMart they wanted to go look at all the fish.  Didn't matter what they saw in the tank, they always got excited.

Add another thing to my to-do list, but okay... if it will make them happy then I'm game.

Then came Christmas.  DH and I purchased matching beginner bowl sets for the girls.  They were cute and even came with rocks and a plant.  When we returned from Christmas out of town, the girls were allowed to go to WalMart and pick one goldfish each.  The were delighted. 
When we got home, DH set a few rules. 
One - the girls need to help clean the tanks once a week.  (He's been the parent in charge of cleaning every time except a few so hooray for DH!) 
Two - the fish cannot be fed until the beds are made and the teeth are brushed. 

The girls agreed without any complaint.  No longer do I need to beg them or remind them to brush their teeth in the morning... they usually remind ME!  Sometimes on weekends, I have to ask them if they've made their beds yet and brushed their teeth because "Your fish is waiting for breakfast."  That's not bad considering I don't usually have to remind them during the week.

Here we are in March and the fish are still alive. 

Basically, it cost us 40 cents to get the kids in the habit of brushing their teeth twice a day.  And the fact that they make their beds in the morning as part of the deal is just a bonus.

Have you bribed your kids lately?

Winner - High School Musical: The Ice Tour

Congratulations to The Fiedlers for their winning entry!  Vouchers are on their way so tell your daughter to start practicing her singing!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We Live an Acronym Life (Contest!)

I'm wondering if text messaging, instant messaging and email are dumbing down the next generation. I find myself typing in acronyms all the time without even realizing it. While I reference my husband as DH (Darling Husband) on the blog, that's merely so I don't type his name. But there are tons of other times that I catch myself doing it when typing emails to people who don't even know me very well. For example, one of my readers recently commented that she didn't know what SAHM means. Well, it's Stay-at-home-mom for those who didn't know. That's a prime example of me taking for granted that someone knows what abbreviations or acronyms stand for. And I'm in my late 30's and don't even use text messaging these days.

Think about it. We type things like JK (just kidding), LOL (laugh out loud), IM (instant message) all the time. No, I'm not planning on typing out an entire list - I was just trying to make a point. I sometimes wonder if kids are going to lose the ability to spell because they simplify everything to expedite messaging. Only time will tell, I guess.

But one thing that caught me off guard is that I know what HSM stands for when I haven't even seen the movie yet. If you're a mom and don't know what HSM stands for, then please go to your purse, remove your "I am a certified Mom" identification card and destroy it immediately. You'll need to reapply for that license when you are able to pass the exam.

HSM stands for High School Musical

Until recently, we had only been taking the girls to see animated movies at the theater but we realized that they are ready for more. We've watched a few non-animated movies at home and the girls did not lose interest. DH and I plan family movie night with the girls pretty regularly and have High School Musical on tap for the next sit down. I am certain they will love it and expect HSM 2 and 3 to follow.

As luck would have it, I was presented with the opportunity to talk about High School Musical: The Ice Tour.  Before Christmas, we had been talking about taking the girls to see Disney on Ice, but we ended up missing it. Even if we had purchased tickets, we would have still missed it because we've all been sick so much! But we saw an advertisement for High School Musical: The Ice Tour and thought it would be fun to take the girls to see. So when I was contacted by the promoters about blogging about the show, I realized it was fate.

I knew that Disney on Ice was touring, but until I saw the advertisement had no idea they had even made High School Musical into an ice production. It's touring the nation performing songs from High School Musical and High School Musical 2 and they are even doing wacky stuff like dribbling basketball while ice skating! Here's the promotional blurb I received:
Let's go, Wildcats! It's time for Disney's High School Musical: The Ice Tour, featuring a cast of world class skaters in the one and only live celebration of the smash hit movies "High School Musical" and "High School Musical 2!" Plus, rock the house at the exclusive High School Musical 3 Special Bonus Experience Pre-Show, with the coolest songs and hottest dance moves from the blockbuster movie, and so much more! It's a fabulous party on ice - High School Musical: The Ice Tour! Playing the i wireless Center March 16th and 17th. Tickets starting at $13. Buy tickets now at Ticketmaster or by calling 800-745-3000. (Surcharges, handling and facility fees may apply.)

I'm very excited to say that I have a Family Four Pack of vouchers to the March 16-17 event at the iWireless Center in Moline, Illinois.  Yes, I'm bragging that the girls will definitely be seeing this event, but I'm also bragging that I have EXTRAS!  Feel like making the trek to Moline with three of your favorite High School Musical fans?  You guessed it, these extra vouchers are for one of my lucky readers!  What's the catch?   Well, the vouchers can't be sold so if you don't know someone in the Quad Cities or surrounding area that can make use of these then you probably don't want to enter.  The vouchers need to be redeemed at the iWireless Box Office for any available seat (excluding Front Row and VIP) for your choice of the March 16th or 17th event. 

If you're game to enter my giveaway, the details follow.  If you're unfamiliar with blogs and skeptical, you can purchase tickets at!
The Prize: 4 Vouchers for High School Musical: The Ice Tour at the iWireless Center on March 16th or 17th.
Participants -
...must provide an email in the first comment, email me directly with an email address or have email accessible from their profile. Winner has 48 hours from posting/notification to respond. If winner cannot be contacted, I will move on to the second random selection.  These are time sensitive!
...must reside within distance to iWireless Center, Moline, Illinois.

Sometime on March 10, 2009, a winner will be chosen at random (using from all comments left.
How to enter:
For the first entry -
(1) Visit the High School Musical: The Ice Tour website, click on the "Music Player" tab and listen to the songs.
(2) Pop back over here to my blog and tell me what your favorite (or your child's favorite) song is from HSM 1, 2 or 3! If your kids are already fans of HSM, then this should be a piece of cake. Just ask them what their favorite is.
Yes, it's THAT easy to enter.

If you want to increase your chances of winning, here are some options to earn additional entries -
-- If you have a blog or website, add my button to your page.  Come back here and leave a comment stating that you did so.  (Here's the code so it's super easy to add!)

-- Earn an additional entry if you publish a blog post regarding this contest and link back to it. Come back here and leave a comment providing the link to your post.
-- Share this post with your friends on Facebook. Leave a comment that you did.
-- Follow me on Twitter and Tweet this contest with hashtag #SahmReviews. If you aren't familiar with hashtags, all you do is type #SahmReviews somewhere in your tweet. Comment with your Twitter ID or leave a link.
-- Subscribe to my feed via RSS or email... leave a comment.
-- Follow SAHM Ramblings on Facebook  Of course, don't forget to leave a comment.
--Email all your friends to tell them to enter. Please cc me when you do and you'll qualify for one additional entry! Leave one comment that says you emailed your friends.

This is a very exciting giveaway for my local readers.  If you don't live in the area, you can enter on behalf of someone locally but please leave a note in the comment of who you're playing for... For example, "My sister lives in the Quad Cities and she would love to take her kids." 

Interested in doubling your chances to win?  Flip over to my review blog, SAHM Reviews, for a separate giveaway for another 4 pack!

Don't fret if you can't make it to the iWireless Center, High School Musical: The Ice Tour may be coming to your local arena! Check out Ticketmaster for their schedule!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stuck in the Mud

Parking is pretty limited at Miss M's school so when there's an event of any kind, parents park in the grassy areas.

Well today was the Valentine's party and considering our recent weather, the grassy areas were anything BUT grassy.  Wouldn't you know my luck these days... I got stuck in the dang mud.  Stupid part is that it I got to the school a little before the party was supposed to start (so I could help set up) and pretty much had choice of any of the grassy areas to park in.  Yeesh.  After a little work of rocking the van back and forth, I finally managed to break free.  By then, people had started parking in the blacktop area of the playground and there were still spots to be had. 

At least I managed to get to dry land before getting out of the van because I did see moms who weren't so lucky and showed up with mud all over their pants.  Guess I'll be washing the van tomorrow.

... and I know better for next time.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Knock it off; I'm trying to win!

Deliveries from FedEx and UPS are almost a daily thing now thanks to the success of SAHM Reviews.  I'm like a kid in a candy store because I never know what is going to show up on my doorstep.  If you haven't been over to my review blog, be sure to check it out - I am constantly giving stuff away and all it takes is leaving a comment.

Well, today we were all sitting on the couch playing a family game of Viva Pinata Party Animals.  I never do great at it, but it's fun.  Today, I was on an upswing as we went into the final round.  Miss M said "This is the last one." Then DH replied "The last one?"  She said yes.  Then this happened...

DH:  "Honey, FedEx is here."  He knows that I pretty much drop everything to find out what has been delivered.
Me:  "Sure they are." Uh huh. FedEx doesn't deliver on Saturdays. Nice try.
DH:  "No, really. He just pulled up."

I didn't believe him.  Figured it was some kind of ploy to throw me off my game.  I don't know but I didn't budge.  When we finished playing, he immediately went to the door and came back with a package. 

Apparently, I'm totally off my game because I usually can tell if he's trying to pull a fast one.  Maybe I need some caffeine.

And in case you're curious, it was Dei Fratelli pasta sauce and salsa - keep an eye on SAHM Reviews for the review.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Things Not to Brag About

I'm making a list of things NOT to brag about.  First on the list:
"Sorry to hear you have jury duty.  We've been back in Iowa for a few years and I haven't been served yet."

Viola.  Jury Summons showed up in today's mail.

Anyone care to add anything else to my list.  I don't feel like jinxing myself again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Can't Spell; Can't Fudge the Time. What CAN I do?

I've been so excited about Miss M finally learning to read. She's only in Kindergarten but already reading Level 3 books. She can pick up just about any book on her bookshelf and fly through it. I'm so proud of her!

However...When Miss M first started reading, I realized I couldn't just spell stuff for DH any more. She was figuring it out. So I started getting more cryptic with my conversations when she was around. Instead of "I need to go to T-R-U for her p-r-e-s-e-n-t" I had to switch it around to "I need to stop by that place over off x street to pick up the you-know-what."

Well, we just celebrated her birthday this past weekend. She's 6 (OMG)! We had some errands to run tonight then stopped out for dinner before returning home. On our way back home, we had the following conversation:
Miss M: "Mom, can we play in your bathtub tonight?" (My bathtub is a tad bigger and more conducive to 'swimming' in.)
Me: "Sorry, honey. It's late and we don't have time."
Miss M: "Mom, it's only 6:43. My bedtime isn't until 8 o'clock. There's plenty of time."
DH: About to get us into an accident because he's trying so hard not to bust a gut laughing.
Me: Speechless to Miss M. Glaring at DH. "What's so funny?"
DH: "She can tell time now. You can't get away with that any more."

So I can't spell. I can't tell her there isn't enough time before bed. What's next?  Someone lend me some new tricks to use, please! 

My 6 year old is making me feel stupid.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Ultimate Bacon Sandwich

When I was pregnant, my fail-safe food was bacon.  We had BLTs at least once a week.  I never experienced morning sickness, but I really couldn't stomach meat.  It was terrible for our health but at least I could enjoy the bacon.

Well, we had BLTs tonight and I was reminded of a post I wanted to do last month but got too busy for!  (No, I'm not pregnant.)

DH stumbled on a blog post about weaving bacon.  Sorry that I can't give that blogger credit because I don't know who it was.  He surprised me one day by making them and even taking pictures of the steps.  (Aren't DH's the best?)  I thought it was pretty cool so we decided to share the bacon weave process.  How often can you make a bacon sandwich and know there's bacon in every bite?
Here's what he did:

Three pieces of bacon
Cut each in half
Weave them together
Cook them like normal bacon
Flip them over like normal bacon (notice how they are maintaining their shape and the normal bacon isn't?)
Drain them off (oh, like normal bacon)
Add them to a sandwich. If you use normal bread, the bacon weave will cover the bread perfectly. No more concerns about bites that are all sandwich and no bacon. If three pieces of bacon aren't enough for your sandwich, then add two weaves to it!
DH - This is an awesome trick. Thanks for sharing it!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Knock, Knock. Nicole are you there? (Christmas 2008)

Me:  Hello?  Nicole?  Are you there?  I haven't seen you around.
Answering myself:  Ummm.  Yeah.  I think so.  What day is it?
Me:  It's Sunday.  That means the kids go back to school tomorrow.
Answering myself:  WooHoo! 

I was looking at my blog and didn't realize it has been forever since I posted.  The past few weeks have been crazy.  We decided to spend Christmas in Alabama this year so things were a little off kilter.  The last week of school was filled with volunteer stuff for both kids' schools, work at the church, school programs and parties and OMG a freakin' snow day.  Should have been called an ice day because we were covered in ice - not snow.  Trying to pack for the trip, take care of last minute stuff then have a snow day.  Wasn't what I had planned.

There was just enough of a reprieve in the weather for us to hit the road on Saturday the 20th.  We drove to Alabama - DH, myself, two kids and two dogs.  Was a long trip but well worth it.  While MIL was getting her grandgirl fix, I had planned on spending some time relaxing, shopping with DH, maybe hitting a movie, finishing my annual Christmas calendar presents and catching up on reviews for SAHM Reviews.  I had not gotten many posts done when DH insisted I step up the pace since after Christmas things would be too hectic to meet any deadlines that I had.

But we shopped and went out to eat and spent time with family... and I got in a review post here and there.  I have a few posts lined up for here but just haven't gotten to them (yet). 

Then Christmas morning, I opened up a package of nothing.  Literally, there was nothing but wrapping paper.  I turned the wrapping paper inside out to see my gift.  You can look up top to the URL and you can see it too... Written on the back side of the wrapping paper was a note.  DH registered my domains: and  I am totally stoked.  That's the best package of air I have ever received.  It was literally the only thing I asked for as a gift. (Oh wait, I asked for a new Crock Pot too since my old slow cooker went kaput the week before we left.  My mom and dad got me a new one.)

From DH and the Alabama family, I received some clothes, a bath set, a bird feeder, a new set of cordless phones among other things.  I was happy with all of it and was once again totally satisfied with what Santa had delivered.  But THEN... After all the opening was done, DH handed me an envelope and said that everyone in the room knew about it except me.  I opened it to find a postcard that said "Merry Christmas. Pack up your stuff! We're leaving tomorrow morning for 4 days and 3 nights at this all-inclusive B and B in Destin, Florida!"  My MIL and BIL were going to take care of the kids and dogs while DH and I had some time alone.  (Then I understood why he was pushing me to get all my computer time in before Christmas!)

We left Friday morning for Henderson Park Inn and returned to Alabama on Monday.  In the middle, we enjoyed a few days of nothing but us.  We hadn't packed any shorts because DH knew that would lead to nothing but questions from me.  Freezing cold in Iowa, not freezing but certainly not warm in Alabama.  "Honey, why on earth do we need to pack shorts?"  Yeah, good call not to pack them.  Since we didn't have the kids, stopping by 15 stores to find shorts we liked wasn't a problem.  It was actually enjoyable and we found more than just shorts... and I typically hate shopping for clothes.  Once we had the shorts in hand, we headed back to change and walked on the beach for at least an hour and a half.  Ahhh, it was so relaxing, so nice, so not-freezing-cold-Iowa.  And it was just us.  (Can you see me smiling from ear to ear?)  Four days and three nights of going out to dinner, a movie, shopping, walking on the beach and relaxing.  All sans kids.  We even played checkers on a giant checker board during the B and B's happy hour.  It was absolutely wonderful.

Spending time with DH alone was awesome.  Despite the fact that we're together at home all the time, we really don't have that kind of quality time.  I can't remember the last time he had me laughing as much as he did this past month.  The B and B was a total surprise - I don't know how he managed to pull it off without me knowing.  Yeah, he's good at stuff like that.  No, I'm not planning on sharing him but I will be happy to set up seminars for him to teach other DH's all his Christmas surprise tricks.

2008 was a rough year with DH and I each losing a grandmother and an uncle.  With the stock market making life miserable for us and many others.  With us feeling like "if it could go wrong, it did".  But thanks to DH, we rolled out 2008 on a great note and I'm enjoying starting 2009 fresh and happy. 

Thanks to MIL and BIL for their parts in coordinating this special Christmas gift.  But most of all, thanks, DH, for being you.  For being wonderful.  For being my best friend and true love.  I couldn't ask for more.