Nuun, Ruuns, and Fuun

Hi Guys!

I’ve been absent for a while, I know.  Here’s a quick update:

I’m now a Brand Ambassador for Nuun Hydration and I LOVE it.  I’m currently training for fitness only and varying my running surfaces more.  Treadmill, road, and trail.  I am also using the stair machine a few times a week to gain strength in my hamstrings and glutes.  I can tell a difference after a couple of months of consistently doing this.  My legs are more powerful and I can run a bit faster.

In addition to working full-time, I have a 7 year-old scientist and a 1 year-old bulldozer who share my space (and most of my food).  Life in our home is CRAZY.  With Summer fast approaching, I hardly have 2 minutes to myself, let alone time to write.  PLEASE STAY TUNED ANYWAY!  I will be launching a series of book reviews soon, so you won’t want to miss it! (And thanks for your support.)

Also on the way: A recipe series starring my son, who is an aspiring chef/astronaut/storm trooper.

Music for the day: Anything from the Revivalists Pandora station. SO good.

Book I’m reading: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

Thought for the week:  Let the fire inside you burn brighter than the fire around you.

MAKE TODAY GREAT!  LEAVE ME SOME LOVE IF YOU FEEL SO INCLINED.

 

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The Most Congested Place on Earth

Are you, dear reader, familiar with the scene in the film 300 that references the strategic funneling of enemy soldiers in order to lead them to slaughter?  The area the 300 Spartans want to siphon the opposition through is referred to as “The Hot Gates”.  I think that name gives an appropriate visual without me explaining any further.  We lived in a house once that had a narrow hallway we called “The Hot Gates”.  We had birthday parties and holidays in that house and I swear to you, guests would have to walk single file down that hallway.

This week, at several different times while visiting Walt Disney World, I was reminded of that scene and that hallway.  Disney, though, does everything on a much larger scale.  Disney felt like The Hot Gates almost everywhere we walked, not just while standing in line for rides, although a few of those were psychologically tough to handle.  There were so many people at our resort, so many people on the buses to the parks, so so so so so many people inside the actual parks, that a good portion of my subconscious was anticipating being attacked or trampled by Leonidas and this legendary troops.  It was like having flashbacks to a historical event you didn’t actually attend.

So, in short: Disney, man. It’s crowded.  Moving on to my review of our stay…

We (my husband, myself, and our 7-year-old son Emmett) set out on our adventure on a Sunday morning, after checking and re-checking that we had packed all the clothes and gift cards and the plants had been watered and the appliances were turned off and most importantly, there was nothing in the apartment that would cause it to smell like an animal had burrowed under the sofa and died while we were out.  I know it sounds strange, but my dad always had us take out all the trash and do all the laundry in the house before vacation, and I have adopted that habit and now inflict it on my own children.  Seriously, though, what’s worse than coming home to some strange odor?  Anyway, we loaded up in my VW Passat, and settled in for the 6-7 hour drive to Walt Disney World.

***Be warned now: This is not going to be a short blog post.  Not at all.  There’s a lot to cover and I tend to ramble.  Consider yourself warned. Continue at your own risk.***

The drive to Disney was relatively uneventful. I’m blessed with a husband who drives well and a little boy who is content to draw, read, or watch a movie in the car without complaint.  It was a nice drive on a beautiful Fall day, and thankfully we arrived safely at our destination, Disney’s All Star Music resort.

We have stayed at the Art of Animation resort before, so we chose All Star Music to try something different that was still in our price range.  Listed as one of Disney’s “Value” resorts, it is a little bit like a motel with doors outside and little extras.  We knew this before we arrived and personally we are fine with it, as we spend a total of 30 minutes a day in the hotel and the rest of the time at the parks.  It’s a good option if your main focus is the parks.  We don’t use the pools because we typically travel to Disney in the cooler months.  It’s fine for what it is.

At check-in, Stephen was polite and smiley, as Disney Cast Members tend to be.  He offered my son a “Celebrate” button, wrote his name and drew some balloons on it.  This is something Disney does for special occasions. They have buttons for First Time visitors, Birthdays, Honeymoons, and I’m not sure what else.  It’s a great and cheap way for them to make guests feel special, and I love it.  If you have young kids, you know that they love stickers and buttons and my son is no exception.  I appreciated the effort to make him smile upon arrival.

After a few minutes of typing on his keyboard, Stephen told us our room was in the Country Music section.  This was not music to my ears – not because I have something against Johnny Cash – but because Country is located WAY out in the back of the resort.  In the woods.  We’re already talking about a bare-bones resort, and now we’re talking about a half-mile trek from the front desk out into the woods on the back of the property.  I wanted to change this immediately, but nothing else was available.  (I thought booking our trip for a Sunday-Wednesday in November was a smart move, but apparently no one else worries about their kids’ education because the place was jam-packed.)

After dropping our bags off in the room, we came back to the desk to talk to a manager about the room and one other big disappointment.  We learned that the Main Street Electrical Parade (one of the things on our list of “MUST SEE” items this trip) was no longer running.  Not only that, but there would be no parades at night at all because we were unlucky enough to have booked our trip during the “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” time.  This was news to me, and a bit distressing for two reasons:  1)I really wanted Emmett to see a parade, as we didn’t see one last trip and 2) I had never even heard of the Christmas party, and we would have enjoyed going to that.  Now, standing at the desk sniffing back tears, I’m told the admission to the Christmas party costs as much as one day of park admission.  So there’s no way we can attend.

I’m a big believer in addressing issues as they arise, and not letting them fester.  Disney has a reputation for pleasing its guests and making things right, so I knew it wouldn’t hurt to ask.  That said, it had been a long day of travel.  I was tired and all my balloons were being popped before our actual vacation even got started.  What gives, Disney?  Big, hot tears were welling up in my eyes, mostly about the Christmas Party situation and about 10 percent about not wanting to be murdered in the back of the hotel property by some insane woods-dweller and never ever being found because not even the maintenance guy goes back there.

Nick, the manager, politely apologized about the room and said he would be happy to move us to the Broadway area (one building closer to civilization) the next day.  We made arrangements to do that.  I tucked my tears back in and resolved to make the best of the rest of what Disney had to offer.  We had 2 1/2 days of fun in the park to look forward to! Chin up! Let’s go to the gift shop!  [Note: The next day we inquired at the desk about our room change, and there was no room change noted or listed for us.  Nick was off that day, because of course he was.  We waited quite a while to get it moved, but at least something else was available.]

So we looked around the resort gift shop for a while.  My son decided that first night that he wanted to spend his $25 gift card on a Stitch doll.  We persuaded him to at least wait until we were in the Magic Kingdom to make up his mind, and he acquiesced.  I noticed that the resort gift shop carried baby clothes for girls, but nothing for baby boys.  I inquired about this, because we also have a 6 month old who stayed home with the grandparents, and the attendant told me she wasn’t sure why that is, they used to have boy stuff and now they just don’t.  Um… ok.  At this point I decided to start taking notes.  Positive and negative, I would record this trip for posterity and for Disney’s, and other travelers, information.  We went to Publix to grab a few snacks for the park the next day.  I’m no penny-pincher, but I’m not going to pay $75/day for meals and snacks.  Okaaaaaaaay?

OFFICIAL DISNEY DAY 1: THE MAGIC KINGDOM (part 1)

We awoke on Monday morning and walked (and walked and walked) to the resort dining hall for breakfast.  The prices give me a headache, so I tried to coach myself that this would be the only ‘paid for’ meal today so at least there was that.  I got the Bounty Platter, which is eggs (I believe this is actually egg product scrambled to look like eggs, but I digress…), 2 strips of bacon, one sausage, one biscuit, potato squares with onions (strangest thing on the plate) and a waffle shaped like Mickey’s face.  Emmett ate the waffle and biscuit, I ate the eggs and bacon.  No one ate the potatoes, and I can’t really figure out why they’re there.  The platter costs $11 so I was half-expecting some Mickey Mouse – shaped lobster chunks, but no such luck.  My husband ordered the biscuits and gravy and a coffee and said it was fine. I don’t know how much it cost. Part of me doesn’t want to know.

While eating breakfast, we were approached by Cast Member Joshua.  He told Emmett “Happy Birthday” – something that happened over and over and over again during our stay thanks to the marvelous button on his shirt – and inquired about our stay and where we were from.  He gave a few suggestions of his favorite things in the Magic Kingdom and wished us well.  This, I like.  This, I expect.  I hope that Disney encourages this kind of behavior in cast members and from what I can tell, they do.  Every time a cast member went above and beyond, whether in attitude or in service, I made a note.  They’ll all be mentioned by the time I’m done writing.

After breakfast, we boarded the bus, which was pretty standard and uneventful.  We arrived at the Magic Kingdom full of hope and expensive egg substitute, feeling excited for our day of magic.  (Last year, Emmett’s review of the Kingdom was that it was “too girly” so we tried to be more aware of ‘boy’ things in the park, like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion.)

[Note: I LOVE the Magic Bands, they make everything so simple and organized, connect reservations, photos, fast passes, practically all the info about the trip is on them. we just scanned our bands and went right on in.]

Right inside the park, before walking down Main Street, we entered the Town Square Theater, where Magician Mickey was doing a Meet and Greet.  We wanted to get this most important meeting done early, so we went inside and stood in line.  It was about a 25 minute wait.  Meet and greet wait times don’t bother me as much as waiting for rides, because the character cast members genuinely take time with each visitor, hugging and joking with them, signing autographs, and posing for several photos.  The Disney photographers take PhotoPass photos and will also take photos with a guest’s smart phone.  Finally, we got up to the front of the line to meet Mickey.  Emmett was so nervous, his little clammy hand was pressing into mine.  Mickey is his guy, y’all.  He met him last year at Epcot but this time, Mickey was talking. This Mickey talks!  Right away, Emmett’s “Happy Birthday” button was noticed.  Mickey said, “This calls for the birthday song!”  My heart skipped.  What’s this?  THE Mickey Mouse is going to SING to my Emmett?  Oh boy!  And he did.  Y’all.  I was like a child in that moment, too, just soaking it all in.  Unfortunately all the basking meant that I completely blanked on taking video of the moment, but it was incredible.  From what I understand it is somewhat rare, as well.  Emmett hugged Mickey and left that meeting knowing that they were BFFs.  This, Disney.  This right here.  This is why you are successful and drowning in other people’s dollars.  Please never forget it.  Please never stop doing it.

We’re all on a high from what just happened, walking towards the iconic castle.  We got to the area right in front and while attempting (and failing) to take a family selfie, we were approached by a custodian in all white who offered to take the photo for us.  Sweet!  His name was Richard and he was from Trinidad and Tobago.  His personality was almost effervescent and we thanked him profusely.  This small act, coupled with the Mickey Birthday thing, had me feeling like I was walking on air.  This place really is magical. I was starting to feel it.

***To be continued with Official Disney Day 1: The Magic Kingdom (part 2)

 

 

 

How to be the Best Mom

It’s not a competition.

Wait… is it?  Motherhood is, and should be, a deeply personal and private experience.  How we choose to raise our kids, feed them, discipline them, etc., varies by individual.  We are all different in our beliefs, cultures, and heritage.  So it stands to reason that there is no one “right” way to be a Mom.  In these days of social media and over-sharing, though, it feels much more like a contest.  Those of us “less than” moms – I’ll call us the “non goops” – who don’t always have our shirts neatly pressed or dress our kids in coordinating lobster-print boat shoes for sushi day at the prep school, it can be overwhelming.

There are innumerable blogs, websites, and articles out there on the grand ol’ internet about being a mom.  How to be a better mom.  The things we should be doing, but aren’t.  The things we are doing but stop doing immediately or face ruining our child’s existence forever.  The things we didn’t even know were things, we are so far behind, but we need to buy for our kids, make them by hand or from scratch, avoid doing or our kids might die, continue doing or they might die, things to teach them, tell them, make sure they know, make sure they are aware of, sign them up for, keep them away from, feed them, bathe them in, sing to them, DIY for them, protect them from, and so on…

I have been killing myself the past couple of days trying to keep my son occupied.  He is 5 years old, and not in school yet because he has a late birthday.  So I decided that we would do “projects” every day to learn.  Along with projects, we have meals and snacks and karate (or “ninja school”, he says), lego building and swimming and church activities.  Our routine up to this past week has been more relaxed.  I keep reading articles that make me feel pressured to deliver, so I am trying to step it up.  I don’t want to be the one mom at carpool whose son isn’t already counting in 3 languages and taking Chinese calligraphy lessons from a certified master.  My days have been PACKED.  So much so, that I barely got to eat yesterday, did not work out, and did not nap.  Yes I know naps are not a necessity but I could have really used a nap yesterday.

Today, I took a different approach.  We got up, ate (non gf, non organic, very tasty) breakfast, got dressed, and went to a playground.  The weather was gorgeous.  I sat on a shaded bench, reading a book while he ran around and sang songs to himself.  Do you know what happened??  Nothing.  He did not die.  He did not fall down a black whole of insecurity because I was ignoring him.  Seriously.  He was delighted.  I was at peace.  It was great.

In that moment I was reminded of my own childhood.  I was raised by grandparents, mostly, (mom worked a lot) and I remember thinking that they were the best ever.  Literally.  No kid was as lucky as me and my brother.  We had it all – a house to live in, food to eat, clothes, and on Fridays (grocery day) I got to eat a treat from the grocery store.  WOO HOO!  I was living the high life, and life was GOOD.

The funniest thing about all the best days will those ‘best’ people, is that at no point did they make me feel like I was the center of the universe.  The sun, I was assured, neither rose or set out of my bum.  I did not get brand-new clothes (lots of hand-me downs and hand-sewn dresses), I did not eat fast food, there was not much tv, no video games, no DIY projects to keep me occupied.  It was more like, “go outside until lunchtime.”  So we did.  We are better for it.

After the playground today, I made homemade french fries (method at bottom) and reheated some leftover pork chops and broccoli.  While we ate together, my son  talked about life (5 year olds have deep thoughts!) and then suddenly, out of nowhere, he looked up at me and said “Mommy, you are the BEST Mommy there ever was.”  And you know something?  He meant it.

As adults we don’t remember the outfits we wore (less the tragic, embarrassing ones) but we do remember words of affirmation.  We don’t appreciate eating twinkies as much as we appreciate those days in the sun laughing with people from our own tribe.  Lobster-print boat shoes?  Forget about it.  I had my step-mom’s old high-top Reeboks.  To me, they were beautiful because she was beautiful, and because she loved me.

My point is, competing with other moms is silliness, when we won’t know them in 20 years anyway.  Enriching our kids’ lives has nothing to do with what other moms are doing and EVERYTHING to do with how much of ourselves we pour into them in every moment.  Loving words.  Homemade meals.  Story time.  Making up silly songs.  Praying together (he always spontaneously hugs me).  These are the criteria for “best mom”, and how wonderful that it’s an honor we can all achieve.

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Homemade French Fries (super simple)

prep time: 5 mins cook time: 25 mins  total time: 30 mins

Select 2 medium red potatoes.  Rinse.  Cut into slices or squares.

Place potato pieces in a bowl, drizzle with sesame oil (a little at a time – it goes a long way!)

Add salt as desired (again, a little should do), mix with hands.

Spread out on aluminum foil on baking sheet

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes (depending on how thick the pieces are) or until tender.

Serve plain or with ketchup.  Pat self on back. Receive hugs.

Christmas and Traditions

I have noticed a trend this year among Facebook friends and some of the Mommy Bloggers I follow.  There has been lots of discussion this year about Christmas traditions – Elf on the Shelf being the most horrendous, in my humble opinion.  It got me thinking, because traditions aren’t something we value too highly in our little family.  We like trying new things, whether they be foods or experiences or weird do-it-yourself egg and mayonnaise hair treatments.  We get rid of clothing and furniture pretty regularly, we don’t have attachment to material things.

This Christmas is significant for us, because 1) We are in a new home (movin’ on up, as they say) 2) My daughter is away at school and this is the first Christmas that she won’t be home with us, and 3) my son is 5 and able to enjoy the stories, help wrap presents, and grasp the idea of Christmas and the holiday more than he did in years past.  For these reasons I have been thinking about Christmas traditions – do we need them? Do we want them?  Are they silly?  Are they a sweet way to stay close as a family?

We don’t have traditions.  We do things differently every year.  The tree, the decorations, the food, the music, the routine of whose house we go to first or last or not at all.  Maybe that’s our tradition.  Some years we didn’t have a tree (due to finances and, well, cats).  Other years we had only construction paper snowflake ornaments.  We don’t watch the same movies or eat the same foods every year, and while I do have fond memories of my grandmothers “broke-neck” gingerbread men and the laughter they inspired among my cousins and me,  I guess don’t see traditions as necessary.  I realize, though, that for my son there is comfort in the familiar, and my husband and I want to begin to put him on a road towards a relationship with Christ – one that begins with reverence and respect for Christmas, Jesus’ birth.

So, this year we decided to start our first Christmas tradition.  It may be the only thing we do EVERY year consistently, but it’s a good one.  We found an advent calendar – the kind with the little numbered doors and chocolates behind each one – and a website that explains the Christmas story in a way kids can understand.  Every morning in the month of December, we read and talk a little about Jesus – who he is, why he is important, what he did, and his Earthly family.  Then, my son gets a chocolate.

The chocolate may be his favorite part of our talks, but I know that some of the things he learns are sticking.  For instance, he knows “advent” means “coming”. He knows “Immanuel” means “God with us”. If I say “Jesus is the ____” he responds with “Light of the World” (and a big smile).  He knows Jesus’ mommy’s name was Mary and he knows Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.  I feel like, for one so small, that is a lot of information.

The cookies won’t last and one day the presents will be forgotten, and maybe my son won’t grow up watching a parade on tv eating the same treats I make every holiday season, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Setting up a place for him in our son’s heart and life is one tradition I feel worthy, and one I know I can keep.

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Pity the Fool

Hello, Dear Ones.

So much has happened. So much to say.  Where to begin?  Apologies if this reads like a “random thoughts” post.  It sort-of is one.

There have been at least 4 separate occasions in the past 2 weeks that I told myself to put my “ass in chair” and get some writing done.  Did it happen?  No.  Life keeps getting in the way.  It’s a shame, too, because I have so much to write about. Funny things, serious things, cooking things.  Mmm… food… there’s always something more that can be said about food… but I digress.

After my last post – “I Jumped”, my son fell ill.  It’s not abnormal for a child who is new to daycare to catch things, so at first we weren’t alarmed.  Only when he stopped eating did my internal alarm go off.  He complained incessantly of tummy aches, and that’s not something he’s ever said before.  We took him to the pediatrician, who said nothing was wrong, and lectured me on “good eating”.  We took him to the peds ER, who said he was constipated and sent us home with some laxatives.  We took him BACK to the pediatrician, who said it’s the flu (even though flu and strep tests were negative) and told us to give him tylenol and liquids.  Finally, after 2 weeks of this, my son was 10 lbs down and too weak to walk.  Frustrated and crying, I picked him up from my husband and went back to the Peds ER.  (The pediatrician, tired of seeing us, refused to see us so the ER was the only option.)  He was immediately admitted after triage, which scared me.  They started IV fluids and took us to our room, where we’d live for the next week.  Turns out my sweet boy had bronchitis, a raging infection in both ears, and was severely dehydrated.  Our hospital stay took a toll on me, but he was a real trooper, watching SpongeBob and making jokes.  Thank God for my husband and family, who visited and brought us contraband snacks.  It goes without saying, I was and still am pissed at the doctors – numerous doctors – who examined my son and sent us home, each time sewing a seed of doubt in my mind.  Am I going crazy?  He seems really “off”.  Lesson learned, my Mommy Instinct is RIGHT ON THE MONEY and I will not doubt it again and I will not take no for an answer in the future.

In happier news, Thanksgiving was rad.  We spent the day in Atlanta in my Uncle’s castle.  He calls it a house, but I swear, all it’s missing is a moat.  Gorgeous abode.  The food was good and the company was even better.  Took pictures, chatted, ate, laughed, listened to stories and dreamed about the future.  So grateful for experiences like these and for our loved ones.

I looked at microfilm for the first time yesterday!  I’m in what feels like a never-ending search for my husband’s biological father, so we went to the local library last night to search through records.  I spent an hour looking for birth records in the local paper.  I found nothing and left frustrated.  It wasn’t until about midnight last night that I realized I’d been looking at the wrong year.  On the one hand, damnit, I am tired.  On the other hand, hope renewed!  I can go back and look and possibly FIND something next time!

I was accused of something at work that I know I didn’t do.  Today I was vindicated.  Yes, I’m still leaving, but I had prepared to fight.  We don’t mess around with this girl’s integrity and reputation, mkay?  Happily all was resolved to our mutual satisfaction.

Went to my first comic convention with my brother. It was TOO much fun. Got to meet some guys from the Walking Dead. I don’t watch the show but apparently it’s a big thing.  I am a nerd at heart, and a super huge sci-fi/trekkie girl, so I was in my element.  We are now committed to going to Dragon Con in Atlanta next year and it can’t get here soon enough!  I need ideas for costumes though – there are 4 of us.

FRINGE is one of the best shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Engages my mind while entertaining me.  I am a little bit obsessed.

Christmas shopping is just about done.  I have a few small things to get, but for the most part, I am done and it’s all wrapped.  This is the earliest I’ve ever been done, the most  I’ve ever spent, and the most FUN I’ve ever had doing it.  (Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals were a bust.  Deals? I see no deals!?!)  Anyway, I enjoy the spirit of Christmas and I can’t wait to see everyone around the tree.  We spend Christmas at my brother’s house, usually beginning with a great big breakfast buffet (everyone brings something) and culminating with naps.  This year I’m bringing chocolate covered bacon.  Oh, yeah. I don’t say EPIC a lot but man oh man, this Christmas morning is going to be one for the record books.  So excited!

Running, my love, I’m so happy to be reunited with you. Let’s go farther, faster, stronger in 2014.

Paul Walker.  I didn’t like him as an actor. I mean, not that I’d seen anything besides the movie where Jessica Alba’s butt is so famously not part of her body while snorkeling for treasure, and the F&F films.  HOWEVER I am sad about his passing, like many people.  Some are annoyed that it’s getting so much press, saying that people die every day, soldiers and firefighters and the like, and aren’t so “virally” recognized.  Yep, that’s true.  The thing is, Paul Walker’s impact isn’t about him being an actor, and him being an actor doesn’t diminish his nobility.  By all accounts he was a good person with a big heart.  I think the reason people have responded en masse to his passing is because of that, and because he is someone we can all relate to and felt connected to.  Kinda reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s passing.  For me, at least.

I made sugar cookies that I saw in “Bon Appetite” magazine. I’d already been inspired by “Julie and Julia”, having watched it in the hospital one night.  Thank God for free movies, because those recliners are the antithesis of comfort.  There was no sleep. Til Brooklyn and beyond, I’m not even kidding.  The movie was way better than I expected.  I adore Stanley Tucci, he always gives a good performance and I was mesmerized by the love story there, and by Julia Child’s life, struggles, tenacity, warmth.  I think I love her a little. And more than that, I really felt like I could identify with her as a person, a woman, a cook, a dreamer, a lover of France.  Anyway… The cookies… I used pearl dust for the first time and was so proud, I tweeted the magazine to show them.  Who knows if they saw it or cared, but I was over the moon.  Here’s a photo:

Picasso Cookies
Picasso Cookies

On the way to a meeting today I heard “Here I go Again” by Whitesnake.  I laughed because it felt like a “God wink”.  Going in to the job to say goodbye to everyone and I hear THIS song?  Yeah. SO not a coincidence.  But it gets funnier/eerier.  On the way out of saying goodbye I hear “Home Sweet Home” by Motley Crue.  Two things to note here:  One, I listen to awesome music.  Two, I do believe I was hearing a message that I’m on my perfect life path RIGHT NOW.  Lately I am open enough to recognize and receive love and abundance.  This fills my heart with joy and excitement!

Painting furniture today, and finally, finally putting my hands to these keys again.  Feels good.  My dream is to live in a big warm home with my hubs and kids, and write for a living, and be home to cook and create and go on vacations whenever we like.  I give you my word, I am on my way!

Happy. Love. Peace.  xoxo