Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: My Seductive Innocent

Today is release day for author Julie Johnstone's newest book: My Seductive Innocent, A Once Upon A Rogue Novel Book 2.  I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy before today in exchange for an honest review.  

Book description:
Miss Sophia Vane, a hoyden of the first order, makes an unlikely match when she weds Nathaniel Ellison, the rich and wary Duke of Scarsdale. What starts with an unexpected friendship soon blooms into a fiery passion. But a betrayal plunges Sophia into the thorny world of London Society and entangles her in a labyrinth of manipulation and jealousy that will test the strength of her marriage. Behind her husband’s sudden icy facade, Sophia believes dwells the caring, passionate man she loves. To break through the barriers and reclaim their happiness, they must do more than simply cast away their pride. They must fight for their very lives.

My review:
Wow! This book was amazing!  The excitement begins at the beginning of Chapter two, and it makes it really hard to put the book down.  

The Duke of Scarsdale, Nathanial Ellison, has no plans to marry for love.  His past haunts him and he wants nothing more to live his life alone.  However, a chance meeting with Sophia causes him to rethink his life plan. She and her younger half-brother, Harry, are in a very bad situation, and he cannot help but want to save her.  She's unlike the women he usually meets in his social circle, and chooses to marry her to save her reputation. 

But what happens after they get married? Of course, it's not a happily-ever-after right away.  The excitement doesn't die down with their marriage.  The book keeps you on your toes until the very end!  

You can feel the passion between Nathan and Sophia early on, which isn't always the case with books like this.  These two characters have a great banter and you can feel their sparks flying off the pages at you! I highly recommend this book.  Although it's book two in her Once Upon A Rogue Series, don't let that stop you from picking this one up if you haven't read the first one. It can be read as a stand alone. (And then go back and check out the first book as well!)

You can purchase the book at these websites:


Also, give the author a like on Facebook!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Disney 2015 - Day Two

So life got away from me before I could finish blogging about our amazing family trip to Disney. Here is day 2!

Beautiful view outside our hotel
We started off early, heading to Hollywood Studios. There was a 30 minute wait in line, where Colin lost his magicband (because nothing says family vacation like losing your ticket into your first park!) He had left it over by the gift shop. Thankfully I had already written my cell phone number on the inside, however, the gift shop attendant had not looked!

Our first stop was the Muppets in 3D. Connor and Keith sneaked off to do the Star Wars Tours (twice!). The rest of us put on our 3D glasses for some Muppet magic!

I do have to say, one of the best parts of the Magicbands is the ability to book your fast passes well in advance. We knew what three things we "had" to do and what time to be there, and the rest of the day was just wandering and doing other fun things.  We had fast passes for the Frozen Sing-a-long, and it was nice not to have to wait in line very long. 

We wandered around The Streets of America, as well as Pixar Place and Animation Courtyard, meeting characters and then headed back to Pizza Planet for lunch!

We also hitched a ride on the Toy Story Midway Mania - one of favorite rides!


After lunch, we had time until our next fast pass, so we headed over to "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" play lot so the kids could burn off some energy. Then as we headed over to "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Adventure", we met some more friends along the way! (You will notice that Keira is missing from most character pictures. She preferred to just wave from the distance.)

We ended the day at Downtown Disney - checking out the T-Rex Restaurant. It was amazing! As a family who avoids food dye, I was worried about mac and cheese (Colin's favorite!) but the chef came out to talk to us when I asked some questions. And then he personally made Colin his own dish of (food dye free) delicious mac and cheese, and served it to him!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sarah Needs a Spare Part - An Introduction

Eight days ago, my life changed forever.

But to go forward, I must give some background:

In 2011, I had some funky blood work and was referred to a nephrologist because my kidney levels were off.  He couldn't figure out what was going on, since I didn't have high blood pressure or diabetes, so he recommended a kidney biopsy.  The results showed that I had Thin Basement Membrane Disease, a hereditary disease that in his words, "was the best disease to have" since it rarely progressed.  It turns out that my grandma had kidney disease but hers was attributed to high blood pressure and age.  It was not until my biopsy that we learned she had something more.

My plan was to live a normal life, with blood work being done every 6 months just to track any changes.  Last May, my levels had changed.  My serum creatinine had doubled, and it appeared that my kidneys were leaking protein.  My nephrologist had me do another biopsy to see what was happening.  The biopsy showed the disease had progressed more so than he had anticipated.  There was significant and permanent scarring of the kidneys.  I was put on a higher dose of blood pressure medicine (tough for me since I don't have high blood pressure) and another pill for secondary hyperparathyroidism due to the kidney disease.  Bloodwork was now every three months.  In November, my levels were the same as May and August.

But in February of this year, that was not the case.  New tests showed drastic changes, and not in a good way.  One of the most important numbers that doctors use to measure kidney function is glomerular filtration rate (GFR).  Normal is 60 -100.  In November, I was 23.  Now I am 12.8.  That means I am in end stage renal disease.  There is nothing to be done, no medicine to fix the scarring that has intensified over the last three months.  Nothing, but a kidney transplant.

So here I am, embarking on such a life changing event, that it is so hard to comprehend most days that I am actually living through this.

Based on the criteria for a deceased donor, the wait list is years and I am not sick enough to be on dialysis yet therefore I am cannot be put on a list anyway.  So we are trying for a living donor.  Unfortunately you have to be my blood type (type B), and in good health (no high blood pressure or other serious health issues) so most of my family is out of the running.  My sister has offered to be a donor, but she is AB negative, therefore at this time we are going to attempt the kidney exchange program.  If she is considered a suitable donor, we can be paired up with another couple in a similar situation.  However, that relies on finding another person in need of a kidney with type AB blood.  So there are a lot of unknowns.  A lot of what-ifs.  A lot of hoping and praying that we will be approved in a timely manner before my kidneys fail completely and I must go on dialysis.  The goal is to not need dialysis, as that can cause more complications with the transplant.

I plan to share my journey on my blog.  The next step is calling the hospital tomorrow to set up the initial evaluation for a transplant.  The insurance company will not get involved until another batch of blood shows the same (or worsening) results at the end of the month, so I hope that the hospital will let us begin before approval because I don't want to waste any time.  A specialist at Rush, as well as my doctor, are both big believers in being proactive and want me to run right into this.  Any time that is spent waiting leads to dialysis, as well as other health concerns.

I'll be in touch!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Disney 2015 - Day 1

We just came back from the most amazing time in Disney World! You may remember, our first family trip to Disney was in 2012 when the twins were 3 and Connor was 5. Now at 6, 6, and 8, we were able to make new memories with a different set of grandparents!

Side note: My dad learned on this trip that Walt Disney's vision for Disney World is that everyone should visit there only three times in their lives: as a child, as a parent, and as a grandparent.  We are blessed that our children have had the chance to visit Disney with both sets of grandparents! I remember going when I was in 2nd grade with my maternal grandparents. :)

Day One was basically a travel day.  We had to get up before dawn in Chicago, where the temperature was NEGATIVE 15.  We arrived in Orlando where there was some sun and it was 75 degrees warmer.  Windy, but seriously, you could go outside without turning into a popsicle.  It was my niece and nephew's first time on a plane, but all went well.  

The Disney Magical Express picked us up at the airport and we were brought to our hotel: Port Orleans French Quarter. Like I'd stay anywhere else. ;)  The lobby was great, with a beautiful fountain. And through the glass doors to the resort was the pool!

The main courtyard

We found our rooms, dumped the luggage, 
and headed to the quick service restaurant to eat.

After eating an early supper, 
we walked down to the dock to catch the boat to Downtown Disney. 

We checked out some shops, 
especially all the Elsa and Anna merchandise, 
then got a yummy snack.
 (It's really hard to get five kids to be photogenic at the same time.)

After ice cream, we were too cold to take the boat back, 
so we went to the bus stop and rode home.
It was an early bedtime so we could be ready 
to head to Hollywood Studios in the morning!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Review: If the Viscount Falls

It's here! The final book in Sabrina Jeffries' Duke's Men series. It's the one I've been waiting for: Dominic and Jane.

Years ago, Dominic ended his engagement with Jane because he couldn't give her the life he thought she deserved.  After years of waiting, Jane finally becomes engaged to another man, yet needs Dom to help her in the quest to find her missing cousin.  As the two begin their search, they find that neither of them has quite gotten over the other one. However, Jane refuses to give him to "Dom the Almighty". And Dom still believes that he saved Jane from a horrible life by not marrying her. Will these two ever work it out?

As usual, Ms. Jeffries writes a terrific story! The scenes between Dom and Jane are entertaining, amusing, and hot.  You can feel the fiery passion they both try to hide.  Dom's interactions with his siblings are great too. My favorite scene is the "insipid kiss" scene. The passion between them builds and as a reader, this is one of those great scenes you look forward to in a romance novel.  While I am sad to see this series end, I think the author ended this series on a high note. I only hope to see the Duke's Men again.

One of the things that causes me to realize I found a great author - I read part of this book while on the treadmill.  I actually didn't realize that 34 minutes had passed as I was so enthralled with this book! Now that's a good story!

*I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Going the Extra Mile

Today was one of those mornings:
  • The alarm didn't go off so we got up late. 
  • I have had a horrible headache since 7 p.m. last night. 
  • I had a meeting with Colin's teacher, and we got stuck in traffic.
  • I realized halfway to school that I had life my cell phone at home.
  • Let's not talk about the meeting with the teacher.
  • I hurried to work - no phone, head-aching, jaw hurting (apparently I clench my jaw when stressed...)
  • Upset student waiting in the lobby to walk to me as soon as I walked in the door.
All I wanted was some coffee.  And quiet. Obviously that was not going to happen.

I sat down with the student ready to take the brunt of whatever had happened to upset her. 

Now I can't get into details about students. But it turns out, she had a simple situation. One that could have been taken care of yesterday when she spoke to someone else, but that person had given her wrong information. Thus setting into motion the events that happened today. Not to mention, causing this student worry and anxiousness over something that really wasn't a problem.

I answered her questions, cleared her confusion, printed her a new certificate.... and she and her husband went on their way. Happy. Thanking me for my help. For going the extra mile.

These little things are the big things...

Connor's teacher said that to me once when I spoke with her about an issue he was having with another student.  It really wasn't a big deal, but I thought she should be aware in case something else happened.  She thanked me for letting her know, and said "these little things are the big things to them".  And she's right. 

I've applied that way of thinking to my kids at home since then. Sometimes things that are so trivial to me as an adult truly upset one of my kids. I used to dismiss it, but now this quote keeps going through my head...  "these little things are the big things to them".

But what about with adults? The same thought process should apply. This student's particular situation was a BIG deal to her. It was causing her distress, yet on my end it was a simple fix.  Five minutes out of my day to brighten someone else's is not a lot to ask.  

I find myself getting crabby with life in my old age. At times, I feel I'm losing my patience with the world. What I realized lately is that I have become lazy in life. I'm tired of always making the effort. But that's wrong. That's my bad. I need to suck it up like I tell my kids to when something doesn't go their way. I need to start making an effort again. Even though I am bone tired of doing it all and giving my all, that's what I am meant to do. As a mother, as wife, in my job, in my home...I need to focus on the little things that mean so much to other people. Because in doing so, I find myself happier. I find my self-worth isn't so much about what makes me happy, but about how it feels to make others happy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 Resolutions: What I am NOT going to do this year

I'm that person - the one who makes a list of resolutions - floss more, lose weight, etc - and then never follows through.  It's not because I don't have good intentions.  Truthfully, I just don't have the time. I thought when the kids started grade school, I'd have more free time, more time to myself.  Instead, I find our lives are even more busier than before. Sometimes I find myself wishing for the diaper stage again - at least then they took naps.

So this year, I decided to take a different approach and make a list of what I am NOT going to do this year.  Let me tell you, on day 6, I haven't completely succeeded but that's why there are 365 days in a year! If things don't go the way you planned, there is always tomorrow.

1 - STOP being negative.  This is a hard one. By the end of 2014, I was really feeling the pull of life.  I was (am) overworked and stressed out.  That, of course, cannot change overnight (or even by the end of January), but it's something I can work on.  I swear, I used to be a more positive person, but somehow that had gotten lost along the way.  The biggest issue I have so far with this are those few annoying people that just make me negative. Which leads to...

2 - STOP filling my life with those people who make me unhappy. You know, those one who make me feel less about myself. There are people who expend a lot of energy sharing their negative emotions. Or by crafting the "perfect" life to post on the internet. Why should I compare myself to them?

3 - STOP setting deadlines that are impossible to keep. The fault of every working mom - trying to cram too much into one day, one week, one month.  There just isn't enough time, and when I miss a deadline that I imposed on myself (that never-ending to do list, for example), I find that adds more stress.  That isn't to say I'm getting rid of my to do list (I love my planner too much for that!) but unless it's a necessity like paying a bill or returning a library book, things will get done when they get done. 

4 - STOP being so connected to social media.  I'm tired of checking email all the time, wasting hours on FB, or feeling bad that I haven't blogged in a month. Rather than worry about all those things, I will focus on being more connected to myself.

5 - STOP hitting snooze on the alarm.  This currently is a work in progress.  Although I am now getting up 10 minutes earlier than I was before Christmas break, which I have to say, helps the morning not feel so rushed.  

6 - STOP making excuses as to why I can't lose weight.  Look what Santa got me! I'm super excited. 

Don't judge the background - it's Keith's garage. ;)

What are you not going to do this year?