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?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Book Review: Bodies in Trouble by Cynthia Cooke

Hannah Kizer is a caterer who spends as much time away from her family as possible.  The black sheep of the family, Hannah, is surprised to get a call from her mother asking her to come home for her step-sister Sarah's wedding. The wedding is one day away... Hannah was never invited.

On her way home, she realizes that there is something coming with her. A fairy? That's impossible; they aren't real.  After a disastrous evening, she finds a big clue that leads her to question who she is and where she came from.

Family secrets, mystery spells, and a mischievous fairy intent on destroying Sarah's wedding and leaving all the blame on Hannah make for a very interesting read!

Cynthia Cooke writes a great story - the characters are fun, the bed scene is hot, and the story line leaves the reader wanting more. Hannah is a bad girl but you can feel how desperately she truly wants to fit in with her family.  The end leads the reader to believe that this is just the start to a great series... I really hope so! I want to read more about Hannah and her adventures.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass

Last month, my local library recommended a book called Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass.  I wondered what a body farm was, and after I did some internet-searching, I was super-excited to check out this book! 

The Body Farm, or more accurately known as the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility in Knoxville, is an actual place. A morbid place to some, but truly is a one of a kind research facility that studies human decomposition for not only anthropological purposes, but also to provide assistance to "the State Medical Examiner System for the District Attorney General's Office, arson investigators, and various state, local, and national law enforcement agencies and county medical examiners for over thirty years".

This book was great! The authors are actually a team: Dr. William Bass, founder of the program at the University of Tennessee, and Jon Jefferson, a journalist.  The main character in the book is Dr. Bill Brockton (basically the literary version of Dr. Bass) who is asked to assist in a case outside of Knoxville. The small town where the body is found is in East Tennessee....a remote mountain community with many secrets of its own. As Dr. Brockton gets more involved, so does the level of danger that surrounds him.  

I love a good mystery. The characters were great, many based on real-life people. And the science is great! Think CSI on paper... only better than the show.  I will definitely be checking out other books in the series!

Friday, November 14, 2014

New Orleans, Day 2

Our first full day in New Orleans began with Keith getting up super early for a run.  (I slept in.)   When he got back, we took advantage of the expanded continental breakfast that the hotel offered.  It was yummy, except for the waffle-making incident someone incurred. ;)  After I finished getting ready, we headed out to walk around the French Quarter. We found ourselves on the other side of Jackson Square for my first beignet in 10 years.  It was wonderful! I love the cafe au lait as well.  Even when you order one around Chicago, it just doesn't taste as good as when you have it at the Cafe du Monde. :) 

After eating, we walked down to the French Market, this amazing flea market that has basically everything you could imagine.  For lunch, we ate at the French Market Cafe - Keith had an alligator po-boy, dressed, and I had a muffaletta.  Thank goodness I only ordered half - Keith had to finish it! It was huge!
 After lunch, we walked around for awhile - checking out the inside of St. Louis Cathedral. I visited the St. Thersese statue and bought a few Holy cards in the gift shop for the kids. We went back to the hotel to rest before heading out again for dinner.

We chose a restaurant right down the street from the Dauphine - it was called Deanie's Seafood. I had the crab cakes. They were delicious!

After dinner, we headed back to Bourbon Street. We love to people watch, and this is the best place for that. We made our circle down Bienville to Royal - shopped on Royal a little - then went to head up St. Ann's back to Bourbon when we happened upon the filming of NCIS: New Orleans! Lucas Black was filimng a scene so we watched that for quite a bit.