Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 In Review

As 2013 closes, I have been doing what most people do this time of year. Remembering and reflecting on the moments of the past year. The good and not so good.  All in all 2013 was a pretty great year for our family. 

Ryan began the new year with a change in his job. After many years in construction, he took an office job with IDOT around the beginning of 2013. Also in January 2013, Ryan and I traveled to Las Vegas.  It was an early 10th anniversary trip (we celebrated our anniversary in May).  It was also our first "adult only" trip since having Jackson.  We had a great time, but were ready to come home. 

 Vegas selfie.

March 1, 2013, became an extremely momentous day for me: I got to see Adam Levine (and the rest of Maroon 5) in concert.  What a great night!  Definitely makes the top moments of this year! And possibly 2014 too!

                                                                        Pre concert

Our man Adam <3
In April of 2013, I took up a new hobby: running.  I have been bitten by the running bug and ran in two half marathons (one in September and one in November).  Running has become a place of calm and reflection for me. It pushes me to my limits and has allowed me to accomplish more than I thought I ever could.   For now, I plan to train for more halfs this year (I am shooting for 4 or 5) and maybe someday a full marathon.

Great group of gals after my second half. One word: hills. Ugh. 


                                                Ryan and me after my first half marathon

The summer months brought long days enjoying the outdoors. We spent many hours swimming, paddling around the pond in our new paddle boat and just playing outside. J took swimming lessons again and continues to be a water bug.  He spent the summer going to daycare and having fun with his friends there.  They attended bible school, library programs and plays at Timber Lake.  He had so much fun, in fact, that he was hesitant to leave for school in August!

J started kindergarten on August 21, 2013 and turned 5 the next day.  After a bumpy first few days, he now enjoys school and is doing very well.  He has made some good friends and has improved so much in his reading and math skills. We celebrated J's 5th birthday with a Batman themed party.  J loves super heroes and dressing up in his super hero gear.

"I am Batman"

First Day of School 2013

J's first school pic.

In September, we adopted another fur baby, whom J named Froggy.  Ryan was hesitant about adding another cat to the household, but it has turned out to be a great addition. Our 12 year old cat, Max, started out skeptical of the new cat, but now enjoys having another cat around.  And J is enamored with Froggy. I think I have said "Jackson, put that cat down" about 1,000 times already!  Nothing makes J happier than having Froggy sleep in his bed with him or to have her play with him. 

J and Froggy when she moved in.

With Froggy on Christmas.

In October, our families welcomed more additions: two new nephews!
My sister had her baby boy on October 22 and Ryan's sister had her baby boy on October 27.  Everyone is doing well and it is nice to have babies around to snuggle again.

November 2013 brought the start of our kitchen remodeling project.  This has probably been the biggest change of the year for our family. And the most challenging. We have been living out of a makeshift kitchen (located in our great room) and are very anxious to have running water and a sink hooked back up in our kitchen (target date is in 7-10 more days for that)!  Currently, we have most of the furniture back to its proper place, but we have a bit to go until all is back to "normal" around our house.

It begins.......

 Our makeshift kitchen.

All torn up.
 With December came the holiday season with all of its usual fun, hustle, bustle and, yes, some stress! This was the first year that J really got the concept of Santa and he wrote his own letter to the Big Man this year.  J wanted a Packer uniform, Minion Monopoly and a boat from Cars 2.  Santa came through and J had a wonderful Christmas.  J also decided to redo his room in Packers colors and decorations.  As a family of Bear fans, we are unsure how his love of the Packers happened, but we love him in spite of it!
 J in his Packers uniform on Christmas.  Yes, those are Bears socks.
We were instructed to pretend they were Packer socks
until he got some real Packer socks:)

J posing with his Aaron Rodgers Fathead.  His prize
Christmas Gift.  J even wrote a fan letter to his idol:

We are anxiously waiting for a response!
All in all, we have had a fantastic year.  Here's hoping that 2014 is just as fantastic for us and for you all as well.  Cheers!

Happy 2014 Everyone!

Monday, September 9, 2013


Earlier this year, I decided to take up running. In the past, I have run here or there, but was never a committed runner. My "runs" generally consisted of some running with A LOT of walking in between. I have many friends that run and I always sort of thought they were nuts.  But, in April, I decided I would try to get ready and run a 5k over Memorial Day weekend.  I have walked the event for many years and decided to give running it a shot. Many reading this won't understand why I run or even wanted to try. And I probably can't adequately explain the running addiction, so instead I will share my experiences so far.

Why do I run?  

My 5k training (if you could call it that) consisted of a run here and there and sort of training. In all honesty, it was a pretty half-hearted approach at training. But, I ended up running my first 5k in 30 minutes.  To say I had been bitten by the running bug is an understatement.  I immediately started thinking of my next run. When could I do it? How far could I go? What route should I run? How fast would I be? Could I even run farther? Then I saw this: 

And I decided that it didn't matter how fast I could run or how far, as long as I ran. Because not everyone can, and not all who can will. So, if I tried, I was already winning.

For about a month, I did runs maxing out at about 6 miles.  Each time I ran, I was shaving big chunks of time off of my finishing time and starting to find my pace. It was exhilarating! I was reading about running, nutrition for runners and training programs any time I had the chance. And of course I got some cute new racing attire. I mean, it is about running, but why not at least try to look cute, right? But in reality, I probably look like this:

Yep, that's me! Running with a candy baton:)

I ran a second 5k at the end of June and finished in 27 minutes.  I was elated. That was 3 whole minutes faster than my first one! A few days later (on the 4th of July), I was invited to run with a group of incredible ladies.  I did my first 8 miler. And I wanted more.  I decided then that I wanted to train to do a half marathon (13.1 miles for you non runners). These gals became my go to running companions.  They are all experienced runners who had tons of good advice, great attitudes and were almost always up for a run. They have helped me immeasurably.

The best way I can describe my running gals. You are the BEST!

I started looking at races at the end of October because I didn't think I would be ready before then. 
I decided on a training schedule of 3 runs during the week and long run on weekends. Each week I would hit up my running friends to join me on a long run. Each long run taught me something as did each runner who participated. With each run, I felt stronger and more sure of myself.  I was steadily improving my endurance and dropping my times.  By the time August rolled around, I couldn't wait until October to try a half. So, I registered for one on September 8. 

The weeks leading up to September 8 were busy and tiring!  But, my long runs were going great and I felt ready for my half.  On September 8, I woke up and was immediately excited and nervous. I got to the race and was relieved to see a couple familiar faces in the crowd, which helped calm my nerves.  The atmosphere was electric. Everyone was ready to go and excited to be there.

Now, I won't take you mile by mile through that race.  But, I will give you some highlights:

~The awesome volunteers at the water stations and along the route who were cheering and whooping it up for every runner who came by.
~The elderly woman sitting in her yard around mile 4. The lady who was thanking US because she liked to watch the runners much.
~The kids at around Mile 10 who had made signs that read "This is the worst parade ever!" and "You better run faster....because we all just farted!"
~The sign that read "If it were easy, everyone would do it - keep going!"
~The friends and families along the route with cowbells and cheering kids.
~The sign in someone's yard around mile 12.5 that said "Your legs are not giving out, your head is giving up - keep it up!"
~The incredible, scenic views from Eagle Point Park.
~Other runners who were super friendly, chatty and enthusiastic, including my new race buddy. Whose name I don't know, but who kept pace with me, laughed with me and even complained with me a little. She was awesome (even if she was a Packer fan!)
~My family waiting for me as I finished.
~Seeing the finish line!!!!

I can't say enough about people who watch races and cheer.  It means THE WORLD to the runners. Even if they don't know you. It doesn't matter.  Every cheer and smiling face makes it easier when you think you want to give up.  Even though giving up isn't really an option.  Not because anyone would judge you if you did but because you would never forgive yourself for it. My goal for my first half was to finish. J asked me several times if I would win the race.  Try explaining to a 5 year old  that finishing really is winning. Because it is. Whether you are first or last.  You are a FINISHER.
See, I am a finisher. And I have a medal to prove it!

So, in a nutshell, my "serious" running career has spanned about 5 months so far.  My only regret is not starting sooner!  I have met so many great people, developed many friendships and achieved many goals.  I have proven to myself again and again that I CAN do what I put my mind to. That the only thing stopping me, is me.  I have had awesome support along the way from friends, family and even a few strangers. But, what I love about running is that it comes down to me. I have to put in the training time. I have to run through cramps or blisters.  I have to pull myself out of bed at 5am, even when I don't really want to.  Because in the end I have to run the race and no one can do it for me. And not matter how tiring it is, how sore I may feel after, good run or bad it is worth it.

 The end is in sight!

 So close, don't pass out now!!!

 Yay! Made it!

Me and the hubster. I can't believe he stood that close
to me. I was offensive (smelling), to put it mildly!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Happy 5th J!

Happy 5th birthday to:

The reason I get up at 6a.m. on weekends.

My little Batman.

The most wonderful little boy laugh I have ever heard.

My shopping and errand partner.

The reason that getting vomited, pooped or sneezed on doesn't bother me anymore.

The reason I try to watch my mouth (I said TRY!)

The reason that my car is NEVER clean. Ever.

The sweetest little face I have ever seen.  

The reason I know every character from Thomas the Train, Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder.

The best cuddler ever.

The reason I see the humor in silly knock knock jokes again.

The reason my meals now include all of the food groups and the reason why cereal is no longer an acceptable meal option.

The reason I go on ranger rides, have water gun fights and go sledding.

The one person who likes it when I sing songs in the car super loud and off key.

The reason I worry constantly.

My little buddy.

The reason my floors are sandy, the fridge door is sticky and I can't find anything when I need it.

The reason I have watched Toy Story 1,000 times.

The reason that doing "old" things are new and exciting because they are his first time.

The reason that Iron Man is on my nightstand, Batman is crammed between the couch cushions and the Millenium Falcon is parked in my closet.

My greatest pride and my deepest source of joy.

The reason I do homework again.

The reason that I am a better person (because I know he is watching constantly and I have to set a good example.)

The best thing I have ever done.

Happy 5th Jackson!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Today Was a Great Day

Today, July 18, 2013, was a pretty darn good day.  I mentioned in a Facebook post that it had started out far better then yesterday and it only went well from there.

The reasons today rocked are:

1. I didn't oversleep my alarm. 

    I rarely do this and it happened yesterday setting a sour note for the whole day.  Today, I was up right on time and ready to go.

2. I got in a great run.

     When I overslept yesterday, running didn't happen.  I prefer to workout first thing in the morning, so oversleeping really messes up my world. A morning workout fits in perfectly before J gets up, it gives me tons of energy going into my day and I just plain feel better for having done it.  Today I ran.  6 miles.  In the fastest 6 mile time I have ever had.  Some days running doesn't go well. You struggle and cramp and just plain feel lousy.   But, even attempting a "bad run" feels better than not doing one at all. So, when a run goes well, it feels AWESOME.  Today's run was a great run.

3. I got to see the sunrise.

    Since taking up running, I have discovered numerous perks (if you will) of running that I hadn't considered.  This is one of the best.  It was mostly dark when I started my run, but on the home stretch, the sun was creeping up. And it was incredible. I have seen sunrises before, obviously. But, it has been too long. Or maybe I just haven't been paying enough attention. But, today, I watched the sun come up. Really, truly watched it.  There was just something about being outside alone in total quiet and seeing it that was breathtaking. 

4. J got his Kindergarten Physical

     This morning I took J to his first school physical.  It was quick and uneventful. They weighed him, measured height, checked his hearing and vision.  All were great.   J was all smiles, totally cooperative and Mr. Personality while there.  The nurse even commented on how happy he was. And that is why it rocked.  Because I have a healthy, happy kid. And I need to be thankful for that more often because some people aren't as fortunate.

 5. It is H-O-T!

     Finally! I have been waiting for hot weather!  I haven't had to turn on the space heater that I keep under my desk on even one time today.  That is nothing short of a miracle.  I have experienced one of the two or three days this year that I will not be cold.

6. We swam.

     And when it is hot, the best thing to do is SWIM! We are lucky to have a great friend who lets us use his pool anytime we want.  The water was warm, but incredibly refreshing.  J has vastly improved his swimming strokes and loved showing off is cannon balls and other fancy pool moves.

7. We cuddled.

    Okay, I admit that we do this every day.  But, it has always been and will always be one of my favorite parts of each day. J loves  a cuddle when he wakes and up and before he goes to bed. And I am more than happy to oblige.  I hope we always end the day sitting on our bed watching a silly move relaxing as a family.  I know J won't want to forever, but today he did. And with those cuddles, today ended as awesomely as it started.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

10 Years

Today marks the 14th anniversary of my first date with my hubby (yes, that's actually a thing).  And Friday, May 10, 2013 marks our tenth wedding anniversary.  Which to me, seems like a huge deal. My darling husband is less impressed with our milestone, as men tend to be, I suppose.

So, I decided to put this in perspective for him.

To date, our marriage has lasted longer than the marriages of:  Courtney Thorne-Smith and Andrew Conrad, Shannen Doherty and Ashley Hamilton, Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman, Charlie Sheen and Donna Peele, Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock,  Lisa Marie Presley and Nicolas Cage,  Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson and Evelyn Lozada, Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman, Drew Barrymore and Jeremy Thomas,  Axl Rose and Erin Everly, Eddie Murphy and Tracey Edmonds, Cher and Gregg Allman, and Britney Spears and Jason Alexander.  COMBINED.

If you count the time we have dated, we have been together during 3 different decades and two different centuries. 

We have been married longer than J-Lo has been and she has been married three times (totaling 9 years and 3 months.)

We have been married for three different summer Olympic games (together for 4). 

Our relationship has spanned three presidents. 

Since our first date in 1999, the world has endured 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Invasion of Iraq, the fall of Saddam Hussein  and Osama Bin Laden, the launch of Facebook and the earthquake in Haiti.

During our marriage, the Bears went to the Super Bowl (had to sneak that in there!)

Over the last 14 years, trucker hats, diamond grills, bling, crocs and man bags (AKA: murses) have all reached the height of their popularity, and (thankfully) faded away.

When my hubby and I started dating, the world had not yet seen the ipod, the Wii, You Tube, the PS2, HDTV's or thumb drives. 

We have weathered the Twilight, 6 of those darn Medea movies, Justin Bieber, and snuggies.

Since meeting my hubby, some of the biggest names in sports have turned in the most courageous, incredible and mind boggling sports performances ever, only to later be part of huge scandals (Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Kobe Bryant, Barry Bonds, Michael Vick). And some athletes have just set the world on fire, and we were lucky enough to see it together (Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Drew Brees, Payton Manning, Gabrielle Douglas).

Not bragging, but our relationship survived Y2K AND at least three apocalypses predicted by ancient Indian cultures.

We have been married 50.69 times longer than Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries.

And on a personal note, our years together have included many fun vacations, running two businesses and building our home. They have included the development of two successful careers, the loss of some very special loved ones as well as the birth of the most special little loved one either of us will ever have. There have been some tears, but there has been exponentially more laughter. 

So, maybe it isn't a huge deal to my hubby, but to me 10 years is nothing to sneeze at and I can't wait to see what the next 10 (or 20 or 30!) years brings! Happy anniversary Ryan!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Contents of My Purse

Last week I was discussing the contents of my purse with a friend. I can't recall exactly how the conversation began, but I started to think about before I became a mom and how, back then, I rarely (if ever) carried a purse. Since having J, I have gone through several phases of bag carrying which has evolved into what I tote around now. 

First it was the diaper bag packed with items for every possible baby scenario: diapers, wipes, baby toys, a change of clothes, a bottle, some bottled water and a travel pack of formula (just in case!), orajel, bags for diaper disposal, an extra hat and blanket (in case of winter car trouble) and Desitin.  Once we could do away with diapers, the diaper bag was replaced with a smaller travel tote. This was filled with little snacks, emergency pull ups, books and more little toys.  The wipes were still in there too.  Now, I still find myself carrying one large bag everywhere I go.  I decided to really take a look in my bag to determine what I could possibly require that would fill such a large bag.  Turns out, I need a lot! Most items in my bag are mandatory.  Others could be and have been purged. 

Bag Item 1:

A travel coloring book and crayons. Actually three or four packs of those little travel crayons that you get at restaurants to color on the place mat.  You know the kind. They are boxes with only four crayons - yellow, red, blue and green.  However, in my supply of crayons the greens are all missing. Seriously.  Not a single green crayon in the bunch. Coloring can be a lifesaver during long doctor office waits or in church, so they stay in the bag.

Bag Item 2:

The medication pouch.  A small zip up pouch containing a small pharmacy: children's benadryl, antacid, kid's Tylenol, band aids, hydrocortisone cream, Neosporin and some excederin migraine.  I feel prepared for just about any emergency. Except maybe a stomach ailment. Note to self: pick up some Pepto for the pouch upon next visit to the store.

Bag Item 3:

Wipes. Yep, still carrying the wipes. Because kids=mess.  Pretty simple. Also, sister item to the wipes: hand sanitizer.  Because you just never know what kids might touch. I don't see these items becoming obsolete for a while. Well, ever really.

Bag Item 4:

Boys size 4T Star Wars undies.  Yeah, I am not sure why those are in there either.  They are clean, however.  So, back in the undie drawer they go!

Bag Item 5:

Coupon Organizer.  Because if I keep the coupons elsewhere, I will inevitably forget to take them along to the store.  And nothing burns me more than paying full price for Cheerios when I know there is a $.50 coupon at home. Carrying a cumbersome plastic organizer is totally justified by saving money.  Makes me feel like I am sticking it to the corporate money makers by saving a buck or two. I can also rationalize things with my savings. For example "I saved $.75 on t.p. and a buck on laundry soap, so I can afford these new shoes. And this scarf. And these jeans." Thus, it stays.

Bag Item 6:

What I like to call "the crap catch all".  It is a zip pouch (larger than the pharmacy) that I apparently fill with every piece of junk that I don't have any other place for.  But, upon closer inspection, I actually need all the stuff in there. Really, not a single thing in there that I could in good conscious be without on a daily basis.  Currently occupying the pouch:
*a nail file
*nail clippers
*ear buds
*mini no water needed toothbrushes (for those times that you realize AFTER leaving home that your child didn't brush)
*small mirror and brush
*deodorant (Helpful hint: Don't leave this in the car in the summer, then attempt to use. Liquid deodorant = not cool.)
*FHP (am I right ladies? Never leave home without it!)
*AA and AAA batteries. 

Bag Item 7:

6 Plastic Ziploc Baggies.  Because I always think to myself : "Self, baggies come in handy when doling out snacks or for disposing of things, better stick one in your purse."  Then I forget I did it. I have reduced the supply of baggies to 2.

Bag Item 8:

3 Tubes of chap stick.  Same problem as item 7.  Maybe I ought to have my memory checked out.

Well, the bag isn't really much cleaner after taking inventory. It is marginally more organized, which I guess is something!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vegas baby!

Back to life, Back to reality....

Last week, Ryan and I took our first parent only vacation since we had J.  Our destination? Las Vegas!  Ryan had never been and it has been about 10 years since I went, so we decided to head out west.

We planned to meet our vacation buddies there (a couple whom we met on our honeymoon and have since taken a couple trips with.)  As always, we had a great time!

Our first day started out with a day trip to Hoover Dam.  We were lucky to have a rental car at our disposal, so we took off for the day.  The dam is pretty incredible. It also elicited a myriad of corny "dam" jokes, which we still chuckle over.  And now the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is open.  From atop the bridge, the views are spectacular!

Hoover Dam as seen from the Pat Tillman bridge.

The Patt Tillman Bridge. 
We followed up the dam with a drive into Red Rock Canyon.  This was probably the most unexpected bonus of the trip to me.  When I think of Vegas, I don't usually think of gorgeous scenery and breathtaking landscapes.  But, right outside of Vegas are some incredible sights.  Had we been better prepared, we probably would have spent a whole day out in the canyon hiking and taking it all in.  We saw as much as we could and marveled at all the people who go to Vegas and never know what they are missing only a few miles away.

After a full day of sightseeing, our first day of Vegas was far from over!  We went for dinner at a lovely litte cafe inside the Venetian Casino.  We ended up eating dinner there every night of the trip.  The selection was large, the service was great and the food was delicious! 

 The Venetian.  Ryan's favorite Hotel (by far) and home to our
favorite dinner destination!  Beautiful!
After dinner we hit the Beatles Love Cirque De Soleil show at the Mirage.  I don't know if any description that I would write here could do this show justice! The music of the Beatles was brought to life through gorgeous lighting, dancing and costuming.  It was breathtaking. I enjoyed it very much and received a few jabs to ribs from the hubby for singing along at a volume that he must have deemed too loud.  Apparently he didn't appreciate my rendition of the Beatles classics.  Sadly, picture taking and videoing at Love is strictly prohibited (they had an usher on hand whom we dubbed the camera nazi), so I have no pics of the show.  Which is fine since it is etched into my memory!
Our second day in Vegas started with a trip to the Mandaly Bay to see their aquarium.  It boasted having the world's only hammerhead shark.  Which we never saw.  But, we saw a variety of other interseting sea creatures and it was a fun activity for the morning. From there we headed to the Luxor. Ryan wanted to try the "best burger in Vegas" at The Burger Bar (as seen on Food Network).  The burger did not disappoint and Ryan left full and happy.  That evening, we made an impromptu decision to see Mystere (another Cirque show) at Treasure Island.  Mystere was also an incredible show.  Very different from Love and I think we picked two shows that went together well.  They both featured different things and had a totally different style.  I immensly enjoyed them both. 
And as if seeing an awesome show wasn't enough, that was the night I fell in love.  With a pair of shoes.

Now, my husband was not thrilled with these shoes.  But I adore them.  I am actually wearing them now.  After much agonizing over whether to bring them home, I pulled the trigger.  So glad I made them mine.  But, I digress.....
Our last day in Vegas was spent exploring the strip.  Our hotel (the Vdara in the City Center) was located near the Bellagio.  A brief walk from our lobby over a sky walk into the Bellagio and we were on the strip.  We ventured as far North as we could and then doubled back to the South.  We played $1 on penny slots in each casino.  Ryan was the big winner.  He won 900.  Pennies that is!  I don't think we will ever be mistaken for high rollers!  I think we walked for about 4 1/2 hours that day (and boy, it felt like it too!)
All in all, it was a great trip.  We got a break from the harsh mid west winter.  We saw incredible sights.  Ate too much and laughed too hard. But, as always,  it was good to come home too! 
 The strip at night.

 Paris all lit up.

The cheesy pic that Ryan took as a joke that ended up being
the only good pic of me from the entire trip. Go figure.