Real (Parenting) Moments

Inspired by some of my favorite bloggers who share their parenting experiences on the regular (I’m looking at you Kathleen and Ashley), I thought I’d share some of my mom blunders from this past summer with the kidlets.

Summer 2013 was kind of disastrous: chaos all the time, gray hairs, tantrums from kids & adults alike, utter exhaustion and not enough of a schedule we were determined to make the next year better. We scrutinized camp descriptions, options (and pricing, let’s be real) leading us to pick some great new experiences for both kids, Knight and I planned out who would pick them up and when, the sitters we would have, the local events we’d take the girls to. By and large this summer did go much better than Summer ’13. MUCH.

That’s not to say  there weren’t moments were I wanted to scream, cry and punch a wall because parenting is tough. Really, really tough.

The first day of camp I sent the girls with the requirements as per the camp instructions: swimsuits, towels, lunch box full of yummy food. The moment the girls got in the car at pick-up they informed me of all the things the Other Moms gave their kids: extra snacks. Flip-flops. A bag for the wet suits. Water bottles. I felt like a failure. I’m a parent, in a mom-role and yet because I don’t do this every day or because I think differently about things such as: the girls were indoors all day, there are tons of water fountains & water breaks, the camp provided snacks –  I felt like a total failure. The girls incessant questions about why I didn’t know what to send or why I didn’t do it certainly didn’t help. (I may or may not have called Knight in a teary mess.)

One evening the girls and I decided to tag-along with Knight to his softball game because: a) it was gorgeous weather b) his softball games take place in an awesome park with countless playground for the kids and c) I wanted to get in a run while I watched the girls on the playground (which yes, I could do safely and not lose sight of them). After a bit the girls decided they wanted to run with me and knowing that kids + exercise = amazing sleep and no fights at bedtime, along they came. We were having fun: talking, laughing, discussing why exercise is important and then I decided that we should all do a silly run, a la Phoebe from friends. Not three seconds into it, Jolie goes down. Hard. I’ve never heard her scream like that before. Scratched knees, elbows, hands. I was able to get her cleaned up and off in the public park restroom, pulling stuff out of my purse left and right that would help but I felt horrible, selfish and like I should have/could have prevented that fall. My mom guilt kicked in and we all got ice cream that evening.

Our local library is Awesome. Free events and shows, reading programs, giveaways, educational camps. I mentioned to the girls that there was a comedian/magician show coming to our location, filled the sitter in on the details, which by the way I obtained from the library website, and thought we were good to go. Later that day I get a text from the sitter saying I gave them the wrong time and they missed half the show. Not only did I let the kids down I looked like a moron in front of the sitter.

There were other things that made me want to pull out my hair: bedtime struggles, getting the younger one to eat her food (all meals, every.single.day), making family dinners that the girls refused to eat, attitudes, eye rolling and them telling me they didn’t like me and wanted to go home (which I understand on the one hand and also might as well have been a knife in my gut since we try so hard to make things fun and enjoyable for them).

And yes, there were things that went well: seeing the joy in the girls’ eyes after their camps; their new friends they made in the neighborhood; the sight of our backyard filled with kids since we decided to do an impromptu pizza party for the girls & their friends; their squeals of delight at the circus, the live play we took them to see, and other fun days.

I know parenting is a balance. I know it takes patience, hard-work and time to try to get even one thing right. I just wish I had more of it because as a bonus mom I often feel like the Black Sheep, an outcast and insignificant leading me to take it really hard when I make a mistake. While Summer ’15 is far away, I’m already thinking and pre-planning in my head.

Do you have any real-life moments you want to share, parenting or otherwise?

Ten Books

I am borrowing this idea from Amber’s recent post about the Ten Books that affected her. Given that I’m not on Facebook these days (the horror!) I had no idea this was a thing but I tried to stick to the rules: the first ten books that come into your mind! I love the idea so here are ten books that have impacted me over the years:

1. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger : This story just got to me. The beauty, the idea of different time and space and places. Word to the wise: skip the movie. Read the book, buy a copy for yourself and re-read it. You’ll be glad you did.

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I don’t remember when I read this book but it was in my pre-teens, I think. I remember my mom gifting me the book and telling me it was “time,” to read it. I read it in one weekend and loved it. The copy my mom gave me has traveled from house to house, even during the college years. I can’t wait to share this with my bonus daughters someday.

3. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. I read this book during the height of the Twilight fame when I decided I needed some “real,” vampire literature. I’d seen bits and pieces of the movie but this book, oh this book. At once dark, heartbreaking, compelling and spellbinding. Tough to put down. I haven’t read the others by Rice yet, but they are on my shelf.

4. Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani. This book is on my list because it’s the one that started my love affair with Trigiani’s books. I loved every page of this book from the very first to the very last (and the 2nd and 3rd in the series, despite the sadness in book number three) relating to the Italian-American ways of life, the food, the sass and independence that you’ll find in Valentine. I can’t wait for her next books to come out, hopefully the start of a new series and characters.

5. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Oh, this book. I laughed. I cried. I held my dog Jack and cried. I recommended it to everyone I know. A beautiful story about overcoming life’s struggles, a man’s best friend, saying goodbye and opening new doors.

6. The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard. I read this book in an entire weekend. This is about a family, their betrayal, the incident that happened all those years ago….this book is full of intrigue, mystery and an ending that I didn’t see coming (well, until I did. If that makes sense.)

7. Chocolat by Joanne Harris. I remember watching the movie with my mom as we are both Johnny Depp fans. I don’t think at that point I had read the book or had my book before movie rule but when I did read the book, well, my goodness. The story of Vianne takes on so much life in the pages of this novel and her daughter, the kangaroo invisible friend and the pirates… just loved every bit of it. It also was the gateway into other Harris novels.

8. Adrian Mole: From Minor to Major, by Sue Townsend. When I was in eighth grade, my parents took us to London, England. I had so much going on then: puberty, hormones, insecurities, culture shock, the list goes on and on. My mom took me a to a bookstore to help me get accustomed and adjusted and I found this book there. I loved it. I devoured it. It’s about a young boy who is going from his pre-teens to teenage years and all of his encounters. I have another book by Townsend that I came across at a used book sale, Adrian Mole, the Cappuccino Years. Most people haven’t heard of it since she’s a UK author but I adored this book and still have the original copy on my shelf.

9. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Another book recommended to me by my momma, sometime in the high school years. It was so long ago but I remember being struck by the time period, the romance (though it has trials and tribulations throughout) and the beauty in the writing.

10. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho. I read this book at a time when I really *needed* to hear the message (read: post a break-up). Beautiful story, amazing writing and surprisingly my first Coelho book I’ve ever read.

This wound up being rather long but please feel free to share any of the books that have touched you in some way. Love chatting, talking and learning about new-to-me books!

 

 

 

Sitcom Search

Total first-world problem: I have no half-hour sitcom to watch anymore. How I Met your Mother is over. The days of Friends, Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls are long since passed. Anything that I start to really enjoy gets canceled because apparently I’m the only person watching it and so, I have no 30 minute truly laugh-out-loud sitcom to enjoy these days. Our DVR is full of dramas (literally, we don’t really watch that much tv during the week/summer so it’s still full of episodes from last season) and while I enjoy them sometimes I need to sit back and just… laugh.

As far as dramas go, I think I’m covered especially since they are all an hour in length:

* NCIS: LA & Person of Interest (thanks to the hubs for getting me hooked on both)
* White Collar
* Suits
* Scandal
* The Blacklist (also a season behind…)
* Parenthood (well, I’m a season behind but plan to catch up… someday)
* The Mentalist (also a season behind)

With the fall TV season fast approaching, here’s a list of what I’ve enjoyed watching and then I’m hoping you can make some recommendations as to what I should watch or give a try:

* How I Met Your Mother
* Will & Grace
* Friends
* Gilmore Girls
* Sex and the City
* Rules of Engagement
* Melissa & Joey (guilty pleasure, thank you ABC Family channel)
* Go On (canceled which bummed me out big time)

I recently saw a few episodes of Mike & Molly and I have to say, I loved it. Melissa McCarthy has been one of my favorites since she was Sooki in Gilmore Girls! I’ve dabbled in 30 Rock, New Girl and Big Bang Theory either via re-runs or Netflix. Apart from that I’m totally clueless as to what’s on, what’s good, what’s coming and what I should watch.

What’s your favorite sitcom of all time? What show do you turn to for laughs? 

 

 

Lessons Learned: 31 workouts in August

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time you’ll know that I don’t talk about diet & fitness much, if at all. Working out has been a part of my life since my college days: I’d run laps when I was stressed, sad, angry and it evolved from there into me trying weights at the awesome student gym, or venturing onto “The Beast,” (a stair stepper that you actually climb. My mom and I nicknamed it that) when I joined a gym after college graduation. I’ve faltered with my workouts more than once in the last 10 years since I graduated college, but who hasn’t? I can’t run races anymore thanks to pre-arthritis in one of my knees unless they are under 5k but even then, the pain in my knee isn’t really worth it. In the last five years since the knee/pre-arthritis discovery I’ve learned to workout in a way that works for me which basically means lots of cardio, weights, and changing things up. I’m a fairly boring workout person since I don’t have race training to update people on, nor do I anything hip, trendy or earth shattering.

Now that I’ve gotten the long intro out of the way, here are some things I learned in August when I completed the 31 workouts in August challenge:

* Frog squats are my new arch nemesis. No, really. One of the leg/butt workouts I do has us do these for a minute, twice. Ouch.

* Some areas of my body are stronger than I realized, others not so much.

* Doing push-ups makes me feel bad-ass.

* There is always time to workout, as long as I make the time. (I’m sure some of you are saying DUH to this one but every once in awhile I forget that dirty dishes and laundry can wait while I take care of myself. When the kids are here? Eventually exhaustion and bonus motherhood catches up to me and I struggle to make the effort.)

* I need to buy more workout tops and sports bras. I was doing exercise laundry constantly.

* It’s way more fun to workout with people: a few times a week Knight works out when I do (he’s more of a morning workout guy). While my brother was here he came over to our home gym to workout and between his wit (he’s really hilarious) and his encouragement it made working out go by faster.

* I’d rather double-up and work out for 60+ minutes several times a week than have no rest days. I averaged one to two rest days per week in August and had a few longer workout days as a result. Fine by me.

* I really do love to workout. When I belonged to a gym I would go 5-6 times a week, sometimes twice a day, earning me the nickname “gym rat,” from my mom.

* And now, I really love our home gym: Knight and I finally built one that works for us: weight bench, free weights, tread climber and I have built an awesome YouTube workout video playlist + am using the Nike Training App. I have certain videos and workouts I cycle through and I always make sure to switch it up and add something new on a weekly basis so my body doesn’t get used to any one exercise.

*It’s not about the number on the scale but about how I feel, how my clothes feel and overall healthiness. I’ve lost some weight so yes, that’s a bonus, but the pounds aren’t dripping off me. Instead, pants are loser, dresses are roomier, and there’s more muscle definition under my clothes from head-to-toe.

* I enjoy being a sore, sweaty mess at the end of a grueling workout.

What’s your favorite workout? Ever done a workout challenge? If you do videos or use a training app, I’d love to hear about it as I’m always adding something new to the mix! 

Friday Confessions

A few confessions for this Friday….

* It grosses me out when people post pictures of their bare feet on IG or other social media platforms. I’m sure your nail polish and nail art is lovely but I don’t need to see your feet. Thanks but no thanks.

* I haven’t journaled a single page since my mom passed away. Not sure when that will change.

* Sometimes I wish that I could be more like my brother: carefree, living a slightly alternative lifestyle and being better at not giving a damn what other people think.

* I don’t like pies made with fruit. (The funny thing is that I could eat apple pies and etc. since the fruit has been cooked which makes me not allergic to the fruit anymore…but I don’t like it at all!)

* I yell at my Tupperware when it refuses to stack, stay on its shelf and generally misbehaves.

* Putting away clean dishes and laundry are my least favorite chores around the house. Love that their clean, hate putting them in their rightful spot so more often than not, they sit there…. for a few days…

* I don’t understand the point of Twitter anymore. I read most of the tweets and realize I don’t care at all about what people are saying. Does this make me old?

What, if anything, would you like to confess to today?

 

HGTV Wannabe

Late last week I stumbled upon a really old listing for our house online. We’re talking pictures where there was wallpaper on every single inch of our walls, gold and brass light fixtures hung from the ceilings and the furniture looked like it was straight out of a Miami Vice episode.

I sent the pictures to Knight and we had a good laugh and also marveled at how far we’ve come since we moved in a little over two years ago. We’ve done a lot to make the place ours:

* Painted nearly ever inch of the house
* New light fixtures everywhere
* Updated the blinds: no more pink hanging things or old plastic ones
* Changed out one bathroom vanity
* Took out a sliding shower door in the guest bath & replaced with an awesome shower rod that expands your perceived amount of room when in the shower
* New mirrors in all the bathrooms
* New faucets in all bathrooms and the kitchen
* New ceiling fans throughout the house
* Changed up the look of our master bathroom by adding bead board all the way around
* Added a built-in headboard to our master bedroom
* New curtains (the previous owner was kind enough to leave hers but they were not our taste)
* Updated landscaping and new landscaping
* And most recently, some new windows (thanks to my father who gifted them to us)

We may or may not watch too much HGTV in our house but we love these projects and updates.

I then started thinking about how we were able to pull all of this off because we are on a budget and don’t go spending willy nillie (even if I sometimes want to!):

* Knight is king of finding deals on websites like Brad’s Deals, Woot, and other similar sites. We scored our bathroom faucets (super cool ones that you touch turn to them on and off, rather than using the handle!) on Woot paying over half-off for each one. He’s had other equally awesome finds and deals over the last few years.
* We watch the circulars and our emails for places like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menard’s, save all of our gift cards, and when the time is right, we go and grab another something on our house-to-do-list.
* When it comes to decor and design, I’m a huge fan of Home Goods, a nearby second hand decor store that has amazing things for great prices, and Target.
* We do all the work ourselves; I’m blessed that Knight is really into DIY and does it all correct so no issues! That’s saved us a ton on labor & installation. Unfortunately that won’t be the case with our upcoming bathroom reno.

We are left now with only the big projects: redoing our kitchen (top to bottom), refinishing our wood floors, updating the master bath and guest bath (thanks to the leak, the master bath is getting a partial reno starting in October), new doors and trim (we have lovely 1980s wood doors, no 6-panel ones) and the remaining 17 windows. Then there are other things like a new a/c unit, getting our driveway repaved and fixing some landscaping in our backyard.

What’s your favorite DIY project at your dwelling? How do you prioritize which home updates/remodeling to do? Any other websites or tips/tricks on how you save money on home improvement projects that you care to pass along? 

Review: Chaperoning Paris

chap parisChaperoning Paris by Victoria Pinder is a quick, engrossing read about Gigi (I love that name, always have) who is in charge of chaperoning a trip to Paris for her students, winds up having to ask her ex-boyfriend, from high school, to help chaperon the boys in her class. Next thing you know, Gigi is walking down memory lane, falling hopelessly (and helplessly) in love with her former flame, Sean and wondering if maybe, just maybe there’s a happy ending somewhere in there for her.

Full of characters that you’ll love (Gigi, Cary, Sean) and those you’ll grow to loathe (Gigi’s mom, for instance) this is a fast-paced read that will have you turning the pages. It’s a mostly lighthearted read that’s perfect for your upcoming trip or just to escape from the daily grind.

About the novel:

Gigi Dumont never forgot how she walked away from the only man she ever loved. 

She’s a teacher who has led her students to the finals of an international French competition to be help in Paris. The night before the trip, the principal tries to cancel the trip before he, in turn, loses his job to her high school boyfriend, Sean Collins. 

Sean Collins has survived cancer, a divorce, and Gigi having aborted their child back in high school. He assumed he’d hate her, if they ever crossed paths again. But he discovers she’s exactly what he wants. 

When Gigi and Sean are stuck together for a week in Paris, Gigi feels she has lost all her control. How can she survive her attraction to Sean? The man’s sexier now than he was back in the day, and once upon a time, he’d had her heart. She finds herself falling for him, even knowing forever is impossible.

 

Enter for a chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card and a Chaperoning Paris inspired key chain!

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I was provided an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Early Decision

Early Decision: A Novel transported me back to my junior and senior year in high school when I was focused on my grades, extra-curricular activities and working on my personal essay format (yes, we did focus on personal essays in high school. A LOT), all in the name of picking a college and getting into the “one,” that I wanted. Granted, my days were much different than the students in this book as I had next to no interest in the Ivy league schools, preferring instead universities that were four to six hours drive time from my parents. Early Decision PB

In this novel, Lacy Crawford takes you on the journey of five students as they navigate the college application process, their overbearing parents, trying to make their voice heard, and in one case, struggling against all odds to get into her dream school, a place she rightfully deserves to be. In the center of these students is Anne, their college application guru and adviser, helping not just with personal essays but helping the students to realize who they really are. Of course Anne’s personal life is a bit of a mess: her cheating boyfriend lives on the West Coast while she’s in Chicago; her parents aren’t fans of her line of work; her only and best friend is her dog Mitchell and suddenly her apartment building is not a fan of her dog and she doesn’t always agree with the parents she encounters.

There were a few parts of the book that moved a little slower than I would have liked/expected but overall this was a good read, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars from me.

A little about this book from Barnes & Noble:

A delightful and salacious novel about the frightful world of high school, SATs, the college essay, and the Common Application—and how getting in is getting in the way of growing up

Anne Arlington is twenty-seven, single, and in demand: she is the independent “college whisperer” whose name is passed from parent to parent like a winning lottery ticket, the only tutor who can make a difference with the Ivy League.

Early Decision follows one application season and the five students Anne guides to their fates: Hunter, the athletic boy who never quite hits his potential, a kind, heavily defended kid who drives his mother mad; Sadie, an heiress who is perfectly controlled but at the expense of her own heart; William, whose intelligence permits him to dodge his father’s cruel conservatism but can’t solve the problem of loneliness; Alexis, a blazing overachiever whose midwestern parents have never heard of a tiger mom; and Cristina, who could write her ticket out of her enormous, failing high school, if only she knew how.

What was your college application process like? Did you have your sights set on a certain college or location? 

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Exercise, Books, Being

* 31 workouts in August: I’m pleased to say that I’m sitting at 26 workouts as of today with only five more to complete by this Sunday. I’ve really enjoyed this challenge as it’s pushed me to work out harder and longer. I have worked out 5 to 6 days a week and added more workouts to my day so I’ve been seeing on average a minimum of 45 minutes of exercise each time. I’m happy to report that I can see differences in my upper body and more tone in my legs. My goal is to keep this up in future months. Thanks to Lisa for the idea and Stephany for the motivation and daily accountability texts that we’ve been sharing.

* Reading 60 books in 2014: I’m at 40 books for the year thanks in part to the massive number of romance novels I’ve read this year. There have been some excellent books in there, too. My most recent favorite is the Quilter’s Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini; there are other books in the series so I’m excited to read more of them in the coming months. Books have been my go-to this year when I need to escape or a dose of silly and in some cases, serious.

* Surviving: Many times other bloggers ask what my goal is for the year/month. While it may sound dramatic, my answer is often surviving. I got through and enjoyed the summer with the girls with minimal tears (on everyone’s part), only wanted to call my mom approximately 10,000 times with a question about this or that, but I learned to channel my inner-mom, as in what she would tell me to do. Apart from that, sometimes it’s all about getting through. There have been longer periods in between my grief spells which I’m thankful for but when the grief hits me like a wave it’s much more intense than before and lasts a few funk-filled days. There’s still the daily emptiness and inevitable reminder of my mom being gone, but I’m getting through day by day. I’ve been pouring myself into being a good wife, friend, sister, baking more, reading and exercising (see above!), and savoring as many moments as I can each and every day. I’m thankful it’s getting easier but I can honestly say I’m dreading my upcoming birthday and then all of November/December. The only way out is through, right?

Do you have any short or long term goals that you’re working on? How do you fit in workouts and reading during your week?

Review: 2 AM at the Cat’s Pajamas

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajama’s by Marie-Helene Bertino is a gem of a book. Shortly after I received tcats pjshe book to review from TLC Book Tours, I saw the book featured as a “must read pick,” by the staff at my local Barnes & Noble. They weren’t wrong!

About this novel:

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, rebellious nine-year-old who also happens to be an aspiring jazz singer. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, and caring for her grief-stricken father, she doesn’t realize that on the eve of Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.
 
As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night. A vivacious, charming and moving debut, 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas will capture your heart and have you laughing out loud.

There were parts of the book that were hard for me (the recent death of Madeleine’s mother, the grief-stricken father as it’s hits the nail on the head for me) to read and get through, but I was able to push on and forward through the those tough parts. I loved that Madeleine is a nine-year old with a goal: to be a jazz singer. Enjoyed the unlikely cast of characters that come together at the club, the Cat’s Pajamas, their stories, hopes and dreams weaving together, apart, together again and maybe apart once again. The book is at once bittersweet, poignant and will have you rooting for Miss Greene and her love interest, for the club to stay open and for Madeleine to find hope and her voice.

Giveaway opportunity: US & Canadian residents have a chance to win a copy of this book. Simply leave a comment letting me know what your dream as a nine-year-old was. All comments must be left by Friday, August 29th.