Self Portrait: February

Month two of 2015 in the books.

This past month can be described as full. Full weekends. Mostly full work days. My planner is full of scribbles and notes, of jotting down the workouts I completed and when. Full of reading some really great books that I didn’t want to put down.A full heart at the two baby showers I attended; I love seeing my friends so happy, so excited. I can’t wait to meet the babies.

Simultaneously, a heart that is still a bit broken, the shards of the brokenness stabbing me when I least expect. You would think that I would know by now that certain days would be harder than others, but it sneaks up on me every.single.time. On the whole I think I’m better, but I notice a lot of changes in myself, some good, some… so-so. It’s weird to be forever changed, to know there is no going back. On top of that, a person who is dear to me is going through a big life change and my heart is heavy for her. Sometimes being an adult is for the birds.

Overall, February was much better than January with only one tough day to get through (the Oscars and the one year of my mom’s memorial. Funny how grief and the calendar intertwine). I saw the Kingsman Secret Service which was an amazing movie with Colin Firth at his finest providing both laughs, drama and action making it the perfect date movie. We also saw Hot Tub Time Machine 2 which was ridiculously stupid and also funny, just more man funny. I feel stronger, trimmer and have more confidence than in months past which I attribute both to working out and also not giving as much of a damn about things. Planning for the summer has begun which means a puzzle of summer schools and figuring out which sitter will be free and when; I’m so very excited for this summer. In the same month we had both a bonfire in our backyard and a snow day. We celebrated a friends’ 40th birthday and took steps to make some new friends. I stepped up my a-game in the kitchen with some new recipes resulting in us eating out only once a week. I realize that this all sounds very boring but I guess that’s to be expected given the fact that it is the dead of winter in the Midwest, not a lot of exciting things are going on, no big changes in my life… and sometimes the status quo is ok!

How was your February? Anyone else dealing with the winter blahs? 

 

 

 

Children’s Book Review: Pants! No Chance!

Pants No ChancePants! No Chance!  by Susan Lanyi is a positively adorable children’s book with beautiful illustrations, and a story that many parents, especially those with little girls at home, can relate to.  Example: my oldest bonus daughter went through a period of time where pants (leggings, jeans) were totally off limits, just like the little girl in the book. If it didn’t offer her a good twirl when she spun in circles, she was not interested. Fortunately those days are long since past with my eldest but the youngest bonus daughter is all about skirts and no pants. I can’t wait to share this book with them because maybe, just maybe they will understand why sometimes I suggest they wear pants instead of skirts. And maybe, just maybe, these fashion-forward little girls will decide to wear pants (or leggings and skirts) once they have had a few mishaps in their skirts.

This sweet story is perfect for preschoolers, early readers and those siblings who are eager to read to their younger brother or sister. Hopefully this story makes its way to the shelves of preschools, school & public libraries, and the shelves of many kindergarten teachers because I think it’s just the cutest!

Book Synopsis:
Lulupop rarely puts up a fuss, except when it comes to wearing pants. Dresses, dresses, dresses, is all she will ever wear! With time, a little drama, and no lack of imagination, Lulupop realizes that wearing dresses is not always the best choice.

I’m thrilled to be able to feature some Q&A with Susan Lanyi (and I’m so excited there is a sequel to Pants! No Chance!). After hearing Susan’s answers, I like her even more (she loves dessert of all kinds, she loved Art of Racing in the Rain and she has a dog). Susan Lanyi

  1. Why did you choose to write “Pants! No Chance!?”

When my daughter was three-years old she refused to wear pants.  She only wanted to wear dresses and skirts.  Our mornings would be filled with drama and we would waste a lot of time arguing over her outfits.  Other Moms complained about having similar problems with their kids.  I figured a picture book addressing this problem could be useful for parents and kids alike.

  1. What is your next project?

Although “Pants! No Chance!” is a picture book, I also write for adults.  A few years ago I experienced a spiritual awakening and am currently writing a collection of personal essays about it.  There is also a sequel to “Pants! No Chance!” that is in the works.

  1. What is the last great book you’ve read?

“The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein is definitely one of my favorites.   It is a very moving story about humans, dogs and spirituality.  The main character Enzo the dog even has his own picture book. (I have not had a chance to read it yet…too busy writing!)

  1. What is your favorite Dessert?

Everything! Honestly, I love all dessert as long as there is no fruit in it.  If I was forced to choose, I suppose it would be cupcakes!  They are so pretty and I love the icing on top.

  1. If you’re a Mom writer, how do you balance your time?

Life is a balancing act and it’s not always easy to find time to write.  Some weeks I don’t get to write at all.  Setting publishing goals is a fantastic motivator for me.  Often I try to write when my kids are at school, my husband is at work and I am at home alone with my dog, Maple.

Author’s Bio:
Susan Lanyi lives in Montreal with her husband, three children and puppy. She is a writer and has previously been published in The Globe and Mail. When Susan is not busy writing or doing “mom stuff” she is shopping for dresses with her daughter….Too bad her daughter only wants to wear pants!

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Connect with Susan:  Website  ~  Twitter  

Where to buy the book:

Domnizelles Publications
Amazon.com
Amazon.ca
Barnes & Nobles

Enter to win one of five print copies of this book: a Rafflecopter giveaway

When you were a little girl were you pro-pants or anti-pants? Any other moms out there struggle with the daily clothing of their child(ren)?

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own. 

Mid-Winter Blurb-o-ronis

It’s been cold, gray, wintery and there is no sign of spring at the moment so let’s share some blurbs/confessions!

* I have a huge celebrity crush on The Rock. I watched wrestling because of him in high school (yes, you read that right, WWE! I even went to a live wrestling competition in the Lou when he was here. And bought his shirt and hat.) The Rock’s Instagram is one of my most favorite celeb IG’s to follow. His smile. His attitude. His custom clothes. Love all of it.

* I read a book in less than 24 hours this past weekend (Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue). I thought about doing something more productive like mopping the floor or doing laundry but a good book begs to be read, especially when it feels like – 10F outside.

* There are two kids who live near us who have a mother who is not… at the top of her game, shall we say… and she lets/doesn’t care/doesn’t know that the kids run around with NO coats, NO hats, NO gloves. On one hand I want to give them these warm clothes, on the other hand I get really annoyed when these aforementioned kids decide to play on the steep hill in our backyard that is covered with ice. So dangerous! My confession: I feel bad for being frustrated with them but also sad for them. (Other neighbors have tried to help and it doesn’t end well so I stay out of it.)

* Sometimes I see photos of tropical locales and right now, in the dead of winter, I feel all sorts of pangs and questions like “Why don’t I live there?” and “what’s keeping me in the Midwest?” I wish I were a bit more of a free spirit and could just get up and go, along with Knight and Jack, of course. Roots are great, but occasionally I want to feel more air under my wings, less roots in the ground.

* I love, love, love children and babies. Really, I do. But it’s really hard when all of our couple friends have kids, or are about to have kids, and our social life takes a hit. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem going to all the kid events, first birthday parties and having game & pizza nights at the houses of our friends with kids but sometimes, I want to not have to watch my language or have to be quiet at bed times, wait to finish a sentence due to toddler tantrums. The confession aspect of this? I feel bad for wishing my friends would get a sitter and sometimes I feel sad for myself that I’m not part of the “in-crowd,” at get-together’s. I have nothing to add on the topic of diapers or bottles or swaddles. Life in my 30s is similar to life in my 20s (in my 20s I was the only unmarried one, now I’m the only full-time un-kid one!)

* I gave up dessert/sweets for Lent. Apart from the first day where I’m pretty sure I had a sugar withdrawal headache, it’s been easy. I’m allowing myself Greek Yogurt + honey or a small bowl of Frosted Flakes if I have a sweet craving. Truth: I didn’t realize how mindlessly I would enjoy sweets or how it’s my go-to when I’m stressed or sad. I’m enjoying this reset. Bonus: extra weight loss results thanks to the workouts + no sweets. My goal is to keep up the no sweets (or limited, like one day a week thing) once Lent is over. I’m already off soda and rarely have fried food so desserts are my last vice! I can totally do this…. I think.

Anything you want to confess today? 

Children’s Book Review: Monster that Ate my Socks

The Monster That Ate my SocksIt’s not a secret that I love books. I love books for me and I especially love books that I can share with my bonus daughters, recommend to friends or decide every child must have and give them as presents in the future.

I loved the Monster that Ate my Socks by A.J. Cosmo; the illustrations are bright, colorful and bring the story to life. The story itself is perfect for children of all ages, teaching morals and values, problem solving and thinking and promoting tolerance and open minds. I loved that the monster in this book had a family to provide for; it’s not a spin on the monster story that you hear of very often. The font was a perfect size, making it easy to read and the reading level is great for kids in grades two through four (or age four through eight), depending on their skill. This book is great for parents to read to their kids and one that you’ll want to have on hand for bedtime.

I can’t wait to share this book with my bonus daughters this summer; I know they will love the story, the illustrations and realize that monsters aren’t so scary, after all! This would be a great book to have on the shelves not only at home but also in the classroom for a lending library or maybe even to teach from.

Book Synopsis: A young boy, who is about to be grounded for going through so many socks, discovers that a monster has been eating them.

Max is a young boy who is constantly getting in trouble for his socks disappearing. He doesn’t know where they go, but he does know that if he doesn’t do something quickly his mom will ground him for summer. Max soon discovers that a little green monster is sneaking into his room at night and eating his sweaty socks. His mother, of course, doesn’t believe him, so Max calls on his best friend to come for a sleepover to catch the monster.

They devise a trap and capture the monster only to learn that the creature can speak. It hasn’t meant to cause any harm, it’s just trying to feed its family. The monster shows them his home and his three little children and begs the boys not to turn them over to the adults. Adults, he says, want to destroy monsters.The boys are left in a pickle. Allow the monsters to be and get grounded, or turn the monsters in knowing what will happen to them? Neither idea seems good, so they come up with a new plan!

Author’s Bio: A.J. Cosmo’s stories are crafted to help parents teach their children simple everyday lessons in an easy to understand manner. By artfully marrying beautiful AJ Cosmoillustrations and language, children are challenged to explore his magical worlds. Written for the transitional reader, A.J.’s stories allow your child to develop and master a new level of reading.

Connect with A.J.:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

Where to buy the book: Amazon

There is an awesome giveaway going on, too: Win one of Two Kindle Fire HD 16GB with author A.J. Cosmo’s signature and best-selling titles pre-loaded onto the device! This giveaway is open to residents in the US and Canada! Enter the giveaway via the link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Do you have any favorite children’s books that are about monsters? 

 

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for the purposes of my review from iRead Book Tours. All opinions are my own. 

Things I wish I knew

Things I wish They’d (as in the universal They) told Me: 

* Nighttime will be the hardest. It was the hardest when my mom was sick (she couldn’t sleep so we stayed up and texted each other), it was hard when she stopped texting me (that’s how I knew the cancer was spreading) and it’s been hard every single night since. I have to have noise: tv, white noise, music, Netflix. If I don’t have that background noise, my mind goes to places I’d rather it not. I tire myself with days packed to the gills, with hard exercises, with reading until my eyes won’t stay open.  I wish someone would have told me that nighttime would be the worst.

* Moments of joy will be forever bittersweet. It hit me at my best friend’s baby shower that should we opt to have a child some day, my mom won’t be at my shower. Won’t be there to see our baby grow up. Won’t be there to calm me down when the baby is crying and I can’t make it stop. She can’t help pick decorate the nursery or be emergency childcare. It didn’t matter that this is one of my very best friends and that I’m beyond excited for her and really am happy to celebrate her new baby. Other things like tributes at the end of movies or weddings of family members are no exception. There’s bittersweet hidden behind every corner of my life, now.

* One of the many side effects of grief is empathy and perspective. Not bad side effects at all but now I can’t hear a story about cancer, a passing parent, tales of someone in the ICU, an untimely death without instantly crying. I’m getting used to feeling emotions, more feels than usual, for people I know and even for those I don’t. Sometimes it’s exhausting but it’s helped me to understand the situation of others better. And perspective? It’s a game changer. I’m better at discerning what is important, what isn’t. At being honest, living in the moment, filtering out the bull, opening my ears and heart to the truth, and everything in between.

* The kindness of others has and continues to shock me. The number of people who have reached out to me, sent me packages out of the blue, the cards, the texts, the new friendships, the number of people who have been able to relate to my story, it all adds to the mix of emotions. I can only do my best to thank them, appreciate them and be there for them anytime they have something going on.

* Did you know that sometimes, for a fleeting second, you’ll see someone who looks so similar to your loved one that it brings you almost to your knees? It’s happened a few times: a lady in the car next to me; someone waiting for their person at the airport; a voice in the crowd. Maybe it’s her, maybe it’s not, but I think it is, that’s all that matters.

* There will be days where nothing helps, nothing takes the hurt away and all you want is that one person. That one person who always knew the right thing to say. The hurt will be raw, real and unbearable. On those days not a  million hugs or smiles or dog cuddles can fix the heart. I wish I’d been told that it’s ok that nothing helps me during those times. I’ve learned it’s ok to not be ok. I’ve learned it’s ok to have emotions, to not hide how I’m feeling, to not pretend everything is ok. Losing my mom will never be ok.

 

Friday Five (v1)

How are we already staring down mid-February? I am having a hard time comprehending how quickly the weeks are going… the days, not so much, but the weeks. Wow.

1. My music tastes are all over the place. In the last week the following songs have been stuck in my head: Nick Jonas (Jealous); Taylor Swift (Blank Space Baby); Miranda Lambert (Little Red Wagon); Zac Brown Band (Homegrown) and Blake Shelton (Boys ‘Round Here). I’ve been waking up with any one of these songs stuck in my head, and I sing them all day. I even went so far as to look up the Jealous video because I just had to hear it. Apparently I’m a cross between a teenager and someone who really, really likes country. This is new music territory for me.

2. After a month of easing back into working out regularly, I stepped up the game this week and oh.my.muscles. Tabata and circuits and weights and sweat and jumps and planks. I love it but my body hurts. And yes, I’ve taken a day off here and there like you’re supposed to. I look forward to the day when the soreness is… minimal, but that means it will be time to switch it up again.

3. Mother Nature is a tease. Last weekend: 65 degrees each day. This weekend: we’ll be lucky if we get sun and out of the 20’s. Blech.

4. I have so many blogs that I need to sit down and write, but as you can see I’ve been 100% slacking on that. I could blame it on work or exercising or the endless housework but when it comes down to it, I’m just not making the time to write. That’s all on me. Maybe one of these days.

5. This weekend is packed to the hilt: going to see The Kingsman with my two main boys (hubs and dad) tonight; a girls’ day while the boys go do diaper party and manly things; group dinner Saturday night; baby shower Sunday (the one I’m co-hosting/throwing) and then dinner with friends Sunday night. There will be no housework getting accomplished this weekend!

What’s your guilty pleasure song lately? Any plans this weekend? 

Self Portrait, January 2015

Self Portrait, January 2015.

A month of working on incorporating my intentions into my daily life and feeling better for the working out, putting pen to paper, taking a step back from technology, spending more time in the moment, with my husband, with myself. I have lost three pounds and am hoping to keep that momentum up in coming months.

I survived the Life Anniversary (the technical term, according to the grief counselor) of my mom’s passing. It was…surreal. Horrible. Full of tears. Simultaneously reliving her last days, the last time she hugged me and yet, the memories, the laughter, the great times. Missing my mom so much that it literally ached. There was a resulting funk after the 16th, and still kind of is but…I’m ok with not always being ok.

Seven books made it on my read list this month, shocking even myself, but once you start a good book it can be nearly impossible to put them down.

Work challenges were one of my biggest difficulties this month but I tackled them head on and came out stronger for it…. even if there are more gray hairs on top of my head.

January was also the month of baby shower planning for a dear friend. Knight and I treating ourselves to a few date nights, courtesy of gift cards. Helping another friend with a random and middle of the night mini-crisis (all is ok, now!). Receiving and processing some not-so-great news about a few friends of ours, outpouring support and love and there-for-yous. There were some disappointments this month, too;  people continuing to prove themselves to be not who you think they were resulting in a change of attitude.  We went to a series of parenting classes via our church, discussing things like Love and Logic and answering those really tough questions kids ask. I walked away feeling enlightened and a little bit more ready to have the girls this summer. I tackled a few new recipes, including Italian beef which was mouth wateringly delicious. Had my first ever Pinterest fail. There was no snow to speak of this month, though we did have some crazy cold temperatures and conversely, extremely warm days, too.

All in all, and all things considered, January was a pretty decent month.

What was your favorite part of January? What kind of monthly recaps are you doing this year? 

Celebrate with DDPerks

Jan27_PM_FBI participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Dunkin’ Brands. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

At the beginning of the December I shared details about the Dunkin’ Donuts DD Perks Reward Program. And today? Dunkin’ Donuts is celebrating one year of the DD Perks Reward Program. (Well technically January 27th was the official birthday of the DD Perks Reward Program.)

What does this mean for current DD Perks Members? With any purchase now through February 1st, earn an extra 200 points, just because! In case you forgot, 200 points = a free beverage!

Celebrate! Since I enrolled in DD Perks in December I’ve earned not one, but two free beverages both of which I used to celebrate reaching the end of the work week. There’s nothing like a little “treat yo’self” on a Friday morning. Our company celebrated ten years of being in business earlier this month and each day we brought in goodies to share with our clients & employees alike: one of those days I picked up several dozen doughnuts. They were gone by lunch time.

Dunkin’ Donuts created a short and uplifting video to thank their customers for the success of DD Perks:

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Loyalty! Just like DD Perks is loyal to their customer base, I’m loyal to my DD store. I have been going to the same location since they opened almost five years ago; it’s on my way to work, it’s oh-so-clean, they are never out of the doughnuts I love and they play really good music. I have my pick of the drive-thru or going in (I prefer to go in, time permitting) and the staff is always friendly, smiley while providing quick service. Can’t ask for more than that. Dunkin’ Donuts does a great job of notifying me of new and exclusive offers to DD Perks members (bonus points, free drinks, $1 off coupons) which my husband likes for the days he’s on the road traveling.

Not a member? No problem! Enrollment is simple and easy: If you aren’t a member, you can enroll on the DD Perks homepage or via their mobile app, your choice. Be sure to enroll using promo code: BLOG.

Just for enrolling you will:
* Receive a coupon for a free, any size beverage upon enrollment AND on your birthday
* Receive DD Perks members-only offers to earn bonus points on specific food and beverage purchases
* For every 200 points you accrue, you’ll get a coupon for free, any size beverage.

Don’t forget to treat yourself at Dunkin’ Donuts now through February 1st to and get 200 extra points! 

Review: Girl Before a Mirror

I’m convinced Liza Palmer has introduced a new aspect to women’s fiction: in Anna Wyatt Palmer has crafted a strong, likable character that does not whine, does not grovel and certainly does not make apologies for who she is. From the very first page to the very last page I wished I could have sat down with Anna, had a cup of coffee with her, talk about everything and nothing because she is someone that you can really relate to. She’s had her share of issues, sure (present but emotionally absent parents; a divorce; a younger brother who has troubles; friends she’s not sure she wants to be friends with anymore; professional challenges) – but when it comes down to it, don’t we all have issues like that in our lives? Anna makes a way for herself professionally and personally as Girl Before a Mirror unfolds but not without first becoming friends with Sasha, giving in to the world of romance novels, and realizing that what all women want is to Just Be.

Throw in a sexy love interest with a sexy name, one of my favorite cities of all time (New York City), and a lot of raw and brutal honesty and my friends, you have a winner of a book. I didn’t want to put this novel down and for the first time all year I took an actual lunch hour so I could read and savor every page, every sentence as I simultaneously raced to read this book because I had to know how it would up for Anna.

In case what I’ve said so far isn’t enough, more about this novel:

An account executive in a Mad Men world, Anna Wyatt is at a crossroads. Recently divorced, she’s done a lot of emotional housecleaning, including a self-imposed dating sabbatical. But now that she’s turned forty, she’s struggling to figure out what her life needs. Brainstorming to win over an important new client, she discovers a self-help book—Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero—that offers her unexpected insights and leads her to a most unlikely place: a romance writers’ conference. If she can sign the Romance Cover Model of the Year Pageant winner for her campaign—and meet the author who has inspired her to take control of her life—she’ll win the account.

For Anna, taking control means taking chances, including getting to know Sasha, her pretty young colleague on the project, and indulging in a steamy elevator ride with Lincoln Mallory, a dashing financial consultant she meets in the hotel. When the conference ends, Anna and Lincoln must decide if their intense connection is strong enough to survive outside the romantic fantasy they’ve created. Yet Lincoln is only one of Anna’s dilemmas. Now that her campaign is off the ground, others in the office want to steal her success, and her alcoholic brother, Ferdie, is spiraling out of control.

To have the life she wants—to be happy without guilt, to be accepted for herself, to love and to be loved, to just be—she has to put herself first, accept her imperfections, embrace her passions, and finally be the heroine of her own story.

Purchase this book: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble

Find out more about Liza at her website and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

If you haven’t read Palmer’s books before, start here. I’ve read one of her earlier books (More Like Her), and am hellbent on getting my hands on her other stories, too.  I hope you’ll be itching to read her other novels after you devour this one.

Pinterest Fail, Intention Updates & Total Randomness

This past weekend I had my first Pinterest fail: Greek Yogurt chocolate chip cookies. I wanted for them to be delicious but they just…weren’t. I’m pretty sure that the recipe wasn’t adjusted accordingly to include Greek Yogurt, meaning: too much flour, not enough liquid products, so I may try again but I’m not sure. I wound up tossing the whole batch, making a giant mess in the kitchen and being thoroughly disappointed. Please tell me I’m not the only who has had a Pinterest Recipe Fail? I know there are lots of pictures and memes about it, but I don’t know those people so it’s of little comfort.

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It’s been almost a month and so far I’m doing great on all of my intentions except for the one where I said I would take my full lunch break at least twice a week. That’s been… challenging based upon my work load and issues that I’ve been encountering lately. But. I’m on book number eight for the year, I’m down three pounds since I officially started working out (Jan 12th week), have met my treadclimber + weight lifting goals, and we are passing with flying colors No TV twice a week and date night once a week. Oh, and journaling. It may be just one sentence a day but it’s better than nothing.

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Other random things: I love James Spader and enjoy him in his role on The Blacklist but I can’t watch the show in the evening as it gives me horrible anxiety and nightmares. | I’ve become a person who gets up early a few times a week to workout which for me is very strange. | In just a few short months, three of my good friends will have new babies! I’m excited for baby snuggles and (total honesty) the ability to give the baby back to its mother when I’m done. | I haven’t listened to a Podcast I like since Serial. I’ve seen lots of other recommendations but I just can’t get into any. | I laugh at myself often because I spent money on my domain renewal + blog hosting and have done zilch with it so far this year. Go figure. | Winter without snow is pointless. | I’d love to know why it’s so hard for people to RSVP to a party? | I’m really bummed my  Packers didn’t make it to the Super Bowl but also, given all the “Deflatgate,” hoopla am kind of glad they don’t have to deal with whatever is going on there. | I know I just had a vacation in December but this month has kicked my butt and right now I’d do anything to hop on a plane to a tropical island.

Tell me, any Pinterest fails? How are your intentions/goals going for the year? What’s random and on your mind?