Wednesday, September 10, 2014

These are a few of our favorite books!

Back in the day when I could actually call myself a blogger (meaning when I used to post multiple times a week, not months like now) I was good about sharing lists of our girls' favorite books. As I was just reading the same book to M that we have been reading to her every night since I purchased it two weeks ago (The Snatchabook), I realized that I am long overdue in sharing the wonderful titles that we have been reading to the girls here goes!!

M's faves (age 4 years and 9 months):

The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty - I love a book with sweet little animal characters and a wonderful rhyming story. This one will tug on your heartstrings if you are a parent who loves to read to your kids at night.

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts - I was immediately drawn to this book due to the brilliant illustrations. M loves all things fashion (as does her Mama) so I didn't even read this before I brought it home for her because I knew as soon as I looked at the inside cover she would love it...and it did not disappoint!

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers - It is pretty rare to come across a book that is just as enjoyable for the parent as it is as a kid, but The Day the Crayons Quit is that book and more. It is funny, it is smart, it is silly and it is a joy to read over and over and over and over....get it, now!

I Had a Favorite Dress  by Boni Ashburn and Julia Denos - Another fashion book that I was drawn to immediately due to the illustrations and which ended up having an adorable story along with it. It won't teach your children any life lessons, or make your feel warm and fuzzy inside, but it is cute, and M loves it.

Crafty Chloe and Crafty Chloe: Dress-Up Mess-Up by Kelly DiPucchio and Heather Ross - These are books after my own heart. You had me at "crafty" in the title! Both of these stories about the creative Chloe are sweet and unique. They are great for the girl or boy that might not be the best at traditional things, but who is a thriving artist at heart.

The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna - The latest in the Pout-Pout Fish series (one of our all time favorites) tells the story of our protagonist's first day at school. Just like all of Diesen's books this one teaches your child a valuable lesson: just because you don't know something doesn't mean you can't learn it, and school is the perfect place for that.

Val's fave at age 2:

Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems - Obsessed is an understatement. I have read these two books to Val every night for the past 6 months, and I can honestly say I don't mind reading them over and over! Her favorite thing to do is to spot the hidden pigeons (ok, they aren't that hidden, she just loves to say "I found da pigeon!") throughout the books and to do the "Kuh-nuffle/Nuffle!" scene along with me. These are just perfect for any 2 year old with a short attention span as they aren't too long, the drawings are great and the story is adorable.

A Sister More Like Me by Barbara Jean Hicks and Brittney Lee - My girls are not as into Frozen as most girls their age. They like it, and have the dolls, but we have only watched the movie a handful of times. Now, the music, we know that backwards, forewords, inside and out and have made our own music videos. Val is much more into the characters than M, so she loves reading this incredibly beautifully illustrated book that delves deeper into the childhood of Anna and Elsa. It is really neat to learn some back story about the characters and get a peek into what it was like growing up for them in Arendelle

Sesame Street Night, Night Elmo by Sesame Street - It's Elmo. It has flaps to lift. Mama does her best Elmo voice when she reads it (which isn't half bad if I do say so myself).

Tons of Trucks by Sue Fleiss and Betsy Snyder - For all the books about Princesses and fashion that I buy the girls I like to round out their library with "boy themed" books as well. This lift the flap book about trucks is one of Val's all-time favorites.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Apartment Living Week One

Just over one week ago we closed on the house we had been living in for the last four years. When we first bought that house we thought we would be living there pretty much for the rest of our lives. Then the house started to need unexpected repairs and we were sinking a ton of money into it. And then our neighbors started to annoy us, especially the ones that would have expletive laced fights on their front porch and the others that yelled at us for parking in front of our own house (which was across from their driveway - ridiculous).

Last year an opportunity to build our dream house landed in our lap so we took it - but said house is not scheduled to be finished until October. Thinking it would take a couple months to sell our house, we put it on the market in late May. To our great surprise we had two offers within 24 hours of listing the house, which is why today I write to you from the corner of a dark living room in a little apartment, which will serve as our home until the house is finished. 

Ok, that is kind of an exaggeration. The apartment is nice. It is much nicer than all the rodent infested 200 year old buildings I have lived in before in the city! The girls each have their own bedrooms, which is a blessing, and there is a decent amount of living space. This whole situation works though because I would say 80% of our personal items are now in storage. We only brought with us minimal furniture and about two boxes each full of clothes, and you know what? That is all we really need! It is amazing how much junk you accumulate over the years that you think you need, but now that it is out of sight it is totally out of mind. 

I could get used to living in close quarters with my family. I bought one of those old lady metal shopping carts (like I used to have in the city) so that I don't have to make multiple trips up the elevator from the garage after shopping. If anything breaks I can just call someone to come fix it. There is a little playground on the property for the kids, and they even have a swimming pool! It's like we are living in a hotel, without the housekeeping and room service. It is not too shabby!

The things I am not loving about apartment living are the following: 

- Having to take my dog out throughout the day. I got used to having a backyard at the house and being able to let her out to pee when she needed too. Now I have to leash her up, and actually take her for a walk. 

- Hearing my upstairs neighbors have sex. Yes, this happens. 

- Hearing the doors in adjacent apartments open and close. 

- Having to lug my trash to the trash room which is about 1/4 mile away from our unit (at least it feels that far)

- Trying to keep the dog and the kids quiet so that we don't get kicked out because we don't have anywhere else to go right now!

Other than that, life is great here in Hotel Mama J. Oh except for the fact that my contractor hasn't called me back in a week and we are so far off our schedule that we might be living in this apartment longer than expected!! That drama I will save for another post...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

...Wash me in the water

"If you are comfortable in your life, then you really aren't living..." - ME (I will explain below!)

I am honored to say I among a privileged group of ladies that has had the opportunity to get in front of the uber talented Michelle Gardella's camera as part of her River Story project. Here is a sneak peek at the amazing results:, Michelle Gardella Photographer
I know, right? Amazing!!

So about the day...

I traveled down to Conncecticut and had my make-up done by super talented Julie Rondini of Simply Gorgeous by Erin Make-Up, then drove about an hour into the country and met Michelle at our rendezvous point by the Salmon River. When I pulled into the parking area where we were to meet I was incredibly nervous. Like stomach churning before a dance performance nervous. I was about to get into an evening gown in the woods and travel into a flowing river in the middle of nowhere with a stranger. Who does this? 

But as soon as Michelle and I started talking, I started to immediately relax. She has this presence about her - a calming force - that makes you feel like you have known her for 20 years as soon as you meet her. 

The florist who did my floral crown, Jakki of Jakkelyn Iris Flowers, met us, fitted my crown and then off we drove to what Michelle calls a place where the "whispers of our ancient Grandmothers are undeniable." Awesome. 

The weather was a perfect 74 degrees. The sun was setting and casting a glow like I had never seen. The river water was warm and inviting...and in I went. 

As soon as I entered the water a hawk flew over Michelle and I...then another large bird...then a fish jumped out of the water...then a dragonfly almost landed on my head. I was like Mother Nature calling all my children to me. It was incredible. 

Here we were in this magical setting, just the two of us exploring the natural ebbs and flows of the river and sharing an hour together that I will never forget. We talked about our kids, our families, our daily lives. We laughed about what our bodies have become after having children. We talked about our struggles and stresses. We shared time that I will never forget. 

I told Michelle I was up for doing absolutely anything she wanted me to do in the river, so she had me do some underwater shots. Just looking at this photo makes me want to drive back to the river and dive in!
Michelle Gardella Photographer,

I truly believe that if you are comfortable in your life, you aren't really living...let me explain. 

The idea of this photo shoot gave me butterflies. At first they were exciting butterflies, but the closer I got to the date, it was more like sick to my stomach butterflies. I was nervous about the whole situation - being in a remote location by myself, being gone the whole day from my kids, getting hurt while in the river, having the photos not turn out, etc. - for days before the actual shoot. But look at the results (and these are the only two photos I have seen so far)! And every time I think about the experience it makes me incredibly happy - that I did something for myself, that I did something I have never done before, that I met someone I will never forget, that she made me feel like I was truly a beautiful person and not just a stay at home mom who wears yoga pants every day. 

It's the same with other things in my life, whether it be going out to dinner with people I have never met before, or attending an event with my husband, starting a new class with one of my kids, showing my jewelry at a show, talking in front of other parents at my kid's school. All of these things make me nervous for days in advance, but after the fact, they all bring me joy and make me realize that all that worrying was for nothing. 

I could just go about my daily life, not sign up for anything at my kid's school, not attend events with my husband, not put my talents out there to be judged, stay home on the couch instead of going out and doing new things, but what kind of life would that be? No life at all. 

I challenge you to find your own version of a River Story photo shoot! Find something you have been wanting to do, and instead of putting it off because it would make you uncomfortable, just do it! Sign up for that half marathon! Take that cooking class! Go on that girl's weekend trip! Go out to dinner with those parents you like from your kids school - you could be making a friend for a lifetime! 

Or, schedule your own River Story photo shoot with Michelle Gardella. It is an experience of a life time - until I meet her again next summer in the river with my mother and daughters!! 

Take me to the river...wash me in the water!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Take me to the river...

My husband and I do not live a lavish lifestyle. We go out on dates to nice dinners once every other month, if we are lucky. We do not drive fancy cars. We do not buy expensive things for ourselves (besides our new house, but that doesn't count at the moment). My husband does not buy me jewelry (because I am the type of woman that would rather him save the money and just buy me Apple TV). Sure I buy myself the sale rack, with a coupon. I buy most of my shoes at DSW (with a coupon I got in the mail of course). I do not carry a Louis Vuitton purse, I carry a diaper bag or my beat up wristlet jam-packed with old receipts and 10 year old lip gloss.

The last vacation my husband and I went on, that was more than 3 days/2 nights without kids was in 2007. Seven years ago, people.

The point I am getting at is that we do not spoil ourselves. (Our kids? Well, that is another story entirely...)

I decided a few months ago that I wanted to do something for myself. I wanted to get in front of the camera - and not just anyone's camera. I stumbled upon this ridiculously talented young woman, Michelle Gardella, through a mutual friend on Instagram. She has an ongoing project where she takes photos of women in a river, while wearing floral crowns. I know what you are thinking - huh? I saw her work and was immediately moved by the haunting, magnificent photos of these goddess in the river. I tracked her down, and found out she would be in Connecticut for a bit and because of our mutual friend she squeezed me into her busy schedule.

Tomorrow she is taking me to the river...

I have my fancy dress. I am getting my make-up professionally done beforehand. I am meeting the florist at the location for a fitting of my floral crown...and then I step in the front of someone else's camera.

You might think it is odd for me, who takes Instagram selfies fairly frequently, to be nervous about getting in front of the camera. Well, this is the real deal people. This is not me in a wig with a puppet with my iPhone on a timer, shooting from the shoulders up. Michelle's work is in magazines, and she is doing me the honor of allowing me to be in front of her magical eye! And I am nervous as hell!

I feel like this experience will be somewhat of a cleansing experience. We will be in a remote location, as the sun is setting...just Michelle and I and nature. I have butterflies just thinking about it.

This year has been a rough year for me personally. During the first half of the year my father was battling cancer. It started as skin cancer, then spread through his lymph nodes, to his lungs and finally his brain. I put on a brave face and remained positive through this experience, because I knew eventually he would beat this monster. Did I really whole-heartedly believe it? I don't know that I can say that, but I told myself over and over that he was strong, and a fighter and we would all get through this.

Last month he had a brain and body scan that came back clear. And to this day I am still in shock when I say it out loud. (I will go into more detail about this situation in another post at a later date...)

I also lost my grandmother in May. I didn't realize how hard that would hit me. I still break down in tears when I think about her, or see something that reminds me of her, or hear one of her favorite tunes on the 40s channel on the radio.

My husband has been working like a fiend this year, which means I have been spending a lot of time alone with the girls, and just alone. I am not one of those women that can't be without their husbands, but I don't like being away from Hubs - because I really, really like him (which is a good thing for our marriage, huh?)

I have had sleepless nights over the building of our house (which right now is a total shit show - again, another post that needs to be written, I just haven't had the balls to tell the story on that situation).

I have had irritable bowels about the selling of our current house (which happened way too fast and now we are headed for temporary housing for a few months while we wait for new house to be built).

Oh, our dog has lyme disease, and has no control over her bladder...

All of these sad and stressful things I want to be washed away by the river water. Ok, so I don't truly believe that me getting all dolled-up and wet in a river and having my photo taken will make stress go away in my life, but I am excited to be doing something so amazing for myself. And just the fact that I have had this experience to look forward to has brought some joy to my life.

I am excited to meet Michelle down by the river (always makes me think of Chris Farley when I say that) tomorrow at sunset and make some magic with her.

Better go practice my "smize" in the mirror.

Kidding...kind of.

Monday, July 14, 2014

#MamaJSays everyone needs to watch Derek

I haven't written in a few weeks, mainly because I haven't had anything of value to share...until now.

I love all things Ricky Gervais. I've been a huge fan ever since I saw the original Office series when it first came out. I loved Extras. I read his Flanimals books to my kids. I've seen all his movies, his stand-up and listened to every single podcast of his at least 10 times (this includes all five podcast series, the Best of XM Radio and the Guide Tos). I consider listening to the podcasts over and over like watching reruns of Seinfeld - they never get old.

This all may sound funny coming from a 35 year old stay at home mom who lives in the suburbs, but it is true. I love all things Ricky Gervais (even when he hosted the Golden Globes - gasp!).

When I happened upon Ricky (if I may call you Ricky) on the Charlie Rose show talking about his new creation, Derek, I was immediately interested of course.

So, last year, Hubs and I sat down to watch the first episode of season one and were surprised when we realized it wasn't as funny as we thought it was going to be. Not to say it wasn't funny at all, but it was much more serious and sad that we had expected - not a bad thing, just unexpected. We never got around to watching the rest of the first season, until...

Fast forward to two days ago. After reading online that the second series of Derek had come out on Netflix, I figured I should finish watching the first, so I sat down at my computer after the kids went to bed and dove in. Two days, a box of tissues and a bottle of wine later I have finished both seasons of Ricky Gervais' masterpiece, Derek.

I am not even sure where to begin. Everything about this show is perfect. It is the perfect balance of humor and drama. It is beyond perfectly cast (my only gripe is that Karl Pilkington left in the beginning of season 2 - who knew that "round headed twat" could act so well!) It is beautifully shot, beautifully scored and should win every award possible (Ricky was nominated for a Lead Acting Emmy this year - how Kerry Godliman and David Earl were passed over is beyond me).

Kerry Godliman as Hannah
Ricky plays the title role of Derek, a special man with a heart of gold and abundant love of all earth's fuzzy creatures. He does not judge. He is never negative. He sees the good in every human being, and is able to bring it out for them to see as well. We should all take a page from Derek's illustrated book (on cats.)

Derek works in a nursing home called Broadhill, which is lead by over-worked and under-paid Hannah, brilliantly played by Kerry Godliman. She is the type of woman that your heart aches for, you want to have a drink with and you want to give all your money to because she has dedicated her life to the lives of the elderly people living in the home. She is a mother figure (although younger in age) to Derek, and loved by everyone she works with and takes care of. She is passionate and kind, but not afraid to hit someone over the head with a rolling pin (well deserved of course).

David Earl as Kev
If you thought Jim from the American version of the Office was the master of the "looking into the camera" face, wait until you meet Kev, an unemployed alcoholic pervert who spends his days and nights at the home with Derek, his best friend. At first you want to put a hand through the screen and slap Kev, but as the show goes on he wins you over and you all of the sudden want to hug him...and give him a shower.

The rest of the cast - Vicky, Tom, Dougie and all of the elderly residents - are just brilliant.

Maybe I am so touched by this show because just two months ago I lost my grandmother, who spent her last few years in a home much like this one. I picture her sitting in a room, much like the common room at Broadhill on the show, surrounded by other residents of the home, talking about her family and enjoying a cup of tea or serenading the residents on the piano. The episodes that featured family members coming to visit their eldery relatives touched my heart and brought me to tears because I only got to see my grandmother once in the last 5 years before she died (she was in Denver to my Boston - still not an excuse.) I wished we were closer so that I could have shared more quality time with her before she passed.

I know my grandmother would have absolutely loved this show too. She had that same dry British humor and loved all British television. I wish she was alive today to talk about the cast of characters - I know she would have loved Kev!

There are so many heartwarming moments in the series - the husband that visits his wife with alzheimer's every day, a young girl with a bad home life finding a love and support while working at Broadhill, Derek reuniting with his father he never wanted to see, Dougie cursing out a money grubbing daughter of a dead resident, Hannah and Tom trying for a baby, Derek learning to ride a bike and possibly my favorite, Kev building the sculpture of Oliver for Derek...tears! (Don't worry! I didn't spoil anything for you!)

We could all learn something from watching Derek. We should all be nicer to each other. We should all be honest and tell each other how we feel. We should forgive. We should send that letter we have been meaning to send, or make that call we have been meaning to make before it is too late.

So go! Go watch it on netflix, now! Be prepared to laugh out loud and cry at every episode. And let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hide and Seek

My children are hands down the worst hide and seek players...and I never want them to change.

We have been housebound a lot these last two weeks due to both my kids having the hand, food and mouth virus, which means we have been playing a lot of hide and seek.

Here is how hide and seek goes in our house:

Mommy covers her eyes and counts backwards from 10.

The giggles commence as the girls run around the house looking for a place to hide.

Val hides in the exact same spot (behind the princess dresses hanging on the wall in the playroom) and once she is settled in there she counts along with me.

"Free, twoooooooo, one!!! Here I am Mama!!"

Val has been found.

I pick Val up and we go "Find Marlo! Find Marlo!"

I know where Marlo is, because she hasn't stopped giggling since I started counting down from 10. I, of course, play dumb and start the, "is Marlo in the dining room?" bit, to which Marlo responds, "I'm not in there, I'm in the closet!"

I continue to question her whereabouts while Val points to the closet and screams, "Marlo in closet! Marlo in closet!" and I playfully ignore her.

Ultimately Marlo will pop out of the closet and say "I was in the closet Mama!"

Game over.

Then it is my turn to hide.

Marlo and Val both cover their eyes as I run and hide. This could be the cutest thing I have ever seen and heard because Val is only able to count back from 3, so she just says "free, twooo, one!" over and over while Marlo counts back from 10 (this drives Marlo crazy of course.)

I hide in a legitimate hiding spot...behind the curtains, in the closet behind coats, behind a piece of furniture, etc....and they can never find me. Let me correct myself - Marlo can never find me - Val always seems to spot me quickly.

For example, yesterday I hid behind the curtains in the dining room. Let me tell you this important fact - the curtains are sheer. Anyone who looked at the curtains could plainly see my large body hiding behind the curtains, except for my girls.

A minute or two goes by and they haven't found me. Marlo is starting to get annoyed that I am not answering her when she asks where I am, so I say, in a funny voice, "I'm over here."

They run right by me.

Say it again Mama!

The come in the room, look out the window that I am clearly standing next to behind the curtains, and still don't see me.

Then Val spots me, "'ere she is!!!! 'ere she is!!" (Val speaks with a cockney accent obviously.)

Marlo comes in the room, stands next to Val, who is now pointing at me behind the curtains and laughing hysterically and still doesn't see me...until I jump out and scare the living daylights out of her. Good times.

So if you are ever looking to win a few bucks off my kids, ask them to play hide and seek and bet on them losing...every time. I wish they would stay this young and cute forever.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sheriff Callie's Lying West (Why I loathe the Disney Junior show and why I think Doc McStuffins is the best show for kids)

Phew...that was quite a title.

I have to be honest - I have been crafting this post in my head for almost five months now, ever since the first episode of Sheriff Callie's Wild West aired on Disney Junior back in January. Previews for the show started airing last year during the holidays, and the first time my girls got a peek of the pink-ten-gallon-hat-wearing, talking female cat, they were hooked. I was looking forward to a new show in the mix, and knowing Mandy Moore was the voice of Callie (whom I absolutely adore in everything she is in) I had high hopes for the cartoon.

And then I watched the first episode...and I wanted to punch all of the characters in the throat.

Ok, that might be a little harsh, but I was annoyed from the very beginning - not only by the whiney characters, but by the terrible plot lines of each episode.

If you haven't seen the show, here is how Wikipedia describes it: In a western town called Nice and Friendly Corners, everyone is an anthropomorphic and cute animal. They all get along and are friendly to each other. However, there are times when the townsfolk get into problems or don't get along with each other. The series follows Sheriff Callie, a female Calico cat and the sheriff of Nice and Friendly Corners alongside her friends Deputy Peck, a male red Woodpecker and keeper of the town jail and Toby, a male Saguaro Cactus. Together they all solve problems and teach the townsfolk to get along with each other while working hard to make the town the friendliest in the west.

Yeah, you read that right, one of the main characters is a cactus. Before I even get into why I no longer let my kids watch this show, let me tell you about one of my main gripes about Sheriff Callie's show. I cannot stand a show where animals are made to seem human, but still have animals for pets. Why do all of the animal characters talk, but Callie and Peck still have pets that don't speak, and are actual animals (I speak of Callie's horse and Peck's donkey)? It will always be my main issue with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse...why can Goofy speak but Pluto, who is also a dog, can only bark and acts like an actual dog? I think they should have humans as that would be a show I would watch...maybe. 

Back to my point. 

The real reason I don't like my kids watching this show is because most of the episodes feature a storyline where one of the characters is lying about something, trying to trick someone into doing something or just being a terrible person (woodpecker, cactus...whatever). I kid you not, the majority of the episodes are about someone lying: the stork character making up a story for the newspaper, Farmer Stinky lying about having more peppers than he actually does, Toby the cactus lying about being sick, Peck lying about losing Callie's golden nugget, a salesman lying about the a shirt making people more powerful (yeah this one is a doozie)...every character at one point or another, besides the always-honest Sheriff Callie, is featured in the episode where their storyline is about them not telling the truth. 

The moral of all of these episodes is, or course, that you should always tell the truth. But are my kids getting that at 4 1/2 and almost 2? Heck no! Do they really understand what is going on in these shows for the most part? Probably not...but I know M, my 4 year old, is starting to get it for sure. A few months ago I heard her fake coughing and then she went on to tell me she was being like Peck from Callie and pretending to be sick. That was the end of Callie in our house. 

Now every time it comes on tv M goes "oh mom! Callie's on - the show you do NOT like!" 

Now, Doc McStuffins? There is a show that every kid should be watching. 

I credit Doc McStuffins with my kids loving to go to the doctors. No joke, they love everything about the doctors, and even constantly play doctor when we are at home. Every episode of Doc has a true to life message that my kids actually understand, like "it's ok to ask for help," or "everyone get's hurt sometimes," or even something as simple as the fact you need to brush your hair and teeth every day. 

The other day we were playing in the backyard on a hot day and M quickly ran up on the deck under the umbrella. I asked her what she was doing and she said to me, "I have to take a break in the shade for a bit and have some water. Doc said you shouldn't be in the sun too long, and you should take breaks in the shade...and I need to hydrate like that fire truck toy on doc did." 

Come on now!! The writes and creators of that show should be proud!!

The writers of Sheriff Callie should be smacked. I'm just saying is all...

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday Night Soak

Something incredible happened tonight...something that has never happened before...

Both of my kids were in bed before 6.

6 o'clock, I say!!!

What does a Mama do when her kids are asleep by 6, and her husband is working late (yes on a Sunday)?

Take a bath.

I seriously can't remember the last time I took a bath. Maybe before I had Val? Two years ago??

We have a fairly large bath tub in our master bathroom that serves the sole purpose of collecting the hair that falls out of my head when I blow my hair dry. Yes, I cleaned out said hair before I took a bath tonight.

This tub also only gets cleaned once every 3 weeks by our cleaning ladies, so it gets pretty dusty and hairy over those 3 weeks, so if I ever want to take a bath I have to time it so it is a within a few days of when the cleaning ladies are here so that it is really clean. I know what you are thinking, why don't you just clean it yourself and use it more often? Because by the time I realize I might actually have time to take a bath, I don't have the time to clean the bath tub and take a get me? Sure you do, you are a mom.

But tonight the kids were asleep more than an hour before they usually are, I don't have dinner to make for my husband and I, the baby shower I have been preparing for in all my spare time was yesterday, I don't have any decision to be made on the house at the moment, and our cable box in the family room is on the fritz...bath time!

Let me make you even more jealous by telling you how great this bath was...

30 minutes of warm bubbly goodness. 30 minutes of uninterrupted silence. 30 minutes of awesome.

I forgot how rejuvenating it can be to soak in silence. Sounds so silly but it is so true! Every day I take a 3-4 minute rushed shower while Val is napping. I might have a minute or two of extra time here and there to stand under the blazing hot water and have a moment to myself (I don't mean any funny business, just me doing nothing), but taking this 30 minutes to myself to relax and unwind (especially after a weekend where I was out on the town until 1 AM both nights - more on that in the next post) was truly heavenly (as my grandmother Ming used to say - she was also a lover of baths.)

I think I might make this a weekly ritual - a Sunday Night Soak. And I think all you other overworked, stressed out Mamas should do the same. Find that 30 minutes at the end of the week to have some peace and quiet to yourself. Have dad put the kids to bed and unwind in a hot bath, close your eyes and soak up the silence. It is awesome.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Loss of a Legend

Last week I did a very difficult thing. Possibly one of the most emotionally difficult things I have ever done in my life. I sat down at my computer and composed a goodbye letter to one of the most important women in my life, my grandmother.

My grandmother, who was known the world over as "Ming," was an incredible woman. She was a no bullshit kind of woman. She wasn't afraid to tell you that you looked a hot mess - but said it with all the love in her heart. She never wore pants - I am serious - I only saw her in pants twice in my entire life. She was always dressed to the nines, and accessorized with scarves and pins to match.

She was a truly gifted pianist. Most of my memories of her from my childhood are of her behind our grand piano. She would spend hours tickling the ivories and singing along to her favorite big band tunes. She could play any song she heard on the piano. I once played a pop song for her on my boom box and seconds later she was playing it on the piano so I could sing of her many talents that I wished I possessed.

She was ridiculously smart. When not at the piano she could always be found with a crossword puzzle or a book in her hands.

She loved her "programs." I have vivid memories of me running down the driveway to the house as fast as I could so that I could watch General Hospital with Ming on the TV in our kitchen.

She loved her Chinese food and her Swiss Mocha coffee (not together of course).

Whenever we would go swimming, Ming would only get in the pool if the temperature was "heavenly." What is "heavenly" you ask? Pretty much bath water.

I can see her now in the pool - getting her exercise by moving her arms around in the water and humming her favorite tunes.

Ming was a second mother to me growing up. She lived with my family for a good part of my life, helping to raise my brother and I while my mother traveled with my dad for work now and then. My mother tells me stories about me clinging to Ming's leg when she got home and not wanting to go to my mother...which breaks my heart as a mother myself, but is a true testament to how important Ming was in my life growing up.

My friends from childhood knew her as Ming, and my college friends were lucky enough to have met her on vacations home to Florida. Here is a prime example of who Ming was...

In the early 2000s I went back to Florida for a vacation with a group of my college girlfriends. Ming was living with my family in Florida at the time. We decided to play some boardgames one night, so of course Ming wanted to play along...I believe we were playing Loaded Questions at the time (a fabulous board game night game if anyone is interested). The question was, "If there is a hell on earth where would it be?"

The answer Ming gave "Right here. Right now." And when we all discovered it was Ming who gave this answer we were peeing in our pants laughing - including Ming. I can see her now at the end of the table, with her glass of wine, wiping the tears away from her eyes because she was laughing so hard. And then telling us she might have actually peed in her pants a little. What a dame.

To get to the point of this post, Ming's health started rapidly declining this last month, to the point where any day I was expecting a phone call. I was told about a week ago that it wouldn't be much longer and that I should either call and say my goodbyes or write something for my aunt to read to her. It is probably selfish of me to say this but I couldn't call. I knew she wouldn't be able to communicate back to me, and I don't think I would have been able to contain my I decided to write.

I went through about a box of tissues, but I wrote...and wrote. I wrote about memories I had and would never forget. I wrote about the impact she had on my life, about regretting not seeing her more often in these last few years. I wrote about how I was so happy she got to know Hubs and how they are truly kindred spirits. I wrote about how sad it makes me to know that my children will never know the great and magnificent person that she is, and how my heart was breaking knowing that this will be my final words she will hear.

It was insanely difficult, but I got through it, sent the letter to my aunt and minutes later my aunt told me this..."I read your letter to Ming, leaned over and gave her a kiss from you and she said 'aww...'" This was after Ming hadn't spoken in a few days. My heart just melted.

Within six hours she passed away. This may seem silly to say but I know in my heart she was waiting to hear from my brother and I to leave this earth. She had been holding on for days, but I hadn't the strength to write anything to her, and hours after she heard my and my brother's goodbye she departed.

It was gut wrenching to write what I wrote, but it made me realize that I don't do this kind of thing often enough. I don't mean write a final letter to someone who is on their deathbed...I mean pour out my heart to those that I love, or even simply just tell those I love that I love them as often as I should.

I pride myself on being a strong woman. I am a woman who does not crack or crumble easily. I don't cry easily. I am the one who looks for the positive in situations and doesn't get upset until I really have to get upset. You know who I get this quality from? Ming. Sometimes I wish I was more of the mushy emotional type, but I am just not. This doesn't mean I don't have a softer side, it just means that I am kind of a bitch more often than not.

But writing this letter to Ming was an emotional release and has made me realize that I need to tell those I love how I feel about them, rather than keep my composure at all times and try to be that strong woman I know I am. I guess being emotional doesn't mean I can't be a strong woman...

Anyways, Ming will be missed by all that knew her. Wherever her soul is now may she have her crossword in hand, a piano near by and may the pool be "heavenly."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Finding the Light

My new photography class (which I will eventually write a full post about) is all about finding the natural light in your house, as well as metering the light inside and outside...Here are some of my favorite shots from the past two weeks.