Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas!



So, with all the joy and happiness, "ohhhhs" and "ahhhhs" that 2 little girls can celebrate with, the train table made it's debut Christmas morning, a big gift from Santa Claus that couldn't be topped. They have played with it every day, and are starting to incorporate their dolls and Littlest Pet Shop pets into the community. They are very cute when they are playing and I'm glad it all worked out in the end...

Christmas Eve with Mike's family was lovely. The girls enjoyed going to the Children's Service at Trinity with Grandma and dinner was delicious. Lauren and Tara received interactive Buzz and Woody dolls from Uncle Mark and Aunt Kara -very cool- and new bikes, Leapsters and a learning Globe from Grandma and Grandpa! The time went by too quickly, and with the girls tucked snuggly in their beds, we waited for Santa to arrive the next morning.

We had to wake the girls up Christmas morning! They were still snoring at 8:15am and we needed to be to my sister's house by 10am. They loved the new camera's from Mom and Dad, some clothes and coloring/crafty stuff. Off to my family for the remainder for the morning-tons of gifts and wrapping paper, tags and bows and little girls who were over tired and over excited. It made for an interesting, but fun time! Brunch really hit the spot, too, and then it was back home to re-energize, make a fruit salad, gather more gifts and head to my Grandparents for more Christmas cheer! 

Dinner was great, as always, and I actually thought everything tasted extra good this year. More presents for all, playing tricks on my Grandma, cringing every time their life-size Santa started to sing & dance, and savoring my Aunt's homemade treats! Love it!

By the time we arrived home Christmas evening, we were spent. We slept in late on Saturday and it felt so good! It was another fun filled, love inspired, wonderful Christmas Holiday spent with our family and I'm already looking forward to next year! Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Train Table Saga - Part II

In November, I related a little story about my horrific experience at Toys 'R' Us, regarding a pair of train tables that we were purchasing for our girls and my niece, Hailey. About 3-3 1/2 weeks ago, we went into the store to pay off the remaining balance on the layaway, so that when the tables came "in", we would be all set and could send someone else with the receipt to pick up the tables if need be. All seemed well...

Then, last week, we get a call from an employee at the store asking us if the pickup of our products went well and if there were any problems with the tables. Ummmm....we haven't been called to pick them up yet, nor have we been back to the store after paying them off. So Mike makes a quick phone call and finds out, to our relief, that the young lady had just grabbed the wrong list and was supposed to leave us a message that our tables had arrived and we could pick them up at our convenience. Alrighty.

Mike has been working a lot of long hours and things have just been so crazy that we thought it would be best to just keep them at the store for a few days, then pick them up closer to Christmas. At a minimum, they had to be retrieved by Wednesday, so that Hailey's Grandpa could give her the train for Christmas on Thursday, Christmas Eve. Lucky for us, the store was open til Midnight on Wednesday (last night), so after our other plans for the evening, Mike went to take care of the trains.

Dun-dun-daaaaaaaaaaa............

I know you are going to be shocked! This is going to come as a great surprise! They didn't have our trains......

Manager man was back at it again, saying that the delivery trucks from Flint and Lansing were supposed to be bringing more, but kept leaving them on the dock. He had *1* that had just come in and he would be more than happy to give us that one for now. Oh, how generous of you! Again!

The other train, he would be personally picking up from the Lansing store tomorrow morning and have it back in his store between 9:30-10am. He was going to make sure "that things are done right" by getting that table for us personally, no matter "what the weather is like". Wow. You're a really great guy, Manager Man. I guess that I'll just go ahead now and forget the fact that you SOLD OUR TABLES TO SOMEBODY ELSE! Oh, the nerve of that guy! I have lost so much respect for that store, the company and customer service in general...

So, Mike hauled the other table over to my sister's house, making sure that at least Hailey had hers to open today. If our table doesn't make it in before Christmas, so be it. Our kids won't know any different, but I will. I'm so upset over the whole thing but I know that no matter what, we will have a wonderful Christmas, spent with our family and loved ones, making memories that will last well beyond the "train table incident".


To quote a classic:

Narrator: "Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, was singing, without any presents at all! He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming, it came! Somehow or other, it came just the same."

The Grinch: "It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags! 

Narrator: "He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Photos


When I found out that our favorite place to get photos taken was closing, I was heartbroken. I like taking pictures myself but I actually like to be in them sometimes! Imagine my surprise when our studio re-opened right before the Holidays with the same sets, same props and same photographers....just under a different name! Hooray!
We always opt for the CD. That way, you get all of your photos on a disc, with rights to the photos, and you can edit them any way that you like and print them wherever and whenever. Very convenient. My sister and I also try to split the session, getting all three girls pictured together, so that we can split the cost of the CD. Much more economical that way!

So here are some of my favorite shots from this year's session. If you received our Christmas card, you might have encountered a couple of these already..... I hope that you enjoy!









 








Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Making a List!

Do you ever get so overwhelmed by the "things" in your life that you just want to crawl into a small, dark space while quietly rocking back and forth mumbling incoherent crap? No?

I love this time of the year but as the years progress through my life, I realize that the things we "always" do just because it's "always" been that way, are not "always" the best ideas. We buy A LOT of presents for our family and friends. I love this aspect of Christmas mostly because I like giving. I love making other people happy and I like being creative to the point where the gift recipient knows I specifically thought of them when choosing a gift. I don't always get it right but that's ok. It really is the thought that counts.

All these gifts and giving cost money. This I don't have a problem with other than I wish that I had more money to give more things! The real trouble I'm running up against is time. Wish I could buy some of that! It takes tons of that precious commodity to think up, find, research, purchase, make, & wrap all that "stuff". And if it was just Christmas presents, it wouldn't be as bad hard to accomplish. For example, each of the girls has to bring a brand new book to school tomorrow, wrapped, with a "TO/FROM" label on it for a gift exchange and we are having a gift exchange for the kids at our monthly Geocaching event tomorrow as well. Not to mention December Birthdays! And trying to plan and organize for our Annual New Year's Party and a trip to Disney in a couple of weeks for the girls 5th birthday! Crazy!

So, let me sum up....

I am feel like I have so much to do that I can't possibly do any of it. I shouldn't even be writing this blog but it makes me feel better and gives me a chance to catch my breath. I am going to make a list, check off one thing at a time, put on my favorite Christmas music, build a Gingerbread House with my girls and take several deep, cleansing and calming breaths. I will appreciate those big moments and not sweat the small stuff that no one will remember next week.

And to borrow a quote from my dear friend, Andrea, "It's your presence, not your presents that people really care about." -Thanks for that! I feel much better! On with the festivities!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Santa's Little Helpers

Mike and I are crazy. Let me just be upfront about that. We hop in the car and drive anywhere, sometimes with no reason at all. It's a good thing that the kids are used to this or else I'm sure we would have more mutinies on our hands....

This weekend, we needed to make a special trip to Pennsylvania to pick up some Christmas gifts that were being hand made by an artist there. Yes, if I could have found someone closer to do the job, I would have. And no, shipping was not an option. We were given a specific date to pick the items up on and we communicated with the artist on several occasions, including a call from my sister only a few days prior to our arrival. We were also given a specific time frame during the day in which to come.

We left on Friday night, after Mike got home from work, and drove to Toledo, OH, were we got a nice room for the night. The girls do great in hotels and we all slept well. Saturday was gorgeous, with sunny, blue skies and warmish temps for the middle of December. Once we got near Pittsburgh, we ended up making a little detour due to traffic but still arrived at our destination within the allotted time slot. Owner greeted us, asked which order we were picking up, and promptly turned white.

Owner: "But I don't have those ready yet..."

Me: "You told us to come pick them up on Saturday, December 12th."

Owner: "I must have gotten your order mixed up with someone else's."

Me: "We've spoken several times and you assured me they would be completed. My sister just added one to the order on Wednesday and you told her that was fine."

Owner: "Yes, I got your sisters order done. Just not all of yours." (mind you, I ordered mine a month prior)

Me: "Well, when will they be completed?"

Owner: "Maybe tomorrow or early next week..."

Me: "BUT WE DROVE ALL THE WAY FROM MICHIGAN!!!!!"

Owner: "Oh....that's right....I forgot....oh, dear......ummmmm................"

Needless to say, I was not particularly happy at this point. Mike and I just kept looking at each other, thinking that the whole situation was hilarious and freakin' ridiculous at the same time! After a lot of scrambling, phone calls, apologizing, more phone calls, etc. we were finally assured that our items would be ready by 6pm that evening. Resigned that we had no other choice, we get back in the car to find somewhere to eat lunch. Our car promptly gives us the "Check Engine" light and flashes that the car is low on oil. What? This can not be happening...well, we've got time to kill now, right?

So we get the car taken care of, eat lunch and go find a few Geocaches. Thank goodness for that or else I have no idea what we would have done with our time. At 6 o'clock we get a call that the items will be done in 30 min and to head back to the shop. They somehow pulled it together and got the "stuff" done for us. It was 7pm by the time we were rolling again, with no hope of making it back home like we had intended. We decided to crash in Cleveland for the night and finally made it back to GR around 4pm this afternoon. Wow.

All I have to say is this....to those of you who benefit from this little excursion to help out Santa, I hope you realize just how much we are willing to go through to make sure we stay on the "NICE" list!  :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reindeer Games

Saturday night we finished decorating the tree with the girls, and once they were in bed, decided to catch a few episodes of "House Hunters" on HGTV. As I was relaxing on the couch, I got that creepy feeling that someone was watching me. Usually, in cases like this, I find one of the kids has escaped from their bedroom and is looking at me through the banisters on the stairs. Not this time....

I look up, only to see a very large face staring at me through our front living room window! I jump! It's not a person but a big deer, trying to find something to eat under the snow. I tell Mike, who doesn't believe me, and he gets up to look out the other window. Imagine our shock to find not one, but 5 deer munching on our lawn. There was one big doe and four smaller deer, all enjoying a snack less than 10 ft away from us. They actually stayed for quite awhile before heading across the street single file, down towards the river.

This whole idea of have animals the size of small horses roaming freely in our yard is still new to me. I'm a girl from suburbia who still lives in a suburban neighborhood, yet now we have black, gray, brown and red squirrels, plenty of deer, tons of birds I've never seen before and let's not forget the "bobcat" episode. I guess that life is just full of so many surprises, big and small, that it makes the ordinary things seem special too.........

Bring on the reindeer!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Despair, Inc.

I buy calendars and other gift items from this company almost every year, and I have to say, I just love their style. This is the message that they send you once you have made a purchase. Hilarious....it's a must read!


Signature
E.L. Kersten, Ph.D
Founder and COO of Despair, Inc.




Let the Buyer's Remorse Begin!
It's official. Your credit card number is valid. Even as we speak, money is virtually flying out of your pocket and into our bank account. As you wait an indeterminable span for the order to arrive, your enthusiasm for this purchase will wane and be replaced with an alloy of buyer's remorse tempered with unease about the ridiculous interest rates you're paying on your credit card. And Another Dissatisfied Customer™ is born!
You should receive an email shortly notifying you of your order number, final cost and how to track your order status. This will only reinforce your unease, and at no additional cost!
You're More than Just Another Customer
You're more than just another order to us. In fact, you're the sum total of the amount you've spent with us, minus the designing, printing, fulfillment, licensing and other costs incurred to bring our products to you... Now that you've given us several dollars, feel free to share your two cents with us, as well.

Satisfaction Guaranteed*! With every order made, Despair, Inc.™ offers my unlimited personal guarantee. With every credit card effectively processed, my personal satisfaction is completely guaranteed*. And it is my promise to you, the holder of someone's valid credit card information, to commit myself to even greater degrees of self-satisfaction in the days and weeks to come, as I invest your hard-earned money in ever more gratuitous and hollow displays of wealth- with which I will intimidate and demoralize my narcissistic and materialistic peers in industry. Ah, the relentless pursuit of dejection!





* customer satisfaction, while theoretically possible, is neither guaranteed nor statistically likely.



Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas....



     We went from zero snow flakes to almost a foot of snow overnight! The girls were so excited, they were waking me up at 7:30 in the morning asking if they could go outside and play....crazy kids. We did get a chance to play in the snow later in the afternoon, after school, making snow angels and catching snow flakes on our tongues. Tara was so exhausted this evening, she fell asleep on the couch before dinner! Very rare indeed!

     This is the first official snowfall since living in our new house. Everything looked so beautiful this morning and our neighborhood was like a picture....just lovely. I made Mike brave the cool temps to snap a photo of the house for me tonight. I hope he didn't mind too much! :)   Not only is it something that I wanted to share on my blog but a picture that we will look back on in the years and Christmas's to come.

It's still snowing now, and who knows how much more we'll get, but 'tis the season! I might as well enjoy it while it's here, because thankfully, it never lasts! ;)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

And the verdict is....

The School pictures are awful! Ok, maybe that's a little dramatic but the company that is doing them should have their photography license (not that there is such a thing) revoked!

Here, I was so worried about the clothes the girls were wearing or their hair. The last thing I thought about were the cheesy background photoshop jobs and the fact that one of my kids isn't even smiling! Nor are they centered in the picture and Tara's head is like 50% larger than Lauren's because they cropped in too tight.


Now, to be fair, Lauren's picture is cute-ish and she IS smiling (which can be hard to get sometimes) and the GREEN shirt obviously wasn't a problem. Tara's picutre is a whole other issue.....

Oh well, it's just their preschool pictures and I'm sure 20 years or more from now I will look back at them and laugh. Let's hope the girls will too!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Giving Thanks

There are so many things to be"thankful" for in ones life. I could go into some of them now or list a whole bunch of obvious things but I wanted, instead, to share a simple thing, something I am sooo thankful for but may seem trivial to some.

As of Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I went to my last scheduled Doctor's appointment. There! Isn't that exciting?! No? Well, for me, it's a huge "Glory Hallelujah" relief. I'm the person who had never been to a doctor (other than for a yearly physical) as a teen/adult until I was pregnant. Perfect attendance in school and at work. I've never had a broken bone or needed stitches for a cut or laceration. Rarely sick or ill. Yes, I was one of the lucky ones who was able to avoid the yearly "bug" and whose sniffles were usually the result of allergies, not a cold.

The first time I was in a hospital was when I was in labor. I was extra nervous because I had no experience in this area (hospitals or birthing), not to mention I was having twins. My labor and delivery was, of course, not typical. However, the girls were healthy and perfect and when I came home, I had no problems what-so-ever.

Then last year happened and beyond the hospitalizations, it was the constant Dr.'s appointments that really got me down. I was totally out of my element. I was on prescription medication-another new hurdle for me. I had to see a GP, Rheumatologist, Hematologist, Cardiologist, Neurologist and throw in the Gynecologist for good measure. Sometimes I was going to see a Dr. 3 or more times a month, not including all the blood draws. I used to pass out or throw up every time I had to get my blood drawn in the past. Now, I'm so used to it, it hardly phases me. And, even though we had wonderful insurance, it still cost us a pretty penny for all the visits.

So, now I have ZERO scheduled appointments. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. My next blood work isn't due until May-and there's no appointment needed for that. I'm feeling better than I have in years and I'm so excited! I'm thankful for so many wonderful things in my life, but right now, not having to go to the Dr. ranks right up there...  :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

I actually think it's the busiest time of the year. So much happens around the Holidays, but my favorite thing of all is seeing our friends and family. Some don't live here in MI anymore and some are very busy with their lives, to the point that we only get one chance per year to reconnect in person.

Some might say, "That's sad", but I tend to think we are there for each other when we are needed. My Mom, for example, had 9 brothers and sisters. When we all get together for our Annual Christmas meal, there are a lot of Aunts & Uncles, over 25 1st Cousins (including spouses) and then add another 5 or 6 great-grandchildren to the mix. It makes for one big party! Strategically, it's just not something that we can all do more than once a year. Sure, we see some of them at Graduation Parties or Weddings, etc. but it's not the same. At Christmas time, I truly appreciate the effort that everyone puts forth just so that we can all be together and celebrate our family. It's special...

We also have a large group of friends that we gather with during the Holidays. We have been doing an Annual Holiday Party with these folks since we were in High School. Many of us are married now and have children of our own, but we still find the time to get together one day of the year to celebrate that friendship. It's fun and to me, it's important. I only get the opportunity to be with many of these friends during the Holidays, so I want to make the most of it. That usually means being very busy!

Of course, there's the shopping, decorating, getting a tree, baking, wrapping, school parties, family portraits, Christmas cards and all the other Holiday festivities that continually keep us on our toes. But, the most important to me, the one that I am so happy to be busy for, is my circle of friends and wonderful family.

I am blessed and thankful to have you all in my life...

Friday, November 20, 2009

TGIF

We now join our resident blogger, sleeping soundly, at some unknown time this morning........

Door to Master Bedroom opens.

The pitter-patter of little feet can heard entering the room.

The door to the Master Bath is slowly opened, at which time, both little girls scream in unison, "DADDY!"

Mommy nearly levitates off the bed and is trying to remember where we keep the baseball bat.

Girls tell Daddy that there is an emergency. "The lullaby CD has fallen into the clothes hamper, and we can't get it out!", they lament, with tears in their little eyes.

Daddy abandons the shower to help his little princesses.

Mommy burrows head deeper into the pillows and pulls the cover up really high.

Daddy's cell phone starts ringing. At least the ringtone is a pleasant Billy Joel song...

Mommy looks at the clock at sees that it is 8:15 am. This is a good 2 hours later than Daddy normally gets up.

Mommy is glad that Daddy slept in a little (he's been very tired working overtime) but still, who is calling at this time in the morning? Can't be good.

Daddy comes back into the bedroom and checks his phone. It was his parents. Before he can even listen to the message, Daddy shouts, " OH, CRAP!"

Mommy is positive she is not going back to sleep now. She is sad.

Daddy starts flying around the room like he's practicing for a game of quidditch. What's the deal?

While dipping his head in the shower and throwing on pieces of clothing, Daddy explains that he was supposed to pick his parents up at 8am to take them to the airport.

Oh.....

So, being the hero that he is, Daddy kisses all his girls a quick goodbye and heads off into the fog to complete his mission and then, it's off to work.

Mommy, while trying to fully wake up and get out of bed, suddenly realizes that today is........ FRIDAY!

This is a problem.

The girls have gymnastics preschool on Friday's. At 9am. That's in 30min. And it's a 15 min. drive. And Mommy has no car. And no one is dressed. Or fed. Oh, Lord!

So, Mommy becomes a whirling dervish as she calls Daddy, tells him to come back home with the Yukon, gets everyone dressed, gets food in the little ones tummies, finds the backpacks, combs hair and then realizes that it's also Show-and-Tell day! Hooray! Let's add one more thing to an already out-of-control, crazy morning!


In conclusion, all is well now. Mike came racing back from the airport with the Yukon, jumped into the T-bird, and sped away. I got the girls bundled up and out the door in a flash. I tried not to break too many laws while driving. They were only 10min late to school. It's now 10am and I'm spent.



How was your morning?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Random Thoughts...

A friend of mine sent me this little e-mail and I just loved it! Too funny, and for me, all true!
  
  1.    I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.
  
  2.   Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.
  
  3.   I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
  
  4.   There is great need for a sarcasm font.
  
  5.   How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
  
  6.   Was learning cursive really necessary?
  
  7.   Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5.  I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
  
  8.   Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
  
  9.   I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.
  
10.   Bad decisions make good stories.
  
11.   You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
  
12.   Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blu Ray?   I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.
  
13.   I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.
  
14.   "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this -- ever.
  
15.   I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Damn it!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?
  
16.   I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.
  
17.   I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
  
18.   My 4-year old daughter asked me in the car the other day "Mom, what would happen if you ran over a ninja?" How the hell do I respond to that?
  
19.   I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
  
20.   I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The End is the Beginning

Well, it's finally over. We closed on the Refinance of the new house today at 2 o'clock. I am so relieved to have it done and over with. In the end, we got a great interest rate and our new house payments are only slightly higher than on our previous house, which seems a little silly considering the difference, but I am in no way complaining! I'm just so glad that it's ours...

After all, the whole point of having a home is not just so that you can have a roof over you and a place to lay your head. A home is where you raise a family, entertain your favorite people, and share special moments. A place and space to fill with love, laughter, joy, and a few tears too. I'm ready to make this house our home, one to enjoy and live in for many years to come. 


Oh, I feel like such a huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders! I can finally breathe. I can now focus on the important things in life (to me anyways) like getting our home decorated for the holidays, shopping for Christmas presents (yay!), preparing for a Disney World birthday party, playing with the kids and spending more quality time with friends and family. I'm ready for the Christmas music on the radio and bright lights that twinkle on neighborhood houses in the night, for holiday cards from all over to start pouring in and decorating the family tree with our girls.

The Refinance is over! Bring on the fun and spirit of Thanksgiving and let the joy of the Christmas season begin!


Our 1st Family Christmas Pic -2005-

Monday, November 16, 2009

Over the Rainbow


Follow the Rainbow Brick Road...

The girls, mostly Lauren, have been working on coloring and re-designing the bricks leading up to our front steps. They insisted that they were too plain. So, with a little sidewalk chalk, a masterpiece has been born. I don't want it to rain and wash away their creation just yet. It certainly makes walking to the house so much brighter and happier! I love the creativity of little kids-if only we could bottle it up, along with their laughter and joy, only to sneak a sample of it on days where it's missing....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Disney World!



We promised the girls a couple years ago that, when they turned 5, we would take them to Disney World for their birthday. January will be here in no time at all so I've started thinking about the trip and what we hope to do there. We will be driving and staying off site at a condo in Kissimmee.

Mike and I have been to Disney World several times over the years, both together and separately. The things that I love to see and do as an adult are not the same as the kids' wishes and desires. I know that they are going to love it and being able to share this experience with them will be a treasure. The question is, what are some special things for us to do with the girls while we are down there?

We are planning on visiting the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Epcot. We are taking one day off for relaxation (geocaching) and another day to do Sea World. There are obvious kid favorites like It's a Small World, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Kilimanjaro Safari, Fireworks, Character Encounters, etc. but is there anything in particular that we should be sure not to miss with the kiddos?

We are also planning on 2 Character Meals...maybe a breakfast and a dinner. We have never done anything like that before and we need to make our reservations. There is a lot of information out there on the web and it takes awhile to scan through it all. If anyone has any suggestions, it would be much appreciated! I know that the time will be special without any added fuss, but they are my only ones and they only turn 5 once. I want it to be a wonderful time for the whole family, and not going into it blindly will be a big help!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bad Momma

I was having a pretty good morning today, girls were dressed, fed, had their backpacks ready for school, etc. Mike calls and we decide that I will meet him with the girls for lunch and then take them on to preschool afterward. Just as I am pulling out of the driveway, I think to myself, "Hmmm, what's the date today?", and I conclude it's the 10th. The 10th.....the 10th....it seems like something was happening today but what?

Oh, crap! It's picture day at school today! This is not good.....

I hit the brakes, drive back up to the house, dash inside and find, amongst the 2 paper towers on the counter, the 2 picture order forms. Now, where is the checkbook? Any checkbook! Here, checky-checky! Momma needs money... I finally locate one and then stand in the kitchen thinking, "Wait...what are the girls even wearing?". Nothing special but the shirts are new and their hair is clean and they seem happy enough, so...........I guess we're going to go with it!

At lunch, Mike and I frantically try to decide which package to purchase, which pose, which background and blah, blah, blah. I know that this process had to have been easier when I was a kid. As I am filling out the "separate" checks for each child, Mike says, "Uh-oh.". This is not good either......

On the form, which I obviously didn't read carefully enough,  it says that kids should be wearing nothing with GREEN on it because they now use Green Screen technology and it will affect the pictures. Tara is fine in her Orange, but of course, Lauren is wearing the coordinating shirt in...you guessed it, green. Now what am I going to do? I don't have time to make it back home, pick out new clothes, get them re-dressed, and back out to school in time. Oh, heavens....

In the end, I leave the teachers in charge. I explain the error of my ways and ask that if the green shirt is going to be a problem, to take their shirts off (they are wearing nice, white, long-sleeved shirts underneath) and put their brown vests on over the top. Certainly not the ideal situation. Hopefully their cute smiles will trump whatever they are, or aren't, wearing.

Bad Momma.........

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Me & My Hunny





On September 18th, Mike and I celebrated 16 years of togetherness. Which means, I have been with Mike for over half of my life! Crazy, huh?

We were reminiscing the other evening about our lives back then (1993) and how much we have grown, changed, and become since those teenage years. To put it in perspective, I was 16, a Junior in High School (an emotional basketcase) and working at Chuck E. Cheese after school and on the weekends. Mike was 18, a College Freshman at GRCC, working part time for ProComp at a kiosk in Woodland Mall.

I was into marching band and chorale, hanging out with my friends, playing card games and Friday night's at Pizza Hut. I liked to babysit and loved to sing. Mike was into 60's & 70's Music, computers (shocking), gaming, camping and showing me the world. We had an instant connection, and with the exception of few bad judgment calls on my part during the first few months of our relationship, we've been one solid unit ever since.

I can vividly remember our first date, our first kiss, our first trip out-of-State. I can also vividly remember getting in trouble for all three!  My parents weren't as easy going back then....let me tell ya! Thinking about it is making me laugh right now...ha ha ha. If I had to do it all over again, I seriously wouldn't change a thing, other than asking Mike out sooner. He's such a great guy, and he's all mine!


How lucky am I?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2nd Appraisal

***************        UPDATE POST        *******************
We had the house appraised again back on the 23rd of October. When the appraisal came back in, we were really pleased to see that the 2nd appraiser valued the house little higher than the first one. Take that, Mr. Lender!

We were really anxious to get the ball rolling again. So, our finance guy submits the new appraisal to the underwriters and we patiently wait....and wait....and wait. What could possibly be holding us up now? Well, I'll tell you. The 2nd appraiser found it in her heart to put a special little note in the back of her report stating that there was some water in the basement when she was out here (on the 2nd rainiest day ever!) and that the home would need to be re-inspected. She feared that we might have structural damage to our foundation. Oh brother....

Our basement is not finished. It's just cement walls and a cement floor. We have nothing down there other than some plastic storage totes and some shelving. We knew that there was an issue with water in one corner when we bought the house but it just hasn't been a priority since we don't plan on finishing the basement for several more years. She noted that the water (puddle) DID NOT affect the value of the home, it just might be a problem for the lender if the house collapses. Oh for pity's sake! Our house is as solid as a rock and she is not a certified home inspector. And, we have home insurance for that sort of thing!

So, Mike and I stood down there for an hour, talking about what we were going to do and trying not to cry too much. Mike did a bunch of research and found that the single biggest reason that water comes in is clogged gutters and drain/down spout issues. We cleaned out the gutters, which I might add are really high up there, and fixed the drain spouts/added more pipe to each one. We also adjusted the sump pump. Then we patched a portion of the wall in the basement where we could actually see water running down the wall. It was behind the furnace, so we had never seen it before, and it appeared that there used to be a window there at one time that had since been cemented in-obviously not well.

Voila! No more water. Nada. Nothing. Dry as a bone even with all the rain we've been getting on a daily basis. We talk to the finance guy and he says that he will send the appraiser back out to re-inspect and we'll be good to go. So, we patiently wait to hear from her...and wait...and wait. Nothing.

Today, the finance guy calls us (we usually have to call him) and says that he has received the report back from the appraiser saying that there is still water in the basement and the problem is not fixed. No, the REAL problem is that we never heard from her, she never came back to our house and there is NO water in our basement. I mean, seriously?! Is this some sort of a joke? Well, it's not funny.....

We are completely at our wits end with this process and having this appraiser actually lie about our situation is more than depressing. I don't know where we go from here. Please keep your fingers crossed that something positive comes our way soon. I can't take much more....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Honor thy deal...or else!

In January, I think I blogged about a horrible experience that I had with Toys R Us. Well, I buy most of my gifts and such on-line, but the other day I saw an ad (that they e-mailed me) letting me know that until 10/31 all of their Imaginarium products were "Buy 1 Get One 1/2 Off!". On the front of this email was a photo of a train table that Mike and I were planning on getting the girls for Christmas. It was originally $159.99. It was currently on SALE for $129.99.

So, I mention to my sister when she is over during the Halloween festivities, that if we go into the store tonight, we could get (1) Train Table for $129.99 and the other would only be $64.99. I thought it might be something that Hailey would enjoy. She loved the idea! And, you can't beat the price! So, on Halloween night, we head out to go Christmas shopping!

The store on 28th St. was dead. There were 2 other cars in the parking lot. They had a bunch of the train tables in stock and the BOGO sign was displayed right on the train display itself. In the ad, which I brought, it also said that the train table was available for layaway. I figured that was even better, since then I would only have to put 20% down and I wouldn't have to worry about bringing the huge boxes home with us right away.

So, to the Customer Service desk we go. Anna and I explain what we need. The manager looks at us like we're nuts. He first informs us that the train is not available for layaway. I show him in writing where it says that it is. He's surprised...he couldn't possibly be wrong, could he? Eventually, he concedes that layaway is possible and begins to ring us up. Whew. I ask him what the train table is ringing up for. "$129.99" he tells me. Good. This is the correct price. Then I ask him to make sure that train #2 is ringing up for half that. He gives me the "crazy" look again. Manager man says, "You can't get another train table for half that sales price. I can only give you (2) at $129.99 each.". Now I'm starting to get a little irritated. I explain that the ad says that "Yes I can!" and he sends a peon to go check the signage. Peon brings back sign on said train table. Lo-and-behold, it says that ALL Imaginarium products are BOGO until 10/31.

That should have been the end of it. But, no...oh no. Now, before I left for the store, I tried putting (2) train tables into my cart online just to see if they would ring up correctly. Yup. Even printed out a copy for myself. Only problem was that the shipping was going to be $30 each, and I couldn't put them on layaway online. So, back at the store, Manager man is having none of it. He thinks I'm trying to pull a fast one on him or something. First he tells me that the $129.99 price is actually for the sale starting Nov.1 and the computers must be wrong. So, he'll be nice and give me (1) for $159.99 and the other for $79.99. Yes, how nice of him! Is he out of his gourd? Why in the world would I pay that when he already confirmed the train price of $129.99 earlier? Then, doing a little more "funny" math, he says that he'll give me (1) for the EARLY sale price of $129.99 and the other for half off the ORIGINAL price of the train, so $79.99. Awww, you shouldn't have! So sweet.... NOT!

Then, another one of the sales associates calls up the Customer Service (...snicker...) desk and informs the manager that the sales price of $129.99 on the table started on 10/30. What? No "computer" error? It's not the EARLY price? Do you think anyone apologizes? Of course not. With great reluctance, and knowing that I have all the evidence on my side, he finally succumbs to $129.99, with #2 at $64.99, on layaway. All the while, he's letting each and every associate know that HE is not answering his phone tomorrow and if corporate calls to yell at him for this TERRIBLE unauthorized markdown, they can deal with it and tell corporate that he had NO choice in order to "quiet" the customer. Ha ha ha ha !!!!! Quiet? Doesn't he know that I blog? HA! :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Little Witches!


I had a wonderful Halloween this year. No one was sick (except my mother, who missed all the fun!), it wasn't raining Halloween night, the girls got lots of candy and had a wonderful time Trick-or-Treating. Lauren, Tara and their little cousin, Hailey, were dressed up as little witches. They were too cute! My sister, Anna, wore a witch costume, as well, and brought an extra witch hat for me to wear! Yay!


As usual, Mike and Shaun took the little girls out to go door-to-door while Anna and I stayed back to hand out candy. We didn't know what to expect in this neighborhood but we had a fair amount of kids, maybe 100, with most of them being middle school age. I got to talk with some of neighbors who I haven't had the opportunity to meet yet and the little kiddos coming to the door were adorable. Fun!





The school parties were also a big hit with the girls. Thursday they got to play Ring-Around-the-Pumpkin, paint a pumpkin and do a little dancing! Not to mention cupcakes and lots of extra treats! Friday, they thought it was hilarious that they were able to do Gymnastics in their costumes! Little ones dressed up are always a hoot, but put them on a trampoline, and it's a whole new level of cuteness!

Halloween is over and I'm exhausted! But since it's now November, the real work is just beginning, right? Getting the yard completely cleaned up for Winter, all the Holiday parties, Christmas shopping, decorating, putting up the lights outside, etc. Very hectic but all worth it! Let the Holiday Magic begin!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Boo!

Halloween is always a fun holiday. The kids love getting dressed-up and going door to door snagging loads of candy. The girls are going to be little witches this year and as they like to point out, "Not scary witches. Good witches, with sequins!". Their little cousin, Hailey, is going to be a witch too so the three of them should make quite the trio...I will have my camera at the ready!

A new twist for me, though, is school. They have a "Harvest Party" (oh, brother!) tomorrow, which means dropping them off in their costumes and then joining their class later in the afternoon for the party. It should a hoot but I just can't imagine 18 four-year-olds + 2 teachers + parents all fitting into their classroom. This is going to interesting at best! Then, on Friday, they have another "Pumpkin Party" at gymnastics school. Same thing there but their costumes need to be "movement" friendly. So much to think about beyond trick-or-treating!

Halloween day is going to be another dreary, wet, windy affair which is totally on par for Michigan weather. It will be the first time going through our new neighborhood and it will give us a good chance to meet some of our neighbors. At least our porch is completely covered and big enough for a lot of little ones to stand on! I have a ton of candy and if all else fails, tons of snack packs and granola bars! I have no clue how many kids to expect here. There were easily over 100 kids, sometimes double that, at our old house.

I hope that your Halloween Day is a great one and be on the lookout for pictures in the next several days...you gotta love cute kids in costumes! :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Is it worth it?


Some of the colors in our back yard...

We had another appraiser out to the house today. We are in the process of refinancing the house for mainly two reasons.
  1. To get an even better interest rate than we had in March
  2. To reassess our home value in order to gain equity for financial purposes. 
This process has been unlike anything we have ever gone through. We were originally told that we could refinance the mortgage after 3 months. There were a lot of hoops at that time that we would have to jump through, such as $X in the bank and X number of rent payments on the old house. We were diligent and followed through on everything, but when the time came to proceed, we were told the time frame was now 6 months. Great.

So, the 6 month period has come and gone. Once again, we have completed everything as asked, delivered a hundred papers to the lender, stashed money away in the bank, etc. and here we sit. We had our appraisal done weeks ago and it came in at just about where we thought it would. Hooray! But wait! The underwriter doesn't "trust" the numbers on the appraisal so they have forced us to get another appraisal. "It's no big deal.", the lender assures us. Ya sure, no big deal. Just another $350 out of our pockets, that's all. Oh, and more waiting -AND- if the second appraisal comes in higher (how nice!), the underwriter will still throw it out and use the original value. If the second appraisal comes in lower (boooo!), we throw it out and still use the original value, but with a smaller loan amount. It's not like we even had a say which appraisers were chosen, that's completely up to the Lender...and they don't "trust" the value? Madness.

With luck, we will close by Thanksgiving! No, I really do hope it's sooner than that but I'm not a patient person so all this fooling around is killing me. In the end, it will be great to definitively say just how much Mike and I were able to raise our home value, in just a few months, with our own hands. Then we can finally give ourselves that long awaited pat-on-the-back and start working on other projects that have been neglected for far too long. Can anyone say, "Garage"?


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Falling for Autumn


Fall is my favorite season of the year. Usually, Autumn in Michigan is the epitome of perfection. Warm, sunny afternoons full of color and the smell of freshly fallen leaves, followed by cool evenings. The air permeated by the sounds of a marching band or a crackling fire in the fireplace. I love walking wooded trails, paved like a golden rainbow with a canopy of color rustling overhead. Driving down a county road, creating a swirling vortex of leaves in your wake. Raking the yard just to make a pile big enough for the squealing kids to jump into. This is Fall. This is what I love...

Our weather this year hasn't been the finest so we make do with what we have. The trees are still beautiful with their blankets of orange, yellow and red. The hikes have been some of my favorites of the year and a crisp, clear sky full of stars still greets us at night. My camera loves Fall, too. So many great shots of the girls playing, the family picking pumpkins, dressing up for Halloween or sitting by the fire. There are plenty of leaves at our new place and football season is in full swing. I even had my first date with Mike in the Fall...September 18th, 1993. 16 years sure seems like a lifetime ago but as soon as I catch the scent of that cool, apple-autumn breeze blowing my way, it seems like only yesterday.

I love Fall.....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lonely Daze, Lonely Nights...


February 18th, 2008

I apologize for the graphic photo. It is actually the first time I have seen it on my computer. It was a photo that Mike snapped of me with his cell phone and the only one to my knowledge of my time in the hospital last year. The reason that I wanted to share this with you is that I just finished reading the book, "Bed Number Ten" by Sue Baier, a woman who suffered through Guillain-Barré syndrome back in the early 80's. Although I knew about the book last year, I just couldn't bring myself to read it. I was afraid of it. Of the memories that it would bring to the surface and how I would react to it.

For some reason, when a friend of mine, who is going back to school to become a nurse, mentioned how much she liked the book, I really wanted to read it. So I ordered it. I stared at it for a day. Then I took the plunge. And very quickly, I was drawn back into a world that I would rather forget. I think I cried every couple pages until closer to the end of the book. The struggle of being completely paralyzed except for your eyes yet being able to hear and feel everything. Being hooked up to the ventilator because you can't breathe on your own, and now you can't talk either. Having no way to call anyone for help except with your tears. And the worst of it was the nursing staff who thought I was a nut job at first, and even when they realized this was as real as it gets, treated me like I didn't even exist.Oh the stories I could tell you...

Just like Sue, I had the best husband, family and friends who were there to take care of me, my home and children when I couldn't. I also had some excellent nurses, although they were few and far between, and if I had my way would have been with me 24/7. Obviously that wasn't realistic but oh how I dreaded when their shift ended! Who was I going to get now? What kind of torture would I have to endure for the next 12 hours? Would I ever sleep through the night again? And on and on and on.....Most of the Doctors were pretty cruel as well, unless they wanted my consent to present my case in front of others, for teaching purposes. Then they were all smiles and warmth. Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome is very rare, only occurring in approximately 10  per 1 million people each year. So each hospital in Kent County might only see 1, maybe 2 cases per year, with each patient presenting differently. Crazy, huh?


My point is, if you ever wanted to know what people like me have to go through with this disease, you have only to read this book to find the answer. Although Sue was in the hospital MUCH longer than me (the medical treatments that I received did not exist in the 80's), our stories are the same. I would love to meet her some day and I think that, in the future, I would like to help other families who are suffering with GBS.

....In case anyone is interested, you can see my breathing tube, feeding tube and suction tube in the picture. I could wobble my head slightly at this time but not much, which is why I have several rolled towels there to support me. I could not move, other than some finger twitches and eyes. I needed to have a cloth tucked under my chin at all times to catch the constant drool pouring out of my mouth. You can't see the 3-pronged port in my neck, but it pulled and itched all the time, just like the tape on my face. Even though the physical scars are disappearing, the emotional ones are still raw and healing.

Thanks for letting me share this...it's another step forward for me on the path to being able to help others who are suffering. I appreciate your support more than you know...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Me" Time

My days have been hectic lately. The weather isn't helping either. Just the other day, I felt like my limbs were filled with lead and I couldn't bear to do anything other than the basic necessities. Tomorrow, for instance, is so jam packed with activities that there is no time for a breather. I really needed some time to myself...I was starting to feel down and self loathing, which isn't good for me or my family.

What better way to grab that much needed pick-me-up than an afternoon at the salon! From the moment that I walk in, I know that my worries are behind me and the only thing I need to focus on is listening to my stylist tell me, "Chin down" or "Now I'm going to rinse", etc. I get to be pampered and come out looking better than when I walked in without my lifting a finger! Sweet.

I ended up getting 6 inches loped off which, if nothing else, will ease my afternoon/evening headaches from wearing my long hair up, as I often do. I was given new layers, bangs readjusted (along with my attitude), and a fresh new look and outlook. I also splurged and purchased some new product for my hair, makeup (threw out a bunch of the old stuff) and finally picked out a nice, new brush. I felt so much better by the time I was done-too bad I can't afford to do it more often!

"Me" time is heavenly and I've learned that when life seems too crazy and out of balance, just taking a few moments to honor your own person makes a world of difference. You're the only "you" you've got!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Playing Games

This afternoon, I employed the girls in a fun game of Pick Up Sticks. With all of the "lovely" weather that Michigan has been experiencing during the past several days weeks months...ok, all year...the yard was pretty much a disaster zone. Leaves were everywhere and large branches, bark and sticks covered every available square inch of grass. With perseverance, we covered the entire yard and made a nice little pile of wood/kindling that we can conveniently use in our indoor or outdoor fireplace. S'mores, anyone?

Then I got the brilliant idea of surprising Mike by mowing the yard. Now, some of you have seen our yard and know that it is massive, especially compared to our old yard. We have a riding mower and truthfully, I can not remember the last time that I used it to cut the grass. We are talking years here folks...I certainly have never cut it since living in Cascade. We used to have a walk-behind mower and I mowed the grass all the time at our first house, and I actually like using the snow blower, so it's not like I'm afraid use big yard machines or anything. It's just that Mike normally likes doing it so much and I am more than happy to oblige him!

So, I hopped on, started her right up and began my journey around the yard. Now, our yard is NOT flat. In fact, it has some steep sections, tight spaces, and tons of trees. There is a spot right between our neighbors house and ours that is very steep, narrow and rutted. Embarrassingly, I have never been that scared mowing the lawn in my life! I thought I was going to tip over sideways every time I had to go through there! I kept thinking, "I wonder if the neighbors can see the fear on my face every time I drive by?" and then I would mentally slap myself..."Get a grip, girl! It's just a lawn mower!". Then, to top it off, I ran out of gas right in the middle of that section, which felt more like teetering on the edge of a sheer cliff! Ugh. Thank goodness the spare gas can was full, so I filled 'er up again and continued on my way.

I eventually got the whole thing done, although I'm convinced that it took me twice as long as Mike. But, I did it! Here's hoping that he's happy about it, instead of being sad I usurped his favorite weekly chore!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Footprints in the Sand



This is one of my favorite photos from the trip so I wanted to share it with you. I love seeing just the girls and their little footprints walking in the sand at sunset. They were great the whole trip but being at the beach was always their favorite. The Gulf of Mexico was a balmy 85 degrees, full of gentle waves and crystal clear water that let you see the tropical fish swimming around your ankles!

As usual, we had a wonderful and relaxing vacation in Florida. I know that most of you don't want to hear this but we had sunny days, warm temps (in the 80's), light breezes and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore daily. The weather was perfect. I don't know what the official count was but I know that we found over 150 new Geocaches, swam in the pools, played on the beach, read a few good books, enjoyed the local cuisine, spent quality time with my family and friends, etc. Life was good!

Now, back to reality...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Falling...

Well, with the Fall Season here in all it's glory, I have come to the realization that no matter how busy I thought the Summer was, this Fall is worse, much worse. I am running in circles, trying hard to focus on today, tomorrow, the weekend, next month, Christmas, the girls' 5th Birthday....ahhhhhhhhh!!!!

The only good thing (date wise) about the next few months, is the absence of birthday's. There are NO birthday's in my family in September, October, or November, and only 1 in December. Whew. My sister will be turning the big "30" in January two weeks before the twins turn "5". We are taking the girls to Disney World for their birthday, as we have promised them for the past several years. I think it's time and I think that they will be able to enjoy it now that they are a little older and have seen many of the famous Disney movies.

This past weekend was spent in Chicago, minus the children, and we had a great time. We even made a little side trip up to Wisconsin to visit with some dear friends! The time went way too fast and before I knew it, we were back home unpacking the suitcases only to start laundry and re-pack them again! We are leaving for FL on Saturday morning and I am so ready for a vacation in the sun!

As I take a deep breath here, I am plagued by the fact that I have too much to say due to my failure to update the blog as often as I should. I'm starting to ramble and my thought process is becoming disjointed. This seems familiar....

Tomorrow I'll be back to expound upon recent events in a more logical manner. Until then, enjoy the chaos!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting Out!

We actually got a chance to go Geocaching 3 days in a row this weekend! Yaahoo! We had the pleasure of escorting our dear friend, CaptRussell (caching name), through town on Friday morning. We did 2 great multi-caches closer to downtown and took a nice nature walk in the park adjacent to the twins preschool for the last cache. As always, our time together was too short and went by too quickly. Hopefully we will get a chance to catch up with Russell and his family when we make our way down to Disney World in January. Here's hoping anyway!

The Tikibirds and CaptRussell

Saturday, the girls went down to Gun Lake on the boat with Grandma and Grandpa, while we had the joyous experience of power-washing the house. It's amazing how many different shades of white there are! After 4+ hours of washing, we realized that we hadn't eaten all day so we headed out for a bite, didn't want to go back home yet, so we hit the trails for a few caches close to home. Mike and I had fun caching, just the two of us, on a gorgeous day!

Mike & I at Fallsburg Park

Sunday, we had no plans (can't believe it!) so we planned a route that would hopefully allow us to hit #4500 on our cache find list. We chose to do all country caching, instead of heading into a city like Kalamazoo or Lansing. It was great! Tons of nature, hiking trails, lakes, dirt roads and fresh country air. We hit our milestone and savored a wonderful day spent together as a family exploring our world! Awesome!

Mike and the Twins pose near "Pokey at the Lake" Find #4500!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

GYMCO


The girls had their first day of Gymnastics Preschool on Friday. They were so excited to get started-stopping for me to take pictures was driving them bonkers. Listen, this kinda stuff only happens once and they're all we've got. I know that they will appreciate these pictures as they get older!

The class is from 9am - Noon on Fridays and there seems to be a good mix of boys and girls, ages 3 to 5, in the group. They spend the first hour or so doing gymnastic work, then time in the classroom with a more typical curriculum and conclude with time outdoors hiking, exploring or playing. It's considered *movement* based school and the girls had a riot. I KNOW they are going to love it!


We get to meet their regular Preschool teacher and see their classroom on Thursday. Last year, their teacher was Ms. Anderson...this year it's Ms. Johnson. How easy is that? They will be attending Tues./Thurs. afternoons...I'm actually going to have more than 15 min. of time to myself during the week now! Way cool...



It's really going to be interesting next year when they start Kindergarten. I do believe that most school districts in our area will be moving to an All-Day kindergarten schedule due to recent Michigan legislation that cuts funding to schools who only offer half-day classes. Because the twins will be on the older-side, I don't think that they will have any problems with the transition. Either way, I'm sure I'll be a mixture of tears and giddiness at this time next year!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oma

Today we mourn the loss of Mike's beloved Oma (Grandma). Born in Germany, and arriving in the US with children in tow back in the late 50's (I believe), her husband was very lucky to land a job at Ford Motor Company. He worked hard and earned the respect of his managers and co-workers and little by little, they began to establish a stable world for their children.

Then her husband, Ted, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease or ALS when he was only in his early 50's, and was gone too soon-Mike never even got to meet him. She found a life long friend in Henry, a fellow German, whom she shared her life with until his sudden passing a few years back. Since that time, her quality of life had significantly diminished, she had come to live here in Grand Rapids to be near her daughter (Mike's Mom) and was eventually transferred to hospice care.

We knew this moment was coming, and soon, but it's never easy to say "Good-bye" for the last time. We did that last night and it was hard...really hard. She loved her 4 great-grandchildren so much! All girls...April, Kimmie, Lauren & Tara...they could always make her smile. Oma was full of spunk, warm, caring, compassionate, funny and a German accent that made everything she said sound more interesting. I am grateful that, through Mike, I had a chance to have her in my life and that of my children. We are all better off because of it....

We'll miss you, Oma. Be at peace and watch over us. You'll always be in our hearts.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Microwave


So, we (mostly Mike) finally got the microwave installed above the stove on Sunday. Doesn't it look pretty? Ok, maybe *pretty* isn't the right choice of words, but it's so nice to have this appliance in its place-that empty, ugly space that was just waiting for something new and shiny to fill it!

The oven directly below it is also new and shiny. So much so that it hasn't even been used yet....seriously. Mike still has to run a new gas line under the house so that we can officially install the stove too. We have another large microwave, in our mini-kitchen in the family room, that we were using to cook a lot of our food. We really need the real deal working though. I hate to cook so that aspect has been great. The amount we spend on pre-prepared meals and eating out is not-so-great. Time to get moving on some of those final house completion projects!

So, YAY for the microwave! I can't wait to start using it!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Age of Discovery '09

Sammy, Lauren, Ashley & Tara
The X4 Micro's and The Tiki Micro's hanging out at the Event...
(arguably 4 of the most photogenic girls ever!)

Saturday was the 6th Annual "Age of Discovery" Geocaching Event. We are proud to say that we have been in attendance for all 6, and we always have a great time. It's one of our favorite events each year. We have been in charge of running the game for the past several years and it's a riot. This year, we had the idea of a "Log" race...how fast can you find the cache, open it, sign the log book, put it back as found and get back to the starting line! We had an adult division and a kids division as well. In case you were curious, the fastest time was 22 seconds! Crazy!

The weather held out yesterday and it didn't start raining again until the event was just wrapping up. It has been so cold in Michigan this year. We never had a Summer. It's still August, although we're at the tail end, but you would think it was the end of October. High's in the 60's and low's in the 40's makes for unseasonably cool days and nights. I'm actually irritated that the girls never even got to wear most of their Summer clothes-it never got warm enough. I'm also realizing that they do not have much in the way of Fall clothes either. I love shopping but darn, it's expensive. Gotta keep watching for those sales and Old Navy coupons! :)

Life has been super busy and September is turning out to be a crazy month already. The good news is that the girls start Gymnastics Preschool on the 4th, regular Preschool on the 15th, Mike and I have a weekend planned in Chicago the 18-20th and then we leave for a week-long vacation to Florida on the 26th. Ahhhh, vacation. I can't wait! And, at least Florida should be warm!

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Uh, Mike...what is that?!

This weekend was spent doing yard work. It is really the first time since we moved in that we have been able to spend a whole weekend just working on the outside of the house. On Saturday, we took down a big crab apple tree that was blocking the entire front half of the house. There is finally sunlight in my living room and it makes the entire house seem brighter!
We also took down about a dozen smaller trees and trimmed up about a half dozen others. We trimmed all the hedges and bushes, planted some hostas, mowed the lawn, etc. It really is starting to look better and I can't wait til next Spring when we can really concentrate on the landscape.
Anyway, in the course of working in the back yard yesterday, I was standing by the shed and I noticed something in the woods, right at the grass line. As I was staring at it, I realized that it looked like a bobcat. Now, I have never seen a bobcat in real life but what I was looking at was no house kitty but it wasn't a cougar or coyote either. Mike was close by and once I got him to focus on the cat, we both couldn't believe our eyes! A BOBCAT!? In Michigan? In our suburban neighborhood? I tried to run inside to grab the camera but by the time I returned, the animal had walked off deeper into the woods and I was not about to go looking for it...
It was crazy...I know that we have deer, rabbits, squirrels, and other woodland creatures in our yard and neighborhood but a bobcat is just insane. I really hope that I can catch a glimpse of it again...and then again, maybe not!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Falling Leaves

As Mike and I were working hard to finish putting the shingles up on the roof of the shed Sunday, I noticed movement behind me. When I turned around, the biggest smile crept across my face. Here was Lauren, running around the yard with an old laundry basket that they use for their sand toys. I quickly realized what she was up to.... the wind was pretty feisty at that moment and some of the early leaves were falling off the trees in our back yard. She was trying to catch them in her basket.

She was so engrossed in her mission. So joyous each time she caught one. So completely oblivious to anyone watching her. It was perfect and I loved every minute. These are the moments that I cherish being a mother, when the great emotions of pride, devotion and love bubble up and out. Just to be in that moment is enough.

To the wonder and joy of children....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Braces of the World Unite


Brace Family Reunion


On Saturday, we made our way up to Baldwin, MI for a family reunion with the Brace side of the family. Although I can't be positive, I do not believe that there is anyone still living from Mike's Grandparents generation. Most of the family represented are the surviving children, mostly born in the 40's and 50's. Family flew in from Alaska, Washington, Canada and from all over Michigan to be there. It was interesting that Mike & I and Tim & Erin were only ones there to represent our generation and the twins are the only children, period, of the next generation.

Connie and Joe's "cabin" is heavenly. Located on a quiet lake, with their own private beach, wonderful open deck and walkway down to the water, first class accommodations in an all wood-designed house-does it get any better? Plus, they live in FL in the cold months! Sign me up! Anyway, the food was great, the company pleasant and the conversations flowed easily. I look forward to the next time we can all get together and hopefully more family members will be inclined to join us! Wish that we could have stayed longer....

Friday, August 14, 2009

The New Shed


We needed to build a shed on our property to keep all of our lawn and garden equipment stored in. Our garage is for cars, but you wouldn't know it. We haven't had a car in the garage since we moved in and it was starting to get really annoying. But, we couldn't do anything until we had a place to move almost 1/2 the garage into. The solution: a 10 x 10 shed kit.

We built the framing for the floor ourselves using 4x4's on the exterior and treated 2x4's up the middle. Then we used 3/4 in. treated plywood for the floor. The shed kit itself went up pretty easily and with help from Mike's Dad, Shaun, and the girls (*wink*), in no time, we had space again. The only thing left to do is to put up the shingles and build a mini-ramp so it's easier to get the riding lawn mower in and out.

All in all, we are pretty happy with it. I think that if we would have built it by hand, we would have made a few design modifications, but the functionality is there, and that's the important part. So, happy shed and happy garage!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Thing about Garage Sales...

Garage sales are fun, not only to go to, but to have as well. Not only are you able to devoid your dwelling of unneeded items, you make a few extra bucks in the process and feel good about helping someone else find a treasure or two for very little cost. The not-so-fun part is getting ready for the sale. Since it was going to be at my house, we had to have the garage available. Duh. Too bad it was filled floor to ceiling with boxes, yard gear and lawn equipment.

We needed to build our shed in the yard in order to move out a good portion of tools and such, to make room for the sale, but more importantly, for the actual cars that should be residing there. I'll leave the details of the shed for another post, but needless to say, we got it all up and put together mid-week (minus the shingles) and were able to start weeding through the mess that was our garage. By Thursday afternoon, 3/4 of the garage was clean. It lasted this way for about 10 min.

Setting up went pretty well but we needed more tables. Luckily, my mom came through and we came up with a good plan for our setup. Friday was a gorgeous day and we had steady traffic the entire time. None of the big stuff sold though, which was kinda disappointing. But we figured that more people come on a Saturday anyway and we would be good after another day. Too bad Saturday never even saw a sale. Not one. It rained in buckets constantly until right about the time we had everything packed up and put away, or 1:30 in the afternoon. Bummer. My garage is still full of stuff. Bigger bummer. We're going to have to do it all over again in a few weeks at my sister's house (which is in a better location I think). Total bummer.

And....I did learn something funny about having a garage/yard sale in Cascade Township. Don't be surprised when your shoppers pull up in Hummers and Corvettes and Lincolns! Ha ha ha ha....perhaps their frugal garage sale finds allowed them the privilege of owning a vehicle like that....or, perhaps not. Either way, it made us all laugh. Only in America...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Family


My Family
(from Left to Right)
My brother Kevin, his wife Renee, my Mom, my sister Anna, Mike, my niece Hailey, my Dad, my brother-in-law Shaun, Tara, Lauren and me.

Although I have the rare privilege of getting together with my entire immediate family on a regular basis, for some reason we never record it with pictures. It's my theory that because we do this so often, meaning at least once a month or more, it just doesn't seem all that important. Today we were celebrating my father's birthday at Boulder Creek Country Club and I thought everyone was looking so nice, and happy (and well fed), that it would be really nice if someone could snap a photo for me. Luckily the clubhouse had extra staff that could assist us and I think the picture turned out pretty well considering the substantial wind, humidity and 90 degree heat. Not a bad looking bunch if I do say so myself!

We then headed over the Casino Club for their "Family Fun Day" where we were entertained by Dee Jay the Clown, had our faces painted, bounced in the "Bouncy Castle" and played cutesy carnival games for cheap prizes. The kids loved it of course and I even won the gigantic carrot cake during the "Cake Walk"! It was nice seeing a lot of familiar faces and the blue cotton candy wasn't bad either...

After all of this, we were so hot and looking for a pool to relax and cool off in. So we headed over to our friends Ken and Barb's house for a little splash time. Their pool was SO refreshing and the girls are getting so brave. Tara loves to jump into the water from the highest spot and she is now "swimming" with her head under water. Lauren was jumping from one raft to another all by herself and she was so proud! Pretty soon those arm floaties are coming off and they'll be like little fish. Way to go, girls!

So much was going on last week that I had no time to update. Frustrating. I'll be getting caught up this week with "shed" pictures, our trip to the Children's Museum, and the fun of garage sales! Stay tuned....