Friday, December 6, 2013

12 Days of Happy

Oh hey, yeah it's me. I'm still alive. Maybe my blogging hiatus is over, or maybe this just a quick foray into MichiGal and then I'll be MIA again. I make no promises. But when my fellow Michigan blogger friend, Ashley from Parsimonious Pash, said she was looking for bloggers to link up for a 12 Days of Happy post, I decided to jump back in. For a minute. Maybe more.

Writing about happy things is always fun, and here are 12 things I'm particularly over the moon about at the moment.

1. Family
Okay it's the obvious one. But we just had a great Thanksgiving holiday, and now we're looking forward to an equally awesome Christmas time. My cousin from Kentucky came to stay with us for a few days. I saw some other familial peeps I haven't seen in awhile. I spent some time with my godson and his precious baby sister. I found out my aunt does NOT have cancer. My sister sent the kids their annual Trader Joe's Advent calendars (thanks, Grace!). My mom and mother-in-law help me out at every turn and are the best grandmas ever. And my brother-in-law will be here in a couple weeks for a holiday visit. I am just so blessed and grateful to have all these people in my life (including those I did not specifically mention!).

2. Christmas Shopping
I love Christmas shopping. Love love love it. I'm not the most materialistic person, and given a choice I'd generally rather "do" than "have". (Although, remind me I said that when you catch me browsing the Vera Bradley site and ogling all the beautiful patterns and great deals...). But I do love to shop. And this is my annual chance to spoil my kids a little bit and have some fun. I love searching for bargains and trying to find the best prices, and putting lots of thought into the perfect gifts. This year I've been trying to shop local more, although I can't resist the Siren call of Amazon. Especially now that Mathilda's preschool has signed up as an affiliate, so that when we use their link to shop, they get a small percentage of sales. I love her preschool, which is a tiny non-profit with lower than usual enrollment this year, and I know they can use all the funds they can get to help make up for those lost tuition dollars. If you're doing some Amazon shopping, it'd be awfully sweet of you to use their link too! Here it is: Amazon affiliate link.

3. My Gym Membership
My personal splurge is a gym membership. Sure I realize that I could theoretically work out for free by simply walking or running outside, using the hand-me-down exercise bike in our basement, or randomly planking in public places and then posting the photographic evidence on Facebook. However, I know me. And I know that the best way for me to work out is to get out of my house and away from all its wonderful and terrible distractions. I need a place where there is nothing to do but work out. And I especially love and am sort of addicted to working out with my lovely friend, Tina. We have fun. We laugh. It's not boring. Sometimes I don't feel like going to the gym, but I honestly feel like a million bucks every time I leave. 

4. My Ancient Mutt
We're not extravagant pet people. Our dog gets a bath like once a year and sleeps on the cold hard floor. But that doesn't mean I'm not crazy about our sweet, sweet Cleopatra, who will be 13 years old this week. She will likely celebrate by placidly lying around while children climb on her, accidentally step on her tail, and try to get her to budge so they can get into the front closet. Maybe she'll get a doggie biscuit or two to mark the festive occasion. We specially picked Cleo out of a litter of rambunctious pups based on her calm personality, and we couldn't ask for a better dog to put up with our family. She gets her tail pulled, she looks sadly at the culprit and continues on her way. She gets stepped on, she lets out a pathetic little whimper and goes back to sleep. She loves to go for car rides and can almost walk around the block without having to be half dragged back to our house. Happy Birthday, Cleo, you've been good to us.

5. Books
Books have been my drug, and reading my ultimate escape mechanism, for as long as I can remember. I'm pretty much always in the middle of at least one book, and more likely two or three. I read to my kids until I lose my voice, hop from Kindle to "real" book and back again, write book reviews from time to time, visit the library, help organize Lucy and Connor's school book fair, and go to a sort of book club once a week. Sort of because we mostly drink coffee and bitch about our kids, but once in awhile we get in an excellent book discussion too. Books are a huge part of my life, and have taught me so much about the world, about other people, and about myself. Yesterday I picked up two Stephen Hawking books from the library. Don't laugh. 

6. My Bed
I've bragged raved about my bed before and I'm about to do it again. Every single day I am so happy that I won that Gardner White Furniture contest awhile back and decided to spend my entire prize, a $1000 gift certificate, on a kick ass mattress. It's been, oh I don't know, who am I am kidding...I can't remember these types of's been awhile, and I am literally still in heaven every time I lay down. I try to do my online stuff in bed but my bedroom is like an internet dead zone or something, and sometimes I get tired of losing service every few minutes, but there is no place I'd rather be while I'm doing my Christmas shopping or writing my blog posts. Or reading, or talking on the phone, or having important discussions. I think it's a Serta memory foam mattress, but wouldn't you know, I'm also not good at remembering those sorts of things.

7. Friends
First let me mention that this list is in no particular order. So being lucky #7 does not mean anything at all, accept that my friends are without a doubt an important part of my happiness dozen. I have some truly wonderful friends who manage to make me feel better about life and the world and everything in it. Some have been in my life for decades, some are more recent additions, but I love them all and am so happy to have them.

8. Rosetta Stone
I think my Life List (see link up top) says something about learning French. If it doesn't, it should. French was my favorite subject in high school, and I started off as a French major in college. But I stopped taking it when I transferred to a community college for a few semesters and found that I'd already leveled out of their French courses. Quitting French has been a long time regret of mine, and now I am finally going to try again. For years I have coveted Rosetta Stone but never wanted or was able to pop that giant tag. Then my wonderful friend Shelly (told you my friends are awesome) posted on Facebook that Rosetta Stone was having a crazy good Cyber Monday deal, PLUS payments could be broken up into five monthly installments (with no penalty!). Immediately I told Chris that's what I wanted for Christmas, and yesterday a beautiful yellow box containing French lessons I-V arrived on my doorstep. My heart is soaring. I am so happy. And no, I'm not waiting until Christmas. I've already started. So have Bethany and Lucy. Bonjour!   

9. Babies
Intellectually I know that I won't be birthing anymore babies. But my heart sometimes has a different idea. Chris is fixed and that's a good thing, because I'm pretty sure I could work my powers of persuasion on him and next thing you know we'd be trying to figure out where to put another kid in this house. I recently went to a baptism, with 10 adorable, cherubic little babies being baptized. Ten. In my direct vicinity. I looked at Chris across the pew and mouthed, "I want a baby," to which he responded by giving me an "it sucks to be you" look, and that was the end of it. Although I know that deep down he would love a baby too, and if it weren't for the small matter of a certain surgery, I wouldn't even have to work all that hard to persuade him. At the luncheon after the ceremony, I held that itsy bitsy freshly baptized baby while her parents ate, smelled her scrumptious head and got into my bounce 'n walk groove with no trouble at all. I'm not sure it would have been possible for me to be happier in that moment. Days later and I'm still feeling it. Babies are pure magic.

10. Music
A couple weeks ago I was in a funk. So crabby. My cure? The Beatles. I tend to listen to the same music over and over again until I move onto the next thing, which I'll then listen to repeatedly. It just makes me unreasonably happy to listen to certain music and I want to keep re-living that feeling.

11. Packages on the Porch
Opening my door and seeing a brown cardboard box (or even better, a stack of them) sitting there kind of gives me that Christmas morning feeling, even though what's in those boxes is rarely for me. It's so much fun receiving packages, knowing what's inside is going to make someone happy. And it's also fun when it's for me. And knowing that a few minutes ordering online saved me tons of time driving around from store to store, that makes me happy too.

12. Sleep
Wonderful, mysterious, luxuriously rejuvenating sleep...ahhh! Most mornings I am up and at 'em, but those few and far between days, when I wake up and realize hey! I have nowhere to go, and I can roll over and snuggle down deeper into the covers...those mornings are the best. The rare treat of a nap also brings me immeasurable pleasure, especially if the stars align and my kids leave me alone long enough to actually fall asleep. That is an utterly beautiful thing.

What's making you a happy camper these days? I'd love to hear all about it! Also, if you are a blogger, head over to Parsimonious Pash and link up! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Reminder to Slow Down

It was bound to happen.

I was super stressed. Chris has been traveling a ton, so I'm flying solo much of the time. We have so much going on constantly. I am over-extended and worn out. So, the universe has delivered a forced slow down, especially for me.

 Mama is sick, and that is never a good thing.

A few weeks back, I took the kids to Cedar Point for HalloWeekends. I was feeling like crap, but there was no backing out. Chris was out of town so I was on my own. I forged ahead because I refused to disappoint the kids, and it was a really great opportunity. And a wonderful thing happened. After walking around the park for hours upon hours, I actually felt better. Ha! I beat this thing! I felt rather...invincible.

Fast forward to this past week. Chris was gone (again). I had two sick girls. I was starting to feel like crap (again). I forged ahead, because I had to. And now, here I am, not getting better. I'm re-visiting my youth, when I was down for the count with respiratory ailments on a regular basis, when struggling for breath was a way of life.

We have a house full of asthmatics, which means the proper tools (a nebulizer) and drugs (Albuterol) are on hand. So I gave myself a breathing treatment. Because, you know, it feels good to breathe. And...yuck. I hope this is not how my girls feel when they take Albuterol, because my heart was racing, I was jittery, and my teeth were still chattering the next morning. It did seem to help with the breathing thing though. Also my wonderful husband went to the store late at night and woke me up with two cold tablets and a glass of water because he could tell I wasn't sleeping well. Those tablets have been helping too. I'm just worn out, congested, and not real happy with the breathing situation. I haven't slept this much in years. Napping even.

So, see Universe? I'm slowing down. I'm resting. But enough already, okay? I've got a busy week ahead. Lots of driving little people back and forth. Meetings. Errands. Household maintenance. Fun stuff, too, like Disney On Ice. I'm even going to defy you a little bit and continue going to the gym, but I'll take it easy.Who knows, maybe I'll sweat it out. Also, I don't mean to sound all self-important by mentioning how busy I am. This is just my life. I enjoy relaxing, believe me, and squeeze it in whenever I can.

Thank you for the reminder. I do realize that sometimes I need it. Thanks also for allowing me to be well enough that I can still function on an as needed basis. I will continue to strive for balance. I will also continue to rest, because dang it, I'm tired. Hopefully one day it will fully sink in, and then you can quit sending me these annoying reminders.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Stress Busters

It's been an interesting week for me on a personal level, with "interesting" being a euphemism for: stressful, hard, enlightening (in a bad way), disappointing, and...well, I think you get my gist. When I encounter bumps in the road like this, I often get stuck in a depressive rut. My game is thrown, know what I mean? This week I've been trying to counteract my self-defeating natural tendencies, with limited success. There's room for improvement, but I'm doing okay. Which is better than lounging in the pits of despair.

My coping mechanisms this week:

  • I have allowed myself to lean on my husband. I'm typically a loner when it comes to difficult situations, so this is a different way of doing things for me. 
  • Sleeping a lot. Maybe this isn't great, but I usually don't get anywhere near enough sleep. This past week I've been getting, I'm estimating, enough plus a little more.
  • Confiding in a friend. I might vent from time to time, but I generally don't ever truly lay it all out there for anyone. This time I did, and it was kind of refreshing, in a super naked feeling kind of way.
  • Escapism, in the form of reading a lot. Also, I even fell asleep watching Pretty in Pink one night. (I hardly ever watch television. But I love this movie.)
  • Yoga. I went to my first class. I loved it. I felt so zen by the end of the class, like I had just had an hour long massage. You know that feeling, kind of like you're walking on air and everything is just mellow and good? Three days later and it finally doesn't hurt my abs to cough anymore.
  • Getting out of the house. Mathilda and I went on two preschool field trips, one to an apple orchard and one to a fire station. It's kind of hard to be anything but happy when you're hanging out with a bunch of preschoolers. I went to book club with some girl friends. I went downtown with my friend and laughed a lot. 
  • Indulging in a little comfort food. I didn't go overboard, but I did get fries and a frappe from McD's, and ate lots of cereal.
  • Writing about it. No one has to see what you write, it still helps.
Well, I think that's all I've got. I'm trying. That's all. 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

9 Things I'd Tell My Tween Self

Dear Tween Me,

Those of us who survived the tween years know that they're no picnic. If we haven't totally blocked this whole awkward stage out of our minds, that is. I know you probably won't listen, but if you would, just for a minute, try to pay attention to your older and wiser self, I think you could learn a thing or two.

  1. Everyone has a struggle. I know you think the grass is always greener. Things are easier for other people. Homework. Friends. Family life. Hair. Fashion. Gym class. But appearances can be deceiving. This is something you'll want to remember your whole life, and best start now. No matter how awesomely perfect you think that super popular girl's life is, you truly have no idea what kind of things she's dealing with in her personal life. 
  2. Be thankful. You're rolling your eyes, I know you are. But I can save you a whole lot of trouble if you just heed this advice now. Many adults never even figure it out, but it's one of the most important life skills you can learn. Being happy is way better than being crabby, melancholy, depressed, jealous, and, well, unhappy. And being a happy person begins with gratitude. Trust me, you have a lot to be grateful for. Never, for one minute, forget that.
  3. People are focused on themselves. You think the world is silently ridiculing you for wearing that jacket from last season, or because you have a little blemish on your forehead or because you lost the battle with the curling iron this morning. Relax. I get that kids your age can be jerks in a major way, but I promise you that no one is as hyper-focused on you as you are. They are too busy thinking about themselves, and being embarrassed because they don't have the "right" shoes or because their parents won't let them wear make-up yet.
  4. Practice the Golden Rule. Again with the eye rolling. But think about it. Treat others as you would like to be treated. It's simple. It makes sense. Just do it. When you're tempted to join your buddies in being snarky about a classmate, think for a second how you would feel if someone talked to or about you like that. Suddenly it won't seem so funny anymore.
  5. Keep a journal. There are a couple reasons for this little piece of advice. First of all, you think now that you will always remember the wonderful details of your youth. But memories fade. You will forget so much. Secondly, writing is cathartic. When you're feeling confused, sad, overwhelmed, or angry, write it out. It releases negativity and helps you sort things out in your mind. In other words, you'll feel better. Plus you'll be writing so much in high school and college, you might as well get in as much practice as you can now.
  6. Be yourself. The temptation is great to fit in at any cost. You might not believe me right now, but standing out is a much better option. I know that there is a part of you that just doesn't want to be noticed right now. Or that only wants to be noticed as part of a group. But pretending to be someone you're not isn't the answer. Like what you like. Listen to the music you enjoy. Wear the clothes that make you feel good. Pursue the hobbies that interest you. People will still like you. If they don't, they can kiss off. Don't waste your energy on them. 
  7. Your friends all shop at Kmart. I know how mortified you are every time your mom or grandma take you to Kmart. You are terrified that someone will see you walking in the store and tell everyone at school that you're a Blue Light shopper. But (considering that there was no Target back then) where else do you think people get their school supplies, toilet paper, and shampoo? They go to Kmart. They really do. 
  8. Enjoy being the age you are right now. You want to grow up. You want to be independent and free. You'll get there, don't worry. In the meantime, thank your mother for doing your laundry, cooking your dinner, and giving you lunch money. Because when you're grown up, she won't do those things anymore. Your job right now is to be a kid, and that's not a bad job, so don't get too far ahead of yourself. 
  9. Don't be afraid. You are frozen by fear of failure and embarrassment.  You are terrified of the unknown. Failing is okay. Everyone does it. You'll get over it and be better off for trying. There are worse things than being embarrassed for a minute. Learn to laugh at yourself, and keep in mind #3. The world is full of unknowns, and the fun of life is turning as many of them into knowns as you possibly can. 

38-year old me, who still has a lot to learn

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: Jawbone UP from Best Buy

The reviewer (MichiGal) has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free. All opinions are my own.

I was SO EXCITED to be given the opportunity to review a Jawbone UP. Don't have any clue what I'm talking about? Here's what Best Buy has to say about this cool little product, before I go any further.
Live Better. Start now. Jawbone UP. Track your sleep activity, steps, calorie intake and more with the Jawbone UP wrist sensor and free mobile app. UP gives you meaningful, personalized insights so you can make lasting improvements to your everyday life. 
I wear it on my wrist like a bracelet. It looks like a bracelet, and I doubt anyone has thought it's anything other than that, unless they specifically know what it is. I've been wearing it pretty much constantly.

To give you an idea what it looks like:

I know it looks more like navy in the photo on the right, but it's black. The coloring just came out weird in that photo. Other colors are available, but I like the unobtrusiveness of black - it goes with everything and never looks out of place. They did a great job on the design. That silver piece that says "Jawbone" on it comes off, and underneath is the part (the sync port) that plugs into your phone to sync. It also plugs into the (included) charger, which then hooks up to your computer. The other end, which you can kind of make out in the photo on the right, is what you press to switch to nighttime mode. You know it's on nighttime mode because a little picture of a crescent moon lights up on the band. You can also somehow use this button to use your band as a timer of sorts, but that's a function I haven't played around with yet.

More confused than ever? Okay, here's the deal. You wear the UP band on your wrist. As stated above, it is a wrist sensor, so it tracks movements in your wrist. Using this, it calculates how many steps you take and monitors your sleep. It will not track your sleep unless you switch it to sleep mode, otherwise time spent sleeping will just show up as a dormant period on your activity tracker. It takes that data and translates it into how many miles you've walked. For added accuracy, you can calibrate your band. I just realized this, so I haven't done it yet.

I'll take you through a typical, ideal day. You wake up in the morning and push the little end button to switch back to daytime mode. Then you sync your band to your phone to upload your sleep data. You wear your band all day, and at bedtime you sync up again to upload your activity data (steps taken throughout the day). Then you switch to nighttime mode using that same little button. Every few days, you take the band off to charge it. A full charge can last up to 10 days. The Jawbone UP is water resistant up to 3.3', but I prefer to take it off when I shower. You do need to have a smartphone - be it an iPhone or otherwise - to use this product. An app is required, which is free.

What do I love most about the Jawbone UP? It's easy. It requires little effort on my end. It allows me to set sleep and fitness goals and then monitor them by telling me if I'm meeting those goals on a daily basis.

This is what data looks like on the app:

I chose a couple really good stat days to share with you, but let's be clear that I average much less sleep and fewer steps. The picture on the far right shows a seven day comparison of my sleep (also available for steps), which is not quite accurate because I failed to switch to sleep mode two out of seven nights. Oops! I'm still getting the hang of it! I have found that my daily steps are much lower than I thought they'd be, and to be honest I question whether all my steps are being picked up by the band. For example, I can see a big spike in my data when I go on the treadmill at the gym, but not when I go on the elliptical. Just something to keep in mind. I'm not sure it would pick up anything for other activities, such as cycling.

Basically this is a high tech toy to help you live a healthier lifestyle. It's fun to play around on the app, and there is much more that you can do with it that I haven't tried yet. For example:

  • Nutrition tracking/calorie counting. You can use the food database or even scan product bar codes to add foods to your dietary log.
  • Alarm clock. Gently vibrates to wake you at an optimal time in your sleep cycle so you feel nice and energized. I love this idea, but I'm not sure I trust it since I usually have to be awake at very specific times, whether I've had enough sleep or not! Again, I haven't tried it yet. I need to find out more info, but it might be designed strictly for napping purposes.
  • Inactivity monitoring. I love this one too! The band will vibrate on your wrist when you've been idle for too long, reminding you to get up and move. Blogging can be a very sedentary activity, so I could really use this function to remind myself to take breaks regularly. This one I'm going to try ASAP.
  • Mood tracking. On the app, you can choose your mood and it will be added in with your daily data. It's simple enough, but I haven't been doing it. I do think it's a good idea though, so you can see if your mood affects your activity level, amount of sleep, or caloric intake. 
  • Create a team. Find friends from your contacts, Facebook, and Twitter who are also using UP and connect. Support each other! There are privacy settings, so you can choose to only share certain data with your friends.
  • Stopwatch function.
The Jawbone UP doesn't come with an instruction manual. I know this is the way of the future with electronics, but I like to read something in a booklet form that it is easy to go back to for reference. There is a help option on the app to guide users along, but it's not quite as comprehensive as I'd prefer. 

The band is available in three sizes (see sizing info before ordering!) and retails for $130. According to my wrist measurement, I was wavering between two sizes, and decided to go up to a Medium rather than down to a Small. I think this was a good decision. It does jostle around a bit like a bangle bracelet, but I get kind of claustrophobic with tighter things, so it works for me. 

Setting goals is really important, whether fitness and health related or otherwise. Using my Jawbone UP, I have seen some pretty clear data letting me know that I have lots of room for improvement if I hope to reach my personal goals. Activity and sleep are vital for good health, and as such, the UP band is a great product for general monitoring purposes. Is it totally accurate? Of course not. This is not the same as being hooked up to sleep monitoring machines. This is tracking sleep and activity based on wrist movement. Take it with a grain of salt. But it will give you an idea of how you're doing and how you need to improve. If you're into health and fitness, and love techie gadgets, I think you'll find that the Jawbone UP is a valuable tool. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Mía Mariú Cosmetics

I received free products mentioned in this post. All opinions are my own.

Getting new make-up is so much fun! It's not something I splurge on often, but I love perusing make-up aisles and cosmetic departments, looking at all the colors and the new products. I love good make-up, that feels smooth and clean going on, and stays on without feeling unnatural and uncomfortable. Opening a new lipstick or compact is just so satisfying in a totally girly way!

Getting a box of Mía Mariú cosmetics in my mailbox recently might have made me squeal just a little. Ooooh! Pretty colors!

I got a Uniquely You Touch Up Kit (item CTU03), which is that cute little mirrored compact you see above. It closes magnetically, which  love, and has a cool picture on the front. According to the box, the kit "...contains everything you need to achieve attractive day or dazzling evening looks that are uniquely yours! Perfecting Finish Colors include Magic Satin Mineral Powder, Mineral Blush, & 3 Mineral Eye Shadows." I love have everything in one slim compact that I can easily slip into my purse or travel bag. The colors are universally appearing with a hint of sparkle (oooh sparkly!).

I also received three Hydrating Stick Glosses, in Beso (CLK03), Amore (CLK11), and Seducción (CLK06). The colors and glossy and classic. They go on smoothly. There's no grit...and if you've ever used a cheapo lipstick you know what I'm talking about it. Plus they smell good. I mean new lipstick usually does, but these have a faint vanilla scent. I love lipstick and I don't use it enough. Plus the labels say "Made in USA", if that sort of thing is important to you.

There were also a couple bonus items in my box-o-goodies, including a make-up brush, suitable for eye shadow (specifically called a Petite Detail Brush), and sample packets of RestauraCel-C Microdermabrasion Thermal Activator, RestauraCel-C Microdermabrasion Refinisher Cream, and Proteccion Hydrating Moisturizer SPF 30+. I'm looking forward to trying these, since I'm always on the lookout for ways to help my skin look more youthful and healthier.

Have you heard of Mía Mariú? It is a Dallas based company, selling high quality, make-up artist grade cosmetics and brushes, as well as natural skin care products, nutritional supplements, and fine fragrances. Their philosophy:
The Mia Mariu philosophy makes the connection between beauty and health in harmony.  Mia Mariu’s high performance products are formulated with the most natural ingredients available helping you achieve vibrant beauty and health inside and out.  Each unique product fuses nature and technology by combining the highest quality botanicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and peptides.  The result is healthy products that provide a perfect balance that reflects itself through youthful, healthy, beautiful, glowing skin and renewed energy and vitality, at an exceptional value. 

Now for the fun part...Mía Mariú is offering one MichiGal reader a Colors For Your Every Mood set, just like mine! A $109 value! And the winner will have her choice of three colors for the Hydrating Stick Glosses! Open to residents of the US and Canada. Just use the Rafflecopter form to enter! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Book Review: The Good Wife, by Jane Porter

The Brennan sisters are back again in Jane Porter's third novel in the series, The Good Wife. I enjoyed reading about this lively Irish family in both The Good Woman and The Good Daughter. I knew I couldn't pass up the latest installment of these inter-connected stories.

Each book focuses on one sister; the eldest, Meg, in The Good Woman; Kit, in The Good Daughter; and now the youngest sister, Sarah, in The Good Wife. There is still another sister, as well as a sister-in-law, who haven't been highlighted yet, and I hope Porter plans on continuing the series with both of them. Although the characters are better and more deeply understood when all the books have been read, it is not necessary to have read them all to enjoy each one individually.

There is a lot going on in The Good Wife, including an ancillary story about a friend of one of the sisters. The Brennan family is in turmoil, reeling from loss and dealing with disappointments, fears, and major changes. But Sarah is the focus, and she has her own problems to deal with - on top of those with which her entire family is struggling.

After an ultimate betrayal, Sarah works hard for three years to maintain her family and her marriage. But when her life is knocked off balance by tragedy, Sarah's world begins to teeter on the brink of disaster. She doesn't know if she can continue pretending that everything is fine. She doesn't know if her marriage can survive. But her relationship with herself might be suffering the most.

Throughout the book, the Brennan family rallies together with varying degrees of success. Will they be able to help Sarah make the right decisions to once again set her life on a positive path?  They are a real family, loving and supportive, yet not without fault. Some things may be crumbling, but the Brennans are ever determined to set things right and come out on top.

I keep coming back to these books for the richly developed characters. They are more than one dimensional; they feel real. Like I could be having lunch in the Bay area and spot them at a table across the restaurant; laughing and crying together, having each other's backs, yet also causing one another to bristle with spoken harsh truths and perceived judgments. Like a real family.

I look forward to the next book and can't wait to get personal with another Brennan sister. Hopefully Porter complies!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Re-Post: What 9/11 Means to Me

Today, in honor of my daughter Lucy's 7th birthday, I'm re-publishing this post I wrote two years ago, when she turned five. She will get a new birthday post too, but I think this one is a good reminder that there is more to today than tragic memories.

Yes, I remember what I was doing 10 years ago today. I was home with my new baby; Bethany was not yet a month old. Chris was at work and called to tell me to put the news on. As I was on the phone with him, I watched as the second tower was hit. It was a scary time to be an American. I remember feeling shocked and violated. I remember my heart breaking for all those who were missing or dead and their grieving families. But although I was sad as I sat watching the never-ending news coverage, nothing could take away the joy and wonderment of being a new mother.

I also remember what I was doing five years ago today. I was giving birth to my beautiful girl, Lucille Margaret. I was introducing Bethany and Connor to their brand new baby sister. I was stressing and feeling guilty because I was going to be missing Connor's first day of preschool the next day. I was feeling overwhelmed and overjoyed, because the two can definitely co-exist in the very same moment. I was holding my precious baby and trying to believe she was really mine.

When I tell anyone Lucy's birth date, the response I get is usually one of sympathy - such a sad day to have a birthday! But to me, September 11th is a day representing the introduction of Lucy into our lives. It is a happy day in our family. Because Lucy deserves that. Celebrating our daughter's birth on September 11th doesn't take away any of the horrors of that day 10 years ago. But it is a reminder that life goes on, life continues to be beautiful, and that our blessings in life are never ending.

Today I will bake a birthday cake and welcome guests into my home to celebrate Lucy's 5th birthday. I will wrap presents and sing "Happy Birthday". I will hug Lucy tight, kiss her sweet cheeks, and cherish her. I will quietly remember the tragedy of September 11, 2001, but I won't let that memory diminish the joy of Lucy's special day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Evolving Motherhood

My youngest little duckling went off to her second year of preschool this week. It hit me the other day that on her next birthday she'll be five. That's so...Big Kid. I won't have any little kids anymore. Crazy.

I love this age. I love our Mattie and Mama time when the big kids are at school. Mattie is at her sweetest and best when it's just the two of us. Oh I'm going to miss it!

I do realize that I have a whole year left, and there is no need to get ahead of myself. I want nothing more than to savor this last year of preschool magic, because when it's over life is going to be considerably different. I'm going to be so lonely, I know it already. My little buddy will be transformed into a big school girl. Gone will be our afternoons of cuddling on the couch, story time at the library, running errands together, going to the park. I feel so blessed to have had this special time with each of my kids. While I've always loved it, I admit that at times I took it for granted, or was too busy to notice, being too inundated with mothering little ones to think much about the fact that at some point it had to come to an end. And now I actually see the end of the road. It ends at an elementary school about a mile from my house, with Mathilda walking into her Kindergarten classroom.

Unfortunately, the school year has been off to a rough and stressful start in many regards. The sad truth is that I'm already fast forwarding to next summer in my mind. I'm wishing to be done with this crazy year, and it's barely started. I don't ever like to wish days away, so I'm trying to keep calm and carry on. I want to savor it. The preschool field trips and play dates, the working days*, the lunch dates for two. When it's done, it's done. The only real choice is to enjoy it all now while I can.

Keep calm. Carry on. Deep breaths. Slow down. Stop and smell the roses. And so on and so forth. I'm trying here people.

Mathilda has one more year to lay around in her pajamas, something she particularly relishes. She has one more year with sole control over the television between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. One more year that she doesn't have to share me with her siblings during these same hours. For the next year she can continue to eat breakfast and lunch when she feels like it, and request a story and a cuddle anytime. After 12 years of mothering little kids, it's kind of impossible to fathom that we're coming to the end of the road.

My role is evolving.
Oh the time, how it flies. 

*Mathilda goes to a co-op preschool, which means that all the parents take turns working in the classroom.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: LiveSmart Bars

LiveSmart's motto is "Health never tasted so good!" They might be right. I recently sampled all six varieties of LiveSmart Raw Bars and Flax Bars. I loved all of them! They are full of wonderful, healthy flax seeds, brown rice, sea salt, fruits and other yummy grains.

Here's a run down of the different varieties available:

Original Flaxbar
Chocolate Flaxbar
Original Fruit and Nut Raw Bar
Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Raw Bar
Power Fitness Raw Bar
Chocolate Suicide Raw Bar

In addition to being nutritious, delicious, under 200 calories, and a good source of natural energy, you should also know this about LiveSmart  bars:

  • Soy free
  • Wheat free
  • Lactose free
  • No refined sugar
  • Trans fat free
  • 1600 mg of Omega-3 per serving in all the bars
  • Vegan
  • Non-GMO
  • Contain essential antioxidants
Some varieties are nut free as well. As you can see by this impressive list of attributes, LiveSmart bars make a great snack for people with various allergies. The bars are filling and really tasty, making a great meal on the go, school snack, or lunch box addition. They are available for purchase at many health and specialty shops or can be ordered online. For more information, including a store finder, ordering information, and ingredients, visit the LiveSmart website. If you are disappointed with the selection of sugary snacks geared toward kids at the super market, LiveSmart bars might be just what you're looking for.


Getting Our Ducks in a Row for a New School Year


Well, we survived the first week of Back to School. I'd forgotten how quiet my house can be, and also how my blood pressure sky rockets at school drop off and pick up. But I believe I mentioned recently that I'd like to lead a more active lifestyle, so here's my chance. I'm going to try to slow down and resign myself to parking far, far away. Which will work when we have nowhere else to be. I'd like to commit to walking everyday (about a mile each way), but I really just can't see waking Lucy up any earlier. She already goes to bed at 7:30, we have too much going on to put her to bed earlier than that. And girlfriend needs her beauty sleep in a bad way. But after school...I'm thinking this out as I type so bear with me...although we are usually rushing straight from the elementary school to the middle school to pick up Bethany, Bethany will have cross country practice after school every day for the next couple months. So I can walk to pick up Connor and Lucy. And they will be SO thrilled. But it will be good for them. And this is really easy to say on a Saturday morning when I have nowhere to be for several hours. So we'll see. It's a good plan though.

The first couple weeks of Back to School is always a time of information overload. There is so much to remember. So much money to be thrown at schools. So much to be added to my calendar. So much getting up early. I am beat. Exhausted. Can't stay awake at night. I have so much work to do here on MichiGal, and also on my new site, MichiGal Travels, not to mention around my house and yard. I'm doing minute by minute prioritizing. Load dishwasher or start reading the book I'm reviewing? Order school pictures online or try to figure out what on earth to do with the SEO plugin I just installed? Cook dinner or write a new post? Jump on the trampoline with Mathilda or work on transferring posts over to the new blog?

The blog stuff is losing.

This month we will be adjusting. We will all be tired as we try to feel our way around a new school year. My challenges will be to:

  1. Make sure my kids are fed and well rested every day, driven every place they need to be, and meeting their school responsibilities as well as doing their chores around the house. In other words, micro managing my children. 
  2. Make sure we consistently have healthy foods in the house, clean dishes in the cupboards, clean clothes to wear to school, and some pieces of furniture to sit on that are not covered in backpacks, last night's pajamas, doll clothes, and coloring books.
  3. Make sure we don't miss anything on the calendar. My phone is pinging constantly with alerts and reminders. I just recently started using the calendar on my phone. I'm loving it and hoping it helps me stay organized this year!
  4. Make sure I stay on top of my volunteer responsibilities, while keeping in mind that, while very important, it is, well...volunteer work. And sometimes other stuff has to come first. See 1-3.
  5. Take care of blogging stuff.
Not shown above would be things like hitting the gym at least a few times a week, spending time with family and friends, errands, and organizational jobs around the house. It will all come together. I fully expect a few monkey wrenches to be thrown our way, but it's going to be a good year. 

This week we start preschool, dance, and cross country. We will celebrate Lucy's birthday. And we have something super fun planned for Friday the 13th. Also did I mention Chris has been traveling a lot for work? I won't lie, I don't feel quite ready. But ready or not, school is back with all the accompanying madness. 

How is back to school going for your family?

My 3 big kids: 7th, 5th and 2nd grades.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Introducing: MichiGal Travels

I have a new baby, and its name is MichiGal Travels. I will be keeping MichiGal and I'll continue to add content to it regularly, but anything travel related will now be published on the new site. Also, I am in the process of moving all travel posts from MichiGal over to MichiGal Travels. Which might take awhile. So since I'm concentrating on the transferring process for the moment, and just basically figuring out the different blogging platform, new travel content is temporarily on hold. If you click on any travel links on this site, you will find a link directing you to read the post on the new site.

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope to see you over at MichiGal Travels!

I just got new Social Media accounts up and running for the new site too, so if you'd like to follow me (and I'd love it if you do!) please click on these links:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Back to School, Ready or Not

Tomorrow is the day. After our lovely summer hiatus, it's back to school for three out of four kids. Mathilda goes back next week. I know many kids in other states have already started back to school, but here in Michigan we are lucky to have a state law dictating that public schools must start the school year after Labor Day. From what I understand, this is because the tourism industry was suffering when schools tried pushing up their school start dates to late August. Whatever the reason, I am glad because August is obviously still SUMMER!

I've read the experts' advice and I know that I should have been gradually waking my kids up earlier and earlier over the past few weeks, while simultaneously making bedtime a little earlier every few days. They should be back in a structured routine now, to prepare them for a new academic year. I know all this, and yet...I have ignored it all.

Last night all four kids stayed up late. Two of them crashed out on the couch, where they stayed all night. We are still in summer meal mode, which means punting for at least two out of three meals a day. This morning they slept in as late as their bodies allowed them, which was altogether not late enough for my liking. We're doing things the old fashioned way. Tomorrow will be a shock to the system, but within a few days they'll be back in the school groove.

I'm not interested in interfering with my precious summer by preparing for school. We have the whole school year to be all structured and regimented. Summer is the time when we enjoy a lack of routine, being a little lazy, staying up late, and eating breakfast at lunch time. I know everyone doesn't do it my way, but by May I am so DONE DONE DONE with the school gig, I need these months to breathe and re-charge my batteries. The last week or so the noise level in my house has been starting to frazzle me, and I'm realizing that, although I really hate to see the end of summer, I am ready for a quieter house for awhile. My kids have been getting a little antsy, and I know they don't want to admit it, but they're kind of ready too.

I'm not totally unprepared. We have school supplies and new clothes and shoes to accommodate summer growth spurts. Two out of four kids have had haircuts, which is not perfect but acceptable in my book. I still have to go grocery shopping, but hey tomorrow is a half day so no one needs to pack a lunch. I think I'll go to the grocery store while three of my kids are in school. Sounds nice, eh?

I have been getting caught up with laundry, and weeding out clothes like a mad woman. I am giddy at the thought of a Salvation Army drop off later today. I always see this time of year as a fresh start, and have all kinds of plans about what I am going to organize and accomplish while my kids are in school. Then reality sets in and I realize that 95% of my life is spent driving to and fro and doing school-related stuff. But I am forever an optimist, so I feel like this year I can do better!

Today we are going to a barbecue to spend time with family and go swimming on our last day of summer break. When we get home everyone will shower and bathe and get outfits laid out. Kids will be tucked in early, and I will set my alarm extra early so I can make a special first day of school breakfast.

I'll miss you, Summer. 'Til we meet again...

Friday, August 30, 2013

The End of My Shaklee 180™ Journey

This is a sponsored post as part of the Shaklee 180 blogger program. I have received free products, online support and incentives for participating in the Shaklee Corporation blogger program. All opinions are my own.

People following the weight-loss portion of the Shaklee 180 program can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.

Six months have flown by. I didn't really know what to expect when I first started my Shaklee journey. I was a little nervous to try something new. I was a little scared to focus so much attention on myself, because the truth is I have become comfortable focusing the vast majority of my attention and efforts on other people. It's what I do.

I set a rather lofty goal for myself in terms of weight loss when I started this program. In retrospect, it was maybe a little ridiculous. And in the spirit of 100% honesty, the truth of the matter is that I have lost four pounds on the program, all within the first week (and about six inches total). Since then my weight has hardly varied more than a half pound. I'm pretty sure that I could lose a few more pounds if I focused strongly on counting calories, never missed a workout, and stuck to the program religiously. But while I haven't met my weight loss goals, that's not to say I haven't benefited from my time as a Shaklee 180 blogger.

I have touched on this before, but one of the greatest things I learned while being part of this program is that it really is okay to spend some time focusing on ME. I have written about this topic recently, and it has manifested in different ways in my life. What it boils down to is that I'm learning to not feel guilty for taking time for myself. Going to New York with my friend was a HUGE thing for me, something that I don't think I would have done six months ago. I'm beginning to re-think my priorities and how I want to spend my time. I'm easing up on myself and giving myself permission to say no, and to not raise my hand to volunteer quite so readily. Before Shaklee, what I ate was pretty much one of the last considerations on my mind. Being in the program made it necessary to focus on what I ate and what I was doing for my body, which naturally spread to other areas of my life.

Since starting the Shaklee 180 blogger program, I have pondered more than ever the importance of food and what I choose to feed myself and my family. I have also written about this in the past, but it bears repeating. The thing is, though, I have also realized that for me, there are more important reasons for scrutinizing my diet than simply willing  the number on the scale to go down. Yeah I'd like to be a little smaller in some areas of my body, but I don't care that much. That is totally against everything us American women are supposed to live for, but there it is nonetheless. I am listening more and paying attention more. I'm coming to some hard truths, such as the fact that my beloved sweets are not good for me, and not just because eating them makes it impossible difficult to lose weight. I owe it to myself and to my family to do better. I thank Shaklee for leading my focus in that direction.

Twice this summer I made an observation. When I was in Canada, for our day trip to Storybook Gardens, and when I was New York, I noticed something. People in Canada and people in New York City are way trimmer than people in Metro Detroit. I know I just got done saying I don't care that much about the number on the scale, but it got me thinking. I view Canadians as more health conscious...whether or not that's accurate, I'm not sure. That's my impression - that as a whole they care more about eating good food and living a healthy lifestyle. In New York City, most people are definitely living a more active lifestyle than Metro Detroiters, out of simple necessity. I'm not sure about their eating habits, but the choices for healthy foods are plentiful. So...what does it all mean? I'm not totally sure, but for one thing it means that I would like to live a more active and healthy lifestyle myself. Living where I live is not really conducive to the active part. We are a driving community here in the D, and my blogging habit is by nature sedentary. So if I'm going to continue to live here and do what I do, I need to find a way to transform myself and my family into more active people. I think we'll be healthier and happier as a whole. I'm not real sure I want to continue to live here. That's been something I've struggled with for a long time, and I don't know that it's going to change, but as long as I am here, I'm going to have to get a little more creative and purposeful in my intentions. I think being in the Shaklee program has lead me to be more observant and aware when it comes to things like this, and seeing Canadians and New Yorkers on their own turf really drove it home for me.

All in all, I am very grateful for the wonderful opportunity to be in the Shaklee 180 program. It turned out to be less of a weight-loss journey for me, and more of a wake-up call to realizing the kind of life I want to live. Going through the motions gets you nowhere. Make a decision. Make a plan. Educate yourself. And take a step in the right direction. Thanks so much to Shaklee for including me in this six-month program!

Interested in learning more about Shaklee? Please click HERE!

To read more about my personal Shaklee journey, please click HERE for a list of links to all posts, including videos.

Shaklee 180™ Final Video Update

This is a sponsored post as part of the Shaklee 180 blogger program. I have received free products, online support and incentives for participating in the Shaklee Corporation blogger program. All opinions are my own.

People following the weight-loss portion of the Shaklee 180 program can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.

Time flies! I can't believe my time as a Shaklee 180 blogger has come to an end! Please check out my last monthly video update, and watch for another post later today! Thank you for sharing my Shaklee journey with me!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bethany is 12

Twelve years ago, I became a mother. I remember the day well. My doctor called in the morning with some test results, and told me to get to the hospital so I could be induced. I remember laying in bed when the phone rang, and being a little shocked at the news. It was just one day before my due date, but still, this was it! The scary moment I'd been anticipating and dreading had arrived. I was terrified and excited in almost equal measure. Things weren't happening as I'd read in my books. There were no contractions, my water didn't break. Just a phone call telling us that it was time, that our baby would be there that day.

Meeting Bethany was an overwhelmingly joyous occasion. How to even begin to describe it to someone who has not experienced becoming a parent? The world was one way, and now it is another. Suddenly the old way is forgotten. There is just this tiny baby, with red hair (I had so hoped for red hair!), who was living inside my body and is now in my arms. I felt strangely alien. Did this child really come out of me?

Twelve is a big deal. It is still a little girl, but very grown up. My mind is blown that it's been 12 years since I got that phone call. Twelve years since my entire world has changed so completely.

Every day for 12 years I have been stunned by Bethany's beauty and strength. I have been stunned by my ability to love another human being so very much.

By her next birthday, Bethany will be taller than me. She showers without being told and does her own hair. She has strong opinions about everything from fashion to food and everything in between. When she is sick, I am no longer consumed by nurse duties. She goes in the kitchen and makes her own soup or cup of tea. Perhaps being the oldest has played a role in making her grow up fast, but that is tempered with her natural inclination to do things herself - which was made evident very soon after her birth. As an infant, Bethany wanted only to be left alone when she was tired. She did not require rocking and lullabies to get to sleep, she required being put down.

My little red headed princess is comfortably nestled in the middle school years, with high school no longer a far off thought but just a blink of an eye away. For her birthday she wanted highlights, and after YEARS of her asking (and askingandaskingandasking), I finally gave in. I had to face the facts that by her age I had ruined my hair with Sun-In. I didn't want the same fate for her, so I took her to the salon and had it done right. Here she is, so grown up and beautiful, yet still the same silly kid she's always been. That's a Dum Dum in her mouth, by the way.

Bethany is a doer, a girl with a plan. At the salon, she whipped out her phone and had pictures ready to show the stylist just how she wanted her hair. She has had her first day of school outfit picked out for a week, and school doesn't start for another week. She makes lists and has so many ideas. She figures things out.

My baby girl is 12. I can't believe it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Good Night, Sleep Tight

I was caught off guard.

Exactly when and how it happened, I'm not sure. It was while I was busy taxiing and soothing, fixing endless snacks and hoarding sleep by the minute. In the midst of the chaos of the past few months (which is really no different than any other period of our lives), Bethany and Connor started putting themselves to bed. Before that, I always, always, went in each of their rooms and "tucked them in" every single night. And then one night they stopped asking. I was probably busy, and they told me they were going up to bed and said good night. We always said our good nights upstairs, in, their bedrooms, but I figured it was a one time thing. They saw that I was in the middle of something and decided not to make a big deal out of it. I was probably grateful, because, to be honest, there were times when I was slightly peeved to stop what I was doing to do our nightly tuck in routine. By bedtime I am so tired, and still have much to do before I can call it a night.

But then it continued, night after night. My evenings got a little easier and I was mostly relieved. I don't really know why or how it happened, if they got together and discussed it and decided they are now old enough to go to bed on their own. There have even been a few times when one of them will go up to bed and forget to find me to say good night first. And then I go to them, because okay, fine, they can put themselves to bed. But not without a "good night" and an "I love you" and even a "sweet dreams." Also, preferably, not without a hug and a kiss. That's how I want our nights to end, no matter how grown up they get.

When you have little kids, it's hard to imagine a moment like this ever happening. It's hard to imagine freedom and independence. And then when it happens, it's sort of anti-climatic. I feel a little like I'm waving my arms and saying, "No, no, no! I'm not ready for this yet!" What stops me from totally losing it, for now, is that I do still have little kids too, so my tucking in days are far from over.

It's kind of like I have two sets of kids: Bethany & Connor, and Lucy & Mattie. Bethany and Connor are growing up. In some ways it's nice, but in some ways I don't like it. The time has gone by SO FAST. Too fast. They each only have about an inch or two to grow before they catch up with me, and then it will be little more than a hot minute before they pass me right up on the growth chart. I have to say, it makes me feel a little sick. Even though I have two more to go, I know the time will fly with them as well. Pretty soon my kids will barely need me. That's a scary thought, and also a liberating thought. Who am I if I'm not on mom duty 24/7, if I'm not consistently needed around the clock?

This is a milestone school year for us. When it's over, our youngest will be leaving preschool, and our son will be leaving elementary school. I'm pressing on the brakes as hard as I can, but the gears are spinning out of control.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The New York Dream

I have lots of dreams, and by dreams I mean life ambitions and goals. Most of them are pretty vague, which makes realizing them kind of complicated in a way I can't quite put my finger on. I have, for example, dreamed of going to New York City in this foggy unclear way since I was a tween girl reading Sassy magazine. Probably before that. Don't Judy Blume books take place in New York?

New York City is a little over 600 miles from Detroit, yet somehow it felt like I would never get there. I have been to places much further, but New York seemed somehow unattainable. Maybe because all of my dreams seemed similarly unattainable, because they are vague ideas. Yet I've continued to daydream and keep my aspirations in a safe little pocket in the back of my mind.

What I'm learning, and it's really not all that easy for a bunch of reasons, is to remain positive and hopeful, and to grab onto opportunity while I can. I wish I would have started learning this life lesson a really long time ago, but I am grateful to be learning it at all. A lot of people, a whole lot of people, never do get around to it.

Back in June, a couple old friends from high school, whom I hadn't seen in many years, happened to be in Detroit the same weekend - one from Texas, one from New York. Somehow the stars aligned for us to get together one night, along with my friend Shelly, who, like me, still lives in Michigan. We started talking about visiting Texas and how fun it would be. And then we made tentative plans to get together again a couple days later, before the two of them headed home, in opposite directions. Turns out I couldn't make the second get together, and I half jokingly texted my New York friend, saying I would just have to come and see him in New York instead. He replied, telling me that Shelly was going to be visiting NYC soon. I texted Shelly and asked her when she was going. She told me the dates and said, "You should come too."

Immediate response: dismissal. I couldn't possibly go to New York. Right? I have four kids, and money is tight (isn't it always?). And I had that whole personal crisis I talked about in this post. But here it was, this dream of mine, suddenly a whole lot less vague. Now I had a friend to go with me, a place to stay for free, an actual date. Here's something to know about your dreams. Hang on to them, and when the time is right, take a step toward making them real. One step turns into another, and that leads into another. Talk about them. Say it out loud, "I could do this." Admit to others that you're thinking about it. Ask for help. I talked to my mom and my mother-in-law to see if they could help with the kids, since Chris would be working while I was gone. Lo and behold, they said yes. One step closer. I thought some more and realized that, obviously, traveling alone costs considerably less than traveling with four kids. And that there is quite a bit to do in NYC that doesn't require spending much money. That vague, very old dream of mine was no longer blurry. It was coming into focus. Shelly started telling me about her friend's apartment, where we'd be staying, and things she thought I would like to do in New York. I started figuring out just how much this venture would cost. Things were getting specific. My dream was becoming a reality.

The universe wants to help us realize our dreams. That might sound new age-y and hokey, but I believe it. It's not magic. We have to do the work. We have to take the first step, the leap of faith. We have to keep moving, and looking for signs. We have to accept help that can make our dreams come true, and to recognize and seize opportunities. We have to believe.

I am not one to study the Bible, but this verse from Matthew 7:7 illustrates my point perfectly:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

This is how the world works.

Often, I am so wrapped up in the mundane day to day stuff that I don't have the energy to focus on anything else. But when I do, it is more than worthwhile. How surreal it is to look back at last weekend and let it soak in that it really happened. I really did do all those things and see all those things. I read the signs and acted on the opportunities I was given, and I took a leap. Maybe it wasn't the best time to spend the money (when is it ever a good time?), but I know I will never regret that trip. I got to be just me, hanging out with my friends and sight seeing and shopping. I got to refresh. I got to do something I've always wanted to do. I know millions of people visit New York every year, and that it's not necessarily a remarkable thing. But for me, it was.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Brief NYC Recap

This post can now be found at MichiGal Travels. Just click the link below to read it now!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Flashback: Fun in Midland, Michigan

 This post was originally published last year, and references a trip we took in 2010. Look how little my munchkins are! Midland makes a great getaway from the Metro Detroit area, we've even done it as a day trip.

Chris's aunt and uncle live in Midland, aptly named as it sits in the middle of the state. Midland is known as the home of the world headquarters of Dow Chemical. But to our family it is known as where Aunt Nicki and Uncle Bob live. A couple years ago, we decided to be tourists in Midland while we were in town for a visit. We had such a great time, and I hope we get to do it again soon!

Lucy and Mattie at the Midland Tridge

There is a great park within walking distance of downtown, with a splash pad, a playground, and the very unique Tridge (triple + bridge = Tridge). Although I love the picture above, it doesn't really do the Tridge justice. It is really big, and connects paths of separate areas of the park. A lot of people ride their bikes. We packed a picnic lunch and had a beautiful day.

Cousins on the Tridge

Bethany cooling off at the splash pad
We walked around downtown Midland. There are flowers everywhere in Midland, along the side of the road and in front of the shops and restaurants. At the time there was a turtle themed auction going on, so we saw all kinds of turtles too.

See that turtle, hidden among the gorgeous flowers?

Even the courthouse is pretty
We also visited the Midland Center for the Arts. They had a Lego exhibit going on then, but there are always fun, hands-on exhibits for kids. Sometimes they have shows too. Check out their website HERE for more information. This summer it looks like they're having a Bob the Builder Exhibit...sounds like fun!

Mattie and the giant Legos! Back then we couldn't keep shoes ON her, now we can't get them OFF of her!
Lego Mt. Rushmore...this summer I'll get a picture of them in front of the real thing!
Lego peace sign...notice Lucy is really trying to hold up her fingers in a peace sign! Also, I think I want to be a pro Lego builder! That has to be the best job ever!
Have you ever been to Midland, Michigan? If not, it's definitely worth a visit!