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...