Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Another Year

It's been a strange year. Kind of angsty. Uneventful, yet full of big changes. Contradictory. Tired. Unexpected. Disappointing. Alright. Little bright spots here and there.


I'm not sure what I have to say about you, you rather lackluster year, you.

I just had a look at my 2014 goals, which I wrote last January and then didn't look at all year until today. Out of 17 goals, I completed 4. Hmm, might sound dismal but not as bad as I thought. Five others I consider to be partial successes.

It was just a weird year, starting with crazy weather that extended my kids' holiday break by an entire week, and ending with me being sick with a flu that morphed into a long and annoying chest cold.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook earlier today that nobody needs a new year to make a new beginning. We can do that anytime we choose. I agree with her, completely. And yet there is something about making New Year's resolutions, or goals for the year, that is just exciting to me. I told Chris we should make goals together tonight and make a vision board, but he didn't think that sounded like fun. Go figure.

Reviewing my year, via the memory card that has been in my camera for the past 12 months, I notice some highlights:

  • Crazy amounts of snow
  • A Chinese exchange student (our third)
  • A Spring Break trip to Midland, Michigan
  • Lucy's 1st Communion
  • Connor winning the school Spelling Bee and going on to compete at the county Spelling Bee
  • Connor's 5th grade graduation, and endless hours spent working on his class video
  • Lots of field trips
  • Mathilda's preschool graduation
  • Bethany's induction into the National Junior Honor Society
  • Lots of basketball
  • Two trips to Cedar Point
  • Mathilda's dance recital
  • Trip to Rogers City
  • Port Austin vacation
  • My "baby" cousin's graduation from high school 
  • Trip to Cleveland with Chris, including visiting the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, A Christmas Story house, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  • Trip to Grand Rapids with my mom
  • Mathilda starting kindergarten and Connor starting middle school (!!!! How, exactly, did we get here??)
  • Birthdays: My 39th, Chris's 40th, Connor's 11th, Mathilda's 5th, Bethany's 13th, and Lucy's 8th
Other things stand out too, like time spent with family and friends, going to the beach, swimming at my father-in-law's, going to the park, and to Belle Isle. Saying a very sad goodbye to our dog of almost 14 years, Cleo. And hello to our newest canine family member, Marla. Committing to send Bethany to China for Spring Break this coming year. Lots of fun blogger perks. Having a seizure for the first time in over 3 years (ugh). Being miserably sick for Christmas, yet loving spoiling my kids and watching them enjoy all their new goodies.

The year has not been a total wash. There is always something to be grateful for, every moment of every day. That never changes. Some days it's harder to remember that and recognize all the blessings, but I know they are there. I've had some really great times in 2014. And a lot of stress and many not so good times. There have been some really big changes - like Chris's new career, and my role of 13 years as stay-at-home mom changing with Mathilda starting full day kindergarten.

I guess I've just been a little off my game in 2014, and if there's one thing I'd really like to change going into 2015 it would be to get back on it.

Tonight I'm going to have a quiet evening at home, like I do most years on New Year's Eve. Connor and I will take Marla for a walk in our pajamas (it's dark out, don't judge). The little girls will try with all their might to stay up until midnight. I will work on my goals for the coming year, because I like to do that. Maybe we'll watch a movie or I'll read or we'll play a game or two.

For our family, 2014 is going out with little fanfare. I'm not sorry to see it go because I'm always excited for what's next. 2015 is going to be a wondrous year, I feel it in my bones. It's up to me to make that happen. I'm ready.
Some highlights of my 2014.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Shop Best Buy for Last Minute Canon Gifts

Disclaimer: The reviewer 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.

Christmas is less than a week away, do you still have shopping to do? I confess that I have a few more gifts to buy. Best Buy is your go to place for last minute holiday shopping, and offers many easy gift-giving solutions. If you have a family on your list, I love the idea of a group gift, such as a Canon EOS Rebel T5i, a best selling DLSR camera. Maybe that family is yours. Right now you can save $150 on the Canon EOS Rebel T5i at Best Buy. Visit Best Buy for more information, offer valid 12/7-12/20.

I LOVE my Canon Rebel, because it takes fabulous photographs, even for an amateur like me. I'm still learning about all its functions, but even the auto setting takes better pictures than any other camera I've ever owned.

What makes the Canon EOS Rebel T5i so popular? For starters, it's not as scary as it looks, making advanced photography simple and fun for everyone. The image quality is superb, with a wide array of creativity-enhancing features, including:
  • Hollywood caliber full HD video capability for budding videographers
  • Continuous autofocus while taking HD video (wow! this is awesome!)
  • 18.0-megapixel CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 5 image processor, to ensure ultra clear, vivid images
  • 3" vari-angle touch screen makes it incredibly user-friendly (I love this feature!)
Basically, this camera will make you feel like a pro, even if you're the furthest thing from it. What a gift this would make to a special family in your life, or to yourself and your own family. Document life's special moments that you want to remember forever with the Canon EOS Rebel T5i.

Do you have a Canon Rebel? If so please share your favorite function in the comments!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Being Aware & Keeping Our Kids Safe: Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking, and the U.S. Sex Trade
Photo from The Long Night

A few years ago, I read a disturbing nonfiction book that really brought home to me the fact that slavery is still a flourishing and prevalent worldwide trade. The title of this eye-opening book evades me, but the message stayed with me. What most of us naive Americans think of as something that became virtually extinct in the days of Abraham Lincoln, except maybe (but we don't like to think about it) in some far off dirty and uncivilized corners of the globe that we never plan on visiting, is actually still going on, to this day, in this very country.

Slavery happens everywhere, in many different forms. There are the lower caste people of India, who will be working off the debts of their ancestors for the rest of their lives, while living in extreme poverty and never benefiting from their hard labor. There are Eastern European girls dreaming of a better life, who are promised well-paying nanny positions in another country, only to be forced into a vicious cycle of forced prostitution as soon as they cross the border. And there are the suburban American runaways who crave the excitement of big city life, wind up crossing paths with the wrong person, and the next thing they know their picture is on a child porn site advertising the sale of their bodies.

Of course these are only a few examples. The face of slavery can look like anyone, and can therefore be difficult to recognize. Maybe on your insulated trip downtown for a game or concert you've had the displeasure of driving through a questionable area, and noticed some young people suspiciously walking the streets, and wondered to yourself if they were prostitutes. Maybe you shuddered, thanked God that could never happen to your kids, and muttered under your breath about stupid junkies selling their bodies for drug money. You could be right, but have you ever really stopped to think about how they got to that point?

Some of those kids might have come from backgrounds I can't begin to imagine, filled with real life nightmares of abuse, neglect, abandonment, and substance abuse. They might have been forced out onto the streets by their own parents, whether as a means of escaping unimaginable abuse or even sold in exchange for a fix, or coerced by their drug-addled parents to walk the streets to support their illicit habits. Others might have come from more "normal" homes; just your typical teens, making a few impulsive decisions that turned their lives inside out. They might feel they can never go home because of the choices they've made and the things they've done, or there might be a pimp-puppeteer calling every shot, with no chance of escape.

Most of us pretty much think we can breathe easy at this point, because our kids might be a little sassy or disrespectful now and then, but NO WAY would anything like this ever happen to them! We're good parents! We know what's up! Our kids are SMART, too! They would never be duped by some slick pimp, selling them a line about living the "good" life of prostitution. They would never let anyone boss them around like that, they won't even listen to us when we tell them to pick their dirty towels up off the bathroom floor.

Unfortunately, it's so much more complicated than that. The truth is, young people - girls and boys - are sold into prostitution rings. In the United States. Some are immigrants, but some are Americans. Many are runaways, but some are kidnap victims. Some are walking the streets, relatively obvious in their pursuits, but others are kept locked away somewhere, stuck in a continual haze of johns, pimps, and fellow victims of the sex trafficking industry.

Obviously not all of these unfortunate young men and women are literally sold and physically forced to sell their bodies. It might be easy to think they are simply making a bad choice and can stop anytime they want. However, many have no one to turn to, no one to help them. Some traded abusive parents for brutal pimps, who are standing on the sidelines, ready to break their noses and threaten their lives any time they step out of line. Countless numbers of them have succumbed to drug abuse, and their bodies literally need them to continually provide them with heroin, crack, or other horrors, and they have no other means than selling themselves to make that happen.

I don't want to freak you out, and trust me - as the mother of three beautiful girls, this is the last thing I want to think about. But the painful, terrifying truth is that this can happen to anyone. Anyone's little girl can end up living a sex trafficking nightmare. But I do think the first step in prevention is awareness. Let's talk about this issue and stop pretending it doesn't exist or that this kind of tragedy only happens to "bad" kids from substandard homes.

A couple months ago, I read and reviewed a novel, Dark Hope by Monica McGurk, which delves into the issue of human trafficking, specifically in the U.S., and in particular, Atlanta. I was glad to see this often overlooked issue get some attention, and I highly recommend the book, both as an intriguing YA work of fiction and as a glimpse into an important issue.

Just today I watched a documentary, The Long Night, directed by Tim Matsui, that takes a long, hard look at sex trafficking in the Seattle area. You can watch it online at I can't promise you it's fun to watch, but it is compelling and well worth seeing. At just over an hour in length, it won't take up much of your time, but you definitely will not forget it anytime soon.

Warning: the film contains some profanity, real drug use, prostitution, and very disturbing real life situations. I would not recommend pressing play while any young children are around, but I do think it would be a good idea to show your teen or older tween. It's difficult subject matter, but sometimes we have to have the hard conversations. We as parents owe it to our kids to make them aware that these kinds of things are happening in the world, and not just in far off places that they don't need to worry about. We need to help educate them so they can learn to protect themselves.

Cops are getting a bad rap these days, but a group of Seattle police officers featured in The Long Night has taken it upon themselves to help some of these kids instead of simply perpetuating their desperate lifestyles with one arrest after another. Fathers of daughters of their own, these honorable men began to really notice and pay attention to the young prostitutes they were picking up night after night. They started asking questions and learning the heartbreaking stories behind the atrocious acts of self loathing they were witnessing. Furthermore, they decided to take action; to create a place where these girls could go for a chance to be safe, cared for, and clean.

When the officer discusses his epiphany, that these girls he was constantly arresting did not actually want to be living a life of prostitution, it is a very poignant moment in the film. One man waking up and stepping out of a well-worn rut worn by habit can make a change.

Because I'm reading The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen, M.D. and Amy Ellis Nutt, I'm beginning to learn the importance of repetition when it comes to life or death issues our teens need to know about. They simply don't have the frontal lobe brain development of an adult yet, which helps with things like impulse control and resisting risky behaviors. For this reason they need frequent reminders and lots of real world examples to convince them and to help them really understand and appreciate the dangers associated with risky behaviors (such as drug and alcohol use or running away from home). The Long Night is a perfect tool that is up to the task.

I encourage you to watch The Long Night and share it with your friends and family, then come back to share your thoughts. If you'd like more information or to learn how you can get involved, go the Leaving the Life website. Furthermore, if you're active in social media, please consider the following:
  • Like The Long Night on Facebook
  • Like Leaving the Life on Facebook
  • Follow @TLNmovie on Twitter
  • Follow director Tim Matsui on Pinterest for a lot of related articles 
  • Share posts, retweet and engage in conversations - in other words, get the conversation going

Friday, December 5, 2014

Kenny Chesney The Big Revival Tour at Detroit Ford Field - Tickets On Sale TODAY!
Kenny Chesney coming to Detroit in 2015

Is there a country music fan on your Christmas shopping list? Kenny Chesney is coming back to Detroit's Ford Field on August 22, 2015, with special guests Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert, and Chase Rice! Tickets went on sale TODAY - just in time for Christmas shopping! Don't forget that YOU deserve a Christmas gift too - maybe this is the perfect gift to give YOURSELF!
August 22, 2015 - Kenny Chesney at Ford Field

Head over to to get your tickets today! Tickets start at just $37.50! What better way to start the new year than to be able to already have something this awesome to add to you 2015 calendar? I love having fun events to look forward to, even months down the road.
Kenny Chesney The Big Revival Tour 2015

P.S. And...I have more great news! Check back soon, because MichiGal is going to be giving away 2 tickets to the August 22 Kenny Chesney Concert at Ford Field in Detroit! It's just a little Merry Christmas from me to you!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

ReZoopie Cookbook from The Detroit Zoo & Door to Door Organics + GIVEAWAY!
ReZoopie Eat Like an Animal Cookbook

Do you sometimes struggle to convince your kids that eating healthy is the best choice? I know I do, and I can use all the help I can get. Lecturing them about the benefits of eating all their veggies only goes so far. But my kids are huge animal lovers, so maybe they would like to "eat like an animal", specifically, like their favorite animals at the Detroit Zoo.

The Detroit Zoo has partnered with Door to Door Organics to create ReZoopie, a fun kid-friendly cookbook. ReZoopie features animals from the Detroit Zoo, and recipes made with ingredients from Door to Door Organics. The cookbook is designed to incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into your kids' diets - just like their favorite animals. It's full of cute illustrations and real photos of Detroit Zoo animals, as well as photographs of each recipe. The recipes are simple and appealing, like the Porcupine Pick-Ups, made with squash, broccoli and carrots - and they look delicious!

Here's the scoop:

  • Visit Door to Door Organics and get $10 off your order using code DETROITZOO **new customers only**
  • Get the ReZoopie cookbook for FREE  HERE. This is a pdf digital copy, which you can download onto your computer or print. (Have a Kindle? Once you download the book and have the file saved on your computer, send an email to your Kindle email address with the book's file as an attachment. Voila! Easy access on your e-reader).
  • Enter to Win a fabulous prize package, using the form below!
What can you win? Both of these great prizes!

A $100 gift card for Door to Door Organics 


4 tickets to Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo (happening on weekend evenings, 5:30-9 p.m., from now until December 31: Dec. 5-7, 11-14, 18-23, and 26-31)

Good luck! And be sure to tell everyone what you think of the recipes - leave a comment with your favorite recipe!

Disclaimer: MichiGal is receiving goods and/or services in exchange for this post.

Detroit Zoo Wild Nights + Door to Door Organics

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review: Idina Menzel "Holiday Wishes"

Disclaimer: I participated in the Idina Menzel Holiday Wishes album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own. 

I am strictly opposed to Christmas music before Thanksgiving (one holiday at a time, please!), but when I was given the opportunity to review Tony Award-winning actor/singer Idina Menzel's new album, Holiday Wishes, I had to make an exception. Because, you know, I love her. While I've never had the privilege of seeing her in a Broadway production, I am a fan of Menzel from Frozen (she is the voice of Elsa) and Glee, where she plays the talented mother of main character Rachel Berry.

Menzel reworks a dozen holiday numbers, including several classics:
  1. Do You Hear What I Hear
  2. The Christmas Song
  3. Baby It's Cold Outside (duet with Michael Buble)
  4. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  5. All I Want for Christmas is You
  6. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve
  7. December Prayer
  8. When You Wish Upon a Star
  9. Silent Night
  10. River
  11. Holly Jolly Christmas
  12. White Christmas
An exclusive version sold at Target includes 2 bonus tracks: "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"; and "Mothers Spiritual". I didn't get this version so I haven't heard these two songs yet.

Of course I was already a fan of Menzel's melodious voice, so the fact that I love this album is no surprise. I suppose I would describe it as...smooth. I know most of the words, so I can sing along, which is kind of a must when it comes to Christmas music. I've been listening to it while I work, and it's got a nice vibe to it. Upbeat, but not distracting.

My absolute favorite track on Holiday Wishes is "Baby It's Cold Outside." Menzel and Buble together are chillingly perfect.

Want a little sneak listen? Check out this album trailer!

Holiday Wishes is available on iTunes and Amazon.

If you're looking for a little something to get you in the holiday spirit, or want something new to add to your Christmas music rotation, Holiday Wishes is an ideal choice.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Still a SAHM

You might say I've got a new lease on life. I knew things would be different when all of my kids went back to school in September, leaving me as a school day empty nester for the first time. My life is definitely different, that's for sure. Just maybe not quite in the ways I expected.

I thought I might be a little sad, and truthfully there are times when it gets lonely and I miss having a mini buddy to cuddle with and to run errands with me. But mostly I'm not lonely at all. After our dog passed away in September, we adopted Marla in October. She is a good companion. Sometimes Chris is home during the afternoon, and other times I meet my mom, mother-in-law, or a friend for coffee, shopping, or what have you. Then we've had the days off, half days, early release days, and kids home sick. I am rarely alone. Being the introvert that I am, though, a nice quiet house to myself is an absolute treat. I relish the peacefulness.

I never thought I'd be bored, and I wasn't wrong about that. On the contrary, there aren't enough hours in the day. I did think I'd have more time to do things like work out, practice my French (with Rosetta Stone), and organize my house. But what I'm finding is that the days slip away before I know it. I'm not just sitting around watching television and reading all day either. Actually I very rarely watch TV, and I don't even have much time for books.

What have I been doing with my time? Besides the regular stuff like grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, errands, walking the dog, and cleaning?

Maybe you've noticed I'm back to blogging more regularly, although I hope to be better about that as I get more accustomed to my new life. That's one thing. I've been making curtains for Bethany's bedroom, and I am no pro so that takes a lot of time. Since September I've had 9 days of kids home sick from school. N.I.N.E. So add taking care of sick children to the list. Then there's the occasional weekday get togethers with friends and family that I mentioned, although those are often tied in with with a necessary chore, like walking Marla or shopping for new boots for the kids. I organized the school book fair, volunteer to chaperone field trips every chance I get, and will be helping the kindergarteners roller skate in PE class in the coming weeks. Bethany is going to China on a school trip in the spring, so we have been fund raising for that. In other words, I have spent tons of time collecting returnables from neighbors and friends and taking them into the store, and making homemade goodies for bake sales. I have plenty of activities and tasks to keep me busy.

I also recently acquired a temporary, work at home job. Just a simple one that allows me to work at my convenience, for as many hours as I can. This right here has been the most eye-opening event of my new life.

The thought had crossed my mind that once all my kids were in school full-time that maybe I'd get a "real" job. You know, the kind that would require me to brush my hair, wear actual pants, go to a place of business and interact with co-workers. It's been a lot of years since I've done that.

Then reality set in. I don't know many employers that would take kindly to NINE impromptu days off due to sick children, not to mention early release days every other week, four half days, and a day off for elections. All that in less than three months. I know people do it. People put their elementary school kids in the after (and sometimes before) school program and give their middle school kids house keys to let themselves in after school. They share sick days with their spouses (Chris doesn't get sick days and really can't call in at the last minute in his line of work), hire babysitters, count on their parents quite a bit, and beyond that I don't even know what all they do. Everyday, all over the place, there are families that do these things. I am in awe of them and their phenomenal juggling abilities.

Here is what I think, for me personally, for my family. Life is hectic enough. Life is, in fact, so so SO hectic. Could we use the money? Oh my gosh, SO MUCH! Couldn't we all? But I like to see my kids in the morning before school, to pick them up after school, and to help them with their homework. I like them to know that if they're sick, they can call me and I'll pick them up and bring them home where they can at least be sick somewhat comfortably. I like to say yes when Connor's friend's mom calls me and asks if I can drive her son home from school, and to let Lucy's BFF come over after school so I can drive them to dance class together. I like to be able to check "yes" next to the box asking if I'd like to be considered as a field trip chaperone, without worrying how I'll shuffle my schedule to do it. And here's something else. I am mentally re-charged when I am ALONE. I like being alone sometimes, crave it, need it.

However, believe it or not, it's not all about me and my own selfish needs and desires. A long time ago, when I was immersed in diaper duty, round the clock nursing, and multiple strollers and car seats, I thought my kids would need me less the older they got. I'll admit that a part of me, the most overwhelmed and sleep-deprived part, sometimes looked forward to that day. The truth, I've come to realize, is they need me more, but in different ways. Now they can dress and feed themselves and use the bathroom (more or less) on their own. They can do chores, make their school lunches, wake themselves up with an alarm in the morning, and so much more. Yes, they can do a lot, and they don't need me anymore for many of the things for which they once depended upon me.

But there are other things, some I never thought of or considered until they reached up and smacked me in the face. Like that they'd need me to drive them all over town, to be at their games and their band concerts. To email their teachers when they're having troubles, to listen and wipe their tears when they've been burned by a friend, to assure them that they're smart and beautiful and good, to proofread reports, and to make sure they're packing more than just leftover Halloween candy in those lunch boxes. Sometimes they need me every single moment that they're with me, right up until they're asleep for the night, and by then I am spent, physically, mentally and sometimes emotionally. And then I keep going, often spending hours after they are fast asleep doing things like making sure they have clean underwear and cereal bowls for the morning and printing out papers that are due the next day. I know you know what I mean, fellow parents. Our kids need us, and that doesn't stop at any magical age.

So that brings me back to my new job. Like I said it's temporary and flexible, and I can work at home. It's only been a couple weeks so I'm new at this, but wow! It's hard to squeeze in a job with everything else. I have my blogging and social media things I do, but those are more sporadic and not paid by the hour. It's hard enough to make time for those little, occasional jobs.

At this moment in my life, I simply cannot fathom how I would work these kind of hours outside the home. I do not know how other people do it. This past week I've been able to juggle sick kids, half days, parent teacher conferences, and a whole lot more while still working. It hasn't exactly been easy but I've managed. I don't know how I could have been working in an office or anyplace other than home while simultaneously caring for a puking child.

I will say that having some extra money is great, especially with Christmas creeping up so quickly and the myriad expenses associated with older kids (you thought diapers were expensive! ha!). I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity to work while doing everything I can for my kids, but the eye opening part of this experience has been that I'm nowhere near ready to re-join the work force outside of my bubble of home and family. This is right where I need to be right now.

I like money and the things it can buy, but I don't like it enough to give up being available for my family at a moment's notice. I don't like it enough to say yes to latch key and babysitters and house keys. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with any of those things (here is where I'll mention that I myself had a house key in second grade, and spent my summers, school breaks, and many sick days being cared for by my aunts or grandparents).

Everyone I know is doing their best to survive any way they can, and it's all good. We all have to figure out what is best for us and for our families. As for us, I've been a SAHM for 13 years and we've been getting by, and we'll continue to get by. I'll continue to work at home as much as I can, falling asleep with a laptop on my knees more nights than not. But despite the new circumstances in my life, I will not be seeking any long-term employment outside of the home any time soon.

The funny thing is that I thought life would be calmer and less hectic with all four in school all day. Not quite!

Game Review: Petz Beach for Nintendo 3DS

Finding a video game that my kids can share, with an E (for Everyone) rating so nobody is excluded, and that is entertaining enough so that no one is rolling her eyes...well that can be a bit of a challenge. Since my kids range from Kindergarten to 8th grade, there is plenty they can't share, but I love when we discover something they can pass back and forth, talking and offering tips and advice to one another, whether in the car or curled up on the couch on long, cold Saturday afternoons. Animal games are generally a good bet, although some are too juvenile for the big kids. Petz Beach for Nintendo 3DS is one such game that my 5-year old, 8-year old, and 11-year old all have fun with (the 13-year old is too busy these days for video games), and I will freely admit that I have been amusing myself with it as well.

In case you're not familiar with Petz, it is a popular franchise that has sold tens of millions of copies worldwide. The basic premise is to care for pets while exploring the game's environment (in this case, the beach), talking to characters, finding and buying various items, and going on quests. The game expands as you go along, and it even changes with the seasons. Today it was snowing at the beach while my kids and I laid in my warm, comfy bed and took turns playing Petz Beach. Another similar game is Petz Countryside, which is the same type of game but with a country setting rather than the beach.

In Petz Beach, your character has a pet and a home, and can walk around its seaside community. You can train your dog to find different things, and go on quests for the other characters. For each completed quest you are rewarded, either with a special item or with coins. Coins are used to purchase items in the shop, including necessities for your pet like food and water. When you have enough coins, you can visit the adoption agency to add more pets to your family. With enough happy points, you can expand your community and gaming experience.

So far, I have found the quests to be simple enough for the kids to be able to do them without help (and without frustration), and the interface to be fairly self-explanatory and easy. It does take some time to earn enough coins to adopt another pet, or enough happy points to expand the village, but if it was too easy that wouldn't be much fun.
Giving our pet some water at home.

What did my kids think? Lucy (age 8) and Mathilda (5 years old) like the pet care aspect the best, while Connor (age 11), like me, really enjoys the adventures - going on quests and finding items. I'm a sucker for this type of game. I played for awhile for "research purposes", and I'll be sure I know where I can find the 3DS while the kids are at school (wink wink). We almost have enough happy points to expand, and I'm anxious to see what will be added to our village next!
On a quest - sniffing something out

Besides simple entertainment, Petz Beach also offers learning opportunities. There are over 50 animals in the game, and through its partnership with Encyclopaedia Britannica, players will learn about the various creatures as they encounter them throughout the game. Additionally, the game offers the option to connect with friends who are also playing, but we don't know anyone else with Petz Beach yet so we didn't play around with this function.
Meeting a friend in the village

Published by Ubisoft and released on October 14, 2014, Petz Beach is a pet simulation and adventure game available for the Nintendo 3DS system and rated E for everyone. It's good, clean fun, and you'll never have to worry if your child is exposed to something he shouldn't be seeing or learning about. There is no violence, no bad or even questionable language, and nothing scary. If you're looking for a fun Christmas gift for the young boy or girl on your shopping list, or something your children of various ages can share, Petz Beach would be a great choice. You can purchase Petz Beach on Amazon.
Searching for shells at the beach

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holiday Shopping: LG OLED Now Available at Best Buy
Photo from Best Buy

Disclaimer: The reviewer 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.

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? I've just barely begun (as in, I have one gift and two stocking stuffers purchased as of this writing), but what I'm looking for this year are gifts that are going to really pack a punch. Instead of a bunch of smaller items that will be mostly forgotten in a few months, I want to give gifts that are going to wow my family, and that they are going to use and enjoy for a long time to come. I love the idea of a big family gift, like the amazing new LG OLED TV, now available at Best Buy.
Photo from Best Buy
I mean, WOW! Right? Imagine how excited your kids would be to have movie night with one of these babies, or to play their favorite video games with this 4 Color Pixel technology that enhances color range and accuracy. What a thrill it would be for the whole family to wake up to a surprise of this magnitude under the tree on Christmas morning!

With a Best Buy everyday price tag of $3499.99 (a savings of $500!), just what makes this television so special?
  • Lightweight and only .21" thick at its thinnest point. Check your ruler - that's awfully thin!
  • Amazing picture quality, with LG's latest display technology.
  • Infinite contrast ratio and stunning color, for more ridiculously realistic viewing.
  • 4 Color Pixel technology (adding a white sub-pixel to the regulars - red, green, and blue - for those of you who know about those sorts of things).
  • WebOS™ Smart TV interface, which lets you easily access Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, and the LG store with the latest movies, TV shows, and apps.
  • Unique curved screen, designed to create a natural viewing experience, with your eyes equal distant from all points of the screen. (Honestly, how do they think of this stuff?)
  • Comprehensive remote control, which includes LG's Voice Mate with natural voice recognition, and allows you to control your compatible devices with just one remote.
Take a look at the Best Buy website for more information and images of the LG OLED TV. You won't believe your eyes. It's a beautiful viewing experience that your entire family would be able to appreciate and, let's face it, luxuriate in, together.

Do you like to splurge for the holidays? How are you spoiling your family (or yourself) this year?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Holiday Movie Giveaway: The Three Dogateers

Do your kids like to watch the same holiday movies over and over (and over and over and over) again? Maybe you'd like to add something new to the repertoire, like the Dove approved family-friendly flick, The Three Dogateers, available on DVD only at Walmart.

Three pampered pooches left to guard the house on Christmas Eve become fearless DOGATEERS when thieves break in and steal every present, every ornament - even the yuletide tree! Vowing to save Christmas, the three canines set out in search of Santa, the only one who can help them on their quest.
Sounds like a cute concept, and my kids are suckers for cuddly doggies. Check out the trailer.

Just use the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win your very own copy of The Three Dogateers!

Please note: Each household is only eligible to win one (1) The Three Dogateers DVD via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

No P.O. boxes, U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo, Valvoline Instant Oil Change + GIVEAWAY

Looking for a fun holiday event in Metro Detroit? Wild Lights, presented by Bank of America, will be at the Detroit Zoo for 24 nights this November and December, featuring 5 million lights and over 100 different animal sculptures. Look at these photos...doesn't it look magical? Photos provided by the Detroit Zoo.

  • November 22-23
  • November 28-30
  • December 5-7
  • December 11-14
  • December 18-23
  • December 26-31
TIME: 5:30-9 p.m.

Besides the millions of LED lights that will blazing up the trees, buildings, and animal sculptures, guests can also delight in ice carvers and carolers, participate in a holiday craft, and write a letter to jolly old St. Nick. "The Polar Express 4-D Experience" will be playing at the 4-D theater in the Wild Adventure Zone.

AND...if you purchase your Wild Lights tickets ONLINE before November 21, you will be entered into a drawing for a Family Four Pack of tickets to Dinner with Santa at the Detroit Zoo!

AND...(one more thing before we get to the GIVEAWAY)...if you have a Detroit Zoo membership, be sure to get your vehicle in for a Valvoline Instant Oil Change by the end of the year at one of 14 Metro Detroit locations, and get a 15% discount. Use this coupon:

Now we get to the GIVEAWAY part...

Courtesy of Valvoline Instant Oil Change and the Detroit Zoo, MichiGal is giving one lucky reader a
prize package that includes a FREE OIL CHANGE and  4 TICKETS to WILD LIGHTS at the DETROIT ZOO!

Just the use the Rafflecopter form to enter!

Disclaimer: MichiGal is receiving services in exchange for this post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Give Back to the Detroit Zoo with Outback Steakhouse - Happening Thursday, November 6

Just a friendly reminder that tomorrow is the big day! If you're anything like me, anything is a good excuse to not cook dinner, and this is one that will actually benefit the Detroit Zoo. Visit any Outback Steakhouse in the Detroit area for lunch or dinner and tell your server you're there for "Zoo Night", and 15% of your check will go to the Detroit Zoo. My family LOVES the zoo, we've had so many good times there and I know most families in the metro Detroit area can relate. Support the zoo and skip cooking - can't go wrong with this plan as far as I'm concerned!

Click HERE to find the location of your closest Outback Steakhouse.

My husband and I just enjoyed a wonderful meal at our local Outback Steakhouse last night. So while we're at it, why I don't also remind you to click HERE to enter to win an Outback Steakhouse gift card.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

World Stroke Day

Today is World Stroke Day, so I thought I'd share this infographic (courtesy of the American Heart Association). Print it out and post it with your emergency phone numbers and other emergency information. Inside a cupboard door is a good, out the way place that is easily accessible. Remember that strokes can happen at any age, so if you or someone you know exhibits these signs, call 911 right away.


Orkin Mouse in a House Game + Giveaway

I am a huge animal lover and hate to see any furry creature suffer. However, my soft spot for animals ends when it comes to mice...indoors. No matter how cold it is outside, I will never feel bad enough for a shivering little mouse to welcome it into my house. In fact, I am pausing for a moment to thank the heavens that I have never encountered a rodent in my home.


The temperatures are dropping, and this is the time of year the little pests make their move. But you don't have to share your nice, warm house - call Orkin at 1-800-800-ORKIN, or visit

Play the Mouse in a House game in the app above, and see if you would survive the winter months if you were a rodent. Then enter to win a Mouse in a House fleece blanket using the Rafflecopter form below.

**Disclosure** MichiGal is receiving a blanket to keep in addition to the one being awarded in the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Outback Give Back Night Fundraiser + Giveaway

Outback Steakhouses in the Detroit area are hosting a Give Back Night fundraiser to benefit the Detroit Zoological Society on Thursday, November 6. Just tell your server you're there for "Zoo Night" and 15% of your total check will be donated to the Detroit Zoo! Use the following link to find the Outback Steakhouse closest to you. Please note that restaurant hours vary by location, so make sure you confirm - some are open for lunch, others are not. The fundraiser will be going on from open until 10 p.m.
Outback Steakhouse Locations

Take a break from cooking next Thursday, and feel good doing it because you'll be supporting a wonderful organization.

Is all this talk about steak making you hungry? MichiGal is hosting a giveaway for a $20 Outback Steakhouse gift card to help satisfy your cravings! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

**Disclosure** MichiGal received a complimentary meal at Outback Steakhouse in exchange for promoting this event & giveaway.
A blooming onion or a steak...or both??

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Meet Marla: Introducing Our New Dog!
It's Marla! She's a little camera shy.

Just last month, we had to say a tearful, heart-wrenching good bye to our long time family dog, Cleo. It was hard, so very hard. Chris and I decided to give ourselves a good year or so before we started thinking about a new dog for our family. However...we also both felt strongly that we would not go looking for a dog, but rather let the right dog find us. After all, that's what happened with our previous pets and they all turned out to be pretty awesome.

So, about that. Chris was at work one day in a client's home and met their dog, Marla. Marla  really took to him, and soon he found out that his clients were not planning on keeping her. They had fairly recently adopted her (about 4-5 months ago) and she wasn't getting along very well with their other dog. Chris texted me a picture, with a half-joking comment about the dog wanting to come home with him.


I showed the picture of the dog, a redbone coonhound, to Connor, who immediately said, "that's the kind of dog I want!" You see, he had just finished reading Where the Red Fern Grows. Guess who stars in Where the Red Fern Grows? Two redbone coonhounds, that's who. (If you haven't read it, you should!)

Haha. That's a really strange coincidence, Connor, too bad we're not getting a dog until next year.

But Chris kept in contact with Marla's family. They seriously were not keeping her. She needed a home. After a lot of back and forth, they told him that she could stay the night at our house so we could see how we all got along.

Haha. As soon as I agreed to this "sleepover" I was done for. Once Marla came into our home, there was no way we were letting her go. Last week Chris signed the adoption papers. We are doggy parents once again!

A little about Marla. She's approximately 4 years old, although no one is really certain. She was rescued from a pet hoarder's home, where she was kept in a cage for (an estimated) two years. After that she went into a foster home before being adopted by her previous family. She's been through a lot, but despite her crazy past she is remarkably well-behaved.

From the start I loved the idea of a fully-trained adult dog. Puppies are super cute and sweet, but I could do without the chewing and the potty training. Cleo was the best, most gentle dog, but we all agreed that we wanted our next pooch to be more energetic and playful. Marla is most definitely full of energy. Her breed needs a lot of exercise and activity, and we are finding 2-3 walks a day, a couple of car rides, and a daily dose of rambunctious tug-of-war is keeping her marginally entertained.

Being a coonhound, Marla has quite a nose on her. Because of her remarkable sense of smell, she can sometimes lose touch of everything else as she tries following a scent. She must always be leashed, and it will be quite awhile before Lucy and Mathilda are strong enough to walk her. We were happy that she'd have our decent sized yard to run around and play, but the first day she was with us we discovered that she is quite adept at climbing fences. She also likes to bolt out the front door. In a week, she's escaped four times. Until we can get a privacy fence, she's going to have to be restrained to a tether while she's outside.

We've only ever had puppies before, so bringing a full-size adult dog into our family has been a different experience. Marla has been great, but we're still in the adjustment period. She was allowed to go on furniture in her last home, but that's not the case here, so we're working on breaking that habit. Her running away might be as much to do with being in a new home as it is to do with her breed. She pulls a lot while we're walking her, and she doesn't always listen to us (again, part of this is likely connected to her breed - they are known for losing touch with everything except the scent they're following). But all things considered, I really can't believe how good she is. She doesn't jump, she doesn't bark too much, and most importantly, she is friendly and sweet with everyone.

The kids are thrilled to have a new canine companion. Bethany and Connor have been walking her most days, and everyone is giving her lots of attention and affection as she adjusts to her new home. They are particularly excited that most nights she sleeps upstairs with them, something that Cleo would never do. I can't imagine how confusing this must be for Marla, but I am impressed with her flexibility and resilience. I know this isn't what I had planned, but sometimes the unexpected turns out to be just the thing you didn't know you needed until you had it.

Welcome, Marla. Already you are deeply rooted in our hearts, and we look forward to many fun and happy years with you!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Confession: My whole life I have felt like I wouldn't end up HERE, living just a few miles from where I spent most of my childhood. I always, always thought I would give in to my wanderlust and go someplace else to live. Even though I married my high school sweetheart, I still did not see myself settling down in the Metro Detroit area. But of course life doesn't always unfold the way we think it will, and marriage and children do tend to complicate things. I'm not the only person I need to think about anymore, so what is best for our family as a whole has to be the top priority.

My mom and I moved far away, to Arizona, when I was a kid. There were aspects that were difficult, but looking back I see that time of my life as a positive experience. True, I missed my family back in Michigan tremendously, and I imagine it was even harder for my mom to be away from her parents, siblings, and the neighborhood and friends she had known all her life. But it was an adventure. We had to meet new people, depend on the kindness of strangers, and adjust to a new climate.

Besides our big move to Arizona, we never stayed put for very long, and year after year I was the new kid at school. This taught me how to make friends and acclimate to new environments. It wasn't always easy, but the way I grew up made me the person I am today. As an adult, I can appreciate that. But as a kid I didn't always see the positive side of things. I was mad jealous of my friends who had known each other since kindergarten. I wanted roots.

Now that I'm a mom, I feel torn. There is still a really big part of me that doesn't want to be here, in southeast Michigan. There are times that I hate it, just literally hate it. I know, in retrospect, that going all the way across the country to live was an integral part of my childhood that I wouldn't change if I could. I know, also, that moving frequently taught me a resilience that I would not have otherwise learned. I know that if we moved (and families move every day, to other cities, states, and even countries...) my kids would be okay. They might be angry at first but they'd get over it and they'd adjust, and probably someday they'd be able to look back and realize it was a good thing.

My wanderlust and my yearning for roots are at war in my heart and mind. Where I live is not a horrible place, not at all. I just struggle to be happy and satisfied with where I am.

A couple weeks ago I went for a long walk to the library, which is over three miles each way. On the way back I had a thought. I had recently spent some time with my great aunt and uncle (my grandfather's brother), and my uncle had treated my mom and me to stories from his childhood. He talked about his grandparents' farm, the streets where his aunts and uncles lived, and the plot of family land his father used as a huge garden, coming in from the city on weekends to care for it. These things he was telling us about, they were all in the city where I now live.

As I walked, I let it sink in. For generations, dating back into the 1800s, my family has lived right here in the city that I call home. I was walking where my great-great grandparents once had a farm, where my grandpa came to visit as a child, and where my grandmother grew up. I walked past the place where her school once stood, and the church where my grandparents were married. I thought about what the area might have looked like back then, with fewer houses and dirt roads. I wondered if any of the houses I was looking at were around back then.

I realized that the roots that I've always wanted are right here, in the ground on which I walk and drive all the time.

When my great-great grandfather's widowed father decided to move his family across the ocean in the mid-1800s, from Switzerland to the United States, for some reason he chose to settle HERE. Maybe he already had family in the area, maybe he knew someone else, I'll probably never know.

Decades later, in the late 1920s, my grandmother's Canadian father decided to move his family from Detroit to HERE. Again, I'll probably never know his reasons. But somehow the stars aligned for his daughter to meet the grandson of a local farmer, for them to fall in love, get married, and have a family together. And now, here I am, raising my family where the seed of theirs was first planted.

My great-uncle had also mentioned that there was a cemetery not far from me where many of our ancestors have been laid to rest. I have lived here for over five years and never before had thought about my ancestors being in this cemetery, which I have driven past countless times. On my walk home from the library, I decided to stop and have a look.

I walked through the small cemetery, studying each tombstone, and marveling as the wheels turned and clicked in my mind. The origins of the names of many local streets were suddenly apparent, and I thought about how these families must have once lived where street signs now stand, bearing their names.

Reverently, I walked up and down each row, and again and again I saw names that I knew belonged to my long-deceased family members. I took pictures of their tombstones and wished I had photographs to match to each name. I thought about my grandmother's beloved hobby of genealogy, which had always interested me as well, but now I felt a sudden deeper connection, and a renewed desire to learn more about my family's history.

It's strange how things happen sometimes, how something minor, like deciding to take a long walk, can really change your perspective.
The tomb of my great-great grandparents.

P.S. Are you into genealogy? If so, what do you think are the best websites out there? There are so many, and it's hard to say if paying membership fees is worth it or not.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dickey's Barbecue Pit - Ferndale, MI: Review and Coupons

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a blogger dinner at Dickey's Barbecue Pit in Ferndale, MI. I'd like to thank the friendly staff for a nice evening with wonderful service.

Although it's been a few years since I've turned vegetarian, I must admit my mouth still waters at the scent of a barbecue. As soon as I walked in the door of Dickey's Barbecue Pit, located at 23123 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale, MI, I was inundated with the scrumptious smells of beef brisket and ribs. Mmmmmm! 

At Dickey's, customers order and pay at the counter, get whatever items are ready immediately, and the rest is delivered to the table. A popular place to stop after work, Dickey's strives for fast service, and as far as I could see they are successful in that area. They have a nice menu with good size portions and reasonable prices.

But...what does a vegetarian eat at a barbecue restaurant? Turns out there are plenty of meat-free side dishes available at Dickey's. I decided to try the Fried Onion Tanglers, Mac & Cheese, and (a first for me) Fried Okra. I also got a roll with my order.The Mac & Cheese and Onion Tanglers were really good, and the Fried Okra was okay, but I think it may be an acquired taste. I'd be willing to give it another chance. I hear the Jalapeno Beans are a good choice as well.

Beverages are self-serve, like a fast food restaurant, and include one of my favorite splurges: sweet tea. I LOVE sweet tea. I think the batch that night wasn't mixed properly or something because it was more like sugar water than tea (it even looked like water), but I'm hopeful that was just a fluke.

For dessert I tried the pecan pie, which was pretty good, with a big dollop of soft serve vanilla ice cream. Soft serve ice cream is complimentary for all dine-in customers, and it's dairy free, which is great for those with dairy allergies or sensitivities.

Families will be glad to know that kids eat free on Sundays! Nothing beats free, but if you can't make it in on a Sunday, the kids meals are well priced at $5.50 and include a beverage. Another option is a Family Pack, available to serve 3-4, 4-6, or 6-8.

Dickey's has a laid back atmosphere and super friendly staff. I only wish it was located closer to me because I am getting tired of rotating between pizza and Chinese! I love that Dickey's offers a quick barbecue option, way better than fast food and something a little different. You can even place your order ahead of time online. I hate talking on the phone so I love this option!

I have good news for you - COUPONS! I know we all love to save money!

1st choice: Text 25328 with the message DICKEYS934 to receive a text message coupon for a FREE fountain drink in a big yellow cup (which you can keep!) with purchase.
2nd choice: Print out coupons below
3rd choice: Bring up MichiGal on your phone and show this page to the cashier

**Coupons expire November 15. **

Are you already a fan of Dickey's Barbecue Pit? If so, leave a comment and share your favorite menu item!

Read what other local bloggers have to say about Dickey's!

Simplify Health Living
Yes/No Films
Blogging is a Trip
Mom Among Chaos 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Win Halloween Tickets to Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad

Now that it's officially October, the leaves are falling, the air is getting crisp, and it's time to start thinking about Halloween! There are so many great Halloween activities to choose from in the Metro Detroit area and beyond, but for family-friendly fun you just can't beat Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad in Flint.

If you want to read more about Halloween at Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad, head over to Daily Leisure to see what it's all about.

Here's your chance to win a family 4 pack of tickets to Halloween at Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad! Please note, the tickets are for Saturday, October 18 with a 5:00 p.m. train ride. The date and time cannot be changed, so please only enter if you are available.

 Crossroad Village

Monday, September 29, 2014

Family Ties: 10 Years Later

For 10 years, I’ve been struggling to find a place in my father’s family, and the truth has been slowly dawning: it’s been such an impossible effort because there is no place for me. I can’t continue to hurt myself like this, trying to carve a place out of nothing. It is too painful. 

Confession: I do a fair job of hiding it, but I am actually a deeply sensitive person.

My paternal grandfather passed away a few days ago, a man who was not a grandfather to me in anything more than the biological sense. While his children and (legitimate) grandchildren mourn his loss, I mourn the lack of loss. Having lost an actual grandfather, on January 4, 1997, one whom I loved very much and who was there for me from the day I was born, I cannot really say which loss is worse.

Is it better (or worse) to have loved and lost, or to have never loved at all?

I gather that this largely unknown grandfather of mine was a pretty special guy, one who valued family and was a man of great love and integrity. I don’t know any of the stories. They are not a part of my history. On a handful of occasions, I witnessed a kind and gentle soul. That’s all I have, and yet really it has nothing to do with me. 

In the scope of this family, I belong nowhere, and that is a pretty unusual feeling, an untethered sort of sensation.

Being around them is difficult, although they are mostly polite when they happen to notice me. I see their bond, it is nearly a tangible thing. They laugh and joke and, despite the miles that separate them most of the time, when they are together they present a unified front of intimacy. They seem to exude the message: our family is a huge, loving unit. That might be true, but it is a sentiment that certainly does not include me.

I can’t really blame them. They don’t know what to do with me, this outsider, this interloper. They acknowledge my existence, but they do so hesitantly. Not rudely, but in a way that makes it clear, intentionally or not, that I am not a member of this particular club and no provisions will be made. 

What they might not realize, is that I am the vulnerable party. They, with their shared love and tight bonds, have the collective power to hurt me very much. I am not strong enough to force myself in, at the risk of further rejection.

It’s a sink or swim situation, and in this case I’m just going to have to sink. I made the initial effort, to find them, to connect. I tried, tried, tried…but now I’m done. Perhaps they expected more effort from me, but why should I have to bear the continuous strain of the Herculean effort of simply trying to fit in, to be a part of what should be my own family? The answer is, I shouldn’t, and I no longer will. The more likely scenario is that they have no expectations of me, simply because they do not think of me nor consider me at all.

When I was growing up and didn’t know my father, didn’t know who he was or anything about him, I constantly wondered two things: what he was like, and why he didn’t want me. These questions were an integral part of my childhood, I lived and breathed them right up until I was 30 years old and finally had the opportunity to discover the answers. It was a certain kind of background pain, a shame that was always there. The questions extended to the rest of the family, I was aware that at least some of them knew about me. But they seemed to have made the mutual decision to do what was easiest, which was to quietly agree that I didn’t exist.

I thought meeting my father and getting my answers would change everything, and it did. Just not necessarily in the way I thought it would. Turns out, that pain and shame of my childhood have been replaced with a different kind of pain, and a different kind of shame.

Now I feel the pain of exclusion, made sharper by knowing what I’m being excluded from. I feel the shame of being unwanted, but I now know the faces of those who don’t want me. I think, honestly, that it’s harder now. In some ways my imagination was more forgiving. 

I can see now, in hindsight, that probably it was better that I didn’t know as a child what I know now. Because no matter what, I was always destined to be an outsider in this family. Even if my father had claimed me from the start, I would have, at best, been a peripheral member of his family. As an adult I am better able to handle the disappointment and heartache that inevitably comes with this particular territory.

I can’t really say I regret doing what I’ve done: finding my father, meeting my father, maintaining a relationship with my father. I am glad to know him. I also wish things were different, but wishing doesn’t make it so. Action won’t make it so either, unfortunately. Nothing can erase the past. What I think is that this is simply the hand I’ve been dealt, what I must accept and constantly forgive, day after day. There is no going around it, the only way is to go through it, which is what I’ve been trying to do for nearly 10 years. 

It is a solitary journey, and not a smooth or easy one. I will continue on, but while keeping self-preservation at the forefront. No more trying to turn apples into oranges. No more looking for what isn't there.