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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Charity Never Faileth...My Holiday Post

Well, another year is coming to an end and I have to say it has been a pretty traumatic year for my family and me.  To be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to Christmas.  I didn't even bother to go out to the garage to dig my tree out until December 16th, because it just didn't seem like we could celebrate the season with any kind of joy.  Then I realized that my kids needed to feel something from their parents besides intense stress.  So I forced myself to set up the tree and to decorate the house a little.

It took a few days of looking at an empty tree for me to find my Christmas spirit.  Once the Holiday Fever finally made its way through the doom and gloom and depression I have been feeling lately, I was able to embrace it and use it to help shoo away the fog of unemployment and financial struggles that has plagued us for a while now.  It was nice to have something to look forward to.  More importantly, it was nice for my boys to have something to look forward to. 


Honestly, this has been the most difficult Christmas I have ever faced in my life.  The move we made to our new state was supposed to be a fresh start.  Instead, it has turned into something akin to a modern day Grapes of Wrath story.  The joy and excitement we felt when we landed here was quickly replaced by fear as our best laid plans fell apart in front of our eyes.  Despite the rough start, we have held out hope that we could make it in this unique, homey town if fate would just give us a break and a fair shot at building a life here. Five months later, we are still struggling.  And wondering if we are complete idiots for daring to make such a big life change.  I'm sure there are a few of our family and friends who have already made that assessment and are wondering what has taken us so long to come to the same conclusion. 

The thing is...I still believe with all of my heart that moving here was the right thing for my family.  For six months before we came here, there was not a day that went by that my heart and mind didn't tell me that my family would thrive in this new environment.  My spirit spoke to me in dreams and in prayers and everytime I tried to look at a different spot on the map as a relocation possibility, my inner being would all but scream that I needed to quit trying to avoid what I already knew.  How do you ignore those kinds of thoughts and feelings and persisitent naggings?!  I don't know about you, but I can't.  Every good decision I have ever made in my life has come at the end of a long struggle with me trying to ignore and push away a force I could not explain, then ultimately giving in and accepting the message the universe was trying to send.   So it made sense to me to finally quit fighting this path too.  And when I quit fighting and accepted the possibility that the change might be good, things kind fo fell in place for us to make the move.  I truly thought we were on the right track.

My husband felt okay about the move too, but he was much more reserved in his enthusiasm.  He is no longer behind me on this one.  He is struggling.  He doesn't hate here, but so far he isn't finding a lot to love.  In his defense, he is not good with change.  I knew that about him, but hoped his desire to leave our old home state would be strong enough to help him overcome his fears.  Of course, it didn't help that he was lied to about the job he was supposed to start upon our arrival.  Having that rug yanked out from under him while he was trying to settle in a new place with his family left him unsettled and angry.  Who tells a guy he has a job, knowing he's relocating his family and then changes his mind without calling to tell anyone?  It doesn't matter anymore.  We are here and we have decided to try to make it work.  We just thought we would have things working before Christmas. Which is where I started this post a few thousand words ago.

Making it work here has truly been the fight of our lives.  So we were not spiritually or mentally prepared for Christmas.  Nor were we financially prepared.  Gainful employment is hard to find here...not for lack of trying though.  Big Man is working, but at a minimum wage job that is far beneath his capabilities and with earnings that are far below what we need to survive.  We had no money for gifts for the kids.  But we had a long talk with them about making sacrifices and we really tried hard, once we finally got our minds and hearts where they needed to be, to focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas and the birth of Christ.  The kids were doing okay with the fact that Christmas was going to be very low-key this year.  Then the miracles started happening. 

Our church family quickly rallied around us, offering rides to Scouts, sending job leads, doing what they can to help us feel like we are part of the community.  As Christmas approached, we were surprised by a Secret Santa this year who did the 12 Days of Christmas.  The boys tried hard to catch them each night as they left a fun treat at the door and it inspired them to look for a way to give to someone else instead of focusing on their own desires.  We were able to share an unopened toy from one of my product reviews with someone whose boys will love the gift and my kids were overjoyed that they were able to brighten someone else's holiday.  Then...we had another Secret Santa!  I know!!  They came bearing bikes, coats and much needed shoes, with the request that we not tell our boys the gifts came from them, but from us.   I don't know how they even knew about our situation.  Their generosity left me in tears.  THEN...another Not So Secret Santa showed up at our door on Christmas Eve with boxes of food and gifts that left me beyond speechless!  More tears (actually it was the out and out sobbing, blubbering, ugly kind of crying), more amazement and more wondering why we were found worthy to be on the recieving end of such kindness from people we barely know.  THEN...little surprises in the mail came as relatives sent cards filled with checks and gift cards to help us with our other needs.  I have never been so grateful and felt so humbled in my entire life.  

Even still, I sit here crying.  I had been praying for miracles, expecting a job to come through, I guess.  What I received instead was an amazing lesson about humility and gratitude that I will never, ever forget.  My fear and sense of hopelessness was replaced with a renewed belief, that despite all our differences, mankind is generally, inherently good.  And that when given the opportunity, people will look for ways to be charitable and care for their friends and neighbors.  Seeing this side of our new community has shown me that I chose the right place to raise my family.  How could we NOT want to be part of a place that values and actually practices these kinds of charitable acts? 

Thank you, friends, family and people of Boise for giving my family one of the most unforgettable Christmas' we will ever have.  Charity is the true love of Christ...we truly felt the sprit of love and service at work in our lives this season.  Merry Christmas. 


       

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh Brussel Tree, Oh Brussel Tree

When I was shopping a few weeks ago, I came across this in the produce section:


I swear I laughed out loud, because seriously!?  When was the last time you saw a Brussel Sprout tree?!?  Me?  Never.  I've never seen a little tree full of brussel sprouts.  Okay, technically it's not a tree.  The correct verbiage would be a brussel sprout stalk. Whatever you call it, I think it rocks.  The lady next to me thought it was hilarious that I was so infatuated by a vegetable.  I was trying to explain that it wasn't the vegetable per se, but the packaging that was so intriguing.  She just shook her head and walked away.  Whatever.  I know she was secretly just as amazed as I was by the funky sprout tree, she just didn't want to walk through the store with the thing sticking out of her cart.  

There were stacks of these stalks piled on top of each other and being the fun mom that I can sometimes be, I thought I had to buy one of the Brussel Sprout Trees for my kids. It did stick out of the cart.  But I think it made me the most interesting person in the store that day.  I definitely got lots of looks and the cashier was at a loss for how to bag it. Apparently I was the only person at that point of the midmorning to purchase the item ( Really?  Am I really the only person in Boise who found these things cool enough to purchase?) and no one had discussed the bagging options with the cashiers prior to placing the stalk out for sale.  I opted to skip the bag and carry it out in my hand, kind of like a marching band majorette.  It was a great day at the grocery store.

I know...I totally geeked out over brussel sprouts.  Obviously I need a more exciting life.  But back to the story.

I've eaten brussel sprouts before.  I like them.  But I've always purchased them already cut off the stalk,  so I never once wondered, as I was picking out my "baby cabbages", how the things grew.  How old am I now?  47?  And I just now found out how brussel sprouts grow.  It also never occurred to me that someone had to do the work to get them to the little basket in the produce section as individual brussel sprouts for people like me to buy and enjoy.

After the hubby and kids also geeked out over the small tree, we decided to have them for dinner.  Which brings me to my next discovery about Brussel Sprout Trees.  They are damn hard to cut through!!  Now I know why the produce clerk decided to just throw the whole stalks out onto the display instead of cutting off the brussel sprouts.  I swear I was ready to have Big Man whip out the circular saw or his camping machete!  Cutting through the stalk with my knife was seriouly, ridiculously labor intensive!  Yeah...don't let the cuteness of the baby cabbages attached to the tree thing suck you in.  Because it becomes way less cute after twenty minutes of cutting, sawing and pounding on the knife handle to remove the little buggers. Of course, it didn't help that my knife hasn't been sharpened since my grandma gave it to me in 1996.  I never remember to get it sharpened until after I have to struggle through something like this. 

ANYWAY...I was almost finished cutting when my very smart 10 year old suggested that I just hit them at a downward angle ("just karate chop them, Mom!") to knock them loose from the stalk.  I tried that.  It worked really well.  On the last eight brussel sprouts.  Who knew?  And where was he 18 minutes ago? 

Whe I was done, I was left with an almost naked brussel sprout stalk.  That looked like this: 


Am I weird or does this look like a beautiful piece of greenery that could somehow be incorporated into a floral arrangement?  Don't ask me how to do it, I'm not good at flower arrangements.  I'm just the idea person here.  I was just really struck by the lovely patterns that the left behind leaves made on the stalk.  It seems like one could throw some flowers and ribbon and other cool florist type stuff in there and make something really unique and beautiful to gaze upon.  Just sayin'. You know how people put out pine bough wreaths and centerpeices for Christmas?  Maybe a shucked brussel sprout stalk could be the centerpiece for Festivus.  It's the centerpiece for the rest of us.  

I can't believe I just wrote a whole post about brussel sprout stalks. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

When Good Trees Go Bad

We knew when we moved here to Idaho that we would experience a different climate.  We have actually looked forward to the cooler weather and actual seasons, not just the hot and less hot seasons of Phoenix.  The leaves and trees and all the colors are absolutely amazing!  I feel like a kid sometimes in that I am awestruck by all the new scenery and sights and smells. 

Credit: Roadsidepictures/Flickr

It's all such a refreshing change of pace from the dry, brown desert we have lived in forever.  FOREVER.  FOR. EVER.

It's funny though, how things that look so cool on the surface can suddenly be not so cool in reality.  Like the changing leaves, for instance.  They are a canvas of colors and patterns that are so enjoyable to look at while we walk along the river banks.  When they started falling one by one from the tree in our front yard, they became individual pieces of art that the boys studied and collected.  Then we had an extremely cold night.  And when we opened the door to go to school the next morning we found this:


A Naked Tree!!  Just days before we were wondering why our neighbors' trees were all but bare, while ours was still full of green, healthy foliage!  Then BAM!  Just like that we have a 4 inch deep carpet of leaves covering our yard and driveway.  Apparently, our neighbors' trees have figured out that if they disrobe a little at a time, their owners can keep up with the raking and the bagging.  Our lovely tree  decided to give us a hearty fall welcome with a full-blown, leaf-filled ticker tape parade!  Which we missed, by the way, because it happened at night!  While we were sleeping!!   Either our tree isn't a very good event planner or it is an accomplished practical joker.  Either way we were shocked at how many leaves the thing had once worn! 

The first thing Little Man wanted to do was make a leaf angel.  I know!  What a great idea, right?  I was hormonal cold and grumpy when he asked and we were running late for school so I told him no.  Why did I say that?  I have no idea.  I just blurted it out.  It wasn't a complicated request.  It's not like he asked if we could snowshoe to Russia or use the leaves for toilet paper (oh, don't think he didn't think about that option, he's totally into Survivorman and Man Vs Wild.  It's only a matter of time until he tries it, believe me!).  It wouldn't have caused any harm.  What was my problem?  Gees, I've got to loosen up! 

Rather than start raking the minute I got home, I decided to ignore the leaves and check my email save the leaves for Little Man so he could have some fun before we disposed of the giant gift from our tree friend.  He and a few friends rolled around in them, jumped in them, made piles our of them and threw them for about an hour before they decided they were done. 

  (Leaf Angels)


The weather man kept saying it was going to snow, so Big Man and I left the leaves where they were for a few days, hoping that maybe we'd get enough snow to cover them and then they could just kind of hibernate and compost over the winter, thereby saving us from clean up duty.  No such luck.  We had no snow.   Just some rain.  Which made the leaves wet.  And heavy.  So the blower didn't work and we had to rake. 


Two hours and eight giant, stuffed bags later we had a clean yard again.  Actually, when I think about it, the tree kind of did us favor.  There are still a lot of trees around town waiting to shed the last of their fall foliage.  Everybody else has been raking intermittently for 3 weeks now and many probably have one more big clean up to do before the snow hits.  We got ours done in one shot.  Maybe this tree ain't so bad after all. 

So yeah...the fall colors and changing leaves are beautiful to look at, but not as much fun to clean up.  Still - I'd rather rake leaves in the crisp fall air that pull weeds in the hot desert sun any day.

PS - I forgot to do the Hexbug Giveaway, tune in Tuesday for the winner!!   

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day Thank You

(Grandpa Russ)

I have two grandfathers who fought in World War II. One of them, actually my step-grandfather, has spent the last month and a half in rehab after some health problems.  He's not happy there, it's not his home.  So we visit him often and ask him to tell us stories about his life.  He's told us some of his war stories. They are at the same time both interesting and horrifying. He barely touches on the part where he landed on the beach on D-Day. He said he could not even begin to describe the things he saw, other than there were hundreds and hundreds of bodies lying in the sand and the water. I'm guessing the scenes from Saving Private Ryan barely touched on the reality of what those men experienced that day. Despite the nightmarish memories that were part of his experiences as a soldier, Grandpa Russ shares some good experiences too and very fond memories of the years after the war that he spent working for the Veterans Administration in Idaho. That's where he met my grandmother. ; )

I have never met my other grandfather. It's a long story. Suffice it to say that he chose to isolate himself from his family and my mother has not seen him since she left home as a teenager during one of his rages. Now he lives about 30 minutes from where I recently moved and I have to make the decision about whether or not to try to establish a relationship with him. He flew bombing missions during the war. Apparently his experiences were pretty harrowing too, as my mom talks about episodes he had after the war that lead me to believe he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His issues were so severe that in the end my grandmother had to leave him for her safety and the safety of her son. My mother had already moved out by then. So I don't know alot about him, other than the fact that my mom says he was such a fun person to be around when she was little and she remembers a very different person than the man he became later in her life.

Why am I telling you all this? I guess I'm pointing out the contrast in how each man was able to handle the experience of war. One managed to find coping skills that allowed him to get on with his life. Will the memories ever go away? No. They are a part of who he is now. But he was able to comparmentalize and put those painful thoughts in a box in his brain somewhere where he didn't have to face them all of the time so he could work and focus on raising his family.   He is such a good man and accepted us as his own grandkids from the minute we met him. 

Grandpa Bill( I guess that's what I would call him), my mother's real father, obviously had a harder time putting those memories to rest and they affected his ability to raise his family and lead a happy life.  His family suffered greatly because of that. And so began the dysfunction that has impacted more than one generation.  It makes me wonder if things would be different for us now had people known about PTSD back then and had he been able to get help in dealing with his emotional trauma. Doesn't matter I guess. We can't go back and change things.

We can change things going forward though. We can ensure that there coninue to be programs and tools available for our warriors, so that regardless of what stage in life they find themselves, they and their families will have the necessary skills and ability to cope. Please donate your time or your dollars to a worthy nonprofit that supports our military families. The burden they carry is heavy to bear. Let's do all we can to let them know that we are willing to help lift that burden however and whenever we can.

From our family to the many veterans and military families stationed all over the world: We value your service and sacrifices and are grateful for your willingness to endure whatever hardships with with you are faced to serve this wonderful country.   Thank you. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Independence Day

Ya know what this is?


It's Freedom, Baby!!  This was the first day EVER that they got to ride their bikes to school without an adult.  They were so excited they barely took time to give me a wave before they rolled down the driveway and wheeled off to their new school with the neighbor kid.  It was a great moment for all of us.  A real taste of independence for them and a realization for me that it was okay to let them have a longer leash.  Not to mention the rush of gratitude I felt that we are blessed to have found a good, safe neighborhood so the boys can have these kinds of experiences! 


I have to admit that the first morning was bittersweet.  I had mixed emotions.  My initial thought was that for the first time in 6 years, I wouldn't have to fight the traffic in the drop-off lane or worry about getting to the school early in the afternoon so I could find a parking space!  Whoo-hoo!  Then the emotions kicked in and started talking to me.  And my Mommy Heart felt kind of sad and heavy for a few moments because it heard this:


"Your little boys are growing up - they aren't little boys anymore. You're should savor these moments because one day they're going to drive off and not come back for a long time.  They'll be busy creating lives of their own and you'll be lucky to get a phone call once in awhile."  Wow.  Even typing the words out makes me want to start crying.  I cannot begin to imagine a life without some kind of daily interaction with my boys.

I remember what my life was like before the boys came.  And if I'm honest, there have been moments where I wistfully yearned for just a few of those "before the kids" days.  The days when I was free to do whatever I wanted to do, how and when I wanted to do it.  Usually those yearnings came after a week of cleaning up kid poo and vomit.  Or maybe after the 15 hour drive that left us all wondering which genius thought a road trip would be "fun."  But those wishes were fleeting thoughts that only lingered for a moment.  A grubby little hug and a wet smack on the cheek chased those wishes away, making space for warm thoughts and smiles about the life I have now -  "with the kids."

So while days like "the first day we rode our bikes to school" may evoke feelings of uncertainty about my future with them, I am trying to not dwell on what I will be missing and focus instead on what I have now - two really great boys who are enjoying their new home, happily pedaling through the neighborhood and looking for adventure.  And who doesn't need a little adventure once in awhile?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Glow-in-the-Dark Hexbug Review and Giveaway

Technology never ceases to amaze me.  I was gonna say that I couldn't even begin to imagine what life was like before all these amazing advances, but then I remembered that I was born 47 years ago...before all of these amazing advances. 

I was amazed again this week when we had our Glow-in-the-Dark Hexbug Party, thanks to MommyParties and Hexbug.  The makers of the original Hexbugs took it up a notch with their newest creatures and tracks that truly glow in the dark! 

(I know, not a very good image. I had to borrow it because my camera could not pick up the amazing glow in the dark features, because my camera is old and it sucks. But that it a post for another day. For now, just bask in the glow of this neon bug thingy.)

We received our kit a few weeks ago, which was chock full of Glow-in-the-Dark Hexbug Nanos and Habitat sets, as well as some wicked cool Halloween Mutant Zombie Nanos.

 
A new addition to the Hexbug family found its way into the box too...Hexbug Larvae.  I know...just the name makes me squeamish.  Larvae.  If you click on the link, you can watch it squirm.  I don't like to watch it squirm, but be my guest.  The boys love it.
They really got a kick out of the Mutant Zombie Nanos with the glowing exoskeleton.  They all immediately ran into the garage where it is pitch dark and let the little bugs run around.  Again...lame camera couldn't get any of the action.  They fun with the lights on too though, as evidenced here:


video

I love that the glow-in-the-dark feature has renewed their interest in these little robotic toys.  I do have to admit that one of the larvae already lost it's life to experimentation.  The power switch was broken, so they performed a surgical procedure, which unfortunately for the larvae was unsuccessful, but it was very enlightening and interesting for the two amatuer scientists.  If I had paid for that Hexbug, I might have been a little peeved that it broke after 5 minutes of use, but the other two seem fine.    

The Zombie Mutant Hexbugs are availble for a very limited time at Radio Shack and the Glow-in-the-Dark Nanos and Habitats are in retail stores like Walmart and Target.   If your kids are Hexbug junkies, then keep an eye out during the upcoming holiday season for more cutting edge Hexbug products!

Win a Glow-in-the-Dark Hexbug Nano and a Mutant Zombie Nano!  Just leave a comment and let me know which of the Hexbug creatures is your favorite.  Contest will end at 12 Midnight PST November 12th.  U.S. Residents only.  Winner will be chosen at random.      

***Disclosure:  I received a Hexbug Halloween Party Kit from MommyParties and Hexbug to facilitate this review.  As always, my honest opinions are my own.  ***  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Few Things on My Bucket List

This is my entry in the Just Ask Bucket List Getaway Giveaway. Just Ask offers a breast and ovarian cancer screening and is encouraging people to share 15 things that I want to enjoy in my lifetime as a reminder to be aware of my health. Want to enter? Head over to TodaysMama.com to get the details.

I have been so consumed with finding work and creating income since we moved to our new state that the thought of filling out just one more job application or revamping my resume one more time makes me want to slit my wrists.  Yeah...I'm that burned out.  So I thought I'd take a break from the job hunt and focus on some of the really motivating things I would like to accomplish in my life, in the hopes that I might regain some of my sanity and maybe win an awesome family vacation in the process!

There are about a billion things I'd like to do before I leave this world, here are 15 of them:

1. Write a book.  I know.  Everyone wants to write a book, right?  And actually, just about anyone can do it these days with all the self-publishing options and e-books, but I can't remember a time when I didn't want to write a book, so even if it seems like a trendy, "everybody's-doing-it" kind of goal, it is a goal I choose to keep on my bucket list.  Don't ask me about the book topic, I have a few ideas, but nothing concrete.  Although I had an amazing idea today for a coffee table book that involves Dog the Bounty Hunter.  Intrigued?  I know, right?  How did someone not think of it already!?!

2. Learn how to design and build a website.  Because then I could more easily pursue some of my other goals that are sitting and waiting for a finished website to call home so they can come to life. Which reminds me of #3 on this list.

3.  Go back to school and finish my education.  I have a 20 year old Associates degree in an industry where my skills are no longer relevant.  I learned ad design and graphics before the computer!  Ever heard of amberlith, rapidographs and Prismacolor markers?  How about a Varitype Typesetter?  Ever made a photostat copy of something? No?  I KNOW!!  Because all these things are obsolete!  Time to start over and learn how to use all the spiffy new design programs out there like Dreamweaver, Photoshop, InDesign and whatever video editing software the kids are using these days.

4. Learn to play the banjo.  The redneck in me needs an outlet once in awhile.  I have this vision of sittin' around on the porch Andy Griffith style with a cool guitar player, a fine fiddler and a rad harmonica-nista.  We'll be a pickin' and a grinnin' while the neighbors clap and the kids dance on the lawn.  I cannot WAIT to post the video one day to prove to y'all that this one actually happened.

5. Own a 1965-68 Mustang with a big V-8 and cool mag wheels.   Va-rooom!  I LOVE those cars!

6. Move to a farm where I can raise my boys and live out the rest of my life growing amazing things and taking care of funny animals.

7. Lose weight and get healthy...so I can learn to do things like #8.

8. Ski with my family!  Even when I am thin, I have never been really athletic, but skiing down a mountain of snow sounds like a hoot.  Even if I never make it off the bunny hill, I'd like to try it once before I die.  And the weight loss thing would also be of great importance when it comes to finding a snowsuit that wouldn't make me look like the Michelin Man's wife.

9. Travel across the country in a decked out motor home to visit places like Mt. Rushmore and The Bigfoot Discovery Museum while eating really cool road food like "Rippers" from Rutt's Hutt in New Jersey and tossed rolls at Lambert's Cafe in Missouri.

10. Buy a really great digital camera and take a photography class with Arizona Highways or National Geographic photographers. .

11.Accomplish something physical that I never thought I would be capable of doing, like running a marathon or hiking the Grand Canyon

12. Find a cure for cankles.  Seriously.  I hate my ankles.  Even when I'm not heavy, I still have cankles.  Not from fat or water retention, but from giant bones and muscles.  I have thick ankle DNA.  I will never look good in a dress and strappy sandals until cankles become a thing of the past.  Please donate today to the "Cure for Cankles" Foundation.  Your contribution will help women like myself, my mom and Hillary Clinton shun pantsuits and long skirts forever.

13. Visit Ireland and come home with a wicked Irish accent.

14. Become a published author in a magazine or newspaper.   

15. Visit Grandmother/Great-grandmother's old home in Virginia with Mom and Sister.  My mom has always wanted to know more about her mother's side of the family and where they came from.  She has relatives there she has never met.  It would be wonderful to help her reconnect with family there and learn more about her southern heritage.       

Monday, October 17, 2011

I'm Working on a Post

I have been working on a post for about 2 weeks now. For some reason I just can't get it right. It's one of those heartfelt, emotional posts and I just can't get what I feel into words. I hate when that happens. So, I just wanted to let you know that there is a new post coming sometime soon. As soon as I can figure out how to say what I want to say.
 
In the meantime, please enjoy these photos of my kids at the park by the river a few weeks ago.  It was one of those really great days when they actually liked each other and they spent the day laughing and poking things they found along the trail with sticks.




Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Am "Boy Scout" Mom

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Boy Scouts of America. All opinions are 100% mine.

Many of you know we just relocated. The move has been challenging in many respects. Anyone who has kids knows that such a big change can trigger a chain of emotional chaos that even the best child psychologist would struggle to deal with. So I am thankful for little things that have helped us quickly resume some semblance of normalcy in our new home.

It was a blessing that school started the week after we arrived, not only for my boys, but for me too. Having them in school part of the day helped me regain some sanity while I unpacked our necessaries and tried to create a decent living space for my family.

It was also fortuitous that we are active in the Boy Scouts of America Program. The boys were able to start attending meetings here almost immediately, which brought something familiar to their lives in an unfamiliar place. It was good for them to fall right back into the routine of meeting their pack at the local church once a week to participate in different activities. This week my youngest visited a police station and was thrilled to get to ask a police officer all kinds of questions about how to catch bad guys.

I've been asked a lot lately about the Boy Scouts of America, mostly by moms who are trying to decide if the program would be a good fit for their own boys.   I am happy to share our family experiences concerning the Scouting program, because it has been such a positive experience for both of my boys. And for me too!

We have been involved in the Scouting program since the boys turned 7. They started out as Cub Scouts and my oldest is now a Boy Scout. When we first started I knew absolutely nothing about Boy Scouts other than they teach boys how to camp. Turns out there is so much more to the program! As Cub Scouts, both of my boys have learned very valuable life lessons about what it means to be a good person and a good citizen. These skills are taught during weekly meetings, but parents are expected to be involved at this level and a good part of what the boys are learning and achieving during Cub Scouts is being learned through activities that include the entire family. It has been really great for me to go through the manuals with the boys during each stage of their Cub Scout career and choose activities that we can work on together. I get to see their strengths and weaknesses from a different perspective and I get a great handle on where their outside interests may lie. For example, my youngest likes to collect things. All kinds of things...sticks, rocks, bottle caps, string, cards, keychains, dirt. You name it, he's picked it up and put it in his pocket at some point to use later. Helping him organize and preserve his "collections" so he could pass off that requirement was really enlightening and created an opportunity for us to talk and bond that might not have happened otherwise. I would ask questions about where that rock came from and why he liked it and he would explain his rationale for picking each one up. I have to admit, I didn't see the beauty in some of his choices, but he did and that's what matters. And it was a great experience for him to get up in front of his fellow cub scouts and explain his collection. Not only did he learn some geology, he's learning valuable communication skills that will give him confidence.

   

My oldest just transitioned into Boy Scouts. It was a really emotional experience watching him during the "crossover" ceremony, because I could tell that in his mind, this was a turning point in his life. He no longer felt like a little boy. He had accomplished so much in Cub Scouts, including getting his Arrow of Light, that he was ready to move on and take on the challenges that the Boy Scout program presents. I was a little worried, because he is not as much of a nature boy as my youngest and I wasn't sure he would enjoy all of the physical activities. But Boy Scouts offers so much more than "camping." We were really excited to find out about their STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). They can earn 31 merit badges from from this curriculum, including 1 for Robotics! For some reason, when he is doing things like this at school, it feels like work to him. But at Scouts, it's fun. I don't know about other moms, but I am happy to have my young man participate in activities that help him develop critical skills that are relevant in today's technical world.

As a Boy Scout, he also gets the opportunity to help plan the activities and hold a position within the troop. He learns personal responsibility and leadership skills in an environment that encourages team efforts and offers constant support. And he enjoys it!

I can honestly say that being a Scout has made him a more confident, capable person. As a mom, I want to know that when he goes out into the world, he feels like he can face the challenges that are put before him. Every time he earns a merit badge he walks away feeling more capable and confident in his abilities. How much more could a parent ask?

So would I recommend the Scouting Program? Heck yeah!! I know they've gotten a bad rap for some of the issues that have come up in the news in recent years. But I believe that bad things happen in every segment of society. Schools, churches, businesses, politics - none of them are exempt from public scrutiny and all have been found to have issues that affect people and society in a negative way at some point during their tenure. The Boy Scouts of America is a wonderful program that teaches Scouts a wholesome set of values and beliefs while strengthening relationships and instilling confidence in young men who need these skills to successfully navigate adulthood. Our family values and honors the BSA program.

So c'mon and join us... Be A Scout!!

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Settling Down in My New Town

So...it dawns on me that since my move, not only am I Boymom, I am also now a Boise Mom! It's been great getting to know the city and while I miss Surprise, Arizona and my wonderful friends and neighbors, I honestly have no desire at this particular moment to EVER return to the desert heat that I have endured for years now.  One of these days I'll have to tell you about our ridiculous trip, but I just don't feel like backtracking and reliving the whole thing at this moment.  But there are some really painful hilarious moments I should probably chronicle for future generations, so I promise, I will do my trip post in the nest few days.  I would rather spend my blog time today telling and showing you guys some of the things I love about our new place of residence.


One of the first places we found to eat when we got here is Hugo's Deli.  Hugo's is yummy and the customer service there is awesome. They were very patient with Little Man, who always takes just under a decade to make any kind of food selection and they made sure he had extra pickles, just like he asked.  The owner was there and he was gracious enough to meet and talk to us when we mentioned that we were new in town.  Who does that anymore?  I have a confession to make here:  I forgot the guy's name.  It's not Hugo.  Or else I would have remembered.  How sad is it that he went out of his way to show us some kindness and I can't even remember his name?  I'm blaming it on menopause the stress of the relocation. So yeah...Hugo's and the guy who owns Hugo's rock.  Great sandwiches, nice employees, clean and inviting store.

Another thing I love about Boise? The amazing gardens and farms here! Everybody grows stuff! My granddad's caretaker, Darlene and her brother own a farm. Darlene has a kick-butt garden and everytime I go visit her and Grandpa she loads me up with cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, greenbeans, corn and watermelon.





My sister's sister-in-law (did you follow that?)  went from being a major corporate star in San Francisco to being a major Mommy star and Master Gardener in Idaho.  She sent home some amazing jalapenos, green chilis and tomatoes, from which we made some kickin' salsa!!  We made a huge batch that filled a huge bowl and this is all that is left 3 days later.



I think my body is in shock from all of the freshly grown, nutrient rich fruits and veggies I have consumed in the last 4 weeks.  Seriously, I have probably eaten more produce in the last 4 weeks than I did in the 8 months previous to my my move.  Consequently, even though I feel a little healthlier and more energetic, my gut doth protest at times.  I'll spare you the gory details.  Suffice it to say that I have definitely shown the menfolk in my family that having someone lock the windows so they can't be unrolled after I "release" ain't so funny when it happens to them!  I can't tell you how many times I have fallen victim to this little prank.  I would like to thank all those who have contributed to my recent bout of retribution.  Revenge is...well it's stinky.  But also pretty hilarious.

When I said everybody grows stuff here?  I mean stuff just grows.  Like you are walking down by the river and you see this:


Yeah.  Blackberry bushes just growing by the river.  I love that I can pick a berry and eat it while I am checking out the river and walking the trails.  The river area is getting pretty picked over though, so today we went to The Berry Ranch to pick our own berries. 

Little Man threw a major fit, the likes of which I have not seen since he was about 2.  I have NO idea what he thought we would be doing, but apparently he envisioned something akin to a prison labor camp.  So we pretended to ignore his meltdown, even though secretly I was  plotting a chore agenda that would make his prison labor camp look like a day at the fair.  He finally pulled it together when we pulled into the dirt lot at The Berry Ranch.   We spent about an hour picking blackberries and raspberries and ate a few along the way.  Of course I forgot my camera, so no pics this time in the fields, but here are the pics of our harvest:



Little Man apologized for his behavior and talked the whole way home about how he wants to have a farm so he can grow stuff too.  He talked and talked and TALKED about it.  I know, Little Man.  That would be the goal.  Because then I wouldn't be paying someone else $3.00/lb for berries that I had to pick myself!  Dang!   I think I could have bought them at the grocery store for half that!  But...we had a wonderful day together.  And we supported local farmers who work hard to grow good food for us.  And that?  Was Priceless. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

NerdyShirts Review

T-shirts are the uniform of choice in my home.  Any kind of button up shirt that actually makes it to my boys' rooms is quickly relegated to the furthest corner of the closet, where it spends the majority of its life looking out, just hoping for a chance to make the cut and join the rotation of "comfortable" clothes.  So anytime I get an offer to review a T-shirt company and try their merchandise, I jump at it. 

Trevor from NerdyShirts contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me to check out their merchandise.  So I did.  The first thing I realized is that I must have a lot of nerdy friends because I am familiar with a lot of the subjects shown on those t-shirts!  Who knew?!? 

The second thing I realized is that I know a LOT about Star Trek and Star Wars and Comic Book guys.    Most of this knowledge has been gleaned from time spent watching movies and cartoons with my husband and boys.  They patiently explain the ins and outs and whos and whats for me.  Which is cool.  Because now I do not look like an idiot when someone asks me whether Batman was a Marvel or DC comic (Batman was DC).  Not a lot of 47 year old moms have the capacity to discuss Star Wars or Green Lantern or X-men with any kind of intelligence.  At least now I can fake it.  NerdyShirts has so much comic and retro Star Trek kind of stuff that you would be hard pressed not to find something perfect for the comic geek or Trekkie in your life.  My personal favorite among this genre is the Batman Old School Logo, although that Thor Costume shirt is kind of hilarious.  NerdyShirts used to have a Wolverine Costume shirt too, but I think it must have sold out, which makes me extremely sad.  I am actually caught in the middle of an epic Batman vs. Wolverine debate and I wanted to get t-shirts for friends on each side of the battle for Christmas.  I am so bummed!

Anyway...Nerdyshirts has a large selection of designs to choose from, including references and characters from movies, video games, TV and internet.  Anyone who loves pop culture will dig these shirts.  A few of my favorites: 
NerdyShirts was kind enough to send a shirt for each of my boys.  Big Brother got a Bruce Lee shirt and Little Man loves his Iron Man Core shirt that glows in the dark.  Both shirts are made with high quality fabric that holds its shape and color well.  We had no bleeding colors in the wash and no flimsy, stretched out fabric after a few days of wear.  The graphics have not cracked or peeled and the boys find the shirts very comfortable and easy to wear.  


 BTW, NerdyShirts shipping is ninja fast and right now they have free shipping when you purchase 4 shirts.  I'm more than happy to recommend NerdyShirts and am looking forward to suprising a few people at Christmas with some hilarious t-shirts.

***Disclosure - I received 2 t-shirts from NerdyShirts in order to facilitate this review.  My opinions are my own and my reviews reflect my own experiences with products I receive.***
 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My "Qwest" for Internet Continues

How many days ago did I post about not having an internet connection? Was it 10 days? Yes. Was that a long time to wait for Qwest to get out here to put some tiny clamps on a few wires so I can get online? Yes. Should I be surfing the web like a woman possessed today after suffering such a lengthy isolation from all my social media activities? Yes, I should be. But alas, I am NOT tweeting and blogging with a vigor. I am sitting here wondering how I can survive another 2 days while Qwest reissues my order because apparently my first order was never submitted. So I waited 10 days for nothing.

So am I mad at Qwest? Yes. Actually it's more like fury. I kind of wanted to scream out loud and lay on the floor and kick and scream when they told me what had happened. But I didn't, since I have no other viable options for internet service. Does not having options suck? Yes. Does Qwest suck? I don't know yet. That depends on whether or not they expedite my installation and follow through with the other promises the CSR offered to try to keep my business.

Was I right when I surmised that CenturyLinks new name had ominous overtones? YES! And although I may not have to wait an entire century to be reconnected to cyberspace, it FEELS like an eternity! Am I over reacting? Maybe. Wait...NO! Hello!?! I just moved! I need to pay bills and change addresses and communicate with people with whom I am no longer geographically close! I can't do the Pony Express thing in this day and age! AAAUUUGGGHHHH!!

Two days from now will I appreciate the dexterity skills I developed because I had to write blog posts on a tiny android smart phone keyboard? Yeah, actually I might, because I'm gettin' wicked fast now at pounding out texts and tweets from my cellphone. Can I get paid for that? How ironic would it be if I ended up getting a job as a Master Texter Chick making major coin because Qwest screwed up. Could it happen? Yes. Anything's possible. Will it happen? Probably not.

Will I have DSL on Thursday? One can only hope.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Livin' on Boise Time

Things are a little slower paced here in Idaho, which is what I thought I wanted.  Until I tried to get my high speed internet connection set up.  When they told me the earliest day they had was August 30th I started hyperventilating.   The CSR had no sympathy and thanked me for my patience, then hung up.

So this is what I'm reduced to...writing my blogpost from my cellphone because Qwest (now Centurylink) is so busy getting BSU students set up with high speed that I have to wait 10 days for them to get to me! I think there might be a clue in Qwest's new moniker (Centurylink) as to the length of time you might have to wait for service.

ANYWAY...I have so much to write about my recent relocation adventure, but my giant ham thumbs make writing a lengthy blogpost on a tiny cellphone keyboard a very exasperating experience. Not to worry though, I remember every single detail and will make sure to include each and every thought and feeling about my move to Idaho so you don't feel like you missed out. Because I know all of my readers are waiting with bated breath to hear about the journey. I SAID, I know you are all extremely excited to hear about my trip, right? **Crickets**

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gifts of Nature

The entire 4 years that I have lived in my house at the edge of the desert, I have watched all my neighbors' agave plants bloom and grow and put forth that giant stem thingy that shoots out of the middle of the plant right towards heaven.  Mine just kind of sat there not doing much.  I worked hard to care for my agave, pulling the weeds that kept trying to choke it out, making sure it got some water now and then, threatening the neighborhood boys with hours of chores if they didn't quit running over it with their bikes.  And still nothing.  I finally gave up believing that my agave would ever flower like everybody else's. 

A few weeks ago, as we started packing to move, the agave plant must have sensed that change is on the horizon.  Imagine my delight when I walked out one day to find this:


This thing appeared overnight!!  Out of nowhere!  And it grows like an inch a week, I swear!   I don't think I'll be here long enough to see it actually flower on top, but that's okay.  I'm good with the efforts my little plant put forth. 

Thank you, Little Agave Plant, for the wonderful going away present. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reconnaissance or Bad Landing?

As a Boymom, there are things I see in my home that I don't think Girlmoms see very often, if at all.  Like this:


It's a toy paratrooper.  Hanging out of one of my kitchen drawers.  I happened to catch him out of the corner of my eye as I was grabbing my purse this morning.  He kind of caught me off guard.  It's not something I expected to see at 8 a.m. in the morning. 

So I immediately did what any other good Boymom would do and started talking to the guy.  "Hey Dude!  How long have you been hanging here?  Let's see if we can get you untangled and to a more stable location, away from enemy fire."  As I was talking I noticed Blackie Chan the Ninja Cat staring at me.  I couldn't tell if he thought I was talking to him or if he was mad that I was removing a potential play toy from his path.  Either way, he looked disgusted with me. 

I started to open the drawer to remove the guy, then didn't.  I know.  I KNOW!!  How could I leave that poor paratrooper just hanging there, waiting to be attacked? Well...because it occured to me that this guy might be there because someone wanted him there.  He might be part of an elaborately strategized battle plan that I know nothing about and by removing him, I might sway the entire outcome of this war reinactment.  I didn't want to be responsible for that. 

I've done that before, you know.  Ruined an entire 2 weeks of planning and staging, along with the outcome of a major battle because I moved 1 army guy from his post on the bathroom counter to the top of a dresser.  It was utter chaos for 15 minutes while everyone had to adjust strategies and move guys around to compensate for mom's lack of military training and knowledge. It was a big "Duh, Mom" moment that I don't care to repeat. 

After almost 12 years of raising boys, I've learned my lesson:  Leave the army guys where you find them. 

Sad for Paratrooper Man, but safe for Boymom.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Defiants 4 x 4s Review

This is how we spent last Saturday...

video

These little Defiant trucks are a blast!  Their climbing ability is pretty amazing.  As you can tell, the boys loved them. 


(I had more boys there, but some of the parents don't like me taking pics of their kids and posting them on the internet...I try to be respectful of their feelings, but sometimes it kinda kills my blog post. Ummm, HELLO!!  How can I rock the review posts when I can't show your kids loving or hating the things I review?!  I'm so KIDDING!  Kind of.  But seriously, I get it...some parents don't want their kids pasted all over the internet because of safety concerns. I don't always like it, but I get it.)

So, the boys ran the trucks until the batteries died (2 AAA's), then we had some snacks and refueled.  Caramel Rocks and Boulders with Road Rally Gully Punch to drink for the boys.  More batteries for the trucks. 



We'll be taking them out into the desert this weekend to see how they do on the rocky terrain outside, so look for some more videos in a few days.  Also, check out the Defiants 4 x 4s website for more product info. 

Defiants 4 x 4s made their debut in Phoenix and so are only available right now in select Walmart and Toys R Us stores in Arizona.  Again, check the Defiants 4 x 4s website for purchase locations. 

I love that the company supports our troops and will be contacting them to see if they will work on a fund-raising project with my non-profit: Helping Our Warriors.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Birthday Gift FAIL

Here's what my husband gave me for my birthday today-

Sunflowers are one of my most favorite flowers.  I absolutely adore them.


Here's what I gave him for his birthday last week -
FAIL!

His gift was so romantic and thoughtful.  Mine was really practical and well...NOT romantic. 

I think I need to regroup for Father's Day and try again.

Here, Home, Hope Book Review

Thanks to One2One Network, I was able to actually sit down and read a book this last week, for the first time in a very long time.  I love reading, it used to sustain me when I was a kid looking for an escape from my weird, dysfunctional life.  I forgot how much I loved the process of getting to know the characters and really trying to put myself into the story. 


Here, Home, Hope is a "chick lit" novel written by Kaira Rouda.  The whole story revolves around main character Kelly Mills Johnson, a stay-at-home mom  living in an up-scale suburban neighborhood called Grandville.  39-year old Kelly has a successful lawyer husband, well-behaved kids and beautiful friends with whom she shares her life, but she finds herself feeling restless and depressed after a breast cancer scare.  When her boys go off to summer camp she finds herself feeling even more lonely and directionless, so  she decides change is in order and embarks on a "Things to Change (T2C)" campaign to improve her life.  The fact that Post-It Notes became part of that campaign immediately caught my attention and made me laugh, because I am seriously THE Post-It Queen. 

As Kelly puts her T2C Plan into motion, she quickly learns that things are seldom as cut and dry as they may seem.  The two perfectly put together, succesful friends she admires so much are not as perfect and put together as she had assumed and have issues of their own that end up becoming issues for Kelly too!   The rest of the book winds its way through Kelly's attempts to make sense of her life and make the changes she needs to make, while dealing with the changes going on in the lives of those around her. 

I read Here, Home, Hope in two days and although I enjoyed the book and definitely  identified with the character's need for growth and fulfillment  as she transitioned from mother of small children to mother of more self-sufficient teens, there were parts of Kelly's life that I could not necessarily come to terms with.  Maybe it was the $300 hair cut and the shopping trip to the high end boutique.  Or the perfect husband who always says and does the right thing at just the right moment.  Or the perfect suburban neighborhood that Kelly describes as her home.  I don't know anyone who lives like that, so that's not real life...to me.  But then again, I 'spose it is real for some people...I just never ran with the "Country Club" crowd, so my version of reality comes from a whole different place.

The book really is a nice, easy read and there was much to enjoy about Kelly's journey to peace and happiness.  I think it does address some very real issues for women.  Trying to be everything to everybody is something with which most of the women I know struggle.  Here, Home, Hope addresses the feelings and frustrations we all feel when we try to bring more joy and fulfillment to our lives.  It also addresses the reality that not everybody deals with their problems the same way, hence marriages end, families fall apart, people inflict pain on themselves and life gets messy.  And as humans, we tend to be judgemental about people's problem solving skills and choices.  I liked the sense of empowerment that author Kaira Rouda tried to bring out in her female characters throughout the storyline.  I loved that the underlying message is one of support and nuturing, rather than criticizing.   And honesly...I loved the T2C Post-Its and Kelly's T2C List.  I have a few T2C's on my walls now.

Here, Home, Hope was a decent, light, quick read that did give me some ideas, some motivation and some hope that I can make the transisitions I need to make in my own life as I struggle to find "my place" in the Universe.  And it reminded me that while I am on my journey, I need to feed and care for my sister friends (T2C #5) without judgement.

Sending lots of love out to all of you who continue to support me as I work through my issues and find my path to fulfillment!

***Disclosure:  I was not compensated for this review and the opinions expressed are my own.  I did recieve a digital copy of Here, Home, Hope from One 2 One Network in order to facilitate this review. ***    

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

FyrFlyz Review and Giveaway

Sometimes the simplest things bring the greatest pleasure.  We were fortunate enough to participate in another product review this last week and I have to say, I am really, really amazed at the awesomeness that is FyrFlyz.

The whole toy consists of this small plastic piece with LED lights on each end that is attached to strings with handholds.  The fun comes when you start to twist and spin and pull the strings using the handholds.  All that motion causes the plastic part with the lights to start moving around to create scenes like this one that took place when the boys had some friends sleep over:

video

Sorry for the speedy replay on the video, I'm still trying to get a good video converter/editor to work with. 

ANYWAAAYYY...how cool are these things!?!  Here are some things we loved about FyrFlyz:
  • Fun for all ages
  • Encourages coordination development
  • Encourages creative play as kids try to learn new tricks to create different light patterns
  • Easy to operate, no setup time
  • Addictive!!  We sat for at least an hour trying to create new patterns!
Things we did not like:
  • Improper placement of fingers while using FyrFlyz will lead to a very sharp whack to your thumbnail or knuckle.  It freaking hurts! (Remember old school Clackers?!  Same kind of pain.)
I have to state though, that if you follow instructions, place your fingers properly on the holds and don't get too crazy with the speed and maneuvering, you can avoid the whacked finger issue.  The issue really is a result of operator error, but it is something that moms with small kids should be aware of.  Other than a throbbing thumbnail, we found everything about FyrFlyz to be entertaining and fun.  After our own experimenting, we went to the FyrFlyz website and learned more about how to achieve different light patterns.  My boys are still working on some of them and are looking forward to amazing their friends with the new tricks. 

FyrFlyz come in 4 different colors and are being sold in the Phoenix area right now for under $10.  They'll be released for purchase nationwide sometime in September.  We are planning to use them as part of our 4th of July celebration...should be an intersting and colorful night!!

Wanna Win One?  Do any or all of these things:
  • Leave a comment on my blog
  • Refer a friend to follow my blog
  • Tweet about the contest
  • Post this contest to your Facebook page
  • Like FyrFlyz on Facebook
The more of these things you do, the more opportunities you will have to win!  The FyrFlyz contest will end on May 29th, 2011 @ 12 midnight. 

***Disclosure:  MomSelect and FyrFlyz provided me with product in order to facilitate this review.  I was not compensated monetarily for my opinions, which are my own. ***