Monday, July 28, 2014

The Problem with Summer

The other day Little Reader said to me, "You know what I don't like about summer?  There's no routine"  I couldn't agree with her more.  After school ended, we took a couple of weeks to do nothing before kids started camp.  She and her sister did fun summer school classes for 3 weeks while their brother went to day camp, and now summer school is over so they are all in camp for the next two weeks, then my in-laws are coming to visit for 10 days and then a few days of nothing before school starts again the week of the 25th of August.  Just when I think I have the schedule figured out, it changes. 

They both enjoyed their summer school classes.  They both did a cooking class and have been busy on weekend mornings baking breakfast for the rest of the family which is awesome cause I get to sleep in :)  They each did a creative class too, Little Reader did one called Electronic Art where she learned how to use Powerpoint and made little movies.  Little Hugger did an artsy artist class where they did all sorts of different crafts.  

Little Man is enjoying his camp but is getting a little worn out from the longer days than he's used to.  I drop him off at 9:15 and then pick up at 1:15.  He's outside the entire time and goes to the pool everyday.  But it's good to get him used to doing something everyday to get ready for kindergarten.

Saturdays we usually spend at our new pool in town and then Sundays at the beach followed by dinner out, which means I'm scrambling to get my grocery shopping done here and there throughout the week.  Although I have sent Little Reader in to the store a couple of times with a short list and some cash which makes her happy cause she gets to do something responsible and independent and makes it easier for me as well since I don't have to keep 3 kids corraled in the store.  

Today was my first day kidless for 4 hours, which was great.  I did a long winding run by the camp dropoffs.  The change of scenery really helped me keep going.   I signed up for a 75 mile challenge and I just have 14 more miles to go over the next three days (did 7 this morning).  

The house is a mess because the weather has been so nice that I've been using most of my kid free time to run. I have to go pick up Little Man soon, but I plan on doing a thorough brain dump/to do list this afternoon so I can finish school supply shopping and get the house spic and span by the time the inlaws arrive on the 10th.  

While I agree that summer is chaotic, I love hearing the kids playing outside and giggling and being carefree.  I'll just enjoy it as long as it lasts.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Camping Weekend - Ugh

My husband and I are taking the kids camping this weekend with 4 other families.  They're all excited, me not so much, but I haven't admitted it to anyone so allow me to vent.  

We're going to a campground in Michigan no major outdoorsy place like a national park or anything, but still sleeping in tents and making our food on portable grills and campfire.  

The rest of the group has gone to this campground before and said they never left the campsite as there is a pool, playground and jumpy pillow.  There's a beach nearby but they never went?  There's a cute little town nearby, never went there either? That's fine for the kids, but I'm trying to figure out how to keep myself entertained.  

Two of the families I don't know well (if at all), one family we're good friends with, the other family is in our same circle of friends, but if they weren't I wouldn't hang out with them. 

Still I am going to put my best happy fave forward and hope for the best.  I am honestly most looking forward to a Saturday morning run along some new trail.

If nothing else, we spent so much $ on camping gear I now have a $26 reward at Sports Authority to spend when we return. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

School's Out

We can sleep in
I don't need to pack or think about lunches at 745am

Now I just need to figure out how to keep everyone (including me) on track and happy til camp starts the week of the 30th.  Wish me luck, I'll keep you posted 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Girls on the Run

This is the 3rd 5k my daughter has done and I signed up to be her running buddy.  It was a pretty warm morning despite an early start.  Since I had set the pace for our first race, I told her this time I would go at her pace.  The first mile of the course was a pretty tight down and back and after that the course opened up.  I could tell my daughter was getting a bit annoyed at how crowded it was and she passed a lot of people (looking back to make sure I was still with her).  

She started off at a pretty fast pace despite the crowd - about 8:45, but by early in the second mile she needed a walk break.  She told me that she was hungry - we had breakfast about 3 hours before the race started.  Not much to do about it except get to the finish.  She ran most of the course with a couple of walk breaks and finished in 35:11 (unofficial as this was not a chip timed race).  

We got her medals and goodies and then headed back to our meeting spot to wait for the rest of the group.  One girl and her Mom were already there, the rest came later.  It was a pretty hot day and supposedly some people actually got sick from the heat - luckily no one in our group.  

Once everyone had finished and cooled down, we got pictures of the girls and their coaches and headed back for the bus ride home.

Overall she was happy with her time, but learned the importance of fueling properly before a race.  

Lia Sophia Update

Since I've been obsessively following Lia ladies on Facebook, I found out that their annual conference set for next week was cancelled this week.  Apparently no specific reason was given. A bit worrisome.  

Yesterday I had a long phone chat with a former advisor about her experience.  She had also heard about the cancelation and had no more info, but offered to fill me in if she learned anything from friends who are active advisors. She understood my trepidation about joining a company that cancels an event that big at the last minute.  It is a family owned company so it's possible something happened within the family?  In the meantime they are busy promoting a new product line to be unveiled in August.  

Anyway, she told me that like me she had done it for the jewelry discount and some extra money.  She went to a couple of conferences which she said were fun and helpful.  She did most of her business as online parties and occasional fundraisers (giving 10% of her sales to the charity).   She asked if I had an upline in mind and I told her about the opportunity call I had done with a woman in Ohio.  The fact that she does her team meetings as phone/video conferences works out well.  

She was actually the perfect person for me to talk to because she really was pretty laid back about her business and said she never felt any pressure to recruit or do more home parties.  Her upline seemed to understand this was the way she wanted to run her business and that was fine.  She only stopped as she also had a full time job and while the Lia Sophia job was good for part time she never wanted to make it a full time thing.  She never earned any of the trips but had plenty of friends who did and raved about them. She encouraged me to go for it once the new line comes out.  She even told me that she would host a party if I decided to do it and said she still had some forms and supplies that she'd be happy to pass on to me.  

She's going to be at a dinner that the women's group we both belong to is holding later this month, so I'll get to talk to her more about it then.  Part of the reason I'm going is to the event is to get to network.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Soldier Field 10 Miler

This is a race I've been wanting to do since I found out about it a couple of years ago.  I'm not a football fan, but I'm enough of a sports fan to appreciate getting access to the inner sanctums of the professional sports world.  I mean crossing the finish line at the 50 yard line is pretty cool.  Doing it in Soldier Field (obviously so named to honor those who have served their country on Memorial Day is even better

The last couple of years I hadn't trained enough to do 10 miles this early in the season, but this year I was determined to do it, so while my family slept in on Saturday, I drove down to Soldier Field.  I've driven there a few times and for some reason this time asked Siri for directions, rather than just going the way I probably could have done on my own no problem.  Mistake #1.  She led me the wrong way - opposite side of the train tracks, so I ended up parking at McCormick Place and running over to the start.  Found my corral a few minutes before the race, so had no time for a pit stop before the start.  Mistake #2.

Since I had had to take a few days off due to my sore knee after falling when the dog bit me, my plan was to run the race with 9/2 intervals adjustingfor water stations, and hopefully shave a little time off my previous 10 miler in the fall.  

It was pretty congested for mile 1 and we ran under McCormick which I never like, but there aren't a lot of other options around there.  After that the course opened up a bit, and even though I felt great took my first walk break, and was passed by a lot of people.  Stopped in the port a potties at the first water station and after that everything went smoothly.  The course does get a little tight along the lake front which made doing intervals a little tough.  You really need to watch your back before slowing down, but you can't beat the view as you return to the city.

When we got to Soldier Field I noticed a family of 4 running in front of me (Mom, Dad and two kids probably about 9-10 years old).  I was not about to be beaten by a 9 year old so I got ahead of them a little before heading in to the stadium.  I tried to video the final 1/2 mile or so, but failed.  We entered into the players parking lot and then came out one of the tunnels to the field, with the finish line on the 50.

Servicemen and women were on hand (most in uniform) to hand out the medals and water.  They don't let you linger too long on the field as there isn't enough room for everyone but you get a few minutes to soak it in before they shoo you out.  As you leave the stadium they handed out goodie bags - water, banana, clif bar, fruit snacks and pretzels.  The bag is actually pretty cute and a good size for bringing kid snacks to after school stuff.

I headed over to the post race tailgate, got my 312, stretched out and headed home.  All in all a good day.  Final time 1:40:44.  Only 20 seconds faster than my previous 10miler but I blame the pit stop for that.  Obviously the intervals worked.  I was able to run stronger/longer and never bonked, still had energy to burn at the finish.  I'll continue with that for my next long runs.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Little Reader aka Little Runner

Every fall and spring my kids have to do a fitness test in school including some running - 100m dash, 400m dash, 600m dash and 1 mile run.  Little Reader surprised me by saying she didn't want to do the runs.  Now admittedly when I was her age I never liked Field Day at school either, but I wasn't a runner then.  She has PE 4 days a week, plays soccer and is doing Girls on the Run so I was surprised by her anxiety.  Still I told her to just do her best.  

She came home from school yesterday and said that she had done the mile.  I asked how she did - 8:09!! Almost a full minute faster than her previous time.  And 3rd in her class.  So then she asked me how fast I can do a mile?  Honestly, I'm not sure, haven't tried to run just a mile in a while, and I don't think Endomondo's stats for that kind of stuff is accurate.  It has me listed as doing a mile in 6:45 as part of my Hot Chocolate in 2012, which is basically impossible given my average pace for the race was 10:00 min/m.

But now I'm curious and plan to find out the next time I can run her course (the perimeter of the school's fields) when there are no kids there.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Preschool Graduation

Little Man had his preschool graduation last night.  I always thought the whole idea of having a graduation from preschool was kind of silly, but after getting their "diplomas" all the kids sang this which was really cute.  

They had 3 classes so they walked out one class at each chorus. 

I gave him a copy of Dr Seuss' a book about me as a graduation gift which he has already started filling out.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Beware of Dogs

Last Wednesday, my son was going to a friends house after school, which meant I had plenty of time for a long overdue long run.  The weather was good so I set off along my usual route.  I'm doing the Soldier Field 10 miler so was hoping to get 7 miles in.  After 5.5 I was still feeling good, so I kept going.  I went down a street I've done plenty of times before on my long runs, just in the opposite direction.  As usual, I was running on the street facing traffic.  A third of the way down the block I saw some dogs runnign around in a front yard.  I didn't think much of it at first since so many people in our area have Invisible Fences.  As I got closer I noticed there was no owner and no Invisible Fence sign.  Two of the dog were small just yippy dogs, the other one was medium sized and started crossed the sidewalk and started running after me.  I yelled at it to go home, but that did nothing.  I kept running and then damn thing bit my in the ankle and knocked me down.  I got up as quick as I could and crossed the street and ran away cursing out the absent owners.

I hobbled home with a skinned knee and scraped hand.  Since I hightailed it out of there I didn't get a good look at which house the dogs belonged to, so spent the next couple of days driving by to see if I could see the dogs.  No luck.  I called the local police department and left a long message for their animal control officer, with as much info as I could provide but never heard back.  Needless to say, I will no longer be running along that block and will be bringing my pepper spray with me from now on.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


A couple of weeks ago my 4th grade daughter and I went to a presentation led by a school district nurse about changes - yes, puberty. Even though I've told my daughter about having your period and we've covered sex - or as she calls it "the gross thing" she was a little nervous. Girls sat on the floor in the library, Moms sat on chairs behind them.  

The nurse talked on a very basic level about menstruation, puberty and hygiene and showed a movie where a young girl gets her period at a slumber party and has to go to the friend's Mom for help.  She followed up the movie with a q&a.  There were quite a few questions and a lot of nervous giggles.  I was proud to see that none of the questions asked were ones we hadn't already covered at home.  

On the walk home, I asked her if she had any questions.  She said, yea, but I wasn't going to ask some lady I never met.  So I asked her if she had any questions for me.  She had a few like does having your period hurt (the nurse kind of glossed over that one, probably since they can't give out ibuprofen from the nurses office.  I told her cramps can hurt a bit, but for me Advil took care of it). She got a little sample kit of pads which I told her I could give her a more subtle bag for to have in her back pack.  

As for most girls, she's a little nervous about her first time.  Will she leak?  Will everyone know?  I've already told her that though my sister and I had our first two years apart we were at our grandmothers house each time.  Considering we only saw her a couple of times a year, that's pretty crazy.  My sister was wearing white shorts (so Mom had to go to a nearby store to pick up a new pair of shorts).  I happened to be wearing black jeans so dealt with it when I got home.  You never know when it's going to happen but after a certain point, it's good to have supplied with you.

She asked a little about tampons, which I admitted I don't use (only because I've never really had a problem with pads), but told her that most people I know use them so when the time comes she should try both and use whatever she prefers. 

With all the talk about light colored clothes, you would think I would have been smarter and not worn a brand new pair of white pants during my most recent period, but I did. I had an event I wanted to look nice for, so wore one of my Stitchfix outfits (including white pants).  Well, I got a little stain on my pants.  My daughter came into the bathroom when I noticed it, I asked her to get me a new pad from the other bathroom - the one I was in didn't have any.  She did, and then I told get what happened and told her about the wonders of hydrogen peroxide. I took the pants off, cleaned up the stain, soaked them for a while in detergent before washing, and now they are good as new.

She's learned a lot in a short time, and while her actual period is still probably a couple years away, she's pretty well prepared.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

New 5k PR

Yesterday I did my first repeat race and first 5k in a while.  It's a chip timed charity 5k in our town.  Last year I ran it solo and had a good time - 27:51 (3rd In my age group).  

This year the whole family signed up.  I told Little Reader that I wanted to run this solo but will run her Girls on the Run with her at her pace in a few weeks.  I wanted to go for a PR.  She understood.  Little Hugger and Little Man were planning on walking the whole thing.  My husband said he would walk, but actually ended up running quite a bit.  

I was determined to get a PR today, but I knew I would have to consistently run faster than my regular pace.  The course was easy enough - flat, and straight for a little over a mile then a small loop before heading back the way we came.  I had Endomondo set to tell me my expected finish based on current pace at each mile.  I knew I was off to a strong start in the first and second mile but by the third mile I had a side stitch and I was losing steam. But at mile 3 endomondo told me my expected finish and I knew I still had it.  Just at that moment one of the elite runners (who was already done) saw me and said,"Great job!".  I crossed the finish line with the gun time showing less than my previous time.  

Final times - 26:35 (1st in my age group), 3rd female overall.  Unfortunately there are no medals given in this race, but at least I know I got it and 1:24 faster than my previous best.

Little Reader - 34:15 (5:16 better than 6 months ago thanks to Girls on the Run).  
My husband finished in 39:13.  He had never done a race before, and admitted that while he did walk a bit, whenever he was crossing a street or running past volunteers he felt he needed to pick up the pace.  Yep, I know that feeling. 

Around 45 minutes after the start we still hadn't seen Little Man & Little Hugger, so I walked back to find them, since I knew the police were starting to open the streets up.  They were fine, just taking their time, ran the final block and finished at 1:01.

Monday, May 5, 2014

When Everyday Is Saturday

We met with our financial advisor the other night for a review.  My husband wanted to know if we needed to plan for the best/worst case scenario for our future were we on track and if not what would we need to do.  

So what is the scenario I mean?
- 4 year private college for all 3 kids no scholarships (hurray, they get in to good schools, but they cost a fortune)
- he or I live til the ripe old age of 95 (which is what advisors are recommending you plan for)
- have enough saved to be able to retire at 62 at which point everyday is Saturday. 

What do I mean by everyday is Saturday?  Think about it, what do you on Saturdays?  Eat out for breakfast lunch or dinner?  Take the kids on an outing somewhere? Go shopping.  All the fun stuff you don't have time to do during the week right?  So once you're retired there will be nothing stopping you from treating each day like Saturday - except $ of course.  So the idea of your expenses going down during retirement not necessarily true.

So, what do we need to do to make all this come true? An extra 6400 per month in various investment vehicles. Yikes!! And how how do we do that and still enjoy life now?  

My husband still has med school loans which won't officially be paid off til August 2033 (when he's 60 - yikes again) and all three kids are out of college. Seriously, we'll be paying his loans and tuition bills at the same time.  Hopefully as we get closer to that time we can just make a lump sum payment and get the student loans over with, but with interest rates being do low, it's not really worth it.  

So where is this money supposed to come from?  Hopefully my husband income will continue to rise, but with all the changes in healthcare these days, who knows.  I keep reminding my husband that these docs he knows who retired at 55 also were docs in the 80s when compensation was very different.  

Anyway, Little Man starts Kindergarten in the fall so I could try to find something part time or work from home that I could ramp up once he's in first grade the following year, but what would that be?

In my pre-Mom days I worked in incentive travel - planning trips for groups of 50 to 500 people.  Fun job, but lots of overtime and a few weekends a year of travel - wouldn't really work with kids, and the pay sucked.  

So my question to all of you med-spouses with kids?  Do you work and if so what do you do?  Any ideas for me?  I am considering direct sales as anyone who has read my blog before knows, but I also know that's not enough.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Big Sur

After a quick breakfast at the hotel it was time to leave for LA.  My husband is a huge golf fan so wanted to drive by Pebble Beach on the way.  We paid $10 for access to the gated community and drove past some gorgeous coastal homes and scenery, stopping every now and the to take pictures of surfers, seals and the famous cypress trees.

As we headed south along Big Sur the weather deteriorated.  It rained on and off for most of the drive which while unfortunate, wasn't that big a deal.  The scenery was still beautiful and we all enjoyed the ride.  The route is pretty much just a tourist road with a couple of little towns along the way with restaurants and small hotels, but it is gorgeous.  We avoided stopping as long as we could, and without cell service for a lot of the ride didn't really know where to stop and eat anyway.

We finally made it to a little town - Cambria - that had a nice grill.  The town was going through a severe water shortage so all public restrooms had been replaced by port a potties, which seemed odd, but I guess isn't in this area..  

As we got further down the coast and left the winding coastal road, the sun came back out.  We considered a stop in Santa Barbara to stretch our legs but decided to keep going, and purposely drove right past Solvang even though we went right past it.  At this point, it's a tourist trap run by people of Danish descent, but not very Danish feeling.  We got to my in-laws house in the late afternoon.  We unloaded the car, unpacked, did some laundry, had dinner, packed our bags for our next stop - Disneyland, and headed to bed.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Screen Free Week

Screen Free Week starts at my kids' school tomorrow, which means I will be doing a serious reduction in screen time. I can't go totally screen free as I helped organize the week and some of the presenters have been emailing me.  

Still I will
- not watch TV - except for Hawks playoff games
- stay off Facebook
- stay off my computer

Instead I will
- play with my kids
- finish the dollhouse
- clean my house
- go through my to do list
- enjoy some sunshine and long runs 

Honestly, giving up the TV will not be a problem, it's Facebook and my new virtual garage sale obsession that will be tough for me.  I still have a few pending items for sale so will need to check in about them, but otherwise will stay off Facebook.  

I have scheduled one post to publish this week, but that was preset.

Have a good week and I'll let you know how I did on Saturday (technically it's only Monday- Friday)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Race Season

Last year I ran 8 races of varying distances (5k up to a half marathon). In each case I was doing the distance for the first time, so I had no specific goals beyond finishing.  I only had 3 days a week to exercise so ran each of those, never did any serious cross training or strength training.

This year I will have more free time once summer hits and kids are in camp so I plan to add cross training into the mix.

To the left is my race calendar for the year.    My first race this season is the Cinco de Miler.  A new distance for me but at this point 10ks are my favorite distance do I think I'll enjoy this one. I haven't registered for the last three yet, but I will. Also considering flying back East to do a race with a friend - either the army 10 miler in DC or the Atlantic City half.  I'd love to finish the year having done twelve races.  Doing one per month is tough in Chicago given the weather, but 12 for the year is doable with all the options in the summer.  I'd love to do the Rock N Roll here in Chicago as well, provided it's not ridiculously hot (it's usually 90-100 degrees here then).

I also hear more and more about serious runners doing walking intervals within their long runs. I used to think you had to run the whole time.  I think Jeff Galloway's method would drove me crazy as the intervals are really short, so need to find an option that works for me. 

I'm looking forward to running Fort 2 Base again this year although realized after I registered that we're going to Ravinia the night before so I'll have to make sure I eat well and don't drink too much at the show and try to get a good night's sleep. No matter I will conquer Heroes Hill this year.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Facebook Virtual Garage Sales

Whoever came up with this is brilliant.  Instead of setting aside a weekend to have to stay at your house to sell your unwanted stuff (not to mention the work that goes in preparing for the sale), you can now just post a picture, price and some basic info on your item and see if you get any bites.  And by the same token if you are need of something but don't want to pay full price you don't have to spend your precious weekends going from house to house hit or miss.  

I joined my town's Facebook virtual garage sale last fall when I was looking for a bike for Little Man at a friend's recommendation.  I posted an ISO (in search of) listing and quickly received an answer from a Mom who had a like new boys bike.  Picked it up next day for $20.

I forgot about the site for a while but started checking it out again after the holidays.  Since then I've gotten a black Coach purse, a bunch of Legos and lots of books for my kids for 20-30% the usual cost.  I admit I check it a bit obsessively now.  

If you're wondering why not just use Craig'slist or ebay - this is easier.  Instead of having to search using keywords for your item of interest, within your geographical location, you just scroll through the newsfeed and check out/respond to the things you are interested in.  

The admins set the tone and in some cases let anything go.  The ones on the site I follow have a long list of rules but that protects everyone.  Craigslist doesn't do that.  Also I hear all sorts of horror stories about Craigslist.  At this point most of the sellers I have bought from have left the items on their doorstep for me and I just put the money in the mailbox.  Easy and safe.  Only once did I enter a house to get three big shopping bags of Legos but it was someone I had bought from previously. 

I'm starting to sell a few of my own items, and have even just given away a few that I couldn't figure out how to price (like a bunch of outlet covers for child proofing - I didn't need them anymore but I figured someone would).  

Some people will haggle but most will only respond if the price is right.  

Tomorrow I have 3 people coming to pick up things.  I plan to keep the money in a separate envelope and use it towards maybe starting my Lia Sophia business in the fall.  Yes it all comes back to Lia Sophia ;)

But seriously, if you're looking to offload some stuff or are a garage sale fan but hate spending time driving around and finding nothing, give a virtual site a try. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lia Sophia Facebook Opportunity Event

The other night one of the advisors I have bought from in the past hosted an opportunity event on Facebook.  Yes it was basically a recruiting event but also a no pressure forum for me and others to learn about the business and ask questions. The advisor who I used to host a party most recently had one too but I skipped that one.  Well that is I tried to view it once it started,but it was a private event.  I didn't want to RSVP for it cause that advisor doesn't even have a Facebook presence so I don't think she'd be the right fit for me.  

I always take these things with a grain of salt as I know that direct sales people profit from those under them, but still I think she was pretty honest.  Although when I asked her what she didn't like about her job so said, "nothing".  I find that hard to believe.  No one likes every single aspect if their job even if it's a little thing, but I didn't push it.  

She's been in the business for about 6 years and has a team of about 100.  She does seem to give good support to her team and they help each other.  I admitted my main reason for doing it was to earn free jewelry.  I asked if there was much pressure to recruit, and she said she supports everyone to run their business their way.  No pressure.  She lives in Ohio but most of the team meetings are via conference calls and Facebook meetings so that's not an issue.

I ended the meeting saying I wouldn't be ready until the fall due to having Little Man home so much, and she said she understood and respected that.  She's a grandma herself. 

I didn't get all my questions answered but most of them.  I definitely feel like I could succeed with her.  Actually last night when I couldn't fall asleep I started drafting my party presentation ;). I just hope I like the new starter kit.  At this point that is really the deciding factor.  

The tricky part will be that advisor who hosted the Facebook event and my previous party advisor have the same upline.  Not sure if they know each other.  Not sure if that'll be wierd when the time comes, if I do sign with someone in Ohio who I have never met versus someone who I have been to 4 parties with including my own - but I'll figure it out.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014


When we started planning our trip to California we picked Momterey as one of our stops mostly because we wanted to drive down Big Sur to get to LA.  We weren't really sure what we were going to do there aside from the aquarium.  Them I found out that we were going to be there during prime whale watching season.  Done.  

Our original plan was to see the aquarium the day we arrived and go whale watching the next day.  But the weather forecast was working against us, so after playing beat the clock to get out of Sequoia in time, we switched the reservation and arrived at the dock just as they were starting to board. 

It took about an hour to get out to the area where the whales are. The water was pretty choppy and Little Hugger felt a little nauseous but thankfully never got sick.  

We saw a bunch if humpback whales.  They would spout and shortly after we'd see the arch of their back and then their fluke.  None of them ever breached but it was still cool to see them that close. 

We stayed out in the deep water for almost an hour and then headed back to the dock.  It was pretty chilly on the way back so we stayed inside the boat.  
At this point we were all hungry so we found a restaurant in Fisherman's wharf for an early dinner.  Then we headed to the Monterey Plaza Hotel to checkin.  The kids loved the hotel.  We had two connecting rooms that opened to a shared patio.  It was nice to have lots of space after our cramped cabin quarters. 

A local on the boat had told us about a great beach for watching the sunset so we drove over there.  The kids had fun collecting seashells (as always) but unfortunately Little Hugger dropped her camera in a puddle in the rocks.  We managed to salvage it, thankfully and she didn't lose any of her pictures.  

We also realized we need to travel more with our kids.  They were amazed by all the little things - the free toiletries in the bathroom, the robes, the free newspaper, and especially the phone in the bathroom. 

Once it got dark we headed back towards Cannery Row and stopped at a frozen yogurt place before heading back to the hotel.  

The next morning I got up early to go for a run.  It was a little cool but I found a nice path along the water - paved at the very beginning and then gravely for the rest.  It felt great to run especially with the views

Got to say good morning to the locals :)

And saw some pretty flowers along the way

After breakfast at the hotel we headed to the Aquarium.  We have a great aquarium here in Chicago, so I usually don't visit them in other cities but it was going to be a rainy day and I had heard good things about this one.  It did not disappoint.  We ended up spending most of the day there aside from leaving briefly for lunch.  

There was a really cool jellyfish exhibit and they had a really interesting presentation about great white sharks.  Apparently they have had a few (one at a time) in captivity over the years and are the only aquarium to have done that.  They only keep them for a few months and when they notice them getting unhappy they tag them and release them back in to the wild.  Little Man was very curious how they know a shark is unhappy so we went and asked - mostly they start acting differently bumping against the sides of the tank and in some cases start looking at their tank mates as food.  Fish are friends not food ;)

It was pouring down when we left the aquarium so we headed back to the hotel for dinner.  We had to eat in the hotel bar as the restaurant was all booked up but the food was the same as the regular restaurant and we had a great waitress so it worked out well.  

After dinner we packed up so we could get an early start in the morning.  This was going to be our longest driving day - along Big Sur down to LA about 350 miles. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia was the first stop in our California adventure.  We flew into Fresno (on a prop plane from SFO which Little Man thought was really cool) and drove about two hours to the forest.  I probably should have checked the directions a little better as we ended up coming in the opposite end of the forest (two hours) from where we were staying.  I hadn't realized just how big this forest was.

The ranger assured us that we would be fine without chains for our tires (despite the fact that CA law requires you have them in your car through the end of March).  We took our time driving up to our cabin stopping a few times along the way.  We stayed in the Grant Grove cabins which are near the Grant tree but not completely out in the wilderness like my husband had remembered from his childhood.  Those cabins no longer exist.  

We had originally booked two cabins but were told at checkin we could get a rollaway bed and have all of us in one cabin.  It was a little tight, but we weren't planning on spending much time in the cabin anyway.  

The next morning we had breakfast and headed out to explore the forest.  We started with the Grant Tree.  The second tallest in the forest at 264 feet tall (and estimated to about 1600 years old).  There was still snow on some parts of the trail so we were all glad we had brought our snow boots.

There was a cool tree near there that had fallen down and you could walk through it.  Kids thought that was really fun and went through it a few times.

Our next stop was the General Sherman - the tallest tree in this forest.  The funny thing was that on the way to it there's a sign that says "There it is" and there's a really tall tree to one side and then a clearing and another really big tree past it.  Lots of people assumed the closer tree was the General Sherman and took a bunch of pictures of it, only to follow the trail and realize that they had taken pictures of the wrong tree.  

This is the real General Sherman - 274.9 feet tall and estimated to be at least 2300 years old

There are tons of "smaller" but by no means small trees in the area which are not fenced off and you can get up to and touch or hug ;)

After a quick picnic lunch we set off on a hike to Moro Rock.  It was about 1 1/2 mile away but the kids were willing.  We took a trail through the woods one way, and walked on a paved road on the way back.  Along the trail there were a few spots where trees had fallen and they had to cut through the tree to continue the trail. 

Once we got to Moro Rock there were about 400 stairs to the top.  I hate stairs, especially step or awkward stairs but I wasn't going to chicken out.  

The view from the top was amazing although I have to admit I didn't like getting too close to the rail.  There was one crazy couple who had brought their dog up which seemed insane to me, but they all made it down just fine.  

At first I was a little disappointed that everyone else wanted to take the road back but we got to see the only wildlife we saw the whole trip so it was worth it.

The amazing thing of the whole place though is even though the General Sherman and General Grant trees are the tallest and well protected you can walk close to many of the others and of course end up feeling very small.  We all really enjoyed Sequoia and look forward to exploring more National Parks in the future.

We were planning an early departure the next morning and my husband decided to pack our snow boots in the car to save time in the morning.  The next morning we woke up to this...

8 inches.  Only the 3rd snow that season at that low elevation.  Luckily the plows were out in full force but it took my husband about a half hour to get our car out of the parking lot due to crappy minivan traction.  

Once we were on our way and realized that the switchback mountain roads were not icy and treacherous we enjoyed the view.  

The kids thought it was cool to see the snow line as we got lower down.  

We had about a four hour drive to sunny Monterey, arriving in the early afternoon.   

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stitchfix #2

I got my second fix the other day, did a quick fashion show for the family and we quickly agreed that two pieces were worth keeping - a pair of white pants and a loose colorful top.

I had white pants on my shopping list, so that was an easy sell since they fit well.  The top fit well and I liked the colors so that went right in the closet too.

So what were the no's?  Two piece that I wished had fit and a pair of earrings.  The two pieces that didn't fit were a maxi dress and a button down collared shirt.  The maxi dress was too loose on the top, and the button down shirt was really tight in the sleeves.  The earrings were nice, but I already have something very similar.  

Still they were worthwhile pieces, cause when I went shopping the other day I actually kept my eye out for better fitting versions of what Sidney (my Stitchfix stylist) had sent me.  I also got a jacket similar to the one I had gotten on my first fix.  In the past I probably would have skipped it since there was a matching skirt and I would have assumed it was meant to be a suit, but now I saw it's potential as a seperate to wear with jeans.

Happy with my second fix and looking forward to the next one. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mom's Day Off

Ideally I schedule these once a month, but usually reality kicks in, weekends are busy so it's more sporadic than that.  This past Saturday I booked a 10 am haircut and color (2 1/2 hours of pampering with my long time but not frequent enough hairdresser).  I decided to put on one of my new stitchfix outfits plus Lia Sophia jewelry and my 1154 Lill purse. My hairdresser complimented me on my purse. 

After the haircut I strolled weaved through the mobs of tourists on Michigan Ave to Eataly for lunch.  I guess I made the right choice of outfit cause two different people asked me for directions to/advice on stores.  On the way I stopped into the Loft.  I had stopped in briefly the other day to pick up some sunglasses with Little Man and saw a few things I liked but knew that he didn't have the patience that day for me to try things on.  Today I had all the time I needed and ended up walking out with 5 things and ordered another online later since they didn't have my size in store.

I was a bit overwhelmed by Eataly but ended up deciding on a good Margherita pizza and a glass of white wine the waitress recommended.  I was underwhelmed by the Nutella bar, which I had high hopes for.  I love Nutella and it's a staple in my pantry, but the menu wasn't that different from what we do at home - Nutella on a crepe, spread on crusty bread, between cookies, on a muffin, etc.  

Still a successful day, ending with my husband grilling dinner and watching dozing off during a movie once the kids were in bed. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Making Memories

We're back from spring break - a 10 day California adventure that included Sequoia National Park, Monterey, Disneyland and LA.  It was our first spring break as a family and overall a great trip.  My husband took over 600 pictures with the new camera we got for this trip so I'll post a select few once I have a chance to weed through them.  

When we were in Sequoia we did a short hike and passed an older couple.  As she walked past us she looked at me, smiled and said, "memories".  I'm guessing we reminded her of doing similar things with her kids when they were younger and I realized this trip was all about making memories. 

Little Man Quote of the Day

As we were driving along, he suddenly says, "it wouldn't be good if police officers were allergic to feathers."

I asked, "why not?"

"In case a robber stole a chicken"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

This is the final installment of the Rose trilogy which I have put off reading for a long time.  I loved the first two so wanted to be able to immerse myself in the final book and read it quickly which is hard to do for a 600 plus page book when you have kids.  The flight back from Denmark was the perfect time to do just that.

The book as usual is about the Bristow family and their relatives.  This book starts in pre World War I London and continues into the beginnings of the post-war period.  While Fiona and Joe Bristow are always the cornerstones of the story, this installment was mostly about the relationship between Willa Alden and Seamus Finnegan and their conflicted love story.  In the previous book the two had climbed Kilimanjaro together and Willa fell and broke her leg on the way down.  By the time Seamus got her to a hospital her leg was so gangrenous the doctor recommended amputation and Seamus told him to go ahead despite Willa's protests.  She hated him for it.  Despite that hate they still both love each other and have a hard time having any real relationships with other people because they are always pining for each other.  Willa flees London and conflict as she always does, which takes her on further adventures around the world.  Seamus tries to find love elsewhere but has trouble as well.

Along with all of this there are subplots that have to do with the war, including a complex spy ring.

Altogether an enthralling book which I enjoyed as much as the first two.  I wasn't able to finish it inflight, but I finished it within a week.  The book does a good job of tying up the loose ends in a satisfying way.  Sometimes very much what you would expect, and other times not.  

It's hard to summarize a book of this scope so I'll just say if you enjoy a good epic story of historical fiction, check out the Rose trilogy by Jennifer Donnelly.  You won't be disappointed.  I purposely took my time between each book as I wanted to keep the journey going with these characters as long as I could.  Honestly, I'm going to miss some of them.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Open Letter to Lia Ladies

Dear Lia Sophia Advisors,

I went to my first Lia Sophia party 5 years ago and was instantly hooked.  I didn't consider myself much of a jewelry person, but have acquired over 60 pieces over the years.  I love them all, have had only minor issues with the jewelry and have a couple of times taken advantage of the LRG no problems.  

I've considered becoming an advisor since last summer and really the only reason I haven't done it is that I've been underwhelmed with the starter kits.  Or more to the point - the stuff I like I already have.  I figure if I give this a try and don't succeed a starter kit with jewelry I love would be a nice consolation.  

Last year I wrote a post called 10 tips to having a successful Lia Sophia party and posted it on Pinterest.  It's been repinned a lot by advisors. I don't know if they share my info with their hostesses, but I'd like to think so.  When someone pins it, I check out their profiles and usually find other posts about Lia Sophia and tips on direct sales.

I've been able to learn a lot about the business from what active advisors have pinned, and I follow a bunch of different advisors on Facebook, but there are a few questions I haven't been able to find answers to.  If I've managed to keep your attention this far, I'd love your input.  

I'm a stay at home Mom and my youngest will be going to Kindergarten in the fall.  At this point I don't have a lot of time to myself but by then I will.  I'm looking to do this as a side thing not a major money earner, more a way to subsidize my jewelry addiction :)  

My question is, is it possible to be an advisor without doing in-home parties?  I realize that the most successful advisors do a lot of home parties, but I would have a hard time doing them.  Home parties would be tough as my husband's work schedule is unpredictable, my kids aren't old enough to stay home alone, and while I could get a sitter I'd rather not in case my husband DOES get home in time to watch the kids. If those sound like excuses, I guess in some ways they are, but the fact is I'm an introvert and don't want to give presentations to groups but I am fine one on one.  

One of my initial concerns was the Excellent Beginnings program requiring new advisors to have 3 parties with 5 weeks with a total of $1500 in sales.  That seems to have been replaced with the Smart Start program. Does Smart Stsrt have similar kickoff requirements?  What happens if you don't reach the goals? - my concern is not the amount of sales - the last inhome party I hosted had $1200 worth of sales from just 10 women.  But what happens if I don't get that 3rd party within the 5 weeks. After that my understanding is that you need a minimum of $250 of sales every 3 months to be considered active.  Can that be done with just catalog sales or independent orders?  

My plan would be to have an open house kick off in my home as my starter inviting pretty much everyone I know locally, then have a Facebook party for out of towners or anyone who couldn't be there a week or so later with a mystery hostess, but not sure what I would do for the third.  Maybe a fundraiser for a women's group I am part of (outside of my home).  I'm assuming if you do a fundraiser, the advisors commission is what becomes the donation to the cause, right?  I'm ok with that as I figure it would be a good way to grow the business.  Any other suggestions?  I know the usual way to grow these kinds of businesses is to have friends host a party, but I don't want to do that if I can avoid it.

How do you find the best upline for you?  The advisor who I've had home parties with most recently goes the traditional route of doing most of her sales through home parties.  She doesn't have much of a Facebook presence.  How would I find someone more in tune with my plan?  In case you were wondering, this is why I haven't contacted her with all these questions.  She's a successful advisor and she's a lot of fun but I'm not sure she would be the right fit.  

Looking at my calendar and local community events, vendor fairs, holidays etc, I have come up with a theme or sales pitch for each month to encourage/increase sales.  

I have "attended" a couple of Facebook parties and love the idea, just not sure how profitable those are?  I know for home parties generally 1/3 of those invited actually attend.  What is the attendance of a Facebook party like?  Are sales usually less or the same as a regular party?

I know all advisors can purchase a website on the lia sophia site with their info on it.  How often/easily can this be updated?  

Lastly, a couple of more general questions
- What do you NOT like about being a Lia Sophia advisor?  I know all the perks, but there must be some negatives every job has some (even if it's just a little pet peeve).  
- How much pressure is there to recruit?
- If you know any advisors who did not succeed, why do you think they didn't?

Thanks in advance for your help. Like I said I'm not ready to really pull the trigger on this until the fall, so don't try to recruit me now ;) but I'd love your advice.  If you would prefer to send me an email rather than write a long comment, fill out the contact form on the top right and I'll email you directly

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Stitch Fix

After seeing 3 unrelated friends post on Facebook about stitchfix, I decided to give it a try.  They're pretty popular so there was about a month delay between signing up and receiving my first fix.

I answered a bunch of questions about myself, my sizes, and what I thought of certain "looks". The box arrived on Tuesday with 5 items, and little cards that show different looks using the items in the box.  Some using two pieces that I received but also showing individual pieces with basic items that most people either have in their closet or could easily obtain. 

I knew I only had 3 days to give my feedback so I tried everything on, right away decided I liked two items - a pair of skinny black pants and a black and white knit top.  There were two items I was on the fence about - a long teal sleeveless silk tank and a white jacket with gold threading.  Silk makes me nervous because I've ruined silk pieces before after only wearing them a couple of times.  The white jacket made me nervous because it's white (I have kids and I spill).  I also wish it were lined but that wasn't a deal breaker.  It's one of those pieces that can dress up an otherwise everyday outfit, now I just need an occasion to wear it.  The final piece was a navy sweater with a sailboat on it.  It fit well, but was made of an acrylic blend which I don't like and the big sailboat felt too preppy to me.  I waited a day after trying everything on and then did a fashion show for my kids.  They agreed that the sailboat sweater was a no, but also convinced me that my maybe pieces were worth keeping, along with the two I already liked.  The next day I packed up my one no, gave my feedback of what I thought of my pieces, and am looking forward to my next fix.  

The designers stitchfix uses tend to be relatively small boutique type designers.  I googled them all and only one - sanctuary who made the black pants - was available for online shopping.  The others were either wholesale or only or didn't even have a website.  

You pay $20 for each fix, but that gets credited to anything you buy.  My total for the four pieces ended up being $272, but you can set your price points.  At this point I'm going to stick with monthly fixes as I need to update my wardrobe, but you can schedule as many or as few as you want, there is no obligation.  If you want to give it a try, please use my referral link - yes I get a credit on my next fix, but I wouldn't refer you if I didn't like the service.  Stay tuned for details on next months fix.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Classified Necklace

I bought the silver Classified necklace over the summer and love it.  So far I have yet to wear it in any of the myriad of ways I've seen posted by various Lia sources.  Instead I braid it - like this

I plan on braiding it mixing the hematite and the silver soon too. I'd love to do a fishtail version so I could have an even number of each but haven't been able to figure out how to do it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Good Trip

Heading home after a quick but good trip to see my parents.  I scored an entire row to myself on the flight there which meant I got to sleep for a few hours which was a huge difference from my last trip across the pond.

My aunt picked me up at the airport and gave me a quick update on my parents.  Mom fell two days before my arrival.  She didn't get hurt but it took her and my Dad almost an hour to get her off the floor, which finally helped bring her to the realization that they need to be living someplace where they can get help if need be.   My aunt admitted that while she helped them out a lot in the beginning after they came back from the hospital she purposely does it less now.  Partly becuase she lives 45 minutes away and has her own husband to tend to (who is in a nursing home himself).  But even more so, she wants them to realize that they need help (which I agree is the right move) They have a social worker who stops by every two weeks to check on them and they will discuss options with that person when she comes this Thursday. They have already arranged for an antique store to buy some of their things as well as a antikvariat to come and look at their massive book collection and see what if anything they would be interested in.  

We had agreed that my arrival would be a surprise to our Dad (as my sister's had been the day before).  He was happily surprised and shortly after arriving I gave him the chocolate chips cookies I had baked for him before I left.  He happily dug in and ate 3 and has been pacing himself ever since. 

My sister had taken it upon herself to plan a party for him - with 21 people in attendance.  Normally he doesn't like to be the center of attention, in fact for his 50th birthday he purposely booked a family trip to Rome fro us so he could escape any party plans.  My Mom knew about the party but we didn't tell him about it until the day before so he wouldn't get overly anxious.  Mom was already worried about where everyone would sit since their dining room only seats 12 but we spread them out and no one minded being split up or having some eat in the living room.

We did have one more surprise in store though.  My parents tend to be homebodies but they do have some good friends they have known for almost 50 years who live in a different part of the country so they don't see each other too often.  The friends are mobile and love any excuse to travel so quickly agreed to come to the party as well and would stay with family near by for the weekend.  We arranged for them to arrive an hour before everyone else so they could all catch up.

Around 6 everyone else showed up and I think at first my Dad was overwhelmed as they pretty much all showed up at once.  Our house is not that big so it quickly became a flurry of activity.  My sister, my cousin and I were busy in the kitchen with final prep, while everyone else caught up.  We did our best to keep my Mom out of all the prep as she uses a walker now, but inevitably had some questions for her and unfortunately she always seemed to find it easier to go get what we needed for us, rather than just telling us where things were.  

The meal went well - roast beef (one of his favorites) along with the traditional birthday cake.  My sister and I each gave a short speech.  Our cousins with young kids didn't stay too long after dinner as the kids were getting tired, but I think that worked well for my Dad too.  Everyone was gone by around 1030 and then after we relaxed a bit, my parents went to bed and my sister and I cleaned up everything.  

The next day my parents slept in and relaxed and my sister and I each went for a run and then went into town to pick up souvenirs for our kids and to meet some of her friends for dinner.  Which was perfect.  I think my parents needed a chill day after the chaos of the day before, and I know my sister needed a night out.  I was happy to tag along.  We went to a great restaurant that she found on line called madklubben near nyhavn.  It was a pretty early night and we were home by 1030.  We talked with my parents a bit when we got home.  In my sister's usual take charge style she tried to get my Mom to agree to see a therapist.  She's going through a lot with my Dad, and finalizing her aunt's estate, along with getting their own house ready to sell, and all of this without being very mobile.  There's no faulting her being depressed but she doesn't like to talk about it with us and I truly doubt that she will see someone, but we tried to impress upon her that we are worried about them and we worry because we care.  Hopefully if nothing else, she'll be more forthcoming with what is going on in their life, the good and the bad.  

The next morning my sister left and I went for a run at the Ermitage castle.  It was a beautiful spring day and I got 5 miles in.  Felt great to run outdoors.

Traffic jam on the path to the castle :)

I went to the store and picked up a couple of things for me to bring home and to tide my parents over until their food delivery.  Along the way I passed a cute little flower shop full of promise that spring is on it's way.  I helped my Mom get the house back in order and went through some of my old things including lots of dollhouse stuff for the kids.

After my sister's badgering the previous night that my parents need to get out of the house more, the three of us did go out for dinner.  Just a new local place a short cab ride away (actually owned by the same people who run the restaurant we had been to the previous night) which was very good.  She brought her walker with us to get in and out of the restaurant and when we got there it was a little tight to get to our table.  She had to collapse her walker a little so she could get through and the people on both sides were both very nice to scooch their chairs in to help her get by, but I could tell her pride was hurt that they even noticed her.  Still once we settled in we had a nice meal and since we had a late reservation, it was pretty empty when we left.   It was definitely good to get them out.  I doubt they'll do it much on their own, but I hope so.  

Now I'm back to my regular duties as Mom.  I probably won't make another trip out until the fall as we're getting into the more expensive season ticketwise, but my sister and I are planning on going back for her birthday in September.  No idea where they will be at that point but hopefully somewhere more appropriate.  My aunt's apartment closes on the first of April so hopefully once she gets that settled she can focus on their own needs.  I don't think we'll plan a big party again, something smaller.  Another long weekend (thankfully my husband is already off) with a nice dinner out and maybe a trip to one of the art museums she's always enjoyed going to.  I know it embarrasses her to use a walker or be in a wheelchair for longer outings but I would hate for them both to just give up and waste away at home.

Overall I feel better now that I have been to see them, and have a better understanding of how things are going. My Dad's memory is definitely worse.  He does help my Mom a little bit, but there are times that she'll ask him to do simple tasks, like bring something up from the basement for her, and he gets down there and forgets why he's there.  Or he will try to say something and it will be really vague and when asked for more information he's already lost his train of thought.  She understandably gets frustrated but I also think she's getting a little forgetful too which certainly doesn't help matters.  

At this point there are still a lot of questions that still need to be answered, but I feel better knowing that they have finally resigned themselves to the fact that a change needs to be made, as much as they hate to leave their home.