Sunday, November 01, 2015

Gratitude Challenge 1: Home

Now that the pumpkins have been carved and before the Christmas cookies are baked, I like to take time out of November and reflect on gratitude.

Oh sure, each year, I start out strong, and before I know it, I have fallen behind, playing catch up.   Last year, I tried using a template and I found that really helped me stay on task and look beyond the usual gratitudes.   So, again, will challenge myself and a few friends to practice 30 days of gratitude.

If nothing else, at least the blog will get a little more TLC and I can infuse some of the thoughts that have been roaming around in my head these past few months.

*Photo courtesy of Hubby 
Soon after we were married,  Hubby and I were given the opportunity to move out here to Colorado.   At the time, it was not home for either of us, and in fact we knew little about the state other than "there are mountains and we could ski, oh and John Denver wrote some great songs about the state".  

Location between our two families and affordability were other determining factors in our moving out here.    

The natives may never accept us....but 19 years later, we do indeed consider Colorado home.  True,  we never ski and affordability is not the first word that comes to mind when you mention metro area's cost of living.   Rocky Mountain High is now easier to achieve than back when John Denver penned his famous song.    

 I am most grateful we found such a family friendly, beautiful place to raise our family.   It isn't perfect but it is indeed a great place to call HOME.  

Monday, September 07, 2015

Summer Wrap Up

Labor Day?   How'd that happen?

This year, our school schedule shifted, and we found ourselves starting classes about 4 days earlier than normal.   Toss in a late Labor Day, and already it is feeling like summer has ended long ago.

So before the memories of summer fade, I want to jot down a few random thoughts

Thing 2
Thing 2 and the guys...
Last summer, Thing 2 was itching to be grown up.   Problem was, he wasn't necessarily hanging with the right kind of kids.   This past year, he's re-aligned himself with some great kids.   Oh sure, they look a little scruffy in full summer-shirtless mode, but these boys are some good kids.   Smart, hard working and genuinely nice.    I can't begin to describe how much easier it is to parent the teen when you like the kids he's hanging out with.

In fact, a couple of his friends (not the ones pictured), all had jobs at the local pool.   Thing 2 would often stop by at closing time and offer to help them clean up.   One thing led to another, and he gets hired to be a late-season pool boy.  Not quite a full fledged life guard, but he still gets to dress the part.

 Equal billing for Thing 1
In July, I made an appointment for senior pictures.  There are lots of senior milestone events that I just know he won't have any interest in participating in,   I get that, but for senior pictures, I was holding firm that he'd do this for his mom.

Problem is, that much as he'd like to please me (most days),  posing for the camera has never been something that comes naturally for him.   Oh sure, we've managed to snap some wonderfully candid pictures through the years.   But the last time we did true portrait style pics?   Oh somewhere back around 2003 is my guess.

 It was a family affair getting ready for the photo shoot...
Yes indeed, he gets by with a little help from his brother!

And the proof is in the final product:   There's our boy...looking sharp (and at the camera)
If you are looking for a  photographer in the local area, you can't go wrong with the fabulously talented Steph Steinmark Photography!

Family Time
We seem to have finally recovered from our 3+ weeks of constant togetherness and were ready to head out for an afternoon of theatre.
Yep, even hubby tagged along for this not-so family appropriate but oh so funny musical.
Yeah, it was heart breaking to think the last time we'd been at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House together was to watch Veggie Tales Live...

And what about me?
I'm thinking it is the "7 year itch"...problem is this is only my 6th year as a school nurse. 

Hoping as we move into a new season, my patience returns for these little darlings....
Until next time....take time to enjoy the little things that make you smile!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Milestones and memories....

Growing up, birthdays were a big deal in our house.  
Not necessarily lavish parties, but it always involved a cake made by mom, and almost always had some sort of decorative figurine on the cake. 

 Friends and relatives were often invited for food and celebrating.
  When the boys were young, I continued the traditions of celebrating the birthdays in style, 

Yet, through the years, we've sort of grown out of the habit of celebrating birthdays in point:  
Thing 1 turned 18 earlier this cake, just chicken, lots and lots of chicken...with the only candle around, the baptismal candle.

Oh don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for every birthday we get to enjoy as a family.     We just don't necessarily pull out all the stops to celebrate.   Why that is....I'm not real sure.   

However, this year, is a milestone year, we would indeed celebrate.
  As a family, we took a big trip to Europe...where every over-budget meal was attributed to it being my birthday.   Never have I enjoyed so many birthday dinners.   
  with a birthday toast with most every meal....

As the real day started to approach, I was back in the mode of thinking no big deal.   But, along comes my friend MB.  
She offered to host a party in my honor.  I admit, that sounded like fun....and took her up on her offer to plan a ladies night in, in honor of my 50th birthday.  That's MB and her "little guys"...

 Thursday,   I casually mentioned that it was another friend's 50th in about 10 days, and within less than a day, fabulous hostess that MB is, had managed to let everyone know it would be a double party and even made sure that some of SR's favorites were invited.
  Now that's my kind of hostess...MB, if you read this, thank-you, thank
-you, thank-you...

So Saturday night we gathered for a celebration.   Perhaps it was a bit of dementia, but I found myself if it were my 21st (if you get my boozy drift).

   Note to others:   the fruit in Sangria?   Packs a powerful punch that is likely to induce a serious case of Sangria Flu the next day.  
Side Bar:  Uh oh...looks like I have had this problem for most of my life?  

Ah, but it was a good time.   We laughed, and giggled, and even reflected on the true gifts in our lives....and then we recalled how just 10 short years ago, several of us had gathered for a 40th birthday.  
Where did the years go?  
  •  Ten years ago, we were giddy at being out without the kids under foot.   A slumber party at The Embassy Suites.   Girlfriends, junk food and!
    Ten years later,  now we often find ourselves home alone, waiting anxiously while the kids drive off or ride off with their friends as the driver.  Sleepless nights have a different meaning.  Now insomnia is likely related to the worries of parenting teens or drops in estrogen level (and often a combination of both)
  •   Ten years ago college talk involved reminiscing of the good old days of our own college years, not thinking it would soon be time for our kids to start applying to colleges.  Suddenly those "road trip stories " to Ft. Collins that I thought were a blast?   Yeah, they mean something different through the parent lens.   
     CH and MM...10 years ago...
  • 10 years ago, we knew that with the good friends by our side, we could face many of challenges.   10 years later, we have discovered first hand how much truth was in such a statement.    
 For we have held the hands of our friends as they have lost a sibling,
a parent, and even one of our own...
  • We've reassured one another through times of unemployment and return to the work force.  
    We've supported one through weight losses and gains.  
  • 10 years ago, we searched for the perfect chick flick (we watched Thelma and Louise then) and realize that...Hollywood has yet to create the perfect milestone birthday movie...(Hollywood, can you work on fixing that by my 60th?  Thanks!)  
  • 10 years ago, we hoped that  we'd be together for the long run....and while we know that life offers no such promises and guarantees I do know that what my parents taught me so many years ago...
and that ."There is always room for more" ...
  Remain as true as ever...
And that what they say about 50? 

Yep, so far it's rocking!  

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sunday Funnies

This morning, I'm sitting here, sifting and sorting some 600+ pictures and wondering where do I begin.   

Why with the funnies of course!  Growing up, the Sunday paper featured the comic sections.   Between that and the Target ad, I think those were my favorite parts of the paper.  

  Many of these photos were taken with my phone and I uploaded them to Facebook or messaged them to  friends and family.   So yes, if you see me on FB, this will seem a bit like a rerun.   But hey, Reruns, those are a summer staple too, right?  

Ok,so back to the task at hand...

Touristy Thing
Throughout the Pisa courtyard, or Field of Miracles as the area is officially referred to, you spotted tourists posing in different ways, creating the allusion of trying to fix the tower's lean.   And then, you had our Funny Thing, he had a more inappropriate pose planned.   Ok, whatever, he's a 15 year old boy, but was most amusing was how his dad helped  him capture the pose for all of least now that we've posted it a few different places on this here Internet.

The Hills were alive...with the sight of Biking Things

 The one tour 75% of our family was most looking forward to was the Sound of Music Bike Tour.  If just for the cheesy goofiness of it all.   I mean seriously, a historically beautiful town, that most Americans visit only to see where this musical movie was filmed?   Yeah, you've got to love the American ways.   The tour was good, the bike ride was a great change of pace from our usual tours and while the oldest Thing will likely deny ever having liked this tour for one moment, we did spot him smiling a time or two.  

Political Things
 When our plans for visiting an Italian friend changed, we found ourselves taking a quick trip to the country of San Marino.   Yes, it was beautiful, but one thing we were impressed with how casual the attitude was towards tourists just waking into their government building and well, taking a seat.   We couldn't help but snap a picture or two...while looking over our shoulders, certain some official would tell us "No, do not touch".

My Tuscan Son
 On our long car trip from Pompeii to Modena (some 7 hrs or so in the car), we stopped off in the small hill town of Montepulciano.   In the heart of the Tuscan hill country, I couldn't help but snap a picture of Thing Two, using a very bad pun of Tuscan sun.  

Gives new meaning to Telecommuting...
 It might be interesting to share that during our 3+ week adventure, Hubby used up exactly no days of vacation.   Yep, he's been working throughout his travels.   Each evening, we had to be situated in our hotel by around 4pm so that Hubby could log into work and tackle any network issues.   Occasionally he had to take phone call that was related to work.   But we still took time for a dinner break and often Thing 2 and I would go off exploring while Hubby worked and Thing 1 recouped from a strenous day of soaking up sunshine and interacting with the world.

Location, Location, Location?

I spent a lot of time this past winter/spring researching hotels and picking places with the best reviews that had the features we needed (wifi and parking) and were within our budget.   Munich proved the most difficult.   As a big city, it was prcier.   But this hotel came with pretty good reviews and well, the pictures they showed on their website were clearly taken from a DIFFERENT angle.
And yes, I did mention this added extra in my review.   We weren't offended, and in fact, Thing 2 was again easily amused with the products being displayed in the store front windows.  

Things exploring the ruins
 In hindsight, I should have tagged it something along the lines of Breaking Things.   Who knew when I picked the "Thing" reference so many years ago (as a way to protect the identity of my young children), that there would be so many puns out there just waiting to happen.  
And no, they didn't break anything in Pompeii.

Pompeii Tupperware

With several funny comments that followed...such as "used only once" which I added that "Pot looks a little different back home".    Seriously, Pompeii was indeed an interesting stop on our adventure.     I'll likely reflectmore on it in the weeks to come but it was just different than I imagined it would be.   
Got Jet Lag?
Poor Thing 1 seemed to suffer the most from jet lag.   Rome was hot, and crowded, two things nobody likes but for this kid, it really was an adjustment.   I had to chuckle when he fell sound asleep, with hand-held device in his hand, but clearly out cold. 

Speaking of Thing 1 
   Today's his 18th birthday...

We love you to the moon and back...
We pushed you to reach outside of your comfort zone on this trip, but are really proud of how you adapted to these new sights and sounds...and yes, even seemed to have a smile or two to share with us along the way...
Until next time....

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Home Sweet Home

While it is always exciting to go on vacation, there is a certain joy that comes with being home again.

The Things and I flew home earlier this week.   We've spent the week recovering.   Not sure how much is actual jet lag vs. how much is just unwinding and relaxing into summer vacation mode.  Ok, the waking up at 0400 ready to start the day is probably jet lag.   But the lounging on the couch, binging on Netflix (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schimidt, funny and oh so wrong at the same time) and Hulu (HELLO?   Had to watch Season 2 of Devious Maids now that Season 3 has started) is likely more due to summer kick back mode than any travel related side effect.      Reluctant to work in the yard and pay bills:   hey, that's me regardless of the time of year

So, now that I'm home, with a flash drive loaded up with my pictures and reliable tools to upload and share, I hope to make several blog updates in the days to come.    For the good stuff, see Hubby's blog.  
 Not only does he have a great camera, he has the talent to put it to proper use.  And, he's teaching Thing 2 a trick or two along the way.    I hope to update this blog with some of the lesser important but still memorable moments from our trip.   
 We've been asked by pretty much everyone "So, what was your favorite?"
   I am not sure how to answer that since the trip itself was grand in scope with several small vacations all lumped into one.   Not so much a favorite destination or sight, but my favorite memory has to be how we managed to get through 3 weeks of constant family togetherness, sharing most every meal together, squished into a tiny European rental car, often sharing one hotel room, and in the end, came out smiling.    

Granted, there were some less than happy moments, but we were all able to shake it off and move onto the next stop, fresh mind and attitude in hand.

That is indeed what made this adventure so very grand indeed!
Until next time...

Friday, June 19, 2015

3rd time is the charm

Please refer to Hubby's blog for current pictures and a more comprehensive review of our travel adventures.

I am working with the Ipad and trying to navigate using the Blogsy app. It isn't as user friendly as one might hope (ok, maybe it is user error as well?). However, it is a good tool for generating general drafts. As Thing 1 grants me access to his laptop, or when Hubby is not using his for work, I will try to update with pictures to go with my journal notes. But for now, anything posted here is more of a work in progress.

Going into the trip, I wanted to mix in structured tours with unstructured tours. I knew we would want the freedom that comes with just wandering in a new area and taking things in but occasionally it would be fun to go with a more structured format. Also, in the more popular destinations, I had read enough to know that we were going during "high season" and tours that gave you "no waiting" access would be priceless in terms of ensuring we saw what we wanted to see with minimal muss and fuss.

In Rome we took two tours with the company called Walks of Italy. Reviews were favorable and they offered the features we wanted so I splurged on two tours. Yes, they were good tours but nothing that left me thinking WOW, I would totally recommend that company. I realize it is also a roll of the dice in terms of who you receive as a tour guide, how he/she connects with your group, and how well regarded the tour company is by the hosting facility. As was the case in the Colosseum tour, a portion of a promised access was rescinded by the Colosseum itself.

 Much as I would like to blame the tour company, they are at the mercy of the facility. With our Vatican tour, I think we were just frustrated by the crowd levels of the facility, again not the fault of the company or guide. But with two OK but not WOW tours under our belt, even I will admit I was a little apprehensive going into Tour #3. Would it be ho hum or hopefully would it be something worth blogging about.

Well, I"m blogging so there you have it...third time was the charm!

Today, we had signed up for a walking tour of Venice with the company called City Wonders (I think another name is Dark Tours, at least that's how it appeared on my cc charge and receipt). Our guide was Eleanora and she is a born and raised Venetian with all the elegance and charm one associates with the city of Venice.

She started the tour promptly at 0900 (much to the frustration of a family that arrived late and then was not successful in meeting up with us until 2/3 of the way through the tour). But fear not, we had done a recon of the meeting point last night so we knew it would take about an hour using public transportation to get from our apartment in Mestre to the starting point and well, if you know know that I will add in extra time just to make sure we aren't "Martha late" (meaning arriving 10 minutes before the start time).

First stop was at the home of Marco Polo where she helped sort out fact from fiction in terms of the legends of his time. No, he did not bring back the noodle from the Orient. Italians figured out pasta all on their own. Yes, he was imprisoned after his return from the Orient, and it was while he was imprisoned that he wrote his famous travel tale, Il Milione or the The Travels of Marco Polo. It still boggles my mind standing in front of some home that dates back to the 1270. Just that gentle reminder that we are such a young country.

We then wandered through the side streets of Venice stopping along the way to tell little stories and she even pointed out the hospital. I wonder if they are hiring? Yeah, not really, Venice is a beautiful city, but not one I would want to have to work in. Nope, if I lived here, it would need to be in one of the Palazzos and I would want my own gondola at my disposal, and of course, we would just lounge around being on Italy time..

OK, but to the recap of today's tour. Next stop on the tour was to visit the Basilica of St. Mark. St Mark, one of the "No waiting" access options.
As the crowds were starting to form, I admit I felt pretty special to just walk right in, head upstairs and receive a history lesson of this famous church. I really appreciated Eleanore explanation of the art we were seeing. You forget that at the time the churches were built, many of the people were illiterate. The art served as the story of the church: from the story of how the remains of St. Mark were stolen and brought back to this church built for the sole purpose of housing the remains of their patron Saint, St. Mark, to the homily if you will....with biblical lessons being told in ornate gold plated mosiac "story boards" if you will.

Next stop was the Doge's Palace. 19+ years ago, Hubby and I visited here, but neither one of us rememebered much from that tour. Today's tour brought to life the role of government in Venetian history. Sure there was some corruption, but it is interesting to hear some of their efforts to maintain a fair democracy. For example, if you were related to the doge, you could not be in office, too much concern for corruption. If you had a crime to report, you placed the information in a special mail box, that could only be opened by two people, again, leaving no one person in control of critical information. I found it fascinating the overlap between the church and the state and the references to the zodiac time.

At the end of the tour, we had the option of hanging out for awhile in the Palace. We decided to head off in search of the location for where we had taken a "selfie" back before we called it such...we wanted to recreate that pose if possible. Hubby is working on the photographic details, will add later.
With the tour being complete, we were now free to head off in search of our next adventure....