Sunday, December 31, 2017

Santa brought a Walt Disney World Trip - Part 2 - The Prep & Anticipation

Following thru on my roughly sketched plan in Part 1 of this blog, we worked like feverish Disney elves on Christmas eve to put it all together. My emotions were all of the place! Would the kids get it? Would they think it was dumb? Would they be excited? Disappointed?

1. Redecorated the Tree - Gift 1 - A Disney Christmas Tree

2. You'll see how the numbered gifts with tags are set in and around the tree in the pics as well.

3. Re-working Gift 12, as I didn't have a box big enough for balloons. Those Disney decals that you can write messages on with white board markers became key! We have two coat closets at our house entry across from each other. We used on for the reveal, and the other, well, Goofy got lost..

3. My family, happy to oblige, sang through all the gifts ala the 12 Days of Christmas! Here are our reveal videos, in order, as we got towards the end of the 12 Gifts. 

Gift #9 - Bags a-packing

Gift #10 - Maps directing

Reveal Videos coming in the next post! 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Santa brought a Walt Disney World Trip - Part 1 - Mickey's 12 Gifts of Christmas

It was about October 2016 when this little voice in my head said: "Man, wouldn't it be nice to just skip all the parties, all the shopping, all the wrapping -- all the STUFF --- and just go to Walt Disney World for Christmas?"

For some context ... at that time.... my husband was flat on his back recovering from back surgery. I was managing the house, the kids, the job, my wellness... and I was staring down an American Girl Doll catalog with circles in two colors of pen, and 3 pink painted rooms with no room for any more stuff. 

American Girl doll Christmas came and went... and we added more stuff. Goodwill receipts were part of our tax returns, again. 

In 2017, we relished our trips. Life was serving a serious hand of cards and as a family we were coalescing in our trips away from home. After Carlsbad California this summer, Hubs and I agreed, we really enjoyed our kids. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. All of a sudden, at ages 9, 8 and 3.5, the girls were downright delightful. 

The pesky voice came back... but louder... "Disney. This year would be better - the Littlest will be four!" I started looking at prices. Okay, so we might have to sell the baby or leave her at home but a girl can dream. 

Miracle of miracles, we (through my husband's phenomenal cousin) were able to score a DEAL on a Disney villa that will make it a vacation for Hubs and I as well as for the kids. Can you say King bed?  Miracle of miracles, we had enough airline points that we could fly the whole family of five for free (except for a single return trip on Southwest - so honestly, family of five flying to Orlando from AZ for $220!) 

The Disney voice started screaming: "We can do this!" and then....... "How in the world am I going to keep this a secret?!" That's when the Disney voices started to tell the Eddy voice to keep her mouth shut.

Very difficult. 

From the parental perspective, doing Disney as a Christmas gift is very risky. Let's be clear, this Christmas present is not only the single most expensive thing I've ever given or received for Christmas, it is also the single most expensive vacation I've ever planned. But a lot of questions come up relative to the kids.

1. Will we still do presents and if not, is this going to be a disappointment on Christmas morning?

then the endless follow ups:

1. How can we reveal this vacation in a kid-friendly, fun, drawn out way that will sink into the deep recesses of their childhood memories as a happy thing... that, "OMG, can you remember the year that mom and dad gave us the Disney trip?!" That's what I am aiming for... 

You know, on par with a Cabbage Patch Kid circa 1983. My Cabbage Patch was Albert Lennie Eddy btw....

So, when I haven't been making Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs in Disney-speak)... or planning our Fastpasses... or debating over dessert parties or pirate cruises... will kids like Italy or Japan better Epcot? I've been mulling, pinning, and searching for the perfect Disney Christmas reveal. 

Didn't find it. At least, not prepackaged and available for purchase on Amazon Prime. So, I've had to do some creating on my own. 

Homemade Mickey & Minnie Wreaths - Part of the subtle prepping

First up, let's be frank, shall we? No presents at all on Christmas morning? Who was I kidding? I wasn't going to be able to go cold turkey. And I don't think the girls would forgive me if I did. So, we're doing a hybrid. A lot less stuff than normal, but presents will reveal the surprise.

At first I thought of the 12 days of Christmas... but Hubs, in his wisdom reminded me that we weren't going to do 12 days... more like 12 gifts... 

So, Mickey's 12 Gifts of Christmas was born. This idea sort grew out of random shopping I did early in the fall on Zulily where I bought some Disney odds and ends... and then I started picking up all the free Disney travel stuff that comes when you book a Disney trip... and poof: Disney stuff is taking over the closet in my office (and let's be honest, Hub's office too.. shh... don't be judge-y).

I'm still not sure all of this will come together in a way that impresses the girls while also keeping them intrigued. They may get it too soon or they may not get it at the end. I can see a combo of screaming and utter confusion. Either way, I hope we don't end the morning in tears!

This will involve a little set up from our Elf on Shelf. We've been subtly or not so subtly pushing all things Disney recently. So the girls are into it. They've jokingly asked the Elf for "snow or Disneyland" for Christmas... so I think the Elf might use one of our chalkboards, and introduce the morning with something along the lines of "couldn't bring snow to the desert... " but I haven't really landed on all that yet. Each gift listed below will be wrapped exactly the same in red Kraft paper, and will have a Mickey tag, noting the #, and on the back the "jingle", see the list below.

                  Mickey Gift Tags - I'm not the craftiest but I try.. 

Has this been less work than a "normal" Christmas? Maybe, maybe not. It is certainly not cheaper. There is so much Disney stuff that you have to be really disciplined to not just buying everything. At first I was thinking I'd make all these Disney crafts that it was going to be cheaper. Ummm, no. I'm sure some awesome mom could do that, but not I. All the generic items below, like games... are all umm, well Disney. My oldest loves Tsum Tsums, my middle is difficult to nail down so she's got a range of princess to classic characters, and my youngest? She's my frozen girl. Here's some samples of what we've got going on.. 

 Gift 1 - Disney Tree Sign for the redecorated tree - Needs writing in Sharpie script still  - may introduce Mickey's 12 Gifts
(yes, I painted that)

Gift 5 - Magic Bands! Those who have been to Disney World recently know these babies are a big deal! I got us character bands on a Disney clearance sale. Girls PJs from Christmas Eve will match their bands. This might give it away for some family - but my girls will not have any idea what these are. 

 Gift 12 - The Reveal Box - Will include our Disney Parks decal (Free baby!), personalized for our family, and heralding on our upcoming trip! 

The rest of the plan will go down like this... and we hope there will be great rejoicing! 

Mickey's 12 Gifts of Christmas

Gift 1   A Disney Christmas Tree (We will redecorate our normal tree over night)
Gift 2   Puzzles puzzling
Gift 3   Games a-playing
Gift 4   Outfits a-wearing
Gift 5   Magic Bands!
Gift 6   (Headphones) Speakers speaking
Gift 7   (Necklaces) Bling a-blinging
Gift 8   (Leggings) Legs a walking
Gift 9   (Backpacks) Bags for packing..
Gift 10   (Tsum Tsum Advent Calendar) Tsums counting down..
Gift 11   (Park Maps) Maps directing..
Gift 12   (Balloons, Family Park Decal, all promotional materials,
 a link from Santa to a Youtube Playlist) We're going to Walt Disney World!

Check back here for Part 2 (How the reveal actually goes down)...
and then maybe Part 3 (the trip in reality, not just my
spreadsheeted, glossy brochure expectations...)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Together we're better

25lbs is alluding me... I'm down 24lbs. Feeling very happy about the corrections that I have made to my health and wellness since my last post. Has it been perfect? No, but it's life... and yes, I may have shoved candy corn in my mouth in the last 24 hours, but overall, I'm making better choices and my energy and my jeans and the scale are all confirming it.

Better yet? I'm not alone! I've hiked, I've walked, I've run, I've gymed all by myself on this blog for the last many years. But now, with hubs! He's on board with making bettter choices and poof! I've got myself a new hiking partner. How happy am I?! Now we just need to keep making it a priority. Hard to do with work meetings, performance appraisals, business travel and the like.. but again, discipline and self-control are where we win... together.

Here comes the man himself! 5.5M through the Phoenix Preserve on a Tuesday... not too shabby!!

I can start to see the weight loss in my face and all my clothes are feeling better. Here I am with the little Pumpkin.

Next goal: 12 lbs to go. That will get me back where everything in the closet is fair game and then the real work begins. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I'm still standing

If you're my 3 year old, that title is followed by a "Yeah, yeah, yeah" ala the new animated movie, Sing. Or, if you're old like me, it sounds like Elton John.

I'm still standing... yeah, yeah, yeah.

It's kind of been a year.

In retrospect, from this date last year until today has been the most difficult, the most challenging, and the most exhausting of years. We went from back injury, debilitating pain, to back surgery to recovery. And that was just before Thanksgiving! We pretended all was fine.. took family photos, had an American Girl Doll infested Christmas morning (totally broke too by the way), January brought a new job with my hubs now working from home too, birthdays...

And then February, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. There was an invasion of anxiety, an emotional hurricane, insomnia, a barrage of appointments, a massive 7 hour long surgery, an intense 4 week long recovery, and then well... somehow life went on... (and she's cancer free now!! WOOT GO MOM!)

Somewhere in there I went on 7 business trips to Oregon and California.

I celebrated my 40th Birthday with an amazing weekend in wine country.

I drank coffee. I worked. I ate. I tried to sleep.

Until May, I kept up with some form of exercise. Somewhere in May, the exercise went off the schedule... but life kept on giving.

I ate.

I tried to adjust to the new normal.

I drank.

I tried to sleep.

Somehow, 3 months past. I stopped traveling, but Hubs started. He's been gone more weeks than he's been home. I keep the household running. I kept the kids engaged somehow (school, camp, home, I'm not even sure how). I kept my job.

Seriously, there were days that I wasn't even sure I could keep my job, let alone my sanity.

Last week, I raised my hand. Consider it a mayday. I'm sinking...

Too many times this summer I ate without thought... but worse, I drank without thought. Wine became my refuge. It wasn't just a fun foodie adult thing to partake. It was becoming destructive and I was replacing good behaviors with bad. Self destructive, solitary, addiction-forming behaviors.

I'm done with that.

I don't want to spend my days self-medicating, whether it be sugar or alcohol. I don't want any substance to have that control over me. I know the feeling. I've been down that road. Thankfully, I'm self aware enough to put the brakes on. What I have to wonder if why I let it get as far as it does?!

I raised my hand. It was time to come up for air and to say, ummmm.... I'm off course. I need a correction. It's not just about weight people, it's about wellness. I'm not well. Just like those after school public service announcements say: knowing is half the battle.

I'm moving on to the other half of the battle.

I've got myself a week into my old routine. New Direction shakes, mindful eating, exercising. It's all coming back to me, including the feelings of control and clarity. I'm  also trying out a new medicine that my Dr. recommended - a diabetes med (odd - I'm not diabetic) that has been cleared for weight control. It's called Victoza. It helped me get over the initial sugar / carb withdrawal and makes you feel full. When I was younger I would have rolled my eyes at taking a med for self control issues, but I'm no longer that proud. Better to get help when you need it than to live in denial.

Denial no more.

I've lost 10lbs since I started last week. I feel better already. I've got another 20 to go to be down where I'm much happier - and another 10-15 after that to get back to my trail running self. Good thing it's the beginning of the good weather here in Arizona. I intend to get back out there.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

PSA: Beware of virtual kidnapping

This is a public service announcement to every mom out there: Evil is real.

Many moms live with this boogieman in their heads that makes them fear every little thing that can happen to their kid: run over by car, fall out of tree, drown in pool, stabbed by child holding scissors wrong.. I know, I get it. I'm not a worrier by nature, but kids do that to you. They take everyday life and turn it into this massive obstacle course where a unsliced grape could mean life or death.

A heightened state of awareness. Parental awareness.

For what it is worth, I consider myself pretty laid back. My parenting style is what I would deem modern free range. I want my kids to play like I did in the 1980's, but I am trying to avoid being reported to CPS, it's a balance and an art. Anyhow, I disgress.

I was reading The Shack. A Word to the wise, this is a wrenching book. A father's wrestle with God after the abduction and murder of his daughter. The absolute worst kind of parental nightmare that exists.

I'm just gonna put that right here. Conjure up the worst, and The Shack is pretty much it.

I was reading The Shack on my flight to Portland last Monday. I debated whether this was a smart choice as I was flying away from my family on a week long business trip but my mom had recommended it. I also knew this book would suck me in, and the time would go faster.

I was right. I was enraptured. The book is captivating. Cue embarrassment as I cried on the plane (and the plane from Portland to Denver, and Denver to Indianapolis....)

As I glided down the airport people mover in PDX, I mentally noted in my hypothetical text to hubs: "Happy to report, Portland is still weird." As we texted, he said he was going to pick up the kids.

The Uber driver and I engaged on a random conversation about horses, polo, dog training and psychology. Uber, always an adventure.

Then my phone rang. Glancing at it, I didn't place the number. Against my better judgement and only cause the number started with a 5 (and Portland area calls are 503, so it could have been my local attorney), I answered it.

For a couple of seconds it was dead air.

"Hello? Hell- O?"

Then muffled crying and whimpering. Seconds passed, but it seemed long.

"Who is this? Who IS THIS?"

More crying... "Mommmy...."

"Who is THIS?"... "XJL is that YOU?!"

"Mommy.... Mommy, it's XJL (sounded more like "Cindy" or "Sandy")...

Then a man with a deep baritone came on the line:

"Mam, I'm sure we can come to some accommodation."

At this point my Uber driver has pulled off the side of the road. Every nerve in my body was standing on end and every pore was screaming PANIC. I didn't know what to do.

And then my finger, almost with a mind of it's own, hung up the call. Done. Swearing, mumbling...

I texted Erik: "Is XJL with you?"

No response. My mind raced. He could be driving. Sometimes he doesn't text back immediately. Call him? No time. My mind raced.. and raced.. my heart and my mind were sprinting each other.

I told the Uber driver to take me to the Marriott. In seconds, I was there, and I rushing into the lobby. I called my brother-in-law who is good at answering his cell phone and lives within minutes to my kids school and my house. Answer he did, and within minutes, he was heading to the school and my sister to my house.

Then Erik texted back: "Yeah, I have her. Why?"

Poor Hubs, then my sister showed up at the house, and he still had no idea what was going on.

The whole situation diffused within 5 minutes. But wow... the panic, the fight or flight, the dread, the fear... the thought - "Did I just hang up on my child?"... it was unreal and yet, all too real.

I checked into the Marriott. Afterwards, with the hair on my arms still standing up. I asked the nice gal behind the desk: "Do you have kids?"

"I want to!"

Poor gal. I told her my story.

Told her I think I needed a glass of wine.

After I debriefed with Erik and my heart stopped racing, I reported the incident to the non-emergency police in Phoenix. I also looked at the number again - Mexico country code. I also googled the scam, and apparently, "virtual kidnappings" are a thing.

It is my duty to tell you all. Lest this should happen to you. Virtual kidnappers want you to stay on the line. They want you call them back. They want you to go to the bank and wire relatively small sums of money.

This is in contrast to real kidnappers who do NOT want to stay on the phone and demand sums of money that you can't just go to Chase and withdraw from the ATM. At least, I can't.

As I replayed the whole thing over and over and over again.... I gave them the name... but consider the circumstances, I am a mom of girls, I'm away from home, and reading The Shack.... sooooooooooo not funny. The rational side of me knew something was off - the name, even in distress, XJL would know how to pronounce her name... and stories of recent scams preying on seniors... but WOW, the emotion. Two very serious forces were at conflict with each other in my heart and mind.

I gotta give it to Charlotte P. at the Marriott City Center. She came thru in spades. She called my room later on and asked my wine preference. Red, of course. A bottle delivered gratis to my room. Thank you Marriott. You've got a faithful customer now.

So be warned mommy-friends. There are sick people out there. People who do want to take your kids, and others who want to take your money preying on your fear of those who will take your kids.

Hug those little tonight.

And if you are going to read The Shack, do it at home.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Life Happens

Please forgive me upfront for this post. It is going to sound really elementary... sheltered... ridiculous even. It's going to be obvious. It's going to sound stupid.

When you are staring fear in the face.... when everything you know is ripped out from under you... when you start to wonder how you go on... that sort of life-rattling, soul-quaking, spirit-searching event... all the other stuff that I've talked about on this blog... weight, politics, vacations, bra-reviews.. seems pretty darn trivial.

When you've grown up... Protected. Loved. Forgiven. Encouraged. Celebrated. Blessed. Never losing trust, never losing love, never losing a foundational relationship or person...

Facing it - the "it" that might take away the cornerstone of that love - can be pretty darn upsetting. Upsetting like anxiety for the perpetually calm. Sleeplessness for the one who could sleep for a job. Emotional outbreaks for the person mostly cool, calm and collected.

I've done my share of adulting since February 18 when my happy little bubble world went pop. Can I just have a couple days with NO adulting? That'd be great...

Life happens and it is painful. That shouldn't be surprising but somehow it is.

The "it" that has moved into my world in the form of a unwelcome tumor is pancreatic cancer. It's fair to say that our family may never be the same again. The "it" has brought all of us to our knees and the question now is how do we respond? Do we let it rob us of all the things that we enjoyed for so long (see list above)... love... celebration... or do we just make room for this unwelcome visitor and find blessings where we can?

That is what we do... We grasp for the thankfulness. We bask in the light. We hoard peace. We relish the moments and we know that it sounds silly to say we never expected this -- of course, we know our time here is fleeting.

Maybe I'm not running like I used to.... Life happens... but...

Hope is my new marathon.  Mercy and grace are my hydration.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

America is still the best thing going (ie. I voted for Trump Part 2)

The second most read post on this blog was viewed by 2300+ people and titled Dear Republican Party.. or Dear Democrats. It was written with a heart in turmoil after Trump successfully triumphed over Hillary Clinton last fall. I was honest for whom I voted for. I wanted friends, mostly liberal, to see, that you can - actually be educated - be a woman - with a vagina no less - and vote for a man for reasons unrelated to the blather that the mainstream media is forcing down our throats about Trump's alleged racism, sexism and whatever else they can come up with...

I have a similar feeling today. Man, I'm sorry folks. But if you marched today and couldn't even bring yourself to turn on the TV yesterday, you've got a problem. If you think you're capable of civil discourse and you can't even praise the peaceful transfer of power to a man who rightfully won the White House, then it's time to look in the mirror. In fact, as I was insulted and told to check my privilege last fall...  need I say mirror? I better stop....

Millions of Americans want a government who will leave them alone.
Millions of Americans believe that rights come from God, not the government.
Millions of Americans know that true charity comes from one neighbor to the next without a government mandate.
Millions of Americans see the consolidation of power in Washington while their local economies crumble and want DC to do less, be less, suck less life out of the rest of our country.
Millions of Americans understand that equality comes with empowerment of the individual thru liberty and freedom, not regulation and collective identity.
Millions of Americans want a shot at the American dream.

So march. You are free to do that. But you don't march for me.

As a woman who votes for more issues than her sexual reproductive rights, I will sit back and applaud. For the first time in many years, the left sees that fear of government and dissent is a real and even patriotic thing. Welcome back.  I know that feeling. So, the flipside of the coin is here. Use your voice. Use your purse. Vote with your feet and your wallet. You are free to do that. Stock food. Get your concealed carry license.. I'll take you to the range. Establish a charity for your issue of choice. But considering that Trump is no ideologue... Trump is not a true conservative... and Trump isn't a sexist, racist pig... you do yourselves and your cause a disservice for not even listening to what he says. America is still the best thing going, don't take it for granted or wish it away. #silentmajority

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Jan Week 2 - Me? Military?

The rubber meets the road on all those resolutions this week... can't you just feel it? The stress of last year creeping into the resolve of this year? Week one were all determination to change. Week 2 were falling back to old excuses. Week 3 we wonder what we were thinking in the first place...

I started this year with a lovely Kathleen Turner-esque chest cold. I took the first week of Jan to refocus. I've become classically good at allowing exercise to be my crutch, and the diet... it just lags behind in priority. I do well during the day. I always have my shake for breakfast, and I usually do alright with lunch. But after 3pm my willpower seems to fly out the window.... then add a glass of wine, and I'm shoving all sorts of sweets in my mouth.

I buckled down. BIG TIME. No more sweets. No more wine. Just whole foods, all the time.

The result? I have shed a massive amount of water weight (hello inflammation!). In 10 days, I have lost 10 lbs. I have probably consumed more vegetables in 10 days that I did in all of December 2016. I've drank water. I've eaten whole fruits. I've had 1 glass of wine. YAY me!!

I've started doing Tony Horton's 22 Minute Military Hard Corp. It is short but it hurts. I'm sore all over, in a good way. Now, just get thru Jan week 3 and I'm on my way!! 2017, I'm coming for ya!