Saturday, July 27, 2013


Raise your hand if you like a crime and romance all in one novel? Um, me too. If you could see me right now, I'd be waving both hands like I just don't care because this are my favorite. SQUEE.

Vertigo - Gwenan Haines
On Sale on Amazon for 2.99
When attorney Blake Cartwright abandons a successful career to turn a dilapidated lighthouse into an inn, everybody thinks she's gone a little bit crazy. After witnessing a body fall from the tower, Blake wonders if they might be right. According to local legend, the spirit of a former keeper's wife lures women to their deaths in the icy water below. Has Blake witnessed a suicide, seen a ghost--or is she just seeing things?

Declan Hunter, the mysterious man she hires to help with renovations, doesn't help matters. The man with the Navy SEAL physique claims to be nothing more than a local handyman, but Blake's instincts warn her not to trust him. As the mystery deepens, she finds herself drawn into a dangerous labyrinth of secrets, lies, and murder. But the most serious danger of all may be falling for a man determined to leave her.

Gosh I loved this book. I should also apologize like right up front that I am so grossly late with this review. This book came out in June and I had hoped to get this up for you so you could be a bad ass and buy it on it's first day out, but I suck and not surprisingly- it's hard to read, pack, and move to a new house at the same time. But now that I'm all settled, I can find my Nook cord again and I have had some free time, I'm back to reading like a crazy person. This clearly was the first on the list. 

And YAY for that because it was fantastic. 

One of my favorite things about books is when I can't tell you who is doing the bad stuff in the book but I have a pretty decent guess- and this book nailed it. As soon as the bad guy character comes up, I kind of thought it was him but then I'm like nah... it might be the sketchy employer too- she seems up to no good. Also great? I love female lead characters that are not damsel in distress and are more like, "No, you get the eff of my property asshole". I mean, that's not a line out of the book but it's something Blake Cartwright would say and I can absolutely appreciate that. Also Declan? Hottie. Anytime you have a male lead with a Navy SEAL physique? I'm all in. 

The other great thing about this book is that you're reading it and you so know this could be a Lifetime movie and you just hope they don't cast Tori Spelling because she ruins everything. The writing is good, the characters are good, the story line is fantastic, and it's not too long where you think, "good grief will this ever end", but it's the perfect length to put things together for you. I also love books with an epilogue. Which is kind of necessary considering how the last chapter ended, but I like feeling like I'm leaving a story knowing what happens to the characters in the long run. You read the story and you become invested and you just want to know what happens to their story later on, and Gwenan delivered on that. 

Overall? 4/5 stars. For sure. I really liked the story, it's right up there with something you'd read by Linda Howard and even Nora Roberts with a little Sandra Brown tossed in there. If you are a fan of any of those ladies, you are going to like this book. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Controlled

Are you in the mood for a book that will leave you saying, "What the hell just happened here??"? Well I've got it for you. BAM. 

The Controlled - Becky Kormant

Sarah Ruiz thought she had it all – until someone entered her life who was hell-bent on destroying her. 
Sarah Ruiz is a business owner, a fitness trainer and a mom.  Married to the ever-so-charming and wealthy Alex Ruiz, Sarah appears to have the perfect life.  But behind closed doors, he revealed a side of himself that destroyed her love for him.  With five beautiful children and unable to leave her situation, Sarah knows she must make changes. 
Sarah’s journey to freedom take a turn when a man, Gabe Benoit, promises to help her.  Thus starts a whirlwind of romance, intrigue, seduction, blackmail and manipulation.  No matter which way Sarah turns, she is backed into a corner before she can even realize it.  When she finally has promise of a better future, she must use every ounce of her strength to work her way through the web of lies and find truth on her journey to independence.
OK, so this book is seven shades fucked up. Hands down, the craziest plot line to a book I have ever read. EVER. You don't know what's really happening and when all of the pieces start coming together in the end? Holy bologna. 
First up, you have Sarah. Who I immediately do not like because she sounds like a moron with low self worth and self esteem. She marries Alex who immediately turns into a douchebag on literally day one of being married (and you know she just takes it). Alex basically makes her life a living hell and is abusive, but Sarah being the stereotypical domestic abuse victim, stays with him for a laundry list of reasons. They eventually come to a really bizarre, I still don't understand it, agreement on their loveless marriage where he essentially rapes her when he feels like it. Then enters Gabe. 
This is when the whole Catfish story line starts because she is only speaking to him via phone and/or internet and almost immediately it turns sexual. Like phone sex, pictures, etc. At this point I'm like WHOA, because who does that? Who just starts this kind of relationship when A)  you're married even if he's a douchebag and B) you don't even know the person you're talking to, like you have had no physical, in person meeting AT ALL? Oh wait, lots of people do because they are dumb. 
But this is when shit hits the fan because Gabe turns out to not really be Gabe and I can't tell you how THAT plays out because once you read that you will get angry, feel sorry for Sarah and then immediately not feel bad for her because she was dumb enough to fall for it anyways. 
But then things start happening with Alex and it turns out his extra curricular activities outside of the home weren't any better and Sarah finds herself basically in danger because of her husband. So she's dealing with that and with the crap that happens with Gabe. 
But the ending? 
When I read the very ending at who walks through that door? I'm going to be honest- I threw the book. I threw the book, almost took out the dog (He attempted to catch it.  Don't worry- Twinky is fine.) and I hit Matt with the book. And no, the irony of me hitting my husband with a book about domestic violence is not lost on me here. 
The writing isn't awesome. This isn't going to be a literary great. A lot of the text felt forced, it felt very amateur, but dammit if that story line didn't keep you there. Only because it was so stinking outrageous you're reading it because you can't believe this is happening. And then you think, you know- this crap probably happens every day because people are really stupid. Good grief. 
So if you are looking for a book that will bring out inner emotions of girl power, definitely read this one. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I hope you don't think that just because I'm a Debbie Downer as of late I plan to bring you down as well. Oh no. I'll leave you with an update on the newest member of the Strand family.

Meet Twinky.
 Twinky (the dinky dog) (yes, he's named after a children's book) is a Morkie. (Yorkie/Maltese mix). He is super cute and cuddly. He lays on his back a lot so you can see his boy bits.

He chases cats, prefers cat toys over dog toys, really loves his stuffed monkey and likes to chew pillows if left on the ground.
 He is also called Piddle Pants because he will pee wherever the hell he wants to. Specifically, he will pee anywhere EXCEPT his wee wee pad. He likes to poop right under my desk as well as next to my reading chair in the front porch. And drag some chewed up pillow near it in case I didn't notice all of the pillow fluff before.
 He is most active in the morning and will play dead when he knows it's time for his before bed walk with Matt. And Matt looks hilarious walking this dog because the "walk" consists of Matt carrying him a few blocks first otherwise he will not go anywhere. So picture Matt, a grown ass man, carrying this tiny dog around and then saying, "GOOD JOB, Twinky!!" when he poops.

It's hilarious, people.
The kids love the dog. Olivia maybe a little bit more. I think Jackson is a little scared of him but clearly, Twinky loves Jackson. Like a lot. Follows him everywhere. And he looks EXACTLY like Jackson's beloved stuff animal dog who we call Doggie.

Having a dog over cats is HARD. The cats hate him. Mostly Lola because she's the only one with a tail and I think Twinky sees it as a moving toy. Batman and Stumpy don't really care so long as Twinky doesn't eat out of their food bowl because *god forbid* those cats have to live on their fat stores.

So as if we don't have enough happening at once in our house, we now have a dog.

We are officially insane.

My own adventures.

I have been bombarded with things as of late that are making it glaringly obvious I have a problem and I need to fix it. The problem is fixing it is hard. And it's not fun. And despite that, I know that I am now at a point where I can no longer avoid it. I can't ignore it. I can't fake my way through it. I need to hit it head on. I watched a video yesterday posted on a friend's Facebook wall and I was like, god dammit. Just god dammit all, I GET IT, UNIVERSE. OK? I get it.

I suffer from depression.

I have for a long time, probably most of my life. When I was younger I did a pretty good job at faking it. Out in the world I was a happy, perky, regular teenager. In my room I would cry and cry for absolutely no reason and I secretly thought that maybe, just maybe, I was losing my mind. I had no reason to be sad or to cry and I think a lot of my moodiness around the house was probably written off as hormones. And maybe some of it was, but certainly not all of it.

I always had this hope that once I got out on my own, and I could build my life the way I wanted it, things would be better because it'd be of my own making. Except that didn't happen. In my first real relationship I really thought I was in love. And it turns out I wasn't and I was faking my way through it. I don't think any 17 year old knows what love actually is and by college I realized that there has to be more. I felt like I didn't care about anything. I did well at school and at work, but I didn't actually care. I didn't care if I had people to hang out with, I didn't care about the people I was with, nothing. So in order to fix that, I would go shopping. Because somehow, shopping made me feel happy. I liked having new things, I liked having a wallet full of credit cards, and I liked looking my best because I felt like if I could portray happy, successful, carefree, and young- I would feel all of these things.

Fake it 'till you make it.

Until I realized that won't work for long. Because those bills come in the mail. And it only made me feel worse because now I was broke, cards were maxed out, and I felt guilty and angry at myself for being so stupid. So I would pay the bill, then spend just as much immediately after. It was terrible.

But then I met Matt. And I didn't have the stars in my eyes and butterflies in my stomach but I just knew that he was steady and he was what I needed. I really needed a person to take me down a notch and to help calm me in a way I couldn't do on my own. Which he has. He has been amazing all of these years. Even when he wasn't, in a way he still was kind of great. We got married, I got pregnant and I was over the moon with happiness. I loved being pregnant, I loved nesting, I loved talking to the baby in utero and I was so excited. I felt like THIS, this was my calling. This is what's going to give me a purpose to a life that was basically spent floating around unsure of what I'm supposed to do.

But it wasn't.

As it turns out, I'm not cut out for parenting. In fact, sometimes? I kind of hate it. I cried more in Olivia's first year than I ever had my entire life. I was in the throes of post partum depression which I just never thought I would have because I was so happy and excited to have a baby. I know people worried about me and that was nice, but I was too scared to tell them they had cause to be worried. Because I really hated being a mom. I felt no bond, no attachment. Nothing. I felt absolutely indifferent to this beautiful little girl and it terrified me. I didn't understand how this mothering thing worked and when it was going to kick in, but every day I would wake up and feel this huge sense of despair. Like I had ruined my life.

This will obviously put a strain on your marriage so not long after Olivia's first birthday we had some real marital issues. By her second birthday things were at a head. I was also pregnant with Jackson and this time? This time I felt different. I was absolutely terrified that it could get worse for me and I wondered if there really was a God, why would he curse TWO kids with a mother like me. What the fuck is wrong with him? It's horrible. I tried so hard, so incredibly hard, to be like the moms I would see at play groups and parks who just had all of this joy for their child and I felt like a fraud sitting there thinking, "God- I just want to go to bed. I wonder if any of these ladies would just take my kid for the day?"

After Jackson was born I felt great. Like over the moon, I can't believe how awesome I feel, holy crap THIS is what I was missing the last time. Then I felt even worse. I have obviously short changed Olivia as a mother and she doesn't deserve this. I'm such a terrible parent I can't even love my kid enough, what is WRONG WITH ME??

And of course, I'm seeing doctor after doctor during all of this. I get on prescriptions, some work but make me horribly sick, some don't work but just make me fat, and some just make it so bad that I felt like walking away because everyone would be better off without having to deal with me because clearly I'm defective. Every doctor tells me that "it is what it is" and that feels like a cop out. I get told that at some point, you just deal with it and eventually, things won't be so bad.

Well, I've dealt with it the last 5 years. And you know what? I feel worse now than ever.

I have felt, especially in the last 4 months, that things were slipping away from me. And I thought it is obviously the stress of moving, buying/selling a house at the same time, the school year ending, getting Jackson ready for Kindergarten, planning a vacation, worrying about money, trying to do everything for everybody and keep all of the balls in the air so I look like things are great and I have a great life. Because I do. I have a really great life. I have a great husband, awesome kids, I love my house, I love my job, my family is good, I have friends who are always there, I have a better support system now than ever. And yet...

And yet I hate it all. I hate getting up in the morning. I hate dealing with my kids. I hate listening to Matt talk about work. I hate hearing people complain about dinner. I hate being out in public. I hate having to interact because I don't think I'm portraying "I'm really a happy person" well enough, and here I am. I am sad. I am tired. I feel defeated. I feel like every effort I give is for nothing. I feel like nothing I do for anybody is enough. If someone has a bad day, I take it on myself. I feel like somehow, their bad day is my fault and see? I really am a terrible person, I'm ruining other people's day.

The worst part about this is that when I have talked to people about it, you get a mix of reactions. Some are horrified and feel awful for you, but are unequipped to help you. Others get offended and have a "you are a selfish, horrible bitch. What is WRONG WITH YOU? You appreciate nothing that you have." The only time I have ever felt like someone actually gets it is when I read  Hyperbole and a Half's posts on depression (adventure and part two)Then you have a few who will make you feel worse by saying, "Well it's all my fault, I was a bad (fill in the blank) for you so yup- just blame me." And it's those times where I just want to scream, IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU. It's about me, and I feel awful and sad and I have no reason and this is really the worst feeling in the world.

Or so I thought.

But then last night I had a dream that I felt like this and I found out Matt only had a short time to live, like days. And in my dream it's him in a bed begging me to pull it together because he can't be here to help me anymore and he just wants to know I'll be OK. Because if I'm OK, everything else will be OK. And I just lost it because I know he's right. Without him, I wouldn't be able to function as much as I do. He takes over when he can tell I have nothing left to give that day. And he never makes me feel bad about it. So at the end of the dream, he dies and all that's left is me sitting in a room, all alone, wondering what do I do now?

So that's where I am.

I try every day to get better. I've changed my diet. I exercise. I take vitamins. I have a routine, I get enough sleep, I have responsibilities and things I'm accountable for, I plan things that are fun and that I enjoy, I take time out for myself, I'm doing everything a person can do. Except for medication. And at this point, knowing how I've felt when on them before, it feels like a last resort. It's the white flag saying I can't do this on my own and nothing is enough, so please medicate me so I feel nothing at all. I won't feel happy, but I also won't feel sad and be crying all of the time. Win? Doesn't feel like it. Yes please medicate me so I feel sick or gain a shit ton of weight so I feel even worse about myself but at least I won't cry at the drop of a dime.

So, that's what it is. Life is hard, it's not meant to be puppies and rainbows all of the time, but it also shouldn't feel like death every minute of the day. At least I'm pretty sure.

Monday, July 22, 2013

How to get screwed on vacation. Otherwise known as why Choice Hotels suck.

I don't know if you remember, but WAY back in February, after our flight to Florida had been booked, I was extensively looking for hotels within our budget. We had a small budget which basically ensured we'd either have to find the steal of the century or we would be staying in the ghetto.

Well the Orlando hotel was a breeze to book and while it wasn't in the ghetto, it ended up being the run down entry point to a larger time share facility just down the road. Which of course had it's one draw backs considering there was no free breakfast as outlined online nor was there free wi-fi because it was down for no apparent reason, but you also got slammed about a time share presentation anytime you walked into the lobby. And the best part of those is that we all know they are absolute scams yet they scoff at you like you are the real asshole here for not buying in.

But the hotel in Spring Hill was my real nightmare and I didn't even know it until I showed up. You see, back in February I booked the hotel online and like most hotels now, it was an advance rate, meaning you pay now and stay later. Which, not a big deal as I had the funds and I've done this before with no issues. It was supposed to be a Quality Inn, and I booked it through My entire stay came to $259.32, and it left my checking account on February 8.

All was well until I showed up.

And found out that it is no longer a Quality Inn, it is now a Motel 6, which is not associated with Choice Hotels. I really didn't care until I found out that while my reservation (name and number of nights) transferred, my payment DID NOT. This meant I could either stay in my rental car like a homeless person for the next four nights OR I can pay Motel 6 $245.24.

To say I was pissed is an understatement.

Then to find out that AGAIN, no free breakfast despite it clearly being listed online?

It's a good thing I was too tired to yell at someone.

The desk attendant told me that while this sucks, there isn't anything he can do and I'd  have to call Choice Hotels. So I decided that I would just continue with my vacation and deal with it when I got home. Unfortunately, when I got home calling and dealing with the people at Choice Hotels is a nightmare.

The first person I got, Roxanne, tells me straight away that "this happens all of the time" and to just dispute it on my credit card.

Which, I cannot do because it was a debit card.

So I call back 5 minutes later and I get Roberta who initially is a dream because she actually is taking information down. I get a reference number which turns out to be very important if you want anyone to actually speak to you, and she says I have to email her proof I paid for the hotel a second time and we'll go from there with my refund. That was July 3.

On July 4th, while at the parade celebrating our independence, Roberta calls and leaves a message saying there was basically nothing she could do, just dispute it with my credit card.


I wait until Monday to call back because I'm fuming and I also have a leaking toilet and birds in our bathroom vent to contend with.

On Monday I talk to someone else who said basically, they can't do anything for me. I have to now go to my bank and have a conference call and go from there. They are going to instruct my bank how to file a dispute.


So I go to the bank. I fill out all of the necessary paperwork to dispute this. I leave there feeling like maybe, just maybe, I'll get my money back.

But no.

As it turns out, you can't dispute a charge if A) you authorized it and B) it was more than 90 days ago. Even if it's basically fraud, which this feels like fraud all around, there is nothing they can do on their end. And they felt terrible, and I even talked to the person who manages this for all of their branches. I went to the top brass and nothing.

So what do I do? Do I call Choice Hotels and get the "dispute it on your credit card" even though they don't know the difference? I mean, I'm really pissed off. What gets me is that their advanced rate says "cannot be cancelled, changed or refunded". Which is kind of understandable if I do any of these things, but it's OK if they do? And I understand hotels get bought out, that's not the issue. The issue is that they should have contacted me, they had my email, phone, and address- they had several ways in which to contact me and had all of February, March, April, May and part of June to do so to notify me that A) my reservation is not at a Quality Inn, B) I still hold a reservation and C) what do I do with my pre-paid room.

But no.

Because basically- they are running some kind of scam. And it's bullshit. Don't ever book a hotel through Never, ever. They have some of the worst customer service I have ever encountered and they will rip you off.

So that, folks, is how you get scammed on your vacation. The lesson here is avoid Choice Hotels, don't ever use a debit card to reserve a hotel, and don't ever pre-pay.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Snow Day

No, it's not a real snow day, what with the temperatures in the 90's today, but it's a really great, short book you should read. Because it will pull you in and you can beat the heat next to a fan reading about snow.

Snow Day - Dan Maurer

Snow Day
It happens each winter, and has for over 35 years. Every time the snow starts to fall late in the evening before a school day, the dreams begin again for Billy Stone. They are always the same – there’s a dark tunnel, and there’s blood, lots of blood, and someone is screaming.

In this chilling childhood tale, Billy, recounts the events of one unforgettable day in 1975. On that day, he and his friends played carefree in the snow, until an adventure gone awry left him far from home, staring death in the face, and running from a killer bent on keeping a horrible secret.

Set in a time before Amber Alerts, when horror stories were told around camp fires instead of on the nightly news, Snow Day is a blend of nostalgia and nightmare that makes us question if the good old days were really as good as we remember.

From a new voice in dark fiction comes a thriller about an idyllic childhood turned horrifying; a cautionary tale about how losing sight of the difference between feeling safe and being safe can lead to deadly consequences.

This is a novella, so it's roughly 100 pages which guarantees this is a very fast read, even for those of you who aren't fast readers per say. Basically it's the story of Billy, suffering the consequences of a memorable snow day from his childhood. Admittedly, when I started reading it, I was like, "Psh- I hate snow and I hate snow days. This better not suck." And then I quickly realized it would not suck when the author is infusing it with humor. Yes, humor in a thriller. But he's recalling a time where parenting was far different than it is now. Back in the 70's, heck even when I was old enough to be out on my own in the neighborhood in the 80's and 90's, parents were carefree. You could ride your bike anywhere, you could get a group of friends together and you'd migrate from one house to the next and were gone all day. I mean think about it- did your parents ever really knew where you were all of the time? 

Of course not. 

Because if you went off the block or across the street, your mother would kick your ass. At least mine would have, because we had rules. So for that fact alone, I so appreciated a book that really reminded me of what childhood is really like. 

The snow day starts like any other, and focuses primarily between Billy and the neighborhood weirdo kid nobody likes but everyone feels sorry for because his home life is rough in every sense, Tommy. Tommy just wants to play and hang out with the other kids and no matter how mean they are to him, he just keeps trying to tag along. We all had one of those in our group. 

But on this day Billy stumbles across a horrific and terrifying scene he doesn't quite understand because he's so young. He's frantically trying to get home after going off the block and getting himself in a world of trouble, only to walk right into another world of trouble. From there it's a frenzied journey home all the while trying to think of a way to explain the day's events to his mother so he doesn't get in trouble. 

The bottom line is that this is a story of childhood, youth, naivety, child predators, and street justice. All in one day. This story will suck you in, keep you here, and leave you with a gut punch ending. But you'll love it the entire time. 

The ironic thing was that I was reading this book while in my new front porch, watching my kids at the park which is right across the street. Olivia, at age almost 8, is begging for "independence" and I'll be honest- I'm paranoid. I don't want to helicopter mom her but I also don't want anything to happen to her on my watch. So I finish the book, I'm sitting there reeling at the ending, the tragedy of something so horrific happening to a child, knowing full well this happens every day somewhere, when all of a sudden?

My kids are not at the park. Not anywhere. I, obviously, fly out of my chair, out the door and start scanning the streets/yards all the while screaming their names. 


Matt was home, so I fly down into the basement to get his help when there they were. The whole time. They had come in through the back door without a sound to see what dad was doing in his workshop. 

And that's when I realized no matter how diligent you think you are, it's not enough. No matter the precautions you take to protect your kids, if a bad guy wants them, he'll find a way. And that alone is terrifying. But you can't live in fear. You just hope you taught your kids enough to avoid bad situations and that they can run like hell if need be. 

I highly recommend this book. It was so good, so well written, so gripping that you sit there feeling like you're recalling the day's events with Billy as if you were there. It's such a compelling book and I was very impressed. 

The other bonus is that I just realized this book is only $1.99 at Amazon. Clearly, if you don't pick this up now, you're a moron. And I say that with love of course. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Vacation, part 4. Mermaids and goodbyes.

Aw... the very LAST post of our vacation. It's taken me awhile because I've gotten back onto the exercising bandwagon (more on that later) so I was out later than I planned last night and I am literally just getting back in tonight. I'm exhausted, but not too exhausted to give you what you want.

Our last day consisted of going to Weeki Wachee Springs which is not far from where my grandparents live and was right across the street from where we were staying. Their claim to fame are the mermaid shows, which I thought would be kind of fun for the kids.

 And it was hot as a MOTHER that day so I was looking forward to swimming and keeping cool while enjoying our last day on vacation.
 Unlike the beach, the water here is freezing. I'm talking, Lake Superior cold. I couldn't go any further than my knees and even at that point I wasn't sure if I could still feel my toes. Matt and the kids swam for awhile, and then we headed over to where the mermaids do their shows.
 And while I thought this was going to be super hokey, it actually wasn't. These women (and some men) swim underwater, eyes open, without taking breaths for a LONG time. They have an oxygen tube to use periodically, but for the most part, they are just doing their mermaid thing with no air. It's kind of amazing.
 And you have to think swimming with a tail would be difficult- imagine the leg and core strength you have to have.
The show we went to was about the history of the mermaids and it was really kind of interesting to hear how it started, and basically how once you're a mermaid- you are always a mermaid. They have reunions and it's kind of adorable.

After the show, it was even hotter out. We tried to get on the river cruise to see manatees, but there was an hour wait and to be honest, I didn't think I could just stand in the heat for another hour of my life, so we decided we'd pack up and head to our hotel.
 But not before taking a picture of the peacock that followed us.
Or Mermaid Olivia.
 Reluctant Mermaid Jackson.
 Quick sand play while we pack up.
 And so long Weeki Wachee!

Hello hotel pool.
 With far warmer water. YAY. Matt didn't swim for too long, I think he was tired so he basically hung out by the side, which meant I got to be in charge of nobody drowning.
 And we played water tag. The goal was to make these kids as exhausted as possible so they would crash immediately after dinner.
 And I was successful! We had a nice dinner out with my mom and my grandparents before we left and it was a good last day/evening to our trip.

The next morning we checked out of our hotel (which leaked BADLY from the air conditioner- that's coming out of our room), and got on the road. We had to return the rental car by 1pm at the Orlando airport which we thought was 2 1/2 hours away because it took us that long to get from there to our hotel, but no. No it wasn't that long.
 Oh, and Matt almost ran over a turtle. Bastard. I moved the little guy over a little bit. I don't think he cared he almost died.
 So while we had time to kill, and we were starving because our hotel who said they provided breakfast DID NOT (more on this hotel, how I'm out $259.82 and how is a scam and you should never, ever book through them), we decided to cross one thing off the list of must do's anytime you go south.
It was as terrible and ghetto as I remember it to be. Never mind the fact that my waffles were barely cooked in the middle, that my orange juice left my mouth feeling greasy or that my purse stuck to the seat... but Matt's cheesy hash browns? I damn near died laughing when she came out and put a slice of cheese on it and that folks is ghetto cheesy hash browns. The best part though is when an old guy came in and sat down at presumably his usual spot, and reaches around the counter for the fly squatter. And proceeds to swat things.
That was when I decided that was a good time to get back on the road.

Only to get to the airport oh... five hours too early for your flight. Luckily, dropping the rental car off was easy, but the Orlando airport is severely lacking in things to do once you get past security. We ate at Burger King which may have been my worst Burger King experience ever, and then sat for the long wait.
 Jackson played games on my phone.
 Olivia read her Dork Diaries book.
 Matt and I hung out.
Aren't they adorable looking tourists?

Can I just say though? That when the airline calls out for 45 MINUTES that we have a full flight, and they need some people to check their bags (for free), you should do it. I told Matt to just check our bags knowing I didn't want to carry any  more than I had to once we got to Minneapolis because I knew we'd have to book it through the airport for the connecting flight to Duluth. He reluctantly agreed.

Once we get on the plane, Olivia and I were like last to board. There were maybe 40 people behind us in line, and once we got seated it was clear there was no more room for bags in the over head bins. This girl, in her 20's, starts bitching up a storm about having to check her bag. It's like bitch- you're dead last to get on the plane, surely you had to know there would be no room for your bag that is too big to even be a carry on. Dang. She then bitched the entire ride to Duluth because her seat was "bumpy", her soda tasted funny, she thinks they should give our bigger cups, the try isn't large enough, etc. I felt bad for the two guys next to her that didn't know her. I think the guy in the aisle wanted to muzzle her. I certainly wanted to.

Then once we got to Minneapolis, we thought we would have over an hour before our next flight so we were like,  YAY! We can get dinner.

But no. No we could not because something had changed and our flight was sooner than what was printed on our ticket.


So the gate lady said we would not have time to get food and come back, we were "minutes" from boarding. Instead, I made Matt sprint to the vending machine and get a bottle of water and crackers. 45 minutes later, our pilot and attendant are MIA. Their plane landed, nobody knows where they are.


So in the end? We ended up boarding at the time on our ticket anyways. Only this meant we were starving and it's like 8:30 at night.

Finally we get into Duluth and my brother was coming to pick us up. Only to get a flat tire in my car on the way there. No, not joking. It was bananas. We were supposed to wait for my mom who was coming from Detroit, but her plane was broken, then delayed, then they decided the plane was OK after all and they offered the angry passengers free liquor.

No, not joking.

Nothing says "good idea" than giving angry people liquor.

Anyways. Once we got home, I got the kids into bed (it's about 10pm at this point) and Matt drove all the way back to Duluth to get my mom who landed sometime after 11. Travis had a long day so we weren't going to make him drive back up.

So that? That was our vacation. It was fun, it was expensive, I learned a bunch, relaxed, and had a great time seeing my family. WIN.

Monday, July 15, 2013


I swear I'll finish up my vacation posts so you can meet Twinky. How's that for a cliff hanger? But first, a book review!

Discovery - Lisa White

Grace Mackay thought she was normal, a little shy maybe, but no less normal than any other struggling young waitress.  But she did not know about the secretive Powers world.  She did not know she was the last person on earth with the DNA needed for the Powers’ survival.  And she certainly did not know her newest boyfriend, Gregory, was an Anti-Powers prince who intended to break her heart and her bones in no particular order. 
            But when she discovers that Ben, her best friend and unrequited former crush, is actually her secret Guardian with superhuman powers, Grace’s normal turns a little wacky.  And when she learns that she has The Gift, the rare power to heal the injured and resurrect life with her touch, it is official– Grace is a weirdo even in the Powers world.  But what freaks Grace out more than all that is the fact she has feelings for Ben again – and he has feelings for her – which makes Grace’s new normal a lot more complicated.

First of all, thank goodness this is a trilogy because I finished reading this around 2am on Saturday morning and was like, "WHAT?! You can't leave me like this!" and I woke up Matt (who should be used to these kinds of wake up calls by  now) and as I'm telling him how amazing this book was, he was giving me the look like he didn't care. 

But you'll care. I just know it. 

I will say, that the books is really well written and I absolutely loved it, but it read like a YA. Now, if you like YA novels (like me), you won't even care and you'll love it just the same. If you aren't a fan of YA, you might not like it, though I do still think you should give it a try. I did notice a few Twilight references in the book (the ball game, the running at fast speeds on Ben's back, etc) but it's not enough for you to think it's an issue. Oh, another Twilight like reference? The council. Now, I don't think the council is as bad as the Volturi (we'll see), but it still feels like this doom meeting as you get further and further into the book. Oh, and the council? I totally knew who was on it. I'm just happy I was right. 

The love story between Grace and Ben is kind of adorable and you'll find yourself rooting for them the entire time. There are lots of characters that have been introduced that I bet make more appearances in later books and maybe a larger impact in the greater story, but that's kind of a good thing. I don't like too many characters thrown at you with major story lines and you're forced to keep it all straight over the span of multiple books. Lisa White is a great author and I've read a few of her other books as well so I was not surprised to like this book as much as I did. I highly recommend this one!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Vacation, part 3.

Almost done!

After spending a few days in Disney, we packed up and drove a couple of hours where my family lives. Our primary reason for visiting Florida was to see family, so that's exactly what we did. We went to my grandparent's house to hang out and that was a blast. I remember having really great times with my grandparents when I was younger, so it's important for me that my kids get to know them and have memories with them as well.
 Olivia spent a lot of time trying to catch lizards. She tried hard. It got to the point where we started offering her $1 if she could catch one. She never could, but she said next time FOR SURE she'll get one.
 Jackson spent a lot of time playing with the gate at the front door. He did this our last visit 4 years ago too. I don't know what the fascination with the gate was, but he had a great time
 See? These are what Olivia was trying to catch. They actually started taunting her. She'd run one direction, and five or so would run to where she just was. It was kind of hilarious. :)

On Sunday we had a family barbeque celebrating my cousin Stephanie graduating high school. I was bummed we couldn't time it so we could have seen her walk across the stage, but I'm glad we got to hang out. She's the most like me, personality wise, so we get along great. But my two younger cousins, who are around Olivia's age, came over too and Jackson tried hard to impress the girls.
 They are into gymnastics and so can do all kinds of cool tricks, but Jackson can break dance. Kind of. So he wowed us all with his moves.
 It was good catching up with my uncles and aunts and of course, Stephanie. I love how we're kind of coordinated here unknowingly. After the dinner, we headed over to my uncle's house so the kids could all swim together. Which is a big deal because both Olivia and Jackson have been in swim classes over the winter and spring, so they were super excited to show Grandma how well they can do now. I barely had enough room in our bag for their floats, but I'm glad I brought them!
 Is he not the cutest?? He insists on wearing his goggles at all times in the water!
 He swam all over the pool with little to no help at all.
 And of course, lounged on the tubes.
 Olivia even swam with the big girls. She was learning all kinds of flips and stuff from my cousins.
This? This is HUGE. When Jackson started swim lessons, he refused to jump in and wouldn't get in without help from the instructor. We had lots of conversations about how he has to be able to jump in to get to the guppy level, so he tried and tried. Right before we left, he finally did it and even  his instructor was so proud of him. Well at the pool this day, he says, "MAMA! I'm going to do it!" and he did and it was awesome. He jumped right in and swam to the other side, totally beaming. It's really great to see your kids master something and feel proud of themselves.
Even Olivia jumped in a bunch of times! She is a little less scared of doing things like this and watching the bigger girls kind of helped her get out and start jumping. This girl can swim laps without stopping. We may have a future swim team kid here.
 Isn't she adorable? I could bite those little cheeks.
 They played bumper tubes and thought that was totally hilarious.

 After efficiently pooping them out, we headed back to our hotel (which is an entire post on it's own because it's still ongoing...long story). The very next day was our designated beach day. The plans were to go to Madeira Beach, which is where I used to play when I was little and where Matt and I honeymooned, and pretty much play it all by ear.
 It doesn't matter how long I've lived up North, every time I'm in Florida I feel like I'm at home. I had to take a picture of the St. Petersburg sign because this? This is my original home town.

Once at Madeira Beach, the kids were getting hungry so we decided to get a parking pass and then walk over to John's Pass. Matt went and checked on the dolphin boat tours because Jackson wanted to really go on one, and as it turns out- there was one leaving in a few minutes with room. So we decided to buy a few snacks and a water and get on the boat.
 Jackson was SO excited because he really likes boat rides and it was a totally gorgeous day for a boat ride.
Olivia also was excited and was hoping to see a few dolphins. Matt and I have been on this twice now, and we've always had good luck seeing them, so we were pretty confident. It was then that Olivia told me she really wished she had her own camera. I'm not budging on saying no to a cell phone, iPad, iPod, etc... but a camera? I can understand why she wants a camera and I had a cheapy when I was her age. So... maybe a good Christmas thing. Anyways.
 We saw a BUNCH of dolphins but because my camera was almost dead, I didn't get many pictures. I think Matt got some on his phone, but hasn't sent them to me yet.
We did see a mama dolphin and a bunch of babies, so that was really cool. Olivia was so excited and Jackson kept asking for us to lift him up so he could see better. So the boat ride was a success. I was bummed we couldn't get on the shell island tour- but it was full that afternoon and even if we went, I didn't have much room in our luggage to bring back big shells.
 Instead, we went to the boardwalk and had a great lunch. Matt ate more seafood than he could almost handle but it's far better than what we can get at home, I'm told.
 We walked the boardwalk for awhile, and the kids got to buy their beach souvenir. Jackson got a shark tooth necklace and Olivia got a starfish necklace and both got shirts. They had been saving their allowances for months and were pretty proud to be able to buy their own souvenir. After that and some ice cream, we finally went over to the beach.
 Olivia looking totally fashionable with this cute suit we got at Gymboree for $2 she finally fits.
 Jackson being his usual self.
 I made them play in the sand for awhile until their lunch was a little more settled. Jackson was kind of excited to be buried. He declared, loud enough for everyone to hear, "This is the best sandbox EVER!!". The people next to us thought that was hilarious and they turned out to be really nice to chat with.
 Olivia wanted to be buried, and to have a mermaid tail, but was disappointed that Matt isn't that great with sand art.
They decided to make sand castles and test out the water.
Adorable cuties on the beach.
 Good grief we are ridiculously white. Oh yes, and Matt is here wearing Jackson's goggles because he was diving down to get shells for Olivia and the salt water was killing his contacts. Such a good dad. Walked around with bloodshot eyes for the entire day so she'd have shells.
 When they weren't making sand castles, they were trying to find "perfect" shells.
Jackson was a little scared because there were signs posted that it was again stingray mating season so to shuffle your feet as you go into the water. Well, he knows what a stingray is from our aquarium visits, so he was petrified to go into the water. If I carried him out there, he would swim just fine with me. But he would not walk in and out by himself. Which was just fine. Olivia had no problems at all- I think she really liked the beach and thought the waves were great.
Me and Olivia at the end of our beach day. I kind of love that we are able to bring the kids to the places that were memorable for me as a little kid. As they get older we'll be able to go to more places. Actually, we were talking about the next time we go to Disney we'd do a week long thing, do a park each day and then a water park. We were going to go to Typhoon Lagoon with them, but it said that you can't bring flotation devices, so until they can swim better on their own without floats.

We left right before dinner time and we were all exhausted. You don't realize living up north, how much non stop sun and swimming can really suck all your energy right out. In fact, both kids fell asleep in the car before we were even out of the parking lot. :)

Also- I've gotten lots of emails about Disney and my experience. First of all, it was not a complete bust. I'm glad we went, I'm glad my kids had a fantastic time, and I have some really get pictures and memories to put into a book for them (I'm only 3 vacations behind in scrapbooking...yikes). Did I know you could get free cups of water at service counters? No. Because I saw nobody with them. Did I have to buy that much water? Well yes- it was 105 and both kids and I have to be hydrated throughout the day otherwise we get sick. So I'd spend $1000 on water if it kept both kids from getting sick. I get that you pay a lot of money for the experience. I totally get that. But once you get into the park, they shouldn't nickel and dime you the entire day. Paying almost $100 for a family of four to basically have hotdogs and burgers is a bit ridiculous. I will say though, that the next time we go we'll likely stay at a Disney resort and do the dining plan. It makes so much more sense and after getting to know how it works better after talking to people once I'm there, I recommend it. I also recommend going for 3 days because you get better deals on ticket prices. We were only going to have 2 days and if we were able to stretch out the vacation for another day or two, we would have gone to 3 parks. The next time we go the kids will be older and bigger, and we'll be able to do Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. The vacation fund is empty so we're slowly putting money into that. Hopefully next time we can take a full two week vacation and see family AND do Disney.

Tomorrow- I'll talk about our last full day, we went to Weeki Wachee Springs and saw mermaids. :)