Thursday, June 27, 2013

Toll Panic and The Walk of Shame (Mommy Vacation Part 2)

Hey, did you know that you have to pay money to drive on some roads in this country?  Apparently they are called "toll roads" and there is a doozie that conveniently connects the Milwaukee area to Chicago and beyond.  It just so happens that after my inadvertent side trip to the Lake Michigan car ferry port in Milwaukee, I found myself staring at a huge sign that read "PAY TOLL AHEAD."

Cue panic.

Yet another aspect of my solo trip to Michigan that I had failed to plan for.  I lunged for my wallet and scrounged around for the $2.70 this particular toll booth required.  Feeling pretty smug that I had triumphed over this particular hurdle, I carried on.  You see, every other time we have gone to Michigan, we have ridden with my in-laws who have this handy dandy little thing called the iPass that allows them to breeze right through all this ridiculousness without having to manhandle coins and bills while traveling at 60 miles per hour.

What's even more pathetic is that I knew about all this.  I was fully aware of those tolls, but I just dropped the ball in the planning.  One thing I most certainly was NOT aware of was the fact that the tolls would add up to be somewhere in the area of TEN DOLLARS.  Just to drive on the road.  Ridiculous.

So, basically I spent all my small bills at the dumb toll booths so when I finally got to stop at that rest stop to prevent my spontaneous bladder explosion, my attempts to purchase a Diet Dr. Pepper at the vending machine were futile.  Smallest bill I had left was a ten.

Anyway, I managed to avoid any other kind of distress, navigational or otherwise, and I arrived safely at my hotel.  To keep my stay affordable, I hit up my cousin who is kind of a big deal.  She's a manager for Hilton and my girl Hooked.  Me.  Up.

As a complete surprise to me, she had reserved me the suite.  The Governor's Suite, based on my deductions from the signs on the wall.

Sitting room, huge tub with jets, shower stall complete with rainfall shower head....

And wine glasses complete with a personalized note and bag of M&Ms.  Color me excited!  I walked around that ginormous hotel room feeling very spoiled, very blessed, and very aware that I really needed to go to the bathroom.

Now, I've already shared with you the embarrassing tale of how I managed to get lost before I even left Milwaukee, even with the help of I figure it's ok if I just keep digging the hole deeper here and tell you about how I had to hang my head in shame and utter the following sentence to the lovely woman at the front desk of the Hilton Grand Rapids not 30 minutes after I had checked in to the Governor's Suite:

"Ummmmm....I'm so sorry.  But there seems to be a problem with my toilet.  It won't *gulp* it won't FLUSH."

Perhaps I should have followed that up with "I'm from Wisconsin" by way of an explanation, but really I doubt it would have helped much.  Instead, I did the only thing that made sense at the time.

I retreated to the bar with my Kindle and ordered a really big cocktail.

I'm fully aware that this little tale just has you salivating to read more about my little vacation and I promise there are many more accounts to follow.  In the meantime, get caught up here:

PART ONE - The Car Ferry Detour

Until next time!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Irony is not Lost on Me

I went to the grocery store today after what had already been a tough morning with my brood.  I was happy to find this particular spot in the lot because I felt it was conveniently located to an area of the store I was particularly interested in all of a sudden.

Today I was THAT mom.  You know the one.  She's the frazzled woman who is trying to pick out the lowest calorie pita wraps in the bread aisle, but is interrupted when her older children start trying to tear each others throats out.  While attempting not to tear their throats out herself, this poor mom finally notices that the baby has taken advantage of this diversion and has managed to load up the cart with approximately 14 loaves of Wonder Bread.  As the mother frantically shoves the bread back on the shelf, the baby bursts out in tears because clearly his carb-loading diet plans for the day have been destroyed.

When the 50-something woman in the produce section quips, "My my!  You sure have your hands full!" it is all this mama can do not to burst into tears.  Instead, she swallows hard and admits, "Yes, some days are better than others."

By the time she is finally able to make it through the check-out, both of the older boys have been instructed to keep one hand on the cart AT ALL TIMES, the five year old's eyes are brimming with tears, the three year old's face is puffy and his breath is coming in gasps, and the baby is still worked into a full throttle fit because this poor mother had to take the half eaten raspberry container away from him so she could pay for it.  Mom can still see the eyes of the many fellow shoppers who witnessed her PDDs (Public Displays of Discipline) boring into the back of her skull like laser beams.

She loads the kids back into the minivan and they peel the heck outta there, heading directly for Walgreens because surely TODAY the medication will be in.  See, yesterday she was prescribed some anti-anxiety medication, but when she went to the pharmacy and waited in line for 15 minutes before even making it up to the zoomy tube thingy, she was told there was no prescription there for her as of yet.  So, she vowed to return today after a quick grocery stop.  Maneuvering through construction cones that didn't allow her to turn left and cursing at Siri who was no help at all, she finally arrives back at the drive thru pharmacy line.  She not-so-patiently waits for the two cars ahead of her to be dealt with while the big kids in the back fight and scream over whose turn it is to play with the Anakin Skywalker figurine and the baby is vocally showing his displeasure that he hasn't been fed yet.  Finally, finally it is her turn.  She gives her name, date of birth, zodiac sign and every other piece of information requested only to be told that....yet again....her prescription has not arrived.

Her freak-out commences the second her husband answers the phone on the third ring.

(Needless to say, I covet your prayers today.  Writing is helping and I'm grateful the baby went down easily for his nap, but I'm convinced the kids are out to kill me before the day is out.)

Take Me With You!!

Raise your hand if you are reading this right now with Google Reader.

Ok, so I can't see any hands because this is a blog and I'm writing this a couple days before it actually show up on your computer screen so really that was pretty dumb on my part to start this post that way.

Why do you even read this stuff?

Quite frankly, I have no idea why most of you read my little blog.  I know that some of you stick around just to see cute photos of the boys (Grandmas, I'm looking at you) and I'm fairly certain there's a good deal of folks who are here mostly for Project Life goodies.

No matter what brought you to my little corner of the Internet, I am so glad you're here.  The thing is, I would kind of like you to stay here.  Or rather, I would like for you to bring me with you when Google Reader goes bye bye.

As of July 1st, Google Reader will be no more.  So if you're one of the lovely folks who uses this little gem to read this here blog, can I take the liberty of lighting a virtual fire under your butt to figure out what you're going to do so you can still keep up with all the stuff you read online?

I've tried out Feedly and I know several people are really digging that platform.  It just didn't work for me from a design standpoint.  I had a hard time quickly scrolling to see what posts I wanted to read like right now versus what I wanted to save for later. 

For the past couple months, I've been using Bloglovin' as my new blog reader and I totally LOVE it.  I like how I can see a nice big picture and a little snippet from each post so I can preview it quickly and decide whether I want to read it immediately or wait until later.  You can categorize your blogs and see everything easily at a glance and I like that when I click on the preview for a post, it takes me to the actual blog post live on the site so I can still see video content, linkys (linkies?), and any other script content that Google Reader sometimes had trouble with.  Plus, it's just nice to be able to actually see the pretty designs that bloggers put time and money into, you know?

Here's how to get it set up.  There's a great post HERE on how to move your Google RSS feeder to Bloglovin'.  It really takes a matter of minutes to set up and you'll be good to go when Reader sleeps with the fishes next week.  You can also click the Bloglovin' button you see below to quickly follow Arena Five.

Follow on Bloglovin

I hope you'll take a couple moments to make the switch so you don't miss anything.  Remember, Google Reader is gone as of July 1st!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Project Life Tuesday - Weeks 17 and 18

The Mom Creative

Welcome to Project Life Tuesday!  Every week I share photos of a layout I've been working on, either in my family's weekly book or my son's baby book. 

I started using the Project Life system in 2010, so this will be my fourth full year!  I used to be a very traditional scrapbooker who would spend hours on a single layout to document one or two photos.  Thanks to Project Life, I have become much more practical and I'm able to record a multitude more memories.

I don't use a lot of fancy tricks or complicated techniques.  I would define my style as "hybrid scrapbooking" - a combination of simple digital and a few old school techniques that creates a unique product that reflects our eclectic life. To me, it's more important to keep the memories than it is to make them look like they came out of a magazine.  I'm totally fine with it if my layouts feature more iPhone photos than DSLR shots and Instagram is my friend.

And it's a whole lot of fun.

If you're looking for inspiration on what others are doing with their Project Life, you can check out my board on Pinterest and be sure to link up on The Mom Creative!

Week 17:  Lots of the Jade Kit going on here!  I love the bright and happy colors and I certainly needed a fun punch of color after Week 16.

Hanging out at the zoo and just playing around at home.  Pretty regular stuff, but I just love how I can use this system to turn it into something extraordinary.

I took a cue from one of my favorite Project Life aficionados, Sara Peterson, and combined all the little snippets of video I had from Vine for the week into a "Week in Review" video and put the QR code on a digital Jade card.  

This card is from the digital Honey kit, I believe.  I used it to record a conversation I had with Micah on the way home from our night at church.  That kid cracks me up!

Can we please talk about my twin TV zombies there?  Love it.

Moving along to the insert page:

I used a Design H page to record Isaiah's sleepover date with his Aunt Ashley.  He went bowling, saw a movie, ate popcorn, drank root beer, and got otherwise spoiled rotten.  He had a BLAST!!!

See?  He even had doughnuts for breakfast.  This kid has it rough ,I tell you.

Right Page:

The story of Micah falling down the basement stairs needed more than a 3x4 card, so he was upgraded to the big whopper.  This kid is going to make my hair turn gray at a rapid pace, people.  The 4x6 journal card is from the Jade kit.  I also used a digital arrow brush and some Thickers to highlight my middle son's goose-egg.

On the other side of the page, I used a screen shot from the iPad to show how we like to track Evan's plane as he comes home from China.

I shudder every time I think about being stuck on a plane for 14 hours.  Yuck.

Week 18:  

The photos of Thomas on the left page just begged to be turned to black & white, so I used minimal color on that page.  I compensated by making the rest of the week very vibrant and bright!

My baby boy (who really isn't a baby anymore so I need to stop calling him that) played with those storage containers for a solid 20 minutes.  No small feat for a little person!

He's got a very independent streak, this one.

One of the places I brought in a little pop of color was on this journal card.  The actual card black & white, but I put a strip of washi on there to pick up the little bit of red in the Instagram photo.  After this was done and photographed, I realized I still needed to add "teeth," "sock," and "shoe" to his list of words.

Design J insert:  Just a bunch of really cute and fun photos of the boys in the backyard.

It's always nice when your kid chooses clothing that matches your Project Life kit.  Helpful.

Right page:

Lots of fun stuff here - a digital filler card from the Honey kit, a Cathy Z collage template, a naked baby doing art, and a Jade journal card.

Look at that belly!!!  And the little baby tushy!!!  I die.

Ok, kids!  Up through Week 18!  We're going to get caught up yet; I can feel it!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Car Ferry Detour (Mommy Vacation Part 1)

On Saturday, June 8th my husband loaded my suitcase into the trunk of our car and sent me on my way, shooing me out the door for a four day solo vacation intended to give me a much needed break from.....well, everything.  I kissed the babes goodbye, got behind the wheel, and saw this:

Then I had to go back inside to give Evan a big kiss and then re-do my eye makeup because I was crying all over the place.

First on the list was a stop at my salon for an eyebrow wax because I was starting to look a little shaggy and I wasn't about to cross state lines without streamlined brows.

Oh, and I also used the Wifi at the salon to download Bossypants at the last minute so I would have a book to listen to on the drive.  I only went with that one because I had completely forgotten to take my time choosing a book from the many wonderful suggestions from my friends on Facebook and so I just hopped on the iTunes best sellers list and picked the first one I saw that I thought I might like that didn't cost a fortune.

In hindsight, maybe I should have gone with a less humorous book so I wouldn't have been as distracted. 

See, I got lost.

Why yes, I was using the GPS feature on my iPhone.  Thanks for asking.  In fact, I sat in the salon parking lot and entered the address of my hotel in Grand Rapids and chose the route highlighted in blue that you see above, the one that goes past Chicago and around Lake Michigan.

Or so I thought.

I didn't catch on that I had done something wrong until I found myself taking these strange exits per my GPS lady's request, but I didn't think much of it.  It was only when I saw the sign that read "CAR FERRY" that I stopped chuckling at Tina Fey's account of getting her first period that I pulled over and cursed my own stupidity.  I reconfigured my GPS, got back on the road, and called Evan to lament my own idiocy.

That's when I realized I had to pee.  But I had already lost a solid 40 minutes thanks to my stupid car ferry detour (and my Venti Skinny Mocha) so I'll be darned if I was going to stop now.

Four hours later, I was at a standstill.  Stuck in construction traffic a mere 20 miles outside Grand Rapids, I wondered if it was possible to actually die from a spontaneous bladder explosion.  Horrified at the possibility, I turned off Bossypants.  Best not to take any chances of the headline in the newspaper reading "Navigationally Challenged Wisconsin Woman Dies from Laughter-Induced Bladder Explosion."

By the grace of God, traffic started moving and I found a rest stop and was able to pull over for a potty break.  Remember that scene in A League of Their Own?  

Yeah.  That.

While I was trying to buy a Diet Dr. Pepper from the vending machine so I could start the vicious cycle all over again, my cousin called and asked me where I was.

"I have no idea."

Thus ends Part One in the Mommy Vacation saga.  Stay tuned for further installments where I recount such adventures as The Unimpressive Toilet Embarrassment, The Mysterious Missing Hour, and Behavior Unbecoming the Governor's Suite.  Oh yeah, it's going to be epic.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Glimpses of the Weekend

Things are unusually calm as I write this.  The oldest boy is off playing with our neighbor, Thomas is napping, and Micah has set up camp on this pile 'o pillows and blankets that he is calling a "pool" for some odd reason.  He's lounging like a Serbian sultan or something, enjoying a little Mulan

Evan is still in China, but will be coming home early due to some pretty sad circumstances.  The wife of one of his bosses passed away on Friday afternoon, so Evan and his colleagues have been called home early so they can attend her memorial services.  While I'm happy to get him home sooner, I most certainly would rather it wasn't under these conditions.

In the meantime, we've been keeping pretty busy around here the last couple days.

Catching photos of spit wads in mid-air.  Can someone please inform me how to break my child of this new spitting habit?  I'm open to any and all suggestions.  Oh, and I also need to learn how to stop him from eating things off of the asphalt, ripping my irises out of the ground, tearing leaves off trees and chewing on them, playing with the toilet water, and shrieking like he's being scalped while getting a haircut.

Thanks so much.

Drinking a lot of this.  I've gone through two bottles of that Skinnygirl Cosmo stuff in the past week because when you mix it with this sparkling water, it tastes like Kool-Aid.  Only better.  It's like summer in a cup.

Getting planty.  To be fair, this means that I did a lot of choosing pretty flowers, paid the bill, and then supervised while my mother did most of the dirty work.  But I get to enjoy the gorgeous results!

Attending a bridal shower where I hovered like a vulture to see if there were any extra favors left over I could toss in my purse.  Because underneath my cousin's face is a mini-bottle of my favorite wine and I'll be darned if I was going to let that go to waste.  The cupcakes were pretty darn good too.

Admitting to the bride-to-be here that I was the dingbat who went to Target and printed out all four pages of their wedding registry only to purchase two packs of plastic hangers.  Turns out, she and Matt have been mocking me for the last couple weeks over that one. 

Enjoying time with family.  Despite what this photo might suggest, my kids do love their aunt more than they love her phone.  I think.

Playing referee to a water gun / beer bottle / water bottle fight between my sister and cousin.  I'm pretty sure Evan would have been bummed to miss out on this gem, but at the same time he probably would have harpooned Matt for wasting good beer in the name of retaliation.  Also, boys never grow up.  They turn 12 and just kind of stay that way forever.

Working on Project Life a whole lot.  I'm busting my buns to get caught up and I've even branched out to go completely digital for two whole weeks' worth!  Lots of fun Project Life stuff to look forward to here, folks.  Oh, and I would like to say for the record that my Michigan Twin was in much better shape than I was the morning after.  I think she has more practice.

Smelling stinky feet. 

Get home soon, Evan.  You're missing out a whole lot of fun up in here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

She Saves Me

I love it when my mother comes to visit because she loves my kids more than life itself and she rarely grows tired of their ridiculous games and incessant questions.

She shows how to do fun stuff like plant flowers, transplant bushes, dig up worms, and have water fights.

I hate it when my mother comes because my children commence the forlorn wailing from the second she leaves.  "I waannnnntttt Grrrannnnnnddddmmaaaaaaa!!!!!!"

I love it when my mother visits because she brings OREOs.

I hate it when my mother visits because she brings OREOs. 

I love it when my mother visits because she doesn't care if she gets wet when she runs out in the downpour to rescue my trash can or plant just "one more flower." 

Little does she know, she rescues me too.  Every time she comes to stay for a couple days while Evan is gone, she saves me.  I can still go to work, which saves my budget.  And I get a little break from the kids, which saves my sanity.

And her company is pretty great too. 

Thanks, Mom.  You're the best.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The time I lost my mind. Over peanut butter.

The following is an actual email exchange that took place between my husband and I literally HOURS after he had safely reached his destination after more than 24 hours of travel.

If you've ever felt like you're struggling to be a thoughtful, caring, considerate this.  Hopefully my horrific failure in this department will make you feel better.

Me: I can't find my PB2! Any insights?

Evan:  You mean the stuff that was in the cupboard or the rest from the freezer?  I didn't move the stuff from the cupboard. I thought the rest was in the inside freezer, but I'm not 100% on that.

Me:  There were two flavors in the cupboard. Regular pb2 in the plastic labeled jar, pb2 with chocolate in the glass mason jar. It's the regular one that is MIA.

Evan:  Hmmm, I may have mixed them not knowing that they were different.

Me:  Get out. You didn't.

Evan:  It's possible.

Me:   I'm trying really hard to keep this in perspective right now and tell myself, "It's only peanut butter."


It's really freaking expensive peanut butter that I had separated like that for a reason and since you never actually use it, why in the name of Zeus's BUTTHOLE would you go messing with it???!!!!!

Evan:  I don't really have a great answer to that. But I love you, I'm sorry, and I won't touch your peanut butter again.

Me:   Apology accepted and I will try to get my head back on straight about this.  Sorry for losing it.  I love you too and the kids are already wailing about how much they miss Daddy.  Hoping for no head injuries today.

Time for Analysis.

Yes, I lost my mind.  Over peanut butter.  I'm not even going to try to defend this except to say that anyone who is a PB2 fan like I am will completely understand why I flipped my lid at the discovery that my darling spouse had mixed my powders.'s still only peanut butter.  And really, did I have to go all psycho on him about it?  Probably not.

What else can we ascertain from this little exchange?  If you're ever looking for a fun exclamatory phrase that sounds really vulgar, but isn't really all that bad, I recommend "in the name of Zeus's butthole."  Thank you Nicholas Cage.

And hat's off to Evan here.  Not once did he call me out for being a crazy person about my stupid peanut butter or remind me that he had just spent about 14 hours on a plane and hadn't slept in over a day.  Nope, my man took the high road.

As for the head injury I mention, I suppose it's only fair to show you what happened to Thomas on the very first day of Evan being gone on this business trip.

The good news is that he got to rock a Phineas & Ferb Band-Aid, so all is well. 

Oh, and I'm totally available for marital counseling services for a nominal fee.  Just click the email icon at the top right corner of your screen.  (Joking.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday - Summer Skirts

Is anyone else freaking out that summer is finally here?  I'm kind of losing my head for several reasons - it leaves me rather unsettled when my kids run out the front door and I don't see them for hours (awesome...but unsettling), but I'm finding that my summer wardrobe is a bit on the "blah" side.

Shorts, t-shirt, flats.  Rinse and repeat.

That's kind of been the story for me lately.  Thank God for maxi skirts that have helped me mix it up a little!  Here's a few things I've been throwing together lately:

 Tank top - Old Navy, Skirt - Target, Shoes - Payless, Necklace - Lisa Leonard Designs, Belt - The Limited, Earrings - Erica Jane Creations

After I had chosen outfits for every single other member of my family to wear for our family photo shoot, I stared into my closet wondering what the heck I was going to wear.  I took my photographer's advice and tried to choose a subtle pattern paired with a bright color that would pop against the background.  The belt I wore was slightly too big and I had to use safety pins to keep my bra straps from poking out under my top, but we made it work!

T-shirt - Target, Necklace - Stitch Fix, the rest is the same as above

This is a variation on the photo shoot outfit, including my new favorite necklace from Stitch Fix and a photobomb from my youngest son!

Top - The Limited, Skirt - Target, Belt - The Limited, Flats - Payless

Try to see past my ghostly pale legs, ok? I really think I need to start a support group for gals like me who "embrace the pale."

Long sleeved T - The Limited, Maxi Skirt - Target, Necklace - Stitch Fix

This was a day that was supposed to be summer-like, but ended up being a bit on the cool side.  Maxi skirt to the rescue!!! 

I'm going to try hard to branch out past the short/t-shirt combo this summer and get some more fun outfits to share with you all on Wednesdays.  Wish me luck!

Linking up once again over at The Pleated Poppy for some amazing fashion inspiration!

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