Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nine Years Ago . . .

I started this blog nine years ago.

I had been reading blogs (none of which exist anymore) and I felt like a bit of a voyeur always reading but never sharing.  So, I decided to start my own.

I chose the name because I love the sunshine in Arizona, and even when you're flat broke, you can still lay claim to your own patch of sunshine.

Nine years ago I had two in diapers.  Cloth diapers! Nate was just barely one year old and Colin was 2 1/2.

A year and a half earlier Bo and I built our home.  We've been here ever since. (And had the strangest interaction with a neighbor on the street behind us last night -- after 11 years of not knowing she existed, she decided to shout across the street and over our brick fence how much she disliked us. I'm hoping we don't hear from her for another 11 years.)

When I look back over the years of writing on this blog, I can see the changes my life took --


There's also plenty that happened that never made the pages of the blog.  Because while I may have made the decision over the last 9 years to write a blog, I never made the decision to expose every area of my life.  There's plenty that readers of this blog don't know about me or my family, and I think that's how it should be.

Blogging has changed dramatically over the last decade.  So many women start blogs now with the intention of earning money, or receiving free products.  A decade ago, people blogged to share their lives.  It allowed me to visit with other moms, who were making decisions and struggling and succeeding.  It allowed me to not feel so alone when I first became a SAHM.  I loved knowing other moms who cloth diapered (since I didn't know anyone locally), and I first learned about homeschooling via blogs.

I'm guilty, though, of changing the focus of this blog over the years. My kids are all older, and so many of their stories belong to them and I won't share them on the Internet and potentially embarrass them.  I don't have as much time to share my life because I'm busy living that life.  And, I'm guilty, too of accepting products in exchange for reviews.  (But, we've learned about and used some really great things as a result!  So, while I may be guilty of that -- I have to also admit that I'm not apologizing for it.)

I love looking back and seeing what I thought, and what I said, and what was important at different points in the last 9 years. I miss those "this is what we did today" posts, but I don't know if I could get back to writing them.  This blog has evolved, along with my life.

As I write this, I realize that it sounds like I'm gearing up to quit.  But, I'm not.  I love this medium and I love connecting with readers.  I love being able to read my archives and remember how Nate didn't want to turn 4.  I'll never be one of the big hotshot "mommy" bloggers because I don't want to play that game.  I'm happy with my little patch on the Internet.

I hope you keep reading!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Coming to Phoenix! (Discount Info)


I'm excited to let you know that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents DRAGONS is coming to the US Airways Center in Phoenix from June 27 – July 2, 2012.

The show this summer looks amazing! Check out this clip to get a glimpse of what you'll see if you attend:



My family will be attending opening night, and I'll be sure to share our thoughts after we see the show.  One of the things we love about this circus is the hour long pre-show, where you can go down to the floor and interact with the performers.  The pre-show is included with every ticket purchased.

I have some discount information to share with all my Phoenix area readers.

You can receive $5 off the $15 and $25 tickets for shows held June 28 - July 2.  (Opening night and VIP tickets are not included in this discount offer.  Opening Night are available at 50% off.)

To receive your discount, you must purchase your tickets from Ticketmaster by following these steps:
1. Log on to www.ticketmaster.com
2. Search Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Phoenix
3. Find your show date/time of choice (NOTE: discount DOES NOT work on Wednesday, June 27th as tickets for that show are already half price/excluding VIP and Front Row) and click “FIND TICKETS”
4. Under ENTER OFFER CODE/PASSWORD type MOM5
5. Under Select Prices click either $15 or $25
6. Then click OK (next to the MOM 5 password)
7. Click on the section to choose your seats and follow the prompts to check out. The price when you click on those sections is reflective of the $5 off price.

I hope you have the chance to go and enjoy the show!  It looks like another amazing one!

*Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-Show events. Even though I receive these benefits, I always give an opinion that is 100% mine.*

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CA Trip Photo Book


Shutterfly allows you to customize your photo book just the way you want.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Coppertone Water Mom

I'm honored to tell you all that I am a Coppertone Water Mom! Thanks to Coppertone, I'll share some sun and sun protection facts this summer.

Did you know that Coppertone introduced the first consumer sun protection in 1944? We all recognize their logo -- the young girl with the puppy dog!

Living in Arizona, sun protection happens year round, especially for my 2 fair-skinned kids. That doesn't mean we don't lather Nate up as well!

This weekend we are on the beach,soaking up the California sun. We are all protected, though, thanks to Coppertone!

Watch for more posts in the coming weeks. Right now? Time to head back to the beach!

*Disclosure: I received products from Coppertone to facilitate writing this post.*

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Double Digits

My middle child turns 10 today.  He has been excited for this birthday for a long time, because not only does he turn "double digits", but he is also only 6 years away from a driver's license.  His grandmother said to him yesterday, "You'll wait until 30 to drive, right?" and he looked at her and could do nothing but laugh.

This boy loves his cars.  He always has loved cars -- when he was small it was toy trucks and cars.  During this past year, he has developed a love of hot rods and especially Ford Mustangs. He can recite facts about cars like some people can rattle off their favorite foods. While Mustangs may be his favorite, he watches all kinds of cars and has passed along his ability to spot cars on the freeway to his sister.  If he could, he would like to have us buy him a car so he could spend the next 6 years working on it so it was ready to go when he gets that driver's license.

Beyond his obsession with cars, he still loves all things military and weapons.  He hopes to attend the Air Force Academy and become a pilot.  He prefers non-fiction books over fiction books, but this year he did read a few fiction books that he really enjoyed (Holes, for one.)  He would still prefer to pore through his Mustang reference book, or a book about warriors.


He adores being outdoors and loves that summer is almost here with triple digit temperatures. He likes all things about nature, and loves to explore.


He is generous, compassionate, friendly and kind-hearted. He is always the first to jump and help out with a task. He has a positive and can-do attitude. He truly enjoys being with his family, and he shares very special and close bonds with both his brother and sister.


He also likes to be alone, and can be very quiet and contemplative.  That is, when he's not being loud and rowdy.


I remember the night I went into labor.  Bo had told me earlier that day not to worry about the car seat because I was 4 weeks away from my due date.  Nate, however, had other plans and decided it was time to be born.  My sweet friend drove from the other side of the valley at 2AM to care for Colin while Bo & I went to the hospital.  Of my 3, his was the easiest birth and it was amazing to bring him into the world.


For his birthday this year, he started horseback riding lessons.  He is loving them so far.  Later today, he'll also receive an audiobook, a manga drawing kit and a promise for a new cowboy hat.  Family is coming over for dinner and we'll enjoy his requested dinner of bacon hamburgers and mashed potatoes.  We'll take his picture in front of our inflatable birthday cake.

He requested a plane cake.  I haven't made a fancy cake in a few years (his last was the bulldozer when he turned 6), but the child is turning 10 -- so how could I refuse?  It made for a late night last night, but he'll have a cake that looks like a plane tonight!


Today, on May 15, 2012, I wish my Nathaniel (who prefers to go by Nate) a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!


**The first pictures are from when he was 4 -- the youngest pictures I have right now on my computer.  The rest were taken yesterday -- his last day of being 9.**

Monday, May 14, 2012

Free Bowling All Summer for Kids!

I can remember watching bowling when I was a small child, staying with my great aunts, living in Buffalo.  Even though I had that early exposure, I think I've only played a handful of times in my life.

This summer, though, AMF Bowling is offering 2 free games every day to all kids (under the age of 16) whose parents sign up through their website.   The free games start May 14, and run through September 3, 2012 (Labor Day).

The signup was easy, and each week I'll receive an email with a voucher and a reminder to take the kids bowling.  The signup site even had a bowling alley locator, so you can find the nearest bowling alley to your home.

With Arizona summers being as hot as they are, any indoor activities are a bonus!  Add in a free activity, and I'm pulling out my calendar.   The kids have never played, but they were all interested in trying it out when I told them about it.

For only $29.95, bowlers over the age of 16 can purchase a summer pass, which allows them 2 free games every day so they can play along with the kids.

Will this deal get your family in a bowling alley this summer?  Leave a comment below and let me know!

*Disclosure: I participated in this campaign as a member of One2One Network and am eligible for a prize drawing. All opinions stated in the post are my own.*

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Review: Red Lobster

Did you know that Red Lobster is remodeling?  I haven't been to a Red Lobster in a while, but my sister and I recently were out and stopped in one for lunch.  She noticed the changes, and said it used to be like a nice Long John Silvers, but they seem to be going more towards the sit-down restaurant theme now.

The location we visited also had a large bar when you first walked in, with a couple TVs playing sports.  There were quite a few places to sit, with a combination of booths, tables and booth tables (one side booth seating, the other side chair seating.)  It was very clean and welcoming.

While the decor was nice, although a little dark for my taste, we were really there to eat lunch!  I have to say we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch!

I started with a Boston Iced Tea, which is cranberry juice mixed with iced tea.  I like to cut my iced tea with juices, and I liked the tartness that cranberry juice brought to the tea.


We then shared a shrimp cocktail.  The shrimp were chilled and had the perfect texture.  The sauce was tart, but not too tart.  It was a nice complement to the shrimp, and we ate it up in no time!


I enjoyed a house salad before my meal.  The lettuce and vegetables were chilled and crunchy.  There was nothing fancy about it, but it was a good salad.


For my main course, I enjoyed a lobster, crab and pasta dish.  It was cooked perfectly, including the asparagus!  The seafood was plentiful, and the sauce was creamy and delicious.


My sister ordered the fish and chips and said that it tasted very good.  The fish was flaky, and the breading was light and crispy.  If you like thin fries, then they have the fries for you.

Overall, it was a delicious lunch.  The service was friendly and prompt!  I would definitely visit again, and recommend it to others.  

*Disclosure: In exchange for my honest review, I received a gift card from Red Lobster.  All opinions expressed are my own, and pictures were taken of our actual lunch.  No additional compensation was provided.*

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stuttering Resources

When Nate was younger, we assumed he would outgrow his stutter.  When we asked his pediatricians about it, we were told that he would most likely outgrow it.

Because we homeschooled the first few years, we probably held on to the idea that he would just stop one day for longer than if he had been in the school down the street.

When it became obvious that it was getting more pronounced and not less, we began searching for information.  We were still homeschooling the first year he attended speech therapy, but he has attended through the school the last 2 years.

When I started to look for information, I found 2 websites that provided me with the most (and most useful) information.  One of those sites is the National Stuttering Association's website (www.westutter.org)

Through the NSA site, I found local support groups and learned about their national convention. They have been an awesome place to find both support and information about stuttering.  The local group is fun and informative, and the national conference last summer was amazing. We have met so many fantastic people, including their Executive Director, Tammy Flores.  She is wonderfully positive, warm, welcoming and energetic.

Another site that gave me tons of great information is the Stuttering Foundation website (www.stutteringhelp.org/)  Their site helped us learn about tons of famous people who stuttered/stutter and helped me find tons of free resources that helped us all learn more about stuttering.

A third resource I have to mention is Super Duper Publications.  (www.superduperinc.com)  Nate's first Speech Language Pathologist purchased their Focus on Fluency set with her own funds to help Nate.  He was the first child she had worked with that had a stutter, and she was committed to learning as much as she could.  The Focus on Fluency set included a template for a classroom presentation -- which Nate successfully has given multiple times over the years.  When he first did it in May of 2010, I made a video of it and uploaded it to YouTube.  That video has almost 30,000 views, and we've received hundreds of emails thanking Nate for sharing the information.

Those are the 3 most important resources that we've found in the last few years to help us learn more about stuttering.  I'm grateful for all the information they provide!

Monday, May 07, 2012

A Small World - National Stuttering Awareness Week

Yesterday, Nate served at Mass.  He's been an altar server since September, and it's something that he enjoys.

After Mass, we were waiting for Nate to change out of his alb and a man came up to me about the same time that Nate came up to me.  He asked me, "Are you his mom?  Is his name Nate?"  I was surprised, but I answered "Yes!"

It turns out that his wife had recognized Nate on the altar because she had watched some of the YouTube videos he has made about stuttering.  She found the videos because she was looking through the NSA website to find out more information about stuttering, and noticed one of his videos on their site.

We were able to meet his wife, and their 9yo son who stutters.  (Their family also includes 2 daughters -- not to leave anyone out!)  They seemed like a sweet, wonderful family and they were very excited about the conference in July and are hoping to attend.

Nate was shy today, so he didn't talk much -- but I probably talked their ears off about how wonderful the NSA is and how fantastic the conferences are.  (Listen to me -- I've only been to one!  But I still think they are fantastic.)

Without the NSA's website, it's unlikely we ever would have met this family that attends our church.  Nate is the only child who stutters at his school, and their son is also the only child who stutters at his school.  With stuttering only affecting about 1% of the population, it's not that easy to run into another person who stutters.

Nate was nervous about being on the altar today.  Even though he's served since September, he doesn't serve every weekend, and there are 5 altar servers at each Mass.  He is much more comfortable acting as the crucifer than one of the servers on the altar.  Today, it was as though he was meant to be there!

I am so glad we met them, and hope that we have the chance to spend more time with them before the conference in July.  It's always nice to see familiar faces, even though the faces at the NSA conference are some of the friendliest around!

It seemed like a great way to kick off National Stuttering Awareness Week!  And, now Nate feels like a bit of a rockstar!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

National Stuttering Awareness Week 2012

Today is the first day of National Stuttering Awareness Week 2012.

Nate, who turns 10 this week, stutters.  He has stuttered since he was about 3 years old.  He has been in speech therapy for 3 years now.

Stuttering is a part of him, but it's just that -- a part.  He has never let stuttering define him and rarely lets it hold him back.

Yesterday, he had his first horse riding lesson.  As we were waiting for the trainer, I asked him if he wanted to mention his stutter to her, or if he wanted me to mention it.  He said he wanted me to mention it.

But, you know what?  There wasn't a need.  It's obvious Nate stutters, but it was also obvious that it didn't matter to the trainer.  She listened to him, didn't interrupt him, and they had a great lesson.  Stuttering never even came up -- and I think that was a good thing.

In the same day, he didn't want to order his lunch because he wasn't very fluent today. That was fine, too, and I ordered his lunch for him.

After his lesson yesterday, he made this video.  It's Nate -- telling you that yes, he stutters, but it is just one part of who he is.


Saturday, May 05, 2012

Review: True Rest Float Spa

My sister floated a few months ago, and absolutely loved it.  We've been trying to find a day that we were both free so I could try it out and we finally were able to make it last week.  This was my sister's third float and my first.

At True Rest Float Spa in Scottsdale,  you float in a pod with a special saline solution that includes 12,000 lbs of epsom salt.  That much salt means that you truly float, with absolutely no effort at all.

Each pod is in a private room.  Once you enter the pod, you pull the lid down (or you can leave it propped open, but that may leave you a bit chilled)  After I showered, I climbed in and pulled the lid to close myself in.

There are 2 different lights available.  One is a solid blue light, the other cycles through 3 different colors.  When you enter, music begins playing for 10 minutes.   You can leave the lights on, or turn them off.  They are really easy to turn on and off, in case you change your mind.

The idea is to relax completely and try to remain still.  I admit that at first I didn't remain still, but instead gently floated around in the pod.  I left the lights on, and listened to the relaxing melodies.  I panicked just a little bit, but realized that I could easily lift the lid and get out if I wanted.

When the music went off, I began to feel very restless.  I decided to embrace the experience by turning off the light and staying very still.

Some time later, I startled awake.  The pod, of course, was still dark and it was very quiet.  It took me a second or two to remember where I was and I turned the light on.  I wasn't sure how much time had passed (there's no way to keep track in the pod), and I thought about lifting the lid and getting out.  I decided to stay in, though, and wait for the ending music to begin (music begins to play again 5 minutes before your hour is up.)

I floated, and waited, and stretched, and just a couple minutes later the ending music did begin.  I finished gently stretching, then got out and showered off the salty water.

I went out to wait for my sister in their lounge area, and felt extremely relaxed. In fact, when my sister came in, I said that I wasn't ready to drive yet because I felt so relaxed. It was a great feeling! We both drank some water, and then boosted our oxygen levels at the oxygen bar (which actually reminded me of giving birth because I think that's the only other time I've received oxygen.)

My sister likes it so much that she has a membership so she can be sure to float at least once a month.  I really liked it, and plan to return again in the future, and hopefully bring Bo to try it out as well.

My mom tried it, and didn't like it at all.  She felt claustrophobic, and never could relax.

If you've been thinking of trying it out, I recommend reading over all the material on their website.  It really helped me know what to expect.  There is also plenty of information on their site about using it as a way of pain relief.  I didn't really notice much improvement in pain, but I've only been once.  Even without specific pain relief, it was very relaxing.

Overall, it was a good experience!

*Disclosure: I wasn't asked to write about my experience, and paid for my float from my own pocket.*

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

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