Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A New Year of Endless Possibilities

Tomorrow is December 31st.  I guess I have exactly one day to accomplish all of the resolutions I set last 12/31.  Since that probably won't happen, I am looking at this as a half full. It means my resolution list for this year is already made; I only have to change the '14 to '15.

With a new year upon us, I was thinking about what 2015 will hold.  Will it be amazing and brilliant?  The New Year is always a chance for a whole new start.  The world is full of endless opportunities; all we need to do is seize them.

It is that endless opportunity that makes January 1st so special.  We can lose the weight and save the money.  We can finish our to-do lists and go on exotic trips.  We can find the time for the kids, the family, the career, the community, and for ourselves.  We can learn something new and remaster something from our youths.  On January 1st, we can still do it all.  So for one day, we should revel in the joy called New Year's opportunity.  The reality of January 2nd will come soon enough.

Happy New Year to you and yours.  May the opportunities of January 1st carry you all year long.

That is life in MomZania.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Mom's Letter To Santa

Dear Santa,

This year, I wanted to write you a letter on behalf of all moms.  We, too, wish for you to come down the chimney and delivery some holiday cheer.

We have tried to be a really good moms this year.  We have run carpool and gone on the field trips.  We have baked for the PTA and volunteered for the book fair.  We have driven endless loops between the school, sports, art, scouts, camp, and home. Many of us have done all this and more while juggling a career or an illness or a zillion other things.  

We have planned for, shopped for, and cooked for the entire year.  It was mostly nutritious and sometimes even hot.  Give us some slack when our meals weren't perfect.  We were responsible for every meal and every snack for the entire year.  With the average family having 4.2 people, that means each mom served food 7,665 times - that is a lot of grocery store runs.  

We have planned the kids' birthdays parties and remembered to send cards to our husbands' family. We have tended to the throw up and the scraped knees.  We have handled the sibling fights and the school yard disputes.   We have really, really tried not to yell at the kids.  But, we yell anyways.  If it helps our cause, we feel guilty afterwards.  Moms always feel guilty after they yell at their kids.  

Like we said, we have tried to be good this year.  To reward all of our hard mommy work, we have put just three items on our Santa Wish List.

1.  We wish for 25-hours each day.  The bonus hour must come with a clause that it could only be used by moms for moms.  We could finally do all those things the women's magazines say we should do - like sleep.  Santa, if you give us this hour, we hereby promise to use this hour as directed.  We will not squander it doing more laundry or cleaning more bathrooms (at least not for the first week).  

2.  We wish to keep the wisdom of our years, but regain the bodies of our youth.  We want both our boobs and our butts to be perky.  We want the only grey on our heads to be hats.  We want to indulge and neither pay the price the next morning nor on the scale.  We want to wear the cute little clothes and not look ridiculous.  We don't want a single cosmetic in our bathroom to say "Age Defying."

3.  Most importantly, we wish for a crystal ball.  This crystal ball will simply tell us our kids will turn out just fine.  We can use it whenever we doubt our parenting or their decisions or the dangers of the world, We could simply look into our crystal ball and know our children will all be OK.  

Santa, if you can promise our kids will be safe, healthy, and happy we really don't need anything else.  From our baby's first breath, that is all any mom ever really wants.  To know our children will be OK, would be the greatest gift.  So push that crystal ball to the top of our list.  If you happen to have room in your sleigh, the other two would be nice, too.  

Merry Christmas.

The Moms of the World

Monday, November 17, 2014

Boondoggle? Definitely, Not.

 You know all those folks who turn business trips into boondoggles?  The ones who just have to go to Denver right when fresh powder falls.   The ones who conveniently need to attend a summer conference with their family in Orlando.  The ones who for any reason at anytime have "business" in Hawaii.  Scott is definitely not one of those people.  His business trips are, well, business.

Scott's trips are usually Arizona in the August or Juno in January, never the other way around. Today, he left for a conference in Moscow.  Who even schedule's an annual conference in Moscow in the winter?  The forecast was cold with a chance of frigid.  To make the trip even more fun, he there for less than two days.  Nearly 48-hours of flying for a 36-hour stay.  It is truly the antithesis of a boondoggle.  Much of the time, Scott's job is really cool.  When he has to take these long flights crowded in coach in a middle seat, running the house seems like a sweet gig.  Thanks, Scott!

While Scott is jet spending his week crammed in an airplane, the kids and I are manning the fort. Soccer finished up for Mick and Sarah's lacrosse clinics are winding down.  Jaley is testing for her Green 1 belt in Tae Kwon Do, which is about half way to her Black belt.

We are finished with the first term of the school year.  The parent-teacher conferences are complete. The leaves are changing and the temperature is dropping (though not much it is CA).  That means only one thing - the holidays are coming.

THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING!  I am way trying to figure out the Thanksgiving plans and get the Christmas shopping done before the rush.  HA!  No luck there, one kids' wish list item was already sold out online and in the store.  Oh well, it will all get done, even if the hot toy of the season doesn't make it under the tree.

Then there is the house renovation.  I had these visions of leisurely picking pretty tile and paint, but that is only how it works on HGTV.  Last week, I drove to the top of a mountain, to buy rocks.  The week before, it was drainage pipes.  Important stuff, but renovating ain't nothing like the shows on TV.  Coming up on future episodes for us are wiring, windows, and HVAC.

That is life in MomZania.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hoping for a C in Mom's Elementary School Homework

I never realized how hard elementary school homework is.  Don't worry about the kids, they are doing fine.  I am the one who is struggling.  Who knew?  For the amount of work I am putting in, I will probably get a report card at the end of the term.  Compared to the work of the other parents at the school, the best I can hope for is a C (maybe a C-).   Here is a run down of the homework conversations of recent.  

"Mom, I need a picture from every year of my life." Great, the photo albums are packed in storage.  

"Mom, I need to know how our ancestors came to America and bring in mementos from their travels."  I don't know, but rumor has it the Harrell's came over on prison ships - maybe you can bring in handcuffs.

"Mom, I need a great family recipe AND by the way we have to cook it to share with 30 people."  Do you think I can claim our family recipe is a PB&J?  That is easy and I have the ingredients.  

"Mom, do we have a family crest?"  We don't even have a family scrapbook.

"Mom, I need a show-n-tell that starts with 'G' that no one else has brought to class."  How about this box of grits?  Hey, maybe that will work for the family recipe, too.

"Mom, quiz me on my spelling words."  Yes, where are they?  "I don't know."  Well, no then. 

"Mom, how do you spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?"  I have no idea, go Google it.

"Mom, will you sign this form?  And this one?  And this field trip one?  And fill out this 10-page packet in triplicate?"  When with the reality of a paperless society arrive?

"Mom, can I have a money for lunch?  And the Fall Festival? And class pictures?  And the kindergarten art project?  And the field trip? And, I naively thought public education was free.   

"Mom, we really, really, really need drivers for the field trip."  OK, where is it?  "It is an hour each way at the top of a mountain and you have to do the back and forth trip on Tuesday and Friday."  I was just thinking I wanted to spend 4-hours driving in the mountains this week.  Sign me up.

"Mom, I need a penny from each year 2006-2014?"  Go check my wallet.  "It's empty."  Of course, I gave away all my money for all that school stuff.  Go take them from your brother's piggy bank.  

"Mom, can you help me with my math homework?"  Sure.  "But you have to do it this new math way."  Crap, I have an engineering degree and I can't even figure out this 3rd grade math.  

"Mom, can we decorate a cake for the Harvest Festival?"  Oh, heck no!  I'm shooting for a C on my parent report card, let's just buy one at the store.  

So with this note, I say thank you to my mom, my mom-in-law, and all the mom's before me.  Thank you for signing the forms and getting the supplies and writing the checks.  Thank you for volunteering and driving.  Thank you for organizing the class parties and raising money for the school.  Thank you for helping me with all the projects and being patient when I brought home 'new math.'  Thank you for doing it all with no thanks in return.  Thanks for being great moms to me and all the elementary school kids of yesterday and today. 

That is life in MomZania.   

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Kids are Asleepish

It is 9:30pm and my kids are ASLEEPISH.  It is that time after you put the kids to bed until they actually fall asleep.  It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to eternity.  Eternity being much more frequent.  They have to get a drink of water or go to the bathroom or get another drink of water or there is a boogie man in the closet or go to the bathroom again (I told you not to drink too much water) or read just one more page (That doesn't mean finish the book) or remember there is a giant homework assignment due tomorrow or the list goes on and on.  Why is going to bed so hard for kids?  I think the best thing I could ever wish for is crawling into bed every night on time and enjoying a full night of sleep.  Kids, of course, don't want to miss a moment, so the asleepish dance ensues on most nights.

The evenings aren't our only exciting time of day, the days are also a twirling spin of suburbia.  Scott is back on the road with back to back trips.  The kids' fall activities are in full swing so the minivan would be hitting platinum if it could collect frequent flier miles.  There have been camp outs and Fall Festivals and pumpkin decorating all in preparation for 10/31.  Sarah is off to the overnight 5th grade field trip through the end of the week.  How cool is that!

Then there is the house.  There is always the house.  Every day I make new decisions.  Exciting decisions, like what are we going to do with the big pile of dirt in the backyard?  Albeit, each decision is one decision closer to the finish line.  The finish line is nowhere in sight.  Demolition is long finished.  The footings are in and the center support beam is up.  Floor joists are being placed and framing is quickly moving along.  The hope is to get the house water tight before the rains come.  It is a race and we will see who wins. Yesterday, it was one point for team rain with afternoon showers.  Today, it was one point for team house with bright blue skies.

That is life in MomZania.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

13.1 Miles to a Success Story in Chronic Daily Migraine (New Persistent Daily Headache)

Today, I ran a half marathon.  I finished with a giant smile on my face.  My time didn't matter, this journey's success came when I reached the starting line.  I am writing this post to share some great news in what has been a very long and challenging personal journey.  I share my story as a celebration, but also as a note of hope to anyone who may be fighting a similar battle.  I have read sad and difficult stories from others struggling with similar headache issues, but I rarely saw stories of success.  Maybe my post will provide a few new ideas or a ray of sunshine.  No matter what your struggle (and we are all struggling with something), I pray you will soon find some relief and comfort. 

My chronic pain story began over seven years ago.  It started with five years of pelvic pain and many blog posts along the way.  It took four surgeries and surgical menopause, but my pelvic pain was finally resolved.  Then, just six weeks later my headache story began.  Until this head pain began, I was one of those lucky women who never really got headaches, excluding, of course, the after effects of some fun nights in college.  Then, in August 2012, I got a headache.  That headache simply never went away.  It didn't take holidays or vacations, it pounding away 24/7.  No matter what I tried, my head hurt.  On the really bad days, the head pain was coupled with dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and ringing ears.  

It was like a black cloud that followed me around.  It was there through three moves, two new careers, and three new schools.  It was raining down with full fury during the boring of the everyday and every family holiday, birthday, and vacation - from our 15th anniversary to our cross country move - my head pounded away.  While it was my head that hurt, I  wasn't the only one who suffered.  It is so true, "when mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."  Scott picked up tons of slack around the house and the kids had to (literally) tip-toe around.  I was cranky and tired and even simple things like grocery shopping often felt impossibly hard.  My mom listened as I cried on the phone and my mother-in-law gave medical advice when I needed it.  My close friends provided me a shoulder lean on and play dates for the kids when I was feeling my worst.  I am eternally grateful to the amazing kindness and generosity I found in those around me.  

All the while, I visited every "ologist" from East to West trying to find a solution.  I started with an ENT thinking I had a sinus infection.  I took tons of antibiotics and steroids.  It didn't help.  I even had sinus surgery.  It didn't help my head either, but it did solve my congestion issues.  So that was a good thing. 

Then, I was off to a gynecologist, thinking hormones might be the smoking gun.  I was only six weeks post-op from losing my last ovary when this all started.  In the throws of surgical menopause, I figured getting my hormones in balance would help.  It didn't. 

Next, I was off to the neurologist.  Then, off to another neurologist.  Then, to many other neurologists.  I had an appointment to see the specialists at Stanford Hospital before I had even figured out temporary housing when we moved to California.  There were MRI's and xrays and strange tests checking my reflexes.  The official diagnosis was New Persistent Daily Headache and/or Chronic Daily Migraine.  In lay person speak, it was a headache the doctors didn't really know how to treat.  Next, came the meds, all the crazy neurology medications.  They often would start to help, then things would revert, and then things would get worse, and then they would add another, stronger medication to the cocktail.  It was like the headache just found a path around every medication I tried. There was Topamax, Lyrica, Zonegran, magnesium, riboflavin, butterbur, feverfew and more.  Every one of those treatments came with really crappy side effects, things like personality changes, memory loss, dizziness, and nightmares.  We even tried an ongoing series of IV infusions which would leave me in bed throwing up for the rest of the day.  

Last fall, I even got a root canal thinking it might.  It didn't.  Truthfully, I really needed that any way.  My ancient filling back from my braces days finally gave way.  

The low point came after one very pompous provider claimed I didn't even have a headache.  I was in the worst pain of my life and she said it was anxiety and a simple ear infection.  I was crushed when she blew off my pain; I began to believe I would never feel better again.  By that point it was December 2013 and I was exhausted.  

My 2014 New Year's Resolution was to simply find the joy in each day and to not give up.  It was the best resolution I have ever made.  I was off to another ENT.  He was one of the kindest providers I have ever met.  Definitely no ear infection, but he had new ideas.  I went to vestibular physical therapy for migraine.  It helped.  It became my life line.  It wasn't a cure, but I could get through the day again.  

I saw a naturopathic doctor.  I went on a crazy diet that eliminated wheat, dairy, soy, most beans, all alcohol, and most everything fun.  I didn't help, but I started eating a little healthier.  That was good.  

I started an 8-week mindfulness series.  It didn't help my head, but it allowed me to focus on all the good in my life instead of the pain.  It brought a little more patience and appreciation of each day.  That was a good thing.  

I went back to the neurologist and asked about stopping the medication.  They said it was a mistake and prescribed something new, but basically the same.  It didn't help, but it gave me confidence in May 2014 to advocate for myself.  I stated I was going off the medications.  It took six weeks to taper off those powerful medications, but each time I lowered the dose, I felt better.  My nausea and dizziness dropped significantly.  My head still hurt, but I felt like myself again.  

It was then, way back in May that I signed up for the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon.  It was my secret, I didn't tell anyone, not even Scott.  I decided I was going to fake feeling healthy until I made it.  I started running, just a tiny bit at first, but one foot in front of the other.  

Then in July 2014, looking once again where this all started, I tried a new gynecologist.  Despite taking lots of estrogen pills it turned out my levels were close to zero.  We tried a new approach and my estrogen levels climbed.  With each blood test my levels rose to more typical level for a 40-year-old.  My head hurt less and my energy rose.  I kept running, slow and steady.  

Now it is October 2014 and I am not cured, but I am so much better!!!  I still do my physical therapy exercises every day and I take Phenergan when I need it (strangely, that medication helps).  My bad days now are what my good days were back in December 2013.  Today, I ran strong and hard as a celebration of a positive time in a very long journey.  

I have held off writing this post until I felt more confident this wasn't yet another false hope.  Yes, I may revert. Today, I feel good.  Each day I feel well is a gift.  I am so grateful to feel better and am working hard to not take it for granted.  Today, I ran to celebrate my good health; Scott and the kids were at the finish cheering for me.  This race was a celebration for me and for them as well.  This has been their journey as much as mine.  Thank you!

That is life in MomZania.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Parties, Playing, and Lots of Progress

 Mick had his 5th birthday last week!  I can't believe it.  It seems like we were just bringing our 5-pound bundle home from the hospital and now he is 5.  To celebrate such a momentous occasion, we hosted the (almost) mandatory Chuck E Cheese's birthday party.  The was too much noise, too few tickets, and rather poor pizza.  In other words, the kids had a BLAST and it was THE PERFECT 5-year-old birthday party.  To make the occasion really special, Nana flew into town for the week.  She is flying home now and we already miss her.  It was a great visit.

Let the soccer begin.  Mick hit the field this weekend for the first time.  I don't think the San Jose Earthquakes are ready to sign him for their 2030 roster, but Nana was impressed with his moves.  More importantly, Mick had a great time.  All the scoring and competing will start soon enough, this program is just about learning to have some fun on the field.  It is completely laid back, just my type of soccer.

This is our house!!!  Yes, that is daylight in every direction.  We are "all in" on our renovation, there is no turning back now.  It took 5 days to tear the house apart.  It will take 8 months for all the king's horses and all the king's men to put our home back together again.  With construction in full swing, I am racing around trying to pick out everything for our house.  I am currently surrounded by samples from the floor to the roof and a million things in between.  I have been learning about things like sewer lines and shingles and concrete footings and excavation.  It is going to be a wild ride, but come next summer we should have a new home (fingers crossed).

That is life in MomZania.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Another Hilarious Move for the Family

Here is how it is supposed to go on move day.  Load your junk, drive it to your new place, unload your junk, and crash into bed that night exhausted.  That is for regular people.  When the Harrell's move, it never follows the script.  Instead our moves are hilarious chaos.  True to form, our recent move had a slew of hilarious moments.  Here are the top six.

First, this sure wasn't a corporate move.  Since we were on the hook for the bill and were only moving one mile, we (I) decided to save the money do much of it ourselves.  With the help of our free child labor and our trusty red wagon, we schlepped as much could.  Nothing was properly wrapped or even boxed for that matter, but we managed to get much of our junk over the rental.  We only called in the professionals, when we couldn't fit it in the minivan anymore.

Second, we need to work on our scheduling.  Self-moving had left us exhausted before move day arrived.  Then, problems scheduling forced us to book our move the first week of school. Who does that?  Heck, we were at meet the teacher night until after 9pm the night before.  Then, Comcast, with all their crummy customer service, came in and made things worse.  They forced us to switch our cable/Internet on the exact move day or wait 3-weeks with no service.  Scott had to babysit the empty new house for 5 hours waiting for the cable guy, who of course arrived after the scheduled window.  Despite all of our scheduling mishaps, the first half of the move went fairly smooth.  In fact, so smooth, the movers were determined to finish in one long day instead of two short ones.

Third, add a little spice to your move day with a trip to the ER.  With hard-working movers quickly started emptying rooms as I ran around trying to scoop up everything small we had missed. Out went the dining table and in I came, right into the heavy glass light fixture over where the table used to be.  How did I forget that was there?  Crap, that really hurt.  Then, I kept bustling along until I saw the look of horror one of the movers faces.  I had split my forehead open on the light.  A quick glance in the mirror revealed a trip to the ER was in my future.  I called Scott and screamed, "[Expletive] Comcast has to finish up now, I'm bleeding down my face!"  He came home and off to the ER I went.  Lucky the cut looked worse than it was.  I was home in just 60 minutes (probably a World Record for the ER).  A little Dermabond and a bit of a black eye, but mostly good as new.

Fourth, the kingdom was lost for lack of a screw.  As two of the movers made a trip to get the last few things at the old house, two guys stayed at the new house to assemble the beds.  That is until they realized the screws to our bed were missing.  After 30 minutes of looking, it was time for a trip to Home Depot.  With the store closing just a few minutes, it was a mad dash to get to the store.  Luckily Scott was behind the wheel and he drives fast.  Just in time, he and the movers grabbed the screws as Home Depot locked the door behind them. We were going to have a place to rest our head that night.

Fifth, after 11 hours of moving the truck will give up.  Here we were in the home stretch.  As the 9 o'clock hour approach, the guys loaded up the last few things by flashlight.  All that was left was a one mile drive and a few things to empty, when the truck died right in the middle of the road.  Now instead of finishing the move, it was time to call in a big tow truck.  As the 11 o'clock hour arrived, off went the broken down truck along with the last of our stuff.  We were so tired, we really didn't care.  Luckily, those last few items were delivered the very next day in a different truck, by the same team men who had worked so very, very hard the day before.

Sixth, nothing says housewarming gift like a sewer back up.  Yup, the boxes were still being unpacked, when the sewer backed up.  Just like our Easter Sunday sewer backup, it was once again on a holiday weekend. Once again, the nasty stuff was bubbling up in places it shouldn't.  Once again, we were forced to tinkle in the lawn until the plumber could fix the problem.   Happily, once again, it is fixed.  There are some more plumbing repairs to be made next week, but we are back to flushing toilets and running water.

As I write this, I have repair people working simultaneously on the washing machine, the ant problem, and the furnace.  The good news is by the end of today, we hope to have a fully functioning and pest-free home. As an added bonus, this is a rental, so we don't have to pay the repair bill. That is good news.

That is life in MomZania.

Friday, August 29, 2014

School, Moving, & Demolition - Summer is Definitely Over

Labor Day is upon us and another summer is drawing to a close.  Though with our lives running on the express track recently, the lazy days of summer are just a speck that is barely visible for the back of our train.  The last two weeks are a whirlwind of activity.

First up is the start of another school year.  Mick is a big-boy now, hanging with his sisters at the elementary school.  He is technically in "transitional kindergarten." However, he is in the same classroom as the older kinders and doing the same lessons, so it most certainly feels like regular kindergartn.  Jaley is in 3rd grade and officially an "older elementary kid," which means access to biggest and most coveted playground.  Sarah is ruling the school in 5th grade. It is her last year before the big transition to middle school and our ONLY YEAR EVER with all of the Harrell kids at one school.  It is already two weeks into school, but we aren't fully in the swing yet.  I have faith by June we will have our school routine perfected.

Next up is the start of our home renovations.  It is time to say good-bye to the atomic ranch and say hello to new plumbing, new electrical, and just about new everything.  Our permits were signed and sealed on Wednesday.  More importantly a Porta-A-Potty arrived today.  Nothing solidifies the start of renovations in the Bay Area more than a Port-A-Potty in your front yard. Construction (or I should say demolition) starts Tuesday.  In just nine short (hoping for short) months, we should be moving back into our home.

Last up is another move.  Yes, we have moved yet again - making a total of 4 addresses in the past 14 months!!!  This was a move into a rental, so we can actually start all those renovations.  Initially, we planned to live through our renovations, then we actually started listening to the advice of those around us.  It turns out it is pretty hard to live without things like plumbing and electricity.  So here we are in another house, this one odder and older than the one we are planning to renovate.  The owners are actually planning to tear down the whole thing when we move out and build something ground-up - that is just how old it is.  But as they say, location, location, location.  And this rental, has an awesome location, right by the school.  Plus, if they are tearing it down, I know the kids and I can't really damage anything.

And since every Harrell move is full of hilarity, I promise to share the trials and tribulations of this last voyage in a post soon.  Until then, know if we look out of sorts it is because we have yet to unpack most of our belongings.

That is life in MomZania.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Good Bye Buford, We Will Miss You

Today, we had to say good-bye to our fabulous cat, Buford.  We will miss him dearly, because he was one cool cat!

While we hate to see him go, we are enjoying remembering a few of the things that made him more fun and feisty than the average feline.  Buford joined our family way back in 1998 as a pound rescue.  A quick bath surprisingly revealed a rather good-looking, long-haired, red, tabby instead of the matted, grey cat we adopted.  That was just the first of many surprises with Buford.

Always an indoor-outdoor cat, and always super friendly, he was known for visiting the neighbors and "inviting" himself into their homes.  While most folks were kind enough to indulge Buford in his friendly visits, it got him into trouble occasionally, too.  One time he ended up locked in a new home for sale after he followed prospective buyers inside at a showing.  Another time he spent a day and a half in our crawl space when unbeknownst to me he followed me under the house.

Unlike some cats, Buford wasn't much of a hunter, always more of a lover than a fighter.  After he had scratched his way through the back of several couches, we decided his front claws had to go.  On the morning we were taking him to the vet, he showed up with his first (and last) mouse.  I guess he knew it was his final chance at hunting and he seized the opportunity.  The next day he was declawed and continued to be an indoor-outdoor cat until this very day.  Despite the dire warnings of one vet, he never had a problem defending himself without his claws.  Feral cats and neighborhood dogs simply didn't bother him; I guess they knew it was Buford's house and left him alone.  Of course, the lack of claws didn't take away all his spunk.  He managed to feast on a quite a few beta fish fresh from the fish bowl - sorry Mimi and Auntie Em.

And then there were all the moves.  Cats are notoriously bad at moving and travel, but Buford always took it in stride.  He was shipped as cargo, not once, but twice.  And then, there was the infamous move flight last year.  He was trekked in a car on not one, but two three-week odysseys when Scott and I were in grad school and too broke to pay to board him.  He briefly lived with my in-laws three different times and ruled the roost despite the fact they already had two cats and one Golden Retriever (Thanks again, Mimi and Poppa).  All told Buford had 10 different address during his 17+ years, and amazingly never once got lost (something we can't say that about Epy).

Best of all about Buford was his personality.  He never scratched a kid, despite having his ears and tail pulled many, many times.  He was fiesty when he was young and matured into an old cat who just wanted to be held, pet, and loved.  He would sit next to me purring for hours as I studied endlessly in nursing school.  Even when he was sick these last few months, he was still a kitten at heart.  The kids even had him chasing a bit of string last week.  And today, he was purring in my arms right before I took him to the vet.  Like I said, he was one cool cat.  Bye Buford, we will miss you dearly.

That is life in MomZania.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hitting 8 at High Velocity - Happy Birthday, Jaley

Last week, my Baby Girl turned 8!  It was high velocity and high fun.  The only thing slow about Jaley's birthday was my speed in writing this post.  Her high speed birthday started a few days early with a visit to California's Great America with two friends.  A day of giant coasters and spinning adventures left the girls exhilarated and the grown-ups dizzy, but we were all smiling on the drive home.

On Jaley's actual birthday, the high octane fun continued.  We started at K1 Speed Karting.  The girls swung around the track like naturals, beating out the boys.  We may just have the next Danica Patrick in our midst.  Next, we defied gravity at the Sky High Trampoline Park.  In the evening, we finished off a great day at home dinner, dessert, and even a few gifts.  
This week, the girls are away at their very first spend the night camp.  It is an amazing YMCA camp that definitely doesn't herald from my days at camp.  The girls didn't miss a beat when we dropped them off, but honestly, I hated to say good-bye.  It is tough to let your chicks fly from the nest, if only for the week.  

It isn't just birthdays that are high speed these days, regular life is in overdrive as well.  We have been in our house a year this week, so, of course, it is time to move.  Yup, we are packing up and moving once again!!!! No joke, we are headed into temporary housing again!!! This time isn't so we can find a house, it is so we can fix up the one we've got.  We are delivering our 1959 Ranch into the 21st century.  The permits are ready to be issued and we are picking our contractor this week.  Say good-bye to the fuse box and the old pipes; soon say hello to a home that meets code. Now, the house will be my new "baby."  Like a pregnancy the process is sure to lead to a queasy stomach, sleepless nights, and probably a little high blood pressure.  And just like real babies, our home is due to arrive in about 9 months.  Unlike my real babies, I will be totally happy if this "baby" arrives way before her due date.  

 That is life in MomZania.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Eagle Has Landed - The Girls Are Home - The Rhythm is Back

The Eagle Has Landed.  Last night, the girls arrived safely back home in California.  It was their first solo cross-country flight.  Yup, unaccompanied minors from coast to coast.  There were no calls from TSA and no air marshal met us at the gate, so I am assuming the girls behaved themselves on the 6-hour flight.  Thank God for the iPad, because US Airways has removed all in-flight TV and movies from their planes.  Take away the food; take away the free luggage, but don't take away the in-flight entertainment.  Kids need it for flights almost as much as they need the pressurized cabin.

During their extra week of vacation, the girls had a ball doing a whole lot of everything.  They had one on one time with Mimi, Poppa, Auntie Em, and their cousins.  They played at the pool, learned a little about golf, went shopping, enjoyed marathon Monopoly games, and even had a home-spa night.  It was a great week full of fun and memories.

While the girls were in NC, Scott, Mick, and I enjoyed a great week, too, but the rhythm was different. Like an orchestra playing, a family's rhythm takes all the members of the house. With only three of us at home, it was a completely different beat.  The washing machine and dish washer weren't humming at all times.  There was no squabbling over who got the bigger serving of dessert.  And not even once was there an argument over the TV channel, Mick watched whatever he wanted, simple as that.  For one glorious week, Mick learned what it was like to be an only child.  And guess what, he missed Sarah and Jaley.  So did Scott and I.  It was quieter, calmer, and there was definitely less to pick up.  As nice as it was, it wasn't our regular, crazy rhythm.

Last night, all three of us went to pick up the girls at the airport, even though the task only really needed one of us.  The girls walked off the plane and we welcomed them home with giant smiles and hugs.  As we drove home down the highway, all three kids started fighting over a junky Happy Meal toy.  Then, Scott and I snapped in, "Can't you kids even go five minutes without a fight."  Then, I knew the family rhythm was back to normal.  It may be zany; it may be mania, but it is our family rhythm.  It takes all five of us to play our symphony, even it it's slightly off key.

That is life in MomZania.

Monday, July 7, 2014

From Beach to Beech - An Amazing Family Vacation

The last time I took a two week vacation I got married, enjoyed our honeymoon, and somehow convinced UNC to accept me (the first time through).  This trip wasn’t quite as momentous, but it was amazing nonetheless.  The Harrell 5 went back to our roots and hung out in the Tar Heel state for a fabulous visit.  We kicked it off with Nana at the BEACH; Bald Head Island to be precise.  It's just a mile from the coast, but feels like it's a million.  There are no cars (just golf carts) and cell coverage is iffy, hence it is perfect.  We played in the surf and sand reconfirming Atlantic beaches beat Pacific ones hands down.  Jaley and I kayaked the marshes and at the urge (dare) of our guides sampled Periwinkle snails that were, OMG, live.  I wouldn’t add them to your shopping list, but we can say that we did it.  Sarah took a surf lesson and was hanging 10 almost as soon as she hit the waves.  Mick ditched the floaties once and for all, proving all those swim lessons were totally worth the price.  We were so fortunate to departed just days before Hurricane Arthur arrived.  Our thoughts go out to all those folks on the coast who had damage from the storm.  

Next, we were off to Cary.  While a year has passed since we moved, it was amazing how nice and easy it was to return to the neighborhood groove.  Southern hospitality was at it finest when the Gilmores surprised us with a welcome back party.  The friendship and hospitality continued all week with lunches and dinners, play dates and pool time.  It reminded us why we loved our NC home for 14 years.  It is an amazing place with even more amazing people.   

Finally, we headed to BEECH, Beech Mountain that is, for a giant family reunion.  The last time we visited with that much family was at our wedding on our last two week trip.  It was a three generation Harrell-Beeman family reunion.  We totaled out with 28 people and one very special visit.  We hiked in the Blue Ridge Mountains, had the most patriotic group in the 4th of July Parade, and enjoyed lots of delicious North Carolina BBQ.  Best of all was hanging with the extended family and watching the little cousins play as only cousins can.

Now three of us are home; the girls are chilling a few extra days with Mimi & Poppa.  We are already counting the days until our next NC visit , but until then there is an open invitation to all our East Coast peeps to come on out and visit us in CA.

That is life in MomZania.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

School's Out! Happy Summer!

 School's Out and Camp is In.  

Summer Camp is underway.  Have you checked out summer camp these days?  It sure ain't the same camp I went to as a kid.  The choices are endless and the fun is infinite.  There are camps for every interest - from aeronautics to zoology and everything in between.  Even if the kids aren't going to some "special" camp, the old school "regular" camps are just as amazing.

School has only been out for few days and my kids already have an epic summer in the making.  Last week it was Circus Camp for Sarah and Jaley - complete with the trapeze, stilts, the tightrope, and so much more. Cirque du Soleil may not have called, but I sure was impressed with the skills they mastered in just one short week.  Meanwhile, Mick was working on his entomologist degree when he spent his mornings at "A Bug's Life" camp.  This week all the kids are at a VBS disguised as a CSI camp.  They are learning about DNA and fingerprints.  A speaker came in today from the Secret Service - how cool is that?  Coming up soon is spend the night camp for the girls and swim camp for Mick.  These camps are so much fun, I wish that grown-ups were allowed to go, too.  The director said only kids allowed, so Scott and I are doing less fun things like going to work and running the house.

Unfortunately, camp isn't free and the budget runs out before the summer ends, so there will be plenty of time at "Camp Home" doing exactly what I did as a kid - sleeping in late, hanging with friends, and watching entirely too much TV.

That is life in MomZania.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

California Year 1.0 - one year in Cali

Today marks one year living in CA.  What was happening this time last year?  Oh right, the move from hell! Yes, it was complete with tropical storms, no sleep, bidding wars on a new home, and lots of crap (literally) thanks to Buford, our very old cat.  Here was are a year into California; not only have we survived, we have thrived.

In the spirit of reminiscing, what has our first year as Californians entailed?  Hilarious stories by the bucket.  There was the 80-ton crane in the yard; the floods in the bathroom and the family and the backyard; the fire in the oven and exploding electrical transformer in the backyard; and the realization that we need to fix up our fixer upper sooner than later.  There was fighting with my GPS as I got lost daily; fighting through mountains of paperwork as I signed up our family for new schools, new doctors, and new everything; and the realization that California bureaucracy makes everything take longer and cost more.

Despite the hurdles, there is a reason 7+ million people call the Bay Area home. We have enjoyed skiing in Tahoe, playing on the California beaches, hiking in the redwood forest, absorbing the city vibe in San Francisco, and so much more.

I realize in the past 12 months we have made California our home.  We have fabulous friends who are there for us 24/7.  The kids love there new school and have dived into so many activities it is hard to keep up.  Scott's new job is still amazing.  East Coast family and friends have selflessly made the voyage again and again to visit us here on the left coast.  In a word, we are happy.

As we embark on Year 2.0, I'm sure there will be many more hilarious tales, but I also expect lots of sunny days ahead (figuratively and literally - since it never rains here).  Sarah is headed to 5th grade, Jaley is off to 3rd, and Mick is moving to "real school" in Transitional Kindergarten.  Before that starts, we have the freedom of summer ahead of us and the mindset to enjoy it.

That is life in MomZania.

P.S.  To our North Carolina family and friends, know that you can take our family out of the South, but you can't take the South out of our family.  We are celebrating our one-year anniversary in CA with a feast of home cooked NC Bar-B-Que!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spider Magnet

I have never been very fond of spiders, but we managed to live in relative harmony.  If they didn't bother me, I didn't bother them.  Simple rule and very effective until recently.  I found spiders crawling on me not once, not twice, but three times in two days.  The first time he walked right on my hand when I was driving the car, which led to a lot of screaming, some very irregular driving, and the spider scurrying away unharmed.  The second time was the next morning by the exact same spider using the exact same trick.  He walked right across my hand while I was driving the car.  Once again, there was a lot of screaming, one expletive (oops, the kids were in the car), some very irregular driving, and the spider scurrying away unharmed.  The third time was the same day right before bed when I found a big nasty spider crawling up my arm.  This time there was a whole lot of screaming, several expletives (the kids were asleep), a very spastic dance, and the spider once again scurrying away unharmed.

By that point I was starting to think I was the spider version of the Pied Piper, while simultaneously developing a new found case of arachnophobia.  Luckily, it has been a few days and I haven't been visited by anymore spiders.  My fear of all things spider is abating, but for all I know those spiders are simply lurking and waiting for me when I let my guard down.

Outside of my spider conquests, we enjoyed a great Memorial Day weekend.  We spent an evening with friends on Saturday.  We went into the city for a Giants game, though we never actually saw the game; we tried and are headed back in a few weeks for another game compliments of the Giants ticket office.  Like many of you, we made sure to get in some pool time.  Like I said, it was a great Memorial Day weekend. Now we are on the countdown to the end of school and the start of summer.

That is life in MomZania.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Gift of Time

A wise person once said, "Time is free, but it is priceless."  How true.

For the past few years, life has been busy, really busy, crazy busy. Yes, most of this craziness was self inflicted, but it was busy nonetheless.  From nursing school, to my new career, to Scott's new job in CA, to three addresses three months, it has been very, very busy.  All that chaos, left very little time to spare.

All of a sudden, I realized I have time once again.  What a gift.  Yesterday, I called a friend and we shared a cup of coffee in the middle of the afternoon.  Today, I went for a long run.  Last weekend, we had a family picnic in the park.

This gift of time is like a rainbow in between storms.  It doesn't happen often and it won't last long; I need to enjoy it while it is here.  The renovation plans are moving along and once that starts, I will be racing like a chicken without a head once again.

For this fleeting moment, I do plan to enjoy it.  The weather is nice, school is almost out, the spring sports are finishing up, and a three-day weekend is headed our way.

That is life in a less Zany than usual MomZania.

Monday, May 12, 2014

An Untraditional Mother's Day

Nothing says Mother's Day more than a weekend without the kids.  That isn't quite true; many things signify Mother's Day much more traditionally.  However, when a girlfriend calls and says, "How about a weekend in San Francisco?"  And your husband says, "That sounds like a great idea."  You really don't worry about what weekend it is; you just take that gift called a Girlfriend's Weekend and run with it.

There were no macaroni necklaces or breakfast in bed this Mother's Day, instead I spent the entire weekend enjoying the city with my dear friend, Sheila.  Never fear, when I arrived home this morning, the kids showered me with cards and artwork and the giant bear hugs that only children can bestow.  Boy, am I lucky.

This weekend I realized that for all the times Scott and I visited the city when we lived in Sacramento, we really never made it past the great food and wine in North Beach.  It turns out San Francisco is home to many wonderful treasures beyond where our 20-something interests took us.  Sheila and I explored all over, like Golden Gate Park, Union Square, Tea at the Fairmont, and even a ride on the wrong bus that took us far away from all the tourists.

Today, I am savoring my weekend memories and so thankful to Sheila, who flew across the country to hang out on the West Coast, and to Scott, who kept the kids for my girls-only weekend.  Boy, I am really lucky.

That is life in MomZania.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mick Has A Girlfriend

Last week we were sitting at the table for dinner.  As we were chatting about our day, Mick shocked us when he stated, "I have a girlfriend."  Scott and I almost choked on our peas as we stifled our giggles and masked our shock.

You see in nine months at his preschool, Mick has never once mentioned a single girl. To hear him talk about it, he attends an all boys preschool that encompasses nothing more than playing Lego's and Superheros.

So we asked him, "Who is your girlfriend?"

"Olivia."  This was of very little help; there are about six Olivia's at his school and I know none of them.

"How did you get to be boyfriend and girlfriend?

"She told me I was her boyfriend; so I am."  With this comment, we really did choke on our peas as we couldn't hold back our laughter any more.  Mick is four years old and he already has women figured out, simply do everything the we ladies say.  Way to go Mick or should I say Lil' Casanova.

Preschool romance aside, life here is the regular routine.  We thankfully haven't had another sewer backup.  Apparently, the house saves that behavior for when company arrives.  Most days you can find me driving a constant loop around the town delivering kids to and fro various activities.  There is Girls on the Run, Indian Princesses, Girl Scouts, Swim Lessons, Tae Kwon Do and the many activities at the two schools.  Just in case, we make sure to enjoy a few birthday parties and play dates so there is never a moment when the Big Marshmallow (our White Minivan) isn't taxiing around.  Just like your home, our school year only has four weeks left and most of the activities will come to an end as well.  I'm not sure who is more excited, the kids or me?  As for Scott, May is also a month of constant taxiing though he is doing it from a crammed seat on an airplane for work travel.

That is life in MomZania.