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Paradigm Shift

Melanie in GlassesIt started months ago. Actually, more like a couple of years ago but I was in fierce denial. And I noticed it with my phone first. In the morning I would wake up and grab my phone to check my email but everything had a haze about it. I’d rub my eyes and squint to make the blurriness go away which sort of worked for awhile.

But then things got progressively worse. I found myself taking much longer with my blogging because I was making stupid mistakes. I couldn’t see the words on my laptop screen and the blurriness was getting in the way of my work.

And then I was in a foreign country recently and had to rely on a customs official to help me fill out parts of the paperwork I couldn’t see. That was the last straw. It was time to admit that I needed glasses.

And of course I got them which is evident from the picture above.

As my eye doctor was performing the exam, she blamed my declining vision on getting older. This January I will be forty-five. How I got to forty-five so quickly is a mystery to me. It seems like just yesterday that I was sporting parachute pants, LA Gear sneakers and hair with electric blue streaks. I’m an 80’s girl. That’s my excuse.

When I hit forty I sort of had an aging panic attack. I looked for new wrinkles on a daily basis. Bought new bras to push the girls back up to their full and upright position. Invested in creams to slather all over my body. All in a sort of pathetic attempt to stop the inevitable aging process.

So I fully expected to have a breakdown when I put the new glasses on. But you know what? I think they’re kind of hot. I actually like what I see in the mirror lately which my longtime readers know is sort of a miracle.

I think I’m finally getting comfortable in my skin. I’m caring less about what others think and more about how I feel. And I feel really good.

Forty-five is just a few months away, but I’m not dreading it the way I dreaded all of the other forty something birthdays I’ve had so far. And this is a real relief because I was worried that I would get more panicky with each year that passes.

Not only is my vision clearer, but my mind too. I think this growing up thing doesn’t stop when you hit a certain age. Every year, no scratch that, every day brings a new opportunity for growth and change.

And that’s sort of exciting, don’t you think?

Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Villages and Spa Review

Beaches Turks and CaicosBeaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages and Spa is an all inclusive vacation destination geared towards families with children of all ages. The property consists of four villages, Caribbean, French, Key West and Italian. And all are designed around those themes.

For my stay I was placed in the Italian village. With Renaissance style architecture, a piazza, shopping boutiques and an elegant pool with swim up bar and whirlpool, I certainly felt like I was situated smack dab in the middle of Old World charm and luxury.

Let’s check out the rooms in Italy…

Beaches Turks and Caicos SuiteMy room was a suite that would comfortably fit a family of five. The furnishings were exquisite dark woods with European accents. Just check out that turned wood four poster bed. The accommodations were comfortable to say the very least. If I could’ve packed that bed as my souvenir, I would have. The mattress was dreamy.

Beaches Turks and Caicos SuiteThe kids’ sleeping area was separate from the master bedroom. It was furnished with bunk beds, plenty of storage for clothing and a play area complete with Xbox. This room was also tastefully decorated which is a recurrent theme throughout the resort, you will come to find.

Beaches Turks and Caicos SuiteThe room had a small balcony and spectacular views of the pool and the ocean just beyond. A lovely place to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Beaches Turks and Caicos Room BarOr perhaps you’d rather enjoy that view with something a little more adult. Not a problem. Just mosey on over to your personal bar which is completely stocked with soft drinks, wine and liquor. And being that this is an all inclusive, it’s all yours for the taking.

While I stayed at the Italian village, I did happen to visit all of the other villages. Each one was unique and had different restaurants and swimming areas. There were also a variety of different shops, so it’s good to walk around and check them all out.

I found the quietest village to be Key West. This village is the newest and the most adult out of all the villages. On the other hand, I found the Caribbean village to be the most kid centric. Or at least, that’s where I happened to see most of the kids.

Out of all of the villages, I did enjoy the Italian village the most. The swim up pool bar was a hub of activity that I really enjoyed. It was a great place to meet other people and the bartenders poured some seriously delicious drinks. Those folks at the bar have some skills.

Beaches Turks and CaicosAnd if you have wee folk, this is your kind of vacation. There are just so many activities for the kids. Beaches offers a kids camp where they can enjoy all kinds of fun stuff to do like scavenger hunts, magic shows, sandcastle building, water sports and of course special visits with the Sesame Street characters.

Heck, I even got a giggle from meeting my favorite childhood characters. There are stage shows, parades and meet and greet opportunities where you and your kids can meet the entire Sesame Street gang. So much fun!

There are even activities for teens and tweens such as a special nightclub called Liquid where kids can hang out, dance and make new friends. There’s also bonfires, a game room, Xbox Play Lounge and even a surf simulator. Like I said, something for every age group.

And if you want some time to go off and do your own thing like have a special dinner out with your honey, Beaches offers nighttime care as well.

Beaches Turks and Caicos KayakingOne of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was the water sports. Beaches offers all kinds of water activities as part of your package. Included are kayaking, aqua trikes, paddle boards, Hobie Cat sailing, snorkeling, windsurfing and even scuba diving.

Yup, you read that right. If you are a certified diver, scuba diving is part of your package. Have you ever paid for a scuba excursion? Let me tell you, it’s bucks. Lots of them. The same is true for snorkeling. If you were to pay for a separate excursion to snorkel, it is a pricey addition to your vacation.

This trip I took a kayak out for a whirl and I also did some snorkeling. The folks from Beaches run a boat back and forth from the resort out to a reef where you can snorkel your heart out. You’ll see all kinds of interesting sea creatures like starfish, sand dollars and even conch. One of my friends saw a reef shark. I am glad that I did not.

Beaches Turks and CaicosSo how about the food? Great question! Beaches has 19 different dining options and I tried my best to visit them all. From casual dining at Bobby D’s, a fifties style diner, to the fancier Schooner’s which served all kinds of fresh caught seafood, I tried to sample a bit of everything so I could give it a thorough review. And this is what I found…

Breakfast was by far the best at Mario’s at the Italian village. With a huge breakfast buffet offering both traditional American style choices and island fare, there truly was something for everyone. Overall I found that Mario’s buffet offered the most variety.

Lunch was little more challenging in that most of the restaurants served a buffet while I usually prefer a plated meal. My favorite lunch spot was Arizona’s where I found really good jerk chicken that was grilled right outside the restaurant by the beach. It was authentic and tasty. Inside Arizona’s was a salad bar with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and other sides to round out the meal. So if you are looking for some authentic island food, I’d try that.

Beaches Turks and Caicos SchoonersIf you are a foodie, then dinner at Beaches will be your sweet spot. I had several stellar meals which included one at Schooner’s, a waterfront restaurant serving seafood. I started my meal with seared scallops which were cooked perfectly and placed on top of a rich béchamel. My second course was king crab legs which were also perfectly cooked and simply served with melted butter. But the jerk mahi mahi was the star of the show. Spicy and flaky. If you get the chance to dine at Schooner’s make sure to order that.

Other fine choices are Soy for sushi, Kimonos for Japanese (you need a reservation here), Barefoot By The Sea and I had a killer rack of lamb at Mario’s. Don’t forget to try a dessert at Mario’s. I had an orange mascarpone torte that I will never forget. Truly.

Melanie and JoanAnd while I completely enjoyed all of the food, activities and accommodations at Beaches, I have to tell you that the employees are the ones that made my stay special.

Every single employee had a smile on their face each and every day. Any need that I had, they were there to meet it. I’ve stayed at some lovely places in my lifetime, but I have to tell you that the service at Beaches Turks and Caicos is some of the best service I’ve ever had.

And if you take the time to talk to the folks that work hard to make your stay lovely, you’ll learn so much more about the people that are the backbone of the resort.

See the gal above? Not me. The other one. Her name is Joan and she is the restaurant manager at Schooner’s. If you ever get out that way, be sure to strike up a conversation with her. She has some gorgeous stories to share. Like this one, for example…

34 years ago Joan was working at the Beaches Resort in Jamaica which is where she’s from. On her way to work one day, she came across a six year old girl walking the streets with a snotty nose, no shoes and no parents to claim her. So Joan took the child in and raised her as her own. And today that child of hers works at Beaches. I might’ve cried while she told this story. I might’ve forced a hug on her as well.

And that’s just one example of the kind of employees that work at Beaches. Their service really does make all of the difference and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Big Bird and Beaches Turks and CaicosWhile my kiddos didn’t come with me on the trip, I do plan on bringing them to Beaches Turks and Caicos sometime in the future. I know they’d really enjoy it. And if you do any research on a stay at Beaches, you might get a case of sticker shock at first glance. But one of thing to keep in mind is that absolutely everything is included. Your food, water sports, childcare, airport transfers, gratuities, etc. A cruise doesn’t even offer all of that. And if you travel during off-season, you can get some amazing deals!

For more information on Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages and Spa, check out their website. And if you make it out that way, be sure to find Joan and tell her I said hi!

This is not a sponsored post. I paid my own way down to Turks & Caicos but the resort did give us a discount on our stay.

Glowy Zoey Minnie Mouse Edition



Sometimes it’s the little things in life that warm my soul. Silly little things that bring a big smile to my face. Have you heard of Glowy Zoey? Well, twenty-two million people have, so it’s high time for you to see the cuteness if you haven’t already.

It’s brilliantly simple. A dad puts his toddler daughter in a LED light suit that he made for her for Halloween and lets her run rampant in a darkened house in her illuminated suit. The original video is up above and was published last year (2013). Everything about that video makes me smile and wish that I could get pregnant again so that I could have my own Glowy Zoey. So stinkin’ cute.


Riding on the coattails of their success, the dad just put out another Halloween Glowy Zoey video that’s arguably as cute as the first. So if you need a dose of cute today, here you go. If this doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will!

Social Media on the Sand at Beaches Resorts Turks & Caicos

Beaches Social Media On The SandAs I mentioned yesterday and as you may have noticed based on my Instagram feed, I spent the past weekend at the Beaches Resort in the spectacular Turks & Caicos Islands for the Social Media on the Sand Conference which was hosted by Beaches Resorts and BSM Media.

Turks & Caicos has been a bucket list destination of mine forever. And BSM Media is known for attracting the very best bloggers for their events and their sponsored content initiatives. So when I was invited to come visit Beaches and attend this conference, I was more than a little bit excited!

I have a lot to share about my stay at Beaches. But for this post, I’m just going to touch on the conference itself and some of the things that were special in my mind. Things that made it a lot different than some of the other conferences I’ve attended in the past.

Because there were so many amazing things to share, I couldn’t possibly squeeze them all into one post. So we’ll start with the business side of things and the next post we’ll move onto the playful side. And trust me, there was a lot of play!

Turks & CaicosEven though I hate to fly, I thoroughly enjoyed the view from the sky as we flew to Turks & Caicos. What an amazing way to start a trip. How gorgeous is that ocean? Paradise for certain!

Beaches MomsThe conference itself was attended by a lot of my friends which really made the experience shinier than it already was. There were sessions on video production, travel writing, social strategy and marketing and I could go on and on. The organizers took special care in making sure that the content was relevant and engaging. And they succeeded on all fronts. I have mad respect for the team that put this together. It was clearly planned with much thought and care.

Social Media On The SandThe founders of the resort spent time educating us on how much they care for their workers and the communities they come from. I was happy to learn how the Sandals Foundation has planted 9,874 trees in local communities, provides computers to local schools, provides dental and eye care to community members and has even created two marine sanctuaries. And that’s just a tiny sampling of all that they do to make the Caribbean a better place for the people that live there. I love when a local business gives back to their community.

Sandals FoundationEven us bloggers had a chance to help out. Before the trip each of us were sent backpacks to fill with school supplies that we brought with us and donated to kids in Turks & Caicos. How cool is that? There were over one hundred of us there, so that one donation really made a big difference for those kids.  Good on the Sandals Foundation for caring for their people.

Ted Baker SunglassesOf course this conference wouldn’t have been possible without the help of sponsors. Up above you see me sporting Ted Baker sunglasses that were provided by Iristocracy.  But there were many more that were generous to make this event possible.

Social Media on the Sand SponsorsA big thank you to Coppertone for keeping me from scorching while snorkeling and also a major thanks to HP for allowing us to print our photos. Just two examples of ways that sponsors took care of us while at the conference. Smart social for sure!

FlipOut Flip FlopsOh, and I can’t forget one of my favorite sponsors. Look at my super cute FlipOut Sandals. Have you seen these before? The charms can be switched out for different designs. So one pair of flip flops can look like a different pair each time you wear them. So fun! See? Neat sponsors for sure!

Daisy and George Vow RenewalOk, so the conference was awesome. The sponsors were amazing. And the venue spectacular. But my favorite part was the people. I’ll talk more about how the employees go out of their way to make your stay so very special, but I want to share a couple of conference attendees who made my stay particularly memorable.

Above you see Daisy and George. Daisy and I hit it off the moment we met at the airport. She’s very easy to love as she’s a quick to smile kind of girl. Very warm and so willing to share her knowledge about blogging which she is entirely passionate about. She traveled to the conference with her husband George who’s equally kind and smiley. We all hit it off so well that they invited me to witness their vow renewal and attend their reception dinner that was held during the conference.

I cried. A lot. It was beautiful. I still get weepy looking at this picture. They are one of my best souvenirs from this trip.

Kelly StilwellMy other special souvenir is this gal. Kelly was my roommate whom I had never met before this trip. I couldn’t have asked for a better roomie. We spent late nights talking about blogging and sharing tips on what works and what doesn’t. We also spent time drinking wine together which was rather wonderful as well. I’ve only been home for a day and we’ve already talked on the phone and exchanged tons of emails. I expect we’ll be longtime friends.

Beaches Turks & CaicosI told you I had a lot to say. And I haven’t even started sharing about the resort yet. I might’ve had a good time, ya think?

A special thank you goes out to Maria Bailey who is the founder of BSM Media. Without Maria and her team, this wouldn’t have been possible. And of course a huge thank you to Beaches Resorts for making us feel so welcome and cared for. The memories will last a lifetime.

Come back tomorrow to hear about the resort and all it has to offer. You are going to want to add Beaches Turks & Caicos to your own bucket list!

This is not a sponsored post. I paid my own way down to Turks & Caicos but the resort did give us a discount on our stay.

Shopping Made Easy with Shopular and a Giveaway!

This post is sponsored by Shopular. As always, all opinions are my own. Just so you know!

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Let’s talk about shopping!

Are you a bargain shopper like me, always looking for the best deal? Well, look no further, because this new app from AirCrunch makes saving money easy. Shopular is the new, simple way to find all the best sales and coupons available from all your favorite stores, including Kohl’s, Forever 21, Costco, Starbuck’s, Old Navy, Gap, Hollister, Target, Dollar General, Best Buy…and many, many more. Excited yet? Well, read on, because it gets better!

Shopular features exclusive deals and coupons! If your store is listed but does not have any deals available, request them from the store with just one click! Chat with other users through the “comments” feature on each store’s page, ask and answer questions, and help one another find the best bargains. Shopular coupons can be stacked with manufacturer and store coupons for even better deals, within the limitations listed on individual coupons. I know you’re loving this now!

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Going shopping? Check your Shopular app for the most recent sales flyers and advertisements. Coupons pop up at the touch of a finger, ready to scan at the register. No need to add this app to passbook! There are never any fees for using Shopular, and the app is a FREE download. Shopular is currently only available for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch through the iTunes store.

The Shopular sign-up asks only for an email address and name, so you can create a user name to maintain privacy. If you use the GPS feature and allow push notifications, coupons will be automatically sent to your phone when you are in or near a participating store. How amazing is that? One of my biggest problems with coupons is that I forget to take them with my when I go shopping. No more worrying about that! Plus, Shopular does all this without impact on your battery life, thanks to new technology that combines the use of cell tower, Wi-Fi, and GPS signals.

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Another reason to love Shopular? They run contests! In fact, they have a Halloween contest going on right now! Post a picture of your DIY Halloween costume to enter and you could win a $500 gift card to your favorite store! See the details and rules! More contests are coming soon, so be sure to check out the Shopular blog for more information! ShopularShopular only uses 3.6 MB of space, requires IOS 6.0 or later, and is opitimized for the iPhone 5. Download from the iTunes store now for the hottest deals out there!

Shopular is so sure you are going to love this app, they’ve decided to sponsor a giveaway for a $50 Visa gift card just for you to check them out! Enter in the Rafflecopter below!

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A Hello and a $25 Amazon Giveaway!

Pumpkin PatchHello there! I sort of left you hanging for awhile, didn’t I? So sorry about that. Last week was kind of nutty and then I went away on a little trip. Well, it wasn’t really a little trip, exactly. It was short but entirely fabulous. Much more on that after I sort out my hundreds of photos. If you watch that little Instagram box on the right margin of my blog, you might already have an idea of where I went. It was rather fantastic. More on that tomorrow.

For today I wanted to share a recent outing I went on with the kids. Their Dad and I took them pumpkin picking. It was a glorious sun-shiny fall day and we all piled into the car together and went to a local farm to find pumpkins for carving.

Actually, it felt like all of New England was there along with us judging by the throngs of people. I suppose everyone felt like getting their fall on that day.

Pumpkins Smolak FarmsAnd can I tell you something I really stink at? Judging pumpkin weights. See all of the pumpkins in the picture above? I figured they were all different weights. They sure look like different sizes to me. But when we went to pay I found out that each of them weighed around thirty pounds each. Pumpkins are deceptive buggers. I wasn’t expecting to pay quite that much for something that’s surely going to turn into a buffet for squirrels. Ninety pounds of buffet to be exact.

Cider Donuts Smolak FarmsBut then I saw the cider donuts and everything felt right in the world. There’s something about cider donuts that makes everything ok. As long as you don’t eat several of them at one time. Not that I have any experience with that or anything.

Smolak FarmsAfter we came home from our outing, I glanced through the pictures I had taken that day. And the one above really grabbed my heart. Leela had been bounding ahead of her Dad and I. We weren’t nearly moving fast enough apparently because she shouted over her shoulder “Mom, are you coming?” To that I responded, “Yes Leela. I’m right behind you.”

And what I really meant in my heart was that her Dad and I will always be right behind her. Behind Leela and the other three kids too. Forever. Because even though we have divorced, we will always be there for our kids. We’ll always have their backs, fronts, sides and every other angle they need covered. That’s what parenting is about.

Enough sappiness.

How about a giveaway? We haven’t done one in quite awhile and I’m in a giving mood! Enter below for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card! My way of saying Happy Fall!

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Which Way is Up?

SkyCan you tell from the picture above if the sun is setting or rising? If I hadn’t taken the picture myself, I wouldn’t be able to answer that question. I’m certain that some of you can because my readers are a smart bunch.

Often times I look at life this way. I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Life can get a little confusing, leaving us not knowing which way is up. Like someone dropped us right into a foreign country without a map or a language translation book.

If you look at my recent posts, you might think that I’m lost. Or maybe that I’m chest deep in depression because some of my posts, ok most of my posts, have been a little dark lately.

But I am here to tell you that I am completely a-ok. Things might be a little confusing right now and I might not know which way is up, but I’m not feeling lost, scared, intimidated or lonely. I feel none of those things.

While there is a lot of confusion and change happening in my life right now, there’s also so much beauty and joy.

Matter of fact, I have so much happy to share with you I don’t even know where to start.

So while I sort out my brain, please bear with me as I clean and organize the shelves of my mind. I am taking things off the shelves and trying to decide what to keep and what to toss. And as I do that, I may share some stuff with you that you might find unsettling.

And in case you are wondering why I’m doing this on a mom blog, I need you to know that I share this stuff with you because I want you to see that you can still have a good satisfying happy life even if you have gone through tragedy.

That even if you had a crap childhood, lost a child, got run over by a car and went through a divorce that you can still be JOYFUL!

If you get nothing else ever from my blog, I will be satisfied if you get that one thing.

For those of you who’ve left so many wonderful comments, know that I will be responding to them this weekend. I’ve been rather busy this week and I’ve not had the time to respond properly. Please know that I will and that I appreciate each and every one of you.

Have a wildly wonderful weekend full of love and happiness. That’s my game plan.

The Ugliest Christmas Sweater

It was a Friday and for the first time I was thankful I was a latchkey child. I let myself into the house and went directly to my room to grab my overnight bag which I plopped in front of our kitchen pantry.

What could I take that would not be missed? Tea bags. Every morning she drinks a cup of tea. No one would miss it if I grabbed a handful. I wonder if anyone would notice if I took the package of cookies?

Cookies go with tea and she loves a sweet in the morning. And I can’t remember the last time I saw a name brand in her cabinet. Oreos are her favorite. What’s Christmas without a treat? Into the bag they went, with a little more guilt this time as I tucked the Oreos into my duffel bag. It’s one thing to take a few tea bags. It’s another thing to take an entire package of cookies. I’ve officially crossed the line into theft.

I continued searching through the pantry, looking for anything we had in abundance. Unfortunately my stepmother was not much of a stockpiler. She bought what she needed and only that. Prepackaged goods weren’t her thing. She was more of a farmer’s market kind of woman and avoided shelf stable goods like the plague.

And while my mother also loved fresh fruits and vegetables, those would be much harder to smuggle to her.

This was my first Christmas visiting my mother. Up until that year it had always been the flip. I had lived with my mom and every other Christmas I spent the holiday with my father.

But this was the year that my mother gave me away to my dad. The year that my mom packaged all of my belongings into trash bags and delivered me to my father’s house.

I helped drag those bags of clothing and personal possessions into the house. Bags full of worn out ill-fitting clothing and threadbare stuffed animals I couldn’t bear to part with. And as I lugged those bags into the house with the help of my dad and stepmom, I couldn’t help but feel just like one of those trash bags. Not worth much and a tedious chore to deal with.

I was ten years old.

Now it had been three months of this new living situation and it was the day that my mom would pick me up to celebrate Christmas. And as I stuffed my duffel bag into the trunk of her car, heavy with the guilt of stealing from my father, I felt like a ten year old Robinhood. Taking from the rich to help the poor, but not feeling so good about it.

When we arrived at my mom’s small two bedroom apartment I quietly went into the kitchen and put the food into her cabinets. My ten year old brain didn’t think about how obvious that would be as I placed a can of tuna fish on an empty shelf.

As I placed the food in her cabinet, I couldn’t help but think about our last Christmas together. While I wouldn’t call living in my stepfather’s home a happy memory, it was a stable one. We lived in a four bedroom house in a nice neighborhood. Our cabinets were always full of good stuff to eat. And when it came to the holidays, no expense was spared. My mom made sure that it was memorable and magical.

But then she divorced my stepfather and her life changed drastically as did my own.

Now in my father’s custody, a year later I placed my presents for my mother under a tiny tree in her already cramped living room. Gifts that I bought with my father’s money. Money that I did not steal, I might add.

My mother did her best to make that Christmas feel like more than what it really was. We spent Christmas Eve at a diner where she worked, celebrating with co-workers at their holiday party.

While everyone was full of holiday cheer, laughing and celebrating together, I couldn’t help but sit there with a fury in my heart. Hating that my mother had to turn tables to feed herself. Embarrassed that I was spending Christmas Eve in a diner with strangers. And wishing that I could turn back the clock and go back to that less than perfect life in suburbia and reclaim my mother, my innocence and my childhood.

And when I woke up Christmas morning, I was surprised to see packages under the tree. How she was able to buy gifts with her limited income is a mystery, but there they were.

On that Christmas morning she and I sat by the tree. Just she and I for the first and last time of our lives. Looking back, I’m glad for the not knowing. Because if I had known that she and I would never have that kind of mother and daughter moment again, I might have been grief struck.

Her tradition had always been to save the best gift for last. And as I opened that last package, her eyes looked brighter than they had in months. And as I lifted the sweater out of the layers of tissue paper, I could feel her anticipation.

It was a brown and cream sweater. Sewn to the front were eight small furry rabbits’ feet. Easily it was the ugliest sweater I’ve ever seen. A sweater that would make me even less popular at school  than I already was. I could already hear the kids taunting me. This sweater would be more of a gift to them, giving them more ammunition to shoot me with.

But my mother looked desperate for me to like it. And I was desperate for her to take me back. So I told her how much I loved it. Lying through my teeth and proving it to her by promptly pulling it over my head and forcing a toothy smile.

After the gifts were exchanged, she and I shared a cup of tea and the bag of Oreos which she drew no attention to other than eating them with me. A moment that was a happy memory, one of the few from that year of my life. Just the two of us. Something that had never been and never will be again.

As I packed to return to my father’s home, I shoved that ugly sweater deep to the bottom of the bag. And as I hoisted the bag over my shoulder, it was just as heavy with guilt as upon arrival.

And when I got back to my dad’s, I hid that sweater in the back of my closet. Never to be worn again. And I’d like to say that I refused to wear it because it was hideous. Certainly the kids would’ve been merciless. But the truth of the matter is that the sweater was too heavy to wear.  Growing up in Michigan, a heavy sweater is a good thing. But this sweater’s weight had nothing to do with the yarn.

This sweater was weighted with too much guilt, expectation and devastation than my already weary ten year old shoulders could bear.

So why the guilt over never wearing the sweater? Because I knew that my mother had to turn countless tables in order to buy that gift. Her tips came in change, not dollars while working at the diner. It was back breaking work, a kind of work that was foreign to my mother but necessary for her survival.

I knew that the reason her cabinet shelves were bare was because she went without so that she could buy gifts.

And while she made choices that year that would ultimately send me to therapy for a good long time, she earnestly tried that Christmas to make up for it. Enough guilt to last a lifetime. For the both of us.

Memories that don’t easily get tucked away into a closet never to be seen again. If only it were that easy.

Great Wolf Lodge New England Review

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandLast month we spent a weekend at the newly opened Great Wolf Lodge New England. The girls were beyond excited about this weekend. Over the moon excited. You see, they’ve been asking forever now for a trip to the Pocono Mountains Great Wolf Lodge, but I had been stalling because that’s a heck of a drive from here. And then they opened a location here in Massachusetts, which is SO much more convenient. So off we went.

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandFor those of you who aren’t familiar with Great Wolf Lodge, it’s an indoor water park resort. A resort filled with so much to do that you couldn’t possibly do it all in one weekend. Water slides that will thrill young and old alike, a wave pool, lazy river and an indoor/outdoor hot tub too!

But if getting wet isn’t your thing, you won’t have a hard time finding something else fun to do. Great Wolf Lodge has lots of activities that don’t require bathing suits. Bowling, putt-putt, arcade games, and live shows scheduled throughout the day. So many activities that they actually publish a daily schedule. It’s not hard to find something fun for every member of the family.

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandWhile we were visiting, we got to sample some of the menu items for the upcoming seasonal events. If you are visiting during the holidays, the chefs at Great Wolf Lodge have gone all out planning special menu items for the holiday season. We sampled so many wonderful dishes like short ribs, fresh carved turkey, pastas, all sorts of seafood and more sweet treats than I care to admit.

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandIf you asked my girls what their favorite activity was at Great Wolf Lodge, without a doubt the answer would be the water slides. They just loved them. But a close second was MagiQuest.  An indoor virtual scavenger hunt of sorts where the kiddos use an interactive wand to take part in video adventures which has them searching for items hidden around the resort…

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandEven though I’m not a huge fan of video games, this was rather different and fun! This game had us logging some serious miles around the resort in search of clues and answers to riddles. I have to tell you, I was pooped by the end of it!
Great Wolf Lodge New England Dunkin DonutsGreat Wolf Lodge New England has lots of dining options. From super casual pizza (which was rather good) to sit-down dining with a glass of wine. But I was especially pleased that they have a Dunkin’ Donuts. If mom is going to be on her feet all day long and into the night, she needs her Dunkies!

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandSo what did we think of the rooms? Well, at first we had wished we had reserved one of the themed suites. But I have to tell you, as cute as they are, we weren’t in our room long enough to care whether or not it was themed. Our standard suite was super comfy and still charming with rustic lodge style decor. We didn’t feel like we were missing out by not having the fancier digs.

The standard suite was spacious and comfortable. Equipped with a coffee maker, fridge and microwave, it was the perfect setup for a family of up to five people. So if you are debating between the two, don’t worry if you don’t get the fancier themed suite. You will still be very happy and comfortable in the standard suite.

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandThe Great Wolf Lodge ended up being even better than I had anticipated. Comfortable accommodations, hospitable service, good food and more stuff to do than time we had to do it. Which of course left us wanting to come back again!

If you are thinking about visiting Great Wolf Lodge New England, there are some special events coming up that you should check out. This month they are celebrating Howl-O-Ween with all kinds of fun activities including a Monster Bash Dance Party and Trick or Treat Trail.

If you visit Great Wolf Lodge late November through the end of December, you can take part in Snowland where there are all kinds of seasonal fun including a visit from Santa, indoor snow showers and other holiday activities!

No matter when you come, you’ll be glad you did. We loved it and bet you will too!

This is not a sponsored post. Great Wolf Lodge did host us for one night of our two night stay and invited us to some planned activities. However we did pay our own way the rest of the weekend. And we’d do it again too!

Something’s Fishy #Sponsored

ScallopsFall is normally full of wonderful smells. Fresh baked pies, burning leaves and the scent of freshly washed snuggly blankets comes to mind. But this house? That’s not exactly the case. This house has a different fall scent. Fish. Lots and lots of fish.

You see, my eldest is a hunter and gatherer of all things ocean related. In the past week he has brought home all kinds of free food like scup (google it), crabs, scallops and even eels.

The first night he brought home the scup. Thirty of them to be exact. And the first thing he said to me when he proudly plopped the sack on the counter, scales and all, was if I could make them into something delicious.

At first I looked at the pile of dead fish on my counter and then I looked at his beaming face. Next thing you know I’m serving chowder and sweeping fish scales off my floor. No one told me that this was part of parenting when I signed up for this gig.

ScallopsThe next day brought crabs (easy enough) and then the following brought scallops. Have you ever seen a scallop sans bacon? They are rather interesting creatures. Apparently they have up to a hundred eyes. And if you look close enough, you can actually see them…

scallopsOk, so you can’t see them in this picture but you are going to have to trust me. They look much nicer when you buy them at the grocery store, right? Luckily for me, Aidan handled the dirty work this time. He separated the meat front the shells which took a lot of work. And as he did it, scallop juice sprayed all over my kitchen. I went into the other room to work while he cracked and separated away. It was best not to watch.

scallopsAnd I have to tell you, all the cleaning after the fact was totally worth it because heck, FREE SCALLOPS! Now if I could just get the kid to bring home lobsters. I won’t even complain about taking the meat out of the shells. Or the smelly aftermath. Lobsters are worth all of it.

SC JohnsonEven though my kitchen is now clean, there’s still a lingering fishy odor. I’m pretty sure that smell could sink into steel. So to freshen things up around here, I’m burning lots of wonderful smelling candles and plug ins. If you’re anything like me, you linger in the aircare aisle sniffing every good smelling thing. I’m sort of addicted to that stuff. I’m always buying a new scent. And boy did that come in handy this week. Goodbye fishy smell, hello pumpkin spice latte.

Now what to do with those eels? Any recipe ideas? Come on, I’m certain you have a Pinterest board dedicated to eel recipes.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of SC Johnson. All thoughts and opinions are my own.