It’s Friday. Dance.

Molly Ringwald dancing in The Breakfast Club

Happy Fourth of July


Saturday, Muddy Saturday

Today we took the kids to the annual Mighty Mud Mania at Chaparral Park in Scottsdale. For older kids and adults they had mud obstacle courses, a mini mud course, sandcastle building, mud puddle pools and water slides. The 6 and under play area was awesome. Tons of inflatable toys and Little Tikes play houses. And of course, lots and lots of mud.

Radio Disney was playing and people were dancing on stage. There were free slices of Howie’s Pizza and free Fuze and Sports Blast drinks.

(By the way, you need one of these baby carriers if you’re going to carry a baby for any length of time. Next time you go to a baby shower, you know what to get the new mommy-to-be. It may not look very comfortable in the pic but Jolie loves it.)

Between the trees and all of the tents there was lots of shade, essential for the Arizona outdoors.Wish we could have stayed longer but we can only postpone nap time for so long.  It was so much fun and so well organized, I can’t wait to go again next year.

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Former Monkees singer Davy Jones died today at the age of 66. I can honestly say that one of the highlights of my life was meeting and getting kissed on the cheek by Davy Jones. (You can read about that Marcia Brady moment here.) In real life he was that sweet guy who loved his fans. He was so talented and such a humble gentleman. I haven’t yet fully processed this loss.

Good-night, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

-Horatio, Hamlet Act V Scene ii

Defending Jacob, by William Landay

My heart went out to George and Cindy Anthony while their granddaughter’s disappearance and the discovery of her remains played out as the top news story day after day. The Anthonys were hounded by the media. Shunned by their friends. Questioned by their family. Rejected by society. All because of the actions of their daughter, Casey. They will never be able to return to the “normal” they once enjoyed. Their lives are forever separated into Before and After.

Everyone was vocal with their opinions, which often strayed from the issue at hand: Casey Anthony’s guilt or innocence in the death of her toddler, Caylee. The public considered George and Cindy Anthony fair game to judge and lambaste on the news, some even trespassing on their front lawn to protest with signs. Much of the outrage came from the perceived ignorance of the Anthonys and their unwavering support of their daughter. Others decided Casey was a product of bad parenting but sympathizers of George and Cindy believed Casey must have been born a monster capable of filicide – the nature versus nurture argument.

If the plight of the Anthonys interested you, you might enjoy the bestselling novel by William Landay, Defending Jacob. The narrator of the story is Andy Barber, a highly respected assistant district attorney in Massachusetts suburbia. He is assigned the shocking murder case of a teenage boy, Ben Rifkin, only to be put on paid leave as his son Jacob becomes a suspect and is subsequently arrested.

Andy and his wife Laurie are stunned to become social pariahs overnight as even their decades-old friendships are strained. Laurie begins homeschooling an ostracized Jacob. Andy personally investigates the Rifkin homicide, hoping to find the real killer and exonerate his son. While in extreme denial about the damming evidence mounting against Jacob, Andy does face the reality of heading to trial and finally confesses to Laurie the truth about his family’s history of violence. The bloody Barber legacy is another cause for Laurie to question Jacob’s innocence but Andy remains resolute in support of their son.

Any parent could find it frightening to ask themselves the questions the Barbers were forced to consider: How well do you really know your child? Do you know how they spend their time online (keeping in mind that tech savvy kids can circumvent parental controls and permanently erase their history)? Are you really following their Facebook activity? Do you know what social peer group they fall into at school? Have you met their friends?

Some reviewers of Defending Jacob commented it gets a little sluggish during the murder trial. While I don’t entirely disagree, I was never bored and I give William Landay credit for a satisfying ending with a surprise.

Color Me a Happy Teen

My daughter used to be a girly girl. Pink was her color. Pink Converse. Pink clothes. Pink backpack. Pink bedroom.

I didn’t realize how quickly pink – along with the Disney Channel and ballet lessons – would become a fad of the past. Then Madison wanted everything to be blue. So what to do with all of that pink? The clothes and shoes were easy – she was outgrowing them anyway. But what about the bedroom?

Her first trip away from home without her parents was on her school field trip to Catalina Island in California. (Yeah, I remember getting to go to the zoo.) I knew I would need something to keep me busy while I was missing my baby for the three days she would be gone.

I had an idea. “Let’s redecorate Madison’s room! Surprise her,” I suggested to my husband with all of the enthusiasm of someone who doesn’t know what they’re getting themselves into. “We should paint it too,” Lucas said. We’d been planning to paint the nursery anyway so that seemed like a great idea. “Let’s make a blue accent wall!” I told him. (See how we egg each other on?)

While the unsuspecting Madison was on her way out of town we went to work. Now let me tell you, three days is not a lot of time when you have to empty rooms, shop for decor items and furniture, select the right colors and buy the paint, prep the rooms, paint, assemble the furniture, and put everything in its place. I felt like we were in an episode of Flip This House. Without tremendous help from the grandparents we’d never have gotten it done.

Lucas came up with a great idea while we were painting. He used painter’s tape to create a unique design that reminds me of a tree from a Tim Burton movie or something.

Twilight posters and pillowcase from Hot Topic. $10 poster frames from WalMart. Two end tables and bed frame from IKEA. Lamps from Target.

To say that she loved coming home to her newly redecorated bedroom is an understatement. Her reaction was awesome and made it worth all the hard work.

That was a few years ago and Madison still loves blue and her funky wall. Twilight? Not so much. The ponytail and glasses? Those are gone too.

We’re planning to move into a new house in the next month or so and she told me she’s sad she won’t have her blue wall anymore. Then she mentioned she wouldn’t mind having an old Hollywood themed bedroom. She asked if I’d loan her my framed, black-and-white Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe posters. Why not? I thought. I’ll get them back soon enough.

My Foray into Flea Markets

Good friends of mine find the best treasures at yard sales, thrift stores, and flea markets. They give the most unique and fun gifts. Although I get amazing deals at the grocery store, I’ve never been someone who can naturally suss out the secondhand bargains. I’m hoping to change that this year.

Taking a cue from Jordan at Oh Happy Day, I’d like to focus on a few areas in my home and make them more creative and functional. I love the complimentary prints of her furniture. Using a dresser as a side table provides storage room to eliminate clutter that accumulates in living rooms.

Hoping to find some new décor for a deal, I made my way last weekend to Thieves Market, a monthly flea market in Cave Creek, AZ.

I didn’t find a dresser I could refurbish but I saw some cool stuff, like Coke collectibles, books, Southwestern art, vintage toys, and clothes.

If you head to the Thieves Market with the little kiddos, be sure to take a boo-boo box. With my son, I should never leave home without one. Within the first five minutes he fell and skinned his knee on the gravel. He still gets the words “knee” and “ouchie” confused because to him the two are synonymous. (Here is a cute little first aid kit you can make and fill with bandages and antiseptic wipes.)

I didn’t leave the Thieves Market empty-handed, having purchased a collectible Vegas poker chip for $5 and a handmade novelty necklace for $4. But the time spent shopping with my family on a balmy January afternoon? Priceless.

It Was the Best of Years, It Was the Worst of Years

The fact that we welcomed 2011 while huddled under blankets and with several space heaters on full blast left me thinking, “This must be a sign that this is going to be one tough year.” Not that I’m superstitious but boy did that premonition ever come true. Turns out, having our a/c unit go out during the holidays (which was the coldest part of winter and then it broke again in the hottest part of summer) was one of the easiest challenges my family faced last year. Most of those struggles I can’t write about because I’m simply not as candid as other bloggers and, more importantly, they are not mine alone to divulge. (Someday soon I hope I can because there are important lessons to share.)

None of that is to overshadow the best news of the year: that my husband and I are expecting our third child! How bizarre it is that our oldest child is a freshman in high school. Before I know it I’ll be sitting on the hard bleachers, my butt totally asleep, watching her get her diploma. Where does the time go?!?

Another year gone…

I never got into some of the biggest trends of the year, like planking or Angry Birds. Here’s what I will remember about 2011:

Best fiction book I read: The Way the Crow Flies

Best nonfiction book(s) I read: 3,096 Days in Captivity by Natascha Kampusch and Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony by Jeff Ashton

Best movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Best TV show: The Office (always) and seven years after the show ended I finally discovered Dead Like Me, which co-starred the exquisite Laura Harris. So sad that show had to end over creative differences.

Best reality TV show: Mob Wives
(I’d give the Best Reality TV Show Moment Award to Drita and Karen for their fight on the rooftop in the Season 1 finale. Holy crap, I thought someone was going over the edge!)

Best new song: “Love You Like a Love Song,” Selena Gomez & The Scene

Song I couldn’t get out of my head: “Mercy,” Duffy

Vacations: Rocky Point, Mexico (could have lived without the stomach flu though) and Disneyland in July

Best quote: “Reality hits you hard, bro” – George Lindell. (In fact, that pretty much describes this year for me.) I give the best quote runner-up to Madison for “none of your bunnies.”

Best thing I ate: Lucas’ Smashed Potatoes at Thanksgiving

Proudest moment: When it’s all said and done, I am the proudest of how my entire family bonded together when things got rough

2011 in a word: Trials!

Sad goodbyes: Borders, Harry Potter movies, Amy Winehouse and Steve Jobs

If I had 2011 to do over again: I would have blogged more, flossed more, and been more productive

What I am most looking forward to in 2012: The birth of my third child in April! Moving into a new house and kicking myself in the butt to meet some of my writing goals.

And in 2012 you can also find me each week on Today’s Mama.

Here’s to a happy, healthy new year!

Miss Mary Sunshine

Been busy. Been stressed. My allergies are acting up this year, as is common for pregnant women. I broke down and took two Benadryl last night to stop this incessant coughing. Fourteen hours later I was wishing for a Starbucks and someone to help me chase down a two year-old who keeps stripping. I’m told this is a sign they’re ready to start potty training since they want their diaper off the second they pee. That’s terrific but do we have to do this today when I’m so exhausted? Seriously, I could hibernate after taking Benadryl.

And, I was disgruntled this morning to learn that Pottermore is still not available. So, while I’m feeling crabby it’s with great irony that I accept the Sunshine Award from Janice at The (not so) Special Mother.

I love Janice’s wit and humor, and most of all, her honesty. Her blog is totally relatable – if you’re a parent her Mother Lion post will resonate with you. (I still remember the little girl who bit my daughter in preschool.)

Now for the easy part of accepting the award: the Q&A’s.

1. Favorite color. Violet (not surprising). I also like orange.
2. Favorite animal. Of all animals, penguin. Domestic animals, definitely cat.
3. Favorite number. What a weird question. I’d say 31 because of my birthday.
4. Favorite drink: Coke. I think I was the first consumer to notice when they switched to the polar bear cans.
5. Facebook or Twitter? Facebook! I still don’t see the point of Twitter even though I have an account. What am I missing?
6. What’s your passion? My family. They make everything worthwhile.
7. Giving or receiving presents? Soooo easy. Giving, of course.
8. Favorite day. Sunday. I get to spend the most time with my family just before the work/school week starts.
9. Favorite flower. Roses! I had the most amazing roses at my wedding. I even skipped a veil so I could have a halo with baby roses and a peach bow in the back.

After the ceremony I could not stop smelling my bouquet. (Thanks to Gatsby’s Fine Florist in Scottsdale, AZ. No idea why I can’t find a website for them now…)

Now for the hard part: passing along the award to other bloggers. The reason this is so hard is because there’s so many great bloggers out there, some of whom honor me by stopping by my little blog. And, I just don’t have the free time to keep up with all of them as much as I would like to. So, just a few honorable mentions:

1) I love Kristy at Pampers and Pinot.
2) Also Michelle at What this Mom Knows! She’s a Twilight fan… I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Twilight Blog Hop before I found her. Michelle’s Finding Edward post is hysterical!
3) There’s Reagan at Where is the ME in Mommy?
4) And Alexis at Depressions and Confessions, but she hasn’t been blogging a lot lately (understandably so). I do enjoy her writing though.
5) The book reviews at The Book Buff are great.

I faithfully follow the Query Shark and lately I’ve been reading Dooce, although I don’t know why. That girl has a foul mouth, even if she is an ex-Mormon. And I’ve been a fan of Isaac Marion’s Burning Building ever since I StumbledUpon it one lucky evening. I follow him on Facebook and I love his random posts: “I seriously underestimated the distance between (home) to Jared’s house. And that’s how I ended up walking five blocks through a suburban neighborhood in the frosty night wearing my bathrobe and slippers and carrying a bag of cheese.”

I’m sure I’ve left out some great blogs that I follow. Can’t worry about that now though because I have a two year-old who demands that I play Candyland with him this instant. Priorities, you know.

Age Only Matters if You’re a Cheese

On my 30th birthday my then ten year-old daughter had her classmates sign a petition she created entitled, “People Who Don’t Think 30 is Old.” When she gave it to me she sweetly said, “See, Mom, not everyone thinks you’re old.” I was touched by her sympathy for me and a little abashed at how I’d carried on.

I don’t know why I’ve always been overly concerned about my age. When I was 20 I mourned the loss of calling myself a teenager. At 25 I thought, “Wow. I’m officially too old to be Miss America.” For my entire twenty-ninth year I dreaded the big 3-0, refusing even the word thirty by saying “twenty-and-ten.” Flash forward nearly six years and the realization is settling in that I’m now closer to 40 than 30. (I’ve got a mental note to buy Sarah Brokaw’s Fortytude for my Kindle.)

I’m getting better at embracing the “age is just a number” philosophy. However, I’m pretty adamant that if I have to get older it doesn’t mean I have to look it. So I’ve been re-thinking my nearly nonexistent skin care regimen. But with so many beauty products on the market, which is the right one to choose?

I think I’ve found the answer in Sibu Beauty. All of their skin care products are made from the sea buckthorn berry, endorsed by Dr. Oz as “the new miracle berry.” Also known as the “beauty berry” and the “Holy Fruit of the Himalayas,” the sea buckthorn berry boasts many benefits, including powerful antioxidants which revitalize and restore youthful appearance. Rich in vitamins A and C, the fruit is one of only a few available foods that contains Omega 7, which is extremely beneficial for healthy skin, hair and nails.

With Sibu Beauty, beauty doesn’t have to be just skin deep. They offer products for topical treatments as well as dietary supplements, such as:

The Balancing Facial Cleanser, suitable for all skin types, cleanses and exfoliates, leaving your skin fresh and radiant. It’s great for removing make-up and excess oil but it’s gentle and won’t damage your skin.

The Age Defying Eye Cream, also suitable for all skin types, provides antioxidants and long-lasting hydration. This 100% natural product is specifically designed for the delicate skin area around the eyes to firm the skin and refine the appearance of fine lines.

Cellular Support is a soft gel supplement that provides nutrition for your skin, hair and nails. It is all natural, Certified Organic and Certified Kosher, and may even aid in the prevention of weight gain.

What’s great about the entire Sibu Beauty line is they are 100% natural, Paraben-FREE, Cruelty-FREE, and they do not contain preservatives. You will NOT find dairy, gluten, wheat, yeast, or sodium among their ingredients. (The December 2011 issue of The Vegetarian Times includes a brief article on Sibu Beauty and some of their products.) And, they source the sea buckthorn berry through fair trade, which means Sibu Beauty promotes an equal relationship between their company and the harvesters and processors of their product. As stated on their website, “This includes fair wages and healthy, safe working conditions.”

Great company. Great product line. Great idea for a Christmas gift. Hint, hint.

DISCLOSURE: I did not receive any compensation from the company. I received a free sample in return for a blog post on their products. All opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way.