Thursday, March 17, 2016

Visit National Parks Free April 16-24, 2016

Sammy and Sarah 2005 Sequioa and Kings Canyon National Park
The National Park Service together with The National Parks Foundation are offering a fee free week from April 16-24, 2016 to celebrate Earth Day, April 22.
Check out which parks are participating HERE and join in on a service project on Earth Day HERE.

Friday, January 29, 2016

5 Things I've Learned Adulting

People will ask me, How do you do it?

My answer is, You rise to the occasion.

It's true. When I was in high school I pretty much never imagined what my life would be like past this point- I couldn't even conceive it. I planned on getting an education with the hopes of hanging my diploma on the wall in order to be a mother. I wanted to be in a position to become a teacher if the day came when I must work, but the plan was to get married, have children, and eventually, one day, become the greatest grandma ever and change the world for the better. I've learned a few things adulting and this is my short list:

1. When an opportunity presents itself, take it. The best advice I ever received was while I was a lifeguard working at Wild Water Adventures. While working ember watch during an Independence Day firework show, I listened to the words of a 25 year old EMT who explained, When an opportunity presents itself, take it. Sounds simple enough, but to me, at 17, those words were profound.

2. I believe in the capacity of people to do good.
About six months after my talk on the top of the Sidewinder, I began the journey to become a foreign exchange student. Not only did I learn German, and make life long friends, but the main thing I took away from my year in Europe was the world is a big, diverse, beautiful place, and people should not be swift to judge or criticize. I grew up believing many things were black and white (which is typical of most children) and I came to learn that although people make some bad choices it doesn't necessarily mean they are bad people. I believe in the capacity of people to do good.

3. Be resourceful and share what you learn to improve others lives. Life skills are taught. Whether by observation or direct instruction, we are complex social creatures expected to learn a myriad of skills ranging from proper etiquette to cooking rice. Before Youtube, these skills were expected to be learned in the home and young people everywhere are practically starving due to their lack of skills and you have this (in the best case scenario) unintentionally entitled generation who expect their parents to register them for college and chauffeur them back and forth. Use your brain. Find someone to teach you. Keep learning. READ. Be resourceful and creative. To be fair- I'm close to the can't cook side of things- but I can teach you how to use Wordpress, ride a horse, and change the oil in your car.

4. Don't be afraid of money. I grew up thoroughly middle class and for the longest time I felt like DOOM was around the corner. If I couldn't pay my bills it was the END of the world. Now I know, it's not the end of the world. There are far worse things. I have a healthy family and loyal and loving husband and friends who care about me. If I can't pay Verizon, I can suspend that account. PGE can give me their notices. I'll live. The only suckers I pay on time are the credit card companies and my student loans- because if I don't it will really be hell to pay, but only financially, again, real hell, much worse. If your bills are getting out of control, call the companies they will work with you and consider what is truly a want and what are needs. Be wise, but don't let fear and anxiety rule you. Money comes and goes. You might be one top of the world one day and the bottom the next, your relationships are what matters most.

5. Have courage and be kind. Borrowing from Cinderella here, but it is true. Be independent. Be considerate. Be straightforward and honest. Not only is this important in every day life, but professionally. Be one of the shepherds and protect those with whom you work; don't be one of the wolves. We are human beings capable of tremendous compassion and terrible cruelty and some teenage girls are capable of both within the same day. Have integrity. Chose to be better each day and do service. Service will help you to love others and yourself.

Save Mart First and Bullard Clearance

I know it's an unusual place to look for clearance, but Save Mart on First and Bullard has baby food packets for 25 cents a piece. They keep a shopping cart in the back left (Northeast) corner of the store. It's got some Christmas clearance piled on top, but for baby food that is usually $1-$2, it's worth the dig. Also always check the isle near the pharmacy that has the knick knacks next to the Promo isle. It has all sorts of clearance. I got these necklaces 80 cents a piece for a block party Mardi Gras parade I'm going to, happy hunting!

Just Between Friends Consignment Event April 15-17, 2016

According to the facebook page:

Central Valley's Largest Children's & Maternity Event! Shop and find deals like you've never never seen before! Sell your own children's outgrown items as well!

Shop 50-90% BELOW retail on everything for your family!

We will have Spring and Summer clothes, shoes, baby equipment and gear, maternity items, feeding and bathing gear, bedding, room decor, outdoor and indoor toys, sports equipment, electronics, books, games, musical instruments and toys, baby and child furniture, strollers and so much more!

Thursday, April 14th
• 10am-7pm

Friday, April 15th
Open to the public
• 10am – 7pm

Saturday, April 16th
50% Off SALE!
• 10am – 3pm
*50% off sale on most items. Items with a star on their
tag remain full price.

For a complete sale schedule and details go to our website -

Friday, January 22, 2016

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Sweepstakes


Universal Studios Hollywood is opening the Wizarding World of Harry Potter April 7, 2016. To promote the park they are offering a sweepstakes that includes a trip to LA, California; Orlando, Florida; Osaka, Japan and London, England, for a "Making of Harry Potter" tour.

Costco currently has California season passes for sale for about the cost of a one day ticket to celebrate the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I'm not sure when the sale will end. Your passes must be used for the first time by May. Call your local Costco for details.

Enter to win.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Siblings are the Best Link to Childhood

Be nice to your siblings;
They are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

-Baz Luhrmann
 This is a quote from a song, Everybody's Free, that came out in 1997. At the time, I had no idea who Baz Luhrmann was even though I loved his rendition of Romeo + Juliet so it's amusing to me that I found him to be the source of this quote.

I've been thinking about it a lot lately. 
Be nice to your siblings;
They are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
The third anniversary of my parents' death is coming up. Yes, parents, plural. Americans have a hard time dealing with death and grief and most of us try to ignore it. It comes through in our dreams and overwhelms us in moments when the realization hits us too hard. I've been fortunate enough to be married to someone who has made me talk through the tears instead of letting me try to hide in bed from life like I've want to do.  
The dreams I have about my parents often showcase normal daily situations in which one of my parents is standing around, talking to people and then I end up talking to them. The dream gets really awkward because I have to explain to them that they don't belong, because well, they're dead. 
My siblings have truly become the best link to my childhood. Through the years, they have always been there. Our mother was our confidant, so even when we left home, we sort of revolved around her in the way we must have as young children. Without our mother, or father, who do we call or visit to tell the little stories that happen during the week? Who do we share are troubles and inner struggles with? We still have our spouses, but its not the same. We text or call our siblings. We tell the stories of how Tula calls bows, rainbows or how Taylor has gotten snarky. We retell our childhood memories and our siblings always have an investment in our stories the way that only they can. 

My siblings are the closest people I will ever have to my parents in this world. A member of Hinds Hospice was with us the day our mother died, and she said, "The world is not the same without your mother." Never were truer words spoken. I can't even type them without tearing up. 

Let me share the short story of my parents' death. My mother, Susan had been diagnosed with lung cancer about six years earlier. She had gone through chemotherapy with my step-dad at the same time after having surgery on her offending lung. How romantic. She chose to retire from teaching and my step-dad, Jimmy, passed away in 2008. She had decided to never do chemotherapy again and chose radiation instead.
 After her adventures in Ireland, New Jersey and elsewhere, her cancer moved to the brain. She stayed strong and recovered completely between treatments. This woman was prone to worrying and she didn't want us to worry so she didn't tell us intitially. Then when we found out, she had forgotten she wanted to tell us by a certain point in time- brain cancer will do that to you. After her final radiation treatment, she was able to drive herself home and collapsed later that morning as her brain swelled. My sister in Mississippi bought her tickets, but it would take a couple days to get to California. The doctor on call told us to let her go, that she had a 2% chance of recovery. As a tender mercy from God, the decadron worked, she recovered, and we had two more weeks with her that were coherent. 
In the last week of her life, my father, Jim, had been in and out of the hospital due to complications with diabetes. He was in congestive heart failure and had been having small heart attacks over the last couple years. One of my sisters picked up my father and brought him to visit my mother. He sat next to her bed and tried to talk to her. She was doing her best, but some nonsense would slip out, but it was okay, my father couldn't really hear her anyway which had us laughing and crying at the same time. 
After my mother passed away, my father was in the hospital and my other sister and I were dreading telling him that my mother had died. We finally broke the news and he said, "I thought she died three days ago!" Dementia for the win. 

As we planned the funeral, my older siblings took care of my father. He began home hospice care. We truly though we had more time with him. He died the evening of my mother's funeral. 
The first words out of my mouth when I walked up to my siblings: Worst. Day. Ever.
In a desperate attempt to preserve one more thing from our father, my sister and I whipped up a salt dough mix and tried to get an impression of his hand. It didn't work. With no ink, we tried to use a marker to get a hand print. No dice. So I wonder if the funeral home people were shaking their heads when he came in with one black palm. He was cremated.
Sometimes when people find out that my parents died ten days apart they say, "How romantic," in kind tones and I can't help but say, "They weren't together," then I add, "There was affection between them but they were no longer married," and I laugh a little inside because I think they would have even found it funny. 

Terribly sad things will happen in your life. If you are lucky you have people with you who know how to laugh and cry at the same time. People who can tell you your family stories and add to what you remember about your childhood. My siblings are the ones that will remember my mother yelling, "I'm going to sell you to the gypsies!" and my father saying, "Yes sir!"
No one else will understand how funny it was to hear my father asking for his windmill back from my mother as he got in the car to leave her house (that he built) for the last time. This windmill had been one of three things he had wanted since the divorce (although he promised my mom she could keep them). I convinced her to give him the sleigh, but the blue stove and windmill are still on the property.

Easter 2007, You can't see it, but Jen's preggo belly has an Easter egg painted on it.
I miss my mother and father every single day and I don't think that will change. I think there will be times that I will tear up thinking about them for as long as I live.  Most of all I remember their love, unconditional love, and I know that if I can be half the mother, my mother was, I will have accomplished something great. I thank heaven for my siblings for helping me remember my parents and helping me to be better. Julie, Wade, Jennifer, we have started a new era in which we star as parents, which our families are now "the" family. We are mom and dad. I'm grateful for the challenge.
(Larry and Ellen, I can't help but feel like you already have this down.)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Massive Clothing Clearance in January!

It's that time again! CLEARANCES!

January is the month of massive clearances, so try any clothing store you like and they will have prices 50%-70% off.

I stick to The Children's Place online. Sign up for their email list so you can follow their deals, their clothing sizes do run small but they have extended sizing slim-plus. When pants fall down to $8 and tops to $4 with free shipping, I stock up. Their clothes are the equivalent to Old Navy in quality.

Hurrah for hand-me-downs. Many of us have friends with children that can pass on the next size up  for your to grow into. Unfortunately, it's harder as your kids get older, there are those kids who just tear through all their clothing and shoes. That's why no one offers clothes hand-me-downs for sizes 3-8, it's because they are all ruined. Try Thred-up and thrift stores for the survivors.

Amazon Prime Memberships $73 this Weekend Only

Join Amazon Prime for $73 (normally $99) and save $26 on your first year’s membership. Offer valid through 11:59pm PT on Sunday, January 17th. To sign up, click here.