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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Guardian Angel Too Soon

Four years ago today my dad became my guardian angel.  In some ways it feels like we just lost him yesterday. I can close my eyes and clearly see his face.  Yet there are days like today when I panic and my heart drops because I realize I can't remember what his voice sounds like anymore.

That first Christmas without him passed in a complete blur.  I didn't put up a tree, buy a single gift or have any reaction to the holiday music that seemed to be everywhere.  The only saving grace was my one and a half year old nephew, Mason.  A simple smile or giggle from him helped crack the deep depression my family had sunk into.  His little face gave us something innocent and pure to concentrate on.  Without him, we may not have made it through that first Christmas.

Children have a way of making you forget your problems and appreciate the little things.  Piper has helped my heart heal, while keeping my dad's memory alive.  When she smiles, her eyes crinkle like my dad's and you can't help but to notice the same mischevious twinkle.  I talk to Piper all of the time about her Grandpa Duda.  In fact, I have a photo of my dad holding me when I was a baby hanging in Piper's room.  She loves to look at the photo and wave to Grandpa.  There are times on my commute to/from work that I hear Piper giggling and talking in the backseat.  I have no doubt that Grandpa Duda is along for the ride and entertaining her.

Last year was the first Christmas that I truly felt like my old self.  Having a sweet baby as an intricate part of the celebration can't help but make you feel good.  This year, I look forward to watching Piper run around and play with her cousins.  I know my dad would be thrilled to see the kids.  He adored Mason and always said that next he needed a granddaughter.  Now he has two.  Piper and my three year old niece, Maddie.

Everyone always says that he is still with us and sees Piper, but what I wouldn't give to hug my dad one last time and to see him cuddle Piper.  For now, I'll go hug my little girl and today, we'll continue the tradition of sending a balloon to Grandpa in heaven.  Only this year, my guess is that the balloon will have Elmo on it.    

I feel blessed to have such a wonderful guardian angel watching over me and keeping my sweet Piper safe and sound.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Elmo the Extraordinary

It's amazing how an Elmo balloon from the dollar store can invoke pure joy from a toddler and make you realize that money doesn't buy happiness.  Delving into the frenzied holiday crowds of people shoving, pushing and speeding through parking lots highlights this point even more.  

I love this age and time of year.  Piper is fascinated with simple things like seeing an airplane in the sky, hearing a puppy bark or exploring an empty box.  Putting blocks in and out of an empty box can provide hours of entertainment.  It's amazing to catch a glimpse of the world through Piper's eyes as she's discovering new things.

I want to enjoy her fascination with Christmas lights, glitz and music as long as possible.  She claps her hands with glee whenever we walk through stores decorated for the holidays and greets everyone we pass with a big "hello" and a smile.  No one has every hesitated to smile back at her :-)

How great is it that at 18 months, I can purchase holiday presents for Piper right in front of her and she has no idea.  Heck, I could wrap up toys she already has and she would be thrilled to open them.  Now that's not to say I haven't fed into her recent fascination with Elmo.  Hence the balloon and an Elmo doll that's sitting high in the closet, wrapped and ready for Santa to put under the tree.  I must admit, I can't wait to see her reaction when she unwraps Elmo.  If Piper's reaction to the doll is anywhere close to her reaction to the Elmo balloon, it will be one of the best Christmas memories to date.

Monday, November 28, 2011

You Can't Win if You Don't Play

My obsession with entering sweepstakes dates back to 8th grade when I entered a drawing at school to win a life size poster of Michael Jordan and WON!  From then on, if there is a chance to win anything from a cruise to an Orbit stroller to an Amazon gift card, I will enter.  Most people don't enter because they figure the chances of winning are slim to none...which they are, but someone has to win and why shouldn't that person be you?

Every month I enter a series of sweepstakes on where they give away items from the issue.  This month, I actually one one of the drawings for a $250 shopping spree at LA MER Collections.  To be honest, I didn't remember entering the La MER giveaway, but was pleasantly surprised when I visited the website and saw all of the beautiful custom designed watches.  These aren't your everyday watches.  They are funky wraparound leather watches that I wouldn't typical purchase for myself, which makes the shopping spree even sweeter.  Earlier this year I also won a drawing for a free Taggies toy for Piper and also a gift card for Cold Stone Creamery.  

My all time big win was in 2008 when I wrote a two hundred word essay contest on to win an all expense paid luxurious honeymoon in Jamaica.  Most people get scared off by essays, but two hundred words is literally a paragraph.  When they called to tell me I won, my skeptical side kicked in and I thought it was a scam because it sounded too good to be true.  Turned out to be an amazing honeymoon.  We had a private villa, 24-hour room service, gourmet meals, water sports and spa services.  The only thing we paid for was a manicure I added onto the spa services.

The moral of the story is that you can't win if you don't play.  Who knows what you could win!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tiny Shopping Carts and Two Buck Chuck

Having a husband is great preparation for having a baby.  It's amazing how similar the "big kid" and "little kid" can be at times.

I usually enjoy going grocery shopping by myself.  As nerdy as it sounds, grocery shopping by myself is almost therapeutic.  I can aimlessly walk up and down the aisles and take my time choosing items.  This weekend I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe with both Ryan and Piper in tow.  Can you see the writing on the wall?

We weren't in the store five minutes when Piper was trying to stand-up in the cart and Ryan was MIA.  When I finally caught sight of Ryan, his arms were full of items, none of which were on our list or that we needed.  Three types of cheese, a six-pack of beer I've never heard of, sunflower seeds, pretzel bread and a package of scones somehow found their way into my cart.  Don't get me wrong, all of these items are tasty.  However, I try to stick to a weekly shopping budget, which was quickly getting out of hand.  This was the first of numerous disappearances that resulted in more items appearing in the cart.

Simultaneously, Piper is screaming "dadada" and once again trying to climb her way out of the cart as my leg gets rammed with one of those tiny little kid carts that Trader Joe has.  Those are the WORST invention ever.  I have never experienced a trip to Trader Joe where a child hasn't hit someone with the tiny cart or knocked down a display.  Don't even get me started on the chaos surrounding the sample counter in the back of the store.

By the time we were ready to check, I made my own addition to the cart - a nice bottle of Two Buck Chuck.  After spending $35 over what I had originally planned, we made it home where my big kid and my little kid had lunch and went down for naps.  

What did I do, I hightailed it to Target where I could sip a non-fat gingerbread latte from the in-store Starbucks and finally wander the aisles, all by myself.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review: Mariola's Organic Spa and Retreat

I've driven by Mariola's Organic Spa and Retreat many times and have always been curious and wanted to try it.  I even looked it up online, but the prices were a little high for my budget.  When I saw a Living Social deal pop up for a hour massage, hour facial, 30 minute reflexology and 20 dollars towards product at Mariola's, I bought it in a heartbeat.  

I made the appointment three weeks ahead of time.  Luckily I wrote the date and time on my calendar because I didn't get a reminder call the day before.  When I arrived, I was greeted by a fantastically relaxing scent and serene atmosphere.  However, there was a bit of chaos as the gentleman at the reception desk helped a customer over the phone and another customer and myself waited to check in.  This resulted in my massage starting 15 minutes late.

Working over a computer, heavy bags and a carrying a 16 month old have made my upper back and neck a mess.  Needless to say, I was looking forward to a relaxing swedish massage.  What I got instead was extreme pain as the masseuse put all of her body weight into her elbow and dug it into my back.  I realize I have a lot of knots and tight muscles in my back, but it felt like I was getting beat up.  The masseuse also talked throughout the entire massage, so there was no way to actually relax.  I'm not a fan of being in pain the day after a massage.

Next up was the facial.  I always get nervous about facials since I have sensitive skin, but the esthitician was fantastic.  She used organic Hungarian mud to draw out toxins.  While the mask was setting, she massaged my hands.  And the best part is that she did it all in silence.  I was in such a deep state of relaxation that I almost fell asleep.  My skin was literally glowing by the time she was finished.  

I was looking forward to capping off the experience with a reflexology foot rub.  However, it turns out that the reflexology was actually supposed to be included in the massage.  I had thought my massage went a bit long to make up for it starting late.  Turns out that the combo massage/reflexology cheated me out of 15 minutes.  

Don't get me wrong.  It was wonderful to have an afternoon at the spa to myself.  But the spa experience wasn't all I had hoped it would be.  Although the spa was beautiful and everyone was very nice, I will probably not go back to Mariola's.   

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wommy Guilt

Piper's daycare number flashed on the called ID in my office phone.  Gulp!  The dreaded 2:30 pm phone call - "Piper has a fever of 102.9."  As I quickly gathered papers, closed out programs and shutdown my computer, I dreaded telling my boss that I would have to leave unexpectedly, again.

This is the third time in the last six weeks that Piper has spiked a fever at daycare.  Sweet P made it through her first year of life without even one earache, but then they started to come in waves.  One more earache within the next month and it will be time for tubes.  

When I told my boss that I'd have to work from home both Thursday and Friday, I could tell she wasn't happy.  It didn't help to have poor Piper screaming in surround sound during a conference call.  

This is where the wommy guilt tears you apart.  I feel guilty for not being in the office and then guilty for not giving Piper the attention she deserves.  My heart breaks as Piper grabs my leg, wanting me to pick her up and cuddle her.  But I can't until I finish the last minute deadlined project that's been dropped in my lap.       

My fellow wommies tell me that the guilt never truly goes away, but that you just learn to manage it better.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to manage the guilt of not being there 100% of the time for Piper.  Fingers crossed that a MegaMillions lottery ticket will come through sooner rather than later.     

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall into Fashion

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year.  I love to see the leaves change color, hot cider, college football, the crisp weather where all you need is a sweater and of course, Halloween.  Oddly enough for the Midwest, it is mid-October and 80 degrees.  Not the norm.  I should be enjoying the gorgeous weather before winter slush and snow bury me.  But I really miss those cool 60 degrees days.

This weekend we took Piper to the pumpkin patch.  There is something just wrong about wearing shorts and a tank top to stroll through the corn least for this Midwest girl.  I am so eager to wear my boots, sweaters and new corduroy pants!

You have to admit that Fall is the best fashion season.  You're not icky and sweating, your make-up doesn't melt off, there is no humidity so good hair days are back in rotation and all you need is a fitted blazer or funky sweater to be comfortable.  Don't even get me started on the fab shoe selection - suede knee high boots, stacked heal penny loafers, booties.

In the Midwest, Fall is over in the blink of an eye, so you have to enjoy it.  That's why I'm not thrilled about our mini heatwave.  Yes, I know I sound ungrateful, especially since the prediction is that we will have an absolutely awful winter.

No doubt that this warm snap be over in a week or so and I'll be eating my words.  In the meantime, I'll take the opportunity to get some more wear out of my open toe shoes and soak up the last of summer.