Category Archives: Inspiration

iPhone Photography: Sweet Spot Goes to School

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*In light of recent events, I can no longer in good conscience recommend the IPhone Photography School courses by Emil Pakarklis.  The business practices have become such that it is impossible to have confidence in the product and services*

It is so rare one has a legitimate excuse for procrastinating. In such cases, it is absolutely necessary to capitalize to the fullest. The truth is, diligent post writing has not been my strong suit as of late. I blame this on my husband… no particular reason; he is just a gracious fall guy.

However, my recent distraction has been so fun and educational, I wanted to share. For the past 7 weeks, I have been taking an online iPhone Photography class. I just got tired of having not quite in focus, overexposed photos or photos not exactly what I wanted them to be. I had seen amazing photos taken with the iPhone, so I knew it was possible. Plus, when I travel, I never want to lug around my big DSLR camera and rely mostly on my phone camera and little point and shoot.

Somewhat by chance, as I was once again searching for answers as to why my iPhone photos were not living up to my expectations, I came across the iPhone Photo Academy 6 week (plus 1 bonus week) online course given by Emil Pakarklis.

Since I had nothing better to do for the next 7 weeks – except all the things I needed to do – I decided to give it a go.

Suffice to say I learned a ton; basic iPhone camera use, photo composition and techniques, understanding how to use creativity, light, and shadows, good app editing that does not compromise the photo quality, photo moving and backing up and so much more. Plus, (and best of all for me since my brain in dog years functions more along the lines of a sieve as opposed to a sponge) the classes are always available online for me to revisit and review.

In the end, I learned (partly that many people will always take vastly better photos than I ) but mostly, taking better and even sometimes amazing photos with my iPhone is within my grasp.

I will share a few (or say seven) of my favorite photos I took (or in two cases, re-edited) during the course. Please be kind – I am a work in progress…

iPhone Photography

iPhone Photography

iPhone Photography

iPhone Photography

iPhone Photography

iPhone Photography Portrait

iPhone Photography

Disclaimer Alert: I did not receive anything from Emil Pakarklis for writing this review. I just got so much out of the course, more than even expected, I wanted to share with Sweet Spot readers (and capitalize on a good excuse for my lack of writing). If you are interested, the link for the class is below. Emil does a wonderful job presenting and explaining, and answers  all questions through an online chat as the course progresses. I don’t know when he will be offering another course cycle, but in the mean time, he also offers some free video instruction. I highly recommend the complete course!

iPhone Photography School

Sweet Spot Tells All

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chickenbrainsWell, not exactly “all”, but some…

Running today over on fellow Travel Blogger’s site, KarolinaPatryk.com, is Sweet Spot Travel’s first ever interview!

It was an honor and also very fun to answer questions about one of the things I love to do best!  Travel

To check it out – GO HERE! . It is short and, well,  sweet!

 

Also, while you are there,  you might check out Karolina and Patryk’s  wedding plans! Love this unique idea!

More SWEET SPOT TRAVELS

*Cartoon courtesy Doug Savage /www.savagechickens.com

My Son, the Grave Digger

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grave digger2My kids love their electronics. For this, I am immensely grateful! Oh yeah, you heard me right.  I thank my little parental stars for the attachment my kids have to their respective devices for one reason and one reason alone – it is the best tool known to man/woman (the parenting kind, that is)when it comes to getting  kids to do parental bidding. Nothing says get your chores/homework done like the threat of losing a device – or screams curb your teenage posturing after being separated from Clash of Clans or (gasp) texting for a few days.

Little did my kids know when they succumbed to the charms of their electronics, the slippery slope of manipulation they were setting themselves up for. Their misguided devotion has most definitely been my gain!

However, maybe, a complete ban from all electronics for say something like – not doing your homework when you are told to leaving it until the last possible moment having to stay up late into the night with Mom helping you in order to just finish adequately and then being all snarky about it to boot – is sometimes a little precarious as well.

Case in point. Recently, Pre-Teen, lost his electronic privileges for an extended amount time due to…well, I think you got the general idea above. For the first few days, he walked around the house like one of those zombies looking for fresh meat (the kind that says “I’m bored” a lot). Now don’t get me wrong, Pre-Teen loves the outdoors, when the weather is nice (which it’s not) and reasonably warm (which it hasn’t been for what feels like an eternity). However, finally out of sheer desperation – i.e. looking for something to do that did not involve my offer of household chores – outside he went. I have to say, I did not pay much attention. I suspected the basketball hoop was getting some long denied attention and there was likely some random rock throwing going on, but other than that, I did not have much concern…until Pre-Teen came blustering inside one afternoon.

Pre-Teen: “Hey Mom, do you think Dad will care if I dig a hole in the field?”

Mom: (picturing something the size of your average garden hole) “No, I don’t think so.”

And back out he went.

When it started to get dark and still he had not come back in the house, my parenty senses (you know, the Mom version of spidey senses) began to tingle and I felt compelled to go and investigate. This is what I saw:

Don't bother me, I am busy exploring a new career path.

Don’t bother me, I am busy exploring a new career path!

And as the days ensued, he began to gain eager followers, or rather, enthusiastic diggers.

His brother, Teen, got in on the action:

Finally, something they can do together without fighting!

Finally, something they can do together that does not end in somebody bleeding!

Soon, friends began to show up…fully equipped with shovels and picks for the task at hand.

Where was this gang when I needed sticks picked up?

This gang could come in handy come yard clean up time…

And every day, there seemed to be more work than one guy could handle.

Where will this madness end?

Where will the madness end?

Pre-Teen has long since earned electronic privileges back, and still the digging continues on a daily basis, rain or shine, no matter the temperature – except now, he has a pad to play music on while he works and a phone to text friends to come over during his hours of operation.

Where it will all end, I have no idea.

But, I do know these three things…

1.  The hole keeps getting bigger,

2.  I have been parenting long enough to know, sometimes it is best not to ask too many detailed questions, and…

3.  If you have something dead you need buried…I know just the guy for the job.

(But, he probably won’t come cheap)

Other adventures with Pre-Teen

A Decade of Wisdom

Never Sit On a Couch at a Nudist Colony

Puerto Rico Island Travels Part 2: The Clothing Optional Tour

The Day I Killed the Vacuum

 

The Day I Killed the Vacuum

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If my vacuum had looked like this, we could have been friends.

If my vacuum had looked like this, we could have been friends.

This month  on MAMALODE, the theme for the month of March is Break.  They thought my story The Day I Killed the Vacuum  was (sadly for me…and my vacuum) perfect for inclusion.  So, if you have a little break (ha, get it?) in your day, head on over to MAMALODE and have a laugh (or cry) about The Day I Killed the Vacuum.

5 Perfect Moments: Make ’em Laugh

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Spice Cake Tower of Babel

Cake or The Tower of Babel?

On my current life schedule I find it hard, or rather impossible,  to write.  I try, I really do, but somehow there is always something more pressing. However, I do write lists, lots and lots of lists:  grocery lists, appointment lists, work lists, lists of places people need to be, lists of things I don’t need to worry about anymore, lists of things I want to write about someday,  lists of things to do,  lists of things I keep forgetting to do, lists of things that will never get done but makes me feel better knowing they are at least on a “list”.

However, this week, in light of the way too early and saddening loss of a childhood friend a few days ago, I found myself making a mental list of all the current moments I never want to forget – moments that make me laugh at the time, and smile just  thinking about them later. Moments  I don’t want to pass by too quickly like so many seem to do.  Moments that make up the best parts of my day.

Here are my favorite 5.  Maybe they will make you laugh or smile, too.

1.  Teen came out of his room dressed for school in a suspiciously color coordinated shirt and shorts combo…and announced he meant to do it.

2.  While thinking out loud (aka: talking to myself) about whether to tell my husband about a mutual friend’s health situation being as she is trying to keep it secret until she has the chance to discuss with family members, Pre-Teen piped in from the other room (as is his habit to listen to conversations not meant for him):  “I say ‘no’ Mom, don’t tell Dad –  Because the bag he keeps his cat in is not exactly the tightest bag!”

3.  I started the coffee in my Kuerig coffee maker only to realize mid-cycle, as I stood watching it,  no coffee cup was under the precious stream of coffee.

4.  Pre-Teen had a school project – make a model of the Tower of Babel.  He did so…out of Spice Cake.

5.  I dropped Teen off at High school: “Bye honey, have a good day.” “Thanks Mom…hashtag love.”

For Charlie, because, “If you smile, they’ll never look at your feet.”

Resolutions for 2013 – Sweet Spot Style

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Yes, it is that time again – Resolution time.  Truthfully, I hold with the Non-Resolution style of ringing in the New Year.  That being said, there is always something of value to be learned from history – ones own adventures and, well, misadventures.

Thus this year, I decided to scour the Sweet Spot Archives of 2012 in search of some well earned Resolutions for 2013.
I think I found some pretty powerful nuggets of advice for the New Year…

1.  I will be sure to check my pants zipper (Life, the Ego-Sucking Siege) before entering any and all public establishments.

2. I will struggle on in my war against electronics (I Am Woman – Ode to Chris the Caveman) in the never ending battle for influence over my kids’ brain.

3.  I will try to have a kindler, gentler approach to my vacuum (The Day I Killed the Vacuum) and well, for that matter all machines in general (Woman vs. Machine).

4.  I will try to take Teens advice to drink water and recycle – preferably at the same time – (Teen Talk: Episode #3) and, of course, Pre-Teens advice to Never Sit on a Couch at a Nudest Colony.

5.  I swear never to utter the chant “Party at home plate” at my kids’ baseball games (Take Us To Warp Speed, Scotty), or do any of those other things that would qualify me for “bulldog” status as a  Sports Mom (Bulldogs Don’t Wear Lipstick).

6.  I promise, for Teen and Pre-Teen’s sake, to work in the words “Balls”  (Word-Up: We’ve Got Big Balls) and “Weenus” (Word-Up: Show Me Your Weenus) into every conversation where possible but not necessarily appropriate.

7.  In true Mid-West fashion, I promise to generously give the “no problem” wave, the “thanks for not honking at me even though I deserve it” wave, and possibly throw in the “I’m cool” head wave.  (You Deserve the Wave Today).

8.  I will seek out adventure every chance I get (Sweet Spot Travels), even the scary kind (Today’s Best Moment Thursday April 5.)

9.  I will try to make someones day as often as possible  simply by donning a pen and piece of rainbow stationary. (Go Ahead, Make My Day).

10.  I will be sure to have plenty of stockings/pantyhose and pet hair removal devices on hand for whatever occasion may arise. (Bag Lady Goes a Job Hunting).

11.  I will try to never, ever forget how good it feels to laugh (Destroy This Note After Reading).

And lastly, two lessons –  clearly resolution worthy – from some recent experiences:

I will try to not take as a personal commentary the worker-monogrammed cups received at Starbucks:

Starbucks cup

And, I will remember to pee prior to attending a D-Box movie.

Happy New Year from Looking for the Sweet Spot.

Go get ’em!

Round ’em Up Son: All is Good in Wales

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After a long trip, the question I am most asked by friends and family is “What is your name, again?” No, not really, the big 5 question is always, “What was your favorite thing on the trip?”

It is funny, but even though many activities and places will jump out as highlights on a trip, there is always one glaring favorite – the place I most want to go back to, soon.  The place I  want to be instantly instead of going back to work or doing laundry or cooking or cleaning or shaving or… well, you get the picture.  For me on this particular trip, it was Wales.

While it is true that there are in inordinate amount of sheep in Wales (seriously, they could go Animal Farm and take over if they were thus motivated).

And yes, it is also true that it is really rainy (ok, you can’t see the rain but trust me…it poured).

(Calwy Castle)

and windy

(Beaumaris, Anglesey Island)

and foggy a majority of the time

(Snowdon Mountains)

But even with all that – it is just so  darn BEAUTIFUL.

(Llandudno, Wales)

And somehow, the beauty is all tied up together in one big, green wonderland – sheep, rain, wind, fog and all.

So, save a spot on that green spongy grass for me.  I will be back.

Today’s Best Moment: Wednesday, 6/20

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I am having trouble keeping up with work and writing this summer. Could it be that I am doing too much of this…? One can only ponder.

Come Home Proud

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Tomorrow’s Veterans.

Recently, I was given the privilege of showing my appreciation to the Men and Women serving our country overseas.  This honor was made possible by my young cousin Megan as she compiled letters of thanks to send to her fiance marine, Jared, and his Brothers in Arms – spending the holidays far from home on a final tour in Afghanistan.

To recognize all on this day, Veterans of the past, present and future, I wanted to share my letter.

Dear Jared and Brothers,

My day today was typical, uneventful – routine even.

I woke up, took a shower, made breakfast, forgot to make lunches, sent my boys off to school, went to work, drove to the store, left my grocery bags in the car, watched my son ride his bike around the block, went to the post office and bank, helped with homework, took out trash, wished husband was taking out trash, drove kids to soccer practice, waited, talked on the phone, cooked dinner, watched the Cardinals get beat by the Rangers…again, read my book, prepared for the next day…

But, here’s the thing.  Today was also the most extraordinary and amazing day ever. Today, I got to do all those things feeling safe, protected and free.  Today, I got to enjoy all those mundane, wonderful things because;

There is nothing typical about your dedication to my protection.

There is nothing uneventful about the personal risk you take to secure my safety.

There is nothing routine about the distance you have to spend away from your loved ones so that I can watch my son freely ride his bike around the block.

Not even by a long shot.

So in these closing moments of my typical, uneventful – routine even day, let me say thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for every moment of your phenomenal day that enables me to rejoice in my typical day.  It means more to me than you can ever know.

Come home soon.

Come home safe.

Come home proud.

Love,

Paula

This is a post from last Veterans Day.  I wanted to re-post it in honor of Memorial Day 2012 with the update:

 He came home…

Go Ahead, Make My Day

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The letter.  Do you remember that dinosaur?  No, no, no, it is not something you type out onto an email, or text from your phone or even message on Facebook.  It is not the same as commenting, liking, tweeting, repining, stumbling, joining or even following (did I miss any?).  Need a memory jog…or maybe, marathon?

The letter is that archaic form of communication where you actually pick up a pen (if you can find one that works), select a stationary or card (my favorite often had bunnies or rainbows), write by hand sentiments and thoughts (which requires you have some), write the address (that street-city-state-zip thingy), stamp it (the little.44 sticker) and send by (gasp) the US Post – heretofore to be referred to as “snail-mail”.  Coming back to you now?

Well, recently I have been thinking about letters a lot.  I have been remembering the stationary kits I had as a kid, complete with matching paper, envelopes and stickers.  I have been reminiscing over the times when I lived away from home and became closer to friends and family through this antiquated form of communication. I have been cherishing all the letter responses I stored away and saved. I have been laughing hysterically over letters written by my teen self to my Grandmother that were returned to me upon her death. I have been recalling how, when you receive a physical letter, it feels like obtaining a piece of the person who penned it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the electronic mediums as much as the next girl. You just can’t beat the convenience of texting/emailing while driving, the divides bridged (and marriages compromised) by social networks, and the home created for otherwise completely useless information.

But, here is the thing, I have a friend (yep, true stuff there). She is a special kind of friend. She is the kind of friend I have known since before puberty.  The kind of friend who remembers the leopard patched ripped-up Levis I wore with pride and will still call me out on if need be. The kind of friend with whom I have, fought, laughed, cried, and survived over the years. The ‘til death do us part kind of friend.

This friend, well, she still on occasion writes letters.  When I least expect it and sometimes most need it, a letter will arrive in my mailbox from her.  It will be filled with words of encouragement, sentiment, and love.  It will be decorated with stickers or sayings.  It will have taken her time, attention and effort to accomplish. Sometimes, the stationary will be hand crafted; sometimes the letter will be written all helter skelter; and sometimes the contents will cause me to smile, laugh or even cry a little.

But, no matter what is inside, the letter always makes my day – in that warm, cared about, loved and appreciated kind of way. In a manner that no email, text, IM, tweet, like or follow ever could, or honestly, ever will.

So today, I am going to write my friend a letter. I am going to enclose some words of love, encouragement and appreciation. Maybe, I will decorate it with stickers.  Probably, I will try to write something funny. Definitely, I will pen into the words a piece of myself. Then, I am going to address it, stamp it and send it via snail-mail.

And when the letter arrives in my friend’s mailbox,

I hope, it makes her day.

To Botox or Not to Botox

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My most recent article “To Botox or Not to Botox” is up and running today on ParentSociety.com.  Now hold on there, it may not be exactly what you think.  But, I promise two things:  you will get a laugh and find out one of my husbands deep, dark secrets.  How can you resist?

It starts out like this:

For some time now, I’ve been wondering whether or not to get Botox. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it, too. No really, don’t tell me, because the truth is, we would all just about give our front teeth (that can then be replaced with perfect porcelain veneers of course) for a chance to forgo the wrinkling part of aging.

My first encounter with the idea of Botox was

You will just have to Go Here to read the rest!

And don’t worry,

(No actual scientific knowledge was abused, or even, well, used, in the writing of this article).

Sunshine Blogger Award

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This week has truly been a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride for me!

I woke up Wednesday morning at 7 am to a full-to-the-brim email file of comments, likes & follows and already over 1000 visits for the day to Looking for the Sweet Spot.  Now, for some of you, this may be par for the course, but for this humble blogger, it was quite the event.  I quickly came to discover that my post You Deserve The Wave Today had been chosen to be “Freshly Pressed” on WordPress.com and I was now enjoying the fruits of that honor.  By days end, visits to my site had climbed to almost 6,000 visits from readers all over the world (continuing today!) and the amount of comments, likes, and reblogs were overwhelming in a Christmas comes everyday kind of way!

So, thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who came, read,  and gave some love to my Sweet Spot place.  It has meant more to me than you can know.

But wait!!  There’s more.

Because what did I wake up to today but a presentation of the Sunshine Blogger Award from my favorite Jman blogger and truly wonderful supporter – TheFadderly.  If you haven’t visited his blog – well get on it!  Not only is he hilariously funny & clever, he is also an amazing artist, contributing writer for ParentSociety.com and Dad to 4 kids (yeah, he will be applying for Sainthood shortly).

As I understand the rules,  I am to answer the following 10 questions and then pass the torch by awarding the Sunshine Blogger Award to another blogger.  Well, first things first…stuff about me!

1.  Favorite Color:  Blue!  All things blue – blue sky, blue ocean, blue jeans, especially blue jeans!

2.  Favorite Animal: Cats.  I have to say this or else Lulubelle (my cat) will reek vengeance upon me.  Anyway, at one time I was payed bucu bucks to pretend I was a CAT – so there!

3.  Favorite Number: Number 2…no, Number 6…no,  Number 26.  Forget it, I never was very good with numbers!

4.  Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink:  That’s easy – COFFEE!  I once said in a blog I could live without a second cup of coffee.  I now confess, lies…it was all lies!

5.  Facebook or Twitter?:  Well, Facebook is my comfort zone.  On Twitter I have made many amazing friends, but I always feel like I’m in High school and can’t quite compete with the cool kids!

6.  My Passion:  Humor.  I am passionate about finding humor in all things.  Maybe, you have noticed?

7.  Getting or Giving: I love to get the presents I give myself.  Just kidding (sort of).  Seriously, if money was no object, giving would become a truly intoxicating affair!

8.  Favorite Pattern:  The pattern the clouds make in the sky never fail to fascinate me – consequently, be warned,  it can be hazardous to your survival to drive too close to me on the freeway.  And, can I just add, I have a lifelong dislike for polka dots.

9.  Favorite Day: My favorite day is any day I get to hop on a plane and go somewhere!

10.  Favorite Flower:  Listen, no flower or plant wants to be within a 12 mile radius of me as I kill all things green!  So, can I just do like TheFadderly and tell you that my favorite album of all time – hands down  – is Temple of the Dog.

Alright – now it is time to pass the torch!

I would like to present The Sunshine Blogger Award  to Elisabeth Hirsch,  ECStilson – The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom.  Not only is she beautiful inside and out, she is also wildly funny, a talented musician and most of all,  a truly gifted writer!  She is just coming out with her third book, Bible Girl.  She blogs about her books, her life and everything in between.  If you haven’t discovered her yet, what are you waiting for!!  Go now!

What in the wild world of sports will I wake up to tomorrow?  Breakfast in bed?  Laundry done, folded and put away?

Aaah, dare to dream!

Have a Little Faith

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“Why I Should Have Had More Faith in My Son”  is my post today on ParentSociety.com.

When your son comes home with a bad Mid-Quarter Progress Report, how do you react? My thought processes go something like this:

In that moment, I could see my son’s whole future pass before my eyes: receives bad mid-term progress report grade– fails class – flunks out of school – starts to drink – begins dating biker chick with facial hair – turns to drugs – discovers online poker – resorts to begging for change outside a 7 Eleven. 

But recently, I learned how to have a little more faith in my son, and myself.  Go here to read the rest if you want to know how.  It’s big, I tell you, HUGE.  Well, not really, but it’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it.

Go read now!  “Why I Should Have Had More Faith in My Son”

Is There Life After 40?

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Well, duh, I’m  not dead yet.  However, the term “It’s now or never” sure takes on a whole new meaning.  What do I mean?  Well, head on over to ParentSociety.com and read my latest article,  Is There Life After 40?,  to get  ‘the rest of the story’.

As a kid, I was once asked what age I considered old. I promptly replied, “40.” In my teenaged, eye-rolling mind, there was clearly no life after 40. I’ll just bet the adult who asked the question wanted to drop kick me into the next week…

You might just find out what Patrick Dempsey, hair dye and mini-vans have to do with turning 40.  Now how can you pass that up? Go here!

Is There Life After 40?

Today’s Best Moment: Thursday, April 5

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Photo By: Paula Danner

Photo by: Paula Danner

Devil’s Bridge – Sedona, Arizona

We had to hike to get there.  I didn’t even panic when they walked across.  Ok, that is a lie.  I did panic, a little. But man, it was cool.

The truth is, the best moment may very well have been afterwards,   playing football with them in the hotel pool. That was cool, too.

For more on this adventure, finding the bridge and living to tell about it –   Go Here!

For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here!

After Years of Searching for Justice

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On ParentSociety.com, I have an article running today.  It is not my usual ” humor infused” (attempts at humor anyway) type of  Sweet Spot story. However, I wanted to share it here nonetheless.   It starts out like this:

Yesterday, I read the news, much like I always do in the morning before sending my kids off to school. I enjoy reading up on a variety of subjects: health, stupid Hollywood pet tricks (a.k.a. celebrity news), consumer reports, world news, etc. Most of the time, once my kids are off to school, I begin my work and go on with my day. Sometimes, I even relay interesting information to my husband. But yesterday, I read an article that haunted me throughout my day and into the next.

Go here to find out why we should all pay attention to Fakhra Younus’s story.

Some stories must be remembered. Thank you for reading.

Today’s Best Moment: Monday, March 26

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I took my kids to see The Hunger Games.

But oh, we didn’t just see the movie.  We discussed casting, disagreed on plot changes, analyzed adjusted content, evaluated screenplay adaptation, laughed at The Hunger Pains parody,  fought over  necessity of added scenes, pondered future installments, reviewed overall success, and considered Lenny’s gold eyeliner.

The movie was good.  The after part was the best.

For Those About to Rock, or Turn 40 Someday

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My first article  The Real Reason I Wear Sunscreen (Hint: It’s not for my health) is up and running on ParentSociety.com!  Curious?  It starts like this:

A few years ago (if more than ½ dozen can still be considered a few), I turned 40. 

You know those major transitions in life that breeze right by – go down like milk and honey?  Right, well, this was not one of those moments.  For me, turning 40 was much more like swallowing a jagged little pill…and Alanis Morissette…and her entire band…all at the same time.

As I recall, which being over 40 and a Mom pretty much gives me carte blanche to never remember anything ever again, my actual birthday was pretty good….

Go here to read the rest.  Really, you don’t want to miss this one.  That is, if you want to know what Peeping Toms and sunscreen have in common.

The Real Reason I Wear Sunscreen.

Today’s Best Moment: Tuesday, March 13

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**Cheese Alert**

My 10 year old son had said his goodbyes and headed out the door to go to a friends house.

Five minutes later he comes running into the room where I am working, with the most beautiful bunch of fresh picked flowers, in a vase with water.  A hug and an “I love you, Mom” later, back out the door he goes to the friends house.  Leaving me choked up, happy, feeling loved and hoping the neighbors don’t mind…

What is life without a little cheese.