Our Fun Family Experience At Flagstaff Venue To See Joe Nichols!

One great thing about living in Phoenix is that beautiful Flagstaff is just a few hours away.  So last week we took a trip to escape the heat and to check out a cool venue called the Pepsi Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill County Park.  Hubs and I packed up our two teenagers, along with our son’s sweet girlfriend, and off we went up North to enjoy Flagstaff and a terrific concert with the super talented country star Joe Nichols! The weather was perfect and my hubs snapped this nice photo of me and the teens in front of the Pepsi Amphitheater. us at Joe Nichols concertLucky for us, one of our family’s favorite country singers, Joe Nichols was performing a concert under the stars at this awesome outdoor venue.  Pepsi Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill County Park is so pretty and the website says that the Amphitheater is located amidst the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine Forest in the world.  It was a very nice spot to enjoy an awesome outdoor concert!  We arrived early to check the place out and you can see that the seating area was empty in this picture below, but it filled up pretty quick for sure.early onAnd the grassy area behind the seats is a gorgeous spot to take in a concert.  That area also was packed by concert time.  I took this picture early on and the pretty trees in the background are so lovely.grass areaWe ordered food from the snack bar which sold burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, nachos and more. My teens told me to be sure to tell you that the food was good because it was grilled right there on the spot so it was fresh and hot.

This is the walkway to the snack area. We loved how casual and comfy the place was instead of an overcrowded and overwhelming arena, this had a nice relaxing atmosphere.

This is the walkway to the snack area. We loved how casual and comfy the place was and instead of an overcrowded and overwhelming arena, this had a nice relaxing atmosphere.

This cool place also has multiple areas to purchase cocktails and beer and wine, which hubs and I enjoyed. Here we are earlier that evening.  Dressed and ready to go!  [Read more…]

Yeah, It’s True What They Say…Don’t Blink!

I did and look what happened….from the first day of Kindergarten 12 years ago to the picture below1st day senior….this one….the one that happened when I blinked.  Today is my son’s last first day as in his first day of Senior year in high school.

I know that he will have a first day of college, but it won’t be the same. He won’t be here, slightly annoyed that I keep asking him for a first day picture.  He won’t have to kindly obilge and grant me a smile to get it over with which is OK with me.  At least I get that first day picture year after year.  He finally posed for this one after his sweet girlfriend and I begged him to cooperate. And I think he ended up having fun and having his mushy mama hug him wasn’t so bad after all!

To my first born, my beautiful son, I wish you an amazing and incredible last year in high school.  Senior year is so much fun.  You get to rule the school and leave early since your half day schedule is the reward you reap from working ahead the last three years in AP classes and college dual enrollment, too.  Nice going.

Keep it up this year even though your schedule will be easier.  You get to spend some of your freed up afternoons focusing on your golf game and ice time with your participation on the Varsity teams again. Also please put time in those scholarship apps and your college applications and put to use the very impressive scores that you earned on the ACT and SAT (so proud)!

And remember to stay the amazing young man that you are….a loving son who is a pretty good teen most of the time (stressing most as you know the moments that you put us to the test!)….a good student who teachers like….a fair teammate who is truly a team player….a good friend, which certainly shows with the nice friends that you have been buddies with since Kindergarten and even some since the toddler years…connor gradContinue to be a gentleman and a nice boyfriend. You have so impressed us with how you have handled your first love and your sweetheart is such a nice young lady.  Jack kisses Hannah prom

Enjoy, embrace and hang out with your ol’ parents some (and thank you for the time you do give us as you truly do make time for us more than we expected!)…and remember to take it all in.

You only get your high school senior year once, so make it count and savor this year, Mr. Class of 2016.

We will be cheering you on, gently (usually gently anyway) guiding you when needed as you prepare to leave the nest next year.  We are always there for you, no matter what.  Even when that giggling little boy in the first picture turns into a grown man, maybe living thousands of miles away from us….we are always with you in your heart and hopefully, when needed, in your mind, when you have big decisions to make.  Maybe our words of wisdom AND our own adult missteps through the years will help you find your way when life gives you lemons and lemonade.  Both the joys and concerns require good decisions to move forward and to grow and thrive.

We get one more year with you under our roof to help with that growing and thriving.  And I’m not gonna blink!

We are always here for you, our son.

You have made us SO proud in Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, middle school, that first day of high school and now your senior year has arrived.  You are also a good family member in our family of four.  Our fam Xmas 2014Wow….we blinked and it got here fast.  I’m going to keep my eyes wide open as you venture through your senior year and make your way to the podium wearing that prized cap and gown.

You keep your eyes wide open too, son.  Be careful, be mindful, continue to be kind….and don’t blink cuz the graduating class of 2016 will happen so fast now.

Happy last first day, my love.

P.S. Don’t forget that your little sister is embracing her last year of middle school and is watching her big bro, so keep setting a good example…I beg of you….cuz after you fly off, high school starts all over again for your tired, but happy and pretty darn excited parents! lil sis kiss

That picture above of my two kiddos is also a picture of my heart.


AZ Local: My Kids Prove It-Magical Journey Learning Center is Magical

How magical is this?  All these years later my 6’1 almost 18-year-old son with the man voice and my super busy 13-year-old girl, with a mountain of gal pals and a schedule that doesn’t stop, both jumped at the chance to go back to Kindergarten to help their beloved very first elementary school teacher.  Correct me if I’m wrong but most teenagers aren’t interested in even thinking back to the time when they were five years old, much less taking time to work at a little kids’ school new location grand opening.  2015 my kids with WillisBut my two were thrilled to do it.  So they helped their beloved teacher from so many years ago get the word out at her school’s new location grand opening.  This magical private school for PreK through 1st grade is fittingly called Magical Journey Learning Center (MJLC).

My teens said yes to helping Mrs. Willis because she is the magical Kindergarten teacher that taught and loves both of my kids.  Michelle Willis left an imprint on their hearts and she nurtured a love for learning that has taken my two quite far today.

Years ago now....my kids and their first day of Kindergarten with the awesome Mrs. Willis.  Time flies and they still adore her.

Years ago now….my kids on their first day of Kindergarten with the awesome Mrs. Willis. Time flies and they still adore her.

Yes I do give her a lot of credit!  And sometimes she worked with hubs and me to use tough love on those rambunctious 5-year-olds when their acting out got the better of them.  She called that “nip it in the bud” moments and we worked together with her to do just that.  It worked as the remaining school years have gone smoothly with hardly any acting out in class in the years that followed.  Good stuff, let me tell you!

I love the meaningful signs that adorn the classrooms at MJLC.  These clever phrases are words that the kids will remember well into adulthood.

I love the meaningful signs that adorn the classrooms at MJLC. These clever phrases are words that the kids will remember well into adulthood.

school shots

My son just scored a 32 on the ACT (98% in the country) and my girl just received her 8th grade schedule and advanced Language Arts and Math are both listed.

So the proof is in the pudding.  They are both thriving and that super important Kindergarten year set the foundation for their future….and so far….continued success.  Yes!

Michelle Willis is one of the founders of Magical Journey Learning Center and the curriculum is both inspiring and fun.  Your kids will be in a small ratio student to teacher class with certified teachers, two of whom are National Board Certified.  MJLC also boasts a Lend a Hand program which teaches community service. The school’s belief is that it is important to teach to the whole child and provide balance so the teachers focus on social, emotional and academics.  My kids are proof that they received all three under the guidance and TLC of Mrs. Willis so many years ago.  Those lessons have stayed with them and now that they are teenagers, can I just tell you how much I appreciate that!  And then some! school roomI will bet you money that when your little one is a high school senior, like my son is now, Mrs. Willis will still be that favorite teacher.

So on that hot summer day a few weeks ago, they went to work their shifts for that favorite teacher they both shared four years apart.  For their time, Mrs. Willis very nicely paid them, but the money isn’t the main reason that they happily accepted her invitation.  It is because, they both told me, it was Mrs. Willis who was asking.

For Mrs. Willis my son would risk his friends driving by teasing him as he danced around with brightly colored balloons and waved a big sign with large letters announcing the school’s grand opening. Jack holding sign

For that favorite teacher that he had so many years earlier, he would stand in the searing hot Phoenix sun…in July mind you…with a big smile and an energetic wave inviting prospective students and their families to come on in to see the new school location.

He knows that those little guys and gals will remember that special teacher like he does now, so many years later, when they are practically all grown up.

My teen girl happily did face painting and actually practiced the evening before on fake mannequin heads that we got at the craft store.  It was important to her the she do a good job for Mrs. Willis and get kids excited to enroll there.  Lexi face paintingShe knows that these kids will experience a magical and high quality education that will take them far.

Two busy teens put their phones away and cleared their morning with an excited smile to work to help a teacher from many years ago….kind of magical, I’d say.

Both of my kids learned math, language arts and more in creative ways.  My daughter still rememebers how Mrs. Willis set up a pretend post office where real letters were mailed.  That was a magical way to learn how to write and read.  I can see by the cool signs that adorn the school walls that the learning continues to be creative and fun. signs

Yep that is magical and planned all in one and that is the kind of future investment MJLC will offer your children with the top notch teachers that include our own Mrs. Willis.

Just check out the Magical Journey website to see the magical things they do in the classroom that will last well past preK, Kindergarten and 1st grade.

inspireHard to believe that we have now experienced almost all of the following grades with just senior year left to dive into next week.  And I know that some of those life lessons learned in Kindergarten will help guide my son as he transitions from high school to college.

Give your kids the best start possible because you don’t get a do over and you won’t believe just how fast senior year gets here.  How he went from a little Kindergartner to this young man posing for his cap and gown picture….how fast that time went by….that really does feel like a magic trick, let me tell you!!then and now





Back To School Bargains!

Manic:  It is back to school here already!  My kids start back on August 3rd!  Time for back to school supply shopping and that can be timely and costly!

Managed:  Did the legwork for my blog readers and found some great deals including some supplies that only cost 1 cent!  Yes, you read that right…only one penny.  So read on to see the deals and to see what some of our favorite time tested picks are plus a cool school supply for parents that I wish I would have had on hand years ago.

Parenting 101: Broken Bones Aren’t Always Obvious!


Manic:  My daughter breaking her arm, which was not supposed to be a part of her summer break plus the fact that this particular injury didn’t present at all as a Mom would expect, which just about threw me off! Cast

Managed:  Listened to that inner voice I call the Mom gut voice and decided to get a 4th (yes I said FOURTH) opinion to answer the puzzling question of is it broke or not?  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it they say….but if it is…well I need to know that without question so we can fix it.  Why was this so confusing and what happened? The good news is that the story is short.  The bad news is that she did indeed break her elbow. And this is news that you should read about so if this puzzling type of injury happens to your kid or to you, you may remember our little story and get a 1st, 2nd, 3rd…and finally 4th opinion!

Surprise #1 – The injury didn’t hurt that bad. 

Three days ago it was my teen daughter versus the trampoline on her 4th front flip.  The trampoline trampled her arm when she landed squarely on her elbow and not on her feet.  Here is another big surprise….

Surprise #2 – I didn’t even know about it until hours later.  

She was at a fun cheer camp so I didn’t know about this crash landing until several hours later since I wasn’t there during the fall.  So she casually mentions the crash landing to me, and as we parents do, I proceeded to look at her arm and quiz her on pain level, movement and motion.

Surprise #3 – No swelling or bruising to be seen. [Read more…]

Took My Teen To First College Visit & I Recommend Doing This!

Manic:  The fact that our first born will turn 18 on his next birthday and that his very last year of high school starts in early August.  Is it really already time for him to apply to college?!  Where do we start?  It all feels overwhelming for sure!

Managed:  Took a deep breath and asked my son to schedule that very first college campus tour.  He went online and he did just that.  Five days later we took our first tour and we loved it, more than we thought that we would…and that was true for both myself and for my son.  Our first stop was TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. Read on to see why I highly recommend scheduling and taking a tour of a potential college choice and what our visit was like.  Pretty cool actually!

TCU Visit with Jack

Our very first college tour….wonderful and I wonder how did this get here so fast?!

Before we took the tour, I asked our son to go online to TCU and to formally schedule our visit.  He needs to be ready to do things for himself and on his own when he leaves us next year (that sounds so strange to write…when he leaves us….it got here fast).  So fortunately for me, he readily agreed and I didn’t have to ask twice.

Since he had scheduled the tour, we were warmly welcomed in the admissions office with a visual video hello that made us smile and feel right at home.  tcu welcomeAfter admiring that and grabbing some yummy coffee from the admissions lobby, we took our places inside a briefing room to hear all about Texas Christian University.  The gentleman that spoke to us had graduated from TCU four years earlier and now happily works with the administration welcoming and recruiting potential students with his interesting and energizing talk.  He shared photos of famous TCU almuni around the world sporting their Horned Frog fingers on professional football end zones, on the American Idol stage, in London and more.  He told us about his own roommates who left the campus after graduating to go on to medical school, law school, teach and to other successful next chapters.

The Horned Frogs’ traditions sure sounded fun like a private semester kick off concert for the students that have included pretty big acts in the past such as Lady Antebellum and many others.  Or the annual pancake dinner with students dancing and laughing.

The pictures of the dorms looked nicer than I had expected and the Business and Journalism schools both impressed us with the many programs that are offered inside each of the state of the art facilities.  I wanted to sign up and go back to college for a brief moment as I sat there taking it all in with my son. And the campus is really pretty. pretty TCUI was reminded that our young man has a great adventure waiting just around the corner for him.  His life will soon change, as will ours, as we will have one less teenager in our busy home.

As I sat there and thought about all of this and the uncertainties that come with such a big life change, I knew right then that one thing was for certain…and that was that this college tour experience was definitely a good idea to make happen.

It is a big decision to consider different colleges.  Jack will need to spend a lot of time applying to both the different universities and for the scholarships that he has worked very hard to hopefully obtain.  So visiting our son’s potential choices is a worthy use of our time for sure.  Ok enough of my Mom thoughts, now back to the tour!

Next we took the walking tour and our guide was from Scottsdale, which is pretty cool!  She is also a Journalism major (my degree is in Journalism and my son plans to study that as well) so that was also fun for us.  Her name is Abbie and her enthusiasm for TCU was genuine and contagious for sure.  AbbieShe knew her stuff and conducted the entire campus tour walking backwards, which impressed our group.  TCU tour walkShe also met with a smaller group of us (with the kids who plan to study Journalism) after the official tour to discuss the Journalism program at TCU.  She told us all about the Bob Schieffer College of Communication.  You probably know that Mr. Schieffer just retired from being the longtime moderator of the CBS Sunday morning show, Face the Nation.  She elaborated on how Mr. Schieffer whole heartily supports the school with personal visits, guest lectures given by prominent journalists including Mr. Schieffer and more.  Prior to this, we had no idea that this particular Journalism school is such a good one. This was definitely good to know and Abbie, who is now a TCU senior, has taken full advantage of the college’s Journalism offerings as an anchor herself on the school’s news show.  Go Abbie! IMG_3440And to learn so much about my son’s school of interest was quite the bonus!

As we toured the beautiful TCU grounds, we learned about the fun Horned Frogs culture, how to properly display the Horned Frogs symbol and toured some of the schools.  TCU groundsThe TCU Neely School of Business was very impressive, both the school’s rankings and the building itself, which looks more like a downtown office complex than a school.  We noticed the stock exchange ticker running along the walls and since the majority of the prospective students told Abbie early on that they planned to be business majors, the stop was a good one for sure.

I was especially impressed with the John V. Roach Honors College at TCU because they offer a very unique class that makes a difference as well.  The class is called the Nature of Giving and at the beginning of the semester the students are given a set amount of money to work together to decide which charities will be awarded the money at the end of the semester.  Students learn about researching the different charitable groups, working together to decide which groups will receive the funds and they give presentations to each other to present their case about which groups would best benefit from the donation.  The 2012 Spring class was given $100,000 to work with!  How cool is that?

So there was a lot we loved about TCU and we really didn’t expect to leave that impressed!  My husband and I are Texas Longhorns alumni so we naturally assumed that our boy would see orange!  And our boy took the tour more for us than for himself since we were already to be in Fort Worth and had been encouraging him to try a college tour.  This just proves how important it is to take the tours!

Time will tell what he decides to do, but he has definitely decided to apply to TCU, among other colleges. You can bet that we are taking him to the tours that the other universities offer that he is considering.  He did very well on both the ACT and the SAT and he finished up his junior year with a 3.9 GPA in honors classes, so we think he will be considered at the colleges he applies to, which is another reason to take the trips to the different campus locations to get a feel of how it feels to him.

TCU also offers a fun full day visit called Monday at TCU which includes a campus tour, residence hall tour, breakfast and lunch on the campus, special interest sessions and meetings with faculty and financial aid representatives.  If we would have known about that, we would have signed up for a Monday.  So be sure to go to a college website to check out their tour information.

We were also told about tuition (not cheap…about $50,000 a year) and very importantly, how to apply for scholarships.  We also discovered that the numerous college dual enrollment classes that our son took in high school (and that we paid for) will be considered as transfer courses, case by case.  I had assumed that they may not transfer at all since we are out of state from TCU.  Good to know for sure.

Moreover, we made friends on the tour and if their students attend TCU, it turns out that our son will already know someone studying the same disclipine that he wants to learn, which is Sports Journalism.  I truly can’t stress enough just how valuable taking a college campus tour is for both you and your student.

And my favorite part was that this is now a cherished memory in my heart since this was our very first college tour.  towerIt was such fun and it made me feel so excited for our son about his future.  I’m not gonna lie…I wanted to go back to college for a moment or two during the tour, especially after Abbie sent me this super fun picture of her with her friends at a TCU football game.  Abbie with friends at TCU game
So make a smart memory with your kid and schedule college tours.  This was another one of those big milestones that happen in the teen years.  There are many milestones between 13 and 20 and I think that is one reason why their teen years just speed on by, truly!  I had been told by friends that the high school years go the fastest and I’m here to tell you that it is so true.  This memory is locked inside my heart and I am guessing that someday when my son takes his own child to see that first prospective college tour, he just might think back to his day with his old Mama, and smile.





What My Uncle’s Loss Reminds Me To Do

It seems lately that I’ve wished too many friends comforting words following the loss of a loved one, a cherished family member or a true friend.  I was starting to take notice that many seemed to be departing this year of 2015 and from all sorts of ailments and folks of all ages.  Then we got a phone call with news of a loss of one of our own.  Our dear Uncle Tony.  With Tony at Grandmother's 90thAlthough we knew that he had been ill, his passing was still unexpected to my husband and to me.  I knew immediately that I would rearrange my life to be on a flight to Fort Worth, Texas by the end of the week.  I did just that and I was reminded that life is unpredictable.  I was also reminded to follow my heart on this one and to cancel, rearrange, reschedule, pay the airfare, hire the home/cat sitter and more to ensure that my family was at Uncle Tony’s services.

Now that I’m back home with time to myself to reflect on Tony’s life, I remember his actions, his words and the example he set as a passionate man, both with his family and in his career and in the countless examples of how he helped others.

Tony’s passing also reminds me of several other life lessons that he taught me by example that I think are good reminders for all of us.  These life lessons are….

*Be welcoming and warm as he was to me back in 1985 when my then brand new boyfriend brought his Uncle Tony to the mall where I worked full-time to help put myself through college.  I will never forget his big embrace, bright eyes and smile that meant he found joy in his treasured nephew’s interest in me and treated me with an instant family welcome that was geuninue.  That Harris warm welcome is one reason that I said yes years later when that boyfriend proposed to me.

*Root for the next generation as Tony did for the younger set.  I saw him do it countless times for others in many forms through the years.  My own experience was the letter of recommendation that he wrote for me as I applied for a scholarship to get into the University of Texas at Austin after working full time and attending Austin Community College.  I won the scholoarship and graduated five years later with a degree in Journalism.  Tony and his beautiful wife, Mariem drove three hours to attend my graduation.  I remember that and I remember the letter and I will honor Tony by paying it forward and rooting for the next generation.

*Make a dream come true if you get the chance and Tony did just that for myself and for my family when that marriage proposal came from his nephew and we pondered on how to have the wedding of our dreams on a realistic budget.  Never did I imagine that I would get to celebrate our I dos atop a beautiful high rise in downtown Austin, but Tony made it happen when he asked his good friend if he could allow us to book it using his membership.  Wonderful happy wedding photos keep that dream wedding fresh in my memory and in my heart.

With Uncle Tony and Aunt Mariem

With Uncle Tony and Aunt Mariem

Those images also serve as a reminder to work on my marriage when the inevitable tough days come and go. We recently celebrated 23 years of marriage.  Thank you again for that treasured dream come true, Tony.

*Write a letter to someone you love and handwrite it, too.  I was so touched to find a letter that Uncle Tony wrote to my husband and to me back in 2005.  I found it just three days after he passed away.  It was three pages long and was handwritten and his words praised us as individuals, as a couple, as parents and as folks who had found a balance between the demands of family and of career.  It was great fun and also produced tears of thanks to read those heartfelt words again that he had taken his time to craft and to send to us.  tony's letterThe letter remains as does his memory in our hearts.  I am so pleased that I had taken care to save that letter and how magical to find it 10 years later!

*Tell your loved ones your wishes.  If Tony had not mentioned that having a Maraichi band would be a neat thing to include at his services, we would have missed out on one of the coolest things that I have ever experienced at a funeral.  I am so glad that he told his sons about his ideas….and that they listened and remembered.  m bandTony had a good relationship with his boys, who have now grown into good men, like their Dad.

*Plan Family Time and Tony was quite good at this when it came to bringing not just his own sons to town, but the entire extended family.  Uncle Tony took the time to mail out hand written invitations that went all over the country inviting us all to attend the annual family reunion, that he and his wife also planned and hosted.  I am so thankful for those times now.

So as I honor and mourn the life of Tony Harris, I move forward and I pay it forward to also honor the example he left with us.

We love and miss you Uncle Tony.





Celebrate Earth Day With These Go Green Products & Ideas!

Happy Earth Day this week!  To honor Earth Day this week and all year round, here are some cool earth friendly family products and some good habits to practice to honor our beautiful earth.  Take a look and go green with us!  I recently showed these ideas on my KTVK morning show, “Your Life A to Z” and there are some surprising products that even my kids like and honor to lessen our environmental footprints….

Talking To Your Kids About The Birds & The Bees

Manic:  The day you first get these questions….you may feel a little manic about how to answer!

Managed:  Since my kids are now 13 and 17, we’ve had the talks, so when I was asked to discuss this on my morning show this week with several other Moms from the Mom Squad, I agreed and it was good to hear their feedback as well, so take a look to get ideas on how to tackle this tricky subject…

Some Of My Most Popular Blog Tidbits

To celebrate my blog’s 4th anniversary, I got to share some of my most read articles on my morning show recently.  I only had time to share a few so I chose some of the posts that happen to be my favorite, too.  So check this out to see me make our homemade and very healthy yogurt parfait, the orthotic high heels that I sport that always gets compliments, Celebrity Makeup Artist’s Karen Hall‘s top mascsara pick (it is affordable, too) and more….oh and if you didn’t catch my error….I meant to say that KIND is a NON gmo food.  Hate when I mess up on camera, but it happens 😉



KIND provided several samples to try in our yogurt recipe.  My opinion about how much I love the KIND line is 100% my very own.