Our One Big Change & One Small One for Allergy Relief!

Allergy season has arrived!  Ah choo….watery eyes, scratchy throat…ugh!  No fun!  So our family tried two remedies, one giant one and one small daily change (a drink recipe) and both have made a difference.  I have actually been off Claritin for three months now!  Check out these ideas out that I showed in my recent KTVK 3TV segment on the “Your Life A to Z” show.  Plus some healthy eating ideas, too!  If you want more information about the remodel hardwood floors, click here on Excalibur Hardwood Floors.


Tackling the Zika Virus: What Moms Should Know

On Sunday, I looked out my bedroom window and saw a huge mosquito.  I was so relieved that it was on the outside of the window.  Even here in Phoenix with our sunny dry desert climate, we still get those pesky little pistols that seem to find me and my daughter especially tasty.  I immediately thought of the dreaded Zika virus when I saw that uninvited pest and felt happy that pregnancy is in my past and not in any of my immediate family members’ near future.  But I am still worried about this virus and the potential of contracting it with every mosquito that I know we will soon see more and more.

mosquito drinks blood out of man - macro shot

So when insect and pest expert, Jim LaBrie, owner of Bug & Weed Mart offered to share some much needed information about the Zika virus threat on my blog, I readily agreed.  Here is what we need to know…

Jim says:

Tackling the Zika Virus: What Moms Should Know

zika sign

 What is the Zika virus?

If you’ve seen or read any news over the last few weeks, chances are pretty high you’ve heard something about the Zika virus. But how much do you really know or do you need to know? According to the CDC, the virus has had no locally active transmissions in the continental United States. However, the rate at which Zika has spread in countries just south of the border is certainly a cause for concern. We anticipate Zika virus will be in Arizona, probably by summer. It’s already in California, New Mexico and Texas, so Arizona is a logical next stop.

The primary way someone may be infected by the virus is from a mosquito bite. There have also been recent reports of the virus spreading through blood or sexual contact.

Living in a transient community like Arizona that attracts many visitors from around the globe, the spread of the Zika virus is not news we should ignore.

Protecting Home, Familyspray leg

So what can be done to prevent any possibility of a localized infection as mosquito season approaches?

  1. Check for standing water

Regularly check your yard and the perimeter of your home and take note of any trouble spots of water accumulation.  Areas around air conditioning units where condensation can form or drip lines, valve boxes for sprinklers, leaky hose bibs, bird baths, pool or spa pumps, watering cans, potted plants with bottom dishes, and shrub and garden beds are all areas where sitting water can commonly be found.

It only takes an eighth of an inch of standing water plus a rise in temperatures (which is inevitable in Arizona) for mosquitoes to appear. When you do discover standing water, treat these moist areas with natural bacteria that will consume the mosquito larvae.

  1. Consider time of day

Avoid playing or hanging out in the grass or near shrub areas at dawn or dusk.  If you are going to be outdoors during the early morning or evening, wear long sleeved clothing and pants.  Also remember to wear insect repellent, and look for products with DEET and/or Picaridin. Better yet, get both.

  1. Take action

Consider hanging a chemical-free, low-voltage electric repellant on or around your patio to naturally ward off mosquitos in and around backyard areas.  These nifty tools can effectively control up to an acre!

Treat shrubs, lawn, under awnings, on patio columns, and walls with a permethrin liquid spray.  Using a hose-end sprayer will speed things up.  Repeat as necessary, up to every two weeks.

Use a pyrethrin aerosol spray, which is safe to use indoors, to keep away any mosquitos that occasionally get through doors, windows and cracks. These can deliver a lot of sprays for continued use, and are safe for people and pets.

If you are planning a vacation, avoid travel to Zika-identified countries (Remember to check back to the CDC website for up-to-date info). This is especially important if you are pregnant, as the virus has been known to cause birth defects when a mother passes the virus on to her unborn child.

The intention here is not meant to cause panic, but to help with prevention and protection.


Jim LaBrie is a father and grandfather and the owner of Bug & Weed Mart, a do-it-yourself retail store that specializes in bug and weed prevention, with five location. To learn more about pest prevention and protection you can visit www.bugweedmart.com or on Facebook www.facebook.com/bugandweedmart.


Family Wellness Ideas That Have Been Working For Us!

From my KTVK Channel 3 segment on the “Your Life A to Z” show that aired today….

The main reason I blog is to share ideas on how to make our manic lives a bit more managed and when I find natural remedies that work, I get really excited and I can’t wait to share on this blog! remedy pic 1

Let’s Go from Head to Toe…

Stuff for Stuffy Head

*Allergies – Boy have allergies become a big issue in our desert.  It didn’t used to be this way and it is believed that a big reason is because so many people discovered our beautiful Valley of the Sun, moved here and planted their favorite flowers and plants from back home.  Whatever the reason, I have been a big allergy sufferer to the point where my runny nose and sneezing would wake my husband.  He asked me to try to figure out my allergy relief plan, for both of us.  We also have four cats so that contributes a bit, but testing proved that most of my allergies are plant related and food related.  I cleaned up my diet first and foremost with a lot less sugar and bread and that made a huge difference for sure.  Two more changes followed.

First getting rid of our carpet and I mean a lot of it!  We recently installed beautiful hardwood floors and things are better for sure.  We hired Excalibur Hardwood Floors and the difference is both visually beautiful and physically appreciated with less allergy problems!  Carpet traps and holds dust, pet dander and more so it makes sense that wood or tile floors would help with allergies.  And just look at how much better and cleaner our bedroom looks!  Love this….b4 after floors

I also started drinking a little concoction that our show’s makeup artist, Karen Hall told me about and she looks and feels amazing.  She doesn’t even begin to look her age, which is somewhere in her 60s.  So I always put a lot of stock in her recommendations.

She told me to try apple cider vinegar mixed with honey.  I was thrilled to find that Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar With A Honey Blend (this is how it appears on the label) is sold at Sprouts Farmers Market.  Every day I mix about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the vinegar with 8 oz of water.  It tastes like apple juice and I have been amazed with the results.  Since I started drinking this twice a day, my allergies have disappeared.  I have been off Claritin for over three months now.  I have also avoided any sinus issues thus far that I almost always have every year.  I am hopeful that this will carry me through Spring, when our allergy season kicks in to high gear.  I will report back on my blog if it does and for now I am thrilled with this natural remedy!  Definitely try incorporating the Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar with Honey Blend into your diet if you are an allergy sufferer.  Be sure to dilute it with a lot of water since the acidity can damage tooth enamel.  Drinking it straight is not recommended. As always, whenever trying any new remedy, double check the ingredients with your doctor to make sure that an ingredient isn’t present that may interfere with a current medical condition.

And speaking of sinus issues…

*Sinus Issues – For the last several years now, I take a special bath at the first sign of sinus pressure and this remedy has worked wonders.  I put a capful of Kneipp Eucalyptus Sinus Relief Herbal Bath in a hot bath under the running water and soak for about 15 minutes.  kneippIt works wonders and really helps to open and relieve my sinus pressure.  I buy mine on Amazon for around $15 a bottle and it is worth every cent.

Healthy Meals for the Mouth

*Quick & Healthy Breakfast Idea – I found a terrific instant oatmeal that I approve of and like, but it isn’t sweet enough alone for my family, so I experimented with three simple ingredients to sweeten it myself.  My family loves it and I feel good about providing this super quick, tasty and healthy breakfast to everyone before we all head out to another crazy busy day. remedies

I use the Better Oats Oat Revolution Steel Cut Instant Oatmeal with Flax brand.  I recently noticed this brand the last time I was at my grocery store, so I bought it to give it a try.  I love that the packets are filled with ingredients that only include steel cut oats, flaxseed and salt, with no added sugar, so each packet only contains 1 gram of sugar.  Compare this to many other brands and you get 9 grams of sugar and a bunch of ingredients that I can’t pronounce.  No thanks.

So here is the 2 step prep that I do to naturally sweeten it.  These steps are kid and teenager approved….

Step 1 – Simply boil water or heat milk, if you choose to use milk.  The handy oatmeal packet has a measuring water line so you know the exact amount to add to your oatmeal.  However, I just eye the amount of water or milk.  I think almond milk would be so tasty to add to this, but my daughter is allergic to tree nuts, so I use water.

Step 2 – Add 1/2 a banana and mash into oats and water.  mash itTop with cinnamon and you have delish and healthy oatmeal that was made in under 3 minutes and is kid approved! done oatmeal

*Farm Fresh Local Foods for Dinner – I just love when I find healthy new tips for families, especially when it comes to cooking nutritious and tasty dinners.  I am SO excited to tell you about the new meal kits that I have been receiving that come from a local and organic farm! Sunizona Family Farms now ships dinner kits that contain everything you need to make a healthy, organic and tasty meal.  Plus I have been trying to prepare and eat more plant based meals and this service makes it easy and tasty, which I am thrilled about.

One of my favorite Meal Kits from this farm contained organic whole food ingredients to make yummy veggie Queso nachos that actually used eggplant, garlic, seasoning, red bell pepper and other surprising ingredients to create nachos that tasted hearty and fantastic! Wondering how this works?  It is super easy!

Every Tuesday, I go to my favorite local healthy cafe, Pomegranate Cafe to pick up my weekly Sunizona Family Farms Flavor Crate which is filled with the organic and fresh produce and foods that I ordered online over the weekend.  Recently Sunizona Family Farms added the Mealkits.  I preorder over the weekend and pay online.  Each Meal Kit costs $22 with a subscription option available.  For that very fair price, I receive a box packed with every fresh whole food ingredient needed to make a meal and a side dish, which may be a salad and sometimes a healthy dessert, too.  Some of the other Meal Kit recipes I have made, that my family loved, include the Minestrone Soup which also came with items to make a nice tossed side salad and yummy whole grain garlic bread.

Skin Stuff

 *Dry Skin – With our temps warming up again and our super dry climate, dry skin continues to be a problem for a lot of us.  Our triple crown plan has been coconut oil, oatmeal baths and a product with a funny name called Toe Juice.

Coconut oil just rocks because it can be used for all types of issues from head to toe.  I cook with it a lot and I always dab a little on my lips, nails and hands.  I do a lot of hand washing and my hands always start to get little eczema spots, so I have been able to stop the rash in its tracks with pure organic virgin coconut oil. I also make sure to apply hand cream nightly before I go to bed.

Oatmeal bath – Sometimes eczema develops on my daughter, around her legs and arms.  It is definitely getting better as she grows up and she is now 14, but when she does get a flare up, she immediately takes an oatmeal bath with Aveeno Oatmeal packets that we get at the drug store.  This has helped a lot.

Toe Juice – I discovered this product a few years ago and I love it for all over skin issues, especially for my dry heels that are back again now that flip flop season has returned.  Toe Juice with DermaVine was developed by a high school chemistry teacher for his infant son’s split, cracked feet. Doctors and pharmacists didn’t have a solution that worked, so he used a combination of well-known plant extracts to create the solution. Looking to avoid the messy, greasy issues of available creams, lotions, and salves, he pursued a liquid application. I apply it to my own dry heels and then use a pumice stone to get the cracked dry skin right off for silky smooth heels.  toejuicebottleWhen I blogged about this, I had several readers to tell me that it worked wonders for their skin issues, too!  Toe Juice can be purchased at www.toejuice.com.

For Feet

 Speaking of feet, when I write about my foot injuries, I always get a good response.  I guess foot problems are a popular topic.  I broke my right ankle three times in 25 years, had plantar fasciitis and recently sprained the top of my foot.  My poor foot has taken a beating, yet I have never had cortisone shots and I am still running around, sometimes getting 20,000 steps in a day on my Fitbit.  So here are my blog’s most popular tips for healthy feet…

*Use Boiron Arnicare Arnica Gel to reduce bruising and inflammation following a foot injury.  My bruising went away significantly faster every time I remembered to apply this gel that is paraben free, non sticky, unscented and nongreasy.  Arnicare-Gel-5thPanel-left-800It is a homeopathic ointment that my Mom first told me about and it works great.

*My physical therapist sent me to an athletic locally owned shoe store called Sole Sports where the experts on site actually have you run on a treadmill to evaluate your gait to see which shoe best suits your needs. The Adidas Supernova Boost tennis shoe has shortened my recovery time because this shoe gives me the support my fragile foot needs.  adidas-ultra-boost-womenI paid $129.99 at Sole Sports and it has been worth every penny.  Make sure you are in the right shoe for your foot.  Also look for a good supportive sock like the Feetures brand which provides light padding and arch support and is made with wick moisture fibers to keep feet dry and odor free. feetures-elite-light-cushion-no-show-tab

*Before trying the cortisone shot, ask your podiatrist about the alternative natural treatments that we did with ultrasound and more.  It is worth trying that first and it worked for me.

*Wear better high heels.  I have actually found orthotic heels that are stylish and supportive enough that I can still wear heels to events that require me to be on my feet for an extended amount of time, like a wedding, for example.  The line that I love and has been interesting to my readers is the Ziera line. I purchase my orthotic high heels from Foot Solutions.

What are your wellness ideas?  Share here in the comments section because we love to share tips to help all of our make our manic lives a little more managed….and healthy, too!




















My Parenting Lesson: Almost Missed the Writing on the Wall!

My Facebook memory page brought this article up today.  I wrote it three years ago when my girl was 11 years old.  Such a good parenting lesson to remember and to share again, especially for those of you with school-aged kids and tweens.  Ever had a parenting lesson that you learned from like this one….   

Manic:  Me trying to get my family to keep a tidy house!  Ugh!

Managed:  Taking a moment to see something special that was right in front of me….but I almost missed it. Thank goodness I decided to look past the clutter.  Read on parents, because there is truly a good lesson here and it was almost lost on me…

My tween daughter had been keeping a very nice, tidy and color coordinated room and I loved it!  A few weeks ago, she took it upon herself to change things around and I didn’t like it.  I was greeted by her changes, which included a beat up old chalk board that hung crooked across her wall.  wallThe wall had been filled with pretty framed pictures of her gal pals.  She moved the pictures to the back of her bathroom door, which I didn’t love, but I told her that was a cute idea.  I have learned that with a daughter it is important to realize that she does model some of my habits (like hanging pictures, which I love to do), but that she also needs to be her own individual and come up with her own creative ideas.  So I decided that I would support her bathroom door hung gal pal pictures, but I was less eager to embrace the crooked chalkboard.  And do you know that an entire month went by before I stopped judging and stood still long enough to see the writing on the wall?! Just look at what that old crooked chalk board says….board

It says Oliver really big because she was preparing for her Oliver auditions at that time (and she is in rehearsals for that now).  It also lists New Years Resolutions:

1.  eat better food (I love this one)

2.  learn gymnastics

3.  better grades (she has made all As and only 1 B this year)

And at the the bottom it says:


Friendship not gossip.  Fun not drama.

Later when she returned home, I asked her what the hand with the number 11 on it meant and she told me that this is her current hand size because she is 11 right now.  That makes sense and I love it because soon she will be too cool to do stuff like that.

So my lesson learned is that what I saw as clutter was actually her well thought out goals that she had made for herself.  At that moment, I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t noticed that right off the bat.  That I hadn’t let myself see past the clutter.  And then I felt thankful that something made me stop my cleaning that day to just stand there and take a look at my daughter’s creation.  I left feeling proud of her goal setting and the clutter didn’t bother me a bit anymore.  Funny how that works.  Parenting is tricky and I love that I get to learn from my tween girl and my teen boy because sometimes it is about us learning from our kids.

And I told her that all As and one B was very good and to go easy on her perfectionist self 🙂

Got College Bound Teens? Our Best SAT & ACT Prep Tips

Many of you have asked me what my son did to prepare for both the ACT and the SAT.  And when I asked my now 18-year-old son how he studied, I was surprised by his answer!  First let me tell you about his test results, which makes this Mama pretty happy and relieved as I was a bit worried at first.  I worried because during his Junior year and the proceeding summer he didn’t seem to be studying for the big college entrance exams much at all.  We received a lot of mail advertising study workshops that he didn’t sign up for due to his busy schedule.  So yes, I was starting to worry about how he would do on test day.  But he did have a plan and that plan of his worked well!

1st day of high school

He did very well on the ACT, scoring a 32, which is in the 98% of the national test results and he also did great on the SAT.  His score on the SAT was a solid 2000 which is in the 93% range, according to PrepScholar.

In addition to his high test scores, he has a 3.9 weighted GPA and has taken both AP and honors courses all through high school.  So I am joyful to share that he has been offered two academic scholarships, one to ASU and one to UofA.  He has been accepted to The Barrett Honors College at ASU and is leaning towards that honors college since it is highly rated, works closely with the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, which is what he wants to study, and demands top academic performance from the students. The Barrett Honors College even requires that a thesis be written to graduate!  So Barrett definitely has his attention.

However before he makes his final decision, he is waiting to hear back from our alma mater, UT Austin (Hook Em Horns!) and Northwestern.  I find it frustrating that Northwestern doesn’t even give us their decision until April!  Oh well!  Patience is a part of this college planning process, I’m learning.  So be ready to be patient, both with your teen, and with the process, as your family moves through the lengthy experience of preparing for college applications.  But first those pesky exams must be taken!

During his sophomore year, we told him it was time to start gearing up to take the SAT and ACT.  We insisted that he take both.  He wasn’t happy with our demand at the time, but now he is thankful that he has both scores to share on his college applications since he did so well, on the ACT, especially.

So what did he do to prepare?  His answer surprised us even!  Keep reading as the answer is coming!  But first I must tell you what he didn’t do.  He didn’t take the PSAT…although I highly recommend that your kids do so.  The only reason he skipped the very beneficial PSAT is because he had out of town hockey tournaments during the scheduled test dates. jack at nationals high school

He also didn’t sign up for the day long ACT and/or SAT prep courses that are offered on some Saturdays at the high school. Again, I suggest that your kids do that, too.  Like before, his athletic and job schedule, got in the way of those workshop calendar dates.

So by the time the ACT and SAT dates were looming on the calendar, we were a bit worried about his lack of prep and we started to nag him.  I mean really nag him, too!  At his 17th year physical, his pediatrician shared with us that her teenagers weren’t allowed to leave to hang with pals until several hours of ACT and SAT study time was complete.

She enforced this rule every single day in the months leading up to the big test day.

Kudos to her because her children are now attending Ivy League colleges.

Our son didn’t like that idea.  So we told him that he better come up with a plan.

He did.  And it worked.

He used two free apps on his smart phone!  Both apps prepared him and gave him sample test questions. Then the apps would keep track of his areas of weakness and prepare further sample testing and study in those subjects to better prepare him for the test day.

For the ACT, he signed up for and used ACT Up. This free app worked well on his smart phone and he gives this app a thumbs up.  ACT Up features over 1,000 practice ACT test questions that are written by expert tutors and cover academic areas that include English, Math, Reading and Scientific Reasoning.  He also really liked that the app sent him what is called daily workouts that worked on his weak areas of academic practice for the big test.  He definitely improved greatly in those areas by test day. screen322x572So the ACT Up app kept track for him in the areas that he needed work on and provided additional instruction and practice test questions to strengthen his knowledge and test readiness in those particular areas.  Cool graphs are also provided.  He liked that this app tracked his progress and then displayed his results and readiness in those colorful and easy to read graphs.  All of these visuals, mock tests, workshops and instruction, were all done easily on his phone and that appealed to him.  This encouraged him to open the app every day to work on preparing for the ACT.  He only took it once, too!

For the SAT, he used the app called SAT Question of the Day.  This app is also free and is our son’s favorite prep tool to date.  He likes this one because the SAT Question of the Day app promotes daily practice instead of last minute cramming to properly prepare for the SAT.  With the new revised SAT it is a bit different now from when my son used the app but that link will give you all the updates and the available apps that are now offered with the changes.  screen322x572 (1)

And for me, to find a study tool that my teenager was enjoying because it challenged him daily was a great thing!

Did you know the the SAT has been changed?  Click here to get all of the updates and study apps available so that your teen is prepared!

There are other study guide apps out there that you may want to check out.  These are the two that are highly recommended by our teen son.

And do what he didn’t do….have your teen take the PSAT and attend a workshop or two for extra prep. Our son told us that both exams were tough and that he was thankful that he used the two teen user friendly apps to help him prepare.

And I liked what his pediatrician told us.  Make sure your kid is studying and preparing.  Because like all of the other teenage milestones, this too will get here so fast that you won’t believe it!

Happy college exam test taking to your teen and happy teen parenting years to you.

I can hardly believe that my firstborn’s teen years are winding down while I am looking up at my soon to be college student! me looking up at my Jack hockey 2015

Honest Reflections As My Son’s Youth Hockey Years Wind Down

Is this really his final team hockey picture?  We started this journey back in 2004 and had no idea that we were about to become a full fledged traveling hockey family on a ride that would last 14 years!

Beautifully taken by Arizona Hockey Photography, LLC

Beautifully taken by Arizona Digital Photography

Save000114 years later that picture shows a young man standing over 6 feet tall with a confident smile that tells me two things.  First he is ready to take on the next chapter, which is college that starts in August.  And secondly that every cent we spent on hockey, every trip we took, every sweet victory we shared and even the heartbreaking disappointments that our son sometimes shared alone and sometimes with a team was worth it all.  And here is why I say that….

We supported his surprising request (we live in Phoenix after all) to take a hockey lesson at age four.  age 4 lessonWe never looked back but instead chose to always look forward during the good times and hard times.  And there were way more good times than bad I am happy to say.  Mostly big smiles like this one…all star jack long ago pic

He worked hard and through the years he went from a house team to a travel team and then even played on a AAA team!  Boy we were excited for him that year!  And this team even went to Nationals and came in a very respectable 2nd place, which shocked those teams from all around the nation that didn’t think desert kids could play real hockey.  What a year that was!

That painful year when he didn’t make the team (and almost all of his buddies did make the team)….oh my goodness…was that a tough pill to swallow!  That happened more than once.

But you know what?  I wouldn’t change it.

Because our son learned how to deal with disappointments those years and still attend the games to support his friends that did make the team.  He also learned humility and that has served him well and that has been noticed by teachers, coaches and employers.

Sometimes the hardest life lessons and disappointments are the most valuable, although it sure doesn’t feel that way at the time.

Hockey is a big commitment and costs time and money, but as long as our son was thoroughly enjoying this crazy, action packed fun sport, we supported him.  Our #1 request was that he continue to make good grades, especially since this activity was costing us money that should be going into his college savings account!

Our other request was that he behave and be a decent gentleman and one who gives back since he was fortunate enough to be able to play this expensive game.  The hockey teams did a good job of giving back to the community, like the several consecutive years that our son and my hubs put on pink hockey team shirts and walked in the downtown Phoenix cancer walk.  This picture was taken so long ago now after one of those fund raising walks that make a difference. 089

Our boy kept up his end of the deal and has been offered nice academic scholarships to several colleges that have offset the money we spent on his hockey years.

He has also been a decent young man.  Through the years, his coaches told their players that they also expected this of their team.  It is very helpful to parents when coaches also tell kids that they need to behave and that their social media pages will be checked.  Thank you coaches.  It takes a village!

pregame huddle

A pregame huddle and these players remain close friends.

Our son made friendships with little hockey dudes who are now 18 and 19 year old young men, some already playing far away on Junior hockey teams (a big accomplishment for those friends and we are so excited for them) and some busy making their college plans now, along with our son.

He learned compassion when teammates got injured on the ice and they showed compassion to him as well.  This picture of his teammate, Colten (now also 18 years old) helping my injured boy off the ice still warms my heart as much as it did that day. Help From Egge!And compassion was learned especially when he experienced several friends lose moms and dads along the way.  Like the time our son and his entire team wore their jerseys to a funeral for a teamate’s beloved mother.  The team bond lifted those heartbroken kids and all cherished life a little bit more from when the season had started.

Our hockey trips became our family vacations and ended up being some of our best memories, like our summer trip to Canada one year.

In beautiful Whistler, BC

In beautiful Whistler, BC

And twice we went to Nationals in the same area in Virginia that is close to where my mother and all of her family live.  What a gift that was!with mom at natl

The last trip to Nationals happened several weeks after our son had a cancer scare and had to endure a biopsy.  What a reality check to go from a children’s hospital to a hockey rink 2,000 miles away in just a matter of weeks!  The trophy photo is the win that sent the team to Nationals and our joy was so big since we had just been through the ultrasound, MRI and biopsy a few weeks earlier.

A big life reality check when our boy has to have a biopsy for a tumor, that proves to be benign. SO THANKFUL!! and we will never forget this experience. From the children's hospital to the hockey rink, the highs and lows of life take my breath away as Jack's team wins the state championship that sends us to Nationals!

At Nationals, our team went undefeated until overtime in the championship game where we lost by one goal. Quiet tears from all of our players, parents and coaches that came from the roller coaster ride that the Nationals game had taken us on….and to lose in that last second was both heartbreaking and breathtaking. leaving ice after loss

Hockey gave us that.  Those coaches gave us that.  We were able to invest the time and money to give that to our son.  So 14 years later, one broken wrist, one broken tailbone, one bruised ankle bone, thousands of traveled miles later…I can say that the ride was at times heartbreaking, but mostly breathtaking and those memories, both on the ice and off, were worth it all.

These memories are locked away in my heart and I think in our son’s heart as well.  He always knew that he had our support, whether we were waving a big fan head poster or standing off to the side quietly observing a tough game. Jack's cheering section

Someone recently asked me what our parenting secret is and how have we been so lucky to have two kids who are respectful to adults, do well in school and seem well adjusted.  Of course we have had our challenges, too and that comes with parenting!

However, I was so complimented by that question that it really made me think.  I was asked that several times again and I thought even harder about it.  Of course, some of this is luck because parenting is flying by the seat of your pants!  I also believe that time invested in a child reaps rewards.  In our case with our son, the activity was hockey that was completely driven by him.  We didn’t persuade him to play or to not play hockey.  He came to us and we supported it.

We invested the time in him and we drove him to every practice, game, flew to hockey tourneys and made sure that 98% of the time we were there and that he could see us through the glass.

Can you see me pointing out my boy? My sweet Mama is there with me. Priceless memories!

Can you see me pointing out my boy? My sweet Mama is there with me. Priceless memories!

The older they get, the less they look at you….but they do look FOR you, believe me.

I also believe that part of the equation is that it does take a village and we have amazing grandparents, teachers and hockey coaches, too.  Accountability and consequences are also part of the equation. hockey mom grandma teesAnd when we had questions or concerns, we asked the coaches later instead of yelling it from the stands. Our son told us that he really did appreciate that.  And that isn’t always easy to do when it is your kid that isn’t being played or your kid that takes an unfair hit that the refs don’t call.  (Well I may have yelled out once or twice now that I think about it, but I kept my cool for the most part!)  No not easy, but our son appreciated our decision to think things through, talk it over with him and then talk to the coach.

So thank you hockey!  14 years later as I get ready to hang up my worn out and treasured hockey mom hat, I salute the sport, the coaches, the awesome hockey parents.  It has been quite the ride, both for our son and for us, too.  From scoring a big goal as a little guy….scoring

…..to playing in St. Louis as a big defensemen guy at last year’s high school Nationals…..jack at nationals high school

Boy has he loved it and that was evident in this money shot that I captured a few months ago….jack smile on ice 2015

And this day when he got to play for the high school All Star Team…
holds up puck

This Sunday I will be asked to step out on the ice with the other mothers of the senior hockey players for senior recognition night.  I will be wearing that worn out old hockey mom cap and maybe that will hide my quiet tears.  Tears that reflect years of hockey mom happiness, anxious tryout waits, joy and sometimes sadness coming to a close.

Wow time does fly.  Just as fast as that hockey puck flew past my cheering face time and time and time again.  And I can’t forget to mention the hockey moms!  Oh what a wonderful bond we have shared! hockey moms

hockey Mama shtsSomeone once told me that the present is called present because it is a gift.  So for all of you tired hockey parents out there getting ready to write another check or tend to a broken bone or book another tournament flight, as long as you have good quality coaches and your kid is really enjoying every second of it, then I can tell you it is worth it.

And if your kid doesn’t make a team or has a big disappointment (that happens with all sports and activities at one time or another), you may just look back someday and be thankful for those moments, too.  I still can’t believe how fast we went from this to this….9 thru years

And from this to this…jack alone

Jack serious hockey pose

But in the meantime, enjoy!  Because before you know it, you will be putting on your old worn out hockey mom hat one last time, too.

Did I make any of the hockey Moms reading this cry?!

And this article can truly cover all kinds of sports, activities, clubs and more….Here’s to all the parents out there who drive, cheer, volunteer, attend, comfort and yes, tear up with every game, every victory, every tryout, every loss, every audition, every memory.  Cherish it 🙂 hockey mama hatme looking up at my Jack hockey 2015

Third Year Running With Our Family’s Memory Jar!

Since I received some cool comments, questions and messages on my Facebook pages about our family’s recent tradition of having a memory jar, here is what it is all about.  memory jarWe simply set out an empty jar on the first day of the year.  Through the year, each of us slips in little papers listing a favorite memory.  Then on New Year’s Day, we open the jar and go through the memories.  Such fun!  I must admit that my family doesn’t embrace it as much as I do, but that’s OK. They don’t all put memories in the jar every year and this year, in fact, I was the only one who placed those little papers in the glass jar.  They did in previous years, but this year was all my little notes, but the memories belong to all of us and that is what counts.  memory jar 2015And the end result is always the same.  We go through each paper, we laugh, we remember and we are thankful to have that little jar go from empty to full in the 12 busy months that always fly by.

There are the sad and challenging memories from the last 12 months, too….but the jar isn’t about that.  It is about taking one last look back at the previous year and remembering a day, a trip, an achievement, a moment that made us smile, laugh and reflect.  I sure cherish those memories.

Then letting those slips of paper go and putting a once again empty jar on the counter is sort of a cleansing, a reminder that it is time for a new year with new goals, busy days ahead and to remember to make time to create more memories.

As we start our 2016 engines, rev up and head back out there into that part of life called time, that magical and sometimes stressful word that we can’t get back. I remember holding my newborn son 18 years ago and struggling with the thought of how I would balance a new baby and a busy career.  My Mom told me that I would know the answers as I progressed through this new journey of motherhood, but to remember that the one thing we can’t get back is time.  So true and such wise words. Every year brings joys and every year brings heartbreaks.  Sometimes it is those moments in between that unexpectedly end up in the jar.

memories on papersAn example of that is the red slip of paper that says “Hot tub 7am w/ John” and a smiley face is also noted. On that day, we allowed our firstborn to drive his car on a road trip to California with friends. Two parent chaperones were also going (which is why we said yes) but we still felt our nerves get the best of us after he departed that morning at 6am.  We both agreed that we couldn’t go back to sleep and that we were tempted to sit around and worry.  So hubs fired up our brand new hot tub, made us morning cocktails (why not…it was our Spring break, too!) and we found ourselves chatting, laughing and enjoying the spa as we ventured through this next phase of parenting called letting go.  We ended up having a blast that morning and when our daughter joined us an hour later, it just had to go in the memory jar.

So there are no rules to this memory jar thing.  You can do it how you want to do it and you may find overwhelming enthusiasm or you may discover that only your handwriting made the jar.  But the end result has been pretty consistent for us.  We open that jar and laugh and my family especially loves to tease me upon discovering that I not only repeat myself verbally, but yes…more than once…on paper as duplicate memories made the jar!  They think that is hilarious!

So give it a try if your family is inclined to try this tradition.  And may your jar be full come next January 1st, 2017.  Just think of the memories that can be made in the next 365 days!

Happy New Year!


Holiday Shopping & Kids: Toys, Technology & Trade-offs

Manic:  The holiday gift wish list from kids with requests for all kinds of electronic items from conversing dolls to elaborate gaming devices and more.  To further complicate things, age appropriateness must also be considered.  Toys are not simple play things like they were when I was a child back in the late 60s and early 70s.

Managed:  Guest writer and licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Lisa Strohman shares important and valuable advice on how to make that parenting purchasing decision when it comes to selecting gifts for the kids. Before you hit the stores, read her helpful tips first….

Dr. Lisa Strohman says:

Lisa & book






      Toys, Technology & Trade-offs

tree gifts
The holidays are here.  Before being swayed by pleading requests for the latest new gaming device, I urge parents to consider their children’s age and what is appropriate for their developmental stage.

Play helps children grow, learn, and thrive. It is also extremely important for healthy physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. It is through play that children develop their gross and fine motor skills. They gain confidence, decision-making skills and acquire critical thinking skills that will prepare them for adulthood.

This year’s trends in technological based toys appear to be toys that talk, tablets that “grow up” with kids, and robotics that allow children to build. There’s even a new line of dolls that mimic lifelike conversations. While it may sound like a cool feature, these dolls aren’t appropriate for little ones that don’t understand the difference between real and pretend.

The latest gadgets and gizmos are in high demand, but traditional toys often do more to develop healthy minds and bodies. Considering the developmental stage of the child is most important when deciding what is best to for holiday gifts.

Not sure where to begin? Fear not, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions:

For young infant to toddler

  • Toys to reach for, hold, suck, shake and make noise—rattles, large rings, squeeze toys, teething toys, soft dolls, textured balls, and vinyl and board books
  • Listening—books with nursery rhymes and poems, and recordings of lullabies and simple songs
  • Visual mobiles to hang over the crib or car seat that promote interaction and the beginning of eye-hand coordination
  • Toys encouraging imaginary play—baby dolls, puppets, plastic and wood vehicles, building blocks
  • Items that promote motor skills—plastic bowls, large beads, balls, and nesting toys, and, push and pull toys

For toddler through elementary

  • Toys that teach problem solving —wood puzzles, blocks that snap together, objects to sort, and things with hooks, buttons, buckles, and snaps
  • Creative & active play — child-sized kitchen sets, chairs, play food, dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, ride on equipment 3yrs+, tunnels, sand and water toys sand box
  • For the aspiring artist and fine motor skill development—non-toxic art supplies, paper, child scissors, chalkboard and rhythm instruments
  • To build vocabulary and attention – Picture books short stories, word play games and board gamesAlphabet Book

For Tweens and teens

  • Series books that encourage a connection and more reading
  • Gaming systems with age appropriate, educational games – along with house rules limiting access and time
  • Sports equipment – goal posts, pitch-back trainers, a basketball hoop, a new bikeon bikes
  • Life experiences – tickets to a game or concert , a special outing to a new place

If a tablet or phone is on the list, establish a family contract with rules for use. Other electronics like CD and DVD players can provide entertainment, but remember to keep all electronics out of kids’ bedrooms. Tech toys, games and gadgets can be fun, but starting down this path too early and without rules can deprive children of valuable learning and development.


About our guest writer:

Dr. Lisa Strohman is a Scottsdale-based clinical psychologist and the founder and director of Technology Wellness Center, which provides online resources and expert support to parents. Her first book, Unplug: Raising Kids in a Technology Addicted World was published earlier this year. Dr. Lisa frequently speaks at schools and to parent groups on topics related to children and technology and what parents and educators need to know. She is also a regular guest on Dr. Drew’s radio show and frequently interviewed by the media about technology and child safety. Dr. Lisa’s most important job is mother to her daughter and son, both now in elementary school. To learn more about Dr. Lisa visit her website


Our Harris Home Cats Featured In Magazine Article!

Our household has four fab felines who recently became celebrities with a magazine article all about them!  Yes, Tucker, Stanley, Lucy and Sadie are the star of the show this month.mag spreadFoothills Living Magazine writer Stephanie Hayden asked to interview our four very spoiled furry family members and the cats gave me their blessing to speak on their behalf.  The article is now running in the November issue of Foothills Living Magazine and the kitties would be disappointed if their proud cat mom didn’t share it here in my blog, so take a look and remember to also be thankful for the pets in our lives during this holiday season.  Four cats can be a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, but they give us a lot of laughs and love.  How exactly did we end up with 4 of them, two boys and two girls?!  The answer is here in the short and fun article about our spoiled kitty cats….

Page 1 Picture

1st page picsPage 1 Text

page 1 cats

page 2 cats

page 3 cats

last page picsThat is our kitty story and the kitties are sticking to it!  A big thank you to Stephanie Hayden for writing such a nice article about the fab feline foursome.  They are more than a little impressed with themselves that they are featured in a magazine this month!  Tell us about your precious pets in the comments section because we are also managed moms to our furry kids, too.

18: A Milestone Birthday & 9 Months To Go

My first born turned 18 today.  And in a quick 9 months (kind of ironic), he will leave us to go to college.

18 and in a beanie for hockey in Flagstaff (a little chilly there) with his Varsity hockey team.

18 and in a beanie for hockey in Flagstaff (a little chilly there) with his Varsity hockey team.

Back in 1997, I anxiously waited 9 months for my first born, my little baby boy to come into the world.me prego with Jack

Now 18 years later, he is anxiously waiting 9 months to go out into the world.


with newborn jackIn August he will leave the nest, a nest that I have carefully and joyfully and tearfully at times, tended to with every ounce of my being.

It’s what parents do, especially Moms.

It really does take my breath away.  It takes my breath away because it is true when they say that the days are long, but the years are short.

It is true when they say don’t blink.  Truly don’t!

Keep your eyes wide open and take it all in, parents.  Jack Christmas at 2 years oldBecause sooner than you think, that little baby will turn 18.  Trust me.  It is like a magic trick just how fast it happens!

1st day of Kindergarten

1st day of Kindergarten


A few years later after a fight cancer fundraising event with his Dad and his hockey team. Before he got taller than his Daddy.

And lucky for me the recurring theme of teenagers being tough to deal with hasn’t been 100% true…don’t get me wrong….he had his moments…like when he took his car off roading all summer, even though we told  him not to do that.  He paid every cent of the $2,000 worth of damage he caused as well!  That was a bummer and his Daddy made him take the school bus to school while his truck was being repaired as well as a few other punishments for being dishonest.  Consequences.

But those challenging teen times also became incredible learning opportunities for our son. And he did choose to learn from, grow from and take those lessons with him as he leaves us soon to go out into the world.  The teen years fly by because they are filled with milestones.  Everytime you turn around, there is another milestone….

1st day of high school

1st day of high school

Learning to drive

Learning to drive

When they get taller than Mom...a milestone

When they get taller than Mom…a milestone

And then quite a bit taller than Mom!

And then quite a bit taller than Mom!

And taller and bigger than Dad!

And taller and bigger than Dad!

And this proud Mama gets to brag a bit on this 18th birthday of his.  This boy of ours is embarking on his spring high school graduation with a 3.9 weighted GPA as he has taken a lot of AP and dual enrollment honors courses.  He scored a 32 on his ACT and a 2000 on the SAT, both really good scores!

He has been offered two academic scholarships so far and is having a terrific time playing on his high school Varsity hockey team and just made the high school all star team.  jack on ice senior yr
He just finished up his senior year with the Varsity high school golf team and he also works at a nearby golf course.Jack DV golf 2014

He is a very nice boyfriend to a very nice young lady and they have been dating for a little over a year.

Homecoming senior year

Homecoming senior year

Perhaps the thing I am most proud of is what a kind heart he sports.  And he is a nice brother.  11-30-2005-019Then and now.

Still very close even now as teens. Such a nice big brother.

Still very close even now as teens. Such a nice big brother.

Just last week after hearing us tell his little sister no to running alone in the mornings, he woke her the next morning to run with her, by her side, so she could try this type of exercise, safely and with a protector and a pal.  Her big brother.

When Jack’s friends have gone through loss or heartache, he lets me know that he needs to go and be with that friend to offer support, a listening ear or just some company for comfort.

When he dog sits, he stays for a while because he wants to be sure that our friend’s pet is getting attention.  Jack just isn’t collecting a check, but he truly cares about the pet that he is responsible for during that time.

I have more examples.  I am a proud Mom.  For me I truly believe that the most important qualities are a kind heart, work ethic and integrity.

18 years later I see these things in our son and that is why I say that he is ready to take on the world.

Jack and his girlfriend, Hannah making me dinner on a day that I was very tired. So nice!

Jack and his girlfriend, Hannah making me dinner on a day that I was very tired. So nice!

Thank you for that, Jack.  Thank you for being a kind family member in our family and for working together with us during the difficult times and the joyful ones, too.

Happy Birthday son!  I can feel that you are ready to leave us soon.  I really can feel it in my bones.

I see it and I feel it.

I now know that I will be ready for that big day in August when the moving truck arrives because, although I am sad….I am more excited for you!

And I can see that you will be ready, too.

Cap and gown pictures for yearbook. This day is coming very soon now. Kind of surreal!

Cap and gown pictures for yearbook. This day is coming very soon now. Kind of surreal!

You have so much ahead of you.  You also have a huge responsibility to make a difference in this very uncertain and unsettled world.

But for now, I am going to ENJOY the NINE months that I have left with you here in our home.  You are a wonderful young man and you have made this Mama very proud.  I love you son.  Happy 18th! my boy on Prom with me