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Catching Up

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Has it really been two years since I added to this blog?  How does time pass so quickly?  I’ll tell you how!  You have a husband, a kid, you work (almost) full time, and you have a smart phone.  Honestly, smart phones have taken over our brains, haven’t they?  We start to have a thought about something, and we decide to look it up on our phones.  Then we pick up the phone, look at social media and email and news, forget what we were going to look up, then remember to check the price of that item we want to buy, then finally remember what we were looking up, then take a picture, then edit and post that picture, and then…well, you know what I mean.

But I just got off my phone, so now I can concentrate.

How much were flights to Vancouver?

But I digress.

So, to catch up…

Diego was superman for halloween in 2014, and a shark in 2015:

I can’t believe how little and cute he was here!


He even found a Nemo to chase!  (or was it Marlin?)


He did not dress up for 2016.  No trick-or-treating, either.  The closest we got was a Darth Vader mask and walking around a shopping center.  Maybe next year.

We went to Chicago in April of 2015.  I don’t know why we thought it would be warm…silly Californians!  We spent the days bundled up in heavy coats, but we got to tour the beautiful city, go to a game at Wrigley Field, have awesome dinners with great friends, and spend time with family.

After our boat tour of the city.


With his cousin, Libby.  Always his protector, and the first one to steal his hat.diego-and-libby-2015

In June of 2015, we went to Santa Anita racetrack to watch American Pharaoh win the triple crown.  Diego didn’t really get why this was a big deal, but it was so much fun!

Diego missed a lot of the action, but he saw the triple crown!


Here he is with my dad’s horse a couple of weeks earlier.  Maybe someday he’ll be interested.


We traveled to Mexico in July of 2015, right before Diego’s 2nd birthday, and it was a lovely trip.  We stayed with Marco’s cousins, and Diego and I got to meet his extended family.  They live in Durango (where Marco was born), which is a nice city with a historic center, and we spent some time in his cousin’s vacation home in the mountains.  Beautiful!

Up in the mountains.


On a train at the Durango fair.


A Mickey Mouse pinata for Diego’s early birthday party at the mountain house.mickey-pinata

A side trip to Mazatlan for a couple of days!  Beautiful water and beautiful resort.mazatlan

We spent our last day in Mexico City, and we got to tour the Aztec temple.aztec-temple

When we got back to California, it was time for Diego’s 2nd birthday party.  He got a T Rex pinata for that one.

Check out the boots!


The summer of 2015 ended with my 20 year reunion.  20 years!  I had just found out I was pregnant, and I was delighted to see there were other pregnant women in the room.  Sadly, I had a miscarriage a few days later.  It was a hard time for us, and Marco had been excited about the baby that was “hecho in Mexico,” but we were happy that it happened at all.  We had tried IUI again in 2014, and it hadn’t worked.

With the knowledge that it could happen naturally, I started tracking my ovulation religiously, and we found out in January that we were pregnant again!  This time the baby was healthy, and we started looking forward to September.  But that’s a blog post for another day.

Now back to Vancouver…

I wonder if Pinterest has ideas for cute dressing tables?

But I’m distracting you.

Time to Play

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Diego hiking 1Diego hiking 2

Diego is now fifteen months old, and life is changing quickly.  He plays now.  I mean, he REALLY plays!  He demands time outside when we get home each afternoon, and he and I spend about 30 minutes to an hour finding things to do in the backyard.  I have always felt dismayed about our backyard.  Grass refuses to grow for longer than one season, and the overgrown trees drop a layer of leaves that quickly becomes unmanageable if I miss a day of raking.  But now, suddenly, I am finding myself keeping up with the raking, because my little boy drags me out to “play”  (do yard work) every day.  As I pull weeds, he pulls grass and leaves; as I rake, he pushes an old broken rake around; as I examine the growing grass and plants, he climbs up on anything and everything.  He is learning to throw rocks.  I am learning to soak in the fresh air and bits of sunshine.  He has discovered the joy of chasing after lizards.  I have discovered the joy of exploring the world through my son’s young eyes.  Does anyone, as an adult, truly understand how miraculous airplanes, birds, spiders, and the moon are?  Diego understands that these are miracles.


Diego exploring

Diego’s love for the outdoors has taught me two things:

1.  He doesn’t need more toys.  In nice weather, he hardly touches his toys, because he spends all his time outside.  The living room is a minefield of noisy, high-tech “educational” toys, but he is too busy exploring the real world to bother with fake computer sounds and colors.

2. The time I spend exploring with him is the best thing I do.  It forces me to slow down, ignore the TV and my phone, and just enjoy his company.

I was reading a blog post recently about life being too busy (, and I completely agree.  We over-schedule our lives, and we have a difficult time relaxing with our loved ones, or alone.  As a child, I was lucky enough to have only a few activities, and the rest of my time was spent playing with my sister and neighbors, and with my parents.  We were forced to be creative and to make up games, put on plays (which we wrote), ride our bikes, ride horses, have lemonade stands, try different sports (in an unofficial setting), and find ways to get along with one another.  We climbed trees and fences, braved open fields, and dug tunnels.  We had clubhouses and secret hideouts.  The weeping willow in our backyard was an exotic jungle that we cut through with our machetes (sticks).  We camped in the backyard and got freaked out by the nighttime bugs that were attracted to the tent.  We were explorers and directors and entrepreneurs.  If we got bored, we had to find something to do.

I hope Marco and I can arrange our lives so that Diego has the opportunity to learn how to overcome boredom; to learn to entertain himself, and to get along with others.  Free play is the best activity for kids.  There are many articles and studies that argue as much.  Here’s one that stresses the importance of free play in a child’s development:

As a psychology grad, I have often read and thought about the two hemispheres of the brain.  There is an emphasis in our society on the left hemisphere’s logic, planning, and focused attention.  We must attempt to also stimulate the right hemisphere’s creativity, joy, intuition, and “big picture” awareness.  There is a stimulating TED talk on this subject by Iain McGilchrist: He ends with a wonderful quote from Albert Einstein that has inspired me to continue to find ways to access the right hemisphere:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

–Albert Einstein

Our family at the pumpkin patch

I hope I can instill a love for the “sacred gift” in Diego, and inspire him to always see the miracles that exist in everyday life.

Baby Budget: ten tips for working moms-to-be

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Marco and I did NOT budget for the baby.  We ended up spending all extra funds on fertility treatments.  When Diego was born, I went on maternity leave, and the state disability plan gave me 55% of my salary.  I had paid into a supplemental disability insurance plan, which gave me another 35% of my salary, but it was not enough.  The limited funds put us behind, and we are only now beginning to feel that we are caught up.

We also found that as soon as Diego was born, all of our regular responsibilities were put on the back burner.  Not the immediate back burner, but one far enough in the back to be almost unreachable.  Yes, I was home all day.  No, I did not keep up with my Excel spreadsheet of bills.

I found that I was in a joyful fog, with little thought of the future, other than, “I’m sure it will all work out somehow.”  My attitude was terrible, by all rational logic.  I decided that I didn’t care if we went into more debt, or if I lost my job.  All I wanted to do was gaze at my adorable sleeping baby, or care for him while he was awake, or play with him.  This greatly alarmed Marco. Especially when I said, “I’m sure it will all work out.”  He would have preferred that I go back to taking care of my responsibilities more quickly, and with the same gusto as before.  Of course, he was right, but wasn’t I a little bit right?  I mean, things DO always work out…somehow…don’t they?  I guess I was a little like an addict, and my new baby was my drug.

The fog lifted slightly when I returned to work in November.  I am a high school teacher, and that requires a great amount of attention.  However, I was still in a fog at home.  Perhaps the worst thing this fog caused was my complete inability to remember to pay the water bill.  I pay it online, and totally ignore the paper bills.  Twice I forgot completely, and the water was turned off at home.  Poor Marco…he trusts me to take care of those things, because I say I will, but he was trusting a woman who had (temporarily) lost her mind.

I feel that now, in May, the fog is almost gone.  I still feel the joy, but I realize I must attend to other things, as well.  Things like cooking dinner and cleaning the house and paying bills.  I also have a clearer vision of how we did things (or didn’t do them) and what I will change in the future, if we are lucky enough to have another baby.

Here are my tips for working women soon to become mothers:

1. Pay into some type of supplemental disability insurance plan for maternity leave.  You may have to start this before you get pregnant, though.  Talk to the HR rep at your company.

2. Save money!  Even if it’s only $100 a month, it will really help during the time off.  Leave it in your checking account; you don’t want to have to remember to transfer it later.

3. Review your insurance benefits.  We switched to Marco’s plan because it was cheaper, with the same doctors and hospitals.

4. Set up as many automatic payments as you can before you have the baby.  This way, you will have fewer things to worry about when the “joyful fog” surrounds you.

5. Hand over some (or all) bills to your husband or a family member to pay.  You will be unreliable in that regard.

6. Prepare everything you can for your co-workers or substitutes.  Preparation is key.  You don’t want people from work contacting you when you are home with your baby.

7. Clean the house.  This will not happen after the baby is born.

8. Freeze some meals.  You probably won’t be cooking or shopping much after the baby is born.

9. Have a talk with your husband about responsibilities, chores, and expectations.

10. Remember that above all, the baby is the most important thing.  Let the fog wrap you in joy as you forget the rest of the world and focus on this beautiful, wonder-filled new life.

Here’s a cleaning schedule from Pinterest that I like.  Maybe it will come in handy someday:

Cleaning Schedule


And always remember:

Best is yet to come

We thought it couldn’t be done…

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After nine months of a spoiled, easy pregnancy, and three lovely baby showers, our due date approached.  And we were ready!  We had taken Lamaze classes, a baby care class, a breastfeeding class, the hospital tour, and Marco did a “daddy boot camp” class.  My due date was July 25, 2013.  Kim Kardashian had her baby 5 weeks early, which gave me hope for an early birth.  Then my son would be a Cancer like me.  Selfish, I know, but don’t we always hope we will share things in common with our children?  Then Princess Kate had little Prince George in the middle of July, and I had no signs of labor.  Then my co-worker, whose due date was a week after mine, gave birth to her little girl.  Still no signs.

But I wasn’t worried.  I had the moon on my side.  I am pretty convinced a full moon helped when we got pregnant (along with the doctor, acupuncture, and fertility meds), and I was almost positive I would go into labor under a full moon.  The full moon was July 22nd; exactly 40 weeks from the day I got pregnant (October 29, 2012).  I kept walking and timing contractions with an app on my phone (which was basically a wasted effort; the app was never helpful) and hoping something would happen. Sure enough, on Monday, July 22nd, something felt different.  I was convinced it was time.  Marco and I were very excited as we called the hospital and were told to come in.  I was definitely having some type of small contractions!  We headed over to Kaiser’s Anaheim Kraemer Hospital and we got admitted.

The nurse called us in and had me change into a hospital gown.  She strapped monitors on me and checked a number of things.  Our excitement and anticipation grew.  This was really going to happen!

No luck.  False labor.  We were sent back home, but they told us to call and come in if there were any more signs.

Nothing changed for the rest of that week.  I saw my doctor on Thursday, July 25th (my due date), and she said she would let me go another week or so, but then we would have to start talking about induction.  That was the last thing I wanted.  I knew from my Lamaze classes that it was best to be as natural as possible.  Any intervention can lead to the need for more interventions, which can lead to a C-section if the baby is in distress.

A funny thing happened that week with our mindset.  Marco and I both felt like the day had arrived and the event had not occurred, so we stopped really thinking about it.  It was as if we had somehow missed it, and this large beach ball under my shirt was not a baby, but just a strange condition that would somehow resolve itself.

And that is how we were caught completely off-guard on Sunday night.

I talked on the phone with a dear friend that night (July 28th).  She lives in New Zealand and has two children, and we were talking about how her water broke with both kids.  Around 11:30 pm, Marco was snoring, and I was arranging numerous pillows to settle into bed (on my left side, to coax the baby into a good birth position), and as I finally rested my head on my pillow, I felt two small but distinct pops in my stomach.  They felt like gas bubbles, so I ignored them at first and closed my eyes.  Then I shifted positions.

Oh my goodness!  I was not prepared!  I thought I knew everything about birth, after all my research, but I didn’t know this!  The water poured out.  I ran to the bathroom shouting, “Marco!  It’s happening!!”  There was so much water!  I was giddy, and I couldn’t stop laughing with excitement.  I called my friend back and told her she was magical, and that the baby would be born on her birthday (July 29th).  Then we headed to the hospital.

Everything was exactly like reality TV.  The midwives were awesome, and all the nurses were wonderful to us.  We were quickly admitted, and we started calling family members.  My mom and mother-in-law were there quickly.  My dad and sister followed.  I wanted a natural birth, and the hospital staff respected that choice.  Marco, my mom, and my mother-in-law took turns using a home-made massage tool to get me through the contractions.  It’s a sock with three tennis balls inside, and the contractions were bearable if they rolled it on my lower back REALLY hard and REALLY fast.  They were all exhausted, because none of us had slept, and their arms were giving out as I shouted “faster!” and “push harder!”  Marco was awesome.  He coached me, just like we’d practiced in Lamaze, and helped me through the rough times.

Labor was a slow progression.  The contractions never got closer together than about four minutes, but I was progressing.  Suddenly, and too early (7cm), my body started involuntarily pushing the baby out.  The midwives told me to stop, but I couldn’t.  At that point, about 17 hours into labor, I decided to have an epidural.  I felt that I had experienced enough of true labor anyway, and I was far enough along that they would not numb me completely.

What a feeling!  Everything became calm.  No more massage tennis balls.  No more Lamaze breathing.  And then it was time to push.

The baby wasn’t quite in the right position, but I felt it was time.  After an hour of pushing, I started giving up.  I told Marco and the midwife that it wasn’t going to work.  The midwife said, “You can do it! Keep pushing!”  and Marco echoed her.  He said all the right things.  He said I was doing a great job and I could do it.  I asked him later about that, and he said although he was saying it, he secretly agreed with me.  We both thought this couldn’t happen, and we would end up with a C-section.  How CAN it work, really?  It seems impossible.

And then it DID work.  Much to my surprise, I gave the final push (after one and a half hours of pushing), and baby Diego Knight Montenegro was born at 8:19 pm on July 29, 2013.  He was 8 pounds, 7 ounces, and 21 inches long.  The midwife held him up for me to see, and he looked like all those squirming babies on “A Baby Story” or “16 and Pregnant.”

Diego is born

Marco cut the umbilical cord, they measured him, and then he was ours.  He was always ours, I guess, but it wasn’t real until he was there in my arms.

One thing that will always stick with me was Marco’s ability to calm me down.  He talked me through everything, helped me breathe, helped me relax, helped me push, and celebrated with me.  Afterward, I was shaking from the adrenaline rush, and I couldn’t calm myself.  He hugged me, and the shaking stopped immediately.  It started again later, and he hugged me again, and it stopped.  His hugs were instantly calming, and I am grateful to him.

We spent two more blissful days in the hospital, with a wonderful staff of nurses, midwives, and lactation consultants, and then it was time to go home.  We were sleep deprived and nervous, but we had more joy in those three days than ever before.

Diego and Daddy Diego and Mommy

Marco and I always said the baby wouldn’t be cute for the first couple of months, since all babies look like aliens at first, but we both agreed that he was cute from day one.

Cutie First doctor's visit3 people, one nose


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The past year has been the biggest, most important of my life.  In November of 2012, Marco and I found out we were expecting a baby.  We had been working with a doctor for a few months, and on October 29th, we had some help.  Anyone who has questioned their own fertility knows how difficult those doctor’s visits can be, and they said I had a 5-20% chance of getting pregnant.  My age was a big factor, because I was already 35.  Anyway, I was nauseous all day on November 12th, and I finally tested on November 16th.  Positive!!  I laid out the test and a special Darth/Godfather onesie I had purchased to surprise Marco.  Our adventure had begun!

I’m not sure what worked for us.  Maybe it was acupuncture, or modern science, timing, or a wonderful trip to New York in September that did it, or maybe a combination of all of those things.  No doubt we owe a great deal of gratitude to the Kaiser Garden Grove Infertility Department, and to Profound Youth Acupuncture in Corona, but the New York trip really helped us relax and forget about trying to have a baby for a little while.

Times Square  Empire State Building  The best dinner!

These photos really tell the story.  We had the time of our lives!  We may have spent a little too much money, but it didn’t matter.  We saw the sights, and we were able to have dinner with our friends at the famous Momofuku Ssäm Bar.  We called it “pork and cocktails,” and it was one of the best dinners we have ever had.

At 6 weeks, we went for an ultrasound, and there it was!  A tiny heartbeat in the middle of a grainy peanut on the black and white screen.  Only one, thank goodness, because the doctor said we could have had four.  Four!  Maybe we could have had our own TV show??  Marco instantly said he was “going public,” and started posting on Facebook.  He was one happy father-to-be.

6 Weeks

And thus began our “Babymoon.”  We headed to New Orleans for a work conference for me in December, and Marco spent the three days wandering the French Quarter and taking photos.  He even got to attend a Saints game while I was in a workshop.  Our evenings were delightful there, and we will definitely be going back.  Perhaps the most wonderful thing about NOLA is that there are people playing brass instruments on street corners, at all hours of the day.  Brass!  Not just a guitar or drums, but brass!

The art and colors of the city are just beautiful, also.  Here are a couple of photos Marco took on his walks:

NOLA joy NOLA bikes

But if you are traveling to NOLA, the best thing, really the BEST thing, is the food.  The art, music and spirit of the city are all combined in the food.  We had some great meals, like gumbo and jambalaya, but the most delicious were the oysters that were grilled with a butter, garlic, and parmesan crust.  To die for.

One of the things I decided during my pregnancy was that I would enjoy it.  I was lucky, and I only experienced a few days of nausea, and my main complaints were increased sensitivity to smells (taking out the garbage really turned my stomach) and I couldn’t stand the taste of chicken.  I had no strange cravings…just a lot of ground beef!  I followed Princess Kate and Kim Kardashian…both got pregnant about a week before me.  I felt so bad for Kate…so sick and uncomfortable!  And Kim gained so much weight…made me feel good about myself!

In April, we found out we were expecting a boy.  In that instant, everything changed.  Marco, teary-eyed and excited, couldn’t wait to announce it.  I was more reserved.  I was happy, but I had just spent a few days holding two  baby girls, and getting a little attached to them.  It was time to adjust my expectations, and start getting excited about holding a little boy!  From the ultrasound, it looked like he had his dad’s nose and hands.


We started doing pictures of my belly, but I was reluctant to do the bare-belly pics at first.

This was a photo shoot with Marco at 22 weeks:

22 Weeks

At 26 weeks, I took 3rd place in a pool tournament at a friend’s birthday party (I had a bye, and two of my opponents scratched on the 8 ball…I am not a good pool shark!):

26 Weeks

This is another friend’s birthday party at 27 weeks.  That’s a special, sparkly, non-alcoholic drink they found for the pregnant girl:

27 Weeks

Here’s a shot from another photo shoot with Marco at 27 weeks, at the Great Park in Irvine:

27 Weeks Photo Shoot

At 28 weeks, we traveled to Montana for my cousin’s wedding.  It was beautiful, and we had a wonderful time!

28 WeeksMontana 28 weeks Montana wedding

I wore my regular clothes as long as I could, but eventually the belly forced its way out.  At 30 weeks, Marco took this:

30 Weeks

At 33 weeks, I had my first of 3 baby showers:

33 Weeks

And at 34 weeks, we had another photo shoot (yes, that is a broken cement deer in our front yard):

34 Weeks

At 36 weeks, we went to Disneyland to celebrate my birthday.  We stuck to slow rides and the Tiki Room, but it was very fun!  Here’s a video Marco took as I ate the ice cream he bought me: 

Be brave, travel, and love.

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Today, November 1st, is my mother’s birthday.  She is 30 years older than me (plus some months and days), and I am grateful that she waited to have children.  My sister and I have always benefitted from her hard work, her life experience, and her wisdom.

My mom spoiled my sister and I.  We were allowed to climb in the big parents’ bed to sleep, we were encouraged to find a way to play, no matter what, and she had a sympathetic ear when we didn’t want to clean our rooms.  We also learned that one of the best treats is ice cream, after popcorn.  She may have had a hard time saying no, but she definitely taught us fun.  We have had hard times and good times, but she is able to find the joy in any situation.

When my mother was 18, she left home and got a job as a secretary for the state department.  She spent those daring years living in Germany and Russia, at the heart of the Cold War, typing letters for diplomats.  When she came home, she moved in with her best friend, and they took off on a road trip across the country.  Eventually, she got back together with her high school sweetheart (my dad), and they settled down together.  This has served as a pattern for me: be brave, travel, love.

To meet her, you might say she’s good-natured and funny, and incredibly supportive of those around her.  But she is stronger than you’d guess.  She and my dad decided to uproot us and move to a small town when we were 11 and 9.  We fought and cried to stay in our school, but we were dragged two hours away to horse country.  My father had long dreamed of having his own ranch, and my mother worked in their small business to make his dream a reality.  In a quiet moment, I heard her whisper, “I just never thought I’d have horses and cows.”  This only underscores her love and devotion to her husband.

Now my sister has two children.  I see the grandkids getting spoiled like we were when they go to grandma and grandpa’s house, and I love when I get to be a part of it.

My mom’s life experience has given her patience and understanding.  I am told that I am like her, and I hope that is true.  I look a bit like her, but I don’t know that I have her patience.  I DO know, however, that I will live my life following what she taught us:

-Love completely and unconditionally.

-Even at the worst times, ice cream and a funny movie can make everything better.

-Be adventurous.  If you want to see the world, go do it.

-Work hard.  You are in charge of your own destiny, and you can find a way to get to your dreams.

-Support your husband.  He is your partner, and together you can make your life what you want it to be.

-Cleaning is less important than playing.  This includes encouraging small children to play in the mud.

-Nothing is impossible.  You just have to believe it will happen.

-Make the people you love the most important things in your life.  That means every phone call should be greeted with an excited “Hello, there!” even if we’ve already talked today.

Here’s my mom and dad with me sometime around the beginning of 1978:

Don’t you love these old pictures?  Isn’t she pretty?

Here’s another one of my mom and her sister with me (in the red gingham…!) and two of my cousins:


Weird gene pool, I know…blond aunt, dark-haired cousin, blond me, dark-haired mom.

Gotta love the 70s styles.

Thanks for everything, Mom.  Happy Birthday!  We love you.


Remembering a Summer Road Trip

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As the summer ends, I find myself seeking out the heat.  There’s something so familiar and nostalgic about September heat in California.  It’s not humid and sticky like Savannah, or oppressive like Laughlin.  It’s a dry, blazing heat in the afternoon that cools off in the evening.  It’s  beaches and driving with the windows down and midnight bonfires.  It’s Bon Jovi and Tim McGraw and stolen kisses.

Summer is a time for vacations, and I’m reminded of some of the best times with family and friends.  In 2003 (the year I met Marco), my best friend Amy and I took a road trip from LA to Savannah.  We set out in my Ford Taurus with only three known goals: 1. visit Roswell, NM; 2. get to New Orleans in time for our hotel reservation; 3. make it to Savannah to stay with my aunt and uncle.  I recommend a trip like this to anyone who has the time to do it!

We made it to the Grand Canyon on the first day.  Amy is a camper, and I am not, but I agreed to camp to save money.  It turned out to be awesome!  We stayed two nights in a tent near the rim of the Grand Canyon.  We did not have a flashlight, so once our campfire was out, we couldn’t see anything.  Except for the millions of beautiful stars between the pine trees.  Yeah, there’s a reason there aren’t any lampposts.  While we were there, we attended an evening nature talk, and we did a sunrise photo walk with a guide.

We headed out toward Roswell, but the car’s transmission did something strange in Winslow, AZ.  We ended up waiting outside of a car repair shop for a few hours.  Amy was not pleased with me.  She was right…I should have had the car checked before we left.

The best thing about Winslow is the souvenirs everywhere that say “standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.”  Here’s the famous corner:

We finally made it to Roswell.  Oh my gosh…go to Roswell.  No, really, GO.  It is another world.  Everyone, and I mean everyone we talked to, told us a story of their personal experience being abducted by aliens.  Many of them moved to Roswell because of their experiences, but many of them were raised in Roswell.  We went through the museum, and Amy was getting pretty convinced that aliens had landed, but I was still skeptical.  I mean, something landed, but why couldn’t it be something from this world?  A crazy science experiment sounds more plausible to me than aliens.

Our next stop was Dallas.  We found a campground just outside of town and as we were getting things moved into the tent, I spotted my first firefly.  I had never seen them before, and they are truly wondrous creatures.  Amy and I decided to follow it, and we soon saw many of them around the campground.  They blinked on and off, leading us through a field toward a stream.  I am not a religious person, but I think I’m spiritual, and there are times when the “spiritual force,” or God, seems to give us glimpses of magic in the world.  If we are able to stop and appreciate these magical moments, our hearts are filled.  I know what you’re thinking…I don’t believe in aliens, but I believe in the force.

Until next time…

may the Force be with you…

Marriage and “The Bachelorette”

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Yesterday Marco and I went to the mall, and we made a stop at Popcornopolis.  We got a large bag of cheddar popcorn, and then discussed how we would sneak it into the movie theater.  Marco suggested stopping somewhere to get little baggies and hiding them in my purse, as the original bag was too large.  However, we decided to be good and go home to watch our Sunday shows.  This Sunday was special, though.  It was the season finale of The Bachelorette.  Yes, we watch every episode of every Bachelor and Bachelorette, including the reunion shows.  There are great recaps of every episode at Lost Angeles.  It’s a funny blog by a guy who watches it with his wife.

When we got home, we settled on the couch to watch Emily choose her final guy.  Anyone who’s been following this show knows that she feels a “connection” to Arie, but that Jef is the clear winner, despite the missing f.  He’s nice, they have similar senses of humor, they can both shoot clay pigeons like nobody’s business, and he’s hot.  A little tip: we are very likely to marry someone who we feel is like us; equal to us in looks, intelligence,  and humor.   Opposites don’t necessarily attract…we really just want another version of ourselves around.

Anyway, we were both sitting on the couch, on our respective sides.  [Any time we trade sides it feels very strange.]  Our couch is awesome.  It has two recliners, with a seat in the middle.  The middle seat NEVER gets used, unless I feel like cuddling, but it’s difficult to cuddle from the middle when he’s totally reclined.  So we were both reclining, with the popcorn bag sitting on the middle seat.  We each had a paper towel in our laps, and we were taking turns pouring popcorn onto the towels.

At some point, Marco felt the bag was going to spill all over the couch, so he moved it closer to his side and propped it up.  The mood instantly changed.  I gave him a warning look, because that popcorn was half mine, and now he was taking ownership of the bag.  On my next refill, I held the bag on MY side and propped it up.  Then he took it back, and we went back and forth like this, both of us suspecting the other was going to finish off the popcorn without sharing enough.  He finally relented and graciously handed the bag to me when we were down to the last few kernels.

What struck me during this hour was that we were watching a TV show where the sole purpose is to find someone to marry.  They go from one exotic locale to the next, alternately falling in love and getting dumped, just so they can finally find “the one” and end up sitting at home on the couch fighting with their spouse over who gets to hold the bag of popcorn.

Marco and I laughed over this, and I realized that this is what it’s all about.  It’s not about the big romantic scenes; it’s about the quiet, funny, everyday life that we get to share with one another.  I feel so lucky to have found “the one” who has a sense of humor like mine, and who loves me just as I am.

Low Stress Summer: Vitamins, Exercise, Acupuncture

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As a high school teacher, I have the summer off.  The end of the school year was especially stressful, and it is my goal to lower my stress this month.  Here are some things I’ve done, and it has been wonderful to try them out!

First, I started going to the gym more.  I took a PiYo class, some Zumba classes, and I’ve been using the treadmill.  PiYo is a combination of Pilates and Yoga, and it didn’t seem too difficult.  But the next day…wow!  I could hardly sit down because my thighs were so sore!  Zumba is always fun, and I’ve posted about that before.  The treadmill is always one of my favorites.  I do about 20 minutes, and I try to run for half of that.

Second, I started taking vitamins regularly.  I always have them sitting around, but I’ve become accustomed to taking them every day now.  Also, I started eating breakfast!  I have cereal or oatmeal, with almond soy milk and wheatgrass powder.  I recommend wheatgrass for the energy it gives, but I do NOT recommend wheatgrass powder…it smells terrible, and it has a very strange texture.  Next time, I will either do shots of wheatgrass from a juice store or take wheatgrass tablets.  However, I am too stubborn to do it now.  I spent the money on the powder, and I’m going to finish it.  Luckily, I’m almost halfway done with the bottle.


I also started something I’ve never done before…acupuncture!  I was a bit apprehensive, but I was excited about it, because I knew that it might relieve the knots I carry in my shoulders and back when I’m feeling stressed.  I looked it up online, and here is a diagram I found:

It looks scary, I know, but I guess the needles are all supposed to follow “meridians,” or lines along the body.

I found an acupuncturist near my home, and at my first session he did a thorough interview.  He was especially interested in my activities.  He checked my pulse on both wrists, and he looked at my tongue.  I thought this was fascinating.  He said my tongue had a crack in it, which indicates digestion problems.  He said if I have digestion problems, I’m not adequately absorbing all the nutrients in my food.  He also said I seemed stressed.

The first thing he did was have me lie face down on a massage table, and he told me he was going to work my “meridians.”  He did this by giving me a chiropractic-style massage for about 30 minutes.  It was wonderful.  Then he had me turn over, and he put five needles in my abdomen (for digestion), and five needles in my forehead (for stress).  The needles were tiny, and the only one I could feel was right between my eyebrows.  The rest were in less sensitive areas.

He told me to lie still for about 40 minutes, and he put some heat lamps over me.  He left the room with the lights dim and soothing music playing.  The combination was very relaxing, but he gave me a panic button, “just in case.”

But the really fascinating thing happened the next day.  Not only did I digest my food well…we won’t go into that…but the crack in my tongue was almost imperceptible!  Unbelievable!

It’s really difficult to take a picture of your own tongue:

I will continue to try acupuncture, and more stress-relief techniques in the future.


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After leasing the car, I started wondering about our credit.  It turns out it’s pretty good, and I wanted to know why!  Marco and I both made mistakes with our credit in the past, and we have been trying to get out from under that dark cloud.  Here are some things that worked for us, if any of you are in need of a credit boost:

1. Always pay on time, even if you’re just making the minimum payment.  Late payments lead to increased balances and astronomical percentage rates.  I have one that went to 30% in my early 20s, and it never went back down.

2.  Close your small store credit cards.  We had cards for Express, Victoria’s Secret, Home Depot, and Best Buy.  We bank at a Credit Union, and they worked out a deal with us to pay off a number of cards.  We ended up closing all of these cards, and we pay the bank each month to pay off the loan.  The nice thing is that the loan doesn’t seem to affect our credit score.

3. If you need to borrow money to make a big purchase, use things like Bill Me Later.  It didn’t show up on our credit report, and it has 0% interest for the first 6 months.

4. Look for alternative credit offers in the mail.  We receive notices two or three times a week, and they often offer 12 to 18 months of 0% interest.  I transferred a balance from the 30% card to one of these, and it has taken a great weight off my shoulders.

5. Remember that loans for education are what people call “good debt.”  Although you still need to make the payments, they are usually at a low interest rate (2-3%) and the lenders will work with you if the payments are too high.  When you get frustrated with the payments, remember that they have allowed you to earn something that will always be useful in life, whether personally or professionally.

6. If you get over-extended with credit, reign it back in.  Stop using the cards for everyday purchases.  Remember that every time you use your credit cards, the business is being charged 2-3% of the cost.  This causes them to lose money, and the widespread use of cards has forced them to raise the prices of goods, thus contributing to inflation.  If you stick to cash, you save them money, and you will be more aware of what you are spending.  Marco and I went to Italy for a week last year, and we only took $1000 cash.  By the flight home on the last day, we had just enough cash to eat.  It was perfect, because we watched our spending, and didn’t buy a bunch of useless souvenirs.

7. Take a look at your credit occasionally, on sites like and TransUnion.  Remember that these sites will start charging you if you don’t cancel their services, though, and they might charge you to download the report.

8. Pay off  a loan to increase your score.  This shows that you are a low risk to lenders.

People have different ideas of what good credit looks like, so here are a few scales of the different score brackets.

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