Summer Reads II

I read so many great books this summer!!! One of my favorite parts of summer is to sit down with a great book and not feel one bit guilty about it!

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

Gudenkauf is great at writing stories that pull at your heartstrings. This one doesn’t disappoint. Ellen is an overworked, exhausted, harried mother of three. One day while in the midst of a work crisis, she forgets something most precious to her and the repercussions will be devastating to her and her family. While Ellen is dealing with her crisis, her mother befriends a lost little girls named Jenny who is very far from home. Gudenkauf weaves both of these major plot lines together brilliantly and they come together perfectly at the end of the novel. I wasn’t able to put it down. You will find yourself yelling at the book to try and prevent events from happening!!

The Stories We Tell Patti Callahan Henry

This was a quick and enjoyable read. Eve and Cooper Morrison are a power couple in their Savannah community. Eve owns and runs her own printing business with two of her dear friends. Cooper is involved in a terrible accident with Eve’s sister, Willa, and their seemingly perfect life starts to unravel. There is nothing earth-shattering in this book, it’s pretty predictable, but it was a very enjoyable read. Eve’s printing business was fascinating to read about and I really wanted to order the greeting cards she speaks of throughout the book!!

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter should just write a book every second of every day…that’s how much I love her writing! This is not part of her series with Will Trent and Sarah but a stand-alone novel that was amazing! It’s set in the 70s as two female police officers are trying to make their way in a male-dominated world. I find it fascinating to read about badass women trying to make it in a world that doesn’t want them there. It’s a wonderful read.

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah

This is Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane. Kate has died from cancer and her family has fallen apart. Kate’s best friend, Tully, has become an addict who can’t leave the house. Kate’s husband is trying his best to function without his better half but not doing very well at all. Their daughter, Marah, has completely gone off the deep end. Will they be able to overcome this insurmountable loss? I love Hannah’s books and this one did not disappoint. It’s a quick, heartfelt, heartwarming book.

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

I’m sure most of you have read this already, but I am late to the game. This is the memoir of four-year-old Colton Burpo’s visit to heaven during a near-death experience. It’s hard not to believe in Heaven after reading this book. The part where Colton meets his sister in Heaven made me cry like a baby. His mom had a miscarriage, which he knew nothing about, and this was that sister that he met in Heaven. Man, oh man, I hope it’s true! This book sure makes you think.¬†

Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I would have loved this book if it was around 200 pages long. The fact that it is almost 800 pages almost kept me from finishing it. The story was really unique and interesting, but it felt like it dragged on and on. Maybe I’m just not meant for critically acclaimed books because everyone loved this one, and it’s up for a Pulitzer, but I didn’t really like it. Theo is a 13-year-old boy who has just lost his mother in a terrible accident. The story follows his struggle to make his way in the world without his anchor, his mother. The plot is very interesting but I just felt that it was way too long.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

I loved, loved, loved this book! I couldn’t put it down! The plot is unique and timely, the characters are well-developed and it’s a fast read. All of my favorite things in a book. Kate is a single mother to Amelia, a high schooler, struggling to find time for her high-powered career as an attorney and for Amelia. She is in the middle of a very important meeting when she gets a call from Amelia’s school that Amelia has been suspended. What happens next causes Kate to “reconstruct” Amelia’s existence and examine her own life as well. It’s a great read!!!

What have you read lately?

Happy This Week

I tried, I really tried, to post more this week…but it just didn’t happen!!!

I start back to work tomorrow! I’m so excited! We’ve had an awesome summer but I’m ready to meet my new 8th graders and get back into the swing of things!

Soccer started!!! Gabe is loving his new team.

I took pictures of one of my best friend’s kids. They are awesome and gorgeous…it was fun!!!

A manicure AND a pedicure!!!

A haircut!


An at-home date night after the kids went to bed

Coffee with my mom…and no kids! We never get to spend time just the two of us!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…it was awesome! The best part? Olivia loved it! We’re moving past animated movies…occasionally!

Last, but certainly not least, my best friend’s son has been in the hospital for over a week, had three surgeries, was in a ton of pain while suffering a very rare infection in his back. It was really scary. He is finally home and on the mend!!!!! Woo hoo!!!

What made you happy this week?

When Thank You Isn’t Enough

There are many times throughout my mother-of-a-child-with-special-needs journey, usually on really rough days, where I soul search and ask “what’s it all for?” Not “why me”, per se, but why anyone? Why are children born with special needs? Why do we have to struggle? Why does it have to be so hard?

Before I know it, I can think of hundreds of examples of when I’ve experienced the absolute best in people because of Olivia. The husband you knew would be a great father but amazes you every day with his parenting and loving skills. The boys you hoped would be sweet and have become the best boys around. The little girls who played with her at recess because they loved her. The teachers who went the extra mile because they saw how much progress she was making. The friends we’ve all made because of her. Sometimes it feels like I got the short end of the stick, on those days when I feel like I ran a marathon just taking care of her. But then I remind myself that, even though at times I see the worst in people, it’s rare. Almost every day of my life, in almost all of my interactions with my daughter, I see the absolute best in people. What a gift that is!

This past weekend we held our 6th annual Olivia’s Open charity golf outing. Throughout the summer, there are times when I think “Why did I even start this golf outing?” because it’s so much work. It’s right before school starts when we’re trying to cram in all of our last minute summer stuff, soccer is starting and Matt and I are trying to get ready for the new school year. It’s not exactly ideal timing. But then I have friends on Facebook donating silent auction items. Friends coming to Stella and Dot and 31 parties to help raise money. Friends finding businesses, their own or others, to become hole sponsors. Friends coming to golf. Former students who you haven’t seen in ages, but stay in touch with on Facebook, bringing friends to golf. Families in your neighborhood who you don’t see often enough, but still cherish, coming to play minigolf with their kids. Cousins, who you usually only get to see at Christmas, coming out to play golf. A childhood friend’s Dad who comes every year, gives you a big bear hug and loves on Olivia. A woman you randomly met through a friend who comes every single year and brought Olivia a crown this year because she was “the queen”. Your neighbor and friend who comes every year with her family and friends. Another neighbor and friend who spends hours on the course “heckling” golfers for donations at the betting hole. It’s a whole village of support and love. We were able to raise over $7000 for the 5p- society and for Olivia’s care. Can you believe that?

It’s humbling. Humbling to be supported and loved so much. I’m not even sure if Olivia “gets” it but she feels it. She feels loved and that is all that matters. We all feel loved and supported and that is immeasurable. This journey is tough, that’s the truth. But what an amazing gift we’ve been given to see the best in people, don’t you think?

NYC part V — the end

Our last full day in NYC, we headed to Central Park. It was perfect timing because my introverted husband was getting really tired of people. Central Park was a surprisingly beautiful quiet oasis right in the middle of the crazy busy city. We loved it. When we go again, I would spend at least one whole day there doing nothing!

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We got out of Central Park and headed to the American Museum of Natural History. Matt is a huge history and museum buff. Me? Not so much. But I loved this one! It was amazing!





I’m super afraid of gorillas!


We headed back through Central Park and headed to Serendipity for frozen hot chocolate. One of my favorite movies, Serendipity, was filmed there. The frozen hot chocolate was out of this world!

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We then headed to Dylan’s Candy bar for more chocolate and to get some treats for the kids. It was packed!

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By then we had been walking for hours and hours and just wanted to get pizza and head back to our hotel. We grabbed a slice at a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint and headed back to comfort. What a crazy, busy day!! The next day was our last day there and we had to be at the bus stop at 2 p.m. We had breakfast, did a little shopping, vegged out in front of the original Macy’s, had lunch at a crappy but delicious diner and then boarded the dreaded bus. We got home safe and sound to extremely happy to see us children!

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Fun Surprising Fact about NYC from Matt and Tiffany: Locals are constantly having serious, deep, loud conversations on the phone right on the sidewalk. We learned TMI about many locals on our trip! I guess there’s no place else to talk, right?

NYC part IV

The next day we decided to take the advice from the locals we met at Mood and the Three Monkeys and head to the neighborhoods: Soho, Tribeca, Greenwich and Chelsea. The neighborhoods (boroughs?) are so much quieter and cooler than Times Square. We loved it. We took the Highline to get there which was so beautiful. It’s this old train track above ground that they converted into a walking path and a garden.

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We ate at a cool cafe in Soho and saw random people sitting on toilets with their underwear around their ankles for a photoshoot. I love that about NYC! Randomness everywhere! We then headed to Chelsea Market which was so cool I wish we had one at home. Just funky, unique, fun stores to check out in a very cool building.

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After Chelsea Market, we headed to the Brooklyn Bridge. We had walked so much that day, we only walked halfway across and back. Then we remembered we had to walk all the way back to our hotel. 3.3 miles away!

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We hiked all the way back to our hotel just in time for free wine. Matt was making me laugh because he wouldn’t let me take his picture!

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Because we had been walking for 8 hours straight, and had wine, we took a nap at 6 p.m. How’s that for vacation without kids? When we woke up around 8, we headed to Broadway to eat at Juniors and see Times Square and Broadway at night. It was so busy we were shoulder to shoulder walking down the sidewalk! We got to Juniors just in time to grab a table before all of the shows let out. I had the best cheesecake of my life…and you all know I’m a cheesecake connoisseur! I really wanted to lick the plate. Just plain NY style cheesecake and it was out of this world. Matt and I split one meal all week because the portions were huge, to save money and so that we could have dessert!

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It was another fun but exhausting day!

Fun Surprising NYC fact #3 from Matt and Tiffany: New Yorkers are not rude…but if they are you totally understand because there are people everywhere all the time! Also, the homeless population just makes you sad and want to do whatever you can to increase mental health awareness. Lots of homeless people talking to themselves…loudly.

NYC part III

We walked everywhere. We didn’t take one cab or take the subway. Too cheap for cabs and not enough energy to figure out the subway. So we walked…and walked…and walked. We figured we averaged between 7 and 10 miles a day. At least. No wonder I slept great, right? We did use the Citibikes for half a day. That was fun and nerve wracking. Most of the streets have bike lanes but the ones that didn’t were a bit scary! I did appreciate that, even as crazy as the traffic is, everyone seems to be on alert for bikes and pedestrians and other cars.

I am a HUGE fan of Project Runway and definitely wanted to go to Mood. It was crazy! For those who watch, I’m not sure how any of the designers find their fabric in only 30 minutes. There is fabric EVERYWHERE!! It’s organized by type of fabric but that’s it. It’s nuts! The designers were actually coming in that day but they didn’t know what time. How cool is that?? Tim Gunn has been there!!!

(**Horrible shirt for me to have my picture taken in…my MIL said “All I think is BOOBS in that picture!” I’m not sure why it’s such an unflattering shirt in pictures because it’s really cute in person! But I don’t care…I’M IN MOOD!!!)

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After Mood, we headed to Times Square just to check things out. Times Square is crazy busy! Again, it was so cool to be somewhere I’ve seen a million times on TV and in movies. We even saw the naked cowboy!

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While walking down the street in Times Square, a woman stopped and asked if we wanted tickets to David Letterman. We of course were suspicious. But she had a Letterman ID and seemed legit. All we had to do was answer a question. Matt answered it correctly and we got two tickets to that afternoon’s show! I used to watch Letterman all the time in college and before kids. Plus, it’s taped at the legendary Ed Sullivan theatre so we were both excited to go. After we got our tickets, we had an hour to kill so we went to a local bar, The Three Monkeys, while we waited. We kept laughing that we were doing shots and having a drink at 2 p.m. on a Monday. It was fun!! Going to the show was awesome. The studio was way smaller than it looks on TV. David Letterman was hilarious and handsome and the guest was John C. Reilly who we love. It was such a unique and fun experience…and totally free and unexpected and spontaneous! All week stuff like that kept happening to us. We’d get to a restaurant and there would be no wait and then five minutes later the line would be out the door. We got a free gift card to one store because we were one of the first 50 customers. Stuff like that. All week. Kinda made up for the bus experience! ;)

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Worst picture of Matt and I ever…but the only one we have of us at David Letterman! I cropped us out as much as I could! HA!

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We went back to the hotel for a bit and worked hard at staying awake until 10 p.m. when we left for the comedy show at Upright Citizens Brigade. Amy Poehler was one of the founders of this NYC comedy club. I somehow found out that, on Mondays at 11 p.m., you can get free tickets for a show called Whiplash. I made reservations and we were good to go. Whiplash is an hour-and-a-half long show of various comedians. Matt did not want to go. He was tired, it was late, we had to walk AGAIN, we had to wait in line, he was annoyed. But we went anyway. IT WAS AWESOME! It’s the small little dive of a club in a basement and everyone there was at the most 25. We felt so old! Luckily it was dark in there so I don’t think anyone knew we were ancient. The comedians were hysterical too. One did a bit on being paranoid while smoking pot…about why the numbers are in the order they are in and why letters are called A, B, C, etc. and I thought I was going to pee my pants. So funny. Matt and I felt very hip and young being out so late, in a cool NYC spot with young hipsters. Until we had to walk home and our hips and knees were hurting from all the walking we did that day. Then we felt old again.

upright citizens brigade

Surprising NYC Fun Fact #2 from Matt and Tiffany’s trip: The fashion police are not on alert and you should totally look dorky and wear tennis shoes or you will be in so much pain.

NYC part II

We arrived in NYC at around 6:30 on Saturday night so the first night was just checking into our hotel and enjoying a romantic Italian restaurant that our friend suggested. I’m always a little nervous going to a hotel for the first time because you’re never sure it’s going to be as described. Our hotel, The Roger New York, was amazing. Huge sigh of relief after our bus ride. It was very chic and sophisticated and clean and beautiful. The room was small, I mean this is NYC, but really pretty. I never sleep well when I travel and I slept like a rock on this trip! The bed was super comfy, the room was quiet and very clean. The hotel staff was super helpful and friendly and they had complimentary wine hour every day! It was also in a great location. It was wonderful!

I was so excited to be able to glimpse my first touristy site, The Empire State Building, on our way home from dinner the first night!

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Matt and I both remembered this building from countless shows and movies set in NYC.

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Sunday, our first full day, we decided to take a Gray Line tour of the city. We were able to see Grant’s Tomb and cathedral, the 911 memorial, have lunch at Grotto Azure, spend time in Little Italy, take a cruise past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and visit Top of the Rock. In between each destination, we got to see the entire city and Matt was able to get a good lay of the land. (Not me…I had no clue where anything was the entire trip.)

The architecture was impressive.
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Matt and I were glad we didn’t get struck by lightning while being in an actual church on Sunday!

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The 911 memorial was haunting. It’s overwhelming and sad and I just kept thinking how awful the whole thing must have been for those in NYC. Seeing all of the names around the memorial is humbling. Did you know that someone puts a white rose on their name on their birthday? I got weepy but I’m glad we went to pay our respects.

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Next up was our cruise to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and all of the bridges. I’m still amazed at how large NYC is!!! It was truly wondrous to see these things in person after learning about them for so many years!

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Our last stop was Top of the Rock. You can see EVERYTHING from up there!!!

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I’m a huge pop culture junkie, so of course we had to stop at Rockefeller Center and the NBC Studios store!

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Me with my former boyfriend…

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Me with my current boyfriend…as close as I was going to get after failing to get tickets to his show! I kept thinking “Jimmy Fallon works in this building!” the whole time we were there. Maybe next time!!

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Surprising Fact #1 from Matt and Tiffany’s first day in NYC: there is garbage everywhere and very few people speak English!!!

Stay tuned for part III tomorrow!

NYC part I: The Megabus

Matt and I just returned from our first trip to New York City sans kids. We had a phenomenal time! I’m planning on sharing all of the fun details this week for those who want to live vicariously through us!!!

The first part of our trip was…horrible. We had a limited budget and didn’t want to spend the majority of it on travel expenses…and we wanted to be able to spend more time in NYC…soooooooo…we decided to take the Megabus. The images online looked great…comfy, plush seats that recline, tables in between the sets of seats to use for eating or whatever and free wifi! It only cost $120 for both of us to go to NYC and back! We could watch movies, play cards, sleep and relax and it would only take us two hours longer than driving ourselves!

We should have known better.

Our bus from Toledo departed at 5:30 a.m. When we got on the bus, we couldn’t find any seats because people were taking up two seats each. The bus attendant finally got some people to move their stuff, but Matt and I still didn’t get to sit together. The seats were very small…think coach airline seats with very little headroom…and they barely reclined. My knees were pressed up against the seat in front of me. It was hot. There was no wifi. It was bad. But that wasn’t the worst part.

The clientele was…less than desirable, let’s say. The driver looked like they just picked him up on Toledo’s scariest corner, gave him a blue Megabus shirt and let him take the wheel. The “assistant” to the driver was worse. When we stopped at our first stop in Cleveland, the police were there to search the bus. We still have no idea why, but they were searching the bus for a person. Like I said, the clientele was…questionable. From Cleveland to our next stop, we heard a man downstairs scream “WAKE UP!! I’M ALREADY GOING TO A FUNERAL, I DON’T WANT IT TO BE MINE TOO!” Apparently our driver had nodded off. However, Matt and I were able to switch seats and sit next to teach other. I almost forgot! Matt saw most of the men from our bus in the gas station bathroom “showering” in the sink! The next leg of the trip to NYC was pretty uneventful until we got to the Lincoln Tunnel. A sketchy looking man, who hadn’t moved the whole trip, suddenly woke up, arranged his bag on his lap and took out two cell phones and turned them on. Let me say…there is absolutely no security on these buses. They didn’t know who was on the bus, what was in our luggage, nothing. All of a sudden, Matt and I felt very panicky about being in the Lincoln Tunnel and the possibility of a bomb detonation. Thankfully, we arrived in NYC safe and sound and so happy to be off the death trap of a bus.

I immediately started looking up flights home or rental cars. Matt and I decided, as awful as the experience was, we just couldn’t justify spending between $300 and $600 just to get home. Luckily, we had a week of bliss before we had to head back. The return trip was slightly better. We got seats together on the bottom of the bus which was slightly roomier. The clientele was a little less scary. The drivers were still scary as shit. The second driver left his microphone on and used f-bombs galore while trying to figure out HOW TO DRIVE THE BUS! He said things such as “What does this button do? Why is this light on? How do I turn that on?” There were super loud children in front of us and super chatty annoying women behind us. We were relieved when they got off at the first stop only to be replaced by a woman hacking up a lung and a man who wouldn’t stop talking to the adorable college girl who had the bad luck to sit next to him. Neither of us could sleep on the bus, so when we arrived home at 4:30 a.m. after traveling all night, we were beyond exhausted.

I would say the Megabus would be OK for short trips…like between 2 and 4 hours. But even then, I’m not sure I’d risk it again. I felt very unsafe and uncomfortable and unhappy.

To amuse ourselves, Matt and I thought of alternate slogans for Megabus to use in their advertising:

My favorite, from me: MEGABUS! It will cure your fear of flying!

From Matt:

Megabus: When you like cuddling with strangers.
Megabus: Winner of the prestigious “Most Misleading Pictures on a Website” award.
Megabus: We now offer free WiFi on all routes….just kidding!
Megabus: Third world country experience right here in the u s of a! I may abandon this bus if anyone gets on with a chicken, pig or goat.

It was an experience to say the least…one we will not be repeating! We had a wonderful time other than our travel…check back for more NYC posts this week!

Have you ever used Megabus? How was it for you?

Happy This Week

It’s so easy to find happy in the summer, isn’t it?

Manicure week!

We went camping for three days and had a blast. I read three books (reviews to come) and we swam and hiked. There was a river that went through the campground and we floated down the river on tubes! It was sooooo fun!

My friend, Amy, and I took the kids to a water park on Thursday. It was a wonderful day!

I had a girls’ night out with three wonderful friends. It’s always so nice to catch up and laugh!

Chinese food and a movie with Matt! We watched “This is 40″ for the second time…I think it was even funnier the second time around!

Jimmy Fallon!!! I am so bummed we didn’t get tickets to his show when we are in NYC…


What made you happy this week?

The Care Package

***Linking up with MamaKat today with a Flashback post: Write about a time you took a chance.***

Click here for a fun flashback post about when I took a chance on love…