Small Packages

It’s been a while since I last wrote. I’ve wanted to but couldn’t bring myself to put words on “paper.” The pressure of writing something perfect enough to encapsulate my feelings is next to impossible.

On Saturday, September 19th, I lost my grandpa Jim. It’s been well over a month since he left us and yet I still haven’t processed the magnitude of our family’s loss. He played such a critical role in my life, it seemed required that he would always be there.

My grandpa was a strong man, in fact one of the strongest I have ever met – so when we got the call that it was time for his family to come, I was skeptical. He had fought and conquered so many times before, I was sure that this was just another of those times.

My grandma & grandpa have 4 children and amongst them, there are 11 grandchildren and amongst us we’ve provided 13 great-grandchildren. When we got to the hospital almost the entire family was there, surrounding the man who had started it all and unlike what I was told on the phone, he was in great spirits. Obviously tired, but alert & aware, cracking jokes and telling us stories from the good ‘ole days. He made sure he saw & talked to every last one of us and specifically asked to see each of his great-grandkids, taking his oxygen mask off so that they weren’t afraid and he could see their smile one last time. If it wasn’t for his stubbly, unshaven face, it would have felt almost like any other Friday night growing up.

That’s right – almost every Friday night (and a lot of other days & nights of the week) of my entire life was spent with my extended family. It likely started off with a sporting event, to which my grandparents were in the stands cheering us on. They never missed a single event that any of their 11 grandchildren competed in – and let me tell you, we competed in almost everything a small school has to offer.

He was always there supporting us and yet after much reflection I’ve realized – he NEVER asked us for anything. He gave us everything he had and dedicated his life to his family and in return, all he wanted was our love. Even that night as he shared his final words, he didn’t ask any of us to do anything for him. He worried who would care for grandma, about the house and some of his remaining projects yet to be finished – but he didn’t ask a single person to do something for him. Ever.

The conversation I had that night with my grandpa would be the last. I’m so grateful for that time and I know how fortunate our family was to receive that gift. On Saturday, grandpa was still with us – but no longer awake or responsive and passed away peacefully that afternoon. We planned a beautiful memorial service and a record setting number of people showed up to pay their respects. It’s no surprise though, my grandpa impacted everyone he met and even though I grew up in a small community, the impression he left was unmeasurable. My brother gave the eulogy and couldn’t have delivered a more perfect tribute. I’m including it here because I want to preserve it for anytime I need to come back to remember.

They say when it rains, it pours. We returned home and the very next day our chihuahua of 11 years, Narley passed away. Similar to grandpa, I luckily spent some extra time with him that morning before heading to work. Like every other day, I put him in his dog bed when I left. Unlike other days though, when we returned home he didn’t greet us with his wagging tail & snorts. Narley was not just a dog, he was our family. He was our baby before kids and there is no way we’ll ever be able to replace him.

It seems crazy, but Grandpa Jim and Narley had more similarities than one might think. If good things come in small packages, they were the best gift possible. Both were small in stature, Grandpa weighing around 150 lbs. on his best day and Narley topping out at 9 lbs. Despite their small size, they were extremely protective & loyal to the ones they loved. They were always excited to see me and their most important shared trait – they loved me, for me.

I’m not sure how we’re supposed to move on, but I do know we’ll be forced to do so. Already this past weekend we had to take our kids first Halloween photo without Grandpa Jim. Although I was strong at the time, I needed some air so I stepped outside grandma’s house. Blowing in the wind, I was comforted by the sound of the beautiful chimes from grandpa’s funeral.

For now we’ll take one day at a time and be sure to count our lucky stars for all of our blessings and remember that we are Jim Boylen’s legacy.

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Got My Fix

I don’t love shopping. It takes a lot of time and I’m definitely not going to try things on. As a busy mom trying to balance the world on my shoulders, I love Target because I can buy everything I need in one place. I mean who doesn’t love grabbing milk, diapers and a new dress all within 30 minutes?! While I love me some $6.48 shirts, I’d also like to broaden my wardrobe and not only wear low-quality digs every day.

I know there are stores like Nordstrom Rack or even TJ Maxx, that offer high-end clothing for less, but I really didn’t want to commit the time and I hate digging through racks. So – I turned to online shopping. There are a lot of sites that it can be overwhelming trying to decide which one might be worth the money. After doing some research I felt like Stitch Fix would be a good option for me. Besides if it didn’t work out I was only out the $20 for the styling fee.

How it Works
Sign up for an account online. If you want to use my referral link you can do so by clicking here. Complete a style profile by providing details on measurements, sizing and body shape as well as answering some questions on your style and lifestyle.

After you’ve made your selections you schedule your first shipment of 5 items to arrive. Then you wait impatiently for that tiny box to show up on your doorstep. Since you don’t know what you’re getting it’s like Christmas and the surprise and anticipation is almost unbearable! My first shipment finally showed up last week (it was on-time, I just have zero patience).

In my first package I received a pair of jeans, 3 blouses and a necklace. You also receive a note from your stylist on why they chose the items and a style card that shows you how to wear the item casually or in a more formal setting. When researching I read a lot of women who said that it took a while for their stylist to get the right look which made me think it would be very unlikely that I would like all 5 items.

Contrary to my belief, I did like all 5 items. The jeans are Level 99, Glenda Straight Leg. They are the MOST comfortable jeans I have ever put on my body and like the note from my stylist says, they fit perfectly and the length is spot on. The coral sleeveless blouse is Collective Concepts and similar to a few things in my closet, but I can tell it’s much better quality just by putting it on. The pleating and fit are also perfect. The aqua top is Papermoon and also similar to items currently hanging in my closet. The black top is 41 Hawthorn and while I probably wouldn’t purchase it while shopping for myself, I do love the fit and think the gold studs add a nice touch. Finally, I received a gold Bancroft bauble necklace to add a little sparkle to any of the outfits.

For the first time, I’m really happy with the items however the prices per item are higher than I would normally pay. That being said, if you choose to keep all 5 pieces, you receive a 25% discount. I opted for that route, making each item $34 a piece, which is a steal considering the jeans alone were $98.

I’ve already scheduled my  next fix and I’m excited to see what my stylist has in store for me. This time I specifically asked for a grey blazer and requested to not receive jeans again since I don’t need another pair. We’ll see if that works in my favor come September 10th!



We’re Back

That’s right! After a 2-month hiatus, I’m finally making time to blog again. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, it’s just that I’ve had zero time to dedicate to it. Recently I’ve been swamped by work (more so than normal) and extremely tired. That typically makes my normal midnight blog more challenging. Never fear, I’m equipped with a hot cup of Joe (don’t be perverted) and my brain is full of things. Don’t get your hopes up though, most of what’s flowing is more of an update vs. deep, insightful stuff.

Obviously a lot has happened since I last wrote in April. Highlights include; participating in March for Babies 2015, running in our first Cheetah Chase, finishing Kindergarten, visiting family & friends, Will’s first baseball game, picking up new hobbies, acting like animals at the zoo, enjoying parade candy and most recently our fun-filled 4th of July weekend.

While we often have a lot of fun with our kids on the weekends, we also like to be productive and throw in some projects as well. Over the 4th though, we made a pact to not add in projects and have as much fun as possible. My goal was to cram in so many things that the kids crashed and I’m happy to say we were successful!

The festivities began on Thursday night, as we took in the Elver Park fireworks with friends. On Friday we didn’t have daycare, which normally means Joe & I divide and conquer and one would handle the kids, while the other worked or tackled some projects. Instead we decided that there was no better time to invite friends over for a little pool fun, grilling and more importantly, day drinking. We spent the entire day outside enjoying the beautiful weather and fantastic company. The kids swam, ran through the sprinkler and we capped the night with fireworks, s’mores and a bonfire.

On Saturday the weather was still beautiful/hot so we spent the day at the pool. Ella had a blast practicing her swimming skills and Will enjoyed being chauffeured around the water. Since we already killed the grass and had the wood, we had another bonfire and finished the night with a family movie.

On Sunday Joe really wanted to go fishing so we set out for the local fishing hole. Our kids are definitely not the most patient, so fishing is always a challenge. Unfortunately the fish weren’t biting but we had a great time and were able to get a nature walk in as well. We packed up quickly to make it to the movie Inside Out. This was our first time taking Will to the movie theater and he did a great job. The movie was cute and definitely made me sad to think about my kiddo’s growing up too quickly and them having to process so many different feelings and emotions.

After coming home for lunch, the boys ran some errands and the girls headed out for some pampering. Ella has wanted to get a pedicure for quite some time now, so I finally caved. We had a great experience and I’m happy to say, four days later, she still has polish on her toes (that’s a major feat, trust me)!

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from all the stress and chaos and focus 100% on what the kids would want to do. Joe & I had a great time and hopefully the kids did too!




Never Quit

163701_702013547656_5719756_nAround Christmas time my grandpa became ill. He collapsed early in the morning and was rushed to the hospital. They found out his body was full of infection and while we were worried, he’s a tough guy who’s battled many things in his life so we didn’t think it was too serious.

A few days went by and he was still in the hospital. They couldn’t get his blood cell counts within normal range and at the same time we learned his lung cancer was back. There was a chance he wasn’t going to be coming home for the holidays which meant no Christmas Eve at my grandparents, for the first time in our lives. Things were serious!

Luckily the meds he was taking improved conditions enough that he could come home for Christmas. I was relieved, but also worried that it might be too soon and our large, overwhelming family would be too much for him to handle. When we got there he was visibly ill and I worried that we shouldn’t be there, but then I remembered how important his family is to him. No matter the conditions, he was going to be there with us that night!

Our entire family is very close, so I’m sure each one of us feels that we have a special connection with grandpa, but I feel like he & I have always understood each other. He comes off as a stern man, but if you truly know him, you know he’s soft. You can tell by looking into his soft brown eyes. He is also the pillar of our family. The one who is strong and bull headed and taught us all many things, including to never quit.

At one point in the night I sat with him to talk. It was just the two of us and I knew the conversation we were about to have was going to be an important one. As I held his hand he looked at me and said, “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I’ve been battling for so long, I don’t have any fight left in me.”

I’m a lot like my grandpa when it comes to being stubborn and never willing to quit, so I think he thought I was going to argue and lecture him on all the reasons he needed to keep pushing. I could have said all of those things, but instead I put aside my selfish need for him in my life and told him the choice was his. It almost killed me to say those words, but I knew it wasn’t my decision to make and that only he could decide to continue on.

Here we are almost 4 months later and he’s still here! Shortly after our talk, he made the choice to not quit and underwent an aggressive round of radiation for his cancer! He recently welcomed two more great-grand babies (twins) and he’ll watch another granddaughter walk down the aisle in a few months. I’m grateful for many things he’s given our family, but right now I’m most thankful for his fight and the choice he made to keep going for our family. I’m sure he is too!16018_10100279013398559_6624051771182122952_n


Mexican Minute

We always rave about our trip to Costa Rica and find ourselves comparing every trip since then to it, only to find they all fall short…until now!

We’re pretty lucky since we stumbled upon this trip by chance. We were hoping to go to Punta Cana or Puerto Rico, but during our travel dates the prices were pretty high and the resorts weren’t as nice as we were hoping for. With the only requirement of warm weather, we decided to look for the nicest resort at the lowest price.

That’s when we found Secrets in Huatulco, Mexico. I knew Secrets had a great reputation but I had never heard of Huatulco. The resort was rated 5 stars and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It was leaps & bounds nicer than the other all-inclusive chains (RIU & Grand Bahia) we’ve stayed at in the past.

We flew into Huatulco so the trip to the resort was a short 30 minute bus ride. We were surprised and impressed with the quality of the roads – we learned that they had just finished paving two months prior. Once again, we visited during their dry season so the surrounding vegetation was pretty brown. Like all other trips though, it rained a few sprinkles on our first day there but at this point we view it as a sign of good luck!

Normally we jam pack as many activities as possible in the short time we are there. This time we wanted a blend with some relaxation too and the resort was the perfect setting to do so. At all times, no matter where you were at the resort you had a beautiful view of the ocean. You could see and hear the ocean from the bed and shower! It was awesome to wake up to that every single day.

The weather was phenomenal with every day being full sun and temperatures in the 90’s. The endless pools were nestled right on the beach and the water temps were perfect. The resort was smaller than those we’ve stayed at in the past, kid-free and located in the middle of nowhere so it wasn’t overcrowded. At certain times we had the upper pool all to ourselves and even had the entire beach one day for snorkeling on our own. Note: the ocean was pretty rough so if your goal is to lounge in the ocean, it might not be the trip for you.

On our past trips the food was just okay and we lived off the buffet most of the time since all restaurants required dinner reservations. That was not the case this trip! The food was amazing and there were no reservations required for any of the 7 different restaurants, plus all drinks were individually hand mixed and you could actually taste the alcohol!

We couldn’t lay around the entire time so we took a boat from Santa Cruz to view the 7 Bays of Huatulco and enjoyed more snorkeling. The water was very blue and we were able to see some beautiful fish & coral. On our boat ride back we were even lucky enough to see two humpback whales and a sea turtle!

We spent another day traveling into the city of La Crucecita. The town square was very nice and housed a million local shops for souvenirs. One of the main attractions was the Iglesias Church which features the largest mural painting of Mother Mary in North America. We were able to grab an authentic lunch & sip on Dos Equis.

Costa Rica will always hold a special place in our hearts and still outranks in some categories, but when it comes to kid-free relaxation, Secrets in Huatulco definitely moves to the top of the list!