I am NOT a Burnout

This is something I’ve had to remind myself of almost daily since I stopped teaching.

School is about to begin, and for the past two years the first few weeks of school have been incredibly and surprisingly difficult for me. It feels unfair for me to even say that, because I know firsthand how had it is to go back to work at the end of the summer, and especially how hard it is to say goodbye to my beauties and head off to be with other children all day when I so desperately wanted to be with my own.  I know there are teachers who dread the beginning of the school year for the same reasons I did.

IMG_1255But watching my colleagues post photos of their new classrooms and school supplies – even their vents about new principals and meetings – makes me want to break down and cry. I feel so many emotions when I see those posts. Excitement for their new adventure… sadness that I’m no longer a part of that world… jealousy for their dedication… anger over the injustices I know they’ll face throughout the year… eagerness to help any way I can… and immense guilt for walking away from it all.

I was a good teacher. It’s one of the few things I feel confident enough about myself to say out loud. I worked in inner-city schools with intense behavioral issues and almost no parental support. I loved my students as much as anyone can love children, and like most teachers I invested hours beyond what I was paid for into making my students’ days fun, unique, and educational.

But I had to step away.

My priorities shifted.

I’d been blessed to stay home with each of my girls the first year after they were born. Emily was born after my fourth year was completed, and when it was time for me to go back to work I was ready.  I missed everything about teaching.  Of course, I missed Emily too, but she adapted so easily to her new school and was so independent that it wasn’t hard to dive back into teaching.  I noticed a slight change in myself though – now that I had my own child it was difficult to love my students like they were my own, because, well, they weren’t.

Another four years went by, and then I had Julia.  She was an extremely difficult baby, and it was emotionally one of the most difficult years of my life.  It was also the year Emily started Kindergarten, and as I watched her walk to class everyday it started to occur to me how much of her life I’d missed by being at work.  And despite the fact that Julia wasn’t easy, the thought of missing out on her life too started to gnaw away at me.

I remember dropping the girls off at camp and heading to work the first day teachers were due back.  Julia was 14 months old and Emily was 6.  I tried my best to be excited about setting up my classroom, starting at a new school, meeting new people.  But I hadn’t been in my classroom for 10 minutes before the tears started to fall.  I crumbled to the floor, bawling like a spoiled brat.  I missed my girls so much it was hard to breathe, and in that moment I would have given anything to walk away and pick up my babies.  I even called my parents crying hysterically, secretly hoping that they’d take pity on me, tell me to quit, and offer to help us financially if we needed it.

420004_3552538224139_520728729_nI ended up surviving, but it was an incredibly difficult school year for me.  I missed Emily’s open house at her school because my school’s open house was the same night. I couldn’t attend field trips or be there for holiday events because my class needed me.  I saw Julia for a little over an hour a day – since she didn’t nap she’d go to bed at 6:30p, within an hour of me picking her up.  Near the end of the school year Jay began working at a new job, one that required him to travel quite a bit.  It quickly became apparent that it would cost our family both balance and joy if we continued the way we were.

So Jay and I decided that the best choice for our family was for me to focus on our family as a stay-at-home-mom.  And it’s proved to be an amazing improvement in our lives on almost every level imaginable.  Julia is much happier now, much more compliant and manageable.  Emily has become more relaxed, and our relationship is better than it’s ever been.  Jay is able to dive into the work he loves so much since I can bear more of the load on the homefront.  And I’m no longer depressed because I can’t be with my girls.

I’ve wanted to teach since I was 6 years old, and I never thought that anything would have the power to take that passion to teach away from me.  But my girls did that. They had the power.  It’s also been hard to not feel like a statistic – another burned-out teacher who couldn’t “hack it” anymore.  Deep down though, I know that’s just not true.  I do intend to join the workforce again – I’m just not ready yet.  My girls won’t stay little for long.  And I can’t bear the thought of missing any more of their lives than I already have.

I’m going to send Emily off to her first day of 3rd grade tomorrow.  I’m going to smile as she gets out of the car, and cry as she walks away to her classroom.  Part of me will wish I was getting out of the car and walking to my own room too.  But a bigger part of me will be eagerly watching the clock until it’s time to go pick her up again – something I wouldn’t be able to do if I hadn’t taken a break from teaching. <3

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KID Hero 5K – A Super Race!

I’ve been completely honest about my lack of running this summer.

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But there’s a funny thing that I’ve begun to notice, at least for myself.  I’m calling it the I’ve-Signed-Up-For-Another-Race-So-I’d-Better-Start-Running-Again phenomenon. Basically, I’m finding that when I’m too busy, too hot, or too lazy to run, an upcoming run is the kick in the butt I need to keep going.

And fortunately for my mushier-by-the-day butt, I just completed another 5K. :)

IMG_0473This time it was the KID Hero 5K, benefitting Kids in Distress.  Our registration fees and any other funds raised went straight to the organization, which works to prevent child abuse and treats children who have been abused or neglected.

My friends Jen and Tina invited me to join them for this event, which was their first 5K, and I eagerly accepted. Runners and walkers were encouraged to wear costumes representing their favorite superheros, and we were only too happy to get in on the fun. Tina found some shirts with the Batman logo on them – hers even had a cape -and we were ready to go!

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I picked them both up the morning of the run and we headed off to the race location. We had to sign in at the registration tent once we got there, and they gave us our bib numbers and pins (walkers did not receive a bib).  At another tent we received a bag, water bottle, and T-shirt.  Right after I signed in I ran into another good friend, Gillian, who also happened to be wearing Batman attire.  I grew up with Gillian but hadn’t seen her for years, so it was pretty amazing running into her at this event. :)

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It rained a little right before we headed off to the starting line, but fortunately stopped right before they sang the National Anthem.  Then everyone counted down, and we were off!

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The race took us through the streets of the city and neighborhoods downtown, right in the same area Emily and I ran for the Color Run (although it was a different route).  It was awesome running with so many other “heros.”  There were all sorts of costumed walkers and runners, from the head-to-toe Hulk muscle suit to cute little babies with capes on to groups sporting matching shirts.  I ran with Tina for the first mile or so, then caught up with Jen and finished the race with her.  It rained off and on throughout the run, which helped counteract the crazy summer morning heat.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 9.20.08 PMAfter the race we checked out our finishing times – I somehow managed to come in 6th in my age group!  Not too shabby considering I haven’t really run much all summer, although looking at these other times I think the best I could have done might be 5th place.  Thank goodness my only goal is to finish, no matter how long it takes me. :D

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I had so much fun!  It was an awesome 5K, one I’d definitely do again.  Tina and Jen have caught the Race Bug though, and we’re already planning on doing a few more together in the upcoming months. These races are much more fun with friends!

20140802_091831The three of us parted ways after the race, and of course I went and picked up my traditional post-run treat at Starbucks.

Is there any other way to reward yourself for completing a super 3.1-mile run? ;)

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Bucket List Date Night

IMG_0851Marriage is hard.

Jay and I are 12 years in, and although we love each other more than ever, we still easily fall into a rhythm that looks more like we are just good friends or roommates instead of the newlyweds we used to be.  We try to have regular date nights, but busy schedules, babysitters, and the expense of going out makes that difficult.  And date nights at home tend to result in us sitting on the couch eating dinner while catching up with whatever’s on the DVR.

Jay and I just went through one of those hum-drum phases of our marriage, and at some point we both realized that we hadn’t had a date night in months.  And that’s when my amazing man stepped up and planned one of the most romantic and fun in-house date nights we’ve ever had.

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He ordered take out (including dessert!), and told me that we’d be writing down our bucket list ideas.  In 12 years of marriage we’d never talked about the things that we’d love to do before we die.  The funny thing is that I’d just returned from a trip with a friend, and she and I had spent some time discussing our bucket lists with each other. So even though I’d never really given it any thought a few days prior to that trip, I had the start of my list ready to go for date night the day after I got back!

We decided to write our items down on index cards and share them one at a time. This way we could (try) to prioritize them, as well as see which things fell on both of our lists. We took turns diving into the backstories and reasons for the things on our lists, as well as plotting out how we could make them come true.

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It was fun to learn things about each other that we’d never known before.  I knew that Jay loves to drive fast, but I’d never heard of the Skip Barber school and didn’t know that just anyone could get a racing license.  He knew I love swimming in cold water, but wasn’t aware of how badly I wanted to complete a Polar Bear plunge.  The best part was seeing that some of our bucket list cards were almost identical.  We’d talked about taking a trip to Alaska, and almost chose to take our upcoming cruise there instead of the Carribbean. Now that we know how much we’d both love to go – and especially take a train ride through the mountains there – we’ve already begun looking into that as our next big trip.

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After we finished our lists and our dinner we headed out to the couch to watch The Office and eat our yummy sogno di cioccolata from Carrabba’s.  It was a fabulous evening that left us both feeling more connected than we’d felt in months.  And now we’ve got ideas on how to spend the upcoming years of our marriage! <3

One of the Great Mysteries of My Life

I may have gone off my rocker, but I’m going to put this out there.  But I want answers. Shoot, I’ll even settle for plausible theories.

What I’m about to show you has bothered me for ages.  I’ve pondered, hypothesized, and undoubtably given this much more of my brain power than it deserves.  I’m confident that others out there have taken notice of it too – although they are probably too well-mannered to admit it – and I’m hoping that someone can help me out.

Here’s what I want to know: exactly how does this happen?

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I apologize if it wasn’t what you were expecting.  But every time I see a toilet seat that’s all scratched up or peeling I’m seriously disturbed for hours later.

I just don’t get it.  I’m going to make a generalized statement here based on what I know about bottoms, but as far as I’ve experienced, tushies are smooth… soft… mushy.  A bare behind will give easily, conforming somewhat to the shape it is sitting on.  Don’t believe me?  Spend some time on the potty and then look at your tush in the mirror.  That red mark you see is proof that our rear ends don’t offer much resistance.

So what on earth is causing these toilet seats to peel & scratch off?  Faulty plastic? People with spiky pants constantly forgetting to remove them before sitting to do their business?  Impatient toddlers beating on the seats while waiting for their mommies to button back up?  Disgruntled employees sick of cleaning the bathroom beating the toilet with the bottle of spray cleaner?

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I’m at a loss.  In this particular restaurant, there were 4 stalls.  I checked, and two of the toilets had smooth seats, the other two looked like this.  It looks to me like there’s a smooth toilet seat under that peeling mess yearning to be set free.

I’m aware that this may haunt me for life – that I may never know the answer.  I’m no germaphobe, but for the record this is the only attention one of these seats has ever gotten from me.  Blech.

Emily Loves Harry

Potter, that is.

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In case it wasn’t obvious from this post about her Whomping Willow-inspired homework, this post about her summer checklist full of Harry Potter to-dos, this post about the magical appreciation gifts she chose to give her teacher, or this post about eating those famous Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, our daughter has gone completely bonkers for all things Harry Potter.

Emily received The Sorcerer’s Stone for Christmas last year, and before July was over she had finished all seven books in the series.

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Since the last book is broken up into two movies, that meant back-to-back nights of Harry Potter fun, and I decided to kick it up a notch with some Harry Potter-themed treats.  We ate magic wands (pretzel rods), cut pepperoni into lightning-bolt shapes for our pizza (which got burnt, so it wasn’t photo-worthy, but still tasted yummy), and made cookies with the sign of the Deathly Hallows on them.

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She has officially completed all of the books and movies now, and I was sure that the craze would begin to fade, much like it did when she finished watching the Star Wars movies.  Boy oh boy was I wrong.

It seems every time I turn around there are more Potter-related things lying around the house.  In this case, the different colors represent different spells.  I love that she made a wand out of paper and gave it options. :D

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Lists of spells are also popping up everywhere…

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…and whenever there is anything in reach that is long and skinny – stick, ruler, plastic spoon, pencil, etc. – you can bet you’re going to find Emily running around the house casting “spells.”  The best part is that she gets Julia in on it, so that when she yells, “LUMOS!” and flicks her wrist (with whatever “wand” she can find), Julia will turn on the lights quickly so that it appears as though the spell did the trick.  She’s even trying to teach her sister the spells, and every so often you will hear Julia running around saying, “Experiama!” and giggling like crazy because she has no idea what that means. And then of course Emily and I start laughing because Julia can’t pronounce it correctly.

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We recently stopped by the library, and found another one of J.K. Rowling’s books, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which is mentioned in the Harry Potter books and movies. The book is a collection of short stories, including the Tale of the Three Brothers, which explains the how the Deathly Hallows came to be.  A new Harry Potter book?  What? She wasn’t even out of the library before she’d started reading. :)

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Our next step is to take her to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, where there is an entire area devoted to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I had a chance to visit last year with my best friend, and it was incredible – like being on the sets of the movies.  She wants a wand of her own, and Jay and I are hoping to take her to the park early next year to choose one for herself at Ollivanders Wand Shop, which looks just like the shop in the movie.  We know she’s going to be blown away walking through Harry Potter’s world, we’re just hoping she’s still going to be just as crazy for the boy then as she is now!

Humor on the Road

One of my favorite things about my dad is his childlike sense of humor.  He has the ability to laugh at the most ridiculous things.  At times it can be borderline inappropriate – a mispronounced word from a child or an improbably timed burp can get a snicker out of him before he realizes there are other (less easily entertained) adults in the room.

I am my father’s daughter, and the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.  I, too, am guilty of letting out an unintentional giggle at inopportune times.  It’s embarrassing, especially when I misunderstand someone’s comments and interpret them as funny when they were intended to be quite the opposite.

My dad and I get each other though, at least on this level, and sometime over the past few years we started texting each other the funny things we saw on the road.

These are some of our favorites, beginning with this strange little golf cart-type contraption my dad saw on the road not long ago.  This thing was carrying two people and was moving at about 40 mph!

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Emily and I noticed this one at a local playground… perhaps they were looking for child-sized snacks to take back to the raptors?

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I still say this one looks like it’s compensating for something…

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We can’t figure out what this thing is supposed to be, but maybe we are better off not knowing.

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Julia saw this one, and she was really upset that the guys had wings.  Truthfully, it was her relentless insistence that, “Persons can NOT fly in the air with those wings!” that made this van worth sharing.

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One of the girls’ favorite road trip snacks (Pirate’s Booty) has this written on the back of their vehicles:

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This one was downright creepy.  I believe it was either for a kennel service or dog training, but all I could think of was Zuul.  And then the Ghostbusters song was stuck in my head for days. 

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And here is my current favorite.  Whoever was in charge of this truck’s design undoubtably has a sense of humor akin to my dad’s and mine.  It’s just plain awesome.

photo 1-1I’m headed out on another road trip soon, and I’ll most definitely be looking out for more like these on the road.  It’s a nice distraction from all the maniacs out there. :D

New Boots

There once was a little girl, and she had a pair of ladybug boots that she loved very much.  The boots were worn almost daily, no matter the weather.  When they were too big, her mommy put ponytail holders on the top to hold them up.  When they got smelly, her mommy would wash them.  When they were starting to wear holes in the bottom… well, the little girl and mommy shed some tears together.  True story.

IMG_0361 Although her mommy explained that they were too small and too worn, the little girl would ask to wear the ladybug boots nearly every day. That is, until one day, when the little girl discovered the existence of rain boots… and the ladybug boots were never spoken of again.  Instead, the little girl began to obsess over having rain boots of her very own.  She insisted that they would be just right for the rain.  That they would be so good for her feet. That she would be very happy to have them on her feet.  That mommy and daddy should go buy them right now.

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As the little girl’s birthday approached, her mommy began looking online for the perfect rain boots.  Although she tried to be secretive about her research, the little girl was quite nosy.  She peeked over her mommy’s shoulder and firmly stated that she really wanted the monkey rain boots she saw on the screen.  For days and days afterward she talked about those monkey rain boots.  Nonstop.  Relentlessly.  At the most unexpected moment and in the most random of situations she could be heard asking for those boots for her birthday.

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And so, being the good mommy that she was, the request for pink monkey boots was sent along to Grandma.  And on the day of the little girl’s birthday celebration – as the she was still exclaiming how much she wanted the boots – she opened the last box and there they were.  Despite the fact that they were just a tad too large, the little girl was determined to wear them immediately, and began clomping around the house in them, much to everyone’s delight. She even insisted on wearing them all evening while the family traveled about town celebrating her birthday.  Mommy brought backup shoes in case the little girl tired of the boots, but they sat unused in her purse – she wore those boots proudly the rest of the evening.

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One day, after a rain that fell without a hint of lightning or thunder (unusual in this part of the land), the little girl’s mommy took her to a puddle to splash in her new pink monkey rain boots.  The little girl was beside herself, jumping in every puddle she saw. From that day forward, if the little girl saw the smallest bit of a dark cloud in the sky, she would wear her rain boots.  And sometimes (actually lots of times) even if there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. :)

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Move over, ladybug boots – you’ve met your match.  This little girl is growing up. <3

Confession Time

Ok.  This isn’t easy to admit, but I’ll be honest.

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about how I was planning to wake up every morning to get in a short run.

Well, I totally overestimated my ability to wake up in the morning.  I kinda also overestimated my desire to do it.

It’s not that I don’t love running anymore – I still get in a short run whenever I can manage to, and I’m averaging a 3-mile run every week.  Our family is about 5 weeks away from taking a Disney Cruise vacation, and all I can think about is how the girls get to go to camp all day and I’ll be free to run the track around the ship.  I’m participating in a 5K this Saturday and I’ve already been scoping out my next half-marathon.

The problem is the same thing it was last summer:  IT’S SUMMER.  And Florida summers are no joke.  Between the heat, the humidity, and the insane daily thunderstorms, it’s not easy to find time to get out.  And although I really did love that early morning run, it’s just not always possible to do that either.  Jay’s schedule changed almost as soon as I made the choice to try and get out every morning, and I’m not able to get any running in when he’s out of town.

I know, I know – excuses, excuses. :(

Not running has had an unexpected effect on me – I started getting depressed.  I don’t think it’s the lack of endorphins as much as it is noticing the changes in my body, mainly the lack of energy and motivation that seems to occur whenever I’m not working out. Running makes me happy, makes me feel good about myself.  Not running makes me feel icky.  And I get bummed and feel like a failure because I’m not at all working towards my goal.

But I’ve started to see the absurdity in thinking that way, mainly because 90% of why I’m not running is not my fault - or, at least, it’s a well-made decision not to go.  I have no control over the weather, no control over the heat, no control over my husband’s work travel and obligations.  If I can’t run one morning because Emily’s friend is coming over for the day, then that’s not really me being lazy, it’s me making a sacrifice to help my daughter have a great summer.  If I look out the window and see the clouds rolling in and decide to set up the pool in the backyard instead of forcing the girls to go running with me, then I’m making sure my kids enjoy the little sunshine we have their way and not mine. A great day with my kids is way more likely if I’m not suffering from a never-ending migraine brought on by running in 90-degree heat.

I am not giving up on running.  Not by a long shot.

What I am doing is becoming aware of my limits and deciding not to let them get me down.  When I read that I struggled getting in runs last summer too for the same reasons I’m having trouble now, I realized that beating myself up is about the least productive thing I can do.

I’m still a runner, just a runner on hiatus.  A runner choosing to take a break until the weather and schedules are more cooperative.  A runner eagerly awaiting the beginning of the school year so that routines can be set in place again.  A runner admitting temporary defeat.

So maybe I’m not the great, dedicated runner I want or appear to be.  I’m okay with the choices I’m making.

And I’m not worried – I’ll know I’ll be back in full force before too long. :)

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My Mad Lego Skillz

Ok, I’m going to beg apologies right off the bat.

I’m about to toot my own horn here.  Pat myself on the back.  Give myself a giant chocolate-chip cookie.  Award myself the trophy.  Ride on the float in a ticker-tape parade.

But it is my blog, so here it is: I rock at Legos.

Not too long ago Julia begged me to play with some of Emily’s Legos, so I pulled out the bin of random pieces my awesome brother gave her years ago.  She stuck random pieces together, and I built a model of Emily’s room.  Boo-yah.

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To prove my awesomeness to the world – actually, just so that I’ve officially documented this for Emily’s sake – I took photos of her room on a rarer-than-a-sasquatch-sighting day when I could actually see the floor, and posted those here next to the Lego replicas I made.

Here’s her bedroom:

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Starting at the bottom left corner and working clockwise, the model features her desk and the dresser we decoupaged (complete with her hermit crab cage & hermit crab)…

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…her nightstand, stuffed animal-covered bed, and bookshelves…

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…and the toybox my dad built for her when she was born.

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Obviously, it’s not to scale, and obviously it’s not an exact replica, but I think it’s pretty darn good, considering Lego doesn’t have heart-shaped IKEA print bedpreads or animal-print girly-colored bricks.

It appears that Emily agrees with me… later I went back to her room to find she did this:

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Is it okay to toot my horn again? :P

The Four Best Beverages Ever Concocted

*Disclaimer – I firmly believe that water is the best thing out there when it comes to quenching your thirst.  Or maintaining healthy skin.  Or staying hydrated.  But I believe that God created water, and this list is strictly meant to feature fantastic drinks created by people. Although, for the record, I do consider each of them to be pure heaven.

I am not a thirsty gal. That whole thing about drinking 8 glasses of water a day just never seems to happen, no matter how motivated I am or how many tricks I’ve tried to achieve it.  And while I do my best to drink as much water as I can every day, there are a few other drinks that I indulge in, whether I’m thirsty or not.

Here are those glorious beverages, in no particular order. :)

  • Starbucks Java Chip Frapaccino Light
    I’m not a coffee drinker, but when Emily was just a baby I had a sweet neighbor who would come over and keep me company all day.  She frequented Starbucks, and every time she went she’d ask me if I wanted anything.  After multiple rejections she finally ignored me and brought home this delicious treat.  I really don’t like coffee – this is the ONLY coffee I’ll drink from anywhere – but this is mixed with chocolate and has chocolate chunks at the bottom.  Yummers!  I love it so much that Jay found a way to duplicate the Java Chip recipe, which saves us money so I can drink guilt-free… at least, financially.

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  • Benihana Japanese Grapefruit Shochu
    I like alcohol as much as I like coffee.  But, just like there’s an exception to my dislike of coffee, this is my exception to my dislike of alcohol (although on rare occasions I do indulge in a mimosa).  We go to Benihana at least once a year, usually for Jay’s birthday.  It holds an extra special place in our hearts because it’s also where he proposed to me.  Since we are usually celebrating something when we go, it seems fitting to order a drink with a bit more kick to it than the water I usually get at restaurants.  The grapefruit shochu is my favorite – as long as they put tons of sugar on the rim.  :D

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  • Frozen Coke
    Um, yeah.  I really don’t think I need to explain this one much, but if you really haven’t caught on that this is my all-time favorite, never-turn-it-down drink, here’s a bit about how I got hooked and why this blog is named after them. :)

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  • Ghirardelli Chocolate Milkshake
    If you are a lover of chocolate milkshakes (or any flavor, I imagine), and find yourself near a Ghirardelli, don’t delay – get yourself an extra-thick milkshake ASAP. You won’t be disappointed.  They do it right – and when you say thick, they make it thick. It takes longer than most shakes to melt, and doesn’t have that funky fake ice-cream flavor that others always seem to have.  I usually get my milkshakes when I’m in Downtown Disney, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have one in San Francisco too, where Domingo Ghirardelli established his first chocolate factory in 1852.  Soooooo good!

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And there you have it.  The four most heavenly beverages concocted by man.  At least, in my humble opinion.

You’re welcome. :D