Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013!

With the final days upon us in 2013, it seems only appropriate to reflect on this past year. For our Semper Fi Family, this year has posed its fair share of challenges. Yet I sit here on the last day of the month and the year, I can't help but feel really grateful for where we are.

I can almost put myself right into the place I was on December 31, 2012. Alone with three kids. A husband deployed. Trying with a half heart to ring in a new year. Trying with earnest to put my mind in the right place. To think positively about the new year. I can't lie... it's on the blog afterall... but I had a rough start with my positive outlook for 2013.

I think deployment got the best of me in the first few weeks of the new year. Then I found my groove and before I knew it my husband was coming home. His medical issues were definitely not the highlight of the year. I'm so very glad we made it through. After his clear diagnosis in May, we went into overdrive with life. He decided it was time to buy a house. A decision I was very much against. But I was done having the same argument day after day and gave up my fight. I figured there were more important battles in life.  We bought a house in June and moved in July. My husband was promoted to Gunny. Soon after, I was finally employed and took a promotion 6 weeks later. Safe to say at some point things turned around.

The past couple of months have been adjusting to a new schedule. And now, at the very end of this month, this year, I feel our lives are on track. Improving. This entire year of downs and eventual ups are all blessings in my eyes. I can't help but thank God for what is most important. We are all here. Together. Healthy. And regardless of all the other amazing and extravagant things we could be experiencing... that is the most important.

I'm eager to start 2014. Eager to make my list of resolutions. We leave that for tomorrow.

Tonight we celebrate. And give thanks for everything that came our way this year.

Cheers to you my friends! Stay safe tonight as you say Goodbye 2013!

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Best of Instagram 2013

If you are an Instagram user, I am sure you've seen the cool Statigram montages many have created. It took my daughter and I forever to figure it out. Little did we know there is no Statigram app, we were in desperate need of a Statigram tutorial. In case, you are not tech savvy here is how you make your own Statigram video clip. 

Visit www.statigram.com. From there, the website is so user friendly anyone can figure it out. After providing your Instagram user name and password, the website accesses your top five "liked" photos are creates a short video. I have loved watching everyone's snippets and plan to create one for myself. My only complaint is there are no explanations for the photos. I want to know more!

This is when I think everyone should have a blog so they can tell me a little background story on each photo. Wouldn't it be nice? While I wait patiently for those without to start blogs, I thought I would do the whole explanation thing here.  Just in case you are like me and want to know all the details of... well... everything! 

Here are the semperfifam top 5 pics on Instagram for 2013 with details!

This picture was taken in Summer 2013 during my husband's promotion ceremony. Never in his whole career (14 years) had I pinned rank on him. I didn't know it would be so difficult nor have so much pressure about placing those chevrons in the exact right place. Our friend standing next to me is coaching me along and trying to stall while I try my best to get that sucker through the fabric. My husband seems to have a look of endearment on his face. However, I know him well enough to know it is more of a "hurry up your making everyone wait" face. But we can pretend!

Homecoming with the kids. My husband came home early from his MEU deployment in February 2013 for medical reasons. It was a rather quick turn around from when he called me from the boat to when he arrived at the San Diego airport. I missed out on an official homecoming with all the hoopla. Cute outfit, signs, spazzing out with your girl friends who waited just as long as you did. Seeing your man in cammies after 7 months of nothing. Yay! 
We had rain and weird staring from other passengers as we reunited at the terminal.
But it still felt good to have him home. 
And no matter where or when homecoming happens, you can't mistake those homecoming smiles. 

This year I choose to Rent the Runway for the Marine Corps ball. I can not say enough about this website. I don't believe I will ever buy a ball gown again. It was easy. Cheaper. And the styles and quality of dresses would be out of my price range otherwise. 
Still in love with this dress!

I hope I have not made a name for myself given my frequent "toasts" on social media. This particular toast was long overdue. After almost a year of job searching, I landed a pretty sweet job.  I can not explain the relief when someone finally picks you. It deserves a social media champagne toast. 
I'm glad you all agreed!

Me and my marine. Marine Corps Ball 2013. 
Always so impressed to see that bling on his chest. 
They don't just hand that stuff out. You gotta work for it.
When it come to the birthday balls, I worry each year won't be fun. I fear the older we get the more out of our element we will be.
This year we proved we can still hang with the young uns!

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Gingerbread Baby Craftivity

"Run run as fast as you can..." It's all about the Gingerbread Man! Or the Gingerbread Baby! I've put together this little gingerbread activity to go along with Jan Brett's The Gingerbread Baby. This activity is perfect for preschool and kinders. Cardboard in place of food items help eliminate the concern for allergens/sensitivities narrowing who can participate.

The prep work is super simple. The supplies are minimal. This will be an easy craft to put together at a low cost. I collected several boxes from Scholastic and postal deliveries throughout the week from several teachers. Which means we start out with $0 expense.

A cut out template is next. You will easily find one online. I found mine here.

Other supplies per craft: brown paint, paintbrush, glue, 1 cotton ball, 2 pom poms or buttons, and 2 googly eyes.

After all the set up, I introduce the craft to the kids. Definitely stressing the gingerbread baby part because babies are way more fun than men! Then we paint. Mix a few drops of water with your paint. Not only will it take your supply farther but it makes this gingerbread craft dry much faster.

Next, gather all the kids to read Jan Brett's The Gingerbread Baby away from the craft table(s). No need to buy this book, it's such a  popular story you are sure to find it at your local library. It's a great story. Lots of room for livening it up with character voices and picture walks. Jan Brett is awesome at including those illustration extras in her books. The craft needs about 15 minutes to dry. With transitions and story reading you will most likely have it timed perfectly.

Return to the table(s) to finish decorating the gingerbread babies. Glue on googly eyes, pom pom balls for clothes, and torn cotton ball for frosting. The smile can be made with a sharpie or other dark colored marker. I initially used a paper smile but with sticky fingers, the paper becomes very difficult to keep in tact. Markers will save a lot of sadness from the littles. Plus they get to determine what expression their little baby will have.

If time allowed, I would suggest reading through the story again and bringing the newly created gingerbreads to life. If time is limited, the gingerbreads will make great room decor or puppets. The kids adore the craft and love to bring the story to life!

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ice Skating in Sunny California

I am loving every minute of my two week hiatus from work. Otherwise known as winter break. The kids are off. The husband took a few days off. Gotta love those military benefits. 30 days of vacation per year. I could only wish.

We have tried our best to enjoy the free time together. My husband "owed" my daughter ice skating, this week he decided to repay the two-and-a-half year old debt. Old Town Temecula is the temporary site of an outdoor skating rink this holiday season. The weather might not be typical ice skating weather but the views can't be beat. Mountains as the backdrop. I took the role of photographer and left the skating to dad.

The kids loved it. The better half of our two hour session was spent on their bottoms or clinging to the wall. They never gave up. No complaints of sore bottoms, ankles, or blisters. A success in my book!

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Legend of Ranger Children's Book #Giveaway

Last night I stayed up late catching up on my DVR'd holiday movies. After the credits rolled, I grabbed my latest holiday read and curled up in bed. I just can't get enough of the Christmas season! I am soaking up all the feel good stories, whether video or print. I'm not even particular about genre. I can enjoy children's stories as much as those written for grownups.

I didn't think twice when asked to review the children's book, The Legend of Ranger: The Reindeer Who Couldn't Fly by Alan Salisbury and illustrated by Roberta Baird. Not only would I be able to enjoy yet another holiday story but I could do so with my kids! The book is a feel good story about a reindeer, Ranger, who must find the secret to become a flying reindeer. After much searching in physical locations and encountering obstacles along the way, Ranger finds the secret within himself. The story is creative, encouraging, and engaging story for young listeners. I love the many talking points included for parents and children to discuss throughout the story. This story may not be suitable for the youngest listeners in one sitting, the book is word heavy and picture light. I believe readers 5 years and up would most enjoy cuddling up and reading with an more experienced reader. And really, isn't that the best way to enjoy holiday stories?

To learn more about author Alan Salisbury (Retired Army General) and The Ranger Project, visit: http://opusonestudios.com/projects/legend-of-ranger/

All proceeds of the sale of Ranger products will be donated to the Antonia J Giallourakis Endowed Fund in Art Therapy for Children with Cancer at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

This #giveaway will run from Dec. 22- Dec. 25. Which means the items won't be received until after Christmas. Giveaway includes signed copy of The Legend of Ranger: The Reindeer Who Couldn't Fly, a plush Ranger toy, and Dream and Believe (Ranger's Song) musical CD. A simple email entry is all that is required.  A winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To purchase your copy of the book, visit Barnes & Noble online:


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Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Giving

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is giving. After Thanksgiving, the red kettles, toy drives, and giving trees are on display. I'm in my element. My most favorite is the giving tree. I have to put my blinders on. Everywhere I go those paper ornaments catch my eye trying to entice me. I have a really hard time ignoring them. I try my best to hold out on the mall and department store trees. The main reason is our church has their own giving trees. Those ornaments represent non-profits and in need families from our community. Nearly 20 groups put in their requests on the paper bulbs so our congregation can gift them. For the 3 weeks, ornaments are grabbed, shopped for, and returned to the church to help others. I just love it.

The big draw for us are the military families. We have a heart for military families. As many of you know from reading this blog, we have been in the military a very long time. In the early years, we budgeted a Lance Corporal salary to afford raising a baby. As my husband picked up rank things were financially easier. With the exception of one Christmas, the Marine Corps figured out a combat payment issue we hadn't caught for several months. We were forced to pay back the difference over the course of 9 months which equated to living on a Corporal's pay. Not the easiest thing to do with three kids. Christmas was not easy. I suppose the powers that be new of our situation and made a call or two. They suggested matching us up with one of the amazing non-profits in the area. Through that program a civilian family 'adopted' us. It still makes me a little sentimental to think of it. They didn't know our family or our situation but they had it in their heart to help a military family. I remember telling my husband I hoped we would be in a position one day to help other military families.

I suppose it has been nearly ten years since those words came from my mouth. God sure did listen and answer in a way I could never imagine. I returned to college and completed my degree. I got a job with a similar non-profit. Every day my job was to plan events and manage programs to gift enlisted military families all over Southern California. Every day I talked to corporations and PR people who wanted to give money and stuff to military families.  Famous last words? As if my 40 hour work week wasn't enough, we jumped right into gifting those paper ornaments on our church outreach trees. I have since moved on from the non-profit but have found another wonderful job. One which affords us the opportunity to continue to gift other military families.

This year we looked so forward to getting our ornaments. This past Sunday, while volunteering with the outreach project we found the bag filled with the military ornaments. There must have been over a 100 tags in the bag. I meant to take two ornaments but my teenager kept bringing me tags she could not resist. Teenagers are so dramatically convincing! We managed to narrow our tags to 5.  It's just so difficult to see all these needs which will go unmet. And the requests are so simple, like diapers and winter clothes and shoes. Others are $5 and $10 toys. How can your heart not want to gift them all?

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Favorite Things Tree

We are all familiar with Oprah's Favorite Things, right? All the wonderful things Oprah loved and gifted to unsuspecting audience members year after year. Turns me green with envy!

This year I volunteered as a room parent for Zachary's class. Honestly, I am the poorest excuse of a classroom parent. Partly because I volunteered when I worked 3 hours a day and now I'm working a fuller schedule. I have little time to devote to anything much less being a stellar room parent.

After consistently dropping the ball for the first few months of school, I got my act together. My goal was to make a solid effort to help parents gift the teacher. Hopefully spoil her with all her favorite things. I made a tree filled with chipboard giftags which doubled perfectly as ornaments. Each ornament had one of Ms. J's favorite things written on the back. The tree is displayed in the classroom and each parent informed of the list. I've also scanned the list to send to parents inquiring by email. Based on the response, I think the tree is helpful. Hoping Ms. J is wonderfully gifted this holiday season.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

WIWW... 40

Forty. The number of times I've posted about What I Wore. The weather is back to wacky. This week temperatures have ranged from 36 degrees to 85 degrees. I'm perfecting the style of layering!

Jacket- Old Navy
Top- Banana Republic
Pants- ATL
Scarf- Thrifted
Shoes- Target

I have such a complex with the full length shot. 
Do I look at the camera? Or not? I guess I decided not.
It's a little awkward. I think I will go back to cropping off my head!

Blazer- ATL
Top- Gap
Jeans- Banana Republic

Yep, no head shots. Works for me! 

Sweater- ATL
Jeans- Gap

Linking up with The Pleated Poppy

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Receiving the Thank You

Military life has its share of negatives. Deployments, combat zones, family separations, long hours, lack of control. Those are a few at the top of my list. Then there are good things. The sense of community. Feeling of purpose. Contributing to a greater good. Patriotism. All amazing things to be a part of.

Sometimes this life is hard. Sometimes it is easier. Sometimes the only thing you can do is to cling to your small family unit and try your best to get through whatever is in front of you. Other days, you feel the support of the whole nation. Those times are pretty cool.

Sunday was one of those days. We had the pleasure of attending a Meet and Greet with a Hollywood Producer/Director/Writer JJ Abrams. He has some pretty big shows attached to his name. Anyone remember the tv show Lost, the movie remake of Star Trek, or the movie Armageddon.  Which is more in my age bracket!

I'm not a huge Hollywood celebrity stalker. I didn't know who this guy was before I Googled him. We were planning to visit my husband on duty nearby. Then stop by to see this famous movie guy and have our picture taken. It's all about the experience, right? Despite my lack of knowledge, I do think it's pretty cool when stars use their celebrity in a positive way. I'm sure the guy is busy. Yet, he created this cute family gift box, delivered them to Camp Pendleton, and personally gifted them to each military family attending. Just to say Thank you for your service.

It doesn't take a big Hollywood star to melt my heart. Or a gift box. Honestly, every thank you means the world. But it is pretty cool.

Just in case you wanted to see what was in the box.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Elf on the Shelf Holiday Happenings

This week in elf news, Buddy has been quite lazy around our house. He must not be feeling in tip top shape. Maybe it's all that running back and forth to the North Pole? Here is what he has managed to do...

Buddy started to slow down after the first several days. 
He sat here for a couple days.

he grabbed a snow globe and propped himself up next to this picture.
He hasn't moved since.
Lazy elf.

Linking up HERE


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