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Entertainment is enjoyable from babies to adults. Whether you’re single, married, have kids or not movies, arts, sports and events bring people together.

Netflix, roadtrip, Streamteam, travel, children

The holidays are my favorite time of year. There is just something about the chaos of it all that makes me energized. I thrive on the craziness. It’s my happy place, especially when you add in baked goods, holiday music and all the twinkling lights your heart can desire. There is one part however that I could give a good pass on; holiday travel.

It’s not that I don’t like traveling. I love it. I love visiting family. I love going home. I love seeing new sites and old ones too. I even love the actual act of traveling…the journey, not just the destination but during the holidays, traffic is a special kind of hell. Everyone is trying to get somewhere and all of us are getting nowhere fast. There is nothing I hate more than being stuck. The worst kind of stuck is in an enclosed compartment for long hours with no possibility of escape and children.

My children have fortunately inherited my wanderlust and verve for life. They’ve unfortunately also inherited my lack of patience. On the precipice of tweendom, they are far more pleasing travel companions than they were as toddlers. Aside from the occasional, about 25 times an hour, inquiry, “are we there yet?” they tolerate long trips very well. Nothing a pair of good noise canceling headphones can’t rectify. But when they were tiny, as cute as they were, they were the worst.

Road tripping with toddlers is not for the weak. A few years back on a quick trip to Virginia to check out the city for a job move, we found this out the hard way. The girls were just about 2 and 4-years-old. We decided in our youth and naiveté that a long drive across the country was just what our sanity needed.

The area was one of the most gorgeous parts of the country that I’ve ever been. The weather was perfect, the scenery beautiful, large metropolitan cities concealed by nature. There as nothing not to love about the destination.

The 12-hour journey with toddlers, however, left much to be desired. My, otherwise, sweet loving girls apparently had a time limit to being constrained in those 5 point harnesses. On a good day that was a trip across town. You can imagine their state of mind at the very thought of taking their very first long road trip imprisoned in those body shackles.

My rambunctious eldest insisted on asking, every 20 minutes, “Are we there yet?” I always thought that question was a parenting cliché but now I realize that it is, in fact, the truth of traveling with children. I never realized how frazzling that could be to me as a person. I thought “those” moms have no patience. Just say, “Not yet, in a little while.” Why all the overreaction? Then I realized that it can actually bring you to the brink of insanity and make a grown woman ugly cry if asked in the right voice and enough times over a 12-hour period.

While the oldest was hitting us with the barrage of “Are we there yet”s the youngest was freaking out over a gnat. Yes, a gnat, that supposedly must have been the scariest, meanest, baby eating gnat you ever did see because, god bless her little bitty heart, she screamed bloody murder for at least 3 hours of the trip. We were all ticking time bombs.

In summation, my 4-year-old was wondering if we were there yet, every single second of every single minute we were on the road. My 2-year-old was being terrorized by a gnat and screaming so highly pitched, that all the dogs of the world were seeking her out to eat her and end the misery. I was on the brink of insanity, on the verge of losing the battle and my poor beloved husband was trying to plot his course to the nearest gunsmith to rent a gun and buy a bullet.

Then I pulled out my bag of tricks because obviously, the 1200 DVDs that I brought were not holding their attention. First, we colored (you know those Wonder Crayola colors that magically appear on the special paper but nothing else. That’s what you think, but that’s another story entirely), then we colored the glittery ones, then we colored My Little Pony. We sang, only the songs that they know so we had Bella’s favorites, “Twinkle, Twinkle” and “Mary had a little Lamb” and Gabi’s favorites “Happy Burtday to you!” and ” Five, Five Dolla..Five Dolla foot long!”

Yes, my 2-year-old was obsessed with the Subway commercial jingle. Have you any idea how many times they used to play that thing? I do, because she sang it incessantly for her second year. Don’t get me wrong, in the right context, it was absolutely adorable. She was the cutest thing that ever walked the earth, besides her sister, of course, but everything in moderation. Interrupted only by the “Are we there yet?” inquiry of her sister.

So on the brink of insanity, on the way to the gun shop, we stopped at lunch to let them stretch their tiny legs at some wayward Wendy’s in West Virginia. Not my idea, have you seen Wrong Turn?

We got lunch, they had ants in their pants and couldn’t keep still. We got the food, the chicken flavored whatsamanuggets are not done, still doughy,”EWWWW, gross”, as my daughter liked to say. I returned them. We waited again, I returned with nuggets, all is good in the land.

Then a “fly” dared to descend upon the table. All hell broke loose. Toddlers jumping everywhere, screaming, crying, running away in terror. I mentioned it was a fly and not Godzilla, right? Not a horsefly, just a regular old house fly! In true fix the situation fast fashion, I took off my flip flop and the untimely death of one unsuspecting fly ensued. All was good in the land.

Then Gabs, because all of the attention we just received was apparently not enough for her, screamed, at the absolute top of her lungs “EWWWW, FAARTED.Stinks”. Absolutely, mortified, I say ” OK, honey, it’s OK.” Then I realize, amongst all of the commotion, she did not have any kind of flatulation incident. Apparently, she just thought it was funny and liked to take credit, really loudly.

The point of all of this recounted trauma is that I am so thankful for things like Netflix and noise canceling headphones and toddlers who have grown into tweens who now find many ways of entertaining themselves. Daddy’s hotspot has saved us all many times on long road trips to Disney.

If you are looking for something to binge on your next long trip. My top recommendations are Alias Grace, Godless, She’s Gotta Have it, Glitch, Frontier, Man Down and Stranger Things.

For the tweens, I recommend Riverdale, Stranger Things, Anne with an E and my girls’ favorite, Project MC2.

Netflix, Streamteam, travel, childrenFor the toddlers/preschoolers whom I adore, Octonauts, Beat Bugs, Super Monsters, PJMasks and Word Party which are all available for download.

Netflix, Streamteam, travel, childrenSpeaking of long drives to Disney World, did I mention all of the amazing Disney Movies that Netflix currently has in the queue? What are you binging right now?

Disclosure: I am a member of Netflix’s #StreamTeam but all opinions and genuine love for Netflix are my own.

 

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ATMOSTFX, Halloween, How to win the creepiest house on the block, digital decorating, #ATMOSFX

Disclosure: I was provided some of the products I mentioned by AtmosFX but all opinions and love of Halloween and tips for how to have the creepiest house on the block this Halloween is all mine.I scream! You scream! We all scream for Halloween! Well, you do if you’re doing it right anyway. Is Halloween your favorite holiday? Do you live for all things spooky and spectacular?

I scream! You scream! We all scream for Halloween! Well, you do if you’re doing it right anyway. Is Halloween your favorite holiday? Do you live for all things spooky and spectacular?

It’s Friday the 13th and you can bet that I am binge watching Jason Vorhees slash some teenagers trying to have sex. What a c-block, right? Having Jason Vorhees around is like having little kids in the house but with a machete.The point is I love Halloween, always have.

We are crazy for Halloween. It’s not just me. The Big Guy, our girls, my brothers and sisters and myself. We love to scare and be scared. The bigger the fright, the better the night.

Starting in August (sometimes before) we’re planning our costumes, by September we’re setting up our decorations and by mid-September, you can bet we are binge-watching all the horror movies on all the days. We live for Fright Fest and the Zombie walk. I know, it’s a bit much but it is what it is and it is full on our favorite holiday.

Every year we try to kick it up a notch. The family costumes get a little more intricate and we’re aiming for straight up scary. As the girls get a bit older we are able to decorate a little creepier with a little more of a macabre factor. When they were young, it was all about the blow-up decoration. In fact, we have a witch that we bought the year we found out that we were pregnant with Bella. I can still see her as a toddler sitting on her dad’s lap as they figured out the fan and blew the friendly witch up.

Ever wonder, how to have the creepiest house on the block?

As the girls grew, so did our collection of blow-ups to the point where all the neighborhood children came to the yard, every day to see what was new; parents were pushing strollers down in front of my lawn showing their toddlers that there is nothing to be afraid of at our house. It was “fun”. But this year, we’re upping the wow- EEE as in screaming factor.

ATMOSTFX, Halloween, How to win the creepiest house on the block, digital decorating, #ATMOSFX

This year, thanks to the graciousness of AtmosFX, we have discovered the piece de resistance in outdoor ( and indoor) decorating…Digital decorating! Y’all know we are tech nerds up in this house but this year, with the help of some exciting new products like the ATMOS FX Digital decorating kit and ATMOSFX Media Player with Motion Sensor, Premium window projection material, Hollusion Projection Material ( to hang in the yard and create holograms of the most macabre Halloween site on our block ever), the AtmosFX Digital ProDecorating Kit 2017 and the 3DFX Inflatable Form and accompanying digital download decorations.

This is how to have the creepiest house on the block this Halloween using AMOSFX!

What does all of this mean? This means that in my yard this year, in addition to the blow up witch, black cat, pumpkins, and bat there will be zombies trying to escape from the house, dancing skeletons in the graveyard assembled in our front yard and greetings from a particularly nefarious child ghoul at our front door, all accompanied by a spooky soundtrack, a smoke machine and strobe lights. I seriously can’t wait.

The best part is, not only do we get to earn the title of scariest house in the neighborhood this year, at Christmas time we simply change the projections and become the most elaborately decorated house in the neighborhood. I’ve always wanted to put a Nutcracker scene in the yard since our girls are ballerinas and it has been such a big part of our lives for the past 8 years. This year, I can do that because I can project a winter wonderland, complete with Santa and the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker himself. It’s going to be awesome but first, we scare the neighborhood this Halloween.

If you love Halloween scares as much as we do, and you probably do, I would highly recommend checking out ATMOSFX. There is still time to get your scare on this Halloween Night!

I’m sharing some pics in this post but will be sure to share some live video on Halloween night of all the decorations in action.

ATMOSTFX, Halloween, How to win the creepiest house on the block, digital decorating, #ATMOSFX

What are you dressing as for Halloween this year? What’s your favorite decoration/fright that you’ve ever seen while trick or treating or out on Halloween night? What do you do to be the creepiest house on the block? Have you ever used ATMOSFX to kick your Halloween decorations up a digital notch?

 

 

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Eminem, Marshall Mathers, BET Awards, Donald Trump

Marshall Mathers, rapper Eminem, tore into President Donald Trump during a ferocious acapella freestyle titled “The Storm” at the BET Hip Hop Awards on Tuesday. Eminem opened the four-minute tirade with a reference to Trump’s ridiculous “calm before the storm” wisecrack before tearing Trump apart over immigration, corruption, white supremacy, the NFL, gun control, environmental disasters and all the other BS he’s done since taking office.

Eminem is my hero and The Storm is my anthem.

Like so many Americans, Eminem is tired of watching silently as our country is being torn down and ripped apart at the seams. Those of us who see the irreparable damage that is being done to our citizens, our country and our reputation have been trying to find a way to make our voices heard.

We protest. We take knees. We stand up. We yell though it feels like into the abyss. I have used my venue and my voice first to convince my fellow citizens to never allow this ill-equipped and unqualified man to run our country. When he became our president, I weeped and became despondent because how could those of us who knew, history and politics, allow those of you who don’t to make such a dire choice? I felt like I failed in educating you.

Eminem, Marshall Mathers, BET Awards, Donald Trump

Then, I was angry because we were strapped in and on this ride for the next four years. I no longer yelled because yelling fell on deaf ears. I tried to respectfully, point out the issues. I feel it’s my responsibility to myself to make sure that the world keeps its eyes open. I feel it is my responsibility as a mother to fight for a better world for my children.

I changed my plan for change, how I would go about it but every single one of us who is watching with a functional brain, a loving heart and the belief in human equality and true democracy feels the frustration and angst bubbling beneath the surface about to boil over.

Eminem, The Storm, Marshall Mathers, BET Awards, Donald Trump

Every word Eminem spoke was the truth.

I am not one to go about change by cracking jokes at the expense of our president. Even though I detest the man and his lack of experience, the way he is heading us straight for civil and nuclear war, I refuse to mock the office he holds because I do believe in democracy. I believe in America but the America we are living in today since Trump took office, is one of discord and hatred. We are hated from afar and we are hated from within.

 

I’ve felt for a long time that the president is playing a game of shells.He’s got us debating semantics when children are dying because we’d rather have our guns than our people. While we are busy looking over “there” he is doing something twice as horrid over “here.” The news covers his tweets but what about his lack of compassion for the people of Puerto Rico, the wall he’s building to keep Mexico out, a fight he picked with the NFL over men taking a knee for equality when he allowed KKK clansmen to run a woman over because they had a permit. He is saying and doing things that could very well lead to our demise as a people and as a country. Why is he inciting a nuclear war by playing chicken with a lunatic? Is his ego so big that he’d risk all of our lives?

Do you think Eminem went too far or are you balling up a fist?

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NLF,Donald Trump, Take a Knee, #TakeAKnee, Equality, lives matter

I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to say about this NFL take a knee situation and Donald Trump’s condemnation of it. I can’t believe how divided the country has become over the NFL taking a knee.  Are we really so collectively ignorant that we don’t understand what it’s about? I mean what is so controversial about taking a knee in silent protest of the divisive racism that plagues our nation currently, always if we’re being honest, only more openly these days?

I say shut up and take a knee. In my world, it is the only thing to do. Unless you want to stand up and throat punch racists, bigots and misogynists all day long like some kind of throat punching righter of wrongs superhero. I suspect it would be a full-time job, especially in Trump’s America.

Let’s get some facts straight:

  • In the United States, we have the right to peaceful protest.
  • Nowhere in the constitution does it demand that we stand for the National Anthem and wouldn’t we be hypocrites if we did stand to respectfully salute a country that only protects and respects some of us. This is no reflection of our military, I am referring to the laws in this country that allows us to treat some people as less than.
  • We are “the people” of “we the people” and we have every right to demand that equality.
  • You can take a knee and 1000% support our military. The National Anthem is not a homage we pay to our service men before every national sporting event.
  • Donald Trump picked a fight because he is a bully and that’s what he does. Apparently, his social feeds were lacking in drama so he created some.

To me, this entire controversy is stupid because we should all be taking a knee to demand equality for all Americans. If you are standing, either you don’t understand why the knee is being taken or you are part of the problem. I honestly think every person in the United States who believes in equality should take a knee. We should do a national knee in and refuse to move until things change. I’ve got time. I can type in a kneeling position.

This morning I read a post in which the author said that the NFL is messing up. They are putting asunder what is already not divided, they are bucking up the system and in the process messing up what America is all about….football. She spoke of the one nation of football under God and I kind of wanted to puke.

According to her, its all kumbaya and rainbows in the stands but these damn, political football players with all their lofty dreams of equality and oneness are messing up her tailgating and football time. In her mind, the NFL players are part of the problem. They only need look into the stands to see that the country is united in football. Can’t we all just get along?

Firstly, this woman is part of the problem. Secondly, I was very recently in the stands and just like the United States, if you are sitting in the wrong section, it’s not so comfortable and united. It’s pretty fucking scary and intimidating. It’s like openly accepted prejudice. As a Latina woman, it felt the same as being the only minority in an all-white, male event.

Sure, it’s awesome if you’re part of the majority. For you, it’s all chicken wings and beer, extraneous high fives and lots of shouting. For the minority, the wrong person in the wrong place, wrong color at the wrong time, it is uncomfortable AF. There I stood, in the wrong section, rooting for the wrong team.

Aside from the expected normal rude, loud, obnoxious behavior that anyone tends to get being the minority anywhere, especially at an organized sporting event where alcohol is sold to fuel the fire, one particularly deranged fan took it even further and personally, tried to pick a fight with me by first accusing me of stealing his seat to then accusing me of stealing his water? I was pretty flabbergasted because a) I’m an adult b) I had the brains to buy 4 bottles of water in 100 degree temperature when I knew I was in row 1 and my out of shape, old-self wasn’t going to be making multiple trips up and down those stadium stairs and c) I.AM.GROWN !

Now, if I were a meeker woman this short, fat, balding loud man would have made me feel threatened and scared. As it were, he just really pissed me off and I was completely prepared to throw his ass over the railing and go to jail for it because I can no longer shut my mouth while some loud-mouthed white guy tries to intimidate me into shutting up and staying in line. That is the problem.

And this woman who says the NFL players only need to look to the stands, to their fans, to see the cohesiveness and unitedness of this great nation under God, well, that broad is delusional. She in particular needs to take a knee because she is the biggest part of the problem. She refuses to believe there is a problem because, for her, there is no problem. It must be nice to have the option to not see the problem because it does not affect you whatsoever but for those who it does, standing up for the National Anthem is not an option. We all need to take a collective knee to stand up for equality.

What is your opinion and why on the NFL players taking a knee?

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Netflix, Stefani Germanotta, Joanna, Lady Gaga, Gaga, Five Foot Two, Loss, Grief, miscarriage

Take my hand, stay Joanne
Heaven’s not ready for you
Every part of my aching heart
Needs you more than the angels do

 

Earlier this month, my Aunt died and suddenly, I was consumed with people and things that I had pushed down into the deepest recesses of my heart. I was stunned and shocked and it brought up all of these feelings of loss for me; from the life-changing loss of my own pregnancy to the close losses of my Uncle Ramon, my Uncle Narciso and then that took me down a rabbit hole of what ifs…what happens when my parents die. How will I survive? You survive by going on, putting one foot in front of the other and smiling when you feel like dying and wearing big sunglasses so no one sees the constant tears in your eyes.

I watched my uncle and his sons willing with everything inside of them to stay upright when all they wanted to do was collapse into that all too familiar, to me, fetal position on the floor. It’s been 5 years but I remember that feeling of utter hopelessness and unrecoverable loss that leaves you discombobulated and broken beyond repair like it was yesterday. All I could do was love them and try to be there to lean on.

Loss and grief are a bizarre thing. They can take any form they want at any time. I always refer to them as emotional time bombs but make no mistake, they can be absolutely nuclear on impact. One minute you are laughing at something funny you are remembering about the person you lost, then maybe you are smiling remembering their smile or the way they held your hand, then the next you are so angry that you want to punch the entire world in the throat and still in another you are overcome with sadness and emptiness realizing you will never hear them speak your name ever again and sometimes, that is too much to stay standing.

It’s bad enough when you are the one it’s happening to but it is so much worse, for me anyway, to helplessly watch as someone I love goes through it. All I want to do is make it better for them but I know from experience that the only way to truly get through it is to feel every single one of those feelings. It’s nature’s way of severing the tether in a slow, gradual way. Our minds can’t handle pure pain all at once. I remember feeling like I would surely break and yet, I survived. I am definitely scarred by each loss, some more than others, but they leave their mark.

 

If you could I know that you’d stay
We both know things don’t work that way
I promised I wouldn’t say goodbye
So I grin and my voice gets thin

Girl, where do you think you’re goin’?
Where do you think you’re goin’?
Goin’, girl?
Girl, where do you think you’re goin’?
Where do you think you’re goin’?
Goin’, girl?

 

I don’t normally find that any two losses are the same, not equal even to ourselves and they all manifest differently. Grieving is something so very personal. There is no right or wrong way to do it. We all just try to survive from one day to the next. The thing is it doesn’t just affect us. It has ripples and it changes everyone it touches.

Recently, I watched a documentary on Netflix, Gaga: Five foot Two and I felt a connection to her song, Joanne. I think by seeing the documentary and learning more about her life and the meaning behind the song, I could relate to her vulnerability in a way I never have before. I saw the woman, Stefani Germanotta, and not the icon Lady Gaga and honestly, I found her so endearing in her vulnerability.

Netflix, Stefani Germanotta, Joanna, Lady Gaga, Gaga, Five Foot Two, Loss, Grief, miscarriage

 

You know we tend to put up fences and build walls around ourselves to protect us from public scrutiny. I don’t just mean celebrities like Lady Gaga but each and every one of us. It’s human nature to preserve our most vulnerable parts. Mine’s always been more of a see-thru chain link that you can see what’s going on but still, I protect myself. That’s one of the reasons that I don’t do a lot of videos. You’ve read about my howling in pain and grief at the loss of my pregnancy but you never actually saw it because there’s a vulnerability even I can’t go to about some things.

Anyways, this documentary has me full of admiration for what Stefani Germanotta does and who she is in spite of however much pain she is suffering. She uses it to fuel her art. She is no one’s victim. She is honest, raw, funny and completely in love with her family and her fans. She’s a fierce and mighty woman and in her movie you see the sacrifices she makes for her art. She is a bootstrapper. This is something we share in common.

I have a theory that everybody in the world chooses to either be a victim and wallow in their circumstances or pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become stronger because of the hard parts. There is no such thing as try, we have to choose one or the other and do it. I refuse to lay down and give up; that’s not me. I don’t even know how to do that. I tried once. It didn’t take.

Netflix, Stefani Germanotta, Joanna, Lady Gaga, Gaga, Five Foot Two, Loss, Grief, miscarriage

 

I’ve been listening to Joanne almost constantly since seeing the documentary and it has become an anthem for strength for me. It’s about letting go, even when you don’t want to. It’s about the sadness and beauty in having had the chance to love someone, maybe even someone you never got the chance to properly meet, and the pain and vulnerability of maneuvering through those most painful moments in your life.

It’s about embracing that vulnerability, relinquishing control and giving yourself over to the acceptance of the pain of the loss. Swimming in the letting go, letting it wash over you like warm waves in the sunshine is the only way to become one with it. It’s the only way to survive it and it is beautiful and ugly and amazing and horrible all at the same time.

 

Honestly, I know where you’re goin’
And baby, you’re just movin’ on
And I after love you even if I can’t
See you anymore can’t wait to see you soar

Girl, where do you think you’re goin’?
Where do you think you’re goin’
Goin’, girl?
Girl, where do you think you’re goin’?
Where do you think you’re goin’
Goin’, girl?

 

Have you seen the Netflix documentary Gaga; Five Foot Two and if not, please do and tell me what you think in the comments.

Disclosure: I am a Netflix StreamTeam member but the above post about my new found admiration for Lady Gaga and my connection with the documentary Gaga: Five Feet Two and the album Joanne are all my own.

 

 

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Perfect Birthday Celebration Party Like it’s 1997

Yesterday was my birthday and it may have been the perfect birthday celebration. I know I’ve been MIA. I’ve been trying to live in the moments. Life’s been a little hectic, even more than usual if you can believe that.

Every year, I want to have a party and for 10 years, I’ve found some reason not to. Don’t get me wrong my family always does something to mark the occasion. The people I love, never let me forget that they are happy I’m alive and was born into this world. They give me a million reasons to be thankful and I am.

This year, to stick with my theme of overscheduling (which truly is one of my biggest problems), we planned on attending Purdue’s homecoming and the game on Saturday. You see, the Big Guy and I met our senior year at Purdue and this year (today, in fact)is the anniversary of our meeting one another so I thought we needed to go back and celebrate together as just Debi and The Big Guy, not Bella and Gabs’ mommy and daddy. It was like a trip back in time and it was absolutely wonderful despite the 100 degree unseasonably warm weather.

Sunday night, we headed to Indy to see Matchbox Twenty and Counting Crows in concert with our girls. It was nice because this is a tradition we started last year with our girls, an end of the summer outdoor concert. But it was also very special to the Big Guy and I because we saw Matchbox Twenty in concert at Purdue and there is a long, funny story about Counting Crows that I’ll save for another time. The thing is we spent a lot of those early years with Matchbox Twenty as part of the soundtrack to our life together. Again, the heat was nearly unbearable and we were exhausted from the day before (because we are not in our 20’s anymore) but it was magical to be in that moment together and with our girls.

Monday was my actual birthday but I was so freaking tired and the girls stayed home from school, so the annual day date the Big Guy and I usually have on my birthday got tossed out the window and traded instead for a day in our pajamas and watching horror movies on the couch with the Big Guy. I know it sounds boring and I’m probably showing my age but, I didn’t cook or clean or run anyone anywhere on Monday and that was just about as close to perfect as I could get on my birthday.

I needed a reset. I needed time to breathe and just be. This past weekend and week have given me just that. I needed to just be me for a day or two and just have a chance to regain my perspective and refocus on the positive. I think I’ve done that.

So, another year older and hopefully a year wiser. Thank you all so much for your support and love over the past 9 years and for all the amazing birthday wishes. They meant everything to me!

 

 

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Hulu, Summer, Back-to-school, kids, downtime

This is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own.

Can you believe how fast summer is going? We’ve barely even made a dent in our family’s summer bucket list! Where has the summer gone? It’s been flying by at a dizzying pace here. I think since April I’ve been saying, I can’t wait until this month is over and we get to do nothing. Yet, here we are, still doing everything. I just want to have to be nowhere, do nothing and sleep. I just want to be, and sneak in some cuddles with those girls of mine who are growing faster than should legally be allowed. Can we get a law passed?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m having a blast traveling with my family and sharing experiences with them. Man, life is so much better when it’s filled with experiences. I mean, isn’t that what we all work for? To pay for the experiences? I’d say we are pretty blessed to be able to give our children the kinds of experiences that we can in today’s world.

 

Part of my job is living experiences. I experience and then I write about it. It’s not always great but you always learn something new about a place, a product or yourself; sometimes a little bit of all of it. I’ve been lucky because I’ve been able to take my family along to live these experiences as well. I know it’s a little bit cheesy but I just have more fun when they are around to see it from their perspective too.

I do completely realize that which I am complaining about is a total first world problem and I feel like a complete jerkface. This is what separates us from the animals, right? It could definitely be worse, I could be complaining that I don’t know where my next meal is coming from or where we’ll be sleeping tonight but I get to complain about having too many places to be at one time or having a packed schedule with awesome experiences. I know I am blessed but it’s still hard being overscheduled.

Still, I am human and I need a minute every now and then to just be. My favorite activity to do is binge watch television after the kids go to bed, since I never get to watch television in real time. I mean seriously, what parent ever gets to watch a show at its regularly scheduled time or all the way through? It’s like getting to eat dinner with no interruptions and while the food is still warm. Sure, it happens occasionally but it’s about as rare as a newborn sleeping through the night. I’ve heard of it happening but I’ve never actually experienced it yet.

The plan for the next 2 weeks (before our last trip of the summer on August 10) is going to involve lazy days spent poolside, afternoon bike rides while the tree shadows play on our faces and lots and lots of laughter. Movies under the stars in the yard or at the drive-in, picnics, barbecues and lots and lots of friends are also on the summer bucket list.

Hulu, Summer, Back-to-school, kids, downtime

But the thing I am secretly looking forward to the most on super-hot August days is coming home, blissfully exhausted from some sun drenched adventure, collapsing onto the couch or building a pillow fort with my daughters, snuggling under a fuzzy blanket in an air conditioned house with no place to be and watching some Disney movies on Hulu. We’re looking forward to Tarzan, Hercules, Mulan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas. Or maybe I’ll introduce them to some of my favorites like The Karate Kid 1-3, Race for your Life Charlie Brown, How to Eat Fried Worms, Charlotte’s Web and the Baby Sitter’s Club.

Hulu, Summer, Back-to-school, kids, downtime

That could definitely be fun. I’ve been sharing my favorite childhood books with them and it’s been awesome for all of us.

Not familiar with Hulu? I discovered it a couple years ago when I broke my leg and watching tv was the only thing I could do while confined to bed. Hulu is the next generation of TV. Their game-changing TV experience shifts the way consumers experience TV. This is TV built around you.

Hulu offers original series, full libraries of some of the most popular shows of all time, films and new episodes anytime on internet-connected TVs, smartphones, game consoles, set top boxes and mobile devices. This year, Hulu added live news, entertainment and sports programming – making it the only TV service that brings together live, on-demand, originals, and library content all in one place, across living room and mobile devices.

How much does Hulu cost? Limited commercials plan: $7.99 per month (get a one-month free trial) No commercials plan: $11.99 per month (get a one month free trial) For $39.99 – far less than a traditional cable package – Hulu will give you more than 50 popular live and on-demand channels, PLUS their existing library of more than 3500 TV and film titles. No other pay TV provider can offer that. Get a one-week free trial. And you can also add SHOWTIME and HBO to your existing Hulu subscription for an additional fee.

Hulu, Summer, Back-to-school, kids, downtime, walt-disney world, star wars

What’s on your family’s summer bucket list?

Hulu is a leading premium streaming service that offers instant access to live and on demand channels, original series and films, and a premium library TV and movies to millions of subscribers in the U.S. Since its launch in 2008, Hulu has consistently been at the forefront of entertainment and technology. Hulu is the only streaming service that offers both ad-supported and commercial-free current season shows from the largest U.S. broadcast networks; libraries of hit TV series and films; and acclaimed original series including The Handmaid’s Tale, The Mindy Project, The Path, 11.22.63, the Golden Globe® nominated comedy series Casual, as well as the upcoming Future Man and The Looming Tower. In 2017, Hulu added live news, entertainment and sports from 21st Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal, CBS Corporation, Turner Networks, A+E Networks and Scripps Networks Interactive to its offering – making it the only TV service that brings together live, on-demand, originals, and library content all in one place, across living room and mobile devices.

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family, disney vacation, walt disney world resort, epcot, frozen ever after

Last month, we took the girls to Walt Disney World in Orlando. We’ve been many times in the past 18 years but, apparently, never in the sweltering hot months. I am here to warn you, NEVER go to Orlando during the summer months. We were there at the end of June and the heat index was 108 degrees. I felt like God was holding a magnifying glass over Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom while trying to fry all of the park goers. I literally wanted to cry, as my face was melting off. Lesson learned. But still, happiest place on earth.

But thanks to that horrible, swampy heat we did get to discover some rides and shows that we would have otherwise never have tried because when you are that miserably hot, you get a whole new perspective and exerting the least amount of energy, going where there is air conditioning and staying cool becomes a game of survival. Heat stroke is no joke so I’m telling you all the cool things to do at Disney.

I’m glad we went in June so now I know to never do that again. I’m just too sensitive to the heat to enjoy that kind of warm weather. If it wasn’t sweltering heat, we were being caught in torrential downpours. I am not referring to the quaint mid- day showers that come through and cool Orlando down, these were unrelenting and turned all of Orlando into a soupy, sweat box. It was hard to stay focused on the fact that I was at my happy place. Heat makes people grumpy.

Aside from the heat, the trip was one of our most enjoyable to Walt Disney World because we’ve gone so many times, we were able to mosey and not rush and when we were tired we went back to the hotel and rested. I’ve told you the top 25 secrets to rocking your Walt Disney World vacation but this is the addendum for the summer. Also, remember, everything is cooler at night and Walt Disney World has you covered with extended hours if you are staying at a resort on grounds.

Here are a few of our best tips to beat the heat at Walt Disney World during summer

Walt Disney World, Disney, hollywood studios, Sci-Fi Theater drive-in, stay cool at walt disney world, magic kingdom, buzz lightyear, toy story

Magic Kingdom

The Liberty Tree Tavern

I know it was hot outside but this place serves comfort food to the extreme. Think Thanksgiving all year round. Yes, I know, in theory, it sounds like an unwise choice in the heat but with all that walking and burning of calories, it was the best thing ever. It was so good, in fact, that we are actually planning our next trip in the fall, just so we can fully appreciate all that comfort food.

Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies

Best.Sundeas.and.Smoothies.EVER. But if you want to be practical, get the smoothie, it cools you down longer.

Casey’s Corner

I have passed this hot dog, ball park themed restaurant a million times and never stopped. Enter, hungry Debi looking for an air-conditioned restaurant on a sweltering day. The food was simple but delicious and the air was divine.

Mickey’s Philharmagic

Had it not been for the heat, I would have bypassed this gem and made my way onto something outside but I am glad that I didn’t because it was adorable and cute. Perfect for the entire family.

Astro Orbiter

Coolest ride ever. Did I mention, all these years and I never knew it was an actual ride? Yep, I thought it was just really cool decoration. Look up, people!

Transit Authority People Mover

I’ve seen this but never rode it before. It was awesome. Yes, it moves slowly and totally reminds me of something out of Wall-E but when it’s 108-degree heat index, it is totally okay to just ride instead of walk.  Not only is it ok, it is encouraged by this Disney addict. Survival of the fittest, and sometimes “fittest” means the lady who was smart enough to stop exerting herself in the heat.

Haunted Mansion

Enchanted Tales with Belle

It’s a Small World

Pirates of the Caribbean

 

Walt Disney World, Disney, hollywood studios, Sci-Fi Theater drive-in, stay cool at walt disney world

Hollywood Studios

The Great Movie Ride

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along

Sci-Fi Dine IN Theater

One Man’s Dream

Pizze Rizzo

Walt Disney World, Disney, hollywood studios, Sci-Fi Theater drive-in, stay cool at walt disney world, magic kingdom, epcot, frozen ever after

Epcot

Coral Reefs: Disney Animals

Walt Disney World, Disney, hollywood studios, Sci-Fi Theater drive-in, stay cool at walt disney world, magic kingdom, epcot, frozen ever after

Frozen Ever After Ride

Soarin

Gran Fiesta Tour Featuring the Three Caballeros

L’Artisan des Glaces

All of these places mentioned at Walt Disney World are sure to keep you cool and indoors.

Not to say that there isn’t still plenty to do outside. I mean, come on, the place is a beautiful, waking fairy tale but when the heat is out of control, especially if you are from a climate that is not as hot, it’s good to have cool options to pop in and out of throughout your day at Disney World.

This trip also gave me the opportunity to explore lots more different restaurants (table service is your friend in sweltering heat) than normal because we usually stick with favorites. I will do a follow up to this post on all the great places to eat at Epcot and tell you all about Pandora, including lots of photos, insider tips, and video. You won’t want to miss it!

pandora, pandora at night, Walt Disney World, Disney, hollywood studios, Sci-Fi Theater drive-in, stay cool at walt disney world

What’s your favorite attraction, ride, restaurant or thing to do while visiting Walt Disney World?

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Netflix, stream team, orange is teh new black, glow, sons of anarchy, friends from college , GLOW, Dear White People, Ozark

Ever find yourself wondering how to survive summertime parenting? Oh yeah, it’s definitely different from school year parenting. Sure, at first you think it’s going to be all sleeping in and hanging out and then you realize that you’re not on summer break, just the kids are. You, my friend, are about to start working double time. That’s when your “oh Ish” moment hits you like a ton of bricks.

Summer has been blasting by and I still feel like I haven’t slept in. Well, I lied, there were those 3 days back in June where we all slept in until 10 a.m. Yep, those were a magical 3 days and here it is time for school to start back in a couple of weeks.

I don’t know about you, but when I am immersed in chaos all day, I need downtime…”me” time. Just me. It’s not about being selfish, it is about survival. During the school year, it’s nice because the girls go to bed on a schedule and I know after 9 p.m., I can spend a couple hours catching up on my favorite shows before going to bed. That’s my “me” time. Me, just chilling out, not having to be anywhere or do anything or be anyone to anybody. It’s my 2 hours of the day that are just.for.me.

Netflix, stream team, orange is teh new black, glow, sons of anarchy, friends from college , GLOW, Dear White People, Ozark

I know that it sounds crazy that only 2 hours of the day are for me, but if you are a parent, you understand. The moment that baby comes into the world, you are forever number 2 in your own life and with each child, you fall further down the line. If that’s not how you are rolling, please tell me your secret because by the time I get everyone else taken care of…I’m just too tired to care about me. My priority is sleep but before I can sleep, I must decompress.

What do you do to survive summertime parenting and decompress?

The thing is during the summer months, this entire situation goes to hell in a handbasket. Sure, it is filled with long days at the pool, traveling, sunshine, barbecues, entertaining, bike rides and all that stuff your pasty white life is missing the other 9 months of the year so how can you refuse when your child, who only has 6 more summers in your house, asks you to forgo your “me” time for some “we” time? You don’t. You give her all of it because damn it, 6 more years is not long enough.

Sounds wonderful, right? It is. Mostly. Except, even though my heart wants to give her all the “we” time I can. My brain needs a break. I need to decompress before I explode. She’s off for the summer because of school but I still have to work, now with kids home asking me to stop working to go someplace or do something or swim or bike or hike or make brownies or have a gaggle of 12-year-old girls spend the night. Do you have any idea how much 12-year-old girls talk? More. Than.me! I didn’t even think that was humanly possible.

So, I do all the things. I never exhale until they go to bed, which is no longer between 8 and 9 pm. Nope, I have 2 tweens, so sometimes while I’m trying to decompress bingeing out on  GLOW, Friends from College, Sons of Anarchy, Dear White People, Ozark, Orange is the New Black or The Incredible Jessica James (yes, I binge more than one show at a time) on Netflix, they saunter in at 10 p.m. to tell me what Kelly and Amy said about Jessica and Brittney and I listen because I’m a mom and pretty soon, they won’t want to talk to me at all. It’s like they can feel the shift in the universe when I start to relax and they can’t let that happen.

Netflix, stream team, orange is teh new black, glow, sons of anarchy, friends from college , GLOW, Dear White People, Ozark

 

Though I must admit, sometimes, I want to run my head into the wall because I just would rather find out what Jax is going to do to Clay than why one 12-year-old girl thinks another 12-year-old girl doesn’t like her because she didn’t notice that she was wearing a new bobbi pin. I mean cheese and rice; how many years did I endure Calliou? Calliou!!!That whiny little bald child and Max and a Ruby, where were their parents? Not listening to whining, that’s where. And now, they won’t even let me get through one episode without busting in to ask me why the sky is blue?

Don’t get me wrong, I want to know everything my girls want to tell me. I am all about the open dialogue but remember when the kids were toddlers and they kept asking for water from the bed so they could stall out bedtime? Yep, I think talking this bobbi pin situation is a bedtime stalling technique and I’d just rather turn my brain off and watch the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling body slam each other all over the place. I don’t want to worry about how a bobbi pin is going to put my tweens into therapy. It’s too much.

I really think my bingeing makes me a better mom to them. I need that alone time to feel like a person who has adult thoughts and isn’t just someone’s mom. Seriously, I’m so used to being referred to as Bella and Gabi’s mom that I find myself in the grocery story walking between a person and a shelf saying, “excuse us” even when I’m alone because, really, I’m never alone. As a mom, my kids are always with me, on my mind. I desperately need those bingeing after dark nights to center.

I hear things like yoga and working out help too but really, I’d rather just take a hot shower, throw on my pjs and chill with the Big Guy (or alone) and watch Netflix in beautiful silence, with only the sweet sound of Jax Teller telling people to get the eff out of his way or he’ll shoot them in the face. Call me weird, but I find it quite soothing. The point is I don’t feel guilty about bingeing. I need it. They need it. You need it.

What do you do to decompress? Do you ever sneak and binge watch shows? What’s your favorite Netflix sneak and binge?

Disclosure: I am a Netflix Stream Team member but my full on Netflix addiction was in place way before I was part of the team and the tips to survive summertime parenting are all me.

Netflix, stream team, orange is teh new black, glow, sons of anarchy, friends from college , GLOW, Dear White People, Ozark

Update: So as I was looking for pictures for this post, I realized my kids are awesome. We had so much fun this summer but still, even with all that love I’ve got for them…I need some for myself too.

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Aladdin, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

This past weekend, we took a road trip to Chicago. I still can’t believe that there is so much that I haven’t taken the girls to do in my hometown. Over spring break, I took the girls to see some of the more nationally known sites in Chicago. Usually, we just go to grandma’s house.

But last week, I took the girls home to some of my old stomping grounds i.e. the beach. My girls hear me talk about “the beach” all the time. They know I spent all my summers swimming and playing in the waves at “the beach” but as they’ve gotten older, they are all, “Hey, ma! There’s no beach in Chicago. It’s a lake!” And I‘m all, nope, Mommy doesn’t do “lakes” in the traditional sense because..ewwww, fresh water ( more like doesn’t move water) barely moves and unless there are rapids or waves, I’m not getting in. You’ve heard about those parasites that go up your nose and your urethra. No thank you!

Anyways, I totally digress, my point is I had to show them that my beach was a beach like the coastal beaches they’re used to, not like a rock covered pool of stagnant water buried in tick country. Yeah, don’t invite me to your lake house. I won’t come. I took the girls to the beach twice in 3 days. They get it now. They know what I mean. They loved it. They want to move to “the beach”. This makes me happy.

Aladdin, beach, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

We also consumed lots of food that is indigenous to “the region”. The region is where I hail from, it’s the Chicagoland area but not the city. We are 20 minutes from downtown, on “this side” of the border. Meaning everything we grew up doing was in Chicago but since you could walk to the state line in 5 minutes from my house, technically, I lived in Indiana but I knew nothing about Indiana. I never even saw corn until I went to college. Boiler up!

We hit our usual local eatery favorites; Barton’s Pizzeria and White Castles. You can take the girl out of the region but you can’t take the region out of the girl. Then we hit Portillos. I had a hot Italian beef with all the Giardiniera they could put on it. The spicier the better. It was delicious. My youngest ordered a Chicago dog with nothing on it but ketchup. WHAT? She nearly lost her ish when they brought her a poppy seed bun. Fortunately, she was too hungry to go into a full on refusal.

But this trip was even more special than usual because aside from hanging out with cousins and barbecues and beaches, we took the girls to the city for an extra special date night that included a stop at the Joffrey with my two ballerinas to surprise their besties visiting from North Carolina.

A side trip to Marshall Fields (oops Macy’s! Who am I kidding it’ll always be Marshall Fields to me the way the Sears tower will never be the Willis Tower) because mama made an unwise shoe choice and then we had dinner at the Randolph Tavern about a 1 minute walk from the Cadillac Palace Theater. It was delicious and even on a Friday night, it was perfect for the kids. Even had an awesome kids menu and did I mention the Sangria because I should have. It was delicioso!

Aladdin, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

But the piece de resistance was that we took the girls to see Disney’s Aladdin at the Cadillac Palace Theater thanks to the generosity of Broadway in Chicago. You know how we love our theater. If you have the chance to take your kiddos to go see it…go see it! It was amazing. In fact, you don’t need kids to go see it. If you watched it back in the day when you were a kid, it’s even better on stage. Bet you didn’t think it could be possible did you? Well, it is. I like live productions and 3-dimensional characters. I was in theater heaven.

Aladdin, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

The Cadillac Palace is a gorgeous old building located in the heart of Chicago’s theater district.

Aladdin the musical, adapted from the Disney film and centuries-old folktales including, “One Thousand and One Nights,” is brought to fresh theatrical life in this bold new musical. Aladdin’s journey sweeps audiences into an exotic world of daring adventure, classic comedy and timeless romance. This new production features a full score, including the five cherished songs from the Academy Award-winning soundtrack and more written especially for the stage.

That was the press release version of Aladdin the musical.

Aladdin, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

This is my version of Disney’s Aladdin on stage.

Aladdin, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

The colors are vibrant. The atmosphere is vibrant. It’s electricity and you can feel yourself drawing from the energy of those on stage. It started with a bang. I honestly was not sure that they could pull it off, bringing an animated story to the stage. I thought it would fall flat of my expectations but I was pleasantly surprised by how animated and magical it all felt.

Aladdin, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

The music was pitch perfect and so animated that you almost forget that you’re watching it on stage as you are transformed into an animated world of Agrabah.

Aladdin, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater, Anthony Murphy

Genie, played by Anthony Murphy, was a show stopper. He was absolutely hilarious and played the part as larger than life. The only thing more grandiose than his stage presence was his powerful voice.

Aladdin, Jacob Dickey, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

Aladdin, played by Jacob Dickey direct from the Broadway production, looked a bit like a young Rob Lowe. He was the embodiment of the animated Aladdin. I didn’t think it could be done but he really brought the character to life, literally.

Aladdin, Isabelle McCalla, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

Jasmine, one of my girls’ personal favorite princesses, played by Isabella McCalla, was the tiny, spit fire that I always hoped Jasmine could be. She was feisty and sassy and perfection.

 

Aladdin, Jacob Dickey, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

 

Another favorite character of mine was Jafar’s sidekick, Iago, played by Reggie De Leon . Firstly, I loved that they changed the character from a bird to a human on stage. It just played better. He was a sidekick no more. He was hilarious, perfectly timed and his dry humor was appreciated more than I can convey.

 

I loved that the Abu character was replaced by 3 friends of Aladdin (Babkak, Omar and Kassim) not only did it play better in a live production, it gave the story a new dimension that made more sense in the real world. They were sort of an attractive, endearing version of the three stooges but they had pipes.

I know that everyone loves the “Whole New World” scene in Aladdin the animated movie but I have to say the magic carpet ride in the live production was nothing short of magical. I swear I saw no strings and I still don’t know how they did it. It must be that Disney+Broadway+Chicago=Magic.

Now, I will warn you, if you are a die hard Disney Aladdin animated purist, like my husband, there have been some changes.  I will list them here so that you know they are coming. There are more songs ( because it is a musical), Abu has been replaced by 3 male friends of Aladdin ( so there is no monkey on stage), Rajah has been replaced by 3 female attendants (so again, no tiger on stage. I think that’s safer for all involved), Iago is not a bird but instead a human and Genie is not a cartoon but he is larger than life and very animated.

My personal opinion, I’ll take the live action production on stage.The animated movie is still near and dear to my heart because of the hundreds of times that I’ve watched it with my girls but you can’t beat the magical feeling of being part of a live production. I think my daughters and my nephew totally agree with me.

Aladdin, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago, Broadway, Disney, Jasmine, Genie, Jafar, Cadilllac Palace Theater

 

Aladdin is now playing in Chicago as part of the North American tour launch at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph Street) for a limited premiere engagement through September 10, 2017.

Tickets for Aladdin at the Cadillac Palace Theatre start at $44.  In Chicago, tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com.  A select number of Premium Ticket Packages, which include a prime seat location, a commemorative souvenir program and an exclusive merchandise item, are also available for many performances. Group tickets for 10 or more are available by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. For a complete performance schedule for Aladdin, please visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

Disclosure: I was provided tickets to see Disney’s Aladdin at the Cadillac Palace in Chicago by Broadway in Chicago but all opinions and love of Broadway stage productions are my own.

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