Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ho Ho Ho... A Giveaway!

Every year the Husband and I take the kiddos to see Santa. I have been doing it for nine years and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. It's our tradition. We have seen Santa in many different places and have had many different experiences. When Sarah was little she would cry, then she got older and didn't cry, but also wouldn't smile. She smiles now. Elijah has always smiled. He never seemed to mind hanging out... but that probably has to do with him never having to do it alone. He has always had his sister by his side.

Same was true for this year. Until I started telling Sarah more about the new place we would be going this year. 

I found out about the fancy HGTV Santa's HQ experience that only 10 lucky malls would get to host. It was not just Santa in a chair... THEY TRANSPORTED SOME OF SANTA'S NORTH POLE HEADQUARTERS SMACK DAB INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE MALL. 

They brought in the control panels, the Elf Vision, the fun and games, and a SCANNER! 

Not a scanner that showed weather patterns. Not a scanner that showed how fast the red sleigh could travel, but the scanner that could tell how Naught or Nice a child has been. Did you catch that, a real live NAUGHTY OR NICE SCANNER!

I told Sarah about that scanner.

It was the mistake that nearly cost me a nine year streak of having her sit on Santa's lap. The scanner was at the ENTRANCE to Santa's HQ... Santa himself was at the exit.  That SCANNER was the gatekeeper to Santa.

Well, I am proud to report that when we got to Santa's HQ in Modesto's Vintage Faire Mall, the closest Santa's HQ in all of Northern California, Sarah faced her fear and bravely marched right up to Scanner and smiled. It was a little bit of nervous smile, but a smile none-the-less.

Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep Scanning Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep

The results were nearly through the roof, she was topping the charts on the NICE side and it wasn't any news to us... but I could hear and see the relief she felt when she saw the results.

Elijah hopped on next, why wouldn't he? Sissy did it!

Low and behold... he was also scanned as NICE. Santa must of overlooked the time he made "snow angels" on the floor of Bass Pro Shop with his entire body as he through a fit. Or the time(s) he put a roll of toilet paper in the toilet. Good for Santa.

Dad even got scanned.... those results were...well...not as high. I have a nice but slightly naughty husband... Santa knows it, too. I don't mind.

But hey, this is just a sampling of my time at Santa's HQ... what you really ought to do is experience Santa's HQ for yourself! 

From now until Christmas Eve, HGTV will present a one of a kind experience for you, your friends, and your family! Pairing the latest technology with an authentic holiday experience, visitors can take an "Elfie Selfie" and star in their own holiday video, explore Santa's Observatory using Elf-Ray vision, test out the Naughty O' Nice Meter (the scanner) and enjoy a memorable photo with Santa!

You can visit the Santa HQ site to make a reservation if you want, but walk-ups are perfectly okay, too! The Modesto Vintage Faire Mall Hours for Santa HQ are as follows:

November 5-December 11Monday-Saturday: 10am-8pm
Sunday: 12-7pm

December 12-23

Monday-Sunday: 9am-9pm

December 24 Christmas Eve

Oh, and to make it easier for at least one family to visit Santa's HQ in Modesto... I am happy to announce that MOM ABOUT THE TOWN is offering a giveaway! One lucky family can win a package deal valued at $46.99! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

To be entered, all you have to do is tell me what you love about Christmas. THAT EASY! Now, if you want extra chances of winning the photo package, you can also visit Mom About The Town on Facebook and give me a like, comment, or smiley face :) But this is NOT necessary! 

THE CONTEST RUNS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30TH, 12:00AM THROUGH DECEMBER 5TH, 12:00AM! Thanks to Rafflecopter, one random person will be chosen and notified the evening of Friday, December 5th by 7:00pm via email/blogpost ( so it is possible to visit Santa's HQ on the weekend! 

Ready, Set, Go!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

** Please be warned there is an Apple Store in Vintage Faire Mall, which is like a Santa's HQ for your tech savvy family members. We visited there, too.  It was awesome. Dang it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Did You Know About This?

So there I was, sippin' my mornin' coffee and yappin' with my mornin' girls in the work breakroom. A regular ol' morning, doin' my thing.

In walks a co-worker that we don't see often since she works at a different location -- so naturally we take a moment to catch up with one another.

"How are you?"
"Good! You?"

And then she says, "My daughter is in chorale."

There may have been more lead-in conversation, but whatevs, this is the main part of the story! She said her daughter was in chorale and was sining and loving it.


Ding! Ding! Ding!

The alarm, the excitement bells, an array of alert sounds were going off in my head and I started asking tons of questions... which led me to making a phone call, which led to an audition for my daughter THE VERY NEXT DAY.

When I shared the news with my 9 year old she was completely on board. Completely (mostly). There might have been about 36 questions that she had, but once I answered all of them (mostly) she was game to give it a try.  

"GOOD!" I said, "Your audition is tomorrow!"

The next day we went to a church choir room that had several cheery tweens romping about and one smiley teacher that greeted us enthusiastically.  I sat down while the teacher addressed Sarah and explained the simple 10 minute audition process.

Next thing I know my girl is belting out scales alongside a piano with complete ease and precision (mostly). I was crying. And recording. And crying.

She was singing scales like it was nobody's business!! "Ah Ah Ah Ah Ahhhhhhh" and higher and higher and higher and then lower and lower and lower. It was... incredible. Then... THEN... she was asked to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Folks, THIS IS NOT AN EASY SONG! I know, because I screw it up every single night when I sing to the kids at bedtime  A little off key here, a little rushed there, a whole lotta messy everywhere.

But my daughter NAILED IT! TO THE WALL! AND PERFECTLY (mostly)!

Upon the final note of the song the teacher looked at me and smiled and said...

I was so nervous! I was so so so so nervous... did she love her as much as I love her? Did she hear the talent, too or was it just my mom ears? I was so tense with excitement and a little anxious... and then...

She said. "I WANT HER!" and then I exhaled and my smile became so big that it wrapped around to the back of my head and then I realized I should probably speak and so I said...


It was fantastic! She wanted her to start rehearsals right then and there and ever since that day we have been off and running. Every Monday and Thursday night we get her to her rehearsals to sing for an hour and a half and when we pick her up she is cheery and happy and sing-songy... and it is really really fantastic.

That was 2 months ago.

This past weekend was her first chorale performance.  

Guess what...

She, they, all of them, the kids, the adults, the teens, the people, the audience, the conductors, the ushers, the everybodies -- they were FANTASTIC!

Stockton Chorale is amazing and I am so glad that my co-worker shared her story with me so I could be introduced to this gem of an organization that is part of our San Joaquin Valley! They have singing groups for 3rd graders on up! My daughter is in the youngest group and they are cutely called the Treblemakers! At the 6th grade level they move into the Youth Chorale, and at the high school level they become the Valley Youth Chamber Choir. The adults have several tiers of chorale groups as well. 

If you have a kiddo or a friendo that loves to sing and you think this would be a good outlet for them to hone their skills and to share their talent... tell them about Stockton Chorale! The group is outstanding and really a class act! There are fees, but overall they are small compared to the training and performances they get to participate in. But check it out for yourself: Stockton Chorale.

SIDE NOTE that is actually not a side note at all but should be a MAIN NOTE: I think it is important for us to remember that while it is a good thing to get involved in physical sports to keep our mind and body fired up and healthy - sports may not be what the hearts of some of our kids are desiring. ART is as valuable and beneficial to our children as any karate class, soccer position, or baseball team.

For my daughter, THIS and drama have been ideal for her to grow her confidence and to build her skills at making friendships and becoming social -- all the while learning a craft that none of us would ever want to have disappear from our lives. Thank you Stockton Chorale for giving my daughter the opportunity to shine at what she loves! Thank you for giving her family the opportunity to scream and cheer and root her on from the sidelines... albeit at the moments of the performance, and maybe not actually screaming. Thank you.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Disney on Ice GIVEAWAY!

I remember the first time I ever took my daughter to a Disney on Ice show like it was yesterday, although it was really 6 years ago; she was 3. We dressed her up in a princess dress and then bundled her up in a warm coat. All you could really see was some tulle down by her feet and a cutie little face poking out the top of a poofy jacket. I could FEEL her excitement and it was contagious!

We shuffled in with the crowd and found our seats in the arena. Sarah didn't want to sit. Instead she stood and held tightly onto the back of the chair in the row in front of us. I am pretty sure she was on her tippy-toes. Anything to get closer to the magic that was about to take place on the ice stage below.  

I was pretty excited, too. This is the closest I had been to a Disney event since the 12th grade, which was at least 25 years in my past.

We waited.

And then the show started! Out came the most beautiful and handsome hosts of the nights event, Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Sarah's eyes were GLUED to the action. Blinking was not an option for fear she would miss even a split millisecond of the show. 

I cried.

Yes, I cried. I watched my daughter more than the show for the first 15 minutes and I could not control the tears that rolled down my cheek. She was in pure delight and in awe of the characters before her. To her, they were real! The princesses, the princes, Donald Duck, all of it... it was REAL and she was MESMERIZED with the action. I was mesmerized by her. Her innocence. Her imagination. Her wonder. 

That was 6 years ago and I think we have been to every show since. What she was at 3 was a little different at 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8... but not any age was less exciting.... there is always a bit of magic in the air and a whole lot of smiles on our faces.

This year will be no exception! Except that over the last three years I don't just cry when I see my daughter smile, I smile because I get to watch my 4 year old son enjoy it all, too. There is truly something for everyone!  In fact, this year I know my son is going to be in heaven as Lightning McQueen was able to free his schedule to go on this year's tour of Disney on Ice Presents Worlds of Fantasy! Lightning McQueen, ya'all!!! LIGHTNING MCQUEEN!!!!!

If you haven't been to a Disney on Ice show.. you really ought to. Really.
In fact, you could maybe, possibly go for FREE by winning the Mom About The Town Disney On Ice Presents Worlds of Fantasy Family Four Pack! (say that ten times fast).

That's right, I have a family four-pack to raffle off! But before you enter, here's some information:

The Family 4-Pack is for Opening Night of the Disney on Ice Presents Worlds of Fantasy show that will be at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Wednesday, October 22nd, 7pm performance. 

Also, please read this little print:
Winner will be selected at random by Rafflecopter and be notified by blog announcement on Sunday, October 19th by 5pm.. Winner has 24 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Contest winner family four-pack will be provided for Opening Night, 10/22/14 7:00 p.m. performance.  No exchanges or substitutions can be made once the winner’s name has been submitted.  Winner or parent/guardian must be at least 18 years of age with valid photo ID to pick up tickets at the Box Office.  Winner tickets can be picked up at the Arena Box Office any time after 6:00 p.m. at the Will Call window on the Opening Night Performance of Wednesday, October 22, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within Mom About The Town’s blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows. The opinions expressed represent my fair and honest opinion.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What If...

I am an idea girl. I always have been. "I have an idea!" pretty much I think it's a curse. Sometimes a blessing. A curse because a lot of times the "ideas" drive me nuts because I don't know how to implement them. What good is an idea without the "do" part?

Thankfully I have a very kind husband that lets me unload all my ideas onto him. Not that he is expected to do them, but at least he hears me and I get to let some stuff out of my mind so I can make room for the next batch of ideas.  

Guess what? I had an idea today. It's not a new idea, just a shined up old idea, a forgotten treasure idea.

A common theme in my life lately is recognizing that we need more more more family time. We do a lot, but it is in bursts and crammed in between other commitments. We don't 'slow our roll' enough to really breathe each other in. I want to breathe my family in. I love them! They are my heart and soul and they deserve more attention than quick check-ins and rushed meals together. They deserve my undivided attention and they deserve my celebratory spirit. But the thing is, I am not always good at making space for that kid of attention. MY FAULT! However, what if...

What if as a community we realized that there are all kinds of family units that could use a little help and support in making time for what is most important - FAMILY! What if we decided to create holiday moments that celebrate the core of what makes life good? What if we created parent-child days?

I know...I know, places already do this, like Chili's! Chili's recently hosted a father-daughter night in which dads and daughter could enjoy a dinner together, but then they could wander off to a station to make cute princess tiaras and decorated picture frames. Staff at Chili's were snapping pictures of these moments and printing them on demand so fathers and daughters left their evening with a completed memento that reminded them of a fun night out together.

That artsy foam sticker decorated frame and the cheapy little picture is now one of the main treasures that sits atop my husbands desk.

I think we could use more of these moments. I think our community could make it happen! What if a buncha different businesses teamed up to make the opportunity for more family celebration? What if? 

I think there would be a little more joy in the world, a little more bonding in the world, and a little more feeling special in the world. 

I think little girls would feel adored and I think little boys would feel valued. I think moms and dads would feel lifted up and would be reminded that THIS is the meat of life. I think it would be good for us.

Oh, and let's be clear, this isn't just for the littles. The truth is, we never EVER outgrow the need to feel adored and valued. This is for us adult children, too.

I am a grown, middle-aged woman with gray hair... but when my mom and I go have coffee together, I may as well be 12 years old. I love feeling like I am my mom's little girl, even being in my 40's!  I love being at her side and hearing her talk to me, talk with me, and having all her focus on just the two of us.

I will also never outgrow hearing my mom say she is proud of me. Equally, I will never tire of her asking about my life. Likewise, she will never outgrow hearing me tell her that I love and appreciate her,and boy do I appreciate her! (Love you, Mom!!)

So what if the community recognized we all need more family time and they created more moments for us to make it happen? More events and reasons for us to be with one another in fabulous settings?

What if a local upscale restaurant decorated the tables in pink flowers and had pretty wine glasses filled with Koolaid so dads could take their daughters on a "fancy" date? What if mom's helped their little ladies put on their most beautiful dresses and and daddies knocked on the door and asked them out? (ohhh, this might be right up Mile Wine Company's alley!!)

What if a local burger joint (MooMoo's?) provided a mom-son dinner special for two burgers and shakes? The mom-son duo could enjoy a meal before heading to a movie together! A movie theater could get in on the theme by having reserved seating for mother-son's! What if  a place that is known for having fabulous live music (Whirlow's?) offered up a special menu just for "mom and son" or "dad and daughter"?

I think this idea is a winning combo that could provide opportunities to celebrate our families as well as create the opportunity to support local businesses! And NONE of it needs to be a competition! Everyone, all businesses could offer something, providing a wide variety of options to suit different family dynamics!

Working together is a whole other issue I could discuss. Just ask me about the time my daughter was in a play at Stockton Civic Theater for a full 4 days straight. Each night people were looking for flowers and gifts to adorn their little budding actors and actresses. Each night I found wilted bunches of flowers and ridiculous prices :( Why not team up and make special, affordable bouquets and dinner specials that celebrated our community's live theater and the children and families that delighted sold out crowds? Why not?

But back to the original idea (I told you, I am an idea girl, a million more thoughts are popping around my head RIGHT NOW!). Could we create opportunities in the community that would help us to become stronger and healthier families? Together? As a team? And make it holiday like? I think so.  I think every 3 months there should be another special opportunity to take our families out and celebrate and to be welcomed specifically by businesses. Pishaw... we celebrated asparagus as a community, I think we could do even better to celebrate relationships! Win Win, I say. When? When?

In the meantime, here are some fun things you can do with the kiddos for your very own date nights. You will see that while the titles may include a gender -- the activities are interchangeable! Girls can do Boy things and Boys can do Girl things... the gift is doing what suits THEM and what is unique to YOU. 

Some suggestions:

  • Put away the phone! Unless it is to take selfies/usies.  Selfies and Usies are highly encouraged on date nights!
  • Get in the game! Don't take the kiddos and sit on the sidelines -- get involved! Swing on the swing, play the game, don the laser tag gear -- GET IN THE GAME!
  • Smile - a lot! Laugh - even more! Show them that you are having fun. Tell them you are having fun. Have Fun!
  • Let the kids pick the places to eat, let them pick the foods to eat, let them choose the radio station, let them be an equal in the fun-making.
  • Set the tone. Put away the authority and bring out your inner child. They know who you are, but surprise them with more of the kid side they may not see as often.
  • If possible, take only one child. That one-on-one time is important. But SET A DATE with the other kids so they know their time is coming.
  • Tie the date into their real life. Have a child learning the drums - take them to a concert! You get the idea.
  • At the end of the date -- thank them! Thank the child for a great time! Have them plan the next one!

Thursday, September 18, 2014



We took the kiddos to the circus in Sacramento and WHAT A NIGHT! With a 3 year old (days away from 4) and a 9 year old, the circus was a COMPLETE HIT! Every part was entertaining to someone, if not everyone, including the over 40-year-old Dad! 

We had seats about the middle way up and could see everything perfectly! The music, LIVE MUSIC, could be heard beautifully and the colors, costumes, and lighting made all our faces full of smiles.

The show kicked off with the spectacular China National Acrobatic Troupe Unicycle performance and I was amazed. I don't know what impressed me most, that they could pile so many people onto one bike or that they all stayed happy and smiling while doing so. I would surely have looked all kinds of worried, if not downright fearful, if I were any one of those bike-ro-bats ( I just made that word up on the spot).

Then came the CAGE OF WHEEELS as I like to call it, or the CAGE OF INSANITY! Seven professionally skilled motorcyclist thought it would be entertaining to all ride up and in to a metal cage ball to ride in circles, defying gravity, and missing each other by mere inches.  My son, the one that LOVES all things motorcycle, was in pure delight... for awhile. Then he cried a little. I think he could tell that there was an element of risk and danger... but really... isn't that what makes it so great! THEY ESCAPE DANGER EVERY SINGLE TIME because they are professionals. 

I could go on and on about every act because each one was fantastic, but really the best way to experience everything I am talking about is to GO TO THE SHOW! GO!! Go grab some tickets (affordable and fun) to the show and see the Greatest Show on Earth in person! I really don't think you will be disappointed!

Opening night for Stockton is Friday, September 19th at 7pm! I will be going AGAIN! The kids persuaded me, or maybe I persuaded them, I forget. Doesn't matter. Bottom line is, I need my fix for acrobats and clowns! OH... and the MEN ON HORSES... don't get me started ::sigh::


Here's a few of my pictures from the Sacramento show.
Hope to see you at the Stockton show this weekend!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Life Lessons and Circus Tickets

Today I was reminded of several life lessons, lessons that I seem to relearn A LOT! 
  1. I hate when used Rice Krispy cereal is poured in the sink, left to dry ALL.DAY.LONG. Those little, evil, carbohydrate, rice puffs are the worst to pick out of the sink.  I will NEVER by that cereal again. Or at least for several months. Like, SEVERAL! 
  2. If you own a dog you will never own clean floors again. Just roll with it. There will be dirt paw prints, sloppy drinking water, dog hair fluffs, and occasional, nearly dead, insect doing donuts on your kitchen floor trying to escape the playful mouth of... let's say... a German Shepard.  A German Shepard named Holly.
  3. You can't make people like you. They either will or they won't and it really is ok either way because ultimately all that matters is that YOU like you. And your husband or spouse -- they should like you to, at least most of the time.
  4. Your little boy will occasionally pee on toilet seat. YOUR part of the seat. It will happen. And it will be gross. But your little boy will eventually grow up and you will miss the little things they did. Not the peeing on the seat little things, you will NEVER miss that. But other little things. Invest in Clorox wipes.
  5. Laughing is important. We all need to REALLY work on less yelling and more laughing. Yelling is just not productive. AT ALL. Well, unless your little boy is wandering away from you and toward something dangerous. In that case yell. But the communication that just seems to be done in a loud angry voice, get rid of that. Try to laugh more. Yelling hurts. Laughing doesn't. Well it does if you get going pretty good, that can hurt, but it feels good, too. Like getting a tattoo.

  6. And finally...

  7. Even your worst week can be made awesome if you have something to look forward to. Like going to a circus. I am SO looking forward to this week coming to an end because on Friday, I get to go to the circus. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus LEGENDS show.  I am excited! Me, the husband, the kiddos, even the one that pees on my seat, we are all going to Sleep Train Arena this Friday to be dazzled! 

And you know what -- you can, too! And you can even go to the opening night in Stockton FOR FREE by entering a raffle. It's easy! And you have several ways to enter for several chances to win! End your NEXT WEEK right by celebrating in the stands and enjoy mesmerizing acrobats, gut wrenching dare devils, tasty cotton candy, and more!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within Mom About The Town’s blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows. The opinions expressed represent my fair and honest opinion.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Win A Family Four Pack!

Popcorn, peanuts and cotton candy! It's all coming to town - along with spectacular show entertainment by the ever popular Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The brand new "Legends" show is is coming to Stockton in less than two weeks!!

My family has been to the circus several times and I can't wait to take them again! Each year we "oooh" and "ahhh" over the incredible acrobat performances, daredevil stunts, and overall theatrical production! I AM SO EXCITED! YOU might be, too! Especially with this fantabulous Mom About The Town offer!

This year I am excited to share the circus with a lucky family of four that wins the Mom About The Town Circus Giveaway! A lucky family of four will with a raffle drawing that gives them 4 fun tickets to opening night of the Stockton show on Friday, September 19th at 7:00pm!

THE GIVEAWAY: One (1) Family 4 Pack of Tickets to the Stockton, Friday, September 19 Opening Night Show (7PM start). If you are a US legal resident that lives in the Stockton area and vicinity and can make it to the opening night, here’s your chance to bring your family and kids to see the show!
Contest Duration: September 8, 2014 – September 14, 2014 12AM PST
Rules and Conditions:
  • Verify that you are at least 18 years old
  • US legal resident
  • Family Four Pack of tickets will be left under winner’s name at the Stockton Arena Box Office, Will Call Window
  • Tickets can be picked up anytime after 6:00 p.m. on Opening Night at the Arena Box Office
  • You must show photo ID in order to receive the tickets
  • There are no exchanges, substitutions or refunds allowed for these special tickets
  • Feld Entertainment is neither a sponsor nor endorser of this promotion

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck! Please leave a comment if you have questions or email me directly at momaboutthetown{atsymbol}gmail{dot}com!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You Are So Gorgeous AND...

For the last several weeks my news feed has been heavily sprinkled with amazing iphone-tography of school-bound children entering grades Preschool to College... and I love it! I love seeing the fresh faces of these children that are starting a new year of learning and growing. I love soaking up the images one by one, over and again.

I also love what I imagine BEHIND the photograph. I love that I can envision the behind the scene smile of the parents/grandparents/aunties/uncles that are taking those pictures. I can almost HEAR them say "Ok, Baby/Buddy/Bubby/Sweetie/Tiger... SMILE!!!!"  I can SEE the smile on the their faces and I can FEEL the pride that fills their hearts! I relate to every picture posted.

Because I relate, I also want to comment and share in the happiness that is being shared with me. I want to say something about all these ponytails, faux-hawks, curly locks, new tennis shoes, bright white socks, rockin' t-shirts, crisp uniforms, beautiful smiles, twinkly eyes, fresh attitudes, clean slates, and bright futures.

But what do I say?

I automatically start typing "Gorgeous" "Pretty" "Handsome" "Adorable" "Cute"... and then I cringe.

I cringe because several years ago I read a poignant article about how comments about someones beauty (male or female) may actually perpetuate what I despise... that life is all about how we look.

YUCK! Life is not all about how we look!

The article talked about being more purposeful in compliments by digging deeper and being more specific about the things we love about the people in our life.  Examples: You are so kind. You are gentle. You are so strong. You are intuitive. You are good at math. You are an excellent problem solver. You are a natural at chemistry. You really know your way around a soccer field... and on and on and on.

But the thing is, on Facebook, maybe we don't know much of the details of someone... we just blatantly see that they are indeed "cute".

And what I have decided is that is okay, for me. In fact, CUTE is just fine! Wait, let's ramp it up!


And it's not ALL!

So yea, I will dig deeper. I will share more and give more, and look to the inside of what someone has to offer and I will draw that out, too. But I am NOT going to ignore a person's "cover" so to speak. The outside, our package, is a part of who we are!  A part. I will acknowledge and compliment that part and I will also look inside to the core of a person, too... somehow, someway, genuinely.

If you are nodding your head and thinking this works for you, too, then join me! Next time you see the cutie-pie in the new school outfit with the too big backpack and the brightest smile... go ahead and comment with "Cute!" And add in a little extra... "So excited for you to grow smarter, kinder, and stronger this year!"

And if you really do know the person - be specific. The soccer ball tucked under an arm or the book in their hand or the guitar over their shoulder may just be the clue you need to know they are more than just "cute".

Here are some photos of friends and their beautiful, smart, kind, strong, mischievous, sporty, determined kids. One of these children is mine, some of them belong to dear friends and each one of them is heart-stoppingly, uniquely exquisite...inside and out!

 These two beauties are also incredibly kind, calm, excellent with young kids,
value their family, and take their studies serious.
 This handsome fella is also a true gentleman, is kind, takes care of his
little brother, is confidant, goofy, and tender-hearted.
 Gorgeous. She is! She is also gregarious, goofy, inquisitive, honest,
and an excellent communicator. Did I mention spirited? But you can see that!
 These 3 are my family. I held each as a baby and watched them become beautiful little people.
Emma is beautiful and artistic! Ethan is handsome and strong/gentle. Abbie is beautiful and clever.
 Oh Adalay, you take my breath away... with a beauty that is way beyond your appearance. I see her as beauty on the inside that cannot help but shine outward. She is also a protector and helper.
Oh, this girl. She is mine. And I flat admit I think she is gorgeous as they can come! And I know she is also very intuitive and perspicacious! I think at age 9 she has already outsmarted me.
* Poignant Article That Effected Me

** Also, the picture of the boy in glasses - he takes after his momma.. his momma who is also very fashionable and a photographer! Check her out on Facebook at Kali Matthews Photography!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Unique Visions Dance Co. = WOW!

702 Porter Avenue, Stockton
(209) 479-5384

Let me start by saying that the following RAVE about Unique Visions Dance Company by no means indicates that other dance studios aren't FANTASTIC also! It's just that I know THIS studio and there is no mistaken that I ADORE everything about UVDC and its beautiful Owner/Director, Chelsea Hill.


Three years ago I had the crazy idea to convince library staff to learn a choreographed routine -- and to perform said routine in the public; in a surprise fashion. I wanted to pull off a FLASH MOB DANCE for Stockton and there was no stopping me!

Actually, I could have easily been stopped had I not been able to find a local dance person to help me out. I desperately needed the right perfect person to dream up a routine, teach professional library staffers to perform it flawlessly, and to do all this for free.

I made about 3 calls to local dance companies and the first one to return my INSANE and RAMBLING voice-mail was Chelsea of UVDC. I pitched my idea to her and in less than 10 minutes she agreed. SHE AGREED!!! She agreed to make up a routine, film it so we could watch it (a gazillion times), she agreed to come to the Library to help us in person, and then she even offered up a few of her students to perform with us as planted guides in the mass of dancers... all of this for free -- at Chelsea's busy time in her dance life. She did this!

I fell in love.

I fell in love with her for all of this... and then I fell in love with her over and again because she KEEPS doing things like this for the community - over and over again.

I fell in love with her dancing, too. I mean... this WOMAN can DANCE! I am in awe of her movement her dedication to her love of expressing herself with every purposeful dip, twist, and twirl. I am in love.

Over the last couple years she has kept me in the loop of what she has going on and consistently invites me and my daughter to see dance recitals or be a part of special dance parties, etc.  I tried to go, but more often than not my calendar had conflicting commitments. Until this June.

This June Chelsea invited me to a "Whimsical Celebration" -- UVDC's yearly Dance Showcase! The date was Saturday, June 14th and my calendar was WIDE OPEN!

YES! I would be there. I would be there and I would bring my camera. I would bring my camera and take pictures of all the beautiful dancers. I would photograph the beautiful dancers and maybe video some of the routines. I would show the pictures of the dancers, the routines, the everything.. and it would be awesome!

I got to San Joaquin Delta College Atherton Theater and one of the first signs I saw hanging on the door was -- NO PHOTOGRAPHY. NO VIDEOING.


I was soooo disappointed! Taking picture is what I do!

I zipped up my camera bag, pulled up my big girl britches, and found a seat to watch the show.  To watch it; not take any pictures! This was going to be difficult. Hrrmmph.

Little did I know.

Within seconds of the first routine I was mesmerized! I leaned up in my seat and hunched over the empty seat in front of me, pulling myself closer to the beauty of the dance that was on stage.

What camera?

I was enthralled! The dancers were so incredibly talented, so young, so skilled, so beautiful, so so so... amazing.

I cried.

I didn't know a single dancer on that stage yet I fell in love with them and I clapped for them, I smiled until my mouth hurt, and I cried tears of joy for their accomplishments.

Among all the numbers, one was a solo performance by Chelsea. She took my breath away.

THEY ALL TOOK MY BREATH AWAY! From the 3-year-olds to the gal going off to college next year - they were incredible.

I didn't miss taking pictures too much because my eyes and heart were taking everything in, and that was perfect. NO PHOTOGRAPHY. NO VIDEO meant that I was focused on soaking everything up as best I could IN THE MOMENT and I was grateful that I didn't distract myself with apertures and ISOs.

When the show was over I walked alongside happy Moms, proud Daddies, and supportive Aunties, Uncles, Grandparents, Cousins and Friends. I felt like I was part of a huge family and I wanted to be right there in the mix of things celebrating these little dancers that filled my soul with joy.

Then I thought, WAIT, this is weird, I don't know anyone! So instead I hung back and I took a few pictures of the happy and proud that was circling around me! It was INCREDIBLE!

UVDC is incredible.

Chelsea is incredible.

If you are thinking of getting your little girl or boy or big girl or boy into dance, I strongly encourage you to check out Unique Visions Dance Company! They are FIVE STARS plus a bonus STAR for sure! This is NOT to say that there aren't other five star studios out there...but this is one that I personally know and vouch for emphatically!

Thank you, Chelsea for the invite! I can't wait to see next year's Showcase and celebrate the new and continuing talent that you are developing at UVDC!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Macaronage Macarons = LOVE

7610 Pacific Avenue
Suite B6

This is a very important address because what is housed here is quite possibly the sweetest dessert and also the sweetest owners one may ever have the pleasure of meeting. No joke.

The marquee outside reads Macaronage Macarons and I suggest that you check the clock, check their hours, and if they are open, jump into the car. Really, JUMP! HURRY! RUN! and enjoy the most delicate, dainty, sweet, and scrumptious taste of heaven that exists in a macaron.

When I heard of this place it was the "cookie" that enticed me for a visit. However, I later had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Grace, and talking with her has turned me from a visitor to a full-fledged Macaronage Macaron groupie.

Of course a superior product/service is a key element to a businesses success, but it is not the only key. When a product/service is sold by an owner that is honest, determined, ethical, and kind -- that is what will always bring me back time and time again. I am a people person. I want to buy from people I trust and like.

I can tell you that from just the few times I have talked with Grace and her husband, the owners of Macaronage Macarons, I can't help but smile and be inspired. They are GOOD people. They are a young, local, married couple that have worked hard, dreamed, studied, planned, and are succeeding at making their dreams become their reality. Love that. They have faith. SURE they get nervous when they take risks, but they don't let fear stop them. They JUST.KEEP.WALKING... and that determination and faith is paying off.

The conversations I have had with both of them (and their staff) have been an absolute delight. I walk away with a fully inspired heart and a desire to evaluate what I can do in my life to achieve my own goals. I also walk away with a very satisfied sweet tooth. Bonus!

I encourage you to stop in and treat yourself not only to the deliciousness of a macaron, but also to the joy of meeting Grace, the owner. You will not be disappointed. Tell her Mom sent you :)

If you want to read more about Macaronage Macarons there are several places to look!!!

JoAnn Kirby wrote a great article in The Record!
They are featured on the Visit Stockton website!
Podcast Stockton talked about them in Episode 84!
Tiger Studios did an amazing video commercial of Macaronage Macarons!
Macaronage Macarons is all over social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

If you want to know how a three year old enjoys a macaron, keep scrolling.  And THEN check your clock and see if you can still make it to the shop to try a macaron TODAY! They are open Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 7pm and on Sundays from 11am to 6pm.


More Examples of awesome local businesses with pretty spectacular owners:
  • Mile Wine Company (Cynthia and Paul are really, really cool, and smart, and good and smart and they work!)
  • Whirlow's Tossed and Grilled (Lisa and Mike are giving, fun, honest, upfront, and kind. Did I mention kind and giving?)
  • Home Thyme (Lynn is kind, determined, down to earth, and listens to her customers, and brings you what you want out of a kitchen (and so much more) store.
  • Theadora (Erica is passionate about what she does and she is uplifting; a real go-getter,, trend-setter!)
  • Bellissima Boutique (Mary, go talk to Mary! She is a huge supporter of other businesses and shopping local)
  • Unique Visions Dance Studio (Chelsea!! This girl, this woman, just WOW! She's making her and others dreams come true and she's a YES girl! Instead of saying no, she finds a way to say yes! LOVE THAT!
  • Combine Fitness (Lurysol CARES about your health. She walks the walk and invests in you! And she's a giver! This girl supports anything that brings goodness to our community!)

There are so many more... I'm gonna go meet them, and share them! And you should, too! Who is your favorite business owner 'round town?

If you walk into a business, don't be shy, ask if the owner is there, chat with them,
know who you are doing business with, be inspired by their stories!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15, 2014 | April 15, 2013

This morning I was up at 12:17am. I was up because there was a red moon taking place and Sarah wanted to see it. I try to do what Sarah wants, when I can. And this seemed doable. It would be a good thing.

This morning I was up at 12:17am. I couldn't stop thinking about a year ago at this time. I was sleeping sound just 7 miles away from my best friend who was freshly home from a night with her family, celebrating her granddaughters birthday.

At 12:23am I was whispering to Sarah to wake up and come outside so she could see the Tetrad moon phenomenon.

At 12:23am I imagine Gina was headed up her stairs to go to sleep and have sweet dreams about a very fun day. Probably lingering a bit on the memory of Avi cuddling her just hours before.

At 12:37am Sarah was cold, shaking, excited, and on the front porch staring at the moon. GIDDY! PURE GIDDY about seeing something so special and "JUST WAIT TILL I TELL MR. KAHNY" was all she could say for the first little bit of time.

At 12:37am I was thinking about Gina. She had no idea, NONE OF US HAD ANY IDEA that she had a brain aneurysm that would rupture. It happened in an instant. Everything changed in an instant one year ago on this day, April 15th.

Sarah and I came in and out of the house to warm up and to let the moon do it's thing without our peering eyes. At first Sarah was content watching the event on the porch huddled next to me. But it wasn't long before she started gathering all the cameras to see if she could get a good shot of the spectacular-ness she was seeing. She grabbed her Dad's iPhone, her Hello Kitty camcorder, the point and shoot her sister gave her, my iPhone... she couldn't get any of them to really see more than a black sky. Eventually she said, "Mom, can we use the BIG camera" which is what she calls my Moomp Photography camera. Why not.

We both clicked pictures, she directed me on where to aim, how to keep the camera stable, etc. etc.

I enjoyed the moment, and I also mourned the moment that took place a year ago. My tummy was in knots jumping from emotion to emotion.

Sarah and I came back in the house, reviewed our work, printed a copy of the fuzzy red moon for her class and eventually made it back to bed.  She climbed in her bunk and stayed there for about 11 minutes. But then she came into my room and asked to crawl in with Dad and I. I said yes. I wanted to hold her tight. I needed to hold her tight. I wanted to hold everyone I know and love tight. 

I miss Gina beyond words. She was so important to me and was my constant for nearly 20 years! She was my wing-woman, my therapist, my sister, my mom, my best friend, my comic relief, my personal chef, my music and sewing mentor, Gina was the angel on my shoulder. I have to believe that Gina IS STILL THE ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER. 

While I hold Sarah tight, I prepare myself for the rough day ahead. This is that year marker. When you lose someone, that year marker is tough. You try to ignore it, try to downplay any significance, but it is impossible.

With each tick of the clock, you remember what was happening a year ago at this time. It is inescapable, sad, painful, and turns your tummy into a butterfly mess of nothing good.

It is now 7:52am and at this time a year ago I was on my way to Sacramento's UC Davis where I would say goodbye to Gina. She was already gone, but I had to see her. I had to see what I had been told and I had to hold her. I had to be there for her like she was for me for our entire friendship.

I cherish that I got to whisper to her that I love her, that I got to stroke her cheek, feel her soft brown skin, look at her pretty nails and tell her that I love her and will love her forever. I cried a year ago and I have great certainty there will be tears throughout my day today.  In the quiet moments when nobody's eyes are peering on me, when I allow myself to take that full breath in and I exhale all the way - I will cry. But I am going to hold that off for as long as I can, because I think when I do let it all out... it's gonna be a years worth of tears.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Micheal's He{art} Piece

Last night the family and I opted to eat out instead of staying in for dinner. WHERE we would eat was a mystery, but we piled in the car anyway and thought we could quickly figure the place out as we drove along.  WRONG!

Three people tossed out what would eventually be EVERY SINGLE EATING JOINT in Stockton, but we couldn't agree on one place. The more we talked, the hungrier we got, the grumpier we became and the next thing we know we were on Pershing. 

Fine. Outback. We will eat at Outback! DONE! It has been YEARS since we have been there and steak sounded good. So out of the car and into the restaurant we went. I was hungry enough that I debated eating the hostesses podium. Thankfully, I made it to our table and the side salad.

We sat quiet at first, all of us a little traumatized by the nearly HOUR LONG meandering through town on the quest for our dining locale. Eventually we came back to life as the calories we consumed started taking affect and dinner out turned into a fun time. I colored, Elijah danced, Sarah discussed, Kim observed and we ALL talked.

We talked until Elijah showed signs of tired, then we packed up all the yumminess we couldn't finish, paid, and headed out the door.

That's when I saw a man siting on the bench outside. He startled me.

It was late, he was alone, and I didn't expect to see him there. 

As I walked near I saw he had items laid out on the bench next to him and earphones on his ears. His head was down and he let us be. 

The thing is, we couldn't let him be.

I slowed my walk so I could look at the papers near him. They were brightly colored artwork of flowers, cherries, lions... and more. They were bold, strong, colorful, and eye catching.

At that point the man looked up and in a quietly strong voice said, "These are my art pieces and I am selling the smaller ones (8x10) for $5 and the larger (12x18) for $10. Tonight I could sell the smaller ones for $4."

I wanted one.

Can't tell you why, I just wanted one of his pieces of art. I wanted one, NOW! I asked Sarah which art piece she liked and she picked the same yellow lotus flower I was drawn to.


I reached in my wallet, gave the man a $20 as Sarah picked up the piece. Before the man could reach for change (not so sure he had any?) we thanked him and I put my wallet away. 

He was GRATEFUL! I could see it in his eyes, I felt it in his handshake, I heard it in his voice. 

My husband shook the man's hand, too, and as he did, Mr. Mom About The Town said, "God Bless."

The man said, "HE HAS and he DOES!!! Thank you!!!"

THERE ARE NO WORDS TO TELL YOU HOW MUCH I KNEW I HAD JUST BEEN BLESSED! I knew it. I knew it from head to toe that this was the right thing to do. 

Sure, it was good for that man, that artist. AND. It was good for me and my family, too.

On the way to our car Sarah talked about loving the painting, but loved more helping that man. I quietly agreed.

All the way home  I kept thinking how impressed I was with the man. He wasn't begging, he was selling his artwork. He wasn't obtrusive. Only if we stopped and engaged him did he engage with us. Excellent salesman! I have encountered some salespeople that could afford a few lessons from this man! 

A part of me wanted to go back with two cups of coffee to go talk to the man. I was that drawn to him.

So, let me share with my fellow Stocktonians... if you are headed out to eat... and if Outback is where you choose to go... maybe you can watch for him. If he is there, I urge you to take a look at his art... I urge you to take a look at his HE{ART} and maybe you will see something that I saw and maybe you would be willing to buy a signed piece of his work.  

My husband has ALWAYS said, when something is right and true it will ring in you like a bell. This man... he set off all my RIGHT and TRUE bells. I hope I get to see him again. If I do, I will tell him that I still enjoy his art in my home and that it makes me smile. That he makes me smile.

His name is Michael. 

P.S. If you find him, if you end up with one of his he{art} pieces, will you share it here or on Facebook? TAG ME! I want to see :)

P.S.S. Wouldn't it be cool if we asked for more of his he{art} and had it put on display at Mile Wine Company or someplace locally? How cool would that be? I can't stop thinking about all the right things we could all do. :) :)