Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas is going up!

Christmas is nearly here! 

The Christmas tree went up the week before Thanksgiving this year, though the ornaments were not put on until the day before Thanksgiving.  Put some Christmas lights out on the bushes in the front yard, wreath up, stockings hung by the chimney with reckless abandon, ornaments "tossed" into bowls and hurricane lamps, and poinsettias painted and put out.

Painted?  Yes.  Did you know you can paint poinsettias, even most all flowers?  Apparently they have special floral spray paint and spray glitter just for such sparkly occasions.  Why weren't WE privy to this useful info?  So today I hit up the fabulous nursery up the road from the house and picked out two perfectly sized white poinsettias, and had them lightly sprayed with blue and iridescent glitter.  They look great!  I promise - pics of all my Christmas will be posted soon.  First I'd like to get our garland hung up on the stair rails.  Hoping to do that tomorrow!

Presents are about 50% purchased and wrapped in coordinating papers, though my youngest still presents a problem.  So hard to buy for her these days!

Hope your Christmas decorating is going well!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I'm still alive! I think...

Things have been non-stop here lately, and I've not had the time to even think about the blog!

We got my fabulous husband off on the official deployment, followed by a wonderful visit with family that came for a few days on their way to a trip of a lifetime.  They spent a few weeks driving up the East coast hitting all the beautiful spots they could on the way.  Can you tell I'm envious?

So, hubby off, family in, then... cue the music - dum, da-dum dum, DUM!  Gator Clubs.  No, I'm not a Florida fan.  I do like alligators.  I have a weird thing about alligators, in fact.  They intrigue me.  But no, Gator Clubs is an after school program at my daughter's elementary school.  Somehow, by fluke, misunderstanding, or dastardly deed, I was one of two put in charge of organizing the entire thing.  This means that a fellow volunteer and myself came up with a new record of 14 clubs, consisting of 308 elementary kids.  I've literally been working on Gator Club stuff for the last month, from around 8 a.m. to sometimes 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning.  It's been non-stop, but the kids are all excited by the clubs and having a ball, so it's worth every second.  Or so I keep telling myself.

Hubs had a port call over the weekend, and we got to reconnect via Skype.  It was great to see and talk with him!  He's doing well, but misses the food served on the Roosevelt on his last cruise.  Is it sad that he doesn't miss MY cooking, but that of some random cook from 7 years ago?

Meanwhile, I'm off.  Time to go print out new rosters in preparation for Thursday's clubs.  Oh joy! :-)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back again, hubby leaving - again?

The last month or so has been unbelievably busy!

As you may remember, my fabulous husband left back in mid-July for an 8 month deployment.  Since we were missing him, we packed up the SUV (1 driver + 2 kids + 1 rottweiler + 22 hour drive = this trip isn't happening again for a LONG time!) and headed back to our home town in Oklahoma for a couple of weeks.  Enjoyed some much needed time with family before finding out that deployment would be delayed, and the guys were coming back.  ????  Yup - fabulous husband came back during the 2nd week of August.  :-) 

Since then, we've been busting our humps trying to get dozens of projects finished before the new deployment date, which is later this week.  So far we've cleared out even more of the trees from the backyard, creating an honest-to-God YARD!  Moved a shed, destroyed a moldy tree house, cleaned out the gutters, powerwashed the house, worked on the kitchen island, small repairs and fixes around the house, finished and started several new projects for the squadron, dealt with canceling DIRECTV (can anyone say "fiasco"?), installing Dish Network, back-to-school shopping, and finally (this morning) school! 

We also managed to squeeze in a whirlwind trip to Orlando to visit the Harry Potter park (my family of 4, plus a spare teen and my mother).  My oldest daughter is obsessed with Harry Potter, as was the friend she took with her.  Let's put it this way, between the two they took over 400 pictures of Hogsmeade.  They started off with a impromptu tour by 2 lovely "British" characters, which culminated with both kids hoping up and down like Denis the Menace on speed on a super-charged pogo stick.  Most fun to watch were the teary eyes, massive smiles, awestruck faces, and at least one instance of one teen burying her head into the other's shoulder crying "it's just too much to comprehend!!!!".  Pics to follow, if I can figure out how to upload them from the new camera...

So now we're on the countdown again for cruise - this time thankfully only a 6 month deployment.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tackling deployment...

Fab husband headed out last week on deployment, and we're still getting used to the idea of him being gone for SO long.  But we're all coping well, and having some fun to keep from dwelling on the fact that we already miss him like crazy!

Since my last post, we've been busy!  Shon was determined to get a few household projects going before he left (I think he likes leaving in chaos), as well as projects for the squadron's ready room on the carrier.  During the 2 weeks before he left, he built a kitchen island (doors and drawers will be added later, and I'll be painting it to match our white cabinets soon), we finally removed / sanded / stained all the banisters to match the wood flooring we installed last year, he welded together a bunch of metal into a massive 12' desk for the ready room, and finished it off in gorgeous birch stained two-tone, and he finished up the big flooring project for the ready room.  Pics of all done for the boat will be coming soon, I hope, and pics of the house will be coming soon as well.  He also bought a car for our oldest daughter - more on that below.

Before he left, we also enjoyed a wonderful visit from my sister-in-law, 8 month old nephew, and mother-in-law.  It was so much fun having a baby in the house again!  He was so adorable, and we joke that we miss my nephew more than we miss my husband.  It was great fun to watch him zip around the house in his walker, dropping food as he went, dog following behind anxious for the little treats.  Love that little guy!

Since Shon has been gone, we've gone to see Despicable Me (I knew better going to a movie that particular day - I slept through almost the entire thing, but the kids loved it); rented 4 or 5 movies, swam in the pool, had adult friends over twice and kid friends daily, scrubbed the entire house clean, painted the porch rails, and practiced driving.

So now a little about the car.  Shon will miss our daughter's 16th birthday.  He's missed all but one of her birthdays in the last 10 years or so because of the military.  He's always felt terrible about it, but none could be avoided.  He really wanted to make it up to her in advance for missing such an important birthday, so he decided we'd buy her a car.  We'd originally talked about matching the money she saved, and then financing the rest on an inexpensive car.  Then emotion won out against plans and logic, and he bought her a 2007 VW beetle in Salsa Red.  I just love saying that: Salsa Red.  He went all out, too.  Car only has 23,000 miles on it, under warranty, sunroof, heated leather seats.  This car has serious zip. 

Shon surprised Ashlee with it the same day she passed her permit test.  Needless to say, she was stoked, and surprisingly terrified to drive it (though she had no problems driving my monstrous SUV).  So we've been practicing her driving VERY late at night when there are fewer cars on the road.  What can I say?  She's a teenager who stays up until 2 every morning, then wakes up at noon, and I don't sleep much when Shon is away.  Perfect match.  Our youngest rides in the backseat - awake at first, then asleep about halfway into our practices.  The driving last night was the best Ashlee's ever done.  She's getting good, and last night was the first time on "open road" where I wasn't convinced we were all going to crash.

Off for now.  Ashlee is finally up, so it's time to decide what to do for the day.  :-)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Counting down the days...

We finally got my fabulous husband back for a few weeks, but now we're counting down the days until he leaves on his actual deployment.  14 days.  We're all trying to keep positive and enjoy what family time we can with him. 

Unfortunately, he was put in charge of redesigning the squadron's ready room, so he's been busy with welding / building a new massive desk and final touches on his flooring project.  In case I've not mentioned that on here before, fabulous husband built his own CNC machine a few years back, and broke it out again to do a tile inset for the ready room.  It's the squadron's logo cut out of appropriately colored vinyl floor tiles (what the squadron had to use).  The entire thing measures 5' x 5', and has taken months so far.  Now he only has a week or so until the packout to finish up the finer details, piece it all together like a puzzle, and epoxy it all together into one big piece.

On a lighter note, yesterday was the 4th of July - our favorite holiday (aside from Christmas - I'm a Christmas fanatic) - and was the 19th anniversary of the night we met.  :-) 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Me casa su casa...

In case I've not mentioned it, I love to decorate.  Love.  It.  Seriously.  If I had unlimited funds, my house would be my own version of "da bomb".  As it is, we're on a single income, and we buy or fix up things in spurts and stages. 

Since we bought the house in October of '08 we've done a lot of work to fix it up.  Seriously.  And being cheap and being us, we did most everything ourselves (i.e., handy dandy husband).  So here is a list of what we've done:

* painted the shutters and doors
* replaced exterior light fixtures
* removed the gross old landscaping and replaced with new
* cleared out a TON of brush from the back/side yard (and had LOTS of poison ivy!)
* installed a split rail / black chain-length fence
* installed a new privacy fence across the front
* ripped out the old linoleum from the kitchen and replaced with travertine
* removed all the carpet and old wood flooring downstairs and replaced with exotic hardwood
* more travertine - in the guest bath this time
* painted the kitchen cabinets and added new hardware
* built a kitchen island
* installed counter tops and new sink and fixtures in the kitchen
* all new appliances
* added LED under/over cabinet lighting
* installed recessed lighting
* installed wood blinds on 14 windows
* installed 6 ceiling fans
* painted nearly every room
* new chandelier in dining room
* installed crown molding throughout the living room, kitchen, breakfast nook and foyer
* replaced the front porch rails
** had someone install gutters for us. 

Geesh, I'm tired just from the LIST!

Anyway, I finally found artwork for my living room, which I posted the other day.  Between getting that hung and some gorgeous silver candlesticks from Pottery Barn, I can officially call my living room DONE!

Here's a shot of it.  I totally had to black out the television screen.  I happened to snap my shot during a colon health commercial, and we so don't want a pic of that on the site now, do we?  As with all the pics here on Call Sign, you can click for a larger view!  :-)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Gone again... Final work-up before cruise.

So... fabulous husband left again last weekend for his final work-up before the big cruise, and life has been filled with kids parties, trips to the newly joined YMCA, and general yard work and house cleaning. 

I've gotten into the can't-sleep-at-night phase again.  On his one and only other deployment I did this - I get up at normal times in the mornings (such as for school mornings), but then lay in bed for hours wide awake.  Last night, er, this morning I didn't fall asleep until sometime after 4:30.  That's a.m. folks.  In good news, I did manage to complete about 90% of the sky in my nature puzzle.  Yeah, I'm weird and like puzzles.

I did work on the house some this week, and helped a friend out with painting her kitchen.  I even managed to find what I hope are the perfect pieces of artwork for above the couch.  Found them in the Exchange Home Decor catalog.  Page 3.  They look really nice both in the catalog and online, so we'll see how they look in real life soon.  Here's a sneak peek at the image, grabbed from online:

Also joined the local YMCA this past week.  I think some people have the wrong impression about the Y.  I grew up with the impression that it was more a place for underprivileged inner-city youth to hang out.  Turns out, many of the places are in excellent neighborhoods, and feature state-of-the-art facilities.  Ours is pretty incredible, complete with rock-climbing wall, giant pools with slides for the kids (and the kids at heart), and even digitized work-out equipment.  Yup, that's right - you enter your ID number into each machine, and it tells you on a digital display when you've completed the full range of motion, number of reps, and how much weight you're currently utilizing.  Even tells you what machine to do next.  I'm loving it, and really want to get some weight off before the end of this cruise, which happens to come around the same week as our 18th wedding anniversary.  Yes, I married young, but that's another post.  :-)

So I'm off for now.  I've got a squadron thing to go to this afternoon, and I need to get my fabulous lime squares made.  And try not to eat them.  This self control / willpower thing sucks!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Busy week!

I'd hoped to be able to write more on the blog this week, but it's been crazy around here.  Early this week, my youngest, Emily, fell and separated her shoulder.  Nothing too bad, but she'll be in a sling for a week or so more.  This also resulted in a 4 hour stint in the emergency room.  Yuck.

Other than that, there's been a bit of house cleaning, researching games and buying supplies for an after school club that I run called Gator Clubs.  I get 20 boys and girls for an hour after school each Thursday for a month.  Of course, now I've also been hit up to run the entire club system for the next school year.  Oh, joy.  I had said "we'll see", but apparently that translates to "YES!  Sign me UP!" in PTA speak.  Thus, an email was sent out to the entire staff and other Gator Club coordinators saying I was in.  Let me repeat: oh, joy.

I also spent several days watching a Lord of the Rings marathon with my kids.  Quite fun listening to my youngest correct Frodo with "Frito", and both kids arguing over who "gets" Legolas.  Silly kids.  They can have him, but Aragorn is MINE!

House stuff has been pretty minimal this week, other than just some cleaning.  Shon will be home this weekend for a few weeks, so I've been getting things ready for that.  :-)  Can't wait! 

Did decide to modify my list of things to do while he's away.  If it isn't something to help the house in some way, it'll be an activity with the kids (even so much as watching movies), or helping someone out.  I hate to sound all corny, but we're pretty fortunate in that we're all healthy, happy, have a great support system, pretty nice house and belongings, etc.  Even though we fall into the trap of wanting more-more-more all the time, like most people, we've got what we need to get by, and can make do with what we've got whenever possible.  That's my philosophy, though isn't necessarily 100% shared by my husband.  LOL  Don't worry, I'm working on that!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

You've Made Your Bed, Now Lie in it...

The flower beds are DONE!  Well, with all I can do anyway.  The edgers still need cut/chiseled to fit properly, but otherwise, done!

Here's the final cost breakdown and pics:  Flowers - $97.  Weed barrier and staples - $22.  Mulch - $65.  Edgers - $65.  Existing shrubs, backbreaking labor, and random time over 9 days and nights - $0.  Grand total of $250.

(Excuse the fact that we have to weedeat the yard!)

Today's goal is simple - find the Round-Up and kill the weeds growing through the sidewalk joints.  Overall goal is to beef up curb appeal by (hopefully) replacing the rails with those snazzy white PVC rails (or at least replacing the rotted cap on the right-side post and repainting), a garden sign with the house numbers, and a coat of paint around the front door surround and garage doors.

Not too bad considering how we started out with 7 shrubs (down to 5), and nothing but weeds all the way up to the house, huh?  Even got bird feed in the feeder!  :-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pimpin' the beds...

We bought our house back in October 2008, and have since done quite a bit of work on it.  The house had sat empty for nearly three years, and the shrubs in the front flower beds were taller than Shaq.  Until recently, all I'd really ever done was trim them back, plant a few flowers around the beds, and ignore them until they needed weeded.  Then I'd just mow down weeds and flowers alike.  Who had time to weed?

Finally, though, last week started my one-woman one-handed adventure into the art of gardening.  First off, we had 7 bushes that needed removed and/or moved.  I left 2 in one bed as they were, moved 3, and sat the others aside for anyone who wants them.  I also pruned and shaped them to look (ideally) like giant balls.  Get your head out of the gutter.  I dug out all the weeds.  Actually, the lawn had previously won the war and completely reclaimed my flower beds, so it was basically like starting flower beds from scratch.  I put down the black weed barrier, which, incidentally happened over the two windiest days in recent history.  Then I planted flowers (midnight gardening), mulched, and today I hauled home 48 edging stones, only to find that their height shielded the flowers from view from the street.  So, I dug out the edges of one bed so the edging stones look appropriate in height.  So far, so good.  Tomorrow I'll do the other side.  Wish me luck. 

Here are a couple of pics of my in-progress beds.  Some of the stones on the ends aren't chiseled down to fit properly yet.  That's a job for a two-hander, and he'll be home from the current work-up soon.  :-)

(This is to the left of our front door.  More mulching to follow!)

(Flower bed to the right of the front door)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil...

(New bird feeder, courtesy of the Yankee Candle flagship store in Williamsburg)

Yesterday consisted of an outing with a friend up to Williamsburg, Virginia, about an hour drive up north.  If you've never been to Williamsburg, I must recommend it.  It's absolutely beautiful there - everything is so good and green and alive and happy.  Think of the Hulk, but skipping and picking flowers.  That kind of good. 

So we went to the Yankee Candle flagship store and the outlet mall, and enjoyed an awesome lunch at Cracker Barrel (really, is there EVER anything better than hot roast beef and mashed potatoes and gravy?).  Our day trip lasted longer than we expected, so I didn't have time to get back and pick up any mulch for my flower beds.  So I'll be doing that today - providing the Sears guys gets here soon to replace a part on the fridge. 

I felt so bad that I didn't have a chance to do my one-a-day on the house that I did something eccentric.  Or crazy.  Your call.  I was locking up for the night when I stepped out on the porch and realized the weather was incredible.  Beautiful night, comfy, no mosquitoes.  I thought, surely I could just hang up my new bird feeder and feel like I'd accomplished something.  Well, I did hang it up.  But the night was so awesome that it rejuvenated me, and I sat down to plant one of my flowers.  Before I knew it, I'd planted all 17 plants, and it was 3:30.  Since my beds are still lacking mulch, above is at least a shot of my sweet new bird feeder until my beds are in photogenic shape.  By the way, the birdseed is at the store with the mulch.  Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So I have this (unrealistic) goal...

With Shon gone and the girls and I trying to fill out our days, I vowed to myself that each and every day I would accomplish something "for the greater good" of our household.  So far I've done well.  Doesn't have to be a big thing, just something that needed done.  Let's see, thus far I've screwed in the teeny-tiny screw that keeps our toilet paper holder from crashing down thunderously onto the tile floor, thus giving certain someones a need for a re-wipe.  Not naming names.  It was no small feat, considering how I've got a partial cast on my smart hand, which immobilizes my thumb.  Yes, that's right.  I'm lacking the opposable thumb trait at the moment.  Keep the jokes to a minimum.  ;-)  I've also managed to work on the flower beds each day for a week, and even re-worked the file tabs in the office cabinet.  Haven't gotten to the actual filing yet, but that's another day.

So my goal is to finish out today with some bags of mulch for the flower beds, then I can plant the pretty coral colored begonias and white coras, thus finishing out the hottest (it hit 97 earlier this week!) project on the list.  Next project?  Cutting the quarter round to finish out the guest bathroom.  I can rock a miter saw.  Shoot - no thumb would make hammering the quarter round on difficult.  Hm.  At least it'll get cut, right?  A half-check off my list.  Unfortunately, I might have to hire out the filing.

So now I'm off - taking a friend up to Williamsburg today for some outlet mall shopping and Yankee Candle flagship store looking (it snows inside there - very fun - and it's Christmas year-round!).

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Heartbreaker...

(Ashlee before 8th grade formal)

Loads better than the awesome Taio Cruz and Ludacris, this is my favorite heartbreaker.  Let me introduce you to Ashlee, 15 year old, 9th grader.  Near future terror of the highways.

Ashlee is the trooper of the family, as she has now been to...  let me count...  7 different schools, plus 2 "bump up" schools (example: moving from junior high to high school).  Thanks to the internet and an unlimited text message plan, Super Trooper has managed to keep in touch with tons of her friends from many locations we've lived.  She's a great friend with a big heart.  Ashlee is also one of my best friends, and I can't wait to see the woman she'll grow to be. 

And, as with our oddball, here are a few pictures of Ashlee for your viewing pleasure.  :)

(Ashlee dressed up as Abby from NCIS for a school event)

(Catching snowflakes)

(Acting goofy for a picture to send to her daddy on his first deployment)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The baby of the family...

(Family trip to Yosemite)

This is my youngest, the baby of the family, and the oddball of the bunch.  We say that with love.  Really. 

Emily is 10 years old, and an incredibly smart fourth grader.  She herself claims to be the oddball of our family.  Why, you ask?  Emily is the only member of our family of 4 (besides the dog, who was born in Mississippi), who was not born in Oklahoma.  In fact (cover your ears, fellow Okies), she was born while we were stationed in Texas.  For those of you not Okie born and bred, you should know that no self-respecting Okie uses the word "Texas" in civilized converstaion.  Unless, that is, it's used in conjunction with:  "Longhorns suck".  We can't help it.  It's a rivalry thing, and as such is acceptable. The other oddities about my lovely little blonde haired, dimpled child is that itself - the blonde part.  She is also the only person in our family that does NOT like Pepsi.  Who doesn't like Pepsi?  Even the dog likes Pepsi. 

That being said, we love her anyway.  In spite of her self-proclaimed oddities.  Here are a couple more pictures, for your viewing pleasure.

(Halloween a couple years back)

(Long Beach, CA)

(My favorite Emily picture of all time - Emily in a mud puddle)
Not bad for a Texan, huh?  ;-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An introduction...

First off, if anyone is actually reading this, thank you, and welcome to the blog!  And I'm so sorry - you must be REALLY bored to have wondered over this way.  ;-)

If you've read my profile over there on the right of the page, you'll know that our family is preparing to go through deployment.  We've been incredibly lucky on this front, as my husband has only been on one previous deployment in his storied 17 years of military life, which spans the Air Force, Air National Guard, and finally the Navy.  The military has been good to us. 

But, now we're back to doing the whole cruise thing.  To those who aren't familiar with a Navy deployment, let me give you some input: 
  1. First and foremost:  it is not a ship.  It is a boat.  If you ever call a carrier a ship, any Navy member within earshot will correct you.  I think they have the military equivalent of a police scanner running in the back of their minds at any given moment, and hone in at certain keywords, such as military, politics, cheese fries, and ship. 
  2. While commonly known as deployment to non-mils, it is mostly referred to as a cruise to those of us immersed in this life.
  3. Work-ups start months before an actual deployment.  This is often the most difficult part for some families, as the military guys and dolls leave for weeks at a time each month leading up to the cruise.  This is broken up by a few weeks at home between each trip out, and each of those few weeks is typically filled with lots of extra hard work and longer than usual hours.  The frequent goodbyes, disruption of schedules - it's like if you're scared of going to the dentist - the escalating fear of going is usually worse than the actual appointment.
So, since I personally am not in the military, nor are our two kids, and since fab husband isn't just a mil-guy, let me give you some input on us. 
  1. Fab husband and I have two daughters: Emily, 10 and Ashlee, 15.  These two beautiful girls are the meaning of my existence.  They are kind, caring, and strong military kids.  I won't go into much detail on them in this post, but will instead have a post dedicated to just my two girls.  They at least deserve their own post, right?  :-)
  2. Fab husband is indeed fab.  We've been together since I was 15.  15!  He didn't always have the easiest life, but it made him into the amazing, dedicated, strong man he is today.  He is the love of my life, and my heart still stutters every time he walks into the room.  He'll be getting his own post on here soon, as well, but for now let's just give a little tidbit of info on him:  he can do anything.  You could likely set him in front of the space shuttle and say "it isn't working", and he'd come back with "did you dingle with the doo-hickey?" (though not in such girly terms. usually) and then proceed to fix it.  Really, his only downfall is a seemingly insatiable appetite for beanie weenies and scrambled eggs.  Yeah, I just threw up a little in my mouth at that one too.
  3. We have a dog that you will likely see mentioned here often.  Jasmine is a rottweiler who thinks she is a lap dog.  She's a big, cuddly, bear of a dog with a penchant for barking (loudly and terrifyingly) at anyone who happens to walk past the house, and harbors a secret desire to trip me down the stairs every morning when she suns herself on the fifth step down, thus forcing me to try to step over her.  What the heck - a post dedicated to her, too?  Why not.  ;-)
  4. We are originally from a little town in northeast Oklahoma called Sand Springs.  I lived there the entire time I was growing up, but my fab husband Shon also lived in other areas of our great state.  Really, it's awesome there.  Very beautiful, people are friendly and down-to-earth, and we have the OSU Cowboys, Eskimo Joes, and Stoops and the Sooners.  Just avoid Oklahoma during specific time frames, such as allergy season.  And tornado season.  Oh, and let's not forget our winters, which are well known for massive ice storms.  This pretty much leaves you free to enjoy Oklahoma the first week in September.  I'm just kidding - we love Oklahoma and will always consider it our home.
  5. We currently live in the Virginia Beach area, and love it here!  This is only the second home we've owned (the first since I became interested in decorating), and we've done a lot to fix it up and make it into our own vision.  I love to talk about the house, projects we've done or are planning, share photos, etc., so don't be surprised if it becomes a big part of this blog.
The reason I started this little blog (with a not-so-little first post) is for a variety of reasons.  First off, I love to talk.  Chatty Cathy here.  With no other adults in the house for fab husband's time out to sea, I hope that this will give my Facebook friends a reprieve.  I'm a stay-at-home mom to two girls who are in school all day, so I've got a lot of free time to fill.  I'm a creative person who enjoys creative outlets, and I love writing - two birds and one stone and all of that.  Biggest bonus is this:  when I've got something that keeps me happy, I'm a better mom to my kids.  I can give more of myself to them.  And lets face it - with their dad being gone for so long, they'll need me at my best.  That's what it all boils down to.

It's all for them.