Friday, March 31, 2017

ACM's are this Weekend and How Many Times Can I Use the Word "Amazing?"

The ACM's are this weekend.  I looooooorve me some country music so I thought I would do a little post on my predictions for winners.  And by predictions I totally mean who I would pick.

Single Record of the Year
Miranda Lambert - Vice
Tim McGraw - Humble and Kind
Maren Morris - My Church
Florida Georgia Line - H.O.L.Y.
Keith Urban - Blue Ain't Your Color

My Pick: My Church
 
I also really love Vice and I think Blue will take the award but this song is amazing.  I've been fangirling Maren Morris for over a year now and, well, that's not stopping anytime soon.  She's amazing!  Honestly, though, I'll be cool with any of the songs winning.  Unless it's H.O.L.Y.  Please, Jesus, don't let that happen.
 
Vocal Event of the Year
P!nk and Kenny Chesney - Setting the World on Fire
Pretty Much Every Country Singer Ever - Forever Country
Cassadee Pope and Chris Young - Think of You
Elle King and Dierks Bentley - Different for Girls
Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line - May We All
 
My Pick: Setting the World on Fire
 
How hard was this one?!?  I honestly love ever single one of these songs.  I have a feeling Forever Country (which I do adore!) will take it.  But I love me some P!nk and her voice in this song is perfection.  I love how well she and Kenny blend together.  Also?  My second pick would be May We All.  I love the words of that song!
 
Vocal Duo of the Year
Florida Georgia Line
Dan + Shay
Big & Rich
Maddie & Tae
Brothers Osborne
 
My Pick: Brothers Osborne

 
If Dan + Shay (or Maddie & Tae or, hell, even Big & Rich) win this category, I will set the world on fire.  Brothers Osborne are SO freaking talented, they so deserve this award, and even though they don't have the big star power of FGL, I can see them taking it . . .
 
Male Vocalist of the Year
Jason Aldean
Dierks Bentley
Keith Urban
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton
 
My Pick: Chris Stapleton
 
 
I wouldn't be mad if Thomas Rhett took this one home: that guy has literally been ALL OVER the country air waves for the past year (and Die a Happy Man gives me all the feels.)  I have to go with Chris Stapleton, though, as his album is one of the most amazing things ever produced.  Also, we all know that Eric Church will always and forever be male vocalist of EVERY GOTDAMN YEAR and it's an injustice - INJUSTICE, I TELL YOU! - that he wasn't even nominated.
 
Album of the Year
Florida Georgia Line - Dig Your Roots
Maren Morris - Hero
Dierks Bentley - Black
Miranda Lambert - The Weight of These Wings
Keith Urban - Ripcord
 
My Pick: Maren Morris - Hero
 
I love all of these albums, I truly do, but I had to go with my girlcrush, Maren.  I kind of see Keith Urban taking this one.  We'll see.
 
Song of the Year
Miranda Lambert - Vice
Chris Stapleton - Tennessee Whiskey
Eric Church - Kill a Word
Tim McGraw - Humble and Kind
Thomas Rhett - Die a Happy Man
 
My Pick: (It's a tie!) Tennessee Whiskey and Vice

 
Yes, yes, pick your jaws up off the ground.  I didn't pick Eric Church!  I literally cannot pick between these two songs; they're both amazing. 
 
Female Vocalist of the Year
Carrie Underwood
Kacey Musgraves
Maren Morris
Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
 
My Pick: Kelsea Ballerini
 
Yeah, yeah, jaws off ground again, it's not Maren Morris.  Carrie Underwood will probably take this one but Kelsea Ballerini . . . her voice is amazing, she was everywhere this year, and Peter Pan is an amazing song. 
 
Vocal Group of the Year
Lady Antebellum
Rascal Flats
Old Dominion
Little Big Town
Eli Young Band
 
My Pick: Old Dominion
 
Such a freakin' no brainer!!  Meat and Candy is one of the only albums EVER that I have not had to skip over at least one song.  It's so good.  Old Dominion is so good.  Song for Another Time is pure genius.  I'm sure the award will go to a more established group but OD DESERVES it.
 
Entertainer of the Year
Florida Georgia Line
Carrie Underwood
Jason Aldean
Luke Bryan
Keith Urban
 
My Pick: Keith Urban
 
Ummmm.  Who the EFF picked these nominees?  How flipping underwhelming.  Where are Eric Church, Maren Morris, Dierks, Chris Stapleton?  I almost picked Jason Aldean because I LOVE his newest song but Keith gets it for Blue


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thursday Things

1) When we were in Chicago for Spring Break, we were discussing the show Trading Spaces with Ed and Beth (more specifically, that weird episode where Hildi put hay on the walls.)  Tuesday, I saw this.  Yasssssss.

2) Tuesday morning.  Sitting in class.  Phone rang.  I knew as soon as I saw the display.  The school.  Of course, it was the lady from the clinic and OF COURSE she was once again calling me to tell me one of my children needed to be picked up (K2 on this particular day.)  Everyone went to school Wednesday morning.  Then the scenario repeated itself: sitting in class, school called, Girl Child was sick and needed to be picked up.

PEOPLE.  This has been going on since the end of January.  WHAT IS UP?!?  They take vitamins.  We eat a lot of fruits and veggies.  They drink mostly water.  My house is clean.  WHY ARE THEY GETTING SICK ALL THE DAMN TIME?!?

3) Both boys started baseball practice his week.  And, so far . . . they don't love it.  Wahhhh!  J is more into it than K1 but they both want to constantly be doing something and . . . that's not baseball.  I hope they love it but it's also okay if they don't.  I knew they were both football kids when K1 asked, "so what quarter is it?"  Ha!




4) Speaking of sick kids and baseball . . . can I brag on my man for a minute here?  Tuesday was supposed to go like this: I would drop Girl Child off at her activity, take J to baseball, have the other two kids with me (their choice: they could either go play on the playground by the baseball fields or go to the Y with Mark.  They chose playground.)  Instead it went like this: "Hi, Is this Karis's mom?  This is Karen from the clinic at . . . ." and suddenly one of us needed to stay home.  J requested Mark take him to baseball practice.  "He knows what he's talking about with baseball and you don't."  (SIDE EYE) And Mark did just that.  He didn't have to go to practice with him.  But he did.  And he even ended up helping with the coaching (which I think was J's original intention anyway!)

5) We were all supposed to go to the Grizz game last night.  Mark's coworker and friend lives in the Chicago area most of the year but they keep a house on Mud Island as he's in Memphis several times a year for work.  They're Grizz season ticket holders and invited us to the game with them on Wednesday night.  Buuuuuut . . . both the Boy and Girl Child were sick.  K2 wanted to stay with Mama.  So only Mark, J, and K1 ended up making it to the game.  Sad Face! 

6) I saw an article on Facebook the other day -- an article I'm too lazy to chase down -- about how more of their animated classics are going to be turned into live action features.

No.

Stop.

We did not need live action Pete's Dragon or Beauty and the Beast and we definitely do not need them messing with the Lion King.  Stooooooop, Disney, just stop!

7) Things I never imagined I would be looking up: how to make fake poop.

My daughter is having a "prank party" for her birthday this weekend since we're holding the party on April Fool's Day. 

This should be interesting . . .

8) I still haven't watched the finale of This is Us.  I was in Chicago when it aired (and no way was I watching it in a hotel room with Mark + Kiddos to look at me in bewilderment while I cried!  Ha!) and . . . I don't know . . . I've just been putting it off.  I know what's going to happen and Jack, in looks, reminds me of my dad and pretty much every other dad in the 80's and 90's (the hair, the 'stache, the forehead wrinkles.)  I don't know that I want to watch it.

9) The ACM's are this weekend!  (Brandi says AMEN while Mark groans.) 

10) The most THIS thing that ever THIS'd.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Al's Italian Beef

There are a handful of things Mark has to eat whenever we're in Chicago and Italian beef is at the very top of that list.  When we were in the city over Spring Break, we tried Al's Italian Beef for the first time.  Believe me, this was a great decision!
 
We ate at the location on Wabash, as it was only a few blocks from our hotel.  It's a tiny little dive with only a counterperson and cook working.  There was not a whole lot of seating: we were a party of six that night (my friend Mo and her son joined us for dinner) and we ended up sitting along the high counter to eat.
 
I decided to go with a Maxwell Street Polish (mustard, grilled onion, and sport peppers) served with fries.  Oh my gosh, it was SO GOOD.  Literally smothered in mustard and is there anything in the world that doesn't taste better with grilled onions?  The fries were really amazing too!
 
 
Mark went with the Italian beef, which was also delicious (I totally had a bite!)  The Boy Child loved the chili fries he ordered and the girl also liked her hotdog (which had only ketchup and that meant Mark was at the counter going, "I know that's not how you do it!  It's for a kid, I promise!")
 
The best part is that the entire meal came out to just a little over $30.  Later that night, we met some of Mark's coworkers back at the hotel and they had managed to run up a $600 tab at a steak house -- so we were feeling pretty thrifty! 
 
Oh, and apparently Ditka approves of Al's:


Check this place out if you're in the Chicago area.  There are so many locations and it's such good food at great prices!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sweet Sixteen

We had a pretty good weekend.  But it should have been an AWESOME weekend.
 
Memphis hosted Butler, UNC, UCLA, and Kentucky in the Sweet 16 this weekend.  We really thought about going, we really did.  We even lined up a babysitter.  So enthusiastic was Anthony: "yeah, I'll keep them if you can't find anyone else."  Finally, we decided not to head to Sunday's Elite Eight game just because of the logistics of dropping kids off, going downtown, going out of our way to pick them up, etc, etc.  So we were basically lazy . . . and ended up missing out on seeing Kentucky getting their asses handed to them.  Ticket prices had dropped to $60 by tip off so we really, really should have been down on Beale for the game!  You live, you learn.
 
That said, we really did have a pretty good weekend.  Friday was Mark's mom's last full day with us.  Mark took the day off and we took her to lunch and then to do a little shopping.  She needed to get a couple of early birthday presents for a couple kids . . .
 
 
Baseballs for K1 . . . the boys are trying out a new sport this spring.  They got their gloves on Thursday and the softballs we have just were not cutting it (in their minds) for them to play catch.

 
And Cinderella (and a couple of Littlest Pet Shops) for K2.  She'll be seven - SEVEN! - in just a little over a week and has recently become obsessed with all the princesses again.  She watched Cinderella last week when she was sick and requested a Cinderella Barbie.
 
Saturday was supposed to be a crazy busy day.  Mark was driving his mom to southern Illinois to meet his brother and I had three kids who had to be in different places.  Baseball ended up cancelled, though, and my day became substantially easier.  We finally got around to working on the Flat Stanley for the kids' cousin.  We're hoping to take him downtown for pics later this week.
 
 
He has Elvis hair, a Grizz jersey, his pants say all kinds of things about the city of Memphis, and he's wearing . . . what else? . . . blue suede shoes!
 
Cady came over to help me with decorations for K2's birthday party but, instead, we ended up just sitting on the patio.  I picked up this Shiner knock off from Aldi for us and it actually wasn't too bad!
 

I woke up in a horrible mood Sunday morning.  You know how you have those times when you KNOW you're being a straight up bitch yet still can't rein it in?  Yeah, that was me.  We did some spring cleaning and then I got what I needed to chill: some sunshine!  We took the kids to the park for a bit.  The boys practiced baseball (J loves it, K1 says everything other than hitting is "boring)" while the girls played on the playground.

We got home in time to watch South Carolina beat Florida -- WOAH, what a game!!!  Go Gamecocks!

I decided to sit outside and read a little bit.  The kids joined me.  They are DYING to get in the pool.  It's funny . . . at the end of the summer I would practically force them to get in the pool and now they're itching to get in.  The water temperature is 65* . . . which means it's warmed up about 10 degrees from a month ago.  Here's hoping the longer days warm it up a little more . . . we're hoping K1 and I can both celebrate our birthdays in the pool.


They did eventually get in!

We had such a mild winter and spring came super early this year.  The pollen is insane.  J is already poppin' the Claritin.  My bushes in front of the house are gorgeous and we noticed this this weekend . . .

Roses!  I can't remember having roses so early in the year.  And I know there were no roses when we first looked at this house which was early April last year.  We have strawberries blooming already also.  Crazy-ness!

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Post About Pools

A couple weeks ago, Anthony was over and mentioned that he was seriously considering putting in a pool.  We both told him, "GO FOR IT!"  I've mentioned several times that Mark was the one who initially HAD to have a pool but, now that we've been in our house for nearly a year!, I can say that it's the best decision we've made.  Actually, I think we were in the house all of an hour before I realized what a great decision it was.  So if you're thinking about putting in a pool or buying a house with the pool then this post is for you!

Let me give you the perks of owning a pool:

1) It kept the kids occupied.  They were in the pool pretty much every day and while we obviously had fights and squabbles and "quit splashing me!" for the most part they got along better in the water.

By the end of the summer the girls were pretty much over it (whaaaa?  Who are these children?) but my boys are like me, waterbabies, and they stayed in the water longer.  In fact, it was warm enough that they were even able to swim in early November.

2) SOCIAL HOT SPOT!  This works for us because we're very social people but we pretty much had a bed and breakfast/ pub and pool thing going all summer long.  Now, we loved it but that's our personal preference.

3) Convenience.  During the summer of 2015, Russell and Kathy were super gracious to let us use their pool pretty much whenever we wanted.  So we swam practically every weekend and a lot of weekdays too.  But that meant packing bags of towels and toys, coolers, etc.  Now, we have it right in our backyard and so long as the kids, 'REMEMBER YOUR TOWEL!' then we're good.

4) Night swimming.  Ahhhh.  My favorite thing ever.  And being able to do so in my own backyard?  Bliss.

5) It's just awesome.  It's hot in Memphis - our summers can be brutal with high temperatures and humidity that makes you think you're in the bowels of hell - and being able to just go jump in the pool after a long day . . . awesome, relaxing, you name it. 

A few other things:

- This first summer it's been fairly inexpensive to maintain.  Only once all summer did we have a water bill (which also includes trash/ recycling in our town) over $100.  We put in two or three large bags of salt over the course of the summer.  Having a salt water pool makes it SO much cheaper and part of the reason Mark liked this one so much is that they already had a salt cell.  We also paid to have the pool cleaner fixed.  It was WAY less expensive to maintain than I thought it would be.

- We decided not to close the pool for the winter.  This was . . . I'm not sure how I feel about this decision.  On the one hand, it's been a mild winter so it didn't NEED to be closed.  We simply run the pool pump on nights when it's forecasted to drop below 32.  The con, though, is all the DAMN LEAVES!  You'd think there would be no leaves left to drop by mid-February, right?  Wrong.  I feel like we're constantly cleaning the pool out. 

- We're fortunate to live in a really warm area.  It's been such a mild winter and, if the trend continues, there's a good chance that we'll be in the pool in April and that K1 and I will be able to celebrate our May birthdays in the pool.  I guess what I'm saying is that a pool makes much more sense for us, in the area where we live, than if you live in a colder climate.

And there ya have it!  Honestly, I would tell anyone who is leaning toward owning a pool to GO FOR IT!  I'm over the leaves right now but keep reminding myself that come summer, it'll all be worth it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Foodie Friday: Meal Planning

Whew, what a week!  Mark's mom has been in town, we dealt with sick kids, we're trying to get back in the swing of things from our little break from reality, and all the spring activities started this week.  Next week we'll be even crazier -- for the next few weeks, the only day I won't be playing chauffer mom is on Sundays.  Here's a look at our week --

Sunday

Grilled T-Bones and Grilled Chicken

Mark was away from his grill - gasp! - for an entire week.  He was itching to fire it up again and did so Sunday evening.  He cooked A LOT of meat because my boys can throw down on some streak.  But J was already feeling bad and it was just one of those weird nights where we ended up with a ton of leftovers.

We served with baked potatoes, salad, and croissants. 

Monday

Smoked Brisket Sandwiches

Monday was supposed to be a crazy afternoon of running around -- didn't end up that way because of sick kids -- but when we planned our meal, it was around that crazy afternoon.  We had a brisket in the freezer from the last time we lit the smoker so we pulled that out for a quick and easy dinner.

We served on sandwiches with slaw and baked beans.

Tuesday

Grilled Chicken

We still had a couple kids on soup only at this point so the rest of us had the leftover chicken from Sunday night.  We also reheated the baked potatoes and served with the leftover beans and slaw from the previous night.

Wednesday

French Dips

Ahhhhh . . . hello there, lover!  My favorite sandwich.  I put a roast in the crockpot, rub it down with Lawry's, cover with beef broth, add in sliced onion and green pepper and let it cook allllll day long until it's nice and tender.  Love.

We served with salad.

Thursday

Shrimp Tacos

Another favorite around here and it had been a while since we made them.  Plus, the weather is warm and the days are longer and that just makes me want shrimp.  And a margarita.  Just sayin'.

We served with black beans.

Tonight the girls have tumbling so we won't be home until around 7:30 or so.  We have leftover brisket still so it'll probably end up being BBQ nachos for dinner.  Tomorrow is going to be crazy -- Mark is meeting his brother halfway to drop his mom off (so he has about eight hours round trip of driving ahead of him) and I have three different kids to get to activities.  Dinner may very well come from a drive-through.

P.S. Looing through this list and seeing "salad," "salad," "salad."  I'm so ready for seasonal veggies and prices to drop!

Happy Eating!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday Things

1) I am not exaggerating at all when I say that the school nurse called me at least once a week from the end of January up until the week before Spring Break.  My kids were sick on and off since then.  Fast forward to Monday and guess what?  J had a stomach bug and headache, K2 was running a fever so they both stayed home from school.  Then, by 9:45, I had a call from my BFF "Karen from the clinic" and K1 was also sick.  SERIOUSLY?!?  These kids had perfect attendance last school year!

2) I mentioned in yesterday's post that I had mall food court pizza on Friday.  I need to discuss this pizza because it was pretty amazing.  Here's the deal: I didn't want pizza.  I'd already had Aurelio's and Uno's.  I was kind of pizza'd out.  It's what the kids wanted, though, so I went with it.  I ordered THE BEST SLICE OF MALL PIZZA I'VE EVER HAD.  It was chicken, bacon, and caramelized onions and the sauce was Alfredo rather than Marinara.  SO GOOD.

3) While in Chicago, we stayed at the downtown Hyatt Regency.  We stayed there because, well, we had to.  It's where Mark's seminar was held.  Honestly, it was a pretty awesome downtown hotel.  With one exception: we had kids with us.  It was not really a kid-friendly hotel.  Meaning . . . no pool, luxury hotel so there was no continental breakfast, there was a mini-bar that was SOOOOOO tempting to the children.  You get the idea.  Overall, though, we enjoyed the hotel.  And especially the Big Bar on the second floor that provided amazing views of the city!

4) Tuesday was my . . . anniversary?  I mean, it was the anniversary of the day I got married but I'm no longer married to that dude.  So what do I even call that day?  I have no idea.  Anyway, earlier in the day I realized the date and thought, "oh man, I wish I could go back in time and tell that girl to RUN."

Later in the day, though, my K2 was home from school as she wasn't feeling well.  I walked into my bathroom to catch her with my lip gloss.  And I realized . . . I'm glad that girl didn't run.  Because, if so, I wouldn't have this girl and these moments.
 

5) I recently cancelled my Birchbox subscription.  Anyone else think it's kinda gone downhill?  I think I'm going to give Sephora Play a try.  I'm not a huge makeup person but I like the samples so I can try new things.  And, not gonna lie, I originally went with Birchbox so I could build an army of moisturizers without breaking the bank.  Anyway.  I received this eye shadow sampler in my latest box and I LOVE it!  I can't do a smoky eye but I love the colors and how well they stay on.
 

6) Mark and I went on the coolest "school night" date Tuesday night.  Russell's son is a music major at U of M and the music department performs at Newby's every third Tuesday night.  We decided to check it out to cheer Curtis on and it ended up being too.much.fun.  These kids were SO FREAKING TALENTED.  Oh my goodness, so talented.  We saw one group that was a "big band" sound -- guitars and drums but also trombones, trumpets, a sax, and a flute.  I can't get over how great they were. 

7) SWEET SIXTEEN this weekend!  IN MEMPHIS!  Unfortunately the tickets are priced at "go to the game" or "buy your daughter a birthday present" so we will not be able to make it to either of the games.  However, if we can secure a sitter, we will be making our way to Beale to mess with some Kentucky fans.  Welcome back to Memphis, John Calipari!

8) Speaking of the NCAA tournament, my bracket is pretty much completely busted.  Thanks a lot Vilanova and Duke.  I also picked Middle Tennessee to make it to the Sweet 16 and Wichita State to knock off Kentucky.  So, yeah, bus.ted.brack.et.  Arkansas almost busted it further but if my Razorbacks are good at anything it's snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

9) I feel like this has been the longest week everrrrrrrr.  My last final of the year is May 3rd and, not gonna lie, that's my "eyes on the prize" at the moment.  Let's just get to May 3!

10) Ummmm . . .

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Uno Pizzeria and Grill

Not gonna lie, my very favorite thing about visiting Chicago is THE FOOD.  Before I met Mark, that meant pizza.  Now my horizons have been broadened: Chicago dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, gyros, burritos.  Ahhhhh.  Chicago is an AMAZING city for a foodie! 

So, yeah, he's broaden my horizons when it comes to Chicago eats.  Yet today I'm talking . . . pizza!

Last Wednesday night, the kids and I went with their aunt and cousins to Pizzeria Uno.  Monica said she hadn't been there in ages but it's what everyone recommends when you have visitors in town.  "Go to Pizzeria Uno!"  And, I mean, I'm never one to say no to Chicago deep dish.  Let's give it a try.

The place was packed, even on a Wednesday night, but we only waited about five minutes for a table.  And, really, that's unfortunately the only good thing I can say about the whole experience.  We just weren't that impressed.


The kids each ordered a pasta while I went with the individual size of the numero uno deep dish.  It was described as "sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms, chunky tomato sauce, Mozzarella, and Romano."  Um, OKAY!  Yum! Yeah . . . about that . . . not so much.  The flavor was pretty good and there was a generous serving of each topping.  But the crust, no lie, tasted like a frozen pizza crust.  And not even, like, a DiGiorno crust either.  A cheap Kroger pizza crust.  I was disappointed.  I ended up eating about 1/3 of the toppings but only a bite or two of crust.  Monica ordered a thin crust for herself but had the same complaint: the crust ruined the whole pizza.  Honestly, the kids and I ate mall food court pizza on Friday and it was better than Uno's.

We also were not crazy about the service.  Our waiter . . . I'll stop short of calling him rude . . . but I will say he was very rushed and kind of brusque.  When I told Mark this he said, "you're not in Memphis, babe . . . "  I know that and I don't expect southern hospitality when I go north.  But I do expect just basic . . . niceness, you know?  Especially if you're in the service industry.  If you're rude, don't work with the general public.

That was our Pizzeria Uno experience and it's doubtful we'll be back.  I'll stick with Gino's East from now on!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Spring" Break Part Two

Friday was our last day actually in Chicago.  We gave a lot of thought to going to the Shedd Aquarium (I've never been!) but, in the end, something else won out . . .
 
 

I discovered the museum when looking through a magazine at our hotel and knew it was a MUST for the Boy Child.  The museum is small and part of Harry Caray's restaurant (so A LOT of Cubs memorabilia) but it was only $6 per person and too much fun.  We had a blast and the Boy called Friday the best day of his life.
 

We really loved seeing all the exhibits and memorabilia . . . this is Refrigerator Perry's Super Bowl XX ring. The boy didn't want many pictures the whole trip but on this day?  "Take a picture of this!"  "Get my picture with this!"
 

 
The most fun part for us, though, was the interactive area.  We hit baseballs, threw footballs at targets, and had a major trivia tournament (I won!)  Seriously, so much fun and absolutely perfect for a 12-year-old sports obsessed boy!
 
 

Walter Payton . . . Mark's favorite player and, by proxy, the boys all love him as well . . .
 

THE destroyed foul ball from the 2003 NLCS . . .
 

And a dedication to the Cubs 2016 World Series win (this is a VERY small part of what all was displayed!)


If you are a sports fan - particularly a Chicago sports fan - then this museum is an absolute must.  It's small enough that you can tour it in no time.  Unless, of course, you make the trip with a kid you can't pull out of the interactive area.  ;)  We are tentatively planning to head north for our summer vacation this year and I've already told Mark he needs to take all three boys to the museum if we do a day in the city.  And now the Boy Child has been bit with the Sports Museum bug and wants to plan a trip to Canton, Ohio.
 
After the museum, Mark scooped us up and we headed out of the city.  His brother and sister recently opened an arcade in a mall in the 'burbs and invited us to come and spend the afternoon and evening playing. 
 

Both Mark's brothers, their kids, and his mom were all there.  The kids had too much fun.  As did the big kids!  We were playing for free so pretty much everything became a competition to see who could dominate.  I beat all the kids at, well, everything.  We were there for several hours and everyone just had a blast.  It was the perfect way to end our trip.

We headed home Saturday morning - it was 39 degrees when we left.  We stopped in Effingham and it was 42 with bitterly cold winds.  By the time we crossed the Missouri border, it was 70 and then it was 75 when we got back into Memphis.  Ahhhh . . . much more like it for "spring" break!

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Spring" Break

Mark always forwards me any information about travel he has to do for work.  A few weeks ago, he sent me an email about a seminar he had going on in Chicago.  I realized it was being held during Spring Break and that it was Mark's year to have the Boychild.  He initially considered not attending the seminar as it would interfere with his time with his son.  But I thought, "hey, why don't we all go?"  It would just be four of us since J and the K's were with their dad.  We would be able to visit family and friends and the kids would get to see more of the city.  So that's exactly what we did.  We loaded up Tuesday morning and hit the road: Chicago bound!
 
So, of course, it snowed.  It was a little crazy because there was no snow on the ground in southern Illinois, very patchy in central IL, and then we passed the Kankakee River and HOLY SNOW, BATMAN.  So much!  It was also very, very cold.  So much for "spring" break! 
 
Wednesday was our first full day in the city.  Mark spent the day at his company's Chicago area plant and the kiddos and I sat off to explore the city.  First stop . . . Millennium Park! 
 
 
 

Keepin' it real: the kids were way more interested in the snow than the Bean!
 

Tuesday night, I was going through a magazine in the hotel and realized there was a Dylan's Candy Bar in Chicago.  Super close to our hotel too!  I went to the one in New York City and knew I had to take the kiddos to this one.  That was our next stop on Wednesday.


The kids shared this HUGE cake batter sundae while I nursed a candy-infused cocktail.  Neither the ice cream or the drink were a disappointment.  Good stuff!


After Dylan's, we decided to do some window shopping on the Mag Mile.  We made our way down Michigan Avenue to Water Tower Place.  Our main destination was the Lego store.



And I was psyched that they had a store dedicated to the art of Dr. Seuss.  I could have bought all the things but settled on just a Christmas ornament. 
 

That night, Mark had a meet-and-greet for his seminar so the kids and I went out to eat with their aunt and cousins.  We went to Uno Pizzeria (I'll do a post about food later) and the kids had so.much.fun. catching up with their cousins.  The girl hadn't seen them since Christmas, but it had been summer for the Boy Child!
 

The next day we planned one of my favorite things: a visit to the Sears Willis Tower.
 

The kids' Aunt Monica works on the 71st floor so she was able to get us visitor passes and we were able to check out the views of downtown Chicago.  FOR FREE!
 

I will never get tired of seeing downtown Chicago!



Ahhhhh.  Love it!  And, to think, I've paid good money for this view before!

We planned to hit up a museum Thursday afternoon but the kids were so tired of walking -- we had already hit 12,000 steps by 2:00 -- so we went back to the hotel.  Watched basketball, read a little, and just relaxed until dinner time.  And dinner?


We met my friend Mo and her son Kam at Al's Italian Beef.  MoMo is one of my favorite people on Earth and I'll forever be thankful that Mark is from the Chicago area.  Because that means I get to see my Mo several times a year!  It's always so good to catch up with her.

There are enough pictures in post so I'll continue tomorrow.  We did something pretty damn fun (for me and the Boy) on Friday!

Monday, March 13, 2017

March Madness

I'm on Spring Break! 

My (much needed) break officially started Thursday afternoon and it could not have come any sooner.  I am so ready for a break.

I kicked the break/ weekend off with lunch at Corky's with Kendra and Cady. We got all caught up on life and just had a really good time visiting. 

The girls started tumbling that evening so we headed for that when they got out of school.  I'm going to brag on my littlest lady for a minute here.  K2 gets it from her mama when it comes to coordination.  Meaning: there's not a whole lot of coordination.  She was so excited to go to "gymstastics" but I was a little worried how she would do.  The instructor asked the girls in her class who could do a cartwheel.  K2 raised her hand and then, when it was her turn to demonstrate, SHE DID IT!  I've never seen her turn a cartwheel before but she did it!  Then continued to do really well in her class.  She struggled with some things more than others but she got out there and tried and worked.  Very proud of her!


The kids are with their dad for spring break this week so he picked them up from tumbling.  Mark, the Girl Child, and I went out for Mexican at La Hacienda.  That night, I decided to do a mini-binge on Big Little Lies

I love it!  I'm only 2.5 episodes in (it was late and I fell asleep on episode three) but so far so good.  I really loved the book and the series seems to follow along well with the book.  I know some people didn't like that they moved the setting from Australia to California but I'm a fan.  I do think Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern are a little old for their parts but, meh, they work.  Adore Reese Witherspoon, she can do no wrong.

Saturday we had SEVEN kid-free hours.  Ahhhhhh.  We got the Girl Child squared away and headed to Doc's with Anthony.  Russell and Mike joined us there later.  We watched college basketball and drank too much. I think there were Fireball shots . . . it was just a really good time.
 
Jon and Cady came over Saturday evening.  It decided to get cold again for the weekend (like, it snowed a little Saturday night/ Sunday morning!) so we lit a fire then roasted hotdogs and marshmallows over the fire.  It was such a fun night! 


I slept in until 10:00 on Sunday!  Granted, we lost an hour but I pretty much never sleep that late.  It was so nice.  We spent the day cleaning, doing yard work, and watching Arkansas lose to Kentucky in the SEC tournament final. 

And that brings me to . . . MARCH MADNESS!  I don't care about college basketball the way I do football.  But, oh my, I do get into some March Madness.  I was very excited to see Arkansas get an 8 seed . . . and if they win their first game they'll play in Memphis for the second round.  Um, yes please! 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The $43 Lasagna

I'm not entirely unconvinced that the mission of my children's school is to separate me from my money.  It is constantly something.  $50 yearbooks, $36 field trips, this class picture, that class picture, donate for our Gym Jam!, we're raising money for St. Jude, can you sign up for this?  All that (and that's a very short list) multiplied by four kids.  Ahhhhh.

About a month ago, I got an email asking me to sign up to bring a meal for teacher appreciation week.  Okay, sure, no problem there.  I adore my kids' teachers and, let's face it, they put up with them five days a week.  They deserve more than just a meal.

Then I opened the email and realized that not only did they want me supply a meal but they wanted to tell me the exact recipe to use for the pie.  Like . . . really?  I have to use THIS exact recipe?  What're you trying to say is wrong with my grandma's chocolate pie, Lynn from the PTSA?!?  The only option other than the pie was lasagna which, frankly, is pretty not cheap to make.  I decided to put on my big girl panties and say no for once, to opt out.

Then, a few days later, another email.  They needed 120 dinners and only, like, 50 people had signed up to bring anything.  I decided it was for the good of the teachers and let the school, once again, come between me and my bank account.  I signed up to bring a lasagna.

It had to be brought to school by 2:30 on Wednesday which was going to be tricky enough on my schedule then I decided to do Taco Tuesday which meant my lasagna had to be made either Tuesday afternoon or Tuesday night when I was hopped up on margaritas and cheap tacos.  Tuesday afternoon won out and, since I'm a procrastinator, I went that very day after class to buy my supplies.

Did you know throw-away pans at Kroger are $3.99?  We can't have that. I won't pay it.  So I left them with their thow-away pan, spent $30 on supplies to make the damn lasagna, and headed to Dollar Tree.

Only . . .

I didn't have any cash.  I'd have to use my debit card.  I couldn't put just a dollar on my card so I also picked up some hair elastics, another brush for the girls to lose, a couple more miscellaneous things.  I spent $5.83 in order to avoid paying $3.99.  I'm so smart.  This brought the cost of my lasagna up to $35.

I procrastinated around about starting it.  Paid bills, started my taxes, made every bed in the house, that kind of thing.  I finally got around to it, pulled out all the supplies I just bought.  And realized I bought sour cream rather than Ricotta cheese.  SERIOUSLY?!?

Back to Kroger where my lasagna ended up costing $43 because Ricotta is $3 and the Rita's I needed to further get through the venture were two for $5. 

I spent $43 to make a lasagna.  That I won't even eat. 

$43.

And I just have visions of it going home with the 25-year-old single teacher who'll eat one slice, throw the rest in her fridge, and forget about it until she begins to smell something funky in the back of her refrigerator. 

Moral of the story: Don't give the PTSA your email address.

Thank me later.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Emily Giffin: The One and Only

I don't know why I read Emily Giffin books.  I go away from every single one of them thinking Giffin herself must not be a very good person.  It's not that she infuses infidelity in almost everything.  It's the added layer of betrayal.  We saw it in Something Borrowed.  It wasn't enough for Dex to cheat on his fiancĂ©e, he had to so with her best friend.   Giffin also does this thing where she makes the cheating or betrayal totes okay because the person cheated on or betrayed is a Certified Bad Human.  It's just . . . icky.

That said . . . on to The One and Only.

I picked this book up for two reasons: one, it was in the clearance bin and Barnes and Noble and I cannot resist that clearance bin, and two, college football is the running theme through the book.  HELLO!

The One and Only tells us the story of Shea Rigsby.  She was raised in Walker, Texas, a fictional town described between Dallas and Waco.  Walker lives and breathes by the Walker University football team, rival to non other than the University of Texas Longhorns.  Shea's best friend is Lucy, daughter to Walker's head football coach, and the girls were practically raised together.  Shea shares the town passion for all things football, attended Walker University, and works there as a thirty-something.  Her world is shook when Lucy's mother passes away. Shea suddenly realizes that the life she's living isn't enough for her and she wants more.

Okay, so, first let's talk the good.

I was hesitant about whether or not Giffin could pull off the real vibe of football in the south.  It's a straight up religion in these parts and I'm not sure people who don't live and breathe it every day really get it.  Giffin does a pretty damn good job of capturing that vibe.  As a college football fan, I'll absolutely give her props as far as that's concerned.

I didn't like or agree with all of Shea's choices but I kinda liked the character.  She's my kinda girl: loves football and dive bars. And when she's in those dive bars, she's drinking Blue Moon and PBR.  No chardonnay for this girl. 

Now, what I didn't care for so much.

For starters, Walker University is in Texas and their biggest rival is UT Austin.  So, of course, you think they're in the Big XII right?  No conference is mentioned but they end up playing - in addition to Texas - Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State as well as Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M (all SEC schools), Florida State (ACC), and Stanford (PAC-12) as well as a couple schools from lesser conferences.  I mean, if Giffin was going to insert them into a fantasy conference then it should've just been named.  I realize this is BEC of me but I'm going to put on my "football fan hat" and call it for what it was: sloppy.

Now that we have that out of the way . . . the whole story is just not something very likely to happen.  It seems kind of forced and, once again we have a betrayal.  Two really.  Shea conducts an emotional affair with one man while in a relationship with another (and, true to Giffin's M.O. this is all swept under the rug because her boyfriend had some major flaws).  And Shea betrays her best friend Lucy, though she does rectify this by the end of the book.

My biggest issue, though, was that Giffin broached the subject of sexual assault by a college football player.  And both characters discussing the incident kind of chalked it up to "well, there's no way he would do that."  I understand that this is something that happens and happens way more often than it should (not just the actual assaults but the reactions to them.)  However, I would've really liked to have seen it handled differently, not just glossed over in such an "oh well" type of way.

If you happen to be a Giffin fan and don't think she's a terrible person to the core, go ahead and pick this one up.  If you're not, leave it in the clearance bin.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

(Not) Going to the Chapel

Confession: I read DWIL (Drama with In-Laws) Nation on Babycenter whenever I need to feel . . . um . . . better? about myself.  I don't know the right word.  But that particular message board sucks me in with all the delicious drama and just the bitch-eating-crackers-ness of it.  It makes me realize that 90% of daughters-in-law are straight up crazy bitches (you don't want the child's GRANDMOTHER to hold him or buy him gifts?!?) and I've already starting praying that none of my boys end up with someone like so many of these posters.  It also makes me realize that yes, there are some certified crazy parents-in-law out there.  And it makes me grateful that we only have one small issue with our in-laws.

The pressure to get married.

If I'm being completely honest, even this isn't a HUGE issue.  However, we're seeing Mark's family next week and I know the subject will come at least once or twice.  We were both raised in conservative Christian families and they are coming at the marriage issue from a "make an honest (wo)man out of her/ him" angle.  Cady and I were discussing marriage pressure a few weeks ago and she asked, "are your families Baptist?"  Ha!  Yes! 

For the record, we do plan to get married.  Someday.  Eventually.  But there are a lot of factors that go into us not getting hitched right now.  For starters, I want to be completely finished with school.  There's also a superficial reason in that I don't know if I want to have a wedding wedding or just run off to Vegas (I'm afraid the kids would smother us in our sleep if we did anything without them.)  Do I want to be a 40-year-old bride or am I okay with eloping? 

There's also the if it ain't broke don't fix it angle.  We're both happier than we've ever been.  We're committed, we're crazy in love.  We live together, we bought a house together, we're raising our children together.  We don't feel like we have to add the titles of "husband" and "wife" for our relationship to be stable and committed. 

Another thing, if you've already been through a divorce then there's a bit of once bitten, twice shy.  Mark and I both had marriages that ended badly and divorce is something that neither of us are ever okay going through again.   I think this is really hard for people who have never been through a divorce or bad marriage to understand.  "But you guys love each other!  You're committed!"  Yes.  But.  Divorce makes you so gun shy.

Then . . . the kids.  All five kids in our household have been through some major life changes in the past few years.  At this point, we're still adjusting to all living together under the same roof.  Even though it's been years, there are still lingering emotions amongst the kids from our respective divorces.  These kids dealt with a lot.  Another big life change - marriage - just doesn't feel like it would be fair to them.  Though a few of them are the firsts to say, "why don't you guys just get married already?!?"

So.  That's where we are.  Happy.  In love.  Committed.  Prepared to do this life together for the long haul.  Just without the bling for now!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Weekend Tidbits

We're officially in the weird part of the year where there's just not a whole lot going on.  The kids haven't started sports yet (though the girls were supposed to start tumbling last Friday; it was postponed), we're not in festival season, there's no football, and it's not hot enough to be in the pool and constantly have people over.  So . . . very low key.  But I did want to share a few things from our weekend.

- Friday night, Mark and I were out on the back deck.  J was playing two houses down with a neighbor friend.  About five minutes after Mark lit the grill, we heard a voice.  "MARK!  MARK!  ARE YOU LIGHTING THE GRILL?  DON'T EAT WITHOUT ME!"  Ha!  J could smell dinner being made from the neighbor's backyard and wanted to make sure he was included in the good eats!

- I beat both boys at rounds of "HORSE" a few nights ago and J decided he wanted a rematch on Saturday afternoon.  Guess what?  I beat him again!  Mom for the win!

- I decided I wanted to watch a movie Saturday night.  The kids were still up so we knew it needed to be something kid appropriate.  We ended up watching . . . The Lion King.  Just Mark and me!  Kids at heart.

- Mark made breakfast for the whole crowd Sunday morning.  We used 14 eggs, a pound and a half of bacon, and a loaf of bread.  WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO WHEN THESE KIDS ARE TEENS?!?

- We had 14 eggs because when my man went to Sam's on Saturday, he bought seven and a half DOZEN.  They were 64 cents a dozen and he couldn't pass up the deal.  We now have eggs out the wah-wah.

- We got around to installing our new faucet yesterday.  Actually, if I'm being truthful, Russell and Curtis came over and Curtis installed our new faucet.   We bought a Wewe brand faucet and, oh my goodness, did we have too much fun with the "wee wee" jokes.  Adulting so hard.  Until we're not.  After the faucet was installed, Curtis played football with the boys in the rain and that basically made their entire weekend.  They love them some Curt.

Lazy, low key weekend but we need those every once in a while.  This week we're on the downhill slide to Spring Break and, ahhhhh, cannot wait, cannot wait, cannot wait. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Foodie Friday: Meal Planning

Sunday

Yes, I'm including Sunday this week.  It deserved to be included.

Chicken Fried Steak

So, what had happened was . . . we were at Sam's on Saturday afternoon and noticed they had round steaks on sale.

"Oh.  I want chicken fried steak."
"Babe . . . we weren't gonna until we lost weight . .  but . . . "
"You want it too?"
"Duh."

So we had chicken fried steak and all the fixins for dinner Sunday and, I swear to you, we spent the remainder of Saturday and all day Sunday thinking about that damn steak!  For the steaks, Mark seasoned them in the morning -- garlic powder and Lawry's.  When it was time to cook, he dredged them in flour, then an egg-and-milk bath, and finally in a seasoned flour and corn meal mixture.  Then the magic happened when he dropped them in the frying pan.  Delish.

We served with milk gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, and biscuits.

My mashed potato recipe is super simple.  I chop up and boil potatoes (I always used baby reds and always leave the skin on), drain, mash with chicken broth and milk.  Then I add in a stick of butter and season with salt and pepper.  So easy, so good.  The green beans were canned, I have no idea how Mark makes the gravy, and the biscuit recipe is here (we were nearly out of flour so I used half flour and half cornstarch and had to add extra shortening to get the right consistency.  Basically, I'm saying it's a miracle no one had a heart attack Sunday night.)

Monday

Leftovers . . . with a Twist!

Surprise, surprise!  We had leftovers! 

Chicken fried steak sandwiches and . . . potato cakes!  Okay, so, when I was a kid, the BEST DAY EVER was when my Granny made her potato cakes.  They were amazing.  I haven't tried to replicate them in, oh, it's been at least a decade.  They just aren't on par with what Granny made.  However, Jason's dad made them for the boys once and they LOVED them.  We had so many leftover mashed potatoes that I thought I'd give them another try.

I used a very basic recipe:

2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup corn meal
onion (I used just enough so that the kids wouldn't notice but I would've LOVED to use an entire onion)
1 egg
Salt and pepper

Basically, you mix everything together, form into patties, then fry about six or seven minutes on each side.  They didn't taste like Granny's but they were good and the kiddos loved them.  Win!

Tuesday

Red Beans and Rice

Ahhhh . . . Mardi Gras.  If Mohammed cannot go to New Orleans, New Orleans will come to Mohammed.  This is our annual Mardi Gras meal.  My red beans and rice recipe is really simple but packs in the flavor:

You need:
1 pkg small red beans
chicken broth
green pepper, chopped
onion, chopped
Andoullie sausage
Creole seasoning (I use Zataran's)

You Do:
Chop sausage.  Sometimes I sautee the andouille with green pepper and onion before placing in the crockpot, sometimes I don't.  It just depends on my mood.  But you can take that step if you wish.  Combine all ingredients in the crockpot, using enough chicken broth (or chicken broth and water mixture) to cover about a half inch over the top of the beans.)  Cook on high for eight hours.  Serve over rice.

We had this with corn bread and, of course . . . a KING CAKE! 

Wednesday

White Girl Enchiladas

Wednesdays are a go go go in our house and I generally try to make do with crockpot meals or leftovers.  But a freezer/ fridge meal is just as good!  I made my white girl enchiladas earlier in the afternoon and popped them in the oven when we got home that night. Mostly easy, definitely delish, and you best BELIEVE a hit for all!  I doubled the recipe this time and have a feeling I'll be tripling it by the time the chirrens are teenagers.

We served with chips and salsa.  Because we've been SO super healthy this week, if ya can't tell.

Thursday
 
Grilled Pork Chops

We have a bizarre amount of pork chops in our freezer, mostly because we buy them every time we find them on sale at Sam's.  Mark was itching to grill so we pulled out a package of pork chops last night.  This will probably mean pork nachos will happen at some point this weekend!

We served with baked potatoes and salad.

Tonight is grilled burgers and who knows what the rest of the weekend holds.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thursday Things

1) February was a month.  Oh my goodness.  So many first world problems packed into 28 short days!  To finish out our February, we noticed a leak under the kitchen sink last week.  Sigh.  Luckily, it was a fairly easy fix that only required a new faucet.  And even MORE luckily, we found a $200 faucet discounted down to $64.  Um, hello! 

We were also having an "issue" with the garage door.  Almost every morning, I'd go to close it and it would act like something was in front of the sensors.  I had to hold the button down until the door closed completely.  Well, thanks to Russell, we figured that there's nothing wrong with it -- it's just the way the sun is hitting the sensor at that time in the morning.  On cloudy days, it works just fine.  So garage door crisis averted.  Whew. 

2) Mark turned the TV on the other night and The Voice was on.  "Who is that blonde chick?," he asked.
Me: "Gwen Stefani."
M: "Huh?  What?  Where's the rest of her band?"
Me: "Ummm . . . in 1998?"

3) So.  I actually have something nice to say about our current president(ial family).    I walked in the room the other night before having a chance to turn the TV off of the presidential address.  And I honestly audibly gasped when I saw Melania Trump.  "Wow, she is so beautiful!"  And she is.  I'll never call her classy.  But beautiful?  Yes.

4) Now that I've said something nice let me revert back to pure disgust.  Kellyann Conway and Betsy DeVos are both so gross.  I hate that THEY are the women at the forefront of this (or any) administration. 

5) Because we had practically no winter (though, it's March.  And March in Memphis means we very likely could get dumped on with a bunch of snow) everything started blooming MUCH earlier than normal.  My neighbor has had daffodils since early February and the Bradford Pears and Dogwoods are starting to flower.  Which means my poor J is miserable.  It's early March and we're already poppin' the Claritins up in here, up in here.

6) One of my professors (I only have two, by the way, and this particular one teaches two of my courses) had a death in the family over the weekend.  He won't be back until after Spring Break and changed our two midterms from exams to papers.  They aren't due until the Sunday after Spring Break but I'm gonna bust my butt to get them done by next Friday.  I wanna enjoy my break!

7) My goal for Lent this year: I want to get in some kind of workout every single day for the next forty.  I would like to hit the gym at least four days a week but I'm not going to beat myself up over that one as long as I'm being active.  Yesterday I went for a walk.  The weather is supposed to cool off a little bit today (as in it's only going to be 60 - told ya it's been a warm winter!) so I wanted to soak up the sunshine while I could.

8) Russell and Kathy have a dog, Donnie, Donald, THE DON, that belonged to Kathy's mother.  She went to Kathy after her mom passed away.  The Don loves cheese and the kids love, love, love to feed it to him.  They love that dog.  Well, he had to be put down Saturday night.  We haven't told the kids yet but they're going to be devastated.  The same thing happened last year with my mom's dog, Sugar, she inherited after my grandfather passed away.  The kids were so upset.  I really dread telling them about Donnie.

9) And speaking of Russell and Kathy -- we were over at their house last week and the kids were DYING to get in the pool.  Dying.  We had no suits but I let them redneck it up, strip down to their skivvies, and jump in.  They lasted maybe five minutes in the pool before running for the hot tub.  And just because I love Cambo's "smile" in this picture from the same day:


10) Appropriate.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

R.J. Palacio: Wonder

My book club selection from the month was Wonder by R.J. Palacio and I was initially a tiny bit disappointed that we settled on a children's book.  But, wow.  Oh wow.  I was so, so, so wrong.  I absolutely loved this book and now I'm making all my children read it.

Wonder is the story of August Pullman, a ten-year-old boy with congenital facial abnormalities, and his journey into public school - middle school at that! - for the first time in the fifth grade.  We hear the story through August's voice as well as from his older sister, kids at his new school, and other kids in his life.  As you can probably suspect, not everyone at Auggie's new school is accepting -- in fact, most are not -- and he goes through a lot of heartache.

As a parent, the ONE thing in this world I want my children to be is kind.  The fourth graders are both on the cusp of that age where kindness becomes second to coolness.  And so while it's age appropriate that we're starting to experience a little bit of "mean" behavior, it also kind of breaks my heart.  I want them to be kind; I want others to be kind to them.  The main reason I'm "forcing" the kids to read this book is because the message that everyone deserves kindness, everyone has feelings.  Even the person who looks different from you.  I truly want them to read Auggie's voice and think about that before they point or make fun of someone who looks different.  Because, let's face it, even though they KNOW things like that are wrong, a lot of times it's easier to go along with if their friends are doing it or if they completely disregard the feelings of the person being made fun of.

Honestly, I feel like this book should be required reading for every child beginning at about fourth grade.  Palacio creates characters that are so easy to fall in love with, to understand, to empathize with . . . even when they're being bratty or snotty.  I could recognize qualities from the characters in my own children, in myself at that age.  I really feel the characters would resonate with children their same ages.

If you have pre-teen children, please pick this book up and read it along with them.  You will NOT be disappointed!