Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Birthday Wish List

Well, Sunday is my 26th birthday,
and just for fun I thought I would share with you my
elaborate birthday wish list!
You know,
the list of all the things I'd ask for if money wasn't a concern?!
Well, this is mine!

A fully loaded 2002 Red Ford Thunderbird

When I was 16, I saw Jessica Andrew's drive this car in this music video, and I've been hooked! There is just something about the modern take on a classic look that totally makes this the perfect car for my personality. I am ALWAYS telling my husband that someday when we have lots of money and I don't have any kids to haul around, this is the car I want.

An all-expense paid vacation to Santorini, Greece

I have been dreaming about a vacation to Greece for as long as I can remember. I don't know what made me pick this country, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with my early-teenage obsession with Greek mythology (I know, I know...). But, a couple years ago, I found out that not only does Greece have a rich history, but beautiful beaches! Woohoo! That is why it is the perfect fantasy vacation for the nerdy girl/beach bum!

To see Sugarland in concert!

I have loved Sugarland since their first album, Twice The Speed Of Life released in 2004. I own every CD they've ever made and I know every word to most of their song. I even stood behind them when they released their newest album this year, Incredible Machine and it flopped! Incredible Machine was definitely my LEAST favorite album, but I tried to appreciate that they were trying to do something new with their music, even if nobody else understood. Anyway, It has been a dream of mine to see them in concert since 2004 and I am excited to announce that my girl, Taylor, is hooking me up for my birthday! And guess whose sitting in the pit next to the stage?! THIS GIRL! BOOYAH! I am beyond excited! October 7th cannot come soon enough!

To be debt free!

Of course I would wish for something practical! But, if we were debt free our life would be SOOO easy! Not only could we afford to do all of the things we've been wanting like a vacation or all the random stuff Randy needs for his motorcycle and duck season, but paying everyday expenses would be so much easier! It would just be an amazing feeling to not owe money to anyone, and have plenty of money to pay for all our little luxuries!

A pair of REAL Christian Louboutin pumps!

I have wanted a pair of Louboutin's ever since I saw Kelly Ripa walk out on stage in a pair during an airing of LIVE! with Regis & Kelly! I mean, how awesome are those shoes?! And the red sole just takes the classic black pump from wow to BAM in my opinion! Ooh-la-la! Haha! Anyway, I know, I would never drop $400 on a pair of shoes, but if you're gonna dream, you gotta dream big, right?! :)

A Victoria's Secret shopping spree!

My obsession with Victoria's Secret is clearly a problem! I have more underwear than I know what to do with, and I still keep going back for more! But, hey, they have clothes too, right?! I just can't afford most of them! But, if I could have a shopping spree to anywhere, it would definitely have to be VS, because I could SO live with at least 10 more of their Bombshell bras and THIS fierce and sexy pants suit!

Yes, these are all the little things
that would make turning 26 just that much better!
If you want to hook me up with any
or all of these things,
I would be happy to send my address! ;)

{please click on each picture for it's source}

What I'd Wear Wednesday

What I'd Wear:
To browse the local fruit market on a crisp, autumn morning.

Fallin' In Love

What about you? What are some of your favorite looks for autumn? Go here to create your look and let me know where I can show you some comment love!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Our Dirty Little Secret

I spank my child.

There. I said it. It's out in the open. Go ahead, CALL CHILD SERVICES!

Yes, our disciplinary technique incorporates spanking, and it has since Emma was old enough to stick her fingers in outlets and chew on power cords. There was no "talking it out" with my nine month old about why she shouldn't put power cords in her mouth. There was a firm "NO", followed by a swat on the hand if she didn't listen the first time, and that pattern has followed us into toddlerhood. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer that children should be allowed to make mistakes, because that's how they learn. But, when they're doing something that could put them in danger or they're acting in a way that will eventually affect their ability to be a normal, functioning adult (i.e. temper tantrums in Wal-Mart, deliberate disobedience, hitting another child, etc.), I believe that most of the time more than a time out is in order.

I'm not saying I beat my child black and blue or I spank her to the point of causing her extreme physical harm. I am not a monster. But, Emma knows that if the words, "If you don't quit, I'm going to spank you" pass my lips, that I am NOT kidding. Usually I just have to utter the phrase, and she straightens right up or quits what she's doing, but not all the time, because she's almost 2 1/2 and her new thing is to "exert her will" for us. It's awesome. Here's an example:

Yesterday, on our way home from running errands, I got Emma a Happy Meal to eat in the car. She kept asking for the toy, and I told her, "You have to eat some of your chicken before you can have the toy".

After a few french fries, I handed her a chicken nugget and said, "You need to eat all of this chicken before you can have your toy".

She looked right at me and said, "No! I don't want to eat chicken."

I said, "Emma, if you don't eat the chicken, then no toy?"

She continued to glare at me and said, "No! I'm not going to eat chicken!" with as much attitude as she could muster.

I glanced back at her and said, "Emma, if you don't start eating that chicken, I AM going to spank you."

Emma began to cry and then she yelled, "No!"

So, I proceeded to pull the car over at the first available location. I got out of the car, walked around to her door, opened it, and gave her a firm swat on the leg. She, of course, began to cry and I said, "Emma, you need to do what I ask you to do when I ask you to do it. We don't tell Mommy no."

She said, "Okay", and I got back in the car and continued to drive home. You know what happened, she ate EVERY bite of that chicken nugget. It only took one swat and the wisdom I've learned to follow through on what I say I'm going to do, and that issue was five minutes.

I'm not saying that I'm the perfect parent, and I'm not saying that today Emma won't try the same scenario in a different situation. But, I feel that as long as my husband and I are consistent, then hopefully the swats will get less and less, and she will learn to listen to what we say the first time we say it. I also know that spanking is not appropriate for every child. For instance, I was hardly ever spanked as a child, because I was so tender hearted. All my mom or dad had to do was raise their voice at me, and I was in tears and would immediately stop whatever bad behavior I was doing. I was an easy child, but my sister, Randi was not! She was always getting spanked and/or grounded! No amount of discipline and no specific type of discipline seemed to work for her, but my parents were still consistent, and Randi eventually matured into the strong young woman she is today. She will even be the first one to tell you that some of her behavior as a child and a teenager gave my parents fits!

I think that's the thing about discipline, sometimes when you have a particularly strong willed child, it may seem like nothing is working and you're not getting through to them. But, I believe that if the parents are consistent, that child will mature into a fine adult who will respect their parents for the discipline that they received. I know my sister does.

In addition to disciplining Emma in way that work for her, my husband and I also base on discipline method from Scripture:

"Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. " (Proverbs 10:17 NIV)

"Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them." (Proverbs 13:24 NIV)

"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far away." (Proverbs 22:15 NIV)

"Discipline your children, and they will give you peace;
they will bring you the delights you desire." (Proverbs 29:17 NIV)

These are some of the Scriptures we have bound to our hearts and we try everyday to apply to our parenting. We want Emma to grow up loving the Lord and serving Him with her whole heart, and we know that disciplining her and teaching her self-control and self-discipline is the best way to point her to a life that honors Christ.

So, now that you know my dirty little secret, you may be thinking, "What's so bad about that?!" Well, the truth is that society has placed a terrible stigma on spanking. Those of us who use physcial discipline to curb our children's behavior are often times made out to be child abusers. I know they're are some people who do take disciplining their children to an extreme, and in my opinion, those parents who intentionally break their children's limbs or kill their children as a result of "disciplining" them should be subjected to the same type of punishment themselves. But, just like everyone who eats McDonald's isn't suddenly obese, not everyone who uses physical discipline is out to harm their children. I think that every situation is different, and the best thing we can do is let parents be parents. Unless, they have a history of physically harming their child or another human being, I don't believe parents should be hung out to dry for choosing to swat over 'talking it out", and I don't believe that every child who has ever been spanked will suffer from emotional trauma: I don't and neither does my husband. I think emotional trauma in regards to "spanking", actually results from deeper emotional and physical abuse and should not be compared to those situations where a swat on the leg was issued for bad behavior. This is just how I feel about it, and it is this opinion that has helped me choose the best way to discipline MY child. But, like I said, every situation is different.

No, we aren't perfect. We fail everyday! There are things we let slide that we probably shouldn't, and we are as guilty as anyone else of trying to have a "conversation" with a two year old about why she shouldn't be doing what she's doing, just so we don't have to spank her. But, with Emma, we have learned that "conversations" don't usually work, but that time-outs and spankings do get the point across. Of course, everyday is a series of trials and errors, but in hearts we know we are doing what's best for her. We also know that our next child could be completely different! And we will, of course, take that in stride when that day comes. But, for now, my #1 job is to be the best mom I can be to Emma! And to me that means loving her unconditionally, giving her every opportunity possible to succeed, and disciplining her when she needs it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Different Kind Of Marathon

Meet Erika.

She's the bombshell bride in the photo,
and she is SERIOUSLY one of the most beautiful people I know...
inside and out.

A few words come to mind when I think of Erika:
beautiful, strong, Christ-like, giver, and

Erika loves to run,
and up until now,
her love for running has been the driving force
behind the 2 half marathons she has completed.

But, on July 8, 2011
Erika found a new driving force
when she joined Team World Vision.
She joined with the goal of running one mile
for every child she finds a sponsor for
in the ING New York City Marathon.

For those of you who don't know,
the ING New York City Marathon is
26 miles long!
Yep, you heard me right,



For a girl who has only ran 2 half marathons in her entire life,
that's a big commitment.
A God commitment.

She is officially my hero,
and she will be also be a hero to the 26 children
she finds sponsors for.

Ever since I heard Erika was doing this,
I have been trying to think of a way I could help.
I want to see Erika succeed in her goal!
I want to help her make a difference!
And today I felt the Lord whisper,
and as He spoke to my heart,
He led me to write this blog post.

Because maybe some of you,
some of my faithful bloggy followers,
might be looking for your
"God commitment?"
Your way to make a difference, and
change someone's life?

And this might be your opportunity!

I mean, why not sponsor a child through World Vision
and help Erika reach her goal:

26 children = 26.2 miles!

If your not familiar with World Vision,
they are a Christian humanitarian organization.
They help children and their families
by providing tangible, sustainable resources for community transformation.
They enable children around the world
to realize their God-given potential
by tackling the root causes of poverty.
They are one of the most trusted
child sponsorship organizations in the world.

And you can find out more about child sponsorship
here and here.

I don't mean to sound like an infomercial.
I know the TV bombards with ads for these organizations,
by playing on our emotions,
and that's not what I want to do at all!

I just love how Erika is using her passion for running
to make a difference in so many kids lives.
She is putting her body through all kinds of rigorous training,
just so some kids she's never met
can get the food, education, and healthcare they need.
As well as see what it truly means to have God work in their lives.

I just find the whole endeavor so amazing and heartwarming.
It's so...Erika,
and God working through her.

26 children = 26.2 miles!

Are there any of you who would be willing
to make a small sacrifice to help her reach her goal?

You can find out more through Erika's blog,
Running with Perseverance.

She has all the info right there at your finger tips,
and by this time tomorrow,
you could be making a difference in a child's life.

Just like my good friend,

Bootlegger Idol 2 Week 4

For someone who didn't make it home until 1:00 AM, I am up rather early! I think my body has just surrender to the fact that Emma will be up any minute and I shouldn't waste my time trying to go back to sleep after Randy's loud exit from the house this morning. So, here I am, morning birds, and my pot of coffee will be ready shortly!

Last night was week #4 of Bootlegger Idol, and we are half way to finding out who the top 10 are! Yay! I only owe my soul to this competition for a few more weeks! Anyway, last night was Classic Rock night, and each contestant had to sing a rock song from the 70's or 80's. There were a lot of slower picks last night, which was surprising for me. When I think of Classic Rock, I think of something driving and upbeat with a mean guitar solo and plenty of time to move around, but several people chose rock ballads. Which is awesome, if you can pull them off! And only a few people managed to do that for me last night. I really think we are getting down to the nitty gritty and this competition is starting to separate the men from the boys (and the women from the girls). You see, in this competition, you have to be able to sing several different genres, and if you're only a country singer, it's weeks like last night that really show that too the judges. This competition wants you to be versatile, and not only be able to sing, but have "the look". If I could give any advice to the 20 newbies, it would be this: You can be the best singer in the world, but if you don't look the part, they will deduct your score. I've had to buy a lot of new clothes and scrounge up things up from my sisters' closets for this competition. Looking the part is just as much work as learning the vocals, but it's worth it if it gets you the points you need to make it to the top 10.

Last night was a great night for me! I absolutely nailed "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar! I was so excited! It was exactly what I needed to rebound from last week. It felt great to shake that off and come out swinging! There is also nothing that compares to a great outfit that makes you feel confident and sexy! It definitely gives you the positive energy you need to go up there and rock what you got! (Thanks, Kasie!)

Overall, I really feel like last night's performance was a positive one and definitely a boost to my overall score! I love performing Pat Benatar, because I feel so comfortable in her range and style of music! Thank you, Pat, for releasing classic rock music I actually feel confident enough to try mimic!

Well, now it's time to start thinking about next week, which is Pop/Hip Hop/R&B week. I have another great song choice lined up, but lets just hope I can find the perfect outfit to match :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Grocery Battle

So, last night after finishing up Season 3 of True Blood, Randy says to me as he's walking toward the bedroom, "I've decided that you need to go grocery shopping with Katie (my friend), because I talked to Chad (her husband and Randy's friend) and they are only spending $50 a week on groceries." Seems harmless, right?! Well, it's not. You see, we have had the "grocery bill" fight umpteen hundred times in the last year. Next to my credit card debt, potty training, and weening Emma off the bottle, this has been our biggest fight. Why?! Because he has no idea how hard I'm trying!

No, I don't coupon. I never have. The last 12 times I've tried to go to a gas station to buy a newspaper on Sunday, they've been sold out. Not just the first gas station, but also the 5 different stations I've checked afterwards. Yes, I realize that you HAVE to go early, but I'm not that hardcore. I am not going to get up at 5:00 AM to rush to a gas station and combat a bunch of crazed coupon hoarders for a newspaper. Nope, that's not me. It's not going to happen.

So, instead I budget. I make a list. I shop at 3 different places EVERY Monday to get the best deal: Our local discount grocery store, Wal-Mart, and Dollar General. I've done everything in my power to bring our grocery bill down and I'm still spending about $120 a week. That's $120 a week for 3 people on food and household items (a.k.a. detergent, dish soap, shampoo, toothpaste, pull-ups, etc). Everyone I talk to says that's pretty good! Sure, there are some things that I buy which we could probably do without! That pre-chopped fresh salsa? Not a necessity! Those pre-made muffins I buy Randy to eat in the morning, so I don't have to get up at 5:00 AM to make him breakfast? Yep, we could live without those too. I don't buy the dirt cheap detergent and I prefer the bathroom cleaner that actually works, instead of just leaving bleach stains on everything in the laundry basket. Yep, I could make a list of everything that could be considered "frivolous" in our life, but we don't HAVE to live poor, so why should we?! I mean, it's not like I'm going overboard and buying all of our groceries at Wal-Mart! {Gasp!}

I guess the whole conversation just really hurt my feelings. I mean I feel like I'm doing my best! We have a budget and I stick too it. I very rarely go over, and if I do it's because of something out of the ordinary: Randy needed new sock or my expensive hypo-allergenic make up ran out. I do my running around, and if I do come across a coupon in the mail, I use it! I try not to waste anything, and if I buy something a couple times and it just goes to waste, I don't buy it anymore! I make fairly cheap meals, and when I can, I buy our meat at our local butcher shop, because it's WAY cheaper! I am making my rounds. I'm doing what I can, but it just feels like it's never enough, and conversations like the one last night always leave me feeling inadequate, like I'm failing.

I HATE being compared to other wives and mothers! I mean, EVERYONE's situation is different! I mean who cares if so-and-so only spends X amount every week on groceries! Maybe they eat out more than we do? Maybe that's just their food bill and not their everything else bill too? Maybe they are vegetarian, so they don't have a meat bill? Maybe their kid hates milk, so they don't have to buy 3 gallons of milk every week like we do? I don't know what their situation is, but I guarantee, it's not the same as ours! Every family has their little luxuries and the things they do without. Period. I refuse to be compared against other wives and mothers, because I AM a good mom and I AM a good wife. I wake up everyday and give 100% to my life and my family and that is all I can be expected to do.

So, with that said, I'm currently accepting grocery store advice! If you have any tips that you think can get me down under $120 a week, I'm open! Anything to save my marriage from another grocery war!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What I'd Wear Wednesday

Well, as I confessed earlier this week, I am completely IN LOVE with Polyvore! It's so fun to mix and match different outfits from the affordable to the "in-my-wildest-dreams" price range. I love putting together looks for the everyday, for special occasions, and just for fun! It has become my new guilty pleasure and naptime rendezvous. I have a feeling that it could become a problem. Seriously. Anyway, I wanted to come up with a way to share all of the ideas and looks I'm coming up with, so I decided to create "What I'd Wear Wednesday".

Every Wednesday, I'll give you an event and place that you need an outfit for and you can hop on over to Polyvore, or whatever site and software you want to use, and create a look! Be sure to leave me a comment where I can see your hot new look!

Here's the deal: I'm going to try this for a few weeks and if I have a few followers participating, I will turn it into a blog hop, but tracking down a linky tool is NOT fun, so I don't want to take the time if this is going to be an epic fail! Do you feel me?! :) So please, please, please play along, especially if you are looking for something fun to blog about on Wednesdays and then we can make this a regular thing! Okay?! K! Muah!

Okay, so without further adieu:

What I'd Wear:
To a summer wedding
at a fancy hotel
or country club

Wedded Bliss

What about you?! What would you wear?! I can't wait to see everyone's outfits! Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tell Jesus I'm Tryin'...

If anyone has grieved the loss of my grandfather "the most", it would have to be my sister, Randi. She has struggled with his death and wrestled with "what if?" more than any of us, and I have done my best to help her through this. Because, while it seems like everyone else is losing it, Randi, Faith, and I are still truly grieving. We are still "dealing" with the loss and trying to get through each day, even though our hearts are still broken. We know we can't grieve forever. We know that Grandpa would of wanted us to move on and to be happy, and trust me, we are getting there. The only way we know how: by writing, by talking, by visiting his grave, and by clinging to the little pieces of him that are still left while we hold each other.

Tonight my sister shared something with me that she had wrote about our Grandpa. I happen to think it's beautiful, and I just wanted to give you all a glimpse of our grief through her eyes. I hope you will indulge me.

"It has been 23 days to the hour since my Grandpa was taken from this world full of heartaches and pain to live with his Creator and Father. I would be lying if I said that everyday is easy knowing he is there...cause it's not. Although I know he is well now and singing and dancing with my Heavenly Father, I still miss him.

I've told my sister on multiple occasions since the night he died that I wasn't ready. I had no idea he was so ill and that if I had know maybe it would have been easier to say good-bye. Grandpa knew. He had to have known. He faced death with such a peace that has given me comfort in these past few weeks.

I've been encouraged to write down my thought. To get them out. So here it goes. I hope that maybe something in this will bless someone else.

The Thursday before my Grandpa went Home, we had lunch at his favorite coffee shop and sat in his favorite booth. We talked about my life and how big Noah was getting and all the usual things we talked about. This particular lunch he asked me multiple times how I liked my jobs. In my head I thought I HATE working 3 jobs, but I knew Grandpa wanted to hear that I was doing okay. He was always worried about us kids. He'd say every time I saw him, "You know if you need anything, you don't hesitate to ask your Grandpa". And before we left, he gave Noah and I a hug and said "You take care of that boy and I sure love you, Baby."
The next day he was admitted to the hospital for what was supposed to be an over night stay.

I don't understand everything that came about over the next few days.
Talk of a pacemaker was going around, and Grandpa would say "I'm gonna get a pacemaker, then I should be feeling better." My mother has a pacemaker, so I wasn't too concerned with the thought of him getting one. I thought maybe it would improve his quality of life. Noah, my mother and I went and saw him Sunday afternoon after I got off work. His birthday had been the day before, but work had kept me from making it to the hospital during visiting hours. We talked and he looked good, and at one point he looked at me and said "When I close my eyes I see BEAUTIFUL people". I knew he was seeing angels. Although I didn't understand at that moment why he was seeing them. I kissed him, told him I would see him tomorrow, and then I headed home to get Noah in bed.

That night his health went from stable to very unstable. He was moved to the ICU very early Monday morning, but I didn't find out till 9 that morning.
Even when I was there that morning he seemed upbeat. Seemed like he was doing well. I stayed for a while and then had to take Noah home (rowdy 4 year old's and the ICU don't mix). When I came back at 4:00, I went in to see him. I got to spend a few moments alone with him. He was still talking. He said "Randi, you're gonna be okay, Baby. You're gonna find your way. Sometimes it just takes awhile". I told him I knew that I would. He then started telling me to not let people fight over his stuff when he was gone, and it was at that moment I knew he was saying goodbye to me.

A few moments later the nurse told me they were going to make him comfortable. That was maybe the hardest thing I have ever had to hear in my life.
Through out the next few hours he called out for each and everyone of us. He wanted to know we were with him. It was a hard few hours. At moments he would sit up and look into the corner of the room. I think that is where the angel was standing and talking to him, giving him the peace he needed to go Home. We were all with him when he took his last breath.

It's sad that he had to go. He told my mom "I'm ready to go, but I'd sure like to have one more ride", so at his funeral they had got him a Hurst that was pulled by a Harley Davidson motorcycle, just so he could have his last ride here on earth. He would of loved it. I believe that he is riding on streets of gold now, and that he is watching over all his kids. I will never see a butterfly with out thinking of that man. I don't think I will ever be able to hear a motorcycle start with out my heart dropping into my stomach.

Everyday gets easier I suppose. Last night was the first night I dreamed about something other than him. He wouldn't want us to stay sad. He feels better than he ever has, and is happier than I will ever truly understand. He is helping my Father get my place ready, as well as the rest of our family's. I know I will see him again soon, and I hope that when it's my time to go, that the Lord will let the angel I see in the corner of the room be my Grandfather.

Life is too short. Now is the time to tell the ones you love that you love them. We aren't guaranteed tomorrow. If you don't have the peace my Grandfather had, then you haven't met his Father, your Heavenly Father.

To the kindest man I ever met, I love you and I will miss you everyday. To the one man that never left me for a second, thank you for always believing in me. To my only Grandpa, thank you for being the greatest Grandpa. I never needed more than one. Tell Jesus I'm trying down here and to not forget about me. Watch over Noah, he asks about you all the time. He misses you.
Thank you for needing me with you in the end. I will see you soon.

Xoxo, Randi"

This broke my heart all over again. It's hard to watch the ones you love go through heartache, even if it's the same heartache as your own. But, it's day like today that remind me how thankful I am to have my sisters, because without them, this load would be too much to bear. We are his legacy. We are what's left. He would of wanted us to ride this one out together.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Old Dreams, New Dreams, and The Future

In May of 2008, I was 22 years old. I had officially been married a little over a year, and I was preparing to graduate from a nearby community college with my Associate of Arts degree: a two year degree that had taken me four years to complete. I was still very young and I had the whole world in front of me with my dreams at my finger tips. Back then, if you would of asked me what my next step was, I would of told you, I planned to substitute teach for a year to see if education was a good fit for me, and then enroll in another university to finish obtaining my BA in Secondary Education. I eventually wanted to be a High School Guidance Counselor and part of me still does, even though so much has changed since then.

Because, in August of 2008 I found out I was pregnant. Even though Emma was semi-planned and we had talked about starting our family shortly after I got my two-year degree, it was still a shock to me, because I knew all my big dreams would have to be placed on the back burner for a while. Fast forward to April 2009 when I gave birth to Emma, and quit my job at our local hospital that I loved and had worked at for almost four years to stay at home with her. Looking back, I cherish my husband's wisdom in this decision and I would not trade the life I have with my girl for anything. Yes, I still miss my job and the wonderful people who worked with me, and I hope to go back someday. But, for the last two and half years, I have been trying to focus on this part of my journey and being the wife and mother God has called me to be.

While being an excellent wife and mother is truly my heart's desire, last week something happened...a change. For a while now, I've been struggling with my identity and trying to hold onto that crazy, funny girl I was before I became a full-time mom. It's amazing how motherhood can swallow up your identity if you let it, and it's so hard to find that balance between super mom, great wife, and my normal self. Before I got married or had my daughter, I had hopes and dreams and even though my life is different and a little more busy, I still have those hopes and dreams, and in my opinion, there is no reason why I have to completely give up on those things. I know there will have to be a balance. I know that it will be a lot of work. But, I've never been afraid of a challenge.

Yesterday, I sent in my application for enrollment to a nearby university. I will be finishing what my two-year degree started, however, my major is no longer education. Substitute teaching for the last two years has taught me that education is not my calling. I don't mind subbing and helping out at school, but I don't know if I could make it a full-time thing. I might just go crazy. I've decided to go into healthcare, because I really enjoyed my job at the hospital and I am passionate about healthcare. No, I'm not talking about being a nurse or doctor, I'm talking about getting my degree to do the behind the scenes stuff: the computer implementation, the billing, the patient satisfaction, and taking care of the people who take care of the patients. That's where my passion lies. So I've decided to go for my BS in Healthcare Management, and eventually I want to get my Masters in Healthcare Administration. My ultimate goal is to be a department manager or even the president of a hospital (Heck, if you're gonna dream, you might as well dream big, right?!). I know that all of that may not happen for a while, but at least if I can be working towards it, and rest in the knowledge that I'm just that much closer to obtaining my goals.

I guess my #1 thing is that I want to be a woman my daughter can be proud of and admire. I want her to look at my life and know that while I willing sacrificed so much for her, I never gave up on my dreams. I want to inspire her to reach for the stars and know that no matter what, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything! I want her to do great things with her life, and I want to be that example for her. Because while being a wife and a mother is a noble and beautiful thing, sometimes your heart just yearns for more.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What I'd Wear...

A big thanks to Shannon over at Eat, Pray, Love...Live! for introducing me to Polyvore! I've often wondered how she puts together those cute outfits and post them to her blog and now I know since I finally clicked on one of them! :)

Anyway, I'm not much of a stylist, but I often dream of the things I would wear for certain outings or events if I had unlimited funds! I know that my taste and style isn't for everyone, but I can still have some fun sharing my ideas with you, even if you hate it! (My sisters would be proud! They think I'm clothing-challenged!) So without further adieu I present my first installment of "What I'd Wear..."!

What I'd Wear:
To run my Monday errands!
Wal-Mart, here I come!

Feelin' Blue

So, how did I do? Would you wear something like this to run errands or for a casual outing?! I definitely would...especially the fun gladiator sandals! :)

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

She Gets Her Dance Moves From Me

We just got back from spending part of our weekend at the nostalgic drag races near Joplin, MO. It was a great weekend full of family time and awesome American muscle cars, but it was also miserably hot! I felt so bad for Emma, but she was a trooper and is definitely your typical Hot Rod girl! Her daddy is so proud! :) Anyway, I didn't take any pictures, because I was so focused on keeping her hydrated and in sunscreen, but we did manage to capture this cute video of her singing her favorite song on the ride home!

Emma loves "Tonight Tonight" by Hot Chelle Rae and every time we get in the car she says, "Mommy, play my song! It goes like this, 'Night, night, night...'". It's super cute and I can't resist playing it on repeat for her! :) She was super tired on the ride home, so this isn't her in full Hot Chelle Rae mode, but it's still pretty darn cute! I hope you like it!

I hope everyone's having a great weekend! I'm looking forward to getting caught up on my laundry and Season 3 of True Blood! What about you?!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bootlegger Idol 2 Week 3

Last night was Week #3 of Bootlegger's Idol. It had the makings of a great night: my in-law's were keeping Emma, so Randy could come and watch me; I was wearing my fabulous new shoes; and the song I was singing was one I had done 100 times. I was feeling confident and sassy, and I was ready to show those bombshell blondes what I was made of!

This week's theme was New Release. We had to sing a song from any genre, but it had be released in 2010 or 2011. I was originally going to do "King of Anything" by Sara Bareilles, but after realizing that one of the "better" female singers would be performing my signature song, "Forget You" by CeeLo Green in a couple weeks, I thought that maybe I should break that one out again. I mean, after all, this is a competition and I need to pull out the big guns this time if I want to make it into the top 10.

Well, since "Forget You" IS my signature song, I didn't really practice. I mean, I sing this song EVERY time we go out to karaoke! It's a crowd pleaser and anybody who knows me or who has heard me sing knows that's my song and it's the one I do the best. So, I was excited to have something legit up my sleeve and I knew that no matter what happened, it would be my golden ticket for this competition.

Well, I don't know if it was the shoes or what, but somehow my nerves got the best of me, and when I started to belt out the first verse, the second verse came out! I realized it instantly and I stopped myself. I tried jiving to the music for a few measures until I could get my bearings, and once I did, I managed to sing the rest of the song with my usual gusto. But, it didn't change the fact that I had messed up my first verse. I had faltered! Talk about major deduction points! However, the judges still said nice things to me! The female judge even said how proud she was of me that I kept going and didn't even act like forgetting the lyrics had phased me. She said that even Elvis Presley was known to forget the lyrics to his songs! :) I appreciated her sentiment and the other two judges praised me as well, so maybe my points weren't TOO bad! But, you know, for me it didn't change the fact that I had messed up, and I've been beating myself up over it all night. I tend to do that :( Thankfully, it's over, it's done, and next week I'll probably leave the fabulous shoes at home, so I can really move and get into my song! I want to entertain people, not fall all over myself! :)

After Bootlegger's, we went to another bar for a while where my friend, Chili was filling in as the DJ. The place was dead! But, we had fun! He let me sing like 20 different songs and I got to practice a few of my songs for the upcoming weeks! We danced, we played pool, and just had a great night! It was totally what I needed after falling on my face at Bootlegger Idol! :)

Have you ever had an embarrassing experience while you were performing or talking in front of a crowd? I would love to hear about it!

Well, I'm headed to Joplin, MO for the nostalgic drag races with my husband and his family! I think it will be a great weekend and I hope everyone else's weekend is just as fab!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A New Beginning: Noah's First Day of Pre-K

My nephew, Noah, officially starts Pre-K today! My sister was a nervous wreck up until about 15 minutes ago, because sending Noah to school is a big step for all of us. For the first time, he's on his own. There won't be any of our watchful eyes on him. There will be none of us around to make sure he's walking not running or holding his hand on the stairs, and it won't be our voices encouraging the other children not to push or pull on him. Do we sound overprotective?! Well, it's because we are.

My nephew was born with a degenerative bone disease known as Osteogenesis Imperfecta a.k.a Brittle Bone Disease. If you've seen the movie, Unbreakable, you may remember this scene, which is the first real introduction society has had with this disease. Anyway, to make a long story short, my nephew breaks things really, really, REALLY easily, but he also heals really fast. In Noah's lifetime (he's 4 years old), he has already broken 7 bones including his ankles, collarbone, and arm. He recently broke his right collarbone in July when he went to Branson with my mom and I. He fell backwards off the hotel bed, and it just broke. Yep, that's how easily it happens: nothing dramatic and something that a normal child would of bounced right up from, but not Noah. He ended our vacation with an ER visit and a sling.

So, as you can see, we have a good reason to be nervous. His entire life, so far, he has been in the care of family. My sisters and I, my mom, my brother-in-law's mom, and my cousin are the only people who have ever watched him besides his parents. He has never gone to daycare or to a babysitter, and we've done a good job of keeping his injuries to a minimum. But, now it's out of our control and it's kind of a scary thought. It's not that we don't trust his teacher, because we do. My sister, her ex-husband, and my mom also made the decision to enroll Noah in the Christian school I graduated from and still frequently help at. There are only 6 kids total in his class, and we think the smaller class size will definitely be to his advantage. The teachers have all been educated on his condition, and I know they will do their best to watch him. But, we also know that things just happen, and those are the things that scare us the most.

But, we are also doing our best to trust God. We know that He will definitely be keeping His hands on Noah, and watching over him, and that now it's time for us to simply trust Him and His plan for Noah. But, sometimes it's so hard to just give it all to God and let Him take care of everything.

If you think of it today, could you please say a prayer for my sister, Noah's dad, and Noah. This is such a big step for their little family! I am praying that Noah has a great, accident free day and that he doesn't drive his teacher TOO crazy asking for snacks! I can't believe he's officially a big kid.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Family Money...A True Story

Can I just rant a little bit? Because I am completely appalled by how my dad and his brothers have been divvying up my Grandpa's property to the highest bidder.

Last night was kind of the final straw for me: my aunt had given me some jewelry (rings to be exact) that she had found in my Grandpa's safety deposit box. She wanted me to get together with my sisters and her daughter (my cousin), and let each of us choose a ring, because her son (my only male cousin on my dad's side) was left my Grandpa's gold ring he wore all the time and a gold chain necklace through my Grandpa's will. The rings that were in the safety deposit box are not worth much, and after having a jeweler look at them last week, only 3 of them are real gold. The rest are costume jewelry, which is fine by me, I mean, each one of them must have meant something to him or they wouldn't of been in the safety deposit box, right?! Right.

So, I've been trying to get with the girls for the last TWO WEEKS, and finally we are all able to get together minus my sister, Kasie (who doesn't care and is a completely different story for another time). Anyway, so two of my sisters, my cousin and I are getting together tonight for dinner and to choose the rings we want. My sister, Randi, and I have already said that we don't care which one we get and the younger girls should get to choose first. We simply want the rings as a memento of my Grandpa. That's it. Period.

Well, last night, my dad calls me out of the blue, because he wants to see the rings RIGHT NOW before we divvy them up! You know, my aunt had been in possession of the rings for almost a week, before she finally gave them to me, and NOW he wants to see them. Whatever. So, I took them over to his house, because the saddest part is knowing that my opinion DOES. NOT. MATTER. Grandpa was HIS dad, and Grandpa left everything to HIS boys. That's just the way it is, and I have to accept that none of Grandpa's stuff is really mine and that at any moment my dad or his brothers could decide that they want what I have and take it from me. It's an awesome feeling.

Anyway, so I took the rings over and then I find out WHY he really wanted to see the rings: He thought I had the gold ring that Grandpa wore all the time, and just yesterday, he had found the paperwork for that ring in one of Grandpa's drawers and found out that it was worth $15,000. Yep, that's why he wanted to see them, because #1) He thought I had something of real value and #2) He wants that gold ring purely for it's worth. Period. Even if he never admits it, I know that's the truth, because I know my dad. Well, I informed him that Boy Cousin had that ring, because it was left to him in the will. This, of course, took him off guard, I could tell. However, he still looked through the rings, because he'd really like to have one, and managed to choose the only ring that had any real value: my Grandpa's wedding band from when he was married to my Grandmother. The wedding band has three tiny diamonds in it, and the jeweler told me last week that it and one other one, my Grandmother's wedding band, were the only two that were worth any amount of money. I watched him take it and endured an hour of conversation about what was left in the house and what I needed to do with all of it when I go to clean again this week (Umm...yeah,by the way, my aunt and I are doing ALL the cleaning and sorting! The boys have taken what they wanted and left us to clean up the nice). When I finally left, it was with a broken heart and the truth is I'm mad! Really, really mad! You know, he didn't even look at the costume jewelry. Never even gave it a glance.

My Grandpa has only been dead two weeks and I feel like all his stuff is just being pawned away. Thankfully, my uncle is going to try to keep his car, a mid-2000's model Ford Mustang. But, his beloved Harley, the one he told EVERYONE he never wanted sold, my dad is selling it. As soon as he finds a buyer, that thing is gone, and it breaks my heart. Well, Ashley, he can't afford the $400 a year insurance on it, and it's too tall for him to ride, and it will just sit in a storage unit and decrease in value, and blah, blah, BLAH! Excuses, excuses, EXCUSES! You know, I wish I had $100,000, I would buy every single thing from the car and the motorcycle to his trailer with his recliner still in it! I would even pay off all his debt and give my dad and his brothers each $5,000 just so they can feel like they got their fair share on everything!

Remember how I said all the little pieces of him are fading...well this is why. This is what the life of a great man who loved his family more than anything has boiled down too: a $ sign. How much money are they going to come out with and who can end up with the most?

It just pisses me off and I feel like I have every right to be hurt and angry over how they are acting. I'm having a hard time biting my tongue and keeping my mouth shut, so I just needed to vent a little, because I'm hurting. I'm broken. And it's nights like last night that make me wonder if the pain will ever ease and if any of us are going to come out of this with all our pieces.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bootlegger Idol 2 Week #2

Last Thursday was week #2 of Bootlegger Idol, but my first week of competition. I have been so excited about participating in my second round of Bootlegger Idol and I have had all of my songs picked out for a few weeks now, and I feel like I have been practicing and choreographing my songs for forever! My husband was just making fun of me the other day for bobbing my head out of the blue, because I was rehearsing one of my songs in my head! LOL! Anyway, so I was relieved to get this round of competition underway!

This weeks theme was Oldies, which meant we could sing a song from any genre it just had to be released during the 40's and 50's. I chose "Crazy" by Patsy Cline. I actually sang "Walking After Midnight" during my first round of Bootlegger Idol, so I wanted to do another song by her, because I feel pretty comfortable singing her music. I also just love her! She was such a classy, beautiful lady and I really wanted to honor her and do her justice during my performance.

I chose a classy gown of mine to perform in, instead of trying to reproduce that 50's look. My curly hair makes it hard to pull off some of those 50's hair-do's, so I thought it was better to just do a classy version of myself, instead of hunting down everything I would of needed to pull of the costume. Well, the judges LOVED my dress, and one of them even said that Patsy would of loved my dress, so that was a huge compliment.

Despite my nerves, I nailed my vocals! I was SO excited! One of the judges, who HATED me last round, actually said that I left him speechless. I was so happy! He said that I had improved drastically from last round, and he was impressed with my vocals and the way I carried myself on stage! Another judge talked about how much he loved Patsy Cline and how I truly honored her with my performance! YES! Score! I really have a great feeling about this round despite all the other talent, and I've decided that I'm going to have to bring it if I want to advance into the top 10. Well, starting this week, that is EXACTLY what I plan to do! Watch out, other contestants! Ashley's back, and she's brought her A-game!

Friends Are Like Bandaids

Yesterday we got home from our weekend getaway to Branson with my mom, my sister, and some dear friends. We had been planning the trip all summer, but I have officially deemed it our "Back 2 School Getaway", because Branson was a busy place, full of families trying to take their last vacation before school. It was crazy! But despite the traffic and ridiculous lines for the rides, it was nice to be able to take a trip with our dear friends, Stephen and Erica, and their kids. Randy and I always have a great time with them! We ended each evening sitting out front of our hotel rooms while our kids slept just talking, laughing, and probably keeping everyone else up! We ordered pizza, hid our beer cans from my mom, and just enjoyed the cooler evenings and the fact that for 48 hours, we didn't have to worry about jobs or bills, because for a moment we had all the money in the world and the best friends life has to offer.

Allyssa and Emma

Lt side: Abby and Faith; Me and Faith; and Randy and Faith

Rt side: Me and Erica; Allyssa; and Stephen and Ethan

Emma and Daddy shooting bad guys!

Lt to Rt: Emma and Daddy; Emma and Faith; and Emma and Grandma Kelly

Our little family

If anything, this past weekend taught me that good friends make great bandaids. Because despite the ache in my heart and the lump in my throat, I was able to set all of that aside to laugh with our friends and let their presence become balm to my soul. This past weekend was the best I've felt in almost two weeks, and it was definitely a refreshing change. I know that I still have a long road ahead of me and I know that a part of my heart will always ache for what I lost, but this weekend offered me the glimmer of hope I needed. It left me with a knowledge that things will get better and I won't always be in such a sad place, and as long as I have that hope, I know I can get through this.

How was your weekend? We are back to the grind! Orientation tonight at school and a week full of back to school activities for me! What about you?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Branson, MO: Things To See

One of the things I love most about Branson is all the things there are to see and do! My family and I have our usual spots, because we have been going on vacation there for so long, but, I would encourage anyone who is planning to visit to get out, and try everything Branson has to offer. You won't be disappointed.

Silver Dollar City

Okay, this is the big one! My family and I have season passes to this theme park and we LOVE it! My favorite thing about Silver Dollar City is that it transports you to a town in the 1700's. The rides, the food, and the shops all mimic this same theme, and there is plenty of gospel, bluegrass, and country music playing all the time. When you visit, be sure to ride Wildfire and Powder Keg, their best rollercoasters; eat some home cooked skillet and a funnel cake; and get your kids a junior sheriff's badge from the town's sheriff. If you go in July, their Kid's Fest is going on, and there are lots of free crafts and activities for the kids, plus all of their free shows in the park are kid themed. They also have lots of coupons on their website for admission and food, so be sure to check all of that out. This is a really fun theme park, and I guarantee your entire family will have a great time.


There are lots of great shows in Branson and not all of them are country or bluegrass themed! Several of the performers try to switch it up, and play a little of everything for everybody in each one of their shows, which is nice. Some of our family's favorites are The Haygoods, The Presley's, and The New Shanghai Circus. We've also had the privilege of seeing Noah's Ark, a huge indoor production that everyone should take the time to see. I've also seen the Glee production at the Branson Variety Theater, but it was only a seasonal show. However, I've heard the other shows in this theater are great as well. There is also a show called Legends in Concert, where actors and singers impersonate famous people...kind of like the one in Vegas, and every couple of weeks they switch it up and bring in new people. I have ALWAYS wanted to see this show! I think it looks fabulous!

Other Attractions

My family and I frequent The Track in the evenings. Sometimes we even stay close by so we can walk to this small family fun park that offers go-carts, laser tag, bumper boats and an arcade! There is something for everyone, and it really is a great place to end your day.

Another great attraction is a fun water park located in Branson called White Water. I think they are owned by the same company as Silver Dollar City, because you can buy a "city-hopper pass" that gets you into both theme parks for one price. White Water is a great family activity, especially if your motel pool is just so-so. My younger sister loves White Water, but we are usually so busy doing other things that we don't get go very often. Maybe again next year.

One of my favorite attractions is the Hollywood Wax Museum. If you want to see some very realistic replicas of your favorite stars and not pay the Madame Tussauds price, then this is the place you want to go. The stars are usually set in the movie scenes you remember them from, and there are also several music artists and famous politicians replicated as well. It's definitely a must see when you visit Branson.

I'm also a big fan of the Titanic in Branson. It's the world's largest Titanic museum, and it's full of interesting artifacts and information. The actors that guide you on the tour, dress as 19th century maid and they speak with British accents, which make the tour really fun. If you're a history buff, like I am, this should definitely be on your must see list.


Now onto the good stuff! There are two malls in Branson that I would recommend. Branson Landing would be my first pick by far! This gorgeous outdoor shopping center is situated right on Lake Taneycomo and it's full of everyone's favorite shops and restaurants. There are beautiful fountains and a nice outdoor play place for the kiddies. It's definitely an all day thing, so be sure to set aside plenty of time to check it out.

The other mall is for the more serious shopper: The Tanger Outlets. This outdoor outlet mall has all of your favorite stores with all of the best prices like Coach Factory, Fossil, Loft Outlet, Polo Ralph Lauren, Wilson's Leather, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Ann Taylor, Old Navy, and Banana Republic just to name a few! This is a great place to go school clothes shopping or to get that new fall look you've been dying to find. I love the Tanger Outlet, because it has all of my favorite stores in one place in a nice outdoor setting, which saves you from having to visit a crowded indoor mall.

So, as you can see, there is absolutely a TON of things to see and do in Branson, MO. If you haven't booked your vacation, you should. I promise that you won't be disappointed!

Now, I'm off to get ready for another weekend in Branson with my little family. I'm so excited that my hubby is actually able to go this time, and so is Emma! It's going to be a great weekend!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hold On

A week ago we buried my grandpa under a beautiful shade tree. A week ago we said our final goodbyes, and as I tucked the post I wrote for him in his casket, I wept and whispered, "see you soon", because with every fiber of my being and ache in my heart that is the only thing I had the strength to say. And after they lowered him in the ground and the last of the well-wisher's drove away in their car, a silence fell. A communal knowledge that despite the pain, life must go on and that's exactly what I have been doing...moving forward. Moving on.

I have been going over and helping to clean out my Grandpa's house, and Tuesday I went over and cleaned out his cupboards: throwing away expired can goods, bagging up the things we could donate to our local food pantry, and putting his one hundred million pieces of Tupperware into a giant plastic bag, so we can all divie it up later. But, despite the fact, that I am busy when I go over there, I am only able to last an hour or so before my emotions get the best of me. I don't think I realized how exhausting death can be, and for me the most emotionally exhausting part is the way we are all tearing his house apart and dividing up his things. It's hard to swallow. I feel like he's fading. I look at his recliner and I can't bring myself to sit in it, because I'm worried that if I do, I'm acknowledging that it's no longer his. The house is starting to lose his smell, because of all the dust we've kicked up by taking things out and moving things around. And the glass of water still sitting beside his chair is going to be the last piece, because then it's final. We ARE cleaning. We ARE selling. We ARE giving "him" away. It's like every piece that remained of him is about to vanish and I just want to hold onto all of it for dear life.

I just miss him. I miss him so much, and I don't think I've accepted that he's really gone, you know? I'm waiting for it to hit me. I'm waiting for my turn to breakdown, but it hasn't come yet. All I know for sure is that this is hard. This is really, really hard. And watching someone else ride his motorcycle or live in his house is just something I'm not quite ready for, and I don't know when I'll be ready. But you know, it's only been a little over a week and I don't feel like I have to loosen my grasp on all his little pieces. I feel like I have every right to hold onto them a little bit longer. I just wish everyone else wanted to hold on too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Branson, MO: Places To Eat

My family LOVES food. Except for the fact that I spent 90% of my life eating fast food, my grandma makes these amazing lunches every Sunday and almost all of them are from scratch. We know good food. My tastes buds have not been tainted by the millions of McDonald's chicken nuggets I have consumed. We especially like to eat when we go vacation. Sure my mom tries to save money by pre-purchasing snacks for the kids, and we eat more than a few of our meals at Wendy's. But, when we do get to eat some awesome deliciousness, especially while we are in Branson, MO, here's what we eat:

Grand Country Buffet

This restaurant is located inside Grand Country Inn. It's a buffet style restaurant that runs about $15 per person for adults. We eat here frequently, because we often stay at this hotel. We like it because the kids can actually get a home cooked type meal with plenty of fruits, veggies, and meat. My daughter always eat a ton of food when we go here. She really enjoys it!

As for the quality: I think I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars. The restaurant is clean, the service is pretty good, but the food is just so-so, nothing spectacular and in my opinion it is over priced.

Joe's Crab Shack

If you've never eaten at Joe's Crab Shack and you love seafood, you are really missing out. Joe's Crab Shack of Branson is located in the beautiful Branson Landing shopping center and is situated right near Lake Taneycomo to give you that beachy vibe you need when you eat at Joe's. It is rather expensive to eat at Joe's Crab Shack. Most entrees are $10 to $11, but they are large, delicious portions. My absolute favorite thing to eat at Joe's is the coconut shrimp. They are huge shrimp served with this delicious mango sauce! Joe's is best known for the crab leg buckets, which also look delicious.You'll actually see tons of people around you slapping on their bibs to enjoy the crab legs!


This burger joint is actually a favorite of my husband and I's. We eat here a lot when we come to Branson for the car show. Fuddruckers burgers are TO DIE for! It's pretty reasonably priced, for the fact that you get the option of beer or soda with your meal! How cool is that?! And they make your burger to order, which means if you want it rare, you're getting it rare. Once you get your burger which is served on a scrumptious homemade bun, you get to file through a buffet of toppings for your burger. Anything you could ever want on your burger is in that buffet line! YAY!

This place will fill you up! So go hungry! My husband and I just cannot get enough of their delicious burgers, and we always try to stop at least once while we are down there.

El Charro's

If you like Mexican food. There are several Mexican restaurants in Branson. I have tried several of them with Randy's family and I think this is one of their favorites. El Charro's boasts that they serve Tex Mex, but most of their entrees are traditional Mexican food. They are reasonably priced and it is a great place to get your fajita fix.

Silver Dollar City

If you weren't planning on visiting Silver Dollar City, you must simply visit for the food! Sure the food is all ridiculously priced like at any theme park, but it is delicious! I always spend WAY to much money on food every time we go, because I gorge myself on funnel cake, turkey legs, homestyle skillet, and kettle corn! I also love to sip on homemade frozen strawberry lemonade the entire time I'm there . I just love, love, love their food...especially the skillet. You must go and try it!

I'm sorry there isn't many local restaurants in this review. Branson is full of chain restaurants, because they are a tourist destination, so you won't have many opportunities to sample the local flavor. Plus, I'm from Missouri, so I get plenty of local flavor at home!

How about you? What are some of your favorite restaurants when you go on vacation?

I hope everyone is having a fabulous Wednesday! I'm preparing to enjoy my first FULL DAY home in over a week! YEEESSS!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Branson, MO: Places To Stay

Okay, so usually one of the first things you worry about when going on vacation is where you are going to sleep. Right?! Right. Well, one of the most wonderful things about Branson is that there are A TON of places to stay that will fit any budget. In the 24 years I've been vacationing here with my family, we have stayed lots of different places. Some of them have been dumpy, some of them have been really nice, and some of them are somewhere in the middle of both. It really just depends on how picky you are and what you are looking for. But, here's what I know:

For The Shmancy Fancy Family

Branson offers several higher priced hotel options such as The Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing which is reallyclose to some of Branson's best shopping and dining. The Grand Plaza Hotel which is situated at the heart of Highway 76 and is within walking distance of many shows, eateries, and Branson's large outlet shopping center. And if dad's a golfer, you may want to consider staying at Thousand Hills Golf Resort. This resort offers cabins, rental condos, and even 5 bedroom town homes for large families. They have plenty to do on the grounds, and they are safely nestled away from the hustle and bustle of Highway 76.

I have actually stayed at Thousand Hills Golf Resort. My grandmother and her husband own a time share with the company and we spent a week there two summers in a row. It really was a nice place to stay with its private pools and game room for the kids, but since my parents divorce, we have not been back. However, if you are looking for a nicer place to stay, I would recommend it.

For The Family With Small Kids

This is the category my family seems to always fall under, and I know a lot about these next two hotels. Both hotels are waterpark hotels, which means they both have indoor waterparks on the grounds! This is great if you have kids and we actually go down sometimes in the winter to swim, just to give the kids a break from the winter blues.

Grand Country
is the waterpark hotel where my family stays the most. It is a little cheaper than the other one we have stayed at, and it has tons of stuff to do on the grounds like the waterpark, an arcade, a huge buffet style restaurant, an ice cream parlor and even a theater where they show kid friendly shows. The waterpark is indoor and outdoor here, and they also have two regular outdoor pools on the grounds.

Overall we stay here for the kids, and the kids love it! Emma talks about it ALL. THE. TIME. But, as an adult here are some things I will warn you about: The staff is rude and ALL the rooms smell like mildew. My mom says, and I agree with her, that the staff doesn't have to be nice to you, because if you are going to stay there, you will stay there whether they are nice or not. Everyone there definitely seems to have that attitude, because they know that 90% of the people that go there, go there for their kids and it's really not about getting great customer service, which is sad. As for the rooms, they are clean, they just smell like mildew. It's probably from all the wet bodies tracking pool water into the rooms, but the rooms also feel "moist". Like it's your room! I always wash all of our clothes after we stay there, even if we don't wear them, because I worry they smell like mildew. I think if they would remedy their attitude problems and work on their rooms, this would be the perfect place to stay!

Castle Rock Resort and Waterpark is another one where we have also stayed. We actually stayed here for the first time last winter. It is a little more expensive and the waterpark is only indoors. They also have a diner-style restaurant on the grounds, and their rooms are MUCH cleaner and nicer. I also thought the staff was really friendly here, and if it wasn't more expensive, I think my mom would go back here.

If Your Wanting Cheap, Cheap

There are tons of these types of motels! We've actually stayed in a few of them, because my mom can't always afford for us to stay at the waterpark, and sometimes in the spring or summer, we are just down there to go to Silver Dollar City anyway. All of the ones I have ever stayed at have been clean and a nice place to just lay your head. Here are two that I would recommend: Ramada Inn and Queen Anne II Motel. The Ramada Inn is where we have stayed when we go to Branson for the car show every year, and the Queen Anne II is located across from a huge arcade and go-kart track that is open late. It's great for kids! Both of them are pretty clean, but they aren't anything fancy! So don't get your hopes up!

These are just a few of the places I have had experiences with and would recommend. I have only stayed at one of the nicer hotels, but I wanted to put them in this post for families who prefer to be treated like royalty when they are on vacation (Trust me, if I had the money, the Hilton Promenade would be one of the first places I would stay)! There are also many other motels and resorts I have never stayed at, but would probably be just as nice. I have also heard that the camping on Lake Taneycomo is amazing! So, if you're a camping family, there is something there for you too!

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