All the Sun For You

A mom, two boys, a husband, and a whole lot of adventure!


Caking is my Therapy

A friend asked if she could pay me to make her son’s birthday cake.   When you post pictures of your cakes to FB, that happens a lot.

I always say no.

I don’t like the pressure of being paid to make something look good (I’m a perfectionist and can’t stand mistakes with my cakes), but I do love making a cake. So, I went to her house and made it there while our kids played and she learned basic fondant skills.  It was the perfect way to spend a Friday morning… So relaxing!

(The cake isn’t “done” in this photo… She will add a fondant trim to the bottom once she transfers it to her serving plate.)




Another Holiday… Another Cake!


My sister hosted a HUGE Halloween party so we came out to Chicago to attend. My contribution was the centerpiece cake (and cupcakes), a design I took right out of the Wil*iams Son*oma Halloween catalog. This one was so easy, a beginner could have done it (my sister’s bakery owner friend agreed!).



Blogger Friends ARE Real Friends

Once or twice a year, I get to meet up with blog friends who have become some of my favorite friends IRL.  Some of them live relatively close (3 hours) and some are a quick flight away (1.5 hours) and some are overseas.  Somehow, though, I see them in person quite a bit.  And  because we talk so much via text, FB, etc, it doesn’t feel that unique anymore when we do meet up.  Sometimes, it feels like we’d just seen each other so recently that a hug seems too formal.  And this year, it has felt so incredibly natural seeing everyone that I’ve forgotten to blog about it when in the past, I would have posted immediately.

It’s wonderful!


I met up with a few of my girls for a half marathon in July.  We talked via text multiple times a day, encouraged each other to train hard, and had good laughs about our kids and husbands leading up to our trip.  I hadn’t met one of the gals in person which seemed so strange to friends here (“you’re meeting her for the first time at the airport and then you’re traveling for a few days together?  Isn’t that weird?”) but it felt 100% normal to me.  Looking back, sure, it could have been a disaster but we’d become such good friends over the prior year that I didn’t even think it could be awkward. She and I spent two nights in Estes, hiking and running together, before we met up with two other friends in Denver.  We then spent two nights in Denver and ran a half marathon together that Saturday morning (in perfect weather!!!!).  It was super, super fun!  If they’d do it again, I’d be up for it again next year!  No matter what happens in regards to running together, I bet I see these friends again next summer!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Steph and I get together a lot.  She lives a short drive away and our kids get on very well together (not to mention our husbands, who are as different as night and day but have a great time together!), so it’s just ridiculously fun to hang out!  I think the last time we saw each other was in March on my 40th birthday, which was without kids.  Going 6.5 months between visits is not normal for us – we usually meet up every 3 months or so.  My aunt lives in the same area as Steph and so does a friend of ours who moved there from Iowa, but with the passing of his wife and changes going on with him, we didn’t make it down at all in the spring or summer.  Being perfectly honest, it just felt weird to us to head down there and not see our friend who was wanting to adjust to his new life very privately – so – we didn’t make a trip down.  I really missed our trips to see Steph and her family.

Last year, we met in Omaha to visit their insane pumpkin patch and we decided then to make it an annual trip.  I was so excited for the big trip to roll around because it had been forever since we’d all seen each other.  When we did meet at the zoo, it was just like old times – like we’d seen each other just the week before.  It was terrific fun!  We got separated on Sunday at the pumpkin patch which was where we were both heading home from, but I thought enough to get a picture of our kids together.  Steph usually thinks of this, but I was all over it this year!  The best part about our friendship is seeing our kids grow together in their friendships.  Matthew and her daughter are great buds – unbelievable fun is had between them!  Bryson and her son will hopefully notice that the other one exists the next time we go to the pumpkin patch!  😉


Next up… hopefully a trip to St. Louis to see my ex-pat blogger friend and her family!

1 Comment

Halloween Paint Night

I painted another Halloween painting last night! My friends and I have been waiting for a good one to be added to the calendar and we found it! The class was sold out, and the painting was harder than we thought it would be, so we were glad it wasn’t our first painting rodeo. The three of us together didn’t require the amount of help that a single new person needed, so we’re making progress. Ha!



Juror #9

Anyone who knows me IRL at any level knows that I am deep into the Adnan Syed case via the Serial podcast.  Yes, I’m way late to the party (recorded in 2014) but with recent developments, I find it riveting and to call myself obsessed is probably an understatement.  I cannot get enough of it – I’ve been getting on the treadmill sometimes twice a day just so I can play the next episode of “Serial” or “Undisclosed” (I am now done with “Serial” but have plenty of “Undisclosed” to go).  I have always been skeptical of our judicial system, and truly believe that many, many, MANY people are in prison because of false convictions, but to have a real case to follow, dig into, think through, and discuss with others has really reinforced my concerns.

We need to be doing better.


About a month ago, I got that dreaded letter in the mail – a jury summons.  Back when I had no kids to take to and from school and to care for before and after school, I would have celebrated that letter. But now with the responsibilities of a stay-at-home mom, that letter stressed me out.  I filled out the potential juror questionnaire and was honest, but did list my family member in law enforcement and mentioned that we speak very regularly and get on well.  I was hoping that my relationship with him would get me out of jury duty.

It didn’t.  Ha!


As I got more and more into Syed’s case, I started changing my attitude about jury duty.  I was getting a bit excited, just hoping that it wouldn’t last longer than the designated week.  Hottie planned to change his schedule to cover much of our childcare and my in-laws were on deck to fill in when needed.  The stress of taking care of the kids was gone, and I got pumped about playing a role in the judicial system for someone’s case – someone’s case that may mean EVERYTHING to them (and little to others).

I went to jury duty this morning and enthusiastically sat through the video and judge-in-person orientations.  I found it fascinating.  I hoped to be selected for an important case.  I thought that I was the type of juror that a defendant would want on his or her jury because I truly believe that one is innocent until proven guilty, and I know that charges and arrests do NOT equal guilt.

After orientation, I sat out in the hall waiting to be called (there were 250 of us there – there were 11 jury trials just on Monday).  It took forever for the court clerks to come out and call their jury pools, but I was finally called for the 6th case.  I was so excited and hopeful that I’d be selected, but chances were slim considering the pool of potential jurors for the case was 24-deep.

The attorneys asked us questions, some to the group, some to individuals.  I had to answer one individual question about the responsibility of “burden of proof.”  After one person said it was the attorneys’ responsibility, when I was asked, I said, “it is not the defending attorney’s job, it’s only the prosecuting attorney’s responsibility.”  We were asked if we had any personal or familial experience with child abuse and the hair on the back of my neck stood up.  We were told we’d be shown evidentiary photographs.  My stomach hurt.  But, I reminded myself that the man in front of us was simply charged with crimes – and that I needed to be shown that he was guilty.

I was selected.  I was so pleased!

Before lunch, they had opening statements and the prosecuting attorney presented basically everything.  I kept waiting for the big bomb, but there wasn’t one.  There was an argument in the home between the defendant and his wife, the defendant was holding his 1-year old child, the 15-year old attacked him by sucker punching him in the face, and he dropped the baby.  We were told the baby’s mouth bled and that he had a bump on his head, but that he was never taken to the hospital.  I waited for him to tell us that the defendant then went off on the teen.  But he stopped with the injuries to the infant and the teenager was unharmed.  The police arrived, and the defendant was later charged with child endangerment and bodily harm done to a child.

The defending attorney was truly awful and seemed very unprepared, but he put it in simpler terms than the prosecuting attorney.  There are no eye witnesses because the teen and mother won’t testify, the 911 call is hearsay per the presiding judge, the police officers who will testify are not eye witnesses to the alleged crime, the baby did not have any injuries requiring medical attention, and the defendant contained his anger against the teen when this all happened.

It sounded so simple to me.  And I was anxious to see if my opinion would change as the trial went on (my opinion wavers a lot!).  I did not discuss the details of the case with Hottie over lunch, but I did say, “these aren’t the most awful charges, and if he was guilty, I’d think he would have pled out by now.”

We were all brought back into the court room to the judge, who was not wearing his robe, and to the clerk and recorder.  The lawyers were not present, nor was the defendant.  The judge was very kind and explained to us that the teen showed up over lunch when the witnesses were being prepped and stated exactly what the defendant had said, that he attacked his step-dad with no warning causing him to drop the baby.  He went so far as to say that the defendant never struck him back (the prosecutor said the same thing in his opening statement).

The state dropped their charges immediately.

I was so hoping to serve a full trial, but I’m much happier to see this man not have to go through it.  He took a gamble opting for a jury trial.  We were told that he was offered a plea deal of a simple misdemeanor charge (I think it was disorderly conduct) and passed because he knew he’d done nothing wrong.  He took a gamble, and he won.

We did see the family outside the courtroom before we were told that the charges were dropped, and the defendant was holding his baby and hugging the baby’s mom and a teenager.  I assumed that they had come just to be in the courtroom for him, but it turns out they were celebrating the conclusion of the trial.  Looking back on it, it was great to see even if I didn’t know at the time what I was seeing.  The charges, even from the prosecutor’s mouth, just sounded ridiculous.

Justice was done, even if it wasn’t done in the way that most trials play out.

It was a great experience for me and the timing was perfect given my latest interests.  😉

I did speak with several jurors on the way out and we all felt the same way after opening statements – the charges sounded loose, at best, and like the prosecuting office just wanted to charge without giving a damn about the situation.  It is infuriating, and even more infuriating that the defendant appeared to have a horrible court-appointed attorney, but in the end, it worked out.  And I think it worked out the way it was supposed to.



A Needed Change

Hottie makes his own soap.  He’s pretty into skin care and questions the things we put on our bodies.  He’s told me for years that I need to find a skincare regimen that works for me and that I should be taking better care of my skin in general (“it is your largest organ, you know.”).  I’ve always been told that I have great skin, that it’s the “peaches and cream” skin that people wish for.  I don’t really understand what “peaches and cream skin” really means and although I know that my skin isn’t horrible, I also wouldn’t consider it great.  Others disagree with me, especially when they ask what I do for my skin and I say, “Nothing.  I don’t even wash my face at night.”

My grandma had great skin.  When she died, she barely had any wrinkles.  My aunt swears I have her skin, and if I do, that would be terrific.  But I do know that my grandma took great care of herself and probably nurtured that fabulous skin of hers. It didn’t just miraculously end up that way.

Hottie had made some face soap that I was using and just about two months ago, I said, “we need more face soap made.  We’re out.”

“We’ve been out for 6 months.”

“What have I been using every day?”

“What?  You’re using that on your face?  That’s straight Dr. Bronners.”

And so began my quest for a skin care regimen all my own.  Hottie told me it was time, time to do the research and figure out what I needed for my skin type.  He was right, but damn… I didn’t want to take the time!

A month ago, I went to my sister’s house for a visit and she had a friend there.  Her friend kept mentioning some skin care product that she sells and I blew it off because I despise nothing more than a multi-level marketing product.  We talked about all sorts of things and I realized that we were pretty similar in our approach to health (eat pretty clean, don’t drink much, lots of exercise, made all of our kids’ baby food from scratch, want to be dairy-free) and wondered, “what is she selling?”  Right before she left, she asked if we wanted to see her stuff and I said yes.  She gave me some samples and was on her way.

That night, I researched.  I dug deep into the safety of skin care products and re-enforced my decision to avoid the ever-so-popular skincare product out there that is nothing but chemicals and things you can’t pronounce.  My cousin actually sells that stuff and when I said that I don’t want chemicals on my face, she said that her product was not for me.  We joked about giving yourself a daily chemical peel with her products.  HA!  I found an incredible cosmetics safety website that I used to look up every makeup item I use on my face as well as our sunscreen and body washes.  It was enlightening.  It was scary.  It was time for a change.

The stuff my sister’s friend sells is so incredibly safe, and after a week of researching it and other alternatives, I jumped in and bought the standard skin care regimen.  I absolutely love it and my face has never looked and felt better.  All this time, we thought I had my grandpa’s rosy cheeks but it turns out my skin was just irritated.  I still get some acne but it’s nothing like it was and when I do get it, it doesn’t hurt like it used to.  It clears up quickly and leaves no trace.

Replacing my makeup was a different story.  There are so many items out there and finding them locally is difficult.  My powder and eyeshadow scored well/safe in the cosmetics database so I kept those.  I had to replace my blush, foundation, and lip gloss and did so with products from the maker of my skin care regimen.  I also needed new eyeliner (both liquid and pencil), an eyebrow pencil, mascara, and additional eyeshadow.  After a lot of research and review-reading, I settled on a few cheap products (but scoring very safe) for the eyebrow and eyeliner pencils, and high-end mascara, liquid liner, and eye shadow.  I just got the eyebrow and eyeliner pencils yesterday and love them!

I now wash my face every night before bed and every morning with a very gentle cleanser.  I use various moisturizers depending on my needs and the time of day, and I use my eye makeup daily.

I feel so much better about what I’m doing.  I feel good knowing that the products I’m using are deemed safe by a highly-regarded non-profit rather than the vendors of said products.  My face just feels better, not a size too small like it used to feel.

Change… it’s a good thing!


No foundation, no powder… just eye makeup, lip gloss, and a touch of blush.

Leave a comment

Boys Only!


All three of my boys raced today, and for the first time all year, I didn’t. It was my turn to watch the boys while Hottie ran a quick 5k. It was fun to hang with the boys and cheer Daddy on with them!

We were told that there was no kids race after the 5k, so I let the boys run the long finish with Hottie. Once they were done and eating their gelato, the race organizers announced the kids race. Ok! We took our two tired boys to the race start and had them take another go at it. Matthew ran hard again and Bryson took his time… he needed a nap! They both crossed the finish and got their chocolate medal!

We came home with a bag of solid chocolates, 2 chocolate medals, a dark chocolate bar with bacon and caramel, a coupon for a pound of chocolate bon bons, and tummies full of dark chocolate gelato and chocolate covered bananas. This is, by far, the best SWAG we’ve gotten from a 5k… which is why we like to do it with the kids!

Now I’m off to hide all of that chocolate!





Quick Update, but I Don’t Know Much

I had my mammogram first thing this morning, followed up by an ultrasound.  When they did the mammogram the second time, there was discharge so that’s still happening.  The ultrasound was right after the mammogram and right away, I could see on the screen what is causing this problem.  In fact, right after the tech left the room, I texted Hottie, “From my medical perspective (I have none), I saw a node on the screen.  I bet there is a cyst.”  He said, “Don’t diagnose yourself.  Let’s wait for the radiologist’s results.”

I didn’t have to wait long.  When the tech finished up, she said, “I’m going to go talk to the radiologist to make sure I got what she needs, and she’ll want to come talk to you.”  Yep… never what you want to hear.  The radiologist only comes in when there’s something to talk about.

What I saw on the screen was correct – there is something in there.  First thing she said was, “you’re going to see a breast surgeon as soon as we can get you in.”  I didn’t get upset because she was quick to tell me that there is something there, that it’s probably just a cyst, but that they can’t biopsy it because it’s small and within some very dense breast tissue.  It has to come out, and they’ll likely take the entire duct it’s attached to.  After they remove it, it will be tested.

Then she handed me a card of a surgeon who they and my OB prefer… and he’s my friend’s husband.  He is very renowned here for his surgery skills (was rated the surgeon that all other doctors in the area would send their family to) and it’s not weird to me to have him do it, so I’m waiting for a call to get that scheduled.

Good times.

I’m fine, I’m not worried.  It’s just a hassle and it was a little traumatic when she said, “you’re going to see a breast surgeon,” because that’s the first thing I heard when we found my bone tumor and that situation was very difficult (way worse than both C-sections combined).  But – this is not the same thing and I got over the shock quickly.

I have not cried at all over this, which is a good sign.

Now… I wait for a phone call from my doctor or the surgeon…



Damn Boobs

(This post has quite a bit of “TMI,” so feel free to skip it if you don’t want to read about boob issues.)

Why do our breasts need to be such a bother sometimes?  During puberty, they hurt, which is normal.  During pregnancy, they hurt, which is normal.  As we’re attempting to breastfeed our babies, they hurt, which is normal (even though the “breast is best” machine tells us that it’s not supposed to hurt).  Even after breastfeeding is well established, they can hurt due to mastitis and plugged ducts, which is… NORMAL (but needs to be dealt with).

When you’re 40 and done gestating and nursing babies, hurting breasts are “not normal.”  Breasts that have a discharge are, “definitely not normal.”  I have both on the right side.

I noticed it the morning I ran my half marathon, as I was getting dressed and before I ran.  My right nipple hurt, like it was bruised, but nothing else did.  I blamed the running I’d been doing and went on my way.  After the race and once I was back at my parents’ house, I thought about it again as I noticed the nagging pain.  My little sister said, “I bet it’s from running.  As long as there’s nothing coming out.  Is there anything coming out?”

I hadn’t thought of that.  So, we gave it a try and… yes… something comes out.

Damn it.

My family has a long history of breast cancer, and my youngest aunt on my mom’s side is going to die from it here soon (I just found out two weeks ago that it’s stage 4 and mutating rapidly, and therefore only a matter of time).  My sister told my mom about my issue and she became concerned and they both insisted that I call my doctor first thing on Monday.  One of my younger cousins had the same thing a while back and it all turned out OK, so when my mom told me that, I assumed that this really was no biggie.  So I did what any non-alarmist would do and sent an email to my doctor’s nurse Sunday night so that I didn’t need to bother anyone on Monday when the office opened.

She scheduled me for an appointment right away – first available appointment.  I found out that they move people around to make room for people in my situation.  Hmmm… I started thinking that maybe this is a big deal.  We discussed the symptoms and the doctor said it is not from running since I had a rest day before I noticed the pain and because I wear the same type of bra every time I run.  We were all hoping it was from running, so this discussion deflated me a bit.

The discharge was collected and sent to the lab.  I was then instructed to get blood work to make sure it’s not elevated prolactin levels because that would indicate a growth in my head putting pressure on the pituitary gland.  I was scheduled for the first available mammogram and ultrasound.  My head was spinning and I asked if she would be concerned if she was me.

“We are going down all paths at the same time to minimize worry.”

Not the answer I wanted, but she’s right.  And as she says, this is very likely nothing.  BUT – because of the family history of breast cancer and because breast discharge is NEVER normal, they need to investigate it until all paths are trodden.

I am not worried.  I was worried right after my appointment but I never cried.  When I had a bone tumor in my rib that they first thought was a breast lump and they had me scheduled with a breast surgeon immediately after my mammogram – that’s when I cried.  I wasn’t able to function back then when that was going on.  This?  Not worried.

I woke up today to no pain – which is great!  And my prolactin tests came back just fine so there are no growths in my head, also great news!  Still waiting on the lab work on the discharge and then I have my mammogram and ultrasound tomorrow morning first thing.  I will know for sure this week if this is anything to worry about, but I’m sure it’s not.

We will have done every test imaginable, put my breasts through lots of exams and discomfort, and caused my parents to worry (my dad is shaken, which surprises me) and it will be for nothing, which will be good.  But still… a lot of drama for nothing.

All I can think right now is, “damn boobs.”


My Support Team… My Loves

I ran a half marathon this past weekend.  It was amazing and such a great race for me – the best and fastest 20K/half I’ve ever run (this last race was #4).  Hitting a personal best, feeling as great as I did throughout the race and at the finish, and kicking off racing season with a bang was all great – but it doesn’t hold a candle to the highlight of my experience.

My boys came out to support me – in the pouring rain.

As they dropped me off close to the starting line, I blew them each a kiss and said I’d see them along the way.  Because of the rain, I wasn’t sure that I would see them.  It’s a pretty tall order to get two little kids out of the car multiple times to stand in the rain and wait for their mom to run by.  As I waited in the rain for the gun to go off, I felt emotional and even teared-up thinking about them standing along the race route waiting for me in the rain.  I knew they may not be able to make it work, but I was hoping they could.

And they did!

I gave Hottie a course map the night before the race with three general areas circled that would be nice points for the boys.  He said that they would do their best but that the weather could be an issue.  I agreed.  I honestly hoped I’d see them once.

They came to the first point circled on the course map, but I was running faster than anticipated and they missed me.  Shoot!  I had no idea until after the race that they were there, but my heart melted when Hottie told me.  I saw them around mile 6/7 as I came down a straight stretch, but they didn’t see me.  I shouted out for Matthew and they got so excited and had a hard time grabbing their little signs (in all fairness, they were also eating donuts)!  I really wasn’t concerned about my pace so ran up to give them each a kiss and it was just wonderful – I ran faster after that!

My phone/headphones started to fail at about mile 10.5 and I kept hoping I’d see the boys again so I could give them my electronics.  We had JUST bought the new phone the night before (not recommended) and here I was in the rain with it.  I was terrified I was killing it with the rain and just then… there they were again calling for me!  I ran over to kiss them (again) and hand off my phone when the boys said, “Mom!  We brought you oranges!”  Cut orange wedges are my favorite race food – I learned that 6 years ago when running Grandma’s Half in Minnesota.  Of course, Hottie remembered that and brought them for me.  How wonderful!  I sucked on one of them as Hottie fished my phone out of my running belt (my fingers were frozen and could not function) and then they sent me on my way after another orange wedge.  As I ran off (with no music), I heard, “Go Mom Go!  Go Mom Go!  Go Mom…”  Seriously – there is nothing more motivating!  I heard them in my head until the finish line… where they were NOT!

Once again, I was running faster than anticipated and I crossed the finish line without my support crew.  HA!  It was a very anti-climactic finish given the awful, cold weather with very few spectators there.  I wasn’t sure what to do!  I couldn’t get my fingers to work they were so cold and couldn’t even zip my coat or open my water bottle.  I walked back to the finish just to make sure I hadn’t missed them and I hadn’t – they weren’t there.  I went to the relief tent and asked for a blanket from the EMS table so I could warm up and then asked a gal if I could borrow her phone to call Hottie.  Her phone had taken it as well and my fingers weren’t working, so it took forever to get the call made.  Turns out, they had just gotten to the finish line, so I headed their way.

Matthew’s little face lit up when he saw me and he and Bryson kept saying, “great job, Mom!  You won the race!”  They were so excited!  I got a kiss from everyone and we headed QUICKLY to the car!  As I held Matthew’s hand, headed for shelter from the never-ending rain, he looked up at me and said, “I heard them say on the radio, ‘Courtney Donaldson from Urbandale.”  I was so happy – they were there for my finish (just not at the finish line, but getting out of the car), and my little boy heard them announce my victory!

Hottie, God love him, took me straight to his downtown office to take a shower to warm up since we had two bags full of dry clothes and shoes, and because I now had a “towel” in the form of the flannel EMS blanket I walked off with.  My boys continued to support me as they waited in Dad’s office (eating even more donuts) while I took the longest, hottest shower ever!  And as I was showering, Hottie came to the door and said, “2:04 was your finish time, I thought you’d want to know right away!”  He knows me so well, and loves me so much!  Because I’d given him my phone, I had no idea what my time was until he told me.  It was so fun hearing it from HIM, of all people!

It was the most perfect race… and it truly rained the entire time!  HA!