Sandals – The Countdown is ON


In just 10 days, I’ll be on my way to this gorgeous Sandals resort in Jamaica. Why? So I can learn all about Sandals’ fabulous couples vacations, come home, and pass the knowledge on to you!

My primary focus as a travel agent so far as been all Disney, all the time. Disney will likely remain my primary focus, but I’m excited to have Sandals in my back pocket for when my clients are in search of a more relaxing vacation.

I mean, look at this place. Show of hands – who wants to go right now?

Enjoy those pics. I should have some of my own to share soon enough.

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DSC_0152This cute little thing celebrated her seventh birthday today. Seven! I am officially a big kid mom.

We had her birthday party last weekend at the indoor pool. The kids had a lot of fun.







Neely’s party theme was “Teen Beach Movie” this year. I cannot take any credit for the cake this time around. I took a photo to Cookies For You and handed over my credit card. I wanted a low-stress party without spending days working on a cake. I didn’t realize that driving the darn thing home was going to give me an anxiety attack.

For today, of course, we had to make cupcakes for Neely’s class. I think you get kicked out of first grade and shunned by all the other children if you don’t bring treats on your birthday. I baked, and Neely decorated. She’s a great helper.



See? A cupcake masterpiece.

After school, there were two last birthday requests to fulfill. 1) A trip to the zoo. 2) Dinner at McDonald’s. (no photographs needed)



We brought half the kids from our street along with us. The zoo was pretty empty, so they had a blast running around like they owned the place. I think every animal has a name now.


Aren’t they a good-looking bunch?


We’ll probably keep them.


One more for the road – me and my girl. It’s nice to have a friend to man the camera every once in a while.

Happy seventh, Neely Bug!


Back to School: 2015 Edition

After what may have been the shortest summer ever, my kids started school again this week. It’s always a bittersweet day. Combine the excitement of a new year, new teacher, and new friends with the sadness of losing the ability to wake on your own every morning, ride bikes, and eat popsicles all day with the glorious anticipation of finally having five consecutive minutes without a child asking me for something (usually the aforementioned popsicles) and you get the first day of school.

Neely climbed into bed with me sometime the night before, so when 7:00am came and her alarm started playing…well, it wasn’t very helpful. At 7:15am, I threw back the blackout curtains, opened the blinds, and watched the vampire burn. (I’ve discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns on Pivot. Sue me.) Anyway, she grumpily clomped down the stairs in search of a darker spot and decided the kitchen floor was good enough. That’s when I decided to take the first of the first day of school pictures.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.35.04 PMThe worst part of the school year is getting this little darling out of bed each morning. Last year, I kept hoping it would get easier. It didn’t. She’s just not a morning person. Ah, well.

Everyone did manage to get dressed, eat breakfast, have lunch packed, and do their chores on time. They even left me enough time to take MORE pictures. (bwoah-ha-ha-ha…)


My first grader. She perked up pretty well.


My fourth grader. He’s my early riser. This little man has been up at 7:00am every day, all summer long. He gets himself dressed and makes his bed without being asked. Thank goodness one of them makes mornings easier.


Of course, I had to take a sweet pic of the two kiddos together. And then this happened…




I literally laughed out loud when I found those in the camera. I remember telling them to act silly and snapping a few pictures really quickly, but I was so intent on putting the camera away and getting everyone to school on time that I didn’t realize what I’d gotten.

In case you were wondering, they both have had a great first week so far. They like their teachers. They have friends in their classes. The love riding bikes and scooters to school and home with all their Rockridge friends. I have high hopes for this year. I’m glad it’s all beginning well.


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The time I took my kids to Disneyland.

We’ve been home from California for over two weeks, and I haven’t blogged about it yet. It’s shocking, I know. Or maybe it isn’t, considering what a lazy blogger I’ve been lately. There are reasons, which I may getting around to sharing eventually, but they don’t belong in this post.

Disneyland! The happiest place on earth is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year – the Diamond Celebration. This had no real bearing on my deciding to take the trip, but it sure was a wonderful added bonus. When I visited Disneyland back in January, every third thought in my head was how I wished my kids could see this, or that, or that really cool thing over there! As the end of the school year began to get closer, I decided to go for it. I found a pretty good price on airfare, a great travel agent rate for the room, and we used the discounted passes we’re able to purchase. This was a solo-parent adventure. I probably would not have attempted Disney World in Florida without a second adult. Even as many times as I’ve been, I think that would be overwhelming. But in California, everything is so close together. I knew if anyone began to melt down, we could be back in our hotel room within 20 minutes.

We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. Within minutes of entering the lobby, we found Goofy wandering around. Our room was lovely, and I was super excited that our “pool view room” also had a view of Downtown Disney and the parks (way off in the distance). The kids got very excited about all the Disney touches in the room – Mickey’s hands holding the lights in the bathroom, the stars and hidden Mickeys in the carpet, and of course, the light-up castle above the beds.

We spent our first day at Disneyland Park. We got off to a rocky start, choosing to ride Pinocchio’s Daring Journey first after discovering that Peter Pan was still closed for refurbishment. I hadn’t ridden it recently enough to remember that it’s kind of dark and scary. Neely decided she was terrified of this and most everything that *might* go through the dark…which is everything. She also refuses to ride anything goes fast, so this rules out a lot. We still had plenty to do, but it was frustrating not being able to take my boy on things he wanted to ride. Neely decided that she wanted to collect autographs on this trip, so that was a fun change. Another inexpensive souvenir we decided to collect are souvenir pennies. We brought along a roll of quarters and a roll of pennies, and the kids’ job was to be on the lookout for penny machines each day. They loved this! I loved it, since many of the gift shops have the penny machines inside. The kids were so focused on getting their penny, they didn’t beg for everything else they saw.

We also watched the new Paint the Night parade on this day. People start camping out and staking their spot FOUR HOURS EARLY. I could hardly believe it. We found our spot closer to half an hour early. It wasn’t the best. It was standing-room only, but it could have been a lot worse, too. Most of the folks around us were pretty understanding and let the little ones squeeze up closer to the front, so they could see.

Day Two – California Adventure. We managed to coerce Neely onto the Radiator Springs Racers and Soarin’ Over California. I may have lied once (we’ll have them put us in the “slow car”), and I had to promise extra rides on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree to convince her to cooperate. And no, she’s not the type to get off a ride and decide she was wrong about it. She definitely stuck to her guns. If she was going to hate it, she hated it. We had a fun day, anyway. Both kids ate their very first churro. They even asked if they could have one for breakfast the next day. Ha!

Also, the World of Color show…incredible. We had a World of Color dinner package at Wine Country Trattoria. The dinner was delicious, although I wish I’d asked for a patio seat. We were there at 5:00pm, just when the Pixar Play Parade was passing by. If we’d been seated outside, we could have had an awesome view from the restaurant. With dinner, we received tickets to a reserved viewing area for that night’s World of Color show. It was completely worth it to me not to have to stake out a spot super early. We walked right in to the perfect spot to watch. The lights, the water, the color…I loved it all.

The last day was spent mostly back at Disneyland, but we did hop over to California Adventure for a bit, too. I love that you can walk out of one park and into the other within minutes. I also rented a cabana by the pool for our last afternoon…

It’s quite possibly one of the best decisions I ever made. If you’re at a Disneyland resort in June, don’t expect to find a chair anywhere close to the pool, or in the shade, by mid-afternoon. I’m so glad we had this waiting for us. The cabana has a sofa and loveseat inside, along with a TV, mini-fridge, ceiling fan, and safe. There are two lounge chairs at the front with an umbrella as well. At the Disneyland Hotel, the Tangaroa Terrace restaurant services the pool. We had our own attendant and were able to order drinks and food without leaving the comfort of our cabana. For a Mama who has been hauling little ones around on her own for three days, this was heavenly.

All in all, we had a great time. We never really saw the special fireworks show for the Diamond Celebration. They were canceled a couple of our nights because of high winds. There were fireworks on the night we watched World of Color. We saw some of them as we walked back to the hotel afterward. The kids were satisfied seeing them that way, so I don’t feel like missing them was a huge deal. I’ve got my Disney fix for a little while, but I definitely think we need Dad along to help next time. :)

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Oh, May.


Some days, I feel like we’re in the home stretch, and other days, I wish it were still March. My kids have 19 school days left this year. I’m not sure why I do this year after year, but I wait until there are only a few weeks of school left to start doing things like go to the dentist, get my hair cut, have my eyes checked, go to the doctor, etc. It’s like all of a sudden, summer break isn’t some dreamy idea far off in the distant future. It’s barreling at me fast, and I have to accomplish all of these things that are much better done without children in tow. I checked “dentist” off the list today. Yeah, me!

On top of all these extra tasks I’ve saved up for myself, there seem to be all kinds of things suddenly going on at school – muffins with mom, donuts with dad, field day, teacher’s appreciation week, Neely’s kindergarten program… somewhere, somehow, I’m supposed to manage all the regular life stuff, too.

I know I need to suck it up and stop whining. I don’t really want to look back and check, but I’m fairly certain my last 17 blog posts are about how overwhelmed I am. Nobody feels sorry for me. I know that, because I’m pretty sure a lot of us are riding in the same boat.

What I’m beginning to realize is this…

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It’d be nice if it were socially acceptable for me to rage out and smash things when I start to feel the walls closing in. I’ll have to stick with happy hour Fridays on the block for now. ;) I’m going to survive the month of May. And after I do, I’m going to Disneyland.

For real.

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What’s new in North Dakota…

Y’all, I am a terrible blogger. I hardly ever remember to write. I have been so wrapped up in learning to balance my new schedule with work and family and just normal life in general that I’m afraid I don’t have much interesting to say.

Then again, maybe it will be interesting…to somebody.


The last time I wrote, I was not in a great place. I’d completely upended my schedule to fit in more workouts and try to prep meals for the week all at one time. And feed my children completely separate meals. I’m really glad I didn’t just give up. I knew there was a solution, a way to balance everything and make it work. I just had to find it!


Step one: Quit trying to pre-cook a week’s worth of meals. This works for some people. For me, it just…doesn’t. If I’m going to be in the kitchen cooking the kids’ dinner, I might as be well cooking mine and John’s simultaneously. I enjoy taking a break from the computer to stand in the kitchen and prepare a meal at the end of the day. I needed to take that time back. As soon as I did, I started to feel less overwhelmed. It also gives me the freedom to change up our proteins and veggies in the evening if we’re not “feeling” the basics in our original meal plans.

Step two: Take a deep breath and ask your trainer how to combine workouts and cut back on the gym time a little bit. I originally had a workout on my calendar every day of the week but Sunday. I managed it the first week, but I felt like I was neglecting other areas of my life to be at the gym. Now, I weight train three days a week, and I still try to fit in cardio every day but Sunday. I’ve stopped guilting myself to death when I can’t manage everything, though. Sometimes, things happen and I don’t make it. I’m learning to regroup and reboot the next day.

Step three: Remind yourself that you work from home. You make your own schedule. It doesn’t matter if you are getting most of your work done in the afternoon, because the gym is less crowded in the morning. You’re getting your work done!

All in all, I’m feeling much better and very satisfied with how things are going now. I’ve re-learned how best to feed myself, what to feed myself, and when to feed myself. I’ve lost a little bit of weight, but more importantly, I’m super happy with my progress photos. I don’t know that I’ll ever be brave enough to actually share them, but this mama will not be afraid of her swim suits come summer.

The best thing is – now that I’ve gotten into a rhythm, I am confident that I’ll be able to continue down the right path with my diet and exercise. Tiffany has made my goals feel very attainable. I am working hard, but I don’t feel like I’m hurting my body to get results (ex. starvation-type diets). She’s even going to give me a separate meal plan for when I decide to start training for another run.

If you are looking for a personal trainer with a great program, Tiffany is awesome! Here’s her Facebook page:

We’ve been doing her 6-week online program. You can do it from anywhere!

Snowy Sunday

It’s a snowy Sunday here in North Dakota, so I’m writing because I don’t have much to do today. Alright, that’s not necessarily true. I have laundry to do. I could pick up around the house. I could reorganize my closets. A more accurate statement would be that there isn’t much around here that I want to do today.

The last couple of weeks have been busy! Usually, this time of year drags by, so this seems kind of strange. We’ve started a new nutrition and exercise plan (with a personal trainer!), so a lot of my time and energy lately has been focused on learning better eating habits and making time to go to the gym.

Normally, I’d be on a treadmill three, maybe four times a week. Last week, I was at the gym 6 out of 7 days, doing weight training in addition to cardio. It’s definitely an adjustment. A good adjustment, but it definitely takes a conscious effort right now. I’m sure it will become habit within a few weeks and won’t feel so weird, but I’m not there just yet.

The meal plan is something else entirely. Right now, we’re pretty much repeating the same meals every day. I’m learning how to prepare things ahead of time, so we can grab them and eat what we’re supposed to without thinking about it. This has been the bigger challenge for me. I really prefer to cook meals that the whole family can eat, all at the same time. My kids are not on board with what John and I are supposed to eat, though, so I feel like I’m making 15 different meals each day. If we had a second refrigerator, I might have room to stockpile the way I’d like to. As it is, I seem to be spending a little bit of time each day prepping one thing that will last for a few days. Then, I’m making something extra for the kids each night for dinner. I’ve tried to time things so we can at least all sit down together with our respective meals. I hope I get all of this figured out soon. It is pretty exhausting.

That, my friends, is all for now. No photos. Nothing truly exciting. I just needed to run my mouth for a minute. ;)

Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Recap

It’s kind of fun to be involved in the “inaugural” anything, but the very first Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend was super cool. There were a lot of firsts for me this weekend. It was the first time I’ve been to Disneyland since I was a kid, so there were a lot of Disneyland-related firsts. (I’ll share my general Disneyland experience later.) This was also the first time I’ve participated in one of runDisney’s challenges. I’ve been watching Internet friends run a gazillion miles back-to-back for a few years. I guess I got a wild hair and thought I’d see if I could survive that kind of torture, too.

First up – my first Disney 10K! I’m honestly surprised I finished as quickly as I did. I arrived mid-afternoon on Friday, picked up my race packet, hung out at the pool, and enjoyed dinner at Steakhouse 55 before an early bedtime. I hadn’t been in either of the parks yet. My head was on a swivel the entire time, trying to see as much as I could as I passed through. That pic in front of the ferris wheel? First time I’ve ever seen it! California Adventure didn’t exist the last time I was at Disneyland.

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I am extremely happy with my results. I tried to be conscious of the fact that I’d be running the half marathon the next day, so I wouldn’t completely burn myself out. I think I managed that fairly well.

On the way back to the hotel, I happened upon a familiar face…

…and then this happened. #rundisney #rebelchallenge #gooniesneversaydie

A photo posted by Audra (@audralynno) on

I saw others stopping for a pic with him, and I very nearly passed on by, not to be a nuisance. I changed my mind at the last minute, though. I knew nobody would believe me otherwise, least of all my husband. ;) Thanks for stopping and helping me take this selfie, Sean Astin. You’re the best!

The next morning, we were out of bed early to run the half marathon. (But not nearly as early as I have been for races at WDW. Staying on property and walking 10 minutes to the start line was the best decision we could have made!) I wasn’t nervous per se, but I had very low expectations for my finish time. I usually give myself a couple of rest days before a long run. My legs felt good post-10K, but I wasn’t sure how things would go down. I should have practiced running back-to-back. I intended to. I never did it, because training over the holidays? It just didn’t happen.

The course was really different than any other Disney race I’ve run. Shortly after mile 4, we were completely finished running through the parks. The rest of the race took us through the streets of Anaheim. I don’t have a problem with this personally. There were people along the entire course cheering us on – local marching bands, cheerleading squads, people who wanted an excuse to dress up in Star Wars costumes, etc. People amp me up, so this totally works for me. For those who are used to running Disney World and want Disney in their face the entire time? Disappointment city.

At the 10K mark, I noticed I was running considerably slower than I had the day before. It took my legs a lot longer than usual to warm up. I put a lot of effort into those first 5 miles or so. I managed to pull out a PR by the end somehow. I beat my best time (that half in September that I didn’t train for) by a full minute!

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I only stopped once, for a photo with a couple of storm troopers. Most of the character lines were crazy long. I skipped over them. I wanted to get done, so I could go play at Disneyland! I did stop my Garmin while I waited and took this photo, though. My actual run time according to the watch was closer to 2:18. When I finished my first half marathon in 2:37 almost four years ago, I never could have imagined that would be anywhere in the realm of possibility.

All in all, this was another good runDisney weekend for me. It redeemed my Wine & Dine Half Marathon experience completely. The only thing that I wish was different are the Coast to Coast Challenge rules. To earn a Coast to Coast medal, you have to run a Disney race on each coast in the same calendar year. There were only two months between the two half marathons I participated in, but since they were in 2014 and 2015, no Coast to Coast medal for me. :( The only race left that I could run in Florida in 2015 is Wine & Dine, and the memories are a little too fresh for me to want to go back for that one again so soon.

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I’m going to Disneyland!

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Y’all, I will be running this race in one week. ONE WEEK. I haven’t made it through all of my Christmas photos, or put away my decorations (if I’m honest, this is completely normal, though), and we just finished unpacking the last of the suitcases and gifts from Christmas break today. But in a few short days, I’m off to California!

I’m excited, but the timing makes me question my own judgment. It’s a good thing I didn’t try to go to Florida for the WDW Marathon Weekend. I’d have been a hot mess. As it is, I’m still trying to put together costumes and figure out what I need to pack. Have you ever tried packing for sunny and 75 when it “feels like” -20 degrees outside? Because it’s weird. I apologize in advance to Anaheim and the greater Los Angeles area for the blinding whiteness of my skin. It hasn’t seen sunshine in a while.

This will be my first trip to Disneyland since 1996. A lot has changed since then. Namely, there are two parks now instead of just the one. The Indiana Jones ride was brand spanking new when I went. Now, kids are like, “Indiana who?”

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I just can’t wait to see California Adventure, Cars Land, stay at a Disneyland hotel for the first time in my life, take a zillion pictures on my phone, etc. :) You’ll hear more about it than you ever wanted to when I get home, I’m sure. Maybe I’ll try to squeeze in my Christmas pics before then.

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More GoPro – Magic Kingdom

I’ve finally finished putting the rest of the GoPro videos from our Disney trip together. We spent our last day in the Magic Kingdom, and we went to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party that night. It was a lot of fun. Enjoy the video!

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