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Liam’s Preschool {Little Gators} Graduation

I cannot believe that a whole school has flown by! It seemed like just yesterday I dropped my Little Lion Man off for his first day of preschool.  Liams Preschool {Little Gators} Graduation In the beginning, I had such guilt about my baby attending part-time preschool. Months later, now I have guilt about changing preschools in the fall for a center closer to home.

The mama guilt never ends.

2014051595094314 Liams Preschool {Little Gators} GraduationThe joyful mama tears never end either.

 Liams Preschool {Little Gators} Graduation

For the graduation ceremony, the high school students who operate the preschool made each child their caps and gowns.

 Liams Preschool {Little Gators} GraduationThe tops of the mortar boards named what each child wanted to be when they grew up. Titles like “mermaid”, “mom”, “teacher”, “spaceman”, graced the top of the caps, but Little Lion Man chose to “Firefighter”.

 Liams Preschool {Little Gators} Graduation

This small ceremony also honored the graduating high school seniors who spent several years devoting so much love and time into running the program.

 Liams Preschool {Little Gators} Graduation

During the reception, the teachers also handed out superlatives and named Liam “best dressed”, which made me giggle. It must be his surfer blonde locks that earned him that award.

IMAG5232 Liams Preschool {Little Gators} Graduation

As part of the ceremony, the children sang a song which has been sung at all three preschool graduations. Hearing this song again so many years after Emmalynn’s graduation gave me such a lump in my throat.

But it was the scrapbook full of Liam’s crafts and photos throughout the year that brought on the real waterworks.

IMAG5175 Liams Preschool {Little Gators} Graduation

We will truly miss Little Gators preschool, the many memories and the many blessings it brought us.

 Liams Preschool {Little Gators} Graduation

Our 2013 Christmas Portraits

I know what you’re thinking.  “It’s a bit late to be sharing Christmas photos.”

So it is!  But I’ll let you in on a little secret.

My tree is still up. Oh the horror!

How’s that for being a bit behind on things?

5Christmas2013 1024x832 Our 2013 Christmas Portraits

To save money this year, I decided not to hire a family photographer, but to try my own hand at our family Christmas portraits.  With the historic and beautiful Downtown Dunedin as our backdrop, I positioned my DSLR camera on a tripod and set the timer for 10 seconds, just enough time for me to run back, pop into the picture and fix my fly-away hair.

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For the very first tripod attempt, my son demonstrated a bit of enthusiasm for the flashing light on the self-timer, but we had no idea about his facial expression until after the photos were downloaded.

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Of course, that was the one for the cover of our Shutterfly card.

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I was really pleased with how my children behaved (because I bribed them with Strachan’s ice cream) and how well my photos turned out.

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Liam Emmalynn2013 682x1024 Our 2013 Christmas Portraits

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Liam2013 682x1024 Our 2013 Christmas Portraits
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2Christmas2013 682x1024 Our 2013 Christmas Portraits

Time Lord Fest

Prior to the Time Lord Fest, I had never been to a Comic Con or any type of cosplay event, therefore, I had no earthy idea as what to expect.  Now that I have been to one, I know that the costumes are as varied and endless as the universe.

This Tampa Time Lord Fest was organized to honor the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who and its soon World Premiere Global Simulcast episode, “The Day of the Doctor”, which will air on November 23 simultaneously all on BBC networks on 2:50 p.m.

For the Time Lord Fest, Allana wanted to wear the TARDIS dress and Emmalynn crafted a costume that resembled a small Amelia Pond, the 11th Doctor’s companion.  Since Amy is Scottish, a kilt seemed an appropriate choice.

 Time Lord Fest

The costumes truly went beyond our wildest Doctor Who imaginations, such as one lady dressed as a cat-nun.  Lots of ladies dressed as blue TARDIS, a few in human form and one that was even bigger on the inside.

 Time Lord Fest

We also spotted a few scary characters such as the Silence, a Weeping Angel…

 Time Lord Fest

…and a Dalek.  Time Lord Fest

There were many companions including River Song, Rose and many Amy Ponds and all varieties of Doctors.  The grounds were crowded with 10th Doctors (my favorite) and 11th Doctors, because bow ties are cool and a few 4th Doctors with his trademark scarf but only one with a K-9.

 Time Lord Fest

No matter which Doctor they portrayed, they all carried sonic screwdrivers.

 Time Lord Fest

Emmalynn’s kilt caught lots of attention.  Many people recognized her to be little Amelia Pond.  She beamed with pride over the popularity of her costume.

 Time Lord Fest

Then, a little Roman Rory spotted our Amelia.  “Hey!  You’re my girlfriend!”  He hollered at her.  She smiled wide and blushed over little Rory’s affection.

 Time Lord Fest

 Time Lord Fest

Although the girls and I loved looking at all the costumes, Liam liked the games more.

 Time Lord Fest

 Time Lord Fest

As the main attraction, a life-size TARDIS stood inside waiting for guests.  We couldn’t leave without a photo with Sexy, of course.

 Time Lord Fest

Thankful for the Kindness of Strangers

This past Sunday, my oldest daughter and I experienced stand up paddle boarding (SUP) together for the first time.  We explored the brackish waters of Crystal River and searched for manatees with our friends.  It was a wonderful day trip and one that deserves a full post review (to follow shortly), however, this post is dedicated to the kind people who helped Allana and me.

Once we reached the springs, Allana and I took the moment to take in gorgeous view and snack on the blueberry Larabars that that I packed which contained cashews.  Unbeknownst to me, Allana is severely allergic to cashews and she immediately went into anaphylactic shock.  Her throat itched; her breathing became labored.  She began to swell and turn beet red with hives all over her body.  After only ingesting one small bite, our fun adventure now turned into an emergency situation.

Due to my walnut allergy and my other daughter’s allergy to bee stings, I normally carry two EpiPens, but I left them back in the car along with allergy medication.  I asked our guide if he had a first aid kit containing Benadryl or an EpiPen, but he did not.  I quickly paddled over to a dive boat within sight and asked for first aid, but they did not have any medication on board either.

Then, I spotted a boat idling past and I flagged them down to ask for a ride back to the public park where we launched our paddle boards.  With 14 mph winds, I knew I didn’t have the strength nor the time to spare.  Thankfully, they graciously offered assistance.

I share this story hoping someone in the six degrees of separation in this big blogosphere may know Gary and Amy of Crystal River. (Other than they have two children a boy and girl ages 3 and 4, that’s the only information I have.) Please let them know Allana is safe and we are truly grateful for their kindness.

IMAG1592 Thankful for the Kindness of Strangers

Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

Honestly, I went into the Disney Marathon with no expectations other than just finishing it and trying to keep up with my running partners.  I anticipated finishing somewhere around 6 hours like I did 4 years ago and if I could beat that time, than that would be just mouserific.

IMAG0286 Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

First, I had to change corrals.  I’m not sure how or why but I was placed in Corral G when all my running partners (Marie, Daffodil, Chrissy, Larisa and Maribel) had been placed in Corral C.  Rumor had it that participants could move corrals easily if they brought documentation with previous race times to make the change.

Even with a printout of my Gasparilla marathon, I was told that I needed a 4:15 or better or a half time of 2:06 for Corral C.  In a bit of a panic, I searched my blog for race times, but I was instructed to visit the computer kiosk for an official printout.  Not exactly the stress I wanted to deal with before a race, but I located a satisfactory time and printed it so that the corral correction could be made.  Thank goodness!  Now, I could start the race with my running partners!

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The night before the race, we carb loaded with pasta at the cafeteria in the All Stars Music Resort.  I also prepared for the race by wearing my Features! PF sleeves to bed and popping three ibuprofen to prevent any swelling.  In the morning, I took three more ibuprofen.

Corral Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

As with any Disney race, the attire is critical.  There are certain races you dress in costume for and costumes are a must for any Disney race.  My girlfriends and I decided to wear the red mini dot athletic skirt form Running Skirts and black Zensah compression socks.  The extra large pockets in my Running Skirt held my two mocha Cliff Shots, gummy bears, MP3 player and lip balm.  My black Gracie Gear pocket tank held my phone.  Our running partner, Daffodil, had also ordered bibs for us that benefited the victims of Sandy Hook.

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IMAG0054 Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

Since Disney races are a first class operation, no fuel belt is ever necessary.  There are water stations every couple of miles and first aid stations just as frequent.  With the weather unusually and expectedly warm for January in Florida, we took advantage of every water station.  I drank water and Powerade at every stop, though I rarely ever drink Powerade or Gatorade during my training runs.  I also found myself needing more Vaseline than usual to prevent chaffing from all the sweat.

This year, the race officials changed the course.  Instead of running the usual overpasses or “Disney hills” as I like to call them, we ran through the Walt Disney Speedway and Wide World of Sports.  The slant of the race track added a bit of stress on my knees and ankles, so Chrissy and I slowed our pace, stopped for a few photos and even walked some of it.

IMAG0070 Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

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The change of terrain in the Wide World of Sports challenged our tired legs.  As we ran along sidewalks and loose gravel in the baseball field, we slowed our pace once again.

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WideWorldSports Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

I actually liked the course changes, except that we entered the Magic Kingdom before sunrise.  Of course, a gorgeous glowing castle is more aesthetically pleasing and the dark morning sky offered a beautiful backdrop to Cinderella’s twinkling castle, but it didn’t make for the best light for photographs.

Castle Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

Chrissy and I also stopped for our first potty break in Tomorrowland.  The bathroom was hot, but at least there was running water and a mirror to check and adjust our Minnie attire.

Though our photos may say otherwise, Chrissy and I made very few stops for photos.  In previous Disney races, I made numerous stops because I didn’t want miss any photo opportunities (Unofficial Goofy and Princess Half).  This time, we agreed to just stop for the big things, like the landmarks in each park.

Around mile 15, I hit a small mental wall, but I managed to shake it off easily.  During my Space Coast Marathon in 2011, my plantar fasciitis began to bother me at mile 15.  This time, I wouldn’t allow my mind to start thinking about the pain that could happen because I felt great!  Though, just as a precaution, I decided to take two Tylenol at the first aid station.  I also popped a few more Tylenol at the next couple of stations.

Around mile 20, Chrissy and I spotted the 5:00 pace group and we felt pretty good about our progress.  We even caught up with Marie a few times.  Only another hour left to go!  However, that last hour was definitely toughest and the hottest.  My calves began to spasm with Charlie horses, but thankfully my Zensah compression sleeves kept me from collapsing.

IMAG0093 Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

IMAG0097 Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

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IMAG0102 Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

Though most of the last miles are a blur, Chrissy and I kept trotting on along through the heat.  The spectators’ signs kept our spirits up and we even chuckled at a few of them to forget about what we were doing.  “Is that a Cliff Shot in your pocket or are you happy to see me?”  “Go random, stranger! Go!” 

Many of the spectators were guests waiting to start their Disney magic and park exploration.  Instead, they happily cheered for us along the sidelines.

Throughout the course, other runners congratulated Chrissy and I on our efforts.  At first, I thought everyone was being so kind and supportive, but I had forgotten about the Sandy Hook bibs on our backs.  We were simply running “26.2 magical miles for 26 courageous lives”.  I learned after the race that Daffodil dropped a heart labeled with a victim’s name at each mile marker.

Chrissy and I entered Epcot with only a mile left to go and then, I hit my wall.  I couldn’t run anymore and pools of tears filled my eyes.  Between the heat and the smell of coffee and funnel cake in Epcot, I lost my mojo and I thought I would vomit.  I needed to pull it together to finish.

We walked most of the World Showcase and picked up the pace once we reached the bridge past Mexico.  Then, we stopped for one last photo in front of Spaceship Earth and ran the last quarter mile as hard as we could.  We were ready to be finished.

SpaceShip%2520Earth Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

Chrissy and I crossed the finish line together (her first and my fourth).

Last Stretch Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

Bib Number 12458
Overall Place
Div Place
Gender Place
5 Mile Split
10 Mile Split
Half Split
20 Mile Split
Clock Time
Chip Time

Despite being my fourth, I’ve never crossed the finish line of a marathon with a friend by my side.  I will always treasure sharing that moment with Chrissy.  No matter the marathon, I often become emotional once crossing the finish line and this race was no exception.  A wave of emotion overtook me, but I held back the tears until a Mickey medal was placed around my neck.  Then, I cried five and half hours worth of tears.

Finish Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}

We did it.  Every step of the way, we have been there for each other and we finished the journey together.

Minnie Mice Disney Marathon 2013 {Recap}But that journey could never have been completed without the wonderful support of our families and especially our cheerleaders, Tanya and Faith.  Thank you for chaperoning us and driving our tired legs all over town! xox

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Oldsmar 5K

174703 258907697527379 1785422675 n Oldsmar 5K At 5:00 p.m. two hours before the start of the Oldsmar 5K, terrible thunderstorms began rolling into the Tampa Bay area.  It was ugly.  Sporadic flashes of lightning lit up the gray skies and rain drops like Christmas lights.

As much as I don’t like running in the rain, I’ll suck it up for a race, but lightning is a whole other story.  Then, I heard word about a flooding watch in the area and I began to worry about soggy shoes.  “I have another race in the morning.  What if my shoes don’t dry out and I have to put them in the dryer.  What if they shrink?”

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I must have looked so worried because my friend Mike asked what was wrong with me.  I believe his exact words were, “D, what’s your deal?”  Later I learned Mike was already three beers into the drinking portion of the evening.  I should have started drinking when I saw the lightning to help calm my nerves.

I decided to distract myself by reading the quotes on the back of the t-shirts included in the race bags.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.”

“I drink to make people interesting”

“I’d tap that.”

“You can never buy beer, you just rent it.”

Then ten minutes before the start, the race officials canceled the race due to inclement weather. Oh thank God!

Given that news, we found a dry spot inside the House of Brews and officially began the beer run part of the program by running back outside, dodging through drops of rain and jumping over puddles to wait in lines for beer and food.  We ate and drank as if we ran a race and worked up an appetite.  Well, we were really thirsty and hungry.

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Rumor has it that a group of runners ran the race despite being canceled.  It must be true because results and photos have been posted online.  The rebellious runners all finished under 20 minutes.  I wonder if the lightning made them run faster?

However, yours truly was not one of them.  I was too busy stuffing my face with beer mug-shaped sugar cookies, which I enjoyed more than the free beer.

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It just goes to show you.  Race or no race, my friends and I always have a great time. Have party.  Will travel.  Rain or shine.

 Oldsmar 5K

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Teacher Gifts

I totally flaked for Teacher Appreciation Day, which is just a sin having been a teacher once.  Hopefully I redeemed myself on the last day of school with these creative gift ideas and small tokens of our appreciation.

My oldest daughter’s teachers love Dunkin’ Donuts.  Gift cards seemed the easiest route.  Allana made them doughnut shaped cards that read, “Donut forget about me.”

 Teacher Gifts

Potted plants are one of favorite gifts to give because they are beauitful, green, affordable gifts.  They never break the bank even when gift cards eat up most of your gift budget.

Emmalynn made flower cards for each teacher and then taped the cards to bamboo skewers to stick in the soil.  The cards read, “Thank you for helping me bloom and grow this year.”

 Teacher Gifts

 Teacher Gifts

Then I thought it would be a nice gesture for the girls’ to give their classmates inexpensive gifts and I had a lightbulb moment when I spotted these in Wal-Mart.  Now, I know these Little Hugs aren’t the healthiest drinks for kids (actually they’re probably the worst), but there’s no disputing the sheer, creative genius of them and all for under $3.00!  I printed labels and taped one to each little juice barrel which read, “Here’s one last hug until I see you in August.  Have a great summer!”

 Teacher Gifts

Did I redeem myself or what?  What gifts did you give your child’s teacher?

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Things I’ve Never Done

I am forty years old.

And I have never:

  1. Ran a 50K.
  2. Been inked, because I haven’t found a design that I can commit to permanently.
  3. Sexted anyone, not even my husband.
  4. Rode in a hot air balloon.
  5. Slept in Cinderella’s castle.
  6. Picketed in a protest.


    meprotesting1 Things Ive Never Done


  8. Held a gun.
  9. Punched a clown despite feeling the urge to do so.
  10. Been tickled until I peed myself, but I’ve laughed until I cried.
  11. Broken a bone.
  12. Surfed or water skied which is a pathetic living in a state surrounded by water on 3 sides.

    mesurfing1 Things Ive Never Done


  14. Driven across country.
  15. Visited Maine.
  16. Been arrested.
  17. Performed at an open mic night at a comedy club.
  18. Taken a belly dancing or cardio tease class.

    me cardiotease1 Things Ive Never Done

  20. Attended a drag queen revue, but my hairdresser promises to take me to one.
  21. Skinny dipped.
  22. Slit someone’s tires.
  23. Eaten duck or liver.
  24. Been horseback riding.

    me onahorse1 Things Ive Never Done


  26. Received over 800 comments on any one post. Holy blogger love, Batman!


*This post was inspired by Mama Kat who stole…er…I mean… borrowed the idea from The Pioneer Woman.*
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