Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Eating our way through Beantown

Our trip to Boston was a return to what had once been our home. It was the place our family went from four to five. It was where we bought our first home, and lovingly furnished each tiny room with care. We have many cherished memories, each tucked away in the file cabinets of our hearts.

Eh, who are we kidding?

It was the place where I discovered this store:


Which sells the likes of these:


That alone is reason enough to visit.

I literally ate my way through Boston on this trip (and have the pounds on the scale to prove it). All the places I wanted to be sure and hit were restaurants and/or bakeries. Any historical landmarks or cultural exhibits were merely a secondary consideration.

We were there to eat, baby.

While walking through the North End with a box (and a belly) full of cannolis from the famous Mike's Pastry Shop, the heat became a little too much for Miss Hannah. We had been walking the Freedom Trail for what seemed like an eternity, and she had reached her breaking point.

When Josh spied a pedicab on the street, he wisely put his two girls in it - opting to walk back to the hotel with the boys, who immediately began complaining vigorously at the injustice of it all.

Eyeballing the rather slender form of our pedicab driver, the following conversation took place:

Me: Are you sure I'm not too heavy for this thing?

Him: Nah. Are you underestimating these thighs?

Me: No. I think you are underestimating these thighs.

Him: Yeah, that box of cannolis can really weigh you down.

Me: You have no idea.

But he huffed and he puffed, and got us back to our hotel without collapsing or needing to call an ambulance.

Though I am pretty sure that any more days there and I would have needed one myself.

Food heaven, food coma, food baby.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And the winning city is...

Boston, baby!

The picture for the contest was taken in at one of my favorite places in Concord. It was at the North Bridge --the serene, tranquil place spoken of by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his poem, "Concord Hymn." It was quite literally the site of the first battle in the American Revolution.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

A few of you guessed correctly. A lot of you guessed wrong.

And some of you were absolutely hilarious in your guesses.

If ONLY I could go to Lallybroch with one red-headed, kilt-wearing Scotsman! Yum. (Read this book and you'll want to go, too.)

But since there can only be one winner, courtesy of Random-dot-org:

Cindy from AZ

Send me your address and a little ditty is headed your way.

I will be back tomorrow with pictures galore, stories, and a very funny conversation with a pedicab driver about my thighs.

Right now, I should be unpacking and doing laundry, but I find myself here at the computer, trying to catch up on the hundreds of blogs in my reader -- getting up only to get myself more handfuls of the highly overpriced/very touristy Boston Baked Beans we brought home.

Which by no means are helping the matter of the aforementioned thighs.

See you soon, peeps. It's good to be home.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Where in the world is Stie?

We find ourselves away from home again in a very beautiful city. Care to take a guess as to where? All guesses will be thrown into a hat and the winner will receive a prize.

Here is a clue:

Happy speculating!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 21, 2010

Red one! Blue one! Green one! Black one! (and that's just my right arm)

I remember the first time I saw this commercial. I really liked it then and mentally praised the brilliant ad agency who came up with such a gem. I may have even laughed out loud (though I am sure I did not LOL. I never LOL).

But that was before.

Before my life became this commercial. Before my arms sported permanent bruises in the shape of my children's fists. Before I could ride in the car and not panic with fear every time a car drove by.

For, you see, my kids take everything to the next level. Not only do they punch for VWs, but they invented the notorious "BM-Punch-You." And, "Hit You Honda." Then they even made up "Jeep Weep," named aptly for the crying you inevitably do after you are punched.

This pretty much means that I am getting slugged in the biceps every time a car passes us.

You know, like every 1.2 seconds or so.

And if you think for one minute that those punches don't hurt, then you've never been on the receiving end of Hannah's little fists of fury. Girlfriend packs herself some power in those scrawny little arms.

I am sore, and I am so over it.

So much so that I am selling my car and will now be calling my friends for rides. Plus, I'm drafting a court order for the neighbors across the street that will prohibit them from ever again opening their garage door.

You know, the garage that houses their GREEN ONE!

Stupid, clever ad agency. I'm not laughing now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Maren

The year was 1996, and we were nervously loading all of our worldly possessions into the back of a very small U-Haul truck. The Husband and I had been married two short years, but I thought of myself as a supremely experienced woman when it came to married life.

Ha. What I'd like to go back and tell my naive self if I could.

But graduate school for the Husband was in Minnesota, and so there would I be also.

I had never lived more than two hours away from my childhood home in my entire life. People I knew didn't do this. They didn't move away from friends, family, and familiar. I had no notion of what it would take to make friends in this new life of ours. Quite simply, I had never done it. The six girls I grew up with, were the six girls I went to college with. I had never really been outside of my comfort zone, and I was prepared for the worst. Planning, rather pessimistically, on spending the next three to four years with no one for company but the Husband.

Then I went to church in my new city and met these girls.

(my scary, huge, fat, pregnant self in pink. Maren is next to me on the right)

Married to husbands that were also poor, starving students, we instantly bonded. Widows during finals week, we kept each other company. We spent every weekend together and knew all there was to know about each other's lives. We saw each other through jobs, morning sickness, car accidents, pregnancy, childbirth, illness, and graduation.

One of these fabulous women was my Maren. Hers was the house I went to on my afternoons off to scrapbook with. Her baby was the one I played with when I was so hungry for one of my own. She was the one I traded books and recipes with. It was Maren who happily picked my mom up from the airport when she came to help with newborn baby McKay.

Quite quickly, she became my family. The sister I never had.

And a few years later, when the time came for them to pack their own moving truck and drive to St. Louis, I thought my heart would break in half. Saying goodbye to Maren and Stuart was one of the hardest things we'd ever done. We hated to see this perfect world of ours disbanded and scattered all over the country.

But, as it inevitably does, life marched on. Our own moving day came a year or so later, and we were off to start a new adventure - this time ready and experienced in starting over. Christmas cards went back and forth, and we always found joy in catching up with Maren's little family every year. Ten years passed in the blink of an eye.

Then there was a job opportunity for us in St. Louis. Our first thoughts were to call our old friends and find out everything we could about the city, the schools, and the neighborhoods. Maren, not wanting to influence us in the decision, gave objective advice without firm direction on where we should live. When we coincidentally ended up buying a home just around the block from them, both families were ecstatic.


It's been three and a half years since then, and I am still awestruck at the wonderful blessing that having this family in our lives has been. It's like coming home. It's having family in a city where there is none.

My kids think of her kids as cousins, and our husbands dive in enthusiastically to converse whenever we get together. I know I can call her for just about anything (and frequently have). It's as though we were only apart for a day. Instead of a decade.


My life is definitely richer with this family in it.

So here's to good friends - be they near, far, or just around the corner. You just never know when you're going to end up back in their lives, and they in yours.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

His thirty-eighth


Today was a very ordinary day as far as days go. He got up. He went to work. Maybe a little extraordinary in that his wife actually got up with him and made his breakfast.

Early. Not sleeping in like she usually does.

Because she loves him. And he's worth it.

He went to work and returned calls. He worked on documents. His co-workers got him a cake and sang to him in the middle of the day. He undoubtedly shrugged and blushed, embarrassed.

He came home early, refusing to let his wife man the grill. After all, the man really should cook the meat. She made fresh guacamole and got the good chips to go with it. She cooked fresh corn on the cob and cut up lots of fruit.

She made him a cake with help from his kids.

It definitely looked homemade. But it tasted delicious.

He laughed at it, then enjoyed a large slice with a smile on his face. His kids beamed with pride before diving into their own slices.


He got his mother on speaker phone, so she could continue the tradition she started years ago: The telling of the birth story. His kids laughed, incredulous at life in the old days. She told the story with the enthusiasm and vigor that makes all of her stories so fun to hear. Even his father chimed in to add his part. His kids stared at him in wonder - amazed that he ever was anything other than the man before them.

His wife cleaned up the dishes, and he helped her - in spite of her insistence otherwise. He hugged her and thanked her for a fantastic day.

She hugged him right back and thanked him for a fantastic life.

He had a good day.

He is loved.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tender mercies


Six or seven weeks ago, I got the phone call that no one ever wants to get.

It was my dad. In a shaky voice, very different from his usually calm tone, he told me of the tests doctors wanted him to have.

Tests with scary names like bone marrow biopsy, MRI, CT scan, PET scan, blood work.

They feared the worst - blood cancer.

Turns out that a protein marker for this type of cancer had shown up in a blood test he'd had done by an orthopedic surgeon who he went to see for a broken rib. Hearing the story of his broken rib, she doubted that the bone should have broken the way it had and ordered further tests, ultimately referring him to an oncologist who specialized in this type of cancer.

We spent the next several weeks mindful of him, praying for him, praying for the doctors, and hoping that when the diagnosis came down (as the doctors were telling us it would) that we would have caught it early enough to kick that cancer's ass right back where it belonged.

After a grueling Memorial Day weekend spent worried and afraid, we got the call.

There was no cancer. That protein was no longer present in his body. They could find no evidence of the blood cancer they were expecting to find. Anywhere.


I was instantly relieved, but questioned disbelievingly. Were they sure? How could the protein be there one month and gone the next? Would it come back? Why was it there in the first place?

There were a few things that did show up on the scans, however, and a referral to a neurosurgeon confirmed it.

My dad has a brain tumor the size of a lemon.

They are confident it is benign, and he is scheduled to have it removed on Tuesday. The doctors expect him to make a full recovery and be back on his feet within a few weeks.

Throughout this whole process of worry, fear, speculating, and frustration, I am left with only one conclusion. The protein showed up, not as a marker of blood cancer, but so that we could find the tumor and treat it quickly.

It was quite simply a tender mercy of our Heavenly Father.

Surprisingly, my dad is experiencing no symptoms - even with a tumor of this size - and it likely would have been some time before they discovered it. By which time, who knows what would have happened or how he would have been affected.

Today, I am grateful and humbled by the reminder that someone up there is watching over me and my little family, insignificant though we may feel at times. And though life often takes us in directions we may not understand or comprehend, someone has a plan for us. A purpose. A design.

That plan definitely includes me.

And it definitely includes you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Oh, you'd better believe he's in the doghouse for this one

Remember the awesomeness that was the mohawks? You know, the ones that after four years I have finally embraced?


Somebody decided that we were done with them for this year and took the scissors to my poor boy's head:


No, it was not McKay, as you can see in this terribly out of focus picture. [Sorry. I was in a hurry.]

It was definitely not Chase or Hannah. Not even our cousin Emmie, who is fond of playing barbershop on her own bangs from time to time, committed this travesty. It was not the two-year-old boy who lives down the street.

Though we would expect such behavior out of him.



As you can see, he took the scissors to my little Mack's head, chopping to the scalp in some spots. One would THINK that a grown man would not attempt such a juvenile, foolish, and insensible act of vandalism.

The tragedy in all of this is the damage was unfixable by the barber. Not even the fine specimens one finds at the local Super Cuts could fix what the Husband had done.

So sadly, for the next month or two, this is what my darling boy will look like:


And believe me when I tell you, the angry look on McKay's face is mirrored exactly by my own.

The one bright spot in this bleak storm of blinding rage was Chase's comment to McKay. He said, "Don't worry, Mack. It takes confidence to wear a buzz. You'll see. You'll feel great by the time it grows back in."

Unfortunately, that will be long before I'm ready to forgive the Husband.

P.S. Have you seen my other blog lately? There are some amazing sessions for your viewing pleasure. Stop by and take a peek.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Living with Chase

You know you're living with Chase when...


June 6th is celebrated with all the fanfare of a national holiday.

And in spite of yourself, you know exactly what Operation Overlord is referring to.

You know you're living with Chase when you spend your Sunday morning listening to facts about the D-Day invasion, with him not sparing any of the gory details.

No matter that you're eating breakfast.

You know you're living with Opa's Mini-Me Chase when a first-edition book by Bill Mauldin shows up on your doorstep from the Opa. And is immediately devoured by a blue-eyed boy who treasures it with a reverence not usually seen in kids his age. Especially when it comes to things like old books.


You know you're living with Chase when you are encouraged forced to make a flag cake in honor of the fallen heroes.

And you are told that it must have no more than 13 stripes and no less than 50 stars. "Because anything other than that would be an insult to our country, Mom."

You know you're living with Chase when the phone rings early Sunday morning and it's Opa calling to wish your son a happy D-Day. A call which leaves him beaming from ear to ear, proud and thrilled to know that someone out there feels the exact same way that he does.

And, finally, you know you're living with Chase when you realize six months ahead of time that the next important holiday in his world will roll around on December 7th.

So you'd better get working on your stars. We can't have crooked stars on the flag.

Even if it's only a cake.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

How to have a spontaneous vacation (and survive it)

The poor gator we brought back home with us. Yes, it's totally real.

As you have no doubt been reading ad nauseam, we took a little trip down to Naples, Florida last week. It was completely a spur-of-the-moment thing, turned out to be fantastic --and was absolutely worth it.

I learn a lot every time we take a trip anywhere, and this one was no exception. Thought I'd share a few things I learned with you, in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

1. Don't be afraid to say yes. When your husband says, "I am going to be in Florida for an extended business trip, want to come?" Say yes, even if you are afraid you will not get cheap flights at the last minute. Say yes, even if it is the last week of school and you will have to pull your kids out, forcing them miss most of the fun parties, field days, and concerts. Say yes, even if it seems like an insane thing to do.

For when you sit under that beach umbrella with your husband, watching your babies play in the surf, you will both turn to look at each other at the exact same moment and say, "IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT."

Besides, airfare will be surprisingly cheap. And kids won't necessarily care about the parties at the end of the year. Family memories and time together will last a lifetime. They are only this age once.

2. Do not be afraid to check the rates of very fancy hotels that you think you cannot afford. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton for $119 a night, people! That's cheaper than most of the crappy hotels NOT on the beach. It was five-star service at a two-star price. I would have been content to stay anywhere, but the Husband's tolerance level runs a wee bit higher. We hit the city of Naples off-season, and had the beach and hotel wait staff to ourselves. It was heaven.

[I'm also slightly afraid that my children are ruined for life. You can't stay at the Ritz and then ever stay anywhere else without being terribly disappointed.]

3. Do not be phased by emergencies that come up. During our five-day stay, we had one emergency room visit, one urgent situation requiring help from a physician back home, one child pass out due to heat stroke on a hotel boardwalk, and a supposedly waterproof mitt failed - leaving one child's cast soaking wet and full of sand.

For most people, these events would absolutely ruin the trip. For us, it was pretty much normal fare for a vacation.


But a few doses of antibiotics quickly took care of the ear infection that sent us to the ER. Some ice, water, and juice took care of the heat stroke. A late night conversation with our physician back home solved an otherwise nightmare situation. The soggy, smelly cast was removed when we got home and replaced with a removable brace. We took it all in stride, and figured it wasn't worth getting upset about.

Slightly annoyed maybe. But not upset. We were back on the beach and in good form - hardly the worse for wear.

4. Give yourself permission to put down the camera and watch your babies play with your own two eyes. Pictures are treasures that can help preserve the memory, but it is also important to be a part of making the memory yourself. So many times I miss things because I am busy photographing them instead of doing them. This trip, I did not make that mistake, and I have no regrets for the small number of pictures I took.

Instead, I made sandcastles with Hannah and hunted for seashells. I dove through waves with McKay and Chase. I raced the Husband (and lost) on a kayak in the middle of the ocean, laughing as the salty water shot up around us.

And not once did I feel anything lacking.

The trip was heaven and I'd do it again. And again. And again.

How's tomorrow, in fact?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We've come a long way, baby

They wandered up and down the aisles of the large gift shop, their eyes roving happily over the shelves around them. Their salty, red cheeks beamed with smiles as they found things that struck their fancy.

The middle boy had already decided on his souvenir. Decided before he even stepped foot outside the airport doors when he saw a large, taxidermied crocodile head. A quick check of the white price tag on the bottom confirmed that it was within his grasp. A wide grin spread over his face, revealing the lone dimple that I love.

As we towed our suitcases and headed for the door, I knew that the return trip through the airport on our way home would be forefront in his mind for the next five days.

I shadowed the other two through the hotel gift shop, always nervously mindful of breakables in little hands. The woman at the cash register made friendly chit-chat as she kept a sharp eye on her wares, as well. Eager to get back and shower the sand and salt from my body, I made helpful suggestions. Pointed out things that I knew they would love.

Each in their turn, they smiled, inspected, and then politely rejected each item I offered. They did not reach out with grabby hands for cheap, plastic toys. There was no whining and pleading for everything in sight. No rough examinations of delicate glass pieces.

They simply shopped, content.

Finally, the perfect mementos were selected and we approached the cash register to pay. The baby girl had (of course) chosen yet another stuffed animal to add to her already too-vast collection, and a pretty notebook depicting the very beach scene we were loathe to leave in the morning.

The oldest boy took a longer time deciding and chose a large starfish and a conch shell - one big enough that we could take the ocean home with us. He hesitantly lifted a third item up, seeking my approval and pleading with his eyes. When I glanced down and saw the title of the book, I knew I would buy it for him - no matter the cost.

My motherly pride practically spilling out of my heart at the decorum and class displayed by my children in a store full of toys and breakables, I could barely see through the tears to sign for the purchase.

The saleswoman had noticed it all, too. She praised me for having such polite, thoughtful children. She complimented their restraint and good manners - remarking that she had not ever seen such calm and unspoiled children in her store in the 10 years she had managed it.

As we walked out, purchases in hand, I looked at the three little heads - eagerly bent over each others bags examining the spoils - and I had to agree with her.

I think they are pretty freaking fantastic myself.