Friday, December 21, 2012

12.21.12. Otherwise known as: The end of our world as we know it


My heart is full, my limbs exhausted, and my gratitude overflows into salty tears.

This morning, we said goodbye, officially, and on paper, to our home for the last five-and-a-half years.

The Husband's company had approached him in early November and asked if he wanted to open another office for them.  While this would be a HUGE opportunity for him professionally, they were unsure at the time of asking as to where they wanted this office opened.  We knew it would be either Dallas or Nashville, and we said yes to either one.

We spoke with a realtor, who advised us to hurry and get the house ready to sell, as there were buyers out there and not a whole lot to choose from.  Thinking our house would not sell before Christmas anyway, and that we'd have another chance to put it on the market in the spring, we gave it a try.

Three days later, we had an offer in hand, and still no word on where we would be moving.

THAT was an anxious few weeks.  One filled with diet cokes and self-medication (read:  lots and lots of chocolate).

Finally, the word came down from the higher ups that Dallas was to be our destiny, and we began to get excited.

What was not exciting, however, was going to be closing, moving, and having Christmas all in the same week.

Also not exciting was saying goodbye the brand-new, beautifully remodeled basement we finished this summer.

[Why?  Why do things like this happen JUST when you get your house how you want it?  Is it because God has a great sense or humor?   Or because the universe hates me?

Probably both.]

In any event, I bring you a plethora of photos from the basement now being enjoyed by someone else.










Beautiful, no?  Did you notice the wonderfully organized nooks and crannies in my office shelves?  How perfectly everything lines up and fits in its spot?  I have LOVED that office.  LOVED.

Like almost more than anyone else in the family, LOVED.

(Calm down, Hannah.  I still love you more.)

I think I'd probably die of misery were it not for the excitement of the new home we have decided to build in Dallas.  We JUST got word from the builder that they have accepted our offer and we are slated to have it completed in April.  We will finish school here, and move down there at the end of May.

So, today, on this apocalyptic end-of-the-world Mayan calendar day of doom, life has worked out pretty even-steven for us.  Sell a house, buy a house.  All on the same day.

Which should tell you all that, indeed, the world WILL be ending tonight.

Eh.  At least we'll go out with a smile on our face.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wigwam Brownies: A lesson in historical accuracy

Brace yourself.

I have come up with a new Thanksgiving invention that is sure to turn the world on its politically incorrect head.

You see, when I, ever so insensitively, posted my Tee Pee Cupcakes four years ago, I did not take into account the inaccuracy of my racially-controversial table decoration.

I imagined that homemakers all over America would delight in creating something for their Thanksgiving holiday that would, not only please the eye, but taste good, too.

Oh, how foolish and wrong I was.

I was not creating a simple holiday treat.  I was promoting racism.

Did you know that the Indians First Americans who helped our clueless Pilgrim friends did not live in tee pees?  Did you?

I didn't.  And my prolonged promotion of incorrect stereotypes has probably set back the Indian First American movement at least another 600 years.

Those poor First Americans.  Stereotyped into tee pees at Thanksgiving all these years.

The horror.

Thanks to the dozens of people who have found the time in their no doubt uber-busy lives to send me lengthy emails correcting my mistake from four years ago, I have decided to correct all of you, as well.  Because it's the right thing to do.

Listen up, racists:  The First Americans that helped the Pilgrims lived in Wigwams.  Like these:


NOT tee pees, like these:


So, with my historically accurate Wigwam photo and a plan, I set out this morning to create a culturally sensitive Thanksgiving decoration for you.

I mixed up a pan of brownies according to the package directions and let them cool. Once they were cool enough to handle, I scooped a large blob of brownies out of the pan and shaped them into a dome shape like this with my hands:


It took about half the pan of brownies, as the brownies got very compressed when I squished and molded them. This means that you only get two Wigwams per box of brownies. And if you're eating at a Thanksgiving table of 28 like I am, this means you need roughly 14 boxes of brownies, three dozen eggs, and a pint of oil.

Totally worth it. We MUST get this right, people.

Once shaped and molded into the proper, accurate Wigwam shape, melt a cup of chocolate chips and pour over the Wigwam.


Crush up several oreos and sprinkle them over the melted chocolate. While the chocolate is cooling, start in on making some decorative accessories to go along with your Wigwams.

I created an entire forest of Eastern Woodland pine trees, on the assumption that these trees actually existed at the time of the First Americans. Though I did not research this facet of my Thanksgiving table thoroughly, I am sure my dear, educated readers will write and correct me if I'm wrong.


I also took some tootsie rolls and starbursts to create a fake fire. It would have been more historically accurate to have a REAL fire, but I was worried about small things like, you know, the house burning down. Or my children suffering third degree burns.

Trying to be true to history can be quite dangerous. But it is SO. WORTH. IT.  I definitely recommend real fires on your table if you can manage.


When your Wigwam chocolate has cooled, pipe some realistic looking sticks and a door onto the Wigwam. This is harder than it sounds, as the dome shape is a tricky angle to work with, and the oreos make the chocolate crumble right off.


Once everything is assembled, it is ready to be the centerpiece of your politically correct, racially-sensitive, historically-accurate, non-offensive Thanksgiving table.


And, you know what? It looks SO MUCH BETTER than my silly, inaccurate, dumb, little tee pees.


Yeah, you're welcome.

P.S.  Check out this month's Parenting magazine, page 65.  But be warned, they have inadvertently featured my inaccurate, controversial tee pee cupcakes instead of my newly accurate Wigwam brownies.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A winner...

Um, yeah.  Sorry about that.

Didn't mean to completely ignore my own contest or anything.

Been a little bit busy around here feeling overwhelmed, stressed, excited, and manic.

Life has thrown a curve ball our way and it's completely tossed everything we know upside down.

I'm not ready to talk about it yet, as things are still unsettled, but I can promise you this:

We are not getting divorced.
No one is sick.
I am definitely not pregnant.  (But I'm pretty excited about someone I know who is.)

Once things are figured out around here, a post will be forthcoming, I promise.

In the meantime, the winner of my new favorite book is:

Blogger Sara said...
My favorite is Unbreakable...excellent read.
You had me at It's a Wonderful Life! That's my favorite movie.
October 22, 2012 4:43:00 PM CDT

Shoot me your address and the book will be on its way to your hot little hands.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A post! And a giveaway! This is your lucky day...

A few months ago, on one of his many, many business trips, the Husband was seated in (of course) first class next to Mitch Albom.

He recognized the award-winning writer immediately and they started up a conversation.  The Husband mentioned to Mitch (can we call him that now?  He met the Husband.  They're bound to be best friends, right?)  that he is a huge fan of his sports writing.

He then added that his wife (me) is a huge fan of Mitch's novels.

Mitch laughed, and said, "I get that a lot."

About a month ago, I was looking for something new to read.  I opted for The Time Keeper by (our new best friend) Mitch Albom.

I started it at about eight o'clock in the evening, just as the kids were settling down for the night.

I finished it by about eleven.

With tears streaming down my cheeks, I vowed to share this book with everyone I know.

And, late yesterday afternoon, I finished reading it aloud to my entire family.

It. Is. Phenomenal.

Part-fable, part-It's-a-Wonderful-Life, it is engaging and real.  It takes you on a journey that makes you evaluate how you spend your time, and how you value time.   It will make you want to make the most of every precious minute you have in this brief life.  It reminds you that there is always hope, no matter how bleak things seem.

I loved it.  My family loved it.

And in honor of that, I am going to give away one copy to a lucky reader.  Leave me a comment telling me your favorite book.  All comments will be thrown into and a winner drawn on Wednesday, October 24th at 8 p.m. local time.

If you don't win, buy the book anyway.  It's worth every penny.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hand me my slippers and housecoat. I'm going for a walk.

Most days, in my happy, independent adult world, I feel pretty smart.  Pretty on top of my game.

I can multi-task with the best of them.  I can run a household and a successful photography business.  I pay bills, handle finances, and perform minor home repairs.  I also hold down a leadership position in my church, and do a pretty dang good job of it all, thankyouverymuch.

All while catching movies, lunching with friends, keeping my house clean, and reading a good book.

Sure, sometimes we eat at the McDonalds.  And maybe the laundry sits unfolded for a day here and there.

Nobody's perfect.

But I like to think that I do a pretty good job of it all.

Until that horrible moment comes along which knocks me off my high horse with brutal humility.

Last night was one of those moments.

I was helping a child with homework, and quite honestly had no clue what to do.

I would like to say that this child was my freshman son, who is incredibly smart.

Or even my seventh grader, who is taking all challenge classes and doing so well.

But no.

It was the homework of the girl child in the fifth grade.

The four-lettered M-A-T-H homework.

I was completely dumbstruck (literally) and could not figure out how to help her.  Feeling helpless, I grabbed the laptop, ran to the bathroom, pretended to be otherwise engaged, and searched frantically for a Khan Academy video that would restore my credibility and put order once again in the universe.

Tragically, the little girl stood impatiently outside of the bathroom door and figured out pretty quickly that her mama ain't so good with the smarts.

(Lucky for me, Chase took charge of the situation and taught us both what to do.  Though, I won't lie.  I've already forgotten it and will probably be unable to help her tonight.)

It's unnerving.  For both them and for me.  The look of disillusionment in a child's eye is one that goes straight through the heart like a knife.  When they realize they're smarter than you, it's all over.  You might as well hand them the proverbial keys to your life, because they will forever more question your good judgement.  They will second guess you on the way to the grocery store with, "Are you sure this is the right way, Mom?"

You know, the store you've been driving to all your life.  Or at least the last six years.

Or they get frustrated and say, "Hand me the directions.  I'll do it." as they hastily (and correctly) begin assembling their own bike.  You suddenly become a slow-witted, delicate, old lady in their eyes who is ready for the Home.   They cannot imagine you as a functioning member of society and fully expect to find you wandering the neighborhood in your slippers and housecoat.  

And you're not even forty yet!

Am I the only one here?  Tell me you are all a bunch of dummies, too.

Or just lie.

Either way.  Pleez mayk mee feel beter about mye dum selph?!".

Friday, September 28, 2012


His broad shoulders are carrying a heavy load - both in the substantial backpack he wears, and in the burden he carries each day.  I can't help but watch him and wonder -- does he see the change that is happening almost overnight?  Does he feel the growth that I see each and every morning?

I like mornings now.

Well, maybe not mornings, but I really like the time I get to spend with him.  Just he and I.  We have already created several inside jokes, and we laugh about them while the rest of the world is still dreaming.  The house is quiet.  The others, asleep.

As we drive through dark streets to his six a.m. religion class, I try not to notice the puffiness around his eyes, or the weariness on his face.  The mama in me worries, wondering how in the world he'll ever sustain this pace of 13-hour days.  But then he smiles, lights up, and tells me all about his upcoming day.  He has taken the pressure, exhaustion, and work load and chosen instead to see them as a routine that he enjoys.  A challenge.  He drives himself to do better, to run faster, to study more.

I tear up, wondering just when exactly my little boy decided it was okay to cease being just that.  I turn from him and wipe the tears, not wanting him to see me mourn for what once was.  Truthfully?  I'm prouder than I could have ever imagined I'd feel at this moment.  And I wouldn't have him any other way.

But there is a part of me that will always miss his chubby hands and toothless grin.  His Lego days, superman capes, and endless rounds of Goodnight Moon.  Skinned boy knees, all curled up in my lap.  Soft arms around my neck, and whispered I love yous every night at his bedside.

He's grown up seemingly almost overnight.  Right before my eyes, and quite without my permission.  Nobody warned me that this would happen in high school.  Nobody said that he would rise to the task, take on responsibility and seriousness with the ease of slipping into a new shirt.  I expected it to be harder, more fraught with emotion, and requiring the inevitable pain that growth produces.

Instead, he's taken life by the horns, and done so with more grace and charm than his mother has known in a lifetime.

I'm so proud of you, Mack.

I can almost forgive you for destroying the drapes in that one old house.

Almost.  But not quite.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

And this concludes the longest vacation recap in history...











Well, over a month after it began, the recap is finally complete.

We rounded out our journey in Merry Old England (or Dingland, if you're in our family). When we were planning this trip last December, we had hopes to spend a few days in London. We searched high and low for a hotel room and couldn't find one to save our lives. Scratching our heads as to why all of London was booked solid, the Husband hit the nail on the head.

The Olympics.

Yep, we were hitting England smack dab in the middle of the Olympic Games. It made our decision easy. We would avoid London like the plague, and instead spend our time north in York.

Which was a treat because when the Husband was 14 years old, he moved there with his whole family while Opa got a master's degree at York University.

We were able to see the school he went to, walk to his favorite place for Fish & Chips, as well as see the house they all lived in. The current owners happened to be home, and were thrilled to give us a top-to-bottom tour. The house had been remodeled extensively, so it looked a lot better than when the family lived there 25 years ago.

Other highlights included:

* Touring the York Minster with Opa, who helped work to restore it after a fire in the 80s.

* Watching the Husband get roped into helping a street performer.  He threw real knives to this nut who was up on a unicycle, juggling blindfolded.  Luckily, no one lost any limbs, and none of my children have as yet started juggling knives blindfolded on a unicycle.  Bonus.

* Walking the ancient wall around the city of York.  Originally built in 71 AD.  You can imagine Chase's commentary.

*Shopping in the Shambles and wishing desperately I could move here.

* High tea at Betty's.  Why can't we get clotted cream here in the states?  Delish.

* Going to church in the old ward and being treated like rock stars because everyone still remembered the Husband, his family, and the impact they made while there.

* Rounding out a four-country whirlwind tour with the best tour guides anyone has ever known.

It was a fantastic trip with fantastic people, and I'm so grateful we had the opportunity to go.

And, if you're still reading after all these posts, and you're not one of the people who were on this trip, you deserve a medal.  Phew.

The End.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Deaf and Dump

Our next foray into the Never Ending European Vacation Recap takes us from Salzburg via train to Munich, Germany.

As soon as we sat down on the train, we were handed a card that looked like this:


Sadly, I wanted to correct her poor English grammar more than I wanted to buy a key ring at whatever price I might wish.

Poor thing.

But to sum up our time there, I would say Germany for us consisted of these three things:

Suit Buying.









Hannah, Oma, and I headed out early one morning to meet a bus tour that took us to Linderhof, Oberammergau, and Neuschwanstein.

All three were absolute perfection. We debated going, as it was a good two hour bus or train ride from where we were staying in Munich, but I'm so glad we went. It was fascinating. Beautiful. Breathtaking. (And a little bit hot.)  Even with the tour guide who reminded us over and over like pre-schoolers to "Not miss da bas," we had the best day ever.

The boys, meanwhile, spent their time touring the BMW factory. While the Husband withstood temptation to bring home a large, blue souvenir, he did assure me that "someday" he will. Apparently, the folks at the BMW make it a pretty sweet deal to buy your own car, pick it up at the factory, drive it all over Europe, and ship it home. I'm pretty much okay with that because it means I get another trip over here.

By which time, I hope not to be deaf or dump.

Most unexpected of our time in Germany was buying the Husband a suit. After our departure from home, an unplanned business meeting popped up that he had to get home for. It required him to leave us a day early, but left him no time to stop in St. Louis and pick up his clothes. Kudos to the fine folks at our German department store who got that puppy altered and ready in the nick of time.

(Literally. We were waiting with luggage in hand to take a train and board our flight to Manchester just as they were finishing up.)

Munich was a bustling, beautiful city and we were sorry to bid her adieu.

Stay tuned for one last post where I bring us full circle to Merry Ol' England.

It will end. I promise.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Kill the Poor! Or maybe something along those lines?


When I last left you, our little family was roaming around Europe wearing nothing but some old drapes.

Well, maybe not old drapes.

But we definitely were doing some roaming.

It was with sorrow that we said goodbye to Switzerland, and joy that we found ourselves in Salzburg.   Where, sadly for those traveling with me, I found occasion to use every Sound of Music quote in my repertoire.  My vast repertoire.  Like. I have confidence in sunshine!  I have confidence in rain!

(I did, however, think Chase's umbrella might not have instilled a lot of confidence.)


(Are you tired of the Sound of Music references yet?)

(So is the city of Salzburg, I'm sure.)












Highlights included:

*  The Frauline Maria Bike Tour.  Highly recommend it if ever you're in Salzburg.  You ride all through the city and countryside, taking in the historic Salzburg sites, as well as the filming locations for the Sound of Music.  It's nearly impossible to resist singing the ever-familiar tunes whilst careening past the spots that Julie Andrews made famous.  Even the Husband gave in to temptation and muttered a line or two against his will.  It was fantastic.

* Seeing the places where Oma and Opa fell in love when they were young.  Though I'm sure the boys found it less romantic than the girls, it was thrilling to see the places firsthand that we've heard about for years.  I reminded our kids that this city is part of their story, too.  Then and now.  It's pretty cool to see it come full circle.

*  My boys in mullet hats.  I'm still kicking myself for not buying them.  They pretty much rocked.

*  Die Festung (or The Fortress).  Fantastic view, from bottom to top.  Though the eight pounds of sweat dripping off me after hiking up the hillside to get there made me sort of wish I had taken the train instead.  Note to self:  LISTEN TO OMA.

*  The Salt Mines.  Very fun, and probably informative.  Unfortunately, our English translator headsets only worked half the time, so we got a lot of the information in German.  Which was pretty much useless to most of us.  Except to the Husband, who speaks 20 languages because he is secretly a spy in the CIA has a knack for picking up foreign languages.  Weird and uncanny.

*  The Eagle's Nest.  Hitler's birthday present from the Nazi Party.  Spectacular, chilling, and unbelievably high up.  Favorite part for me:  The history lesson at the top from our resident historian.

*  Staying at the Weisse Taube Hotel and playing cards in the lobby until after midnight because our rooms were too small.

*Also at the Weisse Taube:  No air conditioning (eek!) or screens on the windows in our room on the third floor.  I about had a heart attack every time one of my children poked their heads out to see the sights.  Which was about every eight seconds.  We were probably in greater danger of me dying from worry than from them actually falling out.  But still.  The mama in me cannot be contained.

*  Doing laundry in a shop run by the ONE person we ran into over the two weeks who spoke no English.  Thankfully, it had been enough days of German immersion that I could tell her we were doing fΓΌnf loads.  (That's five for you non-Deutsch speakers) like me.  Know what also helped?  The fact that both my boys have taken German at school and kept counting with me like I was a pre-schooler. 

*  And though it is slightly horrid, I laughed hysterically when I saw this sticker on a street in Salzburg.  I have no idea if it means what I think it means, but it made me laugh:


*  One of my favorite Salzburg encounters came at Die Festung.  I was admiring the spectacular view and taking more than my share of photos.  Next to me, a man and his wife noticed my camera, and asked if I would take a look at theirs.  It was locked up and they were unable to take any photos.  I fiddled with it for a few minutes, and could not figure out how to get it working for them.  He shrugged his shoulders, reached down into his camera bag and pulled out this beauty, full of film, and ready to go:


We shared a laugh at the wonders of modern technology.  His new, high-end digital camera was useless to him; yet this old film camera from the 1940s was still in tip-top shape.  He snapped a photo of the city and we prepared to part ways.  I asked to look at his camera one last time.  The photographer in me could not let him miss what was truly a once-in-a-lifetime shot.

And wonder of wonders, it worked!

I was so happy to have helped him, but I loved his old film camera.  I told him I have several like it on a shelf at home.  He told me to bring them along next time in case the new camera stops working.

Wise words.

All in all, Salzburg was fantastic.  Would that I had months to spend there instead of days.  I love the dirndls, the food, the architecture, and the charm that hangs on every street corner.  Heaven.

Stay tuned:  Wienerschnitzel ten meals in a row and a piece of the Husband's childhood.  Lots more to come.