Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The BMIR is in the Building

Santa was in town on Friday.  The real one.  The BMIR (Big Man in Red). There are many impostors out there.  You can call them "helpers" if you want to, but I think the fake Santa industry has gotten a bit out of hand. I mean, where is the quality control? Who screens these guys? Case in point: my six-year-old rushes up to me after sighting one of those "helpers" and says, "I know that's not really Santa. Santa doesn't have pimples." Could we please raise the hiring standards for our Santa impersonators? A Santa with pimples ain't helpin' anybody. But I digress.

Anyway, the real BMIR was here.  For two hours only.  He comes every year to our favorite little toy store. And we get a private audience with him. Well, we do and all the rest of our little hamlet who know a good thing when they see it.

On these yearly visits, Santa takes as much time with each kid as is needed. You bring your own camera and take as many shots as you like. We talked to Santa about how he heats his sleigh (it a magic heater, in case you are wondering, and it only works on Christmas Eve). We now know what kind of cookie he likes best. I'm not going to share that with you, because then you all would be leaving out the same kind of cookie for him on Christmas Eve, hoping to butter him up a bit to get some extra presents under your tree and that wouldn't be right. Santa needs to have a variety of cookies throughout the evening. And he now knows he can get his favorite at one special house. That works out nicely, don't you think?

But anyway, I almost forgot to mention my kids. They told Santa exactly what they want, but only one thing each. I couldn't believe that they only requested one gift. We are talking about nine- and six-year-old American boys. You know they want it all. But all they asked for was one. Maybe manners? Maybe a test? We'll see. But one of the items is on backorder  for a very long time and Santa clearly knew this as he told my son that the Elves were severely backed up on production of said toy and he then gently tried to steer my one son in another direction. My son would have none of that re-direction and said politely, "Thank you for the other ideas, but I want the ?@*&."  So Santa better be creative on Christmas Eve.  I am sure he will.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Greatest of These is Love

A decade and a half ago, I married a hippie. He had long hair, played in a band, wore Birks, drove an old VW van, classic hippie stuff.  He was fun, kind, and funny. We had such great times. We road-tripped across the country from the deep South to the stunning Southwest. Twice. We tent-camped next to fabled Indian vortices of Sedona. We became vegetarian and fermented kombucha tea on top of our kitchen cabinets. We adopted a three-legged cat. We wrote our own wedding vows, borrowing wisdom from Corinthians, Star Trek and The Donny and Marie Show. We spent Saturdays in Piedmont Park. We eshewed the conservative and said "we will never..." alot. We lived an enchanted life.

Many changes come over fifteen years. We no longer live in the deep South. When we camp now, it requires much more than a tent. The vegetarianism lasted for the first ten years. Arnold, the three-legged cat, is gone and has been replaced by two human sons, two other cats, sundry gerbils and fish. The VW van somehow morphed into a Volvo wagon then into a Toyota Sienna. And most of the "nevers" have come to pass.

But some things haven't changed. I have been married to the same wonderful man for the last fifteen years. He is a hippie at heart underneath that corporate, techy facade. His long hair is gone, but he stills plays in a band. And he is still fun, kind and funny. And we continue to have great times. I love that our outward changes have been dramatic and at times surprising. It makes for great stories for the kids! And yes, we still live an enchanted life.

Happy Anniversary Baby! I love you!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Captured Unaware

I've said before that I love photographs of people when they are Captured Unaware. Private moments secretly caught are so revealing. Posed portraits can never tell stories like that. Recently, I had the opportunity, nay the pleasure, of photographing the children of a wonderful friend. We got some really nice posed shots for the family, but my favorite of the day is this sweet little shot of the daughter.

She is absolutely precious.  I love everything about this casual shot, taken secretly as she walked past.

I played with it a little to give it an old, sepia feel and I love this one too.   
Her innocence is captured here but for a moment...wouldn't it be nice to keep that innocence forever?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I Believe...It is December

As many of you did, I spent much time in November being thankful.  I participated in a Giving Thanks challenge, whereby I listed something on my blog that I was thankful for each day.  I really enjoyed the challenge.  It made me think each day about what was meaningful in my life.  I probably would not have had such reflective thoughts without the structure of the challenge.  I got so much out of it that I have decided to challenge myself again in this month.

December and all its pertinent holidays bring to mind belief.  On all levels, December represents belief.  Belief in a higher power, belief in the goodness of our fellow man, belief in magic, belief in the unbelievable.  My challenge this month is to examine and note the things that I believe in.  I am not an overtly religious person.  My spiritual life is private and I hold my convictions close to my vest.  So this challenge is not all about the religious aspects of belief.  It will be, for me, an opportunity to reflect on what I hold dear, what I know to be true, what gives me comfort.  It will be what I believe.

I would be thrilled if some of you would join me this month.  You can grab the "I Believe" button to the right of this post and put it on your own blog.  If you do so, please comment below so others can follow and see what you believe.  Pass it along.

So to start, I believe that belief is powerful and a creative force in all our lives.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

On this final day of November, I believe it is time to retire my list of Thankful Things that has been living in my sidebar all month long.  But I want to preserve my list so indulge me while I restate all that I have been and am thankful for these past 30 days.  Note, these are in reverse order of appearance...I wasn't thinking about decorating for Christmas on November 1st!
  1. decorating for Christmas!
  2. makes so many things easy
  3. online shopping
  4. safe travel
  5. my sister-in-law's cooking skills and acumen
  6. hugs and kisses from my sons
  7. photography
  8. my quiet time in the house before the family wakes up
  9. music
  10. my education
  11. temps in the 60's in November
  12. forgiveness
  13. that my boys still snuggle with me on the couch
  14. mocha lattes!!!!!
  15. the brief, albeit infrequent, moments of rational communication with my children...I can see those little adults forming in there
  16. Sunday night TV time with my husband
  17. Post-it Notes and Sharpies
  18. everyday options, choices and liberties
  19. my husband and our wonderful relationship
  20. freedom and those who sacrifice for it
  21. funny things
  22. boys, specifically my two
  23. my public library
  24. all the photos of me from the 80's that my friend posted on FB today
  25. the double-ended rainbow I saw yesterday and the feeling of amazement that followed
  26. deep, enduring friendships
  27. herbes de provence
  28. second chances
  29. laproscopic surgical procedures
  30. my woolly socks
I hope you had a wonderful, thankful Thanksgiving holiday!

      Tuesday, November 24, 2009

      Thanksgiving in a Random Sense

      In the spirit of fun and games, here is my Thanksgiving Random Dozen. Wanna play?  Answer the questions on your blog and link you answers here. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

      1. Are you sticking to traditional Thanksgiving foods this year, or are you being culinarily adventurous?  I am trying a new tradition..going to my brother & sister-in-law's home. We'll see how close they stick to tradition...I don't think they will stray too far.

      2. Tell me something concrete that you're thankful for. (Something you can literally touch, see, etc., not a concept like "hope.")  I am thankful for my husband and two sons.  They are the bright lights in my life.

      3. You knew the flip side was coming: Share about something intangible that you're thankful for.  The ability to change.

      4. Share one vivid Thanksgiving memory. It doesn't have to be deep or meaningful, just something that remains etched in your memory.  One year (when I probably around 8 or 9, my dad and oldest brother had a turkey eating contest...who could eat the most?  I don't remember who won but I do recall it got very competitive.

      5. What is one thing that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt is going to happen this Thanksgiving because it always does, year after year?  Easy...overeating.

      6. Do your pets get any left-overs?  I have cats and not so much sharing of table scraps.

      7. Does your family pray before the big meal? If so, do you join hands while seated, stand, repeat a formal prayer or offer a spontaneous prayer? Who does the praying?  Yes, holding hands, sometimes standing if it's a large group, seated if it's just the four of us.  Who speaks depends on who is present.  If it's just the four of us, we all repeat our family prayer together and then add our individual words of thanks at the end.

      8. Will you be watching football in the afternoon? If not, what will you be doing?  I am sure there will be football on a TV somewhere around me...but I likely won't be paying much attention to it.

      9. There are two distinct camps of people on this issue: How do you feel about oysters in the dressing/stuffing? That is so wrong...I can't begin to tell you all the ways it is wrong!

      10. Do you consider yourself informed about the first Thanksgiving?  Absolutely...just read 2 very detailed books with my boys.  I can spout details about the Wampanoag, Samoset, Squanto, Myles Standish, John Alden...should I stop now?

      11. Which variety of pie will you be enjoying? All of the pies...but must agree with Joyce about angel pie...for those who have never had this delicacy, you have no idea that your meal really has never been complete.

      12. Do you feel for the turkey?? (This is a humorous throw back question related to the 12th question in another Random Dozen.) I used to...I was vegetarian for 10 years...but tofurkey just doesn't quite do it like a real bird can!  Bring on the bird!

      Monday, November 23, 2009

      T-shirts Now Available...Supplies are Limited

      A thought came to me as I read a friend's blog about her desire for perfection and her ensuing frustration when it doesn't arrive.  I've been there.  Haven't you?  Driving myself crazy expecting, demanding even, things to work out to my precise specifications only to come away perturbed by my less than ideal outcome.  Why do we do this?  Time and again?  My husband points out (repeatedly, I am sad to say) that if I would, could just let things happen as they do and not force my expectant frame around them, I'd be alot happier.  I think this expectation of doing everything and doing it the best comes with the "mom territory". Most moms I know, at some point, deride themselves for not doing enough, not doing things well enough, not being ten places at one time, not juggling every ball thrown their way, (insert your favorite personal lament).

      That is not to say that you shouldn't have expectations, intentions of doing your best...just don't hang on to them after the fact and ruminate on the gap.  Let go. Learn to accept the good (read: what I expect) with the bad (read: what I didn't expect).  Cut yourself some slack for not getting everything exactly right every time.

      So my first step toward this end is the adoption of my new slogan:

       I like it.  Takes some pressure off straight away.  Feel free to adopt it as your own. Oh, and what size t-shirt do you wear?

      Sunday, November 22, 2009

      Training the Spirit as Well as the Body

      Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art form. It is the type of karate that my sons practice. TSD focuses on what you typically picture when karate pops into mind: punching, kicking, and sparring. Before our exposure to TSD, I generally had a negative idea of karate for kids...courtesy of the evil dojo (a martial arts training school) led by the unethcial sensei (Japanese teacher) from The Karate Kid. But our experience has revealed that TSD also includes dimensions of self-awareness, self-control, humility and respect, good stuff to know at any age. And the boys' sensei and dojo hold no resemblance to the ones that Daniel LaRusso was up against.

      However, the boys' experience is like Daniel's in some respects. They have their own Mr. Miyagi, you know, the "wax on, wax off" guy. Their real life Mr. Miyagi is Mr. B.  Mr. Miyagi had Daniel washing and waxing his classical cars under the pretense of teaching him karate.  My boys aren't waxing Mr. B's car or painting his fences but they are doing Mr. B's bidding in class...repeating kick after kick, form after form.

      Just like Daniel, I thought all that "wax on" stuff was just movie metaphors and a means to getting Mr. Miyagi's paint to gleam.  I mean, how can you learn karate, or anything for that matter, without actually doing the thing you are trying to learn?  How can you master say, horseback riding, when all you practice is riding a bicycle?

      Well, there is some truth to the sensei's madness.  My oldest son recently tested for his TSD green belt.  As part of the test, he was required to break two one-inch thick wooden boards with specific kicks.  Just so you know, this boy is barely 60 lbs and they don't practice breaking in class...EVER. They don't really talk much about breaking boards, as far as I know.  I was nervous for him.  How was he going to break these boards?  When the breaking part of the test came, he positioned himself, focused his mind and ...THWACK...split the board right down the middle!  And then he did it again with a second kick!

      All of our faces, my husband's, my son's and mine, held surprise after the boards split.  Only Mr. B's face remained unfazed.  How did this happen without actually practicing with boards?  All of the air kicks and phantom opponents he has kicked over the past several months had primed him for the boards.  It's all about positioning, muscle memory,  and the ability to visualize an end result.  And belief. Training the spirit as well as the body. Wax on, wax off.  Mr Miyagi  and Mr. B knew.

      Sunday, November 15, 2009

      Flight Patterns

      We enjoyed tonight's sunset, marveling at the flight pattern that we live under. Wow.

      Saturday, November 14, 2009

      Bone Loss and Twinkies

      Tonight I had a date with my six-year-old. He chose the activities...breakfast for dinner followed by snuggly movie time on the couch. Wall-E was showing. This was a special "just us" time. He is a funny kid and has a unique take on things. Here is a random snatch of his outward monologue during the movie:
      Tinkerbell is the queen of Disney. She's the one who flies over the castle and shoots it with fireworks.
      Wall-E's watching a love show..eeww.
      Cool, the roach just went inside the Twinkie!
      What's bone loss?
      Wall-E is using a fire distinguisher to fly in space.  I wish I could do that.
      "Stream of consciousness" when referred to its use in writing is defined by (one of my fave websites) as "a special form of interior monologue and is characterized by associative (and at times dissociative) leaps in syntax and punctuation that can make the prose difficult to follow, tracing a character's fragmentary thoughts and sensory feelings."   I think the above sampling is a perfect example.

      And by the way, our date night was great.

      Friday, November 13, 2009

      Reuse and Recycle

      In the spirit of recycling, I am participating in the Flashback Friday spurred by Texan Mama and reposting an old post from several months back.

      This old post is actually timely for me today since I had a humbling treadmill experience.  I fancied myself a runner for the last several years until my gallbladder decided that it needed some attention.  Long story short:  running life halted while gall bladder had its little fit.  Gall bladder is now gone and today was the first day back on the treadmill.  Result:  one measly mile...walking, not running.  But that's okay. Small steps make the journey.

      And so on to the Flashback: Make Every Day a Race Day (Originally Posted May 3, 2009)

      Today was not the May 3rd I planned for back in January. I was supposed to be running my half-marathon today. My derailed training required me to spectate rather than participate today. That's fine, in fact, better than fine. I got the opportunity to provide support to some great friends who have done the same for me in the past. I got to watch people I care about do great things. I got to experience the race atmosphere again. I got to ride my bike in the rain like a kid.

      I got up at 6, loaded my bike in the back of the van and drove to a friend's house that was near the race route. We rode over to the route and stood outside under swollen grey clouds at mile 6 as the first runners came by. I cheered as several friends passed by and continued to cheer for countless strangers. The clouds burst around 7:45 and continued spilling out the rest of the day.

      Once the certain people I was there to see passed mile 6, my friend and I mounted our bikes and rode in the rain over to mile 12 to catch our running friends on the second part of the race. We cheered for everyone:
      "You're doing it!"
      "Keep it up!"
      "Way to go!"
      When each of my running friends came by, I either rode or ran alongside them as long as I could during their last few miles, giving them words of encouragement that I know they wanted and needed at that time. I met them each at the finish line and was so thrilled to see their satisfied faces of accomplishment. Even though I didn't run today, I am so happy for them. I had the best time watching it all unfold. Good on you, ladies!

      I wish I could have a race atmosphere around me all the time. It is a very energetic place to be. The crowd cheers for everyone, no matter how fast or slow you go. Sometimes you get louder, more impassioned cheers when you aren't performing so well. People love underdogs. No matter how perfect or awkward your stride is, the crowd loves you. Wouldn't it be great if everyday, in life, everyone really wanted everyone else to do their best, just like in a race? What if we all had our own personal cheering section to follow us around? What if you cheered a stranger on for doing what they do, challenging them to just do it the best they can? I can hear it now:
      To the grocery store produce worker, "Way to stack those melons! Awesome!"
      To the mailcarrier, "You can deliver that mail! You're doing it!"
      To the mom doing laundry, "You can sort those clothes! Keep it up!"
      I imagine my personal cheering section as I am unloading the dishwasher, "Go, go, go! Plates! Cups! Now silverware!!! You're the best! Don't stop now!" Gosh, they really love what I am doing here. I must be doing it right.

      Tap into your personal cheering section as you go about your day. Give yourself cheers for doing what you do. And do your best. As for strangers, you might be misunderstood if you actually cheered for the guy behind the counter. Maybe just a "thank you" would suffice.

      Wednesday, November 11, 2009

      Could I Borrow Your Eyeliner? I Used All of Mine.

      If you've checked out my list of thankful things just over to the right of this post, you've seen the reference to the "vintage" photos of me that a friend posted on Facebook.  I actually am thankful for them.  They brought back so many fun memories of a younger, care-free me.  Not that the older, care-full me is bad.  I like me now better than I liked myself then, you know teenage angst and all.  But these pictures captured some pretty silly, joyous moments and none of that pubescent perturbation (NOT what you think.  Look it up, weirdo) was peaking through.

      Like this one for instance...

      This is clearly the image of a self-assured woman-to-be, not a self-conscious woman-child. Confidence actually jumps out of the photo, as does my hair.

      And then, let's not forget this little gem...

      This was after a long day of clarinet sectionals and marching drills at band camp. What young girl wouldn't need to express her joy of a day well spent than to fling her body, Nestea-plunge style on the twin bed of her dorm room whilst wearing an all too stylish headband?

      And my personal favorite...

      The dramatic high school parking lot makeup application shot. Everything was bow, the height of my hair, all I needed was just a little more eye makeup. This conjures feelings I haven't felt since I last watched "The Breakfast Club". Gotta love the 80's.

      If you'll stop laughing at these pictures for a moment, I'll get back to the point of this thankfulness about these pictures. I am thankful that I can laugh at myself. And now you can get back to laughing at me too!

      Tuesday, November 10, 2009

      More Mac n' Cheese Please!

      I have two boys and I thought that we have been a busy family. The boys are in elementary school and have extracurricular activities. I thought that our schedule in the past was full. But now, as all the Fall activities are now under full swing, I see that we really were not that busy in the past. How could we have been that busy...if we actually had been, we wouldn't have time for the new commitments that somehow have been squeezed into our weekly routine. I realize that while we were sprinting around town getting to scouts and karate on time last year, there was only one child's schedule to contend with. My youngest was just along for the ride last year, with only one activity of his own. He played baseball in the Spring, but now both boys are active in karate, scouts, and piano. And the my oldest has added band and chorus. Not to mention their homework demands have grown this year too. And then there was the optional science fair which my science guys of course opted for. How do people do this?!!!

      I have prided myself on the fact that we have had family dinner almost every night of the week since my oldest was born. Now I find more often that our dinners are enjoyed slugged down in shifts and the meals are less home-cooked than I prefer. The kids are happy...the more mac n' cheese the better as far as they are concerned. But while my husband rushes in and I rush out the door to take our carpooling shifts to the boys activities, I wonder where this will lead? Will we like it when we get there?

      I would go on and blog a bit more about this, but we're on our way to piano lessons. Gotta go!

      Wednesday, November 4, 2009

      I Have a Mouse in My Hand and I'm Not Afraid to Use it!

      I sit right now doing something I have never done before. I am simultaneously working on two computers. Yes, I am blogging right now on this one. And there is another computer right here, on the same desk, on which I am doing computery things. I know that's not really a word, but I am multitasking in this way because I have taken on a new role in our household. I am now the official Chief Technology Officer. I gave myself this job when I decided that it was time that a second computer in the house have internet capabilities. Sounded like a good idea a week ago. Get the kids' computer internet-able so my laptop wouldn't be exposed to the hazards of two boys, so my external hard drive wouldn't be haphazardly thrown to the floor again and my hubbie and I wouldn't have to volley for internet time. Like I said, that all sounds good. Right?

      So with some encouragement from a techie friend, I trot down to BestBuy and acquire my very own wireless PCI adapter. Oh sorry, did I fall into my techie jargon? I apologize to you non-techies, that's just a card that makes your computer talk to your modem without the encumbrance of all those annoying cords. (Foreshadowing...a little bit of knowledge only makes you dangerous...) So I install the software and the card with no problems. I download the most recent Mozilla Firefox browser. I setup shortcuts on the desktop to my kids' fave and only parentally-approved websites. I upgrade our virus protection. In less time than it takes me to decide what to cook for dinner, I get all this done and the kids are happily playing on It really looks like I know what I am doing and have earned my new CTO title.

      Then, it starts...the error messages. Actually, the one error message but it comes repeatedly. It slows down the computer's processing. It is annoying. So I run another full virus scan, just in case. But all is clear. (As an aside, all of this techie talk should be very impressive to the reader. I am NOT, repeat NOT a technical person. But it is amazing what you can do and learn by simply reading and being a bit brave with your computer.)

      Anyway back the suspense, I Google and I now know what wuauclt.exe means (I won't bore you with those details, but it has to do with the operating system...WINDOWS!!!!) Guess what? Now I get to uninstall my new wireless adapter. The kids cry when their new internet privileges are put on hiatus. I upgrade to the most recent operating system (WINDOWS!!!!) (This is in CAPS to show you that I have been yelling my frustration at WINDOWS for the last several days). I reinstall my wireless...and I still get the mean error message. I call tech support. The wireless people point their fingers at the Windows people. And I can't even get through to talk to the Windows people to know where their fingers are (ahem).

      Out of desparation, I perform a full system restoration back to one full week prior to my appointment as CTO. This means, all that I have installed (and uninstalled and reinstalled) is wiped away clean as if the old CTO were still at the helm. This fixes the error message issue but now I am back to square one with no internet on this second computer. Arrgggh!! So I do what all good executive level management would do. I delegate the problem. I email all of this info to the old CTO (aka my husband) who actually happens to do this kind of thing for a living. Problem should be fixed by evening and I can happily write my next blog post on either one of our internet-able computers I so choose. I think I am going to like this new CTO job afterall.

      Monday, November 2, 2009

      Let the Thanksgiving Games Begin!

      I already started a bit of giving thanks on my blog earlier to day with my morning post. Then it was brought to my attention that Leah at South Breeze Farm hosts a month long challenge whereby you post something you are thankful for each day. Since I already have one day down, I might as well see how far I can go with this in the month. So I've started a sidebar list of my thankful things. You can do it too. Just go to South Breeze for the button and start your list.


      November is the month of gratitude. As I wake this morning, looking forward to the next holiday to come, I think of what I am grateful for today. There is so much. And so many people, the first of which are my parents. Where to begin? They are far from perfect, flawed like us all. But through the shear number of years, they have experienced so much and have moved through it all to get to a place where they are grateful for every day they spend together and with those they love. They recently spend many days here, nursing me after a surgery, playing with my sons, chauffeuring them to karate, scouts, school and more. They were tireless, taking on my duties like a young couple.

      My gratitude to them extends much beyond these past few weeks. While there were times when I may not have felt this way, I am now at the point in my life to recognize the sacrifices and struggles my parents endured to raise my brothers and me. It wasn't easy. Issues abounded. It was a family with all the requisite flaws. We have the scars to prove it. But through it all, their love for all of us and each other endures. And truly they are the example of living a life of gratitude. Each day, better than the one before.

      Sunday, November 1, 2009

      Just One More Day of It..

      Halloween is over but indulge me for one more day. We had our annual Halloween party last night and I must share with you the fun we had. About 4 or 5 years ago(I have lost count) we, along with a few neighbors, began our Halloween tradition of a pre-trick or treating dinner at one of our homes followed by the sugar solicitation. The party has grown in number and fun each year. The first year I believe we had 3 families amounting to 11 people.

      Last night there were at any given time 20 adults in our cozy kitchen and 14 children in the basement. Our late '60s home doesn't have the open floor plan that you would think best to accommodate such a gathering, but it was intimate (read shoulder-to-shoulder,but in a good way) and a great time.

      The fare is generally the same each year: the host's best chili offering with all the fixins', lots of delicious appetizers brought to share, chicken nuggets and homemade mac n' cheese, apple cider for the kids and liquid cheer for the adults. Dessert is enjoyed wrapper by wrapper after trick-or-treating.

      Our neighborhood is a real gem. It is a mix of young families all the way to retired couples and widows. Only about 1 out of 10 houses keeps their light on for the trick-or-treaters. So the outing requires lots of walking between "treats". We usually hit only about 10 houses. This may not sound like the ultimate Halloween experience with a big candy haul. But we love it. There is very little traffic so our goblins can run happily from house to house (wearing glow sticks of course) while the adults stroll behind watching it all unfold. There is even one lovely neighbor lady that invites us all in each year, fawns over the children's costumes, gives all the kids holiday-themed stuffed animals and allows the adults to rest their weary feet for a few moments. It all seems very Normal Rockwellish to me. The best part to me is that our kids do not know the overwhelming spectacle that Halloween can be. I'll keep it quaint as long as I can.

      This year was especially enjoyable since Halloween fell on Saturday. There was no thought of ending the evening early to get home to bed on a school night. We even convinced ourselves that "falling back" the time would actually help. No thought (or any one that was really enforced) to limit the candy consumption. We let the kids stay up way too late, eat way too many treats, and play and laugh until they could barely keep their eyes open. They loved it. And believe or not, the price we paid today in cranky kid-mood was not too bad.

      It gets easier and more fun each year as the kids grow up. So as long as they still want to spend Halloween with their parents, we'll keep having this party of neighbors and friends. And when the kids are older and want to go out with their friends and their plans no longer include us, I hope that we adults still get together and comfort each other about the fact that our children are growing up. In the meantime, we can all enjoy the memories of...

      Fire Ant circa 2004Sticky Frog circa 2004 The 2005 CrewCowboy and Wild Cat circa 2006The 2008 CrewAnd the most recent, 2009

      Tuesday, October 27, 2009

      Fun and Games

      I told you I would be back. Thank you to my sister-in-law, Joyce, at From This Side of the Pond for nudging me today or I otherwise might not have made it. She gave me my very first blog award today...Thank you Joyce!

      Along with the award came a one-word challenge. I am supposed to answer the questions below and pass along the award to some Over the Top Bloggers who haven't participated in this little game.

      One problem for me: I can't say anything with only one word. Really. It's hard. I think you need to know more than just one word of my thoughts on things. But here goes my attempt. I'll keep my answers as short as I can.

      1.Where is your cell phone? In my back pocket. I know, not so feminine, but I lose it if I keep it anywhere else.
      2. Your hair? Thick, coarse, unruly, but bows down with respect to my flat iron.
      3. Your mother? A blessing
      4. Your father? A trooper
      5. Your favorite food? Chocolate anything
      6. Your dream last night? Can't recall
      7.Your favorite drink? Coffee
      8. Your dream/goal? Being an inspiring photographer and watching my sons grow up to be men I admire
      9. What room are you in? The kitchen
      10. Your hobby? Photography
      11. Your fear? Clowns
      12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? I hate questions like answer: better, happier, more relaxed, enjoying more of the good stuff
      13. Where were you last night? At my son's karate class
      14. Something that you aren't? A ballerina
      15. Muffins? Yes, please!
      16. Wish list item? A really great lens for my camera
      17. Where did you grow up? East Tennessee, y'all!
      18. Last thing thing you did? Partially started dinner, helped the boys with their homework, read Joyce's blog, ate a bowl of pudding...all at the same time!
      19. What are you wearing? Jeans, black long sleeve t-shirt and a cashmere scarf
      20. Your TV? Off but stationed to FOXNews
      21. Your pet? They're technically not mine. I'm just the main caregiver for 2 cats,2 gerbils, 11 fish
      22. Friends? The best I could wish for
      23. Your life? Orbiting around my children while always trying to squeeze myself in there somewhere
      24. Your mood? Good
      25. Missing someone? Always
      26. Vehicle? Minivan...never thought I would be there
      27. Something you're not wearing? A monocle
      28. Your favorite store? Ann Taylor Loft
      29. Your favorite color? Green
      30. When was the last time you laughed? Today
      31. Last time you cried? Sunday when my parents left my house
      32. Your best friend? My husband
      33. One place that I go to over and over? Library
      34. One person who emails me regularly? Dawn
      35. Favorite place to eat? Anywhere...I love food

      So now, it's your turn. If you wanna play along, cut & paste these questions on your blog or facebook and give us what you got. Let me know your in by commenting below. I enjoy your blogs and your friendship so much. You ladies are OVER THE TOP!

      Courtney P. at Finding Home
      Jen at HipasIwannabe
      Mary Ann at Excerpts from My Dispatches
      Georgia at it's just how i see things
      Kelly B. on Facebook

      Monday, October 26, 2009


      I know you thought I had completely disappeared. But I haven't. I am back, at least for today.

      I am back today for an announcement. Some of what I have been doing in the absence from my blog is getting my photographic life in order. I have set up a new site for my work. Please come visit:

      This is just a start so come back often to see what I add. I'll be right back...

      Tuesday, September 29, 2009

      Tabasco, Turbulence and Tylenol

      This past weekend, my little family took our first camping trip in our very own camper. I spent a better part of the preceding week readying us, the camper and all the stuff you need when you, bedding, clothing for all types of weather, things to cook with, things to eat on, games to play (indoor & outdoor), books to read, hiking boots, bike helmets, extra batteries, marshmallows, basically one third of the contents of our home. Whew! It took a whole week to get ready and I still forgot some things. Nothing that ruined the experience, but just would have made it a little more all the ingredients for two of the three dinners, a really good can opener and Tabasco. The Tabasco wasn't specifically for all of us, just my husband. But if I hadn't heard, "This would be really good with just a little Tabasco" during every meal, then my weekend would have been just perfect. It's the little things that make us all happy.

      My hubbie did a great job driving the truck and towing the camper. That's a manly thing and I wouldn't be able to do so well, I am sure. The place where we headed is a straight shot west of us, just under two hours away. You might not know this but Western Maryland is very hilly, bordering on mountainous the farther you go. The "hills" have long ascents. And obviously on the other side, very fast descents, especially when you are being chased by, I mean, pulling a 2 1/2 ton camper. I can be a nervous traveller, but usually only for air travel. The meter of my nerves is located in the palms of my hands. By that I mean, my palms sweat. This pretty little feminine quality strikes during landings, take-offs, turbulence, when the plane flies circles over the runway too many times, and while listening to vague, cryptic announcements coming from the cockpit. Just look at my hands to see if you should be nervous too. They glisten with sweat. And I can't control it. But we weren't in a plane. So everything should be grand riding along in the extended cab, right? Right, until I notice the palm sweat. Then I realize we are careening down Sideling Hill with our weekend home barreling down right behind us. No one else seems to mind these circumstances, just my palms. My heart rate is normal. My breathing stable. I was actually singing along with the radio at the very moment when the perspiration gates opened. As I said, I can't control it. Once the road leveled out, the hand-sweating stopped and all was grand again in the extended cab.

      On to the camping part of the weekend. We arrive to a heavily wooded, picturesque state park surrounding a beautiful lake. There is a slight fall chill in the air. We set up camp, take a short hike around the lake, explore a bit, have the one dinner I remembered to bring, roast marshmallows over the fire, go to bed listening to crickets and bull frogs. Wonderful. Skip forward to 2:00 a.m. I wake to the sounds of crying and falling rain. Who's that? Oh, my oldest son, disoriented and burning up. Yep...fever. And it's raining. Tylenol gets us all back to sleep. But when we wake, it's still raining...hard and my son still has fever. And they, the rain and the fever, continue all day. We spend the entire day, all four of us, in a space significantly less than 150 livable square feet. And you know what, we had a great time! We played cards and games, read books (aloud and to ourselves), napped, snacked, dosed with Tylenol every four hours, built Legos (okay I didn't do that) and generally had a super relaxing, enjoyable time.

      And guess what else? We got to do it all again for much of the next day. was still raining the next morning. We did get out and hike again because it wasn't raining quite so hard and the fever was down. By mid afternoon, the sun came out. The sky was that bright brilliant blue that comes just as the last of the rain clouds are blown away. We spent the last few hours of daylight sitting on the lake's beach watching the boys make sand volcanoes, dams, and trenches. Wonderful, again.

      We all agreed that our first camping trip was a success. The conditions were far from ideal. One of us was sick. The meals weren't the sumptuous, fire-kissed morsels I planned. The weather was cold and wet. But we all loved it and can't wait to go again!

      Thursday, September 17, 2009

      What do braces, gall bladders & stinkhorns have in common?

      Tricky one, huh? The answer: me. From that list, I am done with the first one, may be losing the second one and can't get rid of the third one. And here is more of the randomness that is my life:

      Yes, I got my braces removed (you may not have known I had them). Gone now. Yea! I love my teeth!
      I am trying to keep my gall bladder happy...I think it's having a mid-life crisis and is no longer doing what gall bladders do
      Our family is waging war against the advance of creepy, phallic stinkhorns from our backyard..the kids no longer enter the backyard due to the smell they emit. Nice.

      What else have I been up to? Let's see...
      stocking the camper, getting ready for our first trip
      volunteering at the kids' school...washing my hands alot!
      did my first photographer's assistant job at a wedding...very fun!
      waiting for UPS to delivery my studio lighting gear...portraits anyone?

      I'll be back here again soon!

      Thursday, September 3, 2009

      I Can Do Random Too

      Since I have been too busy and otherwise uncreative in my own right on my blog recently, I am following Joyce's lead in answering some random questions. Feel free to join in on my comments or on your own blog. Here goes...

      1. When you go to Wowmart, what one thing do you get every single time, besides a funky-wheeled squeaking cart full of frustration?

      First of all, I didn't know people called it "Wowmart". Secondly, I really don't like that place...I know there are bargains galore but I would rather spend a bit more and not experience the place. There...I said it.

      2. What is something that people are currently "into" that you just don't get or appreciate?

      Obama - not the man, but what he is doing. There...I said that too. Don't hate me for being honest.

      3. What is something that really hoists your sail that other people might feel "ho-hum" about?

      Two things...blogging and camping!

      4. Favorite song to sing in the shower or car?

      O Holy Night

      5. A really great salad must have this ingredient:

      Some real food on the side.

      6. Advice in a nutshell to new bloggers (one or two sentences):

      Joyce's answer is best. (Ooops...Does that mean I didn't answer that question in my own voice?)

      7. What was the alternate name that your parents almost named you? Do you wish they had chosen it instead of the one they gave you?

      Donielle..pronounced with a long "o". This was my dad's pick...Mom thought I would turn out with questionable morals if I had this name. I am happy with the one they gave me...I don't look like a Donielle.

      8. What in your life are you waiting for?

      For time to slow down.

      9. You get a package in the mail. What is it, and who is it from?

      I ordered it from an online camera shop! New gear!

      10. Today--what song represents you?

      This one's hard...I got nothing.

      11. What is one thing that blogging has taught you about yourself?

      It reconfirmed my love of and my desire to write, my love of photography, and my snide sense of humor.

      12. How are you going to (or how did you) choose the clothes you're wearing today? What do they say about you in general or specifically how you're feeling today?

      I chose my favorite's cooler today and I am happy to be wearing them again. Always feel right in a good pair of jeans.

      Happy Thursday!

      Tuesday, August 25, 2009

      We Did It!

      We loved it so much we got one of our own! So for the next 5-8 years, our vacations are strictly of the camping sort. Five to eight years is the approximate shelf life of our boys' enjoyment in spending good, quality time with their parents. After that, they spoil into girl-chasing, moody, too-cool-to-go-camping-with-their-weird-parents teenagers. Until then, they are all ours! (I really don't think they mind.)

      Saturday, August 22, 2009

      Don't Blink

      This is our last weekend of summer vacation. School starts Monday and another year begins. For the past six years, my new year starts not in January but when the school doors open at summer's end. Where did the summer go? And how is it that my boys are another year older when surely a year couldn't've passed since I sent them off to start their last school year? I must have blinked. It all passed as I looked at the back of my eyelids for a nanosecond. Some great sleight of hand master swished it all away under a red silk cape and older boys appeared where my littler ones had stood just a moment before. How'd he do it? He won't tell. And no matter how much we ask, he won't reverse the trick.

      Tuesday, August 18, 2009

      The Three Boys

      Once upon a time, there were three boys. They were typical boys who did typical boy things. Like...

      Play with fireGo fishin'Ride horsesExplore cavesCareen down huge hillsGo really fastThen do it againHike in the woodsAnd they all love the same girl.The End

      Thursday, August 13, 2009

      Just Stars, Moonrise and Flame

      Another thing about our camping experience that I LOVED were the nights. Being outside in the woods, faces warmed by a fire, surrounded by almost total darkness except for the dots of other campfires peppered across the valley. No hazy sulphuric refraction of city lights bouncing off the clouds. Just stars, moonrise and flame.

      Wednesday, August 12, 2009

      Vacation Report

      I'm baaaack! I've been absent from the blogging world for a few weeks due to preparing for vacation, actually vacationing, and coming down from vacation. We had a fabulous vacation. You might snicker a bit when you hear what we did. It was a bit daring of us to try this type of vacation, but we loved it. All of us did. After it was over, we all agreed it was the best family vacation we have ever had. It was relaxing and fun. We tried new things. We went somewhere we'd never been before. We busted up a stereotype that we had about the place we visited. We ate great food. We didn't bathe on a regular basis. Huh? That's right. We stayed dirtier than we normally do. We had an adventure.

      What did we do? We rented an RV and went to West Virginia! Now stop the banjos playing in your head. We had those playing in our heads too as we drove the RV across the state line into WV. But you know what, we found out that WV is beautiful. And we didn't see one local that made us turn tail and run. The banjo players never showed up. We have a new appreciation for the state of WV. At least in the part we were in, the farms were pastoral, the vistas breathtaking, and the weather delightful.
      As far as the RVing part of the vacation, we loved that too. While we anticipated feeling too crowded with 2 rambunctious boys in a living space smaller than my laundry room, we actually never felt hemmed in. We were outside most of the time and the time we were inside we were asleep. I made a comment to my hubbie on the fourth day, that I was amazed that we had basically been outside for 4 consecutive days. I couldn't recall being outside that much ever. He said, "yeah, that's camping." Guess I have been a suburbanite too long.
      We liked the simplicity of RVing. You can't bring everything with you due to space constraints. So you do without. My kids had very few toys with them, a handful of Legos, a few board games and a book each (most of which remained untouched the entire week). They were never bored! Amazing. They spend every day of their lives surrounded by toys, games, TV, Nintendo, organized playdates, and guess what? They complain of boredom at least once a day. Strip all that stuff away and they are so creative, adventurous and fun. Looks like this suburbanite needs to make a big trip to Goodwill. Just wait till school starts.I have lots more stories to share about our adventure. Come back soon!