Friday, November 30, 2007

Just What I Needed

I love it when God just delights me.

My "to do" list today is three times that of last week, and while I woke up early with my mind racing and overwhelmed before I'd even got out of bed, I was convicted to SIT, to listen, and spoken directly to my heart by the Holy Spirit, "Drink some coffee."

And as I searched for a verse I'd been thinking about, my eyes settled on the passage below.

Psalm 63
A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.

1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

It never gets old to know that His love is better than life.

Aaahhh, perspective.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Viva la Discovery Channel!

I do not like animals.

That is not news to anyone who knows me. In fact, I am not a particularly warm, gushy, overly ga-ga person in general. More than one well-meaning person in my past has commented that it seems so inconsistent with my personality that I have absolutely NO space in my heart for animals.

I can't explain it except to say that the smell/hair/wetness/poop issues pretty much outweigh any twinges of perceived adorableness.

Certainly, I don't go out of my way to harm them. No, I leave that to Brad who offered our kids 25 cents for each rabbit they killed in our backyard last year. (Before you go calling the humane society, it would have actually aligned the food chain to rid our neighborhood of 75% of these cottontails).

One of my former neighbors, who was so devoted to animal rescue that she saved a BULL SNAKE who happened to be in the street IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE where snakes have no business, was thoroughly and publicly appalled at Brad's Bunny Bounty, but even she did not call the authorities.

Also, no bunnies were actually ever killed, seeing as they were twice as fast as my toddlers who chased after them using plastic golf clubs and Rescue Heroes.

I digress.

So the other night we were flipping through the channels and happened upon "March of the Penguins." OH MY GOSH. Have you seen it?

I have now watched it twice. Since Sunday.

I never would have paid $9.75 to watch a documentary in the theater about my least favorite continent and it's inhabitants, but 10 minutes into this show and I was almost teary over these dang penguins!

Y'all, it is simply amazing.

There is no plot line except that they march across the frozen ice to find their mates, have babies, and go back. There, that's it. I've just ruined it for you.

But wait, there's more!

Brad and I were captivated far beyond our usual Towering Standards of Physical Comedy while watching these indistinguishable creatures waddle, slide on their bellies, fall in love, feed their young, and swim around a whole bunch.

They have one mate each season and exactly one baby. (If the egg survives, and that is a whole 'nother documentary. Also, I am not sure if twins can be born out of the same egg since I didn't pay much attention during science class, but this movie doesn't address twin penguins.)

I am swallowing all pride and my putting non-animal loving reputation on the line to tell you I almost cried in TWO SEPARATE PARTS. (I am not sure I should tell you what they are in case you are on Netflix right this instant, putting "March of the Penguins" at the top of your queue and praying they have it in stock so you can watch it tomorrow.)

Night one of Penguin Viewing, we started watching around 11 p.m. and both fell asleep half way through.

We are laying in bed, groggy with sleep the next morning:

"Oh no. Brad!"


"The penguins!"

"Oh my gosh, I fell asleep."

"Shoot, I did, too!!"

Then we cried out in unison: "HOW WILL WE EVER KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM !?!?"

"Did the seagull eat the baby?"

"I don't know, what happened to the egg?"

And then we talked about the penguins for TEN MINUTES. Could. not. stop.

So God's graciousness kicked in the next day when again, we were flipping channels during Sunday Night Football and we found them.

On Animal Planet.

We threw caution to the wind, forgot about football, and watched the rest of the penguin story.

I felt almost as passionately about the safety and cuteness of those little penguins as I do my own young. There was a tense moment when one little furball couldn't find his Mommy and I wanted to issue an Amber Alert and lock down the doors like they do at Target until he was safe.

Instead, I exhaled deeply and continued watching...

With the ending resolved, I slept much better that night and so did Brad.

Although I am not asking for a penguin this Christmas, I will spend some extra time with them at the zoo on my next visit and stop making fun of the Discovery Channel.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just to Clarify...

It has come to my attention based on my Christmas decorating post that some of y'all out there think my house looks like some sort of creepy St. Nick's on steroids bursting at the gills with themed Christmas trees and gold silk poinsettias on every flat surface. Something about that "9 trees" comment...

Well, here's the deal. Only TWO of the Christmas trees are remotely full-sized. One is clearly undersized (see previous post for family room issues) and the other is a quite slim kitchen tree that fits neatly into a tiny corner so that I may look upon it and its adorable ornaments while I am chained to the Kitchen-Aid, faced buried in cookie batter.

The kids each have a tree in their rooms (bottom half decorated quite nicely) and another plain tree resides on the front porch.

My favorite tree of all is a little 18 inch model that holds all of the homemade ornaments from the kids. This includes an upside down baby Jesus in the manger and Jackson's head super-imposed as an angel.

It is well-documented that I am no Martha, but I am also proud to say I do not have any theme trees displaying Santa in his argyle fishing waders. Likewise, there is not a 3-foot resin Santa riding his Harley to see the Baby Jesus in my foyer.

The front yard doesn't have one of those "Santa Land Here" lighted strips flanked by reindeer and enough inflatables to cause the sod to take flight, although I can point you to quite a few close by.

It's just that I like lights, greenery, and trees. And admittedly, I historically have an affinity for the gaudy (just ask my parents.)

Halfway through the decorating saga, I realized that just because I own it, doesn't mean I have to display it. Epiphany, for sure.

So, my two favorite berry wreaths are still in the basement. They had a prominent place in our other houses, but I just can't find the perfect spot here.

The plant ledge remains empty and the garland I thought would be perfect for the mantel looks slightly "Little Shop of Horrors" overgrown.

On of my favoritest bloggers, BooMama, is having a Christmas Tour of Homes, so if me and my notoriously awful camera skillz can get it together, I'll take and post some pictures of the highlights (or lowlights if it's not your thing) of the casa.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm Speechless (But That Will Not Stop Me From Rambling On and On)

Today was the day.

You know, the one I've been waiting for these past few months. Brad and I literally begged our way into the "mock up" or dress rehearsal of the Grand Lux Cafe.

In case I've never mentioned it, I love this place and want my remains spread on the patio under the heat lamps next to the Asian Nachos when I pass.

So there we stood getting the low down from a manager about the impending experience. We were given pre-selected menus so the staff could practice certain dishes. This manager described the cocktails, appetizers, main courses, dessert, and after-dinner drinks and I looked like a giddy school girl literally giggling at the outrageous food possibilities.

Brad and the other unassuming patrons stood there STONE FACED while I snickered and grinned from ear to ear.

"What's so funny?" he said. One of his mottos for being in over your head is, "Act like you've been there before."

Nope, couldn't do it. And as you know, quiet dignity has never been a hallmark of mine.

After we were seated, I was so composed that I promptly dropped my fork. Then out came the appetizers.

Crabcakes...oh my gosh, the crabcakes. Alone they were fantastic, but the creole mustard sauce took me to another place to which I am dying to return.

Brad got the Double Stuffed Potato Spring Rolls and they were crunchy, fluffy, creamy, and a little zingy all at once. They are essentially mashed potatoes encased in a crispy wonton roll topped with melted cheddar cheese and smoked bacon. I think he chewed them with his eyes closed and made groaning noises, but I can't be sure since I was having my own moment with the crabcakes.

I only ate a few bites because I was pacing myself. Just like the National Hot Dog Eating Champ Kobyashi paces himself.

At this point, we realized the Asian Nachos were not on our pre-selected menu. Before panic set in, we hailed over a manager and fell all over ourselves asking/begging/volunteering our first born for just a TASTE of The Beloved Nachos. Surely they needed to perfect those as well.

Well, our server was great and a plate of Heaven on Earth soon rested on our table. Now this is the point in the meal where I had to restrain every earthly impulse to reach over and start smearing them all over my face with hopes of getting the savory chicken and peanut sauce in my mouth.

But y'all, I sat there and ate them like a normal person.

I am pretty postive that if they served this peanut sauce in martini glasses, I would be down for the count and drooling at the bar before I even reached the table. But overtaken by composure, I savored each bite, thought about all of the flavors that God created and perfectly combined on that very Asian Nacho and swallowed it down regretting only that it was over.

On to the main course where they brought me a Bento Box which is FOUR SQUARE PLATES OF FOOD PEOPLE. Plate one: A Jamaican Jerk chicken with pineapple so finely chopped I thought it was gold. Plate two: steamed broccoli (needless to room in the inn). Plate three: some salad which was delicious but I have no idea what was in it other than apples and they were the finest apples I've tasted. Plate four: Cream of chicken and mushroom soup. Before you start thinking "Campbell's" and insult this creamy concoction, let me just say that it was by far the most perfectly seasoned and deliciously smooth and hearty soup I have ever eaten and will have to go to my pantry at once and throw out all imposters while vowing to never eat soup from another establishment again.

(Except Panera's Fiesta Con Queso which needs its own blog).


The Max Burger is the Grand Lux's signature burger for good reason: IT IS REALLY GOOD.

I can't decide which aspect of the Max was best: the grilled onions and roasted short ribs(!) or the chipotle mustard sauce of which I had several spoonfuls without any accompanying burger. I have never loved another mustard like this before.

At this point I might be boring you to tears with these blow-by-blow descriptions of my very amazing lunch or my entirely lackluster food critic capabilities.

But do not stop reading because I have to talk about dessert. Also, my readership will drop from ten to nine and I don't know if my sponsors will like that.

First up the carrot cake. I don't know about you, but I sure love a good carrot cake. Mostly what I love about a good carrot cake is the cream cheese frosting. And mostly what I love about the cream cheese frosting is LOTS of it.

But this, THIS cream cheese frosting was otherworldly. Folks, it was citrus cream cheese frosting. Not super citrusy like a bad Glade Plug-In, but that perfect hint of citrus that makes you think "What was that taste sensation?! I must know but tell me after I'm done swallowing the biggest forkful ever."

Perfect, just perfect.

The other dessert we graciously sampled was Strawberry Shortcake. Make that a WARM SUGAR SHORTCAKE filled with strawberries and ice cream so good I bet it was Blue Bell. (For you north of the Mason-Dixon, I am so sorry.)

When I took my bite, I could FEEL WITH MY VERY TEETH the gentle crunch of warm sugar.

And this shortcake.

(Sighs wistfully and small tears well up in eyes.)

This shortcake was from the Glorious Angel of Butter and Perfectly Made Cakes. And I have eaten and loved quite a few shortcakes in my days. But as Brad put it, "This is way better than anything you've ever made."

Quite a good summary of our entire experience.

I am revelling in the moment and making Brad discuss the minor details and delicious points much like I did our wedding day.

And did I mention this culinary goodness was AT NO CHARGE? Tastes all the better...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Clark Grizzwold Would Be Proud

I cannot say that I have anything thoughtful to blog about at this very instant, but I am looking for any excuse to STOP THE CHRISTMAS DECORATING MADNESS FOR THE LOVE.

We have collectively been at it since last night/this morning (they are running together) and I still can't see the floor(s) in any of the rooms. Probably would've helped to put away the Fall Stuff first, but I got so excited about the Christmas Stuff that I thought, "Oh, it will be easier to decorate with EVERY DECORATIVE ITEM I OWN at my fingertips.

Not so much.

Also, not sure if y'all have tried this, but it is SUPER PAINFUL to decorate for your first Christmas at a new house. I am tight in the shoulders from indecisiveness and reaching up to really high places all day long.

Putting up around NINE Christmas trees might have contributed to that, too. Did I say nine? Because it felt like seventy thousand Christmas trees and it's so hard because I don't know where to put them!

I can say with confidence that the front door looks spectacular because Brad and his skillfully toolish ways hung this gorgeous garland we found at Costco and mounted a smallish Christmas tree in one of my urns using many loud power tools. Now we just need a spotlight because the black door (which I have dreamed about for many years and am so thankful is now a reality) makes the wreath a bit dark and the wreath is definitely worth spotlighting.

Brad, of course, wants to turn the spotlight into more of a pyrotechnics display, but I have politely declined.

We are probably one of the last families in America to have an artificial Christmas tree from the early 80's that is neither pre-lit nor easy to assemble. Sure it looks beautiful after I spend hour after painful hour fluffing individual branches and stringing together over 10 strands of lights, but a beautiful newborn baby does not make labor less painful. (Those who tell you otherwise have forgotten.)

Another "challenge" (I am trying to remain positive) about this new house is the disproportionate size of the Christmas tree to the ceilings. As in, our aged Christmas tree looked a little puny with the vast indoor sky. Luckily, Brad is a great problem solver, so we created a down-home tree stand with plastic bins and moving tape. Make that a LOT of moving tape. Apparently, I will also be constructing a new tree-skirt because there's a 2 inch plastic storage bin border at the bottom. Sure is lovely and not at all distracting.

On the plus side, we've been powered by The Godfather Parts I & II in combination with an obscene amount of college football. We already got our first dose of Christmas Vacation last night. Mmmmm....just as good as we remembered.

Tomorrow my plan is to dig out from under this Ho-Ho-Holiday Cheer and address a multitude of Christmas cards. There is pressure like an elephant standing on my chest to get them out EARLY (which for me is any day before December 24) since I never sent out any change-of-address cards and people are emailing me asking "Where on earth do you live?!" and "I had no idea you were moving! Do you still live in Colorado?"

Also, I absolutely adore receiving Christmas cards (mostly those with pictures, but if you opted for no picture this year SEND THEM ANYWAY!) and I am fearful that without sending out my cards first, my mailbox will be empty because our forwarding time is about to expire.

And I have less than one week to plan a birthday party for fifteen 4 year-olds.

Which is why I am blogging.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Just About Perfect

After all the talk about getting up early to hit the stores, I'm sorry to report it just didn't happen.

Something about a cross between Food Coma and Turkey Hangover.

We stayed shamelessly in our pajamas till 9 (a.m.--give us some credit) watching the beautiful snow and perusing the newspaper ads for bargains.

Our stomachs still hadn't recovered from the Turkey Bonanza, but the kids were begging for jell-o salad along with their waffles.

And then Brad (BRAD!) suggested that we shower up and do the traditional Holiday Mall Cruise. You know, not looking for anything in particular, but taking in all the sights, throngs of people, and just waiting for many somethings to catch out eyes.

Here are my tips for shopping success (and you know by "shopping" I mean being at a mall, not necessarily buying things...unless they speak directly to you and ask you to by them which frequently happens to me at Gap.)

1. Get a Starbucks. Immediately. Today Peppermint Mocha did me right.

2. Lose the time schedule. This is the ideal time to wander through stores in which you have no business buying anything.

3. Charge cell phones. (Or start regretting not having charged them earlier.)

4. Let your kids find small spaces to hide in every store, then get in a panic because you can't find them, but all the store employees are gathered together, laughing, pointing and wondering whose parents would let them loose like that?!

Ahem...our model, Lilly:

The final element to Totally Rockin' Christmas Shopping is the meal. After fighting crowds, people watching, spilling hot cocoa, breaking un-bought ornaments and generally wearing ourselves out, it was time to eat.

This is not the time for food courts when you must juggle transporting dinner from the counter to the table along with sluggish kiddos and ten jazillion random parcels you've acquired. It can only result in failure.

The beacon at California Pizza Kitchen, the traditional post-shopping HQ called our names. I will never get over the warm welcome CPK gives me with the high thermostat setting, cozy fire, and stellar food. For me, it just doesn't get old. Thank goodness, Brad and the kids are on board.

It was phenomenal to have SOMEONE ELSE fix dinner, clean up, and do all the other dirty work, while we relaxed, played tic-tac-toe and colored by number.

The babes chillin' by the fire:

And in case you haven't noticed: They are TWINS! Separated by 19 months!

Oh My Heavens It Was Good

There are no words to describe the taste-bud overload that was our Thanksgiving Feast. I mean, we had at least three varieties of casserole, two varieties of potatoes, and no less than three varieties of pie.

I believe there were vegetables of sorts, but I really didn't have time or stomach space to figure out for sure.

My new favorite is Robin's Corn Casserole, which I caught myself eating with the serving spatula both during the meal and during clean up...aka Dinner Part II.

The sleeper hit of dessert was Gran's Chocolate Cream Pie. The richness and creaminess is unparalelled. There are no leftovers...because I finished if off during Dinner Part II.

Awesome fun at the kids table:

Do you love how I am modeling good eating habits by pretending to serve up a HUGE plate of delicious salad? I believe I only ate one bite because he who eats salad when sweet potatoes doused with brown sugar, coconut, and pecans are available is a FOOL.

The adults were collectively disappointed when our stomachs reached capacity far ahead of our taste buds. But fear not, we forged on into gluttony.

Without a doubt, it was great to celebrate Thanksgiving with good friends and good food. We played my mother-in-law's thankfulness game, which was very entertaining. The best part was the half-dozen suggestions each person got to help them realize what they were thankful for.

The evening was polished off in super classy style by watching Elf, playing corn hole, and eventually laying down, very very still as so not to disrupt the grandiose digestion project in my stomach.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks--Friends

And then there's our friends.

I almost laugh out loud at the simple addition of "friends" to the bullet point list. Yes, I am thankful for friends, but in a way so deep that my stomach hurts because I'm overwhelmed by all the love I've been shown this year.

When family is far away, "friendship" takes on a whole new meaning. Without family in town to lean on when the going gets tough, our friends have selflessly given their time and their hearts to keep our feet on the ground. Saying "thank you" seems so small because they will never know the extent to which they were the very hands and feet of our Savior.

This has been a doozy of a year for Brad and I--stretched to our limits by moving and the accompanying drama, Dad's brain bleed, Brad's travel schedule, my job(s), and oh yeah, the kids and all they encompass.

But God has abundantly blessed me with friends to brace my arms by bringing meals, watching the kids, and mostly...praying for me and allowing me to process the winding roads of life out loud without judgment and with wise counsel.

The encouragement I received from friends who took the time to listen to my heart made such a difference. Instead of merely surviving week after week of difficult times, they pointed me to God's strength and reminded me of his soverign intent in each situation.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt they have seen my weaknesses and heartaches in full force. We have cried a LOT of tears together this year. I'm talking swimming pools worth. And they love me anyway.

Because of his grace, God has surrounded me with hand-picked messengers of his love...both here in Colorado and across the country. I am humbled by each person God has specifically chosen to be part of my life.

I couldn't ask for more.

p.s. I will not suggest linking arms and singing "Friends are Friends Forever" but you get the idea.

p.p.s. I owe you all a latte.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Prepare. To. Die.

It's Not that I Don't Like Casual

"Lilly, today is your Thanksgiving Program at school! Come downstairs when you are dressed!"

(scrolling down)

(still scrolling)

(dramatic pause)


And the sock thing, for the record, was not an accident. She actually put some thought into the effect it might have.

This is where I am supposed to embrace her creativity and let her wear this ensemble to school in the 35 degree weather on a day when every single parent will be in the class to watch the critically acclaimed Thanksgiving Program.


I am supposed to let her wear her toddler-sized shorts and Red Raider shirt as part of my commitment to Love and Logic and let her "feel" the consequence of a) freezing to death or b) shame when she sees how other children are dressed.

Except I have not taken Love and Logic.

And I am not so easy-going about how she looks on Program Day.

I won:

And I say to the psychologist: "Send me the bill."

Here she is praising the Lord as an alligator:

And here is my scarecrow stuffed with hay:

And as I tucked her in tonight, I already promised she could wear the Red Raider t-shirt tomorrow. In the privacy of our own home.

Giving Thanks--Family

In what I hope will be my only 3-Part Mini-Series of Blogdom, I bring you a small glimpse through the windowpane of thankfulness that is my life.

The post was getting a little verbose, so I divided it up over three days. (Don't worry...there will be Black Friday Talk as promised this weekend.)

It all started when I tried to put a cutesy little sidebar on the blog with a list of things I'm thankful for. As it turns out, it was tougher than I thought.

This is how I started:

*chocolate, pumpkins, & TiVo

But as you can imagine, a simple, bullet-point list just doesn't do the overflow of my heart any justice.

To simply write "family" doesn't mention that I adore that Brad sacrificially makes time for us even though he is usually exhausted and weary when he comes home from a long trip. He hugs us, listens to us, and makes sure we're all tucked in...before heading to the office to plow through endless work responsibilities.

Brad is often too tired, but never too busy for a round of catch, one last story, or a listening ear for my endless words.

"Family" doesn't describe how Jackson grew this year, both physically and spiritually. His love for friends--both through his actions and prayers--stirs me beyond words. His tenderness is incomparable and radiates in each word he speaks. I wouldn't trade for the world the early mornings when he shuffles into my room and asks if we can read Bible stories together.

I'm not sure there are words in all the English language that express how thankful I am for Lilly and who she is. The closest I can come is, "They broke the mold after her...and you ain't never seen a mold like that before!" Her ability to entertain me one minute and look into my eyes with such vulnerability the next minute catches my breath and puts a lump in my throat.

And of course "family" doesn't begin to encompass our flesh and blood we dearly love who live so far away. The support Brad and I both feel simply for who we are, comes from those who know our strengths and weaknesses best and still manage to love us unconditionally.

If I took the time to share how each one of you made me think, showed me love, and prayed for me, I'd run out of room on the internet and simultaneously bore you to tears.

I'd be lying if I didn't mention there's a deep well of thankfulness in my heart knowing my dad is alive and just fine this Thanksgiving.

For a few weeks last March his very life appeared to teeter between earth and heaven when his brain suddenly and unexplainedly hemorrhaged. I can't say that I appreciate him more or stopped taking him for granted, because I really never did. He has always been my picture of strength, compassion, and love.

It just hadn't occurred to me that there would be a day when he wouldn't somehow be a part of decisions I make, in plans for the future, and a phone call away.

Forever etched in my heart will be the early morning I arrived in the hospital downtown Dallas. Unconscious and restrained to his hospital bed, I had never seen Dad so weak.

Upon entering the ICU, all my trembling voice could whisper was, "Hi, Daddy." Involuntarily, his arms yanked forcefully against the restraints and his head, so filled with tubes I could only see his eyes, turned toward me. Somehow, wherever his mind was beneath the medicine and pain, he knew the sound of his baby's voice.

In that very moment I realized in an entirely new way how God feels about me. How when he hung on the cross, despite pain beyond what I can ever describe, he was aware of us...his children. The Word made flesh knows me and loves me in a way so tangible that it sends chills up my spine.

I am still digesting His undeserved love.

So there you have it:

Monday, November 19, 2007

And Then Brad Forced me to Watch "Talladega Nights"

As you know, this is Turkey Week! We are hosting Thanksgiving Dinner over at the humble abode along with Turkey Bowl III.

One of my favorite newer Thanksgiving traditions is playing football Thursday morning and finishing it off with breakfast burritos. (Very important to get the metabolism up and running.)

To clarify, I enjoy letting the guys play football while I alternate drinking coffee and hot chocolate while talking with friends. Nothing better.

So, last night I sat down and made a detailed to-do list in order to be ready by Thursday:

*defrost turkey
*clean house
*work on centerpiece
*glitter pumpkins
*clean glitter out of every crack & crevice of kitchen
*find candle votives
*make cornbread
*make biscuits
*make pies
*clean out fridge
*deliver a baby gift
*help with school T-Day parties
*fold Mayflower place cards
*home staging appointment
*work on Awana verses
*plan music
*clean off washer/dryer so I can wash clothes
*grocery store run
*Costco trip
*plan creative thankfulness sharing
*clean up desk
*pay bills in order to shop on Friday
*respond to 10 million emails in In Box

After a good, against-the-wind run this early this morning, my head was clear and I was ready to attack the day.

Armed with my impressive time-management skills, which I perfected in college while eating obscene volumes of queso and planning the next luau, I promptly spent all day MAKING OUR FAMILY CHRISTMAS CARDS.

Now I am summarizing my time-savvy habits by blogging, which is the picture of efficiency.

I also barely managed to squeeze into my very full schedule a few moments to watch "Dancing with the Stars" UN-TiVOed because who, OH WHO, will go the finals...please let it be Helio, Jennie, and Marie!!!

Perhaps tomorrow I will start on the to-do list. Or maybe I will finally get motivated to send out some change-of-address cards from the move back in June.

I am nothing if not a work horse.

P'Jammin with Santa

The only reason we'd dress in pajamas in mid-November and head to the local mall is to see Mr. Claus. This is his official "arrival" at the mall and this year, he gave us the pleasure of coming right to our very own food court in his red, plaid trap-door pj's.

Jackson and Lilly of course were super excited and having unlimited milk and cookies sure helped.

Lilly whoops it up as we throw down some cookies:

Lilly puts the choke-hold on Lauren:

The "entertainment," to use a loose term, was a little substandard. Mrs. Claus was onstage teaching the kids versions of "Jingle Bells" that I'm okay never hearing again because they mentioned Taco Bell over and over and over again.

At the risk of jeopardizing her career for a sight gag, here she is:

Sorry about the pictures being less-than-stellar quality, but I had to right-click and copy them from an online photo service because (hold your surprise) I brought my camera (progress) but it was not charged (more of the same.)

But my dear friend bailed me out. Again.

The big moment with Santa:

Lilly asked for a candy-cane mouse. Say what? As she later explained to us (and hopefully Santa Claus because I am under heavy suspicion that he has never heard of such thing) it is simply a mouse with stripes like a candy cane.

If I ever see such a creature within a 100 foot radius of our house I will freak out and blame Lilly.

Jackson asked for moon sand after Tyson gave a lengthy and ridiculous explanation of its fictional properties. Ty then laughed hysterically at the thought of setting Brad & I up for Santa failure before the calendar even flips to December.

Thanks, Ty!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Whatever The Thanksgiving Equivalent of Ho-Ho-Ho Is

One of my many sicknesses is that I love grocery shopping. I really do. Especially around the holidays.

I am especially drawn to the baking stack-outs filled with varieties of chocolate, nuts, and even evaporated milk that cause my imagination to run wild and my pants to spontaneously tighten.

Yesterday, Costco was so busy that I could barely navigate the oversized cart through the oversized aisles to buy enough Velveeta and tortillas to prepare us for Y3K. But I loved it. The possibilities for food and hospitality are endless.

Same with crowded, mob-scene at the turkeys, a giant green Shrek roaming around to add to the chaos, and small children clinging to the carts out of fear. But I find so much joy in selecting those special foods that we really only eat once a year.

Thanksgiving has always been my absolute favoritest holiday...even above and beyond Christmas. Growing up, our family didn't have a specific tradition of how we celebrated, except for the food. The tradition of culinary excellence, my friends, is untouchable. And the menu might as well be etched in stone tablets, because aside from audible direction from the voice of the Lord, it is not changing. Amen.

I have heard that there are other varities of dressing (y'all know it is only called stuffing if it's stuffed in the turkey, right?) besides cornbread dressing. That is the rumor, anyway. Personally I have never tried them because my family will eat cornbread dressing if it harelips the Governor.

I remember many great Thanksgivings we had with our best friends...the moms cooking and laughing and the dads watching football...5 kids running wildly, and I do mean WILDLY through the house. We even drove to see them a few years after they moved and the magic being our friendship--not the location--rendered the same fun.

These are the friends who introduced us to the Slice of Heaven (I am so punny) known as Dude's Pumpkin Pie. It has no equal and there is no thanks worthy of this gift. There is pumpkin pie, and there is Dude's. Do not be fooled by imposters. I will give you the recipe in exchange for all the money you have. Just kidding.

There were also several Thanksgivings that our family from West Texas drove NINETEEN HOURS in a giant red Suburban, God bless them, to celebrate the day with us. I loved flinging open the front door, to see them exhausted, but ready to start planning the days to come. I almost laugh out loud thinking of how hysterical we'd get making dinner, setting the table, and creating our name-card teepees every year. (I believe my mom still has all the originals.)

And then there's the shopping. Fear not, I will probably be dedicating the bulk of next weekend's posts to my favorite shopping time of all. South Denver, however, can never be compared to the Black Friday shopping extravaganza that is downtown Chicago. Waaayyy back in time before cellphones, we armed ourselves with walkie-talkies and hit Michigan Avenue en masse.

I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow description of our shopping follies (and that they were) but the two things that stand out are the year Natalie fell asleep on the floor of the Michigan Avenue Brooks Brothers. The youngest of the pack, she literally dropped from all the fun. In the entry way, for all to see.

The other memory I have is of eight or nine of us trying to catch the train after a marathon (and I am an intense shopper, so do not take that as an exaggeration) of shopping. I was quite pregnant and hauling tail for ABOUT A MILE along city streets to catch the last train back home and avoid sleeping on the streets downtown. There are no words to describe what a pack of suburbanites running through downtown, huge shopping bags and pregnant belly in tow, must have looked like.

Except really stupid.

I just remember lots of sweating once we finally sat down. It smelled like a track meet in that train car.

And we laughed and laughed and laughed.

We may or may not have eaten an entire tin of Garrett's Popcorn on the train ride home. Fuel, you know.

So armed with these great memories, we set out to create the same joy with our kids. The family, the friends, the company always changing, but the food, BY GOLLY THE FOOD, stays the same.

Sure, there are additions that I love for people to bring, just to try new things...but there are some traditions so sacred that I dare not mess with. Even if my mom and grandma will not be here to testify against any dressing that isn't of the cornbread variety, I somehow believe they will know if I forsake tradition.

And there must be pie. And it must be Dude's.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Very Important Post About Hair

If I even have to justify this post or explain why hair is one of the Top 3 most important female fashion topics, maybe you are not my ideal reader.

Sorry, Dad.

But in case I do have to have to put some minds at ease, I think even the Bible talks about a woman's hair being her crown. Or maybe that is humility. Either way...

I recently had one of the proudest hair moments of my life. That is not saying much, I know, but I did want to document it.

Earlier this summer I had 8 or 9 inches chopped right off. Just couldn't take it anymore to the point that I couldn't even get one more measely inch to grow to donate to Locks of Love. Not sure they'd wanted chlorinated, highlighted, dry blond hair, but you never know.

This is what I had chopped off and I want you to know I am swallowing any remaining pride to post something this offensive in nature:

Not sure if you can tell from the picture, but the split ends look like they belong on a tortured Barbie. I mean, could I have used a flat iron? Could I have curled under the horse mane ends? Could Brad have said, "Honey, why don't you try a ponytail or a very opaque head covering today?"

I know, that is really embarrassing. I will not even out the friend of mine who took this photo and didn't stage an intervention right then and there, but she was recently seen shopping at Jo-Ann with me...

Even though the above tragedy occurred in December, it still took me until JUNE to remedy the situation. A lovely West Texas girl who reminded me of Jaime Pressly cut off a squirrelly looking chunk from the back and threw it in my lap. Terrifying, indeed.

But the hair looked much improved for Kimbo's wedding:

Side view:
(I sure love me some necklaces, don't I?)

So, moving in what I thought might be the right direction, I got another several inches walloped off the dry, brittle locks last month.

The stylist and I discussed what we thought the length would look like and I felt nearly bald by the time she was done. But hair grows, so no sweat.

It really does a lot for my new look when I make stupid faces to go with it. You keep that in mind.

And here is where I stop rambling but get to the part that actually makes this a victory.

Don't know if you've met her, but our little family has a gem named Emilie. She married my cousin a few years back and the family collectively marvelled at her beauty and style.

She was wearing the headband-with-ponytail look years and years ago before Target picked up on it and exploited all soccer moms by making us fashion clones. Emmo's clothes look so original and amazing on her, but they are clearly Out Of Bounds for me.

If I tried to pull off some of Emmo's looks, I'd make the Fashion Don'ts page of Glamour every month. Truth be told, that could likely happen anyway seeing as Brad has to remind me that it's okay to change out of my sweaty workout clothes and take a shower.

But I recently saw Emilie's hair.

Big Announcement: We are sporting the same look! (I am trying to post a picture of her, but it's not working, so you'll have to trust me on this one.)

I'll not pretend for one second that we are fashion/hair/shopping/accessorizing equals. But this one moment in time I will savor until my split ends betray me and I am back in Hair Turmoil.

I have got to go shower and get out of these workout clothes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cute Enough to Eat

Jackson came home from school on Monday with a "Family Turkey Project." We were all so excited to spend a few minutes (hours) decorating this paper turkey. That's much more appealing than renewing our 2008 Medical Benefits or paying bills in a timely manner.

Priorities, people.

Brad and I felt this was our first real chance to prove ourselves as worthy school-project parents. And you know, the Junior High Science Fair is around the corner.

I was slightly outdone by the crafty parents in Jackson's room on Scarecrow Day and embarrassed Lilly (cough...myself) when she showed up in pastel colors on Red Day. But success on the Turkey Project might just help us earn some Street Cred.

Jackson's teacher suggested cute little glue-ons like buttons, feathers, macaroni etc. Do we have any of those Martha-ish items in our house? NO! I am too busy wasting time on the world wide wonderful to build deco-modern bird houses out of popsicle sticks and glitter.

So we turned to what we know best: candy.

Despite our best attempts at gorging ourselves on peanut butter and chocolate, we still have enough Halloween treats to melt into a Guinness Record Breaking Blob O' Chocolate.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, we must leave the candy behind and turn to the finer things in dessert: pies, trifles, cobblers, bars, and cookies.

And folks, we are green. I mean, we recycle, and watched a lot of shows during NBC's green week. And we love penguins.

So, in the name of reusing Earth's precious resources, we carefully created Jackson's turkey out of Halloween candy and wrappers, with an emphasis on hot glue.

The personality differences of my Sweet Spouse and I came out during this project. He took the time to create TEMPLATES of all the feathers--complete with identifying position labels--so that we could trace, cut, and glue the feathers (while using a smoothing device he constructed for this special operation).

As you know, I am all about EYEBALLING IT. As far as I'm concerned, "Measure once, cut twice" only applies to those who aren't good at estimating. Which I am. And sometimes am not. And the joy of not being a perfectionist, is that I don't care!

But I did let Brad get giddy with excitement over the precision measurment of kindergarten candy wrapper feathers.

In return, he gave me creative direction over the color of the candy labels. Something about the blue in Almond Joy and purple of Laffy Taffy just didn't work with our Thanksgiving palette.

At one point during this blessed event, Brad and I realized the children hadn't been in the kitchen in about an hour. Just remember, the more you have to do, the more engaging your children's homework becomes!

So here he is:

I would say the crowning glory of this turkey is his red gobbler-thing made out of Watermelon Nerds. The texture is so lifelike, y'all!
(You know you can click the picture to enlarge, right?)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Scene I Could Never Have Pictured 10 Years Ago

So Holly and I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics and spent a solid chunk of time checking out all kinds of crafty sales and holiday goodness.

Sure, we made fun of the really heinous fabrics and picked out some other SUPER DUPER CUTE ones for Christmas aprons. We passed over the ornaments that are only meant for the hopelessly tacky and snagged a few that will surely transform our trees before our very eyes.

We literally cruised every single aisle bantering about the worthiness/unworthiness of various decorating necessities (junk). The fact that we skipped the figurine aisle does put us shy of 90 years old, however.

After a full tour, we arrived at the sprawling magazine rack in the front of the store.

"Holly, I have something to tell you."

She looks slightly bored and ready for yet another over-hyped statement.

"I have read the last two issues of 'Good Houskeeping.'"

She looks up...curious.

"I loved it," I confessed. "There were so many good ideas."

Her face lit up.

"Me, too. That's where I got that Apple Compote recipe."


Her courage bolstered: "I think subscriptions are only $13 a year."

Reality is sinking in.

"We have spent the last hour and a half wandering through a craft store, drinking coffee, talking about sewing, and now we are admitting to reading a ladies' magazine which erases any shadow of doubt that we are young and hip."

Yes, it does. Oh yes, it does.

It is Not a Road Trip Without Some DQ

On the long, barren, slightly boring drive home, we stopped at the glamorous Dairy Queen of Raton, New Mexico to do some market research.

For those of you in West Texas, I SERIOUSLY considered just making a teeny weeny right turn and heading towards Clayton and SURPRISING y'all late tonight and thinking of all the WILD FUN we could have this week together! It would be so ridiculously irresponsible!

But then I thought that our posse arriving around midnight would be more SCARY than fun, and I have a staging appointment tomorrow, and the kids have school...which made we want to come EVEN MORE and solidify my title as Procrastinator Supreme!!! But my "maturity" kicked in...

So there we were at the DQ and I felt that in all fairness to Cold Stone Creamery, I should probably get the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard. Just to, you know, compare notes and all.


And in our long-standing tradition of forgoing dinner to get right to dessert, Brad and I nonchalantly passed on the hamburgers to get right to the Blizzard. We tried not to be too obvious while the kids were eating their corn dogs and applesauce and we were swapping bites of Pumpkin Pie and Oreo/Snickers Blizzard.

My, they were good.

That said, I would give the Pumpkin Pie in the Sky a definite nod over the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard. The DQ version just didn't have enough texture and crunchiness, although the pumpkin taste was excellent. ("We use that pumpkin stuff you put in pies," the register girl informed me.)

And then I took Lilly potty.

And the restroom at this particular DQ was RIGHT in the front by the counter. And the door was propped open. You know, convenient.

So there Lilly sat. And broke into song:

"There was a girl who had a poop,
and Bingo was his name-o.
Poop, poop, N-G-O
Poop, poop N-G-O..."




Monday, November 12, 2007

Little Hotel In the Big Desert

As an absolutely hopeless Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, I probably entered motherhood with unreal expectations about family bonding. You know, smoking and salting meat together, buying hard candy in town, placing hot bricks at the foot of our beds to keep warm, and Brad playing the fiddle while we all dance around in the latest calico fashions.

This week, however, Jackson, Lilly, and I have had some togetherness like never before. Sharing a room, a bathroom, and having NO TIME AWAY FROM EACH OTHER does that.

And even more shocking: I've loved almost every minute.

You all know that I try to keep it real about parenting--the years go by too fast, but the days can seem so long. Right? I made no secret of my glee the day Lilly and Jackson both returned to school. Paaarrrrrtttaaaayyyyy!

Obviously, it's not that I don't adore them, but I also love coherent and uninterrupted thoughts, a tidy home, and getting out of the shower without hearing a Tattletale Recap of the past five (ok, 20) minutes.

But somehow all of this togetherness combined with a change of scenery has brought out the best. At home when the kids sleep over in each other's rooms, there is SHOUTING and SCREAMING at deafening decibels and one of them ends up crossing the hall to sleep alone. Here, the exhaustion from swimming and swimming and swimming has them sacked out with barely a sigh.

As I tuck them in, I picture Ma Wilder going from cot to cot, treating each child like they were in a room alone, even though privacy was nonexistent.

So I tied on my apron and did the same.I still get to hear the highs and lows of J & L's days, and sang them an individual lullaby...even though they are only five feet from each other.

My little (big) Jackson has been The Man. Seriously. He has been responsible for the room key, privacy sign on the door, cell phone, and making sure his sister doesn't drown. I'm trying not to picture him in his psychologist's office realizing he enabled his mother for all those years...

Today at the pool, he spent all kinds of time swimming around with Lilly on his back because that's what she wanted. I pray she appreciates this some day.

I guess when all you have is each other, companionship has time to bloom. Jackson and Lilly do get along pretty well (for siblings that is, not the general public--unless you consider calling a casual acquaintance a Poopie Head "pretty well").

They made an effort to take turns choosing games and also took care to get each other a banana at the breakfast buffet. Which they then used as laser guns and blasted hotel guests all the way up the stairs.

I would much rather go out to dinner or do just about anything as a family, but getting to spend focused time with the kids is also fun. When I am not distracted (read: kept sane) by adult conversation, the kids' behavior is phenomenal.

Working with Jackson on his ocean sticker book and helping Lilly write out her Christmas list was relaxing and, in the truest sense of the word, a delight. The restaurant chefs made a fabulous dinner (and since it was Houston's it was extra fabulous), we each ate what we wanted, no clean up, no phone ringing, and no thinking about what is on the schedule for tomorrow. (Although we did plan out the next day's breakfast. The apples don't fall far...)

So of course, the kicker is that this isn't real life. Next week all of my diligent slacking, combined with over-committing, school, home staging, and fixing my own meals will rise up and slap me in the face.

As a warning, I will probably start hyperventilating and shouting, "I just need a vacation!" sometime early on Tuesday.

But that's why I blog. To remember that life is the sum of these many moments woven together. To know that laughing amidst disaster keeps me from crying my eyes out. To appreciate the mundane while on vacation and dream about relaxation while cleaning the bathtub.

I am channelling my inner Ma Wilder, but in my wildest imaginations (even on the banks of Plum Creek) I can't imagine her like this:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Edible Cheeks

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Small Step for Momkind


I have made progress in my lifelong mission to sit poolside and read a magazine while the kids swim.

(Really, all we have done on this trip is swim and eat so I'm working hard to come up with new angles.)

Anyway, today I sat by the side of the pool and held a magazine. I kept trying to read it, wanting to read it, but with Lilly's confidence level being that of a swimming gold medalist and her actual ability being that of a three year-old, I just couldn't seem to look down.

Once I recklessly glanced down to see the Christmas tree of my dreams, but then Lilly started doing her "monkey hanging from a tree limb" stunt on the noodle and I knew I couldn't dedicate the time to studying ornament placement and color scheme that the article deserved.

So I will wait. Someday in the future I will casually page through a magazine. Someday so far down the road I might even read a novel (or a really thick stack of magazines.)

But Neil Armstrong didn't land on the moon on his first space shuttle ride, either.

Obligatory Post About Food

Just when I thought I had a handle on all things wonderfully fall and pumpkiny, I entered Cold Stone Creamery.

The kids were begging for some ice cream and it does seem like the perfect desert on a hot summer night amongst palm trees in November. When in Rome...

In we walked and my Pumpkin Radar spotted the pumpkin ice cream immediately. Well, of course, I'll be having a sample of that. Then, the guy behind the counter proceeds to tell me about Pumpkin Pie in the Sky. I Like to think of myself as a conisseur of fine pumpkin desserts and let me tell you, this was KILLER.

Pumpkin ice cream, graham crackers, caramel, nuts, and chocolate chips. (It's supposed to have whipped cream, but I'm not really a fan, so I subbed for the chocolate. Of course.) It was like eating a cool pumpkin cheesecake. With chocolate.

I am still recovering.

Even Jackson had some. I have known that child a long time and never seen him order any flavor other than chocolate. Ever. So, there's your proof.

Lilly, following in my mad camera skillz, took this photo of the dessert:

She also captured Jackson's delight as he expanded his ice cream repetoire by one flavor.

Now, for the big news. The Grand Lux.

The kids and I headed out to the mall to scope things out and round up some fun. If you're not familiar, Scottsdale has one of the finest malls around. In fact, the word "mall" is a little demeaning. It's more of a "shopping experience unparalleled by any other" (in my price range or limited travel experience, anyway).

So, there she was. The Mother Ship of restaurants. I was expecting a huge wait and not wanting to totally bore the kids, I thought I'd just check into the wait time, then walk away disappointed until the Denver location opens at the end of the month.

I totally did not notice the huge SPOTLIGHTS in the parking lot announcing the grand opening. When I asked how long they'd been open, the trembling employees replied, "Two hours."

Apparently word hasn't gotten out about the greatness of this dining fantasy, so the restaurant was wiiiiiiide open. We took our seats on the patio, which in and of itself, makes for a great night.

The kids got those Wiki Stix (these bendy, slightly sticky 6-inch sticks), which are none other than the greatest invention to pass time at restaurants. Jackson and Lilly played with them so much that they barely ate their dinner. We had an entire army of carefully crafted (but unidentifiable to the untrained eye) Star Wars fighter ships and misshapen bendy people lined up at the table.

Before we were even seated I started embarrassing myself by gushing about the Asian Nachos and how I'd been dreaming about them since I first encountered them in 2005 and this was the moment I'd been waiting for and could you please bring them out NOW?!?!


I regained composure and even did something I've never done before. I asked them to bring out the take home box with the nachos. Because, you see, I don't trust myself. The nachos serve NINE, but I know that I am fully capable of licking the plate clean.

So I had two, then packed the rest away. It worked out nicely because I've been able to enjoy them everyday and just like pizza, they are just as good right out of the fridge.

What are these rare and beautiful creatures, you ask? Well, start with a light and crispy wonton. It's topped with some of that peanutty thai sauce, tender chicken, and some cheesey, saucy, crushed peanuts, and creamy SOMETHING else. Sorry, that is the best I can do.

You really have to taste it. Spicy, sweet, crunchy, and creamy ALL in one heavenly bite.

Hold on. I have to go eat one right now.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I Have Sooooooo Much To Do

I'm taking a break from Vacation Talk to clear the air about my blogging sickness.

More than one well-meaning person has asked me, "So how do you have all this TIME to blog? And on top that, how in heaven's name do you have time to watch ALL THAT TV and then blog about it?"

I can really appreciate those people who are so organized and with it, that when the going gets tough, they make lists! Then they cross stuff off the lists! Ooohhhhh, doesn't that feel good?

To me, it does not. Lists don't motivate me one bit. I feel complete freedom to throw the list in the trash or make a new list the next day of all the Items of Drudgery I was supposed to accomplish the day before.

You know, creativity really starts to flow when you're under pressure.

Think about college...didn't we all have the MOST fun when a huge test was looming, but we'd rather do anything but cave into the pressure and study? And maybe, just maybe, we found out Tom Jones was in concert, so we gathered some delinquent friends and rushed out to buy concert tickets? Maybe we were the only ones there under 60, but we dutifully screamed and hob-nobbed with senior citizens. Who on earth would do something so crazy?

Because hey, if I studied and didn't do well, I didn't have much of an excuse. I was just dumb. But if I was so busy that I couldn't possibly get to the studying, then I had a GREAT excuse for that "C" I just made. (This is very hypothetical, of course.) My calendar was packed! I was very busy seeing Tom Jones Live In Concert so studying was, unfortunately, just not a possibility. Bummer. Maybe next time.

Even now, things don't change one little bit. I barely get a sense of satisfaction from doing the laundry because the minute I attempt to clear out just ONE of the hampers, Someone Small will change clothes for the twelveteenth time that day.

But when I read people's blogs I am totally BUSY and have a reason NOT to attack dishes, dirty floors or whatever other cleaning tasks await me. And if I happen to click over to check the bank account or pay bills, then HEY! I was multi-tasking like CRAZY and couldn't be bothered to re-organized the play room.

Blogging really is for busy people, don't you think?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Valley of the NASCAR

So this is the deal...we are in Phoenix because Brad has to work here as The Clampetts and 200,000 of their closest relatives are comin' on down for some good ol' NASCAR fun, y'all! And since his employer is a sponsor of The 17 Car, the kids and I are here to show support by sunning ourselves at fine resorts while Obsessed NASCAR Fans live in RV's, grill 3 meals a day, and avoid hangovers by maintaining a steady 5-day beer buzz.

Jackson is off-track and although Lilly's entire academic future hinges on preschool, she has decided to opt out for a week.

Even though we see Brad for approximately 10 minutes a day (for real), it is way better than not seeing him at all for 8 days.

I'm feeling guilty about all of our fun because here's what Brad's day looked like:

5 a.m.--Wake up

6 a.m.--Rental car breaks down

10 a.m.--Computer crashes for fifth time today

2 p.m.--Finally get new rental car

4 p.m.--Hanging out with nuts and bolts contractors.

5 p.m.--Bring out the keg!

6 p.m.--Tail gate party at the race track!!! YEEEEEE HAAAWWWWW! Hamburgers hard as hockey pucks and charred beyond recognition.

9:30 p.m--Return to the hotel and start working.

Out of respect for Brad, I will not post about the kids and I STUMBLING INTO THE GRAND OPENING OF THE GRAND LUX CAFE IN SCOTTSDALE TONIGHT!!!

Stay tuned, though.

Because let me just tell you it was EVEN BETTER than I remembered.

I Was Not Kidding About Being the Most Terrible Photographer Ever

Today I will tell the story of our vacation through the eyes of the worst photojournalist you could imagine. Some of the characters will be missing and key events will not be recorded. But hey, that's why I've never been hired.

Here is Jackson laaaaaiiddd back (with his mind on his money and his money on his mind). Couldn't resist. He is sipping a strawberry daquiri and scoping out his next move (hot tub, lazy river, or waterslide?)

This next photo is not intentionally blurry. Oh, no. I was trying to capture just how relaxed we all feel when we put on our Vacation Goggles of Sluggardness.

Don't you just feel the breathlessness as Jackson and Lilly see who can hold their breath the longest? No wonder they sleep so well at night. Gasping for air for 3 hours is serious business.

Lilly actually came up for a breath here to show us some of her syncronized swimming moves. This didn't last long before she went back to trying to drown herself. The seafoam green wristband is her favorite fashion accessory.

Now this is when things get really ugly.

I tried WITH ALL MY MIGHT to get photos of Jackson coming down the waterslide. It was a proud moment and I wanted to capture his expressions. You know, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Undeterred, I had him run up the steps and Try It Again, Buddy! I'm going to really anticipate this time and when I hear him coming down, I will take the photo!

Getting better, but still very, very bad.

I know, there is no excuse for this level of incompetence. Just remember I am excellent at baking cookies.

Lilly, on the other hand met neither the height or weight requirements to ride the slide, but somehow coerced the lifeguard to let her go (much like her first experience snow skiing.)

The only catch was that she couldn't swim against the whitewater rapid current at the bottom of the slide so I would have to jump in to wrangle her. I am positive she was the only one in line sucking her thumb.

The sweet lifeguard (part of the resort's High School Musical 2 cast, but anyway...) offered to take her picture while I hopped in as part of breaking all waterslide rules.

Here is the photo the lifeguard took on his first attempt. I was in the water to catch/save Lilly while he was acting like using the camera was no big deal.

My plan tomorrow is to go straight to Darren from North Dakota and force him to trail us like the paparrazi for the rest of the trip so we can have some decent documentation of all this fun.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Just Keep Swimming

Well, today we ventured out to swim. And when I say we swam, we swam.

Most people say their kids are part fish, but dear readers, my children are ALL FISH. I believe their father was Nemo and their mother was The Little Mermaid. (Creepy sounding, maybe, but I have no other explanation.)

So picture us on the lazy river...the elderly--and they are MANY in Airzona this time of year--are leisurely floating around on their tubes. Talking, laughing, relaxing.

Then there was us.

Lilly and Jackson abandoned the inner tubes in about 2 seconds. Lilly realized she could touch with her tiptoes and proceeded to SWIM through the lazy river. Sure, she was gently pushed along by the current, but she spent most of her time kicking hard with her little head buried underwater, blowing bubbles with all her might. She self-propelled for a good 2 laps.

If my calculations are correct, that is longer than Brad and I swam in our triathlon.

I am seriously calling the U.S. Olympic Committee to sign her up with the swimming equivalent of Bela Karolyi. She might be the next Janet Evans except she is so silly that she might be tough to motivate.

The elderly were trying to make thoughtful conversation with us ("How's the snow in Denver?" snort snort) but we had to be a little bit rude because we were blazing through with hellfire on our heels. I have never been part of a less-relaxing lazy river ride.

Jackson spent the better part of the day launching his torpedo through the water and swimming for it with sonar-esque accuracy. (I'm not sure if that is the correct use of "sonar" but it sounds very technical and watery, so I'm rolling with it...)

If Lilly threw the torpedo in too easy of a location, he would yell, "LIL! That was tooo easy. RE-DO!"

I only had to jump in once to rescue Lilly (fully clothed and dry, but I was pretty much expecting it, so no big deal.) Of course, that was the first news she delivered to Brad tonight.

"Dad, today I almost drained."


Here are some things we've done so far on our trip:

1. Went to the mall

2. Went to Target

3. Ran on the treadmill

4. Went to the movies

5. Ate at the Cheesecake Factory

So, as you can tell, we've experienced the finest of Phoenix's local flavor. These are all super creative things that I never do in Denver.

We did swim (at 8 a.m. right after our Mickey Mouse pancakes) but that is about it.

Tomorrow I shall find the children a preschool and a pediatrician. Then I will make a Costco run and we'll all feel right at home.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This Hotel Totally Gets Me

Oh, yes, it totally does.

Monday, November 05, 2007

We Made It

Eleven hours into this Grand Driving Odyssey, the front seat is starting to get a little toasty. And the seat warmers are not on. The army of power inverters and 3 cigarette lighters giving it their all are just a little cozy.

I can't imagine how those people in mobile SWAT units wear all that heavy equipment and stand around the blazing inferno of technology in the back of old vans. Which is why I'm a mom.

Anyway, I should take this opportunity to brag on our amazing little bear cubs. We have only stopped twice, and one time, the babes didn't even get out. The second time was at Subway, which ended up being gross (fresh bread, I think NOT) but they soldiered on thanks to some chocolate milk.

While I was trying to "nap" (a loose term since I am genetically unable to sleep in the car) Lilly's only offense was that every 15 minutes she would shout (over the noise of her headphones), "I LOVE YOU, MOM!" Seriously, I cannot be annoyed by that.

And let me also sing the praises of travelling with a 5 year-old. He is the master of the DVD player and even reads stories to his little sister. I am basically not needed. Except that he'll call up to the front and say, "Hand, mom." He then grabs my hand and squeezes it 3 times...universal for "I love you." One of those an hour and I'm feeling great.

As you all know, I'm just excellent with the camera phone, so I thought I'd capture one last shot of this gorgeous Arizona sunset. The picture doesn't even look half-beautiful because it's more dashboard than sunset and I can't adjust the aperture of the cell phone camera (which, by the way, is hanging on exactly ONE hinge) and it took me an obscene amount of time to rotate the picture.

But I am committed to this blog, y'all.

I Would Rather Be Forced to Move to Antartica Than New Mexico

Well, it's true. And you know how I detest cold weather from the depths of my soul. We are somewhere between Albuquerque and Flagstaff, which is to say we are nowhere.

On the bright side, both kids are actually sleeping...probably because they were awake and dressed by 5:40 a.m. with Road Trip Excitement (before their bubbles were burst and they learned that "Road Trip" means we are NOT going by plane.)

However, I am pretty sure we are on the movie set where "Cars" was filmed. We just drove through Radiator Springs and passed by Mack. And the kids are missing this!

I shouldn't make fun of the landscape here because we were just commenting that it looks just like the lush, Metro Denver landscape no more than one mile south of our house. Which is to say there is nothing here but tumbleweed.

In high school, both Brad and I ventured to this neck of the world several times and we both remember the landscape being so Unreal! So Different! So Amazing! But after living in Colorado for the bulk of our adult lives, the rocks, weeds, and small mountain combos don't really stand out.

Another issue we've had is locating restaurants along the route. I inhaled and exhaled deeply and while we blew through Albuquerque. There was NOTHING except the lavish Flying J truck stop outside of town. Attached was the Magic Dragon Chinese restaurant AND (oh yes, there's more) Pepperoni's Pizza and a Country Kitchen.

First of all...after literally tens of thousands of miles of road trip experience early in our marriage(including July of 2000 where we DROVE over 10,000 miles), Brad and I added to our very solemn vows:

"I promise that we will never ever, even upon threat of starvation, eat at a restaurant attached to a gas station."

I will not give gory details, but we would not include it in our vows unless we were serious.

So onward we search...the GPS tells us that Subway and DQ are coming up soon.

If I am forced to settle for a peanut butter cup blizzard with chocolate ice cream and hot fudge sauce, so be it.

That Warm Blue Glow You See on I-25 is Us

So we all loaded up this morning for our Big Road Trip. Waaaaaahhhh Hoooo!

If there is excessive, rambling, long-winded blogging today, you will know why. I have 12 hours until we get to Phoenix and enough battery chargers in here to power a space shuttle.

Every road trip causes Brad and I to think nostalgically about our formative years as road trip victims. You know, hour after merciless hour in the family station wagon. Seats down, fighting with siblings, car "games", blah blah blah.

But here we are in our techno-SUV and things really aren't that bad (that's probably what our parents thought in 1985.)

The kids are watching Star Wars on their DVD players WITH HEADPHONES ON THANK YOU LORD. The DeWalts (that is what Lilly calls us) are heavily, Starbuckily caffeinated and muffined. We also have our laptops, some kind of FANTASTIC mobile internet service, iPods, cellphones, various chargers, GPS (thank you, Bob & Brenda!) and wrist watches.

We are trying not to hang ourselves on all the cords.

Our 21st century kids totally DO NOT GET this whole road trip thing. We are just south of Colorado Springs and they have asked when we will be in Phoenix eleventy million thousand times.


They keep asking when we are getting on the plane. We have ruined them with too much air travel. You see, driving is just a means to get to the airplane. They believe in their heart of hearts that air travel is always involved.

I can see why they are confused. The distance from our house to the airport is a road trip itself which they have driven many times.

Jackson just said, "So are we going to Phoenix by plane or by car?" We are IN THE VEHICLE, FOLKS.

In his mind it is more feasible that we'd ride a speeder bike on the Forest Moon of Endor before we'd really DRIVE for 12 hours.

So, I'll sign off for now, before I can highlight some of the fantastic food we'll find on the road. (I did pack some mesquite-smoked turkey and havarti roll-ups in case the only option in town is a Jack-in-the-Box in which case I'd rather eat the crumbs out of the kids' carseats before I subjected myself to an e.coli scare.)

Oh, and here are some pictures I took with my Awesome Cellphone then emailed to the Awesome Laptop, which I am now blogging about. Seriously. That is pretty cool.

Only 10 more hours...

"They're not to Endor yet. Still on Dagobah. Is that all?"

"Mom, we won't be there for 60 YEARS!"

Blogging Till I Puke

That Brad, he's a Keeper!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Spit it Out, Now!

In very important Starbucks news, they have added a new sugar-free flavor. Many of us have been loyally campaigning for this for some time now.

But the bad news is that it's gross. Sugar free Gingerbread. Blehhhhhhhhh...YUCK.

When the barista offered it to me before it had been added to the official menu I shook with joy. No Red Cup yet, but a new sugar-free flavor would do. This was my big moment!

But, NO. It was really terrible. I can't even describe the flavor but I would warn you against trying it. Toothpastey, minty, aftertasty...UGH. Couldn't hardly swallow!

Some are critical of the sugar free ordering in the first place. I admit, I don't do it because I adore the taste. If you've noticed my slight obsession with food, this is just another way of having something I love without having to add extra mileage to the weekly running total.

Since I have to constantly check myself to make sure my water intake is greater than my coffee intake, it's time to think about SUGAR FREE. (But not decaf...oh no. Not when I was pregnant, and most certainly NOT NOW.)

The sugar-free gingerbread was so bad that I asked (made) Holly go back up to the counter and get me a SF NF XH NW vanilla latte.

Aaaaaahhhhhh, much better.

At which point Mr. Barista conveniently mentioned that he didn't like it either.

I've Outsourced Myself

More than once this week, I opened my mouth to share some Must-Know news about our family and the listener stopped me before I had even told them the topic.

"Guess what?!" I always like to grab a friend's attention with a creative intro.

"I already read the blog."

"Buh...And....Uh" My mind quickly searches for any details I may have failed to blog about. But there are none.

You know, the intention of this whole Bloggy Wonderland was mostly for those far away. But being that I have fabulous friends, they all read along too, because they need assurance that I am the least sane among them, which I happily prove with each and every post.

"But there is so much more to me than the blog!" I want to shout. Ok, not really, but I must pretend.

So, here are some things I typically discuss with friends that I have left off the blog:

1. Everything I eat/ate/plan to eat. Even though I have shared a few recipes, it is the tip tip teeny weeny tip of my recipe iceberg. You have NO IDEA how much restraint I'm showing in this department. Thank you, Holy Spirit.

2. Every page of the Pottery Barn catalog.

3. And Pottery Barn Kids.

4. And Southern Living.

5. it looks today, how it looked at its best, and my plans for its future. This is usually a lengthy conversation.

6. What Allison wore as host of "The Biggest Loser." Her wardrobe has been outstanding this season although the tanning is a little over the top.

7. Plans for Lilly's birthday party. It is really anti-climactic for all of my friends and their children because I involve them in the brainstorming, overly-involved crafts, and menu-planning. Last year, I even assigned them all actual jobs at the party. Luckily, they are gracious enough to show up and act excited.

8. The grand opening of the Grand Lux Cafe on November 30.

9. All the other restaurants I want to go to and what I will order.

10. Local newscasters and their personal lives, in which I am very interested.

11. The Food Network. Because, y'all, it is SO AMAZING. I am constantly searching for the perfect occasion to have a clambake and serve Ina's chocolate cake with REAL, OH GOSH IT'S REAL AND MAY SIMULATE HEAVEN buttercream frosting.

So now, in a horrible stroke of irony, I've just ruled out 11 more topics that will no longer catch you by surprise when I try to banter in Real Conversation about our fun lives.


The internet can be so tricky sometimes.

We Are as Unqualified as Parents As You Feared

So we're all standing around the island last night making our own pizzas. YUM-O. If you must know, Brad and I turned it up one louder by making ours barbeque chicken pizzas with grilled onions...drool.

All four of us stood around the island to eat because when you are 3 and 11/12ths and 5 years-old, you LOVE to do that stuff. NO CHAIRS! NO TABLES! NO NAPKINS! No food has been thrown yet, but trust me, we could go Animal House in a heartbeat.

Anyway, we were halfway through eating the pizzas and suddenly(!) we were all digging through our Halloween candy bags again.

Why finish pizza when the ONLY reason we're eating it is to get to the candy? Hmmmm...

So in our attempt to make candy even unhealthier than it already is, the kids (ok, Brad and I) decided to make cookies. In lieu of chocolate chips, of course, would be a wide assortment of Halloween candy. Except Skittles because they are disgusting anyway, LET ALONE ruining cookies.

The kids got knives out and chopped up Reese's, Snickers, Twix, Butterfingers, Hershey's, M&Ms...and we dumped it all into the cookie dough batter. No dark chocolate was harmed because I already confiscated those for personal reasons. Eh-hem.

After trick-or-treating, Jackson and Lilly initially tried to "enjoy" lesser candies like Tootsie-Rolls and Dum-Dums. Brad and I quickly halted that nonsense and gave them a Halloween Candy for Dummies tutorial. Our little forum discussed the merits of size (fun size > mini size), caliber (chocolate+nuts=highest echelon), taste, and proper sorting techniques. At the end, we threw away all hard candy with foreign names--Super Natilla, anyone?--and Gummy Body Parts.

Anyway, aesthetically, the batter looked a little...much. BUT YUMMY. No doubt about that.

So I was going to conclude about our fun night involving wrestling and video games and actually eating the cookies, but sadly, that is not all to the story.

Jackson came down at 2 a.m. You know why.

Let's just say I'm so glad Brad was home because when the TOP AND BOTTOM bunks are covered in puke, it is definitely a two-man operation. He left no sheet, quilt, comforter, mattress (how?!) and pillowcase unchunked. Brad and I used our best nasally voices to avoid joining the fun. This went on about hourly through the night. And continues...

Fear not, I made him a luxurious bed next to the toilet with a soft green bath mat and his Buzz Lightyear blanket.

In our defense--and to the hypochondriac crowd, this may not matter--I think this is an actual stomach bug, not candy overload. Brad has been sick on the road all week...

I suppose we'll have pizza leftovers tomorrow. Or more cookies.