Tuesday, January 29, 2008

O Give me a Home, Where the PVC Pipe Roams

A few weeks ago at school, it was Cowboy week. So who do you think was the cutest little cowgirl around?

It made me realize how BIG my cowgirl is getting, which led me to cry for several hours.

So here is Calamity Lilly:

Please notice her horse, "Shadow." She carefully sculpted him out of a sock and PVC pipe.

I'm sure it will remind you of Pioneer Woman's breathtaking photography.

The other little girls gave their horses names like "Buttercup" or "Moon Beam" or the classic, "Black Beauty."

But instead, Lilly named hers for her favorite Super Villain on the Mario & Sonic Olympics: As usual, I am bursting with pride.

And lastly, here she is two years ago at Jackson's cowboy party:

I miss that little thigh that had two distinct sections, but fortunately, I can just look at my own if I get too weepy over it.

The cheeks, however, have not gone anywhere:

I think I'll have one for breakfast.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

At Least I'm Doing Something Right

On the way home from church, Jackson put forth a request:

"Mom, when I get home, can I change into my Brooks Brothers shirt for the afternoon?"

My pride swelled as I realized he understood that to dress casually doesn't mean you have to look sloppy. No sagging pajama pants and yellowed running shirts necessary. Not that I wear stuff like that...

My mind raced, and I pictured him cruising the university campus subtley attracting the ladies, but too absorbed throwing the football with friends to notice...

After we pulled into the garage, Jackson ran upstairs, threw off his Gap sweater and played Legos all afternoon looking quite handsome.

At least he didn't ask to wear this.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Which Gives a Whole New Meaning to Shameless

I have a very dedicated running posse that includes a bunch of guys I've never met.

Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Camp, Mac Powell, Aaron Shust, and Phillips, Craig and Dean, to name a few.

There are the days where I need Jon Bon Jovi and Steven Tyler to keep me rockin' along, but that was not today.

It's no secret that the music blares through the miracle of the iPod while I run. If I can actually hear myself breathe, I'm tend to think I'm dying rather than working out, which is just an ugly thought. So instead, I crank up the tunes and keep going.

This morning I needed some serious worship. I mean, SERIOUS. I wasn't in the mood to be introspective, heart-searching, and all that.

I needed to fully absorb God's truth, strength, and power.

The gym I go to is a not-so-swanky, strip-mall-small, and very "intimate" little joint in the sense that I can smell the breath and armpits of the runners on the treadmills next to me.

So I find it kind of embarrassing that I occasionally get so lost in the music that I close my eyes, only to open them and find myself with my hands raised. So far, no one has shut off my treadmill or thought I was volunteering to stay after and wipe down the machines.

Today, however, I rocked out in rare form. Losing all sense of time and most certainly, location, I even found myself clapping through a chorus or two.

My high (or low, depending on if you were on the elliptical behind me) was when I think I actually shook an imaginary tambourine against my thigh during "My Redeemer Lives." I felt that was what the song required at the moment, and just couldn't hold it in.

Apparently I envisioned myself on an exercise segment of the "Sonny and Cher Show" in the 70's sharing Jesus love with the runners around me and felt the need to play some pretend percussion.

Perhaps I've missed my calling.

To add to this already embarrassing picture, the tears started flowing during "In Christ Alone." And warning y'all: CRYING AND RUNNING MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT MIX. Talk about hyperventilation...

But I would like to add that anything that gives praise to Jesus and allows me to eat an extra chocolate peanut butter cup cookie can't be half bad.


To No One's Surprise, Her Preschool Self-Portrait Included a LOT of Blood

I apologize for the profuse Lilly-blogs lately, but that girl has been ON A ROLL. I wish I could post every wild thing that comes flying out of her mouth, but there are not volumes large enough to contain it.

And my ears just get so dang TIRED that they involuntarily shut down.

At parent-teacher conferences on Thursday, her teachers informed me that she is quite a "character." I asked them to define that as I pondered some other "characters" that might better be defined as "sociopaths" or "wackos."

Anyway, they clarified and delcared her "a lively personality." That conjured up images of Richard Simmons,

but since they didn't use his name directly, I'll choose to believe they meant it as a compliment.

Or maybe Beth Moore, because Lilly loves to talk about theology and deep biblical matters.

Let me set the scene: Jackson, Lilly, and I are sky-rocketing through town in our sleek, tiny, navy Chevy Malibu (WHEN, OH WHEN WILL I EVER SEE MY SUBURBAN AGAIN!??!?!? SOB SOB SOB SOB BWWWWAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!)

(Sorry, just venting.)

After being reprimanded for something, Jackson briefly spiraled into a self-pity party and wimpered ridiculous things like, "Fine...I guess you never want me to play my Nintendo again. EVER."

Well, that pushed my buttons, alright.

"Jackson," I declared, trying to remain calm, but secretly wanting to throttle him, "That is simply a LIE. That is not remotely what I said and you are choosing to feel sorry for yourself and say things that are NOT TRUE."

"Mama!" Lilly screams.

"We have to get out of the car and run away from Jackson!!!!"


"Remember?! We are supposed to run away from sin and Jackson is lying, so we'd better start running."

"Good point, Lilly, but that is not always meant like literal running."

"But Mama, the Bible says we have to. Except, when you are alone because there is no one to run away from."

Then I brought to her precious little mind an incident from the not-so-distant past.

"What about if you are in your room alone with some markers and you are thinking about writing your name on your white nightstand, then blaming two year-olds who don't even know how to grip a pen, let alone spell L-i-l-l-y?"

"Well," she ponders, "I guess it would seem like there are two of me in the room and I'd just run away from my bad self while she colors on the nightstand. Although that would be pretty hard."

And I believe she just described the inner battle we all face every day.

Preach it, sister.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

We Gave Them Chicken Nuggets and Cookies to Alleviate Our Guilt

For the record, I don't think it's wrong for two girls over the age of 30 to spend an entire afternoon playing Guitar Hero while five children fend for themselves.

I just don't.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Wheels are Officially Off

I am the epitome of seasonal.

All those seasonal end-caps, rounders, displays and catalogs are right up my alley.

I get bored quickly to say the least. In fact, let's all step back and consider the miracle that I am still interested in blogging after a few months.

Lately, I'm barely interested, but that's ok...I forge ahead publishing nothingness with the best of them.

So anyway, I need a new look for the blog.

It's killing me.

This template was lovely circa 2005 when I wrote my first post. However, it is growing tiresome.

Unfortunately, I can't go down to my basement and rummage through unpacked moving boxes for accessories to liven things up. That's my usual tactic for home-decor blahs around here.

The other day, I spent several hours wandering around the basement, digging through random boxes, desperately searching for some Valentine's happiness to display. I didn't replace all of the towels with pink and red ones or put those plastic-y, removable, peely, things on my windows (clearly, the actual word for what they are has totally escaped my overloaded Helmet. Help, please help.)

Anyway, a few candy dishes, a small wreath and a few serving plates later, I felt like a new person.

Oh, and a few bags of pink and red M&M's also helped. In both dark chocolate and peanut. And Hot Tamales. And Hershey kisses. And a batch of cookie dough with toasted pecans, chocolate chips, oatmeal and peanut butter helped.

But don't worry...I'm not an emotional eater. It was all of 6 degrees outside and I needed to rev my metabolism to keep warm. Absolutely.

So back to the blog. I need a blog decorator.

Someone with good taste, intelligence, and an ability to understand computers.

I am very challenged in that area.

The other day, I was almost in tears as I told Brad, "My brand new digital camera is already broken! I am nothing but POISON to all things electronic!"

"Have you charged the battery since you got the camera?"


"Just a thought."

His patience is downright admirable.

I am pretty sure that I could crash a computer just thinking about the hard drive.

Anyway, I've searched for photos, clip art, something resembling anything to put on the blog. To no avail.

So if any of y'all know blog decorators, HOOK. ME. UP. I don't need some "designer" that is very sleek and modern. Because in case you haven't noticed, there is nothing sleek and modern about me. But if you know someone who does puffy and retro, we might be in business.

I can give a vivid and most darling description of what I want the blog to look like. I JUST CAN'T DO IT, CAPTAIN! I DON'T HAVE THE POWER! (Name that movie...)

I believe that if someday, I was sentenced to time in a jail cell, my primal decorating urges would cause me to carve some adorable etchings in the wall, use toilet paper to craft papier mache sculptures, and fashion play clothes out of the jailhouse curtains. Oh wait, my dreams just intersected and that's the one where my governess is Fraulein Maria and I sing my way through town while laughing at my brother's lederhosen.

(Cue music)

Which brings us back to Dec-or-a-ting.

I Think They Call it "Street Smarts"

The other night, while tucking in Lilly, I lectured her on some less-than-stellar choices she had made at bedtime.

I told her the consequences for her stubborn actions, which did not thrill her.

She thought for a moment, batted her eyelashes, then offered:

"Mama, don't you want to use this opportunity to show me mercy?"


And she continued, "Mama, tomorrow morning I want to show you love and serve you by helping you make breakfast and putting away the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. You shouldn't have to do that by yourself."

I fear for the naive and genuine-in-spirit who cross her path.

Two words: BE. WARE.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I'd Just Like to Point Out a Few Things

No matter how old Lilly grows, I still want to eat those cheeks. They are nothing short of delicious and very pillowy. At 4, she is downright scrawny compared to her "robust" baby days, but I can't help but wanting to smooch those marshmallow-infused beauties every time I see her.

Secondness, she is wearing a ponytail.

Something about the single ponytail (as opposed to her signature piggy tails) just makes Lilly seem older. Next thing I know, she will be cruising around town in her poodle skirt, chasing after boys, employed as a roller-skating waitress at the Heidi-Ho.

Oh wait, that was my mom.

But still, ponytails are the stuff of Big Girls and she is a teeny tiny newborn in case you forgot.

Thirdly, this picture points out that she's inherited the most dreaded trait of Winter Paleness Combined With Lackluster Natural Highlights.

I suffer from the same disease and my skin becomes the color of a big jar of Elmer's Paste. Understandably, I spent far too much time in the tanning bed in high school.

I now regret the suntanning in the death bed, but to remedy the situation, last year I cut bangs to disguise the premature forehead wrinkles. Which probably takes a whole 6 months off my perceived age. And creates an entirely separate hair category.

Because styling bangs is really a separate grooming issue from the rest of the hair. They don't just look whimsically side-swept on their own, I tell you. Mastery of the round brush and hair dryer is a refining process, but in the end, a blessing.

This post is really not clever, creative, or particularly interesting, but I am just trying to demonstrate that a) I really love Lilly, and more specifically, her cheeks, b) she is growing up against my wishes and counter-maturity attempts, and c) I can always bring everything back to hair.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Which Is Why I Must Stop Eating Barbeque

This morning I drove to Honeybaked Ham, ordered two 16-pound hams, strapped them to my butt with bungee cords, and then went for a run.

At least that's how it felt.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I Cannot Figure Out Where He Got That Competitive Gene

Here we have Jackson racing the 110m hurdles on the Wii.

This was probably take number seven, because Brad and I couldn't hold the camera still enough on the first six because we were laughing so hard.

That said, this video IN NO WAY does justice to what this looks like in person.

We truly weren't trying to capture his reaction to losing (just the wild nunchuck flinging and facial expressions), because he'd actually WON this race several times earlier. But the pressure of the camera, boom mic, and spotlights was apparently too much.

I wanted to do another take, but then my camera went dead. At which time I remembered the charger is in Texas.

At least I got home with my kids.

And the Wii.

As for the walls being lined with furniture...we still are in our full bowling alley glory.

And my left glute is not feeling any better.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dude, Where's My Car?

This whole car thing is getting really comical. I mean really comical.

When Brad called today to give me the update from the auto body place I was almost crying with laughter thinking how absurd this whole thing is.

So first of all, if I had a milk carton, I would put this picture on the side:

That's the only shot I could find while flipping through my digital pictures, but it will have to suffice when I contact the authorities in Mexico to see if anyone is tooling around in my Suburban south of the border.

It's not that I'm in love with this car (I leave that type of vehicular attraction to Brad), but we have certainly been through a lot together. We've watched my kids move from infant carriers to 5-point harness carseats to boosters.

Our most tender moments together were probably last spring while our house was on the market. Multiply over 70 showings IN ONE MONTH FOR THE LOVE by 2 hours per showing and it was pretty much my full-time job to raise two small children and cook dinner in the car.

So there we were...DVD players permanently hooked up, enough books to supply a rural library, and pre-packaged snacks in wholesale club quantities.

Which leads me to Costco.

I believe it was a Saturday last March when we had to be out of the house from something like 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. At this point, all of our friends had more than opened their homes to us so we couldn't continue to abuse them and I couldn't face even the mall anymore.

Not to mention the fact that shopping in all forms was out of the question because we had made a rule that NOTHING SO SMALL AS A GRAHAM CRACKER CRUMB was to enter the house. Because then it had to be cleaned. Or put away. Or thrown away. Or dealt with. None of which I could do.

Exhaustion had set in, so Brad suggested that we take advantage of the Suburban's size and take some power naps in the Costco parking lot.

Perfect! And classy!

We laid the kid's seats down, covered them with blankets, and snuggled them in the warmth of their carseats. I laid on the back row under a plush Tinkerbell fleece and Brad was back with the cargo and the Batman blanket.

All went well until I awoke to a conversation I overheard outside.

"Should we call the police?"

"I guess their parents just left them here while they're shopping!"


Clearly, Brad and I were out of view behind the tinted windows and we were moments away from being turned in to Child Protective Services by some conscientious Costco shoppers.

Although glad to avoid jail time, it was still quite the scene to crawl forward and present my disheveled self as the "responsible" parent of the two sleeping angels in the middle seats.

I'm sure that was so comforting to those two ladies just knowing that I wouldn't leave my kids to sleep in the car alone. Instead, I was right on board.

So other than the fact that the Suburban is our main mode of transportation, and the Suburban is worth MONEY, and the Suburban is OURS, I don't really need it back.

So rewind to Brad's conversation with the Body Shop today.

The part we need, which is not so much a "part" but an entirely new left side of the vehicle, should be in this Friday.

To complicate things, this Friday is also super duper lucky because it's when the body shop has chosen to move locations. Across town. WITH MY CAR.

So the Suburban, which has apparently been up on blocks for over a month now, is going to be (Lord willing) towed to an entirely new location. Hopefully this is somewhere in Denver that is an actual body shop, not a chop shop where they'll sell the parts off to what is apparently the incredibly lucrative Suburban black market.

My other favorite quote that the body shop used when describing the speed of GM's shipment of these panels was, "It's kind of like a slow boat to China."

Um....I am starting to sense that.

In the meanwhile, the Chevy Malibu is a totally rockin' rental car that reminds me why I drive an SUV. The kids feel like we are in a space shuttle driving "so close" to the ground. And I have knocked Lilly's head every time I try to help her get in.

"Jackson," I questioned on the way to school, "What do you love so much about the Malibu?"

"The music, mom!"

Even though we were listening to the SAME ol' radio station we always do...

Monday, January 14, 2008

This Will Make Even a Slow News Day Seem Riveting

One thing I totally appreciate about blogging is that my sweet friends and family have jumped right on board with my very mediocre ramblings.

Frankly, I'm just glad someone is out there reading. I would probably blog anyway, because it's so convenient to put thoughts, pictures, and events all in one place where they can't be misplaced or need to be stored.

But the funny part about having such an eager following is that if ANYTHING remotely newsworthy/funny/normal happens, family and friends in my midst start running for cameras like crazy shouting, "QUICK! Let's take a picture of this for the blog!"


"Oh my gosh! Pllleeeassssse don't put that on your blog! I swear you to secrecy!!!" Contrary to popular opinion, I don't carry a tape recorder with me and truly have a terrible memory.

It's like they (who are we kidding...YOU) think I am some intrepid reporter documenting each personal event with precision and clarity and of course, my most excellent photojournalism.

The blog is supposed to capture my dull, everyday life, but even when documenting the monotonous, some incidents are mindnumbingly boring while others are definitely boring, but less boring than emptying the dishwasher, therefore publishable.

While I sincerely admire my readers' desires to partner with me in my top-notch blogging, it's also quite a commentary on what is "newsworthy" these days.


Exhibit A:
Over Christmas, Mom and I were at the grocery store doing some shopping, except for the fact that if we saw something on sale, we bought enough of it to feed a small army. (Truth be told, she bought obscene quantities while I innocently pushed the cart. I did not inherit that sickness. By the end of our trip I believe we had close to 300 ounces of chocolate chips in the pantry, freezer, and covering all countertops.)

We bought four boxes of All-Bran Buds (stop your salivating) and seven bags of chocolate chips--WE ARE SO CONTRADICTORY! AND HILARIOUS! HA! HA! HA!

Quick, take a picture! At the grocery store!

Exhibit B:
The next photo is compliments of Brad grabbing the camera to capture me devouring a chocolate covered strawberry.

He was all, "HA! Nicole is EATING! AGAIN! SUGAR! Get me to the camera!"

In my defense, if you've never tried Shari's Berries thou shalt not criticize.

That was certainly not one of my most dignified moments, but dignity has never been one of my hallmarks. Nor has restraint around chocolate covered strawberries.

Brad's favorite style of photography is the candid type that finds it's subject/victim in a compromising situation. It's like having a personal paparrazi. Which I believe celebrities have been known to attack.

Exhibit C:

Jackson begged me to capture the joy of my "seven thousandth" Starbucks over Christmas. I was taking them full-strength and throwing caution to my usual non-fat, sugar free ways. I know...just crazy.

So even my five year-old ferociously dug through the almighty purse for the camera and proceeded to turn it on and snap this most-flattering photo:

Everyday he asks, "Did you put my picture on the blog yet?!" So, here you go, bud!

Exhibit D:

The other night I met my friend at the hospital for what turned out to be a false baby alarm. Every time the doctor or nurses came in and asked her a question, she was like, "You better not publish that on your blog!"

I can totally understand her not wanting me to publish her pre- or post-pregnancy weights (and as a friend, I vow I will never publish anyone's weight unless they are a professional wrestler), but I calmed her down when I shared out loud my highest pregnancy weight with Jackson, which she couldn't possibly achieve unless she ate an entire Sonic value meal everyday of the pregnancy. (Which may or may not have been my strategy to achieve such a lofty number.)

But here's the kicker: at the end of the ordeal when everyone was deemed medically healthy and fine (See! I am NOT disclosing the actual ailment!) and she looked ready for a glamorous debut on ER, she just DEMANDED that I take a picture to document the hilarity of the double hospital gowns in the name of the blog.

I am just doing my blogospherical duty.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I Never Pretended the Wii was for the Children

Attention all readers: I have sustained my first Wii related injury.

I must have added a schnazzy finish to my bowling kick, because my left glute knotted up like a giant piece of rope caught in a tug-of-war between Hercules and Mr. Incredible.

Fear not, I still bowled a respectable 173, but those last three frames were PAINFUL.


We have rearranged our living room furniture like a bowling alley.

We thought it was temporary.

That was three days ago.

The carpet may never be the same.

And it's hard to blog while you bowl.

not bowling, but still acting stupid

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Year...Same Ol', Same Ol'

On the cover of just about every magazine and at least two segments of every newscast is a little feature called "New Year, New You!!!" Probably the least creative title in the history of January publications, it's dramatically overused and really getting old only 10 days into the month.

It's kind of sad that the evil media empire tries to convince the unassuming public that just because the calendar turns, their lives will be TOTALLY TRANSFORMED and COMPLETELY DIFFERENT and we will also lose 30 pounds!


But Good News! Around our house, there is really nothing new and 2008 is continuing right where 2007 left off.

Yesterday morning I woke up to a VERY damp carpet in the family room. "Soaking wet" is probably a better explanation but SURPRISE! SURPRISE! SURPRISE! We are having issues with our house that they apparently built using blind contractors who were unfamiliar with power tools and home construction!

(I can't find my previous post about the seventy million issues we've had with our house that is only 8 months old because it is 4:12 a.m. and I've been up for 3 hours with insomnia, but if you are put on bed rest you might scroll through the entire blog and try to find it.)

And of course, when we came home from our trip, there was water in the basement. Not the sewer kind, at least (been there, done that) but, you know, just a standing pool of water. Where we didn't want it. Grrrrrrreat!

On the automotive front...our Suburban is still in the shop after about a month. I'm starting to get the feeling that they're joy-riding around like in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and not actually trying to FIX the car.

When I talked to the parts manager yesterday, he said the part they're looking for is unavailable NATIONWIDE and they will have to fire up the plant in Detroit to make it.

I'm really trying to be cynical, but COME ON, PEOPLE. It's just so hard to understand that GM would just not have any hinge/door/quarter-panel/whatevers that they're looking for.

It's not like I'm trying to order a flux-capactitor for my Delorean or anything.

So of course, the moral of the story here is: Never hit a light pole in a snowstorm unless you don't actually need to DRIVE the car.

(I realize this is turning into a bit of a rant, which isn't my intention, but I am trying to laugh at our misfortune instead of crying my eyes out. Which also works from time to time.)

And then there's our mail. Which apparently, the USPS has decided to stop delivering to our address. Just because.

There isn't really anything to say except that it's becoming frustrating to call the post office and try to find our mail. I just didn't realize that was my responsibility as a citizen. But now I know.

Luckily, we have great neighbors and they deliver letters to us here and there when our mail winds up a their houses. I will not scare you by sharing with frequency with which that occurs.

And lastly, just to prove that I have most definitely not turned over any new leaves this year, I forgot to bring snack on my assigned day, which happened to be Lilly's first day back at preschool.

It probably would have shocked and scared the teachers if I'd shown up promptly with carrot sticks, so maybe the forgetful bit worked out okay in the end.

But I blessed her class (and most definitely the teachers) by running to La Food City and grabbing some glazed donuts to demonstrate healthy eating habits and restraint to a bunch of 4 year-olds.

I didn't get chocolate because that might stain their new clothes, whereas glazed donuts might only make them hyper and uncontrollable. But happy!

The great news is that things can only look up from here. I take that back...less true words have never been spoken. But at least we're all laughing.

I'm going to go hook-up my coffee IV and start the day.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Far Cry From Kickball

"Mom, guess what we did in P.E. today?"


I think back on my beloved P.E. days spent running laps around the gym and jumping rope.


"Wow...did you practice 'downward dog?'"

Jackson wrinkles his eyebrows.

"I have no idea what you're talking about. We just did the cat pose, cow pose, and surfer."

I imagine my expression looks rather quizzical.

"So I can safely assume that tomorrow you'll be doing pilates?"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In Honor of Which We Gained 30 Pounds

Oh man, just when I'd sworn off food until 2010, we ate enough for a family of twelve at the Grand Lux Cafe.

Even though Brad's 30th birthday came on the heels of the most gluttonous time of the year, it would be a bit anti-climactic to celebrate with a piece of grilled chicken along with a side of steamed vegetables followed by Sugar-Free Jell-o. Wrong, just wrong, and SO not Brad. (Who, I believe, has never eaten steamed vegetables or grilled chicken voluntarily.)

We're reaching for the very high bar set by ourselves in our 2008 Goal Setting Strategery Session which disallowed any repeat ordering at the Grand Lux until we try every menu item.

Because we just STRIVE for excellence around here.

Which is what prompted Brad to order the Chicken Pot Pie:

No, your eyes do not deceive you. It is actually the size and weight of a two year-old. And TASTY. As a conservative estimate, there are probably three entire chickens in there. Along with an entire farm's yield of carrots, peas, pearl onions, and creamy goodness that is indescribable without sound effects.

This is when I wish I was a food critic or had a more discerning palate because I have NO EARTHLY IDEA what made that sauce so out of this world delicious.

Brad's guess: "Cream of chicken soup."

Um, no. Unless it's a new form of Campbell's laced with crack that I haven't tried yet.

I had a few bites myself, and now confidently feel free to abstain from dinner preparation for the rest of the week while we devour every last morsel that took THREE ENTIRE TAKE-OUT CONTAINERS to bring home.

Also, don't be alarmed if I walk around with my pants unbuttoned.


Chicken pot pie was not even the highlight. That honor goes to dessert.

This is one area of the menu that we are getting darn close to conquering. There are only a few desserts on the menu left to try and I am downright ashamed to admit this one was so low on the totem pole.

Enter candy bar pie:
Sorry for the scant photo offering, but we had already devoured it with the passion and intensity of cannibals by the time I had the camera ready to shoot.

Because, you see, it was like heaven on earth and more specficially, heaven in my mouth. The bottom was a crunchy chocolate crust, layered with caramel, more chocolate, peanuts, even more chocolate, and toasted marshmallows.

Sound like a Snickers? EXACTAMUNDO. Except way better than any Snickers I've ever tasted and the top chocolate layer was warm and gooey and slid right down my throat and onto my thighs.

Lilly, however, was far more interested in the makeshift whip cream cake. For reasons which cause me to question our genetic relationship, she was not distracted by the chocolate like the rest of the posse.

If you feel heavier just reading this post, rest assured that one of Brad's birthday gifts was a gym membership.

At which we will be spending the remainder of 2008.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Not Including Your Fabulous Taste in Clothes

Babe, you are 30 today. WHOO HOO! Way to go. I know I'm not very sappy or romantic (I leave that to you) but I love a good opportunity to share how much you mean to me.

So here goes...30 Things I Love About You

1. Your positive attitude cannot be trampled. Ever. By anyone. I stand amazed.

2. You can fix just about anything.

3. You laugh at yourself so easily.

4. It's important that you do the right thing in all the small things.

5. You make an extra effort to make others feel loved...no matter what.

6. You hold no grudges.

7. You are comfortable being exactly who God made you to be.

8. You are a champion sleeper and passed those precious genes right along to our children. (For which I have thanked God over and over again.)

9. You love the unloveables with much grace.

10. You help me assemble stuff, fix stuff, and change all the light bulbs.

11. You don't have to win in order to have fun.

12. You listen so well and know when to take me seriously and when to blow me off (for the most part, anyway).

13. I take back #2 because yesterday you crashed both of our laptops.

14. You never tire of playing with the kids.

15. Until we met, I'd never given thought to glancing through any auto or toy or home appliance manuals, let alone reading them cover to cover.

16. You make me laugh. Every single day.

17. I am glad you are not turning 80.

18. You are the person with whom I love to play video games or watch old Saturday Night Live sketches until the early hours of morning.

19. Your patience is absolutely amazing.

20. You bring the fun wherever you go.

21. You are the best extemporaneous speaker I've ever heard.

22. Your actions speak volumes more than your words.

23. Daily, I'm impressed by your hard work and perseverance despite less than ideal circumstances.

24. You fold a fitted sheet with unparalleled precision.

25. When I need information about World War II vehicles/aircraft/submarines, I can be assured of a lengthy and thorough response.

26. Same with cars.

27. There is no one I'd rather go with on life's adventures.

28. My family loves you more than they love me, and that is really saying something.

29. You are the one who holds the string to my kite.

30. I love you more than you'll ever know this side of heaven (at which time I selfishly hope we'll recognize each other amidst all the golden streets and worship.)

Happy birthday.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Twice as Cute as John Hancock Ever Dreamed

This makes me smiley and teary all at once.

Friday, January 04, 2008

BBQ Beef Cups or How I Gain Brad's Favor Through Food

This post might blow any perceptions the public formerly held about me being into "good" food. Barbeque beef cups are amazingly tasty, but there is nothing gourmet, interesting or creative about them.

Around our house, New Year's Day tends to be an all-out appetizer-fest. Starting around 3:00 p.m., we load the kitchen island to the gills with dips, salsas, and calorie-laden spreads that need carbs of varying shapes and sizes as their scoopers.

Brad put in his usual request for the beef cups and I obliged because I then I would also get to eat some.

They taste just like the chopped beef brisket at one of our favorite Texas joints:

(Didn't notice the kids standing in front of the handicapped sign...that is not an editorial comment on any of their abilities.)

Brad got the idea for these beef cups (which might remind you of a barbecuey, beefy, cupcake) from a co-worker. After coming home from a sales meeting he threatened to leave me if I didn't make them. (Obviously, I am kidding, but I can't stress how much he loves these and I didn't want to joke about him taking my life in order to demonstrate my seriousness.)

So, this is all you need:

Biscuits from the store (but not the Grands because they are too big unless you have a popover or Texas muffin pan, in which case you should change the name to Giant BBQ Beef Cakes.)

Pepper Jack cheese, grated

Barbeque beef

Now, the barbeque beef is probably the biggest variable in how these Manly Cupcakes taste. The top choice would be some delicious, chopped, leftover brisket smothered in a slightly sweet and tangy sauce, but that isn't always available, especially in the North. In a pinch, I highly suggest the Lloyd's chopped barbeque beef found in your grocery store. It's usually in the section with sausages and whatnot.

Here's the very scientific method: Flatten each biscuit and place it in a muffin tin kind of like you would a pie crust. In each little cup o' buttery goodness, put a heaping scoop of barbeque beef. Bake at 400 (or whatever the biscuits call for) until the biscuit is golden and the beef is bubbly, then top with pepper jack until melted.

Now put on some elastic-waisted pants and try not to eat the whole pan.

Here is the finished product approximately two hours after it came out of the oven and after I snatched the last two out of Brad's kung-fu grip while racking my brain for blog topics. All that to say, the cheese looks like cheese does after a few hours at room temperature, so just imagine it fresh from the oven and bubbly.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Not as Important as Hair, but Still a Fashion Concern

I have a long history of handbag ownership that usually involves the purchase of a new bag that will change my life, only to end up hating it a few months later because it is too big/too small/sticky on the inside/stained on the outside/broken straps, zippers, clasps etc.

This is because the quality of bag I purchase ranges from $15-$25 and the stitching, "leather," and zippers were not assembled with the same tender, loving care which I show the bag during our time together. Ahem.

If you are wondering why I don't loving oil, hang, and clean out my bag each night, you either do not have children and/or a life or you are Brad.

Recently, I carried a bag so big it reminded me of Mary Poppins' carpet bag. I believe at one point, I was hauling around a pink shoe and an entire pair of pants in there without noticing until I was embarrassed at the checkout when I couldn't find my wallet but I could clothe an entire child from the bag's contents (complete with accessories, of course).

At the life stage that is beyond diapers and sippie cups, yet void of anyone else willing to carry things the search for an appropriate hand bag is intense.

So I rebelled from the carpet bag and went small. Not as small as this wristlet, but normal human size that could hold life's necessities: wallet, sunglasses, regular glasses, cell phone (in theory), iPod, small socks, water bottle, receipts from all of 2007, travel Bible, happy meal toys, and lots of crumbs.

The above list are my bare essentials...and do not include larger items like books and magazines. So clearly, the normal-size purse that shouted to the world, "I NO LONGER HAVE TODDLERS!" was not really working.

Re-enter the gigantor bag via Sam Moon.

In a hilarious turn of events, my grandma paid me $10 for the old purse:

(Be sure and notice the purse-lined walls and stacks of bags in plastic. Like I said, classy.)

Anyway, before you think I am a criminal for accepting money from my grandmother, let me say that she offered to buy me a new purse.

"Oh, no," I protested, "These are a smoking bargain. I'm all good."

"Well, honey," Grandma continues, "If you buy a new purse, then I want your old one. So I'll just buy you a new one, so you can give me the other one."

"Gran, you are crazy."

"Here is $10 for your old purse, take it or leave it."

No problemo.

We also found some stellar wallets for $10:

Oh, have I mentioned that when my family goes shopping together, we somehow all end up buy the SAME THING. We all cruise around the store, which offers literally thousands of bags, and all four of us decided on the exact same one:

And so far, I am loving it.