14 aug 2018

Ryan had a business trip so we went to KC for the week.

They listen to audio books in the car and one of our favorites is Winnie the Pooh (Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, & Geoffrey Palmer!!). I don’t remember ever getting into it as a kid, but these stories with the fun voices has me hooked now. And it’s a million times better than hearing If You’re Happy and You Know It over and over.

Anyway, the new movie about Winnie, Christopher Robin, is very sweet. I cried within the first 15 minutes and Ruthie said she cried during it too.



We’d been trying for years to catch this darn train. Finally did and Gertie was not a fan. The rest of us were though and we went around 8 times!


While Gertie and I took a break, one of the adorable volunteer workers came over and talked about how she’d raised a disabled son. She then cussed about the weather and thrust a bottle of water in my hand. It was a meeting between me and my future self.

The rest of the time was spent shoe shopping, playing with cousins, and binge watching shows, none of which I took pics. I need to be more aggressive with the camera again.


The day after Ryan flew back to KC, we drove from there to Oklahoma City and visited our friends that’d moved from NWA. Ruthie dove off the diving board and Gertie, I’m not exaggerating, kicked her feet and arms until she swam by herself. It was maybe for 6-12 inches, but still. She loves the water so much.
We pretty much didn’t stop talking for 48 hours. 30 of those were me going on and on about her garden area and backyard (there’s not many who will gladly talk compost and chicken poop with me), 16 about the meals and ginger drinkie poos, and the remaining 2 hours me thinking I’m funny because of those ginger drinks.

At one point Annie had to go pee so Mandy told her to just pop a squat in the yard (another reason we’re friends!) right by the fence. Annie, in her own special way, decided to go in the middle of the front yard right as a car drove by.

I hardly saw these three girls the whole time. It was nonstop mermaids and dolls and dress up clothes.


On our way home.

We drove through Siloam Springs and decided to show Ruthie where she was born. We made a big ole deal about the home there, in the countryside, on a dirt road, surrounded by cows. We laughed so hard thinking of what she was picturing. So we slowed down and showed her her birthplace.
And for proof that she is indeed my daughter, she didn’t care at all about what it looked like. She gasped and squealed and said she loved it.
I love enthusiastic people, Ruthie. Thank you.img_0250

A fun full week. We tired though.

7 aug 2018

An early birthday present came when Aunt Mary brought over an old photo album for us to go through, writing as many names as we could identify on the back.

Sisters with their magnifying glasses.

Ruthie started writing down all the names she heard too, just like me. If she gets into family history, I will be thrilled. I can picture us traipsing through all sorts of landscapes uncovering clues.

Mom getting flustered over our cute farm stock genes. Great Uncle Bessie and lots of giggles around the table.

So much fun. I love hearing about these lives before me.

Les Mis

Hi. I’m an addict. A Les Miserables addict. From the moment I saw the trailer for the movie, I started playing Les Mis songs to Ruth every day. And then I’d cry and she’d comfort me by bringing over my shoes. That’s her way of showing love: bringing you your shoes. I wish she’d bring over chocolate chip cookies, but I’ll take what I can get.

So since my mom also cries at the soundtrack, we made plans to see it over Christmas break. She admitted that she actually didn’t want to see it with anyone except herself, but my sister and I still forced her because that’s how we are. No bringing shoes from us, apparently.

Ryan took a photo to commemorate the occasion. This is mom’s stressed smile, but at least now i understand why she wanted to be alone. That’s a big bone.
We met up with Amy at the theatre. She had arrived a little bit earlier and knew it was us because the car door opened and I jumped out before the car stopped. I get excited. Sue me.

We bought our tickets and I asked the guy in the ticket line to please take our photo. He looked up and was literally half-blind with cataracts or something.

So I immediately launched into how actually I really need to go to the bathroom and man, that line for the popcorn is so long, maybe we don’t have time for a picture because HOLY COW is that someone sneaking in?!? Look!

And then we ran through. Ugh, I hate myself.

I’m glad we got there so early though, because the theatre was packed.

Mom analyzed all of the seats and decided this was the best one. The only thing we didn’t do was stake an American flag into the cushion.
Finally we settled in. The matriarch and her servants. Mom was still nervous with anticipation… and because we took the dog bone away.
DSC_6669As we’ve discussed before, all of us Wewers have some sort of type-a in our blood. The level of it depends on who is around us. If it’s just me and Ryan, then look out folks, I can go overboard. However, if another sibling is in the room, I can relax a bit because I know they’ll take care of business.

Someone’s gotta take care of business and I get tired of that someone always getting a bad rap. Those that float along can only do so because the type-a’s pave the way. Right? RIGHT?


But it is nice to float, I have to admit, and I can do so with my family. So it made me chuckle when my mom asked me if the angle from my seat was satisfactory.
DSC_6670Uh, yeah. Pretty sure I can see the screen.

But she wasn’t convinced. So we moved further inland, bringing our imaginary flag with us.

And I marveled at my new angle.
If we hadn’t moved, I’m sure I would’ve hated the movie.

But I didn’t. I’ve already seen it four times. It is fantastic, and can I whisper this without being lynched? I like it better than the stage production.

Please see it. Please. Your husband will like it too, I dare ya to try. At the very least, you’ll be happy that you’re not watching it with a type-a person. Go float to the theatres, people. Now!

When The Cat’s Away

I’m luckily in a position where I can run up to KC and visit family while Ryan goes on business trips. Holding Ruth in my six-month pregnant arms while squatting over a gas station toilet because gawd forbid I take the time to put down toilet paper and then lifting my six month pregnant leg to flush the toilet even though in two seconds I’ll be washing my hands at the sink sometimes makes me question if it had been a good decision or not.

We normally make a couple stops to various Walmarts to walk around and have a change of scenery. But in general, she’s a good road tripper. On the way home, she slept for two hours and then sang nursery rhymes with me (and the cd) for the last two. No stops, no not much crying, and content for the most part.

I normally try to start the trip right before her afternoon nap, but Ryan’s flight was in the morning and I was just itching to go. So after playing with her next door neighbor on the sidewalk for a few minutes, we took off. And am I glad we did. Because not three hours after we arrived, she got sick. Like, unidentifiable chunks down my shirt, in her hair, everywhere sick. I had to strip down to my birthday suit in front of my mom and jump in the bathtub with Ruth.

I told myself it was just a practice run for when she (hopefully) arrives at this next one’s birth. I think back on Ruth’s birth (click here to read it) and am amazed that I literally walked around buck naked with no care in the world. It makes me cringe. And now you’ll cringe with that image in your head… and my work on this earth has officially been completed, goodbye.

After our bath, Ruth slept on my chest the rest of the night. It was nice to snuggle her normally busy body.

The next day we started to see a glimpse of the old Ruthie, but her eyes still looked tired. Or maybe she was just sick and tired of me pointing out circles everywhere, including on grandma’s sock.
Ryan’s trip lasted 5 days and by the third day, Ruth was officially back to her old self again.

And by old self, it meant that she would have nothing to do with me or grandma but only wanted grandpa (“papa”). We tried everything. Grandma put on some cds to try and dance our way into her heart. We thought we had her too, watching her stand in grandma’s shadow. But really I think she just wanted to stand as close to the kid-unfriendly fireplace as possible.
Again we thought we had her when she started playing with the little people. On her knees she started rocking to the music. It made grandma laugh, but no dice from her end.
So we each got up and tried enticing her with our dance moves.
I even put my pregnancy at risk by jumping around with her on my shoulders. What I won’t do for acceptance.


But then she went to papa and all was well.

He even got kisses. Whatever, Ruth.


And he was followed while trying to go to the bathroom. Double whatever.

I have a suspicion it’s because they have the same sleeping face. Evidence A:


In other news, literally, Ruth got her first dose of O’Reilly’s talking points. We rolled out the little TV into the living room because I’m lazy and demanded it be done from the cocoon I created in the love seat. Ruth was quickly taught how to turn it on and off. Her hair acted as the antenna.


At first she was excited but it quickly went sour when she actually started listening. That’s what the news will do to ya, Ruth. Don’t become cynical just yet. At least wait until you’re two.


I tried to take her mind off of it by building a mini village for the little people. I’m tempted to get on ebay and just order a large lot of these, I love them so.


The toilet and vanity are my favorite. Hope he lit a match.


But Ruthie preferred to press the applause button on this little remote thing. She is officially her mother’s daughter.


When we first arrived, before she vomited all over my chest, I did my little joke for the grandparents.

Ruth, what does a cow say? Moooo

What does a sheep say? Baaaa

What does mommy say? NO!!

Later, I expanded and asked: What does Daddy say? NO!!! What does Grandma say? NO!!!

Then, What does Grandpa say? Papapapa

Yep, Papa was spared the Mommy Dearest interpretation. Mom suggested I get it on video before it becomes too rehearsed. So here it is… but little did I know that Ruth had already discovered the secret world of making people laugh. Watch her look at grandma when we ask her the question.

What does Grandma Say?

As I told a friend the other day, I’m really starting to feel like Ruth’s my little friend now. She makes me laugh out loud, makes me pull out my hair, makes my heart hurt, and makes me want to give her kisses all day long. Her dad feels the same way, with less pulling out his hair, but just as many kisses.

Christmas in Jamaica

Part of our Christmas adventures was to have an official family portrait done. My brother’s wife, little Ruth, and little Kate were all new additions to it. Another new addition was my Jay Leno chin. Thankfully Ryan and me combined equal a normal chin. I was excited to have my baby bump in the photo, but had no idea that it would look like my body was literally eating Ruth. 79qA54q0V2RgawZxJzh7NjkpZyVy6e4pvs5XYqvtg_E,k-F9nS-bIX_nCfGmM-iQno2TQ7cn-_V5W0JsybPCfes
Now that I look at it, though, she looks more like a Siamese twin, joined at the armpits, who never grew any bigger. Yeah, you know Ryan would still want this. (finger snapping in a z-formation) Bowmchickabowow.

I did nothing to her hair that morning either, knowing full well these will be framed on a wall. Ryan and I have a love affair with her “I look like I just stuck my finger in an outlet” look. Who knows, maybe she had. We wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. So I just let her hair go wild and smile to myself when I hear the nursery attendant at church say to the other ” Let’s try to tame these flyaways, Ruthie!” as I close the door. Ah, job well done, Carolyn.

It’s only because I get flack for my hair too. When we arrived at JC Penny’s, my brother-in-law said, “The colors were supposed to be black, Carolyn. Not silver.” Whatever.
So we got to the store a few minutes early and waited for everyone to show up. Ten minutes later someone asked, “Where’s Amy?” She was actually looking for the store and called for directions. Little did we know she was at another area 15 minutes away, and literally every landmark we gave was also on the intersection at the different JC Penney’s: the car dealership, the fast food restaurant, the man dancing outside the tax office, everything. Finally we figured it all out and in the meantime the grandparents got a shot with their grandkids. I love it.

ExZeogIyCJiD8xx6yf7LBUke3RbDznDCj5fag_Wmsj4,c9FAaxclMOQTEnjzw27V51JpR2gEZRK3T_Sz2E26xF8Amy was so frazzled when she showed up, that she hid in the changing room and applied some make up. And then applied some bronzer. And then applied some more bronzer, until it looked like a private jet had landed in the JCPenny’s parking lot (direct from Jamaica) to let Amy off for the photo.

It probably wouldn’t have looked so noticeable if she wasn’t born into a family of pale-faced vampires.


Luckily, Des touched up her face so she could blend in with the rest of the Twilight crew.

Look happy Ruth, for goodness sake.

Maybe she was tired, because within two minutes of getting in the car after lunch, this is what I saw:


She had better get her sleeping in order, because we have a busy day tomorrow. It’s Christmas! Those with kids (me) woke up early (against her groggy will) to hang out with the other people who can’t sleep in: old people, aka my parents. It really is a circle of life.


Luckily all we had to do was sip on coffee and stare at the twinkly lights for a couple hours. It’s actually quite peaceful.

Around noon, everyone started showing up and we immediately got to it. Santa’s little helpers divvied up the presents and I secretly hoped that everyone would open up our gifts to them first while their expectation levels were low.


Ruthie opened up a headband and was immediately confused. This went against every scary hairdo look she’s ever known.DSC_6602

My mom always gets us the (big) kids the same things, so that “it’s fair.” This year one of the gifts was a towel wrap. We should’ve worn these in the JCPenney’s photo.DSC_6608
But then we would’ve had to wait for Amy to bronze her whole body.

My worst fear did happen though. Mom and dad opened up Matt & Des’s present right before ours. Let me just give this example: The siblings draw names and have a ten dollar limit. Lisa (the lucky dog) opened up her secret santa gift from Matt and it turned out to be a breadmaker. He must have had a damned good coupon, is all I’m saying.

So I inwardly groaned when I saw my parent’s look of happiness and love after opening up their gift.

DSC_6611And was too depressed to take a shot as ours was opened. It was the equivalent to getting fruit cake.

But the real fun came when the karaoke machine was opened, along with a ton of 80s songs to sing. Joe started us out with a ballad for his wife: Take My Breath Away, I think.


Lisa was trying to catch her breath between laughs. It was such a departure for Joe, who normally breaks out the AC/DC.

So Ryan took over the reigns to get the crowd moving. DSC_6626

Dad seems to be the only one enjoying himself.

It really is hard for the singer. Especially in this light. Take my mom for instance:DSC_6628
Trying in vain to make eye-contact with anyone. Not gonna happen with this crowd, sorry sister. Not gonna happen with Ruthie either. By this time she was crying every time she saw either me or Ryan. Crying every time we left the room. Crying every time we came into the room. Until we figured out that she needed teething cream, it was time for bed and no one could enjoy our silly little lady and her antics. But before we made a Walgreens run, we just avoided eye contact with her.

Slipping into a chair and blocking our face with a pillow:


Or watching the action through an afghan. We were desperate, folks.DSC_6636

Finally she calmed down after a combo of butt paste (sorry) and teething cream and went to sleep. Matt and Des had already left for Arkansas and Lisa & company went home to play with their new toys.

So what to do? Oh yeah, Karaoke baby! But now that it was a smaller crowd, we could get more into it. Amy showed off her dance moves:


Ryan brought the house down.


I sang heartfelt melodies…


that put animals to sleep.


So drawing on the only soul-sister blood in my body (the fact that my mom loves mo-town), I sang with so much passion and heart, you would’ve thought Aretha was right there in the living room.

The crowd went wild.DSC_6661
Whatever. I can’t help that I soothe people to sleep. At least mom was making eye contact. Thank you.

It was such a good and busy day. All talk, no tv, and karaoke. Can’t get better than that.

Stalking and White Elephant, a perfect pairing

We had a good visit to Kansas City over Christmas. Ruth was teething, I was prego hormonal, and Ryan drank eggnog and whiskey like it flowed from the fountain of youth. So yeah, we had a good visit. But with that combo, I don’t know if anyone else that saw us had a good one.

After a non-eventful drive up, in which Ruth screamed for twenty minutes, then passed out until ten minutes before arriving to grandma and grandpa’s house during which time we sang christmas carols together. I catch her singing a lot to herself now and the songs, I’m pretty sure, carry notes from Les Mis. The child (and Ryan) have been made to watch clips from the Les Mis 10th anniversary about everyday for the past three months in preparation for the premiere. Ryan has asked Ruth on more than one occasion to try to act interested for the love of gawd because doesn’t she know I’m pregnant and sensitive? But I’ve noticed  that he hums and sings it all the time now, so dost thou protest too much methinks?

We sang songs for ten minutes, and arrived happy….. to an empty home. Merry Christmas. My parents were at weekly their bridge club. They have more of a life than me. But that’s good. It makes me glad to know they’re keeping busy. When they got home, Ryan made a round of egg nog drinkie poos (minus me) and we all cheersed to Christmas. Then they breathed fire. By the end of the week, he mastered the ratio.

The next day, Ryan and I braved the mall to pick up some last minute gifts at the American Girl store. The shoppers there freaked me out. An older lady was standing in line behind us with her husband. After seeing the latest snow outfit on a little doll mannequin she squealed and gushed that they needed to get that too. She needs to find a bridge club. Stat.

When we got home, my sister had arrived to spend the night. So we took the opportunity to stalk my parent’s newish neighbor. A single (we think) chiropractor (found out by another neighbor) who lives with his sister (this fact has not been verified.)  DSC_6547
He comes out to sit on his porch for a cigarette a couple times a day which lets us peer through the window and analyze the situation. Apparently he breathes in and breathes out, from what we gather. I’ll need to use the binoculars next time to double check that. As we discussed various ways Amy and I could casually approach him (you know: giving a christmas card, Wiley going poo in his yard, asking for a smoke), another neighbor walked up to his door with a package in hand.

Scandal! What did she think this was anyway? Christmas? Whatever.

That night we played Taboo, girls against boys, and said that the losing team had to introduce themselves to the chiropractor. When we lost, my mom said sternly that she was not going to introduce herself. We suggested that maybe if she did, she’d get cookies every once in a while. This was not well received.

The next day we laid around until the White Elephant party at my aunt and uncle’s house. Don’t let this relaxed face fool you.
Because this is how Ruth was most of the night:

Every party has one, so Ruth decided to be the pooper that night. Literally. Three times over… because that’s what happens when you only pack one diaper thinking it’ll be plenty, thus causing you to mooch off your cousin’s daughter who is 8 months older than your own.

We took an opportunity to get some group shots. My brother and his wife must not have shown up yet. They were en route from Arkansas. We’re always amazed at how fast they can get there. It’s been a long time since we’ve made a non-stop venture.

And the girls… one of which recently got a new haircut. At a get together not long before, literally no one commented on the cut. Finally someone said, “Carolyn you got your hair cut!” and me, literally unable to not be self-deprecating said, “Yeah, it’s my official mom cut.” And they said, “Yeah….” with voice trailing off and then changing the subject.

What. EVER!!!! It made me laugh.

After Matt and Des did arrive, an interesting thing happened. Des had brought some of her dad’s moonshine, bulgarian-style. That’s cool and all, except when it’s in a Fanta bottle. Except when a niece asks for some soda and pours Fanta for herself then takes a swig. You’d think Ryan had poured it for her because she breathed fire for a bit herself. Merry Christmas Elayna!DSC_6554
Can you find a culprit leaning against the wall? This was after the Fanta label had been peeled off in hopes of less confusion. I’d still think it was coke.


Ruth was only happy (and by happy, I mean, not crying. A scowl thrilled me to no end at this point) when she was in one of her grandparent’s arms. Here she is with her grandma, great Aunt Mary, and cousin Kaylee.DSC_6555
…not happy unless in my arms,
or in a cousin’s arms. Or with food.
Whatever it takes. Just please stop crying and pooping.DSC_6559
So after some chit-chatting and catching up, we dug into the meal. Homemade meatballs and pasta. Mmmm! Aunt Sue is the only real Italian. The rest of us are just wannabes.
Next up was White Elephant, which is always fun. But there was yet another sad story. First it was Elayna getting chest hair from the Bulgarian moonshine. Then my nephew, Will, during White Elephant.
It was his first year to participate and was really excited.DSC_6568
He watched us open our gifts, analyzed them, decided not to steal any and so decided to choose a present to unwrap.
He looked over the presents carefully then chose one.
What luck! He’d unwrapped an X-box (or something like that)!!!! He’d been wanting one  and he looked at his mom with so much happiness.  Lisa whispered that he might want to open the box, because things aren’t always what they seem in White Elephant land.

And what did he find inside the box?

A six pack of beer.
He was sad, but from the looks of it, his dad was happy.
Maybe next time someone will bring an X-box, Will. Don’t give up.

Next up, Christmas, bad singing, and a Jamaican relative.

State Fair

Whew Lawdy (I stole that from a friend. You know who you are), a weekend at the state fair with old college friends was an eye-opener. An “I just might still got it” eye-opener. A “pulling all-nighters without a newborn is pretty freaking fun” eye-opener. An “I can stay up talking until 4am, and feel great the next day walking around the state fair with only one cuppa joe” eye-opener.

Yep. I still (kinda) got it, because a nap was needed after our adventures. However, naps also got me through college, so really I was just reliving those days.

I haven’t mentioned that as soon as I got home in Arkansas, I zonked completely until the next day. That’s called an eye-closener, folks.

So yes, these girls and I go back to my junior year in college, in which we lived in a 6.5 bedroom home. (6.5 because L basically lived in a closet for a lower rent.) It was our sorority without the fees. And as life went on, some of us drew apart, others got closer together, until we’ve now settled into a nice rhythm of annual, or, if we’re lucky, semi-annual get togethers. These three have all taken a trip (some more than once) down to visit me in Arkansas, taking time out of their busy lives to do so.

It’s hard, keeping in touch, especially in person. So I’m making the effort to return the favor.

This meeting had a goal in mind: The Missouri State Fair.

And those sunglasses were needed my friends. While the boys and babies slept soundly in their beds Friday night, we girls chatted and sampled various wines, including my dandelion bottle. If the state fair needed someone to light fire from their mouth, all they need is this stuff.

This photo sums it up. Someone get that girl a coffee, stat.

After moving the girltalk outdoors, you could hear windows slamming shut and doors closing. Our work here was done and we went to sleep. In typical bossy-like-her-mama fashion, Ruth decided to wake up at 7am on the nose. Thanks.

Everyone slowly got around. Coffee was brewed, hair combed, and off we went.
Big pillars welcomed us to the fair. The weather was perfect. Slightly cloudy and not at all humid or overly hot. All the stars were aligned.
Ruth couldn’t contain her excitement as her dad bought tickets. I mean, we were about to see something that we’ve read about only in books. It was pretty much a celebrity sighting.
What was it, you ask?

None other than sheep. I can name three books, along with a puzzle had this animal glorified. Ruth could hardly contain herself. Okay, maybe it was just me.

And maybe it was because I knew that eventually I’d see my lover that I meet at every fair: the Tilt-A-Whirl. Except this time I was nervous. Partly butterflies, and partly because I had just thrown my back out a few days earlier. Two chiro appointments later, our trip to L’s house was in jeopardy. But I laid low, and felt good enough to go. But good enough for the Tilt-A-Whirl?

I was going to take my chances.

So, as we left the sheep, and headed to the rides, the sun broke open from the clouds to shine down on one in particular. We stood in line, patiently waiting our turn.

And as we started forward to get onto the platform, the carnie informed us that it had suddenly broke down. Actually, he didn’t tell us, he just simply left us there wondering what was going on. After staying up all night, it took one of our kids to figure it out.

Deflated, we moved on.

Ruth laughed in our faces.

So we stuck her on R’s shoulders so I couldn’t look her in the eye. But I still felt her hovering over me, so we plopped her into block heaven.
She had never seen so many shapes. From the look on her face, it was quite possibly the best moment of her life.

After she came down from her high, we drove back and (after a nap) hung out painting rocks. What a fun way to eat up some time! I’m definitely stealing this for when Ruth can hold a paint brush.
Storm clouds were coming in, but held out long enough for fingers to get messy.
And inner artists to emerge.

And for Ruth to be anointed by M. He was so sweet with her the entire weekend, saying that he “can’t take his eyes off of her because she’s so cute.” Oh M. Don’t make me pack you up in my suitcase.

And after another late night of singing, dancing, and game-playing, we crashed around 2am.

Good food was eaten, We slept in a comfy bed, And Ryan drove home to let me nap. Yes, it was a great time indeed.

Carthage Thrifting

Well, there went our budget for the week, but oh my it was worth it. I got some fun things and didn’t talk baby talk once the entire day.

I asked an old coworker of mine, N, to escort me around some thrift stores. She ended up being our chaperone. For the thrift store and me, I mean. She made sure I didn’t get too grabby with the store’s body and helped the store open up a bit more and show me its silly side.

I wasn’t only excited about thrifting, but also to get out like a normal human being for a day. Well, kinda normal. I did have my breasts unashamedly exposed on a highway so I could pump in order to return to being normal for the next 3 hours.

No one noticed though. I think everyone we passed could feel me boring my eyes into the side of their heads saying Oh I just dare you to look, my friend. So help me, if you even move your face one iota to the side…

You know how you get that subconscious feeling of danger every now and again? Sometimes it can come on so strong that you just keep looking forward and keep on keeping on. I’m pretty sure that’s what they felt and stared straight ahead.

We finally arrived and ran into the shop.

N, luckily, also likes to take her time browsing, so I didn’t feel rushed or like I was holding her hostage. My kind of thrifting experience.

This first store rocked it. We dove in and didn’t come up for air until 3.5 hours later. Awe-some.

There were many things I talked myself in and out of throughout those hours. For one, this band hat. My goal (once we’re out of The Shack) is to create an attic space, complete with old wardrobe, mirror, and mannequin, sofa etc. for a dress-up corner and this hat just about made the cut.

Six months ago, I wouldn’t have blinked. But now that we’re trying to stick to a budget and have bigger plans for our moulah, I eventually nixed it. Maybe next time I’ll pick it up.

N found many things too.

Like this old pastry cutter and a paper-mache Santa that lit up. I watched her wheel and deal for that one. We literally ran around like chickens with our heads cut off and every once in a while would see the same thing at the same time and take in a huge gulp of air before grabbing it.

It’s nice to be surrounded by people who get the same sort of joy out of similar things as you do. It’s also nice to watch people get excited about different things than you too, but nothing beats a shared passion.

After that shopping extravaganza I was starving and brought out our lunch.

PB & J’s, lemonade, popcorn, nuts, and fruit. Next week, at The Mobile-Homemaker, I’ll be showing you how to bake the bread used for these sandwiches. Just a plain white bread, but R & I both enjoy it.

You can’t really tell, but it’s oh only 28 DEGREES FREAKING OUTSIDE.

The conversation was short and we hopped back into the car to make another stop.

Enter Doris.

She was manning the front desk and, I believe, owned the place. Within 10 minutes of us walking in, she literally made us take several things for free.

I knew she was a girl after my own heart when we asked for her photo and after taking it, insisted on seeing how she looked. Yes, we thrifters are all vain.

I picked up some wool socks (R and I are addicted) and a piece of artwork that knocked my (wool) socks off, along with some other things.

We stopped at a couple more places before heading home. The drained feeling of exploring and searching and squealing and buying makes for a laid-back ride home. We chatted, I soaked in the setting sun, and stared out at the rolling fields.

I was happy.

But nothing is as exciting as when you arrive home and get to show off your wares. Most of the time R just laughs and he didn’t disappoint this time. Except he threw in some head shakes and “What the heck is that” questions.

My absolute favorite buy of the day, and I can’t even tell you how much it was because Doris just said $5 for everything (and I had a good pile going…) is this artwork:

What the.

I just couldn’t take my eyes off it. It grabbed me, spun me around, and dipped me. So you know I was in love.

This deserved a prominent place in The Shack.

And there she be. Right above our french press that we use every day. So now every time R wants coffee, he’ll have the pleasure of soaking in that glittering beauty of a print.

This is one happy mama.

Christmas Mio

Here’s a quick overview of my favorite parts of Christmas at my parents’ house…

1. Setting the table for brunch. It took a little arm pulling and chocolate bribing to not use the darker maroon and green napkins, but she was thankfully open to the idea and ended up liking it. I understand her reasoning, though. She has always used those colors in the tablescapes and wanted us, in the future when thinking of Christmases past, to have that sort of sentimentality when remembering those details. Like when, after arriving in Kansas from California, moving into our new house: Mom put in almost every outlet a Glade ‘Country Garden’ freshener. Now, whenever I smell that fragrance, it brings me right back to that first summer in Kansas.


2. Sitting around opening presents. My nephew W makes a great Santa, which is one role I absolute hate doing. In fact, not being Santa is a gift in of itself. Sprawling out on the couch and shoving Chex Mix in my mouth while someone drops presents on my lap is pretty darn near perfect. Throw in a foot rub and I’m never leavin’.

This year, instead of drawing names amongst the grown children, we bought our favorite thing which had to be under $7. I’m a fan of this type of gift giving because it forces you to be creative. And the good thing is, you only have to be creative once. Doing it multiple times for multiple people is overwhelming and usually ends up with me just getting a gift card. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some gift cards, but am starting to move away from them when possible. It’s like getting a handwritten letter in the mail versus an email. My stomach still flips with excitement when seeing my name on an envelope.

That being said, one year we had to make our gift for one another. I drew my brothers name and he ended up getting a big bird house with these random balls and dots all over it. Hideous. So, being creative has its drawbacks as well.


3. Watching the kids open their gifts. I asked R to do the shopping since I have now become a prisoner of R and hate to mess with her sleep schedule. He also wrapped and tagged the presents as well. For little K’s gift, he wrote To: K-, From: K-. We thought it was just being silly, but there was actually a purpose! He knew that her name was a definite word she could read, so decided to use for both the To & From so she could find it under the tree. What’s funny, is that I watched her pull it out and with her pointer finger read her name, then ran over to her mom asking if she could open it.

I was dreading it just a tiny bit, because the girls had just opened their American Girl dolls from their grandparents. And then, when finding out what M&D got kids as well, I begged to let us go first in the opening presents order. If not, I just knew we would have to endure the: “You got me a flipping bedazzelled hat, that looks straight out of The Fly Girls on In Living Color? You suck!” Yes, that’s how I imagined a 4 year old would react. Instead, she jumped up and down and my fears were relieved.

They’re easy to please.


4. Realizing that while being literally smothered in a mountain of gifts, the only thing Ruth really wants for Christmas is her fist.

5. And finally, watching the Chiefs beat the Packers. We all agreed how refreshing it was to actually cheer on the Chiefs, instead of letting out loud sighs of frustration. It also helped that my mom and I had gone to, we think, a former Chief player’s home for a garage sale. Neither of us asked, unfortunately, nor did we purchase the multiple laminated signed photos of a #25. It brought back bad memories of asking Marcus Allen for his autograph at the airport and getting de-NIED. Big time. I was eleven and am still mad about it.

Next up: craft time at the in-law Christmas.


My mom asked me not to write this post. And so like any youngest child, I will immediately disobey her as soon as I get the opportunity.

I’ve just returned home this morning from a week in Kansas City, staying at my parents’ house and generally soaking up time with the little slobber machine. It was delightful. 

One morning we decided to make cookies of days gone by. These are the ones we kids all sat around the table decorating while hosting imaginary talk shows. For some reason, every time I tried being a cohost, the station had technical difficulties.

Sigh. To be the youngest.

Mom confessed that the icing recipe was really taken from this mini-mix it children’s cook book from who knows when! And the mats are straight up 1983, people. Pretty soon, I’ll be framing it on the wall and lugging them to Antiques Roadshow. See the rolling pin drawn on the mat? And see it in the first photo above?

They’re the same! I know, I’m amazed that they’re still around and weren’t eaten, plastic and all, simply because cookie dough got stuck to it. I’ll eat anything if cookie dough is on it. Hey there Henry, you gonna eat that spoon? Give it here, please… just can’t pass up silver plated metal used to scoop out cookie dough ice cream. And don’t wash it off your hands, either. I’ll clean them for ya.

It can get kinda embarrassing. Well, for R. Not for me. I don’t care.

Ruth woke up in the middle of rolling out the dough, so grandma rocked her as we cut the shapes.

I don’t know if you’re aware, but R and I don’t have a TV at the Shack. Instead, we keep the computer in the living room and watch episodes online. This was fine in town. But now we live amongst turkey farms and cow fields and the only internet provider available puts a cap on our download usage. Meaning, we could probably watch one hour’s worth of episodes per day. So we’re choosy and it ends up being Survivor (yes, we still watch it) and then something more substantial, like Bridezillas.

When I go to my parent’s house, however, it usually involves watching back-to-back episodes of House Hunters for 16 hours straight. I hope someone is taking care of Ruthie, cause I ain’t budgin’.

This day, however, I got my cooking shows kick.

…then Miss Giada came on. And her twins.

I looked at my mom who did the appropriate eye-roll that I was hoping she’d do. It’s part of our bit. There are specific things that we’ve talked about that I know, if I look at her during certain moments, she’ll make a face. Then we laugh.

Giada and her decolletage is one of them. Why we feel the need to discuss them is beyond me. But we can’t help it.

As I iced the now-baked cookies, I asked her if I reminded her of Giada.

She said no.

And rolled her eyes.

Hangin’ Tough… 20 years later.

…and the New Kids on the Block are still… rocking it? That doesn’t sound right at all. They’re at least still dropping to their knees for passion-filled love ballads. And 20 years later, I’m old enough to get a good laugh out of it.

We started our fancy night out with a bite to eat as my mom debated with the waiter on the similarities between Lady Gaga and Madonna.

I ate for four and then we were off to see the BOYS.

… and apparently the only boys that attended the show were those singing. Wait! I do see two boys in the photo, and they’re hanging on to dear life to their girlfriends. But mostly it was a 30-something girlfest.

Hang on, I take that back…

I sat next to a feisty group of early 20-somethings and asked if they remember New Kids back in the day. They said, “No.. we’re here for their latest album. I mean, it’s not like we’re in our thirties.” And then they dry heaved after saying such a disgusting word.

Me? I was happy. I love being in that bracket.

So after laughing at my young compadres, I took a look at the stage. What the…

Exactly how far up are we? All I know is that I was short of breath and it was snowing.

And then out of nowhere a lady with tickets for better seats showed up and handed them out to our section.

Hot Dog!

These old fogies were excited!

Especially the two die-hards: my sister-in-law and mom. I was sandwiched between them and it was almost a scene out of a Night at the Roxbury. I was bumped all over the place by those dancing hips.

<—- D, getting close-ups

P, getting close-ups —->

  Me, in the middle, getting close-ups of them getting close-ups.

 I turned to see what L was up to…

But she was busy searching for a “I just watched two straight hours of boy bands and survived” support group.

I do have to say, though, that it was a lot of fun hanging with the girls and laughing at the boys.

Even Baby Collier had a good time. So much so that I wasn’t woken up at 3am for my nightly “snack” (which most people would call a meal.)

Trapezoid Baby Blanket

No problem, she said.

No one can screw this project up, she said.

Okay, let’s do it, I agreed. So after 30 years of living and breathing, I went under my mom’s guiding hand and turned on the sewing machine. A couple of hours later I came-to and she told me to get into the car. We needed fabric.

And off to Jo-Ann’s we went! I was excited, picturing this like the library of textiles. I’d be sure to love it.

Instead it was like a horror film.

Where the

h-e-double hockey sticks

am I???!!

[cue screams of horror]

This was moments before I started getting dizzy and off-balance. So I quickly focused on the 50% off sign, which can ground even the most vertigo-ed of victims.

After finally just closing my eyes and pointing to two fabrics, we had them cut and made our way back home.

We got to work pinning the fabrics (after a good wash), while I also tried to hold a ‘blank white wall’ intervention with my mom.

Nothing worked.

I convinced myself that she was going for the “tuberculosis asylum” look in honor of my great-grandma who was admitted in the 40s or 50s, but failed to forget that they probably would’ve posted cards up on the wall at least.

In other news, she did paint the living room Eggshell White or something like that. Progress is being made, people.

After we were done pinning, mom suggested we go to the sewing corner she created for me.

Yay! My very own sewing corner!!

…In the darkest corner of the house.

It was like Flowers in the Attic Basement and was the one time I wish everything were painted white. Don’t sweatshops even have painted walls?

She patiently showed me all the nuts and bolts, and I quickly got to work. Loved using the 40+ years machine- It felt solid and sturdy.

A while later, this square blanket magically appeared.

Check out the bottom. Now that’s what I’m talking about! Nothing like a good steady decline, if I don’t say so myself.

Baby better appreciate this.

Wrapping Up

From here on out, it will be current or semi-current updates. But this is what we get for me taking a small sabbatical.

Hands down, my favorite part of christmas this year was playing student in Miss E’s class. If this girl doesn’t do something where a crowd of eyes are staring at her, then there’s no hope for any of us. She’s a natural performer.

Setting up shop in front of the fireplace

Reviewing the class rules: 1) Be quiet while teacher is talking. 2) Raise your hand if you have a question. 3) Tell the teacher if you need to use the bathroom. 4) No interruptin’

I thought she added the accent on #4 for my benefit since I’m further south than she is. And when I did in fact interrupt, at least she didn’t try to please the Arkansas in me by saying “Oh C, you’re a mess.” You remember my disdain for that phrase… here.

K had #2 down pat, and R needed a tutor for this subject apparently.

My other favorite parts of the day? Here’s just a few:

Helping prep the food with mom in our aprons.

Gut laughs during our White Elephant party with the cousins, aunts, & uncles.

And last but certainly not least, passing around the sick baby doll and giving him shots in the rear.


The Battle of Caaahrthage

We fought the battle and won, my friends.

You know, the “weekend spent with 3 sisters, a sister-in-law, and a mother all in the attic of a bed & breakfast during their wine festival without killing each other” battle.

Any time a night hasn’t ended with a drink thrown in your face and the silent treatment, consider it a victory.

But it really wasn’t hard. And we were tested. Oh yes, we were tested.

Try going to the bathroom in front of four people in a space with no partitions.

No amount of magazines will help that situation.

But, to be true, we won probably because I paced myself….

..or because of the $20 lipstick complete with a built in lighted mirror. You know, in case you go spelunking in a cave with some girlfriends and need to freshen up.

This little gem just might have been the saving grace.

After our freshening up, we stepped out onto the front lawn to have a lunch while sampling the local vendors.

I’ve often wondered if I couldn’t sell at one of these events. With all the grapes left in the back of the fridge, some of them are bound to ferment, right?

After several moves around the lawn and a couple more samples, we hit the town.

Dancing? Why yes, but not us this time.

The Kansas City Marching Cobras happened to be in Carthage this particular weekend! My sister L looked on like a proud mother as she was the only one of us who had seen them before. She continually asked us if we were sure we wanted to go see them, and then afterwards thanked us all for coming as if she hosted the group in her living room.

The Marching Cobras was started up in KC as a way for inner city kids to have a positive outlet, while also having to maintain a certain gpa, etc. They were a nice addition to our weekend!

When we arrived back at the B&B, we convinced the owners to turn on the twinkle lights on the front porch. Oh, to have a spacious, stone front porch like this one.

I would invest in only white linen dresses, cinched at the waist and insist that my hair be pulled up in a loose bun. Sigh.

We sat around sampling more wines, shoving chinese food down our gullets,

while L put on more lipstick.

We talked around the table for a good couple hours before heading up to the attic where it felt like a scene from Little Women.

Why do I always have to play the role of Beth?

Unlike Beth, my heart did survive the night and the next morning we woke up to breakfast downstairs. This is the first time I’ve had to sit with the hosts and other guests at one table. It was awkward at first, since it felt a little intimate.

Luckily they were the talkative sort and kept up both their and my end of the conversation. Functional Introvert saved once again!

Mom had to wear her sunglasses because of the sun and I laughed inappropriately loud for so early in the morning. The host quickly served our first course after that loud guffaw.

A couple poems were read and some well-rehearsed stories were told by the hosts, then we parted ways from cute Carthage, MO.

Writing this post has made me realize that as soon as I do something, I need to write about it. I’m sure there were a ton of little nuances throughout the stay that made me come away with this feeling of having had such a good time, but for the life of me, I cannot recall them. But maybe that isn’t true. Maybe it was just the feeling of being together that left a good mark on my memory. Kind of like reading a book on a crisp sunny afternoon that resulted in a more refreshed version of yourself than when you first sat down. Nothing in particular, but just the whole of the experience.

Thank you girlies!

Dancing Wedding

Dancing Weddiiiiing – Young and Sweet only seventeeeen. You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your li-i-ife.

Wow, this was a fun one. I’ve been to some where I stay for the meal and slip out the door; others where I sit at the table all night talking with friends without even so much as a glance to the dance floor; and still others where I play whiffle ball and serve guests bbq from a gas station.

Okay that last one  was my own wedding. Yikes.

But this one. This one will be the dancing wedding.

We all knew K & D loved to dance, for them to see this all night:

It must’ve just made their day.

It made mine too, because I’m re-entering the world of dancing without caring.

R thinks he’s been duped. You see, in college our circle of friends would go to a place with a dinky dance floor. And while everyone else was bumping to the music, R and I would stand flat against a wall getting to know each other all the while avoiding drinks getting sloshed into our face by someone’s bad dance move. It was fun. Kind of like dodgeball meets dating. So, he thought I didn’t like to dance, which meant that there was no pressure on his end. And there wasn’t. Truly!

Until recently. If there is a packed floor and good music on, then I’m psyching myself up to get out there if I’m in the mood.

And I don’t care if I dance a little Elaine Benes-esque with my one-handed train conductor move, because if you can’t hear… Journey’s playing and it’s time to move.

So when R went MIA after seeing a good dance crowd, I turned around to find my good ole standby. Mom.

Whaaaaat? What is she doing all. by. herSELF?

Something drastic needed to be done.

So I ran to the DJ and requested Backstreet Boys, stat. HURRY. This is an emergency, my mom is sitting all by herself because she’s not really into House of Pain.

He gave me a sidelong glance and hesitated in the B section. “Are you sure it will go over well with this crowd?” I didn’t care, we had to pump some dancing blood back into Momma Pat and this was the ticket.

As the song started, I ran away from him so no one would know who requested the song. No offense, mom. But could you believe that people gave a loud whoop and clapped?

I grabbed mom and drug her out with me.

She was only a little excited.

By the way, nice bra, Carolyn. Jeez. I’m the classy cousin at the wedding with my unmentionables hanging out in every photo. Sigh.

We slow danced… Still couldn’t seem to find R, so had to make-do with taking photos of my sister and her husband.

And then there were dance-offs:

My nephew, W, partook in one and apparently won?

But grandma was cheering a bit too hard for little W, because the dance-off moved onto her:

And she was booty-ed off the dance floor. No one is safe during a dance off, my friends.

But not to be outdone, my brother-in-law (aka “roommate”) had one out with a groomsmen.

I don’t think anyone can compete with suspenders. Sorry N.

Oh, K & D. What a great wedding! I don’t know who this girl is nor why I took the photo, but I think it had to do with the drawing. Does it seem familiar to this old blog post? Click here.


And Dance. Discuss and dance. That’s pretty much how life goes anyway.

Turkey Giblets

We had a nice time over the Thanksgiving holidays. We slept in a half hour later each day, it was delightful.

On actual Turkey Day, the whole family (minus two lovlies in L.A.) came together. Here are some snippits.

:: coloring with my niece before the feast ::

:: my uncle bringing over some of mee-maw’s oyster dressing, brought directly from her spirit apparently ::

:: setting out the glassware. Yes, the blue one was mine ::

:: catching my husband in awkward photo positions ::

:: hanging out with my sisters and posting a good-looking photo in hopes that one of them will forgive me for what is soon to come ::

:: holding hands and saying a couple prayers before committing gluttony ::

:: holding back on portion size ::

:: giving thanks to our hosts ::

:: also giving thanks that I don’t have to look at this carnivorous activity straight on. A side view is plenty, thank you ::

:: going for a post stomach-suicide walk ::

:: watching home movies, including one in which my sister, L, asks a question on the Leeza Gibbons Show while in college. This one made our stomachs hurt we laughed so hard ::

:: watching a late night dance production ::

:: while Aunt Carrie played the piano ::
But I have to say there was one thing that most contributed to this being a great weekend. Not the family time, not the sleeping-in….

:: prunes, baby. that’s all I need to say ::

Shangri-Lloyds @ Tablerock

With my tailbone medication in hand (chilled white wine), we ventured off to a local’s home for his annual party. Shangri-Lloyds. I want this property. Not just because there is an entire wing set up dormitory style for guests, that you have a great view of the lake, or even the three levels of deck space. No, it was all the games.

There’s Lloyd in the yellow. He’s in his 70s and still rockin’ it.
Let’s go through them. Well, we’ve got a volleyball net set up, or how about a little game of frisbee golf?

Not your cup of tea? Alright, then let’s head over to the landing for the zip-line. I’ll hang out on the tire swing while you do that.

Want more? There’s some washers and if you walk a little ways up, you have a full basketball court. Also, a batting cage with it’s own pitching machine over there if you’re interested.

And we were, by golly. We did *everything*. It was a blast and my sweaty shirt showed it.

For dinner, we had pork that had been roasting underground since the night prior. It even had an apple in it’s mouth. I felt like we were seriously on vacation to get this type of treatment. Hawaii, maybe?

As the sun went down, the lights turned on. So did the volume. We enjoyed background music of a local band playing on the deck. In between, various people would stand up and sing a song a capella. I don’t know about you, but stuff like that makes me cringe. I have to look away and it takes my whole being to watch. It’s the seriousness of it all, I guess.

So I convinced my two buddies (R & N) to go on the zip-line with me so I could avoid making eye-contact with the next singer. There was a seat on the zip-line at one point, but we didn’t mind just hanging on.

After a few games of HORSE and hitting baseballs, we left the party a bit early to go swimming off the dock. We took turns jumping off and trying to get mid-air pics. It was utterly summer vacation in that moment. Being silly with a twinge of danger… Wasn’t that in all of our childhoods?

The reason my entire body aches:

Water, water, and more water. For the most part, it’s a good ache. It’s something that reminds me of how much fun we had out there. Saturday afternoon, we jumped into my Father-in-Law’s (RC) and his brother’s (M) boat for some tubing and cliff jumping at Table Rock Lake. You saw how the latter ended, but you didn’t see the story behind it. 
First, we went tubing for a bit. RC and I managed to stay on for a little while, until we did a turn that caused my entire body to skid the top of the water. The ironic part is that moments before, RC was telling me how his brother had learned how to waterski barefoot… and here I was, waterskiing with my whole body. Well, minus my hands as they would not let go of the handles despite my brain screaming that it would probably be for the best if I did. Nope, I just hung on, body skimming the water. Finally, I let go and almost had to have my bathing suit surgically removed. 

Then RC and his brother, M, took a stab at it. I enjoyed watching RC try to get onto the tube while still out in the water. (That was, until I later tried to do the same and regretted my loud laughs). But it still made us giggle looking at the tube standing straight up and imagining his face behind it. He did manage to get on it, by the way.

RC looked a bit worried giving control over the wheel to his sons. This could have been the perfect opportunity to get back at him for making them clean up their rooms growing up. At one point, RC motioned to slow down and N relayed to the driver (R) that they wanted to speed up. Ah, sweet revenge.

Later, it was N and R’s turn. And even when they taunted us to try and knock them off the tube, they still held on. 

When they discussed jumping off the cliff, my initial reaction was NOOOOO. My foot could slip, I’ll not jump far enough out, I’ll land in the only shallow part of the lake, I’ll…I’ll… And then I noticed N starting to crack. He had already jumped off the cliff a year ago, but that didn’t stop him from getting nervous the second time around. And with him having a nervous breakdown beside me, it made me calmer. Maybe I’m a bit competitive? If no one is freaking out, I’ll be the most freaked out. If someone is freaking out, I will be the least affected. Pretty annoying, I know.

So RC, R, N, & I trekked our way to the top, bypassing the ominous 25 ft sign where all the normal people were jumping off. 

We finally made it to the top, only to find N just staring over the edge. Every once in a while he would yell “Just calm down. Everybody, just calm down!!” (as we stared at him calmly). Then when I moved closer by him to peer over the edge, he would yell that “we are all getting too close to him and need to calm down!” It was hysterical, because he was really being serious.

When RC got up there, he tossed his lifejacket, looked at us and then flew off the side yelling “God hates cowards!” Just like that. Like he had done this a thousand times. Then N threw his lifejacket over and stood there. After five minutes, I tossed mine and jumped over before N’s mumblings would paralyze me. Once I hit the water, the pain rippled through my body causing me to try and stay under as long as I could. For some reason, it felt better to hold my breath. Thoughts ran through my mind: Why did I have to sit in mid-air as if I were playing chess in front of a fire? Will I ever be able to sit again? How will I play duck, duck, goose? Am I going to have to sleep on the wall like the Coneheads? Do I really have to swim back up for a breath?

When I finally did come up for air, I heard N’s splash and then R’s (who did it perfectly, of course). I wanted to stay in the water for the rest of the day and not have to use anything lower than my waist (I told myself to stay away from raisins the rest of the evening). I couldn’t even pull myself up into the boat, my arms were so shaky. So R and N had to literally haul me up as if they had just harpooned me in Japanese waters. It was embarrassing, but in those moments, you just don’t care. 

My butt hurts.

Luckily, that night we went to a party which allowed me to drink a few glasses of wine to ease the pain. And it worked. More on the party, later. For now, I’ve got to go find a donut to sit on.

Pre-Surprise Party

Neither I nor R checked the weather for the surprise party weekend. I was planning on wearing a short-sleeved top, and we barely tossed in our coats at the last second. It had ended up snowing all morning last Saturday. Nice.

My sister, A, came over for lunch at my parent’s house. Mom placed a very farm-esque meal on a very farm-esque table cloth. Roast and vegetables. I was so happy! Dad must have been excited too, because I caught him turning the pepper mill at a frightening speed.

That’s enough pepper, dad.

Earlier that day, I picked up R’s bday gift (cigars) and went to the shop my uncle suggested. It has a walk-in humidor and the moment you step into the shop, your nose fills with all sorts of wonderful smells. Loose tobacco leaves for pipes has to be one of my top ten smells.

I asked the worker some questions based off info from “Unc” and then my dad whispered to me to ask him where they keep their Cubans. I thought he was embarrassed to ask himself and so lifted my head high and decided to be my father’s champion. I will not let my dad get embarrassed! I walked over to the employee and a split second before the question came out of my mouth, I thought two things: 1) Does dad ever let on that he doesn’t know something? and then 2) why does the phrase “Cuban cigars” do a little ring-a-ling in my head?

I turned slowly to look at dad and he was slightly laughing in the corner. That didn’t stop him from asking the guy later “Hey — my daughter was wondering where you keep the cubans.” Whatever!

Later, he and R enjoyed one together in the below-freezing weather.
After our meal, we (surprise!) played a game. R taught us a new card game and it was decent. It would have been great if I didn’t have to sit across from R and watch him shove chocolate cake down his throat every two seconds. I can’t get that image out of my head. At one point, though, my mom just started throwing her cards out into the middle because she couldn’t reach, causing a huge ruckus. My sister retaliated and started throwing cards at her. We’re pretty wild and crazy.
Thanks for the pre-party, everyone!

Surprise Party

When little J saw the green shirt K put on, he said, “Mom! Your shirt’s too small!”. K said she should have worn her capris with it just to have really thrown him a curve ball.
There are certain people that can bring out the best in me. A couple of those people are my friends K & R. Most times when I enter into a group of people cold (and quite frankly, sometimes when it’s a warm situation too — there are times I never feel quite at ease) I tend to over-compensate in certain areas of my interaction. Either I stay pigeon-holed in my “role” within the group, or I end up having that one glass of wine too many due to nerves and sever any sort of meaningful memories. However, as long as I have K in the room, I always feel empowered and confident. Maybe it’s just because she laughs at all my jokes. I dunno..

But a good litmus test of a person is by the people with whom they surround themselves. And judging by the group I was sitting with, K & R apparently are witty, intelligent, gracious, and interesting people. (But I already knew that.) Before we showed up for R’s 30th birthday party, I asked K for a bit of information on some of the couples. I was bound and determined to not let my nerves get the best of me, and planned on being the resident reporter… using K’s biographies to question them with machine gun-speed. Turned out, it was unnecessary. They were all mini-replicas of K & R. Quick to laugh, tease, listen sincerely, and talk openly. At one point, K yelled “Why is the table of people that don’t know each other laughing the loudest? Remember that R and I are the common denominators!!!” It was such a good experience, and does nothing but compliment the people who brought us together.
R-squared have something in common: they don’t like their faces on my blog. I’ll respect their privacy, but I had to include part of the scared look on R’s face when his mother-in-law ordered a 5 liter bottle of red. A hush fell on the crowd as if we were paying last respects to our good sense.

I wasn’t the only one trying to document R’s night. He had his own personal entourage of paps watching his every move. If only they had all turned just slightly to their left, I would have been a bit happier.

We made the birthday boy walk around and pour everyone’s drink as well. He filled my glass way up because he must have known I had to sit next to the hottest picture of Sophia Loren in the joint. Seriously. I was jealous.

Afterwards we went to a couple more places while the grandparents babysat the kidlets in the hotel room. Ended up being a wonderful night. R was surprised and seemed to really enjoy himself and really, that was our goal. Consider it accomplished.

You’re a Jerky.

After we left Sedalia in the a.m., we met up with R’s brother N for lunch. We don’t get to see him much (even though we’re going to Topeka tomorrow and will again), but we had an appointment to talk shop. And talk shop we did…. over a nice greasy hamburger, which was much needed after a night of board games.

We figured up a three-year financial plan to coincide with his graduation. Down to the point that we now have a shared google document in order to keep each other accountable. And by the end of it? Well, hopefully we’ll be living closer together, yet faraway from everyone else… if that makes any sense. But as my mom always says… If you wanna make God laugh, (say it with me) just tell Him your plans. So with that in the back of our thoughts, we forge ahead anyway.
N, R, and I are also going to embark on a year long project which we haven’t nailed down just yet. By the end of this weekend we should have it. More details to come.

Food! Nom..nom..nom!
Afterwards, we jumped into the car for our trek home. On the way we stopped to pick up something R found on Craigslist…. a dehydrator. N gave us a recipe for very good (and low sodium) beef jerky and R was biting at the bit to try it. But first we had to drive through some nice countryside. I decided I like the dead grass. It made the scenery look like an old photograph.

And of course, I can’t get enough of white farm houses.

As soon as we got home, R tried out the machine and, my goodness, our house reeked. I had the day off, which I thought beforehand was fortunate…but after smelling that for hours on end, I started to envy Mr. R. The end result was worth it though. I can’t wait to try out other things in it…. Like tomato powder…. You can turn it into sauce, paste, soup, so many things. Can’t wait!

Once-a-year Dinner

Really. Only once a year. And I think we completely skipped over 2008. Weird how time is flying by.

After driving for 4 hours through a wonderful Missouri landscape, letting R sleep, and me soaking in the scenery, we arrived in Sedalia to our friends, L & T’s, house. We showed up shortly after the other caravan, and as we walked up to the door, a pile of kids came sauntering outside. I weaved my way through the tiny group and eventually made it to the front door. L laughed that, after we saw all the kids, she was afraid we would turn right around and drive home. The roomful of children was sticker shock, for sure, …but more like a scratch-n-sniff sticker rather than a deer-in-the-headlights shock. Times have changed, my friends, and that’s just fine. If the new times include dancing with dolls to the Oldies and listening to stories being read in all corners of the house, I’m happy with it thank you very much.

That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take me awhile to fit in with the younger crowd, though. I wandered around the house for a bit and caught some wary looks from a few of the peanuts. They weren’t too sure of me and my fears were confirmed when a boy started crying after I laughed. Apparently, times have not changed, my friends, and I guess that’s fine too.

At one point, I looked around to find R playing with the magnetic letters on the fridge. I guess he can easily fit in with any crowd, old or young.

Not too long afterwards, we made R grow up by about 25 years and help the carve the turkey (yes — turkey!!). We started off with cheese & crackers and then went straight for the gusto. If this didn’t make up for 2008, I don’t know what would. All of the classic Thanksgiving trimmings without the “I have to get into a swimsuit soon” guilt. I was in heaven, and that was unfortunate for everyone involved. Just read the “About Me” section of the blog to get the full idea of how my portion of the night went.

After dinner (and after the kids went to sleep), we all headed downstairs to play some board games. Cranium was the game of choice and it wasn’t how well someone did that everyone got a kick out of, it was how badly skilled we were that was the clincher.

S showed off her rendition (left) of a scarecrow, next to R’s drawing of the same clue. By the end, no matter who was supposed to draw, we all ended up just looking at R’s paper to try and guess. I found my ‘moose’ masterpiece stabbed through the heart later on as well. Our lack of skills really brought the passion out in people. R spent the ride home giving me tips on how to draw. Really. He had the gall to say “You know, the clue with the fly-swatter. Where you went wrong was the fly itself. You should stick to drawing a heart and then adding a little dot at the tip.” Oh, okay. I’ll remember that R. (Whatever. I like my mini seagulls.)

All in all, a good night. I can always count on L’s small baskets of shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel along with reading material within arms-reach of my bed. The next day we had to leave early for two detours en route to Arkansas. Both were enjoyable in their own ways. More to come.

Game Playin’ Family Pt 2

One of my favorite memories over the holidays was the Saturday after Christmas. I looked out the backyard window and saw ice on the trees. Yes, I thought, an excuse to stay in my pjs and not brush my hair.

My dad walks in the mornings with my mom’s brother & sister-in-law and this Saturday morning, they spontaneously came over for breakfast. I need to buy a lace tablecloth because it instantly dresses up a meal. We had egg casserole, bacon, rum cake pancakes, and fruit. Is there anything better??

I forgot to mention we had coffee too. LOTS of it. After our feast, we decided to play some dominoes and I caught a look in my uncle’s eyes that scared me. Uncle J + Coffee + Early morning walking = I now have three more eye wrinkles from laughing so much. We played 13 rounds of dominoes and that still didn’t stop us!

Soon after, we decided to have a Connect Four play-off. In the second round, my mom was seriously studying her next move while I was seriously trying to position my hair to cover up as much of my makeup-less face as possible.

My uncle J was not seriously doing anything. Notice the coffee cup.

I made it to the finals…and won. But that didn’t stop R for reminding me of my 2nd round loss to him (we had double eliminations, for your information). The result of that match reminded me of our rooftop chess session.. That’s okay, you can’t win all the battles.

A Wrinkle in Time

Some people divide their life up by the fashion they wore, their hairstyles, or even the boys and girls they liked. When I look back on my 28 years, it can be easily segmented out by books/genres I read. My nose has been in a book since ‘See Dick Run’ sentences finally lept from the pages. In my childhood home, we had a built-in bookcase in a narrow hallway. I loved the feeling of swinging the two doors wide open, pushing them against the wall so people could pass by and sitting cross-legged in front of a tower of written worlds. It was never organized, which lent itself to the feeling of discovery and triumph when a book popped from the back of the shelf. These escapes helped energize my childish curiosity and, later, helped ease my adolescent wounds. Both my adventure and safe haven.

In my parent’s house, there is a little nook in the living room with an antique table set next to my great-grandmother’s chair, re-upholstered by my grandma. On the opposite wall is a free-standing bookcase, filled with the same books of my childhood.

In my earliest reading days, I read fairy-tales of course. This naturally led into my first “novel” in third grade: Alice in Wonderland. I was so proud of myself and remember bragging to my sister that I had finished it. She didn’t believe me, which made me upset. Then came the Beverly Clearly stage, followed by Anne of Green Gables & the Indian in the Cupboard series. Then, in fifth grade my teacher decided she would read to us after lunch in an attempt to smooth the transition of our red & sweaty faces to a calmer classroom. She chose C.S. Lewis and by the end of the first day, I insisted that my mom buy me the Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe set. My high school days alternated between historical romance novels (if I couldn’t get kissed…I might as well read someone else getting it), Stephen King, and the classics (British mostly.)

This was my favorite fairy-tale book as a child. I was enthralled by the princesses’ perfect hair and how it always separated into three different strands. I looked at it with envy and resented my own.

To me, books are like smells & photos. They instantly bring me back to a specific time in my life. I remember characters like old friends I haven’t kept in very good contact with, but still can recall good memories. Or like places I’ve visited long ago and have a vague, almost blurry picture of in my head. I can’t separate my past from them, and can’t wait to introduce my own children to them.

No Seriously, Cue it.

S and me before our night of toe-tappin.
Notice the strained smile on my face. Stress.
Music is a soul’s medicine, isn’t it. It can penetrate any armor you’ve put up around yourself. Mine, this week, has been the “wound so tight she’s going to snap” shield. R has been tip-toeing around me as I make list after list of what we need to do to the house before putting it on the market. Phone calls with friends have been short. The foam egg mattress we have on our bed has not helped me have a good night’s rest.

Wound tight.

..and then like a dam breaking, a night listening to music at the Nelson Art Museum helped me break free of my mummified state of stress. it massaged my temples and shoulders more than a masseuse ever could. just what the doctor ordered. I laughed and smiled and forgot all about the lists.

Not only was the act of listening to music helpful. To me, more importantly, it was the type of music. I’ve finally admitted to myself that I am a die hard junkie on Bluegrass. Old Country. I came into that genre late, listening to K’s burned cds my third year in college. The tunes caught my ear, and I never asked her to turn them off. But I also never instigated playing them. Then one night in a seedy dark bar, I caught a showing of a bluegrass band, The Wilders. It was in a room painted all black, and there was a crowd of maybe 75 people. The music started and the rest was history. I was a fan. Then for Christmas, my parents-in-law gave me a record player. I bought some records on eBay..a few of which were old country: Hank Williams Jr, Johnny Cash, early Dolly Parton. I also bought others, but those three were the ones I came back to night after night. These classically trained musicians of The Wilders, one of which meant to become an opera singer, became my doorway drug into this new world.

And the layers of the instruments. If anyone remembers the part in Amadeus, when Salieri describes his first encounter listening to Mozart’s music.

“On the page it looked like nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse – bassoons and basset horns – like a rusty squeezebox. Then suddenly – high above it – an oboe, a single note, hanging there unwavering, till a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight.”

I focus on the layers of the bluegrass bands. I try to listen to each instrument separately..and then as a whole. The sum truly is greater than the parts, although the parts are pretty sensational. Plus, Betse can kick some fiddle ass.

I don’t think my mom’s Motown/Rock/Broadway influence will ever leave me. But I can’t deny the new love in my life. Thanks for cheering me up, bluegrass.

Here are some songs from the Wilder’s website. Enjoy.
Two — Betse kicks it!


Zooboringology: The study of dull zoo photos

Look. I’m the first to admit that looking at zoo photos are not exciting. But the St. Louis zoo is so much more than just animals. It’s a stroll through a park where you happen upon lions & penguins. Best of all, it’s free.

We headed down the day after roller coasters….. leisurely, due to the heavy rains that morning. Note to self: plan vacations around storms. We arrived at the zoo/park and were literally the only ones wandering around for a few hours. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice walk in the rain? I do, as long as I have appropriate shielding. The hood to head ratio of a rain jacket is so crucial. If head is too big and hood is too small, disaster could strike. You know, like runny mascara. I foresaw my fate and asked R. if we could switch jackets since he was wearing a baseball cap. He finally agreed.

You can’t hear him muttering, but believe me, he was.
The rain stopped shortly after we left the building and so had to exchange jackets once again. I really don’t know why I shared that experience. Maybe to oil you up for the onslaught of zoo photos.

I spent the majority of the time chasing peacocks
into scary overgrown bushes.
So I wanted to capture what it felt like to walk through the St. Louis Zoo. Almost every pathway was lined with trees and/or brush of some sort. Except for this open part below, you were hardly hit with the “wow, i’m really at a zoo” thought. Does anyone ask that to themselves anyway? I digress. Like the little bridge below, that’s original to the park from the early 1900s. Also, some of the exhibits were built in the 1920s and have been maintained since. A very cozy feeling.

Okay, so this is where things started to get weird. It must have been the weather or something because almost all of the animals were active. And I don’t mean they just yawned several times (I take any movement as a zoo victory), but I mean they were running around their cages. The rhinos, the bears, the elephant. Wait, no. The elephant was the only animal that stood by a wall and ate. As we walked to the leopard’s cage, we noticed him leaning back on his haunches and watching something. I followed his line of sight and saw…

these guys. They were going wild! They would jump up and bite leaves off the tree, and run around bucking at each other. They must’ve finally found out about horizontal stripe rule and were in the middle of the “Why me, God??” phase. Do they make zebra girdles?

Anyway, so the leopard would lean back on his haunches and then leap off his rock to chase down the zebras. He would jump up on the fence, trying to claw his way out. Even though there was a cage, it was terrifying how quickly he’d run and jump! At the same time, though, it is nice to know that some of their wild instinct is still intact.

After barely escaping the leopard’s wrath, we encountered a historic sighting. Well, we thought it was. A camel peeing! It must be rare since they never drink water.

Lastly, I rounded out my kid day by taking a kid-at-the-zoo photo. With the hippos. A classic.

P.S. Throughout the day, we took photos of animals that resemble us. Here’s one we found of R.