Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Might as well face it

Don't think I don't know that you are checking my blog to see if I've updated, and when you see that I haven't you're muttering something smarmy under your breath about how inconsistent I am, and how your other friends blog all the time, and how you're going to just quit reading mine if I don't step it up. But what you and I both know is that you're addicted to AMENmom, and you'll always come back! Besides, it's registration week at work, and literally thousands of students are relying on my dedicated expertise to ensure their smooth transition into the spring semester. You wouldn't want to put your needs before theirs, would you?

More coming soon, I PROMISE.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pardon me Sister, but can you tell me how to get to the Capitol?

I had never been to Washington DC before last week. Most people are amazed to hear that, as though I've said I've never eaten potato chips before or something. It's sad but true--though I have seen many of our country's cities, DC has never been one. Thus, I seized the opportunity to add a couple of days on to my conference trip for work so that I could visit. Fortunately two of my friends and co-workers that were also going to the conference, Erin and Autumn, were up for a little sightseeing as well, so I had companions.

We arrived in DC midafternoon on Tuesday. We toted suitcases filled with warm clothes, as we were going to be in DC and Baltimore in late October, and it's supposed to be cold. Only no one told DC and Baltimore that. It got up to 80 most days. We were only in DC for about 48 hours, so we had to make the most of it. Fortunately, we were up to the task.
After checking into our hotel, we went out walking for a bit. We circled the White House--pretty much exactly what you see on TV. It's a lot closer to the street than I imagined it would be. Amusingly, the only vehicle in sight was a pickup truck in the circle drive:

For some reason, this struck me as funny--like the President had just taken a run to the store and parked out front while he unloaded the groceries.

Every building in DC, and there are LOTS of them, are very imposing and fancy and most are clearly marked with what area of government is managed inside. All the usual suspects were there--Department of Justice, Federal Aviation Administration, Office of the Attorney General. This one, though, was new to us:

If there are people that our government pays to make sure we spend thriftily, I might humbly suggest that we sack the lot and start from scratch--thriftiness is definitely NOT a hallmark of our country.

EVERYONE in Washington is wearing a business suit it seems. We joked that this was true, but then we walked by some road construction. Check out the guy doing the work:
Whaa??? We stood there forever trying to figure out why an older man in a suit would be digging in a manhole while the construction workers hung out and watched, but we gave up. It's the government and road work--it's not supposed to make sense.

After our walk, Bekah and Greg came to visit us. I went to graduate school with Bekah, and she and Autumn are best childhood friends. Greg is her very gallant, VERY patient husband who bravely set out with 4 women for dinner on the town. It was so wonderful to see them both. Bekah, along with two other friends in our program, Julie and Allison, are the only reasons I made it through graduate school with my sanity. Here's the 4 of us girls at dinner (Greg, of course, was the cameraman):

Wednesday was our only full day in DC, and we were determined to make the most of it. We started with a huge breakfast at our hotel, then set out in search of M&M's--Monuments and Memorials. We hit the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, The WWII Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial in quick succession. Here are a few of the photos I took:
The view from the Lincoln Memorial:
The WWII Memorial:
A lesser known component of the Vietnam Memorial:
The reflecting pool and Lincoln's Memorial:
After a brief stop for refreshments, we trucked over to the Holocaust Museum. It was intense and extraordinary. I learned more than I thought possible, including details about the US' complete refusal to help refugees fleeing the concentration camps. All around me, I heard people whispering, "How could our country have let that happen?" Ironically, we are repeating our own cruel history at this very moment by ignoring the millions (yes, millions) of deaths in Darfur. I could go on, but this is a post about the trip, so that's a soapbox for another day.
Wednesday evening, we took a night tour of the city. It was fantastic seeing all the monuments lit up, and hearing stories about the city's founding and history. Plus, it was fantastic not having to walk. By the end of the tour we were all worn out--so much so that at one point, I mistook 4 large table umbrellas that were still in their tables but closed up for 4 nuns hanging out on a terrace. In my defense, they REALLY looked like nuns, very still nuns, but nuns nonetheless. We got back to the hotel around 11 and I think I was asleep before I actually laid down.
I'm pretty sure anyone who has actually read all this is all scrolled-out, so I'll stop for now. Coming up next: Dorothy's shoes, Union Station, and crab-alicious Baltimore.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Back and better than ever

I am back (obviously) from my trip to our nation's capital and Charm City. It was a whirlwind week filled with sightseeing, eating, seeing old friends, and some really STRANGE stuff that made the blogger in me leap for joy at new material.

I intend to blog in a fair amount of detail about the trip, but there are a couple of reasons I'm not going to start now. One, I don't have the time. Two, the pictures aren't ready to post. So I'm afraid you'll have to wait a bit for all the juicy details. In the meantime, trust that it will be worth the wait.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

I had all intentions of posting a few interesting tidbits today, but Abby is sick and so all that went right out the window. At any rate, the blog will be quiet this week, because I am leaving WAY too early tomorrow morning to head to Washington DC and Baltimore for a conference and some sightseeing. I'm pretty excited, though I feel bad about leaving Matt with the kids for so long, especially when 50% of "the kids" is sick. But if anyone can handle it, it's him. There's a chance that I will get to post while I'm there, so do check in every once in a while. I get back on Sunday, so it will be blogging business as usual next week.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Little Rock Part 2--Rock Stars

Saturday morning, Matt and I slept in until the luxuriously late hour of 9 AM. Though we were still full from dinner, we managed to find the strength to eat the awesome breakfast at Embassy Suites. After that, we headed to my grandmother's house for some time with her and the kids. Abby and Ethan were having the time of their lives with her and my aunt Linda. Both "Gigi" and Linda spoil them to death, and they love running around Gigi's house. See?

Around 3:00, Matt, Linda, Abby and I went back to the hotel. The buses were scheduled to leave for the game at 3:45. We waited in the lobby, and as players came through to board the buses, Abby got them to sign her football. She was so sweet, and the players ate it up--they loved her. She got at least 30 signatures, including Peyton Hillis:

Matt and I got on the bus around 3:40, and Abby and Linda stayed in the lobby to catch any last minute guys and wave us off. Coach Nutt came through right at 3:45, but his hands were full so they didn't ask him. However, he stopped, asked Abby if he could sign her ball, handed off all of his stuff, and took time to give an autograph to my little girl. What a good guy.

The bus ride to the stadium was absolutely surreal. We had police escorts on all sides, and flew down Markahm towards the stadium. Once we got within 2 miles, the buses were surrounded by fans, screaming, calling the Hogs, pounding on the side of the bus. I have never experienced anything like it. This is what it looked like from the inside:

Then, just when it couldn't get any wilder, the buses stopped and we did the War Memorial pre-game walk through with the team. And when I say with the team, I mean we were right in the thick of them. The walk through consists of about a quarter of a mile path from the buses to the stadium lined with around ten THOUSAND screaming fans and television cameras. It is impossible to go through this and not feel like a celebrity. I can't even describe the energy. Imagine how the players feel--I was just a schmoe and I was ready to go play football.

Once we got into the stadium, the team and coaches went into the locker room. The concourse was blocked to keep everyone else out, so Matt and I and a few other people were just kind of standing around with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I noticed that Danny Nutt was standing nearby, and decided to go have a chat. You know me, Ms. Shy. One of the Mikes had told us that it was him who had suggested our amazing restaurant from Friday night, and I thought it only proper to say thanks. Poor Matt--he lives in constant dread of how my talkative nature will manifest itself.

This time, though, it payed off. We had an incredibly pleasant conversation with what has to be one of the nicest men I have ever met. I told Matt that though I love Houston as much as ever, he might be taking a backseat to Danny as my favorite brother.

We finally left the stadium to get in a little tailgating with our friends Kevin and Robin and their families. Then we had fabulous 5th row seats for the game. We caught a ride back to my grandmother's house from Kevin and Robin afterwards, and fell straight to bed. Hey, it's hard being a celebrity!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Rock Part 1--VIPs

This past weekend, the AMEN family had the time of our lives. We went to Little Rock, but this was no ordinary trip to the Rock. Because I work with several student athletes and their academic support advisors down in athletics, we were invited by two of the advisors, Mike R. and Mike B., to spend a weekend with the Hogs. What does that mean? Well, I'll tell you.

Friday at 11, Abby and I met the team buses on campus--4 buses altogether. We climbed aboard, after a few of the players made a fuss over Abby in her cheerleader getup. We rode to LR on the bus--very cushy ride. As soon as we got near town, we were joined by a police escort. We drove straight through to War Memorial Stadium, where Abby and I got to go in the locker room and all over the field. It was a PPO (prime photo opportunity):

She loved running around the field. After about 45 minutes, we got back on the bus and went to the team hotel, where Matt and I were given a room for the night. Then my aunt Linda picked us up and took us to my grandmother's house, where Matt and Ethan met up with us (Matt drove our car down so we could have our own vehicle). After getting the kids settled, Matt and I headed back up to the hotel to meet the Mikes and another staff member, and we went to dinner at Sonny Williams, a KILLER steakhouse in the River Market. We ate enough food for the entire football team, courtesy of the athletic department. It was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life--and I've had plenty to choose from. It was all we could do to waddle back to our room after dinner.

If you're thinking, man, they sure got a lot of perks just because she works with some athletes--you're right! I am wildly underpaid and overworked, and it costs me $500 a year just to park on campus to go to my job, so if I get a free hotel room and a bus ride every now and then, I deserve it! If you can believe it, you haven't heard the best part yet--that happened on Saturday. Story and photos coming soon!

Monday, October 8, 2007


What's that saying about old friends being as valuable as gold? Now, I don't like anything that implies I am aged, but I have to say that the old friend bit is true. Last Sunday, I was with my three best girlfriends for a very exciting occasion. Melanie, who has known me since I was 11 years old, been my closest friend and best supporter, college roommate and maid of honor, had a baby shower in LR in anticipation of the arrival of her first born, Rachel Elayne (LOVE the name!) Mandy, who has recently joined me as a citizen of NWA, and I drove down for the shower and Jenn (her abbreviated spelling, not mine) met us there.

It will surprise no one when I say that I think I make friends rather easily, and there are several women that I'm lucky enough to have close relationships with. However Mandy, Melanie and Jenn are on a different level altogether. There's just so much history, and they have seen me at my absolute worst--and vice versa, so don't even think about spilling on the comments, girls. I don't think I would be the same person without the three of them in my life.

Anyway, the shower was wonderful, and we got a great picture of the 4 of us. This is rare, since we are spread out over 2 states now and are usually too busy gabbing when we're together to actually take photographs. So here I am with my best friends. Aren't I lucky?

I have MUCH to tell about this past weekend--it was fabulous, and I have many pictures to back up the claim. However, there's something called work that they expect me to do around here, so it will have to wait until later.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Notes from a garage sale

I love a garage sale. Shopping at them, sure, but having one at my house is my idea of fun. I know that this is pure insanity to some people, and I begin to even question myself when I'm inevitably up at midnight the night before feverishly pricing things, but I LOVE it. You get to sit outside and accept money for your old stuff all day long. How great is that?

The garage sale I had this past Saturday was a doozy. I was selling most of the clothes the kids have outgrown, as well as a lot of my old clothes, bedding, kitchen stuff, housewares--just everything that we don't use anymore (or never used in the first place) (oh, you know you have that stuff too) (yes you do--what about the waffle maker?) We borrowed 8 tables and two huge hanging racks from the church to put it all on. Again I say, how do people who don't have a home church survive in this world? I was out front before 6 AM, fully set up a little after 7 AM, and the last customers left at, astonishingly enough, 4:45 PM. During this time, I was allowed a unique glimpse into some fascinating human behaviors. Here are some of my observations:

- There is NO way to determine if something will hold value to someone else or not. We sold 2 DVD players that were broken, and marked as such, very quickly. I had some crystal pieces that we never used for sale for next to nothing, and no one touched them.

- Men love to play with stuff. We had a Diaper Champ out that drew men like flies. A Diaper Champ, for those of you who are lucky enough not to know, is a tall, garbage-can like thing that holds used diapers in a relatively odor-proof manner. Here's what it looks like:

Not a single man all day failed to go over and fiddle with this thing. I think they couldn't figure out what it was. Once my friend Autumn, who was helping me, noticed the trend, we laughed more and more each time it happened.
- While we're talking about men, never let one tell you they don't like a garage sale. We had lots of guys come with their wives, and though they made sure everyone heard them complain about being out "garage sale-ing", they looked around and bought more than the ladies.
- Parents who do not watch their children at garage sales should be shot.
- Having a cute 4 year old sell donuts for a quarter each is a GREAT marketing tool. Abby sold out of 3 dozen and could have sold more. Next time we're going to have juice and cokes, and perhaps a small breakfast buffet.
- Some people are just cheap, and they should NOT be accomodated. I sold bibs for ten cents each. I had some like-new, really nice bibs, and some not-so-new, not-so-nice bibs. Inconsistent, maybe, but they were a DIME for heaven's sake! A woman snidely pointed out that some were stained, and wouldn't I take less? I thought briefly about charging her 7 cents each and making her do the math, but finally just politely but firmly told her no. 20 minutes later I sold the entire stack for the full 10 cents each.
- If your garage door is up, they will come. We started trying to pack up a little before 3, but people kept coming and looking through things. I wasn't about to tell them to leave if they were going to buy stuff, so I'd stop and wait. It was almost 5 before there was enough of a break for us to get everything in the garage and close the door. I was half afraid that someone would ring the bell to see if we had anything left.
- I have WAY too much stuff. When you have a garage sale, and you sell a lot of stuff and make a lot of money, but over half your stuff is still left, you have too much stuff. Since everything is priced and ready, I've decided to repeat this event in the spring. I figure, what do I have to lose? I'll probably make some more cash, and besides--the Diaper Champ didn't sell and it will be fun to watch the guys try to figure it out again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Zoo day

On Friday, we loaded up on our church bus, along with a bunch of other families, and headed to the Tulsa Zoo. We planned to leave at 8:30 AM, which in church trip time means we left right on time at 9:15. Ethan sat next to his betrothed, Avery, while Abby was in the back with the cool kids. Getting out of the bus and into the zoo proved a major ordeal, considering that we had, just between our family and our friends Marla and Chad, 4 adults, 4 children, a wagon, a double stroller, a cooler, two diaper bags and a camera. We made it in one piece, though, and it was off to the animals.

We looked around for maybe 20 minutes before deciding it was lunch time. After lunch, the kids HAD to play on the playground--because that's what you drive to the Tulsa Zoo to do, right?--then we finally got back to looking at the animals. Abby enjoyed most of them, especially a monkey she played with, but Ethan couldn't have cared less about any of it. The only animals he enjoyed were the flamingos. They make a really loud quack-ish sound, and he thought that was just great. He spent most of his time running around or lounging in the stroller sipping his water.

We finished the day with rides on the merry go round (I called it a carousel and Abby had no idea what I was talking about) and the train. By the time we boarded the bus to come home, we were all happily exhausted. Matt and I had as much fun as the kids, if not more. We're just so blessed to have the people we went with in our lives. Our church family means the world to us.

Here are some pictures of the big day. There are a ton, but I just couldn't narrow it down any more.

Abby and her best buddies (and fellow Foxy Loxies) Audrey and Carol Grace ready to roll:

Ethan and my future daughter in law, Avery, being entertained:

Marla and I, along with our kiddos, ready to enter the gates--finally:

Abby and Audrey, too cool for school. Both girls misplaced and rediscovered their sunglasses several times throughout the day. We thought we had lost Abby's for good until I found them in my pocket on the ride home.

This is my favorite picture of the day. E was playing in a big pirate ship, and this shot captures who my son is exactly:

Abby and Carol Grace teetering and tottering:

It's confirmed--my daughter is indeed a monkey:

Abby and her posse checking out a huge tortoise: (Did you know that the difference between a turtle and a tortoise is that a tortoise doesn't have teeth? Hmm.)

Ethan finally found something that can move faster than him:
Jealous that they're mine? I would be!
E doing his best elephant impersonation:
You gotta love a merry go round:
Abby squaring off with a monkey. You wanna race? Okay! On your mark, get set...:


Believe it or not, Abby took this picture of her dear old mom and dad. By this point, we were too tired to lift the camera ourselves:

AMEN goes to the zoo:

The littlest animals need their rest:

Check back soon--garage sale hilarity coming right up!

Monday, October 1, 2007


This weekend was one of those blocks of time that just pass in a large blur. Friday we went with other families from our church to the Tulsa Zoo. Saturday was my garage sale, and Sunday I went to Little Rock for Melanie's baby shower. Everything was wildly fun, and other than a couple of mostly minor injuries, the AMEN family made it through unscathed. I have pictures of almost everything, and much to say, so I'm going to do a separate post on each of the days. Hopefully I'll get to at least one tonight. Keep an eye out!