Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To Blind or not to Blind

We just returned from spending a few days in Mountain Home with my two brothers, their wives, and their combined 6 children. Add our brood, and that's 14 people. Sounds like a recipe for insanity, I know, but it was really a lot of fun.

Each night, after the kids went to bed, the 6 adults played a game. Two of the nights, it was spades. And therein lies the event about which I wish to write today. We had a disagreement of rather spectacular proportions, and I would like some outside opinions on the topic. This is about the game of spades, so if you don't know how to play you won't be able to have an opinion on this. Well, maybe that's not the case--I know some people whose ability to create an opinion on something is completely unrelated to whether or not they know anything about it.


Here's the situation. Since there were 3 couples, and spades is a 2-couple game, we devised a round robin method of play, in which each couple sat out 1 of every 3 hands. So the first round was couples 1 and 2, the next round was couples 2 and 3, and the third round was couples 3 and 1. It worked beautifully. We predetermined how many rounds we would play so that each team played an equal number, and at the end the team with the highest points would win. The individual scores wouldn't matter (so even if Team 1 beat Team 2 in all their games together, Team 2 could still win if they ended up with the most overall points).

Two rounds before the end of the game, Team 1 had about 600 points. Teams 2 and 3 each had about 300 points. They both expressed the wish to play the next hand "Blind Nil," which can only be done if a team is at least 200 points behind. Team 1 opposed this, arguing that while both teams were in fact more than 200 points behind Team 1, they were NOT 200 points behind everyone, and therefore were not eligible to play Blind Nil. A heated discussion ensued, One member of the group, and I will not say which member other than to say that it is his or her birthday today, threatened to walk away from the game if he or she did not get his or her way.

Is this post dorky enough for you yet? The thing is, there really isn't a real right or wrong answer--it's not like there's an official rule book for 3 teams playing round-robin spades. So to determine the best choice, you have to use an innate sense of logic and understanding about the purpose of allowing someone to go Blind Nil in the first place.

Now the post is DEFINITELY dorky enough.

Okay, I need some feedback now. Which of the following do you believe is the right decision?

A) Teams 2 and 3 should not have been allowed to go Blind Nil at all, regardless of who they were playing in the round, because they were not 200 points behind all other teams.

B) Teams 2 and 3 should ONLY have been allowed to go Blind Nil if they were playing a round with Team 1, even though individual round scores didn't matter.

C) Teams 2 and 3 should have been able to go Blind Nil at any point, regardless of the round, as long as they were 200 points behind the leading team.

I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks! Feel free to explain your rationale. Hopefully I have explained this neutrally so as not to have swayed my loyal fans. If I end up being in the minority with my opinion, I will gracefully concede. Probably.

PS. Happy Birthday, Mike!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ways I can tell, without looking at a calendar, that it's almost Christmas

***A disclaimer before you read this post: I LOVE Christmas. This list might make it seem like I'm all jaded and bah-humbug-y, but that's not at all the case. Still, no one reads this blog for sweetness and light, so once again smarminess reigns on AMENMom. ***

1. It is a physical miracle to make it in and out of the toy section of Target unscathed.

2. I have to wear sunglasses to drive down my street at night or risk being blinded by "exciting" light displays.

3. Radio channels that usually play songs revolving around girls' bottoms and "hooking up" are suddenly airing music about a baby born to a virgin.

4. My newspaper is 4 times thicker due to store ads.

5. Sonic's cups have clever Christmas sayings on them.

6. People in charge at my children's schools and our church actually arrange for them to get on a stage with an audience in front of them and sing.

7. Catalogs virtually explode out of my mailbox daily.

8. Our laundry doubles. (I don't know how exactly this is connected to Christmas, but it has definitely happened.)

9. Matt is laid up for a couple of days after he strains his back pulling all of our decorations out of the attic.

10. I draw a complete blank when anyone asks me what I want for Christmas, then just blurt out the first thing I can think of that sounds remotely normal. This usually results in me getting 42 bottles of body wash for Christmas.

How do you know it's almost Christmas?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

For the record, we have very nice dish towels.

Here's the deal. When we found out I was pregnant, we knew we needed more living space. That gave us two choices: make our house bigger or buy a bigger house. We made a valiant effort to go with choice A. We LOVE our house, our street, our location, everything. We just need a couple more rooms. Unfortunately, with our house and our lot it just wasn't feasible. Also unfortunately, this meant we had to do the thing I have always feared more than just about anything on earth, except maybe homeschooling: putting our house on the market.

Have you been to my house? If so, then you know that it's a mess. We are clutter fiends. We just have a lot of STUFF. You know? I don't know what other people do with all their stuff. They have to have it though! For example. Where do other people put kids' sunglasses, unused picture frames, the channel guide for their cable, and 30 boxes of crayons? I can tell you where we put that stuff. The bar, or the desk, or the dining room table. Not anymore, though! Now we will have strangers waltzing through our house, judging us on our toothbrushes and our kitchen towels and our choice of window treatments. Ugh! I loathe the thought.

First, though, we had to spend a frantic couple of weeks prepping the house, which for us meant filling to the brim a 10 foot square storage room with things we own but in no way, shape or form actually use or need. Seriously, I am selling 95% of it as soon as it becomes garage sale weather.

We are close to being done, but still not quite there yet. If we get any lookers this weekend, they are in for a startling surprise when they go in our garage, in that it resembles a room from that show "Hoarders" more than it does an actual garage. We haven't been able to park a car in there since 2004. I am not joking.

My sincere hope is that someone will read this blog and go, "Hey! I was just thinking that I need a new house and I love Nancy's. I'm going to call her and make an offer RIGHT NOW!" Barring that, my hope is that the people who come look at the house will find it charming and will be forgiving of the little clutter that will inevitably sneak back in over time. And by over time, I mean by Friday.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dance on

How embarrassing. It has been almost 3 weeks since I last blogged. To my public, I apologize. To all 6 of you. It has been a busy few weeks. Right on the heels of my birthday was Thanksgiving and Matt's birthday. We've got tons of stuff going on, blah blah blah.

Last week, I left on Tuesday for Little Rock unexpectedly. My great uncle Lonnie, my grandmother's brother, passed away Tuesday evening. I stayed until the funeral on Saturday.

As I was growing up I spent a lot of time with Uncle Lonnie and his marvelous wife, Aunt Joyce. They live out in the country, and every trip to their house was filled with tractor rides, walks to the pond, and nervewracking encounters with aggressive geese (don't laugh until you've had one chasing you). All of that paled in comparison, though, to the pure entertainment package that was Uncle Lonnie.

Before I was born, Uncle Lonnie was in a car accident that ultimately caused both of his legs to be amputated and created a lifetime of medical issues for him. Most people would see this as a mountain-sized burden. Uncle Lonnie saw it as an opportunity to amuse and/or terrify people. I would go as a child to see him in the hospital after various surgeries on his legs, and he would spend his entire visit trying to convince me that if I tickled the air where his feet were supposed to be he would really feel it. Popping his legs off in front of unsuspecting visitors was one of his favorite pasttimes. I remember the first time he did it for Abby--while she was recovering in the fetal position I laughed until I cried with my uncle.

I am crazily blessed to have a huge extended family that I 1)actually like and 2) am close to. The days before and of Uncle Lonnie's funeral were a wonderful time of visiting, joking and much, much laughing. We are not a quiet bunch. In a group of cool people, Uncle Lonnie always stood out as one of the coolest, and I will miss him often. His and Aunt Joyce's 52 year marriage was one of a handful that, when we got married, Matt and I decided we want ours to look like 50 years from now. It is a lofty goal, let me assure you. No one came within 20 feet of them without knowing they were crazy in love.

Uncle Lonnie's funeral was lovely. Matt and I decided, for multiple reasons, that we wanted Abby to go. She loved my uncle, and I was worried that she couldn't handle it. She was a champ, though, and even would pat my back and tell me it was going to be okay when the emotion and pregnancy hormones collided and threated to turn me into a sobbing mess on the church floor a few times. Don't even get me started on the incredible military burial, one of which I have never witnessed in person before and is enough to make me weep just thinking about it.

I know that my uncle is in heaven, and I am sure that Uncle Lonnie is providing some serious entertainment up there. Abby asked me if he had his whole body back and was dancing with Jesus using his real legs. I told her there was no doubt.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It happens every year

It's my birthday today.

Woo hoo!

Yeah, that doesn't really work. I remember when I was a kid, I thought that adults were A) lying or B) really boring people when they said birthdays weren't a big deal to them any more. Well, call me boring, because they just don't matter as much as they used to. Don't get me wrong--I love the 7AM phone calls and 20,000 Facebook birthday wishes as much as the next gal. But when I was younger, the entire day seemed to shimmer with excitement. I can go entire stretches of time now on my brithday without even remembering that it is, in fact, my birthday. Birthdays used to be celebrated by staying up late. Now I celebrate by sleeping in late.

I am not one of those people who does not want to admit her age. Maybe I will be some day, but I somehow doubt it. I turned 33 today. For some reason, this has resonated with me on several levels.

33. Thirty three. As close to a third of 100 as you can get. Over halfway to Social Security (if it's still around in 2041). Sirty sree if you talk like Ethan.

The age Jesus was when he was betrayed by one of his best friends, tortured and killed.


Thirty two was good to me. Thirty three is bound to be a wild ride--I'll have offspring #3, send #1 to second grade and #2 into pre-K, and have to go from saying the year beginning with "two thousand" to beginning with "twenty." BIG stuff, people. I'm not worried, though. I'm sure God will help me survive through this year and beyond--if for no other reason than to see what I can come up with to write about when I turn 40.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wild things

A couple of weeks ago, Abby and I went down to Little Rock to help my aunt Linda throw my grandmother a Ladies' Lunch. I know, sounds wild, right?

It was actually quite a lot of fun. I got the idea from talking with my grandmother and hearing how much she missed just hanging out with her friends, laughing and talking and making fun of other people (she didn't admit to that, but we all know it's true). Many of her friends can't drive any more, or don't feel up to lots of outings. I knew that all of them would enjoy a chance to get together.

I was right. We had 9 ladies total--it should have been 10, but my sweet Aunt Joyce had to stay home at the last minute to care for my crazy Uncle Lonnie (he's a trip, and worthy of his own post someday). My Aunt Phyllis even drove in from Birmingham and surprised my grandmother. Once everyone got there, there was not a moment of silence. These chicks have got a lot to say. Since I grew up spending so much time with all of them, you don't have to look much further than that party to see where I got all the fun parts of my personality. Sassiness, brassiness, sarcasm, and a near-violent love of football were all borne in me by these women. Thank goodness! Someone to blame :)

Here are some pictures from the shindig:

My grandmother upon my Aunt Phyllis' surprise arrival. The surprise element did not disappoint.

Eating lunch. Abby was the main server, and she and the ladies thought that was grand.

The group. If there's a cooler bunch of broads on the planet, I don't think I could handle them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

So glad we could have this time together

It's OVER. I did my expectant mother duty and got my flu shots today. Now my mother, aunt and nurse-friends can quit worrying that I will drop dead on the street. I can quit trying to care about germs, too.

Not that this peace didn't come at a price. I went to the mass flu clinic at the Jones Center today. Along with about 6,000 of my neighbors. I do not exaggerate. I did a little crowd-math while I was waiting, and I think I was around the 1,800-2,000 mark, with way more behind me than in front of me. I waited in line for 2 hours to get my shots, which took 30 seconds. During this time, I was afforded the opportunity to stand near lots of "interesting" people, who I have come to see as walking blog fodder.

There was the girl behind me who was furious that pregnant women didn't have a VIP line and that made racist statements the entire time, which were apparently acceptable because she "has a Hispanic for a boyfriend." There was the man who belched every 5 minutes, and the mother who frequently told her children not to dare act like the other children in line "whose parents obviously don't care if they behave or not." There were plenty of such children, but I had more than my usual amount of sympathy for the parents, as their children were being forced to wait in a long line--not for a carnival ride or candy, but to get a SHOT. Let 'em run around a little if it helps.

The wonderful workers were very efficient. They plopped me down and descended on either side. The seasonal shot wasn't too bad, but the H1N1 shot HURT. And it STILL hurts. Yes, I am whiny. It's my prerogative. At least I didn't scream and cry like most of the other recipients. Granted, they were pre-schoolers, but whatever. Pain is pain.

So it's over. I have whatever is in a flu shot (eggs? swine saliva?) floating around in my system, Scooby Doo Halloween band-aids on both arms, and a new appreciation for people who stand in line with their mouths shut.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I tried.

Here's my confession. I am not a germaphobe. Never have been. I'm not sure why, but I just don't have any space in my brain taken up with fears of what's lurking on the bathroom counter or the bottom of my shoe or the shopping cart handle. I understand--sort of--why people are concerned about such things, but I'm just not wired that way. And amazingly, I've lived my life without any major catastrophes resulting from this lack of diligence. I've never had the flu (or a flu shot for that matter, but that's a discussion for another day, so lecture me later). I rarely get colds. For a long time, I worked on a college campus, where viruses go to speed date, and never caught anything. I would say I'm sick less than the average person. Wouldn't that point to germaphobia being a little...pointless?

Still. Since I'm pregnant, and there's all this hysteria about the flu and H1N1, and apparently pregnant women are getting much sicker than other people when they get it, I decided this week to try to make an effort to Avoid Exposure to Germs. I bought some hand sanitizer (the new foaming kind, which is heaven sent because the other kind is just plain NASTY)(though it still makes me nervous to have it because have you seen the stories about kids that eat it and get drunk? That has Ethan written all over it.) I promised myself that I would pay attention to who and what I touch. I would have the kids wash their hands as soon as they get home, before engaging in any acts of affection. Et cetera.

It didn't work. For a lot of reasons.

1. When I go pick Ethan up at school, he catches sight of me and runs full force at me, yelling "Mommy! Mommy!" Am I really going to hold out my hand sanitizer like a weapon and demand that he de-germ before I get a hug?

2. Germs stay on stuff for, like, 2 days. Short of wearing antibacterial gloves and a body suit, there's no way I can avoid them. And they're everywhere--I have a first grader and a pre-schooler bringing them home by the truckload every day.

3. I work with the elementary kids at church on Wednesday nights, and I was determined to at least have some boundaries there. Until they were playing Simon Says and Simon told them to all go hug Mrs. Nancy. What was I going to do, run screaming from the gym chased by hoardes of Simon-obeying germ transporters?

4, I just don't have the time. When I'm walking in to Wal Mart, I'm not just walking in to Wal Mart. I'm answering my cell phone (it's usually my mother), grabbing Ethan out of the path of an oncoming truck, stopping my shopping list from blowing away with my foot, telling Abby to quit performing her Hannah Montana impersonation in the doorway and racing to get the last "cool car" cart for the kids before the lady next to me gets there. By the time I remember that the last person to be holding the cart handle could have been there to get her Tamiflu from the pharmacy, I've got my hands already firmly planted in her germ residue.

So I am giving up. If I get sick, I get sick. C'est la vie. Germs, you win. I don't have the time or energy to avoid you. Just know, though, that if you mess with me you mess with my kids, and Ethan is not afraid to drink up some Germ X to show you who's boss.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wake me up in November

Blah. That is exactly how I feel. Blah.

I'm a little over 8 weeks pregnant now. So far, I have avoided serious nausea (mainly by eating at least once an hour) (which you know is a sacrifice, but anything for the baby) and most of the other unpleasant symptoms that can attack a newly pregnant woman. However, I have one in spades: being tired.

If you've ever been pregnant, you probably know what I"m talking about. This is not an I've-been-up-15-hours-and-need-to-go-to-bed tired. This is a for-no-good-reason-my-bones-are-exhausted-and-I-couldn't-move-if-the-house-was-on-fire tired. While Matt was out of town last week, there were times that I would be laying on the couch and something horrible would come on tv. The remote would reveal itself to be across the room, and I would debate for 20 minutes whether or not to yell until one of the kids woke up and came out of their room to get them to hand it to me as opposed to moving the 10 feet necessary to retrieve it and come back. Usually the internal debate would be ended because I'd fall asleep. Forget about the laundry. it's been having a block party in the hampers for days.

I know I'm just a few weeks from coming out of the haze. Then I'll go into that wondrous phase of pregnancy where I have insane amounts of energy and my stomach grows roughly an inch a day. I am ready. Until then, just pass me a Snickers and a pillow. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We're not gonna take it!

Well I sure started something.

A couple of days ago, I posted the following as my status update on Facebook:

"FYI, especially does not have an X in it. You know who you are."

Anyone who knows me knows that this kind of stuff flies all over me, and I am teased frequently for my low tolerance of grammatical, spelling and speech errors.

Apparently I'm not the only one. Other than when I posted about taking Abby to the ER and that I'm pregnant, no other Facebook update of mine has ever gotten more comments. People UNLOADED. Irregardless, supposably, Wal Marts, nucular. The list kept growing. 24 comments and counting so far.

Wow, people have some serious verbal bones to pick. I feel their pain, I really do.

So! Here's your chance. What saying, spelling or wording drives you bananas? Is it when people leave out the R in library? Or add an X to escape? How about when people brazenly misspell to, too and two or use apostrophes like they're accessories? Rant all you like.

Here's one more of mine to get you started. It really annoys me when people use "cute" nicknames for business by distorting the name. Examples: Mickey D's, Jacque Pennay's, Tarjhay. WHY? WHY do people do this?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stream of...something

The following is a chronological list of the thoughts I had in about a 30 second period yesterday. I'd like to say the pregnancy is making me strange, but let's face it. It was a pre-existing condition.

1. By the time this third child is finished with the 5th grade, I will have had one or more children in elementary school for 13 consecutive years.

2. They should rename that school after me.

3. When this one goes to Kindergarten, Abby will be in SEVENTH grade.

4. If I haven't killed her sure-to-be-a-smart-mouthed teenager self yet.

5. HOW do people homeschool? HOW?

6. I'm hungry.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Well. I'm pregnant.

You probably already knew that. But just in case you didn't, now you do! I haven't blogged in some time, because I've discovered that when I have something BIG to write about but I have to wait, I can't seem to make myself blog about something else like there's nothing going on--no impending BIG thing. But now I've told everyone that I know or can think of to tell, including the woman eyeing me in the buffet line while I heaped my plate at my friend's wedding this weekend (the baby NEEDED that artichoke dip). So now I'm free to blog!

Based on the reactions I've gotten from a majority of the people I've told, I feel I need to clear a few things up about baby #3:

1. It was, in fact, planned. We wanted another child. Yes, we have met Ethan. We still wanted another one.

2. This will be our last. I have had 2 c-sections. Doctors recommend a max of 3. I am not a rebel.

3. The baby is due in mid-May. Upside: the kids will be in school for the duration of my pregnancy. Downside: two weeks after the baby is born they'll be home for the summer. We're looking for residential summer camps in New England now.

4. I feel fine so far. Really tired and hungry every 10 minutes but otherwise fine. I had mild pregnancies with A&E, so here's hoping the trend continues.

5. We are fully aware that baby #3 messes up the whole AMEN acronym. It is being diligently and carefully considered.

6. Abby is conditinally thrilled that we are having a baby. The condition is that it be a girl. If it's a boy, she wants to give it away. Her girl name choice right now is Flower.

7. Ethan could not care less that we are having a baby. This will, I suspect, change when it arrives.

Did I answer all the burning questions? I assume you've spent every waking moment since discovering the news wondering these things. And don't even pretend that since you read #5 you haven't been trying to come up with a way to add a new letter in to AMEN and come up with a new and more clever word. It's okay. No one can help themselves.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Elvis said to tell you all hello

Ahhh, Vegas.

I counted on the way home, and this was my 7th trip out to that oasis in the desert. I know, I probably don't seem the Vegas type. Let me tell you, though, I don't think there's a city I love more in the world. It's such a...spectacle. There is so much to see, and do, and eat.

Matt and I have been together 4 times, so we've both very hip on the happenings of Vegas. Okay, that's completely untrue, but we have seen most of the large hotels and have gotten over being tourists for the most part. The two highlights of our trip, by far, were going to Red Rock Canyon and the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues.

We had been to Red Rock once before, on our second trip out there. It's stunningly beautiful, and absurdly fun to scramble over giant rocks. Below is an overabundance of photos of our day there this time.

The Gospel Brunch was a fantastic stroke of luck--I ran across an ad for it when we first got there, and immediately procured tickets. How could you NOT want to spend your Sunday morning going to a gospel show (with an all you can eat Southern buffet) in Las Vegas? Beats me. We had the time. of. our lives. We were shouting and waving and dancing with everyone else, and we were in the mild group, let me assure you. We even got to go up on stage since it was our anniversary (50 other people went up too, but whatever. It was one big party.) I have several video clups from this, but they are loud and not great quality, so I won't mess with putting them on here.

Many of you may be wondering, does Nancy gamble when she goes to Las Vegas? The answer is, of course, no. I just buy these little round plastic discs and play games with them.

Enjoy the pictures!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

No time

For the last 4 days I've had intentions of sitting down and posting about the army of worm corpses that have appeared on our driveway (I even took pictures of the nasty things), but time has slipped away from me. And now, I am walking out the door in 2 minutes to jet off to Vegas with Matt to celebrate our 10 year anniversary the way any superhip parents of 2 do--we're going to sleep a LOT and eat even more.

Don't you wish you had this life?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What? Cool people LOVE me!

I've been writing this blog for over 2 1/2 years, and I hold no delusions that it's read by a great number of people. Most of my readers are either related to me or see me often enough that they'd hear most of the stories in person, so reading here just saves them the time. Every once in a while, though, I find out that someone's reading that I don't know very well, or even at all. This thrills me to pieces--it feeds my ego and my love of knowing anyone new all at once.

Some time ago, in the last year or so, I got a comment on my blog from someone named Cameron (some of my friends who read the blog even asked me who he was, since it was apparently inconceivable that anyone besides them would read what I wrote.)(Come to think of it, I'm still not entirely sure how Cameron found this thing. Cameron?). I clicked on his name to check out his blog, and discovered he's a college student from Bentonville and quite the clever writer. We continued to read each other's blogs regularly. This is how I came to know that he's a musician and audiovisual genius, that he has an adorable girlfriend named Aubrey that he regularly raves about (SMART boy) and that he's in general a cool guy. That's why, when I needed someone to do video for a wedding I have coming up, he popped right into my mind. I sent him a message, and he ended up getting hired. Then when I needed to find the perfect piece of photography equipment last week, I knew he'd be just the person to ask.

It was funny actually talking, because we'd never met but knew all sorts of stuff about each other. This guy who I had never seen face to face knew that I have a drama queen daughter and a wild child son and a sweet, if blog-shy, husband. He knew about our summer vacations and saw our back to school pictures. I know that he's an avid Mac user and what classes he took last semester and where his girlfriend worked this summer. It may seem strange, but in this case I got wedding and photography help and he got a video job, so it was pretty handy.

Then last night, Matt and I went to Van Buren with Chad and Marla to see the concert of one of my favorite singers, Travis Cottrell**. I knew that Cameron was also a fan, and at some point read on his blog that he actually knew Travis. Cameron was at the concert too, and afterwards Matt and I got to meet him. It was so fun! And a little surreal, I suppose. We recognized each other right away (neither of us is exactly camera shy or hesitant about putting our pictures on our blogs). Matt is thrilled that Cameron is willing to talk to me for 30 minutes about the finer points of choosing the perfect auxiliary camera flash, so he was very eager to shake hands. We chatted for a few minutes, and then Cameron introduced us to Travis. I decided that meeting both of them at the same time was worth visually memorializing, so I made Matt take a picture of us (a bigger deal than you might think, since taking a picture with people you don't know is not exactly Matt's thing). Travis is on the left, Cameron on the right. (That's me in the middle).

Pretty fun, right? Thanks to this blog, I now have a hip college student with lots of helpful knowledge for a friend. And look at what Cameron got out of the deal! He's now pals with a wordy, over-enthusiastic thirty-something stay at home mom. Lucky, lucky boy.

**The concert was ridiculous. I'm not kidding. Incredible. Insanely fantastic.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Too cool for school, apparently

You know that saying, "Youth is wasted on the young"? I think the same is true of the first day of school. Every adult (except maybe teachers) associate the first day of school with pure excitement. New supplies, new friends, a new teacher, it's all so cool! Kids are not quite so impressed. It's a pity.

I'd love to tell you that I have a fantastic story about Abby's first day of first grade. In fact, it was completely normal and low key in every way. We got ready, went to school, delivered her to her classroom, and...that was that. I picked her up some hours later. I asked how it was. She said good. Case closed.

I did manage to get some pictures of Miss Whatever before we left for the morning:

Note the horseshoe earrings. Her school's mascot is a stallion, and horsehoes are everywhere.

This photo might lead you to believe that my children can be in physical contact with each other without one of them being injured. This is not true.

Her idea of an appropriate first day of school photograph.

At her big kid desk.

Yawning. Two minutes in to her first day of school. Just another day for her. No big whoop. What's for lunch? Ho hum.

Well, hopefully things will get more interesting as the year progresses. Otherwise, I'll be forced to blog about random people that annoy me. Heaven knows there's no shortage there.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ice cream, I scream

Today was a little much. Ethan started pre-school at the place Abby went for 2 years. We loved it then, and I love it now. He zipped right in and started playing--no separation anxiety for that kid. I think it will be really good for him. It will also be interesting, since they provide lunch and it's a set menu that reaches far beyond the three foods that Ethan will currently consume.

Most of the rest of the day was consumed by Abby's school's Ice Cream Social, where the class lists are revealed and kids get to meet their teachers and see their classrooms. I had to wear both my mom-of-a-first-grader hat and my PTA-volunteer hat. I raced around setting everything up, mixing gallons upon gallons of lemonade and making copies of every sign up sheet known to man. Then I went with Abby to meet her teacher (who is lovely and will be wonderful, I have no doubt). I spent the rest of the time on ice cream duty. This is what I would like to spend the rest of this entry talking about.

This year, PTA bought ice cream novelties from Yarnell's and rented one of their freezers to hold them all. We got 4 kinds--fudge bars, ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, and freedom pops. (Yes, there is a point to me telling you this.) Since we only had one freezer, we put several of each variety out on a table and just replenished the table as needed. That way, everyone could see all the choices and select their own.

This should NEVER have been my job. I have way too little tolerance for schmucks, and they came to the ice cream table in droves. I had at least 10 people ignore the table and point to the fancy treat painted on the side of the freezer, saying they'd "take one of those." Ummm, yeah, this is NOT Baskin Robbins. And the PTA isn't exactly rolling in the dough. I had one mother ask me if there was a fat free option. In fact, there is--it's called DON'T EAT ICE CREAM. Kids would stand at the table foreeeevvvveeer, picking up a fudge bar, almost opening it, then throwing it back and grabbing a sandwich. Over and over. People would say things like, "Don't you have any Nutty Buddies?" or "Oh, I didn't want a blue--do you have any more reds?" People. This is FREE. When Abby was in pre-school, she learned a valuable phrase--you get what you get and you don't throw a fit. It almost came out of my mouth more than once.

There were, of course, many more highly pleasant people than annoying ones. I saw lots of familiar faces, including that of Abby's "boyfriend" who she claims will be her partner on Dancing With The Stars when they are 15. I can hardly wait. I told her that I'd even throw them a big party when they won--but she can forget about serving ice cream.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

And I thought Dora was just an annoying kid with a talking monkey.

If you don't have kids, or if you're one of those parents who don't let your kids watch tv because it's "bad for them" or you prefer to "actually parent" your children, then perhaps you have not heard of Noggin. Noggin is a heaven-sent 24 hour television station geared exclusively towards pre-schoolers. Dora and Diego are Noggin's Queen and King, but there are lots of other great shows that are completely adored by the 5-and-under set.

My life would be horrible without Noggin. I am grateful for it, and I am pleased that virtually all of the shows have some educational component. For example, when Dora is going on one of her adventures she speaks in English but sprinkles in occasional Spanish. She also teaches numbers, letters, colors, shapes--all that good pre-school stuff.

Yes, the learning that happens while watching Noggin is a nice little bonus. The Noggin execs apparently think it's the best thing to ever happen to children. Either that or they are trying to ease the guilt of parents everywhere who plop their kids in front of the tv--at least if they're watching Noggin, they're learning something! Noggin's motto is, "It's like pre-school on TV!" They have a commercial where "real parents" rave about how their 2 year olds are bilingual, recognize octagons, can spell 35 words and count to 250, all thanks to Noggin. Really? It's a bit much.

I'm saving the best for last, though. At the beginning of each show, a still screen comes up with a "learning objectives" statement on it, while a very inteliigent sounding woman recited the information.

It may sound reasonable, but let me give you an example. This is the statement for Wow!Wow! Wubbzy! It's one of E's favorite shows, and it is about a yellow creature with a long tail who runs around and plays with other creatures.

"Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! enhances pre-schoolers' understanding of inter- and intra-personal dynamics, as well as their cognitive and problem-solving skills."

Huh! Who knew?

Other things children gain from Noggin shows are "metacognition*," "kinesthetic awareness" "deductive reasoning skills" and "awareness of diversity."

I am not making this up. I am not that creative.

I always wonder if any parents actually buy that junk. If they go, "You know, Tommy, your metacognition skills just aren't what they should be. To the living room with you--it's time for some Blue's Clues!"

I can tell you what my son takes away from those shows. He watches the entire episode, listening carefully for the most annoying line of dialogue. Then he yells it at the top of his lungs for three days.

I suppose Noggin would tell me he's improving his memorizational and recitational skills, as well as improving his vocal projection abilities. Lucky, lucky me.

*Post a comment if you actually know what metacognition is--WITHOUT looking it up.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My house is for the birds

For the past several years, we have had a bird or birds build a nest in the little nest-sized alcove in our entryway. It's about 2 feet in front of our front door and 8 feet up. This seems like a fairly minor fact in the grand scheme of things, but it's actually consumed a lot more of my time than I anticipated. The kids know this happens, so they are always watching to see what's going on. This makes it impossible for Matt and I to "relocate" the bird family. I say that like we would ever get around to doing it even if we could. Therefore, we have come to accept them as a part of life.

Sharing our home with Tweety and Co. has its advantages and disadvantages.

Kids learn valuable science lessons about the birth and growth of birds.

Kids occasionally try to "help" baby birds by "tossing" things into their nest.

It makes a nice topic of conversation with guests.

If they make it in our house after being attacked by the mama bird, who does NOT like intruders when the babies are small. (We have had more than one neighborhood kid try to come over to play, only to have them run screaming from the porch when mama started her routine. She can be kind of scary.) (Not that is is necessarily a bad thing--I'm not so crazy about some of those kids!) (And besides, anyone can have a guard dog--we have a guard bird.)(Though sometimes she can get a little overly dramatic--once I was unloading groceries and she got some friends. I think they were trying for an Alfred Hitchcock moment.)(I was unimpressed. My kids are over it too--when she starts messing with them, they both just yell, "I'm not trying to take your babies, bird!")

The baby birds are SO cute. They have pitifully scrawny necks and squawky little chirps, and every time we turn on the porch light they all poke their heads out as far as they can and chirp up a storm. It's great fun. If you ever drive by our house and see the front porch light strobing, don't be alarmed. We're just playing with the birds.

Poop. Lots and lots and LOTS of poop. It's pretty much a blanket over our whole walkway. And until the birds finally leave, there's no point in cleaning it. I live in constant fear that Ethan is going to smear it on his sister, eat it, or bury my cell phone in it. It's only a matter of time.

So for now, we live in delicate balance with the birds. I'm going to have to keep an eye on that mama bird, though. Pretty soon she's going to start popping the children upside the head when she gets mad at them, and that role has already been filled, thank you very much.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Usually when I haven't posted in a while, it's because there's so much going on that I just don't have time to do it. The past few days, the opposite has been true. After Abby got well we took a quick trip to Branson, and since we got back on Thursday, nothing has been going on. Nnnnooooooootthhhhhiiiiiinnnngggg. I went to a baby shower yesterday and church today, which got me out of the house for a total of about 6 hours out of the last 60 or so.

While I've been home with the kids and nnnnoooootttthhhhiiinnnggg has been going on, I've had this weird Twilight Zone-ish thing going on. It's like I'm living someone else's life for lack of something better to do. There are never dishes in the sink. When a load of clothes finishes washing, they are immediately put into the dryer. And then? They are PUT AWAY. The SAME day. I have always had this twisted sense of pride over the amount of clutter in my living room, as if it proved that my life was far too exciting to spend any time cleaning. Well. I caught myself de-cluttering THREE times today. I even cleaned out. My. JUNK drawer. Who have I become?!

Even with all this bizarre activity, I've still had plenty of time to do mom-ish stuff. I've played Sorry and Candy Land and Memory a gajillion times and watched every episode of Hannah Montana ever made. I've made more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than I care to admit in writing. I've read books and done puzzles and even doled out money for the stupid ice cream truck that stalks our house. My children are not neglected.

In the spirit of full disclosure, though, I suppose I must admit I have had a little down time too. I have played Spider Solitaire on my computer so many times that the game opens when it hears me sitting down. Any friends who are unfortunate enough to call me get treated (trapped) to a 45 minute conversation about anything I can talk about to keep from hanging up. I also check Facebook about every 10 minutes. I keep thinking I should post a status update, but every time it would be: " doing the same thing she was doing 10 minutes ago. And an hour ago. And yesterday."

I know, I know, everyone would kill for a few days with nothing going on, and when school starts and both kids are in soccer and I am wading like a madwoman through the clutter in my living room I'll hate myself for not appreciating this more. Whatever. I can't think about that now. I have an important meeting with some laundry.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Oh, y'all. Y'all.

Clearly, I am being tested. Having Abby bust her head open less than 24 hours before Matt left the country was nervewracking, but I handled it and managed to regain my calm. I was getting into the groove of single parenthood, albeit temporary. I even did laundry. Then, out of nowhere, Abby got sick. Bizarre, 105 degree fever out of nowhere sick. Throw up on my bed at 3 AM sick. Needs constant attention that I don't have to give when there is also a manic 3 year old in the house sick. Oy.

After a trip to the doctor to see if she has some sort of infection (and to prove to my mother that Abby does not, in fact, have swine flu) things improved, but slowly. My mom thankfully reminded me that I have another child and made sure he got to Mother's Day Out (and picked him up, and got Abby's medicine. THANK you mom!). Now we're almost back to normal. I am torn between relief and fear over what will strike next. I know that I can't let fear rule my life, so I'm just going to take a deep breath and a sip of my Sonic Diet Dr. Pepper and get on with it.

PS. Is it awful that when Abby threw up on my bed at 3 AM, my first thought was, "Great--now I'm not caught up on laundry any more!"?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hope you have a few minutes

When we were in Alabama, Ann asked Abby a question about what she likes to do when she goes to the beach. I told her that the kids had never been to the beach before, and she promptly looked up the child abuse hotline number to turn me in for neglect.

In truth, I wasn’t sure how much the kids were going to like the beach. Sure, it looks fun and exciting. But in reality, sand gets all up on (and in) you and there are creatures that can hurt you floating around in the water. The water which, by the way, comes right up and splashes you when you didn’t do anything to it at all. I was prepared for us to spend 10 minutes there and then the rest of the week at the safe, clean pool. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Ethan found his own personal heaven in the sand—the world’s largest mess, and he was allowed to make it bigger! Abby loved the sand and the water, and spent most of her time on a mission to collect seashells. They were beach bums.

As much fun as we had at the beach, we did lots of other great stuff too. Our house was in a neighborhood that had a 12,000 square foot pool. It was amazing, and we went there almost every day. There were also some fun fountains for the kids to play in. Panama City Beach was just a few minutes’ drive away. They have a really great complex called Pier Park that’s like a mall and amusement park rolled into one. We explored some of the little beach towns around ours. My sister-in-law’s parents live in Pensacola, and they were crazy kind enough to come down one afternoon and watch ALL EIGHT kids so the 6 of us could go to dinner. It was heavenly.

On Wednesday, Matt, Patty and I got to go parasailing. It was FAN.TAS.TIC. I would love to take credit for being adventurous, but it’s seriously easier to do that riding a bike. You sit on the boat. They strap you in to the little seat-harness. You’re gently lifted (far far FAR) into the air. You come back down. You land gently onto the boat. You’re unstrapped. Cake. Since you go 2 at a time and there were 3 of us, guess who got to go twice? ME! Abby doesn’t weigh enough, but the second she does I’m taking her.

Before I started writing this post, I went through the pictures and picked the ones to include. There are a LOT. I love Blogger, but one of the things I do NOT love about it is that its picture uploading process is pretty messed up. You can only do 5 at a time, and they come in a really jumbled order and are a huge pain to move around. I say all that for two reasons: 1) So that you will be eternally grateful for the effort I made to show you my vacation pictures, and 2) So I can justify the fact that I am going to leave them in the random order that they’re downloaded.

So, in really and truly NO particular order, here are the visual highlights of our vacation:

Can you tell I liked parasailing?

Abby's seashell collection:
My too-stinkin-cute niece Natalie:

There was not a single inch of this child not covered in sand. He looked like I had dipped him in cinnamon and sugar.

Required waves picture:

Me and my two great SILs, Siobhan and Patty. My brothers did well for themselves.

Abby's cute, albeit odd, seashell-hunting stance:

The White-And-Khakis. Every day about half an hour before dusk, look at any walkway to a beach and you will see droves of these people heading to get portraits taken. I bet at least half the people who read this (that would be what, 3?) have a picture like this at home. You know who you are:

One evening's bounty:

You throw sand into the water. Then you do it again. And again. And again.

Michael and sweet baby Claire:

Dang, my girl is pretty.

Gorgeous, really.

She even has pretty toes. Especially up next to mine.

Our walkway.

Drew and Josh (they're twins) were fascinated by Ethan's Leapster playing. That Leapster, by the way, was the single thread to sanity on our trip home.

No caption necessary.

Required beach photo:

Aaand another one:

Happiness at the pool:

Those fountains feel mighty strange on your hind end I'm told:

Ethan went the more traditional route of running through them:

Schnuggled with the kids after swimming:

Well. How do I explain this one? Natalie brought a lot of Barbies with her. Abby liked to set them up in "dance scenes." Despite the angle of the photo, I can personally assure you that Barbie #3 is NOT inappropriately touching Barbie #2. It was totally innocent.

Josh and Drew helping with Claire. All the kids made it their personal mission to entertain her.
Jacob, Patty, Michael, Siobhan, me and Matt at dinner.
I had to:
Required beach scene:
After parasailing. The boat ride was rougher than the sailing.
This is how FAR we were from the boat. And the water. And anything but the air.
I took my camera up, of course. So glad I did!

Drew feeding Josh either a cracker or some sand. I made it my mission the entire week to get Drew and Josh to say something, anything, to me besides "No." It was their answer to me for everything, even "Hello!" Josh cracked first--I told Drew he lost his shot at being my favorite twin.
This is my favorite picture, so I'm glad it came last. Our first time to the beach, I ran ahead and got into the water. I turned around and snapped a picture right as the kids stepped into the ocean for the first time (well, it actually came up to meet them). Couldn't have asked for a better reaction.
This concludes the presentation of the 2009 AMEN family vacation photos. Thank you for joining us. Now I have to figure out something else to blog about.

PS. Would it kill you to post a comment? Just asking!