Important blog announcement!

Ha! That's sort of overstating things. It makes me say in my head "My...don't we think highly of ourselves?"

This place will always be my bloggy first love, but for now, I'm not sure when I'll be back. Maybe I'll post here on occasion, maybe this is it. I don't know.

Meanwhile, I'll be hanging out at my new digs: sarahs32flavors. If you were relieved when you thought it was over, just don't click on that link. But I'd sure love to have you over at the new place!


One year ago today...

It started out like any other school morning. No, that's not true at all.

One year ago today I found out my panic over having my water break while sleeping was completely justified. I found out it was very good I had my stylist trim my bangs the week before, because I wasn't going to make it to my hair appointment. I walked Natalie into school. After my water had broken. I told the girls that I thought I'd be having the baby that day, because some of the things that happen when you're going to have a baby were happening. I will never forget Ella's response, "Oh. Because we had the baby shower?" Yes. EXACTLY.

I headed over to the clinic because I had an appointment, and that's where my doctor was. I scared the poor receptionist to death. "I know I'm very early for my appointment, but the hospital told me to go ahead and come in since I'm pretty sure my water broke." Poor, poor receptionist. She was far more flustered than I was. I had to calm her down.

My doctor confirmed we'd be having a baby that day. Despite the fact that I had a due date of September 26, or October 2, depending on what you liked to pay attention to (Zoey measured much smaller than her actual age on the ultrasounds - still does). So we headed to the hospital. Well, we had two cars at the clinic, so I drove home first. Alone. In labor. I don't know what I was thinking, except that I was fine.

For a girl who seemed ready to show up, she sort of took her sweet time after that. My water had broken at 6:30 am, and she wasn't born until 7:44 pm. My longest labor of the 3. Still shorter than many people's so I shouldn't complain. Except for the part where I essentially gave birth on no drugs, because the second shot of nubane didn't work.

My sweet girl was born! Poor baby was so sleepy. And why shouldn't she have been? It is very hard work to be born. Plus, she made it even more of a challenge by wiggling around all day. I knew contractions were coming when she started kicking - it's not particularly pleasant that way. But here she was and she was beautiful! And nameless. We tried a few out on her, but didn't settle it until the next morning.

I think in the end we chose well. Zoey means "life" or "lively." And I'll tell you what, Tiny Girlfriend likes to push the envelope. She does everything when SHE feels like it. Sleeping, eating, napping - there is no scheduling this child. But when she has felt like it, she's an awesome sleeper, a good eater, and a pro napper. And these days she feels like it more often than not.

And oh - those sweet smiles, that belly laugh...I'm not sure which of the four of us is more in love with her.

Happy birthday, sweet girl.


In which I declare my eternal love for Facebook

Wow. Let's just pretend I intentionally took a month+ off.

Recently I've had a few Facebook friends either bid the FB world goodbye or drastically reduce their friend lists. I get it. I do. I mean, let's not pretend that Facebook isn't a colossal time suck. Even I know that. And I've got "friends" on Facebook that I've never met in real life. Friend of a friend of a friend. I can see wanting to just connect with people that you actually connect with in real life.

But let me tell you why I'll keep all my friends, thankyouverymuch. Everyone in our house has some sort of summer crud going on. I actually had a fever last night. We all cough all night. No one sleeps. The weather's been amazing, and we're too busy hacking up our lungs to enjoy it. So I popped on Ye Olde Facebook this week and asked for some Princess Bride quotes to brighten the day.

Oh, Friends. The rest of my day was peppered with:
  • Inconceivable!
  • Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!
  • Is this a KISSING book?
  • Sleep well and dream of large women.
  • Wuv, twue wuv...
  • Hallo. my name is Indigo Mantoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

And there were so many more! From people I talk to all the time, from people I never get to see. People I've known forever and people I've just met.

And it completely made my day.


The Delightful Wedding

I'm not done with the Fortunate Series. I'm sure there will be more. But I thought it would be nice to change gears and do a little update. And then I realized a third of the summer was already gone. I am simultaneously thrilled and heartbroken. Hooray, back to school routine is imminent! Boo, we have a limited time left of flexibility.


The girls and I recently embarked on a trip back to our homeland for nephew Jeremy's lovely wedding to the delightful Rachel (Must do more blogging! I am Descriptive today!). Captain America had a freak project come up that meant he couldn't get away. While it was commonplace at the Old Job, it's a rarity at the New Job. So I went with three children by myself. For 5 hours. One way. To my parents house. Parents, who were in Germany. The girls were really fantastic travelers, or I might have died.

Bonus! I got to see my aunt & uncle and a cousin & his family who I hadn't seen in about 3 years. It was so good to see them, and watch my kids play with my cousin's kids. If I were feeling really nostalgic, I'd say it felt like passing on some sort of legacy. Unfortunately, it perpetuated the theory my cousin has that Captain America doesn't exist. The last time I'd seen them on a trip to Wyoming, Captain America was also stuck working (at the Old Job).

So we all went to the Lovely Wedding. And I have to say, I was sort of transported back to my own wedding day. It was a small wedding in a small church with a small wedding party. And a whole lot of cake. It doesn't seem like mine was that long ago. Only the kids who were at my wedding are now grownups. Really great grownups. And one was the groom.

Wedding highlights:
  • Nephew/Groom WROTE the processional. As in, he composed music. Which was the processional. And it was beautiful. If it hadn't said he'd written it in the program, I would have sat there wondering where the beautiful song came from. And then the romantic in me thought it was the coolest thing ever that he wrote the song for his bride, and I imagined him sitting somewhere thinking of the music that would be in the air when she walked down the aisle to him and writing each note of it down. (You'd think I'd spent my entire summer reading love stories. But I haven't. I haven't had time.)
  • The Bride. Oh, she was lovely! It was kind of an ivory lace affair and her hair was curled and partially pulled back and she skipped the veil altogether and the whole picture was perfectly fitted to the day.
  • The cake. It was delicious. And we were encouraged to eat seconds. YES.
  • I have three children. Which means I am now handing the baby to strangers without caring. I gave Zoey to the catering lady while I helped the older girls get food.
  • Nephew and Niece (elementary students at my wedding - GAH) have turned into such nice grownups. Not that I wondered. But they really have. Ella has always been very excited to see Jeremy, and even though it was his wedding day and he would have been more than allowed to brush her off, he was so patient with her attention. And I don't mean patient as in tolerant, I mean patient like he didn't even seem to mind. And Shelby is always making conversation or whisking the girls around. Heck, even the best man taught Ella the Macerena.
  • I did not get a speeding ticket.

For the trip home, I had downloaded an audiobook of Ramona and Beezus narrated by Stockard Channing. I thought maybe it would buy me a half hour til the girls got sick of it or Zoey screamed so loud they couldn't hear it. IT BOUGHT ME THE WHOLE STINKING TRIP. Any time I paused it to pull over for a potty break or lunch or gas, the girls piped up "What happened?! Can you turn it back on?" And Zoey alternated quietly playing with her toys and sleeping. Quietest car ride ever. Mad props to Stockard Channing on a fantastic reading. And genuine thanks to God for a trip that could easily have gone the opposite way.

So congratulations, Newlyweds! It was so wonderful to be there. I hope in 13 years you are invited to a similar wedding that brings up all kinds of warm fuzzy moments from your own.


A Series of Fortunate Events #6: In which we buy a house (deja vu)

It took longer than we hoped it would to sell our house. But there are plenty of people out there who've had to sit on a house for years, so I can't complain. However, the selling of our house definitely would not fit in this series. It was more of a series of UNfortunate events, at least for us. Once it was FINALLY done, we were ready to buy a house here. We called up our super lovely real estate agent from the rental hunting.

We tried to stay in the same sort of area, so that our girls could stay at the school we had fallen in love with. Originally, I'd really thought I wanted a split level. Our rental was a split level, and after living in one for a few months, its glamour had worn off. So we were no longer looking for that.

We went to open houses, we checked places out with our realtor, and we did innumerable drive bys. After a few visits to one house, we were really excited about the potential. It had a master bedroom upstairs and down, and it had a couple of bedrooms with a pocket door in between. So perfect for the girls! We'd have to do quite a bit of painting (so creative with the colors, these owners were). But the layout was pretty good, for the most part. Biggest drawbacks: the backyard was right on a major highway, and there was a pool. The highway issue was iffy. It had the concrete wall, so it probably wasn't TOO noisy. But the pool. Two problems there.

1. I am a Nervous Parent.
2. Captain America and I are not really maintenance pros or fixit people. Sounded like a lot of work and expense for the 3 months out of the year you can use it.

We were ready. Time to put in an offer. We'd either tear out the pool, or figure out what to do with it. Get the girls some swimming lessons. Get a giant fence to keep out neighbor kids, which was my biggest worry (just last summer a girl here in town wandered into a neighbor's pool and drowned - so sad).

My parents were coming down for the weekend, and we thought it'd be nice to have my dad take a look at it before we made anything official. I think it was a Thursday when we made our appointment with our realtor for Saturday. On Friday she called to say, "There's another one going on the market Monday just a few blocks away - do you want to see that one while we're out?"

Saturday we went and looked at the house again. It seemed workable. The pros outweighed the cons. Then we headed over to the next house. It had a similar layout. Only it didn't have the pool that made us nervous. And it didn't have a highway in the backyard, IT HAD A PARK. SOLD! After one look (just like our first house), we put in an offer. We had it all settled before the MLS realtors got to look at it.

The best part? That other house would not have worked nearly as well for the baby we ended up adding. Also, by the time we ended up moving I was pregnant enough to tell people, and I didn't have to carry anything! Or scrub the floors of the rental on my hands and knees!

We're no longer in exactly the right school zone, but we're close enough that we can stay (unless numbers at either of the schools get completely out of whack). This house has been just perfect for us. The timing was everything!


A Series of Fortunate Events #5: In which we find a rental

If you'll remember back on Series #3, we moved. Because of a wedding. After Captain America accepted his new job, the company set us up with a realtor to help us transition. We brought the girls with us for a marathon day of rental and house shopping. No really. NINE HOURS STRAIGHT.

We weren't sure at first if we wanted to go ahead and buy a new place, or if we should rent for a while to make sure we liked the particular area and sold our other house. So we spent an entire day looking at various housing options. With a 4 yr old and an almost 6 yr old. Our realtor was incredibly patient, and one of the first I've ever met who seemed to have no desire to push us out of a price range we were comfortable with.

We found a house we really liked. But we had no idea how long our house would take to sell. And we had no idea if it was a neighborhood we'd want to be in. The yard was the size of a postage stamp, but that really appealed to Captain America, who had to spend 2 hours to mow our yard.

We decided to check out plenty of rental options as well. Quite a few were easy to dismiss. Funny smells. Strange layouts. Too small. No place for me to work. We found one that we liked. Nice layout, nice looking neighborhood, nutty landlord. He spent the entire time talking about how much he hated DirecTV, and if we rented from him we were banned from ever getting it. We'd be tied to a year lease, which was a little tough since we wanted more freedom to buy something once our house sold. One more place to check...

The last place was a side-by-side duplex, split level. It was a little tough to look real closely, because the family that currently lived there was home (awkward). But it was nice, too, because we could ask them questions. Our realtor smooth talked the landlord into a 9 month lease by offering to help him rent it again when we were leaving. We had lunch, looked at a few more places, and decided to go with it. He had another appointment to show it at 5, and we knew it would rent quickly.

At the time we were just looking for a place that would work for the short-term. But what ended up happening, is it put the girls in the most amazing school! They've had two years of the most fantastic teachers, in a really great facility. That was the only place we looked at in 9 hours that was in the right zone for that particular school. We knew nothing about the schools in the area, so we had no idea to try and choose it. There's a lot of good schools around here, but I can't imagine a better one for us.


A Series of Fortunate Events #4: In which we buy a house

I don't know if you've gotten this impression yet, but Captain America likes to be prepared. He is also extremely fiscally responsible. Before we were even ready to buy our first house, we made an appointment at the bank. We thought maybe in a year we'd be ready to buy a house, and we just wanted to know what we needed to do in the meantime to make that happen. We were at our Lake Wobegon bank, talking to one of the VPs. I don't think he dealt much with people asking about loans they might like to get a year from now. But I'll tell you what, it made the process an absolute piece of cake.

After a while, we started house browsing, so we'd know what was available and to get a better feel for what we could get for the amount of loan we were comfortable with taking out. We looked at many, many houses. Big houses and little houses. Starter houses. Two bedrooms. Three bedrooms. Two levels. Ranch/rambler. In town. On the edge of town. Just a lot of houses.

We finally got to the point where we were ready to actually think about buying one. After much, much looking, we found one we thought we liked. We didn't love everything about it, but there were a lot of things we liked very much. Of course, being Lake Wobegon, we knew the people who owned it. That added a little extra comfort because we knew they were most likely taking good care of it. It had shiny wood floors. And new cupboards. But it was also old, and had a tricky staircase that made it so you couldn't get more than a full-size bed upstairs. It had a nice porch. And a cute backyard. But no garage that you could really park in. Pluses and minuses like every house. We'd checked it out a few times. We were doing our final pre-offer walk through and were very nervous because we just wanted to make sure we made the right decision. When we were done, the realtor said, "Well, just so you have another comparison, another house just came on the market that we can check out."

So off we went. It was a rambler (or a ranch - I think it's a regional thing like soda or pop). It was the most outdated house I'd ever seen. It had dark green, inch-long shag in the living room. There was burnt orange linoleum in the kitchen. The bathroom had old gray carpet, and flocked red velvet wall paper. It was really awful. But we saw some potential. If you looked past the decor, it was a great little house. The backyard was ginormous (which seemed like a great idea at the time). It had a two car garage.

Just like that, we switched everything and put in an offer on the new house. After the usual negotiations, we bought our very first house. We gradually made some updates. My first babies were born while we lived there (not actually at the house - I'm not a Duggar for petessake). And when it was time for Ella to go to kindergarten, we lived right across the street. I watched her walk home every day.

But what if we hadn't made just one more stop? I'm sure we would have been perfectly happy in the other house as well, but this one really was a perfect fit for us.


A Series of Fortunate Events #3: In which we move

In late October, early November of 2008, we headed to Southwest Wisconsin for a wedding. We'd never thought much of that area, let alone actually been there. Captain America's job was really stressing him out, so we were looking forward to our weekend getaway. We'd heard Southeast Minnesota was really beautiful, but as we headed south of the Twin Cities for Rochester, I wondered what these people were thinking. More flat farmland! Nothing wrong with it, just not any different than what we were used to seeing. Only minus the pretty lakes.

Then as we approached the area, we started the descent through the river bluffs. Wow. That was kind of pretty. Then we crossed the Mississippi. And also the Black River. Apparently 7 rivers met there. Who knew?

We checked into our cutesy northwoods style hotel, and when we opened the curtains, we could see a field, with river bluffs behind it. A few deer were frolicking in the field. I'm not kidding. We had the evening free, so we drove around a bit and had dinner. We joked about moving there. "Look at our new Barnes and Noble!" "Let's walk around our new mall!" It was just sort of nice to pretend. We had a lovely weekend, and we went home.

The following spring, it was clear Captain America needed a new job. We started looking around. Didn't see anything in our area. We looked at cities closer to where we were. One day we sort of off the cuff said, "Let's just throw Wisconsin in the mix." We didn't think anything would come of it.

Captain America wasn't having much luck. Then he found a job description at a place in the town we'd visited. It seemed ideal for him, but he didn't want to get his hopes up. After a couple of phone interviews, we were driving back through those bluffs. This time for an interview. We had to change our tourist point of view and try to figure out if it was a place we were willing to live.

Apparently all it takes for me to feel at home is a hilly descent overlooking a body of water. I've had that in the only three towns I've ever lived in, and that drive always feels like I'm being told, "Welcome back...we missed you..."

After a lot of discussion and prayer, it seemed like a good fit. It's been almost two years, and it's still a good fit.

All because we went to a wedding.


A Series of Fortunate Events #2: In which I lose my keys

I've written about how Captain America and I met before. But now it's the next in my Series of Fortunate Events. Which will last as long as I write them. Which means this could very well be the last installment. Sad.

Picking up where we left off (see Event #1), I met Captain America at a movie night. He offered me Pepsi (a fact which proves he had a lot to learn about me). He and his roommates were set to give me a ride back to campus, since they were in on-campus apartments and I was in the dorms. On the way I realized I'd left my keys in my dorm room. It was now after midnight, and the dorm system was locked up nice and tight. I went to their apartment to call my new roommate. My new roommate who wasn't home yet. So I waited at their apartment until she came in an hour or so later. Or several hours. I don't know.

Can I stop for a minute here? Just to say: Thank you, Jesus. Thanks for putting me in the middle of a group of people whose idea of a wild night was ordering a bread bowl at Perkins and walking around the park *after it closed at 10 pm* (oooooo) and not in the middle of a mess of drunken hockey players where this story might not be such a highlight of my life. Because, frankly, the chances of the drunken soiree were probably a whole lot better. And I'd run off to college up for whatever. That is to say, unopposed to the drunken hockey party.

We all sat around and talked forever. Laughed. Listened to music. When I finally got a hold of my roommate to let me in, Captain America offered to walk me back to my dorm. The next day I called him to get help finding my classes. I think we were dating a week later.

All because I went to a bike camp in 8th grade, and then lost my keys as a brand new college freshman.

Fortunate, indeed.


Fortunate Events: In which I get a sunburn and a husband

I've been brainstorming on how to get myself back into the swing of blogging, because truthfully, I've missed it.

I thought of a whole lot of nothing, but for the last few weeks I've been thinking about different chains of events. Things that could have gone a million different ways, and only after did I see how God had orchestrated everything just so.

With that, I give you the first in a Series of Fortunate Events. (Not to be confused with another series.)

Fortunate Event #1
When I was growing up, I went on a bike camp. It was a compromise with my dad to avoid the canoe camp fate my sister had already been through. It was a fundraiser-turned-camp. We biked 150 miles or something over...I don't know...some days? It's a little hazy, lo these many years later. We collected pledges and raised money for Operation Classroom, which helped build and support schools in Sierra Leone. I think I was maybe in 8th grade. Biking was not my favorite, but it beat the idea of canoeing in the Boundary Waters. Although, I DID have to have my dad along as one of the camp counselor/chaperones. So I'm not sure between my sister and I who won/lost. All I know is, I got the worst sunburn ever on the tops of my legs because it didn't occur to me how much they'd be in the sun. And I'm a burner.

Hold that thought.

Flash forward five or so years.

Every year my family went to the North Shore on Lake Superior over Labor Day weekend. We usually stayed at a cabin at Cascade Lodge. Cascade is the epitome of family vacation to me. Eating pancakes at the restaurant. Hiking in the woods and eating wild raspberries along the way. Waterfalls. Rock throwing. If I think really hard, I can smell the delicious North Shore smells right now.

The weekend before I started my senior year of high school, we went to Cascade as usual. We were eating in the restaurant, and our waiter looked really familiar to me. He looked familiar to Dad, too. I knew his name was Paul, but I didn't know how I knew that. His nametag confirmed it. Hmmm...

After a few minutes it came to me: Paul had been on the bike camp! We all talked and caught up, and sure enough, he remembered all the biking. Paul was currently a student at University of Minnesota-Duluth, which happened to be where I was planning to go the following year. We exchanged information, and I decided in a year, I'd give him a call.

One year later...

I did call Paul. The first day I was at UMD. He was one of the only people I knew there. He invited me to go to a friend's house for movies. When we got there, I sat in a room full of strangers. 18 years old. First days of college. Somebody next to me offered me some Pepsi...you might know him as Captain America...

But that's for another Series of Fortunate Events.


Random Saturday!

Are your Saturdays filled with random things like mine? All the things you didn't have time for this week? Here are a few random thoughts I'm having:

  • My baby is 8 months old today. EIGHT. She's losing that tiny baby look, and getting the look of a pre-toddler. And the mobility - YIKES.
  • Ella was taken down by a nasty, nasty stomach flu this week. Poor thing. For two days after she just laid still and sipped water.
  • It was pointed out to me on my birthday that this is my crucifixion year. As in, I'm 33, and that's how old Christ was when he was crucified. And for extra oomph? My next birthday will be on Easter.
  • I'm hoping to get a baby gate this weekend, because I'm growing weary of all the picking up the baby and moving her back to the middle of the room I'm in.
  • I would like to reduce the amount of "toys" in the playroom by half. It's toy overload. I see a trip to Goodwill in my weekend.
  • Do you overbook an open Saturday? I do. I wake up and the day is full of possibilities. I will go garage saling. Maybe I should run to the yummy bakery? I'm going to clean out the playroom, and take a load to Goodwill. I'm going to get some groceries. Ella needs a gift for a party tomorrow. I'm going to talk to the cell phone people about my plan. Hey! We should go to a movie today! I'm going to catch up on work. I'm going to make the baby a whole lotta baby food. We should play Bananagrams! Need to do 84 loads of laundry. And clean the bathroom. And vacuum. {In reality, I'll hopefully get through 3 loads of laundry and get the gift for Ella's party. I'll probably get to groceries, since there's really no food until I do.}

Finally, I read some books. Please enjoy these minimalist reviews:
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls - It was good. Very easy to read in small spurts, which is often all I have. I'll look for her other books.
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay - If you don't like deep sadness, do NOT read this book. Holocaust. Child death. Furthermore, I feel like the ending should have been longer or shorter. I had too much info, or not enough. It was powerful, but very sad.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - It was good. Liked the style. It made me want to visit the circus museum in Baraboo, WI, since it's almost in my 'hood.

Happy Saturday!


In which we take a road trip.

{side note: I really admire the writings of A.A. Milne. I love that the chapters are named "In which..." And clearly, I love the Capitalizing Important Words.}

We did it! We took a trip! With a baby! Last week we hopped in Ye Olde Minivan, and headed for parts unknown. Only they were known. We spent a couple of days in Kansas City, and a couple in Omaha. Because when you hear "spring break" -- who DOESN'T head to Omaha? Are ya with me?


Well it was fun. The girls had a blast. The highlight of Kansas City was Kaleidoscope. It's next to the Hallmark museum. They basically take scraps from Hallmark, and utensils from Crayola, and you let your kids go to town crafting. In other words: ELLA AND NATALIE HEAVEN. And it's free. FREE! It was an hour of non-stop crafting excitement. They thought it was the best thing ever. (While they were busy filling their take home bags with Important Artwork, Captain America wrote me a little book in kid style. I love him.)

The next day we headed to Omaha. Home of The Zoo. Have you seen this zoo? Have you been? OH MY WORD. Over 6 hours we were there. SIX. Six! We didn't sit through any demonstrations or shows. We didn't go to the imax. We just wandered around looking at animals. For 6 hours. Every animal but an elephant. They were having their habitat cleaned or landscaped or remodeled, so they were off out of view for a bit. But every other animal I can think of was there. Some of them were in the world's largest geodesic dome, which houses the world's largest indoor desert. Some of them were in the world's largest indoor rainforest.

Now, aside from having beaucoup animals, let me tell you the other fantastic features of this zoo. It was chilly the day we were there. I thought we might freeze our petuties off. But of our 6 hours of animal watching, most of it was indoors. Some of those animals would have been outside if it was nicer, but we were also able to see them inside. Also? There was only one place we couldn't take the stroller - the very small Butterfly house. Everywhere else we were able to keep a kid in a stroller. I remember going to Brookfield Zoo in Chicago when Natalie was a tiny baby. We were forever having to park the stroller and carry her through exhibits. Not fun.

Also? Zoey was a traveling ROCKSTAR. Out of the 14 or so hours we spent in the car, I'd bet she cried for 20 minutes. And she calmed down when her sisters sang their magic baby whisperer song. There was no hardcore screaming. She was perfectly happy just to be out and about.

All of the above made for a delightful trip for us all. I didn't even bring a computer (WHAT??). We just got to hang out together. And I think the 4 nights was a perfect trip length, because I came home in love with my children, and not quite ready to be back. That's really the way you should leave a vacation. I wasn't ready to drop them off at their teacher's houses or anything! They were all just lovely, lovely girls. We got very lucky this time around.

It probably didn't hurt that Vacationing Captain America thought Ella and Natalie needed a ONE POUND BAG of candy EACH at the bulk candy store. And I was easily bought off with Cheesecake Factory cheesecake.

Hooray for vacation!


Tweet, Tweet

I've recently rekindled my relationship with Twitter. I'd been ignoring it for the longest time. I'm sorry, Twitter. You'd think I came back because I had something to say. Judging by the fact that my tweets are things like "still working" and "I'm so full," that clearly isn't the case.

Nope. It was a snake that wooed me back. Not that I'm a fan of snakes in general. But did you see when the Bronx Zoo's Cobra went missing? When that happened, the cobra got on Twitter. @bronxzooscobra has to be the most enjoyable thing to happen to my computer in a long time.

First the snake hit the town, tweeting all the way:

"Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is gonna be hilarious!"

"Getting my morning coffee at the Mudtruck. Don't even talk to me until I've had my morning coffee. Seriously, don't. I'm venomous."

"If you see a bag of peanuts inexplicably moving along the ground at Yankee Stadium today. Just ignore it. It's probably nothing."

Then the snake was found. (In real life, it never left the Reptile House - they just couldn't see it anywhere.) Now @bronxzooscobra tweets from the inside:

"Just regurgitated my iPhone. Oh, it's ssso on now. You'll never guess what's coming. #freethebronxzooscobra"

"The secret to surviving on inside is to find the biggest snake in here and take him down. That earns you respect in the yard."

"I know the zoo doesn't like it when you tap on the glass, but I don't mind it. In fact, feel free to tap really hard. With a hammer even."

I don't know what to tell you. I've never claimed to be anything but easily amused. A zoo cobra on Twitter is bringing me unimaginable joy. Maybe snakes aren't so bad. At least not the ones with iPhones.


It would make the birthday girl haaaaaaaaappy... Part II

On this day in history... I WAS BORN! Happy birthday to ME!

Here's the thing. I'm just not having quite as much success with squeezing every last ounce of birthday power as Natalie did. For some reason it seems referring to yourself as "the birthday girl" is less cute on a 33 year old. Furthermore, Natalie is less convinced of the rock solid logic of "it would make the birthday girl happy" when she's not the one saying it. How convenient of her.

But I forge ahead. I have answered my phone "Happy birthday to me" and "Happy Sarah Day." Tonight is game night at the pastor's house. We're bringing cake. Would it be wrong of me to wear a crown? Would it be more wrong to go out and purchase a crown for wearing? A crown that is combination leopard print, feathers and tiara? I might be wrong. If I have time. I also considered wearing a cocktail dress. Just because.

Do you know what DELIGHTFUL thing happened today? I mean, DELIGHTFUL. Full of DELIGHT. The very lovely Gretchen over at Second Blooming gave me a Cherry on Top award. Feast your eyes on its cuteness:

She did not even know it was my birthday. Gretchen is a Real Life Actress. And a Real Life Writer. Her in-laws would make a fantastic tv show, and I have actually told people the story of how she named her son Jude as if she is a Real Life Friend of mine. Always embarrassing to realize you've just started talking about a blog as if you met the person for coffee earlier in the day. Gretchen even takes her little cub scout camping. In the Real Woods. I guess they're LA woods - but that's still more camping than I'm interested in. Now I am to tell you 5 Things I Love About ME. Which I will happily oblige. It is, after all, my birthday:

  1. I am an open book. Ask me even part of a question, and I will bore you with details you never dreamed of wanting to know.
  2. I give a mean 7 & 5 yr old mani/pedi. I used to think I did a pretty good paint job on my own as well, until I started going to places that do all the FAYNCY painting with pretty details and pictures.
  3. I've always really liked my hands & nails. I don't feel the need for fake. Nails. Not hands. That'd just be weird.
  4. I love to sing. Which is not to say I missed my chance on American Idol. I just like to do it. I love having something that instantly makes me happy.
  5. I can be funny. At least I hope that's why people sometimes laugh at me.

That was harder than I thought. And I think I gave a few copout answers.
And now....Five Bloggers I Love:
  1. My sister. I don't just have to say it. I'm linking to a specific post, because I want you to read it.
  2. Mr. Patrick over at Good Morning from Maine. I know him in real life. From before he even had a blog. Go read his series on how he & the Mrs. got together. It's good times.
  3. Bits and Pieces. Also a Real Life Friend. We have discovered we are like scary clones of each other. Clones. Not clowns. That'd be wrong.
  4. Jersey's Musings. Yet another Real Life Friend. He's always got some interesting travel/restaurant notes. Drop in and say hey - they recently found out his mother-in-law has leukemia and I'll bet he and his lovely wife would appreciate some kind thoughts & prayers.
  5. Are We Still Cool? It's a question I often ask myself. I'm pretty sure the answer is no. It's completely fascinating to me to read about their adventures as they try to raise a couple cute munchkins in NYC.
And there you have it. Thanks again, Gretchen, for the extra special birthday present!


It would make the Birthday Girl haaaaaaaaappy...

Six years ago today I said to the doctor, "I don't care what day it is. Just induce me." I'd been scheduled to be induced on Thursday, March 31. But when I called into the hospital that morning to say I was coming, they said they were too busy to induce me. So I called my doctor later that day, and he said, "Well, if you're okay with an April Fool's birthday, go in tomorrow. Otherwise we can do it Monday." I apologized to my belly that I was not going to be able to wait until Monday when I had thought I would have had her by now. Tomorrow already seemed pretty far away. So on that April Fool's morning, I got hooked up to pitocin around 7:30 am and Natalie was born by 12:30 pm. Pretty fast for not even being in labor when I got to the hospital.

It was as if Captain America knew she'd be born on April Fool's all along. The moment we knew it was a girl, she was Natalie. And then he started calling her Natalie Gwynn. And I said no. I will not name my baby girl after your favorite baseball player. But he persisted. (Perhaps in response to my affinity for a dead actress?) "How's Natalie Gwynn today? Kicking a lot?" I don't know. It grew on me.

I honestly don't remember much of Natalie's babyhood. Ella was a diaper-wearing, social, busy toddler - that first year is a blur. I do remember Natalie was awesome about going to bed. I could lay her down fully awake and she'd put herself to sleep.

Today Natalie is living it up for her birthday. She is truly her mother's daughter. "Can you pack me a lunch for tomorrow? It would make the Birthday Girl haaaaaappy..." "Ella, do you know what I would like? If one day we didn't fight at all. Could we do it today? It would make the Birthday Girl haaaaaaaaaappy..." And Ella has been playing right along. She sang Happy Birthday to her right away. She got Natalie's clothes ready for her. She did everything this morning, right down to putting toothpaste on her toothbrush, putting on Natalie's rain boots and zipping her coat for her.

So Happy Birthday to my Natalie Gwynn. You are sweet, sensitive, and knowing. Funny and loving. I look forward to seeing what another year brings out of you. And may you always be as big of a birthday junkie as your mommy.


I didn't hear anything. Nope. Not me.

Funny, but it seems my girls make me the proudest when I'm not even supposed to know what happened. Last night the girls were crafting at the dining room table within earshot of me. They were talking to each other about their days. First of all, I can't get over the cuteness of them off having their own little lives all day, and hearing them talk about it to each other.

Natalie declared it the worst day ever. EVER. Apparently a couple of girls called her Nattie. OH THE HUMANITY. But I hear her. You want to be called what you want to be called. Anything else hurts your feelings. I get it. I had hair issues when I was little. For one, my hair was orange, not red. I guess she asked them to stop and call her Natalie, but they didn't. Cue Sister Bear. If you thought the Mama Bear was tough - watch out.

Ella: "Who was it?"
Natalie: "It was M & A."
Ella: "Well NOBODY teases my sister. Do you sit by them at lunch?"
Natalie: "Sometimes."
Ella: "When I see you at lunch I'll come see if they're teasing you. And if they are I'll tell them to stop. Because NOBODY teases my little sister. Or my BABY sister."

And then she was off on some tangent imagining someone teasing Zoey by calling her tiny. I don't know, I guess I've never heard anyone actually tease a baby. And definitely not for...being a baby. But whatever.

I only wish I could properly convey the attitude and tone that went with these words. Maybe I should have said something, maybe not, I don't know. I don't think it really matters. I just wanted to sit and revel in a moment where they really loved each other, and weren't yelling "STOPIT" or "DON'TTOUCHTHATIT'SMINE!"


Pardon the tissues.

Please excuse our tissues on every surface. We are all sick. Except Captain America, of course. Superheroes don't get sick. I am diagnosing it as "Spring Crud." It started with Natalie, then Ella, then Natalie again, then Ella again, then Zoey and me. There's a fever that comes and goes willy nilly. There's gunk. And apparently when you get as far into it as Ella and Natalie are, you require boxes of kleenex. And the girls have watched enough television that they request Puffs. With lotion. It has been my joy to teach Natalie about brands and logos. And things like we call them all kleenex, but sometimes they're really Puffs.

I feel like we haven't slept in weeks. Someone is always up. "My nose won't stop running." "I can't stop coughing." "The skin around my nose is very dry." "Wah." {translation: I need my nuk, and please fix my swaddle}

But, much like the grass out there, I press on. Spring is here. There may be a stumbling block of more snow, but Spring is here. And while Winter and I are not really friends, it does make me appreciate Spring and its new life and resurrection. Even when that new life gives us sniffles.


Well this is interesting...you know...for me

It's been a little hectic around these parts lately. Not like it hasn't been hectic at your house, too. I'm sure it has. How's it going? Better I hope?

Zoey is almost 6 months already. I know! Where has the time gone? She's made some developments. There's a crazy amount of rolling. And she's doing a very modified crawl. She's not strong enough for a formal crawl yet (because she's tiny and not very old), but she likes to get on her stomach, lift up her little bottom, dig her toes in and propel herself forward. Which usually means sliding on her forehead. But a girl's gotta get around, doesn't she?

Yesterday Natalie (still 5) changed Zoey's diaper. She begged me for the chance. I had to hold the little wiggler's legs still for her, but she did a great job. And she wants to help out like that more often. Natalie gets a gold star for the day. And my undying gratitude.

Last night after a series of mildly unfortunate events, we found ourselves heading out to eat. We went to the giant buffet. Which on some level, always makes me a little sad. But the kids eat food when we're there. And that's a really important part of going out to eat. While we were there, Natalie decided she needed to find the restroom. And Ella decided that she needed to be the one to take her. Okay then. So Ella gets a gold star for the day. And also my undying gratitude.

All of these things are making the prolonged winter seem a little easier. I'll see green again. Someday.


I can't handle all this excitement

Last night we sent the girls down to clean the playroom. It's something that pretty much always needs to be done. After a while Natalie burst upstairs, FREAKING OUT. I have never seen her like that. "This is so BAD! I'm going to be in TROUBLE! I don't think we can get it out! I don't want to tell you!"

What on earth is going on???

"There's a bead UP MY NOSE." I took her in the bathroom and peered up her nostril, thinking I'd just grab a tweezers and pull that puppy out, and it was so far up I couldn't even see it. Ella started running around upstairs with her hands on her head "I AM SO WORRIED!" I took Ella downstairs to show me what the bead looked like. Meanwhile, Natalie, who thought she was going to throw up, ended up blowing the bead out her nose into the toilet. Apparently my strange children had poured plastic beads all over the floor and were sticking their faces in them, until Natalie inhaled one. Good times.

Today Natalie stayed home from school, unrelated to the bead. She's had a cold or allergies that's making her cough every 15 seconds. The sun finally came out today, so we opened up all the blinds. When she walked past a window, I saw her scalp looked dark. I took a closer look, and it was purple. It looked like a horrible dark bruise or something. Or like when you wrap something around your finger and it loses circulation. I asked her if her head hurt or was itchy. She said both. So I put Zoey down and headed to webmd to prepare myself for the call to the nurses. I was about to pull up the articles on psoriasis and some kind of sarcoma and then some other things I'd never heard of but sounded very scary, when Natalie came wandering in the room.

"I think I know why my head is purple."
"Really? Why?"
"It's sand."
"It's sand."
"Wait, do you have purple sand at school?"
"And it got in your HAIR?"
"I think so. I told S. not to throw it, but she still did."

So I checked her head again, and sure enough. It wipes off. Because it's sand.

Can you imagine where this story almost went? I almost called a nurse hotline and told them my child had a purple, bruised looking scalp. At which point they would, no doubt, have told me to head straight to the ER, DO NOT PASS GO. Where a doctor would have looked at her head, and said, "She has colored sand in her hair. I prescribe a SHOWER for her problem."

And then I would have actually died from embarrassment. But at least I'd already be in the ER.


The snow has hit the fan.

Last Thursday it was 55 degrees. The snow was melting to where I could see patches of grass. Whole yards in some places. I was getting my moldy allergy on.

Yesterday when I woke up, I could still see the grass. Then we went to church. And on our way home we drove through 6 inches of snow. Church wasn't THAT long. It spent the rest of the day doing a winter mix of snow and sleet. Not the pretty, fluffy, snowglobe looking snow. Hard snow. That pelts you in the face and stings something fierce. This was the kind of day that would have shut down the entire south for days. But here, nothing was canceled. Still had to go out to swimming lessons in the afternoon. School was still on time today. I still needed Diet Coke at Target. Life moves on.

I am looking so very hard for silver lining today. I have come up with this:
1. The kids weren't cooped up with me for yet another day after having 1 1/2 days off last week for teacher inservice.
2. My allergies went away when everything froze again.
3. I won't have to go to the mailbox since it's Presidents' Day.

And that's what I've got. February is never my best month. Every year I say, "I'm going to take a trip to somewhere warm next February." And then I forget about it. Until it's February. And too late to schedule a trip. Thankfully, there is only one week left of Stupid February.

March? I've got news for you. You'd best not try bringing snowy back, because I have no interest in it.


Hey reader.

I'm just assuming there's probably just one of you left by now. And it's probably my sister (who knows what I've been up to anyway). I was going to tell you that I was taking a little bloggy sabbatical, but that's probably obvious since I haven't posted in nearly a month. Funny, one of my resolutions was blog more.

I've had plenty of ideas swimming around. Loads of half-written posts in my head. But when I sit down to actually write them nothing happens. I guess everything seems a little silly.

Perhaps after a few more days of my mood lifting with the mercury, I'll be back. Not that it will be better or interesting, but if you happen to drop by Ye Olde Blog, there might actually be something here.

I'll leave you with the latest kid story. Today the girls begged for cold lunch. "Can we PLEASE have lunch boxes??" So I made them some lunch, and for an extra loving touch I put little notes in. Isn't that fun? Won't they feel loved?

After school I said, "Did anybody have anything interesting in their lunch?" Ella said, "I did. A note from you..." {insert me waiting for sweet response} "...that was embarrassing. Other moms don't put notes in their kids' lunches. But it's ok...at least nobody saw it."

Yes. Well. At least nobody saw it.



In high school, Sarah was the kind of girl that was friends with everyone. We had the connection that same-named kids do. We were in some sports together (until I gave those up), and she was an amazing athlete. So quick and such a hard worker. After Captain America and I moved back to my hometown, he ended up working with Sarah for many years. We were pregnant with our first children at the same time, and then our second. We'd swap pregnancy stories. Sarah was still a hard worker. But she always had time for some stories and laughing, and smiled more than most people I know.

The last time I saw Sarah was last summer at a wedding reception. She was there with her 5 yr old daughter, because her husband was home with their sick 7 yr old son (he'd gotten the flu or something that day). They were having such a great time! Every time her daughter wanted to dance, she danced. I remember thinking how I was so relieved to be out without my children, and here she was having the time of her life with one of hers. Not that my children aren't enjoyable, but I noticed how she always seemed to find joy in the moment she was given. I thought about that for a long time. I still do.

I'm sure you can see where this is going by now. On January 12, Sarah collapsed while she was running on her treadmill. Today, her family had her funeral. Sarah was 33. While I didn't see her often, I'm sad that the world will miss out on her smile. And my heart breaks for her husband and kids.

But I know I'm a better person because I knew her.


Oh the possibilities

Sometime in the midst of Christmas, I was cleaning out my email inbox. Which I always run at an appalling 95% capacity or better. My inbox has over 3,000 messages at any given time. I have no plans to change it, ok? But what this means is every few weeks I need to clean out a month or so worth of the oldest messages before my friends at gmail shut me down. So I scan through the oldest and make sure there's nothing important before I hit the Almighty Delete Button.

This particular group of emails I had to go through brought the memories flooding back. Emails from right when we found out we were expecting Zoey. Me telling Captain America when I could best figure the due date was. Captain America suggesting more sports related names. And an email where he suggested "Zoughee." I had to file all of those away - I just couldn't delete them.

Then I started going through my calendar from last year. I try to do this at the beginning of every year, so I can write down the repeats like birthdays. It was full of doctor appointments.

I'll tell you what, if you'd told me last year as I put the birthdays on the calendar that I'd be filling up the months with prenatal appointments and adding a September birthday, I would have laughed at you. HYSTERICALLY. Well, maybe not hysterically. Because God was already working on our hearts and making us wonder if maybe just one more wouldn't be a good idea. But I still would have been surprised.

So as I transferred things over to 2011, I wondered what this year will bring. Because as I filled in 2009, I never would have dreamed it would end with us in Wisconsin. And I would have had a hard time believing 2010 would end with us as a family of five. But here we are. All five of us. I really can't imagine what 2011 has in store, but I'm excited to find out. Because some of the very best things don't make it on the calendar January 1st.


Good riddance, Christmas break

I feel like I need a pin or a bumper sticker that says, "I survived Christmas Break 2010." There were a lot of highlights, and Christmas itself was fantastic. But there was no arguing about getting ready for school this morning. And I'm not sure who was out the door faster. A long break like that was just too much togetherness for Ella & Natalie. Zoey didn't really get her quiet naptimes. The toy chaos. The bickering. The constant mess.

Still, I'm not quite ready for Christmas to end. I'm not somebody who is ready to take down the tree on the 26th. Mine will stay up til January 6. At least. I'm still listening to Christmas music. So today, despite the fact that I'm ready for the routine to start again, I'm still kind of longing for Christmas.

The highlights:
  • Sleeping in. Nearly every morning as Captain America left for work, the rest of us were all in bed.
  • Jammies. I think Ella & Natalie spent about 90% of their break in jammies. With birds' nests in the back of their hair.
  • Cookies. So many delicious Christmas treats. And I've got the pants size to prove it.
  • Christmas Eve. We ended up staying in on Christmas Eve (except for my solo trip to the grocery store with the rest of the town). The girls opened their Christmas jammies and put them on. We set out a buffet of appetizers, opened some IBC root beers for the girls, and watched Elf. Ella declared it THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER. Thus solidifying my theory that Buddy the Elf is Ella's soul mate. "Good news! I saw a dog today!" "I love smiling! Smiling's my favorite!"
  • Gift opening. We follow one of Captain America's family traditions. We get the gifts out from under the tree, and give them to the people they're from. Then we take turns opening. I love that because it puts more emphasis on the giving than on the getting. Ella and Natalie couldn't wait to open their presents from each other. And they couldn't wait to give their presents to each other. And the opening ended with huge hugs. If this Christmas had a cover, that would be it for me.
  • The sleeping (during the first half of break). Zoey was an awesome sleeper around Christmas. Her Christmas gift to us was sleeping through the night. DELIGHTFUL. She did it a couple of times, and then I think she got so behind on sleep from All of the Excitement, that she was overtired. Last night was her worst in a long time. I think even she was ready for the girls to go back to school today.
There were a lot of great things and moments. While I work today I'll drink some holiday tea from my new mug, wearing my cozy new slippers. Sad to see the Christmas season go, and happy to see the routine returning.