Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our 22 month old received an art easel for Christmas. She loves to draw and color, so this was a big hit.

Aside from having to watch her closely (she's already taken the liberty to add a new mural to the dining room wall and some sketches to the wood floor...also in the dining room), she always wants both mommy AND daddy to draw with her.

At the same time.

On the same piece of paper.

She often gets all crazy with her art. (I assume it's something like Tillie when she's doing her art.)

So today, her crazy little hands draw and she says, "OOOOH! WOOOK! A fly boat!"

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the FlyBoat is what the Wonder Pets fly to help out other animals. Here's the FlyBoat:

Here's Ella's FlyBoat:

(Uncanny, I know...)
So I slop up a heart above Ella's FlyBoat and Todd takes his sweet time (and a lot of pride) in drawing a detailed FlyBoat.
Ella watches with great interest the entire time and then looks at Todd and says, "AAAAAAHHHHH! WOOOOOOOOK! A HEART!"

Ahhh...the power of simplistic art...


Monday, November 30, 2009

We all have them on our Christmas list -- those people who have everything.
Or worse yet?
They don't have everything, but are impossible to buy for because nothing ever makes them happy.

At a loss on what to get these people on your list? Here are 10 gift ideas that they're guaranteed not to have...

1. Touch-n-Brush Toothpaste Dispenser (Because sometimes you're just too lazy to squeeze that tube...) $19.99 ("Amazing low price")

(Sidebar: Interested to black light that lever after everyone in the family has been pushing on it with their own toothbrush. I'm just sayin'...)

2. Anti-Snore Pillow (And if it doesn't work, you can always use it to smother your snoring partner with...) $99.95

3. Get off the Phone Excuse Machine (I always found that hanging up on people worked just fine, but that's just me...) $9.95

4. Big Top CupCake (Because nothing says "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" more than a cupcake as big as your head.) $19.95

5. Drop Stop (Because it IS really annoying trying to fish out those french fries you dropped in the car...) $19.95

6. Toilet Monster (Scare the crap out of your friends. Literally.) $16.95

7. Snuggie for Dogs (When carrying them in your purse just won't do anymore...) $14.99

8. EX Knife Holder ("Got an EX? Get The EX.") (Really, what can I say here?!? Um...available in red, too!) $69.95

9. Chia Obama (Because nothing says "Proud to be an American!" like growing grass on the head of your president.) $19.95

10. Fanny Bank ("Drop some loot and hear me toot!" and "Saving your pennies will be a real gas.") $14.95


Monday, November 23, 2009

So I finally get around to hanging my daughter's first birthday picture in her room.

She's 21 months old now. She'll be two at the beginning of February.

So, anyway...

It's a great picture of her with sticky pink icing hands and it's framed by a mat of signatures and memories from all her guests at the party.

Today I hang it in a prominent position in her room, right across from her bed and above the sofa. You know, where she can see it when she wakes up or comes into the room.

When Ella comes into the room I say, "LOOK HONEY! Mommy hung your first birthday picture! Isn't it cuuuuuuute?!?"

Ella's reply?

In a sob, "EWWWWW! The baby's hands are yuuuuuuuucky!"

She's totally preoccupied with it in her room and feels the need to declare, on the verge of tears every time she enters her room, "EWWWW! BABY'S HANDS ARE YUCKY!"

Kids these days are so ungrateful.
I think I'll leave it up just to torture her...


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Last night, we had chinese food. My favorite part of the meal -- like everyone else -- is the fortune cookie! (Hellooooo - bits of wisdom IN A COOKIE?!? GENIUS.)

Giddy with anticipation, I delicately break apart my cookie to find the following advice:

Behind an able man, there are always.

Period. That was it. ALWAYS WHAT?!?

Everyone knows the rule of fortune cookie etiquette -- if you get a fortune you hate, you get to choose another cookie.

(OK, you may not have known that rule of etiquette because, quite honestly, I just made it up. But anyway...)

Skeptically, I choose another cookie. I read it with a raised eyebrow.

Hubby: What did it say?
Me: The current year will bring you much happiness.
Hubby: Well you better get on it, you have about six weeks.

And just then?
The dog threw up.


Friday, November 13, 2009

I recently learned of a wonderful drive to help Afghan moms receive pre- and postnatal care on a radio show called Mornings with Brant.

Why is it so important to help Afghan moms?

Medical access is very low for Afghan women and still birth rates are very high.

The radio show is teaming up with CURE International to help raise funds for these mothers.

In addition to the care, the team is also raising funds to donate blankets for the mothers to take home with their new little one.

You can help with a monthly gift, or a one-time donation:
  • $65 helps a mom receive pre- and postnatal care and a blanket
  • $125 provides a safe delivery and a blanket
  • $250 provides care for two mothers and blankets
You can learn more or donate at the Mornings with Brant site. You can also call (877) 846-4978.

This is a great holiday charity idea for your group!

This little one just received a blanket on November 11, 2009.

Cure International is an organization that "provides physical and spiritual healing for disabled children in the developing world."


Thursday, November 12, 2009

I recently wrote an article Why not party for charity this holiday season? in my family entertainment column. It has gotten such positive feedback and shares, that I thought I would share some of the ideas here, too.

This is a partial repost from that column:

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. From now until the new year, most of us will take part in numerous family and friend holiday gatherings.

Why not make this year's gathering about helping others, too?

Most people don't realize that, for just a few dollars, you can make a huge impact on someone's life.

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child collects shoe boxes full of children's items to distribute to needy children around the world.

Have partygoers bring a small toy, gift or toiletry item for a children's shoe box project. Keep the kids occupied during the party by having them decorate the shoe boxes with coloring, drawings and stickers.

Operation Christmas Child shoe box drop-off dates are November 16-22.

Find a drop-off location area near you.

Angel Food Network

Angel Food Network provides food relief and financial support to communities throughout the United States. For around $30, your party attendees can assist in feeding a family of four for about one week, or a single senior citizen for almost a month.

The best part? There is no qualifying process. Anyone can utilize the Angel Food Network. You can help out a needy family or senior citizen that you know simply by ordering the food online, picking it up at your local host site and delivering it to that family!

Find a host site location near you.

Again, prepare your guests ahead of time. It's great to announce charity opportunities on invitations. Take suggestions from your party attendees on people to "adopt" as your Angel Food recipients.

These are just a few great programs available to help others this holiday season. You can also contact your local places of worship, city or county governments, and chambers of commerce to see if they are hosting charities in which your party can participate.

Have other ideas on how people can use their holiday party gatherings to help others? Share it by leaving it in the comments!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post about FujiFilm giving you 100 free prints of your pictures just for signing up for their free online site.

Unsure what to do with those 100 free prints (it is a lot...)? How about helping others with them?

I just learned of a cool new movement called Help-Portrait.

Check it:


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hey, guess what?

It's November already -- I know, who can believe -- and that means that the holidays are just around the corner.

And holidays mean buying or making gifts for others. Yes, the agonizing over what to get everyone. Spending money (that you probably don't have) on items that they may or may not be able to wear or use. What are you going to do (especially this holiday, when money is so tight)?

Have you thought about giving pictures this year?

Can you think of a better gift or a better way to let people know that you care about them than pictures of the ones they love? (And I know you have a ton of digital pictures that no one has ever seen. So do I...)

It sounds like a great idea, but unfortunately printing multiple pictures for many people to make into scrapbooks, put into frames or use to create other gift projects can be costly. In the current economy, we all need to be a little more frugal (whether we like it or not).

So get this -- is free frugal enough? If so, we found just the thing for you. Check out this great holiday (or birthday or anniversary) idea on the cheap:

At the end of October, Fuji Film started their See Here campaign -- a photo sharing website that provides you the ability to use your photos for web pages and a variety of other things.

Just for signing up for their free photo project site (where you can upload and save the photos), you can get 100 free 4x6 photos (shipping not included).

The terms are only one set of free photos per login. You must also redeem all of your free prints at one time.

To get your free prints, be sure to enter the promo code prints at checkout.

Not only can you store your photos on the site, but you can also create cool photo projects and put them on items like photo books, mugs, clothing, posters, pillow cases, stuffed animals, bags and a lot more.

Once you get your free pics, check out the local department store for a cool frame. (And you know they'll all be on sale soon!) Be sure to also check the clearance aisle. You will often find older frames marked down as they make room for the new inventory.

Picture calendars are also a great gift-giving idea. If you don't want to spend all the cash getting a calendar printed with the photographs, look for the calendars where you can insert your own photos. (I found some really cute ones at Target in the dollar bin about a week ago. Seriously.)

Voila! You have the gifts that keep on giving!

Don't forget about Fido or Fluffy, either. Pet owners love having their furry friends included in the gift-giving! These days you can find really cute pet-related frames at any department or craft store.

And trust me, in the end they'll like the picture gifts way better than the gifts like that Grateful Dead necktie or the giganto cupcake pan you buy from that infomercial, anyway.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I recently entered a photo contest called "Faces & Places of the World."

You can see my entries and vote for one of my photos at these links (it's free and easy):

http://photocontest.examiner.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1008901473 (Tide Pools)

http://photocontest.examiner.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1008901488 (Premature Beaching)

http://photocontest.examiner.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1008901490 (Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum)

http://photocontest.examiner.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1008901492 (Daddy & Me)

http://photocontest.examiner.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1008901496 (Untitled)

http://photocontest.examiner.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1008901499 (Goin' In...)

Thanks for your support!


Friday, October 23, 2009

For a little while, Ella (now 20 months) has shown interest in the big potty. She's curious to watch me "tinkle" (TMI?). She thinks it's hysterical to unroll the toilet paper. She's really interested in the flushing of the toilet.

Of which she's just learned to do.


When I picked her up from "school" (pre-preschool) on Wednesday she was wearing her back up pants.

Uh. Oh.

On the way out, I was reading her daily report and they informed me that three different times Ella went (by herself) to sit on the potty. Lucky for me I had just that very day purchased a board book about potty training.

(Coincidence? I think not...)

So that evening, right before bed, we sat down to read the potty book. Except something wasn't right. Every time the word potty was in the book, it came out of my mouth party, which made the story go something like this:

Learning to party can be hard, but it can also be fun.
You can party like the big kids when the learning time is done.

Just watch as I teach you with your dolly Sue.
She sits on the party and you can sit there, too!

When your dolly has partied she flushes the water away.
Now she is happy and ready to go outside to play!

Going party can be fun. Learn and you will see.
Once you know how to do it, it is as easy as can be.

So practice sitting on your party a little every day.
And when you learn to use it, we will cheer a big "Hooray!"

I can't imagine why (at the end of the book) the only page Ella showed interest in was the one with the balloons on it.

I mean, what's a potty without balloons?!?


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Are you a parent in or around the Detroit Metro or Blue Water area of Michigan?

Are you on Twitter?

If so, add your Twitter name in the comments section and help us build a social networking resource for parents around this area!

You can follow me on Twitter as @WritRams.

Leave your Twitter ID now.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We have an old smelly cat.

She has been relegated to my home office space and the back entryway because she is old. And smelly.

Needless to say, my office now often smells smelly. And old.

A few nights ago, my husband comes in with one of those stick (literally) brooms that smells like cinnamon. They put them out around this time every year through Christmas.

I always make fun of them.

So, he SAYS he bought it because it will make my office smell better -- you know, less like an old smelly cat. However, it is nearing Halloween. Somehow, I think this broom had a different message intended for me.

You be the judge:

(FYI-it now smells more like Big Red gum in my office and less like a smelly old cat. This may be more conducive to working. It remains to be seen...)

Enjoy this post? Nominate it for BlogHer of the Week. (It'll make me feel warm & fuzzy...)


Monday, October 19, 2009

It's that time of the year -- chilly fall days beg for us to bust out the chili recipes.
I'm a BIG fan of the crockpot/slow cooker. Especially since having a baby.

I'm also a big fan of Ruby Tuesday's white bean chicken chili.

My friend Tawni gave me this recipe and it is the closest thing I've ever made/tasted to the Ruby Tuesday's recipe. It is easy AND yummy!


3 cans great northern (white) beans, undrained

1 can (12 oz) chicken (I add 2 cans)

1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup

1 soup can of water

8 oz. salsa (medium or hot)

8 oz. Monterey Jack Cheese

Combine ingredients in crockpot and heat through. Cook on high for 2 hours if using shredded cheese or on low for 6-7 hours if using cubed cheese.

I serve with a little extra cheese on top.

Let me hear your feedback!

Enjoy this post? Nominate it for BlogHer of the Week. (It'll make me feel warm & fuzzy...)


Friday, October 16, 2009, 8:21 p.m.

This year is Ella's first REAL Halloween. I mean, she was around last year, but she SO.DIDN'T.GET.IT.

This year she might not get the whole Halloween thing, but she does know that she's excited to have a Bee-Bug (translation: Ladybug) costume. That's all that is important right now.

I was so excited to sign Ella up for her first REAL Halloween party at our Gymboree that we attend. It was tonight. We got Ella ready and then Todd and I painted our faces (me: a bee-bug, him: a bee), donned antennae and off we all flew.

Did I mention how excited I was? So was Ella. Here she was at home "flying like a bee-bug" before the party:

Sidebar: You know how your gut tells you something but you just ignore it sometimes hoping that it will go away? When Ella got home from school, my gut was telling me that this was going to be too much for a 20 month old. She was just coming off an ear infection, she still had some sinus drainage, and school then a party made for a long day for a baby.

Remember this gut feeling...

So we get to the party and it was packed.


Ella runs around.


Ella climbs some stuff.


Ella pukes in the middle of the crowded floor. And then pukes again. And then pukes some more.


I sit in the middle of the crowded party and scrub puke off the carpet while everyone watches.


And then Ella feels much better.

Although by then we had been labeled the "H1N1 kid" and we parted the sea of people like Moses wherever we went.

We left early.

On the way out I felt SO DISAPPOINTED. I felt disappointed for her. I felt disappointed for us. I looked at Todd and said, "It's so sad that she felt this way on her first ever Halloween party." To which he replied?

"Yeah, well, sometimes you just have to party 'til you puke. Then it's time to go..."

Enjoy this post? Nominate it for BlogHer of the Week. (It'll make me feel warm & fuzzy...)


Friday, October 16, 2009

It may seem like only six months ago that I was blogging about my previous laptop crash and bragging about my new sleek HP Pavilion notebook PC.

That's because it really was only six months ago.

I've been living in denial of my new computer problems for about three months now.
(In case you can't do the math, that's half the time I've had my new computer.)

It started with a grinding fan. Then an overheating battery causing the system to shut down. Then just the system in general overheating and shutting down every 10 minutes (it will probably shut down twice while trying to blog this).

I wish that computers had one of those Onstar-type buttons that connected you directly to a tech person so you could immediately yell at them in the midst of your frustration.

Unfortunately, I haven't found the Onstar button, so I had to call the dreaded tech support.

The following is an actual conversation...

ME: Hi, I bought my computer system in April 2009 and it's been overheating and I want to take it back to Staples to have them work on it but they need HP's permission.
(Yes, I believe in getting all the info out in one breath.)

Tech: Hello, how are you?

ME: *moment of silence* Uh, I'm calling tech support...

Tech: Yes, let's see...do you have Wista?

ME: Pardon?

Tech: Wista? Windows Wista?

ME: AH...yes, I have Vista.

Tech: Can you hold please? My system is frozen.

Tech: Can you give me the serial number?

ME: 99999A as in AMERICA, 9, A as in AMERICA, 44 A as in AMERICA

Tech: Please hold, my system is still frozen.

Tech: Thank you for holding. Please connect to the Internet.

ME: Uh...I would love to, but my SYSTEM HAS OVERHEATED AND WON'T BOOT UP.

Tech: Your system won't boot to the desktop?

ME: *sigh* Not at the moment. No. IT. HAS. OVERHEATED.

Tech: Please hold...
Tech: OK, please take out the battery...

ME: It's already out. It hasn't been in for two months because it overheats...

Tech: Oh. Please hold.
Tech: How old is your system?

ME: *SIGH* I bought it in April...APRIL

Tech: Of this year?

ME: Yep. *maniacal laughter*

Tech: Oh. Please hold.
Tech: You are now authorized to take your system to Staples. Thank you.

And that, my friends, is how you get the same solution you asked for right out of the box 17 minutes and 29 seconds later. Yes, I timed it.

Enjoy this post? Nominate it for BlogHer of the Week. (It'll make me feel warm & fuzzy...)


This morning my toddler woke up with Kate Gosselin hair.

This was news to me because a) she didn't ask my permission, and b) I really loath that hair style.

She already has the mullet, I guess she figured, "Hey! What do I have to lose with a reverse mullet?!?"

The best part was that we didn't even have to spend hundreds of dollars trying to hook up with Kate Gosselin's stylist. We got the hair for FREE. Apparently, all you have to do is:

1. Take a bath before bedtime.
2. Thrash all around the bed while sleeping.
3. At some point, sprinkle some milk from a bottle onto your hair.
4. Roll around some more until morning.

Note to Self: Watch less Jon & Kate news coverage while the baby is around.


Something I'll never understand is how I can be married to a total gadget freak...who knows very little about online stuff.

He has to have the latest and greatest phone. New iPod? So there. He can buy an automatic nose aspirator for our toddler, yet his eyes glaze over when I try to explain social networking to him.

When we get together with our friend, he and I will throw out terms like TweetDeck, followers, fan pages. My husband will just say, "I have no idea what you guys are talking about."

We just pat him on the head like the cute little puppy he is.

A couple of nights ago was our 12-year anniversary. (Mine and my husband's. Not our 12 year anniversary with our friend...) We actually got a babysitter and had a date night (TOTALLY unheard of here) consisting of dinner and a movie. (Also totally unheard of. I mean, who knew you could actually have an adult conversation in a romantic setting without the thunk-thunk-thunk of a 20-month old kicking your chair and loudly declaring, "Mama! Kick!")

We wanted to see a light movie, so we chose Couples Retreat. There's a very funny part in the movie where Vince Vaughn incorrectly refers to tweeting on Twitter as tw*tting.

Even my husband got that part.

Fast-forward to today. I get an auto-update from Twitter telling me that JTWDirect is now following me on Twitter.

My husband.


So instead of walking upstairs, I text him from my home office downstairs to his home office up (isn't technology grand?!?):

ME (text): I see you are now tw*tting.
Him (text reply): Heehee... I have no idea what I have done.


(Follow my husband on Twitter to see if he figures it out. It might be fun...)


This is what happens when you try to make a nice home-cooked meal for your family (after a few weeks of not making them one).

(And for all you wise guys, NO this did NOT happen during #grilledcheesesunday, it happened during #mashedpotatosaturday).

Thank goodness it wasn't on the same finger where I got bit by the goat at the petting zoo...


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The story I'm about to tell you is true.

Some may find it disturbing.

No names have been changed to protect the innocent (and guilty).

Prior to reading, you may want to have young children log off.

Reader discretion is advised.


In a small tobacco farming town in a land far, far away (known as southwestern Virginia), there lived a poor young farm girl. One day, this farm girl had a bean. Which she shoved up her nose. No one knew about the bean until the moisture from her nasal cavity made the bean sprout. They had to take her to the doctor to remove the bean.

That girl was my grandmother.

Now, over the years, I've told and re-told this story to multiple friends and family members. Most people give me that, "Yeah. Sure. True story. OK..." look.

But my grandmother told me this story, and she was one of the most honest people I know. (Unlike my prankster grandfather who told me he had his blind eye "put out" in the war. It wasn't until years after he had died and I was an adult that my cousin -- laughing hysterically -- enlightened me by telling me he had his eye injured in a bar fight. My grandpa wasn't ever in a war. HMPF.)

So, back to my bean-nosed grandmother...

Fast-forward to tonight.

My 20-month old loves peas. She had two helpings just tonight. At some point during the second helping she loudly announced, "PEAS! MAMA!" and pointed to her nose.

Apparently veggie-shoving is hereditary.

When she gets older and tells me some story about injuring her eye in the war, I'm totally not believing it.

There were no peas nor noses injured in the writing of this post.


Really? This is what we've come to?

In case you haven't heard by now, there's a new energy drink called Blow. Aside from the asinine name suggestive of cocaine (blow is one of the street names for cocaine), it is packaged to clearly represent the drug. Check out the packaging on this product:

It is a white powder.

It comes in a vial.

The best worst part? It comes with a fake credit card -- all mimicking the process of cocaine.

This is NOT OK.

Blow's company (partially under construction) website (which I am NOT going to link to here) even mimics the drug process with "Deal" as one of the menu selections (which takes you to directions on how to become an affiliate to sell your own Blow).

What I'm wondering is when did it become acceptable to market something clearly related to an illegal drug? Why are we standing for this? Don't our children have enough to contend with already?

What's next? A toothbrush shaped like a gun to place in your mouth?

Illinois is already working to remove the product.

Sound off about this parents! Contact your state's attorney general today. To find out your state's attorney general and their contact info, visit the
National Association of Attorneys General.

I want to protect my children, don't you?


When you're pregnant for the first time, other moms don't talk to you about the awful mom guilt that will plague you from second one of birth all the way through...well? Who knows. Only time will tell.

Other moms like to tell you about cravings and weight gain. They like to talk to you about those tiny socks and the boo-boo bunny ice packs that are cute, but you will probably never use. They have an opinion on which diapers to use, co-sleeping, nipple cream, ways to curb nausea and which way to sleep if you want a boy vs. girl. They love to tell you about bodily functions like gas and nipple size, but they never warn you about one of the most important things:


Before I had Ella, I had no idea about mom guilt. I mean, sure I knew about GUILT. I've slept in on Sunday mornings instead of going to church. I've cheated on some diets. (Sometimes even on Sunday mornings.) But I had no idea that becoming a parent would take guilt to a whole new unimaginable level (also known as NEVER-BEING-ABLE-TO-DO-ANYTHING-AGAIN-WITHOUT-LOSING-SLEEP-AND-GAINING-GRAY-HAIRS MOM GUILT).

I've written before about Gymboree. In case you aren't familiar, it is a "gym" for babies/kids that is built around learning concepts disguised within directed play. Or, if you're Ella, it's less about directed play and more about running around and singing to yourself and dancing in the middle while everyone else is sitting on the mat during circle time.

I've met some really great people at Gymboree -- some who are even becoming fast friends (you know who you are). I've also met a few Guilter Moms. (You may not know who you are. In order to find out, look around. You're the mom that no one is talking to...) Since Gymboree is a gathering place for (mostly) moms and kids, there's definitely going to be some throw down of guilt.

The Guilter Moms are pretty easy to spot -- they're the ones who ask you disguised simple questions in order to gauge how much smarter their child is than yours. You can tell them by the smug look they get on their face when your answer to, "Does Ella still take a bottle?" is "Of course, 17 times a day!" They then use it as an opportunity to respond with something like, "OH! Little Johnny hasn't taken a bottle since he was 7 months old and he started reading. Did I mention he's potty trained? Yeah, he has slept through the night since I taught him Latin at 4 months."

You know the ones.

Some other Good Egg Gymboree Moms and I touched recently on mom guilt. (You know who you are. Thanks for being there...) Turns out? Everyone has it. However, it doesn't just come from other moms. For some it comes from parents or grandparents. For some it comes from sisters. For some? It really does come from other moms. And those moms who make you feel bad? They're probably masking their own mom guilt.

For most of us, the mom guilt comes from the same person -- us. (Yep, that's our own self.) You are your own worst enemy. (Hey, don't take it personally, so am I.) Sometimes innocent comments from other moms are just that -- INNOCENT COMMENTS.


You don't have to be perfect.

You don't have to raise a whiz kid.

You do need to love and support your child. Aside from that? Everything else will fall into place.

I'm not sure when mom guilt ends. Perhaps it never does. Until then? Be gentle on yourself and other moms. And I'll try to do the same.


Recently on the fabulous TwitterMoms network, I learned that Samsung is looking for people to answer the question "Where is the Heart of Your Home?" One thought immediately came to my mind: The Kitchen.

Of course, I think that many people answer the question this way. No matter how large or small your kitchen area, it just seems to be the natural gathering place for most people. It's warm. It's homey. It generally has a lot going on there. And more importantly? There's food.

However, the more that I thought about it, I realized that the heart of our home is not a place. It is a thing. The heart of our home is our glass and wrought iron kitchen table.

We've had our beloved table for almost 14 years. It's dented. It's scratched. It's probably dated. The chair covers are worn and stained and now replaced with tie-on covers. It's heavy, so it's bad on tile and even worse on hardwood floors. Even with all of that, it's still the heart of every home we've lived in.

We first bought the table -- brand new -- right before we were married. It sat in a very large, sunny breakfast room in our dream home. We gathered many days -- our first table in our first home -- eating, playing games and talking around that table.

Soon, we found ourselves leaving our dream home that we built and relocating to another state. The heart of our home accompanied us to a rental house, only to be placed in a very small breakfast nook. We had to scoot past the table sideways when coming in from the garage. No matter, it was still the gathering place.

In our next home, the table quickly again became the heart. It was still part of the kitchen, but now it was part of a kitchen that overlooked the open family room. Now it was a gathering place to watch television, too.

In our current house, the table sits in the breakfast area of a long kitchen. It overlooks the water. The interesting part is that our current house is very open. This means that people can sit in the open dining room next to the kitchen at the long dining room table with plenty of room, still see the water view and still talk to the cook in the kitchen. No matter. The tiny, round glass table is still the main pick. We find ourselves scooting around, making room for others at this table during parties or gatherings. It's the pick. It's the heart.

In each of these houses, we've always had a formal dining room with a much larger table. That never mattered. The heart of our home continued to be this table. It has served not only as the heart of meals, but discussions. I told my parents we were pregnant while sitting as this table. We've had life altering discussions at this table. We've prayed at this table. We've argued at this table. We've made cookies and Easter eggs there. We've had great meals and some not so great meals there. We've played games, had coffee with friends and shed tears at this table for 14 years.

Will this be the final resting spot for the heart of our home? Probably not. We'll move again and we'll take our beloved table. We will undertake the painful process of wrapping the heavy glass top to move, yet again. But it's definitely the heart of our home. And you know the best part about that? The heart of our home accompanies us wherever we live.


I remember the details of September 11, 2001, like it was yesterday. Not the kind of memories that become fuzzy or that fade after a long amount of time has passed, but clear memories -- like a movie -- still to this day.

I was living and working in the metropolitan DC area. I remember driving to work that morning in amazement of the day. The sky was a bright blue. It was crisp. There were few clouds and the ones that were there were wispy pulled cotton candy strings of white. I had given a small thank you prayer to God for such a beautiful day.

I first learned about the attacks from a CNN email news alert while I was working in my office. It was only moments after tuning to a news radio station that the buzz started in the office. We were all in disbelief, much like the rest of the country.

When the second attack hit the Pentagon, panic started to ensue in our office. We were only about 20 miles from the District, after all. There was a scrambling of electric tension as our management team gathered in the hall to discuss a game plan for the day. Do we send employees home? Do we call clients? Do we work as if nothing has happened? The longer we talked, the more annoyed I became. I was scared. I certainly didn't want to die for this company. I didn't even like working there. Or the people that owned it.

As the phrase "terrorist attack" started to rumble through the office, my thoughts immediately went to the international educational center in the lot by our office. There was a lot of speculation on what would be targeted next. Would it be this international education center? I didn't want to stick around to find out. I lived further out then most employees. Would I even be able to make it home? Would I be safe here or driving home later? Without further discussion, direction or contemplation, I packed up and left. I needed to head home to my husband who just happened to be in town that day. I needed something normal. Something that said this wasn't the end of everything. I needed safety. I needed my family.

I remember driving home that day, faster than I would normally drive. The road was eerily empty. Remember, this is metro-DC where there is a lot of traffic. Always. That day, there was so little traffic. At some points, I was the only person on the road.

Before I left the office, we had heard that cell towers were already starting to become overwhelmed. I had called my husband before I left the office, but I needed to reach my parents who lived in a different state. I remember dialing and redialing the phone only to be met with an incessant busy signal. Bile of panic rose in my throat. There were thoughts that I might not make it home. It seems irrational now, but little about that day was rational.

When I finally reached my parents, I was able to let them know that I was OK. I was headed home. Todd was not traveling. You see, Todd often flew out of of DC on business. His flights often took him to (and from) Boston...sometimes Los Angeles. Those facts did not escape me.

I remember telling my dad how much I love him. There were very real thoughts that I might never get to say those words again to my parents. As I was expressing my love, my phone went dead as signal was lost. I burst into tears. I learned later that my dad did, too.

Closer to home, I was able to get signal again to check in with my husband. By that point, I was in emergency mode. What did we need at home? Did we have batteries? Toilet paper? Canned food? I wasn't sure when, or if, we were going to be able to get back out.

I stopped at a popular mega store. Again, I was unnerved at the silence. There was hardly anyone in this huge store. The employees that were there were huddled around a couple of televisions projecting those horrible images that would soon be burned into our memories forever. I stocked up on batteries. I stocked up on bottled waters, some canned food. Yes, I even stocked up on toilet paper.

On the way home, I remember stopping at McDonald's to pick up favorite meals for my husband and myself. My thoughts were clear, "We may not get to have this for a very, very long time." Again, irrational thoughts for an irrational time.

My husband and I hugged for a very long time when I got home. We both cried.

Our McDonald's meals left untouched on the kitchen table, we watched the events continue to unfold on television. We occasionally lost signal. We had no telephone -- cell nor land line. People knew Todd traveled. People knew I worked near DC. No one could get in touch with us.

The rest of the afternoon starts to get blurry. I do remember sitting, in shock, wondering what would be next. How would our lives ever be the same? They haven't been since.

Before today, I have never recounted the story in this detail. Outside of generalizations, I'm not sure my husband and I have ever discussed the details of that day again.

I was lucky that day. My husband was not traveling. I didn't work closer to the Pentagon where hundreds of people who were not hurt had to abandon cars and walk for miles and miles to get out of the city. We did not lose any family members or friends. Even so, we were, and still are, deeply affected by that day. We made decisions based on the emotion of that day.

I find myself emotional each year on this date, not only because of my experience, but thinking of the families and friends that did lose someone -- or several someones. All for a senseless act that proved nothing.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, families and friends of 9/11. It is said a lot and often, but we truly never will forget.


Ella's new "school" starts next week. We made a trip there yesterday to complete some paperwork that we owe them.

I've been trying to prep Ella for the schedule change by saying "school" every chance I get. She has no idea what I'm talking about.

She's 19 months old.

So on the trip to the school yesterday, I say, "We're almost to school!" (in an upbeat, excited way). Ella's response? "YAAAAAY!"

I look at Todd and say, "She has no idea what I'm talking about. Check this out..."

ME: We're almost to the riots!
ME: We're almost to the guillotines!
ME: We're almost to the noose-rope hangings!
ME: We're almost to the viral outbreaks!
Todd: Ooooh, let me try!
Todd: We're almost to Chlamydia!
Me: *glares at Todd* Now you've taken it a little too far...

Disclaimer: This author, her husband, 19 month old daughter, two other daughters, mother, cousin, doctor, veterinarian and psychic friends do not promote venereal disease. Especially chlamydia. We certainly don't condone execution devices like the guillotine or hangings. Unless it's on Barney (the dinosaur, not the store). And maybe those disrespectful working teens who say "YEP!" instead of "You're Welcome."


The 18 month old is in a No, I really don't have time to eat, thank you phase. Her favorite food for three days at lunch? Will magically no longer be her favorite food.

It's so frustrating (not to mention the mental exhaustion of trying to plan not only good for you food, but to decipher WHAT good for you food will be acceptable at this meal but probably not two days from now).

As a parent you'll try anything to get your kid to eat.


So after an OK showing at breakfast, a marginal lunch and then a no-go at dinner, we were exhausted. So I did a Yo Gabba Gabba throw down.

ME: *to Ella* You know, Yo Gabba Gabba's carrots want to go to a party in their tummy...
Todd: Yeah! *singing* ♫ There's a party in your tummy, there's a party in your tummy... ♫
Ella: *looking from me to Todd* YO?
ME: *Excited! Breakthrough near!* YES! Yo Gabba Gabba! ♫There's a party in your tummy...♫
Todd: ...♫so yummy! So yummy!♫
ME: So...can the carrots go to the party in yoooooour tummy?
Ella: *looking from me to Todd* *shakes head* No Yo.
Us: *collective sigh*


I've blogged before about business signs (or building signs, or signs in people's front yards). Mostly, I've blogged about the misspellings on signs. This time, let's concentrate on the craziness of signs in general, shall we?

Businesses are a great place to start for some fun making. I mean, you have to wonder what some people are thinking? Obviously, malfunctions in signs can give off the wrong information. VERY WRONG INFORMATION. Take this clinic sign for example.

This was on one side of the building.

This was on the other (malfunctioning) side of the building.

Do you think the clinic is wondering why they're getting a sudden influx of people talking about issues with their bowel movements? Hm.

But (heh heh, transition pun intended) sometimes well-intended business signs can backfire. I mean, REALLY, this happens so often that this store had to make a sign for it?!?

Has this EVER happened to you?!? (That's what I thought...) This might be saying more about their merchandise than they think.

One of my all time business sign favs is this little gem we found during our beach vaca this year:
SIGN: Government Hotel, Bailout Denied, Stay Here Cus We Need the Money

(It must be working - I see there was no vacancy.)

Sometimes, signs are just about placement and wording. When we lived on the East Coast, a popular fast food chicken chain posted "Dark Family Meal $4.99" on their sign. It stayed up there for one afternoon before it was reworded. *duh*

So, wording placement is key to getting across what you mean. For example? I really don't care how cheap Porta Potty water is, I'm still not drinking it.

Sometimes it's just fun to create your own sign placement so that you can blog about it later (heh heh). (Wonder what kind of fish "baby bait" catches?!?)

Speaking of using your baby for fun and games (until someone puts an eye out...):

When you're dealing with baby stuff, you find some pretty interesting signs and labels. Many leave you scratching your head in the "HUH?!? WHAT THE...?!?" kinda way. Recently, I found this choking hazard on a solid piece about the size of a large, tall thermos. NO ATTACHMENTS. NO PARTS.

Now, if my baby can get this down her throat, I would expect some kind of choking. (Well, perhaps not even choking, just sudden asphyxiation and then death. Or, at the very least, a large, goiter-like protrusion the rest of her life.)

But thanks for warning me about THAT hazard...

This caution sign found on one of those storage tubs really bummed me out.

APPARENTLY you can't put your baby in one of those big, plastic storage tubs. Imagine my disappointment when this information ruined a Friday night out on the town for me. I also had to rethink packing for vacation.

Sometimes even smart people have stupid signs. For instance, this bumper sticker is on the back of a SAAB *ahem*:

Don't worry. You'll get it later...

Lastly? I leave you with this sign that can be found in my home office:

'Nuf said.

So, what's your sign?


What goes hand-in-hand with a rainy day?
Well, OK, a NAP. But since we were out, we didn't have that choice. Instead, what screamed RAINY DAY COMFORT for us was a coffee.

And perhaps some chocolate chip cookies.

Out of convenience, we chose a fast-food-type drive through (an establishment known only in the north to those of us near Canada). We ordered two coffees and - OH LOOK! they have a half-dozen cookies for $3.99 - SOLD! They throw the total on the screen: $10.19.


Clearly something was amiss.

So we get to the window and my husband says, "UH...are you sure that total is correct?" and he repeated our order. At which point we were assured it was correct because they were having a "promotion" on the chocolate chip cookies.

And here's where it started to get interesting.

According to the manager, the chocolate chip cookies were on "PROMOTION" this month so we couldn't buy them at the $3.99 for 6 price (roughly .67-cents each), but instead had to pay $1.00 each.

My husband and I look at each other in that "HUH...WHA..." confused Labradoodle way.

My Husband: Shaking his head "So, they're on promotion so we get to pay MORE? For a cookie ON PROMOTION?!?"
Manager: Yes. These are smile chocolate chip cookies. They're for a fundraiser.
ME: yelling across my husband and through the drive-thru window But we don't want the SMILE COOKIES. I don't even know what a SMILE COOKIE is, we just want the chocolate chip cookies...
My Husband: ...6 for $3.99
Manager: I can't sell you 6 chocolate chip cookies. They are on promotion for $1.00 each. But you can choose any other flavor 6 for $3.99.

My Husband and Me: blink-blink-blink
ME: Again, yelling across my husband into the drive-thru window So let me get this straight, we can't have the cookies we want at the normal price, but we CAN buy them at a higher price for a fundraiser we don't even know if we want to support?
Manager: *sigh* We can't ring chocolate chip cookies 6 for $3.99 right now. There's no button.
My Husband and Me: blink-blink-blink
ME: Tell ya what, forget the cookies all together, we'll just take the coffees.

Moral of the Story? If you want to do a promotional fundraiser, raise your prices by 33-cents and insure that customers only have a choice to buy or not to buy. (See how well it worked on us?)

And that, my friends? Is promotion math and fundraising at its finest.

God Bless America.


My kid loves to 'wing (also known as SWING to those of us who have understanding of the English language and full control to use an "S" whenever we feel the need). Every time we pass the park shouts of, " 'WING! 'WING! 'WING!" fill the car. Each time we get in the car at the back of the house, she points to the neighbor's swing set and says, " 'WING! Uh-huh!" while nodding her little mullet head emphatically. We can't pass a swing or anything resembling a swing without some chatter.

A couple of weeks ago we were excited to stop at a garage sale that had a Parents-Choice-Award-Winning-Flip-Up-Storage-Seats-Cup-Holders-Extra-Long-Handle Radio Flyer red wagon (No compass in the stock or thing that tells time, though) for $2 (which is WAY BETTER than the $100 they charge you in the store). We were excited for the deal. Ella was excited because she thought we were at the people's house to 'wing on their 'wing set in their yard.

Did I mention my daughter likes to swing?

Anyway, I've been asking Todd since the beginning of time (or, at the very least, since start of summer) to get Ella a swing. I guess guilt finally gave in because Ella now has a swing.

You know those great castle-like sets that rise from the ground like another city and have all those cool doorways and crosswalks? You know, the ones that cost a couple of thousand dollars and proves just how much a parent loves their child? The ones where you could host your child's preschool while simultaneously having a dinner party on it and never cross paths with a child?

Yeah, we didn't get one of those.
Instead, we got one of these:

The kind that hangs from a tree.

By itself.

Where you can't have friends over to share.

Nevermind about dinner parties.

But, whatever.

Don't get me wrong. This kind of swing is just fine to meet our little addict's daily need for swinging when we can't squeeze out a park play alllllllllllll the way down to the park 3 minutes from our house.

SIDEBAR: There are some days with a toddler when 3 minutes away is just too much to handle. (I feel the collective nods of sympathetic mothers everywhere. Word.)

So, Todd braves the mosquitoes and performs some minor acrobatics to get the swing hung in the perfect tree (which may be ours or may be our neighbor's. We're not quite sure. We're just waiting to see how that one plays out...).

FINALLY! The moment I've been awaiting! We take Ella out, place her in the NEW 'WING and she is delighted! You couldn't have found a happier child. While we push and discuss why we hadn't done this sooner *ahem* we watch Ella's wispy mullet hair fly in the air and her smile reach from ear to ear. Then, she slowly puts her chubby little wristless arm up, points to the neighbor's swing set and says,

"SLIDE! Uh-huh! Yeah!"