Sunday, December 13, 2009

Little Ghouls

It's about time I finally got these photos posted! Of course they've been on Big Tuna's iphone and getting my hands on that thing is pretty tricky!!!

No matter though 'cause it might as well still be the first week after Halloween 'cause I am STILL finding little stashes of trick or treat goodies that have been hidden all over the house.

I think my kids caught on to the fact that I usually dispose of the majority of their candy as soon as I can secretly dump it, so they came up with their own plan...making me think I've gotten rid of it while hiding secret small stashes all over the place........or maybe they're just part-squirrel.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I'll just come right out and say it: Halloween is my very least favorite..., um, time of the year (it's not really a holiday is it?). And there are several reasons for this - but I won't go into them now. However, I do have to say that I love the spooky shadows cast by my new lighted twig pumpkin (I need to figure out how to hide that cord though!).

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

Even though we had a great time on our trip to Connecticut and New York, our travel arrangements were a real pain in the rear! It was a really powerful reminder to me of what can happen when one element of a great plan goes wrong.

I haven't even tried to add up the number of hours that Starfish, Gigi, and I spent waiting in an airport, train, or subway station . Let's just say, that the majority of the photos that we took for the trip were actually taken in one of those three places.

It all started when, just as we were boarding our first flight (at 7 am!) we realized that Sophie had forgotten her insulin. So we missed that flight and tried to get on any other flight. I learned never to fly on a Friday! EVERYTHING was booked solid! We ended up not getting to New Haven until 10 o'clock that night! (that's about 15 hours of flying and waiting)

On the way home, we were to catch an 8:05 am flight out of new York. I was pretty nervous about making it there on time, so I gave myself almost 3 hours to go the 60 miles. Well, I've never driven in New York at that time of day, and of course, we missed the flight (just barely!)

This led to the same chain of events - sitting, waiting, and hoping that the next flight would have 3 empty seats. We made it to Baltimore, but couldn't make it all the way to Raleigh until the next morning.

Fortunately Uncle Chad lives nearby and came to our rescue and took us to his house for the night. We enjoyed visiting with him, Laura, and their dogs and cats. (I'm so glad we didn't take the flight connecting in Chicago!)

The ideal caption for this photo would be: "Trying not to be Crabby in Maryland even though we got stuck here overnight with no luggage on poor Gracie's Birthday!!" but that's just a little too long, don't ya think?

We finally made it home, about 30 hours after we first set out on our journey. We learned that airport seating, when you can find it, is NOT that comfortable, and that moving walkways can provide a good hour of entertainment for 2 bored girls!

People Should Smile More

One thing that struck me while riding miles and miles on trains and subways in New York was how people could be riding packed together at high speeds on these mass transit systems, yet insist on avoiding eye contact! I did an experiment to see how many people I could get to look me in the eye. Not many!

Also, and I know I am a bad example of this - but people really should smile more!! During our trip to the crowded Northeast, I realized how few of the thousands of people I saw were actually smiling. And I noticed that those who did smile, seemed so much nicer to be around than the rest.

I have to mention 'Oma', our new adopted Grandma from Germany. (Her real name is Doris, but she says "Call me Oma (that's what they call the grandmas in Germany). Now, we met Oma on our first full day at the Ronald McDonald House. She had been there 5 weeks with her great grandson Aiden, who was having heart surgery. Even though we were basically 'just passing each other' since she was leaving soon and we were just there for a very short stay, she took the time to talk to us, learn our names, and was just generally a joy to be around, and with her German accent, so fun to talk to!

The girls and I agreed that she looked a whole lot like their own 'Nannie', and she was so thrilled to hear that! She treated us like long lost family, and even though we spent very little time with her, the girls plan to keep in touch, and I am sure they will remember her.

Oma was such an example to me of the power of a smile, a happy countenance, and loving spirit that I decided that I would try really hard to be more like her....and smile more. : )

Monday, October 19, 2009

Art, Science, History, and a Little Home-Ec

This was a really educational trip for us: Mom, Starfish, and Gigi. Usually Starfish and I go to her appointments at Yale alone. But this time we took Gigi for a little birthday trip. It sure was fun to have a sister along for the ride!

Along with some amazing sightseeing, shopping, and culinary experiences (Vietnamese anyone?) we got some educational opportunities that would make any private-school-tuition-paying parent positively green with envy. (Thus I had absolutely NO guilt whatsoever about the 3 days lost from school!) And we accomplished all this in a VERY short time and managed a big 6-hour doctor's visit plus a little relaxation too! Here are the highlights:

BODIES REVEALED exhibit at the South Street Seaport - perfect for my aspiring doctor, (above).

What a piece of work is man! How like an angel, how like a god. The beauty of the world! ~William Shakespeare

This was the most amazing museum exhibit I have ever seen. I can't even describe the feelings I had as I was able to see, up close, and in such extraordinary detail, how our bodies were created and function.

The specimens were real human bodies. It was hard not to think about the fact that these were real people, just like us. We all learned so much!

I am humbled and in awe of this gift of a body that we have been given while we spend our time on Earth. It is truly wondrous and magnificent!

at the Yale Art Gallery - perfect for my little artist.

The Yale Art Gallery has lots of wonderful things to see. But Mrs. Delaney's Flowers was the headlining exhibit while we were there. Apparently Mrs. Delaney was a very artistic woman who had mastered all of the "leisure arts". Some of these beautiful flowers were created by cutting and arranging tiny paper pieces. Others were embroidered onto a black velvet background and used for dresses or in screens. She took here inspiration directly from nature. I was amazed at what she created without any patterns or color charts.

While we couldn't take photos inside the gallery, I took this at the entrance. This is a massive display of greenery and dried flowers that seem to float in the air to soaring heights. The picture doesn't really do it justice. I walked away wondering how I could duplicate the floating flower effect in my house...

GROUND ZERO at the World Trade Center Site.

We were blown here!

This was not on our list of places to visit, simply because I didn't think we would have time. But when we were trying to figure out the right direction to get to the Bodies exhibit, the wind was so strong and cold that we couldn't really wank in any other direction than the one that brought us here.

I didn't even know we were that close to it!

Unfortunately, we weren't able to see much because the area is all fenced off. But we saw the pictures of what the final monument will look like one day and see the cranes and all the work going on to create it..

Most importantly, I was able to feel that this was indeed a very special place. And feel the hope that comes from seeing the people going on with their lives yet never forgetting...


We finally got the chance to explore around Yale and had a good time even though the weather was bad.

A Yale sorority brought cake decorating supplies over to the Ronald McDonald House and the girls had fun decorating a cake--and probably ate way too much frosting in the process!

Monday, October 12, 2009


Starfish decided to run Cross Country during seventh grade way back at the beginning of sixth grade. I don't know what caused her to make this decision...our family isn't the most sport-oriented. It occurred to me that our kids might turn out a little weird - not having had the exposure to sports the way other kids are. No ball games dominate our TV - We don't really go to sporting events-although I am thinking we should.... And neither Big T or I played serious sports growing up--both being raised by cerebral "sciency" type fathers.

Wherever she got the notion, I am really proud of her for taking on the challenge. Of course there was the initial "self-conscious in the uniform" thing - I don't think she's ever worn shorts that short or a tank top before. Then there was the "I'll be embarrassed if I can't finish the race or come in last" thing. I sometimes forget that little things like that can seem like really big things to a quickly growing ,"all knees and elbows," preteen.

But it's more of a challenge for her than for other kids. She has to be aware of how she feels before, during, and after a practice or race. What's her blood sugar? When did she eat last? When and how much insulin has she had? Does she need to eat now before she runs? Does she have a snack nearby? Is someone there to help her if she needs it?...It's a little much for a 12 year old.

Well, she wasn't able to finish her first race, and she did come in last once, but she has been able to take it all in stride. Each race gets a little easier. She had decided that she wanted to participate in Cross Country before she had diabetes. I am so glad she didn't let it stop her, and hope it never will.

Cleaning Up

Total: $38.79

OK, it's another bargain bragging blog post, but this time I'm really proud--and I'm DONE shopping for the week!

It's been a while since I seriously used coupons to try to get our food budget down. But while combing through our September bank statement I added up how much I'd spent on groceries and household goods. It wasn't pretty. Way more than I thought.

I researched how much couponers claim they can feed a family on and tried to emulate their numbers: shooting for $300/month or less for our family of 6. That seemed a little tough, but I decided to take on the challenge - our Christmas trip is just around the corner...

I can't believe I finally did it...actually bought a week's worth of groceries (and a bunch of cleaning stuff) for our big family (plus 2 cats) for less than $50. I've gotten great deals on a couple of things to stash away for later - but never a whole week's-worth of things we'll use immediately.
I posted this photo because everything in it cost me only 39 cents at CVS. Yup, six 2-packs of razors was what I bought. The other stuff--halloween candies, lotion, a pill-counter, and a book of coupons was in a gift-pack that the cashier gave me...she said "here's your prize!" I don't know what it was for - I didn't see her give anyone else a "prize" - maybe it was for being the biggest cheapskate of the day.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

l तत् त्वम् असि --That Thou Art

To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist. ~Schumann

तत् त्वम् असि or तत्त्वमसि or "Tat Tvam Asi" (That Thou Art) is a saying used in one form of Hinduism's discussion of the divinity within oneself.

I just thought it was a good phrase to describe our Grouper (now Gigi), because Art is such a part of this girl, that if it somehow left her - she would cease to be the same person.

A lot of people have artistic abilities and talents, but Gigi is a little different in that she sees the world in a different way than most people. I can't remember a time when she wasn't trying to create something beautiful. She was able to work out these designs in just a few minutes!

Recently she's taken to turning away from the camera when I try to capture her work. Not sure why. I had to work hard to get these photos! It's almost like she's embarrassed by her talent.

I can now say that the cliche about artists being "sensitive" is absolutely true - but not in a negative way. She is gentler than most people. More aware of people's feelings. Always trying to make those around her feel loved. Maybe it's her artistic ability that helps her find and use the divinity that's within her...maybe it's her divine nature that gives her her talent. I just love her to pieces!

Gigi - Thou Art Amazing!!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

COW Do We Love Thee?

Whoever at Chick-fil-A came up with having cow mascots is a genius. Whoever came up with giving away free food once a year to people willing to dress up like a cow is even 'genius-er'.

Now, I'm not proud...I'll bend over to pick up a penny on the ground. But when I found out about the dress-up promotion, I was really thinking it would be a fun activity to do with the kids--the free food would just be a side-benefit.

It was Starfish who took the lead. Like most projects, I got sidetracked with all the everyday stuff that needs to be done (errands, bills, messes, etc). Starfish went and found old white t-shirts and some black cloth napkins that I had left over from something, cut the cow-spots, and got them ironed on. All I really did was buy the fusible webbing and show her how to iron it on.

The kids had fun designing and wearing their shirts. We got to eat out for "no good reason".
And I had fun not cooking dinner than night!

I have to say, they've won us over at CFA!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Daytrip Believer

We had been talking for a long time about all the places we wanted to go this summer and all the things we wanted to do. The list was long. So as the the long 4th of July holiday weekend rapidly approached, we started making our way down that list, trying to choose something that would fit our time and budget constraints.

We found that our constraints were too constraining for anything on that list.

So Big T ultimately made the call to drive up to Blowing Rock and Boone to enjoy the mountains. We left the house at about 8:30 am, made a stop for gas, stopped at Cracker Barrel to rent a book on tape, and we were off.

With very limited directions, and no solid idea of where we were going to end up, we were able to enjoy the whole trip - not just the destination part. Big T is fond of reminding us that the vacation starts when we leave the driveway, not when we get to our destination.

Since we really didn't have a set destination, there wasn't a whole lot of "are we there yet?" thankfully!! Ok, maybe a little, but that was only after many hours of driving.

We found a fun old-time general store and explored blowing rock. Then a picnic and a beautiful mountain hike along a stream lined with ferns and blooming mountain laurel.

No. This trip was all about beautiful scenery, waterfalls, perfect weather, and being together. What else could we possibly need?

ps: that's my hair in the top picture, being blown all over by the 'blowing' part of "Blowing Rock". Although it looks like I'm wearing some type of funky cowboy hat, I wasn't! just a visor.


I'm trying hard not to read anything into this, but my husband emailed me a story about a low-calorie-diet monkey study today.

There are five containers of ice cream and some three-day old chocolate chip cookies calling to me from my kitchen. I'm not hungry. But I know they are there. And I tell myself "TONIGHT you will not give in!" ...recalling last night's four-scoop shame. I woke to a pile of ants on the floor this morning because I was such a glutton that I just deposited my ice-cream dish beside the bed.

Who is this person? I had hardly gotten any of my summer clothes out of storage this year because I was so sure they would all be too big for me soon. I remember being so so motivated when the weather turned warm to "get out there and get in shape!"

It's not necessarily the weight. I've lost a few pounds...(but it always seems to come from the wrong places) I wanted fewer lumps and more curves. What I got was less of what gave me the curves, thus emphasizing the still-there lumps around my waist, and (my pet peeve): back-rolls.

It's the muscle tone. I haven't got any. I have no muscles to hold me in and up. I'm built roughly like a Twinkie.

It just shows the sad state I'm in that my work-out of choice is with senior citizens (water aerobics)...partly because I can actually survive the whole workout, partly because my vanity prevents me from walking into a real gym (they have MIRRORS in there!), and the worst part, I admit, is that my self esteem gets a boost because I'm not the saggiest one there!!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sharp Dressed Man

I bought this outfit for Halibut a long time ago. I think he must have been 2 or 3. It was HUGE on him. But I liked it because it was different. The print on the vest is little rocket ships. So it went into the box of 'someday clothes'.

Well, a few weeks ago, his drawers were getting bare. The 'too small' clothes had been going out (to the huge pile in the living room waiting for my attention), but not much had been coming in. Down came the 'someday clothes' box. I was sure everything in there would still be too big. It wasn't.

He LOVES this outfit. Wants to sleep in it sometimes. I think it looks better with a white oxford shirt and black Sunday shoes--as I intended...but this kid has his own ideas: white T-shirt and Vans.

I laugh, thinking he looks like belongs in an old Backstreet Boy Video. He's already won a dance contest (at Big T's recent company picnic). Maybe I should start looking for an agent...
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Monday, July 6, 2009

Park It!

We were tired from a long hike..and hungry. It was going to be a long ride home, so, as we trekked back to the parking area, I suggested we take a few minutes to make some sandwiches and eat before we started driving home. As we rounded the corner I spied a little park out of the corner of my eye and thought I would be so much nicer to have a picnic there instead of eating out of the back of the car.

The kids were off like a shot - forgetting about food altogether. I thought they were getting too old to get excited by a swing-set.... I thought.

I haven't been so impressed with a public park since ...well, ever! Don't get me wrong, we have some really nice parks where we live, but the little community park in Blowing Rock, NC really was something to write about.

It wasn't brand new - in fact, since it was in the middle of town, I think it has probably been there a long time. But it was updated and well maintained, with a climbing wall, 'fort' type structure with slides and lots of swings, a big sandbox. Tennis and basketball courts.

There were picnic tables and a gazebo, big trees for shade and plenty of benches to sit on, but no one was using them, even though it was packed with people.

Pretty standard park, right? But it wasn't. In the middle of all this activity sat a small shed. Inside the shed was a man handing out equipment: basketballs, tennis racquets, tennis balls, volleyballs, horseshoes (yes, we played a few rounds) Nice, new equipment. Not old flat balls and broken stuff.

There was no sign-in or out sheet, no ID or deposit required.

The smell of fresh baked waffle cones wafted over from the fudge and ice cream shop across the street.

At one point I looked around and marveled that such a place still existed. On the way home I lamented that I should have cause for such wonder.

I wish I had gotten more pictures, but I was too busy playing.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Smarty Pants!

Well, the letter finally came in the mail late Thursday. This time he pulled off the nearly impossible feat of passing all four CPA exams on his first try, something we've heard just doesn't usually happen.

He accomplished this even as he took on extra responsibilities at work and was still a great dad.

It was a long six months - we didn't get to see much of him, and we missed him a lot. Most days he went off to work in the morning and didn't come home until after midnight. Weekends found him studying 8 or 10 hours at the UNC law library. The kids and I would take him a sandwich or pizza for lunch and dinner.

I got used to calling all the shots about just about every detail of our lives and being the one where the buck stopped...although it was exhausting(!) and I'm glad to have my partner back by my side.

I just can't help but be filled with pride for him.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Old Ladies' Hearts are all Wrinkly

The scene was like something out of a Hallmark commercial. Halibut had been having a hard time falling asleep. Every fifteen minutes or so, he would call me or Big T into his room for some reason: another hug, more water, etc...."please stay with me", "draw on my back", "just a few minutes"... . It was difficult...the getting up to go in to him part, then the leaving him part. Over and over.

After about the fifth call, I grabbed a smooth heart-shaped rock inscribed with the word "Love' on it, which sat near my bedside table. I gave it to him to hold and told him, "you can have my heart to hold and it will help you fall asleep".

A similar tactic had worked with Marlin, but there wasn't a heart-shaped rock involved. When she was little, I always had to study at night. I would usually lie down with her for a few minutes at bedtime, then I would plant a kiss on each of her palms, curl up her fists, and tell her to hold on to them tight. This always helped her go right to sleep. It also seemed to go on for years... .

So I fully expected it to work with my son. But he threw me a curve-ball. "Old ladies' hearts are all wrinkly," he stated, matter-of-factly.

Now, do you think I could just walk out of the room at that point? I'll admit, my vanity got the best of me. Instead, I ended up snuggling with him a while longer to gently probe: exactly who did he consider to be an 'old lady' and thus, "wrinkly hearted".

I learned that 'grandmas have wrinkly hearts because they have wrinkly faces,' and that mine (bless his...heart) did not fit into that category. I went to bed relieved - but not before applying an extra layer of eye cream.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Here's a sample of what we saw on our Sunday family walk around our neighborhood (besides the clover fields!)

The older I get, the more I appreciate the world we I live in. With all my gushing about springtime these days, it may seem as if I live to channel Henry David Thoreau. Not even close! In fact, I couldn't stand reading his "namby pamby drivel" in college. "Why waste time reading about it when you can go outside and see it!," I always thought.
Talk about eye candy!

It's too bad that we celebrate Christmas in the winter instead of spring, because strung-up lights, while pretty, don't hold a candle to this.

Pictures can show so much that mere words cannot begin to adequately describe, unfortunately for Thoreau. Gotta hand it to him though, I'd be hard pressed to even try... that's why I love my camera!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eggstraodinary People

I was not in the mood for boiling, dying, filling, hiding, or seeking eggs. Or for trying to keep track of the number of pounds of sugar my kids ingested in one day. Or for cooking up a special meal. In short - this year I was feeling decidedly Anti-Easter.

I won't go into all of the reasons why... probably had to do with being a virtual single parent for the past 3 months and tryingto solve too many big any rate, I couldn't muster the enthusiasm that Easter deserves.

Fortunately we have a couple of angels in our family who go by the names of Grandpa and Grandma Fisher. We accepted the invitation to come to their house to celebrate the day (even though I dreaded packing up the car and driving the 2 hours without Big-T). But we made it and actually had a good time in the car--snacks from Sonic helped...

I was able to help the kids decorate eggs without destroying my house (flashbacks of a past Easter's 6 egg dye cups spilled on a white carpet still haunt me). I was immediately grateful to avert a catastrophe. Plastic eggs were filled with pistachios, mini Ritz, and pretzles instead of candy.

The Sunday morning Sacrament program consisted of a beautiful aria by the choir and our Grandpa's thoughts on the Atonement. Reflection on the first Easter brought back the feelings that had been missing, and of course adjusted my perspective.

Annoyance at the additional work, mess, and expense turned to appreciation for this beautiful day to spend with these extraordinary people.

And gratitude (is there a word for 'beyond gratitude'?) for that momentous day so long ago that changed the world.

Luck of the Irish

May good luck be your friend whatever you do
and may trouble be always a stranger to you.

~ Irish blessing

On our family walks in Texas there was one house that had the most beautiful rose garden. It was always an important stopping point. We smelled and compared each of the diffferent colors and varieties. Sure enough, not all roses smell alike. It was a place to linger, to forget for a moment about the journey 'from home and back' -or -here to there- and savor the beauty that surrounded us.
Our North Carolina neighborhood is georgeous this time of year. Lots to look at. But now my kids are bigger and on bikes and scooters. I'm not pushing one or two of them in the stroller any more. And it seems like these days our walks go by so fast! Usually with me yelling up ahead that a car is coming! They don't stop for just any pretty little flower any more!
Well, yesterday we found a new attraction worth stopping for. It was this yard just full of clover! So we had to stop and have a hunt. (OK, it was the second hunt of the day, since it was Easter...but who's counting!) And yes, I do wish I had thought of this on St. Patrick's Day--
I have no idea who's yard it was--they were probably looking out their window laughing at us!
It reminded me of the endless summer hours I used to spend hunting for four leaf clovers. A piece of my own childhood I had completely forgotten about...
My lucky day.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Very Best

These are the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I used to make these about once a week. It's a little less frequent now...maybe once a month. They are pretty much a requirement for any road trip! This recipe came from Big T's sister and, true to its name, it never fails me--unless I try to substitute anything!

(Amy's) No Fail Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 c Butter flavor Crisco

3/4 c brown sugar

1 1/2 c sugar

3 eggs

1 Tbs. Vanilla

3 c flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 c chocolate chips

Cream sugars and shortening. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients. Gradually add to shortening mixture. Add chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit on hot baking sheet for a few minutes to continue cooking. Remove to a flattened paper bag to blot extra oil.