My Fun-Sized Entrepreneurs

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Now that we've successfully managed and organized all of our Christmas acquisitions, the girls have started on a new mission.

Their goal?

To purchase a bevy of accessories for their American Girl dolls.

Because girls need accessories, you know.

After carefully perusing the American Girl Doll catalog, making a spreadsheet of everything they need want, and price-checking against Our Generation products at Target, they have devised a plan for getting everything their dolls could have ever hoped to have.

This stuff is not for the faint of heart, y'all. The grand total for everything they wanted on round one was $2116.29 (tax included), and they managed to whittle it down to $1186.42. We are definitely on the "baby steps" track for this endeavor.

My little entrepreneurs, who are truly their father's children when it comes to things like this, decided to have a sale this morning. We started out with hot cocoa and other goodies...

And Texas weather being Texas weather, they were quick to make an adjustment for the afternoon...

Pretty safe to say they made out like bandits. It's also pretty safe to say that now they want to have some sort of a sale every day until they've earned enough to buy all things on their wish lists.

I'm always amazed by the generosity of neighbors, friends, and strangers in their efforts to support kids. There were so many people who stopped by just to give tips (I swear the cookies were good!), and so many people who made multiple visits for more goodies!

Okay - we're settling in for some Harry Potter deliciousness...

Muggles, beware.


Giving Hearts

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

"Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give." 
~Eleanor Roosevelt

This was the first Christmas where the girls were more into finding and giving the perfect gifts than getting them, and oh my goodness - it made this year a seriously wonderful holiday to experience! 

Don't get me wrong. We've definitely had our moments of  watching too much TV...

But those moments have been leveled off with Jay inventing our favorite playlists...

Mixed in with a few tears of sheer exhaustion...

Counterbalanced by some fabulous sister secrets...

And sprinkled with the news of a new little guy who will soon be a huge part of our lives!

In in the midst of all of the hustle and bustle, I officially received four of my five most favorite gifts ever. In addition to last year's ornament (number 5), this year I received the most perfectly homemade ornament from Jay, a Paul Frank ornament and a coffee mug wearing a green sweater (to stay warm, obviously) from both girls, and a ridiculously soft and cozy Vera Bradley blanket of my very own...from Cee.


Melt. My. Heart.

We have spent as much time as possible outside during the past week. The weather has been perfect December weather (for Texas), and we got a little SoundFreaq friend who has changed our world for the better. No longer do we look like those odd people who walk around with their music blaring out of their front pockets as if they're some sort of walking, self-programmed, mobile juke box robot (no offense if that's you). Nope - now we have good sound where ever we go, and I have to say this innovation is a wonderful thing!

Long breaks with the girls (15 days together!) are just plain good for my soul, and I think they're good for their sweet souls, too.

However, I can't disregard the fact that I have seen tons of negativity and complaining on FaceBook this season, and I'm not even talking about the Duck Dynasty debacle or any of the other "news-y issues" that have happened in the last week. I'm talking about down right complain-y stuff that just makes me want to hide people's posts from my news feed.

And I hate that, because it goes directly against the grain of my personal happiness initiative.

Christmas pictures? Love 'em. Family photos? Warm my heart. Sweet holiday expressions? I'm a sucker for those, too. Desperate, gloomy Gus negativity? During the most wonderful time of the year? Not really my thing at all.

If there is one thing I have learned over the course of the last five years, it's that each of us are in charge of creating our own happiness. Everyone faces their own demons on at least a daily basis, and it is absolutely up to each of us as to how we choose to a) deal with those obstacles and b) react to those obstacles.

For me and my girls, we choose happiness each and every day. Our glass is half full, not half empty. Each day is full of possibilities and great challenges, not full of roadblocks or obstacles. Each of our relationships with others are full of blessings and love, not full of shortcomings or should have/could haves. We are lucky to encounter a community full of a few incredible friends, not a world full of enemies.

I hope that you and your families had a wonderful and blessed Christmas, and I hope that you and your loved ones are planning to ring in the New Year with full hearts, open eyes, and loving minds.

Here's to a fulfilling 2013 and a 2014 that is full of prosperity!

With these two by my side, I can't imagine welcoming the New Year in any other way!

Happy Holidays, and Happy 2014...


It Worked (Sort Of)...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

George's arrival was a tremendous success!

They instantly loved him.

So much so that they made a quilt for him.

And one for Jerry, too, because, "When Jerry gets back, he is going to be worn smooth out...and cold, too."

When I say they made quilts, I mean we made quilts. They cut out the squares, I did the sewing. And the cooking. And the cleaning. And the laundry. And checked over the homework. And created the requisite Action Planning/Professional Developing for my Certification Program.

I already love being a two-Elf household. I think the girls will, too.

Uncanny resemblance, no??

No more Elf posts. I promise.


Twice the Fun

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I feel like I've done a fair job of taming my Elf posts in the last couple of years - for awhile there, I was a little out of control, and I was secretly hoping for an Elf interventionist somewhere around the 8th day of Christmas. I know there are lots of anti-Elf people out there, but I'm definitely not wired to be one of them (and I'm definitely not wired to not be one of them).

When Jerry the Tiny Elf finally made his way back to our house this year (on Nov. 28), the girls immediately had a whole slew of questions for him.

What do you do in the off-season, Jerry? 

What's your side job? Do you moonlight?


What sports do you like? 

Jerry, how exactly do you make it to and from the North Pole every single night?


Where's your coat, young man?

Is there a Mrs. Jerry? 


Have you ever considered capitalizing on your fame and marketing yourself for some of the other well-recognized holidays, Jerry? 

So, tell me, Jerry, how exactly does this whole Elf thing work, and what do you do to give back to charitable causes each year?


You know, casual, non-heavy, light-hearted questions like those.

Jerry the Tiny Elf did a decent job of fielding those questions, but he also accidentally left a heart on one of his letters that Jay deemed to be very similar to the hearts I draw.

JFTB, I need you (and your left handed chicken squabble and cute candy cane ginger bread architect-esque sketches).

Every since then, Jerry the Tiny Elf has been trying to lay a little lower than usual, has refrained from leaving any more notes, and has been hanging onto his receipts strictly for the purposes of charitable tax write-offs.

These are tough times, people.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

And because I'm the anxious worrier analytic type, I started to realize that the reason they were asking about an extra Elf is because they are ridiculously competitive with one another, and I deduced that a second Elf just might be the key to allowing them to each have "ownership" of a visitor (and for the record, I absolutely and completely realize that this is the Elf equivalent of "a trophy for every kid, winners and losers alike." Judge me if you want - I'm at the point of "It's just whatever...").

And perhaps, if we are hypothetically talking about the future, an Elf for each of them would allow each child to have (in 24 and 27 years in the future when they're allowed to get married and start families of their own (35 is the magical number you're looking for...)) an Elf of their own.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

My biggest struggle with this whole "two-Elf household" concept has been figuring out how a second Elf would magically appear without blatantly obliging the Target retail gods. Oh, and also I needed a really good back story in order for this gig to properly play itself out.

Last night while the girls were at a sleepover, I had a decent idea.

Those don't happen too often.

I thought, What if Jerry the Tiny Elf faced a weather diversion on his way from Texas back to the North Pole? And he stopped for the night in Kansas City (okay, fine, my first choice for a layover stop was Carey, Indiana), because he's a safe and responsible Elf and he isn't crazy about taking unnecessary risks? And while he's temporarily diverted, the lovely people at the North Pole rerouted another wayward Elf to our home? 

And furthermore, what if said Elf's origin was via B+N instead of TGT?

Two birds. One stone.

Score, y'all.

After my mad (and I do mean mad) dash to my 2nd favorite bookseller (RIP Borders), a second Elf was successfully ascertained and smuggled back home.

My next hurdle was to determine a name for said substitute Elf.

Jerry the Tiny Elf...

Jerry and Tom?  Too obvious.

Jerry and Jeff? Too goofy, even for Texans.

Jerry and Elaine Benes? Not very Christmas-y.

Elaine Jingle Benes? Too many obvious references to strippers and North poles.

Jerry and George...Hmmmm...

George Costanza...this could work.

I am pretty sure I am much too excited about this, but I cannot wait for the girls to meet George Cocoa Stanza when they wake up tomorrow morning!!

Long story short, let's allow us to go back to the beginning of this post. If you know of any good Elf interventionists, we still might be in need of one around here in the very near future.

Thank you CNN, Chicago, Mother Nature, and Barnes and Noble for providing the perfect storm for welcoming a new Elf into our home!!

I think Jerry the Tiny Elf and George Cocoa Stanza are going to get in lots of trouble together...that's how it should be, right?

I figured there was no better place for George to make his grand appearance...than napping under the girls' desk.

Hopefully someday they'll get my sense of humor?



Monday, December 9, 2013

It's no secret - I love Andy Borowitz. This video revelation of his (His, or him? I debated.) from 92Y last week is no exception...enjoy.

Click here for guaranteed chuckles...


Waning Innocence

Saturday, December 7, 2013

One thing I have tried incredibly hard to do as a mother is maintain a sense of innocence in Cee and Jay. Just about a year ago, we lost a little bit of innocence with Cee with the holiday season, and I think that has made it much more difficult for me to get into the spirit this year. She is working so hard to play along for Jay, and that means the world to me.

There is still a strong sense of innocence in each of them, but recently I've realized that little pieces are being chipped away, one piece at a time, and there is nothing at all that I can do about it. When I have the chance to catch true moments of "new," I want to capture them, wrap them up, and hold onto them forever.

A few weeks ago, someone in Cee's class said something to the effect of, "Well, her mom never should have had her." 5th grade, y'all. Cee came home with a bevy of questions because until that moment, it had never occurred to her that there was such a thing as choice, or that someone's parents may not want them, or that anyone shouldn't actually be here.

In all fairness, the little girl who said it is the daughter of an Ob-Gyn, so her knowledge of physiology is probably on a substantially different level than Cee's. But still, that kind of content isn't something I was ready to deal with for at least a few more years.

Last week, Jay was introduced to her first racial slur. I don't get to walk my girls in to school very often, so I don't know all of their friends. That's one of the downsides of being a teacher who has to be at school 10 minutes (and several miles) after she can actually drop off her own children. Jay has told me about her good friend R at least a hundred times this year. Until Wednesday, I didn't know much about R other than what a sweet friend she is and how much fun she and Jay have when the play together.

When I picked Jay up on Wednesday, she told me that two kids called her friend R a mean name during lunch, that it really upset R, and it made her cry. I asked her what mean name they called R, and Jay said, "They called her a tigger because she has darkish skin. Momma, what does that mean?"

Ugghh. That moment absolutely broke my heart.

On one hand, I didn't want to tell her the real word, but on the other hand, I didn't want her to hear it from other kids and presume it was even an option, ever. So I told her, and I watched closely as her little wheels processed this revelation.

With both girls, in the different, but similar at the same time, situations, I felt really overwhelmed. There isn't anything that prepares you for these types of conversations, and I feel like I kind of just wing them and hope that I say the right things that address the issue without giving too much extra information. Just like in the classroom, I've learned that they need time to process what I tell them, and then they need to ask questions. Lots and lots of questions.

I'm the type of person who likes to find a silver lining in every less-than-ideal situation. It just helps me deal with it better in my own Pollyanna sort of way. I'm still waiting for the silver lining with these two instances, and I know eventually I will "get it" because that's just how things usually work for me. It takes me awhile to percolate, analyze, and reflect.

Over the last couple of weeks, the girls and I have realized that Browning is completely deaf, which is sort of a bummer. We'll catch each other calling him (with no response), and then someone yells, "He's deaf now!! Remember?"

We're all adapting and we're trying to teach him new signs for the things we like to tell him on a regular basis. He already knows the signs for sit, stay, lay down, speak, shake, high five, treat, and drop. It's the positive things we still want to make sure he knows...things like good boy, and we love you, and I'm not sure our feeble attempts at two-thumbs-up are translating adequately for him.

Like I said, I am always in search of a silver lining to any situation that isn't already great, and today I found Browning's silver lining. He is the sweet giant puppy who has been afraid of the vacuum since he was 8 weeks old.

Vacuum + Browning = Bad Combination.

As it turns out, he just wasn't a fan of the noise. Silver lining: the vacuum doesn't bother him any more.

Here's to hoping for a few more silver linings headed my way. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and I hope you stay warm!! These two sweeties wouldn't want it any other way.


Give Thanks

Thursday, November 28, 2013

This morning, a lovely friend of mine took the girls on an incredible adventure. Jay, who hasn't blogged in awhile, deemed her experience as "totally blog worthy." I hope you enjoy her post about how her eyes were opened today.

Operation Turkey Adventure

I knew this would be an incredible experience for both girls. What I didn't accurately calculate was the depth of conversation we would have about it afterward. All day long, they have continued to have questions, reflections, comments, and insights. I'm sure these will continue at least through the weekend, and I look forward to every bit of the conversations and discussions we'll have in the coming days.

I hope you were able to spend time with your loved ones this week, and I hope you were able to take the time to count your own blessings.

In the meantime, we are a house divided tonight. Go Red Raiders!


Birthday Fun

Saturday, November 23, 2013

November is a big birthday month for us, starting with me, and followed by Cee and then Browning.

Cee turned 11 on Thursday, and for the life of me, I still can wrap my mind around that. Eleven. Maybe it's because of the Sandra Cisneros story, or maybe it's because ten was huge in itself. Or maybe it's because I still picture her just like this...

This was the first year I haven't woken up with her on her birthday, but I didn't let our "cupcakes for breakfast" tradition fall by the wayside. Everybody deserves a cupcake for breakfast on their birthday!

She had a great day at school (this was the first year since Kindergarten that her birthday didn't fall during the week of Thanksgiving!), and we had a wonderful dinner with family and friends. I think it's safe to say Cee made out like a serious bandit - look at that grin!

Jay was such a good sport about things. It's definitely not easy being the odd man out, but she handled herself like a little champ.

Yesterday, Browning turned 14. Again - I'm still trying to process that because it seems like just yesterday when I had the chubbiest, cutest, 8 week old puppy cuddled in my arms on the car ride home. He decided to celebrate yesterday by rolling in the cold mud outside for what appears to be most of the day.

Time has been very generous to us with this sweet guy. He was the perfect company for hours of Kennedy watching last night, and I'm pretty sure he knows more about the conspiracies than he's willing to reveal.

Tonight the celebrations continue - Cee has invited a few friends over for a slumber party. Final preparations are in place, and we're looking forward to a fun night!!


Tired Tidbits

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I am too tired to write much tonight, so here are just a few quick things.

1) The reason I'm tired is because Cee had a soccer tournament in Leander this morning. Her first game was a 7:15, which meant we were supposed to be there at 6:45. Important to note: Lampasas and Leander are not the same place, so my idea to wake up at 5 am in order to get there on time was overzealous and unnecessary. Don't even get me started on convincing your ex-husband, who is driving, to leave at 5:45 because when you realize your mistake, the confession of confusion is a little bit brutal.

2) Texas Tech just scored the first two touchdowns against Baylor!!!

3) One of my children just lost her second giant tooth in 24 hours. In consideration of the extreme fatigue the tooth fairy endured last night, combined with a super early wake up call, the tooth fairy may have to borrow a few bucks from one of her children. I'm also trying to avoid the obvious hillbilly references. Le sigh.

4) Another one of my children convinced me on Thursday night to get out a few Christmas decorations, which ended up being our entire Christmas Village. This pouty face is pretty irresistible and is going to cause me lots of trouble in the future, I think.

5) I have a new favorite blog: Wendi Aarons. She's funny. Check her writing out when you have a chance. I almost want to skip school next Tuesday to see Jenny Lawson and to attend Wendi's breakout session at the Texas Conference for Women, but I probably won't. Or maybe I will. I'm too tired to think clearly right now.

(But I'm definitely not too tired to watch my Red Raiders!!)

Peace (and Wreck 'Em!!!)...


Saturday, November 9, 2013

My younger sisters are both amazingly talented, and if I had a dollar for every time I was blown away by their thoughts or insights, I could probably have retired a few years ago. 

On Thursday, my sister Sam called me to let me know that our cousin was in a wreck and did not make it. I was completely beside myself, and also I was speechless. I didn't have the words to express how I felt - it was so sudden and unexpected. Samantha did a beautiful job of putting his loss into perspective. Thank you, Sam - I needed this. 

My cousin, Robert, died tragically on Thursday afternoon. He was in that really bad car accident on Riverside Drive that you probably heard about on the news. Someone was turning in somewhere and probably just didn’t see him. He was 30 years old. He was on his way to work at the Creek Nation Casino.

And now that I have all of those details out of the way, I want to tell you about the last memory that I have of my older cousin, who referred to himself as Cornbizzle. Because I know that a lot of people have a lot of memories about him, but mine are really funny and precious and memorable before you even take into account the fact that he’s not here anymore. Before now I was sure I would never forget the night that Cornbizzle helped me move, but now I want to make 100% sure that I write this down before I forget and just look back at that night with a warm familiar glow that has no real details, just the faint fondness of a good night. Isn’t it funny how death makes you think about things like that? And just a fair warning: this is going to be really long but I promise I’ll try to keep it as entertaining as possible. Because it was entertaining. It was one of my favorite memories before and it will be one of my favorite memories forever and I want to share it with you.

On October 20th, Amanda Babe and I moved into our new apartment on Riverside with no real plan as to how it was going to go. Her family was set and ready to help her with her stuff, but I was basically on my own (because really, I feel like your parents are responsible for helping you move the first time and then after that they are DONE and the novelty has worn off forever, get out get out so I can turn your room into a puzzle room/cat den) and I had no idea how I was going to get my ridiculously heavy boxes of books, kitchen utensils, and a half broken (but still fabulously comfortable) couch up three flights of stairs. However, I work best on my toes and I absolutely was not worried about it at all.

So after Amanda’s room was primly and lovingly put together by the most caring of hands, my real work began. I’m very fortunate for a few good friends in my life, like Nikki and Thurman and Amanda. They were both there and carrying everything up the stairs and tossing it into my room. Maybe you remember a status a month ago about my room looking like it was inhabited by squatters; it wasn’t an exaggeration (but I’m proud to say it looks awesome now). Things were falling together, but there was still that broken couch in my little UHaul trailer, as well as my giant bed and frame halfway across the city that I would have to collect at some point. Still, I wasn’t too worried.

Thurman, Amanda, Nikki and myself unloaded this ungodly heavy and ungodly broken couch from the back of this UHaul trailer and toted it (albeit very slowly) across the parking lot and to the base of the staircase. It wasn’t AS bad as it could have been, we naively thought as a collective. Then it was time to push it up the stairs. Suffice to say, it didn’t happen and I think I remember at one point Nikki almost being crushed to death into the cement while Thurman cooed encouragingly at us from his position of pulling. So we were left with a giant couch at the bottom of the stairs, no one else was answering our texts to come help, and it was getting really dark.

I was getting a little worried.

We were all sitting on my couch that was sitting at the bottom of the stairs outside, perusing our phones for people that might be able to help us. It was looking pretty bleak, to be quite honest. Then I remembered my cousin Robert lived really near my apartments (like, a mile point five) and he was always posting about lifting heavy stuff on fcbk all the time and could probably prove this strength by helping me carry a bunch of stuff. So I sent him a text, not really expecting a response. I mean, would you really be excited to help your cousin move a giant couch on your Sunday night off of work up three flights of stairs? Because to me, that sounds like a horrible time. But less than 10 seconds later, he was texting me back for my address and said he was on his way and he’d be there in 20. And ten minutes after that, his little tires even squealed as he pulled into a parking spot.

We stood around and made casual introductions before I put him to work. And of course he had the usual complaints about this couch that every single normal human in the history of ever would have.. such as why were trying to salvage it when it’s so broken, and why is it so heavy, and what the hell did I do to break it in the first place, and how did I get it down three flights of stairs from my old place (which is why it’s broken, duh). But he hefted and along with Thurman’s help, they carried it upstairs and into the apartment. And then they put it against the wall. Then Cornbizzle sat on it and told us about himself and how he was in the military and how he was thinking about getting new tattoos. 

However, the story doesn’t end there because like I foreshadowed earlier, there was still a bed across down that needed to be picked up, a UHaul trailer to be dropped off in Broken Arrow that was two hours late, and the bed had to be carried upstairs. I hoped the promise of beer and pizza would be enticing enough for these guys to help me, but I think I knew deep down that they would help no matter what and probably smile at me while doing it. So there we were, Amanda, Thurman, Cornbizzle and myself needing to figure out a way to fit into my dad’s tiny cabined truck. As in, there was going to be lap sitting by some strangers and definite cramped quarters.

Cornbizzle smilingly offered to ride in the back of the truck all the way to Broken Arrow. He spoke of it like an adventure. It wasn’t too cold out that night, but it was still definitely fall night time and it was still the back of a cold truck. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures so off we went.

So this little trailer had to be dropped off at this rinky dink half gas station thing in downtown Broken Arrow. When we got there, I apologized profusely for my trailer being so late and begged to not be charged the 30$ service fee for being late. The guy really wasn’t having any of it, but then here came Cornbizzle wandering up and stood there very intimidatingly and frowned a lot. I still continued to be overly nice and charming to this guy. As it turns out, I didn’t get a service charge, but when we were leaving both Cornbizzle and I were congratulating ourselves as why there wasn’t a fee: I was sure I charmed the pants off of that guy, and Cornbizzle said something along the lines of when you’re faced with a 300lb Native dude, you don’t want to piss him off. We each laughed at the other: I know kindness prevails, and he knew brawn prevailed. I still don’t know why there wasn’t a service charge. 

So then it was off to my grandma’s house to get my bed, Bizzle in the back of the truck once more. It was probably close to 10 in the PM by this point and the goal was just not to wake up my grandma since she was so kind in letting me store my stuff at her house for the interim weekend. We get to my grandma’s house and immediately my old little grandma wanders out, blinking around. I’m trying to work out the logistics of how this bed is going to fit into the truck, and I hear Cornbizzle talking in his booming voice to my grandma and her soft little replies. I don’t remember how it went, but I know it was something along these lines: 


Grandma: ?????


Grandma: ????

I still don’t think my grandma knew what was going on.

With the bed loaded, we were ready to head back to the apartment but we were faced with a last problem that none of us foresaw: with the bed in the back of the truck, where was Cornbizzle going to ride? Answer: in the cab with us and it was time for a little lap sitting with strangers.

I was driving the truck, Amanda squeezed in by my side, Cornbizzle sitting in the passenger seat, and Thurman was in his lap. We set off down the street, vision skewed by this giant bed and cramped quarters. Thurman and Cornbizzle were squawking good naturely at each other, me and Amanda were giggling at how absurd this moving experience had turned out to be. Robert was laughing because Thurman cuddled against him, Thurman was laughing probably because he was perched in the lap of some random dude he had just met. Cornbizzle assured us all of this staunch heterosexuality, but made it clear that his time in the military made him not mind dudes. Then Thurman got hot and off came his sweater, and Bizzle squealed about Thurman stripping on his lap. I think I was shouting about something. All four of us were howling with laughter. I was crying I was laughing so hard. 

In that moment is how I’m going to remember my cousin for the rest of my life.

After that, we went to Walmart to pick up some things and I used Bizzle’s giant phone to order a pizza. He assured me that his phone was a million times better than my iphone, and probably cheaper, too. He smelled shampoos with me and helped me decide that the blue bottle in my shower right now is the best. He stole a shopping cart from someone so I could carry my shampoo. When I asked him what he wanted on his pizza, he told me he would literally eat anything I put in front of him. He asked Amanda a million questions about being a teacher, even though she was dead tired. He asked her if any of her students are in love with her. She said she didn’t think so. He told her when they start bringing her apples, that’s when you know you’re in trouble. 

We got back to the apartment and ate pizza and drank cheap beer and laughed about all sorts of things. Cornbizzle told us about his job a little and told us that he basically exclusively hangs out with native peoples, but he would make an exception for Amanda and that she could be his token white friend. He told us about how he really liked McDonalds and working out at 10GYM with his friends. He lamented about the fact that security guards can’t carry guns. He told us a little about being all over the world in the navy. He told us about how much he enjoyed living on Riverside, and how excited he was for us to be living so close to each other. I invited him to my birthday party, and he was truly excited and told me he would bring me a bottle of birthday Jack. He told me about how when I texted him he was in the middle of watching some sports match with a friend at his friend’s house and upon receiving my text, he didn’t even tell his friend where he was going, that he just read my text that I needed help, slammed down his beer and walked out. Because I was family and that’s how much family meant to him. I probably rolled my eyes and made some smart ass remark, but I mostly remember just being stupidly grateful. And I told him that. Because really, he saved the day.

I didn’t know Robert very well as a child, but we got to know each other pretty well as adults. He was my friend. I enjoyed his company. He made me laugh. He helped his family when no one else would, and I think that’s a legacy he would be proud to leave behind. I love my cousin. I love our memories. I love the time that I was blessed to have spent with him.

So hug your family. Tell them you love them. Tell everyone you love that you love them. Cornbizzle was driving to work, a two mile drive he made every single day. And now he’s not here any more. I know everyone always says to enjoy every second to the max because you’re not guaranteed another, but I feel like this seriously puts it into perspective. You’re not guaranteed your drive to work. I’m not guaranteed my walk down these stairs.

I hope Cornbizzle was happy that day. I hope he was excited to go to work. I hope a song that he liked came on the radio. I hope he thought about that night every once in a while and laughed about it. I hope he knew how grateful I am to him. 

Right before he left my apartment that night, I asked him why people call him Cornbizzle. He looked at me like I was stupid and said, “Well, they called me Cornbob.” And that was that. 

Because that’s how it was with Cornbizzle. Simple and to the point. And I’m going to miss him every day.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I am in the middle of my seventh of teaching, and there is a distinct change happening that I have gradually noticed over the last two years.

It finally solidified for me today and made my heart drop not once, but twice.

I am not sure that I have ever actually felt my heart drop before, but after today, I will never forget exactly what it felt like. 

The issue is school safety. 

It's fair game to say that it's become more and more dicey over the last few years. 

My friend Katie wrote a piece about feeling safe/not feeling safe a couple of weeks ago. 

It is a huge opportunity to be the people who spend more time with children during the day than parents do at night, and I say this with the full understanding that my very own darlings spend more time with their teachers during the school day than they do with me at night. 

That's why weekends are completely golden to me. 

During the week, we see the good, the bad, the mean, the brilliant, the confused, the struggling, the hilarious, and the miracles that our students willingly or unwillingly show us each day. 

99% of the time, a phone call home and some positive interactions at school can fix the problem and make it manageable. 

It's the 1% of the time that caught my attention today. 

Our schools have gone from the philosophy of we have systems in place to keep us all safe to the reality of addressing the fact that disasters are much more prevalent and are more difficult to predict, address, and manage now than they were just five short years ago. 

Thanks to the incredible leadership of a former high school coach, I have been following the Rachel's Challenge movement for the last four years. My former coach is now a principal at an awesome school in the Dallas area, and the movement he leads against bullying and school violence is inspirational and powerful, and I can absolutely see how it starts a chain reaction of kindness within high school students. A tiny bit of background: Rachel was the first student killed in Columbine. She left a legacy of kindness behind her, and it really has been a spark for lots of positive activity in high schools throughout the U.S.

Today I was introduced to a new-to-me organization called iloveuguys, and it was established by another family in Colorado who lost their daughter to a school shooting. Between learning about the organization and writing this post, I haven't had time to get to know more about their mission, but I plan to very soon.

For some reason, today's presentation really hit me hard - the video we watched as a faculty is one we will be showing to our students tomorrow and Friday. My mind has been racing trying to anticipate the questions my students might ask while making sure I have adequate and thorough answers for these questions they haven't even asked me yet...all while wishing there were parts of the video I could fast forward through and places I could pause to give them lots of reassurance.

On another level, my mind has also been racing trying to anticipate how Cee and Jay (and their friends and classmates) will react to this video, since it is a district effort to better align our crisis response teams. The video is definitely kid-appropriate, but I have been a pretty sheltering parent as far as the violence I allow the girls to experience and absorb (as have many of my mom friends). Realizing that they would watch this and possibly have negative reactions to it was the first measurable point where I felt my heart drop today.

The biggest ah-ha moment for me this afternoon was realizing that as a system, we've gone from being a place with established systems to keep us all safe to a system with an improved structure that's designed to keep us safe - where our focus has shifted to saving as many as we possibly can.

This realization was the second point where my heart took a measurable nose-dive today.

In a way, our society has become very desensitized.

I had a meeting with two parents this morning where the dad expressed that he understood that we (teachers) knew "some kids weren't worth saving," and the context was about behavior and academics. I couldn't wait for my turn to speak, and when it was my turn, I very respectfully told him (in my least Pollyanna voice) that I believe all kids are worth saving (because I do), and I wasn't referring only to behavior academics.

These little sweeties of mine have so much ahead of them and so much to offer the world. I am absolutely certain of it.

I know the parents of my students feel the exact same way about their own children, and I know they're trusting me with their children's safety each and every day just like I'm trusting the girls' teachers with their safety every single day. 

I need to see how Cee's story and Jay's story unfold in this great big world and I want to support them as much as they need me to or want me to through every step of their journey, whether from being right by their sides or though offering my support from farther away. I am absolutely certain of that, too. 

The challenge of imagining a world where either one of those isn't possible breaks my heart. 

My control-freak tendencies don't like the unimaginable or unexpected...

Tomorrow I will go back to school and I will love my job and the students I teach, and I will be super excited to pick Cee and Jay up after school and make sure they know they're loved and they're amazing because that is one thing I can definitely control in the middle of all the other unknowns.

thirty-nine (or forty, minus one).

Monday, November 4, 2013

at some ambiguous point in the last 24 hours, i turned thirty-nine.

cee and jay are pretty sure i am in a wicked state of denial and i am actually forty, and this has made me laugh every single time they've asked me if i'm sure i'm really only thirty-nine today.

the truth is that i don't dread turning forty, but i am wrestling with the whole concept of thirty-nine and i'm not sure why, which is approximately why i haven't posted for over a week two weeks- the concept of getting older has been weighing sort of heavily on my mind.

here's my best take on turning this age:

i have decided that thirty-nine is the grim reaper of forty. i totally can't wait to be forty, because logic tells me that if my 30's were wonderful, my 40's will be amazing! it's the grim reaper thing that has me pondering all of it, and i've secretly been wishing that my "thirty-nine grim reaper" will look something like joe black.

too much to ask?

i think this seems like a fairly reasonable request, all things considered.

in the days leading up to this "milestone," i have started drinking coffee.

and it's so good!

it makes me feel like someone in their late 30's (which is precisely what i should be feeling).

yesterday i discovered the magic of caramel macchiato creamer by international delight, and this alone makes me all kinds of happy, which {i think}is a completely thirty-nine year old thing to say.

i also discovered another type of magic this weekend: on saturday, i allowed myself to go to ikea for the first time ever. it was pretty much inevitable because cee's soccer game was way too close in proximity to it. i am ridiculously proud of myself for holding out for as long as i did, and even more proud of myself for allowing myself to carry in cash only in lieu of a credit card.

everybody wins this way, except for maybe sweden.

i don't want to make a big deal about this birthday because making a big deal about things isn't really my thing at all, but i do want to say that i feel incredibly blessed for everything my friends and family did to make today especially wonderful!

i am a very lucky lady, and i hope everyone knows how much i appreciate the well-wishes!!


(oh, and p.s. - for the fourth year in a row, i would like to gently remind everyone of my public service announcement: i am pretty sure the person who invented daylight savings time did not have children. that's all...)

close enough to perfect for me...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

that was my favorite alabama song when i was younger (it reminded me of my grandmother - this one - who was my constant, my go-to, my pal, my earthly idol, and my still-miss-her-every-single-day), and this weekend was one of my favorite weekends in a really long time...pretty close to perfect.

fall is here.

it's cold (like in the 50s instead of the 100s. not colorado cold, but definitely texas cold).

cee had a soccer game saturday morning, and no parents or players were assaulted which was a remarkable improvement from last weekend. we went to lunch with friends afterward, and then we made a quick stop at the candy store.

i can't remember if i told you this or not, but i bribed the girls with a trampoline in exchange for me doing the principal certification program. the bribe arrived on wednesday, and we assembled it on thursday. and friday. and saturday.

and a quick aside...

dear technical writer people - when the second thing you tell me about assembling my trampoline is that it requires two adults to accomplish the task, i really need you to know that is less of a warning to me as it is a personal challenge. and surely i'm not the only person who interprets your instructions that way? just an fyi. thanks - me.

enough of that. who on earth would have guessed that the trampoline's arrival would cause my ten year old to take a spontaneous, self-induced nap on a cool, fall day? not me.

last night we carved pumpkins...

...and i have a confession. if i have ever had hoarder tendencies in my life, they tend to happen most often in october. carving pumpkins is super fun for them, i enjoy the luminescent aftermath, but everybody wins when we roast pumpkin seeds. i have contemplated possible ways to have these on hand for the entire year.

should i stock pile massive amounts of whole pumpkins and store them in a deep freeze? should i buy pumpkins in mass quantities in october and save the seeds to roast periodically throughout the year? i don't know the answer. do you? please help me. this is bordering on a serious problem.

it was jay's first year to carve her pumpkin on her own. after a half hour of hard work, she brought her masterpiece to me and said, 'mamma, my pumpkin doesn't have a mouth!' and then she cried. she was right, and it was awesome. i tried my best to fix it (you'll see how that turned out in just a second).

just before bedtime, we made a pallet on the trampoline. we piled on all of our blankets, made hot chocolate, nibbled on warm pumpkin seeds, and i was seriously smack dab in the middle of my own personal paradise.

today, cee went to san antonio with her soccer friends. they got to watch the usa women's soccer team play australia. she had a blast, and i am so happy that she got to experience this level of competition with sweet friends!!

while she was away, jay and i had a fun mommy/daughter mommy/daughter day is complete without attempting tongue tattoos via fun stripe gum wrappers, right?

and now we are back home settling in for the night and getting ready for a fun week ahead. are you impressed with how i turned a mouthless pumpkin into a forest with eyes?

this weekend was my most favorite weekend that i can remember in possibly forever. if i had to pick a 24 hour 'groundhog day' segment for myself to relive day after day after day after day, it would be late saturday morning leading into sunday, no looking back, no thinking twice.

this is my most favorite time of the year. i think i've told you that before (at least a gazillion times? sorry.). cool weather, sweaters, jeans, fires in the fireplace, being outside, coffee in the morning, and sharing it all with two amazing little ladies by my side. i can't imagine how things could get any better.

and now it's getting close to fantasy football time. go broncos.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

every time i look at our fish, oscar and elvis, one word comes to mind: resilient.

resilient, as in they absolutely won't die are complete troopers. they are survivors. songs have been written about them.

they're the easiest pets to take care of - i feed them once a day when i remember to (because the girls don't), i clean their bowls every now and then (because the girls won't), and they're alive and swimming. i didn't think fish were supposed to live this long. honestly.

the whole reason this matters is because i finally decided on a paint palette for our entire house. it only took me four years and seven months, but i really do like to think things through before i make a big decision. yesterday i went to lowe's and bought almost all the paint i will need to complete this monumental task. seven gallons of paint: some with primer (thanks to browning's murder tail), and some without. after seven hours, i made it through one gallon in the girls' play room. whew!

there were several times this morning where i found myself teetering precariously on items of questionable sturdiness in an effort to reach a spot i'd missed, and i thought, 'this is how people die.'

maybe that's how the saying, 'the devil's in the details' came to be?

and then i realized that the whole concept of teetering precariously on items of questionable stability could be the perfect metaphor for distinct parts of my life. i'm fairly resilient myself, but that's another post for another time.

as i slathered on primer-infused coats of desert travels, i realized the color i chose is actually a long-shot variant of pink (along with the other colors i'll be using), which is *so, so, so* not my thing. but the end result should be pretty dreamy.

i hope.

back to the fish. they previously resided on a small desk in the play room and now that desk will actually be used a desk instead of a fish holder. my next task is to find a new location for them. will they redefine resiliency? only time will tell.

i will show you pictures of the finished rooms once the lighting is better - we had a seriously torrential incident happen this weekend, and it has been overcast since saturday afternoon. i totally love this weather, so i'm not wishing it away anytime soon. the good news is that we may get a week free of soccer practice which leaves more time for...painting!!!


lines of the day

Thursday, October 10, 2013

cee: i really don't think they should call glee glee anymore because finn is dead, brittany s. pierce didn't come back to mckinley for his celebration, mr. schue can't even cry, and there's no rachel berry or quinn fabray on the show. where's the glee in that?


jay: remember in second grade when i had that question on a test that asked, 'what do you need to write an expository piece of writing? well, i didn't really know what expository meant way back then, so i just wrote 'a pencil, and maybe some paper.' i think i probably got that one wrong.


gosh, i love these girls.


a new leaf

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

during the summer, i decided it was time to embark on my next academic adventure. after finishing my masters in curriculum just about a year ago, i was getting a little stir crazy.

i could be one of those forever-student kind of people and be perfectly happy for the rest of my life. ultimately, i want to pursue my ph.d. but i just don't think i'm ready for the time commitment yet.

i decided on an intermediary step. on monday, i started my first class of my principal certification program. i don't necessarily want to be a principal, but i feel like this is a valuable stepping stone in moving towards a curriculum position.

so here we go!!

my first class is an introduction - fundamentals of leadership. this week is devoted entirely to finding out about my leadership style. i am going to make an early prediction that my overall results of this combination of assessments tell me two key things:

1) i need to generate a backbone, and quickly.

2) i need to learn to see both sides of a scenario before i rush to judgment.

only time will tell, but i am really looking forward to the next nine months of learning!

on a slightly unrelated note, the girls and i had a last-hurrah kind of weekend, complete with a wii off on saturday night as a way to pay homage to our last care-free weekend for awhile (note: i sufficiently bribed them with a trampoline in exchange for my study time over the next few months, so we are pretty even with our sacrifices in this whole endeavor).

our celebration was so amazing that it continued when we woke up sunday morning; however, one of the wii remotes ran out of batteries and the other one was nowhere to be found. the girls decided to scavenge our entire house looking for double a batteries to 'borrow'. i strongly encouraged them to find the one working remote so we could continue our festivities, as i was pretty sure they were the ones who lost the one remaining 'good' remote.

and now would probably be an appropriate time for the following apology-slash-love note:

dear girls,
super sorry about thinking you were the ones who misplaced the wii remote. won't happen again.
love, mom

p.s. - as a penance for my oversight, i hope you will take into consideration that the entire right side of my body (from shoulder to knee, and everything in between) was tough-mudder sore until just today from hitting so many home runs, winning all those tennis matches, and showing off my severely under-appreciated bowling expertise.


calling a spade a spade

Friday, October 4, 2013

when cee was a mere two year old, i was (as all mothers - especially first time mothers - are) pretty sure that she was absolutely the most perfect child who had ever graced the earth.

and then one of our friend's girlfriends met cee for the first time and sweetly said, 'oh my goodness - she is adorable and i love her little mullet!'

slam on the mom brakes!


no way. not my kid.

but guess what - she was right.

cee had a mini-mullet.

business in the front, party in the back. despite our best efforts to tame her cotton top, her hair would not grow any other way until right before kindergarten started. couple that with her favorite pair(s) of camo shorts and her wreckless smile, and we nearly had a little redneck on our hands.

luckily, blonde tresses finally reared their heads, and hopefully not too many people remember the fluffy cotton mullet that she had from when she was 2 until she finally turned 5 (although personally i will never forget that lovely fluff).

fast forward nine years later, and it's time for us to talk about jay.

her teacher this year is amazing. she is a good friend of mine, and she was actually jay's first grade teacher. i sent a gigantic cosmic wish out on the day i learned that her teacher was moving from first grade to third grade this year. i wished and hoped that we would possibly, pretty please, by chance, be lucky enough to have her again for third grade.

like magic, our wish was granted.

we love mrs. taylor.

mrs. taylor sends me little glimpses of 'funny' into jay's school work and i dearly appreciate getting to peek into her learning day.

mrs. taylor also helped me unearth something i've been pondering for quite some time, and i didn't even know exactly why i was wondering it until she presented me with the answer.

it started with a simple text: highlighters...your ocd daughter's dream come true. 

she wasn't even kidding.

the friday folder revealed the following:


and this...

and {obviously} this...

let me just say - the 'ocd' call was spot-on. this kid is precise. she is measured and calculated. she is planned out for months in advance. she gets a little panicky if we go out of order on our itineraries. she needs a clearly marked calendar to let her know what's coming up each week.

the first thing she says when she wakes up each morning is, 'i love you, mommy.'

the second thing she says to me is, 'how many minutes do i have to get ready this morning?'

the third thing she says is, 'could you please get my outfit for me?' (because it is perfectly folded, and then stacked neatly on her dresser each night before she goes to bed).

this is the child who organizes her world through excel spreadsheets, power points, immaculate drawers, and themed meals; and don't even get me started on her ipad calendar.

the smallest deviations from planned activities completely rock her world, and after it's rocked, it takes her awhile to regroup and bounce back into the swing of things.

the day she got her planner for third grade (on the first day of school) may have been one of the happiest days of her life (second only to the day she discovered the magical world of highlighters).

there are no words to describe how completely stoked i am for the many endeavors we will embark on together in the world of staples and office depot. highlighters, post its, and other assorted office supplies are our sky, and the sky's the limit!

i have high hopes that some day i will be as organized as she is.

but most of all, i am thankful i finally have a name for what drives my sweet little jay bird forward every day.

putting a face to the name has been superbly helpful to me in this scenario, and now i feel like i have a better idea of what it feels like to walk a mile in jay's shoes...

...although i have no idea where she gets this because on most days, it takes me a few minutes to remember where my shoes are.

we'll learn to roll with this because that's what we do. :)


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