Monday, August 31, 2009


Anybody seen my car keys?

I would've called Mark to come bring me his key, but I sent my cell phone for a swim in my washing machine.


Friday, August 28, 2009


I'm not a huge fan of August. Particularly in Arkansas.

Hot and humid.

Makes a girl feel sweaty and nasty.

It's a direct cause of our ridiculously high electric bill. We must have our A/C.

But there are a few redeeming things that salvage the month:

The raspberries are on:

And they are luscious....fat, juicy and luscious. Scrumptious even.

Laney agrees and grazes daily

I can't help but donate my own picking. She appreciates a sun ripened berry.

The fall veggies are starting to sprout. Have I mentioned that I love to garden? I do. I love to garden. Loooove to garden. Love Love Love to garden. The tomatoes are still producing, but are admittedly growing from the wonkiest tomato plant I've ever seen. The kale is recovering nicely, despite the cold blooded murder attempt perpetrated upon it in the Walmart garden dept. Just a little hint associates? You need to water stuff. Or it dies.

This kale is destined to fulfill itself in a pot of yummy Zuppa Toscana. Oh, baby. Sweet sausagy bliss.

And my new project for the summer, the compost pile is a perfect pile of stinky rotting kitchen scraps and grass clippings. It's going to be AWESOME! Can't wait to use it next year.

Maybe August isn't so bad.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

They don't care how hard it was to make

Why kill yourself to make a knock-your-socks-off Family Home Evening treat that even coincides with the theme from your lesson?

You know what I'm talking about....Eternal Salvation Sundaes? Repentance Rice Krispies? Faithful Fudge?

You know what they really want is ice cream they can push up with a stick.

Just give yourself a break and buy the suckers. They don't even care if it's Great Value brand.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's a great day to be a baby

It all started innocently enough. Mark and I have kids with lots of hair. When they're little babies they need haircuts or "hairdoos" or they look like rugrats. I remember once when Megan was a baby and I hadn't figured out girl hair yet, I was talking to a sister at an Enrichment Activity and she said "I used to let my little girls hair be all crazy like that, too"
Huh? Hey!
Then I realized that girl hair is a big deal. There's no smoothing it down with spit or using the water from your melted soda ice to "spike it up".

You have to do it. Every day.

So when Laney's locks grew long enough to put into pigtails, we got right on it.

(Okay, seriously. Couldn't you just eat her for lunch? She is a fat little nugget.)
Unfortunately, along with baby pigtails, you get this:

That's exactly what you think it is. The baby mullet. Sure, it starts out all smooth and silky and short. But before you know it, a year has passed and mom is still pulling the top half of your hair into pigtails and leaving the bottom half to fend for itself.

Doesn't she look disgusted?

And if I'm not mistaken, I think she may be trying to use those bars symbolically. "Dear Mother! Won't you please release me from the bondage of the baby mullet!? Release me! Have mercy!"

Lucky for her, during a playdate this week, it was like my eyes were opened to the reality of my daughter's hair situation. By dang, I think that bottom hair is ready to join the pigtail parade.

And here you have it: Pigtails a girl can be proud of.

Somebody bust out the Ho Ho's

Farewell, Baby Mullet.

(Hello, end-0f-the-day-been-rubbing-my-head-on-the-carseat Mini Mullet)

**Hey, Laney of the future? Assuming I actually do print this blog out for you guys, and you're reading know I love you no matter what your hair does or does not look like, right?

Right. Of course. Just makin sure.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


The other night we had one of those nights.

As we were sitting down to dinner, the boys started to fight over who would sit next to me...I tried to explain that I wasn't hungry and wouldn't be sitting down to eat, but they were too busy arguing to listen. I sent them to their rooms to "work it out". The next thing I know they are yelling back and forth at each other, flinging playground profanities: "You're a booger butt!" "You're a booty head!"

I go in to lay down the law: "I hear one more name or we have one more fight, you two will be done for the day. No dinner. No stories. Nothing. Got it?"

No sooner had I walked out of the room and they were whipping each other with their blankets and heading straight for a brawl.

I hate it when my kids force me to make good on my threats. I am not in love with the idea of my children going to bed hungry.


There were many tears.
"I'm starving!"
"Those are the consequences"
"What can we do to make it up to you?"
"I warned you what would happen, and you chose to continue the fight."

That night we sat on the floor and read from the Book of Mormon Stories (you know the one that looks like a very serious comic strip?)

Here was the story we just happened to be on:

"The Lord told Nephi to warn the Niphites that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed. Nephi went immediately to warn the people. The Nephites did not believe Nephi. They tried to throw him into prison, but the power of God protected him. Nephi declared the word of God to all the Nephites. But the people became even more wicked and began fighting each other. Nephi prayed for a famine, hoping that a lack of food would humble the Nephites and help them repent. The famine came. There was no rain, so the ground dried up and crops would not grow. The people stopped fighting. The Nephites were hungry, and many of them died. Those who lived began to remember the Lord and what Nephi had taught them. The people repented of their sins."

I am not making this up.

I never thought of going to bed without dinner on the same level as a famine throughout the land, but it was just as effective. Those who did not die, promised to do better and really enjoyed their breakfast the next morning.

And behold, there was peace throughout the land.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Perhaps we can pretend...

that we started school along with everyone else and that I'm totally on top of posting photos of our first day of school.

Yes. Let's do that.

We started the morning off with my new favorite pancakes: Whole Wheat Blender Pancakes...

I would provide the recipe for you, but I'm not in the mood. And besides..I had to google it so if you won't put in the effort to google them yourself, you simply don't deserve them. I will tell you, however, that 1 1/2 tsps of salt is just too much. There..that's all I can do for you.

These are pictures of the boys on their first day of school! (it was not three weeks ago)

A huge 3rd grader.
A seasoned 1st grader. (Kindergarten was SO last year.)So now they're in school from 8 to 3 and the ratio of tea parties per 24 hour period has gone WAY UP.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Playground Chivalry

Mathew: Sam and Daniel tried to hurt Tana and Alexa and Chloe today, but I was trying to stop them.

Me: That's great, Mathew...that's just what you should do. Were they really trying to hurt them or just pretending?

Mathew: No, Mom, it was for real.

Me: Did they hurt any of the girls?

Mat: I think maybe one of them was hurt, but mostly they are trying to destroy their secret lair.

Me: Secret lair?

Mat: Yeah. It's under the green slide.

Me: oh.

Mat: But me and Peyton are going to defend their honor.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anniversary 6

So this is the day that we spend drive drive driving back to our life and our kids and our callings and our jobs and house and our garden and our neighbors and our obese wiener dog.

I say driving, but really I just played on Mark's iphone while he did all the work. I did not get behind the wheel the entire week. Mark is a city boy and he doesn't get stressed when taxi drivers try to kill you. I love that about him. He made this week perfect...made it more than I could have imagined it would be.

The greatest thing about this time we had together was that I was reminded what it's like to be together...just the two of us. Not once did anyone get sent to time out this entire week...not once! We just laughed, talked, ate and ate some more. Oh, and we held hands! That is a rare thing these days as we are always corralling 4 little people between us. SO GREAT!

And the best part of all? I'm happy to come back to our life. The life that we built together. It was nice to get away, but in truth...I love our kids and our jobs and our callings and our house and our garden and our neighbors and even our obese wiener dog. We have a great life and we've spent 10 years making it what it is today.

And that is really worth celebrating.

I love you, Mark.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 5

Saturday morning we woke up and grabbed a bagel from Einstein's, then headed to the Museum of Science of Industry. We had hopes that this one would be a little be more interesting than the others had been. We were wrong. It was just too huge. You'd have to spend your whole day there in order to take it all in and that was not something we were prepared to do. Still, there was a massive model train display that was cool:We slept through yet another IMAX: (this picture was taken before we were both rendered unconscious by the deadly combination of a reclined chair and dim lights. What can I say? We have four small children. Any opportunity to sleep is welcome.) I actually think the coolest part of the museum were the massive women who carry the weight of the building on their noggins:We split pretty quick and hit a Chipotle for lunch. It was very tasty, but I admit that the main reason I wanted to try it was because I saw on 20/20 that they only use happy pigs for their burritos. Hey, I'm willing to do my part. It was delicious and the little city birds were happy to share my tortilla.After lunch we headed for East Troy, Wisconsin for the Coldplay concert. We were there insanely early, but we did stop at McDonalds and finally (FINALLY!) acquired the penguin! It only took 5 tries!

When we arrived at the Apline Valley Music Theatre and quickly realized that there was a whole 'nuther thing going on with the tailgaters. Lots of alcohol and bean bag games. Wierd combo. We made our way to the theatre and found a spot on the lawn.

The opener was a group called Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. The music was okay, but a little wierd and didn't fit with Coldplay's style. Then they leave and the lights get brighter and the big screens turn on and I'm thinking it's time for the actual show. I'm my naive brain I think, "huh! That's cool that they're starting at 8! Oh, and everyone's staying seated...that's nice. Now we don't have to stand the whole time." Everyone seemed excited, but I'm a little underwhelmed by the crowd's reaction. They sing a couple songs and I'm thinking, "I don't really recognize this song."

Duh. It wasn't Coldplay. It was the second opener, Elbow.

So finally Coldplay comes out. Yes, it was late...and yes, everyone stood up and it was great! The music was fantastic and we had so much fun... My favorite part was singing "Fix You" with everybody.

(About 30 seconds of this video and you'll get the general idea.)

About on hour into the show, it started we ran for it and left early to get back to Chicago. The thought of being on the road with all those drunk people was terrifying.

We made it back by midnight....alive and penguin in hand.

Friday, August 14, 2009 4

Wednesday night I had a conversation with my mom about how things were going back at the house. Everything was going fine except for one minor glitch. All the kids had been treated to Happy Meals for lunch on Tuesday and apparently the "toy" was a miniature beanie baby. Wanting to provide Grandma with the complete experience, the kids decided that the best beanie baby was the penguin. Ethan got one and Megan got one. Mathew fell to pieces and in a moment of compassion, Megan gave her "pengwahn" to Mat. So while the boys were at scouts, Mom took her back over to McDonalds, thinking that she cold ask for a penguin and get her one, as well. They were out. And did Megan throw a screaming fit? No. She hung her head down and silently cried into her hands...her heart was broken. There would be no Pengwahn for the nice girl. You can see how this would be problematic for Grandma, no? So she tells us the story and we are dang well going to find this girl a penguin! If we have to visit every McDonalds in Chicago.

Thursday morning we are lazily looking out our window on the 22nd floor and we spy a McDonalds a couple blocks away. We set out to walk over there and get our baby a penguin. Unfortunately we got a bit disoriented and did some type of scenic route. Finally we get there and Mark goes in to inquire (I'm embarrassed and I'm happy to leave this kind of thing to him). No penguin! Dangit.

We decide to walk back towards the hotel and find somewhere to have breakfast. We ended up at West Egg Cafe. We snagged a table outside and it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. The food was just right and you can't beat breakfast under a tree on a busy city street, the sun shining down and a light breeze coming through. It fulfilled this girl's every romantic notion of "life in the big city" Yeehaw!

After we finished taking our sweet time at breakfast, we went back to the room to get my sunglasses and like the old people we are, laid down for a few minutes and fell asleep. The maid knocked on the door and gave us a wake up call. We put on our most walkinest shoes and we were off! We were walking to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game. And we only walks 3 blocks before we remembered that we would need to bring our tickets. And then we were off! Again.

Now, the walk from our hotel to Wrigley was about 5 miles. If you were me, you might think this is a bit excessive, but if you were Mark, it would sound like the best way to enjoy the morning before the game. At about mile 2, we were less than half way there and needed to pick up the pace, so we ditched the idea of holding hands the whole way and got down to business. We were flying past those poor pedestrians...we can speed walk with the best of them.

We arrived at Wrigley Field about 45 minutes before the game started, bought our Cubbies hats and found our seats. The sun was shining and it was a perfect day for the Cubs to win against the Cincinnati Reds.

My favorite part: the peanuts. They taste AWESOME at a baseball game sitting with the love of your life. Loved singing "Take me out to the ball game" in the seventh inning...Cubbies fans are the best at that. And I think it's hilarious that they throw the ball back onto the field if the home run was made by the opposing team. Like it has a fungus or something.

Oh, and they actually did win, which is a first for me. It seems to me that every game I've ever attended was a miserable loss for the team I was cheering for...perhaps the curse is over? After they win, everybody stands up and sings this song "Hey Chicago, whataya say, the Cubs are gonna win today!" Those Chicagoans...they're a committed (and musical) people.

I fell in love with Mark all over again as I watched him search for little plastic cubbies hats to wash out and bring home to our kids.

It was a perfect afternoon.

Also perfect because we didn't walk back...we took the "L". Mark was raised in Cincinnati, and doesn't feel the same sense of wonder that I do for public transportation....go figure.

Honestly, when we got off the train, I was pooped and my feet hurt. I was less than thrilled that we walked in the opposite direction of our hotel and wound up at the river. But, I had to admit that it was cool.

We didn't stay long as we were ready to take our shoes off. Back to the hotel to rest for a while...Iron Chef, anyone? I can think of few things as refreshing as a cooking show where the Asian host does dramatic kung fu backflips onto the set.

Soon we were ready to go back out and we headed over to the Sears Tower. If you ever go to Chicago and want to see some of the touristy type places, I highly recommend the CityPass. We walked right past 2 hours worth of lines and went right up to the top. I admit I felt guilty...but not guilty enough to not enjoy it. heh.

The cool thing to do on the observation deck is to step out into "The Ledge". It's a clear box that is supposedly safe and you can look down and see the streets below your feet.

No thank you.

Mark was happy to go out and take the picture.

I was nervously saying something about not wanting to die, and a guy standing by Mark said that if the box were to fall off, we would all be sucked out to our deaths anyway.

Uh huh. I'm ready to go down, if you don't mind.

On the way home we realized that a bag of peanuts, two jumbo hot dogs, 2 rootbeers, and a big salty pretzel weren't enough and we decided to get some late night chinese take out.

We used the ironing board to set up a table and enjoyed some kung pao and General Tsao's while we watched Deadliest Catch. Good times. Made better by rain on the window and two more Doubletree cookies.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We interrupt these messages...

This morning I woke up to this:

Oh, the things we do when there isn't any real chocolate in the house. Last night must have been awesome, cause I can't find that bag of pretzels anywhere.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009 3

I had expected Chicago in July to be HOT and a bit miserable, but it was strangely cool and sunny and absolutely lovely. It's the kind of weather that might convince you to move to, say...Chicago.

Thursday we decided to go visit some of the cultural attractions of the city. We started with the Field Museum. It was an impressive building, especially since the name "Field Museum" made me think of the taxidermy mecca that is the Bean Museum (no offense...heh heh).

We knew the boys would have loved the T-Rex skeleton, thanks to "Night at the Museum". I was pretty excited to visit a museum without little people dislocating my fingers in an effort to get me to go faster, climbing things, and pushing every button possible. I always feel frustrated at museums because I feel like I'm missing so much and I want to stand and read every plaque and sign that explains all about the exhibit.


It turns out, after about ten minutes I was bored and I can only take so much information about the indigenous peoples of the Americas. This is a HUGE museum and has tons and tons of stuff which would take hours and hours of committed, focused attention. And frankly, this wasn't how we wanted to spend our Anniversary. So, after a half an hour, we ended up walking as fast as possible though the exhibit, scanning just in case there was something totally amazing and pushing every button we found. So kids....I get it. We are going to rock the next museum we go to.

We had bought the CityPass, so we had tickets for the 5 main attractions in the city:

Field Museum
Museum of Science and Industry
Sears Tower

Being the frugal folks we are, we weren't about to pay for something and not experience it, so we walked over to the Adler Planetarium and picked up tickets for two of the star shows, then we walked all the way back over to the Shedd Aquarium and speed-walked through that. The beluga whales were cute:
And we enjoyed the 4-D Show. I wasn't aware that the 4th 'D' means that they will shake your seat and spray water in your face THREE times. Mark didn't get any as his knee was directly in front of the sprayer aimed at him. I figured that out right after the third time and put my foot in front of it. Awesome. We are rockin these glasses, don't you think? We laughed when we saw this picture and both agreed that we would be way more awesome if you couldn't actually see our eyes.

We sat down just as a "Dolphin Show" was starting. Unfortunately, the chica who was hosting the show was finger-nails-on-a-chalkboard annoying. It reminded me of being in preschool... "O-kay!" "FAN tastic!" And the first 20 minutes of the show was dedicated to showcasing the training progress of a dog and a hawk. Are you joking me? We are from ARKANSAS....we are extremely acquainted with dogs and hawks. We wanna see some freaking dolphins!

So we ditched the dolphin show and walked back to the Planetarium. We then proceeded to sleep through 2 different star shows. In our defense, Robert Redford was the narrator and he is nothing if not soothing.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this part of our day was parking underneath Soldier Field. Mark was born in Chicago, so he was raised with a healthy reverence for Chicago sports. He explained that instead of tearing down the old stadium, they built the new seating right on top...making it look like a spaceship had landed right on top of a Colosseum. Pretty cool. The things you learn from a boy.

Now we had spent all morning and early afternoon walking from place to place and the only food option was that little green hot dog stand you see in the picture above. Now, I don't know about you, but for us, every single meal is an opportunity to have something AWESOME. We were not about to waste a precious lunch on a green tourist hot dog shack. So we walked back to Soldier Field, reclaimed the car and googled "Best Chicago Style Pizza" and google, in it's all-knowing glory, recommended Giordano's Pizza, just a couple blocks from our hotel. So we dropped the car off at the hotel and walked over. It was just starting to rain as we got there. The wait was not too long, but because it's such a popular place, you order your pizza before you are seated so that you can start eating as soon as you get a table. I like it!

Oh...don't mind the huge wooden thing in the picture...that is where they set your pizza and where we set our camera. I'm too embarrassed to ask a waiter to take our picture. It makes me feel stupid.
This pizza was huge. We did our best to eat it, but only made it half way. The mozzarella on this sucker was so delicious. So creamy and salty and stringy. I was painfully full and simply could not stop myself from shoveling it into my face. Ooooh....I want some more.

After an awesome dinner at Giordano's, we just walked all over downtown Chicago. We went to several high end shops that were ridiculously expensive. One lady tried to sell us an umbrella that was "on sale" for $175. We had to laugh and I was was tempted to say "Oh, that is a good deal!" But we just headed back out the revolving door and right into Crate & Barrel where we purchased a butter dish, 6 stainless steel condiment cups and a mini fork. Hey, big spenders!

And just because we could, we went to a late night showing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. We found a Walgreens on the way and bought candy bars in order to carry on the time honored tradition of treat smuggling. That did not stop us from buying grossly overpriced popcorn and soda. It was a good movie, but I haven't seen or read 4 or 5, so I was a bit behind. Mark was so tired, he couldn't stay awake. He hasn't trained for this like I have. I've been staying up late watching tv for years. I'm a pro.

Another fun filled day in the Windy City.

Monday, August 10, 2009 2

Despite having every intention of sleeping in, we awoke bright and early on Wednesday morning, grabbed a bagel and some milk from the hotel's breakfast spread and headed to Chicago. Of course we set the timer on the camera and took a picture of ourselves sitting on the carpet, in front of the full length fancy.
Oh, and how awesomely easy is it to pack up JUST YOUR OWN STUFF? I have been wrangling the paraphernalia of 4 kids...I actually laughed out loud! So easy! You can see Mark feels the same way:And we were off! But not before we took another photo of our happy selves with our camera:Perhaps we like doing this so much because if you were to look through our photos for the last 8 years, it would appear that we are never in the same room together. Now we have proof we are married.

On our way to Chicago, we stopped to see Mark's Grandma Lucille. I have never met her and it's been about 15 years for Mark. It was a nice visit and I was amazed at what a great memory she has. She was throwing out dates like nobody's business. The whole time I kept thinking that the kids would love to meet her, but I'm positive they would break several sentimental knick knacks in record time. It was nice to relax and chat without fear of destroying anything.
Soon we were back on the road and headed to Chicago. We arrived too early for check-in at the hotel, so we googled "Chicago's best philly steak" and went straight to Philly's Best (I heart the iphone!). These were SOOO GOOOD! oh, and seeing this picture makes me want another one.
Check out those eyes! Now you see why I called him "wolf-man" when I first met him.

AND...the BEST onion rings I have ever had. No joke. So good.

After lunch, we checked into the Doubletree Hotel. It was beautiful, right on the Magnificent Mile and a ten minute walk from Navy Pier.Our room was perfect...huge buildings, lake Michigan and a view of the enormous Ferris wheel down at the pier.
It should be said that the best part of staying here was the warm cookies. Typically, one would receive a warm cookie upon checking in. Mark, however, insured that we had warm cookies at every opportunity...especially while watching 'Iron Chef' when we were hanging out and immediately before falling asleep. I counted SEVENTEEN cookies in our 4 day stay. Now that's value.

After checking in, we walked down to the pier to look at the cityscape and explore Navy Pier. Just as we got there, some low lying clouds moved into the buildings. It was really beautiful.We walked down to the pier and bought tickets for a dinner cruise that night. It was a three hour cruise with a gorgeous dinner and a jazz band. A very adorable Irish girl sold us the tickets and gave us a better deal that her obnoxious counterpart we had encountered a hundred yards earlier. She told us she knew him and he was from "the city". She was a country girl and we liked her accent better. I suppose rednecks all over the world had best stick together. We walked back to the hotel to change since it was a "formal cruise". Luckily we had the clothes that we wore to the temple. We took a taxi back down to the pier (my first taxi..I know, I know, I'm a bumkin)

The ship was beautiful and our table was covered in rose petals in honor of our Anniversary.
One of Mark's many "you're taking my picture" goofy poses.The food was delicious and they brought out a crazy dessert plate with cobblers, bread pudding (so yummy) ice cream, strawberries, chocolate, whip cream and candles. It was nutso. The only thing missing was that mariachi band from Dora the Explorer. We couldn't resist the photo opp (although we'd already eaten a bunch of it):After dinner we went up to the top deck and enjoyed the view of the city. It was still very cloudy and people seemed to be a little bummed about that, but I really thought it was very beautiful.

After the sun went down, the ship dropped the anchor and we watched the Navy Pier fireworks. It was such a fun day and unusual for us to be able to do something like this. I love being with Mark and I was reminded how much fun we have. He's so attentive and thoughtful. I'm lucky!