Monthly Archives: July 2011

In which I travel to Philly

We arrived home late Wednesday afternoon and got everything unpacked and put away which was the last thing I wanted to do but I know myself and if the luggage doesn’t get unpacked within the first twenty minutes of getting back, it’ll sit on my bedroom floor for weeks.  And approximately 10 hours after pulling in the driveway, I was pulling out and headed to the airport to catch a plane to Philadelphia for a business meeting.

That was poor planning on my part.

Never schedule another trip the day after you get back from driving thousands of miles.

It’s been a while since I traveled for business – and when I say “a while” I mean that Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office  – and since the agenda involved talking all day about the program I administer, I was a little nervous.

Craig was more concerned about the fact that I would most likely inappropriately grab the stranger seated next to me if the plane hit an air pocket.  

He’s traveled with me before.

He has the bruises on his leg to prove it.

My flight left and arrived on time (Hooray! I didn’t die!) and I grabbed a cab that was curiously outfitted with a PVC pipe contraption that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out to what it was attached or what purpose it served other than to vex me and headed downtown.

Since I got up at the crack of dawn to catch the flight, I’d only had a half-cup of coffee before I left  and, turns out, a half-cup of coffee was not enough to help me remember what building and room I was supposed to go when I arrived at my destination and that was an interesting twenty minutes trying to figure out where I was to be but I finally found one of those scrolling boards that gives you meeting locations and made it with two minutes to spare which really puts you in a relaxing mode walking into a room.

Fortunately, they had Starbucks ready and waiting for me.

I quickly found out that the business environment hasn’t changed much since 1998 and that most people still use twenty-seven multi-syllabic words when one would do, but, in general, it was a fun day sitting around the table with other adults wondering about Big Important Things such as whether  we were going to get chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies in our box lunch.

And how to solve the problem of the Blue Screen of Death.

We didn’t solve the screen problem but, apparently, everyone had met beforehand and decided that I was going to be the solution to the problem of how we were going to staff all the great ideas that came from the meeting so the good news, I guess, is that I have job security.

I caught the late afternoon flight back home and sat next to a sleeping giant whose legs kept encroaching on my space so I found my happy place by looking out the window and counting the minutes til I could see my people again.

And they were very excited to see me (and I was excited to see that their father had taken them to do their back-to-school supply shopping) and I think I need to leave home a little more often so I can again experience the joy of children’s voices when I walk through the door.

It’s good to be home.

And I think I’m going to stay put for a while.

Have a nice day.

Still driving

We’re somewhere in Eastern Arkansas, destination North Carolina.

The scenery is

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and we are all a little punchy from having slept little in the same room last night.

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Our fearless leader is with us and I’m happy to have another adult along for the ride. He is in charge of making the lunch and dinner decisions on the road though I’m thinking of revoking his privileges after last night’s stop at the sketchy Chinese place in Conway.

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Oh! Memphis! We’re in Tennessee now.

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Only 500 miles to go….

Have a nice day.

Home

I have few words today – my heart is too full of happiness to even try.

I stopped by my brother’s house yesterday on the way home and spent some time letting the boys play with their cousins while I visited with Jonathan and Melanne. Mel spoiled my kids with scratch-made stroganoff and I’m in a heap o’ trouble because Hamburger Helper is now dead to them.

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Bellies full, we drove the remaining hour and a half to Mom and Dad’s where we were greeted with tons of hugs and kisses and we came inside and I took my usual place – the barstool in my mama’s kitchen- and that’s pretty much where I’ve been since.

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Mom’s planned all my favorites for the weekend – brisket, potato salad (she makes the best in the world), Blue Bell ice cream, pound cake – and as soon as those pictures are made tomorrow morning I’m falling off the wagon and enjoying every bit of it.

My other brothers are coming over tonight and I’m looking forward to spending time with them and regaling our kids with our childhood stories (there are a few that we don’t tell because we don’t want to plant any seeds).

It’s so good to be home.

Have a nice day.

On the road again

First, a million thanks to all of you who gave me great advice yesterday on how best to help JJ adjust to his braces.

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He started the day smiley but by dinnertime he was pretty miserable. He sucked on some french fries and a vanilla shake and was starving this morning and in tears because he couldn’t bite through a piece of bacon. My sister-in-law whipped up a peanut butter protein shake for him and that filled him up and kept him happy for the morning and by lunch time he was able to nibble a little bit.

Oh, it’s so sad.

In other news, I drove eleven hours today and other than hydroplaning in a massive thunderstorm, getting hit twice by flying tire treads, and dodging angry hornets at an Arkansas rest stop, it was a pretty uneventful day.

We stopped on the west side of Little Rock for the evening and since JJ’s mouth was still a little tender, I decided that pasta was in order for dinner. I went on Yelp to get a recommendation and got positive reviews for The Pasta House which turned out to be an unairconditioned shack on the side of the road that served both Italian AND Mexican food.

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I was a little alarmed.

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And clearly delirious from spending eleven hours in the car with smelly-footed twelve year-olds.

The boys had pasta and I was going to order pasta until I heard the cook speaking/yelling Spanish at the waiter so I decided to stick with the home team and ordered chiles rellenos.

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And it was the best chile relleno I’ve ever had outside Guatemalan borders.

Tomorrow we’ll be up at the crack of dawn and back on the road for more fast-food meals, dodging the law, and the celebratory hot fudge sundae at the first Braums we see (Alma, Arkansas).

I can’t wait.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  I should be eagerly packing the car to head to Oklahoma to see my parents but  knowing that I’m traveling towards an epic heat wave seems to be hindering my progress.

I really, really, really love my family.

And 112 degrees can’t be so bad if it’s a dry heat, right?

2.  I was pleasantly surprised by a knock on the door Sunday night.  It was a neighbor, two doors down, inviting me to breakfast the next morning at the bagel shop.  I thought it was really nice of her to do that and I accepted and then spent the next few hours slightly anxious about how I was going to carry a conversation with someone I’d just met. You’d think that because I gab daily with strangers on the Internet that I’d be completely at ease making small talk with a neighbor.

You’d be wrong.

Going to parties where I don’t know anyone?  I’m right back in junior high and slightly panicky that I’ll say the wrong thing or, worse yet, not have anything to say.  I think it’s because I’ve been out of the daily workforce for so long that I’ve just forgotten how to navigate social situations with ease.  Craig and I have talked about my discomfort before (he’s in the people business and his job requires him to make friends all day long and he’s EXCELLENT at it) and he’s right when he says that making conversation is a skill and like any skill, it takes practice.

So I practiced with my neighbor (whose name is Cat and she has three cats) and we had a great time.  She was very easy to talk to and while our life experiences have been different, there were similar themes and interests we had that served as springboards for conversation.

As an aside, my friend Momologuer taught me that a great question to ask someone you’ve just met is “What keeps you busy during the day?”  This gives them the opportunity to talk about their job, their hobbies, their kids, or whatever they want and avoids that dreaded awkwardness that comes from saying “Tell me about your job” only to find out they’ve just been laid off.

Not that I’ve ever done that before.

Ahem.

3.  In about an hour I’m taking JJ to the orthodontist to get his bands and wires put in/installed/attached.  I’ve never had braces and don’t know how to relate to this process.  The nurse told me that I might want to give him some Tylenol before the appointment because there might be some “discomfort” and I’m hoping that some of you that have had braces or have kids that wear braces might be able to give me a few tips so I can make this as easy as possible for him as he adjusts.

Because being trapped in a car for the next two days with an ill-tempered someone who might be experiencing “discomfort”? That’s a lot scarier than 112 degrees.

Have a nice day.

Monday Musings

We had a good weekend at Casa de Carpool.  Craig was in California for most of last week so we were glad to have him back and in the middle of life at the house.  We went swimming and the boys met a few kids from the neighborhood but I don’t know who they are because apparently it’s possible to play for two hours with complete and total strangers and never find out their names.

And my husband said that there clearly wasn’t a cute girl in the bunch because they would have most DEFINITELY made sure to know her name.

Oh, I am so not ready for the first girlfriend.

We puttered around the house on Saturday and then went to the mall to get some blue jeans because my mother called me last week to tell me we were having family photos made while I was in Oklahoma and I didn’t have a single pair of jeans for the boys that fit because heaven forbid that the pair I bought them last week be long enough.

Is there a blue jean rental program equivalent to Redbox?

Sign.

Me.

Up.

We also had to buy white shirts and that, too, was a special purchase since as a general rule white shirts are spaghetti sauce and chocolate magnets for my crew.  We found a good sale at JC Penneys and went ahead and bought a few other items for the back-to-school wardrobe.  The boys picked out their first day of school outfits and it was fun to see their personalities in their purchase.  Tommy chose a Halo t-shirt even though his mother has never let him play Halo a day in his life; Travis picked out a scratch and sniff chocolate Tootsie Pop t-shirt, (ensuring that all the chocoholic teachers will love him immediately); and JJ selected the most preppy pair of plaid shorts you’ve ever seen with a spot-on perfectly matching red polo shirt.

Watch out, ladies, Mr. GQ is in the middle school-house.

Sunday we went to church and then to lunch at Relish which after one meal is my new favorite lunch spot in town.  We had the fried black-eyed peas for an appetizer (they were a revelation) and the 4 boys ate burgers and I had the grilled salmon.

Because I have to drop 40 pounds and fit into blue jeans for pictures at the end of this week.

Thanks, Mom.

Have a nice day.

 

Part IV: In which the cavalry arrives

Within 10 minutes of announcing that we’d found our new house, I received an email in my in-box.  “Let us know when your move-in date is.  We’ll be there.” It was signed by NotNed and Momologuer.

And I might have gotten a little misty.

NotNed and Momologuer have moved us into every single house we’ve lived in since coming to North Carolina ten years ago.  And, yes, this is our third house  – fourth  if you count the three-month stay in an apartment and let me tell you, THAT was fun squeezing four adults, a set of twins, a set of triplets, and a cat in a 2-bedroom 600 s.f. space.

NotNed is very handy and Momologuer is creative and crafty and shares my love for all things shiny and I knew with the two of them here, we’d kick some serious moving butt and get this house whipped into shape.

They arrived soon after the truck was unloaded and as is par for the course, they brought the requisite provisions.

The menfolk had a list of things they needed to do (hang ceiling fans, run speaker wire, discuss the need to buy new televisions) and Momologuer and I had our list (set up the kitchen, the craft room, decorate the living room shelves, and make a foyer arrangement).  Once we’d laid out a game plan, we raised a Ritz cracker topped with Old English Cheese Spread (don’t ask) and started working our fingers to the bone.

And little by little, it all started coming together.

 

The week wasn’t all picture wire and pounding nails.  We did manage to sneak in a trip or two to the mall and the Mexican restaurant and one or twelve furniture stores to get Momologuer’s opinion on a sofa that I need to put in the den.  We also took the requisite “How many feet has Tommy grown since we last saw each other” picture.

And all too soon, they had to leave….

And while I would say they took a piece of my heart, the truth is, I look around my home this morning and see a piece of theirs.

In a picture hung (almost) level on the wall.

In a fan that cools a beloved boy’s room.

In a cheerful craft room that’s just waiting for a project.

In a front foyer that welcomes friends.

I am truly blessed.

Have a nice day.

Part III: In which I discover why she’s the Black Widow

Sorry to disappoint those of you in the comments section who were screaming for a photo of the previous owner.  I would have taken a dozen of them had not my phone been swiped by the boys so they could play games while Craig and I were signing paperwork.

Not that it kept them occupied as evidenced by the fact that one of them came tapping on the door in the middle of the proceedings complaining that the other one had exceeded his time limit.

Were it not for a roomful of witnesses, half of which/whom happened to be attorneys, that child would have met his Maker.

We took our keys and went to the new house where we were welcomed by Blog Lurker Rachel (who now needs a new name seeing as she’s my neighbor) and she was extremely kind to bring over lasagna, a huge loaf of bread already slathered in butter and loaded with fresh garlic, and a big garden salad and I gave her a tour of the empty house because I knew once we moved in with all our stuff it would never be neat again.  I mentioned to her our experience with the previous owner and she said “Oh, that’s nothing.  One time I did a double-take because I thought she was mowing the lawn naked.  All she had on was a flesh-colored body suit and gold high heels.”

Well, alrighty then.

Rachel introduced me to my other neighbor Jose but it’s not pronounced the way it looks because she is most definitely not a Hispanic male but a Dutch female and her name is pronounced Yo-zaay which I find  exotic and I try to say her name as much as possible and milk every bit out of my one semester of 10th grade French.

While we were out in the front yard, my immediate next door neighbors came over (they’re Israeli – I swear I live at a UN complex) and wanted to see the house so I took them in for a tour. (Hello, people I’ve just met – Want to see every nook and cranny of my new place?  Come on in!)

Anyway, while we were walking through, she asked if I’d met the previous owner.  I told her we just had and it was a rather, um, impressive sight, and she said leaned over to me and said, “You know she was a hooker and murdered her husband in this house, right?”

WHAT????????

She was on a roll.

“She went out with a different man every night and left her husband here by himself.  And when he died?  Crime tape, wrapped around the house for a week.  I say she killed him just for the money.”

I tried to keep my jaw from dropping to the ground and made a mental note to ask Blog Lurker/Neighbor Rachel why she had NEGLECTED TO INFORM ME THERE WAS A CRIME IN MY HOME PERPETRATED BY A HOMICIDAL HOOKER.

And also decided to have the bedroom carpet replaced.

And maybe hold a cleansing ceremony.

Have a nice day.

Part II: In which we meet the Black Widow

It was a balmy 98 degrees the day of the move-out and we were beyond sweaty and gross  at 5:00 when we walked into the lobby of the Embassy Suites where we had chosen to stay the night before moving in the next day.  Five o’clock is when they have happy hour which meant that we were walking into a lobby full of well-groomed, decidedly NON-smelly people who seemed a little more than horrified at the sight of our tired, motley crew.

On the bright side, the hotel staff checked us in and ushered us  out of the lobby into our room lickety-split.

The boys were all about jumping in the pool and we managed to hold them off until after dinner and I was too tired to care about the one hour rule and just threw them in the water as quickly as possible because I needed them to WEAR OUT so that we’d all get a good night’s sleep.

The next day we took the whole gang to the closing attorney’s office (we’ve found that having them with us speeds everything up) and signed the paperwork for the new house.

I’d been looking forward to the closing because I’d heard that the owner was going to be there.  We knew very little about her – just that she had been married to an older, disabled man and that after the death of her husband she moved to Atlanta –  but after seeing her decorating style in the house, I was very curious to meet her in person and get a sense of who she was.

She did not disappoint.

Oh.

My.

Word.

I knew we were in trouble when I saw my boys’ chins drop when she walked in the door.  Sporting bleach blonde tresses, six-inch gold wedge heels, a skin-tight wrap with a neckline down to THERE, and enough jewelry to make Elizabeth Taylor consider coming back from the grave, this woman had mob wife written all over her.  And no, that didn’t make me feel twelve since I was wearing my capris and a pink “Have a nice daisy” t-shirt.  She appeared to be in her late 50s but with the Botox and the Prada sunglasses that covered her eyes, it was hard to tell.

I wasn’t so much concerned with her age because I was doing everything in my power to keep from lunging over the table to grab her Hermes purse

She was fashionably late (over half an hour) and didn’t seem to think anything of it.  She breezed into the room and sat down and whipped out her Blackberry and acted like there was no one else in the room.  She said hardly a word during the closing – she spent most of the time texting with her three-inch brightly orange-painted fingernails and only occasionally looking up to nod and ask questions about when she’d get her money.

She seemed very concerned about having the money THAT DAY. 

Which amused me since she was sporting a $4,000 handbag.

When everything was done, she shook hands with us and in a thick Italian accent told us how much she had enjoyed picking out all the chandeliers and light fixtures and decorating the house and that she knew we were just going to LOVE it all.  And with that, she grandly swept out of the room.

And Craig immediately turned to me and said, “Oh, she is SO going on the blog.”

To be continued….

Have a nice day.

Pour a cup and sit a spell: Part 1

I’m back on the Interwebs as my friend Heather is wont to say and all God’s children said, “Amen.”

I will just say it – We are a “connected” family and while we did fine for the first five days without TV and Internet, we were definitely getting a little twitchy by the end of the second five days.

Yes, I know there’s therapy for that.

I think we left off where I was packing up the old house and the movers were about to descend, but first we had to have a last birthday party at the house for the boys which we accomplished with a pinata, a store-bought cake (because I’d packed my pans), and two rolls of streamers twisted together and hung from the ceiling with masking tape.

All my photography friends are cringing.  I take horrid photos, I know.  But I’d been packing for over a week and it was a thousand degrees outside and the boys are at the age that they cringe when I pull out the camera so this is what you get.

And they declared it The Best Birthday EVER.

And with that, the festivities ceased and we ate off paper plates and the kindness of friends who brought food (thanks, Suzanne!!!) and a few short days later, the moving truck came.

And blocked the street because they weren’t supposed to pull into the driveway and wasn’t that a nice way to inconvenience my neighbors but really is par for the course when we move as you will later see.

I wasn’t really emotional about leaving the old house. I don’t know that I’ve talked about it much on the blog but it was a hard place for me to be.  We’d moved into it under some difficult personal circumstances and while it was what we needed to do at the time and gave us some financial breathing space while Craig built his business, every time I drove into the garage, it was a reminder of uncertainty and worry and stress.  We did have happy family times there and wonderful neighbors who became even better friends and for that and many beautiful lessons God taught me about myself and having “enough”, I am thankful.

But there were new adventures to be had and new neighbors to harass, and I was ready, ready, ready so I closed the door, breathed a grateful prayer to the One who led us there and protected us and promised to be with us wherever we went, took one last picture and left.

To be continued….

Have a nice day.