Wednesday, December 31, 2008


If this doesn't keep people out of The Boy's room, I don't know what will.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas morning ... before and after

Copying from my buddy Ken Davis here, because I agree it's pretty amazing what a few minutes of unbridled avarice will do to a living room.


And after...

Friday, December 26, 2008

A fan of the trundle...

Here's the way I found my two girls this morning.

Jack had slept on Hannah's trundle bed (so he could listen to the Harry Potter CD, he says). When he got up, Izzy quickly claimed his spot, and I snapped a quick photo before heading off to work.

Then I washed the sheets and pillowcase as soon as I got home because, you know, that dog needs a bath.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The nuts have been cracked...

Another great show this afternoon, another fun autograph and photo session, another frantic race to clean and pack costumes, and another year of "Nutcracker" is over.

Whole lot of work, but it sure was fun. I helped dress and wrangle toy soldiers this year, along with my friend Kathy, whose daughter Erin also was a soldier. My duties this year included making sure the soldiers' rifles were in the right place at the right time, painting perfectly round red cheeks, and quickly switching top-knots to regular buns for the soldier girls who danced as Candy Canes in Act II. Whew.

Here's a shot of me with my rifles. (Or "riffles," according to the pre-edited stage mom instructions. Kathy, who teaches English at Butler Community College, thankfully fixed the error, but both of us called them "riffles" throughout the run of the show anyway.)

The photo is a little blurry, possibly because I walked very quickly with that bucket of guns.

Kathy, meanwhile, got to stress out about being in charge of the Nutcracker's sword. That sword is an extremely important prop -- second only, perhaps, to Clara's toy nutcracker -- so Kathy got a little neurotic about having to know exactly where it was at any given moment. Check out the way she looks in this photo (Kathy's on the left, and that's my dance-mom buddy Jenny in the middle):

Here's a quick photo of our soldier girls, with Chaz (Nutcracker/Prince):

A shot of me with my sweet soldier girl, backstage today:

And here's a parting shot of one of my absolute favorite moments in the Friends University "Nutcracker" production -- the snow scene. Sigh. Can't believe it's over already.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cooking marathon...

This is the way Izzy looked for most of our annual baking marathon Monday. Guess she figured if she looked pitiful enough, she could maybe get some crumbs.

Alice came down from K.C. for our annual festival of butter, chocolate and refined sugars. We started with Nighty-Night Cookies, then moved on to a couple new Paula Deen recipes. I especially loved the Top Secret Chocolate Cookies, y'all. But the Loaded Oatmeal Cookies were pretty dang delicious, too.

We made our signature Sweet and Spicy Nuts, as well as the tried-and-true Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies.

We made Puppy Chow. And dipped pretzel rods in chocolate. And we ate lots of dough.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hard-to-find toys...

According to polls, 41 million people haven’t started their Christmas shopping.

I really hope, for those people's sakes and sanity, that none of them have 8-year-old boys and are looking for the Ben 10 Alien Creation Chamber.

Gareb Shamus, publisher of Toy Wishes Magazine, confirmed today something that I discovered early last week: That dang toy is almost impossible to find. Thankfully, one of the helpful elves in Santa's Kansas City bureau was able to locate one there. Whew.

Here are the "Top Toys Impossible to Find As Of This Week," from Toy Wishes:

1. Bakugan
2. Lego Star Wars and Lego Batman
3. Star Wars Action Figures (particularly Clone Command Cody and Ahsoka Tano)
4. Dora Magical Figures
5. Ben 10 Alien Creation Chamber
6. Hasbro – Marvel Transformers
7. Yo Gabba Gabba Dance Mat
8. Clone Wars Voice Changing Helmet
9. Wall-E – U-Command, I-dance and Transforming
10. Club Penguin – Plush and trading cards
11. Webkinz – Plush
12. Imaginext – Superfriends
13. Nerf – all the Nerf Blasters
14. Eyeclops night vision goggles
15. Girl Gourmet cupcake maker

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shopping for teacher gifts?

For the past few years, we've given Hannah's teachers tickets to "The Nutcracker" as a Christmas gift, which in kind of win-win, since she's in the show and always wants her teachers to see her.

Jack's get gift certificates to their restaurant or other eatery/drinkery of choice (Sonic, Starbucks, etc.), which has gone over pretty well.

If you're still trying to decide on teacher gifts, here's a little thing I wrote a few years back that might give you some ideas:

Tuesday, December 13, 2005 (The Wichita Eagle)

I have a love-hate relationship with teacher gifts.

Love, because I truly cherish my children's teachers. I wish I could walk into their classrooms like Oprah Winfrey, happily showering them with gourmet foods, laptop computers, new cars and, of course, glue sticks.

But I hate the teacher-gift conundrum: Nothing seems good enough (least of all, my budget). And I'm always torn between the practical and personal: What do teachers really want?

Last week, I asked several teachers to forget the aw-shucks, it's-the -thought-that-counts mantra and give me the straight scoop on gifts. (Note: Their names have been withheld to protect their humility.) Here's what they said:

-- "I have enough teacher ornaments ('#1 Teacher!') to open my own gift shop! Teachers have a life outside the school environment."

-- "I love to receive movie passes, restaurant gift certificates, body lotions and gift cards to places like Wal-Mart, where you can buy items for the classroom."

-- "Many of those 'teacher things' (mugs, ornaments, etc.) are very cute, but if you have been teaching for any length of time at all. . . . You can do the math. Pretty soon, they're not all that cute."

-- "For me the best gifts are from parents who take the time to notice things about me and get to know me. . . . Last year I had a mom who noticed that I drink coffee, and she gave me a Starbucks gift card. That was fabulous ."

-- "Most middle school and high school teachers tend to be forgotten completely at Christmastime. I suppose it is because the child has several teachers, and parents tend to not be as involved at those levels."

-- "If kids feel they have to give me something, (I ask that they) give to a charity in my name. I also suggest that they take a name off of the Angel Tree instead of giving me a gift."

-- "I like gift cards from Barnes & Noble, Borders and Superior School Supply. The books I buy are then used to supplement classroom collections."

-- "I love homemade treats, because I don't have time to do much holiday baking."

-- "Just a heartfelt card or note to tell us we are appreciated is wonderful."

-- "The 'World's Greatest Teacher' plaque, pin or paperweight is great for a first-year teacher, but after that, enough is enough."

-- "Gift cards to bookstores are great. I always buy a book for the classroom and let the child know that I did that. Gifts to charity or organizations in my name are also well received."

-- "The most useful gifts are gift certificates to movies, restaurants or bookstores. The most meaningful gifts to me, though, are the ones that the kids make themselves. Even a simple card is very much appreciated if it's homemade."

Here's the column...

For folks who read the blog and forget my column runs Thursdays, here's a handy-dandy link. (And no, we haven't finished unpacking.)

New house a strange world for kids, too

Thanks again to my buddy Laura, who saved my bottom on move-in day. :-)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Have ignored the blog for the past couple weeks, but here's the deal: We moved.

Sold the house in Sleepy Hollow. Bought one in Rockwood. Everything went down in a matter of weeks, and we're exhausted. Randy just brought the last of the storage-unit stuff back to our new home tonight, so now the unpacking can begin in earnest.

You don't know how much crap you own until you have to move it. What in the world do we DO with this stuff? Why do we keep it? I plan to be completely ruthless over the next few weeks and just get rid of as much as I can. Goodwill and DAV, here we come.

Stay tuned for photos. I'm too tired to focus right now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

For our family, Christmas season kicks off at Gingerbread Village, where we make graham cracker houses, sneak licks of frosting and sing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs. (OK, that last part is just me.)

My buddy Alice's gall bladder had to go and attack her a few days ago, so she was unable to join us this year. Total bummer. Please keep Alice in your thoughts and prayers, as she goes in for surgery tomorrow.

Garden girl Annie Calovich did join us, though, and so did Elleana, Hannah's BFF. Some photos from today's occasion.... First, the girls at work:

Jack, looking a little guilty after sneaking a taste...

We saw several people we knew, including Amy and her boys...

Noah might just be the cutest little baby I've ever seen.

Although his brother, Kyle, is pretty darn cute himself...

Our group with their houses (Jack always looks so excited)...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Just say no...

I keep forgetting that folks (a few, anyway... OK, mostly just my mom and dad) asked me to post links to my column, so they'd be sure not to miss it.

So here is this week's episode: The story of a girl, a boy, and a drunken mom.

Monday, November 17, 2008

You could mulch your leaves...

... but then you wouldn't have this kind of fun:

Or forget mulching, raking and bagging altogether, and just do this:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Again I say: Brilliant!

I realize that liking David Sedaris makes me just another average white girl. But I'm almost to the end of his newest book, "When You Are Engulfed In Flames," and I'm once again amazed at his writing and humor.

Perhaps it's because we're both North Carolinians, and I can totally believe that his third-grade class went on a field trip to a tobacco warehouse in Durham, where they watched cigarettes being rolled and took home free packs for their parents.

I highly recommend the book. Get it on audio if you can (I checked it out from our friendly Wichita public library). And just so you know: The language is not appropriate for little ears.

Mugs of mugs...

Wow. Never realized how much our coffee mugs say about us.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tag! (which is currently illegal at most elementary schools...)

The lovely Denise Neil, of Best Blog Ever, tagged me in the latest blog connection game making the rounds in Wichita and elsewhere. So here we go.

Here are the rules:

* Link to the person who tagged you.
* Post the rules on your blog.
* Write 6 random things about yourself.
* Tag 6-ish people at the end of your post.
* Let each person know he/she has been tagged.
* Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Six random things about me:
  1. I am a first-generation American. My father is Cuban (born in Havana); my mother is German (born in East Prussia, now a part of Russia). Dad came to America in the 1950s, and after a brief stint laying tile in Miami, joined the Army. While stationed in Germany, he met my mom. They married and settled in -- where else? -- North Carolina. And no, I'm not multilingual. Although my father is quite fluent in four languages, the only one ever spoken in our home was English.
  2. I was an extra in "Bull Durham." (The scene where the Bulls play the Asheville Tourists. It's a night game.) I was attending N.C. State at the time, and my roomie and I answered a call for extras. We're just specks in the crowd, but because I wore a bright pink shirt that day, I can always spot myself.
  3. I was a high school cheerleader. In fact, my parents just sent me a lovely home movie (transfered to DVD) of my mullet-headed teenage self practicing a dance routine to Miami Sound Machine's "Conga" in our front yard.
  4. I had both my kids without drugs. (The labor and childbirth part, that is. In subsequent years, I've taken plenty.)
  5. I have a real talent for picking the exact Rubbermaid/Tupperware/Ziploc container that will be just the perfect size for the leftovers I'm looking to store. Which is really weird, because I was never good at physics.
  6. I love Easy Cheese.
And now, who to tag? I think it shall be...




L. Kelly


and that adorable Wilson family.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Save the date...

One of my all-time favorite local events is coming up next weekend: Gingerbread Village, a fund-raiser for the Assistance League of Wichita.

This year, I'm serving as emcee for the "gala" preview party event Thursday night, which is weird, because "gala" is not the sort of word very often associated with me.

Anyway, I highly recommend taking your kidlets to the make-your-own graham cracker house workshop: 2 to 8 p.m. Nov. 21; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 22; and 12:30 to 5 p.m. Nov. 23. It's at the Church of the Magdalen, 12626 East 21st St. North. I'll be there with my kiddos Saturday afternoon, as soon as we can escape "Nutcracker" rehearsals.

As per our annual tradition, our friend Alice is planning to go along. She will no doubt create some sort of architectural wonder, along the lines of this from a few years ago. Note the perfectly symmetrical Smartie windows and the puffs of cotton-candy smoke wafting from the Spoon-Size Shredded Wheat chimney. Amazing.

And here's a look at Jack's house from 2006. He, obviously, is more free-form. Not a big fan of symmetry. But it doesn't matter much, because his house is usually half-digested by the time we get home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Modern classics...

I love lists. And I love kid movies. So a list of kid movies makes me extra happy.

Time to Play just this very day released a list they're calling "The New Classics": the top 50 kid movies over the past 25 years. Says the Time to Play editorial team: "For the generation born after 1980 -- and the first group of youngsters to enjoy watching their favorite films over an over with the introduction of home video -- these are some of the most memorable and magical films of their childhood."

A team of 12 movie buffs spanning four generations reviewed hundreds of movies that have debuted since 1983. Criteria included a theatrical release, story, quality of the film, entertainment value, whether the movie stands up to repeated viewing over time, and whether kids still love it today.

Though it's hard to pick a favorite from this bunch, I think I'd have to go with No. 19. No, wait... No. 6. No, maybe No. 18. ("I just like smiling. Smiling's my favorite.") Oh well, here's the Top 20:

1. Finding Nemo
2. The Lion King
3. Shrek
4. The Little Mermaid
5. Home Alone
6. Toy Story
7. Back to the Future
8. Aladdin
9. Beauty and the Beast
10. The Princess Bride
11. Ghostbusters
12. Big
13. The Sandlot
14. The Incredibles
15. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone
16. Babe
17. Honey I Shrunk the Kids
18. Elf
19. Monsters, Inc.
20. The Muppets Take Manhattan

This is me. Seriously.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gal pals

When I look at this photo of Tara and me, taken during October's book club meeting at the Arb, I think two things:

1. I like Tara. She's a good friend.

2. I should really wear lipstick.

Great timing...

Starting (or should I say re-starting) a blog seems a little ridiculous, since blogs are dead and all. But here's the deal:

I loved my old blog. (Any of you out there remember "More to Life"? Saaaaaaa-lute!!) My parents loved my blog. My brothers did, too. I liked that it offered a way to share bits of news -- not to mention photos -- with friends and family. Then a mean, evil troll had to go and ruin everything with random crazy threats about knowing the layout of my house and whatnot. Weirdo.

I joined Facebook and started Twittering. And while I enjoy that sort of thing, it leaves me oddly unsatisfied.

So I'm embracing the blog once again. {{{raising wine glass}}} Here's to being retro.

A good day for cookies...

The kids are off (another ridiculous inservice day, to be followed by Veterans Day, to be followed in just a couple weeks by Thanksgiving break). I'm off, too, in exchange for working last night. It's gray and gloomy.

"Let's bake cookies!" Hannah said this morning.

Absolutely, my girl. Let's bake cookies.

Let's eat some dough before it ever gets to the oven. Let's peek through the window as they bake. Let's wait impatiently as they cool, then decorate them with neon frosting and insane amounts of sprinkles. Let's use way too many spoons, knives and plates, load up the dishwasher and let it do the dirty work.

Let's bake cookies. It's a good day for cookies.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

And here we are...

Blogging again. We'll see how this goes.

I'd like to thank Bobby Rozzell at Douglas & Main for the awesome title suggestion. It's fitting, because for years now I've been saying that the sure sign of successful parenting is kids who can afford their own therapy. So now, when Hannah and Jack make an appointment to see their respective therapists, they can just take along a link to the archives of this blog. How convenient.

Let's try a quick photo, of the kidlets on Halloween. Hannah was a cowgirl, and Jack was The Thing.