Don’t bother packing, spiders… you are not invited.

Spiders started to take over the trailer a few months ago.

I was home alone one day, when I got a phone call. It was from someone who needed to discuss something that was actually important… but I didn’t hear most of the conversation, because when I stood up to answer the phone, I saw a huge spider in my window. It was one of those very fat, black ones that moves way too quickly for how fat it is. When I got off the phone, I called Jonathan to see if he’d be home soon. He wouldn’t. Then I text my brother to see if he was nearby. He wasn’t. I was on my own. I determined that the spider was outside (THANK. GOODNESS.) but I still felt like it could easily make it’s way inside… this trailer is anything but airtight, after all. I know that for a fact because my bread molds in like 24 hours if I don’t keep it in the fridge.

I went outside to try to find the spider, but it had vanished. Throughout the rest of the day, it would appear and disappear every few minutes… and I couldn’t figure out where it went.

It happened several more times over the next few weeks… spiders of various sizes running around outside my windows… but I could never find them outside. Until last week. A particularly large one was running along the outside of the house when I got home from work… and when he saw ME, he ran to his hiding spot… UNDERNEATH the siding on the outside of the trailer. Which leads me to believe… there is a WHOLE spider world living and working all along the outside of this trailer, between the walls and the siding. There may be a whole spider New York City just a few inches from me right now! (That spider, by the way, got an entire bucket of mop water thrown at him a little later when he showed himself again… I hope he didn’t survive that, but who knows. They are freakishly resilient).

I can live with spiders outside my house. I do NOT like it, but I can live with it. Just so they don’t come inside for a visit. But then a few days ago, one jumped into my purse just as I was reaching to pick it up. And then another one was on my kitchen sponge when I picked it up to wash some dishes. In both cases, Jonathan was home and I frantically calmly alerted him by flinging waving my arms around, leaping in circles doing a graceful dance, and screaming singing, “THERE IS A SPI- A SPI- A SPIDER! A SPIDER! IT’S THERE! IT RAN! A SPIDER! A BIG ONE! A SPI-SPI-SPIDER!”

Just so you know, the purse spider got smashed (there are spider guts on the outside of my purse now) and the sponge spider experienced a violent being-flung-across-the-sink-and-drowning death.

But those spiders have FAMILIES, and the families are living in Spider NYC and Spider Boston and Spider Chicago outside the walls of our trailer, and I’m sure they’re coming for me. It’s SO uncomfortable.

So, it’s a good thing that we are going to be moving soon. YESS, moving. Into our new house, which is not so new, but we are making new!

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This is our living room! I have “before” pictures to share now… of course, “after” pictures will come later.

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Hallway

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Master bedroom

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2nd bedroom

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Bathroom

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3rd bathroom – we are turning this into a laundry room/small bathroom

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Entry way/mudroom

blog-006Dining room & kitchen!

Woohoo! We have already done a lot of electrical work (and when I say “we,” I mean a lot of people OTHER than me) and we have some plumbing to do. We are replacing ALL floors, painting everything, totally replacing the kitchen, and lots more. Some “in-progress” pics:

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Tearing up flooring

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Tearing up the kitchen

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The best part is that the house is about 6 minutes from where we live now. So there are no major additions to driving time ANYWHERE. It actually has 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, but we are making one bedroom into an office. It has a nice, big backyard… with a LIME TREE.

So! Hopefully I can update as we go on. Obviously, I have not been blogging much……. let’s see if this gives me motivation to fix that. =)

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Happy Birthday, Dear Anna…

To read all of Anna’s story, visit her mom’s blog and start from the beginning: Carrying Anna

It is worth your time, but keep tissues nearby.

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March 26, 2012

March 28, 2012

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One year ago today, Jonathan and I were in a car driving furiously from Alaska to Alabama. We had already put in a few very long days, and had several more very long days ahead of us, we knew.

We had been in Alaska for a little less than six months, and the decision to go home had happened very quickly… it was a whirlwind of making the choice to leave, packing, cleaning, saying goodbyes and getting in the car to drive away.

We had a sweet little niece on the way, you see, and she wasn’t expected to live for very long. We were quite determined to at least try to be there for a little bit of her life.

On March 27, we drove through Watson Lake, in Canada. We had stopped in this tiny little town on our way up, and we had stayed in a little motel (called A Nice Motel) that had wi-fi. Jonathan parked right outside the building and used his cell phone to connect to wi-fi and call his brother via Skype.

That’s when we learned that Anna had been born, and was actually a couple of hours old. She was being held and loved on and adored by her entire family… except for us. And we knew then that we weren’t going to make it in time to meet her.

We got home a couple of days after Anna’s funeral. We’ve seen pictures of her, heard stories of Anna’s Day, but we never got to meet her. Everyone says she looked just like her sister, Abby, but we didn’t get to experience that in person. We didn’t get to hold her or feel her warmth or touch her soft hair.

Her big brother’s birthday was this last weekend. We went to his party. He was turning five, and the party was full of loud, hyper, excited children. I sat there and watched them play and couldn’t help but think about if Anna had been there. It would have been approaching her first birthday, and maybe she would have let me hold her while her mom and dad ran around and took care of party business. Or maybe she would have already been walking, and far too interested in all the excitement to sit still and let someone hold her.

I hope this doesn’t make me seem like a bad aunt… but I felt a special affection for Anna, because she was going to be the first niece/nephew born since I married into the family. She was never going to know life without Aunt Lacey in it. The other three probably won’t remember it, but for her it would be a fact. I work near where she is buried, and occasionally I go by there to say hello, or to eat lunch with her when the weather is pretty. Today when I went by, someone else had left her a balloon. =)

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I want to be part of her birthday party, with pink balloons and ice cream and cake and presents wrapped in girly paper with curly ribbons on top. I want to watch her grow up with her sister, play dress up and house with them now, and talk to them about boys and life when they’re older.

We’re going to have one serious birthday party when we’re all together in heaven. And the way this family eats ice cream, it is going to take a LOT to make up for all the time that will have been lost.

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Tent shopping is not as easy as you would think.

My husband has never been camping.
I know.
Did you fall out of your chair? I almost did when I first learned that. I can’t imagine a life without camping.

As I was growing up, my family went camping multiple times each fall. We used a tent once or twice but it was typically in a cabin or a pop-up camper. Campfire, s’mores, bike riding, the whole nine yards. We even took three separate trips “out west,” about 3 weeks each, and camped the whole way. We pulled our little pop-up camper and set up each night, then tore down each morning before setting off on the next grand adventure. Everybody had a job… from Tyler, who was big enough each trip to help dad actually set up the camper and level it out, to Josh, who would place blocks underneath the wheels to keep us from rolling away in the night, and to Caleb, who was a “little guy” at the time and would set out gathering sticks and any other flammable thing nature provided in order to start a fire.

I have often done my best to persuade Jonathan to go camping with me, and often I’ve been turned down. I must have had some kind of breakthrough, though, because one day last week he text me from work and said “See if you can find a tent for sale online… maybe we can go camping next weekend.”

After I picked myself up off the floor, I excitedly logged onto Amazon, where I did about 3.267 seconds of research on different types of tents, then somewhat carefully selected a four-person “instant” tent made by Coleman. It was pretty and green and seemed like it would be durable enough to survive me & Jonathan while simple enough that nothing could go terribly wrong.

I drove home that evening, excited to tell Jonathan all about our wonderful new little tent that we were going to order. We sat down to dinner, and I began.
“I found the perfect tent…” I started out with.
“Really? Well, I did some shopping of my own,” he jumped in.
Uh oh. I knew this couldn’t be headed in the same direction I had been.

“Oh? What did you find?” I asked.
“Well…” with the flourish of a magician about to make his great reveal, he whipped out his phone and pulled up a webpage featuring a red tent that looked large enough to house the Duggars.

“It’s a nine-person tent!” he hooted. “With a fan and lights and walls so you can divide it into multiple rooms…” I dazed off as he continued to tell me about the remaining features: central air and heat, full plumbing, hardwood floors, a chandelier and a baby grand piano in the center.

Okay. Maybe it didn’t have quite all those amenities. But I pictured them there, anyway, and I started to freak out at the thought of cleaning that chandelier every time we had to go camping.

“Stop,” I told Jonathan. “We do NOT need all that… all that TENT.”
He wilted a little bit, and I felt like a horrible person.

Then he perked up a little bit. “Well, we can get this six-person tent!” he said. “It’s high, so I can stand up! And it’s an instant tent!”
“We do not need a six person tent,” I told him. “There are two of us.”
“Yes, but… I want to be able to stand up inside it,” he said, a little bit sadly.
And then my 5′ 1½” self felt bad again, because I often forget that tall people also have some difficulties in this world.
“Okay,” I conceded. “A six person tent it is.”

And,” continued Jonathan gleefully, “it is big enough to hold an air mattress!”

Oh man. The air mattress debate. We had gone around and around on this one before. I simply can not imagine that taking an air mattress camping is necessary. But I also need to remember that I am a remarkably versatile sleeper, and not everyone CAN sleep in cars… or on airplanes… or on concrete stairs… or standing up… or on the ground, in a tent. So again, I conceded (I’m getting pretty good at that in my old age).

And that is how, last week, we found ourselves setting up a beautiful red six-person instant tent in our backyard. (We then discovered that it’s less of an instant tear-down process, but that’s another story. Let’s just say there is lots of grass packed away with it right now).

It’s also how I made a trip with my VERY excited husband to Dirt Cheap and followed as he gleefully chose a queen-sized air mattress with a built-in blow-upper and air-sucker-outter (what else could it be called?). It is such an exciting time in our house right now.

PS, it has been too cold to take that camping trip yet. But soon, very soon, we will conquer the great outdoors. Without a chandelier, but definitely WITH an air mattress.

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Goodbye, dear Klunker.

Unfortunately, the time to say goodbye to a very dear friend has come.

I took the Klunker on it’s final drive Tuesday night. That’s right. It is going to a new home… to people who I hope will grow to love and adore it as much as I have for the past 6+ years… if it doesn’t fall apart before they learn to do so.

We have survived quite a lot together, the Klunker and I. It was my first car to bum around town in. When we first got it, my dad took me for a drive to learn how to drive a stick shift. My brothers sat in the backseat, torturing me for my inability to learn such a thing immediately. I drove home, threw the keys down on the table, and announced that I would never drive it again.

I did, though, one early Saturday morning when my dad woke me up with the keys in his hand and informed me that I was driving him to the bank… without my brothers. I took him on a terrifying ride through the drive-through, where I stalled out about 17 times and then agreed I WOULD drive it again, but never through a drive-through. I stuck with that for more than a year, by the way.

The Klunker took me and several friends back and forth to community college about a million times, as we all dual-enrolled and carpooled together for a few years. It took me to “real” college in Kentucky (well… it was initially towed there), then made the 600 mile trip back and forth between home and there another million times… without cruise control, of course.

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We slid around on ice a few times in Kentucky, battled Kentucky winters without heat and Alabama summers without A/C, and dealt with what seemed to be a bad battery for a few weeks until it was discovered that the battery simply needed cleaning (it ALMOST got a ride on a tow-truck out of that deal).

The lock on the driver’s door froze for a while, then simply fell out, leaving me to unlock the passenger’s side every time I needed to get in for a couple months.

Together, the Klunker and I have killed a rabbit, an armadillo, many birds, and a kitten (R.I.P. Sequel the Kitten). We have survived a break-in, 2 minor fender benders, and almost died trying to avoid a possum, nearly taking out two of my brothers and a friend with us. We ended up in a ditch once, in an almost very badly-ending incident involving fog and passing another car… which has instilled in me a very deep fear of passing. Ever since then, I’ve been known to follow cars going 20 mph below the speed limit for long periods of time.

We got lost on the back roads of Kentucky once, in the dark, in the rain, and with no cell phone service. I painted hotel room door frames to get the money to put a “new” transmission in it. The backseat and trunk were filled to far above their maximum capacity many times… both with people and things. It has hauled luggage, lumber, camera equipment, a bookshelf that was technically too big to fit in there, a pair of hermit crabs, and a mannequin named Phillipe.

It never broke down completely, never ran out of gas on me, never left me stranded beside the road. Nevertheless, the time had come to get something a little bigger and a little more reliable… because we were afraid the day was coming when it WOULD leave me sitting somewhere.

To everyone who has ridden, driven, crashed into, or spilled something in the Klunker… it wishes you farewell. What’s your favorite Klunker moment?

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When you have things to say but the game goes into extra innings…

It’s not that my husband is a bad listener.
It’s that I have a truly terrible sense of timing.

We He is watching baseball… it looks to me like BAL is playing NYY. (Baltimore and New York? Please don’t judge me for not being sure about which teams those actually are.)

I should, of course, know better than to launch into a story about the Thirty One party I just went to and all the stuff I wanted to buy (but didn’t, because I have incredible restraint) during the bottom of the ninth inning.

But, sadly, I have yet to learn my lesson and I did launch into that story. Jonathan calmly paused the TV and listened, eying the screen as the numbers in the corner told him how far behind he was getting in the game. Thank goodness for DVR and all that fancy stuff.
“There is this really pretty big bag that is big enough to pack clothes for an overnight trip but small enough that it COULD be a purse…”
(four minutes)
…”and I filled out a wishlist thing that she will have so IF you need Christmas ideas, you can ask her…”
(five minutes)
…”and ON the wishlist I put a star and an exclamation point beside what I REALLY REALLY want so you can be SURE to get the thing I REALLY REALLY want…”
(six minutes)
Suddenly, with no warning, the channel changed and instead of baseball players frozen on the screen, we were watching the vice presidential debate.
Jonathan’s jaw dropped. My jaw clamped shut.
“I was recording this! It changed the channel… I just missed six minutes of the game!” he said, trying very hard to be nice about it.
“I’m so sorry,” I said mournfully. “It was my fault, wasn’t it?” I asked, sure that he would assure me it really wasn’t.

“Yes.” he said. “It was your fault.”
I stared at him.
“REALLY?”
“Really.”
“Well-”
“Just… wait. Wait until a commercial break,” he said.

I waited. And while I waited, I put away groceries and stored up things in my head I needed to say.

As soon as the first commercial came on, Jonathan hit the mute button and signaled for me to speak.
“OKAY. These fingers on this hand hurt, but it doesn’t feel like my carpal tunnel in my other hand does so I’m afraid it’s arthritis but it really hurts so much I want to cry. And also today at work I was Googling hypoglycemia, and one of the results was Sudden Death from Hypoglycemia. And so I made a doctor’s appointment. And…”
But the commercial break was over, and so was my talking window. The TV volume turned up and I muted. We were now into the tenth inning of the game.

I began to store up more things to tell him.

More players came up to bat, and more players got out. Then, finally, there was another commercial break.

The mute button was hit. I started talking. I told him about some funny things that happened at work and about how I just lost my balance and fell over at the party and almost landed on someone and how it was really funny. Then the commercial break came to an end.

By the third commercial break, he started suggesting that I just type it all up and send it to him in an email.
I sighed, frustrated that anything would be more important than my very random, but oh so important, collection of stories and anecdotes and tales about hurting fingers.
“Is this the World Series?” I asked, only half-joking (maybe I should take some of my efforts to learn football and direct them toward baseball).
“No,” he told me, then used up my fourth commercial break to explain things about leagues and tournaments and playoffs and how teams get to the World Series (which is not yet happening).

By the fifth commercial break, I had many, many things built up to say, and some of them were very long stories, so I did not stop at the end of the break. I kept right on talking, into the eleventh inning and through the beginning of the twelfth. Jonathan seemed to understand that these were the most important stories of the bunch, so he kept the TV muted and let me use his ears while his eyes stayed on the TV. But that’s okay… he was listening. I know, because he responded.

I hate to see what will happen when I have things to say during the real World Series. I might need to stuff my mouth full of something, or install an actual mute button. Or leave the house and find someone else to listen to me.

Also… someone needs to get a home run, because this is the longest baseball game EVER and I think I’m on permanent mute to make up for that fifth-commercial break incident… and I still have more things to say.

EDIT: The original title of this post was, “When you have things to say but the game goes into extra overtime…” But my husband insistently and forcefully informed me that in baseball, overtime is NOT called overtime, but extra innings. In football, basketball, and other sports, it is overtime. But not in baseball. Why.

Learning to follow recipes: The cake in a bowl.

It is my mom’s birthday today!

I won’t give away how old young she is… let’s just say she is still young and kickin’!We had a birthday party for her last night… family that live in this area graced us with their presence as we ate Haystacks and marveled over the youngest cousin’s growing vocabulary (he says my name now!).I was in charge of dessert… something I was extremely excited about. I carefully chose two brand new cake recipes to make (birthdays always call for something new and exciting!). I found an incredible looking chocolate caramel cheesecake recipe that caused me to gain 5 pounds just from looking at pictures of it. I decided the second cake needed to be something a little lighter… and maybe fruity. So I chose a yogurt lime cake with strawberry sauce. Yes, sauce. Not frosting. (make a note of this… it’s important later in the story).

I made the cheesecake on Thursday afternoon… my one free afternoon every week. I figured that making it three days ahead would be wise; if it fell to pieces, exploded, or otherwise failed, I would have time to make a backup plan.

Apart from burning my hand on the frying pan while caramelizing sugar and flinging it EVERYWHERE (I have super awesome reflexes), the cheesecake making went without a hitch. It. was. lovely. It didn’t even crack… a fact that caused me to invent a Hooray I Just Baked a Cheesecake And It Is So Beautiful I Could Die Dance right there in the kitchen. (Don’t ask what the dance looked like… I don’t know if I can ever re-enact it unless I make another cheesecake).
Saturday afternoon I tackled the yogurt lime cake. The recipe meant it to be a single layer 9″ round cake… but I wasn’t sure if that would be enough cake. So I made two layers. But, the recipe also called for a sauce to put over each piece just before you serve it… no frosting. And, my friends, two naked cake layers just stacked on top of each other is not very pretty. At all. And this was supposed to be a beautiful birthday cake, so frosting would have to be made.

I, however, had never made a yogurt cake before. I didn’t know what to expect… or what kind of frosting would be good.
I had discovered the recipe on a blog, so I went to the comments and searched for any indication that someone else felt the same way… and what their solution was. One lady did. She incorporated the sauce into cream cheese frosting. BRILLIANT, I thought.

So, I made cream cheese frosting. Then I made the sauce. Then I added the sauce TO the cream cheese frosting… and found what could only be described as a sugary pink liquid in my mixing bowl. It was nothing close to a frosting consistency. Hmm.

I added more powdered sugar. I Googled the problem, and found results saying to add cornstarch. I asked my mom’s opinion on this… she said it was a bad idea. I added more butter. I finished off ALL of the powdered sugar in my house. We now had a thick liquid… not as thin as water, but about as thick as my hair conditioner.

I put it in the fridge and prayed that it would thicken over time.

At 9:30, my husband announced that he was going to bed (we had had a youth group lock-in the night before, and we were both still sleep deprived). I told him I was going to frost my cake and follow him… it wouldn’t be more than 15 minutes, I said.

I put my first cake layer on a plate. I got the frosting out of the fridge, and shook the bowl. Still very runny… but just thick enough that I thought maybe, just maybe, I could drizzle it over the cake and it would just make a pretty runny pattern down the sides of the cake. I put some on the first layer, then added the second cake layer, and immediately knew I had a problem. The top cake was definitely not going to stay put. I quickly put it in the freezer, thinking maybe it would solidify… but since it was already almost 10:00 and I was super super tired, I only left it in there for about 4 minutes. I doubt it will be a big surprise when I tell you that that was not long enough.

I tried to spread pour more frosting over the top of the cake, slowly rotating the cake as I went. But by the time I made a full circle and got back to where I started, all of the frosting I had put on that side had simply fallen off the cake… and was spread out on the counter behind it.

A light bulb went on in my head, and I grabbed a container of Cool Whip and began stirring it into the frosting. In the process, my frosting had to graduate from a small mixing bowl to a very large one; after adding so many random things to it, I believe I about tripled the “recipe” in size.

Unfortunately, my plan was not as brilliant as I thought. It turned my frosting a couple shades lighter, and it was a smidge thicker, but definitely still not thick enough. Still, I tried to spread some of it over the older, very thin layer of frosting already on the cake.

I ended up with a droopy, runny, saggy, swirly pink pile of goop that looked like it could star in Monsters Inc. 2 (with a pair of eyes stuck on top, maybe).

I stood there for several minutes, watching my cake melt. The circle of frosting on the counter around it grew bigger as the layer of frosting on top grew thinner. I really wish I would have taken a picture of it… but I was a little too upset to think about it at the time.

I paced. I walked in circles around it. I prayed. I wailed a little bit. I woke Jonathan up and asked him to come look at it. He growled that he had JUST fallen asleep and that I’d been working on this cake for over an hour already and what had happened to fifteen minutes and that it’s just a cake, just let it go.

I informed him that it was supposed to be a beautiful cake and that the frosting was a disaster and I would never not follow a recipe again (knowing full well that that was completely untrue) and that I could really use some sympathy right now. He went back to bed.

The thought of leaving my cake looking like that upset me. The thought of tossing it and starting over upset me. Just as the top layer started to slide again and came dangerously close to slipping off completely and hitting the counter, it hit me: I needed to put the whole cake down IN something to keep the layers from sliding. I needed a bowl.
The thought of pressing my beautiful cake down into a bowl really, really upset me. But then the top layer slide further, and another glob of cream cheese-Cool Whip-strawberry goop hit the counter, and in a fit of frustration (and some anger), I grabbed a large bowl, crammed the first layer into the bottom, plopped the top layer on top, poured frosting over it and stuck it in the fridge.

Then I went into our bathroom and cried.

Half of me was fully aware at the time that I was overly tired and definitely overly attached to the vision of a beautiful pink birthday cake, and that my tears were completely irrational. But that knowledge did NOT help the other half of me that was completely distraught over my beautiful pink birthday cake that was IN A BOWL.

I crawled into bed.
“What is wrong with you?” mumbled Jonathan from underneath his pillow.
“My cake is in a bowl!” I wailed.
He didn’t say anything.

Five minute later, very unexpectadly, the hilarity of the situation hit.
I woke Jonathan up a third time by very suddenly laughing my head off.
“My cake is in a bowl!” I howled, more tears rolling down my cheeks.
It’s in a bowl!”

The next morning, I double checked.
“My cake is still in a bowl,” I sighed.
“I don’t know what you expected,” Jonathan told me. “It wasn’t going to fix itself overnight.”
I discussed the situation with my mother at church that morning, explaining to her that her would-be beautiful pink birthday cake was, in fact, now in a dark green fruit bowl. I told her that if she wanted me to, I would re-bake it, follow the recipe, and have a beautiful not-pink birthday cake with proper sauce rather than runny pink goop. She laughed at me- hard- and then told me she would be quite happy to eat a cake out of a bowl.
And so that is what we did.
The good news is that yogurt lime cake is delicious. Even out of a bowl. Everyone declared the frosting (I took along the extra frosting, since there was SO MUCH OF IT) good enough to eat plain. The cheesecake was amazing.
And mom had a birthday cake. Well… two, really.
And she got exciting presents. =)

Orange Chocolate Buttermilk Smoky Goodness.

I started daydreaming about scones sometime around Monday afternoon.
Orange and Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Scones, to be exact.
I pictured the dough spread out on the counter. I imagined pulling them out of the oven, all warm and soft and delicious. I remembered how they taste…. with butter and strawberry jam. Oh. My. Goodness. The idea crawled into my brain and set up house. I mean, there was a bed and a kitchen and bath towels and everything!
I had to make scones. It was necessary.

Thursday morning would be Scone Morning, so that they would still be semi-fresh when I took them to the scrapbooking party that afternoon. I made sure I had all the ingredients. I bought oranges. I secured a citrus zester from my mother, who has fancy things like that.

Thursday morning I woke up fifteen minutes early so that I would be sure to have the time to make my scones.
I got ready for work, put on an apron, and started mixing, measuring, seperating, and zesting.

Twenty minutes or so later, I had my dough made and rolled out. I had used every single chocolate chip in my pantry. I mean, it required every last one. (I failed to check on those when I did my ingredient inventory…somehow, in my mind, I had an endless supply). I cut the scones and got ready to put them on a pan… when I realized that I had also forgotten to check on parchment paper, which you are supposed to bake them on.
I surveyed the contents of my ziplock/cling wrap/aluminum foil drawer (you know which one I’m talking about!). I had wax paper. That’s basically the same thing as parchment paper, right?

I spread the wax paper out on my pans, loaded them down with scones, and put them in my 425 degree oven.

Two minutes later, something started to smell funny. One minute after that, smoke started ROLLING out of the oven. I realized the living room was already hazy. I threw the oven door open and a huge cloud blew into my face.
I really hope the smoke alarm doesn’t-”
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
BEEP

Of course.
I threw the pans of scones onto the counter, grabbed a potholder and ran to the smoke alarm, which is situated right outside our bedroom door. I waved the potholder in front of it, trying to clear the smoke and get it to stop beeping. It finally did. I paused, listening for signs that my sleeping husband might be stirring… nothing.

I returned to the scones and looked them over. They were fine. There was nothing obvious that would create so much smoke. The only thing I had done different than any other time was use wax paper. I checked the box for an oven-related warning of some sort, but there was none.
Just as I concluded that the oven simply does not like wax paper, and the wax paper-making-people were failures at printing warnings, the smoke alarm went off again.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

This time, Jonathan made a sleepy appearance in the bedroom doorway.
“What is that sound?” he asked. Then he saw me, frantically waving a potholder around.
“Oh,” he said. Then he sat down on the couch.

I racked my brain for something else to put the scones on. Scones are a little temperamental, and I was pretty sure there was a reason just spraying the pan with Pam wouldn’t work (greasy scones = gross).
Ovens like aluminum foil. I tried to think of a reason that using it would be a bad idea, but none came to mind.
So, I put aluminum foil on another pan, moved my scones, put them back in the oven, turned on a fan, opened windows, and prayed.

Ten minutes later, Jonathan asked me, “is something burning?”

I gave him the strongest duh look I could muster.
“I mean still burning!” he defended himself. “It smells funny in here.”
I opened the oven and found that some unidentifiable blob of something was in the bottom of it, smoking and smoldering like a tiny little brown volcano. Apparently a piece of one of my precious scones had tried to jump ship when the smoky inferno started… and had not faired so well. It went, quite literally, out of the frying pan into the fire out of the cookie sheet into the oven.

The good news is… the scones are good. So good. Little bundles of amazingness. And our home is still standing. And I am now aware that if our house ever really does burst into flames in the middle of the night, I am fully responsible for making sure everyone gets out… because Jonathan will probably still be asleep.

The Great Cover-Up.

“I did something terrible.”
I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant with one of my best friends. It was a routine lunch date… we were catching up on life over quesadillas and salsa. The conversation up to this point had been light… nothing too deep or emotional. But the guilt over the horrible sin I had committed was weighing heavily on me, and I felt the need to confess to someone other than my husband… someone who would understand the gravity of my transgression.

My friend stopped, mid-chew, and stared at me.
“What did you do?”
“Something awful.” I stared at her.
She started chewing again, and I could see her turning this over in her mind. I knew she was picturing me murdering someone and dumping the body in the woods… stealing money from a charitable organization… intentionally popping a child’s balloon… or deleting the Alabama-LSU national championship from our DVR. Unfortunately, what she didn’t know at that moment, was that what I had actually done was worse… much, much worse.

WHAT did you DO?” She asked again.
“I…” I hesitated. “You can’t tell anyone about this,” I told her.
She nodded, solemnly.
I dropped my voice to a whisper.
“I lost the Grandma Blanket!”

Her eyes grew wide. She gasped. “No you didn’t!”
“Yes I did,” I moaned, knowing that she, having lived with my family for several months, would understand the gravity of the situation.

You see, the Grandma Blanket is a sacred thing. It is definitely the most valued possession in my family. It is a patchwork blanket, made by Grandma. It is colorful. It is warm. It has little yarn knots all over it. It is comforting. It has magical powers. When you are sad, and you snuggle up with the Grandma Blanket, you immediately feel better. If you are sick, sleep one night with the Grandma Blanket and you are sure to feel better the next day (it’s a good idea to pretend you’re still sick, though, so as to earn one more night with the Blanket). Naps taken with the Grandma Blanket are a million times more restful than any other.

The Grandma Blanket is a highly coveted item. Wars have been fought over the Grandma Blanket. Rubber bands have been shot, voices have been raised, objects have been thrown. People have gone without speaking for hours because of the Grandma Blanket being stolen. I, personally, have snuck into my brother’s room repeatedly while he was at work to rescue it from the filth that he subjected it to (it always disappeared from my room and ended up back in his by the end of the day).

Eventually, the Grandma Blanket began to wear out. Too many washings after sleeping with a sick person… too many pulls at the little yarn knots… too many naps, snuggles, and tugs-of-war over it. It developed holes. The edges started to fray. My mom hid it. World War Three broke out. We begged for her to get it back out. We bargained. We offered to pay her. She stood firm, insisting that in order for it to survive for us to be adults (I shudder to think how we will resolve who gets to keep it at that point in our lives), it needed to be tucked away in a safe place. We hunted for it, to no avail. The Grandma Blanket was gone.

Grandma understood that her blanket was valued. I don’t think she understood HOW valued, but she knew we liked it a lot. So, last September she presented my family with a new Grandma Blanket… and she presented Jonathan and I with our VERY! OWN! GRANDMA BLANKET!
The colors are a little different than the original. But it is still colorful. It still has yarn knots. It is still comforting and snuggly and warm and wonderful. The same Grandma made it, and it still has the same soothing effect when it is wrapped around you. And THIS Grandma Blanket only has to be shared with TWO people… not six (or seven, or eight, depending on how many people happened to be living in our house at the time).

The Grandma blanket rode in the front seat with us almost the whole way to Alaska. It stayed on our couch while in Alaska. It kept us warm on cold evenings. It helped us be not so homesick sometimes. It rode in the front seat back to Alabama. We covered up with it and mourned the loss of our niece, Anna Grace, who we never got to meet. We snuggled up with it and slept during the loooooooong boring drives through Saskatchewan and North Dakota. We unpacked it carefully and carried it into our little house and draped it over the couch (where it never stays for long).

And then, we took the Grandma Blanket along with us to Kentucky, for the wedding of two of my best friends. One of the bridesmaids (and my former roommate… we’ll call her B) was doing a bit of couch-surfing while we were there, and she didn’t have a blanket to sleep with. So, I loaned her the Grandma Blanket, knowing that it would not only keep her warm but ensure that she had good dreams.

After the wedding, we packed up B’s things to get ready to go home (she was riding with us as far as Nashville). We still had some time in the area, and we spent an afternoon relaxing… until someone who had been staying in the same apartment as B called us to say they had found the Grandma Blanket! I realized, with a twinge of horror, that I had forgotten to ask about it when we packed B’s stuff up… but it was okay, because it was safe in the apartment! The caller told us she had left for home, but she left in a chair in the living room. It would be no problem to go pick it up.

But it was a problem. Because it wasn’t there anymore.
We searched the apartment. We turned it inside out. We looked in bizarre, illogical places. It was nowhere to be found. We called people. We asked if they’d seen the blanket… but no one had. The Grandma Blanket was gone.

We had a book when I was little, about a little frog who had a Blankey that he loved. It went everywhere with him. One day, though, he lost Blankey… and he was absolutely distraught. If I remember right, he adjusted and learned how to live life without his Blankey… and soon after, the Blankey turned back up. His mom pointed out to him that he obviously didn’t really need Blankey anymore, so he packed it up in a box and stored it away. He said, “Bye bye Blankey, it’s been fun… bye bye cuddly cozy one!”

I heard that rhyme over and over in my head while we were hunting for the Grandma Blanket. I could see the picture in my head of the little frog putting Blankey in a box because he didn’t need it anymore. But I knew, deep down inside, that I would never adjust to life without the Grandma Blanket.

We drove back to Alabama… without the Grandma Blanket. I cried a little bit, I am not going to lie. I cried a little bit the next day, too… and the next day. It was terrible.

I was very careful not to let it slip to my family that our Grandma Blanket was gone. I almost let it out a few times… but I didn’t. I kept my mouth shut. I had hope that it would turn up one day, and I did not want them to judge me just yet… or ever. I figured they could wait until I died and they were going through my things and didn’t find the Blanket before they needed to know.

As I was spilling this story to my friend, she just shook her head. She knew the depth of what I had done… I could tell she was just as horrified as I was.
“Your family must never know!” she warned me.
“Oh, I know!” I told her. I had already imagined the lynching that would take place if they found out.
I stared down at the table in sadness, contemplating my bleak future without a Grandma Blanket, when my cell phone vibrated. It was a text from B.
“I know who has your blanket!” it read (or something along those lines).
I almost fell out of the booth.
A friend of a friend who happened to be the Resident Director of the apartment the blanket was supposed to be in had it… someone who we had already asked about it. I don’t know how she got it. I never found out.

I just knew that another friend (the bride who’s wedding we had gone for) picked it up for me, packed it in a box, and shipped it home. And what a glorious homecoming it was!

The Grandma Blanket has been found. I took a nap with it this afternoon, and it was very, very good. Perhaps Grandma will forgive me for the near loss of her hard work. Perhaps my brothers will forgive me for the terrible thing that I did. Perhaps, one day, my mom will return the original Grandma Blanket to us.
But that might be too much to hope for.

Surprise!

It was a momentous occasion. I had our table pulled away from the kitchen and into the living room so that more than three people could sit at it. I had my beautiful black and white polka dot plates set carefully around it. Strawberry lemonade was made and in the fridge. My handy-dandy stepstool was set up along with our only three chairs (it is my special seat when four or more people grace our table). Hamburgers were on the grill, fries in the oven, and macaroni and cheese on the stove.

Who, you ask, could possible be visiting our humble little abode that would require such special preparation?
Grandma and Grandpa, of course!

Little did they know that we had ulterior motives.
Of course, we wanted them to come over for dinner. I had been meaning to invite them. But the fact that my mom was planning a surprise birthday party for them that evening might have had something to do with the timing.

Grandma and Grandpa’s birthdays are mere days apart. They are three years apart in age. We won’t discuss exactly how young they are, but let’s just say that Grandpa is celebrating a milestone… and it might start with an “8” and end with a “0” (andgrandmaisthreeyearsolderthanhim).

The deal was this: Grandma knew there was a surprise party… but she believed it to be only for Grandpa, when in fact, it was for both of them. We knew there was no way to get the whole thing past her (she knows everything), so we gave her enough information to keep her content. Grandpa knew nothing, except that he was coming to our house for hamburgers.

Jonathan and I had a strategy prepared in case we faced a situation where Grandpa didn’t want to leave our house: we would tell him that my mom had text me and made dessert, and we were all invited. If dessert was involved, we figured he’d go right along with us.

We ate our hamburgers, finished up our fries, and I washed the dishes while Grandpa regaled Jonathan with stories about growing up Amish. I couldn’t take one eye off the clock in the kitchen. Grandma kept glancing at her watch. Jonathan looked at his watch every time Grandma looked at hers. We were all anxiously awaiting 5:55… the time we were supposed to leave for mom and dad’s house.

At 5:53 I reached for my shoes.
“Are you ready to go?” Grandma asked me.
“Yep!” I told her.
“Where are we going?” Grandpa wondered.
“Oh, Mrs. Carol just text Lacey and told her she made dessert for all of us… we’re going to go over there and eat it,” Jonathan told him.
I hoped Grandpa wouldn’t pick up on the fact that I hadn’t looked at my phone all night, or wonder how both Jonathan and Grandma would know about this since we had all been in the same room all night.
He didn’t ask. He just followed us out the door.

“I just had to lie to Grandpa,” Jonathan told me grumpily when we got into our car. “I did not like that.”

The surprise party was a surprise. I was a little afraid Grandpa would fall over again when he saw all the people waiting for him.
Grandma told us that she suspected the party may have been for her, too… of course.

There were a lot of people there to celebrate Grandma and Grandpa living another year.It was a drop-in, so they were able to relax in their seats while people came and went. When you’re the birthday boy and girl, you shouldn’t have to get up and circulate anyway… they should all come to you, right?
Unless, of course, you need to go get ice cream.
There were people of many different ages there to celebrate.
And some of the younger guests painted an art gallery of pictures for Grandma and Grandpa!
They had to spend some time interpreting the contents of the paintings… it was very impressionistic, you know.
It was a good party. Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate with us… they are definitely two people worth celebrating. =)

Grandpa had a bit of an accident last week. The bruises that were on his forehead seem to have sunk, and now they are down around his eyes. I told him he should wear his wounds proudly… they are battle scars. I believe he took my advice.
By the way, the only reason I could get Grandpa to let me post this picture is by telling him he may get a bunch of sympathy cards in the mail from my blog readers. Just saying. If you need an address to send that to, shoot me an email… it might help him heal faster. =)

A campaign to keep moms at home.

We all know that the mom is the most important part of any house. She cooks, she cleans, she gives advice, she is brave enough to clean the nasty food-gunk out of the drain (which we all know is toxic and highly explosive). She holds it all together. So, when mom is gone, things tend to get a little… hairy.

When I lived at home, I had to play mom while the real mom was gone. I did everything except the drain gunk. Now, I am gone, and Josh has to take over.
Josh is the “middle brother.” When mom is home, she calls him “Sloppy Josh,” because he leaves a trail, she says. You can tell where he has gone, because he leaves his belongings in his wake… it’s like Hansel and Gretel and the breadcrumbs. He’ll always be able to find his way from his room to the kitchen just by following his trail (not that finding the kitchen would ever be a problem for him anyway).

But, when mom is gone, somehow Josh manages to turn into Mr. Immaculate Housekeeper. He washes the dishes, cooks, does laundry, and takes Caleb (the youngest brother) to school. I don’t know if he takes care of the drain gunk, but he does a darn good job of emptying the dishwasher.

Mom was gone for the weekend. So was dad. The only people left in the house were three boys, and Josh was the elected housekeeper.

Mom and Dad left on Wednesday. I went over to the house on Friday to check up on things. No one was home, so I crept in, a little frightened of what I might find. I was very pleased to find a rather clean kitchen. The drainboard was full of clean dishes, the dishwasher had been loaded, and the counters were wiped down.

Then people came home. Josh and Caleb walked in the door. Caleb took off his shoes in the kitchen, left his backpack on the table, put a water bottle on the counter, and took off for his room to read a book.

Tyler came home from work. He left a cooler full of trash on the floor in the kitchen, left his boots by the bar, and got a drink of water and left the glass in the sink.

“Can’t you guys clean up after yourselves?!” Josh called after them.
There was no response.

I tried to console Josh by telling him a story about a time that I cleaned the whole house when Mom and Dad were gone. Within 20 minutes of me finishing, the boys had messed it up. Josh didn’t look encouraged.

Tyler reappeared and got another drink of water. He put the glass on top of the dishwasher, and left.
“Put it IN the dishwasher!” Josh yelled after him. Tyler didn’t stop.
Later, Josh told me, “Tyler and Caleb are kind of like hamsters. You just change their papers every once in a while… they’re not going to help you, but they’re sure not going to complain, either.”

Yesterday, hours before mom and dad were to return home, I made a trip to the house to see if Josh needed any help. A well-known fact is that the hours leading up to mom’s return are critical: it’s a make-it or break-it time. It’s one last chance to get the house spotless before they walk through the door.

Josh tackled the kitchen, and I tackled the floor. He washed dishes, and I mopped. Then we set off to tackle mom and dad’s closet.
See, a rack of clothes (and other things) had fallen off of the wall that morning. How do things like this happen? We don’t know. We just know that their closet looked like a tornado had gone through it, followed by an earthquake and then possibly a herd of cattle.

We created a makeshift clothing rack out of a broom handle and some chairs, and then hung the clothes on it. We picked up a laundry basket full of pictures and cards all four of us kids had given mom… I think she has things saved from when I was three. We gathered up video tapes and pieces of a very old video camera.
Josh decided he needed to take the actual shelf down, which was still dangling from the wall by one bracket, like a half-pulled tooth. I was straightening up our beautiful broomstick closet when he started yelling.
HELP! SAVE THE TEDDY BEAR! HEEEELPPP!”

I raced into the closet to find Purkle, a very ragged purple teddy bear (and very old member of the family) dangling by one leg from a corner of the shelf.
“Purkle!” I yelped, snatching him away from death’s doorstep.
“Where should I put this?” panted Josh, staggering around with the closet shelf in his arms.
“Um… on the couch!” I answered.
“Sure! Mom and Dad won’t want to sit down… they’ve been sitting all day,” Josh reasoned, plunking the shelf down.
I propped Purkle up on one of our closet-chairs, put a dress and a big hat on him, and shut the bedroom door.

Was the day over, though? Not yet. Just as the bedroom door closed behind us, the backdoor to the house opened and closed. And there stood Grandpa, who lives across the driveway in what we call “the cottage.”
Grandpa had a huge grin on his face… and tons of blood running down his forehead.
I froze. Josh froze. Grandpa grinned.
“What happened?!” I hollered.
“Grandma and I got into a fight!” he chuckled.
“No, really… WHAT HAPPENED?” I hollered louder.
“I fell,” he said, sobering up a bit, but still grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
Just then, Grandma came in from the laundry room. “He got in too big of a hurry to get over here and start our laundry,” she told me. “He fell on the patio.”
He had scratches on his forehead and nose… and a bump the size of a golf ball growing on his forehead. Not a bit of exaggeration there, either (and that isn’t sarcasm!).
I cleaned him up, made sure he still knew his name and had clear vision, and let him go home. Josh checked up on him a few times throughout the rest of the day.

Mom and Dad came home to find a clean kitchen and floor, their closet transplanted to the middle of their bedroom, a very dressed up purple teddy bear, and Grandpa with a very large lump in the middle of his forehead.

This is why moms should never leave.