Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

On Christmas night I did something I have never done before. I went to see a professional basketball game.

Now the reason I have never done that before is because I was sure that it was something I would not like.

But my son, Mr. Nice Guy, has lately become a huge basketball fan, and The Entrepreneur decided it would be nice if the whole family went to a game together.

So off we drove to Cleveland to watch The Cleveland Cavaliers battle with the Washington Wizards to maintain their 14-game home winning streak.

I thought I was going to die of boredom. I anticipated an anxiety attack from my fear of heights knowing we would have the worst seats at the very top of a gigantic arena.

But you know what? I had a blast!

Who knew that there was so much more to basketball that what is going on with the actual game. If you get a little bit tired of watching the players dribble up and down the floor so what. There is something else to entertain you. There is the Jumbotron.

There is a wonderful slice of American Pie up there on the big screen. You get to meet the players and pick the one you think is the best looking. Then there is the Mistletoe game, where they zoom in on a couple and force them to kiss.

There are funny posters made by fans and close-ups of darling children who are fans in training.

At half time you can watch a mini-concert and some guy getting paid $25 a ball for three minutes worth of long shots.

At the time-out breaks the impossibly cheery cheerleaders will lead you in a yell or just kick up their gold boots for your entertainment.

You can make some noise with plastic bats that are handed out to the crowd and make a mess throwing fake snow placed on your seat in party-favor bags.

If you are lucky you might catch a T-shirt shot into the crowd or a lottery ticket attached to a mini-parachute that falls from the ceiling.

Somewhere in all of that activity the game might get exciting. You might catch yourself on the edge of your seat in the final minutes of the game when the opposing team pulls ahead.

You might realize that your normally reserved son is handing out hugs like candy when his team pulls ahead.

After the win, you might wait calmly in the line to get out of the parking deck and join in with the fans who are honking endlessly in celebration.

You may realize, like I did, that you were wrong about something you never wanted to do.

It just might be a whole lot of fun.


A Christmas Story

Yesterday a friend who is struggling financially told me a story about how some of her co-workers stepped in to help her this holiday season.

She and her husband are on a debt-repayment program and her entire salary is used for paying the payments. He lost his job in Corporate America and is doing manual labor to support the family.

There are no purchased presents under her tree this year. For her children, she has made gift certificates redeemable for items they want as extra money becomes available.

The other night, she answered the door, and one of her co-workers was standing there with an armload of groceries. She returned to her car and came back with a ham, two bottles of wine and several wrapped gifts.

Someone had emailed her boss to let him know the tough times the family was having. An email went out to the department, and a collection began.

My friend said it was hard to accept the gifts. But she said her feelings of gratitude were stronger than her feelings of embarrassment.

She said that for once she feels the real meaning of Christmas and is so grateful to be working at a job where people really care about her.

This story did a lot for me. It made me feel so grateful that I am able to give my children some things that they want and need this Christmas.

And it made me realize that those of us who are lucky enough to be in that situation have an obligation to help those who are not.


A Bunch of Winos

Every year my networking group has a gift exchange. The spending limit is $15. The rules are that you bring a wrapped gift and put it in the center table and then you come up according to a number you have drawn.

The first person picks a wrapped gift and then the second person can steal that gift or choose to open another one.

There are 21 men and four women in this group.

Each year I spend a lot of time contemplating the perfect gift because I want people to fight over my gift. I want them to love it and steal it from each other. I want my gift to be the "it' gift of the holiday gift exchange.

So far I am batting zero on that one, because I refuse to do the one thing that will ensure success: I refuse to bring a bottle of wine.

Bottles of booze are a big hit at the gift exchange. Yesterday a bottle of Shiraz was stolen 10 times.

My carefully chosen gift of a high-end car snow scraper with an expendable pole was a complete dud, along with a thought-provoking book on how to increase sales, a pair of movie tickets and a box of gourmet chocolates.

Maybe it's the economy.

I guess there is a reason why they call them "spirits."


Thanks Oprah

I got my new issue of Oprah yesterday. A fat Oprah is on the cover looking at a thin Oprah from a couple of years back. The tag line says: "How did I let this happen again?"

Inside, in a candid article, Oprah tells why she has gained back the 40 pounds she fought so hard to lose.

She says it is not really about eating too much, or about not exercising enough, but about not taking care of herself. She says that she is back where she started because she has placed a priority on her work and her projects and hasn't taken the time and effort necessary to make herself feel and look good.

That is a great message and one that she sacrificed her pride to make.I have also been putting off the things I want to do until the things I need to do get done. But what I am figuring out is that the list of things that need to get done is way to long.

Reading that article made me decide that in the new year I am going to try to do the things that make me feel great. I am going to have to make time for that and it is going to be tricky, but it has been too long since I:

Read a book
Wrote a poem
Took a run
Wrote a letter
Cooked a nice dinner
Spent time with my best friend

Thanks Oprah for my New Year's Resolution!


Out of the Nest

This is The Overachiever. Her name is Abby.

In this picture she has just stomped up the stairs from the basement, where she has been living while getting her Master's Degree in Speech Pathology.

Saturday she will put on her cap and gown and say goodbye to college and to living at home.

This morning she kicked me off the internet, left toast crumbs in the bathroom, stole a pair of my socks and rang the doorbell after forgetting her phone.

But I will miss her.

Next week she will move into her own apartment, take off her waitress apron and start a real job.

We won't miss her two cats (well maybe a little) or the mood she gets in after a bad day.

But we will miss how she takes such good care of her little sisters and the energy she brings when she walks into a room.

I am proud to send her out into the world and so happy she has found a career where she will be making a difference in the lives of so many.

You Go Girl!


Recipe for Magic

This year we had the perfect Recipe for a Successful Christmas Tree:

1. Cut one eight foot tree

2. Drive home with tree hanging out back of car after roof-binding failure

3. Struggle to place in tree stand and center

4. Remove tree from stand when you realize you have forgotten to atach plastic collection bag to base first

5. Attach bag and place in stand again

6. Fight with family over which section of tree should face the front

7. Spray with some fake snow for a realistic effect

8. Wait for fake snow to dry

9. Unpack lights

10. Send hubby to store to replace broken strand of colored lights.

11. Force hubby to apply both white and colored lights to please all family members.

12. Unpack ornaments

13. Get emotional over ornaments with photos of children when they were small

14. Force children to leave computer screens to hang a few ornaments

15. Break a beloved ornament and cry

16. Hang the rest by yourself

17. Unpack old tree skirt and vow once again to buy a new one

18. Dim the lights

19. Stand back

20. Admire the Magic


Write It Down

The other night at a school function I stopped to chat with The Athlete's former third grade teacher. She said that although it has been five years since she had The Athlete in class, she thinks of us often because of a note I wrote thanking her for letting The Athlete bring in the gymnastics medals and trophies she had won to share with the class.

I remember that I thought it was so great at the time that her teacher encouraged all of the children during a "news of the day" segment to get up in front of the class and share anything special that had happened to them. This gave The Athlete an opportunity to share her wins with the class.

And so I went to the store and bought a thank you card and wrote her a note to tell her so.

The teacher said she saved notes like the one I had written and pulled them out over the Christmas holiday every year to read again. She said notes like the one I wrote helped her remember why she chose teaching as a career.

And it got me thinking about notes and letters.

Sometimes I will get a letter in the mail from my dad. He is not a big talker. He hasn't visited in 15 years, and he stays pretty quiet at the rare family event.

But his letters are filled with news of his everyday life on his hobby farm in South Dakota. He gives me news of hunters who have come to go pheasant hunting with him and what he is planting or harvesting at the time.

Those letters are a treasure to me. I have kept them over the years with other special notes and letters in a wooden box my son made for me.

Whenever I get one, I get a thrill thinking that someone I love took time out of their day to put pen to paper and send me a note.

Unlike emails, these pieces of paper are a tangible reminder that things I have done have been appreciated and people I care for love me back.

So I encourage you. If someone has done something special for you, or if you know someone who is going through a hard time and needs some encouragement.

Send a note. It just might live forever.


A Boring Little Christmas

I was at Target yesterday with The Athlete and the rest of the world. She was picking out hats to go with her new bright yellow dress coat. The Athlete is all about color.

She found a really cute navy blue beret that it was clear no one else in the eighth grade would wear and she had to have it. Also there was the T-shirt she found with a giant bluebird on the front wearing a glittery scarf.

So now she will know at least two of her presents that are going under the tree.

The Brainiac was in New York last week looking at a college and managed to do some damage at the mall. But no regrets. She spread the stuff out all over her bed and told me to go shopping. Now she will know ALL of her presents under the tree.

And I find myself missing the old Christmas. The one where my cart was filled with games and toys.

The one where I wasn't working and the week after Christmas was spent lounging about in my pjs and working at a giant puzzle or reading a book while the kids hopped about the neighborhood comparing presents and building snow forts with their friends.

There was always a kind of magic in that week and I would give anything to get it back for one more year.

So if you have it, if you are home with the kids the week after Christmas, savor it. Let the house get messy. Keep the tree up until New Years. Build a snowman and then make some hot chocolate.

And take lots of pictures to help you re-live the magic later on.


Happy Thanksgiving!

The Athlete making place settings like she does every year.

All the kids are here and this afternoon three of the S.O.s (Significant Others) will arrive for our Thanksgiving feast, which will be cooked primarily by The Entrepreneur and his sous chef, Mr. Nice Guy. I will be on the fringes, making pies, setting the tables and doing the clean up.

Later, I will post some pictures of our gathering.

Hope you all have a wonderful day spent with people you love!

Jacquie Lawson e-cards


Soul Song

Someone sent me a song the other day. Just popped off a link to a song that they saw performed on a talk show and wanted to share. Because this friend is thorough, he also included an earlier version of the song from more than 30 years ago. And that is the song I have fallen in love with.

I had never heard this song, but it is sung by one of my favorite artists. When I heard it, it was like a gift because it was something old but undiscovered, because of the perfect clarity and beauty of the artist's voice, and because the lyrics seemed like they were written just for me.

Sometimes the Brainiac or The Athlete will get hooked on a new song, and they play it over and over again on the kitchen computer until I want to kill myself.

That is what I am doing now with American Tune by Paul Simon. Pretty soon I will know all the words. I will find an old CD with it in the play list and listen to it over and over in my car, the way I do with my other favorites like Johnny Cash's Sunday Morning and Vice Gill's Key to Life. I will think of the genius of the words and the beautiful soulful way they were sung and how listening to it brought tears to my eyes.

I will realize the wonder of true talent and the benefit the rest of us get when someone who has it does what God intended and shares it with the world.


The Sleepover

Just a few snacks for the Crew

The other night The athlete had a sleepover. With four friends. Yes. That was a crazy idea. But Maggie and Maddie were already invited, and then Shannon and Allie decided to go ice skating too and if they got left out "their feelings would be hurt."

I couldn't say " no" to that. The Athlete is always worried about other people's feelings and that is sweet.

However. Skating was cancelled due to bad weather, and then The Entrepreneur and I faced a long Saturday night trapped in our house with five 14-year-old girls who were now bored.

He had a great idea: He decided to take them to the grocery store and buy them a cart full of junk food and then to the movie store for some Chick flicks.

They purchased two flavors of ice cream, waffle bowls and caramel sauce, chocolate sprinkles, Funyuns, Salt and Vinegar chips and a 12-pack of Sprite.

Apparently, the recession does not apply to sleepovers.

The next morning, I peeked in on them, sleeping sprawled all over The Athlete's bed and I missed the sleepovers of my youth. I bet that after we went to sleep they were prank calling (or texting) boys, playing truth or dare and revealing important secrets.

Next year is high school and everything will change. The rule at our house is no sleepovers past eighth grade, because of what we have already learned from three teenagers.

So I hope until then The Athlete will enjoy many more sleepovers.

I think the only thing better than being 14 is watching your child enjoy it while she mixes salt and vinegar chips with her ice cream.


Lucky Boy

The Prince

My sister Jen (Eight of Nine) is a new mom. She had her first baby a decade and a half after I had my first, and she is so much smarter. I am having such a good time watching her bring that baby up.

Really I am.

It's not like I am re-living the days with my son, who is all grown up and doesn't call me back a lot of the time in spite of my cheery but desperate messages.

Why not at all.

But I have to tell you I am amazed. Because Jen is an achiever. A person who gets things done. Really kind of a perfectionist. And she is just so easygoing with this nephew of mine. She is just helping him be who he is.

And that makes me so proud.

She is O.K. with how he wrinkles his forehead if you are a new person or if he is trying to figure something out. If he doesn't want to stand up. Who cares. He is an EXCELLENT crawler! She is the head cheerleader of Team Little Prince!

Here is what is different about that son of hers and the one I had a bit too young.

She knows he is a miracle.

She knows that he is perfect.

I think I was too busy juggling the demands of four children to appreciate my miracle.

But now I do. Only he is 20 years old and he thinks it is a bit cheesy that I hang on his every word. That I agonize over what to put under the Christmas tree for him. That I wish I understood him better when he was a toddler chasing toads and ignoring his friends.

What's done is done.

But I remember a few years ago, at Thanksgiving dinner, we all had to say what we really knew for sure, and he said: " I always knew my momma loved me."

So I guess I did O.K.

But if I could go back, older and wiser, and tell the boy that if you are different, you are still perfect in every way, that would be bliss.

So, GO JEN! One chance. You are doing a great job. He is perfect because he YOURS.

From now until he is all grown up, I'll be cheering you on.


Kids Say the Darndest Things

There are so many blog services out there for which you pay big money. There are little banners and buttons that you can have made that say the name of your blog with a cute little graphic that represents what it is about.

You can have little widgets made for features that you bring back again and again to your site.

I aspire to have a blog like that. But a blog that puts me in the red sounds like a bad idea.


A new feature that I want to have on here every now and then is one that tells you all of the very funny and poignant things the preschoolers at the center where I work say. It's going to be called KidzTalk. Someday I will have a cool banner or button for this feature. But for now, I am going to borrow the free colored type feature offered by blogspot.

Here we go with the first KidzTalk:

Victoria, age three, said that yesterday in preschool they had to go around the room and say what they wanted to be when they grew up.

"What did you say?" I asked.

"Oh. I want to be a bluebird," She said.

Excellent goal.

What's Old is New Again

My Best Recycling Moment

It's all about recycling now. And not buying things made in China. And buying local. I get that.

But beyond that, there is something so appealing to me, especially this time of year, in finding things that were made by hand long ago and have ended up in junk shops and garage sales, just a moment away from the landfill.

I love it when I find something like this and bring it home.

I feel like the person who made it and has probably passed on is up there giving me some extra points because I noticed the beauty in the thing they created.

My pine cone wreath is an example.

I found it this summer when The Entrepreneur and I were hopping garage sales in search of a cabinet to house Mr. Nice Guy's T.V. for his new apartment. We were batting zero and The Entrepreneur was doing what he usually does, which is making friends with the garage sale C.E.O. and they were talking about how the man was selling the house because his wife had died and he was tired of living in the big place alone.

Looking through the tools for an addition to my trowel collection, I glanced up and spotted a beautiful pine cone wreath with a $4 price sticker.

"The Missus made that one year with pine cones she found at our cabin," the man said.

"It's really beautiful," I said. "I'm going to take it home."

And so it hangs from the living room mirror this year. I added a few pine cones where some had fallen off and dressed it up with a satin bow.

When I look at it I think of a woman walking in the woods collecting pine cones. I think of her husband, alone at the end of his life and moving on to a new place with the hope of a new beginning.

And I'm very proud I recycled.


Something Fun

I found this fun site where you can plug in a picture of yourself and it will tell you what celebrities you resemble. I was worried about my results, so I plugged in a picture of The Athlete.
I was very concerned to see Britney Spears in her results. I hope she doesn't ACT like her too!


I'm Feeling all Holiday

I'm not sure why, with my big pumpkin still sitting on the front porch from Halloween, but I'm getting all excited for the holidays.

Yesterday I stayed in bed all day with some horrible virus that I attribute to not getting my flu shot this year.

And even though my body was just laying there in misery, my mind was busy making plans for another Big Wonderful Christmas.

So today I'm going to bring my tissue with me down to the crawlspace and drag out the Christmas boxes and begin my decorating plans.

This year there will a party before Christmas to celebrate the Overachiever's graduation from college, and there will even be people to share the decorating with.

I know I have to shorten up my shopping list, but it will be hard to get me to cut back on my decorating.

Here on my blog I hope to share some great family recipes (please send me yours!) and traditions and give you some great economical gift ideas as well.

Out my window I see a few snowflakes coming down. Bring on the holidays!


I'd Prefer Preschool

My Dream Car. Mine. You Can't Have it!

I've been thinking lately that it would be really cool to be a preschooler. Here's why:

All of the preschoolers at the place where I work get to say exactly what is on their minds and no one gets mad at them for it.

Like the other day. Jacob shows up. Cute kid. Kind of a germaphobe. Uses WAY to much Purell. Anyway, I say: "Hi Jake. How are you today? Are you excited to be at school? And he says:

No. Not really. I'm tired and I really think I should go home and take a nap."

You know what? That made a lot of sense to me. I was tired too. And the heat in that place was broken, so I was also cold. I wanted to go home and crawl in my big bed under my covers and take a nap too.

But when my boss asked me how I was doing, I didn't say that. I lied. I said "Great! How are you?" Because that is the grown-up thing to say.

Later, Jillian grabbed the hot pink marker from Kate.

I said: "Jillian. Kate is using the pink marker. It is not polite to take things from other people."

And Jillian said: "Why not. Pink is my favorite color so I have to color my house with it!

I thought about how earlier in the week I talked to a friend who owned the car I have wanted ever since I drove around a different version in high school. That car was beautiful, but when I told my friend how much I loved it, she said: "I hate this car. It's too small and I wish I never would have bought it."

"Well then you don't deserve that car, give it to me!"
Is what I wanted to say. That's what Jillian would have said.

But I just said: " That's too bad."

But this is my blog. And I am going to channel my preschooler and say that today I am irritated by the number of leaves on my lawn, the fact that my carpet steamer is broken and I can't get my hair to do what it is supposed to do. I don't want to keep cleaning out my crawlspace and I really hate the printer for messing up my order and charging me too much because now I have to drive over there to get my $13 back and that will probably cost me $2 in gas.

Wow. That was really cool.


Computer Maven

The Entrepreneur likes to make fun of my slowly developing computer skills. He calls me a Computer Maven. He tends to be a bit sarcastic.

I'm really trying on this computer thing. I realize that I need to step up my computer knowledge in order to fit in with today's world. But I'm going to tell you something. I don't like computers. And I never will.

I don't like the fact that when I can't get the computer to do something it is supposed to be doing, like when my blog won't post even though I keep pushing the POST button, there is nothing I can do. I just have to keep pushing the button again and again and screaming "POST!" until at last the computer decides to upload my post. It is so aggravating!

Today I was working on my website for my Green Thumb Design business. Some guys in India made it for me because they screwed up The Entrepreneur's web site and they owed us some money. It has it's limitations.

I was supposed to be able to log in as the administrator and press the different catagory buttons and make changes. Then I was to press SAVE and then go back to the main page and press REFRESH. Only that wasn't working and so I just started banging on the keys a little bit and shouting "REFRESH!"

That didn't help.

If this were the old days, I wouldn't need the dumb website. People would have to call me on the TELEPHONE.

Then I could let them know if I was frustrated and they would maybe do something about it.

But who needs communication? After all, we have this beautiful new thing called Technology.


Duty Calls

Today I am putting on My Garden Designer hat and assembling several plant baskets that have been ordered and delivering them all over what my dad used to call: "Hell's Half Acre."

But it's all good. I LOVE to create plant baskets.

And, in case you are a local reader, remember that The Green Thumb now has a plant hospital where we will care for the plant you tried to kill :) and bring it back to life!

Maybe while I'm driving around town I will dream up some new ideas to blog about next week.

So check back on Monday and enjoy your weekend!


Hair Today Gone Tomorrow Part Two

My New Do

Yesterday I told the terrible story of burning my hair with a straightening iron and left you all hanging as to the final result.

After spending a couple of days at the salon with my hair caked with several different kinds of conditioner, it was determined that nothing could be done to improve the quality of the singed hair.

I sat in the chair while my stylist Annie tried to pull a comb through the burned and matted mess.

"Cut it," I said.

She got a bad look on her face.

"But your hair has never been short as long as I have known you," she said.

"Cut it," I said again, and all of the ladies in the salon held their breath.

It turned out O.K.

I miss my long hair a little bit, but it's nice to only need 10 minutes instead of 40 to style it every day. My friend Angela says it's sassy and The Entrepreneur says he wants me to keep it this way.

Chalk one up to Serendipity.


Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Looking Scary with my Fried Hair

Yes. That is a very scary picture. But this is a very scary story.

A couple of weeks ago I flew to Minnesota to see siblings four and eight and to spend some time with my adorable Godson.

I had left my straightening iron, which I often use to tame my curly hair, at home. I did this because my girls have all inherited the bad hair gene from me and the straightening iron is an important part of their everyday lives. I thought it would be mean to take it with me. I thought that one of the siblings, who both also have the bad hair gene, would be happy to share theirs with me.

And that act of kindness cost me dearly.

One day during my visit, Sibling Eight and her husband and son went to a baby shower.

While they were away, I decided it would be a perfect time to complete the hour-long task of straightening my hair.

I searched around until I found the straightening iron and plugged it in. I came back to the bathroom a few minutes later and grabbed a big chunk of hair from the top of my head and started pulling the iron through the curls.

Suddenly, I noticed a bad smell. Looking down at the iron, I saw several pieces of singed hair clinging to the hinge. Thinking they were just pieces that were left behind from the last time the iron was used, I grabbed another section of my hair, snapped the iron in place and began to pull.

And then I smelled the bad smell again. Leaning forward over the counter, I took a good look at the top of my head.

And then I let out a terrible yell.

Tune in tomorrow to find out if Five of Nine found a way to rescue her burned mane . . . . .



I am so excited to vote today because that means the Republican Party will quit calling my house every five minutes to remind me and I won't have to hear Sarah Palin's annoying voice telling me that "as a mom" she understands everything I am facing. Please.

Now that I am done with that rant, I should tell all the coffee drinkers that they can get a free cup of Joe today from Starbucks as a thank you for casting your vote.

Now a little something for the trivia buffs who might not know the origins of the Elephant and Donkey symbolism:

The now-famous Democratic donkey was first associated with Democrat Andrew Jackson's 1828 presidential campaign. His opponents called him a jackass (a donkey), and Jackson decided to use the image of the strong-willed animal on his campaign posters. Later, cartoonist Thomas Nast used the Democratic donkey in newspaper cartoons and made the symbol famous. Nast invented another famous symbol--the Republican elephant. In a cartoon that appeared in Harper's Weekly in 1874, Nast drew a donkey clothed in lion's skin, scaring away all the animals at the zoo. One of those animals, the elephant, was labeled "The Republican Vote." That's all it took for the elephant to become associated with the Republican Party. Democrats today say the donkey is smart and brave, while Republicans say the elephant is strong and dignified.



The Brainiac gets Equestrian

Yesterday we took a little drive to watch The Brainiac compete in a horse show. We have done this many times before. But this time I was the most proud I have ever been because The Brainiac has some new obstacles that make being in a barn an absolute misery, but she keeps on competing anyway, because it is something she has a passion for.

You see, we recently found out that The Horse-crazy Brainiac is allergic to grass. And because hay is basically just dried-up grass, a barn is just about the worst place on earth for her to be.

Her eyes get red. Her nose turns into a faucet. And then she starts to sneeze like crazy.

It wasn't always like this. Back when she started riding at age nine, she didn't show any symptoms. But over the years things have gotten gradually worse.

But she is not giving up. She shows up for her weekly lesson and comes home clutching her kleenex.

Yesterday I held my breath while she rode around the arena, paying attention to the perfect transitions from walk to trot to canter, knowing that while she was focusing on signaling the horse she was also doing everything in her power not to sneeze.

Finally came the time for the riders to ride to the center of the ring for the ribbon ceremony. I heard them call The Brainiac's name.

And then I heard the sneeze.


Matt is Having More Fun Than Me

I love this video from a guy named Matt who found an awesome way to document his travels.


Back in Time

Here's one of some of my siblings taken in 1963.

Thanks Mom!

My mom emailed me this old photo of my brother Joe. Crafty mom made the pumpkin costume.

Happy Halloween!

From the top: The Brainiac and The Athlete dressed as Sarah Palin and a gangsta, My nephew The Prince in his lion costume and my Chiropractor's dog Bumbles dressed as a bumble bee.

Happy Halloween! Today I'm going to share some of my favorite Halloween photos. Please feel free to email me yours if you want them posted here. Then take the Halloween quiz I've posted to find out your Halloween I.Q.

Immigrants from which country brought Halloween to the United States?


Halloween is also called all of the following except...

All Hallows Eve
All Saints' Eve
Hallowed End
Spirit Day
Before pumpkins, Europeans originally carved...

Turnips or rutabagas
Green cabbage heads

Where does the movie Halloween take place?

Haddonfield, Illinois
New York City, New York
Reno, Nevada
Austin, Texas

In 2007, the top costume for children in the U.S. was...


The correct answers are: Ireland, Spirit Day, turnips and ruatabegas, Haddonfield, Ill. and princess.



These are the gravestones the Brainiac made with her dad when she was nine years old. They cut them out of wood and used a burning tool to write the messages, which I dreamed up.

Every year since then we make a little graveyard on either side of the walkway to the house to scare the trick-or-treaters.

Last year I had to ask a neighbor kid to put up the graveyard with me. The Athlete was too busy and The Brainiac was clearly not interested.

This year it was just The Entrepreneur out there with me, pounding the stakes into the ground and hanging the bats and cobwebs.

Part of me wanted to avoid the dangerous climb up the ladder to the crawl space over the garage where the tombstones live the rest of the year. But Halloween would feel kind of wrong without them.

That's how it is with traditions. Pretty soon you are doing them because it feels weird not to.

I have a little prediction that one day those tombstones will be like the cookie jar that my dad got his Oreos out of every night after dinner. They will be fought over by the very children who now think they are a little bit silly.

How smart that there are four of them. One for each kid to carry on the tradition.

I KNOW this will make you smile.

My Bossy Horoscope

Get your life in order today, dear Cancer. Take off the mask you have been wearing and look at yourself in the mirror. Make sure you like who you see. Today is a good day to put the frivolity aside and concentrate on what you need to get accomplished. Attend to your duties and plan wisely for the future. Store up your resources instead of squandering them all now.

I made the mistake of reading my horoscope (above) this morning. Just back from my mini-vacation and finally at the end of fall cleanups for my gardening business, I was actually considering loafing about this morning.

Now I've got my horoscope bossing me around, asking what I plan to accomplish.

O.K., O.K.


  • Order the invitations for The Overachiever's graduation party
  • Wrap the Halloween gifts for The Athlete's gym buddies
  • Order the packaging for my Christmas candy
  • Call my Mom
  • Make my Christmas budget so I can break it
  • Clean the one kitchen cupboard that is supposed to set me on a path of eventually cleaning them all
Hopefully tomorrow my horoscope will tell me to take a nap.


A Little Something for the Cat Lovers

I Want to be a Goal Getter

I love this Goal list I found on the internet

Sibling Number Eight sent me a link to this funny post yesterday. It got me thinking.

Sure, the goals these boys had were silly ones, but they were goals anyway.

I have kind of a love/hate relationship with goals. Sometimes I don't like the process of getting them, like when I was training for my first 5K run this summer, but I do like having them.

This guy I knew once was a Goal Getter. He was fascinating to have dinner with. He had traveled all over, been a dealer in Vegas, a teacher, a writer and a chef. He had a personal anecdote for any topic that came up.

I think it would be fun to be one of those people.

I think one big goal a year is reasonable for a not-so-young mom with four kids and a business to run, so that's what I'm going to start with.

I also think this next goal should utilize my mind, since my body is still recovering from meeting the last one.

Any ideas? I'd love to get a sibling or reader to join me.

Let's get our Bucket List going.


My Mulligan

The Prince and his favorite toy

My sister Anne, Sibling Number Four, has a new little boy in her life. He is the seven-year-old son of her boyfriend Joe. Her kids are grown and out, and now she is helping to raise another boy. She is a good sport about it though. She sees it as an opportunity to re-do all the mistakes she made as a young mother using all of her new wisdom.

She calls him her Mulligan.

This weekend I went to visit The Prince, my much adored nephew and the son of Sibling Number Eight.

She is a first time mother in her late 30's. And I have to say that so far I don't see any reason she will be needing a Mulligan. But I think I might be using The Prince for mine.

It's kind of tricky to pass on any parenting advice to this sister, because she has always been kind of the overachiever of the family and has researched many aspects of this parenting thing.

She has sticky placemats for the restaurant tables, Purell for the germs after Kindermusic, toys that sing "hello" in five languages and baby food that doesn't come from a jar.

I am happy to report, however, that this weekend I have added value to the life of The Prince by finding and purchasing the rattle eggs that he loves at Kindermusic, discovering that he won't cry during his diaper change if he has a sticker to play with and teaching him to say his first word (and making sure it was not "DOG" as his father requested).

His first word is his favorite toy in the whole world. It is what his dad plays with him every day when he comes home from work. I said that word to him 1000 times and signed it 100. And then he said it!

The Prince said "BALL!"

That beats the first word record of my daughter, The Overachiever, by one full month.

And that is an excellent Mulligan for me.


Visit Number Three

This is The Prince. He is the adorable son of Sibling Number Eight. I am flying on a plane to visit him today as I promised I would try to do as often as I could when I agreed to be his Godmother. This time it has been almost four months since I have seen him and I know he has lots of new tricks to show me.

I am leaving my children and pets in the capable hands of The Entrepreneur, who will be lots more fun than I am and disregard the rule about sugar only once a day.

I may try to blog or I may just play with the Prince and the new boats I am bringing him for the bathtub.

Anyway. I know I will be having fun!

Feeling Sentimental

I don't know if it's the fact that fall is waving goodbye this week, or maybe it is the Lobster Boy Video I watched that reminded me how fast Mr. Nice Guy changed from a little boy to a man, but I'm feeling all sentimental and sad.

There are so many goodbyes coming up.

The Brainiac is spending her last winter with us before she heads off to college.

The Overachiever has landed a job in the big world and is moving out with her two cats in December. I knew I would miss her but who knew I would miss those cats?

The Athlete has bid us a mental farewell, keeping most of her thoughts to herself and spending more time in her room the way that teenagers do.

A feeling of panic is setting in.

After I finishing closing down my gardening business this week, I think I need to spend a day or two with all the old videos and photo albums and remember that these are the quiet days I used to long for when I was completely responsible for the lives of four little people.

My plan is for it to make me feel accomplished as in: "Look at how nicely they all grew up!"

But who am I kidding. There will need to be Kleenex. I'm going to be a Sentimental wreck.


Our Soap Opera Life

Forrest and Jenny

Here is the way your life gets more complicated as your kids grow up: They start to have Significant Others that they bring home for you to meet, and then suddenly you feel like you have eight kids instead of four.

But when it gets REALLY complicated is when your grown-up kid has a BIG LONG relationship with someone, and they start to come to all of your family functions, and you start to love them like they were your own kid and then your kid for some reason BREAKS UP with them and you don't get to see them any more.

I was thinking about this last night, because Mr. Nice Guy asked us out to dinner to meet his new girlfriend.

I really liked the new girlfriend. She is smart and pretty and has green eyes just like me and she told me a really funny story about a migrant worker working at her parent's orchard who is stalking her.

But I'm afraid to like her too much. Because maybe later I will have to go to the restaurant where she works to visit her like I do with Mr. Nice Guy's old girlfriend.

I know I have to keep my opinions to myself, but does Mr. Nice Guy know that any girl would be lucky to have him?

Does The Overachiever know that just because she found love early doesn't mean she won't find love again?

Does The Brainiac know that she has found her perfect match and should hang on with a tight grip?

And why can't The Athlete figure out that her best friend down the street with the beautiful blue eyes, who calls her his Jenny (Forrest Gump reference) is her soul mate and not the guy who broke up with her in a text message last week.

Hopefully, in the end, we will end up with the perfect cast.


Mr. Opinionated

The Opinion Shirts

My hubby, The Entrepreneur, is becoming very opinionated. It started when he ditched his corporate job a couple of years ago.

All of the suits and shiny shoes in his closet began to get dusty, along with the classy crew-neck sweaters and Polo shirts I had gotten him for gifts.

And then something horrible happened. He started wearing T-shirts.

Not just ordinary T-shirts, the kind that advertise the little race you just ran in or with a subtle swoosh to advertise a sporting company, but shirts with messages, the kind of messages not everyone agrees with.

Getting ready to go watch The Athlete compete in a gymnastics meet, he might show up to breakfast wearing his shirt that says: Silly Liberal. Checks are for Workers, or his famous Hilary Scares Me shirt.

These two are always a sure bet to draw some looks and comments, since half of the population thinks they are great and the other hates them.

He always gets a lot of comments from the guys on his shirts that say I'm Kind of a Big Deal and I Bring Nothing to the Table.

He is very attached to his many O.J. Simpson shirts. They say things like:
Drink Apple Juice 'cuz O.J. Will Kill You


Liberals Love America Like O.J. Loved Nicole

Sometimes at a party I will look around the room at another guy and admire his nicely pressed white linen shirt. But then, over in the corner is The Entrepreneur, wearing his shirt that says: I'm Tired of Being My Wife's Eye Candy.

And I have to admit that funny trumps dashing for me.


Seems I'm Comfortlicious

Send your child's art to See Jack Draw to make it even MORE amazing.

All week long I search about for contests for my readers to enter to win things. I do this because I found out that the most popular blogs are the ones about winning things and I am trying my best to increase the readership of my blog.

So, if you are like my husband, The Entrepreneur, who rolls his eyes at the give-away blogs, just come back on Monday and my blog will return to it's regular self.

But now it's time to give the Give-away Junkies what they want:

Take this short quiz if you want to know if you are Comfortlicious or Griptastic and also have a chance to win a cool spa package.

If you are a coffee-lover like I am, but sometimes have guilt over the cost of a Starbucks, enter here to win a Starbucks gift card (scroll to the Oct. 13 entry).

Because I LOVE flowers, I really hope I win Redbook's contest of the day for a $100 gift card to 1-800-flowers.com.

O.K. this one is not free, but it's great. What can you do with all of your kid's art? You can send it to this artist and she will frame a few pieces together for a lasting and beautiful piece.


So Long to the Deck Party

Every Sunday all summer long we had a deck party.

Now I talk about the deck party a lot and people kind of look at me funny. They want to know what a deck party is.

A deck party is when you invite your friends over and you all sit on the deck and relax. Also you drink wine or pop if you so choose. Most of the grown-ups choose wine:)

You eat things with lots of calories like pistachio nuts or chips and salsa or maybe a dessert if you are lucky enough to have friends that make those (I AM!)

You can bring your kids if they can be trusted near the fire pit, where they are allowed to throw things in and watch them burn, which is big fun for any kid. Later they can make S'mores and sell them to hungry adults for a dollar if the marsmallows are cooked just right.

It is good to invite the same three or four couples to the deck party all summer, because there begins to be private jokes that only the people who attend frequently will understand.

You will make BIG PLANS at the deck party. You will make an elaborate plan to tour the Napa Valley with this group of friends. There will be a BIG DEBATE about whether or not to bring the kids along and whether to stay in a resort with seperate rooms or in a big house all together.

None of the debates will really matter, because you won't all go on that Napa trip due to lost jobs, kids schedules or college kids laying claim to your vacation funds, but it is fun to pretend.

Last weekend was our final deck party. It is too cold to sit out there now. But we'll be out there again the first weekend of June, building memories and making impossible plans.

Thanks for coming to the Madel deck party. We had a great time!



The Athlete is having a bit of trouble staying organized. There are a lot of contributing factors to this problem: Massive amounts of homework required for eighth grade, 17 hours of practice a week for her sport, an active cell phone life and lastly, TOO MANY BAGS.

See, the problem with The Athlete is that she is not only a Jock, but also a Fashionista and therefore the backback she stores her books in each day must coordinate with her outfit.

But what happens the next day when she switches bags, is that sometimes important items get left behind in the previous bag, and that is how her copy of the book Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, which she needed to complete a book report this weekend, went missing.

Since we were having some folks over for the weekly deck party and I was rushing around trying to make my house look way more clean and organized than it actually is, I was a bit aggravated by the loss of the book, since I had to stop what I was doing to help look for it.

At this time I began what I think is called a rant where I began with a louder and louder voice to preach on the benefits of being organized. To illustrate my point, I grabbed one of the Athlete's zillion bags from a hook in the back hall and dumped the contents on the newly cleaned kitchen floor.

Here is what fell out:

The lost book
A crushed Poptart
Three bracelets (one said HOPE, and I thought that was funny)
One giant brown hoop earring
A pink tank top
A label from a bottle of orange soda
A Chinese finger trap
A yellow goofy golf pencil
Guava Splash lip gloss
A plaid hair clip
74 cents

The Entrepreneur, who is nicer than I am, rushed her off to CVS to buy her some organizational tools and I ran around the house confiscating some of the book bags.

But there might not be much hope for the Athlete's disorganization problem. I took a look at my desk this morning. I think she comes by it naturally.


Shop Your Closet

I want to take a second to tell you all about a great new business that my friends Susan and Betsy started called Shop Your Closet.

These girls are really passionate about dressing women and giving them the confidence that comes from looking fabulous (that is their favorite word).

And they are so qualified, with degrees in Art and Fashion Merchandising and more than 15 years of retail experience between them. Whether your style is Gucci or Gap, these girls can really whip a closet into shape. And that is just what they do.

For a fee of $65 an hour, they come to your house, tear through your closet and assemble outfits for you to wear for any occasion. They take photos of the assembled outfits and later provide you with a darling pink notebook with the photos inside that you can refer to when getting dressed for a special event or even just your everyday life.

I am really excited, because I won three hours of their services, and they are going to come over and help me get my winter look in order. Maybe there is hope for me to look FABULOUS!

If you want to look fabulous, you can contact Betsy and Susan through their website at www.shop-your-closet.com


Cutting Corners



The garden I am going to finish installing today is a perfect example of how you can cut a few corners in order to adjust to the horrible new economy and still get what you want.

At this house, the homeowner has hired one company to tear out the existing landscaping, one to install the lighting and sprinkler system and Little Old Me to design and install the plantings.

The house down the street has hired THE landscaping firm in town to install their new landscaping and I am really interested to compare the two when all is said and done. The Entrepreneur and I are guessing my guy will be saving at least $10,000 in the end.

Now there are some challenges with the system my homeowner is operating under. I have to coordinate things with the tear-out guy, who has hired some young guys I am a little bit scared to work around because I overheard them comparing jail stories and also because they were singing "I shot the Sheriff" with a little too much gusto.

But I did learn that if I bring them donuts they will plant my trees for me.

I also noticed that The Lighting Guy and The Tear-out guy are very close to puching each other out over how to backlight the house. Sometimes they smack each other on the back after these word wars, though, so I think it is all good.

Anyway, tomorrow I am going to blog about another way you can save some money and will be talking about a new business in town called Shop Your Closet.

But now I have to rush out to pick up the donuts for my tear-out boys before they start singing Devil Woman.


Winner Winner Chicken Dinner


This week I had some terrible insomnia, but that's all good for my readers, since I was up in the night lost in Cyberland looking for some great contests for you to enter. I was careful to pick things I know my regular readers would like to win.
Here you go:

Great Bakers like my friend Wendy can enter to win an awesome orange cake stand to display your Halloween treats.

And any girl would love to win the prizes given away every day at 30 days of Beauty.
The prize here is always changing, but always fun, so put it on your favorites.

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about cloth grocery bags and promised to try to find some cute ones for you to carry. Well I did and you can get four of them for free by entering a contest posted on my friend Carol's blog. Once you hit the page, scroll down just a bit and you will see the contest for Shop Wise Bags. Just leave a comment about the bags on Carol's site for a chance to win. To check out all the great bags visit www.shopwise.com

Shutterfly is running a great coupon that you can use if you are the on-the-ball type who is already picking out Christmas cards. Just use the code HOLIDAY when placing your order to receive $10 off a $50 purchase. If you order 50 cards by October 29, you can get 25 more for free.

And free is always a good thing!

Practice Makes Perfect

The Athlete had a assignment this week for eighth grade Language Arts (that's the fancy new name for English class) to find five phrases or slogans that represent valuable lessons she has learned about life.

I loved them all, and they really taught me a lot about her as a person. I got special permission to share my favorite. Here it is:

Here’s my day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday: Wake up. Time for school! Drive to gymnastics. Do my homework from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the gym. Start practicing gymnastics at 4:00 p.m. End at 8:00 p.m. Drive home. Get home at 8:15 p.m. Wake up… repeat.

Saturday: Wake up at 8:00 a.m. Get ready for practice. Leave for the gym. Get there at 9:00 a.m. End practice at 1:00 p.m. And somehow I love my life!

I have been doing gymnastics since I was three. Eleven years of gymnastics! I get better every year. I compete against more and more people. I do more and more skills. One skill in particular needs lots of practice. My bail. Every day on bars I work on this one. I have been doing it for about two years. The reason that I don’t mind continuing to do this skill almost every day of my life is because I get better every day. I practice and practice. One day, maybe it’ll be perfect. Like they say, “practice makes perfect.”

I think “practice makes perfect” is always a good thing to keep in mind because it helps get me through things. I always keep in mind that the more I practice things, whether it’s in school, sports, or any other activities, I will just get better and better! More people should keep this life lesson in mind and they will succeed in a lot of the things they do. They will get better and better.


Kid in a Candy Store

All of the great times I remember from when I was a kid were times I was allowed to prowl around the neighborhood unsupervised.

I know that statement could open up a big debate involving people who think you should never take your eyes off of your kid and people who think the parents are ruining childhoods because of the paranoia caused by the media, but I am way to chicken to open that up for discussion here. (You can if you want to though. I have a place for comments).

I merely want to mention that I am sorry my kids missed out on a unique opportunity like going to Mosey's candy store with a quarter in their hand every Saturday morning.

When I go back home to Good Old Sioux Falls South Dakota and drive the distance to Mosey's, which is long gone now, I am a little bit surprised that my mom let us cross Minnesota Avenue, which was the busiest street in town, and walk through two or three unknown neighborhoods to get there.

Probably she was a little bit tired after spending the week doing 28 loads of laundry and dreaming up dinners that nine different children might like, and needed some alone time.

It was all good for me and my little sister, Kate (Six of Nine), because you could buy A LOT of candy with a quarter at Mosey's.

This time of year there would be Black Jacks and wax lips and fangs. Peanut butter candies in orange and black wrappers and orange Zots with their exciting exploding center.

Favorites we loved all year were Whistle Pops, candy necklaces, which could last a whole week and candy lipstick, which was used for playing dress-up when we got home. Necco Wafers were perfect for when I was helping Kate learn the proper way to stick out her tongue for first communion.

The other day I walked into a store with a display of all of this old fashioned candy. I decided to buy some for my Halloween trick-or-treaters.

Even if the kids don't appreciate it, the parents will.

Because you know they will be coming along.


Up, Up and Away

Sometimes things happen in your life and you are like: "What the heck was the purpose of that?"

They are things that don't fit in with the little vision you had for your life and then you have to spend all of this effort readjusting.

I hate it when that happens.

But sometimes things turn out exactly how you always wished and hoped and then you really feel like God is on your side of the field shaking his giant pom poms.

One of those things happened to me recently.

The Overachiever got her Big Career Job Offer. And that's not even the best part. The best part is that she's not moving away.

She is going to be just a half-hour away, and I can go over to her trendy new apartment and bring her things and plant flowers in the pots on her patio.

Maybe she will meet a boy who thinks that Ohio is the most fabulous place on earth to live and they will live happily ever after and give me some cute grandkids to spoil rotten.

I have a really good feeling about this one.

Team Lisa is out in front!


Let's Go Shopping (for free stuff!)

Some of you may have noticed that I skipped my shopping blog last Sunday.

Even though I am almost always in the mood for shopping, I had gotten a big bill from the doctor that I had to pay and I was feeling very poor and not in the shopping mood at all.

Turns out it costs $1,000 to find out that your kid is allergic to grass.

Anyway, you know how sometimes your mother and the pastor at your church will tell you that good things come out of adversity? Turns out that they were right this time, because I was messing around on the internet doing fake shopping (that's where you find things you want to buy but you just tag them under favorites and never actually purchase them) and I found this great new website that tells you how to get free stuff.

I am going to be getting free address labels, deodorant, Pledge Wipes and lastly, a free cloth grocery bag, which leads me to my second thing.

You may have noticed my little plastic bag counter at the top of the blog. I found this on the internet the other day after I looked out the window and saw it was raining and did my little victory dance around the kitchen because I didn't have to go to work.

Because my big family (the one I came from) are very crunchy granola and big fans of saving the environment, I am going to step up and do my part as well.

In the spirit of the mailbox (see Running post) I am going to start small by eliminating plastic bags from my life. This is going to mean being organized and always having cloth bags in my car to use. And that is going to be fun because I am going to be able to BUY them and that means SHOPPING!

But until I get over the shock of that doctor bill, I think I will just have a free one sent to me. Get yours and lets go green together!


Everyday Superhero

Right now I am really frustrated.

The Brainiac just called to tell me that The Athlete left her giant tri-fold board that was to be used to assemble her science project in the back of her car.

There is big trouble for her from The Science Teacher if she shows up to class without that board.

My inclination is to throw on my Superhero Mom Cape and fly to the high school, remove the board from the littered back seat of The Brainiac's car and bring it swiftly to the middle school to hand over to The Athlete before science class begins.

But I can't do that because there is a new policy in place at the middle school that does not allow parents to help their kids out of a jam. Absolutely no materials may be brought to the school that have been forgotten by your middle-schooler.

In addition to having two hours of homework each night, they must now have perfect memories.

I don't think that The Middle School Policy Makers know that The Athlete was paired up with two underachievers who have done next to nothing for the project.

They don't know that she came home from a four-hour practice at 8:30 last night and re-wrote their portions of the assignment, which were filled with misinformation and bad spelling. Then she got out her big craft box and began cutting and pasting things to make the tri-fold board more appealing.

Before she went to bed, she set the big board by the back door so she wouldn't forget it.

Then she placed it in the back seat of her sister's car on the way to school.

She probably forgot to write BOARD on her hand so that she would remember it when she got out of the car (see My Traveling Post-it Note). And so she forgot it there.

Well you know what? Sometimes a Superhero has to be Clever in addition to being powerful.

So I am going to go over to the school at lunchtime carrying the big board under my arm and walk casually back and forth in front of the giant windows in front of the cafeteria until she sees me and rescue The Athlete from her dilemma.

I hope she is not embarrassed by my Superhero cape.