snapshots & thoughts: christmas pjs

Traditionally the only present the kids get to open on Christmas Eve
is their present from the Elves.

When they were old enough to be impatient about waiting for Christmas morning,
we told them they could open one on Christmas Eve.

"But how will Santa get us a present on Christmas Eve if he doesn't deliver them until Christmas morning?" my very astute preschooler asked.
"Why doesn't he just bring them all on Christmas Eve if he's going to bring one?"

The answer of course is The Elves.

Really I just wanted to make sure they had pajamas that fit them
for any photos taken on Christmas morning.

The kids in their Christmas pajamas.

Don't they look sweet?

Except this is what really happens when I try to get a sweet photo of them.

[bonus feature:]

It reminded me of another Christmas pj photo where Sarah got smothered and wasn't too happy about it:
2006 in Kansas City, Missouri

This was also the year that they figured out that the Elves gave them pajamas EVERY year.
On second thought, maybe that's why Sarah isn't looking too happy.

[end bonus feature]

Kaitlin and Aunt Bethany are sock-monkey-pajama twins. 
Let's take a picture. 

 But first... "let me take a selfie."

Oh, Opa!

Aunt Betty and the kids in their Christmas pjs.


And finally, while not having anything to do with Christmas pajamas,
I have to share this snapshot:

I just took re-purposing to a whole nother level.

The TV was too heavy to remove myself.
Besides, it won't fit in my car even if I could move it.
So it became our coffee table...

... until we can recruit some muscles with a truck...


when getting is giving

Christmas came and went. The older I get, the more bah-humbuggy I feel about the Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I love the real meaning of Christmas. And I love the family time and the traditions and the mulled wine. But I get a little sick thinking about the consumerism and materialism - not to mention narcissism - that seems to drive the holiday these days. Even when you try to avoid it, you can't avoid it.

At Christmas I find joy in giving. This year I also found joy in getting.


When my missionary parents traveled to Mongolia as a part of their ministry, they would bring back items made by Mongolian women at Mary & Martha Mongolia as gifts to the people who supported their ministry.

I longed to have some sort of a global impact (after all, I am a missionary kid) even in the midst of my somewhat suburban American life. It occurred to me that I could help these women in Mongolia by selling their items here in the United States.

Unfortunately I didn't have the resources or the know-how to bring it to pass, and soon my parents returned to the United States to live, which made acquiring the items a little more difficult.

Fortunately now there are many companies and stores and ministries who help people in less fortunate circumstances make a fair wage for their work.

Like TOMS, for instance. I have to be honest, when I first heard about TOMS I was not at all interested in them. All I knew about the company was the shoes, and that the college-aged hipsters in my church were all like "TOMS. TOMS. OMG, TOMS!"

As an aside, if you know me you know that I don't like to be told what to do - or what to like. I want to buy something because I like it, not because it's trendy. This, in itself, is not a bad thing although I may have always been completely out of style. But I was out of style on purpose!

This attitude is caused by, and has caused, some things for which I am currently in counseling. Obviously.

That said, I avoided TOMS because they seemed trendy. Plus, I thought they were a little bit plain. What's the big deal?, I wondered. Then a friend of mine let me borrow some of her sandals for an evening out:
I was like, "What the what? These are TOMS?!"

Now that I'd worn them, I wanted a pair of my own. I got on the website and read about their "One for One" philosophy - for every TOMS shoe you purchase, someone who needs shoes also gets a pair. Not only that, but for every pair of eye-wear purchased, someone gets their sight restored. And for every bag of coffee purchased, they help someone get clean water.



So when Santa asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I decided that if I was gonna get something, I wanted someone else to get something too.

I can't tell you how much joy I got when I opened my present and found these Indigo Knit Women's Classics. Not because I got some shoes I want, but because someone else got some shoes they need.

I gave Santa several different items to choose from, including this bag from JOYN at TOMS Marketplace.

I choked up a little bit when I saw this tag that came with it:

Dolli, Raja & Mamta made my bag with their own hands and they wrote their names in their own handwriting on the tag that says:

"Each set of hands touching a product creates another job. Another livelihood."

To that I would add:

Each set of hands purchasing a product made by those dear hands creates a demand. 

A demand for better jobs. Better livelihoods.

Sometimes I wonder, does it really make a difference? In the grand scheme of things... in the world economy... in my tight budget... is it worth it?

Then I remember it's not really about the economy or my budget. It's not even about bags or shoes. Those things are temporary. It's about people. Souls.

When we give, we get. I believe this to be true.

Now I know that when we get, we can also give.




I got another hole in my head

I hadn't planned on getting my cartilage pierced this week. Or ever, really. It's not that I don't like piercings because I do. I admire someone who can rock piercings (and tattoos) tastefully - especially if they are 40something.

It's just that I'm a little self-conscious about being that one 40something who's trying to be all 20something but comes off like a pathetic sit-com character. My kids laugh at this fear of mine and assure me that I will never be accused of that. Well, not a pathetic one anyway.

They won't let me. Once I bought some crazy patterned leggings and the first time I wore them in public, Kaitlin told me "girls in my school wear clothes like that, not moms." I promptly donated the not-mom-leggings to Sarah's closet.

When Kaitlin texted me saying she wanted to get her cartilage pierced, I texted her back with LOL and a crying/laughing emoji.

Incidentally, Spellchecker does not like the word "texted." But in this day and age, I find texting (also a word Spellchecker balks at) a great way to communicate with my kids. We text. We are texting. We texted.

Kaitlin said it would be good mother/daughter time, we could get it done together. When I realized she was serious I told her to wait two years until she is 16.

I don't know why I decided she needed to wait until she is 16 any more than why I chose to raise the time she waits in increments of 2 years. It just sounds nice I guess. Truth is, I didn't have a good reason. Since I believe it's important to have a reason for fighting your battles, I chose not to fight this one. I deferred to her dad, who of course deferred back to me.

I told her we would talk about it, not text about it. Because texting is nice, but talking is better.

The idea of having a mother/daughter piercing appealed to me as long as it was in my ear, so I told her I wouldn't make her wait until she was 16 if she paid for both of our piercings. She was happy to accept my offer. I felt a little bit guilty when, after we were pierced and about to pay, the woman told me the total as if I were going to cover it.

I didn't make her wait, but it did cost her something. For that, I hope she appreciates it more. I know I do. Every time I see my unplanned cartilage piercing, I think of her.

"You'd better never let that close up, Mom," she said. "I paid good money for that."

We've already discussed mother/daughter tattoos. If Sarah follows in her sister's footsteps, I might be one pierced & tattooed mamma.


[bonus features:]

I chose to get my right ear pierced because Kaitlin wanted her left ear done. That way when Kaitlin and I take selfies, both our piercings will be in the picture. We took a selfie as soon as mine was in, forgetting that I still had the clip in my hair. I almost walked out of the store with it in.

Kaitlin chose to get her left ear pierced because her left ear has a little bump on it (you can see it in the picture) and she likes it, so she wanted to emphasize it. When she told me that, I told her when I held her in my arms as a baby, I loved rubbing that little bump on her ear. I also loved tracing her two little cowlicks on the top of her head - with their swirls, they looked like an angel. (She doesn't like her cowlicks though.)

[end bonus feature]


snapshots & thoughts


The last time I posted my snapshots and thoughts I ended it with Halloween Flo, 
fully intending to bring you up to date before this.

Halloween also happens to be the same day that I moved in a certain tenant of mine who I now have a restraining order against.

In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, "Let me explain. No there is too much, let me sum up."

After only a week there, I knew I would have to evict him.
He would do things on purpose to make people upset.
It really was bizarre behavior.
I can't even begin.

Suffice it to say, this is pretty much how I felt every night after work.
All the old ladies were afraid of him.
All the old men wanted to fight him.
It's been the longest 1-1/2 months of my career in property management.

We evicted him, then he super-glued my office door and two of our exterior doors' locks.

We decided to get a restraining order against him so that he couldn't come near the property..
It wasn't so much for me - though it's filed on my behalf. 
It's more for those who live there because it includes my place of work.

 During my lunch hours I needed to get away from the craziness.
One day I found this great spot back in the woods, so quiet and peaceful.
It's my new favorite lunch spot.


Here's some other stuff that happened since my last post:

John got his driver's license! Now he drives himself & Kaitlin to school.
This photo was taken their first day going to school together.
I was probably more excited for them than they were.
"Mom! We're just going to school!"
"I know, but you're going to school without a parent! That is, like, a huge milestone."
"It's just school."

Now I have to call shotgun.
I never used to have to do that.

Sarah (#35) started basketball season.
She loves it & she has some friends from school on the team, which is really fun for her.

Sarah loves to draw.
And she loves coffee.
She's a girl after my own heart.

Bedtime homework snuggles.


Thanksgiving happened.

Someday I might write about how hard it was, but not today.
My highlight was spending time with these three.

I'm so thankful for my children.
In the history of the world, there haven't been three children better than these three.


Kaitlin came to work with me on the day we had to go before the judge on the eviction case.
She wants to be a lawyer, so she asked if she could come to court and watch.
She and I had some coffee while we waited for the judge to sign the Writ of Recovery/Order to Vacate. 

It was fun hanging out with her for a day.

Dear Favorite Blue Scarf That I Knit Last Winter, 

I haven't seen you in a while. I think I may have left you
behind somewhere. I didn't do it on purpose, I promise! 
I am so sad, but I trust you are making someone else
really happy. 

I will always remember you fondly,


It wasn't all bad at work.
I decorated the lobby for Christmas.
I love seeing my residents' faces light up when they walk through.
So many of them don't have the energy to decorate anymore - or the visitors to decorate for.
I get so much joy from putting smiles on their faces.

Listening to the "Traditional Christmas" channel on Pandora, reading my book in front of the Christmas tree.

All is well again.


Linking up with @jeannettg for InstaFriday.


The 5 Must-Haves for Surviving Road Trips With Kids

It's the holiday season and gas prices are lower than they've been in a long time. That means that there will be many families driving over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for holiday get-togethers.

I am a self-proclaimed Road Trip Expert, having started my journeys at a very young age, riding backwards across much of America in the back of a station wagon that looked a bit like the one pictured above. As a teenager I rode the Autobahns across much of Europe in the backseat of a VW diesel van that looked like a blue toaster. As an adult I expanded my road trip resume to include traveling with children, which is of course a trip in and of itself.

With all my accumulated road trip experience I have learned a few things:
  • You should definitely download more than 20 songs to your iPhone for your trip. (Having bought it on iTunes is not the same as downloading it to your phone.)
  • When you listen to a Louis L'amore audio book while driving through South Dakota, it makes the prairies seem a little less endless. 
  • Always have an empty cup in the car in case you get stuck in a traffic jam on the interstate outside of Chicago and someone needs to go.
  • Bring a paper map, even though they're so last century. There are some places where your trusty GPS will not work.

Speaking of bringing things, here is my list of the five most important things you should bring on any road trip:


1. A Sense of Adventure
Road trips don't get enough respect. Often dreaded and then endured, they are overlooked as an opportunity for adventure. In my opinion, the vacation should start at the beginning of the trip, not once you get to your destination. Road trips are a kind of adventure like no other: exciting and unusual experiences are all long the road you travel. Make sure you take advantage of them.
  • Allow enough time to take the scenic route and be sure to stop at scenic overlooks.
  • If you see a billboard advertising the area's "best" local delicacy take a 20 minute pit stop to indulge yourself. (Somewhere in Oklahoma we spontaneously enjoyed the best fried sweet potato pie that we'd never heard of before we saw the billboard.)
  • If you see signs for anything that interests you - a baseball field of dreams, a palace made of corn, a monument of a tall lumberjack with a blue ox - for goodness' sake, take a detour. See that thing! And take photos.

2. A Sense of Humor
A sense of humor is a great thing to have on hand because it can get you through some challenging road trip experiences. Any road trip, however well planned, is bound to have some challenges.

Like when you are driving through Ohio and it's time to change drivers. You get into the driver's seat to discover that the previous driver wasn't paying attention to the gas gauge. Fortunately there is a gas station on the other side of the highway, but when you drive up, you realize that it's closed! As you are leaving the station to find another one, you run out of gas. A couple men offer to push your car to the pump, which has a slick new feature called pay-at-the pump, LOL. (I am so dating myself.)

Or discovering that, while driving through France, the road you need to travel is under construction. You follow signs that you think might mean detour in French, but you aren't sure because you took German. Plus, European road signs look nothing like American road signs, completely different shapes and colors. Still, you follow what you think is the detour sign. Eventually you find yourself in the middle of a forest on a two lane road with no other cars in sight. You are somewhere in France, that much you know, LOL.

Then there's the time when your child gets sick out both ends during your road trip through Michigan. Or worse, the time you get sick on your drive through Nebraska. Laugh out loud, because otherwise you'll cry.

Choosing to laugh doesn't make the challenge go away - though neither does crying. I choose to laugh. It just makes the ordeal a little more enjoyable while you are in it, and a much better story when you tell it.

3. Flexibility
On road trips you will need to be flexible. Sometimes literally, like when you need to reach into the back seat of the car and get that one thing. But mostly you need flexibility when you have to adjust your expectations.

Being flexible is making some decisions that stretch you until it hurts. With practice it doesn't hurt so much. For example, you might really, really want to get somewhere at a certain time, but someone in the car seems to have a small bladder. Stretch that flexible muscle and take a pit stop like it's no big deal.

4. Patience
Road rage may be all the rage these days, but patience will get you to your destination in one peace (pun intended).

I'm a pretty patient person, but when I get in a car I'm capable of stupid traffic violations. I learned to drive on the German Autobahn - that's my excuse for my need to speed. It's also why I get absolutely irritated by people who hang out in the left lane while they're going slower than the speed limit. Or people who weave in and out of traffic. You pass on the left, people! Don't make me speed up to box you in when you try to pass me on the right. Just get behind me already! See? Just writing about it gets me all worked up.

As I've become older and wiser I've become a much more patient driver. Or perhaps it was the speeding fines and the higher insurance rates. It's not that I don't get annoyed anymore, but I realize it's just not worth it to get worked up. Unless I'm on a NASCAR speedway I don't need to be the fastest car on the road. Patience is a virtue.

5. Self Knowledge
Knowing what I can handle and what I can't has been the difference between an enjoyable trip and a frustrating trip. When traveling with children, same goes for knowing what my kids can and can't handle.

For instance, there was a time in my life when I didn't want my small children to be babysat by a screen. I spent a lot of time before our trips making activity packets for them. And it totally worked! They loved the activity packets. For about the first hour.

Before the next trip I packed little activity surprises for them to be given out each hour of the road trip. And that worked too. For some of the hours.

It was then that I realized that I was okay with screen time in the car. Screen time the whole time if need be.

Traveling with small children is all about survival. The goal here is to get to the destination in one piece. Road trips are a great opportunity to be less rigid on some of your parenting convictions for the sake of your sanity. Screen time, snacks, annoying Disney music. Whatever works.

I'm okay with that.


This post was inspired by a really cool new way to drive that I just learned about. It's a car sharing concept where, instead of renting a car from a company with a fleet of cars, you rent a car from RelayRides, a community of people who let you use their very own cars. How personable is that?! 

Emma, from RelayRides, found my little bloggy blog and thought I seemed like potentially a good match for their community. She contacted me and asked me to write a post with travel tips. I'm not getting compensated, I just did it for fun. And because I'm a self-proclaimed Road Trip Expert. 

They specifically wanted me to highlight their airport rental program, which is a great option for those who opted not to take the Road Trip, but need some wheels at their destination.

Check it outI checked it out and I want to rent Ross H.'s Corvette to drive around the lakes in Minneapolis:

But maybe when the weather gets a little warmer.


snapshots & thoughts: birthday/halloween edition

This post has been sitting in my dashboard for a while... It's old news, but whatev.


On the morning of October 25th I laid in bed waiting for my birthday breakfast in bed (a homemade egg McMuffin sandwich prepared for me by my sister, and donut holes which JD broke laws to get to me in time). To pass some time, I checked social media, then scrolled through my emails, deleting all the spam without even reading them. Until I saw a subject line that got my interest telling me that today was National Shoe Lover's Day. 

I had no idea! What a coincidence!! National Shoe Lover's Day! ON MY BIRTHDAY!!!

They were having a party (ON MY BIRTHDAY) with free shoes being given out throughout the day to people who posted photos with the correct hashtags. Obviously I had to go and take advantage of this opportunity to celebrate my birthday with shoes.

Converse = the best.

As I was taking this photo one of the workers walked by and I stopped her and said, "GUESS WHAT?!"

She looked amused and obliged me with "what?"

"Today is MY BIRTHDAY! And YOU'RE HAVING A PARTY! It's like DSW is having a BIRTHDAY PARTY for ME. So, THANKS!"

She laughed and wished me happy birthday, made sure I was finding what I wanted (navy blue Converse for my Flo Halloween costume) then went on to other customers.

After a while two other workers came up to me with a balloon and a noisemaker and said "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

When I told my girls about how I actually jumped up and down with my arms in the air, they both were like, "OMG, I'm so glad that I was in a different aisle and didn't see you do that."

And guess what? My photo with the Converse got me a $50 gift certificate later that day. My mission to take advantage of the timing of the sale: ACCOMPLISHED. 


JD and I continued our scavenger hunt with a part 2 date.

A picture of us kissing on a bridge. Do you know how many times we had to re-take that shot? JD kept telling me it wasn't quite right, we'd better take it again.

A picture of us swinging on swings.

A picture of us sliding head first down a slide.

A picture of five different colored leaves.


I haven't done box color in a long time because orange hair. But sometimes money issues trump hair color fears. I went ahead and got some dark red brown in a box. It might be purple.


My residents got such a kick out of my Flo outfit. I enjoy making them smile.

Smiling is my favorite.


snapshots & thoughts: 10/24/2014

sharing my instas and the stories behind them

My friend and I painted one evening.

She kept sending me links to Canvas and Chardonnay's events, but we couldn't come up with an evening/painting that worked for both of us. Finally I said, "how bout I provide the canvases and Chardonnay and we paint at my place?" So that's what we did.

I decided to just paint circles so that I could have fun with color and not worry about painting anything in particular.

Neither of us really know what we are doing as far as painting goes, but it was fun. And now I have a painting to remember her by when she moves to Ohio. Boo.

For playoff football, the varsity captains decide what sort of crazy thing they are going to do to their hair to show team solidarity. This year they decided on Mohawks and black dye.

John asked me to do his hair, and honestly, I don't know who was more scared of me shaving his head, him or me. I drew the line at Mohawk and refused to shave racing stripes into the sides of his head. Not because I didn't want him to have them, but because I was scared to mess them up.

Also, I have a boy with a six-pack. 

What the? 
How did that happen? 

jedi mind trick: 
 (hand swipe) the room is not messy
(hand swipe) that is not a pile of stuff on top of the treadmill

Mother/son bonding time over hair dye.

(When I imagined what it might be like to be a mom to a boy, I never imagined I'd experience that.)

Tuesday night sectional playoff game. John's first varsity start (as a sophomore) at quarterback. No pressure or anything.

I could barely concentrate all day long leading up to the game, I was so nervous. It's not easy being a QB mom. (read: every play I have to watch the defense try to kill him)

We lost. He felt bad. It's been a tough season for him with pneumonia, Osgood-Schlatter's, and a meniscus injury - not to mention a QB competition with two other good QBs. But I was so proud of the way he played under constant pressure, even converting a 4th and long "with poise" (as the local radio play by play announcer described it).

Now football's done for the year.

On to baseball already.

It was my turn to plan date night. I made a photo scavenger hunt. Here we are taking a selfie with the Mayo brothers. You can see the rest of the photos from the scavenger hunt date night and the complete list on my post about it here.

It was so much fun, we laughed so hard! Laughter is good medicine, and with each silly photo we healed a little bit more.

(Glad to hear we inspired some of my friends to do the same.)

Sunday I worked on my circles a bit more. There's something so calming about playing with paint and color. Except the more I look at it, the more I want to change it. And the more I change it, the more I wish I hadn't. I'd better stop now.

I buy cheap sunglasses because I'm afraid of misplacing them and I don't want to misplace expensive ones.

The tradeoff is that cheap sunglasses break easily.This pair took only 3 weeks to break. First the one side, then the other.

Now both sides are being held in place with staples.

Because I'm cheap.And I have cheap sunglasses.

Linking up with @jeannettg for InstaFriday.


scavenger hunt date night

Every fall when I see the beautiful bright red maple trees, I am reminded of the scavenger hunts that I made for my then preschoolers. The scavenger hunt always included fall colored leaves so I could use them to decorate the house. They got bonus points for red leaves.

That's why last week, as I planned our date night on a week when Autumn's colors were at their peak, my thoughts were on scavenger hunts. 

I had so much fun googling scavenger hunt lists and coming up with ideas. I wanted a list of things that we had to find and/or do and capture with a photo. The object wasn't to get everything on the list or to compete against each other. It was simply to laugh and have fun together.

A friend of mine, when she saw one of my Insta posts of our scavenger hunt, said that our smiles might inspire her and her husband to go have fun together.

I hope we do.

If laughter is the best medicine, then it's the best thing you can do with your loved one if your relationship needs medicine.

So. For my friend - and anyone else who's interested - I'm providing my complete list of items that we scavenged for on our fun (and cheap) date night. Some of them are specific to our town and some are specific to the season, but it will get you started on some fun ideas for a scavenger hunt date night. All you need is a list and a camera, which conveniently is located on many phones these days.

But first, the photographic evidence of our scavenger hunt and the items on the list that we captured.


Our Scavenger Hunt Date:

We got a later start on our date than I planned (teenage son needing his hair dyed & cut into a Mohawk for sectional football playoffs and all that) so the lighting is bad and the pictures are few, but it was so much fun that we didn't care.

1. A photo of a license plate from the farthest away place you can find
We drove through a parking ramp for this one. You can see me squatting in the reflection of the bumper. Bonus points for that.

2. A selfie with the Mayo brothers
As in the statues of the Mayo brothers in the park across the street from the little clinic they started. It was hard to get all four of us in the photo, but we did.

3. A photo high-fiving a stranger
As this guy was walking by I stopped him and said, "excuse me, we're on a photo scavenger hunt and we need to get a photo while high-fiving a stranger." 

"I'm your guy!" he said with a little amusement and no hesitation . Look how into it he is.

4. A photo doing the Karate Kid crane pose
We saw our reflections in a building and decided to try to take a photo of both of us doing the crane pose. I think JD got it, but it's tough to take a photo of yourself doing the pose. Full points for him, bonus points for me for standing on one foot while taking a photo.

5. A photo jumping in the air
We both got some air, but I over-exposed myself. Minus points to me for having to censure my muffin top.

 6. A photo with Plummer's cornerstone.
This site is significant for us in the evolution of our picture taking history as a couple. Let's just say I used to take photos of (because art major) and it was met with a little bit of resistance at this spot one date night several years ago. Now my photo taking is embraced and encouraged. Look at how happy he is to get his photo taken. Triple bonus points to JD for being okay with photo taking on dates.

7. Getting a take-out menu from a Chinese restaurant.
Because I need a take out menu and this is a good way to get one. (I am practical, after all.)


That's all the photos we had time for.

And now, for your info and/or inspiration, here's the complete list of items we scavenged for:

Scavenger Hunt Date Night

[  ]  selfie with a police officer
[  ]  selfie with a purple teddy bear
[  ]  selfie with a fireman in front of a fire truck
[  ] selfie in a phone booth
[  ]  selfie with the Mayo brothers
[  ]  swinging on a swing set
[  ]  sliding head first down a slide
[  ]  shooting a basketball
[  ]  hula hooping
[  ]  posing like Karate Kid
[  ]  climbing a tree
[  ]  on a motorcycle
[  ]  posing next to a mannequin like a mannequin
[  ]  giving a stranger a high five
[  ]  giving someone a piggy back ride
[  ]  wearing a Halloween costume
[  ]  jumping in the air
[  ]  photobombing a romantic moment
[  ]  holding a tiny dog
[  ]  in front of an ugly car
[  ]  a sign with a spelling error
[  ]  a license plate from the farthest away place from here you can find
[  ]  the oldest cornerstone you can find
[  ]  five different colored leaves
[  ]  an old couple holding hands
[  ] holding a Chinese take out menu

Obviously we were slackers. That means we have a few more photo scavenger date nights ahead of us. Not a bad thing, all in all.

Laughter is good medicine.


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