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Caution: Bridge May Ice in Winter

21 Apr

So many life lessons exist for the kids within the miles and hours spent in a cocoon on wheels with other people.

  • We need fuel to run. This can be taught by the amount of gas fill-ups needed or snack food fixes you’ll require. Even though we know they aren’t good for us, we will most often invite things we don’t eat on any other normal day – chips, beef jerky, Combos, giant pickles in bags and Swedish Fish – to be an additional travel companions.
  • Sleep happens.
  • Interstate billboards offer you plenty of knowledge nuggets about religion, sex, eating habits and laws we should follow to make society better and safer.

21 is the legal drinking age.

Litter is bad.

Speed limit is slower than you’re driving.

Seat belts even keep a picture of the state of Georgia safe.

  • Stretching is important.
  • Too much time trapped with the same people causes fits of laughter, whining, tested nerves and lunacy. Such are the emotions many of us go through on a given day.
  • The road trip games we play can offer quite a few lessons. For example, we enjoy the alphabet game. We play ours by finding words on signs, billboards and cars that go in alphabetical order. You can’t say the same word as another person unless it’s for Q, X and Z. (The toughest to find.) First person to find the Z word, wins. This most recent road trip showed me how this game wad teaching the kids:
    • Patience – sometimes you need to wait for 20 minutes and few signs before finding your word.
    • Things don’t always come easy – daddy was driving too fast by signs, some signs were blocked by other vehicles, one person would say a word faster, etc.
    • Make the best of a situation – when you are the only one still looking for a G word, sing a silly song about the letter G and how it is hiding from you. (Nia had a lot of original tunes.)
  • Be ready for the speed bumps. Traffic, accidents, car issues, items accidentally left on the roof, wrong or misread directions, a threatening wasp unexpectedly trapped in the small space with you, a spilled drink, and/or extra pit stops will attempt to throw you off course and shatter your spirit. How you handle these situations is a glimpse at how you’d handle problems at school, work or relationships. Proceed with caution.

A Backpack, Boyfriend(?), and Other Back-to-School Stuff

13 Aug

As Nia and Nate made their way up the hill to the bus stop for the first day of school, my mind flashed back to last year. Sweet siblings. Kindergartener brother and Third Grader sister, holding hands as they made the walk together for the first time.

Sibling Sweetness – 2011

It’s funny to think what a difference a school year can make. Right after I took the photo below, now First Grader Nate darted across the street, making sure he’d beat us all to the corner of the street.


School Siblings, See ya! 2012

The kids were very excited to start this new year. Nate is digging the thought of getting bigger (and maybe getting to stay up later like Nia gets to sometimes). Nia, meanwhile, had been hoping for the teacher she got. When the letter arrived a week ago, she repeated over and over as Andrew opened it, “I hope it’s Mrs. Ballard. I hope it’s Mrs. Ballard.” Andrew tricked her and acted like it wasn’t but just as soon as he saw her face turn to disappointment, he gave her the announcement she wanted. Her face beamed. She then wanted to trick me like her daddy did to her. When I got home, she had a sad face and handed me the letter, “I really wanted Mrs. Ballard.” “Oh, I’m sorry Bean.” I looked at the letter and then looked up to her giggly, happy self. Apparently, she and Andrew rehearsed the trick.

She was so happy to be headed back to school that she didn’t even let a little girl get her down at the bus stop when she turned Nia around to see her back and then sneered, “That’s last year’s bag!” Nia told me she replied, “So? Actually, I’ve had it for three years. It’s a really sturdy bag.” I am always amazed at how she manages to be so cool against cruelty. Even more impressive? Nia was playing with the little girl, along with Nate and another friend, in our front yard when I got home after work. I need to take lessons from Bean’s heart and attitude.

Bean also had some discussions with a boy today about if she still had a “boyfriend.” Her response to this also cracks me up, “I don’t know. You should ask him. Why do you want to know anyways?” We gave her the talk that she doesn’t need to worry about any of that business. Just have friends. Something she insists is all she is with this other boy. “We’re just friends!” she says with animation and giggles. Sigh.

Nate was rewarded for good behavior with silver sticks next to his name and didn’t get any warning sticks. (Phew.) I’m hoping him “winning” the good deed sticks will help him keep his eye on the prize. You know, learning and all – while staying out of trouble, of course. Now, if he would just eat the fruit and veggies I pack for him …

I hope this year brings them fond memories and expands their brains enough to be able to play Apples to Apples with us without much explanation. After all, that’s why I had kids – breeding adorable, capable board game opponents is tough.


First and Fourth Graders!

Our Trip to C-Town

26 Jun

There’s a lot of space under that bed …

“I’m not going to Crazy Town tonight,” Andrew told me as we settled in our beautiful, historic room at the John Rutledge House Inn for the weekend.

I had just asked him to look under the bed to make sure nobody (or ghost body) was under there.

Not even in Charleston, SC for 30 minutes and I’m already testing his reasons for marrying me almost 12 years ago. Fitting, because this trip was serving as the honeymoon we’ve never taken. Two days after we were married, Andrew left for six weeks of training in California. Then, a few resting months after that, he deployed for six months to Kosovo. After that, we set off together to buy a house and have a baby and then another deployment to Iraq and well, 12 years later, here we are in Crazy Town.

We wanted to go somewhere within reasonable driving distance, somewhere we’d never been and somewhere featuring one of our favorite things, good beer. Charleston was hosting a beer festival during the weekend our children would be in West Virginia with family so it was on.

We enjoyed our drive there and back. It featured discussions about General Sherman burning stuff (forever an inside joke between us now), me reading us history facts about Charleston, and talk radio by the megabyte that Andrew has stored on his phone.

10 and 2

We didn’t arrive at the Inn until midnight but enjoyed goofing off in the ballroom for a minute and sampling the complimentary brandy and sherry.

Statue Pose

The next morning, we ran through the city before others were awake and garbage was collected. The streets felt like ours for a few minutes and a few blocks. We talked when I could (I was running after all) and spotted incredible buildings and stores we might be interested in checking out during our later walk. We even ran alongside rivers where they meet up near a beautiful park.

After our run, we had a delicious breakfast of our choosing brought to our room. It was glorious. We filled out a card and put it on the doorknob before we fell asleep each night. We didn’t skimp on our selection.

Bedroom Breakfast

We loved our walks through downtown – even a painfully long one for me in flats and at high noon when we missed the trolley to the beer fest. This 2+ mile walk came after our 4+ mile morning run and 2+ morning stroll. We needed that brew.

Cheers, we made it!

We arrived at the fest excited to sample and enjoy. It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting but we still had a great time with each other. We talked with people and devoured cheese fries and then decided to head back to our room early – in a taxi. (Best $8 of the trip.)

We had plans to dine somewhere fancy that evening. I even packed a strapless dress and heels, ready to hit the night life. Only thing – we decided to rest for a bit. That was around 6:30. We woke up around 9:30, too zonked to move out of bed.

The next morning, Andrew went for a solo run while I sank deeper into the heavenly memory foam mattress because I hadn’t changed positions much through the night. We enjoyed another bedroom breakfast and then walked next door to go to church.

Rolled out of bed and into church

Up for another stroll, we set off for more exploring and I’m so glad we did. We discovered a large market area and bought treasures for the kids. After a good early bird (without the discount) dinner, we headed home, feeling content and so lucky to have been able to spend that time together – even if it neared Crazy Town for a bit. Besides, I think he already agreed to go there with me when he said “yeah, sure” at the altar.

Time to start thinking about our next trip …

It Was Fun

14 Apr

My employee badge is turned in, my desk is cleared out (I think … please let me know if I forgot something) and my see-you-laters were said through tears.

My time at Children’s has come to an end but the memories and friendships I made there will stay with me. I will keep them safe and hold them dear for always.

Best "Bye" Card Ever

G-Chat Swoon and Why I Won’t Teach Our Kids Much …

6 Mar

Andrew:  Should I register anyone else for the race? There is a 1K.

me:  What is a 1k? Like 500 meters or something?

Andrew:  It is about 2/3 of a mile.

me:  Maybe just Nate if anyone.

I don’t know.

Andrew:  Aaaaaand it is 1000 meters (hence the 1 “K”)

me:  oooooooooh

you married me

Andrew:  And I would do it again.

All I Ask of You

9 Feb

I’m beginning to realize how difficult it must be to be committed to me. Besides my random and extreme mood swings, I expect Andrew to be an expert in a variety of fields and a problem solver on any given day. A sample of the questions (I’m hoping others have asked them too) I fire at him include:

How many more miles can I drive after my gas tank dings at me? Can I make it home? Are you sure?

Why did he do that? Who is that guy? Or other questions about movies and tv shows that we are both watching for the first time. His response is usually along the lines of, “Started watching this the same time you did.”

How big is the wall by the closet door in our hall downstairs? In inches?

What do you feel like eating for dinner tonight/this week? (This is often a bigger issue than it seems. I just can never decide and he doesn’t care what we eat.)

What’s Joey barking at?

What tax bracket are we in? Should we refinance? What’s our credit rating? What’s that mean? Can I buy a new table for the living room?

Are my tires low on air?

The toilet is doing that running while not being flushed thing. (Not really a question but it is implied he is being asked to do something.)

What was that noise?! Did you hear it? No? Can you check it out? (Usually asked once he is settled in bed ready for his slumber.)

Do you think Nate has a concussion? (Because suddenly Andrew is a doctor or nurse.)

Can you please pick up my birth control pills for me? (On the flip-side of that…) Can you pretty please pick up some tampons for me? Pleeeeaaaase?

What wine/beer do I like?

Who was the president before Lincoln? What is the capital of Alabama? How many senators are there in each state? How do you get the area of something? Will that stool hold you? Are you sure?

I think out of all the questions, me not taking his advice or the “are you sure ones” drive him the most bonkers. He especially loves when his sure-ness is justified. He brings me proof, “See? Here are the Christmas floor mats I told you would be in the tree box.” Me: “Where were they?” Andrew: “The. Tree. Box.”

Ok, ok, already.

Are you going to put them there again?

Travel Teachings

22 Jan

I see them every day but it took eight days of traveling together over Thanksgiving week to learn some new things about my children.

  • As soon as Nate wakes up, as in the first sliver of an eye-opening, he whispers a song about counting by two’s. That mixed with a few sweet yawns and my heart melted.
  • Nate gets really freaked out when his foot, leg, arm or hand falls asleep. We were driving at the time and he woke up in a fit of fear and fury that I’ve never seen from him. We had no idea what to do for him other than tell him it will be over soon. That feeling must be so weird and scary for a little kid. I know I hate it.
  • Nia is finally feeling the woes of big sisterdom. There was a point in our travels when Nia and Nate were playing air hockey and I heard her scream at him, “You are just stupid!” (If you know us pretty well, you know that “s” word is gasped at like it is one of the biggie bad words.) I made her leave the game and sit out for some time. When she was finally calm enough to talk to me, she said with tears in her eyes, “He just kept bragging about doing good and I couldn’t take it anymore.” I know I should’ve stayed in discipline mom-mode but I ended up sympathizing with her – after not being able to hide my smile. She sounded so grown up in that moment. Just trying to figure out how to handle things. We talked more about other ways to deal with frustrating situations and then she and Nate hugged and apologized to each other. I will never forget her face though. Full of drama and seriousness. Confused but also feeling justified in her reaction. Growing up is tough, kid. We’re all figuring it out.
  • This learning is not pretty – that’s a warning – but I was still impressed by what I witnessed. Nate is very courteous when he vomits. He felt sick as we were just taking off on our trip and he told us in enough time that we were able to pull over for him to exit the car. He then leaned far over to make sure he didn’t get any on his clothes or shoes. I didn’t get grossed out because I was so amazed by how he handled himself through that experience. I would have been crying and probably would’ve lost it in the car. Maybe it was luck and not skill but what I witnessed that day needed noted.
  • Nia loves laser tag. Nate does not. Nia went back for another round. Nate ran out of the first round in tears. (Poor buddy.)
  • My little girl showed me her tough side during a nature walk one afternoon. She picked up a stick and then acted like a “warrior princess” and totally whipped up on some leaves and trees. It was intensely fun.

I love getting to spend devoted time like that with the kids. It may not be all laughs and sweet moments, but they are still special and important glimpses into their personalities. “I just couldn’t take it anymore.” I’m sure we’re going to hear that more in the coming years.

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