Category Archives: family

Spin Cycle and Ask Away Friday with Tamara

This week the girls have been watching Fetch on Netflix, which is a reality/game show for kids made by PBS. The host, Ruff Ruffman, (he’s a dog) always gives out Bonus Points! This week, I’m giving you a bonus! Tamara and I are exchanging questions and answers for Ask Away Friday, and I asked my readers some travel questions for The Spin Cycle! If you are not familiar with The Spin Cycle, I host a writing prompt every week. The Spin Cycle was started by Jen at Sprite’s Keeper, and was taken over by Gretchen at Second Blooming, and now I’m hosting for a short time until Gretchen finishes her book! I give a writing prompt on Mondays, you put your “spin” on the prompt, and link up any day of the week. Please visit our Spinners and give them some comment love!

Spin Cycle at Second Blooming




For Ask Away Friday, two bloggers swap 10 questions with each other and post the answers on Friday. Tamara is one of the hosts, and she is on vacation in sunny Florida this week. We decided to swap travel questions! Stop by Tamara (like) Camera to read her answers to my 10 questions! If you have never read her blog before, you are in for a treat. She is an amazing writer and I’m happy to call her a friend.

1. How many of the 50 states have you visited? (I think driving through counts but not flying over). If you haven’t been to all 50, which is the state you most want to visit that you’ve never visited? Why?

When I was in college, I was fortunate to sing in our university’s Concert Choir, which toured the East Coast two years in a row. I live in the Midwest, and I’ve taken several vacations out West, so I’ve covered a lot of ground! If I’m counting correctly, I’ve been to 30 states. I didn’t include Washington because even though I spent four hours at the airport on my way to Alaska, I never stepped foot on Washington soil.

States I've Visited
States I’ve visited

I’ve also been in 4 states at one time! A couple of years ago, we stopped at the Four Corners where Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado meet. My left foot is in Utah, my left arm is in Colorado, my right foot is in New Mexico, and my right arm is in Arizona!

Four Corners
Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona

Which states would I like to go to next? In college, I wrote a paper about old growth forests in Oregon, and I’ve always wanted to see them. However, I honestly want to go to Hawaii!

2. How many other countries have you visited? What three countries would you most like to visit?

I’ve been to Canada and Mexico, and also Jamaica and the Cayman Islands as part of a cruise. I would love to go to France, and Germany, and I really want to go visit my cousin in the United Kingdom! She has lived there for a long time, and I have yet to go see her.

3. What’s your dream trip to take with the whole family?

This is a tough question because we’ve already taken so many amazing vacations with our kids. We’ve already traveled to Alaska, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Ed and I have always wanted to drive with the kids from Chicago to Yellowstone, just like we did before we had kids. It’s the great American Road Trip. Along the way we’d stop at the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Devil’s Tower. Of course we’d also stop at Wall Drug! And Yellowstone itself is amazing! It’s so large, and there are several areas to explore that are completely different from one another.

Ed
Ed and I in Yellowstone National Park

4. What about just with your husband?

When we were dating, Ed told me he’d never go to an opera. One Christmas, he surprised me with tickets to the Lyric Opera! This Christmas,  he gave me tickets to the Chicago Symphony. Now the next step in our cultural adventures; visiting the Louvre! Ed and I have talked about going to Paris for a romantic trip with just the two of us, including a chance to gaze at fine art.

5. What’s a really memorable vacation you’ve had, and what made it so?

When we were on a day-cruise in Alaska, we saw some humpback whales bubble-netting. They work together as a team to make a net of bubbles around krill, and then scoop the krill up in their cavernous mouths. Of course, we only saw their huge, open jaws emerging from the water, and our tour guide told us what they were doing under the water. It was an amazing sight to see!

humpbacks
Humpback Whales bubblenetting

Another memorable vacation was just this past summer. We stopped at Death Valley National Park. Night swimming in the large, outdoor pool which was fed by an underwater spring was very surreal. The water was warm, but the air temperature was much warmer. It was 9:00 at night, and we kept looking at the thermometer, which read 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Death Valley does not cool down much at night because of the mountains surrounding it, making it a bowl of heat! Right now in January, however, it is 62 degrees! We would love to go back in the winter when it isn’t so unbearably hot.

Death Valley Natl Park
Furnace Creek in Death Valley

 

6. When you were a child, did your family take trips? Would you always go to the same place or different places?

When I was little, my family went to the Ozarks and we also visited a grotto in Iowa. When I was a little older, we started having a week-long vacation with my dad’s family at a lake every summer. It started at Lake Huron, then we moved around to a couple of smaller lakes in Michigan, and finally we ended up on Lake Michigan. This family vacation is still going strong, and we usually take our girls there for at least a couple of days. This year we’re planning on staying for the whole week!

Swimming in Lake Michigan
Swimming in Lake Michigan

7. Describe the worst trip you ever took. Where did you go? What made it a bad trip?

We’ve been very lucky, and most of our trips have been fantastic! One summer when I was about 15, however, we stayed in a rented house on a little lake. The house was dirty, the lake was full of duck weed, and even though we had fun with our cousins it was just not a good place to vacation. That was the only time we stayed there.

8. Would you prefer to relax on the beach or tour a big city?

I’m definitely a relaxing on the beach with a book type of gal. I dream of listening to the waves on the shore while napping in the sun during these cold, dreary winter months!

9. Have you ever feared for your life while on vacation?

When Ed and I were on our honeymoon, we took a taxi in Jamaica. As our driver was going up a mountain road and honking his horn as he was going around curves instead of slowing down, I definitely feared for my life!

10. If you could go on a road trip with any person (dead or alive), who would you choose and where would you go?

I would want to go on a road trip with my mom. Once, we drove from Chicago to Des Moines, just the two of us, and I learned so much about her as a person and not just as my mom. I loved talking to her, and as a teenager I talked her ear off! She was such a good listener. I don’t think it would matter where we went if I could talk to her again.

Thank you, Tamara, for being my Ask Away Friday partner!

TamaraLikeCamera

In 2015, I’d like to get the Spin Cycle grow. I love you to join us!

  • Write a Spin Cycle post any day this week and link it up here!
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Have a wonderful weekend!

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Skiing Makes Me Nervous

There are a few stories that Ed really likes to tell about me. One story is about Sunday mornings. According to him, I’m always running late and he is sitting in the car fuming, waiting for me to come outside. I think it’s a miracle that I get out the door at all, after dressing both the girls and myself. Plus, I have hair to blow dry and make-up to put on. He doesn’t.

Another one of his favorites is the time he took me skiing. He took me up to a hill that was a little steeper than he expected, and he wanted me to keep turning. I could turn right, but got stuck turning left. Then my fear of heights got the best of me and I started to cry. As I looked longingly at the top of the hill, Ed said, “You can’t walk back up to the top! The only way you can go is down.” While logically I knew this, having him say it didn’t make me feel any better! I eventually did ski to the bottom of that hill.

Before we got married, Ed would go on a yearly ski trip with his skiing buddies. After Lily was born, Ed went skiing on an overnight trip once, but soon after the ski trips stopped because everyone else was getting married and having kids as well. When Lily turned seven, he thought it was time to take her skiing for the first time. Emmy was still pretty young, so I stayed home with her and we had a special Mommy/Daughter day.

Skiing in the Midwest is always tricky. The weather has to be cold enough at night for the ski resorts to make snow. It’s not like we can drive up into the mountains where there really is natural snow, and many of the “mountains” are really just hills rising up out of farmland. We don’t have the money or the time to go skiing often, so our ski trip has become a once-a-year event. In 2013, Emmy and Lily both went for lessons. I went along to support Ed with both girls, but I didn’t do any skiing. I helped with the ski gear, watched the girls take lessons, and went into the lodge (which wasn’t very nice) to warm up. Last year, I had volunteered to help at a church event on the day Ed planned the ski trip, so he enlisted my brother to help out.

This year, Ed decided that this weekend would be the perfect time to go skiing. The weather would be above freezing, and yet we had had a lot of cold weather to build up the snow base. Plus, he has to start teaching a class on Saturday mornings in February, so now was the time to go.

I was debating taking a lesson this time around, because while it was fun watching my kids ski, it’s only fun for so long. Ed casually threw a printout in my direction one evening. Taking a private lesson wasn’t that expensive.

I thought about my choices. I could be the mom who didn’t ski, and I could bring my book and sit in the lodge and read. That wouldn’t be so bad, especially if we ever go to a nice ski resort. Curling up in front of a roaring fireplace with a good book sounds perfect!

Emmy, however, was resisting the thought of skiing. She was nervous and didn’t want to try it again. Slowly we convinced her it would be fun, but I could tell she was anxious. Maybe if her scaredy-cat Mom took a lesson, she’d feel less anxious. Plus, everyone I saw skiing down that mountain DID look like they were having fun!

Emmy in pink, during her ski lesson
Emmy in pink, during her ski lesson

So I did it. I signed up for the private lesson. I was hoping for an “experienced” instructor. To be honest, I didn’t want a young skier that would make me nervous! And the person arranging lessons matched me up with an older gentleman named Dave. I told Dave, that I hadn’t skied in ten years and that I wasn’t very good. We started off slow with the tow rope hill, but then I moved to the ski lift and the easy hill pretty quickly. I fell a couple of times and Dave asked, “Why did you fall?” He wasn’t being mean; he wanted me to figure out what NOT to do on skis! I got up pretty quickly as well which isn’t an easy thing to do with skis on. But I think those workouts at the gym paid off as I pushed myself up off the ground. My instructor made me feel more confident in what I was doing. He told me to “dive toward safety” which meant to lean forward. I thought I did pretty well for an old lady of 45-almost-46 years old. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Ski Lift
I’m on the chair lift! Ed and Emmy are in front of me.

I’m still not thrilled with heights, or with going fast, but I actually heard the swish of snow under my skis. I turned right and left. I made my way down the mountain slowly and cautiously. I had fun, but to be honest, it wasn’t the skiing that made me happy. It was being up at the top of the “mountain” with my kids and watching them ski down, and then skiing down after them. It was taking the ski lift with my girls instead of being left at the lodge. It was showing my kids that it’s good to try something new, even though I was scared.

Have you ever done something you didn’t want to do, but you did it anyway for your kids?

 

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There Was This One Thanksgiving…

There was this one Thanksgiving when my mom tripped while she was carrying corn to the table. The corn flew everywhere, and even stuck to the ceiling. We joked when we moved that there was probably corn still stuck in the rough, textured surface.

As a pastor’s family, Thanksgiving was a little different for us. My dad always had to work on Thanksgiving morning and preach a sermon. Three out of four of my uncles were also pastors, so they were also preaching on Thanksgiving Day. After church, we would load up the car and drive to the Midwest town to the family that was hosting Thanksgiving that year. Sometimes we drove to Detroit, Michigan. Other times we drove to Canton, Ohio. Sometimes we were lucky and got to stay put because we were hosting Thanksgiving. That night, as our relatives all met up in one place, there were hugs and kisses and lots of noise. The moms and aunts would start preparing for our big meal the next day–the Friday after Thanksgiving.

There usually wasn’t a bed for all of us. The cousins would sleep on the floor with blankets and pillows and the rare sleeping bag. The grown-ups got the beds. It usually took a while for us to go to sleep, with all the talking and giggling we did. The aunts and uncles yelled at us to be quiet and go to sleep!

The next day, when everyone else was eating leftovers, was our big Thanksgiving Feast. Turkey and green beans, mashed potatoes and corn, cranberry sauce and oh so many good things to eat!

Our extended family has grown and our traditions have changed. We no longer get together on the Friday after Thanksgiving. But the memories of those Thanksgivings past stay with us always.

How was your Thanksgiving? Link up your Thanksgiving post here!


 

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Providing Sisters to Help You Get Through the Holidays

My two-year-old got it first, right before Christmas; a full-blown case of the stomach flu. As a teacher of little kids, I had been exposed to the stomach flu many times before, so I was sure I would be okay and ready to host Christmas dinner at my house. On December 24, I was so sick I couldn’t even get out of bed except to go lie on the bathroom floor next to the toilet. I had never had such horrible, crippling stomach cramps before. To make matters worse, I was newly pregnant with my second child. I called my mom who lived out-of-state. “Will it hurt the baby?” I asked after I had puked my guts out for what seemed the umpteenth time.

“No, of course it won’t hurt the baby,” Mom reassured me.

I was so lucky that my sister had flown in from California to was staying with us that week. She took care of me as I lay moaning in bed. The next day, she also took care of getting the turkey in the oven. It was her first turkey, stuffed with oranges and cloves, and it was delicious!

turkey

I tried to help the best I could on Christmas Day, but it was really my sister who pulled dinner together for us. My nephew secretly told his mother, my sister-in-law, that I couldn’t have really been that sick. I looked fine! But then just a couple of days later, he got sick. And so did just about everyone else in the family, including my poor brother who was still recuperating from a motorcycle accident in a nursing facility.

Let me tell you, without my sister, I don’t think I could have survived Christmas that year!

Scary Mommy's Guide to Surviving the Holidays

Jill Smoker’s new anthology, Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays, provides a whole set of sisters to help with the holidays! From recipes to anecdotes to lists, this book will get you through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. I laughed out loud when Jill wrote about her son being thankful for poop. Let’s face it, any time a kid can get poop into the conversation, he will! I’m sure Crystal Ponti’s “Put-Your-Feet-Up-While-the-Crock-Pot-Cooks Cranberry Sauce” will be much more delicious than the time I tried to make stuffing in my crock pot. It didn’t turn out so well. I could totally relate to Sarah Cottrell’s description of “Ten People in the Grocery Store the Morning of Thanksgiving.” I, myself, have been the desperate spouse, known to run out to buy more wine before my in-laws can get another bottle from their already abundant supply in the basement.

Since my first daughter was born in November, I laughed my way through Alice Gomstyn’s “The Pros and Cons of Having a Baby Right Before Thanksgiving,” because lactating boobs are quite entertaining. Becoming a mother also means that everything changes, and Jennifer Simon’s story “Redefining Thanksgiving” is a beautiful reflection on how a baby can make the holidays even better.

The best part of this book, however, is that part of the profits go to Scary Mommy’s Thanksgiving Project, which raises money for families to be able to buy Thanksgiving dinner. To find out more about this charity, visit Scary Mommy Nation.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

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Pizza and Movie Night

It seems like every weekend, we have one night that is pizza and movie night. I make my special homemade pizza with two boxes of Jiffy pizza crust mix spread into my large jelly roll pan. I use Pastorelli pizza sauce from Chicago, Illinois. The Lemon Drop Pie family pizza features pepperoni and onions, with no onions on Emmy’s corner. When there are five minutes left to bake, I top it with fresh mozzarella bought in bulk from Costco and then frozen, because we’re frugal like that. I prefer to eat my pizza with a big glass of milk. I’ve heard that’s weird. Do you think it’s weird?

pizza and milk

Tonight’s movie pick from the library archives is Chicken Little, a movie I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. It’s surprisingly more about a relationship between a father and a son than the sky falling.

Do you have pizza and movie night at your house? What’s the last movie you watched together?

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P.S. What do you put on your pizza? :)

 

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