All Aboard Part 1

This summer has been so full and fan-cas-cick (as Bubba would say) that I’ve had a hard time stopping to record the memories here.  In spite of my mama’s frequent reminders that she’s waiting for a post, I’ve tried to live more in the moment and less for recording the moment when I get home.  I know that means that plenty of the memories are going to slip away, but I’m trading that for well rested and two empty hands and more snuggles.  It’s ok.

Thankfully Jay carted the camera this weekend on our train trip, so, Grandma, you can thank him for these few moments not forgotten.

On Saturday morning, we rode the New Tygart Flyer in Elkins, West Virginia.


Papa’s dad and brother both worked on the railroad, so he had answers to all of our train questions.


Bubba’s funny little speech patterns are one of my favorite things these days.  I’m hoping for another “Bubba Speaks” post soon, so I’ll save most of them, but this one’s too good not to share.  These days he uses the word because to actually mean so.  He’ll say things like, “I’m hot because I need to go inside,” or “I’m hungry because I need to have a snack.”  For the whole hour waiting for the train, he reminded us over and over, “My hat has a train on it because I will wear it.”


While we waited for the, “All Aboard!” Chica, of course, made a friend.  I constantly feel myself tiptoeing down this fine line with her that divides friendly and annoying, open and reckless.  I love that she has never met a stranger, and it’s so perfect in these moments.  But other times I worry.  Worry that she’ll get hurt.  Worry that she’ll be too much.  Jay joked as we watched her that she certainly didn’t get her ability to make instant friends from me.  Even though I worry, many times I wish I was more like her.


So the people who run this train certainly aren’t dumb, and it appeared that they stuck all of the families with kids in one car and fed them lunch first.  Brilliant!


Even though there were lots of new things to see and do on a train, 4 hours is still a long ride for a little guy.  My normal keep-Bubba-busy questions have gotten a little old, so I tried something new this time.  Instead of, “Bubba, where’s your nose?” I asked, “What part of your body smells?”  Without skipping a beat, he spreads his leg and pats his hiney with and expression halfway between, “Easy, I know that!” and “Are we really supposed to talk about that, Mom?”  We have gotten plenty of laughs off of that one.  (You can bet that’s a story Nana will be telling in her office for quite a few weeks to come!)


Chica’s funny for the day came after the announcer let us know over the speakers to keep an eye out for the upcoming high bridge and rapids down below.  When we got to the bridge, Chica was quite distressed that she couldn’t, “See the bottom of the trees.”  After a few questions from Daddy, he determined she was looking for rabbits.  Oops.


We eventually found some rapids and waterfalls which provided a great place to take pictures.

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Chica was immediately fearless and ready to hop from rock to rock.  As you can see, I wouldn’t let Bubba go.  He wasn’t too happy about that.  I promised myself I would take them somewhere else this summer to play in a creek, pack a change of clothes, and just let him go.

While we were here, I couldn’t help but think of our adventures last year in the Grand Canyon at Havasu Falls.  There were many places we explored on that trip where the water was just this deep and fast, but the rocks weren’t slick because of the travertine.  Chica learned the hard way that rocks underwater here = slick!


While exploring the falls, Bubba kept saying he wanted to go back and give the “white girl” a hug.  I quickly figured out he meant the bubbly girl in the white shirt who came by periodically to check on our train car.  He was brave enough to ask her for a hug, and then Nana asked if we could snap a picture.  They both ate it up.  Watch out, ladies.


Too much mackin’ on the ladies can wear a man out, however, and he slept happily on Daddy for much of the return trip.


When we returned that afternoon to Elkins, we checked out their city park and then ate at a great place called C.J. Maggie’s.  Our day ended with a play directed by Chica on the “stage” outside the train station.  Bubba was a good sport and went along with it.  Mostly he was just excited he got to be the monster and chase her without getting in trouble.


Look for more pictures and memories from Day 2 soon!

Recipe for a Perfect Spring Saturday


3 flat miles of creekside trail
5 tiny seedlings of mixed variety (Roma tomatoes, sweet peppers, basil, etc.)
6 classic children’s books on CD
2 dozen pieces of toddler boy clothing (YardSale brand preferred)
3 free market-fresh tomatoes
1 sweet conversation with a finally pregnant friend
6 cubic feet of potting soil
5 hideous orange buckets
4 bowls of ice cream on the porch
2 new pairs of kiddie shoes
6 clean-out-the-fridge quesadillas
80 photographs with a new camera
4 chapters of a Flat Stanley book
2 100-piece puzzles
600 papers to grade


  1. Awake late and run three fast miles with a delightful friend. Talk non-stop about school and summer and everything in-between.
  2. Collect seedlings from Master Gardeners, in-laws, Home Depot, and the market. While these are waiting, peruse the library, childless and slowly.
  3. At the yard sale, gather a mound of 4T and 5T clothes for less than the price of one item at the store.
  4. Spot the pudgy belly of a friend while scoping out the first of summer tomatoes. Throw caution to the wind and ask. Celebrate because the fourth time’s a charm for this blessed mama.
  5. Take the whole family to Home Depot to complete Project Bucket Garden. Move quickly to combat the grumpiness that comes with no lunch and no nap.
  6. Soak in the perfect day while eating chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and willing the tiny seedlings to grow.
  7. Catch another whim and take both kids to get summer shoes. Pray your kid will follow through with soccer camp while buying tiny cleats, shin guards, and socks.
  8. Eat dinner with no yelling. Whatsoever.
  9. Practice with the new camera while the little people fight the tree in the front yard, David & Goliath style.
  10. At bedtime, read a book that both mom and baby girl enjoy. Work a puzzle together to fight the I’m-not-tired complaints.
  11. Leave the papers in the car. Don’t worry about them until tomorrow.
  12. Serve it up with joy. In Joy.  Enjoy.

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Christmas Mememberies

IMG_2710Some moms are good at documenting the special moments of family life with a camera.  This mom…not so much.  I have great intentions, but inevitably I’ve left the memory card in some computer or have run out of batteries or just can’t seem to hold the camera steady while chasing a toddler.  So I snap a few here and there and just hope to capture the rest of the mememberies in my memembery book.  Here are ten moments I’m adding to the pages from Christmas 2012:

1. Christmas Eve Breakfast—For maybe the fifth or sixth year in a row, I enjoyed Christmas Eve breakfast with my friend Ruth and her kids.  There’s something about creating (and keeping up with) your own tradition that makes you feel a little more like an adult.  Breakfast was slow and easy and her kids were comfortable enough to get themselves their own refills on drinks.  They left, and we took a deep breath and said to each other that it was now really Christmas.

2.  Righteous Joseph—That night we enjoyed the Celtic Christmas Eve service at church.  So I thought it was Christmas after breakfast, but it was for real Christmas after Debbie sang, “You may rejoice to hear the voice of the angel, Gabriel.”  That song.  Perfect.

3.  Chinese Food and Sangria—Carrying on more new traditions, we enjoyed an eclectic but relaxing dinner after church.  Thanks to Jay’s work in advance and my sister-in-law’s help, I actually had zero wrapping to do after the crazies were in bed.  (Let’s make sure that gets added to the list of traditions too, okay?)

4.  Waiting in Agony—Jay was able to hold off Chica for about 45 minutes before letting her come upstairs on Christmas morning so that Bubba and I could sleep a little bit longer.  How he accomplished this I will never know.  When they finally got upstairs, he said Chica still had to wait to open gifts until after he used the bathroom. At that moment I had flashbacks of my own dad purposely stalling with the camera and batteries as a kid.  Sorry Chica, but I’m sure you’ll do the same to your kids when it’s time.

5.  The Scarf—Every year there is something that Chica asks for at the last minute from Santa.  I mean like Christmas Eve, last minute.  And her emphatic little heart makes Santa want to go to any length necessary to make it happen.  Two years ago it was Spiderman, last year it was a skateboard, and this year it was scarf.  So Santa, after returning some ridiculously late library books, hit up the Roses Express in the Plaza for a scarf.  The sincere exclamation of, “A scarf…it’s just what I wanted!” upon opening it was worth every penny of that six dollars.

6.  THE tie—Unbeknownst to us, Chica’s nana took her shopping to the Dollar Tree to buy gifts for Jay, Bubba, and me.  She actually did a fantastic job picking out treasures.  Including this:


The picture, in this case, just doesn’t do it full justice; it also plays music.  And as if that wasn’t enough, we found out later that day that Chica’s cousin bought the very same type of tie for his daddy too.   I love it.

7.  Mileage reimbursements—Jay gave me a very extravagant gift that I totally wasn’t expecting.  Upon opening it, I admit I silently waivered back and forth between, “Holy cow, this is cool!” and, “I tried so hard to stick to Christmas budget, and you TOTALLY blew it!”  He knows me well enough to know that this was exactly what I was thinking, too.  So after the craziness had died down (and I think I still hadn’t opened it), he told me that he had saved up his mileage reimbursements for the year in order to make my gift happen.  All of a sudden it was ok.

8.  Nap—I got one on Christmas afternoon.  It’s a highlight, folks.

9.  A Christmas Story—Before dinner Chica and I retired to the basement to try to lower the chaos factor upstairs.  We played pizza delivery man and Nutcrackers go to heaven and all sorts of other four-year-old pretend stories.  The highlight was when one dollhouse doll was telling another the Christmas story.  In case you haven’t heard, you should know that the magi brought Jesus, “Gold, breakenpence, and whir.”

10.  Perfect Ending—We finished out a great day with a movie after the kids were in bed.  I cannot tell you the last time I stayed awake to watch an entire movie…it must have been a good one!

So how about you?  What mememberies did you add to your memembery book this Christmas?  I’d love to hear one!

Mango-Chai-Coconut-Poppy Seed-Avocado-Whatever

Dear Blog Lady,

You know that feeling you get when you just can’t look away from a train wreck?   You know, like when you watch Honey Boo Boo or Hoarders?   Oh, you’ve never watched those shows?  Hmmm…I should have known.  Well, just trust me, then.  They are the best kind of train-wreckedness that there is.

Well, here’s the thing.  Your cutesy little nook of the Web is the exact opposite of a train wreck, and yet I still can’t look away.  I feel that same mesmerizing attraction when I read about your picture-perfect backyard birthday party or the straight-from-a-magazine meals that you feed your toddler.  But here’s the important difference.  Honey Boo Boo makes me feel really great about my family.  You?  Well, you make me feel like a failure.

When your super shallow depth of field photos pop into my blog feed, I can’t help myself.  I must click and read.  I know that your latest kiddie cook recipe, complete with the tiny, trendy, retro apron and minty green Kitchen Aid mixer, are going to make me feel like a miserable mom for feeding Chica microwave mac and cheese six out of the last seven nights.  (And I didn’t even let her help.  Sorry.)  I also know that your latest craft project will leave me thinking I need to quick find some gelatin or Mod Podge or a Mason jar in order to keep up.  Then I’ll remember all of the other random crafty items I bought this summer thanks to you and your mommy blogger friends, and I’ll start to snap to my senses.  Oh, but then I’ll read the latest cute thing your kid said, and I’ll wonder why your kid never whines or sasses like mine.

At the risk of sounding creepy, I’ll admit I’ve thought about you and your wispy pig-tailed kid all day.  At first I tried to justify to myself why I should never expect to actually live up to your Martha Stewart Mommy expectations.  You probably don’t work, and I do.  You have one kid, and I have two.  Your husband probably makes a million dollars, and well, mine’s a teacher.  Oh, and you obviously have some sort of wicked camera lens that I don’t have in order to get pictures like that.  But then I decided to get real and realized that even if I had one kid, no job, a rich husband, and the best camera in the world, my life wouldn’t look like yours.

Then I started trying to convince myself that you probably aren’t as perfect as you really seem.  You probably have some days where you stay in your pajamas all day and feed your kid frozen chicken nuggets and apple sauce from a jar, right?  She doesn’t really eat mango-chai-coconut-poppy seed-avocado-whatever every single day, does she?  Just once can you post a picture of her vegging in front of the TV or your exploding laundry pile so that we don’t feel like total failures over here?  Thanks in advance.

So after thinking about you all day, I’ve come to one tiny (hopefully healthier) conclusion.  Just as the world needs all types of people, the world needs all types of mommy bloggers.  You just carry on with your show as-is.  We need people like you to inspire us once in a while.  Thanks to you maybe Chica will get mac and cheese five nights instead of six this week.  Ok…just maybe.

But the world also needs a few tell-it-like-it-really-is mommies.  And I’ll carry on and tell the world that my house is a mess, and I yell a lot, and my kids aren’t perfect, but we make it work.  Actually, some days, we even have a lot of fun.

Carry on,



If You Give a Girl a Bike

If your four year old asks to go on a bike ride, you’ll head to the trail.

If you head to the trail, you should probably pack some water.

If you pack some water, she’ll want to stop and drink it.

If she stops to drink it once, she’ll want to stop to drink it again.

If she stops to drink it every thirty seconds, Mommy will start to get a little aggravated.

If Mommy gets a little aggravated, she will take a deep breath and try to think of something.

If she takes a deep breath, she’ll decide to challenge the girl to ride for one whole minute without stopping.

If she rides for one whole minute, Mommy will challenge her to do two.

If she does two, she will catch on and not want to play that game anymore.

If she doesn’t want to play anymore, Mommy has to think of something new.

If Mommy thinks of something new, she’ll let the girl take a picture after every three minutes.

If she takes a picture every three minutes, there won’t be a whole lot of new material.

If there isn’t a whole lot of new material, Mommy will have to to come up with something motivating AGAIN.

If Mommy really thinks, she’ll decide to tell a story.

If she tells a story, it will most definitely be the mouse and cookie kind because that’s the only thing she can make up on the spot.

If she tells a mouse and cookie kind of story, the girl will ride for six whole minutes without stopping.

If she rides for six whole minutes without stopping, she’ll remember how much fun bike rides can be.

And tomorrow if she remembers how much fun bike rides can be, she’ll ask you to take her on another bike ride.

Insufficient Memory

Yesterday while painting pottery with some dear friends, I got the dreaded “insufficient memory” message on my camera.  I wasn’t sure where on the computer Jay wanted to dump the contents of the memory card, so I didn’t try to conquer this task on my own.  This meant that today we ventured out camera-less.  If I had carried my camera, here are the snapshots I would have shared…

Chica riding her new bike on the trail for the first time—The contrast in this picture is especially striking.  There’s girly Chica in her pink shirt and pink Dora helmet sitting on top of her shiny, bright red boy bike.  We got the bike last night on a spontaneous trip to Wal-mart after we determined that her other bike was just too small.  When they didn’t have a girl bike in her size, we convinced her that the red made her look fast.  We were secretly thankful that this means Bubba automatically has a hand-me-down he can use.

There would be lots of good shots from our ride, but two stand out.  One would be her turning around with her “tell me I’m doing great” smile when she finally has it figured out.  Just like her mama!  The other would actually be a video clip.  She had three spills after running over sticks along the trail.  After the third one she stands up, brushes herself off, and says, “Well, at least I didn’t get dead.”  Now there’s some optimism for you.

Bubba cradling the whisk and spatula—Today out of desperation we handed Bubba two new toys, the whisk and spatula.  They were so intriguing to him that we let him have them again in the car.  As usual, he fell asleep on the ride.  When we arrived, we found him clutching them both to his chest like a favorite stuffed animal.  A chef in the making, maybe?  Jay decided this would look a little strange while running errands in the store, so he pried them out of his hands before leaving the car.

Bubba with the trashcan on his head—Tonight I was helping MIL create some Pinterest inspired wall art for her office.  While Chica watched Sprout, Bubba was busy dumping every toy possible into the floor.  Next thing I know, Bubba has flipped a whicker trashcan over onto his head.  It’s covering his whole body, with trash spread out around him.  The worst part was that Jay and I just sat their laughing.  It was that kind of laugh that makes you cry and afraid you might pee yourself if you move.  Thankfully MIL rescued him.  He wasn’t quite sure whether to laugh or to cry when it was all over.

Chica flipping me the bird—Just a few minutes after the trashcan episode, Chica says, “Look mom, I need a band-aid.  I have blood.”  I look up and see her nicked middle finger, plain as day, about two inches from my face.  I hold it together for about 1.5 seconds, and then I just let out yet another careful-don’t-pee -yourself laugh.  “Mom, why you are laughing?”

Some days I wish our brains worked like a memory card.  When our brains have their fill of beautiful, funny, and even mundane memories, we should be able to dump them somewhere to retrieve later.  Instead it feels like my brain just chucks those memories left and right.  The ones I do keep seem to get more and more out of focus as time passes.  Always insufficient memory.  Even more reason, I guess, to keep writing.  Here’s to hoping I find this 50 years from now and get another good laugh from today’s photos that should have been.