29 September 2011

I know the (maybe) Rich and (certainly) Famous...

...bloggers who become book authors!

First there was Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman and her book which quickly became my most purchased book for Christmas gifts the year it was published. Okie girl makes good on the range/ranch after marrying hunky rancher - and Oklahoma is just north of Texas so, yahoo, that's close enough for me! Then came Lisa Fain who authors the blog Homesick Texan who just published her cookbook - of course I lost NO time getting my copy and copies for my "nearest and dearest" because a) I'm a Texan and b) I'm inordinately proud of both Texans and their cooking abilities. Obviously, living in New York City hasn't gone to her head (or ruined her kitchen prowess). And today I read that Melanie of Big Mama has a contract for a book! ANOTHER TEXAN! This gal is Mary Tyler Moore meets Erma Bombeck. Do I know how to pick 'em or WHAT?!?

Now another long time blog author favorite I've read for YEARS, Liz Owen of Mabel's House, is being published. Liz reminds me of Anne Shirley in "Anne of Green Gables". I believe she attempted writing fiction before, something along the lines of the story by Anne in "Averil's Atonement", which did not catch the publisher's eye. Someone in her life MUST have been her own real life Gilbert Blythe who gently set her down and said, "Well, if you want my opinion, I'd write about places I knew something of and people that spoke everyday English." Because she did exactly that and DING, DING, DING - I think we have a winner!

"My (not so) Storybook Life" will be published in October (I've already pre-ordered my copy!) and I'm so excited I could pop a cork! She included an excerpt from her book today in her blog and I am copying it here for your reading pleasure. And I hope you'll enjoy her blog as well. If you're a female from Planet Earth, you'll find more than one chronicled situation akin to something YOU'VE experienced in life! Because that's why we read blogs, right? To know "we are not alone".

Thanks, Liz. And may the (book buying public) Force be with you.

Once one has breathed in the deep pungent aroma of sewage, you never again forget the nose-hair singeing, eye clawing, throat gagging experience. It comes over you slowly. You begin to feel like a character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as your muscles involuntarily jerk and you run screaming and blowing raspberries. Anything to get away from the mind-numbing stench.
But let me explain.
It was 6:30 a.m. I was standing in my retro pink tiled bathroom trying to open my bleary eyes and ready myself for work. As I stood there, peering into the mirror and wondering what demented nighttime fairy had planted four new wrinkles on my face, I paused and sniffed.
“Matt… what’s that smell?”
Matt staggered from the bedroom in his underwear, eyes half shut. “I don’t smell anything.”
I pointed my nose into the air like a hunting dog. “Seriously? You can’t smell that? Did you go to the bathroom in here earlier? I told you to use the room spray when you do things like that.”
Matt puffed out his bare chest and gathered his pride as best a man can with sleep in his eyes and a small hole in the side of his underwear. “I just woke up!”
I frowned, catching a glimpse of my makeup-less hot-rollers-in-hair state and tried not to think about the fact that I looked fifty instead of twenty-nine. “Well, help me figure this out. Because something smells ripe.”
We sniffed the sink drain and ruled it out as a suspect.
“Is it coming from the toilet?” Matt asked, examining it from top to bottom.
“No, that’s not it,” I snapped. I’m not known for my milk of human kindness in a disaster. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a survivor. I plan on eating my radish like Scarlet and clawing my way out of the nuclear dust while dragging my loved ones with me. But I won’t be doing it with positive phrases and a smile.
“Hon, I just don’t know. We’ll call a plumber after work, maybe it’s coming from under the house.” Matt staggered a little, trying to get past me and out of our tiny bathroom.
“Well, that’s just great,” I moved aside and pulled the shower curtain back so I could perch on the side of the tub and give Matt room to move out the door.
That’s when the full brunt of nastiness filled the air around us, a swirling mix of excrement and acrid stench that would have brought the sewer dwelling Ninja Turtles to their knees. Where the normally slightly-clean-with-a-hint-of-soap-scum bottom of the tub should have been, there sloshed gallons and gallons of brown sewage.
I clutched the front of my sweatshirt and held my breath. Matt began to dry heave.
“Get out and shut the door!” I screamed as we bumbled into the hallway.
“I’ll deal with this,” Matt grabbed my shoulders, trying to talk and hold his breath at the same time.
I could feel my eyes glaze over, the horrors of typhoid and hepatitis in our bathtub filling my mind. But more importantly, I could envision our evaporated savings account. In my mind’s eye I could see the long, gray hallway at the bank. A worker shrouded in a black suit pulled a set of keys from his pocket and unlatched a small locker labeled “Owen Bank Account.” Inside were two small stacks of quarters and a few crumpled dollar bills. It was bleak, not only because the banker with an unimaginative wardrobe gazed at me with an expression that could only be interpreted as “You’re a Big Fat Loser,” but also there was a very definite possibility we wouldn’t be able to pay for a plumber.
I wasn’t necessarily a spend thrift. In fact, I was downright frugal when it came to decorating with thrift store furniture and rewired vintage lamps. But the fact was, we were poor. We were starting out at starter jobs with starter salaries. We were starter adults with a starter bank account.
“Okay,” I nodded numbly, thankful that Matt was taking the lead on such a disastrous biohazard. “But make sure the plumber is super cheap. We don’t have much money!”
I left for work like a wino stumbling through a fog, not really remembering my commute, not really doing any work as I sipped my coffee and stared blankly at the computer screen. A disaster of such gargantuan proportions had previously been unthinkable in my life, and now I found myself attempting to push the image of a vast sea of bathtub poop from my mind. But I was sure of one thing: Anne Shirley never had to get ready for work while breathing raw sewage.

09 September 2011

If our home is our castle...


...then let's see where the princess lives.

Let me premise this posting by saying that I'm not into the typical "Princess" mentality as currently defined by our contemporary culture. Too often, being a "Princess" means one or more of the following:

"It's all about me". A huge NO-NO in my book. A TRUE princess puts others feelings and well being before her own.

"I always get my way." This isn't being a princess - this is creating a selfish person! The child who is allowed to "pimp her cuteness" to gain what she wants is the victim of a grave injustice by her parents. What a recipe for disaster! And heaven help the parents and the next door neighbors when this kid becomes a teenager.

"I'm better than you - or at least my mommy wants you to think so which means I'll think it too". A true princess knows humility and doesn't brag about what she has or does or where she goes. Self confidence is a totally different fish than self importance. Huge difference.

"I get special treatment". Again, nope. A true princess doesn't expect others to "part the waters" for her but works to get what she wants and seeks fairness whenever, wherever she can. And learns to say "Please", "Thank you", "May I.." and wants to help.

Ben, Mirai, Kennedy and Lleyton

Having said that, I do believe that children who are being trained to emulate the correct values being taught by their parents are true princes and princesses. The idea that children INHERIT something of great value by those who raise them equates to being "royalty" in that wisdom, graciousness and good manners are true family treasures to be "passed down" from one generation to the next.

Mirai is our "resident" princess. She loves to play being Princess Aurora following her Bibbity Bobbity Boutique experience at Disneyland. And she loves her books of princess stories. We've created a "Royal Bedchamber" for her where she feels cocooned and "at home". Her treasures are displayed on her note boards - notes from friends, party invitations, pieces of artwork that are "firsts" (first face drawn, first face with body, first face with eyelashes and nose - you get the picture - pardon the pun) and even several tail feathers from a macaw owned by a friend of ours.

Lleyton, Kennedy, Emery, Ben and Mirai

There is a reading corner with a big reading chair with good lighting behind it - we use that chair every single night we're home to read, first, the Bible and then story books. The bookcases hold more books than toys. And her stuffed animals are replicas of her reading favorites - Knuffle Bunny (from the Mo Willems books), Winnie-the-Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood gang (A.A. Milne of course), Timmy (from the Shaun the Sheep series; okay, technically this is a show but Timmy is loved none-the-less) to name but a few.

Emery and her mama, Jennifer

Jennifer and Emery

Lleyton and Mirai


There is a mini-princess sized dressing table that Santa brought last year where she keeps her Little Kitty bangles and bracelets, her Super Power pink cape and mask and her brush and comb. A big fishbowl is the perfect holder for her hair bows - we can "fish around" to find the one we need without the bows getting flattened or wrinkles. We like our big bows and Mirai won't leave home without one. Think of it as the pre-school version of lipstick.

Emery admiring how Mommy did her hair

Her room is cozy enough for just her but large enough to accommodate cousins when they visit. This was borne out when we had Cousin's Week last month. All six of the grandchildren were "in residence" (no, we didn't fly our Royal Standard from the chimney to let everyone know) and Kennedy (6) shared Mirai's room with her. But during the waking hours, all six of them would be in her room playing, reading, pestering each other, plotting and having a good old time. When Emery (1) is old enough, she will also share Mirai's room during visits. The boys (Ben - 6, Luke - 4 and Lleyton - 4) all stay in the game room which is the next room and also the official "Playroom". That room contains a bunk bed as well as two love-seats that make out into twin beds. Plus the bulk of the toys!

Mirai and Lleyton having Tea with their friends

While some of the items in her room were bought recently (the chair and dresser), most of the furniture is several years old and was used in other rooms before they came to live in Mirai's room. The sage green toybox was bought years ago when I found out I was going to be a grandmother for the first time. The lamps on the dressing table were in a condo we owned in the DFW area for a "Texas base" when we lived overseas and visited home. Winnie-the-Pooh and all his friends were a collection I started when we lived in the UK. But all in all, the room was designed to grow with her to adulthood and I bought pieces I felt would stand the test of time. One thing I've learned living all over the world and making numerous moves: buy classic, buy quality and it will work anywhere with minor "tweaking".

All our granddaughters are princesses in the best possible way, being raised to be kind, responsible and accountable. And all our grandsons are Brave Knights, being raised to be gallant, honest and true. I'm very honored to be the Queen Mother of this lovely family of "Great People in Training"!

Mirai - a happy girl!

06 September 2011

Ode to a New School Year

Today was the first day of pre-kindergarten for Mirai. And we were on time. ON TIME. This is key because I am one of those people whose ancestors came over on the Juneflower because they missed the Mayflower. I will be late to my own funeral (and it was MY idea first, regardless of what the press and Elizabeth Taylor had to do with it). But she was in her room at 9:28am this morning for a 9:30am start. And she wasn't the last one there - there was one more boy who came in after. I'm seriously surprised this wasn't on the news tonight because this is HUGE! If you doubt me, there are two teachers from last year who, for a fee, will fill you in on my world record for "most successive days late" for the 2010-11 school year. And now I suspect that, precedent having been set, they'll always expect her to be on time.

Perhaps I didn't think this through all the way.

But Mirai had a Grand and Glorious first day of school. She took the opportunity to tell me, not once, but several times, just how much fun school was today! And, she solemnly announced that she had ALSO gone 'tee-tee' at school. Hey, I have realistic expectations of what goals are to be met for pre-k which include:

1) Waiting patiently in line for water fountain, playground equipment, lunch
2) Not eating any Crayola product nor autographing any walls, desks or clothing items
3) Going potty (both "big" and "small") in the appropriate restrooms
4) Not interrupting the teacher(s) with "You know what? (fill in the blank)" while they are attempting to impart knowledge to the class

And if she knows how to write the entire alphabet and her numbers by the year's end, BONUS!

Seriously, the difference between her abilities this year and last are huge. She has a much larger vocabulary and isn't shy about using it (see #4 above). She knows many of the children in her class because they were either in her class last year or attend Bible class and Bible Hour with her now (or both!) She has more confidence in herself and is very social and outgoing. And she's pretty much potty-trained now (okay, working on Big Potty, but we're on it...yes, this blog may have Too Much Information but get over it).

After I picked her up from school, we celebrated by going to Dairy Queen (yes! they still have one here in Katy) and got ice cream which is a big treat. She insisted on having her backpack on her lap on the drive home, took out her 'take-home folder' and proceeded to 'read' the papers inside. It was obvious to me that this was Important Big Stuff. I told her to just be sure and keep it all together so I could read it too when we got home.

I'm finding her tastes in literature have broadened greatly. We've graduated from Knuffle Bunny (although Big Knuffle and Baby Knuffle are still bedtime companions along with Blue and Eeyore) to the volumes by A.A. Milne and the Glorious tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. She also wants princess stories now that we've returned from Disneyland and the-oh-too-numerous-to-count rides through The Little Mermaid in the California Adventure. It helps that moi is able to mimic the voices from the movie (I do a mean Ursula and can do the singing of Ariel - hey, don't hate me; it's a talent!) And she's starting to do Bible story 'requests'. We have a children's Bible that we've read out of "like forever", having gone in order the first couple of times through and now try to reinforce whatever is being taught on Wed and Sun Bible class by reading those stories. Tonight I picked it up and started to read and she put her hand on it and said, "I think I want...Moses tonight". Bible On Demand - got one over on you, Comcast! :)

The combination of first days and cooler weather puts me in a fine mood. One that recalls Pumpkin Spice Lattes and zucchini bread. One that sends me to the Home Goods store looking for Halloween decorations (and finding them - oh, did I ever find them...) Even gets me thinking about perhaps cleaning out closets and Christmas decorating. Okay, I squelched the "cleaning out closets" idea pretty quickly. And the 'cooler temp' was mid-80's. But when you've lived through triple-digit temps for the I-don't-remember-how-many-months summer, mid-80's is almost arctic in comparison.

So here's to the New School Year. Here's to new backpacks and lunchboxes. To the smell of new Crayons. To new clothes and matching hair bows. To "Look, Gramma, I did it all by myself!" artwork. To leaps and bounds of learning. To the teachers who make the Magic for the children.

And, lest we forget, to a few hours to get much-needed-maintenance (read "mani-pedi" here), browsing the shops a little and regaining a little sanity.

Because frankly, if you're gonna be late, you might as well look as good as you can doing it!

03 September 2011

Family plagiarism...

...is what you resort to when you keep meaning to blog about something but never get to it. Megan took the photos and posted the following on HER blog today. Cousin's Week is something we've done for many years. The house is full of laughter, screaming, whining, tattling, cuddling, secret telling, whisperings at bedtime...you know, all the wonderful chaos that ensues when you put six children, aged six and younger, under the same roof for any length of time! :)

One of my favorite memories was swimming the first night. Tim and Megan's family and Mirai and I had just returned from Disneyland and our California vacation just the Monday before. We were swimming that first night and it got dark so I turned on the lights to the pool and spa which I've rarely done before as we don't usually swim after dark. I have several pool toys including small water cannons. Megan and I were in the big pool and the kids were entranced by the LED lights that cycle to different colors in the spa. All of the sudden Megan says, "Cheri!! Look at the kids!!!" They were in the spa, using the water cannons to make water designs in the air and singing, "The World of Color" from our recent California Adventure "World of Color" show! I wish we'd had video to capture it!

The scorching temps here in Texas also provided challenges to our usual trips to playgrounds or other outside activities so we became more creative with indoor spaces and pool use. We achieved the goal of multiple fun activities by going to:

-- Stomping Grounds in Sugar Land (an indoor "agility course" for kids with a cafe and tables for the mom-ladies)

-- Build-a-Bear where we "built" everything except a bear! I believe we had two cats and four dogs, multiple outfits and accessories

-- In house "incarceration" upstairs with a babysitter for the six (and a brave Amanda who kept them all in line and managed to keep the house intact as well!) while the mamas went to see "The Help" movie

-- Lupe Tortillas who wins the 'kid friendly premises' award for having large fans on their patios so we could sit outside to eat while the kids played in the massive and well-stocked sandbox playground

-- Marble Slab Creamery where we attempted to get everyone ice cream and have them eat it before it totally melted - limited success but great fun none-the-less

-- Swimming every single day (except Sunday). And with it being so hot, we "assembly lined" showers for all the kids afterwards outside on the patio. Really made the bathing process very streamlined and convenient!

-- Aqua-toys on the back patio - canals, waterfalls, water pumps, great fun with the different configurations

We ate out a lot and got in a Gymboree shopping spree for the moms as well. It was an exhausting week for the adults but oh, OH, so much fun for everyone!

The remainder of this post is written by Megan who also took all the fantastic photos!

Cousin week in Katy was extra special this year because ALL 6 of the cousins got to be there. We had two 6 year olds, three 4 year olds, one 1 year old, 2 Mommas and 1 Gramma or should I say GrandMomma. :) It was a full, loud, and chaotic house and the kids loved it.

There was alot of this...

a little bit of this...
a little bit of that...

Some of this...

A few of these...

But mostly these...