Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Barbie Christmas

This is a story that ran about 2-3 years ago. But since it's Christmas, I thought I'd post it again. I'll post the boy version of the story, in case you also happen to posses a male type!

Is it just me, or was Christmas easier when the kids were young?  When my girls were little, I only had to keep two things in mind when buying toys – pink and Barbie.  Generally, they were one and the same and the only thing on my daughters' list.  I'd head to the toy store and follow the pink rainbow that ended in an overflowing Barbie pot of gold.  

            I'm amazed at the staggering amount of Barbie paraphernalia that's out there to be purchased, and how much of it was purchased by ME.  You'd think that a small, eleven and a half inch plastic doll would be easy on the pocket book, but nothing could be further from the truth.

            First, there was Barbie and her clothes, which included, but wasn't limited to, bathing suits, business suits, pants suits, mini skirts, halter dresses, t-shirts, shorts and a wide array of pajamas.  Every designer worth their salt designed evening wear for the perky Princess. 
            Barbie also needed shoes, purses, necklaces, and even hairbrushes.  All of these items were in miniature form, making them the first things to get lost on Christmas morning, only to be found in the middle of the night – embedded in your foot.  The day after Christmas, Barbie's myriad of clothes and accessories are strewn about the house and like the proverbial sock lost in the dryer, the odds of a pair of Barbie shoes meeting up again are slim to none.  Most Barbies are doomed to hobble the Earth, wearing only one pump.

            Along with a larger wardrobe and jewelry collection than most royal families, Barbie needed homes to house her accoutrement.  But not just any house; she needed a "Dream House".  Not content with a house that dreams were made of, Barbie also seemed to need a Vacation house.  Apparently, she also needed a three story "Dream Town House", a "My House", a "Totally Real" house, and a "Pink World" house (which I find pretty redundant – all things Barbie are pink; you wouldn't think it was necessary to point that out).

            Barbie had rapidly grown into a Trump-esque bastion of real estate.   I believe the most recent, modest number of homes available to her is nineteen.  I don't know if I've ever owned nineteen of anything! 

            Just in case you thought you were done housing Barbie, you have to furnish her vast empire; with actual furniture.   The first in waves and waves of furniture was labeled "dream"; of course it was.  The problem was for parents, those dreams turned into costly nightmares.  There was a Dream Sofa and living room set, Dream Bedrooms, Dream Kitchens, and yes, even a Pink Dream Bathroom.  I kid you not – Barbie even has her own Dream Hot Tub. 

            It turns out that Barbie needed a boyfriend, who came in the person of the perfect Ken doll.  Ken is a must have for Barbie fans, even though after he's purchased, he spends most of his time out in the Barbie garage.  And just when you thought the outlay of money would stop after Barbie had a closet full of clothes, shoes, accessories and the perfect All American boyfriend, you find out that Barbie needs friends.  Lots and lots of friends.

            First came Midge, who, frankly, got the short end of the stick.  She wasn't nearly as curvy (read sexy) or attractive as her best friend and of course, there wasn't a specific boy doll made for poor Midge.  Next came Skipper, Stacey, PJ, Christie, Francie, Tutti, Kelly and on and on and on it went.  Plastic dolls were occupying every nook and cranny of the house, in between couch cushions, in wash machines and bathing in sinks full of sudsy water.  Oddly, they never seemed to be content in their dream home.  

            But if a girl has a house, then she needs transportation to get to and from the grocery store, clothes store, and friend's houses; the Barbie convertible was born.  The first generation was cheap plastic, and getting Barbie and her friends in and out of said vehicle was a pretty exhausting endeavor.  Often times, hair, shoes and articles of clothing were snagged on the cheap plastic.

            Never one to settle for less than everything, Barbie added a Glam VW Beetle, Glam Corvette, Glam Boat, and even a glam RV.  I guess even when you own several large homes, you need to get away in a small one.  The one thing I don't think that Barbie has ever owned was a tent; but I could be wrong.  There's probably even a Survivor Barbie by now.

            I can't complain, since I fed the growing Barbie giant.  Little girls were addicted to all things "B" and beginning in October, Mattel trotted out all kinds of things that our gal just can't be without.  I'm fairly certain that even The Donald acknowledges her supremacy in the toy dominion.  And like The Donald, Barbie even had her own jumbo jet. 

            On the bright side, my girls would play with Barbie for hours.  Their friends would come over, toting their very own plethora of Pink Princesses, but I barely heard a peep out of them.  Even though all of Barbie's earthly physical needs had been met, the girls used their imaginations to create the world she lived in.  And thankfully, that world was usually peaceful and tastefully decorated. 

            That is, until their brother brought GI Joe, his army buddies, tanks, flame throwers and combat helicopters over. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Crafts for Christmas; or, the making of The Beast

I often tease about being crafty; I’m being facetious. Martha Stewart would have a heart attack at my house. The only thing we have in common is cooking. Crafting is for people with patience.

I was watching her show the other day, and she was showing off obvious labor intensive homemade Christmas presents. I’m sure if one of my kids had made one of them for me, I’d be thrilled. However, these were produced to be gifted upon your children. All I could think of, though was what 16 year old wants a set of coasters made out of gift wrap? As an adult, I’d think they were adorable. My kids, however, would be unwrapping them as they searched for the real present.

And if I’m being honest, I don’t own coasters – a magazine or newspaper works just fine, if we use anything. Plus, we have “kid friendly” furniture (translation: really cheap, easily replaceable, and with no sentimental value whatsoever.). A hole in a sock can easily be fixed with a safety pin, super glue, or just thrown away. At my house, a sewing machine would be purely decorative. But, we would get a good laugh if someone remarked that they didn’t know I sewed.

All that being said, I have to admit I actually did something really, really crafty one year. I’d been out shopping at a mall, and fell in love with those huge, bushy garlands, dripping with ornaments. I went everywhere in a quest to buy one for my banister. Sadly, I had no luck.

Well, I’ll just make one myself, I thought.

That should have been my first clue – that I was thinking about crafting anything - ever. But, once I get an idea, it’s pretty much a done deal.

Don’t judge me.

I realized that I was going to have to buy several artificial garlands and figure out a way to secure them together. I was determined to imitate the lush decorations that I’d envied at the mall. After several failed attempts, I knew what I was afraid would be the case. I needed to use wire; and even sharper wire cutters.

You know, you’d think I’d have stopped when I had that revelation. Take sharp wire, sharper cutters, then add me to the mix and you’ve got the recipe for guaranteed disaster. And unfortunately, this wasn’t going to be any different.

I began the difficult task of cutting the wire, then wrapping the sharp wire around the garland. The week after my fingers healed, I set about stringing the lights.

At this point, I should add that one of the few things I’d never experienced in my life was an electrical shock. That has now been rectified.

Two weeks, several trips to the craft store, countless bloody finger pricks and a few glue gun burns later, I stood back and congratulated myself on a massively bushy garland fit for any mall. It was time to light her up and gloat.

I probably should have considered making it closer to the banister, though – all 15 feet of it. I had to call the girls, a bunch of times. They had pretty much avoided me during this project; it was probably better that way. I’ve never been one to curse, but that, too, was rectified during the project.

We began to lug what was now being called, “The Beast”, to its’ resting place. It took a few hours and we broke several ornaments, but we finally had The Beast up.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t half bad. And after we’d vacuumed up the mess all over my living room floor, the hall, and down the stairs, it actually looked pretty. We were ready to light it up.

And the cursing began anew.

I’d thought ahead enough to check the strings of light to be sure that they were working before I began. What I didn’t think about was connecting them together. Turns out, there are “male” and “female” plugs. I’m trying to think of a way to put this delicately, so let’s just say my poor garland was celibate.

I’m fairly sure my scream could be heard two towns over. That, and the torrent of curse words that seemed to flow from my mouth as if a damn had burst. Words I didn’t even know I knew spewed forth like molten lava, rolling gleefully and with utter abandon from my mouth.

Aubrie and Elyse were laughing so hard, tears were streaming down their eyes. Then they realized that I was looking at them with steam coming out of my ears. They ran faster than Frosty from a greenhouse.

Yep, I’d proven again that I was no Martha Stewart.

I stood there glaring at The Beast. Then, I fumed, fussed, plotted, planned and even cajoled. There was NO WAY I was taking all those ornaments off that stupid garland to start over. Finally, a decision was made. I squared my shoulders, lifted my chin, grabbed my purse and went to the store for more lights. I planned to drape them over, under, and around the decorations, making a chain that would link them all together.

By the time I was done, I lit that bad boy up – and, boy did it ever LIGHT UP!  If I’d known Morse code, I could have signaled a space invasion from opposite sides of the planet. Fortunately – for the family – no one said a word about the brief interruption in power, or the fact that their eyes were burning as surely as if they had been staring at the sun.

They oohed and ahhed, and told me what a lovely job I’d done (after they’d pilfered through their rooms to find sunglasses). They didn’t think I’d noticed that they occasionally glanced nervously at the sky in the event an errant plane thought it had found its runway.

But it was done, it was up, and I was finished! I’d had my fill of crafts for Christmas for, well, ever. My new motto is if I can’t buy it, we don’t need it. And if I want it badly enough, I can usually whine and annoy someone else to do it for me.

To me, THAT’S a good thing.

It’s been a few years now, and I’ve learned a thing or two. Dogs and the beast don’t get along well. As they bound up the stairs, their tails inevitably break a few ornaments or take out a string of lights. By the time we take it down, the beast looks like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. The next year, we tie it to the banister first and then replace broken or tattered ornaments. We don’t even bother re-doing the lights. We just drape new strings on top of the old ones. Once it’s lit, though, you can barely notice (that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it).

So, if you come to my house at Christmas time, feel free to admire the Beast. Word of advice, however; don’t look too closely or allow a body part to come into contact with it. Electric shocks are not normally part of the Christmas spirit. Let's keep it that way.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The apple of my . . . eye?

Every Fall, I think back to a time years ago when I took the kids to an orchard to pick our own apples. Some friends of mine knew how to can and preserve them, and were willing to teach me.

Channeling my inner Martha Stewart sounded like a good idea.

I picked a beautiful September day; we got in our 15 year old, beat up mini-van that made more noise than Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and headed to Bob White Acres. The kids each grabbed a bushel, and off we went. The first took no time to fill, but after their second bushel, the kids began to get tired. Aubrie had hers about half full, while Elyse had two or three apples in her basket.

Boy put his bushel on his head, found a stick which he waved wildly, and began running around breathing heavily, screaming, “Luke, I’m your father!”

With visions of apple goodness dancing in my head, I pressed on and dragged the kids from grove to grove.

We got home and Matt got a look at our van full of apples. He figured we’d get a few bushels; he had no idea I was going to turn into Martha Stewart - on crack. But I’ve done worse, so he just started carrying the massive quantities of apples and deposited them on the deck.

Being an apple picking novice, I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to keep the different varieties separated. I can cook, but no one has ever accused me of being a baker. I knew that Granny Smith apples were tart, but thought that all red apples were sweet.

Turns out, red apples can be tart and green apples can be sweet. I also learned that some apples make terrific pies, but don’t make the best applesauce; and some apples are better for eating because they don’t soften after cooking. I stood on my deck, glaring at the mountain of apples and not having an idea of which was which. Since I’m not known for patience, I decided to press on. What’s the worst that could happen?

Unfortunately, I have a gift for finding out what the worst is.

I started out by making one of my kids favorites – applesauce. I peeled, chopped, cooked and mashed. But I couldn’t quite get all the apples mashed, and instead of being sweet, the sauce had an unpleasant tangy sourness to it. I kept adding sugar to the batch, but soon, I had an overly sweet, crunchy mess that had enough sugar in it to rot the kids’ teeth in one sitting. Into the trash it went.

Next I tried apple cider; that, too, didn’t turn out. It was too sweet, too sour or too thick. Not wanting to throw in the towel, I stored it in the pantry until I had the patience to strain it a little better or add more sugar. Months later, I stumbled upon it and took a giant swig.

And that’s when I found out where vinegar comes from.

I had better success with pies, because with the right amount of sugar, cinnamon and raisins, just about anything can be tasty. But in the end, we ended up eating a lot of apples; a LOT of apples. By spring time, I’d had my fill of apples and wouldn’t have cared if I saw or ate another one again.

It’s been many years; enough that I can now look back on the great apple picking debacle and laugh. I’ve learned the differences between them, and have even begun eating them again. But now, if I want apple sauce, I go to the grocery store and pick it straight from their shelves.

To quote ol’ Martha, that’s a good thing.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to bake a cake in a toaster oven

Matt's birthday is coming up, and I made his favourite, carrot cake. I was reminded of the time a few years ago when we had an early heat wave with temperatures into the high 90's. Undaunted, I decided to make his cake. Here's yet another example of how I came to be known as "The Brunette Lucy".

My husband, Matt, has always loved carrot cake, and as such, that's what I make him for his birthday each year. I should point out that I have never been, nor will I ever claim to be, a baker. Cooking, yes. Baking, not so much.

But, when I was a new bride and unaccomplished baker, I was determined to learn how to make that cake. So, I got a recipe, and began my foray into unknown territory. I shredded the carrots, measured the ingredients faithfully, and mixed it all up.

The batter, however, was really dry. And since all my previous baking experience had come from a box, it didn't look right. All I could think of was Matt trying to cut the cake, then needing a power saw to get the job done. I went to the fridge and found half a pint of heavy cream, which I proceeded to pour into the batter.

Sadly, I had forgotten that carrots are made up of a great deal of water, which is released during the cooking period. Hence, the initial dry nature of the batter. I found this out when the timer went off and I took the cake out. It wasn't a cake, but more like carrot pudding. I wailed like the Lucy I am.

Fast forward 20 years; I had somewhat perfected the art of carrot cake baking. The day of Matt's birthday, however, was one of the hottest days of the year. Turning the oven on wasn't an option.

That's when I eyed the toaster oven, sitting there minding its' own business. Would a pan fit into it? A real pan wouldn't, but thank God for aluminum baking dishes. They're malleable. I poured the batter into the pan, and then proceeded to tackle the task of shoving it into the little oven.

I pinched the sides, squeezed the corners, and did all manner of vandalism to the defenseless aluminum pan. But doggone it, I got that big pan in that little toaster oven.

Unfortunately, I don't tend to think ahead. Carrot cake by its' very nature is dense and heavy. Thus, what came out of the oven wasn't quite as malleable as what went in. When I say “came out”, I mean “wrestled out”. It would have been easier yanking Kim Kardashian out of the spotlight while clinging to the paparazzi for every last second of camera time she could get.

Another unforeseen happenstance is that just because you get a large pan shoved into a small toaster, doesn't mean it bakes the same. The top of the cake is very, very near the heating element. This should be taken into account if you don't want a crispy crust, which is desirable for a pizza, but not for a carrot cake.

I thought about explaining the dark crust by saying I added chocolate to the mix, but one bite would betray me. I began the arduous task of cutting the burnt crust off the cake. This, unfortunately, caused the cake to deflate. So, there I was, staring at a cracked, jagged, misshapen cake with a cantaloupe size crater smack dab in the middle of it. It looked like something out of a science fiction movie.

I've always heard that frosting can cover all kinds of cake-tastrophies; I needed to get me a big ol' vat! So that's what I did. I filled in cracks, patched holes, and mounded mass quantities into the crater. Finally, it looked like a cake.

The family began to dig in. I waited with baited breath for the criticism that was sure to come my way when the crater and all 3 inches of frosting were finally revealed. To my great surprise (and relief), they were thrilled. In fact, Matt actually asked how I managed to do that! I couldn't believe my dumb luck; they actually thought I did that on purpose. All was right with the world. 

And, bonus, I may have stumbled upon a new career - special effects. Anyone have Spielberg's number?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tales of Easter

Easter Sunday is next week, reminding me of the many Easters I’ve spent dying eggs with the kids. I’d spend hours getting ready for the event; boiling eggs, gathering cups and preparing the dye. But the most time consuming of all was covering the kitchen table with newspaper in the event that a cup of dye was spilt.

Oh, who am I kidding; there was never a question of whether or not a cup would spill. It was just a matter of time.

At first, I just covered the kitchen table, but after the second or third cup of dye hit the floor, it, too, got covered. Inevitably, as soon as the kids enter the kitchen, the newspaper that I just spent twenty minutes covering all surfaces within a ten foot radius, gets strewn everywhere but where I had put it.

I started using tape to keep the newspaper down. I was especially diligent about taping it to the floor after I got doused with a cup of dye while crawling on the floor, replacing scattered newspaper. I now own an outfit solely for dying eggs.

Now that my kids are teens, I thought for sure they would tire of coloring eggs. They have not. And I’m sorry to report that even though they’re older, there is still going to be a dumped cup of dye somewhere. My days of papering the kitchen are not behind me as I had hoped.

However, they’ve begun to get more elaborate in their egg decorating. Through the last few years, I’ve been instructed to purchase kits that are supposed tie-dye them, make them look like marble or cover them with glitter. They also enjoy writing in wax pen on the eggs; sometimes, they’d put appropriate things like crosses or their names. However, I’ve stumbled upon more than one egg that has written across it things like, “I would have like to have seen Paris before I dyed. Signed, the Egg.”

They also expect treat filled baskets; not for any sentimental purpose but because they’re kids. Getting free candy and gifts is not something they give up easily. You’d have better luck getting an elephant into a Smart car, handing it the keys and asking it to pick up the Easter Bunny.

As you’d imagine, however, the trinkets that find their way into the baskets have gotten smaller, while the price tag has gotten larger. Most of them require batteries as well and now cost almost as much as a Smart car.

When they were little, I bought huge baskets because they had to hold large stuffed animals or character dolls. I, whoops, the Easter Bunny, stuffed a singing Ariel (from Disney’s “Little Mermaid”), large Little Foot dinosaurs, and Cookie Monsters inside the baskets. There was also Power Ranger action figures, a roaring “Simba” from “Lion King”, and a giant blue genie from “Aladdin” in the baskets at one time or another. I purchased them happily; until the day Elyse discovered a large purple dinosaur.

My three year nightmare began and his name was Barney.

While the overacting was perfect for children, parents were banging our heads against the wall. And the songs; oh the songs. Matt and I took to substituting our own words for the theme song, “I Love You, You Love Me”; they’re not suitable to write in this column.

That being said, I’ll admit that the show is full of qualities such as teaching children to share, how to settle an argument using words and other such teaching principles that parents everywhere want their children to learn. Sometimes parents have to bite the bullet and take one for the team.

So, I bought a singing purple dinosaur and let Easter Bunny put him in Elyse’s basket. They make a new stuffed Barney every year and the big Bunny kept jamming the oversized beast into her basket. Thankfully, she grew out of it but the timing couldn’t have been worse. It was the day after we bought her an expensive interactive Barney doll that she held once, then tossed into her toy box.

Of course, there was always an accompanying video to go with each character. And the kids wanted them every bit as much as they wanted the doll.

I don’t know who loved the videos more, though – the kids or me. I loved to watch as the kids would clutch their beloved character while they watched the movie for the hundredth time. I believe that seeing their little faces reflect the emotion on the screen, or listen as they sang along to every song is a gift that parents everywhere treasure. In fact, whenever a new Disney movie came out, we’d take the kids. But I never saw it; I was too busy watching my babies’ faces in the dark instead. And I don’t know whose heart broke more when the sad part came; them as they cried, or me as I held their hand. Those are memories that you cherish for the rest of your life; even the tears.

This year, as we decorate eggs, I’m going to remember when they were little, and keep those memories close to my heart forever. But I’m also going to tuck the new memories made with my teens into my mental scrapbook, and keep them as treasured as the memories we made years ago. This time, too, will pass quickly.

Besides, how many more times in my life will I run across Easter eggs that say, “Eat beef, not chicken!” or “$500 reward for E. Bunny – see Chicken Little.”

Hunting for Easter Eggs at Gretchen's House.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Best friends - crazy with a capital "C"; AKA "Tam & Michele's Excellent Adventure"

From my experience, men can go for years without venturing from their homes for anything other than beer or a football game. If it can be brought into their homes via post, dropped from a helicopter or delivered on horseback, they’ll live happily in their caves.

Women, on the other hand, need outside contact. More than that, we crave friends. But nothing in this world beats a best friend.  A best friend knows you for all your charms and warts and pretends that you have more charm than warts.

I’ve been fortunate to have many friends. I’ve also been blessed to have a best friend. In fact, people call my friend, Michele, the “Ethel” to my Lucy. For good reason.

Back in 2009, as part of a story asking for supplies to send to our deployed troops, Michele accompanied me to Philadelphia to photograph my interviews with Scott Palmer of the Philadelphia Phillies as well Derek Boyko of the Eagles. Michele loves baseball and could identify the players, while I’m the same way with football. We figured we had all our bases covered; forgive the pun.

My Matt and Michele’s husband, Alex, were concerned; we are not known to have uneventful outings. Driving to the city together qualified as an all out Code Blue.

So Matt bought a Garmin GPS system, and patiently explained to the two of us how it worked. Sadly, I thought she was paying attention and she thought I was; neither of us remembered a word he said. Still, we plugged our destination into the GPS, and were off.

It probably won’t surprise you when I tell you that we hadn’t programmed the Garmin correctly; thankfully, Michele figured that out early on. Had we followed the directions the snooty computer lady kept screaming at us, we would have unintentionally turned into Thelma and Louse. We were certain it would have launched us off a bridge and into the Schuylkill River.

A trip that would normally take a little over an hour took us 3 hours, but we finally made it to the NovaCare center to speak with Derek.

As we walked up the steps to the complex, Michele suggested I take a picture of me standing in front of the building. That is, after “that guy” got out of the way. In her estimation, he was taking entirely too much time going down the stairs, and Michele began to get annoyed. She whispered, “How long does it take to walk down a stupid set of stairs?”

And that’s when it hit me - I knew who he was. I stuck my hand out and said, “Mr. McNabb? My name is Tamara Kells; the crazy blond isn’t with me.”

Yup; he was THE Donovan McNabb, who at the time, was the quarterback for the Eagles. He was very kind, and we had a nice conversation.

Derek came down, & brought out a big ol’ box, filled with Eagles t-shirts.  We pulled the car up, & he loaded it into the trunk.  He was very sweet, told me that what we were doing was really nice, & that if I needed anything else, to let him know (he doesn’t know me very well, does he?). 

It was too early to go to the Phillies, so Michele took me to Tony Luke’s.  Apparently, I was supposed to be impressed, but I’d never heard of this place.  This quickly became evident to Michele, who thought I should be admitted to the nearest hospital for crazy people (not that she would have been far from wrong).

Still, good food.

After we grabbed some lunch we went in search of the Phillies’ offices; and promptly got lost again. If you’re familiar with the sports complexes, you’ll understand why that’s such an amazing feat – they’re both within blocks of each other. However, the loud mouthed Garmin lady kept barking directions, which confused us. We knew we’d plugged in the wrong address once; we didn’t think we’d done it again.

But we had.

We went into the wrong parking lot at first.  A really, really sweet girl helped me by taking me into the building to an office where I was directed to the right place.  At this point, I should note that the gate I went through to go into said office was one way only.  I was on the wrong side of the gate, while Michele & the car were on the other.  Thankfully, she noticed my plight, & opened the door for me.  If not, I’d still be wandering around aimlessly, begging for alms.

We finally get to the right area, but, sadly, the office was a good clip from where we’d parked.  Normally, a light walk wouldn’t have been a problem.  But, noooo.  I’d decided to wear a wedged pair of heels.  My feet were killing me, & I was wobbling all the way there.  I kept glancing at Michele, wondering if she was strong enough to give me a piggy back ride.  I decided against it, since I couldn’t guarantee Alex that I’d get her home safe & sound as it was (due to traffic, the long drive & my driving “skills”).  However, if I delivered her with a sprained or paralyzed spine, I somehow doubt he’d let her accompany me on any future excellent adventures.  I carried on like a trooper - a big, whiney trooper.

We made it into the building & met Scott Palmer.  He took us into the elevator, & the next thing we knew, we were on a behind the scenes tour of the ballpark.  A very, very quick paced tour.  Mr. Palmer, aka Jesse Owens, seemed to think we were prepared for a nice jog.

We went into the clubhouse, & Michele took pictures of all of the guy’s (I don't know what they’re called) locker thingys.  We saw the batting cages, went out onto the ball park, & Michele was able to take a picture with the World Series trophy.  Thankfully, Mr. Palmer took the picture, as I couldn’t take a clear picture of a snail taking a nap.  I think I may have annoyed Mr. Palmer, though, because the first thing that came out of my unedited mouth was, "Gee, this is a lot smaller than a football field".    

Michele was able to keep up the brisk pace.  I (however) was lagging behind, concentrating on not falling off my shoes & breaking my ankle.  And if that wasn’t enough to keep me occupied, I began to have heat flashes.  But a good scout is never unprepared, so I fished a fan out of my purse.  I was able to surreptitiously fan myself until we rounded a corner.  I dropped the fan. 

Michele should really consider trying out for the Phillies.  That girl practically dove to pick it up before our guide could see.  But, ever the spry guy, he turned around & noticed.  Good times.

We FINALLY made it to Palmer’s office for, “the interview”.  He left & brought back some woman, who is their veteran’s affairs representative.  We sat & listened to the stories of what they do for soldiers. And honestly, it’s impressive the work they do behind the scenes.  I have to give them that.  They listed all the good things they do; & all without recognition.  So, kudos to them – seriously.

That was when I decided to ask if they would at least send something over to Rick & his unit.  And they said YES!!! 

They even went one step further.  Mr. Palmer would like Rick’s 
APO address, & they’ll see to it that his unit receives some type of care package.  My paper wouldn’t even have to pay the postage.  I’ll send that to him (Palmer, aka Jesse Owens) tomorrow, with a reminder that a lot of people’s eyes will be on him.  Hopefully, the kids will get some cool stuff.

We made it home in one piece, much to the surprise of our family and friends. But let's just say that the next time we head down to annoy sports figures, we'll have chaperones - also known as our husbands. And if they're not available, they'll probably send replacements - in the form of our kids. Yikes! Smells like teen supervision.

And more crazy . . .

Like most women, Michele and I can talk on the phone for hours; sometimes several times in one day. Men, if they bother to call, will usually say a few words and grunt several times, then hang up. But according to our spouses, we speak our own language – crazy.

Matt says our conversations, at the beginning, are like watching a tennis match. At first, you follow the game & like tennis, the back and forth make sense. Then, one of us remembers something, and out pops a subject that has nothing to do with what we were talking about. The two of us know what happened, but people listening to us claim it’s like trying to understand every conversation going on at a busy restaurant.

We both run large homeschool groups, and sometimes, when we’re at a function, I’ll be speaking to someone but can’t for the life of me remember their name. Michele knows the look, and comes over to say hello, then mentions the person’s name at least twice. She also has a look that I’m familiar with that lets me know she needs a reason to walk away. I don’t think that many people notice these “looks”, as they’re brief and subtle. But to us, they’re like bullhorns.

Best friends don’t come around every day and when they do, they’re worth more than their weight in gold. A BFF is the keeper of your secrets, has been given the password to your Facebook account (even if she can’t remember it), worries when you’re sick, understands that if you don’t call there’s a reason, will tell you that you’re wrong or that something you did was stupid (but if anyone else does, watch out!).

There have been times when I didn’t have a best friend; I’ve certainly never had one like Michele. I have to tell you, though, that I much prefer having a best friend to not. I hope that you, too, are blessed with a friend who knows and loves you, even if your warts outnumber your charms. Like my beloved mother in law, Gretchen always says, “Everyone should have a Michele”.

She’s never wrong.

The Curious Case of the Brunette Lucy

The Curious Case of the Brunette Lucy
She was pretty dumb.