Why Fog Reminds Me of Prison

This morning it was foggy. Fog always makes me think of when I used to work in prison. “Why?” you ask. Because every time it was foggy when I drove to the prison where I worked as a psychologist for three years, I knew my day’s schedule would be shot, since I would have to start out the morning on fog watch.

Almost a decade later, and fog still makes me think of fog watch.


During the first few years of my “time” in prison, fog watch annoyed me, because it threw off my carefully planned (though frequently derailed) schedule for the day. I had appointments to keep. Inmates to meet with. Interviews to conduct. Interns to supervise. Rounds to get done.

I didn’t get overtime, and I had a lot I was supposed to accomplish in a 40-hour week. It was stressful, and fog watch messed with my cram-packed calendar.

But after the first few years, I grew to kind of welcome fog watch. Sometimes anyway. Fog watch meant that for that morning, I didn’t have to meet with the inmate who was going to complain about his housing assignment. I didn’t have to see the inmate who was extra needy or the one who was extra angry or the one who was extra demanding. I’d probably have to find time in my over-planned day to meet with those inmates later, but for the morning, until the fog cleared, I had a reprieve.

Many, many times, I’ve been asked what it was like to be a prison psychologist. I have been asked more times than I can count what a typical day was like when I worked in prison. I never had an answer for that question, because there was no such thing as a “typical” day. When I walked onto the compound every day, regardless of what I had written down in my very detailed daily planner, I never really knew what was going to happen.

I’ll give you some examples of things that did happen, with the disclaimer that these are either composites of events or very vague descriptions, not any one specific event in any detail (so I won’t break confidentiality).

In the four different prisons where I worked, I dealt mostly with medium- and high-security inmates. Most days I spent a lot of time just checking in with mentally ill inmates. I assessed mental status and medication compliance and side effects. I handled lots of complaints and requests for changes in housing or job assignments (which I almost never intervened in). I frequently assessed risk for suicide. I did individual and group therapy. I made attempts to make life better for the inmates I worked with in the small ways that I could.

Lots of people have asked me how and where I met with inmates, assuming I always had bars or a door between myself and the offender. In some cases, I did speak to inmates either through the doors of their cells if they were in segregation (the housing unit where inmates are placed in cells alone and locked in for 23 hours per day) or, with especially high security inmates, in a special divided cell with a barred door between him and me. But the vast majority of the time, I simply scheduled an appointment with the inmate and he came to my office. There was a window in my office door and special, well-known procedures in place for me to call for help if I needed to. I never did (other than on one occasion, described below).

I did, however, fairly frequently have to respond to a fellow staff member’s call for help. Whenever another prison employee was in some sort of trouble or if there was a disturbance, all available people in the prison stopped whatever they were doing and ran to the place of the problem to help. I did this many times.

I was often called to segregation to speak to an inmate who wasn’t cooperating with the correctional staff, either by refusing to “cuff up” (place hands in front of the food-tray opening in the door and submit to being placed in handcuffs), refusing to give up some contraband item, or otherwise wreaking havoc. Sometimes the inmate was threatening to hurt himself. Sometimes he was breaking things or flooding his cell. Sometimes I was able to convince an inmate to comply. Sometimes the correctional staff had to “suit up” and go into an inmate’s cell using force (this was rare in the prison where I spent most of my years, though fairly common in some places I worked).

On more than one occasion, I was contacted and asked to come to the segregated housing unit where there was an inmate who had smeared his own feces on the wall of his cell. Sometimes the inmates who did this were mentally ill. Sometimes they weren’t. Often when they weren’t, they were trying to convince someone that they were. Sometimes I could get the inmates to clean up, or at least to come out of the cell so it could be cleaned. Sometimes I couldn’t, and then the officers had to decide whether they wanted to deal with the smell until the inmate couldn’t stand it anymore, or whether they wanted to go into the mess and pull the inmate out. Ew.

Another common question I get is about whether I was ever afraid. The answer is yes, but rarely. On a few occasions I had to speak with very mentally ill inmates or very angry inmates, without the benefit of a locked door to shield myself. Of course, most mentally ill individuals are not violent, but in a few cases I had to deal with guys I knew did have a history of violence when not taking medication. And a couple of times I came face to face with inmates who were very angry with me and ready to show it. Fortunately I was always able to extricate myself safely, in one case calling on an officer who I knew was standing right outside the door, before the inmate could get to me.

Ugh. It makes me feel a little ill just writing about it.

After the first few years, I was burned out on prison. I had been lied to, cursed at, stolen from, and nearly attacked, all by men whom I had sincerely been trying to help. A job I had initially found to be exciting and challenging was no longer the least bit enjoyable. I developed insomnia and lost a ton of weight from being stressed. I nearly wept every Sunday, knowing I had to go back “inside” the next day. After many months of planning, a fellow psychologist and I left to start a private practice, and it truly felt like we were getting out of prison!

Leaving prison work was one of the best career moves I ever made, second only to leaving work entirely to stay home with my kids. I no longer identify myself as a prison psychologist, or a forensic psychologist, or really even as any kind of psychologist anymore. But lots of people still ask me what it was like to work in prison.

I didn’t intend for my answer to the question to be a big downer! I do have some good memories of my years in the “joint.” I think I did really help some inmates, and I met some good people whom I worked with.

That job obviously wasn’t the most enjoyable one I’ve had. It wasn’t even the hardest one. My current job holds both of those distinctions.

Lent, Two Weeks In

This year is my second Lent. I love Lent.

It helps me learn about myself. It intensifies my faith. It makes me more humble.


So far his year, I’m doing a lot of reading and reflecting and praying every morning.


I gave up Facebook, which has been surprisingly not hard. I don’t really miss it, except for the interactions with blog readers. I suspect a lot of people come to this little site from my Facebook page, and I like getting comments over there. I also like seeing other bloggers’ Facebook comments and interacting that way. I miss the occasional fun updates from friends and family, but other than that, I think I just wasted a lot of time on Facebook. I tended to look at it out of habit or boredom more than anything, so I don’t really mind not having it.

That said, I’d like to add that Facebook is a wily temptress. I logged out of my account on Ash Wednesday eve, but I did not think to turn off notifications. So I keep getting emails with subject lines like, “Motherhood and Miscellany fans want to hear from you!” or “You have 39 notifications, 27 friend updates, 12 messages, and 2 pokes.” (What in the world is a “poke”?) I haven’t opened any of the emails, but they keep on coming, almost every day. Dear Facebook, I will not be led astray.

My other big penance is that I am not spending money on things other than food and gas (and babysitting). This seems so simple, but I have learned that I have a tendency to spend way more money than what is necessary, on a regular basis. For example, the first time I went to Target after the start of Lent, I got the things on my list (all grocery/pharmacy items), and then I noticed myself beginning to veer off to something else, probably in the crafting, school supplies, or kid’s clothing sections. I didn’t need anything else, but it is such a habit to just grab other things that would be nice to have or that I might need later. I do the same thing on Amazon and at places like Hobby Lobby. I’m really quite embarrassed about this now that I realize I was doing it (talk about a large dose of humility!).

Another part of my not spending money unnecessarily and trying to simplify things during Lent is that I have been making myself clean out the foods in my pantry and freezer whenever possible, instead of buying other pantry foods at the store. My kids are eating whatever is in the cupboards for snacks and lunch side items. I made chili last week and we were out of saltines. I started to go down the cracker aisle at the grocery store when I remembered that we had lots of other kinds of crackers in the pantry. So I served chili with Cheez-Its, Breton whole grain, and round sesame crackers. No one even seemed to care. Check out the before and two-week shots of my pantry:

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So far Lent has been so beneficial for me. I’m paying more attention to the ways I have tended to spend my time and money, and why. It’s been quite a learning experience, and I’m able to invest my efforts on more important things instead, like prayer and service and almsgiving.

How has Lent been for you??





What’s in My Bag?

I don’t need a diaper bag anymore. But I do love a pretty and functional handbag. Nell is hosting a link up/giveaway today for a Lily Jade bag, which is probably much too big for my needs, but you never know. Maybe someday. . .


What's in my bag


Aren’t you just so interested?




Prepare to be dazzled:

  • Carpet samples for our basement
  • A pack of hand wipes
  • Some paint sample cards
  • A pack of tissues
  • Two lipsticks (why??? I don’t even wear lipstick)
  • Lotion
  • Two rosaries (the silver one is mine from my husband, the blue one was given to the girls by a nice lady at church on Sunday)
  • A bunch of paper = receipts, coupons, and a coloring picture from Sis’s gymnastics class on Tuesday
  • More paper (pink) = three copies of the Children’s Worship Bulletin from church on Sunday
  • A business card from a car salesman
  • My wallet
  • A Decision Point CD that our priest gave me yesterday

I would just like to note that all of the paper items went straight into the recycling after this little exercise.

Want to play along and try to win a bag? You don’t even have to have a blog, you can use an Instagram or a Facebook pic. Check out Nell’s bag and the link up here, and check out more Lily Jade here.

Good luck! (notreallyIwantthatbag)

The Kindergarten Birthday Party Dilemma

Miss’s sixth birthday is in about two weeks. I’ve been thinking about what to do for her party for weeks. Okay, months.

There are so many different philosophies out there about how to handle kids’ birthdays and birthday parties. They range from family-only small gatherings with no presents to all-out huge bashes with party planners and dozens of guests (and gifts).

Of course, there’s not just one right way to do it. We’ve never really set a firm birthday policy in our house, but mostly just determined, with each birthday, what seems like the best thing to do. When Miss was little, since we always have a trip to Iowa planned on or around her birthday, we’d just do the family-only party, and she was always thrilled with that. In fact, last year, for her fifth birthday, was the first time we’d ever done anything beyond the family birthday party for her by having a gathering at our house. She had a Brave-themed drive-in movie party, and it was really fun.

I’ve discovered that I like putting together birthday parties for my girls. I enjoy getting into the theme and decorations when we have parties at our home. I like combing Pinterest for ideas and coming up with creative things myself. I know it’s not necessary for them, but I have fun doing it.


As for the guests? For previous birthdays, I’ve never been in a situation where I felt the need to invite many other people to our parties. Until this year, our girls didn’t go to school, so there was never a question of inviting lots of kids. Except when we have parties in Iowa and invite all of my husband’s family, we never have more than two other families come to a birthday at our home. For Lass’s zoo party, only the Super Family could make it, and that was just fine.


Since my girls didn’t attend school, I’ve never had to think too much about whom to invite, and my girls have never felt that their parties were anything but wonderful with the few close friends we included.

But now, with Miss having part-time-away-from-home kindergarten this year, things have changed. She has been invited to the birthday parties of at least five of her classmates so far. For all but one of them, all of the little girls in her class were invited (and one even had all the boys too!). I have mixed feelings about having a huge party, so I’ve spent far to much time debating what we should do for her birthday this year.

Do we invite all the girls in her class? This seems a nice way to go so that no one feels left out, but that’s a lot of kids. She has 11 other girls in her class, plus we will always of course invite the Super Family, along with the sisters of one of the little girls in her class whose family we are friends with. And she also wants to invite the little girl who lives across the street. Lots of kids = lots of presents, which I feel kind of weird about.


Do we keep it small and only invite a few friends? If we did this, there would be a few more people invited than we’ve done in the past, because she does have some new friends from school, but it would still be considerably smaller than if we invited all the girls in her class.

I went back and forth about this in my mind for quite some time. Initially, I thought we’d just invite a few close friends. Then I thought it was important to teach her to be kind to all the other kids and invite them all. Then I thought it’s unrealistic to tell her she needs to invite all the girls if she doesn’t want to, since she’s not going to be close friends with all of them, and she might not have much in common with some. Then I thought we should really invite all the kids who have invited us to their parties, since it’s rude to not reciprocate. Then my husband pointed out that she shouldn’t feel pressured to invite anyone if it’s only for the reason of reciprocating an invitation. . .

I worried about having a lot of kids because that means a lot of presents. I’m cool with birthday presents, because we pretty much only get our kids new toys on their birthdays and Christmas, and a few things on Easter. But I’m uncomfortable with them getting a lot of presents. If all of the girls in her class came to the party, plus the Super Family and the family across the street, that would mean she’d get about 13 presents, not even including those from her family! Not only do I not want that many more things in my house, that just seems so excessive to me. We went to one party where I watched the little birthday girl open present after present, announcing the contents of the package, and then literally tossing the gift aside to move on to the next one. There were barely any “thank yous,” and none that involved eye contact and sincerity. I was cringing inside the whole time.

So what will we do?

Ultimately, what we decided was to ask Miss what she wanted. I was kind of hoping she’d choose to have her party here at our house, so I could really have some fun with decorations, crafts, and games. But she chose to have it at the gymnastics center where she takes lessons (and she’s attended two other birthday parties in the past month). She wanted to ask all of the kids in her class. I told her she could only invite the girls (I could not handle the idea of that many more presents if all the boys came too). She chose, no surprise, a “Frozen” theme for the party.

For this year, this first year of school experience, I’ve decided I’m okay with the big party. The gifts make me a bit uncomfortable, but I’ll just make sure we have a discussion about the importance of saying “thank you,” making eye contact with the gift-giver, for each present. And of course we’ll have her take the time to write thank-you notes afterwards as well.

I know this isn’t the one “right” way to do a party. But after much (over)analysis of the issue, it feels like the right way for us this time. We’ll probably change things again next year, but for this year, a big birthday party is fine.

I still remember the birthday party I had when I was in kindergarten. It felt like a big deal.

I also remember that after that one party in kindergarten, I didn’t have big parties anymore. I had outings with a few close friends or cousins, or sleep-overs when I got a little older. Maybe that’s how we’ll do things after this year. I’m sure I’ll start thinking about it around October, so I’ll let you know.

12 Photos from 2014

I’m really enjoying all the end-of-the-year posts I’m seeing around the internet right now. I’d like to join in with another one. Dwija from House Unseen (Life Unscripted) has a yearly link up with 12 photos from the year.

12 in 2014

Photos? Yes please. Here we go.



One of my goals for 2014 (which I failed miserably on, I’ll write more about that later) was to get back to having fun with cooking and trying new recipes. The first effort toward this goal was the above pictured attempt to make gnocchi from scratch. It wasn’t my first attempt at gnocchi (with the first one, the potatoes never got cooked through, and I had to abort the plan entirely in order to throw together something my people could actually eat). This was a better recipe, but I didn’t realize that by allowing the girls to help, we would be over-kneading the dough and making it into an ugly mess. The gnocchi were more like dumplings. Fail.

Shortly after that photo was taken, we experienced Flumaggedon, a different type of ugly mess. Happily, we rounded out the month of January with a trip to Florida to visit my Grandma, to enjoy the warm weather, and to go to Disney World.


February was a bunch more sickness and freezing cold, with a skiing trip and a five-year-old’s Brave-themed birthday party thrown in the mix to keep it from being too awful. I even made cars out of cardboard boxes for the party.


Going through these photos and posts from last year is making me shudder for remembering all the sickness and COLD that kept us inside all winter long.


In March we began our first experience of observing Lent. I met the bishop, and we tried our parish’s fish fry (a lot). We were finally able to get outside, and the snow started to melt.

DSC_0141This girl ^^ turned two! (and I turned 38)


We spent a week with my parents, Damma and Tuppa as Sis calls them. We went through our first Holy Week. The big event was that I was received into full communion in the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass.


^^ The water was really cold.



We planted a garden, celebrated six years of wedded bliss, and visited my parents again.


June was a full, full month. We went to the Farm, I ran a 5K for SMA, we visited family in Minnesota, and I started my Baby Catholic Answers All the Things series (which I have neglected terribly recently, sorry!).


We had friends over for dinner, went to a 4th of July parade, and had our annual trip to the Dirty Weird Zoo. Super Friend and I went to Edel. And we broke ground on our new home!



Okay, I’ll be honest. July and August basically sucked. I tried my hardest to make it not suck, and we did have lots of fun raspberry picking, eating ice cream, cooking out with friends, and going to the Iowa State Fair. I got stuff ready to start our homeschool year and for Miss to start her part-time kindergarten. And then the big day happened. My big girl started school! And my sweet middle child turned four.



Much better than July or August, September was full of homeschool field trips, soccer, hay rides, our first Michaelmas celebration, and of course, the Labor Day Party.



We decided to get some puppies, played in leaves, had fun with my parents, and went on more field trips. I made cupcakes for Miss’s school Halloween party, we trick-or-treated, and had lots of fun outside during the height of my favorite season.


Outdoor dance party ^^


Ah, November. November saw a sharp decline in my blogging (I only wrote five posts!!). Also in my everything-elsing. I went and got our sweet little puppies, and they have been sucking the life out of me ever since. They are good dogs, and I’m so happy we got them, but they aren’t quite house broken yet, so the hovering over them and taking them outside frequently has eaten into my time to do anything else. See? I can’t even remember what else we did in November!! Oh yeah, we went to the farm for deer hunting. We had an awesome Thanksgiving dinner with our friend-family (The Super Friends).


As usual, December was full of holiday fun and activities. I took the older girls to see The Nutcracker, we went to see Santa and met the Sugar Plum Fairy, and we’ve had lots of sicknesses, travels, and celebrating. We celebrated my husband’s birthday with our tradition of having the girls select gifts for him from the Dollar Tree. I promised to write about it, but then I got the stomach flu the day after his birthday. Here’s a precious shot of Sis giving love after he opened her gifts of a “bouncy ball,” a piggy bank, some scotch tape, and a pack of thumb tacks.

DSC_0022Lass selected a basket for collecting produce from our garden next year, a pack of pens, and a shower sponge. Miss’s gifts were a pair of scissors, a small mother-and-child figurine which she determined was Mary and Baby Jesus, and a pair of fuzzy orange (ladies) socks.

12 photos from 2014. I tried to select pics I haven’t posted before. It was fun to look back over the year in photos and posts. 2014 was a year of very high highs and very low lows. I’m looking forward to 2015.

Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for reading and particularly for sticking around through the past few months of minimal posting. I truly appreciate each of you. May you have many blessings in the new year!  

Diary of a Grammar Geek

I freely admit that I am a big nerd when it comes to my love of proper grammar. I can’t really help it. I just really like it. It makes me happy.

I don’t mean to say that I think I am always perfectly grammatically correct. I’m not, in either my writing or my speech. I tend to write this blog the way that I speak, so I know it doesn’t always make the A+ grade for grammar. Sometimes I use sentence fragments if it helps my flow. I often start a sentence with a conjunction, though I almost never end one with a preposition. And (see?) sometimes I say things like, “I’m good” in response to the question “How are you?” *gasp*

I think what makes me a grammar geek is that I actually care about things like the correct use of adverbs and adjectives. Even though I don’t always do it perfectly (see what I did there?), I am always trying to make my grammar correct. And I love learning new things about proper grammar. For example:

I bought a book recently called “It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences,” and it’s fascinating.

It was only just recently that I learned the rule about when to use “who” and when to use “whom.” I thought I knew it, but I had only understood part of it. I was so excited. Truly.

I kind of can’t wait until my kids are old enough for me to have them start diagramming sentences in our homeschool. It was one of my favorite things to do in English class.


There are some things that drive me kind of nuts, like improper use of apostrophes.

Or lack of apostrophes when they should be there.

I mean, one of the reasons Super Friend and I are such good friends is because she knows when to type “you’re” and when to type “your” in a text or email.

Just kidding (sort of).

BUT, though I freely admit to being a nerd, I don’t consider myself to be a “grammar Nazi.”

I don’t ever correct someone’s grammar, punctuation, or spelling unless they specifically ask me to. Except in my head. And when I do it in my head, it’s not malicious. I just can’t help myself.

My thinking as I scroll through Facebook posts:

“‘Should have’, not ‘should of’.”

“‘Too funny’, not ‘to funny’.”

“‘Couldn’t care less’, not ‘could care less’.”

“Quotation marks do not mean emphasis.”


What’s my point? I don’t have one. I just like thinking about and writing about grammar. I do wish people would pay more attention to using it correctly. But I’m a nerd. Here’s a take home message if you want one:


And even though some of this song is kind of mean spirited, I do enjoy this Weird Al Yankovic remake of “Blurred Lines.”

7QT – Mary’s Birthday, a 20-Year-Old Photo, Soccer Cuteness, and More

This post started out as a “Quick Takes Friday” post last week. Except that I only got two takes done when I started it Friday morning. And then before I knew it, it was waaay past Friday, and the Quick Takes Ship had sailed. So, I changed it around, and it was going to be just a random catch up post. And then I felt like I just had to write yesterday’s post (it had been bouncing around in my brain for months), so the random post didn’t get done either. And now, well it’s Friday again! Woohoo! So a couple of these “Takes” are a bit old. But they’re still riveting, I assure you.


My girls started soccer last week a couple of weeks ago. Holy cuteness.

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Miss is very into it. Lass is not really decided yet.

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It’s so fun to watch them and to visit with the other moms on the sideline. Wait. Am I a “soccer mom” now?! I think not yet.


I mentioned that Miss is going to our local Catholic school one and a half days per week. On the way home after her first day, Miss asked if she could make a dessert for our family to eat after dinner. She said wanted to make it with graham crackers, chocolate chips, and an egg. I said “sure.”

We got home and there were no graham crackers, but she was willing to improvise. She ended up using five leftover lady fingers, which we crumbled up, two eggs, a splash of almond milk, the remains of a bag of chocolate chips, and two Tablespoons of water (initially she wanted to use a cup of water, but I convinced her to add it a little at a time).

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The end result was quite. . . interesting. It was a bit like a dessert frittata? She was pleased, and her sisters enjoyed it too. Pinterest-worthy for sure.


Tonight is my 20-year high school reunion. Yeah. 20 years. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to go, but since it’s scheduled on a Friday night and it’s in Michigan and I’m in Wisconsin, it wasn’t possible for me to go even if I had wanted to. But really, 20 years? I can’t possibly be old enough for that.


Or maybe I can. I look so very young (and ridiculous) in this picture (second from the left is me).


I’m really starting to get into the swing of celebrating feast days and such with my girls. We celebrated the one-year anniversary of their baptisms on Sunday by lighting their baptism candles, renouncing Satan, and zinging them with holy water. And having dessert of course.

Monday was Mary’s birthday, so we had a little birthday party for her. We had ten candles on the cake and did a decade of the rosary, lighting one candle with each Hail Mary. Then we sang Happy Birthday and blew out her candles.


I’m not eating cake these days, so I just got a baby smash cake with blue and white frosting from the grocery store pre-made case (it was the perfect size for the girls to each have a piece). It worked out perfectly that the blue and white one was the one my girls wanted too. It originally had some plastic sea animals stuck to the top of it, but we took those off, and it went instantly from undersea-baby-cake to Marian-blue-birthday-rosary-cake. Mom win.


I have discovered a major difference between my husband and me: The need for peace and quiet and relaxation when indulging in a treat of some sort. He needs none. I need all.

He comes home from work and cracks open a beer if he cares to have one. He grabs a sweet treat after dinner, either forgetting every.time. that the little-girl audience will descend on him faster than vultures on road kill, or not caring that they do (I still haven’t figured out which it is).

And then there’s me. If my kids are awake and I just must. have. chocolate., I hide in the laundry room to eat it. But the majority of the time, I wait until they are in bed to indulge in any sort of treat food or beverage. I might let them have ice cream after dinner once in a while, but if I have any myself, I wait until after they go to bed. If I’m going to imbibe, I never do it until they are in their rooms for the night. And it’s not because I’m worried that my parental judgement will be impaired. One drink (or even two) would probably only improve my motherly attitude once evening time rolls around.


I just want to enjoy it. Savor it. In peace. I don’t want to have to share my ice cream or answer, “What is that? Can I try it?” about my wine. I’m even the same way about my coffee. I get up extra early before my kids so I can enjoy my coffee in peace (and finish it while it’s still warm).

Am I alone here?


It’s already cold here. Highs in the 50s. Fall is my favorite season, but I wasn’t quite prepared for it yet. Sunday we went on a hayride with friends and were sweaty and sunburned and dehydrated by the time it was over.


^^This picture makes it look like our kids were dangling precariously off the edge of a wagon stacked with hay. They weren’t. 


In the past two days I have had to do an emergency Zappos order of new fleece jackets for my older girls since they now wear the same size and last year’s jackets don’t fit them (though Sis now has lots to choose from). Where did my summer go?


Yesterday was the five-year anniversary of this blog. Five years! I looked back at my very first post, and it just made me laugh. I still don’t know much about what the heck I’m doing, but I’ve come a long way from post, after post, after post about almost nothing but cloth diapers! Anyway, Happy Blogversary to me!

See more Quick Takes here.

Answer Me This – Bonus Husband Edition

This week I’m doing Kendra’s Answer Me This, and as a special treat, my husband is answering the questions as well.

1. What’s something you’ve won, and how did you win it?

Me: I won my school’s spelling bee when I was in fifth grade. The word that clinched my victory over a sixth grade boy named Darren was “juvenile.” I have a weird love for spelling (and sentence diagramming) and it’s always been something I’m good at.

I went on to the regional spelling bee, where I placed fourth. The word that knocked me out was “nemesis.” I had never heard the word before, and I spelled it N-E-M-I-S-I-S. At the district-wide spelling bee I was the runner up. I missed the word “exhaust.” Forgot the H, and realized my mistake as soon as I saw the look on my Mom’s face in the audience.

Is it disturbing that I have such a vivid memory of this? I swear, I do not feel that my life is lacking because I never won the regional or district spelling bee. . . I do still have the dictionary they gave me for winning my school bee though.


Husband: I won a State Wrestling Championship by kicking ass.

2. Do you save old greeting cards and letters, or throw them all away? Why?

Me: I save things from my husband and children, and some extra special things from other people. I have letters my husband wrote to me during our first year of dating when we had a long-distance relationship. I also printed out all the emails he sent me during that time. Those are all tied up in a ribbon and saved in a box in my closet. I also have birthday and anniversary cards from him, cards from my daughters, some letters and cards from my Grandma, and a thank you card from Super Friend. I also saved all the cards and notes I got during and after my conversion. I throw away most other things after saving them for a bit.

Why do I save them? I’m sentimental. I like them. They make me smile, and I want to be able to look at them when I’m old. I’ve read over the letters from my husband and some of the other notes and cards on occasion. In a world where everything is electronic and sentiments are rarely lasting, I want to be able to hold on to some expressions of love and support and friendship that have meant a lot to me at various times.

Husband: I throw them away. Next. (Note, I pointed out to him that he has a bunch of cards and artwork by our girls on his desk right now that he has not thrown away, to which he responded, “Yeah, but that’s like 1% of all the cards I’ve gotten. . .”)

Don’t let him fool you into thinking he isn’t sentimental. Here’s the upper shelf of his desk:


3. When you’re at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?

Me: Socks in winter, barefoot otherwise.

Husband: Barefoot. And socks in winter.

4. Who’s the most famous person you have ever met? 

Me: Depends who is more famous, Tom Arnold or Joey Lawrence.

Husband: Bill Clinton. Or Al Gore.

5. What has been your best work of art?

Me: My blog. It’s my way of being creative.

I also once cooked a coq au vin that was a masterpiece. (see #6 below)

Husband: Honestly, I don’t do art.

6. What is your strongest sense?

Me: Taste. I love me some tasty food. Example: Recently Super Friend and I went out to brunch at a local bar. On the way out, we were both rubbernecking a table of guys. We got outside and started laughing, because we had each noticed the other’s ogling, and both knew that the ogling had nothing to do with the guys at the table, but rather with their huge plate of yummy-looking nachos. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. . .

Husband: (laughs) Hmm. My common sense.

Check out more answers at Kendra’s link up. Also, check out her great post from today about family planning and having babies and not having babies.

Five Favorites – You Must See This Fabulous Way of Cutting Grapes!

1. I know. That title sounds a little dramatic. But truly, this is my favorite new thing. A new, totally awesome way of cutting grapes in half (The video is only a few seconds long. Watch it. It could change your life):

I tried it today and it really works. BUT, because my grapes were really small, all the plates I have had too much of a lip on them so many of the grapes ended up with just barely the top shaved off. So. I improvised.


I used two lids of the same size. Same technique. Perfectly cut grapes. Genius. I know this seems sad, but this just made my life so much easier.

2. Caterpillars.

DSC_0130My girls love “raising” butterflies. How awesome is it that you can buy caterpillars on the internet and have them delivered complete with food, ready to grow, metamorphose, and fly away?


3. These DVDs.

DSC_0138I love Scholastic picture books and these DVDs are great. There are tons of them, and each DVD has four to six stories on it. Many of them are fully animated (not just pictures from the books flashed on the screen), and my girls really enjoy them.

I’ve had a set for a while now, but kind of forgot about them so we haven’t watched them lately. Then I got a “Diary of a Worm” easy reader book for Miss from the library and she asked me to watch the story DVD. We only have “Diary of a Spider,” but I was able to find “Diary of a Worm” at the library. We watched both of them tonight.


Bonus that I don’t have to read the actual books. They are not my favorite to read.

4. The AbMat

It simultaneously makes sit ups easier and harder. They’re easier because I don’t need to hook my feet under something or struggle at all to complete the move. Plus, since giving birth to Lass (10 lbs, 7 oz), my tailbone sticks out in a weird way and it’s painful to do regular sit ups on the floor. Not with this thing. The sit ups are harder because you extend your stomach muscles farther and work them better. My stomach ends up super sore from doing these. In a good way.

5. This book.

DSC_0139I learned about this book from a friend, and I’m so glad I bought it. Miss (without prompting) composed a morning offering prayer that goes like this:

“Oh my Lord, I love You so much that I could give this day to You. Amen.”

So we say that every morning at breakfast (she’s very proud that we do her prayer every day), and I read the day’s devotion and we talk about it. They remind me if I forget, and they ask me to bring the book when we travel, so I think they like it too.

For more favorites, go here.

One Hot Mess – It’s a Jungle Out There

Admit it. Sometimes you just like to see other people’s messy. Or to drop your own out there and just laugh at it as others gasp and try not to stare. . .

Right? Yeah, me too. So that’s why I love Blythe’s One Hot Mess link up. Lots of train wrecks every week. I can’t look away.

This is the first week I’ve had photos and a post ready to link up (where was this link up over the winter when I was posting every other day about the flu or puking or pink eye??? Hmmm?). Today I’m excited to share about. . .

Wait for it. . .

My weeds.

The same thing happens every year. I start out gung-ho, determined that this will be the year that I will keep the weeds under control. I pull some every day. Things aren’t looking too bad. Then we go away for a couple of weeks in the early summer and come back to this:


And so I go straight back to furiously pulling weeds. And pulling. And pulling. And getting my kids to do their share of the work.

DSC_0134 DSC_0138 DSC_0137 DSC_0139

And it seems like we’re making some progress, until I get to this:

DSC_0144 DSC_0147

I just. . . I don’t even know what to do with that hot mess of vegetation. Where do I even start? Some of those are plants that are actually supposed to be there. Just maybe not quite so. . . abundantly. i’m not sure if I need to sort through and find only the weeds, or thin out the intentional plants, or just yank it all up and start over.

I end up just standing and staring at it, pulling a few obvious weeds, and then throwing up my hands and going to play on the slide with my kids.



The weeds have taken over back there too.

I know. Weeds have nothing on Blythe’s Hot Mess post about paying to camp on someone’s gravel driveway. But it’s what I’ve got.

Check out more messy posts HERE.