Saturday, November 21, 2009


Oh Bayeux. Sweet Bayeux.

It truly was the favorite part of our trip for Paul and me. This is not to take away anything from our sweet friends whom we visited later in the week. It's just that WE WERE IN FRANCE. A tiny little French village that was quiet and full of history. And we were with our children who were also having a great time.
Photo taken by our sweet tour guide, Naomi.

And the locals actually liked us. And we were on our way to the beaches of Normandy. The beaches that once held the imprints of my grandfather's boots.

And it was in this town that I made the sweetest memories of our family trip.

Maybe it was the charming shops. Maybe it was the charming shop keepers who didn't mind that I spoke no French.

Maybe it was the narrow cobblestone streets.

Maybe it was the tapestry handbag I bought that is oh-so-chic and oh-so-French.
Ladies? Was this a mistake?
At parent-teacher conferences I plopped this on the table and let Blake's French teacher read it to me. Was that wrong?
Maybe it was the fabulous birthday dinner we had for Blake at La Butcherie, where we had potato patties - hamburger patties with a hashbrown patty on it, covered in melted cheese. But it was totally healthy because there was no bun. Or maybe it was the real live French Creme Brulee we had after our meal.

Maybe it was the two....I mean....three...OKAY....FOUR French pastries I had (but two were tiny samples) while strolling the streets.

Maybe it was laughing with the local vendors in the open air markets as we tried to complete a transaction -neither of us knowing the other's language. Kayla wanted to try some fruity candy and the sweet French lady would say "It you say....a bay-REE? um....not red but, uh...bleu?"

And I'd say "BLUEBERRY!" And she'd laugh and say "Oui!!" We got really good at that game as we tried to decipher what flavor each piece was before handing over our Euros.

Euros. We were spending Euros!!

But I think the sweetness of my memories of Bayeux come from the sleeping arrangements we had for the night. Since we could not get two rooms next to each other, we decided to put the girls in one room and the boys in another. Because I decided I was not going to put my babies in a room without a grown up.

This was very logical I know. Like I was going to protect Kayla better than her brother could.

So then.

The boys got the bigger room, but we got the shower. I know Blake enjoyed his bubble bath that night. The kids came up with a shared custody agreement for Paul's lap top so they could each have some contact with the outside world that evening.

And oh what a sweet evening.

Kayla and I sat in our room with the window open. There was no telephone. There was no TV. There were no screens in the window because there were no bugs in Europe. Really. They do not allow bugs in Europe. And we sat on the window sill and watched the traffic and the people in the courtyard below us. And the weather was glorious; we could smell the flowers below us all the way up in our second story room. We read our books. We planned our morning and shared our shampoo and hair supplies. We planned our outfits for the next day.

And the next morning because the guys had gotten up early to go for a run, they ate breakfast without us. At first I was a little miffed at them for that, but then I realized things were so much better this way. My girl and I, in an historic French hotel dining room, World War II era French music playing softly, eating breakfast before we headed to the beaches. Just us girls.

And I was taken back to the days when she was four and five years old - the days when she'd still hold my hand in parking lots. And as we walked down the street or across a parking lot, she'd swing my arm and look up at me with a giant grin and say "Just us girls, Mommy!"

Oh the sweetness of that morning in France with my girl.

Our French breakfast. Kayla had a bowl of fruit and some warm French Bread with fresh Strawberry Jam and a glass of skim milk. I had a bowl of fruit, a glass of skim milk and a cup of coffee.

Oh, and a croissant as big as my head.

That was one big croissant. And oh so buttery and flaky. And oh so painfully delicious with fresh apricot jelly. Yes, I did indeed make it my mission to see if I could become ill on French pastries. Surprisingly I did not, as hard as I tried.

Don't judge me. I had to eat the giant croissant for energy.

After all, I was on my way to Omaha Beach.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Autumn is my favorite season.

I love cool rainy days,

and red leaves.

I love early evenings and lamplight,
And mixed flowers in reds and golds.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


November 19, 2009

Dear U.S. Preventive Services Task Force,

I have listened with great interest to the news these last couple of days, because apparently you all have made a brilliant recommendation regarding women's health.

Is it true that you are recommending we put off our first mammogram until the age of 50? And after that, you want us to have one only every two years? Is this true?

And is it true that you're suggesting we stop doing our own self breast exams every month? I tell you what; we'll stop doing our self breast exams, when you tell our male counterparts to stop "examining" a certain part of their anatomy in public. Are all those baseball players checking for lumps? Because surely that's against your rules.


And your reasoning in cautioning against self breast exams? That you don't want a bunch of women being scared by lumps that turn out to be nothing; and, after all, false positives occur and then we've wasted our time for nothing. Oh the horrors of finding out you are actually healthy after being fearful you had cancer!!! Your way is much better. Let's all bury our heads in the sand until it's too late to do anything about it.


Brilliant People, long gone are the days when you get to pat our hands (or any other part of our bodies) and tell us "you don't worry yourself about such things. Let me handle it." The thing is YOU are not worrying about it and your way of handling it is to let potential cancer fester in our bodies for ten years or more. Probably less, actually, because by the time we get that mammogram, all hope will be gone.

I don't mean to be harsh but YOU PEOPLE ARE NUTS!!

I have a few suggestions for you:

My first suggestion would be that you visit the homes of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer IN THEIR THIRTIES. Look into their eyes and the eyes of their loved ones and then tell them "Um, yeah, ma'am, we really wish you hadn't gone and found that cancer on your own. It was entirely too early for you to be messing with this. You've totally messed up our research." *sigh*

Second, please PLEASE, PLEASE stop in at my family doctor's office and tell him that you don't want me to have a mammogram for the next seven years. Please do it. I will pay money to see the verbal annihilation that awaits you.

Third, put out a similar recommendation that men stop having their PSA checked. Let's ban prostate screenings. What's good for the goose......

Fourth, recommend an immediate halt to all insurance coverage of Viagra.

Fifth, why not recommend that all women start smoking two packs a day and eat a small tub of Crisco shortening for lunch? While you're at it, let's ban exercise, just for fun.

Now I know we are all just a bunch of simple minded little women folk who can't worry our pretty little heads about cancer and other things that might scare us, but we are watching. We know that you are a government panel of doctors and scientists. We know that this could very well become a part of our new American health care system. So we are watching and listening.

And if we start having coverage denied for mammograms and other cancer screening simply because we have breasts but are not yet fifty; well, then we know who to thank, don't we?

Just when I thought I'd seen my fair share of STUPID.....

Yours in good breast health (so far)


Monday, November 16, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, I had to eat some crow.

Because two days after I sat on the softball bleachers and told my fellow softball moms "Kayla will never have genuine Uggs..." well....I went out and bought her some.

I know. I know.

I'm a terrible indulgent mother.

I know none of you expect an explanation (or rather a justification) but I'm going to give it.

See, Kayla is a saver. She doesn't nickel and dime us for money. She babysits and pet sits. She shops carefully. When she is heading out with her friends on the weekends I'll ask if she needs money and she very rarely says yes. When she sees something at the mall she likes, she waits a couple of days before buying it. Last week, she put two pairs of jeans on hold at the mall and asked if I'd buy them. They were $15.00 a pair. That's pretty good. And while she always has her own money and could have bought the Uggs herself, I really do believe it's a good thing to occasionally reward our kids for managing their money well.

So when she called and said she found some Uggs in her size and in the color she liked, I told her to put them on hold and maybe, just maybe, I'd run back and buy them in the next day or two.

This all occurred during a very stressful time at the W house. And even though Kayla wasn't trying to take advantage of that stress, it was easy for me to go out and buy those Uggs, because I like to live by my college roommate's advice:

"When you're having a bad day, do something nice for someone else."

There were a few weeks there where LOTS of people were getting surprises from me.

So I bought the Uggs and came home and was, like, THE. BEST. MOM. EV. VER.

It took a couple of days for Paul to find out about the Uggs, though. Not because I keep purchases from him but because he was working 14 hour days and we basically saw each other enough to say good morning and good night. Plus he doesn't tend to notice his daughter's footwear.

So when something was said about Kayla wearing her Uggs to a football game, a little bell went off in Paul's head and he said "Wait....she has Uggs?" And I said "Oh, yeah I bought her some Uggs earlier in the week." And he did that thing with his eyes and didn't say anything else. So I gave him the justification that I just shared with you, my ones of readers. Well, I added another reason but that's private W family stuff.

So then, he recovered fairly quickly from the fact that his daughter was wearing Uggs - which by the way I'm sure got their name from the sound parents make when they are paying for them.

Fast forward to yesterday after church.

We were sitting at lunch with our friends and Kayla said "Daddy....can we go to Plato's Closet." And Daddy tried to say it wasn't near enough to the restaurant. Thank you, Bridget, for chiming in and saying "oh it's just around the corner." We women really do need to stick together when someone is trying to trample on our constitutional shopping rights.

Since Plato's Closet is a re-sale shop for teen clothes, I piped up and said "Um....Daddy? You know, most 15-year-old girls would be asking to go to Hollister or Von Maur. Couldn't we go by really quickly so she can get a few things?"

And after being assured that she had some babysitting money with her, he agreed.

And let me just say right here: that whole exchange was totally unnecessary and almost comical. Because as soon as Kayla said "Daddy..." he and I both knew she was going to get whatever it was her brown eyes and dimples were asking for. Because from the moment she was born, Kayla has merely had to hold out her little finger and Daddy would begin winding himself around it, occasionally stopping to ask "How tight, Honey Bunny?"

So Daddy dropped us off at the door of Plato's Closet because it was raining. Then the preacher jumped in our van and they headed off to the bank to deposit the church offering, while Kayla and I went on a hunt for some darling bargains.

One hour and about a hundred dollars later, we came out with a sack bulging with a dozen items, including this skirt and leggings.
I'd say a trip to the re-sale shop totally makes up for those boots. What do you think?
The top half of her ensemble came from her own closet and my jewelry box. Skirt? $4.00. Leggings $3.00.

Boots? Well, the boots aren't the point of this post, now are they?

Friday, November 13, 2009


Dedicated to my Fellow Officer Moms (FOMs) - Kelly and Gretchen

Oh Taco meat, dear taco meat
how delicious you are,
when piled into one little shell
on an innocent taco bar.

But when cooked in our kitchens,
ten- TWENTY! - pounds at a time,
then the sight of you...the smell of you...
well, it's almost a crime.

You'll soon be transported
to a busy concession stand
where we'll be selling you to
parents, coaches, even the band.

Piled on chips, topped with some cheese.
They'll all long
for your goodness.

You're sure to be a money maker
not a better one could we find.
But putting this one together?
Well, it's costing us our minds.

The burgers, the pork chops,
the pizza and hot dogs,
This whole concession stand thing?
Well, it's turned our minds to fog.

But this is the last one
our dear friend Taco Meat.
If you could last until halftime,
that sure would be sweet.

Guess what I've been doing today?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut a ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe.

President Ronald Reagan, June 6, 1984 - Normandy.

Three and a half months after seeing this in Normandy, I still nearly weep at the words.
"When one ranger fell, another would take his place..." Oh, the heartbreak of watching your brother in arms fall and know that you must not falter from your mission. You cannot stop to see if he has survived. You cannot tell him goodbye. You must keep climbing. Because you are an American Ranger and a continent is depending on you.
"....soon, one by one, the rangers pulled themselves over the top..." One by one. The sacrifice of one ranger, and then another ranger, and then another ranger. One man at a time, one sacrifice at a time, these heroes began the job of liberating a continent. One by one they formed the mightiest military force in the world.
And in this place, Normandy, they have not been forgotten.
Happy Veterans Day to all of our service men and women.
And thank you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I have a confession to make.

Most days? While the kids are at school and my husband is at work? I sit in the old blue swivel rocker in Blake's room (which he charmed out of his grandmother when she bought new chairs - it's LOVELY) and I play violent war games on X-Box. Or X-Box 360, or whatever it is.

I sit there and ignore the phone. I ignore the laundry, the grocery shopping and my volunteer obligations.

I just sit there all day long yelling "DIE! DIE!" to all of my virtual alien enemies.

Or at least that's what the clerk at the game store thinks.

Because when I walked in there today, receipt in hand, to pick up a game for which Blake had prepaid, I was very nicely told "um, yeah, Blake, like, paid in full for this, but since you're not, like, on his list of approved people to pick it up, we can't, like give it to you," as the clerk stared at his computer screen like a weary airline worker.

"But I've picked them up before" I say.

"Yeah, well, if he'd only put down, like, five dollars, we'd let you have it. Because then if you weren't supposed to have it we'd only be out five dollars and not the whole price of a game. Plus he's eighteen now and he's paid for it in full, so you can't pick it up"

And then I felt my brain bend ask I cocked my head to one side and started laughing. Baroo?

"Oh, I understand" I said. But I totally didn't. "What if I show you my license to prove we are related?"

"Sorry, I can't let you have it, in case, like, you know, it doesn't get to him. Some people try to pick them up and keep them for themselves. Tell him to put your name on the approved list and we won't have a problem again."

"I will and thank you so much," I said as I looked for hidden cameras. Because surely I was being Punk'd.

Be honest. Do I LOOK like a lover of war-themed video games? Do I look like someone who would STEAL a war-themed video game from an unsuspecting teenager?

This really poses a problem because Blake is absolutely not going to believe my story.

See, I have this terrible habit of playing jokes on him when I pick up his games. I hide them and leave treasure hunt clues, which believe, me teenage boys REEEEEAAAAALY LOVE!

So this morning when he left and handed me the receipt, as though he was handing me the cure for cancer, he said "mom can you pick this up and can you just bring it home and leave it on the counter? Seriously, mom, just leave it on the counter and don't do anything funny."

To which I responded "well, of course I can pick it up....but as for the funny business, I can't make any guarantees."

He is SO going to miss me when he's a Marine.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Veteran's Day is only two days away. And while our school district chose NOT to recognize this national holiday, I've decided it's the perfect time to get back to my vacation journal. Especially since we are ready for our tour of the Normandy beaches.

We arrived in France on Tuesday July 28th - Blake's 18th birthday.

We're really sorry son. We couldn't do much this year so we're just taking you to Europe for your birthday. Please forgive us.

Blake and Paul did a wonderful job getting us from Cherbourg to Bayeux. They did such a good job, in fact that upon entering Bayeux, we had no trouble at all finding our hotel:

And oh sweet mercy. I was in love with this hotel. The flowers. The decor. The steps. The flags of the allied forces.

The trained security dog:

Okay maybe "trained security guard"' is overstating things a bit. This is Siyah and she immediately took it upon herself to search our luggage. The only time that green ball left her mouth was when she replaced it with a red one.

Siyah on duty in the rear garden.

Always the watchful guard dog. We really took a liking to Siyah. And her little green ball.

Bayeux was spared during the German invasion. After the Germans left it unscathed, the American generals wanted to destroy the city, thinking the Germans might come back and use its resources. The British generals, knowing first hand what such an experience would do to its citizens, convinced the U.S. to leave the town standing. And so Bayeux became a point of rest for soldiers marching through after having survived their landing on the beaches of Normandy.
I spent two days wandering this beautiful village, wondering if my grandfather, after surviving his own landing on the beach, rested in this town.

Did he enter this church? Did he pray for his own safe return home?

Did he sit in a pew, where these chairs now are? Did he fervently pray that he would be returned to his young bride and baby boy? Did he sit in this stone building and hear the noise of distant bombing and gun fire? Did he fear that the sights he had seen on the beaches might never leave his memory? Did he mourn for his lost brothers in arms?

Did all of them? Did all of the soldiers who passed through this haven of rest enter this church? Did the townspeople sit within its walls and seek peace for their trembling bodies and hearts? Did they use their energy to welcome our soldiers, their liberators?

We will not forget our liberators, was a common sign in Bayeux.
I do know this. I know that somewhere in France two young women - sisters who were both school teachers - took my grandpa and some of his buddies home for dinner one night. They brought these American GI's home to their mother and father and shared their small rations with them. They gave them a touch of home. They fed their liberators.

Was that in Bayeux? And if so, was it near this water wheel? Was this water wheel turning when our soldiers passed through? Was it turning at the locals' efforts to keep their lives going in the midst of their own unending nightmare?

Bayeux was peaceful and refreshing after the buy streets of London. We spent the day strolling narrow cobblestone streets. We enjoyed the beautiful weather. We enjoyed the quiet and the reverence.

We saw the Tapestry of Bayeux. Photos were forbidden on this tour, but it was amazing. A tapestry eighty meters in length tells the story of William the Conqueror. It was stitched for the "common man" who couldn't read. It was stitched so the story could be told for generations and never forgotten.

After the tapestry we needed a little sweet treat, so my little sweet treats had some ice cream:

I passed on the ice cream because I had indulged in a French pastry earlier. A Bignet. Sorry, but a Bignet in France FAR outweighs an ice cream cone anywhere.

Eating ice cream and pastries in a tiny French village? Seriously, what is better than that?
I'll tell you what, waking up the next morning to walk on the sands of Omaha Beach. The best part of our vacation was truly only hours away.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Look what I found in the pumpkin patch:

One week ago today, on Halloween, this little peanut of a guy entered our family: my brother's sixth grandchild, Micah Derek.

Big brother Landon was not happy about being called away from his vacuuming to have his picture taken. He's two, you know, so the moods come and go.

But then he realized he could actually lift great grandma's "lello" - what he calls the Yellow Vacuum - off the ground. And then a favorite toy became even more fun.

Because, really, what is more fun than lifting a yellow vacuum cleaner off the floor and carrying it through the house while all the grown ups tell you how strong you are?
Could life get much better than this?

Thursday, November 05, 2009


We were recently at an event where I was watching a man in the audience balance his little boy on his knee. The boy was probably about three or four, and I commented to Paul that those parents were still in the phase of parenting where they could say "My boy would NEVER...." fill in the blank with any number of options.

We have teenagers and, I know this will come as a surprise to most of you, but sometimes teenagers have to be disciplined.

No really, they do.

Sometimes teenagers don't make the best decisions. Did you know that?

And sometimes you actually have to do more than slap your forehead while slowly shaking your head back and forth in a great big gesture that says "I CANNOT believe this...."

Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty, really dirty, when disciplining teenagers.

Except it's not your hands that end up feeling dirty and worn out. It's your heart, but that's another post.

As a parenting somebody who knows a lot about, I mean....since I am full of parental knowledge.....

Since I've given birth to two children (that keeps your expectations low enough, doesn't it) I've decided to publish, right here on this blog, my parenting philosophy when it comes to disciplining teenagers. I will do so in a "Bullet Point" format. And I have no idea how many bullet points there will be because I will be making them up as I go along.

You know. Like James Dobson and John Rosamond probably do.

Let's get started, shall we?

When your teenager gets into trouble, you can:

*Deny. Deny. Deny. I call this kind of response the "Not MY boy" response. These are the parents who could actually see their little Mikey vandalize the neighbor's car and still say he didn't do it.

*Make excuses. These are the parents that admit their little Mikey did indeed vandalize their neighbor's car but claim it was the neighbor's fault for having their car parked in their very own driveway instead of behind a locked garage door. If the car hadn't been left out, little Mikey couldn't have vandalized it. These parents are usuall not too popular in the neighborhood because nothing is every their child's fault but they are ever so eager to throw other children under the bus.

*Explode like an atom bomb. This explosion will reach everyone - the victim, the authorities, the wayward child. This explosion will accomplish absolutely nothing except showing people what an idiot you are, but it will make the parent feel better - short term. After the explosion, the parent will most likely never be taken seriously again. Especially if he threatens to sue the neighbor for leaving his car parked in his very own driveway.

*Ignore, ignore, ignore...your child that is. This is the parent who gives the child the ultimate of silent treatments. This method is good if you want to reach the child at their level - you know, the child is a teenager, so the parent acts like a teenager. It probably doesn't accomplish much but you will at least be at your child's level while the problem remains unsolved.

*Bury your child in guilt. This is my personal favorite and I apply it quite often. Do you know how you've embarrassed us? What will people think of our family now? I give and give and give and what do you do....? A little guilt can be healthy I think. But too much guilt can be crippling. I don't know why I haven't learned that yet. Perhaps I'm doing an experiment to find our just HOW MUCH guilt is too much. Yeah, that's it - a parenting experiment with my own children as the emotionally damaged guinea pigs.

- and finally you can

*Put your hand on your child's back. This serves two purposes. First, and most importantly, it pushes your child forward. Forward toward the people to whom he must account. Forward toward his consequences. Forward toward learning from his mistake. And second, the hand on his back reminds him that you are there. That you literally have his back. It reminds him that even though he must be accountable for his actions, even though he must make that walk, he is not walking alone. If he needs to look over his shoulder for reassurance, you are there with your hand on his back to steady him against that crippling guilt, those people who hope to see him fall under its weight, and the fatigue that comes with cleaning up ones own mess.

Like the days when our babies took their first wobbly steps and needed to hold just one of our fingers to make it across the room, so are the days of raising teenagers. They can get across the room. They HAVE to get across the room. They have to be standing alone when they reach the other side.

But hopefully if they've felt our hand on their back througout their journey, they will feel ready to stand strong again and they will be glad that hand was not only steadying them but also pushing them along to meet their goal.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


I just finished making an online purchase.

In filling out the billing information, I came across a line for "nickname." Naturally I assumed that was optional and skipped that little box.

Silly me.

After clicking "enter" I saw a whole bunch of red letters appear on my screen, telling me that "nickname is a required field."

I had no idea a nickname was so urgent in ordering turtlenecks.

So I began to panic.

Because, people, I don't have a nickname.

I mean, my husband calls me Honey. My kids call me Mom. Or "Maaaaaahhhm-uh" depending on their mood. Sometimes it's "MUH -THER."

When I was little my mother called me "Little One" or "Heidence."

And actually there might be some people in the community right now who are calling me some things that can't be printed on this PG-rated blog. You locals know I'm right about that.

But I don't have an official nickname.

So I decided to be clever and fill in the little box with "Bubbles"

Oh stop! You now I'm kidding.

I simply typed "Heidi" and ordered my turtlenecks, feeling just a little empty inside.