Six On Sunday, Version 30

1. Aunt Judye Cake. We had another family birthday party this weekend, and my loyal readers know what that means- the Best Birthday Cake In The World…aka Aunt Judye Cake. Yes, it really is that good. Think back to one of your birthday parties as a child… remember the cake- the sugary, moist white cake frosted with thick sticky sugar… that’s the cake Aunt Judye makes. I had to marry into the family before they would give me the recipe! (Don’t worry,  we had champagne with our cake.)

2. Date Day (and Night). This weekend, I had not one but two dates with my  husband! I laughed to myself, thinking “we used to do this all time” and now it is a Really Big Deal. We went to a gun range (I know!) and then out to lunch with some dear friends. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely, and it was so wonderful to have an entire conversation without interruption. Thomas and I have made the conscious decision to include Emma(when appropriate) almost always, and while we love to have her with us, it was wonderful to have a break!

 

3. Best Friends. I had a reminder this week that true and loyal friends are very difficult to find. My advice is to hold dear those that are, and to make sure you tell them how much you love them, and how important their presence in your life is. (This post was brought to you by Hallmark.) (Just Kidding!)

4. Guns. I went to the range and went shooting for the first time in my entire life this weekend. This was a major departure for me and from the attitudes about guns my parents had when I was growing up.That said,  I believe it is my responsibility to my family to keep us safe- which I am sure everyone would agree is a parent’s first responsibility- and this is how I choose to do that. Very adult of me, I know!

5. Buy One Get One (half off). I will fall for this Every. Single. Time. I always buy more, and always justify it by the “savings”.  Well played, retailers, well played!

6. Sparkly things. I went accessory shopping this weekend, and like the BOGO deals, I am a sucker every time. My inner monologue goes something like this: OOH PRETTY! SPARKLES! BRIGHT COLORS! OOH FLASHY FLASH! PRETTY! You can imagine how it always ends up…

Emma’s Old Faithful

Everyone has a “Linus Moment” in their childhood.  I, like Linus, had a blankie. My blankie was named Old Faithful, and she was the best. My daughter does not have an Old Faithful. My daughter HAD Puppy.

Our world began and ended with Puppy. In the history of the Emma-verse, Emma only spent one night away from Puppy. It was a long night in the trenches, but, ultimately, we prevailed and were triumphant in the return of Puppy. We may or may not have had a ticker-tape parade. Or, at least a glass of wine.

As she got a little older, Emma’s attachment to Puppy remained very important, but she was able to function without her for short periods of time. (It also helped that school requires the kids to leave their special ‘lovey’ in their cubby. Nothing like a RULE to change behavior, right?)

emma puppy 1 Emmas Old Faithful

Cheesy School Picture!

While this newly found independence was good in theory, it made my life more difficult. (And clearly, it’s all about me. When Thomas and I were dating, he would routinely tell me this. Being the young, impressionable woman I was, I believed him. After we were married, we had an argument that culminated with Thomas proclaiming that it was NOT, in fact, all about me. I was SHOCKED, and actually speechless, which is shocking in and of itself. Thomas seized the moment of silence, and informed me that it was too late now, I was in too deep!)

While it was a refreshing change to have Emma without a death grip on Puppy, it was a double edged sword as she sucked at ,was not very good at keeping a handle on Puppy’s whereabouts. Sadly, she was lost for good a few months ago.  In more bad news, Puppy was a gift that was bought on a whim by one of my best friends as a Valentine’s Day gift for Emma when she was a baby. None of us ever dreamt that Puppy would become the sun we would orbit around, so we did not think to purchase back up Puppies. Trust me when I tell you that Puppy is one of a kind; that not everything can be purchased on eBay (or Buford Highway), and it does not matter how much cash one is willing to drop to get another one…

explore buford highway 200X200 Emmas Old Faithful

Buford Highway… if it’s not on Buford Highway, it’s not for sale!’
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The Demise of Old Faithful

After waking up from a nap when I was about five years old, I could not find my security blanket, Old Faithful.  After a fruitless search on my own, I asked my mother where she was. Nothing in my short life could have prepared me for the answer I received.

“Gone. I threw her away.”

NONONONONONOOOOOOOO. This must be a mistake!

The answer “GONE” was the singularly most shocking thing I had ever heard in my five years on this earth.

old faithful2 The Demise of Old Faithful

I was unable to answer, my eyes growing wider and wider. Looking back, I believe the correct term for my condition was Shell Shocked.

“You are a big girl. You do not need her anymore.” My mom continued. “I threw her away. You will be fine.”

(I emailed my mother this post before I uploaded it to the Internet for God and Country to see, and she said this: It was not an easy decision on my part but you were in kindergarten with front teeth that were going to make an orthodontist rich.
This is what I ask: two images , one of how you saw OF (power and strength) and how I saw OF (dirty germ laden pile of rags).
And stop blaming me for your therapy!)

julia buck teeth2 The Demise of Old Faithful

At the very least, Old Faithful deserved a dignified Burial At Sea. She had been my most trustworthy companion for five years! She had stood (laid?) beside me through it all. We had started preschool together. We had stood together, sisters in solidarity, when my middle sister came home from the hospital.  I was her FAVORITE!

At the depths of my despair, a terrible realization came over me.  The person who was responsible for this egregious breach of trust was my own mother! How could she?!

I remember fleeing from the room, wailing loudly for my fallen best friend. I found my backup Old Faithful, and while she did offer comfort, she just wasn’t the same.

My mother did win that round as I gave up my special lovey.  And, thanks to years of therapy, I can look at a blanket without breaking down. KIDDING! The offing of Old Faithful did scar me, and I would be lying if I said I still didn’t have a tiny grudge against my mom for her literal EXECUTION of my blankie. I did live to tell, and now I feel like the score is evened up a little bit- my mom might have broken me of my attachment, but I get to write about it on the internet for everyone to read! (Note to self: do not encourage Emma to blog…)

Old Faithful

My mother is amazing. She is kind, she is patient- she is basically that First Corinthians bible verse that is read at every wedding.

However.

She is not infallible, and she has made some questionable calls over the years. Some notable failures include her Stalin-esque take on Halloween, her Inability to Make a Decision, and Perms. But possibly the most remarkable, was when she threw away my ‘lovey’ (my special security blanket).

My blankie’s name was Old Faithful, and she was awesome. With her, I was Superwoman. I could leap tall buildings effortlessly, I could fly, and most importantly, I could be quiet. (For those who know me, you know this is a life long struggle. I’m trying, I swear.) I was so attached to my blankie that I even had a back up blankie that was put into rotation while Old Faithful was in the laundry. I HATED when Old Faithful got a bath because I liked her smell. In hindsight, this makes me gag, and is so incredibly gross I cannot stand it!

Sadly, I don’t remember the last time I saw OF. I do, however, remember the last time I looked for her. OF lived in my room, waiting for naptime and good night time. (Because I was a Big Girl, my time with my blankie was limited to times when I sleeping.) I started my investigation in my room, but no luck. I understood this was not a good sign, but I had an ace up my sleeve- the secret hiding place. My mother used a kitchen cabinet that was too high (or so she thought) for me to reach as the secret lair for OF. I will not go into details about how I accessed the inside of that cabinet (some things remain trade secrets to this day), but OF was not there. Still, I was not totally without hope… I was sure my mom would know where OF was.  (Hopefully, she was not in the laundry.) I believed then, and I still do, that my mom knows everything (well, almost everything. I don’t think she knew I could access the secret cabinet). I tracked her down, and using my best five year old investigational skills, I inquired about OF’s whereabouts.  For good measure, I even used my most polite voice, my best manners, and I threw in a cute face.

“Gone”, came the answer, like a ton of bricks.

NONONONONONOOOOOOOO. This must be a mistake!

Where could she be? And why was my mother so blase about her whereabouts?!

To be fair, when I questioned my mom about her super mean judgement call, this is what she had to say: It was not an easy decision on my part but you were in kindergarten with front teeth that were going to make an orthodontist rich.

Touche on the teeth…

Family Fun: Finding The Perfect Christmas Tree

After what seemed to be DAYS of wandering around in the dark, searching for The Perfect Christmas, baby Jesus would smile down on my family, and we would find the perfect tree. Instead of hearing choirs of angels singing the glorious praises of the tree, the soundtrack was someone having a meltdown due to extreme cold, tiredness, and the letdown of a candy cane induced sugar rush.

Also, there was a good chance it was the first tree we even looked at, so the hours of “family fun” were not technically necessary. But, in the end, it was worth it, because I remember all of our trees as being majestically tall (especially when we lived on Waterman and had 12 foot ceilings), full of branches, and beautifully decorated.

A curious thing happened once my sisters and I moved out of the house; my mother developed a penchant for Charlie Brown trees.

You know the tree; the sad, forlorn, sparse, short tree in the back of the lot that had been overlooked by every other family on their quest for The Perfect Christmas Tree, and with good reason- it’s ugly! And crooked! These attributes- crooked, sparse, short- are tops on my mother’s list for a The Perfect Tree. She has somehow taken the concept of Christmas Charity and interpreted it to mean “buy the ugliest tree you can possibly find because no one else will want it”; which she does.

But, in good news, now that I am a bonda fide “grown up”, I have my own tree! This year, we went tree shopping in short sleeved shirts (thanks Global Warming!). We did not employ the Non-Decision Tactics so popular in my family, either. We found a tree, took a cursory look at a few other trees, and made a decision. (Practically unheard of in my family!) While I am not sure it is The Perfect Christmas Tree, it is upright, straight and fully decorated which counts a lot in my book…

decorating xmas tree 2012 Family Fun: Finding The Perfect Christmas Tree

It’s Beautiful. And, it’s DONE!

The Search For The Perfect Christmas Tree

Few things can be as dividing in a family as the selection of The Perfect Christmas Tree. Battle lines are drawn, weapons are deployed, and the winner takes all. One can smell the blood lust in the air (around this time of year, blood lust smells like those scented cinnamon pine cones).

My family was (and still is) firmly entrenched in the “Real” camp, so every year we took the annual pilgrimage to Frank’s Nursery and Crafts to find The Perfect Christmas Tree. My memories of picking out Christmas trees have pooled into one collective memory: it is dark outside, and very cold. Gusts of wind slice through our coats, hats, and mittens. No one is happy. It is not fully snowing, but there is moisture of some kind- maybe sleet? frozen rain?-in the air. (Note to all the southern readers: Yes, snow is beautiful for the first six hours, and then it turns into a grey sludge. It is not amazing. It is not fun. It is cold and wet and makes a huge mess and turns everyone into the Worst-Driver-The-World-Has-Ever-Seen.)

In the Midwest, it is dark by 4:30 in the afternoon around Christmas time. As picking out a Christmas tree is a family activity, we would go in the evening to accommodate my father as his boss insisted he work during the day and not ride around, picking out Christmas trees. Now that my sisters and I are all grown up, he no longer has to attend the Annual Pilgrimage. (I totally blame him for the demise in the quality of my parent’s trees.)

In the dark, all the trees look the same. In the cold, wet dark, no one cares what the tree looks like anyway. I can remember going outside, looking at the same damn tree over and over again (to be fair, it might have been several different trees. But, seriously, who could tell?).

Once we reached a quorum of family members with numb extremities, we would go inside to defrost and ‘look at ornaments’. I think my parents thought that we would be better behaved due to hypothermia, but we were not. If anything, we saved energy by going into a sort of hibernation mode, much like bears do in the winter months. As soon as we would defrost, all of the energy would hit us, like a shot of adrenaline. I remember running through aisles as fast as I could with total disregard for the numerous delicate- and highly breakable- ornaments on display. (I also remember eating lots of candy canes, which I am sure contributed to the perfect storm of overly excited children surrounded by breakable things.)

After a few minutes of running around, we were warm enough to again brave the elements, and so we headed back outside and repeated the cycle of staring at the same trees from different angles trying to determine if it was, in fact, The Perfect Christmas Tree…

Six On Sunday, Version 27

nespresso1 Six On Sunday, Version 27

So Amazing

1. Nespresso Machine.  The Nespresso is the Bentley of coffee machines. The Kuerig, while great (from what I understand), are not even in the same ballpark. They are Chevy Cavaliers decent, but not amazing. For Christmas, our best couple friends gave us a Nespresso machine. It has literally changed my life.  I do not like coffee. At all. Honestly, the only way I can tolerate drinking coffee is when healthy amounts of Frangelico are added (and whipped cream). I never understood Starbucks… until last week.   I have had espressos,  cafe lattes, and cappuccinos at least once a day for the past week.

Aeroccino Plus Six On Sunday, Version 27

Aeroccino Plus. I MUST HAVE YOU!

2. Frother. As I am learning, the key to any successful fancy pants coffee drink is the milk froth. I desperately want the Nespresso frother, and I am doing my best to convince Thomas that it is worth every single penny. As he is also having his own ‘coffee rebirth’, I am optimistic.  He has always been a ‘serious’ coffee drinker- in almost ten years, I have yet to see him use cream or sugar. The fancy coffee machine is opening his eyes to fancy coffee, complete with flavored syrups and froth! It is truly a Brave New World at our house.

3. Glitter. I packed up all of my Christmas decorations last week (YAY!!). After all of the decorations were safely packed away, we deep cleaned. We scrubbed the house to remove all the pine needles, glitter, small pieces of scotch tape, and stray ribbons that  come along with Christmas. How is it that I am still finding glitter every where?! Judging from the amount of glitter on my floors, my decorations should, for all practical purposes, be totally naked.   And yet, I am confident that the decorations are quietly oozing yet more glitter in their boxes, waiting for next year.

4. Gel Manicures. OMG! Life changing. As you loyal readers know, my toenails (and my daughter’s) are ALWAYS PAINTED. It should not be very surprising to learn that my finger nails are also always painted. Even the worst of circumstances when Emma was a newborn, and not sleeping EVER NEVER EVER NEVER NEVER and crying ALL THE DAMN TIME, my fingernails were manicured. It might not have been the prettiest job, but they were painted nonetheless. Keeping my nail polish from chipping is a huge pain (and a total first world problem, but whatever). Before we left for Christmas, I decided to treat myself to a gel manicure. Also, Groupon had a deal for one. Best. Thing. Ever. I did dishes for HOURS on end with no chips. Now, I just needed to find someone who is willing to support my new habit… because $600 a year on nails isn’t in my cards. (If anyone is interested, you can email me: Julia@juliasmath.com!)

5. Wimpy Winter Gear. The day Emma and I landed in St. Louis, the high was 27. Twenty freaking seven. Our winter gear did not even begin to cut it! My gloves were too thin and made from stretchy cotton, my coat was actually more like a jacket, and we did not have hats. I have lost my cold weather tolerance and common sense. I remember wearing flip flops in the snow in college- our justification was that we would only be outside for a minute at most, running from the car into house. Today, I cannot go outside without at least two pairs of socks… when it is below forty. However, I am totally OK with my loss as I hate cold weather and am thankful to only have to deal with it once a year!

t j new years Six On Sunday, Version 27

Thanks Honey!

6. Driver of the Year. This award goes to my husband, who drove 1800 miles in five days. And didn’t bitch AT ALL. Yay Thomas! (Atlanta to St. Louis to Chicago to St. Louis to Atlanta)

Six On Sunday, A Prayer

Hail Mary

Full of grace

The Lord is with Thee

Blessed are thou amongst women

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus

Holy Mary

Mother of God

Pray for us sinners

Now and at the hour of our death

Amen

Mary is also a mother, and I hope she is able to provide some comfort to those mothers who lost their babies on Friday. 

God Bless them all.

Six On Sunday, Version 26

1. The Flu. We had The Flu at our house. Thankfully, I had gotten my flu shot and I wasn’t down for EIGHT DAYS like my husband. When I asked him why he hadn’t gotten his yet, he said “because you didn’t tell me to yet”. So, everyone listen up: GET YOUR FLU SHOT.

2. Freakishly Warm Weather. I hate cold weather. Hate it. However, I hate bugs way more. We have not had a ‘hard freeze’ in Atlanta in over a year and the bug situation is out of control. I could not even talk to my neighbors in the yard today because the gnats were dive bombing my face, specifically my mouth. I am trying to up my protein intake, but I am not convinced that eating bugs is the way to go. Also, it is hard to get in the Christmas spirit in shorts.

3. Christmas Cookies. Every year, we have our world famous Cookie Party. This year, the stand out cookies were the Cookies & Cream… they were amazing. Life changing, maybe.  Also good were the caramel apple cookies! All of the cookies were amazing, and we hope our guests had half as much fun as we did!

cookies n cream1 Six On Sunday, Version 26

Cookies & Cream

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 cup butter, softened 
1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
1/2 cup white sugar 
1 (4.2 ounce) Cookies ‘n Creme pudding dry mix 
2 eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 cups white chocolate chips 
15 Oreo cookies, very coarsly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars, add pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda with a whisk then add it to the butter mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and Oreo cookies. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes in preheated oven until cookies tops barely have a touch of brown. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

4. Sugar HIGH.  Emma consumed her body weight in sugar at the party yesterday. Just kidding (hopefully). I always set up a cookie decorating table for kids, so Emma and her friends had unfettered access to sugar cookies, icing, M&Ms, and sprinkles in her playroom. The dining room held the various trays of cookies, and there were cheese and crackers scattered around the house. The cookie party is the Best Day Of Her Life every year, and this year did not disappoint.

5. Glitter. It’s everywhere. On everything. I think we are even eating copious amounts of glitter. (Glitter is extra fiber, right?!) Gotta love the holiday season!

6. Christmas Shopping. I haven’t even started thinking about it. For me or for anyone else… why is it that on almost any day of the year, I can give you a list of twenty-five things I am dying to have, and as soon as someone actually WANTS that list I have no idea what to ask for? So Annoying.

Thanksgiving Is Different In The South (And Brunch Was a Good Idea)

When families and friends sit down for their Thanksgiving meal, it is usually at dinner time; hence ‘Thanksgiving Dinner’. Growing up, that is all I thought I wanted (for Thanksgiving anyway. A brand new BWM and and all expenses paid Spring Break trip to Europe wouldn’t have hurt my feelings.) I thought I was totally missing out on something, because my family hosted a brunch every Thanksgiving. It wasn’t until high school, when I was invited to my boyfriend‘s family Thanksgiving Dinner that I actually got a true ‘Thanksgiving Dinner

new bmw 8 series 490x283 Thanksgiving Is Different In The South (And Brunch Was a Good Idea)

It’s not too late Dad… although it would be tough to fit a carseat in there…
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The older I get, the more I realize that my parents were not the stupid idiots I thought they were in high school; they are actually brilliant. I have realized the error of my ways, and now wish for the days of one Thanksgiving meal where all of the guests came to me. I live six hundred miles away from my parents and my sisters (and their husbands), so popping in for a mimosa isn’t really going to happen.  Thomas has a wonderful family that has more people in it than I could have ever imagined possible (although, to be fair, the bar was really, really low as my extended family is a grand total of nine people).  More people means more responsibilities, so if anyone has any experience in being in two places at once please leave directions in the comments section below.

The spread that Thomas’s family puts out for Thanksgiving is impressive. What is even more impressive is that I could only identify one out of every five dishes the first time I attended Thanksgiving! Southern Thanksgiving, it turns out, is very different from its Northern sister. 

dressing Thanksgiving Is Different In The South (And Brunch Was a Good Idea)

Dressing source

In the South, you will find dressing instead of stuffing and sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin. Southerns prefer their beans grey instead of green; but you can find plenty of green in the Jell-O salads. No one makes my mom’s waldorf salad, but you will find my mother-in-law’s mac and cheese.  For my calories, I’m going stuffing and pumpkin pie all the way. Before I met my husband, I had never had homemade mac and cheese before (I never had the Kraft kind either as my mom was weirded out by the orange cheese powder.) My mother-in-law’s Mac And Cheese is literally life changing, so that was a definite upgrade!

dressing1 Thanksgiving Is Different In The South (And Brunch Was a Good Idea)

Stuffing… subtle difference but a difference nonetheless.
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If only they had quit while they were ahead…