Picture It: Zombies

I killed 15 zombies last night.

Zombies Ahead

This has become a favorite pastime, and it’s not unusual to find the entire family joining forces to take out herds of the undead.

Zombies 5

It has become nightly entertainment with each of us trying to beat the body count of the others. The Hubs, of course, is leading in that effort.  He went on several solo missions when the Young One and I headed north to visit her grandparents. When we came home three days later, he eagerly showed us the carnage he had wrought. His best effort yielded 25 walkers.

Now, the Young One and I are trying to catch up.  Turns out she’s pretty handy with a cross bow, and I’m definitely the one you want with you in the tunnel. Still…even on my best night I’ve only been able to take out 16.

Oh, wait…did I forget to mention, I’m talking about pinball? There really is no zombie infestation in western OH.

Zombies 3

Some people buy appliances when they move into a new home. We opted for a Walking Dead pinball machine instead.

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It comes complete with growling walkers, a prison under siege and a tunnel to *gulp* Terminus.

Zombies 4

I was skeptical about the purchase until I actually played a few rounds. I have to admit nothing gets the adrenaline flowing quite like the computerized zombie hunting guide exclaiming, “Dude! His head just exploded!”

Everyone is invited to help thin the zombie herd. However, there’s just one rule when you step up to the newest toy in the house. Whatever you do…

Zombies 2


Picture It: Anniversary

When I met my husband 26 years ago today, he wore a leather jacket and a bandanna tied around his head. (I won’t go into all the details here, but you can catch up with this little refresher.) I was slightly concerned for my safety that night, and while I soon learned he cleaned up quite nicely…

Me and the hoodlum at a more formal affair. (It was the '80's. Please forgive the hair!)

…I still wasn’t sure where this relationship was going to take me.

I had no idea I would eventually be cruising the dunes with him in Cabo San Lucas…


…or touring Madrid, Spain….


…or standing on top of the world in Tortola….


Had I known we would be swashbuckling with pirates in the Caribbean, I might have told the dew-ragged hoodlum to stay away all those years ago….


But then I would have missed a very nice excursion to Monte Carlo…


…and a memorable side trip to the beaches of Normandy, France…


…followed by a once-in-a-lifetime cruise down the River Siene in Paris.


Had I known 26 years ago that we would sit in the sun in Riviera Maya, Mexico, I probably would have insisted we tie the knot sooner, so we could get this show on the road….


I also didn’t know we would visit some amazing locales a little closer to home, like the twin spires of Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY…


…and the Budweiser Brewery in St. Louis…

Budweiser Museum

…and, of course, the scenic banks of the Hudson River….


Twenty-six years ago, I had no idea where we were heading, but I sure am glad, I’ve stayed around for the ride. Happy anniversary, Hubby, I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes us next!

Picture It: Graduation

I’ve mentioned before that the past few months have been a little crazy. I’ve had a perfect storm of life events, and I feel like I’ve broken some kind of mom code by not blogging about the greatest accomplishments of the Older One’s 22 years. After all, over the span of just three short days in May, he went from being a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point to being a college graduate to becoming an officer in the United States Army.

How does any self-respecting mom, let alone one with a blog, not at least post a picture about all that? Maybe it’s because I can’t find just one picture that sums it all up.

It could be that moment after the graduation parade when all the Firstie families flooded the parade field to congratulate their favorite cadets for coming so far in four short years….


It could have been later that night when he donned my favorite West Point uniform to escort his favorite people to the graduation gala….


Then again, it could have been when he finally collected his diploma from the General….


Or when his father and I clipped his new 2nd Lieutenant bars to his shoulders…


But maybe it was a few minutes later when he raised his hand to be commissioned into the Army….


Or a few minutes after that when he received his first salute from the enlisted soldier who also happened to be his mentor…


But as I think about it now, I’m pretty sure, the one picture that says it all, is the one that makes my heart swell with pride and a smile break across my face. It’s the one that says he’s brave and strong and selfless. It’s the one that shows me the man of character he has become…an officer in the United States Army.


Picture It: Harry and Hermione – Together Again

I couldn’t wait until the Young One was old enough for me to start reading her Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I knew she would find an immediate kinship with Hermione Granger–the brains behind the Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s heroic trio, Harry, Ron and Hermione.

I pulled the Older One’s copy of the book off the shelf, and we spent most of the summer learning about potions and spells and the proper way to pronounce “leviosa”. (“It’s levi-O-sa, not levio-SA!”) We followed up the book with a viewing of the movie, and she was extremely irritated that a major scene from the book’s climactic chapter featuring Hermione’s contribution to the defeat of Voldemort was cut from the cinematic version.

“That’s the part I wanted to see!” she complained.

Nevertheless, when we unearthed the decade-old Hogwart’s robe that her brother wore for Halloween 2000, she knew who she was going to portray for Halloween 2015….

Hermione GrangerBack when the Older One wore the robe…

Harry PotterThe movies hadn’t been released yet.  In fact, only three of the seven books had been published. Harry Potter mania was in its infancy. Finding all the accessories to turn my child into the most famous wizard in the world was challenging.

Store shelves weren’t lined with Harry Potter licensed merchandise back then.  He had to be happy with a wand from a magic kit and plastic glasses from Walgreens.  He certainly didn’t have a Gryffindor tie and a light-up replica wand….

Tie and WandBuilding Diagon Alley from Etsy-purchased printables and accompanying my little wizard as the always serious Professor McGonagall for trunk or treat wasn’t and option then either…

Trunk or Treat copyFor Halloween 2000, we had only the magic of our imaginations to pull together the perfect Harry Potter image, but today, I have the magic of Photoshop, so that Harry and Hermione can be together again…

Harry-and-Hermione-v2…with their momma, of course!


Picture It: Handmade Holiday

With the Older One on his way home for Thanksgiving, my mind has officially shifted to thoughts of all things festive. I have given into the urge to unbox my Christmas decorations and start the massive undertaking that is dressing up my home for the holidays.

Within the storage tubs that have been hidden away for the past 10 months…Handmade10

I have found plenty of handmade ornaments…Handmade1…and I have reason to believe many more are on the way.Handmade3But buried underneath mountains of bubble wrap…

Handmade7…are handmade treasures I look forward to unwrapping every year….Handmade8From the whimsical…

Handmade6…to the peaceful…Handmade2…to the beautiful…Handmade9Each are handmade by my own momma, and are treasures I’ll cherish forever.

Picture It Tuesday: Army Men

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I love a man in uniform.

There is just something that moves me about how they stand brave and strong…Army Men 5

…how they persevere in the face of insurmountable odds…

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…and how they learn from the generations that came before them…Army Men 4

…how they rise up time and again to face the enemy…Army Men 3

…and charge forward into battle…Army Men 1

…and how their simplicity and timelessness appeals to young…


…and to old…


Congratulations little green Army men on your induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Well done, soldiers! Well done!

Picture It Tuesday: Brother

One of my favorite stories about my daughter’s adoption is not so much about how she found her way into our family, as it is about how my son learned to be a brother.

He came home from school not long after I ended a phone call with our adoption coordinator confirming the court date to finalize the adoption. He sprawled himself on the middle of the living room floor and told me about his day. The school year was winding down, and he was excited to no longer be a high school freshman. His world was full of summer plans and football camp.

I let him tell me his news, and then I hit him with mine. “You’re finally going to be a big brother. What do you think?”

He was quiet for a moment, then sighed, “I wish I could tell you I’m excited, but I’m not.”

When I asked him why, I thought his answer would be pretty obvious. He had been an only child for 14 years. He would be completely justified in his hesitancy to share his parents this late in the game. He shocked me, however, when he finally put words to his worries. “I’m just afraid I’ll do something wrong.”

I smiled and reassured him I would help him learn the way of all things baby, thinking about diaper changes and basic baby sitter skills. Almost six years later, I can look back and realize he didn’t need much help stepping into his new role of big brother.

He was a pro at coloring inside the lines as well as encouraging self-expression with a little color outside too…

coloringHe knew and eagerly shared the art of the perfect snowball…

snowballHe helped her see she could have just as much fun building a castle out of sand…

sand castle…as she could building a tree house out of Legos….

Lego…and after the hard work was done, he showed her how to kick up her feet and take a break….

relaxationMost recently, he has mentored her as she learns to turn up the pressure to take down her virtual opponents….

video gamesand how to be stealthy when real ones are lurking behind the corner….

Nerf battleMost of all, through all the coloring, the video games and the Nerf blaster battles, he’s taught her how to be a sister and what it means to be part of a family….

sisterHe has given her something no one else can–a brother, and in doing so, he has done everything right.

Picture It Tuesday: Journal

I am currently reading a very frightening horror story helpful parenting book entitled Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades. With each anecdote from the authors, I flash back to elementary school and remember that time when Friend A stopped talking to Friend B and how friend Friend C and I had to pick sides. The social pressure was intense…in the fourth grade!

I don’t want my daughter to have to stay awake at night worrying over which friends she’ll still have in the morning…or *gulp* how to avoid the classroom bully. I certainly don’t want to find out that she IS the classroom bully!

So when I ran across this book, the title called to me, and I jumped at the chance to learn those critical four steps: observe, connect, guide and support to act. Half-way through the first chapter, I had found the perfect strategy to start both me and the Young One down the path of social crisis management when the authors recommended journaling as a way for daughters to express their emotions. Even kindergarten daughters, like my own, can journal, they said–their journals just include more pictures than words.

“Perfect!”, I thought, and off I went to my favorite discount store in search of a Kindergartener journal. First stop: Office Supplies, where I was surrounded by a plethora of notebooks, diaries and planners.

After a brief distraction from the cutest shoe-clad notebooks ever made…

My Notebooks…I moved on, bypassing anything floral or pink. (The Young One has no patience for anything as frilly as princess pink posies.) I finally settled on a bright chevron patterned yellow spiral bound notebook complete with zipper pouch….

NotebookUp next: writing instruments. The Young One’s art supply box runneth over, but she has yet to discover the joy of gel pens. A set in rainbow colors found its way into my shopping cart…

PensMy new favorite self-help authors recommended stickers as a creative way for the youngest of journalers to express themselves, so off I went in search of a set of stickers that would foster her creativity without breaking my bank. I finally found them in the Party Supply aisle (yes, party supplies)–a pack of 340 stickers for less than a penny a sticker!

StickersI took my finds home and set about packaging my gift of expression…

Journal with pensThen I waited nervously for her to return from school, hoping she would find excitement at my gift instead of boredom. I also kept my fingers crossed that she had absolutely nothing of a social crisis nature to document within its pages. I hadn’t gotten far enough into my anti-mean girl lessons to know how to respond.

Finally, the time had come. As we drove home from the bus stop, I teased, “I have a surprise for you.”

I could feel her bouncing in the seat behind me as she squealed, “Oh! What is it? What is it?”

“Don’t get too excited,” I warned, “It’s not a toy.” I didn’t need her hopes up for a Power Ranger action figure and then find out I only got her paper.

Inside the house, she eagerly followed me to the desk where with two hands, I presented the spiral bound notebook.

“This is a journal,” I said, and at her quizzical look, I added. “It’s like a diary.” One of her favorite episodes of Full House features the wealth of secrets stored in big sister DJ’s diary.

“You can put anything in it you want. You can draw pictures and decorate it.” I turned the cover to the pouch with her new journaling supplies.

She drew in a breath. Her eyes grew round, and she started bouncing once again as a smile bloomed across her face. “A diary? For me?”

I suddenly felt little arms wrapped around my middle. “Oh! Thank you! Thank you, Momma!”

Seconds later, she was deep in thought on the staircase…

…scribbling stick figures, applying stickers and sharing her desires.

“Look, Momma,” she said with a pat of my hand. “This is me,” she pointed to the figure on the right, “and I’m turning into a Ninja to save the world!”

NinjaWhew! Now all I need to do is figure out what to say when the bad guys turn into mean girls.

Picture It Tuesday: Snow Days

When I lost my job last fall, countless people assured me everything happens for a reason. At the time, I thought they meant a better career opportunity was on the horizon or that the time off would help my body recover from two surgeries and a record-setting number of doctor’s visits.

However, in the wake of the eighth snow day of 2014, I’m pretty sure the reason I’ve been granted these stay-at-home days is so I can take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to brush up on my snow shoveling technique. My resume now boasts of snow removal and a 100% salt-free ice elimination…

drivewayMaybe the producers of Survivor will soon be calling. This wintry mix has given me ample opportunity to improve upon my fire-making fundamentals. If I ever find myself in reality show peril, I am now confident in my ability to provide for my tribe…as long as I have a source of natural gas and a wall switch starter…

FireplaceOr perhaps, I’m meant to hone my problem solving skills with the knowledge I gained upon finding an ice-laden obstacle blocking my puppy walking path…

Icy treeMaybe I’m meant to become a world-renown fashion blogger, and my first post will be a glowing review of these snow boots, which I find keep my tootsies toasty in even the deepest of snow drifts…

snow bootsThen again, maybe the reason for my extra free-time is more abstract. Maybe, I’m meant to enjoy the wonder of Mother Nature…

Icesicles…and to marvel at the beauty in my surroundings…

shining iceOr maybe I’m just meant to be carefree and fun-loving. After all, it’s been years, maybe even decades, since I built a snow fort…

snow fort…slid down a snowy slope…

sled riding…and built a snowman tall enough and strong enough to lean on…

snowmanBut for all the times this winter I may have wished for a job other than snow engineer and ice chipper, yearned for a pair of warm, dry socks and envied the view from the inside…

puppy in the window…I wouldn’t trade these precious snow day smiles for anything…

sledding…and that right there, is the reason.