Three Years

Three years ago, on Christmas day, 2009, I took this photo.


My sister was pregnant with Arionna. We did not yet know if the baby was a boy or a girl. We were just so excited to welcome that little baby into our family.

This year, on Christmas day 2012, I took this photo.


My sister, pregnant with her second child, a little boy. Knowing he’s a boy, knowing his name is Camden, knowing so much more than we did back then does not lessen the excitement in the least.

Three years ago, my sister’s family looked like this:


Today, my sister’s family looks like this:


We’re all so excited for this new addition to our family. As for me, I’m pleased my sister was kind enough to be pregnant at the same time of the year, just to appease my addiction to symmetry.

Just three more weeks to go until Camden’s official due date, however, he could come literally at any time. I get so excited to think of that call…

He Says Hello

My brother-in-law, known to the family as Chaj or Chaddo is celebrating a birthday today. 28 years old.

I wanted to celebrate by telling a little Chaddo story.

Chaddo has worked at the same place for as long as I’ve known him. What I didn’t know, until a couple of months ago, is that he works with two of my students. One is a longtime favorite student of mine and another I also know quite well, both spend a lot of time in the library.

Somehow, very recently, the subject came up at their work. It was the first time these guys, friends with Chaddo, had made the connection. Or Chad made the connection, I don’t really know, but they all realized they knew me.

The two guys decided to devise a plan.

They came back to school and told their friends at school, friends who know me, but do not know Chaddo, what they were to do.

And, about two months ago, my favorite student came up to me and told me he works with my brother-in-law. So weird. We chatted about that for a minute and before he walked away he smiled and said, “Chad Tuenge says hello.”

It seemed like a weird closing statement, but okay.

Then, the next day, the other student who works with him came into the library and said, “Chad Tuenge says hello.”

And I said, “you work there, too?” and he confirmed that he did.

The next day, a different student came into the library, “Chad Tuenge says hello.”

And I asked him, he just laughed and walked away. Weird.

Then a different student and a different student. This was all a plan devised by these boys at work. They thought it would be funny to prank me by having random students walk up to me and say “Chad Tuenge says hello.”

The funny thing is, SO many students have done it (I bet at least 15 different students have said this to me) and it happens so frequently, it has become hilarious.

Over two months now, this has been happening on campus and it still happens. It happened twice today alone.

The other day, one of the students was selling things at a booth on campus. I never buy things because I’d go broke–there is so much happening on campus regularly. But they were trying to lure people over to the booth with the promise of free Oreos. I declined. Then, the student said, “Chad Tuenge says eat an Oreo!” and how could I resist?

It’s become a catch-phrase here on campus. There are students who don’t even know what it means or why it is being said that will say it to me. Students call it out as I walk down the hall, they say it in greeting upon entering the library, they write it on my white board in the library.

Chad Tuenge says hello.

Each and every day at work, I now get reminded about my brother-in-law. That he is a terrific guy that inspires some serious humor on his behalf. That people like him. That I like him. That he’s a wonderful father and husband and that I’m glad he is part of my family.

Today, I have to say.

Happy Birthday Chad Tuenge. And hello back!

Lentil Bean

For those of you who are A) not on Facebook or B)not friends with my mom on Facebook, I have a bit of news.

My beautiful sister and her sweet husband are adding to their family!

That’s right, I’m going to be an auntie again. They are expecting baby Lentil Bean around February 4 (which is my brother Nick’s birthday – so that date should stick for us). Stay tuned to find out Lentil Bean’s gender. Mom doesn’t want to know, but dad does, and mom got her way with the Tadpole (now known as Arionna); so expect they’ll be finding out.

My mom is hoping boy, thinking that would be nice for them to have one of each. I’m hoping girl; I wish Arionna a little sister to be best friends with.

Arionna, meanwhile, got the news when the rest of us did and was predictably underwhelmed by it all. Her parents deliberately kept it from her so she couldn’t spill the news to Auntie Livi when she spent the night this weekend. We’re all very excited. It’ll be good to have a baby in the family again, they grow far too fast.

Definitely stay tuned, I’ve no doubt you’ll be hearing a lot more about our Lentil Bean in the months to come.

Happy Birthday Mom!

I’ve got birthday on the brain today, probably because it is the first of March, my favorite month of the year. My birthday (for those of you playing the home game) is exactly two weeks from today. The plans are set, the details are finalized, the new outfit has been bought (thanks Lanie!) and I am raring to go.

But, before we cruise toward my favorite day of the year, we need to pause for a moment and look back. Let’s talk about the fabulous birthday of my mother, February 25.

This could be a very long story, but I will try to tone it down. In order to honor mom on her day, my sister and I came up with a plan to cook dinner for the family at mom’s house. Relaxed, at home, no work for mom.

I decided to go get Simon and bring him along. THAT did not go as planned. He was overtired and out of sorts and did not want to go anywhere with me. After a fierce battle that left him frustrated and me upset, we were on our way. We were an hour behind schedule. We did not get to stop and do the surprises I had planned. (Not telling, I will save them for next year). We arrived at my mother’s house and he calmed down. I couldn’t sit and visit, I had to cook. I wasn’t there when one of her surprises came in. I had arranged for the band, Train, whom she likes, to call and sing her Happy Birthday. I’m sad I wasn’t there to witness it.

But then, things started to improve. We got the dinner underway. I made an Herb Rubbed Pork Loin and Parmesan Garlic Roasted potatoes. My sister did the veg, asparagus (my whole family loves it) and bought many desserts. Seriously, we had birthday cupcakes, M&M cookies, Birthday cake Oreos, and a cheesecake sampler. I was nervous about the food, because I had the main dishes and I had never made either of these recipes.  Plus, I rarely cook for other people. However, they were both outstanding! The pork was juicy, tender, and incredibly flavorful. The website (my favorite cooking website) said, “Okay, if you haven’t quite honed your kitchen skills yet but you still need a recipe to impress, this is the recipe for you! This recipe is super easy and pretty much fool proof.” as its opening lines introducing the food.  It was easy and it was fool proof. The only real prep is chopping up the spices, which was so easy I let Simon do it, so he helped cook, too! Arionna helped by hollering at me from the living room because she wanted me to come and play.  The potatoes were chosen because my mom is a parmesan nut. She’ll buy shredded parmesan and eat it out of the container with a spoon. They were awesome, great flavor.

The dinner was a rousing success. We had exactly enough (because I’m not good at judging portions) which is nice, no leftovers to put away.

My only screwup? Foil lining the pans I used to roast the potatoes. They got all stuck to it. Whoops.

After dinner, we played and hung out and talked. We had birthday cupcakes. Simon ate all the frosting off the top of his then took his sad, crumpled, soggy cake and reached over and placed it on Uncle Chad’s plate, “that’s for you” he said. How sweet.

It’s possible Arionna enjoyed the cupcakes more than anyone. That little girl has a sweet tooth!

Grandma wanted one single picture of her with her grandkids. I tried. This was the best I got.

Admittedly, it is pretty good, but Arionna is about 2 seconds from crying, I guess it was in the nick of time.

Opening my gift (a gift certificate for a pedicure – for us to go together).

Simon was down with helping. He thinks grandma unwraps too slow.

He and Arionna got her:

finger paint for the bathtub. She opened and said, “I’m sure I’ll use this all the time…”

In my favorite picture of the night. She is opening her cards. Her friend, Kathy, sent her a card–something about jiggly underarms and she cracked up. Laughing until tears. I love it when she laughs.

At this point, Simon borrowed the camera. He sure does love to take pictures. He captured this one of Arionna and me laughing.

He somehow manages to capture my favorite pictures of us. Even though she’s not looking, look how hard she’s laughing. It’s delightful.

He also grabbed a little self portrait:


He also caught this cute photo of Grandma and her girl.

It’s a shade blurry, but oh-so-cute.

Of course, whatever Simon is doing, Arionna wants to be doing. “I want the camera” became her mantra. I tried to let her, but she had her fingers all over the lens in about 2 seconds. Grandma finally went and got her old camera, which has become the children’s camera.

I don’t know if it is the crossed legs or what, but somebody looks very grown up here:

She’s taking a picture of me, taking a picture of her. Hers did not turn out.

Meanwhile, Simon had lost interest and went out in the garage with Pa and Uncle Zack. I went out with Arionna to check on them only to find:

He had given Simon a handsaw and a carboard box. He drew a line on the box and let him sit there and cut it. With a sharp tool. Okay….

But Simon loved it.

Later, after they were both jammied up, they turned to their very favorite pastime, jumping on grandma’s couch. Why she allows this I will never know, but they do it all the time.

I love that I caught them both in motion!

And a cute one!

Once they were off to bed, sleeping together in the same room (yeah, nearly two hours for them both to fall asleep) for the first time in their lives. Actually, the first time in either life that they’ve slept with another person in their room. The adults headed out to the garage for some gaming.

We played Taboo, which was fun for most of us. Emmy didn’t enjoy it–she said, but it seemed like she was into it:

I love candids. Mom’s turn, Em’s on the buzzer and Zack is just watching for the hell of it.

But the one thing I wanted, and managed, was to get a family photo. Mom said, “why did you wait for the kids to be asleep?” Well, because, the kids are not the center of the family, we’ve got tons of pictures of them. Plus, kids make pictures harder. Well, kids and my dad.


Could ya smile, just once? (I’m ignoring Zack who said, “I was smiling” even though that is NOT a smile–smirk at best).

But I do love this little family snapshot. We do not do that often enough.

Happy Birthday to my wonderful mother! You kickoff birthday season and I’m happy that it is here.

If you want to read my past tributes to my mom (I think she is the only person I’ve consistently blogged every birthday)





Mother’s day (that is my favorite post of her, ever, so I wanted to repost it here if you haven’t read it.)

Also, tomorrow is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, another wonderful one to celebrate!

Welcome, birthday season!

Elves and Holidazzle

For like the 382nd year in a row, Macy’s holiday display is “A Day in the Life of an Elf”. I wish it didn’t suck so much, though there were new bits on display this year.

We took Simon through, just my mom and I. It was fun to watch him. I think 4 might be the perfect age for this display. He might have liked it even more if it weren’t so crowded in there. Me too. Definitely not going on a Saturday again.

I love this because it looks like he’s IN the display or a part of it.

Stopping at a new section of the display, the reindeer stable. Very cute, but if they’re going to spend money, I wish they’d change the display.

I wanted just one good picture of him, and asked him to stop by the only part I like, the singing Christmas trees. This is what I got.

Yeah, he’s a dork, but he’s our dork!

I finally took this picture. I’ve been through this display probably a dozen times. Every single time I’ve been through I’ve thought, “why do they make the mailman so scary?” All the other elves are cute, but this guy:

Weird, right?

Then, I wanted to get one cute pic of him and Grandma before it was over. Simon was resistant. He didn’t want to do pictures. So I told him, “how about one silly one first?”

How cute are they?

Then I took the “real” one.

Which is also very cute, my mom’s happiness leaps out of the photo. But I almost like the silly one more, it captures their personalities just perfectly.

After Simon declined to meet Santa, again, (and thank goodness this time, that line was atrocious) we headed out to do some shopping.

Then we hiked through downtown to a food court for dinner. Simon got McDonalds and my mom and I got screwed. The place we wanted sold all their food before we ordered and refused to make more because it was 30 minutes to closing. So I went to a taco place and paid too much money for crappy food.

Next up was the Holidazzle parade. Simon was overjoyed at this. He loves parades. We told him it was time and he was bounding out of his skin. We all bundled up. It was about 35° but downtown you are subject to the Venturi effect. For those who didn’t read the link the last time, this means that wind speeds up when going through narrow passages. So, in a downtown, the sections between buildings seem windier than average. As it was actually windy outside, unless you were blocked by a building, freezing arctic wind nearly blew you over. Unfortunately, we had to stand in a spot that was NOT protected by the buildings. We were chilled and frozen, through and through.


Think he looks cold and miserable? Plus, we were out there early to save space for Em, Chad, Arionna, and Chad’s parents.

He was ready to pack it in before we even began.

Grandma and Arionna, who was the most bundled of us all, but would not wear her mittens. Her little hands were frozen.

I kept checking, but he was so cold he never looked like he was having any fun.

An idea of why we’re crazy enough to do this. The parade floats are cool, and all lit up. The people who walk in the parade are also lighted from head to toe.

Mommy and Daughter-sicles.


This was one of the cutest floats. A zoo train. The animals inside are small children in costume, all lit up. Darling.


Our frozen little group.

A blurry family photo to commemorate her first Holidazzle. I think my hands were shaking from the cold.

The Wizard of Oz float.

Em and Arionna watching the Aladdin float pass by.

We made it until 6:45 (the parade starts at 6:30). By then, Simon was freezing. We went inside to warm up. We could not see from inside. Once he was warm, he wanted to go back out and see the rest. Unfortunately, we didn’t know it was only a half hour long! By the time we came back out it was 7pm and it was over. He was really disappointed.

Actually, when we got back to the car, he was so overtired that I asked him what he thought and he said, “I hated it. I hate all parades.” And then fell asleep like 30 seconds later.

The next day, though, he told his mom all about it and how much he liked it. But, next time I’d aim for a night that isn’t so cold or else be there early enough to get a spot protected by the buildings. Or inside.

Still, it was a fun adventure and I haven’t been to a Holidazzle parade since 1998, when I worked at Dayton’s downtown and my family came down and met me. We snagged a great spot on a skyway to see the parade.Next time…

O Christmas Tree!

We are fresh tree people, we make a day out of going to a tree farm and picking out trees. One for my parents, one for Em and Chad, and for two years now, one for me. Three trees and a lot of driving about, setting them up at various homes. It’s a big day.

This year, we had both Arionna and Simon with us. I decided we should do something different, ala cut down our own trees. My dad was not too keen on this, and we made him go on his birthday, but he agreed, because this is something the kids would enjoy.

We went to Krueger’s tree farm in Lake Elmo and realized that there are many, many acres to hike. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, nearly 50° outside. There wasn’t even snow on the ground, which is unusual for tree shopping.

After much debate and discussion of tree styles, Chad and Em found theirs first.

Simon was watching my dad saw, but then realized the tree would fall soon and is scampering out of the way. Kind of like his life depends on it, which it does not, but it is better to be safe than sorry, I suppose.

Em is holding it while my dad saws and Chad prepares to catch.

Auntie Emmy explaining something to Simon.

Simon really wanted to carry the saw. My dad let him and he was so proud. He is so careful…he is following Grandma trying to get her to pick one so that he can help cut it down.

This one needed to be carried the whole time because the ground was so spongy and uneven she kept stumbling. Plus, she walks way slower than needed on a large trek.

However, isn’t that a beautiful mommy/daughter picture?

I said to him. “Give me your best, ‘I’m holding a saw’ smile” and I got this. He’s so darling. Minus that dumb hat.

My dad and Chad carried their tree to the crest of the hill. When my mom found one, Chad came back to cut it down, and then we needed someone to carry it. My mom volunteered and I got what I think may be the cutest picture of the day.

There are not many pics of these two together, but this is so darn cute.

I was the only one not to find a tree to cut. They don’t let them get cut down unless they’re really big and I wanted a smaller tree. Mine is only 6.5′ this year, which is plenty. I found one in the pre-cut lot, and it is beautiful. They aren’t as wildly beautiful as the natural cut-your-own, but I still love it.

While we were waiting for the trees to be prepped to take home, we ran into someone special. Simon was scared and wouldn’t go anywhere near him. Em carried Arionna over….

…and she immediately buried her head in Mommy’s shoulder. Shyness took over. But, after some coaxing, she warmed up, just a bit.

He was a really nice Santa. I wish Simon wasn’t scared of him, but….

We delivered Em and Chad’s tree first, and helped them get it up. When I say “helped”, I mean, Chad and Dad put it up, Emmy told them what to do, I made wisecracks and took pictures and Mom and the babies watched.

Good times.

Then to my parent’s house, to put up their tree.

During this process, I actually do help. I’m allowed. It’s a system we’ve perfected over 20+ years of practice. Dad secures it, Mom holds it steady, and I direct them to make certain it is straight. I have a good eye for that. We get it right every time.

Here’s mine, all ready for decoration. Isn’t it all lush and beautiful? Even though I was aiming for (and achieved) smaller, it is still huge.

As promised, here is a picture with the lights, that doesn’t suck (ie, from my camera phone)

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture with the ornaments on until AFTER I uploaded…so you can’t see that one, not until I upload again, probably after Christmas.

Ah well, something to look forward to, or else just stop by to see it!

And that long adventure is the story of how we got our trees this year. Merry Christmas!

Halloween by the Numbers

1 person who said I looked like Kathy Bates

2 little girls to Trick-or-Treat with on Halloween night

3 people who asked if I cut my hair (?!?!?!?)

4 year old nephew


5 strangers Lane and I insisted on being photographed with


(we don’t know the dude in the yellow stripe hat)

(this man had biceps bigger than my thighs!)

(the girl is new…she just shoved her way in)

(Elena is drunkenly trying to get a photo of me and her sister, Nancy. This guy shoved in)

And Ken – who asked me a dirty question and then became my buddy. So did his wife.

6 people who asked how I got my hair under that wig

7 people who said, “short hair looks good on you”

8 minutes to ride around the block in my first ever Pedi Cab ride

(drunk and in motion…sue me)

9 tries it took drunk Elena to capture me with her sister

10, on a scale of 1-2, is how much I love this picture

13 is the number of people at my house on Halloween night (thanks for coming over Mom, Dad, Em, Chad, Arionna, Tarah, Andy, Layla, Tom, Mindy, Clayton, and Lewie!)

25 is the approximate number of Trick or Treaters that visited Casa Livlife

60 is the number that visited last year

100 is just a random number I’m using to preface the last photo: