Today my baby sister is 30 years old. That’s not weird at all, *cough* *cough*.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I present to you, thirty things about Emily, as told by her lovely sister, Livlife.

1. She used to be blond as a child, the only one among three dark haired siblings. I still tease her for being a blond.

2. She shared a bedroom with me until I was 14 and she was 10. It caused never ending battles and a closeness that I’m still grateful for.

3. She once got mad at me and pulled the tail off my Mickey Mouse stuffed animal in retaliation. I’m still upset about it.

4. Her baby blanket was called GiGi, and she carried it until it LITERALLY fell apart. All that remains today is a tiny scrap.

5. She used to collect…plates? Can that be right? I have a vague recollection of this.

6. She had the worst temper of anyone I’ve ever known as a child. Her tantrums were legendary.

7. She is my dad’s favorite. Perhaps because she is most like him of any of us kids.

8. Her family nickname is Bug. I don’t know why.

9. Sissy or Shorty are the nicknames I gave her and I still use them to this day.

10. She always wanted to be naked when she was little. I have many memories of my mom chasing a naked Emmy around the house because she slipped away after her bath.


11. As the youngest in her family, she got teased mercilessly by her older siblings. It made her tough.

12. She used to get tricked into picking up dog poop with her hands, so that her siblings didn’t have to do that particular chore.

13. She was such a brat (to me, she was probably a nice child, but she was my little sister) as a kid that the only time I like her was when she was sleeping. I always kissed her goodnight, because it was my favorite time of the day.

14. She was the closest to Nick when we were growing up. But they are the farthest apart in age.

15. She used to love the song “Losing My Religion” by REM, to the point that when anyone in our family hears that song, they immediately think of her.

16. She loves the song “Mama, I’m Coming Home” by Ozzy Osbourne and played it so often in the bars that it is now my ringtone for her.

17. Her first car was a blue Dodge (?) Something…she’ll remember…and it was the weirdest car. It had features that no other car has possibly ever had.

18. Her second car was a black Ford Focus that was a stick shift. She was the first of us to choose to drive a stick.

19. When she went to prom, she asked me to do her hair, instead of going to a salon.

20. We have an unspoken agreement that when we look at each other and say “right?” the other agrees, just to be on her sister’s side. It’s nice.


(That is still my favorite picture of her, only slightly beating out the one coming next)

21. She works harder than any person I have ever known in my entire life. Always has, since she started working at the ripe old age of 14.

22. She doesn’t enjoy being pregnant.

23. I always thought she’d be a veterinarian when she grew up. She was obsessed with animals as a child, and most of the pets we had were because of her, certainly they were cared for by her.

24. She has always disliked tomatoes, since she was a little kid. She can tolerate them now, but only in certain things.

25. Before she started dating, we used to have sister dates where we’d go out to dinner and a movie.


26. She can talk more than anyone I know, which is saying something if you know A) Me and B) Kelly

27. She is funnier than she realizes and she can make me laugh without trying.

28. She always has a plan and a schedule for everything she does. And this enables her to never be late.

29. She and I once took a trip together to Mexico. On that trip I learned that she is afraid of heights. And she’ll still do what I tell her to do because I’m her big sister.

30. She is my favorite sister in the whole wide world.

I love you, Sissy, and Happy 30th Birthday to you. I’m almost as excited for YOUR 30th party as I was for my own. (Photo above)

I hope you have the best day ever and thank you for 30 years of wonderful sisterhood. It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s always been US.

Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday!

Lent Letter #21

Dear Emmy,

My baby sister. You and I have an interesting relationship, right? You are, in many ways, my closest friend. And yet, we couldn’t possibly be more different. We are four years apart in age and I used to think that was so much. Too much. We didn’t have anything in common growing up. It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t the years that kept us separate. It was us. We’re just very different people. We have always and still have very different ideas and interests.

And yet, we are close. I can call you anytime, just to talk. You can do the same to me. We can bitch to each other about our brothers (and there is no one else in the world who understands it like we do, not even mom). More than anyone else, you continually surprise me. It’s like I know you best and somehow am still learning you, all at once. I think I know exactly what to expect from you and then you don’t react like I assumed you would. It’s disconcerting sometimes, that shifting landscape, and yet, I love it. I know you feel the same about me.

We are complex and so is our relationship. But I think too often we get bogged down in what we should be or what we should think that we don’t take the time to really know each other. We’re learning though.

One of my favorite things about you is your loyalty. You are always on my side. I never doubt that. Even when we’re fighting, if someone else was causing me trouble or pain, you’d jump in without hesitation and stand up for me. Because you are always on my side.

As I am on yours. I don’t always agree with your choices, but it doesn’t matter. You’re my baby sister and I’m on your side. Privately, I’ll tell you what I think (sometimes, other times it’s pretty clear you don’t want to hear it, you just want me to agree….so I do that), but to the world, I’m on your team.

That’s the very best thing about having a sister. I can count on you like I can’t count on anyone else in the world.

Thank you for being part of my life,



(to see why I am doing this, read here)

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…

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!