Thanks for stopping by! We were a family of three, until we added one more (cat, that is), making us a family of four. In 2012, we added four husband, two girls, and a dog. We have a full plate as a party of eight!

Adoption, blended families, pets, school,'s all here. Pull up a chair and read a while. After you do, please leave a little comment love! It makes me happy...and y'all know...if Momma is happy, then everyone is least at our house!

Monday, November 9, 2015

On Red Cups, Christmas Trees, and Krispy Kremes

So much hype and uproar over such seemingly simple things.

On red cups...
Y'all know what red cups I'm talking about.
Not the red solo cups.
No.  Not those.

The red coffee cups...
At a place that sells coffee...
You know the one...
Don't make me say it...

OK, fine Mom... ;)
It's the red cups at Starbucks.

Who the heck cares what color the cups are?!?
Or what is or isn't on them?
Isn't the reason anyone goes there simply to get a cup of coffee?
Or hot chocolate.
Or an iced latte.
Or a frappucino.
Or some other coffee beverage...
Oh wait...
They have tea too.

Any way...

It's not what's on the outside that matters.
It's what's on the inside.
On Christmas trees...
Being replaced by glaciers
(Which I thought looked more like igloos, to be perfectly honest, until my husband pointed out the error of my thoughts...)

It's a decoration.
Who cares?
I'm pretty sure the little children sitting on Santa's lap don't care.

Again, it's not all the outside stuff that them.
It's the big, jolly, bearded guy in the red suit on the inside of the glacier/igloo thing that them.
And oh my goodness...
The ridiculous traffic I was stopped in this afternoon, all because of a line of cars wrapped around the Krispy Kreme and backed up onto the street...probably all because of the "hot light now" (as we call it in our house because "someone" can't EVER say it correctly).

I'm pretty sure it was what was on the inside that mattered to EVERYONE that was causing that backup of traffic.  Because there is NOTHING on the outside of the Krispy Kreme store that is of much that matters (although I could be wrong).
So I sit here and wonder why all the uproar and furor over red cups and Christmas trees being replaced by glaciers and hot doughnuts when I see so many things every day that should cause an uproar and traffic coming to a grinding halt.

Young children who are not ready to learn because of so much trauma that has already occurred in their young lives.

Families with no safe, stable place to call home.

Moms and Dads wondering how they will manage to get dinner on the table each night.

Orphans all over this world, both here at home and abroad.


My list could go on and on and on
And on
And still on.

But those are just a few of the things that I see or hear about and struggle with deeply each and every day...
In my classroom
In my school
In my home
In my community
In my country
In my world

Some days, it makes me rant to my husband.

Some days, it makes me run until I can't run any more.

Some days, it takes my breath away.

Some days, it knocks me to my knees.

Many days, I feel so powerless.
And I think that's what the uproar and furor is mostly about.
It gives people a feeling of power in a world where they otherwise feel powerless.

But I can't join the crowd on this one.
Because of what I see and hear each day.

So forgive me if I don't care about the color of my coffee cup...
Or what Santa Claus is sitting beneath at the mall...
Or even the "hot light now."

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Thoughts on Becoming a Marathoner

Here it is...6 days post Marine Corps Marathon...and I still can't wrap my head around it all.  I'm not sure I can find the words to do it justice.

I completed a marathon!

I completed a MARATHON!
My first marathon...
I did it!


That means I am a marathoner.

Me...a marathon finisher...a marathoner.'s still sinking I have to say it a bunch of times...

I.  Am.  A.  Marathon.  Finisher.

A Marathoner.
A Marathon Runner.
26.2 can adorn the back of my car.

I had 26.2 miles of spectator-lined streets...
fall foliage...
the pounding of feet in front of, next to, and behind me...
and the majesty of our nation's Capitol.

I ran, with 30,000 other people, in the streets of Washington, DC, along the banks of the Potomac River, among monuments to presidents and memorials to those who lost their lives defending our freedom and museums displaying artifacts of our about awe inspiring, motivating, incredible, take your breath away, unbelievable...

And what I discovered is that I should never say "never" ever again.

Quick review here...I figured I would never get married.  I figured I would never be somebody's Momma.  I am pretty sure I said I would never run...much less run a marathon...

Here I am...Momma to my love...and married to my other love...a runner...and now I have completed a marathon.

So, the word "never" should be stricken from my vocabulary.

Someone remind me of that the next time I say I will never do something.

Unless it involves eating liver...
because I will NEVER eat that.
Or be happy to see a legless lizard.
Yeah...that will NEVER happen either.

But other than that..."never" should be stricken from my vocabulary.  :)

And now for some shots of "The Hackers Go to Washington" for your viewing pleasure...

We toured the White House on Friday morning. 
(We also visited multiple monuments and memorials, as well as the National Cathedral...but I was not a good picture taker over the weekend.  Most of the memories from this trip will have to live in our heads.)

Friday night, we went to the MCM Pep Rally.
Got some "first timer" bling.
Listened to some speakers.
Ate some appetizers.
And took pictures with some mascots.
Because who can't resist mascots?  

Saturday was a quiet day for the two runners.  Gloria had fun in DC with my mom and my cousin.  They visited one of the Smithsonian museums and took a moonlight monuments tour.  Brian and I laid low at the hotel...I finished my report cards while he watched some football.  Then we headed over to VTS so he could see where I spent many summers taking classes.  An early dinner and the search for my gluten free Eggo waffles rounded out our evening before a relatively early bedtime.

Flat Merrill, ready for the 4:30 A.M. alarm.

Our usual pre-race selfie.  This became our tradition somewhere along the way.  We almost didn't get this one since the security lines were so long and we were making the mad dash to the starting line just a few minutes before the howitzer was fired to start the marathon.

One of the biggest highlights of my run was seeing Mom, Edie, and Gloria, as well as Brian's cousin, Natasha, out on the route.  To hear my name being called from the crowd and to look up and see familiar faces, get a hug and words of was incredible!

They were able to cheer on some of the 10k runners at the corner in front of our hotel before taking the metro into DC to cheer for us.

Around mile 13, I looked at my phone to discover texts from many of my friends who live in my phone (AKA Facebook) as well as Facebook messages and comments.  Y'all...those were amazing!  What a pick-me-up, keep on moving, "I can do this" feeling this gave me.  Some of those messages moved me to tears...which makes running a bit challenging...but I cannot begin to tell you how appreciated those messages were...from friends near and far, old and took my breath away to see them all.

Around mile 17...our own personal cheerleaders were there...I knew they were out there somewhere, just didn't know when I might see them.

 And again around mile 23...

 What an emotional finish the Marine Corps Marathon, at the foot of the Iwo Jima Memorial, and be saluted by a young marine before he placed my medal around my neck...This is my "I'm going to cry and laugh and be a hot mess all at the same time because my emotions are a disaster right now because Oh. My. Goodness...I just finished a MARATHON!!!" picture.

Brian had finished just 12 minutes ahead of me and was still in the finisher's area when I got there.
More crying and then our finisher's picture

I had texted Gloria shortly after I crossed the finish line, to let her know I was finished.  Her reply made me laugh...

One more mascot picture

And back at the hotel...I think we look pretty damn good for just finishing a marathon!

Here it is, a week later, and it all seems so surreal.  We trained for this, it was the focus of most of our free time, and something we talked about often over the last six months.  I ran in the heat of the summer and slogged through the rain, all in the name of the ever longer "long runs" each weekend.  My vocabulary included things like "easy run" and "speed run" and "intervals," "fueling" and "hydrating."  I learned where water fountains and restrooms are located along my city running route as well as along the greenways we frequent.  

And I learned about myself...

That I CAN achieve a goal, even when it seems daunting and scary and I am tempted to give up.

That bumps in the road might be rough, but they can be overcome.

That being a marathoner is really for me.
Not anyone else.
Just me.
No one can take that away from me.
Because I did it.

And it was freaking AWESOME!!!!
(And it makes me a "very awesome, marathon running mom.")

And I might have said I would do one again....

Sunday, October 18, 2015

My Challenge to You

I've written so many blog posts in the last four my head...while pounding out the many miles I have put in, training for the Marine Corps Marathon (which is in 7 days, if you're wondering!).  None of those posts ever made it here, which makes me sad because I've lost those thoughts somewhere out there on the greenways of our city.

There was the fact that my computer completely died and I chose not to do anything about it until mid July.  And what a saga that was.  I'll spare you the details.  But by the end of July, all of that was resolved.

Then it was August.  And we all know what August means...back to school time.  I moved my 20+ years of teaching materials into yet ANOTHER room (that makes 9 times in the last 6 years) and went back to kindergarten after a year of third grade.  I can't tell y'all how happy I am to be back in kindergarten!  Anyone who thinks it's easy...come spend a day with'll change your tune, I guarantee it!  But I love it!

And now it's October.

I've run hundreds of training miles.  My computer is fixed.  I've settled into the new school year, new classroom, and new grade level once again.  And I'm facing one of the biggest challenges I've ever faced next Sunday...completing a marathon...26.2 miles...on the streets of Washington, D.C.  And I can't wait!  Isn't that nuts?

The Husband, Brian, has been out there training for the same marathon.  He has put in as many miles as I have  And suffered through the moving of my classroom and the start of another school year with me.  But he has been working towards another goal, too...raising money for Mayan Families.

Mayan Families is a non-profit organization in Guatemala, the country where G was born.  Their mission, as you can read on their web site is:  "to facilitate enduring, sustainable programs that promote community development. Our objective is to stimulate long-term progress through school sponsorships, health initiatives, vocational training and microfinance while providing emergency services to those in critical need. We aim to empower and collaborate with each community we work with to create lasting positive growth."

Also from their website..."Did you know that Guatemala has one of the highest illiteracy and lowest school enrollment rates in Latin America? This is primarily due to the high cost of attending school which prevents many indigenous families from receiving an education."

The school year in Guatemala runs from January through October, unlike our August/September through May/June.  I recently saw photographs from a preschool "graduation" from one of Mayan Family's preschools.  Y' of those precious little ones could have been my sweet girl when she was four or five!  And, as a kindergarten teacher in a Title 1 school that has a high ESL population, I see the benefits of early intervention/preschool/early learning initiatives Every. Single. Day.

So here is my challenge to you, my friends far and wide...will you join me in supporting my husband's fund raising efforts for Mayan Families?  Do it in memory of one of your favorite teachers.  Do it in honor of a loved one.  Do it because your kiddos are warm and safe at home with nutritious food to eat.  Do it in thanksgiving for that special teacher that has touched your child's life in a meaningful way.

I'm starting the donations with $ dollar for each mile I will complete in the Marine Corps Marathon next Sunday.

For each of my friends that donates, I will carry you with me along the 26.2 mile route.  I am planning to print out and laminate everyone's names, and affix them my fuel belt.

You can donate by visiting Brian's Everyday Hero site...1,560 Miles for Mayan Families.  If each of our friends gave just $10, we would surpass his goal and support the education of 14 children for a year...that's a whole preschool classroom full of giggles and learning and smiles!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Winning the Lottery

This all started a few months ago...

I said:  I think I want to run in a marathon.
He said:  WHAT?!?!?

And I left it at that for a little while.

Then a few weeks later..
I said:  I really think I want to run in a marathon.
He said:  Let's wait.  Let's run a variety of races this year.  Maybe a few more half marathons.
I said:  I want to do it this year.
He said:  Let's wait until 2016.  Let's make it a goal for next year.
I didn't say anything.

Then a few weeks later...
I said:  Let's find a marathon that is not too far from home and is good for a beginner.  Why don't you ask that running group you are in on Facebook.
He said:  Why go somewhere for it?  Let's stay close to home.

(I thought:  Ooooo...I'm making progress!)

I suggested one that is in town.
He said:  I have zero interest in that one.
I said:  Then what suggestions do you have?
He said:  I still think we should wait until next year.

I said:  My friend Tara is doing the LA Marathon.
He said:  I think we can track her progress.

And we did.  Sorry Tara.  We might have stalked your marathon progress just a wee little bit...

That experience tipped the scales in my favor a little more.

Then...Last Thursday 4:02 p.m. to be exact...
He texted me..."Hmmm.  Marine Corps Marathon is Oct. 25.  Lottery closes March 23."
(Note:  Last Thursday was March 19th.  Just five days before the lottery was to close.)

Later on,
I said:  But that just sounds so TOUGH and MANLY and, and, and.  The name scares me!
He said:  But it's the Marines!  It's Washington DC.  You love DC and have said running a race there is on your bucket list.
I said:  It needs another name.

(So at our house, MCM stands for "Merrill Came for the Monuments")

Anyone notice the role reversal here?

I said:  But what if one of us gets in and the other one doesn't?  You know that would be our luck.
He said:  There are ways around that.  Fundraising groups.  Transfers.  We would cross that bridge if we came to it.  

So on Sunday, we both registered for the lottery.
The lottery closed on Monday at noon.
And then we waited.

And it hit me...
Oh my goodness.  We registered for a MARATHON lottery!!
We registered for a MARATHON lottery???

Email notifications were due to begin after midnight on the 25th.
And we both grabbed our phones shortly after the alarm went off this morning.

Instead of "Good morning,"
He said:  Did you get an email?
I said: Did YOU get an email?

And y'all...we BOTH had emails...and we BOTH were reading "Congratulations.  The MCM Lottery has been conducted and you have reason to celebrate as one of the officially registered participants in the 40th Marine Corps Marathon..."

We both said:  Oh. My. Goodness! (and maybe a few other things in that moment of stunned awakening..)

We're going to DC.
For a marathon.
The 40th Marine Corps Marathon.

Say WHAT???

And if you want to read HIS perspective, go check it out on his 1,560 Miles for Mayan Families page...just click here.  Because he puts it a little more eloquently than I do.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Eleven Years Ago

Eleven years ago this morning, we had an early flight out of Guatemala City.

Eleven years ago this morning, we landed in Houston and then flew on towards home.

Eleven years ago this afternoon, we landed at CLT and it hit me...all the things I had read...all the things "they" had told me...all the things I had brushed aside...all the things you don't truly *get* until you live it...

I realized what it was like to be surrounded by people yet be so completely alone.  No one in the airport knew how excited I was...that my dream was finally coming true as I wheeled that umbrella stroller that had developed an obnoxious squeak through the airport terminal towards baggage claim.

I realized that you will dig your last $5 out of the bottom of your purse to tip the skycap after he wheels your suitcases to your car after he spied you standing at baggage claim in a quandary..."Just how am I going to get this stuff to my car?" (That might have been the first time I actually envied an octopus!)

I realized that I should have held onto that baggie of Cheerios that I let my mom eat in the Houston airport after I got stuck in rush hour traffic and the usual 20-25 minute drive home from the airport turned into almost an hour and a half.  Thank goodness for the last few "wagon wheels" in the diaper bag!

I realized that despite all of that...this child arrived home like this...
(And I realize now that the above pictured car seat should have probably been rear-facing.)

Eleven years ago this evening, I sat on my living room floor, amazed that my daughter was finally here too.

And I realized that this was no longer MY living room floor, MY house...
I realized that it was OUR living room floor, OUR home.

Eleven years ago this evening, I was so happy when Beth and Kelly came over...just so I could go to the bathroom and then get the suitcases out of the car...because I couldn't leave this little one...not even for a second.

Eleven years ago tonight, I put my sweet Gloria to bed in her crib for the very first time...and then stared at her for such a long time...marveling at her very being.

And in the morning, woke up to find this quiet little girl just lying there, not making a sound, just waiting to see what new, strange thing would happen next.

Eleven years ago, I became fully entrenched in the role of "Momma," as she still calls me.

Being Gloria's Momma has changed me.
Being Gloria's Momma has stretched me.
Being Gloria's Momma has challenged me.
Being Gloria's Momma has worn me thin at times.
Being Gloria's Momma has lifted me up.
Being Gloria's Momma has enlightened me.

I think she would say the same things about being Momma's Gloria.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Like a Family

Last weekend--when the grown-ups weren't running 10 miles and the three girls were not working on homework or painting their fingernails or singing the Into the Woods soundtrack for the umpteen thousandth time--we ventured up to Asheville, to see the "Dressing Downton" exhibit at the Biltmore Estate.  Brian and I have annual passes and the girls all get in free with us, so outside of gas and an on-the-road meal, it's a relatively inexpensive family outing.

It would have been easier to go as a family of 3.  Less chances of "I'm hungry."  Or "I need to go the bathroom." No discussion over who has to/gets to sit in the way back of the beast van.  ("Has to/gets to" because sometimes no one wants to sit back there while other times everyone wants to.)  It is certainly easier to get out of the house and on the road with just one child...who happens to be an incredibly early riser.  IF--and that's a BIG "IF"--we have to wake her up, we only have to say it once and she is up, dressed, done eating breakfast and feeding the birds, and is hunkered down with a book and her music before I even get one leg into my jeans.  No cajoling or begging or repeating "It's time to get up" needed with her...but I digress...

Family of 5.
That's where I was...

I think everyone enjoyed the house tour with all of the Downton Abbey costumes displayed throughout the house in his/her own way.  Even without the audio guide, it took almost a full 90 minutes.  A little bit of "I'm kind of over this" had started to set in with the younger crowd, but we made it through.  

After our tour, we headed down to Antler Hill Village to wander through the shops and perhaps purchase a bottle of wine from the Winery.  While in one of the shops, I spied some small owls carved out of local stone--little ones and big ones.  

Maybe we should each pick one out as a family souvenir...we already have a refrigerator magnet...and a Christmas tree ornament...and this would be something different...My brain was going and that usually means I've made up my mind to do something...

As I explained to the girls that I wanted them to each pick out a small owl--and that they would not be decorating their bedroom with them or tucking them away in a drawer as happens to so many little "things"--while Brian and I each picked out one off the slightly larger owls, and that I was going to arrange them together somewhere at home, the eldest girl child exclaimed, "Oh!  Like a family!"

Like a family.
Which this day was...a family day.
Those days are hard to come by some weekends that we are all together, a family of five.
But they do happen.
And they seem to happen more often now than before.
Sometimes it is two steps forward, one step back.
Sometimes it feels like tiptoeing on very thin ice.
Sometimes it is a whirlwind of activity.
Sometimes it all just gels and is easy.
Or as easy as it can be.

So, while it might have been easier to go on a weekend that is a family of three weekend, I was glad we made the choice to go last a family of five...OUR family.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What's On Your Playlist?

Music is a funny thing.  There is something for every occasion, every emotion, every need.  Music can motivate.  Music can soothe.  Music can ease the weary soul.  Yesterday while running in the Charlotte 10 Miler, my music made me laugh.

I created my running playlist last May when we first started running.  I have added songs here and there along the way, but the first 45 minutes or so have stayed basically the same.  The tempo is right for the pace I run.  (I still walk and run to the beat of whatever music I am listening to...or hearing in my head...probably because of all of those years of marching band in junior high and high school!) Because I have run to the same playlist for so long, I know approximately how far I should be in a 5k run, or how many more songs I have left before the end of a run. When I have tried to shuffle my playlist or run to another album on my iTunes, it has been a disaster.  So, I stick to the same thing...over...and over...and over again.  No reason to change it up if it still works for me.

So, a peek at my playlist...and some of the thoughts that occurred to my while running yesterday...

The very first song on my list is Ordinary Miracle by Sarah McLachlan.  I always hear this while I am at the starting line, waiting for the race to begin.  Each day is a miracle, and this reminds me to keep my eyes and ears and mind open to the "ordinary miracles" that surround me during a run.  Right before the start of the race, tiny snowflakes started drifting through the air.  There was a gasp of disbelief among the runners, then giggles and smiles...we're about to run while it is snowing!  It's a great day to be alive!

Oh wait...the next song on my list is just that...and it is a fantastic way to start every race.  Whether the morning is a crazy hot and humid August one or a bitter cold January one, It's a Great Day to Be Alive!  The first mile is always the hardest mile for me whether I'm running 3.1 miles or 13.2 miles or any other distance.  So I need the reminder this song gives me.  Yesterday was no exception.  The mind games..."I can't do this..."  "It's too cold..."  "I haven't run much this month...why am I out here running a 10 miler this morning?"  "Am I going to have an asthma issue today?  The cold could trigger that"  "I'm too tired...I can't do this..."  Oh's a great day to be alive...embrace this, relax, and enjoy.  Find your can do this!

Right around the end of the first mile, I hear This is How We Roll.  Hey...I've rolled right through that first mile!  Only nine miles to go!  I can do this...I'm feeling good now!  At this point I kick in to Automatic, along with Miranda Lambert.

Around 2.5 miles, which is usually close to the end of a 5k, I am "happy, happy, happy, happy."  And how can you not run with a smile on your face when listening to Pharrell Williams sing Happy?  And today?  I'm so happy, happy, happy, happy...I'm outside after being cooped up inside thanks to the cold and ice.  I'm not scrapping wallpaper off of my kitchen walls.  I'm feeling good.  Yep...happy, happy, happy, happy...

Mile four...Luke Bryan is singing "Rain makes corn.  Corn makes whiskey..."  Rain is a Good Thing!  But wait...that's not rain...that's snow again.  Let's see...if rain makes corn...what does snow make?  Snowmen?  Not enough snow for that.  But it makes me smile as I run on down the greenway.

Next up...Bubbly by Colbie Caillet..."It starts in my toes and I crinkle my nose..."  Ha!  I can't feel my toes and I can't feel my nose...or my upper lip for that matter!  She must be somewhere warm!

A little later, I am in total agreement with Cyndi Lauper while she sings Manic Monday...I wish it was Sunday because that's going to be my "I don't have to run" day!  Especially after running 10 miles today!

Mile 5...half way there.  I Gotta Feeling...I gotta feeling I can do this!  But first another Cliff block or two, some water, and a reapplication of lip balm!  Oh wait...I have lips?  I can't feel them!

Mr. Mister...Kyrie...Yep.  Lord have mercy!  These hills!  THAT hill!  Right about that time, Lady Antebellum was belting out Compass... "When it's all said and done, you can walk instead of run..." Yeah...I'm walking up THAT hill (and a few others).

Mile nine...if I remember correctly...the course elevation map showed that this was pretty much a downhill mile...all the way to the finish line.  My legs are tired.  I'm tired!  Have I mentioned I can't feel my lips?  But if I can finish this last mile, this downhill mile, I will finish this race in under two hours...that's my goal, given that I haven't done much running over the last few weeks due to illness and ice and single digit temperatures...

As I round the final curve and see the finish line ahead of me, Kenny Chesney is belting out Feel Like a Rock Star.  And oh my goodness...I'm going to finish this thing in under two hours...oh yeah, I feel like a rock star!

My music kept my brain busy and my feet going yesterday.  There were two songs about an hour and a half into my playlist that were too slow and I need to delete them before the half marathon we are running in April...but I need to replace them with something...

So...what's on your playlist and why?  I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tabula Rasa

Ice, ice baby!

HA!  How many of you just heard "bum baba bum bum bum bum" in your head?

You're welcome!  :)

Yeah, here in the south, that's what we had this, ice baby.

And it brought our fair "Queen City" to a grinding halt for 24 hours.

Because, y'all...we Just. Can't. Handle it.

Mention the "s" word (snow) or ice...
And your audience will be gripped with fear.  You can see it in their eyes.  You can smell it on their breath...
And then...
Go see how much bread and milk is left on the grocery store shelves.

Really, it's quite the phenomenon.

But not me.
Not this time.
Uh uh.
No gluten free bread and soy milk run for me!

I headed straight for the store and bought Piranha!

No, no, no.  Not the flesh eating, fishy kind.
The kind that removes wallpaper, silly.

And instead of binging on more Parenthood...
Or delving into one of the many books I want to read...
Or taking a nap...

I scraped wallpaper off my kitchen walls.
I scraped.
And I scraped.
And Brian moved the stove and the fridge so I could scrape some more.

And now...
my kitchen is a blank slate.
A veritable tabula rasa!
The possibilities are endless!

And I don't know where to start.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Isn't It Romantic?

Chocolates, flowers, candlelit dinner with wine and romantic music...ah...Valentine's Day... the movies!!

Chocolates?  Already have too many of those, compliments of my darling third graders who giggled as they handed me red cardboard boxes wrapped in cellophane...

Flowers?  Screamer would decimate those 10 minutes after they were in a vase, leaving only green stems sticking out of the water.

Candlelight?  Also a Screamer issue.  We just picture that little black cat going "poof" in a cloud of smoke.

So instead, Brian asked me to get a sitter for G so we could go out on Valentine's Day, just so we could enjoy an animal free, child free few hours together.  No barking of the prednisone-taking dog who needs to desperately go out...AGAIN.  No "Momma???  Can I...?"  No cats galloping through the house, growling and hissing.  That's all we wanted.

Now, the "sitter" is more of a paid "hanging out" companion for the 12 year old.  She doesn't like to be home alone at night, and honestly, I don't like it much either.  So for now, we still pay a sitter.  Talk about an easy job though!


We ventured to a new-to-us Mexican restaurant where we were greeted by a 45 minute wait.  No problem--people watching was enjoyable.  80's music was blaring through the sound system.  Margaritas, chips and salsa and guacamole, and fajitas were yummy.  Bill was paid.

And it was only 8:45.

Umm...we couldn't go home.  I had told the girl child that she could stay up until 9:30.  What is a couple to do?  On Valentine's Day?  When there is a sitter at home?  And you HAVE to stay out longer?

Coffee shop?  The off-beat one we like closes early.

Wine bar?  After margaritas?  Not feeling it.

Movie?  The one we want to see isn't out yet.

So, I ask you again...what's a couple to do?

Head to Wal-Mart to buy a snow shovel!  Of course!  Snow was in the forecast.  I don't own a snow shovel...even after owning my home for 15 years.  And the husband?  He's a California transplant.  He certainly didn't bring a snow shovel into this relationship.

So, this would be OUR snow shovel.
(Thanks for pointing that out, honey.)
((And for those who don't this post...)

Almost giddy with excitement, we headed to Wal-mart.  Not just any old Wal-mart, mind you...a 24 hour kind of Wal-mart...that's something special.  HA!

And what do you think we found among all the beach chairs, sand toys, pool floaty thingies, gardening hats, seeds, and potting soil?

No snow shovels.
Not. A Single. One.

Talk about a let down!

The good news though?  It was 10:00!  So we could go home!

Aren't we living the high life, letting the good times roll?!?!

But don't worry...

Today, after church, we headed straight to a big home improvement store and bought...
Our Very.  Own.  Snow Shovel.

Isn't it romantic?
Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

You want to do WHAT?!?!

Hello! Guest blogger here. It’s the Man. It’s He. It’s Brian. Merrill has let me to take over her given me the privilege to blog for a moment. She may not know what she has allowed, but I promise to keep it in line with her posts.

All kidding aside. As you may know, Feb. 2012 changed our lives forever. This single dad with two daughters, affectionately known as M&M, met via internet dating the most beautiful and loving mother of one daughter, G. There were also two cats and a dog that came along. Since then, there has been a lot of learning by both of us to figure this thing of blended marriage out. You all know this by now.

I have also had to learn about adoption from G, now my daughter who affectionately refers to me as My Brian, and of course Merrill. “What do you mean the bananas need to be from Guatemala?” A banana is a banana. What is the proper term to use to describe children, adopted, bio or what? In my struggles I have learned…A LOT. It’s a struggle, but one that I knew was there when we met. Sometimes, I feel like I go backwards only to come out ahead. In mid-January, I came out way ahead.

Now that you are caught up, I will begin to explain the title of this post. That was Merrill’s reply to a text I sent her. That may be an exaggeration. I believe the real answer was silence. As she explained a few posts earlier, the two have us have been running since late spring last year. It has been great to get the exercise and push my body to extremes like it hadn’t experienced before.

Well this year, I am pushing my body to an extreme that is way beyond anything I could ever imagine.

Remember a couple paragraphs up when I mentioned about mid-January and coming out way ahead? That is when Merrill made a comment about sponsoring a child in Guatemala to go to school cost $360/year. It’s not free like it is here in the United States. There is a group in the Lake Atitlan area called Mayan Families that sponsors these children to go to school. They do wonderful work providing opportunities and assistance to the indigenous and impoverished people of Guatemala through education and community development programs. I wanted sponsor a child, but I also wanted to do more than just give money.

Born from this want came 1,560 Miles for Mayan Families. That is the name of my yearlong awareness/fundraising opportunity. 1,560 miles…That is the distance I will run in 2015 to create awareness for the work that Mayan Families does. It is the equivalent distance of running from our home in North Carolina to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Reading about the work they do has been eye-opening.  The problems that are prevalent in Guatemala for the indigenous people are enormous.

This is my story on the fundraising and Facebook page that describes so well why I am doing this: 1,560 miles…Why am I doing this? My wife, Merrill, adopted her daughter from Guatemala and brought her home in 2004. What awaited her future in Guatemala? We don’t know. Fast forward to 2012. I became a part of this beautiful mother-daughter relationship. During this time my awareness of Guatemala and the challenges it faces has grown. If there is one thing I can do, I can try to help as many children through this fundraising opportunity.

It will be hard to accomplish this goal. I need to commit a lot of time, energy and sweat. I would love to have you come along the journey for 1,560 Miles and ultimately raise the awareness of what I am doing and more importantly what Mayan Families is doing. Share the news and the links any chance you can. The fundraising link will be on the left side of the blog all year. I update the Facebook page often, so it doesn’t sit stale.

So, before I get too blustery for all of you, I guess I need to wrap this up. I look forward to having you join me. Merrill, you may regain control of the blog. Or, as they used to say on TV when a sporting event ran long, you will now join the regularly scheduled program in progress.

***Oh, the answer to “What do you mean the bananas need to be from Guatemala?” It means a lot. And gosh darn it, I bought Guatemala bananas this and this was the text response from G when I told her, “Yaay!” Her excitement and happiness, that is the reason it matters for me.***

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

His, Mine, and Yearning for Ours

Momma is still down, (see post below) which means instead of reading and writing with third graders all day I am home, on the couch, binge watching season one of Parenthood.  And contemplating this life of ours.

His + Mine = Ours

And then I look around me and I see the physical signs of His + Mine = Ours. It's all around me. Take the living room, where I am still binge watching Parenthood.

Coffee table, end table, piano...mine, mine, and mine
Ceiling fan...OURS!

Score one for OURS!

The same inventory could be taken in all the other rooms of this house...

Two ceiling fans, a chandelier, a small smattering of photographs, and a piece or two of artwork we have picked up along the way, and a great dining room table and chairs that we scored at the Habitat ReStore...Those are "ours."

Everything else can be categorized under "his" or mine."

Usually all of this stuff doesn't rattle around in my pea brain. But Sunday afternoon my brain got rattled.

I had a husband in bed with a high fever (103.7° at its highest) and two stepdaughters who needed to go back to their mom's after their weekend here. I was going to take them home but their mom came to get them instead.

Simple enough, right?

I'll set the scene that made the rattles start.

Doorbell rings.
Dog barks and runs for the door.
Cats both gallops up the stairs to observe from the safety of the top step while the other sees this as his opportunity for freedom.
There's a pee pad inside the front door...thanks to the prednisone-taking dog.
And a pile of jackets precariously balanced on the banister that choose that instant to Avalanche to the floor.

I scoop up the black cat, block the dog with my foot so she can't make a run for her own freedom, and attempt to rebalance the heap of jackets on the banister, all while opening the door.

(Quick his/mine aside for those who don't know...the dog, AKA Cookie...his. The cats...Screamer who is struggling to escape the confines of my arms and Hannah who is at the top of the stairs...mine.)

Cookie manages to scoot around my foot and head out the door to greet M&M's mom...and as I smacks me in the face...her mom, too.

I watched this brief scene unfold as the girls gathered up their overnight bags, backpacks, and pillows...does Cookie remember her? Does Cookie feel divided loyalties between us?  Is it confusing for her to have us both standing here, one on either side of the threshold? Shoot...she probably likes her more than me right now anyway, given all the vet visits I've taken her to recently.

And then, Cookie was turned around and scooted back in the door, goodbyes were said, and the door was closed.

And I was jealous. Jealous of what is "his." Of what isn't "mine." Of what isn't "ours."

That's the reality we live in, this messy, mixed up, blended life we are weaving, one day at a time. One piece of furniture or artwork, or gallon of paint at a time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Man Down!

I'm still fairly new at this marriage thing. In fact, tomorrow will mark three years since our first face-to-face meeting. If you want the "how we met" story, you can Click here.

Now, you know the stereotypical sick man, right?  Basically categorized as a wimp?  Well, I hadn't ever really experienced it because, fortunately, my husband is a pretty healthy man...even with all the nasty coughs and colds and other general yucky ness I bring home from the germ factory school.

That all changed early Sunday morning...and sounded something like this...

Roll over
Me: Are you ok?
Man Down: Nooooooo.
Cough like a lung is coming up
Curl up in a ball
Stretch back out
Moan, groan, sigh, cough, whimper, whine, repeat.

Temp: 100.4
Ok. Enough to not feel good. Enough to qualify as sick. Not worthy of Last Rites though.

I listened to this sound effects reel as I was getting dressed and ready for church. And I finally stuck my head out of the bathroom...

"You really are not helping the case for sick men right now."

I'm pretty sure I got the stink eye from under the corner of the bed sheets.

I trundled three girls off to Sunday school and church. Worry set in when I didn't get any text messages at all during that time.

Disclaimer: I am generally NOT a proponent of texting while praying, and would not have replied to a text if one had arrived during the service. But this is a man who texts me All. The. Time. So to not get any texts from him whatsoever over a four hour span of time...something was definitely wrong.

He was sick. Some fast moving bug with high fever and lethargy had bitten him...hard.
Thankfully, he seems to be on the other side of it now.
Not so thankfully, he seems to have shared it.
Pass the Advil and another glass of Cranberry Sprite, would you?
Mom's down!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Where Did It Go?

This was a weekend as a family of five.

It went something like this...

G had choir rehearsal on Friday afternoon.  (Let it be known that I despise Friday afternoon choir rehearsal.). So I flew out of school, picked her up, and made the mad dash uptown to arrive at church by the skin of our teeth.

Meanwhile, Brian made the cross-county trek to pick up M&M.  Add in a trip to Target and a stop at the grocery store and he finally arrived home in time to start dinner...but only after feeding the "zoo" that resides at our house.

Dinner should have been was pasta. Easy, right?
Not with this crew.
One eats only plain pasta, topped with butter and mounds of Parmesan cheese.
One eats gluten free pasta and wanted an Alfredo sauce on this particular night.
Two more don't particularly care, as long as dinner is served. They eat whatever we have to offer...sometimes in large quantities.
One decided that he wanted red sauce with Italian sausage.  And since he was cooking...
So much for an easy dinner...

Clean up from dinner, scoop a couple of litter boxes, clean up after the prednisone-taking dog, ensure a few showers are taken...time to crawl in bed and pass out. excited that the Saturday morning race starts at 9:00 and isn't very far away. Sleeping until 7:00 on a Saturday morning is almost unheard of these days. It was such a luxury!

Saturday morning was a 5k run.
Home to shower and get dressed for the rest of the day...which didn't go quite as planned.

My "momma van" had an appointment at 1:00 for its first five thousand mile service.  You would figure out in no more than an hour, allowing for fact that it is indeed a Saturday, which would leave plenty of time for other things.

Wrong.  So wrong you are.

At 4:00 they were closing up the service department with no sign of my van.  One unhappy momma was pacing and on the edge of losing my mind while one unhappy husband/dad was at home getting more and more aggravated. Divide and conquer became the theme of the rest of the afternoon.

My part of it was: FINALLY get my van back, drop a few things off at the storage unit, and hit Costco...without my list, before heading home to the hungry beasts that tried to attack when I came in the front door with a Costco chicken.

The man's part of the afternoon was: go buy a new pair of running shoes (with three girls in tow)...only to arrive at the first store to be told "We've been out of shoes since Christmas. Check back in a few weeks. We should be getting our shipments soon."  HUH? A running store with no running shoes?  Yikes!  Fortunately he went to another (small, local business...thank you Run For Your Life!!) and found what he wanted.  Then to finish his afternoon...drop the older M at a friend's house for a sleepover, pick up dinner at a teeny tiny BBQ shack (since the long service appointment meant no
Betty Crocker meal was going to be whipped up at our house), and arrive home with dinner and two girls to a very hungry wife.

I'm pretty sure I fell asleep while the girls watched "Gilligan's Island."

There ends Saturday.

Sunday dawned with a sick husband...fever and upset stomach.  So off I went with G and the younger M to pick up the older M from her sleepover and head to church.  Home briefly for lunch, and to toss a few loads of laundry in the wash.  M&M went home.  G and I took off again, back to church, for Evensong, which is why she had choir rehearsal on Friday.

And here I the church lobby.

I should have been running errands, grocery shopping for the week ahead.
I should have been grading papers.
Or writing lesson plans.

I would have liked to have gone for a run. Not that that was ever in the plan...but a girl can dream.

I've been on Facebook. 
I've crushed some candy.
I've checked email.
I've chatted with a few other choir parents. 
I've worried about my husband, sick at home. 
I've read some blogs...oh how I've missed reading blogs!
I've fully recounted my weekend.

And I've contemplated time.
But that's a blog post in and of itself.

Where did the weekend go?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Running Through January...And Into February

We have been running.
Some of us more than others.  The husband much more than the wife.
But I'll let him tell that story...when I give him the password to the blog.  ;)

We started 2015 running...literally.
At the stroke of midnight.
Through the Christmas lights display at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, NC.
It was super cold.
And G joined us for that run. 
She says we forced her to go, but she ended up having fun.

The next weekend, we ran in the Grasshopper 5K at the Cowpens Battlefield in Gaffney, SC.
The firing of the cannon signaled the start of the race.
I think it was colder that morning than it was in Clemmons at midnight!

January 25th found us in Atlanta, GA.
We were running in the Hot Chocolate 15k.
It was a lot of fun.
Even with all the hills!
I had NO. IDEA. Atlanta has SO. MANY. HILLS!!
They made up for that at the finish line though.

Last weekend, we headed down the road a little piece to Waxhaw, NC.
I was running the Village 5k while Brian ran the 10k.
Lo and behold, I came in second in my age group!

Today found us at UNC-C for the Forty-Niner Gold Rush 5k.
They warned us about the hill at mile one.
Ummm...yeah.  That hill was four tenths of a mile long.
But we conquered it.
And Brian did it in less than 30 minutes.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Traveling...Our Family Style

Back in September, we traded in my four year old Camry with 93,000 miles on it for a brand new Sienna "mommy van" that I have affectionately nicknamed "The Beast."

Mind you, there was nothing wrong with my Camry, and I really liked that car.

But we have three girls who have a funny habit of GROWING as they get older. So three in the back seat did not always make for optimal traveling conditions.

And...there are times that the dog goes too.  Ever ridden for 400 miles with twenty pounds of dog riding on your lap?  I have. I have filed that under the "not really fun" category. (Sorry, Cookie!)

Here we are tonight, traveling towards Atlanta...two girls are in the way back, alternating between giggling and plugging in to their electronic devices. (The oldest stayed behind this weekend to spend time with a friend who is about to move away.) The dog is curled up in her bed, which is on the floor between the front and middle seats. Brian is driving. And I have a seat all to myself.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Blowing Off the Dust! Or...The One Where I Make Excuses for Not Blogging...

I could say it was because I wanted to update the pictures and description and "About Me" to better reflect our family.

I could say it was because school keeps me crazy busy.

I could say it was because being a wife and momma and teacher and...and...and...takes every minute of my day.

I could say it was because it was "Chicago Fire" night...
Or "Parenthood" night...
Or "Downton Abbey" night...
And those are important nights!  No writing on those nights!

I could say it was because so many times in the last year sixteen months I have attempted to blog again.  But I just haven't been able to get my groove back.

Let's face it.  Any of those could apply to so many of us, and to so many others, who blog.

The truth is probably buried in parts of all of the above.

So here I am, back in the groove.  There is an inspiration, and I'll get to that.

But first...a quick recap of the last 16  months...

  • Brian's broken ankle.  Enough said about that.
  • Adventures in kindergarten at the school where I taught for 5 years became adventures in third grade this year when I transferred schools.  Good bye to driving 35 miles daily...hello to driving 35 miles WEEKLY!  
  • Elementary school G became middle school G.  Choir, Latin, orchestra, and books are her loves. Oh, and Auburn football.  How could I forget Auburn football?!?
  • Finally took the house off the market after a year of trying to sell it.  So Momma, Brian, G, and sometimes M&M along with 2 cats and a dog (and a partridge in a pear tree?) are still in a two bedroom townhouse.  THank goodness there are two bathrooms!  (OK...there are really 2.5 bathrooms, but that .5 doesn't belongs to Screamer and Hannah Cat and they don't like to share.)
  • Screamer is still Screamer and up to his usual no good.  Hannah Cat has morphed from classy princess cat to unclassy princess cat who rules with a sharp claw and a healthy dose of fear from the humans and the canine.  Cookie gave us a health scare recently, but she is fine now...and she thinks she owns the sofa and the bottom bunk bed, both of which she will begrudgingly share with the humans in the evenings.
  • Trips to Epcot, Memphis, and Big Canoe were fun get away times.
  • There were birthdays and snow days and holidays.
  • Choir concerts and musicals and orchestra concerts
We certainly stay busy!

And now, we run.

Yep.  You read that right.  

We. Run.

(OK Facebook know that's not really a surprise...)

Last spring--May 3rd to be exact--Gloria was participating in a Girls on the Run 5k run.  I felt so bad about not being able to be her running buddy, instead relying on one of her teachers.  The next day, Brian and I were fitted for our first pair of running shoes and started running.  That first "run" was mostly walking.  A tenth of a mile of running was nearly impossible and required a lot of recovery walking.  Two miles took 32 minutes 59 seconds.  Yesterday, those same two miles took me 23 minutes 3 seconds, and there was no walking involved.

In the past 7 months, I have logged 286 miles over the course of 91 activities that I have tracked on my Run Keeper.  I have run in 21 5k races (and unknowingly killed a crab during one particular race at the beach).  We have completed 2 half marathons.  And I might have spoken the word "marathon" earlier this in "I think I would like to try to train for a marathon this year."

I NEVER thought, hoped, aspired, considered, dreamed, contemplated, desired becoming a runner.  Yet here I am.  Because it feels good.  It makes me feel good.  (I don't always agree 100% with that last statement...such as when it feels like 100 degrees with 100% humidity or when it is 22 degrees and windy...both of which we have run in...)  It gets the crazy out.  It helps me keep that 32 pounds that I lost OFF!  It means I can have a glass of wine, or a margarita, Brian's "special" popcorn as G calls it, or some extra chocolate when I want it. (Or those blasted conversation hearts that appear on store shelves this time of year, which I just can't resist...)

When I go running, it is my own time.  Gloria won't run with me...she says I run too fast for her.  And even if we head to the greenway together, I don't run with Brian because he runs to fast for me!  That leaves me with time to plug in to my playlist and get lost in my run.  It is time to think, to pray, to plan, to dream, and even to cry.  But I don't recommend crying while running.  That's not a good combination.

We have planned several weekend trips around races...Isle of Palms, SC.  Virginia Beach, VA.  Hampton, VA.  This weekend, we will be in Atlanta, GA, for the Hot Chocolate 15k.  And I. Can't. Wait!  In March, we will be back in Charleston for the Cooper River Bridge Run.  And in April, I finally get to go to the Outer Banks of North Carolina...all because we are participating in the Flying Pirate Half Marathon weekend.

Sometimes I think we've lost our minds.

And maybe we have.

But it's fun.  And it's healthy.  And it's fun.

Call me crazy.  That's fine.  But you'll have to catch me first! :)