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!

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.