It’s been a rough morning, but at least the stress has been punctuated by the funny things that come out of Jeremy’s mouth.

For example, as I’m furiously scrubbing the white grossness off the shower walls left over by our hard water, Jeremy brings an issue of Glamour magazine to me, pointing to the cover photo of Jessica Simpson, and asks, “Is she on Bravo?” (Ten guesses as to which channel I watch the most.)

Then I lumber to the kitchen to do the dishes, specifically from our breakfast mess. He stands behind me and asks the MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED question from this child’s mouth: “What are we gonna do?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what are we gonna do today. Just clean?” he asks. Just clean…

“No, we’re going to the gym in a few minutes.”

“But how long are you going to work out?”

“I dunno. An hour. Maybe longer,” I answer, trying to get the yuck out of Jack’s sippy cup straws.

“I think 20 minutes is enough time.”

And finally, he just asked me 1) if Hank is a grown up, 2) why can’t he speak English, and 3) if we can move back to Georgia.

Also on the agenda today is buying menial, UNfun things like paper towels, cocoa powder and pull-ups. It’s only 10:45 and I feel as though the day is going to drag on. I know everything would be different if my attitude was better, but that’s just not how I woke up.

If you could only hear the boys making Hank howl right now

Where are you from?

I hear this at least twice a week. Whether it’s from someone I interviewed, a co-worker at the paper, or the random person who talks to me at the grocery store, I have explained – on a weekly basis – that no, I’m not from here, nor do I know so-and-so, and I have no idea where such-and-such place is. Where am I from? I moved here from east Tennessee. No, that’s not my hometown. I actually don’t have a home, per say. I’ve lived in such-and-such cities, but I’m not really from those places either. Yes, it’s weird to not have the ONE place that I’m FROM, but it’s also WEIRD to have never left the state of Texas. (I keep that last bit to myself, but one of these days, I’ll let loose.)

Nevertheless, I do a lot of explaining myself around here. We’re like moving tourist attractions.

I don’t mind the questions, really, and I even don’t mind talking about my experience (thus far) in the Panhandle. I edit my honesty so I don’t offend, not that I have horrible things to say about Amarillo, but I’m careful not to complain about the wind, the flatness, the poop smell and dryness TOO much. (at least, when I’m talking to an actual person. The blog doesn’t count.)

Take today, for instance. I interviewed my first person for the October cover story, which is about the roots of Amarillo. The gentleman I spoke to is a fifth generation Amarilloan. His great-great grandparents caravanned (horse-and-buggy-style) with 40 other “settlers” in the mid-to-late 1800s from Chickamauga, GA – which happens to be about two miles from where we used to live. As we talked, and as I shared with this man that I just moved from that same area, he said, “Boy, I wish I could ask them why the hell they stopped here. Why didn’t they keep going?” I burst into laughter and said, “I was JUST thinking the same thing!”

Granted, when people ask me what I like most about Amarillo, I answer honestly and say the people. They really are a kind, generous and friendly bunch. Yet, I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering why a group of 40+ stopped here, why they settled in a place that seemed to have nothing to offer but a slew of tumbleweeds and a crap ton of wind. Whatever the reason, I think it’s entirely cool that they stayed. The family whom this man represents built a large chunk of the city, specifically his great-grandmother, who was the first woman in Amarillo to get a loan from the bank to buy land (in 1919). Very cool.

But I digress… I’ll transcribe that interview tonight and then tuck myself in for a long night’s sleep. I’m still trying to recover from two nights ago when I face-planted on the kitchen tiles in the middle of the night. My knee is bruised but seems otherwise all right.

The boys are ASKING for bedtime, as characterized by their wild behavior.


Sometimes all there is left to do is laugh.

So here’s what happened last night, from around 1:15 until 4:20 a.m.

A major thunderstorm woke up both of us out of what seemed to be a heavy sleep. For me to wake in the middle of the night is not unusual, for I have been blessed with the Treadway Insomnia. Chuck, on the other hand, could sleep through circus clowns doing cartwheels down the hallway at midnight. But that’s another blog entry.

There we were, at 1:15 a.m., remarking to one another about how loud the thunder and lightning was. Then – poof – out goes the electricity.

Naturally, Chuck goes back to sleep while I mull over all of the possibilities of the next day. How does one pack lunches with spoiled food from a warm refrigerator? How would one get her car out of the garage if the automatic opener won’t work? How could one hope for a frizz-free hair day without the use of a hair dryer? I toss and turn for the next hour. My impatience and worry grow from lack of electricity to having not received the immunization affidavits from the State yet to nationalized health care to trying to remember what time my interview is today with the manager of the oldest cemetery in town…

Chuck re-wakes around 2 a.m. and I burden him with my thoughts. At this point I can’t decide if he’s truly worried about our lack of electricity or if he’s excusing himself from the bed and, subsequently, my ramblings, but at any rate, he goes to the living room to call the electric company. He returns to bed saying the automated lady on the other end of the line is fully aware of our outage and will have it repaired by 2:42 a.m.

At 2:38, the automated lady calls Chuck’s phone to say the power won’t be restored until 6:34 a.m. This is when I full-on panic. What if Miss Automatic has no clue what she’s talking about and calls back at 6:15 to say it won’t be back on until tomorrow? The secondary reason for my panic was that Chuck was leaving for a trip, and I’m not a girl who can work a generator.

Because neither of us can sleep, he gets up to secure the house. We decide to pull down coolers and pack meat and dairy on ice for as long as we can (survival mode apparently comes with panic). Chuck rigs the generator to the garage door opener so he could pull both vehicles out. (I supervised.) We discuss options for getting out of the house and securing it without electricity, and I wonder how long I could manage my life without electricity. At one point I wandered back to bed, but without the white noise of my humidifier I couldn’t fall asleep. I tossed and turned, mulling over all of my worries and welcoming back that right eyebrow twitch that went away for half a day. I get back up and walk to the garage and scare Chuck half to death with my silent onlooking.

“Geez, you scared me,” he said, putting the generator back in the garage. “I’m gonna go get ice. You want my flashlight?”

Feeling confident, I say, “Nope. My ninja skills help me see in the dark.”

“Okay then. Lock the door behind me. I’ll be right back.” He leaves through the back gate, I lock the side garage door, and walk back into the kitchen. On my way back to the bedroom in total darkness, at 3:14 a.m., I catch the corner of his suitcase – which is lying on the kitchen floor – and fall flat on my face.

Scratch that – I fell flat on my left knee, the same knee that I iced four times Sunday afternoon post-run.

I resist the urge to scream so I don’t wake the boys, but it occurs to me that if the thunder and generator didn’t wake them, my whimpers wouldn’t. So I screamed. And cried. And sent an angry text message with profanity.


He writes back, “Who’s the ninja now?” which completely cracks me up, even though my knee cap is swelling like a marble.

“A ninja, I am not.” I reply.

He had to traipse all over the city for two bags of ice at 3:30 in the morning, and I just WENT FOR IT and opened the freezer so I could get an ice pack for my knee. I positioned myself on the couch with my leg iced and elevated, wondering if this was a sign that I should drop out of the race. Twenty minutes later, Chuck walks in with the ice and two little jugs of milk, because in an emergency, you can never have enough milk.

He inquires about my knee and I lecture him about suitcase placement, and no sooner does the man put the ice in the coolers and lights a candle so we can see each other’s face in the dark living room, that – poof – the electricity comes on.

“You’ve got to be shitting me,” he says.

I burst into side-stitching laughter. It’s 4:10 a.m. We have ice in a cooler, I have a swollen knee, and Chuck’s alarm clock will be going off in an hour. In a situation like this, all you can do it laugh.

“Alright, Ninja,” he scolds me. “I can’t believe this…” and he, too, bursts into laughter.

I went to bed within minutes, once I made sure my computer and laptop worked. (The router is questionable.) I don’t know what happened to Chuck because my humidifier quickly sung me to sleep. I imagine he left on time and in one piece, as I don’t see his suitcase in the middle of the floor anymore.

Trust me, I looked.

I should’ve blogged about registration, but it just makes me mad.

Because we choose not to give our boys the chicken pox vaccine, and Jackson hasn’t been vaccinated since he was 18 months old (and won’t be for a while), we have to submit paperwork to Austin telling the State we’d like the freedom to parent our kids as we see fit. Then they’ll send us a paper back saying, “Yes, you may,” subsequently telling the school they must let Jeremy attend. I tell you this because we drove to the new school last night to register Jeremy and they wouldn’t allow it because he very well could be diseased. In addition to needing permission from the State to parent as we choose, I have to find a way to get a copy of Jeremy’s immunization record – showing what shots he’s received, proving he’s not completely rabid – so I can get him half-enrolled. The nurse aide assured me they wouldn’t run out of spots for Kindergarten, but that didn’t appease me. I left wishing he was going back to private school, where the parents wishes regarding most anything are respected.

The school is beautiful though, and we know one of the Kindergarten teachers personally, so I have peace of mind regarding the school itself. I just worry that the Libertarian in me will scream, “DARN YOU GOVERNMENT SCHOOL!” more than once this year.

Jeremy will be staying home with Hayli today, as he woke up with a significant fever. He’s currently curled up on the loveseat watching The Chronicles of Narnia. It is my goal to work half a day today, as I MUST finish the September cover story. I’ve done 11 interviews for this one piece, and when it’s all done, it’ll probably be close to 2,500 words.

I smell marijuana, and now I hear a circus.

I’m in Washington DC right now, currently sitting in Lesli’s Wizard of Oz-themed guest room. Susan’s in the Harry Potter room next door. (When you have six bedroom house on Nebraska Avenue, you can have Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter-themed bedrooms.) Anyway, it’s Night #2 of Girls Weekend and, as usual, it’s been wonderful. Honestly, there is nothing like being with people who fully understand you, accept you and love you. They are two of my very best friends, and while I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – I wish we lived closer.

Susan and I arrived in DC late Friday afternoon and got right down to the business of dropping off luggage and finding food. We wound up at Enology for drinks while waiting for a table at 2 Amys for dinner. Afterward, we made a quick pit stop at the grocery store for brownie mix (because it’s Girls Weekend!) and then it was home and into PJs.

This morning, I woke up at 11:21 a.m.! I’ll just let that sink in for a minute…

The motivation for getting up and dressed was none other than Harry Potter. We had tickets to see The Half-Blood Prince at 3:45 p.m., so we wandered over to the Uptown Theater a full hour prior to the show (with tickets already purchased). It was honestly quite shocking to turn the corner and see a line had already formed outside the door. It wasn’t opening night. It wasn’t even an evening show. Still, the crowd was growing so we forewent boutique shopping and quickly staked our claim. (We wanted balcony seats, after all.) Lesli was gracious to let Susan and I skip into a favorite store while she saved our spot in line. I came out with an adorable charm necklace.

The movie was good, possibly my favorite aside from the Prisoner of Azkaban. Of course, there was much of the book content left out, which we fully discussed upon leaving the theater. Overall, it was well done and enjoyable. I mean, heck – we’ve been waiting a long time to see Hermione and Ron get together. We’re ALMOST THERE.

After the movie, we came back to the house to freshen up for dinner. I would say we took a quick metro ride to Dupont Circle, but it wasn’t entirely quick. After the metro wreck last month, mass transit underground is inching along. Yet, the task of finding a parking spot is too much so the metro was a nice alternative. Once we got to Dupont Circle, we walked several blocks to Logan Tavern. It was on this walk to dinner that in a matter of steps, I a) smelled marijuana smoke either coming from a passerby car or wafting from the window of a nearby Brownstone, and b) heard the nearing sounds of circus music. Sure enough, moments after we recognized the smell of pot, a man in what looked like an ice cream truck came barreling down the road shouting over a built-in intercom, “The circus is in town! The circus is in town!” He drove off as quickly as he drove up. I was immediately struck, at this particular moment, how very different DC is from Amarillo. Nevermind the fact that the White House was just blocks away or that every curvy street is lined with hundred years old oak and maple trees… The walk from the metro to the restaurant put everything into perspective.

Tomorrow I’ll meet up with my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins for brunch at Chef Geoff’s and then the girls and I are off to the Newseum. Once again, we’ll find ourselves at a dinner table somewhere on the last night of Girls Weekend trying to figure out when we’ll do it again. The where is easy: it’ll be Amarillo.

Texas is harsh.

Foolishly, I thought a quick five mile run at 10:30 in the morning was a good idea. Yet again, I was flat wrong. Near mile two, my water bottle – which was packed full of ice at the start – had dissolved into a few ounces of lukewarm backwash. The sun was already burning my shoulders and the 95-degree heat was too much to bear. A few runners passed me and by their quick pace and leathery brown skin I assumed they’ve been running in Amarillo a long time, much longer than me and my pasty, sweaty slow self. I cursed the lack of mountains, the lack of trees and the hot hair dryer wind that occasionally smelled like fresh, warm manure. I am not in a good mood, which is why I’m now self-medicating through cottage cheese and Doritos. Six months in, I am not used to this climate.

On the plus side, the newly relaunched Amarillo Magazine comes on out Sunday. The magazine, as well as the website, has been a labor of love for me. So much of the content is written by me and the bones of the website is my design. The entire project has been a collaborate effort by seven people, but I’m especially excited to see it all come to life. (Be patient with the website, as there are still kinks to work out.) If you do Facebook, feel free to become a “fan” of the magazine page, and the same goes for Twitter.

Happy weekend, people.

Exactly where IS my cape?

I do feel like Supermom sometimes, so when Corey posed the question under this morning’s Facebook status update, I sat back thinking, “YES, where exactly IS my cape? And does it come in pink?” Even though Jeremy promptly pointed out to me on the phone two days ago – Mom, isn’t it easier with only one child? – I resolve that it’s still hard. It’s still tiresome. And yes, I want my cape.

Case in point: Jackson and I attempted a shopping trip to Kohl’s yesterday after work but my little man wasn’t having any of it. Void of his three guys (Brobee, Plex and Muno, who are not welcome at school) and mostly likely hungry for dinner, he refused to sit nicely in the shopping cart, so we left after a total of eight minutes. Nothing could coax him into quiet submission, so instead of being THAT MOM who won’t take her SCREAMING CHILD out of the store, we left. Wouldn’t you know that he quieted up as soon as we got in the car? Yes, that meant he won. Looks like I’ll be taking a lunch today.

The July proof will be done today which means we put it to bed tomorrow and breathe a sigh of relief on Friday. Even though I’m already scheduling August cover interviews, I will be relaxed enough to enjoy my mini-vacay with the T family in Kansas City this weekend. Jeremy is already soaking up time with his cousins in Chicago right now, but come Sunday afternoon, it’ll be my turn!

It’s about time to go, but let me just close by saying this: Having a race training schedule posted on my cabinet is not enough of a strategy to combat the amount of salad dressing I’ve eaten, albeit with carrot sticks, in the past three days. It looks like I’m actually gonna have to follow it.

Jackson’s Third Birthday

Albeit quiet, Jackson’s birthday – at least, for him – was good. I picked him up early from school and we came home to play in the backyard all afternoon. We blew bubbles, colored with sidewalk chalk, dropped rocks in a bucket (his idea) and kicked his new ball around the yard. We ate pizza for dinner and popcorn for dessert (because I haven’t convinced him yet that birthday cake is the best thing ever). We read three books at bedtime and gave excessive hugs before turning in. He’ll tell you, “I’m free today,” in the most adorable voice now. I even have a video to prove it.

I’ve already uploaded the pictures, but Xanga obviously woke up on the wrong side of the web today and won’t let me post them. You can check them out in the photo blog. It’s just ONE MORE CLICK. You can do it.


My name is Jennie and I’m a writer.

A few weeks ago Michele and I were invited to speak at the Panhandle Writer’s Association conference going on today and tomorrow. Originally Michele wasn’t sure if we were a fit, and I eagerly steered her towards – YES, we are a fit. Being the total nerd, I couldn’t wait to go rub elbows with other writers. Of course, she agreed. It was great exposure for the magazine, plus we could potentially get contributors from it. We put together a “writing for niche publications” piece and spoke today to a wide range of nonfiction writers, including two high school seniors who are the editor and assistant editor for their paper. (Sweet!)

The hour-long session went by quickly as Michele and I bounced back and forth between talking about our own experience, what a niche magazine looks for in a writer, and how to discover your own writing style. I could’ve talked for days with those people, if only to be around all that creativity. We’ve been invited to sit in on a panel discussion tomorrow afternoon, so I might check out some other sessions prior to that. After all, if I ever want to get my children’s book published, I need to meet with people who might help make that happen.

I cannot fully express the joy in my heart to introduce myself as a writer. Even though I’ve been a published writer since 2000, I don’t always consider my experience as a columnist to count. It was so easy to throw together a first-person piece the morning of deadline and email it in without a headline. It may not have seemed easy at the time, but compared to what I do now, it was cake. My job is so multi-layered at the magazine but the root of it all is writing. I called myself a writer today. I’ve wanted to do that since high school.

In other news, the house has been so quiet – almost wrongfully so – since Jeremy’s been gone. Jackson wanders the house, playing with random toys in whatever room he stumbles into. When they see each other on the webcam they giggle and laugh. The honestly miss each other, which is a sweet thing to see. I could tell in Jeremy’s voice tonight that he misses home, but it’s also because he’s exhausted from almost two full weeks of constant play. By the time we head home from Kansas City in a few weeks, I suspect he’ll be entirely worn out. (Which means lots of sleeping in the car!) I miss him so much… his hugs, his giggles, his big blue eyes with unmistakeable long eyelashes… I even miss (some of) his questions. By the time I see him, he will have grown. I can feel it.

From Blizzard to Heat Wave

So what if I’m exaggerating; it feels like extreme weather here. It was 84 degrees today, which translates to REALLY HOT in the Texas Panhandle. It just snowed a few weeks ago, and I was just wearing jackets last week. From what I’ve been told, this is nothing compared to the middle of summer when the wind blows like a hot hair dryer. Can’t wait for that!

I finally invested in a digital voice recorder for interviews. It’s been so long since I’ve done interviews regularly, so I never had a real need before now. (No more pad and pencil.) I’ll still take notes but now I don’t have to scribble furiously when folks answer my questions in the form of a short story. I practiced with the boys tonight and they got a kick out of hearing their own voices.

We are officially back to a family of four. Jake moved into his new house over the weekend. Jeremy isn’t quite over his absence yet. He still asks, “When are Dad and Jake coming home?” as their names have been synonymous over the last four months. One didn’t come or go without the other, so I also got used to having him around. He will fly home to get his family this weekend and bring them back here next week. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Jeremy and his oldest son will become playmates. Not a day goes by that Jeremy doesn’t mention Grace or Ethan. It is heartbreaking to see the same longing in his eyes that I have in mine. I dearly, dearly miss my friends.

Already the week is flying by. My race is Sunday morning and I’m hoping for good weather. I’m not even checking the Weather Channel until Friday morning. I have no more room in my brain for worry.

Shameless plug: Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2008

You know its bad when the tumbleweeds can’t even tumble.

The wind is so strong today that the tumbleweeds can’t tumble gently down the street. Instead, they’re being blown two feet off the ground in diagonal directions. The winds are up to 43 mph and there’s a brown haze of dust in the bottom half of the sky. I never knew Weather Channel had a little icon for “blowing dust,” but it does. That was the forecast for today. Blowing Dust.

There will be no running 10 miles outside today. If tomorrow’s weather is the same, then I suppose I’ll do it on the treadmill. It may be mindless and boring, but it won’t be dusty and windy.

I mailed out a ton of magazines to people, which was a small fortune if I can be honest. You can easily read the magazine online, though seeing the glossy version is much nicer. You pay to subscribe, of course, and save me from paying your postage (wink, wink). Just let me know.

We’re enjoying a lazy weekend. I’ll be making comfort food all weekend, watching Netflix and reading American Wife and industry magazines in between.

Blizzard one weekend, dust storm the next. Crazy.

The One Day Blizzard

I’ll make this brief because I’m tired and have no business blogging at 10:30 at night. Honestly, I should be fighting my insomnia by now.

Anyway, I’ll start the Blizzard post with a picture of Jackson on Friday. He had a fever and didn’t part with Uniqua for about 36 hours. (She is the pink blob underneath his bottom in the picture.)

fever jack
This was taken when the blizzard first got going. Keep in mind that it was 65 degrees the day before.

Jeremy and Chuck in the blizzard
Since Chuck was deprived of igloo-building as a child, he fulfilled a lifelong fantasy and built one on Friday.

working on the igloo

beginning of the igloo

almost done with the igloo

Jake the Roomie helped because it wouldn’t be fitting for any adult male to not take part in building an igloo. This kind of endeavor takes man-skills (and a Rubbermaid lid).

the older boys finish the igloo

The igloo building continued after the little boys went to bed. (Perfection takes time.)

igloo into the night

He was happy. Covered in snow, but happy.
finished igloo
Jeremy was happy, too, to wake up Saturday morning and see the finished igloo in the front yard. Since the temperature rose to nearly 45 degrees that day, playing outside was more enjoyable.

jeremy in the igloo

side of the house

By Sunday, the temperature was back in the 60s and there was little snow to play with. All the neighborhood kids were out enjoying every last bit, including Chuck and Jake, who impaled the small children with snowballs.

snowball fight

boy in shorts

And finally, here is Jeremy in his father’s old Superman pajamas. We were nice and let him wear the cape to bed.


Now I’m going to bed.

I dreamt I was Michelle Obama’s personal assistant.

It was so vivid that I remember the details of her bedroom, or whosever bedroom we were chatting in. She was lying stomach down on the bed propped up by her elbows, intently listening to me as I sat on the carpet in front of her.

“So Jeremy’s been asking about being baptized,” she starts.

“Yes, on a regular basis,” I tell the First Lady. “We’re answering his questions, but we’re waiting until he really understands.”

“Yes, that’s wise,” she counsels me. “You know, when Malia was baptized…”

I don’t hear her answer because I heard the door open in the adjacent sitting room. It’s the President. He’s in a navy suit, white shirt and blue tie, carrying his jacket over to an arm chair to set it down. He’s oblivious to me and doesn’t even look our way, even though I’m discussing my child’s eternal salvation with his wife.

I turn back to Michelle and she’s staring at me like it’s my turn to speak. I don’t know the last thing she said to me so I say nothing.

Then my alarm goes off.

I quickly analyzed my dream because it seemed real, as if I actually lived in those few minutes. I have no proof that I was actually her assistant, but that’s what it felt like. While this dream was odd on many levels, the ironic thing is that my actual boss’s name is, in fact, Michele.

To Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and back.

We enjoyed a mini-vacation in Santa Fe and Albuquerque this weekend and I was left with over 300 pictures to edit. It was blissfully wonderful to see different terrain, one with mountains, curves and foliage. Santa Fe was lovely with its adobe architecture and artisan touch. Had it just been Chuck and me, I would’ve drug him through one gallery after another, so he got lucky (this time). We went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and walked around the Railyard, as well as took a drive up one of the many mountains to see the snow. We ate local food (Blue Corn Cafe & Cowgirl BBQ) and walked around the Old Town.  Then we drove to Albuquerque Sunday morning to visit the Rio Grande Zoo (absolutely worth the 50 minute drive and cheap entrance fee!).  

I uploaded over 30 photos but only posted a few of my favorites. The rest are in the photo blog, so you can check them out there. Honestly, even though the drive was a drab four hours, it was worth the trip. As long as you have sleeping children and good music on the iPod, it’s doable. (Of course, even if you have screaming children and music you can’t hear, it’s still worth it.)

the brothers in Santa Fe

Not Your Usual Morning News

It’s no surprise that we listen to talk radio on the way to school every morning. And even though we’ve been in our new morning routine for over a month, there are still some topics that make me chuckle.

For example, only in Amarillo will you hear the weatherman say, “Winds will be around 30 mph today, so take your Aqua Net with you to work.”

Also, in State news, while the two Republican candidates for governor are battling for the election, there has yet to be a Democratic candidate.

And finally, I can’t help but giggle over the crop, oil and execution updates every morning. Yes, really. We’ve killed six so far this year!

This is Texas.

“Mom! It doesn’t smell like cow poop today!”

Now that’s what I like to hear first thing in the morning.

In other good news, I ran five miles yesterday at the gym, which may not be all that significant to you, but considering I have not run since the Naperville Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, I’m pretty darn proud. I’m considering my next race options, vacillating between the half and the full, and wondering how I’ll train in 40 mph winds. I finally got new running shoes, ditching the old ones I’ve had for a year (running a half AND a full marathon in them, along with regular working out…).

Jeremy has adjusted nicely to his new PreK class. His teacher calls him a “sweet boy” and says he’s doing beautifully with the curriculum. Based on the work he’s brought home this week, I’d say that’s right.

Both Chuck and Jake were out of town a bit this week, which meant I had control of the remote. It’s hard being outnumbered! Basically, I’m reading at night while they watch Top Gear or the Military Channel. I don’t really mind, especially since my favorite Gordon Ramsay show is back on EVERYDAY on BBC America. I have quite a stockpile on the DVR, which means I can watch them in secret.

We don’t have much planned for the long weekend. Jake headed home this morning to see his family, so it’s just the four of us for three whole days. The weather is supposed to be fabulous, so I imagine we’ll be outside at some point. Maybe we’ll go looking for more water. I heard there was some south of here.

Continuing the Texan Transition

I finally went to the DMV yesterday to get my license. It was the usual process of paperwork and proving your identity. However, at the end of it, the lady at the desk presented me with a certificate (which serves as my temporary license) and said, “Congratulations! You’re a Texan now!”

“Um, thank you,” I replied, giving her a curious stare. She was genuinely excited for me.

In related news, check out the back of the registration sticker in the windshield:
Continue reading “Continuing the Texan Transition”

“What’s that smell!?!”

Jeremy happened to be downwind when I opened the patio door this morning to let Hank out. The smell of money is strong today.

This is our last vacation day; Jeremy starts school tomorrow. We don’t have anything out of the ordinary planned, other than a possible trip to a park. Jeremy has been asking about school since Christmas and when I told him this morning that he’ll be going tomorrow he cheered and hollered at the breakfast table. He’s eager to meet new friends and return to doing “important work.” The reality is that he may repeat kindergarten next year. By Texas law, he would not have started kindergarten this year anyway, missing the birthday cutoff by 8 days. Also, he has struggled to retain some of the things he learned, so repeating the year may prove beneficial. Plus, he’s going from a traditional education to a classical one, so we have no idea how well he’ll transition into the new curriculum. We’re not going to make the call until the end of school year, so anything could happen between now and then.

The biggest change this week was the addition of a roommate. Jake, another agent still in transition, moved into the guest room/office on Saturday. His pregnant wife and two children are still in California and will not move to Amarillo until after the baby arrives and they’ve purchased a home here, so we offered Jake a place to stay in the meantime. Being a family man, he’s not scared off by the screeches and screams of small children, nor bothered by the Backyardigans singing in the background. He and Chuck should have the same schedule, so when Chuck is out of town, so is Jake. Should that change, I told Jake that he’s on garbage duty when Chuck is gone.

We visited the same church for a second time yesterday but decided afterward to keep looking. The children’s program was a big turn on for me, but the general size of the church is overwhelming. There were other things Chuck and I didn’t like, but overall it just didn’t “feel” right. There are plenty of churches here, so I’m sure we’ll find something we all like eventually.

Welcome 2009.

Instead of resolutions and goals, my outlook for the new year can be summed up in one word: Adjustment. While I’d like to run another marathon, explore The West, and find freelance work, the reality is that we are mostly focused on adjusting to Chuck’s new job and schedule, Jeremy’s new school and our overall new life in Texas. Even though Chuck has been working since we arrived in Amarillo, we haven’t hit the meat and potatoes of it yet. Heck, Jeremy hasn’t even started school yet, so my goal setting doesn’t surpass next week. I haven’t even gotten my new drivers’ license. (Obviously finding a nice grocery store took priority.)

So far, 2009 has been pretty good. We took the boys to see The Tale of Despereaux today. (Jackson actually sat through most of it!) I give it two thumbs up. Take your littles to see it, if you can. Afterwards we went for a short drive around the north part of the city just to see what was there.

We’ve actually had a really great week here at the Miller home with the arrival of our first visitors. Bill and Brenda showed up Sunday afternoon and stayed through yesterday morning. Of course, we’ve been unpacked for days so accommodating house guests wasn’t a problem. The boys were thrilled to see their grandparents at the airport and Jeremy, especially, was eager to show them just how Texan he’s become (cowboy hat, boots, belt buckle…).

We gave them a decent tour of the town, as best as two newbies could give. Despite Jackson’s lingering stomach bug, we managed to take them to the Palo Duro Canyon, Cadillac Ranch, The Big Texan, Cavendar’s, and other local parks and shops. As expected, the three days was over too soon and it was a tearful goodbye. Fortunately, for you, I have pictures.

Final column.

This is my final column which ran last Sunday. I wrote for the Times Free Press for over 8 years and while there were times I dreaded the deadline, I’m going to miss it. Perhaps I’ll find somewhere else to write… Anyway, enjoy. And Merry Christmas.

Two weeks ago, in the midst of packing up the apartment for our move to Texas, I saw a commercial that made me pause. The voiceover began, “Remember when Christmas was magical? Let’s get back to that.”

Packing tape in hand, my brain immediately went back to Christmas 1986 when I got a Barbie moped for my dolls. We had just moved to West Germany, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and were living in guest quarters, or a gasthaus, on the Army base. We were uprooted sometime in the fall, as I remember being introduced to my new third grade class mid-semester. It was a strange new world but one I immediately enjoyed for the winter snow was abundant and my classmates were kind.

Christmas morning had come and our tree had birthed a bounty of presents. My sister and I, in our matching pajamas, sat on the floor in the dining room where our tree stood next to the fireplace, across from the kitchen and adjacent to the living room. To my recall, we had never lived in such a large palace, though I knew it was temporary, and by the following Christmas we had settled into a cottage in the German town just a couple of miles from the base.

Our parents watched as we tore open one gift after another, and while I don’t remember everything Bugs Bunny or the family dog gave me (my mother had a sense of humor when it came to writing the gift tags), I have never forgotten the feeling of pure elation when I unwrapped my new Barbie moped. The wheels clicked when I scooted it along the floor, filling the room with a plastic motor sound that probably annoyed everyone over the age of eight. I played with that moped for the rest of the day.

Like most people, I have a rolodex of Christmas memories in my mind ranging from early childhood to newly married, most of them more meaningful than the one with the moped. However, I thought it was interesting that my brain selected the one Christmas that so closely followed a big transition in my childhood.

Now that sequence is being repeated in my own family. Never in a million years did I imagine our world would be turned upside down at Christmastime, that we would be moving across the country the week before my favorite holiday.

If this were any other year, our Christmas tree would be up, along with coordinating holiday décor throughout the house. The boys would have their own mini-tree in their room and every day would be filled with the sounds of Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald. We would’ve have had a Christmas party with our friends and spent Christmas Eve with our extended family.

That isn’t he case this year. Naturally, it’s been hard to capture the Christmas spirit when I’m distracted by the stacks of moving boxes in the living room. This is wrong, I think to myself. There should be a fully decorated Christmas tree standing in the window frame, not a leaning tower of copy paper boxes filled with books, trinkets and under-used kitchen utensils.

It isn’t that my spirit it gone; rather, it’s on hold. We should arrive at our new house a full eight days prior to Christmas Eve. If I time it right, if I keep my momentum, if I coordinate the unpacking of every box, there’s a good chance I can have a fully decorated, fully unpacked and organized house by bedtime, December 24th.

My enthusiasm is one third excitement, one third obsessive-compulsive disorder, and one third the result long-term insomnia, which is why the plan sounds a little crazy to some and perfectly logical to me. The more I remember that magical Christmas morning over twenty years ago, the more I want this Christmas to be magical for my children. We, too, had just moved, and suddenly we were an ocean away from everything that was familiar. We were living a transitional life and my parents still managed to create the perfect holiday for their daughters filled with tradition and wonder. My little boys have been living in organized chaos for the last five months with their father nine hours away and their mother worn ragged from flying solo. Now that we’re back together and uprooting to Texas, I would be remiss if I didn’t christen our new life with a magical Christmas morning.

Whether it was a makeshift Christmas my mother threw together the night before or one she worked on diligently for months, I don’t want to know. Christmas 1986 was just how Christmas should always be, filled with happy moments, family tradition and laughter. Perhaps, in the midst of our move, my boys will capture a few moments in their hearts this week that will give them magical memories for years.

Merry Christmas, Chattanooga. And farewell.