Monday morning convo with Major

Major: It was a bad weekend.

Me: Yes it was.

Major: I can’t believe that game.

Me: Me neither, dude. Me neither.

Major: We should’ve won.

Me: I know, I know.

Major: We should’ve gone for two.

Me: I know, I know.

Major: It’s gonna take me a while to get over it.

Me: Same here.

Major: Now I’m nervous about the rest of the season. Did you hear that Kentucky beat Missouri?

Me: I heard.

Major: And Vandy put some pressure on Ole Miss. VANDERBILT. AGAINST OLE MISS. I can’t take it.

Me: Me neither.

Major: Mom?

Me: Yes?

Major: Do you think we’ll beat Arkansas?

Are we gonna beat Arkansas

Those brown eyes, though.

The Day Josh Dobbs hugged Jackson

The forecast for the Tennessee Vols Orange and White Game was not good. On Friday evening, my Weather Channel app showed 100 percent change of rain and thunderstorms. Chuck announced that he would not endure a thunderstorm, and Saturday morning, Jeremy announced the same thing. Jackson and I looked at each other during breakfast and decided we would risk it. With jackets and ponchos in hand, we set off for Neyland Stadium for Fan Day with our fingers crossed.

That finger crossing thing must have worked because not a single drop of rain fell from the sky. In fact, by the end of our seven hours in Knoxville, both Jackson and I were hot and sunburned. Furthermore, upon arriving on campus we saw a very small crowd of maybe thirty people standing around Quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Jackson and I lost our minds, found a parking spot, and ran straight to him.

It took about twenty minutes to have any sort of contact with him, but that’s primarily because I insisted Jackson and I not push our way through people. “We aren’t going to be rude,” I kept telling my son. “We will wait our turn.” Not everyone functioned that way, which was embarrassing, particularly for the adults who shoved kids aside (one child was in a wheelchair, for goodness sakes) for an autograph and selfie.

Knowing that Josh Dobbs wouldn’t stand there indefinitely, I leaned down to Jackson and whispered, “You just need to be bold and catch his attention with your voice. He can’t stand here much longer.”

Then, from the bottom of a crowd of people calling for autographs and photos, Jackson yells, “EXCUSE ME, MR. DOBBS, CAN I HAVE A HUG?”

The quarterback turned our way and said, “Sure, no problem.”

Hugging Josh Dobbs

Be still my heart, y’all. Jackson gave him a tight squeeze, said thank you, and then nearly exploded from excitement. If our Fan Day experience had ended right then, it still would’ve been worth it.

As expected, there was a lots of standing in line, which is hard for everyone but especially hard for kids. It’s especially hard for a kid whose mother was ill-prepared for three hours of standing and brought no snacks or drinks. Thankfully, a nice man behind us forfeited his program, so that gave Jackson reading material for a while.

Reading the program

By the time we got inside the stadium for Fan Day, Jackson and I were rejuvenated. There is something very cool about walking onto the checkerboard end zones and touching the grass where college football is played.

Jackson in Neyland

There was more standing to do inside the stadium, but this time it didn’t end with a photo or autograph. The line to meet Coach Jones was painfully long, and even though we were closer to the front (as opposed to closer to the back), we still didn’t get to meet him.

Waiting for Coach Jones

Just as tears welled in Jackson’s eyes, I spotted a group of cheerleaders. That put a huge smile on his face. (We all know how much Jackson likes cheerleaders.)

Jackson with Smokey and the Cheerleaders

It had been six hours since breakfast, so after this photo was taken we ran for the concession stand. With a wide view of the field and only an hour until the Orange and White Game was starting, we scarfed down junk food as if we’d not eaten in days.

Neyland Stadium

We also enjoyed watching Peyton Manning roam the field while the players warmed up. (Y’all know the stadium lost its mind when Peyton walked out. He’s Tennessee Royalty.)

Peyton comes to visit

We only stayed for the first quarter of the game because exhaustion had set in fully and the eight year old was fading. He said it had been one of the best days of his life, that he was glad to spend it with me, and that meeting Josh Dobbs was his favorite part. Jackson’s eyes glistened as he said these things, telling me that the sunburns and achy feet and hours of standing in line was worth it.

I always think it’s worth it when we get to see Smokey. 

Running the checkerboard

Hey Spring Break

My sinuses hate everything about right now, but the scenery is gorgeous.

bud pinky purpley white and pink

The boys are working double time on their school work today to ensure their spring break starts tomorrow instead of Monday. We have big plans for the coming week, specifically that Jeremy is going to Disney World. Just Jeremy, you ask? Yes, because Chuck and I are totally uncool and will not take our kids to Disney, so my sister is. They will swing down from Chicago, pick up our 11-year-old, and take him to the happiest place on earth. Two years from now, when Jackson is 11, they’ll do the same with him.

Chuck and I get off scot-free. We don’t have to wade through pools of loud children or stand in line for hours or hear It’s a Small World over and over and over again. We’re totally dancing a jig.

It sounds bad, but the honest part is that we’re a different sort of traveler. We’d rather camp or wander around a new city without a timetable. We prefer places where we’re not outnumbered by stranger kids and food isn’t outrageously over-priced. There is charm and magic at Disney World, but it’s not the kind of charm and magic we’re interested in. We’re very grateful to have family members who will do this great task for us and give our children a wonderful experience.

Meanwhile, we have our own plans to make Jackson’s spring break memorable. He’s pretty excited about being an only child for a week. His first request?

“Can I stay up ’til 10?”

You sure can, buddy. 

Throwback to April 2008

We were nine months away from our move to Texas and we’d embraced an adventurous attitude for good measure. The first house we bought as a married couple was on the market and about to be sold, a house that Jackson now says he doesn’t remember. The life we lived there seems well out of my grasp, but I remember this moment perfectly. Jeremy was four and a half and Jack was nearly two.

TBT April 2008

Ice, then snow, then cabin fever

What a week. Lost power, restored power, ice, ice, more ice. No internet, a quickie blizzard, serious cabin fever.

It’s been mostly fun for the boys since they could gather with the neighborhood kids and enjoy all the hills and slippery surfaces. The neighborhood kids were out of school all week but I was the mean mom who made her kids do school four out of the five days. It wasn’t without major pouting and arguing, which resulted in a day’s worth of grounding and restriction and more sulking. Homeschooled kids can do school in their PJs and sleep in and take a lot of breaks, but they don’t get snow days. This is not new information, so when I reminded them that they would at least do math and vocabulary, they lost their minds.

Did I mention cabin fever?

The ground is still frozen at single-digit degrees and there are solid sheets of ice where the afternoon sun doesn’t reach. We are eternally grateful that our power loss was short-lived and we didn’t lose the two weeks worth of groceries that I’d just purchased. We are also grateful for the gas fireplace that kept us warm in the dark.

Since our internet has been restored, we’ve felt a wave of rejuvenation and feel like no winter weather can keep us down. God bless the creator of WiFi.

Frozen grass

Ice storm 2015

Up the hill


Jack on the sled

Tractor pull

Tractor pull2

Skating in the driveway

Quick blizzard

Major in the snow

Meeting Smokey X and Well Wishes to the Vols

We went to the Vol Walk yesterday and had THE BEST TIME. It all started when we met Smokey X.

Meeting Smokey XChuck took the photo because he was the only one who wasn’t swooning over this dog. I eyeballed every inch of his fur to see how similar his coat is to Major’s. They could be from the same litter for sure, but we decided Major was bigger in bulk and not nearly as well behaved.

The second most amazing thing that happened is the boys got to cross over the flags, which separates the players from the fans, because of an invitation by Barb Jones – the First Lady of Tennessee Football.

At first, her face didn’t register with me. We were situated behind the flags in hopes that we’d get a good look at Coach Butch Jones and the players as they walked from the bus to the stadium. The longer we sat waiting, the more people shuffled over us to stand on the other side of the flags, therefore obstructing our view. It can be discouraging since parents try really hard to find a good spot for short kids to see! Just as I sat there thinking we’d chosen the wrong spot, a dark-haired woman walked over to me and said, “Why don’t you bring your boys over here with us so they can see the players? I feel really bad standing in front of them.”

I look at Chuck, he shrugs sure, why not? We cross over the flags and stand with about 20 other people who seem far more important than us. I tell her thank you right away and have the boys introduce themselves. They shake hands and she guesses their grades. Finally, I reach out my hand, “I’m Jennie,” to which she replies, “I’m Barb.”


I didn’t recognize her behind her aviator sunglasses, nor did I realize that we were standing alongside coaches’ families.

But we were. Barb shooed the boys forward to stand next to her youngest son so they could be front and center to slap hands with the football players as they walked by.

And then, we met the Other Smokey! He engaged with Jackson and played with the small Smokey stuffed animal he brought to the game. Lil’ J nearly lost his mind.

Meeting the other Smokey

Thumbs up to SmokeyI squatted down so I wouldn’t block other fans and took pictures like crazy of our boys giving well wishes to the team.

Slapping hands with the playersI am so grateful to Barb Jones for seeing Jeremy and Jackson and pulling them out of the crowd for this special treat. We will never forget it!

Finally, we stayed to hear The Pride of the Southland Band, my personal favorite. I love hearing each section play its part. Even though we lost to Missouri last night, my heart swells with pride whenever I hear Rocky Top.

Tennessee may have lost to Florida, but…

…Jackson got a hug from a Tennessee cheerleader. Focus on the positive, people.

Jackson gets a hug

Here are a few other photos from the Vol Walk this morning. No comment on the game. Continue reading “Tennessee may have lost to Florida, but…”

So I had a long talk with myself.

The degree to which my brain is preoccupied with the novel is immeasurable. To say “all the time” is obviously an exaggeration, but for most of my waking hours, a large portion of my thoughts are centered around moving the plot forward and sharpening characters. The story has been with me for one year and nine months, and though some arcs and twists have changed on their own account, the primary bones of the plot are the same as they were when they first materialized. A few people have read what I’ve written so far and their feedback has helped me to consider a myriad of edits.

untold story

That being said, one particular plot hole has been nagging me for a while and an idea on how to fill it finally arrived on Friday afternoon. POOF! It was a spontaneous manifestation, just like everything else, but it struck me so bluntly that I’m consumed with how to handle it.

Yesterday, I took Major to some trails we frequent so he could run and I could think. What proceeded was a full-on argument in my head.

Me: I don’t know if I should do this.

      Other Me: Yes you do.

But this is all so sudden. How do I know it’s the right thing?

      You don’t know anything for sure.

But it seems like such a task to go backwards.

      But this moves the plot forward.

But it will involve going back to the beginning and rewriting —


Then I’ll have to go through the whole book and make sure this will make sense.

      You’ll have to do that anyway.

What if I’m being impulsive?

      What if you’re being inspired?

Maybe this idea should be saved for the next story?

      It’s for this one.

But maybe it’s not?

      You know it’s for this one.

What if the people who’ve already read it don’t like what I’ve done?

      It’s not their book.

Yeah, but I want everyone to like —

      Don’t start that crap. Write your book.

If people don’t like it, they won’t buy it. It won’t even get published. No one will take a chance on me and I will have done this for nothing and I’ll have so much regret and this will all be a waste.

      Seriously, don’t start that.

I’m really worried.

      Because you’re exposed.

I love it so much.

      Me too. 

I’m tired.

     So stop fighting and write your book.


Contented, I went on with the last leg of the hike observing all the new growth and watching Major frolic through the brush. Then I saw a snake, so I screamed and ran my ass back to the car.



Sunshine Love

This weekend was perfect. The weather was sublime, I planted the garden, the boys went to the Orange and White game, and we lounged outside on the patio like we’ve been longing to do since October. It was absolute perfection.

Today is a different story weather-wise, but let’s focus on the good.

In the garden are sweet Georgia onions, rosemary, thyme, three types of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, buttercrunch lettuce, and strawberries. The strawberries and lettuce are experiments. We’ll see what happens.



Continue reading “Sunshine Love”

A hint of spring

first flower

I know this is a weed, but it’s also a hint of things to come.  A week ago we were sledding  in a foot of snow. Today, I’m on the verge of turning on the air conditioner. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say we were living in Amarillo again. (Remember the one-day blizzards? Ca-razy.)

A Second Snow

Yesterday afternoon, it didn’t look promising.


The flakes weren’t sticking.


There was a lot of wishing and hoping that better snow would fall.


There was even late-night playing in mush, just in case that was all that happened.


By Major’s bedtime, it finally showed up.


We woke up to this.



Thank goodness our neighbor was up for sledding at 8 a.m. He’s got a great driveway for it.


Jack's turn

I was a good mommy and let Major play too.

Sledding with Anthony


It’s a beautiful day for staying home.


Dog kisses

Waiting on the snow

The Weather Channel is indecisive. I think it’s nervous about being wrong. Instead of starting last night, and then early this morning, now it says the snow should arrive this afternoon. I bought provisions yesterday, so it matters little to me when it actually starts. Yet, while I sit in the house another full day drinking pots of flavored coffee and bags of peanut M&Ms, I’ll hold my fist to the sky and blame Old Man Winter for adding another layer to my winter fat.


Seriously, we are all ready for spring. We are ready to romp and play and be warm. I’m ready for green grass and gardening and keeping our windows open all day. I’m ready to toss children outside for hours and take the dog for long runs.

Even though this photo was taken in the fall, it captures the happiness our family feels when we’re outside:

Romp in the woodsIn other news, I posted my first short story yesterday. Once I get all the feedback and do a few edits, I’ll post it. Thanks for participating in the poll, Internet.


Let’s all take a minute to observe the warmer weather.

SunbathingWe’re all jumping for joy over 45 degrees, which is leaps and bounds better than 2. I didn’t like 2. I hope you were all good pet owners and cared for your outdoor family members appropriately. (Condolences to those with busted pipes, flooded rooms, and other Polar Vortex-induced calamities.)

Our family has been quarantined for the week while dealing with coughs and sneezes. Since we haven’t had temperatures or vomiting, I’m not calling it the flu. I’m not sure what it was, but I’ve sufficiently disinfected the house and crossed my fingers that we’re on the tail end of it.

I’m back to working on the novel every day, though progress is slower since I’m intentionally not rushing. In my free time (i.e., running on the treadmill), I’m indulging in British dramas, which I find far more entertaining and creative than most of what’s being made here. I highly recommend Broadchurch, Mr. Selfridge, Sherlock, and White Chapel, if you’re into that sort of thing. And of course, Downton Abbey. Not sure I could love the Dowager more.


City people in the mountains

On my sister’s last day in Tennessee, we took the Chicagoans to Gatlinburg, taking the scenic route through the national park. I don’t love Gatlinburg, but I love the drive to get there.

Pokemon cards on the wayJacob loves Tennessee

City boy at the river

Sis and bro-in-law

Come here


Roots and moss

The road to Gatlinburg

Ever Thankful

When we go to Chattanooga, we squeeze in every moment we can with friends and family. It used to be our home, so not only is the city nostalgic, it’s also home to some of our favorite people.

This year Thanksgiving was with Chuck’s family. I admit that I was glad to be a guest and not a host, but only because November has been a tiresome month. Normally, I enjoy all the cooking and whatnot. This month,  I enjoyed lounging.

Miller Family ThanksgivingDo you think these two are related?


So grateful Tami and Jeff could host this year. I can’t say that everyone was well-behaved (Chuck), but that’s how little brothers are (Chuck).  SiblingsOrnament reflection

Before we stuffed our bellies with turkey and dressing, Chuck and I got up early to meet Karin and run the Turkey Trot 8K. It was Karin’s first road race and I was so happy to run alongside her.

Turkey Trot 8K

On Black Friday, while everyone was blowing cash and fighting lines, we were with our Fred and Ethel Mertz.

Valovcins and MillersValovcin and Miller kids

We also drove down to Santa Land Tree Farm to get our Christmas trees. That’s right – plural. As in two trees. I’ll post pictures of that tomorrow.

Finally, for those who are wondering, I haven’t finished the novel but I’m in the 70,000-word range. I completed NaNoWriMo, which was really satisfying, but I have a little less than two weeks to finish the story and turn it in to my creative writing professor. So far, so good.

Plotting on a walk

This is our neighborhood. Well, sort of. It’s the space behind our actual neighborhood where I like to walk Major. Recently, it’s been in this space that I’ve created much of novel’s plot. It’s nearly four miles to the end and back, and the time it takes  to circle around depends on whether I’m walking or running, or if Major gets sidetracked by squirrels and curious cows.

East Tennessee is most beautiful right now, so I thought you should see it.    camera_20131107163836374_20131107171647368NaNoWriMo Word Count to date: 20,350 (out of 50,000)

Feather hunt

The boys and I got out of the classroom yesterday morning to look for feathers. We’re studying flying creatures in Zoology, and since feathers are a defining characteristic of flying creatures, it made sense to see what we could see about them. With the dog in tow, we went to the duck pond to feed the masses and then explore the perimeter of the water’s edge.

We found a number of other treasures on our hunt, including a severed crayfish claw.

Feeding the ducksHappy Weekend to you, reader. Go Vols!


It’s Football Time in Tennessee!

You knew we were gonna do this. We just had to wait for football season to start.Game time

In fact, I bought a dog jersey from the pet store last week but ended up returning it because a large was too small. Major is nearing 60 pounds.It's football timeDo not be fooled by his good looks. I took this photo right after he stole a green tomato off the picnic table and ate it. What a stinker!

Go Vols!