Sunday, September 8, 2013

American Girls!

For some reason since we spent one month of our summer in Nebraska, I can't seem to figure out where our summer went.

But I do know that we had a great time.

After we got back, Mimi flew into Atlanta so that she could finally give Little Bear and Sassy their birthday presents.

American Girl Dolls

If you have a girl between the age of 5 and 12, going to an American girl store is a pretty awesome experience. And the store in Atlanta even has a bistro/café to make the experience even more amazing.

Mimi had to wonder about why she never bought my sister and I American Girl Dolls, and I laughed because we were about 12 when American girls started to become popular. And of course they were nothing like what they have today! We had our pick of FOUR historical dolls when we started receiving the catalogue. I wanted Samantha from 1904.

You can buy everything you see here plus the bed and travel trunk for Samantha for ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. Sheesh! Is it any wonder that Mimi didn't want to get us started on these when we were twelve?

However, Now there are dozens of styles to choose from so that you can get a doll that matches you. And I have to tell you that these dolls are AWESOME! I bought the cheap version from Target and let me tell you that they aren't worth even a penny compared to the quality of the American girl dolls.

The girls picked two slightly different styles of dolls so that they would always know which one was theirs. And they have been playing with them ever since they got home.

Awesome pick Mimi!

And of course, if the company that runs American Girls is as smart as Disney, by the time I am old enough to become a grandmother, they will have brought back the Samantha doll and I will indulge myself by buying the entire collection just because I can. : )

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Corn knives and Sunflowers

So I don't really feel like writing much. I know there's a lot to write about; end of school, five weeks in Nebraska, The Commander getting a day shift. But I'm feeling a little blue.

While the girls and I were back in Nebraska, my grandmother passed away. But we didn't call her grandma, she was Grams. My family was lucky enough to live just across the road from Grams and Granddad for all of my life. Grams always had food and something fun to do at her house so we were always running across the road to visit her. She fed you the second you walked in the door and you never left her house empty handed. She always had some trinkets to share with me and then later with my girls when we visited her.

I'm still struggling with her being gone, but even as I start to get emotional and tear up, I begin to grin and giggle. Because Grams was someone that you can only smile and laugh when you remember how tough she was.

When the pastor asked us how we would sum up Grams in a word or two, I said Superwoman. I have memories of Grams snatching flies in midair and crushing them in her fist while we sat and chatted at the dinner table. She once pointed out a small depression in her yard and told me there had been a bunch of small garter snakes sunning themselves in it the day before. I thought she was going to ask me to fill it in for her, but she told me that she got so irritated seeing them that she went over and stomped them all to death.

This woman didn't need super powers, she created her OWN class of awesome-ness.

And then there is the corn knife story.

Do you know what a corn knife is? It is basically a machete. A long, tapered knife with a squared-off end, that is about as long as your calf. I have no idea how it was named, but I assume it is because you carry them out into corn fields and used them to chop down man-sized weeds so they don't get in the combine when you harvest the corn.

My Dad tells the story better, but here's my version.

Grams always had a corn knife in the trunk of her car. Why? Because she hated sunflowers. Nothing bothered her more than seeing sunflowers growing in my Dad's fields. So on the way to church, her hairdressers, or anywhere I guess, if she saw a sunflower in the field, she would remember to stop on the way home, pop the trunk, grab her corn knife and march out into the field and hack it to bits.

Well when she got to be older (and don't be thinking I mean older as in fifty, I'm talking closer to EIGHTY) they started to worry that she might hurt herself doing that, so Dad would walk across the road to her garage, and take her corn knife out of the trunk. Of course living on a farm, you don't just have ONE corn knife, so Grams would go hunting around the farm, find another corn knife and put it in her trunk when Dad took hers out.

Dad loves to tell this story. And he got to add a little more to the story because when he went to look at flowers for the casket, the first thing he saw was three beautiful SUNFLOWERS sitting in the cooler. He told Mom and I when he got home that if he put those on her casket, she would probably hop out to cut them up herself.

Later, Mom and I were talking when Dad wasn't around and she said, "I think we should get a corn knife, spray paint it gold, and put it in the ground by her grave."

I responded with a smile, "I think we should BURY her with one!"

So when my sister-in-law and I went to town to get some groceries and a dress for me to wear to the funeral, we set out to buy a corn knife. A side note, if you have to explain to a clerk in a store what a corn knife is, they don't have any. However, when you go into Tractor Supply Company and ask for a corn knife, the reply is, "We have a great selection." We bought a corn knife and some gold spray paint and when we got back to my parents, I sprayed the knife gold and hid it behind the house to dry.

On the day of the family visitation, I loaded up the knife and brought it along. Dad saw the handle sticking out of the bag when I walked in and said, "What do you have in there?" His grin was priceless when he saw the gold corn knife and he asked me what I was going to do with it. He gave a little shake of his head, and did his little scoff/laugh like only my dad can, when I told him I wanted to bury it with her.

Later, when we sat down with the pastor to share our memories of Grams, Dad had me pull the knife out to show the pastor before dad told the corn knife in the trunk story. Everyone smiled as he told it. And finally, after we shared our memories, I took the corn knife in, opened Grams' casket, and laid it down beside her.

At the family burial the next day, Mom, my Sister-in-law and I had yellow pinwheels that we decorated to look like sunflowers for all of Grams' great-grandkids to put around her grave to make everyone smile and maybe chuckle just a little while they grieve.

And as I sit here, still grieving, smiling, and chuckling just a little, I know that there was no better way to say good-bye to such as amazing woman.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


With the Commander and I having birthdays only 3 days apart, we always try to eat out on the closest weekend. The girls and I were up and moving around Saturday morning and when the Commander woke up he came to talk to me while I was shopping on the computer, and suggested we hop in the van and visit Chattanooga, Tennessee. It took me about 20 minutes to figure out that he was talking about doing it NOW, but once I caught on I was pretty excited!

So we packed a cooler of treats for the girls and left.

The Commander drove and spent a lot of time fielding calls from family and friends who wanted to tell him happy birthday, the girls watched a movie since apparently their only other setting for the day was 'fight,' and I giggled at my own craziness.

I giggled at things like turkey vultures, store names and prom dresses. There were four turkey vultures just sitting beside the road in a straight line and all I could think about was.
And then I got the giggles because I saw a "Sugar Shack." Now where I grew up the Sugar Shack was an old weigh station for grain trucks that the farmers used for morning coffee. This one was a fancy cupcake place. I imagined stopping and having The Commander take a picture of the girls eating fancy cupcakes while I looked homesick and disgruntled that it wasn't MY idea of a sugar shack.
And then there was the prom dresses. In every town that we passed through there was a group of kids dressed for prom getting their pictures taken in different places; in a gazebo, at the courthouse, on the train tracks, etc. And I have to say that a lot of the girls seemed to be missing half the top of their gowns. I can't believe how popular cut our gowns are. And then I got to thinking . . . will girls just be wearing pasties by the time my girls are in high school?
And that is just a picture of how my brain works.
Back to the trip! We stopped at a scenic overlook on the first mountain we drove around. The girls were NOT pleased that we got out to climb on top of a huge rock, but we got the picture anyway
And look Mimi! Jeff got a picture of me!
Okay, so it's just the back of my head, but its the best I've got. : )

By the time we got to Chattanooga, we drove around the waterfront area for a few minutes and then it was time to eat. We ate at a neat local brewery that boasted it used to house a speakeasy and maybe even a brothel at one time for guests at the Chatanooga Choo Choo Hotel.

And then we knocked off one of the girls "101 things to do before you turn 12" by going to a patisserie.

And I got a delicious Chocolate mousse with espresso crème on top!

And unfortunately that's about all I can type since I'm fighting off a terrible cold.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Big Birthday Weekend - Friday

First thing first. Friday was The Commanders birthday, many comments were made about him getting old, to which I pointed out to the girls that The Commander's Grandmother is old, The Captain's Grandmothers are old, Daddy is not really OLD. He got a superhero card and some shirts from the girls and I, and then we did most of our celebrating throughout the weekend.

But now onto my little Artist.

When I picked Sassy up from school on Thursday, she was crying. It took me a few minutes of trying to talk to her to figure out that it was a good crying, not a bad crying. She had this note in her backpack.

 Panoply? I had no idea what this was, so we headed back into school to ask her teacher. Panoply is a big arts festival in Huntsville and Sassy's art was chosen to be on display. She was on the only one in her classroom to be selected and apparently only about 25 students from each school in Huntsville get selected.

So we loaded up the family on Friday and headed down to see her art. Sassy's is the one at the bottom left. And yes this is the best picture I have of it.

As you can see there were balloon animals to be found, dancers to watch, and crafts to do.

And below is Sassy getting a henna flower painted on her hand. I had to laugh as I watched parents with very young toddlers get henna designs on their children. They had authentic henna patterns meticulously painted on that the small child quickly wiped off 5 seconds after the poor artist finished.

Have you ever had henna put on? It takes about 30 minutes to dry and it smears easily. I at least knew what to expect so when the girls got their turn I looked at the girl painting the design and I said "Make it small and make it simple!"

Then I told the girls they had to hold their balloon animals in their hand with henna on it and keep it their until the henna dried. The girls may forget that they had paste on their hand, but they would never forget to be mindful of their beloved balloon animal! Then we went to the face painting booth, Sassy got whiskers and Little Bear got ballet shoes.

And that was just on Friday! Saturday we loaded up and headed to Chattanooga, Tennessee. And I'm going to make a second post for tomorrow on that!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


I've never been great at labeling local wildlife, so I've been trying to figure out what some or the local birds, critters and insects are around here. Unfortunately, the one that I've become the most familiar with are the red wasps that are EVERYWHERE!

One of our recent finds was made by Little Bear. We were trying to rush out the door to Story Time at the library when we ran into this little guy.

Can you see him? A little Turtle!

Little Bear was so excited! A real turtle outside of the Botanical Gardens. She wasn't impressed that I wouldn't let her pet it . . .but since I know nothing about turtles, I wasn't sure about germs or animal behavior regarding touching their young.

Of course that didn't stop her from petting it anyway.
I think that we had a much better find that The Commander, because the week before his critter he saw was of a more sinister variety.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Whimsical Woods

If you are from central Nebraska, chances are you are familiar with Stuhr Museum. Well, the corresponding place here in Huntsville is called Burritt on the Mountain. Burritt is one of the 3 locations that we purchased an annual membership to when we got to Alabama. Out of the three, it looked like we would might hold onto the Botanical Gardens for sure, maybe the Space Center, and probably not Burritt.

Without listing all the details and history of the place, I'll just say it is a living history location. They have farm set ups from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. And for my girls, just looking and talking about history isn't enough to excite them right now.

Enter the Whimsical Woods. According to the staff at Burritt this has been in the planning for YEARS. There are more that a dozen displays and play areas around the park for children to climb on and interact with. There are three large wooden play structures inspired by Cinderella, Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure Island.

They have a mining cart for Snow White's Dwarves, A cabin set up for Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the Three Little Pigs' houses.

But I think that the Three Little Pigs was the most fun for me. The girls and I take turns pretending to be the pigs and the wolf going through all the motions of knocking and snarling "Little pig, little pig, LET ME IN!" and squeaking back "not by the hair of my Chinny, Chin CHIN!"
With all the noise we make, we attract quite a crowd and pretty soon there are 4 or five little pigs as other children join in to run from Captain Big Bad Wolf. And the Commander just sits on the porch of the farm house beside us and laughs at our funny voices.

We lucked out on our first visit to the Whimsical Woods and it was the weekend of Spring Farm days. So in addition to playing in all the new areas, we got treated to demonstrations of old fashion Black Smith work, wood cook stove and open fire cooking, wool spinning, wool washing, and the best of all, a sheep shearing! The commander was so interested that he took a video of the whole thing! (Which I won't post because it probably isn't as cool if you haven't seen it done live.)

And in the middle of our visit, we sat down for a picnic lunch to enjoy the cool weather and excellent view! Burritt on the Mountain is on the tallest mountain in Huntsville so we get an excellent view of the city when we visit. You can see all the way across town to the Space and Rocket Center on a clear day.

The staff is great there too. On our last visit, one young gentleman saw us trying to pet the baby goats through the fence so he brought one out for the girls to pet.

Of course there are some visitors that say that all these fantasy/fairytale displays ruin the original intent of the farm to show a historical view of farm life, but I can only imagine how much their ticket sales have increase this summer. If they bring this back next summer, you can bet we will renew our membership, otherwise I think we will stick to the botanical gardens.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

And our last SUPER stop was. . .

Did you see the pictures I put on Facebook of Little Bear in her new Superman shirt complete with cape?
Have you ever heard of Metropolis, Illinois? I hadn't until our first trip out to Alabama. But when it started to get pretty foggy on our trip back from Nebraska, I decided we had better stop instead of try to make the trip in one day. So we stopped in Superman's home town.

And in Metropolis, on the corner of 'Truth' and 'Justice' Stands SUPERMAN! : ) Actually, he is on Superman Square, but they have some cool street signs that say Truth and Justice on the corners.

This small city of around six thousand knows how to capitalize on what they have, there are photo ops all over the square. Sassy fit just right . . .But Little Bear was a little shy of the height requirement.

And there are more phone booths that you could imagine in this city. I saw a decorative one in the bank lobby as we drove by.

The museum wasn't open while we were there, but we will definitely come back with the Commander sometime.