Dec 19, 2014



You’ve reached the age where I can distinctly remember that I considered my own life to be very “difficult.” Like, middle school really stunk. I thought 6th-grade math was really hard, I’d accidentally gotten my hair cut into a puffy mullet, and friendships with girls my age were really complicated. 

I’ve been worried about you entering middle school, about how you’d adjust to such a big campus, whether you’d have trouble making new friends, if you’d be able to earn really good grades in accelerated classes … It turns out, you’re doing just fine. But you do this thing that I’m told is totally NORMAL where you only speak like 10 words a day to me, so you know, BE PATIENT WITH ME WHEN I WORRY.

One thing I love about you is that even at 12, you haven’t lost your keen imagination or your sense of play. You still love to line your Unifix Cubes up on the table, and you’ll play with them for hours. I have no idea what you’re doing with them, but it’s definitely imaginative play. And you love to play with Nick, Jake and Amelia – particularly Amelia. You give her piggyback rides, shoulder rides, you swing her around, tickle her … and she begs you for more until YOU cry for mercy.

We’re so much closer to the end of our time with you at home than we are to the beginning. I think about that a lot, and it brings tears to my eyes. Two-thirds of our time with you as a full-time son and brother is over … I can’t believe it. (I’m making a mental list of colleges that are within a 30-minute drive of our house.) (But don’t let that sway your future decision in any way.)

In just a few months we’re scheduled to leave this house for a new-to-us house just a few blocks away, away from the only house you’ve ever known, away from the house where Daddy and I brought you home from the hospital, where I rocked you every night in the rocking chair and laid you down to sleep in your crib. I know we’ll manage it, but just thinking about all of the memories that I have to pack up of you – my firstborn – to take with me, well, it takes my breath away.

My middle-schooler, my Boy Scout, my partner-in-crime … I’m so proud to call you my son.

I love you,

Dec 18, 2014

2014 wishlist items -- for you procrastinators

You've got all your shopping done, right? Nothing left to pick up at the last minute? In the old days, I used to be able to share ideas with you, share the things I was buying for our boys with you several weeks early.

CAN'T DO THAT ANYMORE, since they read the blog during their computer time at school. But even though it literally IS last-minute, it occurred to me that I CAN share with you a few things that I bought for other kids on our Christmas list, several things that the kids put on their own lists, and some things that The Ladies might like to see under the tree.

Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll ($34.99)

Frozen Anna baby doll ($29.99)

Sofia the First Princess-in-Training musical book ($6.02)

Sofia the First: The Royal Slumber Party ($3.99)  We actually have this book and it's one of Amelia's favorites.

Simon ($25.75)

Gaming headset ($25.99)

Tattly tattoos ($15-$16) Have you seen these? They're kid-safe, made from vegetable-based ink, but they're really beautiful ... not as juvenile looking as most kids' tattoos. For girls and boys. Kids and adults.

Boogie Board writing tablet ($29)  Kids need something to do in the car or while waiting for your food to arrive at a restaurant? Ta-da!

Oh, and hey, if you're looking for something cute for a wife or girlfriend -- OR FOR YOURSELF -- here are a few ideas:

Super-soft quilted chevron throw ($59.88)  I MEAN. Who wouldn't want this. In every color.

Faux-fur throw ($49.95)  I have this blanket in charcoal, and it's the softest thing ever.

2015 Kate Spade planner ($29.95)  I only spent $7 on my own planner, but this one's a stunner.

The Middle on DVD (Season 1) ($17.99)  Whether you have kids or not, this show is one of TV's best comedies. Jamie doesn't have kids, and she'll back me up on that, 100 percent.

Orphan Black on DVD (Season 1) ($15.99)  Grayson and I are obsessed with this show, and it won't even take you that long to catch up. Short seasons, and Season 3 doesn't start until April. JOIN US.

Amazon Affiliate links are included in this post. That means that if you click through and order something, it won't cost you extra, but it will help support my site. Thanks in advance for spending your hard-earned bucks at Amazon, through Grass Stains.

When things are out of balance

On Monday morning, we got a call from daycare that Amelia was sick.

Grayson went to pick her up, and he'd no sooner buckled her into her car seat when she threw up all over everything.

He cleaned her -- and the car -- up as best as he could, then got them home so he could tend to her for the rest of the day.

She was a pitiful little thing, but ultimately it ended up just being a 12-hour stomach bug.

Because daycare has a 24-hour rule that we wanted to honor, I stayed home with her on Tuesday.

I was incredibly grateful that the time of year and my current workload allowed me to take the sick day without any real hardship -- none of my business partners needed me while I was out, and I didn't have a mountain of tasks waiting for me upon my return yesterday.

There are certainly times during the year when work and life aren't in such a balance, and it can make it hard on our family.

This month, with the added complications of closing on our new house and traveling for the holidays, along with a couple of extended-family members navigating ongoing health concerns, I was relieved that this little blip on the radar was exactly that: a blip.

I'm happy to report that Amelia is totally back to normal, kicking bootie and taking names around the house.

Not that I expected anything less, but with these viruses, you never know how long they're going to last.

It's great to have her smiling face back.

I wanted to make sure to share some of these pictures with you ... most years I forget to come back and share more of the pictures from our Christmas-card picture shoot.

There really ARE very few things as satisfying as throwing rocks into water.

So if you're wasting your time doing too many other things, you should probably reexamine your priorities.

I can't get over how quickly she's growing up, and I want to savor each and every moment with her.

Soon enough, the rock-throwing won't be an adventure anymore ...

And she'll be off on big adventures of her own making.

Dec 16, 2014

My trip to Jackson, Wyo.

When my sister moved to her new house in Jackson, Wyo., at the beginning of November, she asked if she could fly me out to help her with some design and decorating choices.


She's lived there for almost seven years, but this is her first chance to really make a house "her own." It had been 16 years since I'd been out there, and I totally enjoyed my flights. We chased the sunset between Birmingham and Denver.

The strangest thing happened when the sun dipped below the clouds ... it lit them up from below, and it made it look like there was a forest fire down there. I'd never seen anything like it.

For a few minutes it was dark. Ish.

And then we caught up to the sun again!

For a few more minutes, it was brilliant again.

But then as we were on final approach to Denver, it dipped back below the horizon.

And all the city lights appeared below us.

(Have I ever mentioned that if I believed in reincarnation, I'd want to come back as a pilot?) (Well, maybe that's not exactly how reincarnation works.) (I'm no expert.)

I arrived on a Friday night and got a quick tour. Not quick enough for Sarah Ellen, who was like, "COME ON. I can see the wheels turning in your HEAD. Just follow me. Quit stopping IN EVERY ROOM."

I couldn't help it. It was like I was downloading information and then processing it with every step I took.

Saturday morning we got up and grabbed a quick lunch on our way to Idaho Falls, which is about a two-hour drive from Jackson. Sarah Ellen had rented a U-haul van for the weekend in case we were able to find some good deals on furniture. We spent about 12 hours round-trip driving and shopping -- not at high-end shops, mind you. We had to go all the way to I.F. just to shop at Target, Lowe's and a place called Furniture Row, which is kind of a furniture superstore area.

We made a VALIANT attempt to find Rooms To Go, but apparently it had closed some time ago and no one told the billboards or online ads that still proudly touted its existence.

Still, we packed that U-haul van FULL of area rugs, curtains, two leather push-back recliners, lamp bases and Lord knows what else. You know what I learned? I learned that I don't sweat like a pig when I spend someone else's money. Yeah, apparently that only happens to me when I spend my own. When we got back to Jackson at midnight, we were too tired to unload, so we just fell into bed.

Sunday morning, Sarah Ellen unloaded before I even woke up, but I stirred myself in time to go to Cafe Genevieve for brunch. I ordered chicken and waffles for only the second time ever.

It was terrible.

I wanted to go back the next day and eat it all over again.

When we got back from lunch, we painted one of her guest rooms ... it was a Kermit green, and it went mushroom. Official Before & After pictures are coming after all of her furniture comes in! We ordered a lot of stuff online, so some stuff won't be here until after Christmas. We also worked on space planning in some of her other rooms.

Monday morning when we woke up, it had snowed a few inches! This was the view out my bedroom window; if you've ever been to Jackson, you might recognize those slopes over there as Snow King.

Although it's not that exciting, one of the biggest jobs we tackled was hanging curtain rods, sheers and blackout curtains on every window in her house. And she has a LOT of windows. All told, that probably took us 12 hours. Here's a sneak peek of one of the sets of curtains and one of the rugs ... this is in her dining room:

We were getting ready to take the U-haul van back when I looked out the window and saw two mule deer right next to the garage. WILDLIFE!

I totally freaked. I'm a wildlife NUT.

I never get to see any because it's like wildlife hates me. Unless you count the kind that lives in my attic, but even then, the squirrels and raccoons don't want to SEE me. So yeah, this totally made my trip.

While we were out returning the van, we stopped at Betty Rock, a terrific deli/bakery. And we couldn't resist these chocolate chip cookies. Could YOU?

Before we headed back to the house to try to get a little more done during my last 18 hours in town, we drove out of town a little ways to look for moose. I knew it was kind of a lost cause -- and we didn't look for long, but we went to their "regular hangout" -- but we didn't see any. Still, I got to see the mule deer, so I was happy.

I wasn't there to see wildlife; I was there to work, so I wanted to get back to the house and work some more.

Monday night we met our friend Caroline (of our 2013 Kauai trip) at The Kitchen for supper. Delicious meal and great company!

After we got back from supper, we looked at what was left on our To Do and To Buy lists and settled onto Sarah Ellen's big bed with her laptop AND her TV to shop for what we hadn't been able to find in I.F.

At around 10 p.m., we wrapped up and decided to finish off my trip with a viewing of the unrated version of Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy film The Heat. Excellent way to end my trip, by laughing so hard I peed on my sister's bed.

Overnight it snowed another several inches, so when we woke up IN THE DARK to head to the airport, it looked like this outside:

And it was still coming down.

The snowplows hadn't gotten to her street yet, as it was only about 5:30 a.m., but they'd cleared the main streets already.

Have you ever ridden in a car with a dog that loves people AND loves to ride in the car?

Meet Sunday.

These pictures will illustrate what it's like to ride with a lovey-dovey doggie in the car.

A dog who's in constant motion and can't be still even when she wants to be.


I have to say, as airports go, the Jackson airport isn't too shabby. Here's a picture of my gate. (Well, it's really ALL the gates.)

My flight was delayed for quite some time because, as you can tell by the fact that you can't even read "UNITED EXPRESS" on the top of the plane because ICE, it had to be de-iced.

On the wings, also ICE.

It is so normal for this to happen that honestly I don't know why they don't just go ahead and factor de-icing into the flight schedules during the winter months.

I'll tell you what, though ... that snowstorm sure made for some GORGEOUS flying on the way home. #futurereincarnatedpilot

And although the landscape is totally different, it was nice to be welcomed back home by the rolling hills and fluffy clouds of Birmingham.

Most people think Alabama is so flat and are really surprised to learn that we have several mountains here and that it's very hilly.

I also got a sweet welcome home from my family, including Amelia, who couldn't wait to snuggle up in "our chair" in the den and read a book.

I loved my visit to Jackson and I can't wait to share more of it with you when I have "real" Befores and Afters!

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