My husband and I typically feel like we're shuffling ducklings around when we walk from any given store out to the parking lot for our car.
    Between the four kids, we have a son who's the "fast one", running and darting between every shopping cart he can find, jumping over shrubs or bushes with imaginary swords for any dragons in his path.  Then there's the dawdler, who slowly humdrums far behind us, without a worry in the world.  We have the antagonizing one, who teases his two other brothers, pushing them or pulling them to get in their way.  Finally, there's the princess ballerina who pirouettes her way from car to car, spinning along as she goes.
     It's hard to keep up and have them stay together.  Just yesterday, as we stepped out of a store with our shopping cart, a car sped by.  It was loud and obnoxious and we quickly pulled the four kids back.  "See guys, that's why you have to stay close.  You never know when some car will go by too fast and we need to be able to reach you." 
     Feeling somewhat angry as the car sped away, we felt that at least we used it as a teachable moment from the potentially dangerous event.
    Crossing the street, the four stayed close by as Adam and I raised our eyebrows at each other with those unspoken words that are so often shared between years of familiarity.  
     Just then, between a first and second fairy princess spin, came the most pronounced and clear proclamation from our little girl, "That was one BITCHIN' car!"       
    Stopping dead in my tracks, I stood frozen in the middle of the road.  A woman walking by, shuddered as she glared at us in horror.
    "What did you just say?!" I managed.
    "That was one bitchin' car?"  Her spins became a little less enthusiastic.  
     An approaching car slowed, reminding me that we needed to move.  My husband and three boys evidently had the same reaction, as all five of us stood in disbelief...the boys of course...were giggling.
     "Lauren Elizabeth!  Where did you hear that?"  I haven't heard that word since the 80's so I was anxious to hear her response.  I watched as her little face changed from happy and carefree, to uncertainty.  "I don't know... TV maybe?  What does it mean?"
     "Oooooooooh Lauuuuuren!  You said a cuss word!"  The boys teased and chanted.
     "Guys, stop."  My husband interjected.  "Lauren, let's not say that again, okay?"
     "Okay, daddy." As her spins began again.
     Yes, it's like shuffling ducks anytime we go out.  Some are fast, some slow, some carefree...and others, evidently...are totally bitchin'.          You Vote - I'll Write!  XO  
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     Moving to North Carolina from my home in Ohio was a scary thing to do alone.  My parents said to go to church and meet good people.
     Sixteen years ago today, on Palm Sunday, I met one in particular.  He was cute and handsome and impossible to ignore.
      My parents were visiting to make sure I was settling in, when this cute boy asked my mom to pin a cross made out of a palm onto his shirt during the church service.  
      Little did I know that after dating him for the years that followed, I'd learn that he'd saved the cross the whole time, because it was from the first day that we'd met.  
      Sixteen years later, that same cute and handsome man looked over and smiled as one of our boys walked up to us at church and handed me this...
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      It took me back to how it all began and how it's been ever since.  
      It's nice to see God's little reminders of how His plan unfolds before our eyes.  I'll always be thankful for that one fine day, sixteen years ago, when one cute boy on Palm Sunday, happened to me.
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    I should begin by saying that I don't really believe in ghosts.  Not entirely.  There have been some instances throughout my life that have led me to wonder however.  Here are some examples of the 'good, bad and indifferent' of what I'm talking about.
     Let's start with the indifferent.  I'm a therapist and I work in a skilled nursing facility.  Even though we learn to deal with the loss of a patient, it never gets easier.  You'd be surprised though, at how many times when people are near the end, they look beside me and smile, asking who the nice man is, standing nearby.  I'm always alone in the room mind you, but nonetheless, there's a man they can see when I can't.  
     Other situations occur like awhile ago when a popular resident of ours passed away.  He was known for hitting the call light in his room.  When he passed, even though it was his time, it was a sad day and we missed him.  Then, one afternoon, even though his room was empty, his call light went off.  A co-worker went in to reset it only to have it ring again.  Time after time she turned it off thinking it was a glitch until she finally laughed and announced, "Okay Mr. So-n-So.  You can cut it out now.  We hear you!"  It stopped ringing from that point on.
     Coincidence?  Probably.  Did it mess with our heads?  Absolutely.   
    Then there's the bad.  Our fifth grade son had a class trip to Winston-Salem, North Carolina earlier in the school year.  A group of us decided to drive the day before and stay overnight for the early morning tour.  Later that evening, my son and I were walking around the old hotel that was nothing less than beautiful.  From what I understand it was originally built in the 1800's as a cotton mill.  
     Out of nowhere and for literally no apparent reason, I had the worst feeling.  I wouldn't describe it as feeling sick so much as I would feeling scared or unsettled.  It came over me as soon as we walked into one particular room and it felt like a darkness or coldness all around.  Wanting to leave the room, I was dumbfounded when my son elbowed me in that exact moment saying, "Mom, I don't like this place.  It feels bad."  Looking down at him I questioned, "What do you mean, buddy?  What feels bad?"  He just shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't know but I just don't like it here.  It feels like there's a ghost or something bad here."  I wanted to take him and run screaming for the car to sleep there for the night.  Reassuring him that he had simply watched too many 'Scooby Doo' episodes as a kid, I secretly felt the exact same way.  That whole night I kept waking up feeling strange then convincing myself I was just being silly. 
     You want to know the craziest part?  When we got home I googled the place and it's reported as being one of the most haunted locations in Winston Salem.  fantastic.  It's one thing when you scare yourself from something you've heard or read, but when we were staying there, I literally had no idea.  Zero.  I just felt it and thought I was being ridiculous without having a clue.  
    Then there's the good.  I remember as a little girl, my gram would always tell me that one day she'd have to go.  I recall crying saying that I never wanted her to leave, but she'd reassure me saying, "It will be okay.  You'll see me again much, much later, but until then, I'll send you little reminders that I'm with you and I love you."
     I'd always ask for more specifics saying, "Like what?  What will you do?"  Smiling, she'd hug me and say, "Oh, you'll know when it happens.  It'll be a rainbow when you least expect it or maybe flowers out of nowhere.  I might have a butterfly land on your shoulder, but you'll know."  
     My birthday was earlier this month when nothing had begun to grow yet.  When I woke up that morning to take the dog out, I smelled the prettiest fragrance that reminded me of her.  When I looked down, out of nowhere, were these...
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   The flowers had not been there the day before and the strangest part of it all, was that it felt like she was right there with me, even though she's been gone a few years now.
     So I don't know.  Again, this all comes from a place where I don't really believe in ghosts.  Angels maybe...but that's probably all I'd actually want to believe exist.  
     As much as I'd like to though, even I can't explain some things away regardless if they're good, bad or indifferent.  As far as the good experiences go though, I wouldn't really want to.  :)
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   The cake we made for our daughter's class birthday party was a fun one too.  It was more simple than the "Frozen" cake but seemed to get a good "ooooooh" response from the girls nonetheless.  Here's the cake with the steps on how to make it...
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    As promised, here are the pictures of our daughter's Elsa birthday cake from "Frozen".  These are the steps I used to put it together. 
    It wasn't perfect, but it was actually less painful than I thought it would be, seeing how I'm the most un-Pinterest-y person on Earth.  The only thing I wish I could do now is to get that song out of my head...
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    If you give a girl a hamster for her birthday, she's going to name him 'Cupcake'.  She'll scream with joy when she gets him and be obsessed ever since.
      If you give a girl a hamster named 'Cupcake', she'll wake up everyday very early (painfully early) every. single. morning to see how her new friend is doing.  She'll open his cage and try to catch him which will ultimately lead to blood curtailing screams when he gets out and runs around her room.
      If you give a girl a 'Cupcake', the entire house will wake with the panicked shock from a thousand screams, running to see what's wrong.  They'll picture nightmarish scenes or horrific sights...only to be met with a scurrying tiny varmint, darting from place to place, like the small furry rodent that he is.
      If you give a girl a 'Cupcake', she'll run and jump in her little nightgown from corner to corner, trying to catch the itty bitty fur ball.  You'll wince just knowing that every time she lands, she'll come up with a flat ball of fluff, then you'll breathe a sigh of relief each time when she misses.
      All six of you will begin the routine of chasing something no bigger than a cotton ball, yet faster than a bullet, only to hope that he corners himself in some way shape or form.
      If you give a girl a 'Cupcake', she'll cheer with delight when he's finally caught and she can hold him and squish him until his guts almost come out.  The look of frustration and hatred can be seen through his bulging eyes as they protrude from his head while his angry hamster mind is thinking, "I was that close". 
     If you give a girl a 'Cupcake', she'll hold him and love him and never let him go.  You'll know that the life expectancy of a hamster is supposed to be two years give or take, yet you'll wonder if he'll make it for the next two days.  If she doesn't do him in, he might just sacrifice himself altogether...and then you remember that there's always the dog who's patiently waiting, just licking her chops for her chance...but that's a whooooooole different story.
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     Our daughter's birthday is tomorrow.  There's only one thing she's been asking for, begging for...pleading for...but we didn't want to get it.
      Let me go back a minute.  Our neighbors have the cutest fluffiest hamster for their boys.  It's an adorable furball that would let you hang it upside down by it's back foot he's so tame.  His name is "Happy" and it fits him perfectly.  He's the sweetest little guy that the kids all love to hold and play with.  Lauren Elizabeth literally wakes up in the morning asking if she can go see him, then comes home from school asking the same thing.  
      I think you can guess where this is going.
      When we asked Lauren what she wanted for her birthday, she had only one request.  yep.  A hamster.
      I wouldn't have a problem with getting a hamster to tell the truth, but the problem is that in our family, there's no such thing as anything going remotely smooth.  
     Sure, our neighbors have the dream hamster that looks and acts so cute you could squish him, but in our house?  We'd get some deranged, rabid, foaming at the mouth terror rodent that wanted to bite the heads off of everything it saw.  I just know it would sit up all night plotting his revenge on all humans.  
     The kids would end up screaming, fingers would bleed and the already wild house with six people and a dog and a cat, would have one more thing to keep us up all night.  
     You wanna know the best part?  We just went to the pet shop and got one.  He's hidden in our closest so Lauren won't know until tomorrow.  Yes, we have lost our minds.  
     Our nine year old son, Ethan is in with him now, so I'm waiting to see how that goes while I keep Lauren away.  I haven't heard any screams from Ethan yet, so I'm hoping that's a good thing and not very...very...bad. 
     I'm going to the kitchen now to try and make an Elsa cake for the big day because the only thing that could possibly be more annoying than a nocturnal creature, scurrying in your closet is anything 'Frozen' themed. 
     I'll be sure to post pictures of her big day.  Anyone who knows me, knows my mad "Pinterest" skills, so the cake and everything else should be quite fantastic. :/ 
     As for now, here's a shot of the new little guy that I snapped at the pet store.  He's watching...aaaaalways watching. 
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    Here's to hoping for a Happy 6th Birthday.  -squeak- (I don't even know what sound a hamster makes.)  :{
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     I should probably begin by saying that I don't drink coffee.  I know how that's pretty much un-American, but I've just never gotten into it.  
     I think it's because as I was growing up, I would beg my Dad to let me try a sip of his.  I don't imagine he's ever gone a day of his life without it.  Dad's coffee though, was the kind that would put hair on your chest.  He would brew the darkest of pots, then drink it straight.  It could probably stand by itself without the cup if you'd let it. 
     When he finally gave in and let me taste it, my Mom scolded him, but it didn't matter.  She would never have to worry about "stunting my growth" or whatever ideas she had about coffee in the 80's.  When the pitch black liquid of heat and death ran down my throat, I was done.  Never again would I want to try it.        
     Now that I'm grown, the irony is that probably one of my favorite smells on Earth, is the smell of coffee.  Whether it reminds me of my Dad or my childhood, I don't know...but needless to say...I still don't drink it. 
     You can imagine my dilemma then when one of my friends named Laura, asked if I would like to join her at a Starbucks.  Explaining how I didn't like coffee, she assured me that there were plenty of other things to try.  Little did I know that I was about to get a little taste of Heaven...
      Standing at the counter, I saw a litany of words that were nothing short of a foreign language.  Did I want a double grande mocha latte vente caramel frappachino espresso?
      My palms started to sweat as my eyes raced across the board trying to decipher what to order.  Laura just smiled and said, "You need to try the white hot chocolate".
      "The what?"
      "Trust me.  It's awesome."
       I've never heard of white hot chocolate before but at least it gave me some guidance.  Laura ordered before it was my turn and when the kind woman in her crisp apron looked at me, I just pointed over to Laura and smiled, "I'll have what she said please".       
      Ridiculous.  
      It was like drinking a candy bar that was poured into a cup of rainbows.  I swear I got some sort of sugar rush that made me want to run around the place and hug everyone.  I don't know why I was so happy, I just was. 
      If this was their hot chocolate, I probably didn't even want to start on their coffee.  
      The worst part was that I told the kids about it and they all wanted to try it.  After school it was cold and dreary so I thought it would be a fun, toasty treat.
      Pulling through the drive thru this time, (because that's how I roll) I ordered four white hot chocolates, one for each of the kids.  When I drove around to pay, it was hard to hide my surprise when the person said it would be like seven thousand, five hundred dollars for the four drinks.  Handing my card to her, I simultaneously passed the drinks back to the kids.  They all excitedly took a sip to try it, then immediately had this crazed googly eyed look that let me know they were all about to start bouncing off the walls.  All four of them downed their drinks so fast, it was next to unnatural.  By the time we got home, they were slap happy and wild.      
      I have friends who drink Starbucks every single day.  I have friends who get it for their kids every day too.  In a way, I think that's cool.  It's a nice treat and it's warm and yummy.  
      As for now though, with four kids it's probably not the best idea to get started on something we're not used to.  It seems like a lot of money and even more levels of craziness than we already have. 
     Someday though, I'm going to go back to that Starbucks and order the biggest white hot chocolate they make.  I'll have to figure out what the word for "large" is first, but I'll worry about that later.  When I do, I'll be happy to sit and drink the cup of happiness from my hands, the one that's oh so far away from the kind that my Dad drinks.  
     Until we meet again Starbucks...until we meet again.
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    In the land where "Yes Ma'am's and No Sirs" are tradition.  Where the house wine is an ice cold glass of sweet tea in the midst of pig pickins with fried okra and sweet potato pie.
     Where the summer nights are dancing with fireflies and the lazy warm days lead to trips to the beach.
     Snowmen aren't found very often.
     When they do happen to come around however, the whole world stops, (like literally) while family and friends gather together to play.  
     Snowmen are but a temporary fixture in this great land, and they usually bid their farewell all too soon.  
     They sure are fun while they last though.
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Dear Neighbors,
     I'm not quite sure where to begin.  When you came over to help the other day, you were met with a pretty typical day in our house.  I'm sorry if it frightened you, but you couldn't have known.
     You couldn't have known that earlier, I decided to start working out, like first time this year working out.  Getting dressed in my yoga pants and t shirt, I faced our treadmill head on.  After a good stretch, I climbed up to push start, only to begin running with a new sense of empowerment.  This sense was immediately met with a fuse blowing, causing the treadmill to stop on a dime.   
     After literally face planting it, (that'll teach me to work out), I was met with an annoying *beep* for the remainder of the day from some random smoke detector.  It was incessant, but oh well. 
      You couldn't have known that our cat, who is 1000 years old, is on her last leg.  All four kids sit around her petting her nose as she lies on the floor while I struggle with whether to take her to be put down or keep her home.  It makes our dog, who just turned one, crazy by the way, because all she wants to do is push the kids aside, so she can lick the cat...I'm not quite sure if it's for support...or as an appetizer.   
      Speaking of appetizers, you couldn't have known that I was trying something new for dinner.  Roasted chicken with sweet potatoes.  Who would've thought that by cleaning and stabbing sweet potatoes, they would drip down onto your oven, causing the most horrible smell and smoke all throughout your house.
      Guess what happens when smoke occurs?  Yep.  Smoke detectors.  Even though I know that a smoke detector should NOT be used as a timer when making meals, in this case, no matter what I tried, opening every window, door, fanning every pillow...the timer (ahem) smoke detectors would not shut off.
     So, dear neighbors, needless to say, as you stood in your driveway and turned to see the chaos that ensued while four kids in shorts and t shirts ran around outside in the freezing cold, screaming "FIRE!", while the windows and doors were open, me with a pillow chasing the dog down from flying through the yard from ear splitting pain and a limpy cat trying to hack up a fur ball, you didn't judge.
     You did what any awesome neighbor would do and came in, without thinking, tsking or shaking your heads, you helped chase down a runaway dog, stepped over a dying cat, ignored putrid smells, walked through a smoky house...all while dodging wild children to go into the garage and flip the fuse box thingy.  (Why didn't I think of that?)
     In literally one second, there was peace.  For one split, glorious second, the alarms stopped and it was quiet.  I can't thank you enough for that one and only fraction of time, but it meant so much.
     Thank you again Monica and Matt!  The world is a better place because of friends like you.  I would make you dinner, but well, you know.  XO 
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