A Grace Full Life


Freak the Crap Out

The piece that I read for Listen to Your Mother last year, I wrote specifically for my audition.
It wasn't already written on my blog or published elsewhere.
So when I found out I made it into the cast, I was told to wait until after the show to publish it as not to give away what I was going to read.
Of course, I totally forgot.
I was going through my blog folders a few weeks ago and saw it sitting there with the word DRAFT next to it all lonely like.
So here it is.
It is much funnier read aloud than it is read on a page, in my opinion.
Or not funny at all depending on your humor level.
HERE is the video.

Go here to get your tickets to this year's show, it's not too late!

photo courtesy of Brandi Lee

We are only four years away from having only one child living at home and that makes me terribly sad.
I like the noise, the chaos, the mess even though I complain endlessly about it.
Secretly I love it.
It means I am in the thick of it.
Sometimes I just sit back and take in all the screaming, shrieking and crying.
Before storming upstairs and unleashing the wrath of a premenstrual mommy.

Fun fact, I may very well be right in the middle of menopause when my oldest is graduating from high school.
Or peri-menopause.
And post menopause when my youngest graduates high school.
Meaning my husband needs to have the liquor store on speed dial.
Or I need to have really good hormones.
None of that generic crap.
The good shit.

I am a good mom.
Even when I have days when it is questionable, I know in my heart that I am doing better than my pre-mommy premonitions.
There were times, before I became a mom, that I did worry I would end up throwing them Twinkies while sitting in the bath tub with a gin martini.

But I am doin' it every day.
I have been punching the mommy time clock for 14 years and nine months.
Because lets face it, the "job" starts when you have your first bout of morning sickness.
Or your first hemorrhoid. 
And since then, there are only a few moments that have made me cringe in regards to how I handled situations.

When I threw the phone across the room when no one was listening to me.
Did I mention that there was someone on the other end?

The time I forgot to send a lunch in with my oldest when she was in fifth grade.
Which she loudly and emotionally announced after getting off the bus, while I had a new friend over.
Who I just proudly told that I "always make sure she has a lunch" and "how could you forget to send your child to school without anything to eat???"

Last fall when my cell phone rang while a new neighbor and her two children were over.
And it was my ex husband calling.

There are more moments that make me cringe than I originally anticipated.
But these are things that weren't in the job description when I first applied for this job!
No one even mentioned the benefits package!
And when I say "benefits", I mean vomit in your hair.
Cleaning up errant urine off of a shower curtain.
Fishing baby turds out of the bathtub.
With a kitchen strainer.

Two words.
Play. Date.
Proof that Satan wants us to be unhappy.

Does anyone know how often kids get sick?
BEFORE they decide to have children?
A lot.
The answer is a lot.

Now in fairness and to ease the fears of you mothers to-be out there, my motherhood technique can best be described in one descriptive sentence:
I freak the crap out.
I freak the crap out when it comes to EVERYTHING.

When the power goes out?
I call Comed within SECONDS of darkness.

Out of diapers in the middle of the night?
I may or may not have had to go into the bathroom, lock the door and use every single curse word I have ever heard.
EVERY one.

An episode of the middle of the night pukes sends me in a tizzy of which it might take weeks for me to recover.

My husband is a low level threat when it comes to freakin' the crap out.
He has the POTENTIAL to freak the crap out but in reaction to my freaking the crap out, he tones it down and handles what I am unable to bear.
And secretly I think he is jealous of my freaking the crap out abilities.

I come from a lonnnnnggg line of freak the crap out'ers.
My dad is a reformed freak the crapout'er.
My brother is what I like to call a textbook freak the crap out'er.
Hell my mom, who has always been cool and classy flipped my dad the bird on the Indiana Toll Road in 1989 in reaction to my dad driving too slow. 
And I have been waiting 25 years to work that into a sentence.

Yes I am an overreacting freak the crap out'er mom of two amazing girls.
They are used to it.
They know how to handle me.
Walk slowly into the room, no sudden movements, just one foot in front of the other.
Give the bad news gently.
But they know I love them fiercely.
They know that I will always be there for them.
They know I am their Mama Bear and will kick someones ass for them.

Just don't tell me that we don't have any toilet paper.
I have been known to kill for less. 



Why Netflix Wants Me To Lie

Apparently there is this new show on Netflix called Bloodline that everyone is raving about.

courtesy of Netflix

And of course, I am not on board because it is all the rage.
Give me a year or two and I will be all over that.
Anyway, I guess there is all this lying going on within the storyline, sorry to ruin it for y'all but most storylines within plots of any major shows that are all the rage nowadays have lots of lying so I am sure I am not ruining much of anything which got me to thinking....what does that say about us as a society?

We sure do like us a lot of lying, scandal, nudity and sex, don't we hmmmm??? (said like the church lady).
But lying sure is a big'un.
Lying is a hard one because it is so darn easy to do.
I mean, I am guilty as charged.

Do I look fat in this dress?

I love this color so much, it looks so good on me, don't you think???
Umm suure???

This meat pie tastes really good, doesn't it?
Mmm tasty!

Mostly because I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings and I have no back bone.

So when Netflix posed the question about white lies this month and asked how we handle them with our children, I was like FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK THAT NETFLIX because there may or may not have been a little incident.
In where I may have said to a certain seven year old that I know and love that Netflix was broken.
For a day.
Or a week.
So I could finish a series.
It has been a hellamonth of illness and locusts and just CRAP OKAY????

Here are a few shows that your little one can watch that will teach them that lying is a bad, bad thing.
Like mommies who tell their little ones that all the Netflixes are broken.

courtesy of Netflix
The Little Princess- I Didn't Do It

courtesy of Netflix
Veggie Tales- Lie-Monade

For teenagers, there is Pretty Little Liars or PLL, that's right I am all on the down low or the DL.
I have no idea what I just said.
Probably because my Netflix was broken for a week.
I swear, my Netflix was just fine, I never have a problem with my Netflix!
It is ME that has a problem.

courtesy of Netflix
Does anyone else get scared watching this show or is that just me?
I can't watch it with my 15 year old without hiding under the blanket.
That's probably because I grew up watching shows like this when I was 15:

courtesy of Netflix

Just kidding....kind of.
The 80's were a much kinder, gentler and more naïve time.
But who doesn't love The Care Bears?

Maybe I need to watch Bloodline to toughen up.
Time to tell the seven year old the Netflix is broken again....WHAT???????


I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Meaning, for the next year, once a month I will be writing posts about how my family is using our Netflix. They provided me with a Roku and a voucher for my Netflix account.


Candy Bar Wreath. Because Nothing Says "I Love You" Like A Root Canal.

I love to come up with fun things for my children.
But unfortunately I don't come up with them.
Usually I can thank OTHER people for the ideas.
Every single idea I have ever used for fun with my children has been inspired by someone other than myself.
I can pretty much guarantee that.
I have no shame in admitting that.
Oh I am sure that when I was a much younger mommy, you know,  when I was full of energy and mommy creative juices, that I did have an original idea or two but now?
I got nothing.

Most of my fun ideas are given to me from books, magazines, family, friends, Pinterest, teachers, ideas heard on the train, bus, field trips, lines at the grocery store.
You get the gist.
I glean most of my fun ideas from other people and I am OK with admitting it.
Because at least I can admit that I am still up for trying to create fun things in the first place.
Trust me, there are days when it takes everything I have to make a grilled cheese sandwich so if I can go on Pinterest and type in "candy bar wreath" in the search engine?
I am winning.
And so are you.
Because that is why you are reading this today.

My oldest daughter turned 15 this year and in addition to giving her money, her request for her birthday this year, I wanted to give her something to open.
Not just a card with moola in it because where is the fun in that??
So I decided to make her a candy wreath.
Now, I know this seems a little childish for a 15 year old and to that I say, you don't know teenagers!
First of all, they love candy!
Well at least mine does and while I am not a huge fan of giving her candy all the time, especially because she has braces, I decided that this was a fun way to show her that we were letting loose a little.
So off to Pinterest I went in search of "candy gift ideas" and voila!
The candy bar wreath idea popped up!

That's my amazing dentist who is probably having a massive coronary right now.
She totally did.

So this is what you will need:

- lots of mini candy bars. This can get expensive. Go to Dollar Tree. This is where I got mine because you won't need more than probably 10 small bags at most, I had leftovers. Get different brands of candy and don't get boxes, only individually wrapped candy bars because you will be hot gluing the individual bars onto the wreath.

- hot glue gun and glue sticks

- straw wreath NOT a foam wreath or it will melt


By the way, when you get a straw wreath, it will do that.
Be warned neat freaks.
So get out the broom.
I shook it out a little before I started gluing and that helped a lot.

Let's get to gluing!

Let me just say, this was therapeutic.
I texted my mom while I was doing this and said, who knew this was all it took to let all my stress melt away...need one of these??
Instead of knitting or reading, I might be making these babies for everyone I know.
If you get one of these bad boys on your front porch, be warned.
Maybe I will start an Etsy shop.

It took me all of  45 minutes from start to finish and here is the final product:

I added a bow I got at Hobby Lobby in the gift wrap section to the top.

I love how this turned out.

Anna gave one of her good friends a bag of candy for her birthday back in February before I found this idea and now I wished I had seen this.
Maybe I will make another one for her because HELLO, THERAPY.

You could make a sugar free version too.
Or a peanut free version as well.
The possibilities are endless.
I would hot glue anything to a wreath, quite honestly.
Hair products?
That could be the coolest idea ever.
I wonder if that could work.
Someone stop me.

Anna put this on her door and just pulled the candy from it each day.
The wreath didn't last a month.

Total cost for everything from wreath form to bow to candy to glue sticks- $25.00 for a fun gift.

Nothing to see here!
This entire post was about teeth brushing and how amazing you look!
I am totally making him a wreath out of floss and toothbrushes out of guilt.
Heading to Hobby Lobby now.......



My Blue Period Is Much Better Than Picasso's Because He Totally Didn't Even Get Periods


So I was sick of looking at this:

I painted this door almost three years ago.
It was a huge hit after I did it and I did love it so much but after three years, I was getting tired of just dark door.
Dark, dark, door.
Why so dark, door?
Why everything so dark??
I feel the need to lighten things up in my life.
My head, my mood, everything and it needs to start with my front door.
Like a feng shui thing.
What does a black interior door even mean in feng shui?
Googling it....right ......now......

Guess I should have left it black.
I don't even follow Feng Shui.
Screw it.

Whatever the case, I am going through ch-ch-changes and so it was on a week of craptastic gloom and doom weather that I was like THAT IS IT and literally got up and drove to the local paint store to get a paint swatch.

First I went on Pinterest and saw this pin I had pinned like a year ago:

courtesy of Pinterest and Young House Love

I loved this color and pinned it immediately.
It is called Lake Blue by Benjamin Moore or Ben Moore.
I call him Ben Moore because we are all cozy.
So I headed to my local Ben Moore store and got the swatch.
Here is the low down on Ben Moore:

- you don't have to go to an "official" Ben Moore store. There might be a paint store or an Ace Hardware etc. that carries their product, so Google before you leave your home.

- don't leave your home without looking online for inspiration. Ben Moore paint swatches look NOTHING like the actual paint. This advice comes from me AND the Ben Moore paint guy. Trust both of us.

- also, it helps to have the paint number not just the name. If you go to a Ben Moore store and can't find the name, ask for help and they will look it up for you. Sometimes the swatches are in random places. Ben does not want what is best for you, trust me, but in the end it is worth it.

- if you have serious coin, buy the Ben Moore paint. If not? Be cheap like me, get the swatch and get the HELL out of that store and go to Home Depot or Lowe's. You're welcome.

So I left the nice Ben Moore sales guy with my swatch in hand and went to Home Depot and bought my paint and supplies.

I used Behr Ultra paint which is a paint and a primer in one as recommended by the amazing woman at the Home Depot paint department, love them there.
I used a foam roller for most of the door and a foam brush for the cut in work.
Also, I used an interior paint, not an exterior paint even though it was a front door because it was inside.
I know this seems like a head slap but for some reason I felt like because it is so close to the outside it needed to be an exterior paint.
You shouldn't be shocked by my reasoning if you have read my blog here with any regularity.
Those just reading for the first time, welcome to the madness.

Here is the before:

So then I had a moment of, I don't wanna!!!
I got a little afraid.
Like maybe I made a huge mistake.

Like, will it look 1986 country blue?
With the country geese?
And the little Amish girls with the bonnets?
Not that there is anything wrong with that.
In 1986.

Then I said "screw it" again and just did it.
Life is too short to be stuck with a black life sucking door.
Don't get me wrong, I loved my black door for three years but it was time for a change.

No going back.
What does Feng Shui say about a Country Geese blue door from 1986?
Mr. Keaton????
It looks different in photos than it does in real life much more country blue in pictures than in real life but I have to say, I love it.

See how it looks a little different even from the picture above?
Maybe that's because there is something hanging on the door in this picture.

My husband, who normally could really care less when it comes to things like this, was home the day I was painting and was watching the transformation the entire time I was working.
At first he was as skeptical as I was but as the paint and chit chat was going on and on we both agreed that it was looking pretty amazing.

It got me so excited that in typical Kari fashion I decided that I must paint ALL OF THE THINGS.

This was our hall closet before:

It was starting to look faded and needed an update.
And since I had some blue paint just burning a hole in my pocket.....er paint can...whatever.....I decided that nothing was going to go untouched.

It looks so much cleaner and very, very blue.
Then the following day I was outside looking in and saw this:

Awwwwwww snap.

It was a veritable rainbow for the senses.
A carnival for the eyes.
I didn't know how to process it all.

The first thing I thought of was Rio de Janeiro.
Or cotton candy.
The second thing I thought of was resale value.
Because this home is NOT our forever home and nothing screams FORECLOSURE like a house with ten different colors as you walk in the foyer or FOYAY.
That blue, I love, looks so different with the time of day, the weather, your mood.
Then it hit me: that blue is MY MOOD.
That blue is me.
Blue Lake by Ben Moore could have been named Bitter Pre- Menstrual/Menopausal Female by Kari at A Grace Full Life.

Case in point:

10:00 a.m.

10:05 a.m.

10:00 a.m.

10:05 a.m.

Picasso has NOTHING on me.

So I am not sure if the blue closet door will be staying.
However, I am planning on painting the walls in our home this spring/summer because I have a death wish.
Think cathedral death ceilings and a tight budget.
I need to get this done before the kids get out of school, oh and did I mention I have a very tight budget?
Oh and cathedral death ceilings?
Picasso would never have done something so stupid.

So then since I had some extra paint left over, I decided that I should paint my pantry door as well.
Oh and get rid of my chalkboard pantry wall.

This is the thing.
I rarely wrote on this wall.
In fact, the last time I wrote a menu or "pantry rules" on this wall was in 2011 for this post.
Why was I so bossy in 2011?
Probably because I had to write rules on a pantry wall.
Oh sure, I would write for special occasions but for the most part this wall went unwritten.
I do have a chalkboard wall adjacent to this wall that gets written on all the time though and that wall will not be painted over ever or at least not until after we move.

I had leftover kitchen paint which is Revere Pewter from when we painted our kitchen a few years ago.
I am sure it was tainted and bad and toxic.
So completely safe for my family.

See the chalkboard wall that is staying ^^^.
A chalkboard pantry wall is a great idea if you have wall space large enough to write on.
I would start to write something and run out of room.
Happy Birth
I love y

You get the idea.

It looks a little plain.
I need to add something.
Like chalkboard paint.
I am going through withdrawal.

What do we think?

My teenager thinks it looks "dated".
But I am pretty sure if asked, she would say the same thing about me so I am not trusting her opinion about this.

I love it for now until I decide to paint the rest of the house.
If you see my children covered in paint, send help.
Or chocolate.
Or a professional painter with chocolate.
Yes, that is much better.



The Greatest Man I Always Knew

There is this old Reba McEntire song that I love about a strained relationship between a father and a daughter.

"The greatest man I never knew
Came home late every night
He never had too much to say
Too much was on his mind
I never really knew him
And now it seems so sad
Everything he gave to us took all he had"

This doesn't speak at all to the relationship I had growing up with my own Dad but I love the song all the same because it is touching and I really just love anything Reba sings about.
She could sing about hemorrhoid cream and I would be all OH SWEET LORD DID YOU HEAR THAT REBA SONG ABOUT THE BUTT PIMPLES??
But it gets to me every time I hear it because my Dad put so much of his life into providing for our lives and  the last line that everything he gave to us, at times, took all he had.

I don't talk about my Dad too much on the blog here, occasionally I mention him here and there.
Believe me, it's not at all on purpose.
There is a friend of mine who I met through blogging, we broke through the blogging wall and are now personal friends even though we live all the way across the country from one another.
She posts pictures of her family all the time on Facebook but I never see pictures of her dad.
I see her husband, her two adorable children, her mom, sister, her brother in law.
Heck,  I see her horses and her dogs all the darn time but never her dad.
Then over Easter weekend, I saw a picture of him on Instagram.
Like a Bigfoot sighting, (sorry to compare him to Bigfoot, he doesn't look like Bigfoot, he is quite handsome but you know what I mean), I was taken aback.
She....has ......a ......dad?
He is never in the picture.
It was so nice to see him.

Dad's sometimes get kind of lost in the crowd.
And my Dad is one of those who takes a backseat, let's others take the limelight, steps back and just enjoys the view from the back row.
Never one to toot his own horn, my Dad is a brilliant human being.
He is one of the smartest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I know this because he taught me math.
I am one of the dumbest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, so if he can teach me math and I can later go on to get a B in a college statistics course?
Well, I think that pretty much explains itself.

At the publishing of this post, my Dad is celebrating his last official day before retiring after working for most of his life.
He has been working for a company since 1989, the company that moved us from our little Ohio town to Chicago those many years ago that eventually took he and my mom on to Peoria, Illinois and later to Chattanooga, Tennessee, the United States headquarters, where he is saying good bye to that company for good today.
But my dad has worked many more years than that, since the day he walked out of his New Jersey high school not including the little jobs he undoubtedly held before leaving the little town he called home the first 17 years of his life as well.
My Dad was born a hard worker.
Born into a hard life, one of 12 children who lost his mother at age 14 and had his family divided up into foster families after that.
My Dad is a survivor, an inspiration and one amazing human being.
I am constantly aware of how lucky we are that we got him in the coin toss of life.

So I am dedicating this blog post today to my Dad in honor of his retirement.
I still have no idea after all these years, exactly what it is he does.
He worked for a company called Komatsu which is the competitor of Caterpillar for those who aren't familiar.
He worked in the Engineering Department.
He handled all the budgets.
He was a HUGE deal.
And everyone he worked with, came in contact with or dealt with him over his 34 year career at Komatsu absolutely loved my father.
And that there is all that matters to me.
Because to me, he is the man who taught me how to play basketball for HOURS in our driveway in the dark.
The peacemaker of the family, the person who did the aforementioned math wizardry at my desk all those many evenings.
The man who taught me to love music so deeply and connect on a level with Carole King and Elton John in a way that when their music comes on the radio, I am transported back to my childhood.
He was the soccer coach to my brother's soccer team, the guy who patiently taught me how to drive a car, the person who taught me how to mow the lawn.
To me, he will always be, my Dad.

Not many people know this, but for a few years, my Dad worked part time, in addition to his full time job at Komatsu,  during the holiday season with me at Kohl's.
For fun.
Yes, for fun.
It was so much fun having him come in and work those shifts in the Men's Department, I loved having him a few departments away and my co-workers ADORED him.
I remember my friends at work counting down the days until my Dad's shift.
Because when he was there, he got s@#$ done.
And I loved sharing those rides to work back and forth too.

My Dad has thrown himself into being a "Grampy" then a "Papa" as soon as he found out the first stick showed two lines.
It has been so much fun to see him get so excited about enjoying the second round of children in his life.
I know for the first round, he was so busy with work and college that it was hard to enjoy it fully as a parent.
So this time around he is enjoying every moment of it and not letting go.

My Dad is a great dad and helped my Mom raise two great kids.
My brother and I have had moments in our lives that we both probably aren't too proud of at one time or another but honestly, we are two pretty good human beings, all things considered.
We don't have criminal records (as far as we know),  we go to the dentist every six months, we eat our veggies even if they are out of a can and we love the hell out of our family.
For the most part, we have our shit together and that is pretty rare nowadays if you see what is out there.....just watch MTV for two hours on a Saturday afternoon and get back to me.
My parents are a testament to that.

My husband loves my Dad.
In fact, he calls him "Dad".
" Can I call you DODD."
Sorry, only hardcore Rodney Dangerfield fans will get that and my Dad will get that too.

Anyway, he loves him and not in a suck up way but in this natural way that has developed over years of getting to know him.
My Dad is one of those people who doesn't know a stranger.
He will immediately draw you in with anecdotes, small talk of things that he knows might interest you.
He knows you like sports?
He will ask your favorite team.
He is a trivia champion and will know the capital of the state you live in, what they manufacture and what the hit song was in the year you were born.
He hangs the moon in my world.
He taught me all there is as it pertains to my musical knowledge and trivia nerd-ism so to love me is to love my Dad.
It is no wonder then that my husband has fallen in love with my father.
It is like looking in the proverbial mirror.
I am my father's daughter from allergies, to migraines to musical wisdom to useless knowledge about the largest ball of twine.
And I am very proud of that.

My childhood was amazing and full of laughter and music.
I mean it wasn't always rainbows and lollipops because then I would sound like an annoying Tampax commercial.
But it was a lot of fun and those two adorable nut jobs up there are a huge part of that.
The laughter in our home is a huge part of why I am who I am today.
I don't think my parents were laughing this much when they got my math grades but now they can sit back and laugh and laugh in hind sight.

I know you are more than ready for retirement, retiring much later than most but I also know that for a lot of people, men especially, it can be hard, this retiring from the workplace.
One could say that your most important days are behind you and that is a hard pill to swallow.
I am here to argue that point, for I am here to say that your most important work wasn't done within the walls of Komatsu but within the walls of your own home.
And that is just beginning now that you are retiring.
Being able to spend time with Mom, going on trips and not looking at your watch, hell you can even take your watch off now!
What a relief that will be!
You will be able to do woodworking again, something you have missed so much, be able to go golfing again,  go out to breakfast with your friends.
You will finally be able to see your grandchildren's activities and be involved in their lives for the first time in years, which I know has been so hard for you to miss and they miss you so very much as well.
Yes, your best work is yet to come, Dad and I know all of us can't wait to see it.

We are so very proud of you and all that you have done in your career.
You are such an inspiration to all of us.
Go home today, have a beer and a big dinner and take a nap.
Like Reba said, you gave us everything,  now it's your turn.
I love you so much,  Dad.
Think I'll go put some Carole King on and go shoot some hoops.
Wanna join me?
You've got the time now.



A Much Needed Spring Break in Tennessee That Ended Crappy. Literally.

We aren't going to talk about the bug that hit our home.
We won't speak of it.
We only talk about it in hushed, reverent tones in our immediate family.
"The thing" is what we call it.
Is "the thing" gone yet?
Has "It" left your home yet?
That is all we will say about "it".

But I am getting ahead of myself.

We left for Tennessee a few weeks ago to visit Mamie and Papa for a week during the girls spring break from school.
It had been three months since we had seen them at Christmas, so it was without question that we could not wait to get down there and see them.
The fact that the temperatures were going up as we were traveling down were just a plus.

65 degrees in southern Illinois.
It was 30 degrees from where we had left.
So we were doing good!
Yay us!!

We had to drive almost six hours south to get somewhat greener grass.
And yet, we were somehow STILL in the state of Illinois.

We really don't get excited until we get into Kentucky.
Then I zoned out for two hours....sorry Kentucky....and we were in Tennessee.
In defense of Kentucky and Tennessee this day, it was really crappy and rainy.
And speaking as an Illinoisan, there is no defense of Illinois, so there.
It is six hours of CORN AND FLAT AND NOTHING.
Someone needs to put in a water park down there or something.

When we see these signs, we know we are getting close.
When we see the Tennessee signs, it is exciting!
And very deceiving.
Because my parents live on the border of Tennessee.....on the SOUTHERN border by Georgia.
So we have two and a half solid hours to go.
After we get through Nashville, it is the longest drive EVER to get to there house because you just want to ...be ....there.....already.
It has nothing to do with not appreciating the beautiful scenery and having everything to do with just wanting to be with your family at the end of a long damn trip.

That's okay.
This was waiting for us.
My mom made this birthday cake from scratch for Annie's birthday.
Everything from the icing to the cake was homemade and was amazing.
It was worth the trip....even worth the six hours in Illinois.
You are forgiven Illnois.
Except still do something about breaking up that six hours.
Water park, Disney World of the Midwest, SOMETHING.
Holy Cats.

On the way down, we always see a sign for the Lodge Outlet in South Pittsburg, TN..
Here's the thing: I have never owned a cast iron skillet in my life.
Well, my mom and grandma have but in my own cooking life, I have not.
And I am a cook.
I cook six nights per week and I make approximately 75% of most of my meals per week from scratch so in my head, I reasoned that I deserved to finally own a real iron skillet.
I read all these cool recipes on Pinterest for things that need an iron skillet to put into an oven to bake but I could never make them because alas, no iron skillet for me.

Yes, I could have run to Macy's or even gone on this thing called the Internet and ordered one.
But I would forget about it until seeing the billboard along the highway.
So we finally went while down there and I got me an iron skillet!
I have yet to use it because, Ebola 2015 although I have cooked my meals to health this week but here is the thing: I am a little afraid to use my skillet.

It has instructions!
And like you have to take care of it!
This is NOT the week for me to handle my pretty new skillet that I have waited all of my damn life for!
I don't want to break it!
So next week when I am better and things are looking rosy and I can feel like life is being less of an a#$hole, I will look my frypan in the face and we will make friends.
Until then I will fry my eggs in my death pans.

I was so relaxed once I got into the groove at my mom and dad's.
It takes me a day.
Once I shake off the Illinois road dust, the soccer schedules, the first grade homework, THEY ARE IN FIRST GRADE, my husband's long insane hours, and I get one night in my mom's house with her home cooking, I am in a zen place again.
Even though I am not back in my childhood home, or even in my childhood hometown, I am with my childhood people surrounded with a few little childhood reminders sprinkled in here and there.
It is good for the soul.
It was also good for the soul to go sit on the porch each mid day after my shower for a good half hour and just be.
So with my fuzzy slippers, I would head out with the dog and sit each day and soak in that Tennessee air.
Because where I came from it was snowing.
And 30 degrees.
So I soaked and soaked and soaked.

Lunch with Mamie at where else...Chicken Salad Chick in downtown Chattanooga.
By the way,  Annie was sending people back home pictures of her wearing shorts on this day.
Because on this day, Chicago was getting four inches of snow.
Sorry, I didn't feel bad.

Our friends Bernie, Rebecca and Kelsey were in Atlanta for spring break.
So they stopped in Chattanooga on their way north to spend a day/night to see all of us.
So of course we had to take them to Choo Choo of Death.
OK PLEASE if you work for the board of tourism for Chattanooga, do not email me or sue me, I am aware that is not its real name.
You have no idea how much publicity I have given you in a good way by naming it that.
Trust me, it's a love pat, not a negative.
Notice the shorts on the people in the picture?
Sorry, just so excited to be wearing shorts in March.
I did not imbibe in the excitement juices of one Choo Choo of Death experience, once was enough for moi.
No, my mama and I sat at the base of the mountain with the sweet security guard as he smiled and quietly giggled under his breath listening to us plan dinner.
Because we were starving.

How long ARE they gonna be up there any way?
Do you think we should have put those beans in the crock pot?
How long should be put the meatballs in for?
Mmm meatballs.

I won't ever forget sitting there on that beautiful warm day, with my mom, on a bench planning our dinner waiting for them to get down from the mountain.
It was a moment.
I didn't miss going up there at all.

We went down to Marietta Georgia for the day while there.
And Miss Mamie's was a lovely little shop we went into for cupcakes.
Not a huge cupcake person myself but for the name alone, we had to go.
It is this lovely massive little town.
I say massive little town because it has this adorable square but it is a huge town in size outside of the square.

Lots of traffic, houses, stores, neighborhoods, traffic, strip malls, did I mention traffic?
Apparently metro Atlanta has a traffic "situation".
This is the third time we have been down there in three years.
Three times are you are out in my little book.
Atlanta, you are fired.
I do love that area so much but I just don't think I could drive any where down there.
I would need to live next door to where I work, eat, sleep and where my kids go to school.

By the way, the above?
Yeah, that was to get ON the highway.
Stand still traffic.
We in Chicago just don't see that.
This was suburban Atlanta not the city.
We were literally sitting there with our mouths open taking pictures like, well, tourists.
Everywhere we went, traffic.
Three hours later, we were back in Chattanooga.
Next time we go back to Atlanta, we are taking a hovercraft.
One more picture of Miss Mamie's.
Because it was so charming.
For a place where I ate not one cupcake.
I just don't get the whole cupcake thing.
I would rather eat a slice of cake.
But that might be the pig in me rather than the anti-trendsetter in me.
So we had plans, big plans.
We were going to go to the Smoky Mountains for the day on our last full day with my parents.
Eat lunch at this cool place called The Island and go shopping, go into the mountains for a little bit.
Then on Saturday, we would do laundry, eat lunch with my parents and leave in the afternoon for Kentucky and spend the night in a hotel.....the highlight for our seven year old who rarely gets to do such cool things because hotels have pools.
Seriously, that's why.
Then get home by noon on Sunday.
I slept so sound that last night, so did Ellie next to me on the floor who we had to stir three or four times, very unusual for her before finally waking.
We were so excited to get on our way!
It was as I was in the shower that my husband came in and said these words I won't soon forget: your mom is sick.
She is sick.
My poor mom was really sick.
Like, sick.
We made the decision to leave for home two days early because traveling 11 hours with two potentially sick kids in two days was not something I was interested in doing.
Especially in six hour Illinois long stretches between bathrooms and those bathrooms......no thank you.
So we rapidly packed up, all the while the girls and I wiping tears and said our goodbyes from afar sadly.
It was the most depressing goodbye ever.
On the way home, the husband felt like we owed the girls a stop in Nashville because we cut the trip short.
For some reason I felt impending doom.
Call it mothers intuition but I just felt like we needed to make our way closer to Chicago.
But we did make a pit stop in Nashville for a few hours that morning.
So the question is, do they keep record albums in here or medical records in here?
So are Brad Paisley's old 45's in here from his debut album or are his records from when he had the wart from his butt in here in 1986?
Not that I know that he had a butt wart removed in 1986 but if he did, I am sure that information is in this building.

We went into the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum while we were there but we didn't have time to do the actual museum tour because IMPENDING DOOM.
We realized we really need to spend an entire weekend in Nashville at some point, not these little stopovers.
We will be back and do that some time but we did get to go into the cool gift shops they have there, there are several and they are amazing.
My favorite was the Hatch Show Print Store which features one of America's oldest letterpress shops.
They have awesome cool prints that you can buy, we bought the coolest Dolly Parton print from a show she did back when she was just a young one and I plan on framing it and putting it in my family room.
I could have bought every damn thing in this store.
This place was totally worth IMPENDING DOOM and is totally why I want to go back to Nashville for the weekend soon.
Well, that and I am breaking into that records storage to find out which butt cheek the wart is on.
My money is on the right one, just have a feeling.

After the museum we ate a quick lunch and got back on the road for a long ride home.
We got home at 10:30 at night.
The next morning I woke up, sick.
That mothers intuition thing DOES work.


I don't remember much about that weekend other than being in and out of consciousness but every time I woke up, this monkey was in a different part of my bed.
It was my daughter's neck pillow from the car that I was using on the car ride the night before.
I think the monkey is to blame for me getting sick.

Trying to see the silver lining, the Real Housewives of NYC, the OLD SCHOOL version was on all week in the morning so that was getting me through the morning shift of my crap fest.
Til I got a call from the elementary school on day three that my youngest got sick at school, then it all went downhill from there.
And she took control of the television viewing from there forward.

The thinnest I have been since my wedding day in 2006.
I am not proud of this.
I want to be heavier.
I hated this diet with every bit of my being.
Oh and the day I took this?
I had another turn for the worse that night and ended up at the acute care center the next day getting IV fluids.
Damn monkey.
So that is what happened on our spring break.
Missing that snow and sitting on that porch and getting away from it all for four days was totally worth it, though.
Next time I see my mom, we are getting really drunk and frying up some eggs in the fancy fry pan.
Because after this crapfest 2015, we TOTALLY deserve it.
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