December 27, 2010

A Wonderful and White Christmas


We had a wonderful Christmas! Mac got to spend time with each set of grandparents, plus lots of other family.

The only thing better than seeing Mac's excitement at playing with his favorite relatives is seeing the joy he brings them. What a blessing our sweet elf is to all of us, especially this time of year.


Despite an ear infection, two hours in a car and three teeth working their way out, Mac managed to soak up every moment of Christmas goodness. He was spoiled rotten with gifts, attention and every last bit of food he laid his eyes on. He couldn't have asked for more!


To top it off, South Carolina saw a (sort of) white Christmas for the first time in ages. It didn't snow on Christmas day, but I'm guessing it snowed just a few moments after the calendar flipped to December 26th.

All I know is we woke up in Columbia to a white, bright Sunday morning. Beautiful! Even better? The roads stayed clear for our trip back home. Hooray!


I hope you each had a beautiful Christmas with your families, too. I'm so thankful for the reason we celebrate and for all the people we were able to celebrate with this Christmas.

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to You!

Christmas has officially kicked off in our house and I am overjoyed about our second Christmas as a family of three.

Wishing each of y'all a beautiful and merry, merry Christmas!


"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
-Isaiah 9:6

December 21, 2010

Nuptials and (Famous Last) Names


We may not have a royal family, but America does have a few top-tier last names - and now two of them are merging. Model and presidential family scion Lauren Bush and David Lauren, son of Ralph Lauren, became engaged recently.

I've long admired Lauren Bush, a young philanthropist and designer in her own right, and can only imagine she'll be a gorgeous bride.

What an affair that will be. Tuxes, ball gowns, security and that guest list! Can you imagine? Politicians, fashionistas and big-haired Texans will be rubbing elbows all over the dance floor.

After these two tie the knot, do we think they'll be known as David and Lauren Lauren? They could go by Ralph Lauren's given last name, Lifshitz, or perhaps she could keep her name professionally?

Her middle name is Pierce, Barbara Bush's maiden name. Who would want to drop that anyway?

No matter if she goes by Lauren Bush-Lauren or Lauren Lifshitz, this is going to be one wedding to watch.

Seriously, though, what are the odds? I know of a Shelly Kelly and an Ashley Ashley, but there can't be too many other double-named gals out there. Bottom line: a guy's last name isn't worth turning down a second date, but it sure makes for an interesting cocktail party story down the road.

December 16, 2010

Why You Haven't Gotten Our Christmas Card

(And also, why Mac may have a few gray hairs coming in.)

My little "helper" and I spent all morning addressing and stamping Christmas cards. He assisted me in the crucial areas of scattering envelopes across the floor, waving pens in the air and "reading" addresses aloud.

In return, I took this video and scared him right off his feet.

(Please ignore our present-less tree; I haven't gotten to the wrapping portion of the program yet. Imagine what fun Mac will have with the paper and ribbons!)



Seriously, who needs help sending their cards out? Mac charges a very reasonable hourly fee...

December 14, 2010

My (First) Conversation with Mac

Mac-Mac is only 14 months old, so I don't expect that we'll be delving into theology or politics anytime soon. All the same, I'm thrilled as he gets better and better at communicating his thoughts.

Up to this point, B and I at marveled at how well you can know someone without actually talking to them. You know, real back and forth conversation, the conveying of opinions. The kind of talk that's absent in a toddler's world.

Today might have been Mac's and my first cobbled together conversation, though, and I think it's a preview of what's to come as he gets older and (even) more opinionated.

Mac: Points to cell phone on table, just out of his reach. Puts hand up to his ear, says "Hey Dada!" like he's talking on a phone. Points to cell phone again, gesturing a little more passionately this time.

Me: Moving cell phone out of sight. "No, Mac. That's Mama's cell phone. We know what happens when you get your hands on it."

Mac:
Does sign language for "more." Whines pitifully.

Me: No, baby. Why don't we read this book instead?

Mac: Shakes head furiously. Puts pretend cell phone/hand back up to his ear. "Hey! Hey, Dada! Hey!" Points at the pillow behind which I've not-so-secretly stowed the phone.

Me: Deep sigh. How did you get so smart??

This scene replayed itself a few times in a row until I pulled out a Mac-sized basketball that kept his attention for a few minutes.

After his cell phone obsession (momentarily) subsided, I marveled at his mix of words, charades, sign language and baby noises. What a clever way to get his point across!

I'm guessing all he understood from my half of the conversation was something like the voice of Charlie Brown's teacher: "Wah wah wah..."

I hate to see time flying by, but I love the new stage Mac enters each month. Having an actual "chat" with my little man? What a way to spend a morning.

December 13, 2010

Royally Adorable

The royal family has released two official engagement photos of Prince William and Catherine (can we please continue calling her Kate?) Middleton today.

The first is an expected pose: William and Kate look demure, happy and all grown up. They're captured before a timeless, regal background. If royals had a daily paper, this is the shot I imagine Will's grandmother would select to accompany their engagement announcement.


Thie second photograph, however, took me by surprise. What a casual shot! How loving and adorable do these two look? Don't you just want to toast them with a round of champagne?

It's not something I would have expected to see from a staid, stiff upper-lipped British institution, so perhaps the royal family is trying to become more approachable?

(Though People is comparing the two engagement photos below, I find the newest one to feel much warmer and more authentic than the C&D's. But my, how William has grown to look more like Charles and less like Diana!)


With soon-to-be-weds as precious as Will and Kate, the royal family is sure to endear itself to the British public and the world at large. (And just in time!) They look happy, in love and just as excited as every other engaged couple on Earth.

Also, can we discuss that hair again? How do I get Kate's locks?

And just because everyone loves an engagement ring, here's a shot of William's mom wearing the piece she picked from a tray of offered gems - purportedly because the 18-carat stone was the largest. Bling bling!

In other Will + Kate 4-EVA-related news, there is now a living to be made in becoming a Kate Middleton lookalike. Hmm. The other photos, with a fake Prince William at her side, are more convincing, but here's the Kate-wannabe:

I thought briefly that the royals should have announced their engagement in time for Halloween costumes to come out, but a full-time doppelganger? Not sure how she'll make much off of it, but what a compliment to the future Queen.

If you're not British, brunette and bouncy-haired, you can still fancy yourself a bit like Kate. Jigsaw has released a necklace Kate designed several years ago - just in time for Christmas.

If you can't have a prince on your arm, I suppose you can settle for a future princess's design dangling around your neck?

December 10, 2010

What Big Eyes You Have, Amanda Seyfried...

The first time I saw Amanda Seyfried onscreen, I couldn't get over how big her eyes were. She could probably bat those lashes and get anything she wants, they're so wide and innocent.

It seems fitting, then, that she's playing Little Red Riding Hood in an upcoming film.

When I heard that tidbit, I had visions of tiny birds carrying her cape around the forest as she hummed a maiden-like tune. Not exactly what the preview is showing... This isn't your grandma's fairytale.

Take a look and let me know what you think. Is it a thriller? A romance? A gothic mix of both?



Will you see Red Riding Hood in March 2011?

December 8, 2010

Perspective

I fight the urge each Christmas season to focus on shopping lists and searches for the perfect party dress. It's easy for me to get caught up in what I'm doing to make it "feel like Christmas" that I neglect the meaning behind the madness.

I've blogged about it before, but it's a struggle for me to tune out toy commercials and put Christmas in perspective. What am I doing to celebrate and, most importantly, why?

The saddest thing is waking up in January realizing I've missed the chance to truly enjoy the season, the time with family and the opportunity to worship and be grateful for the birth of our Savior.

What I need this time of year is a healthy dose of perspective.

Boarding our flight to LaGuardia, I was still antsy about flying with a little one. I let the others board and kept Mac in the terminal burning off some last-minute energy. Once we finally got in line, we waited with another mom and her son.

After trading babies' names and ages, we began mama banter. I promised her things do get easier, assured her good sleep would come soon and asked where she was going for Thanksgiving.

It turns out her sweet four-month-old was flying for the first time as well; they would land in LaGuardia to introduce him to his dad's parents and siblings. She was beyond excited - her baby had never met these grandparents, these aunts and uncles.

In fact, he hadn't yet met his dad, who is deployed in Afghanistan.

This woman gave birth to her son without his father. She's handled every feeding, diaper change, meltdown and "first" - alone.

I have kicked myself many times since for not hugging her, thanking her profusely and telling her how often I'd be praying for her family.

Here she was, a single mom juggling a baby, a carry on, a stroller, a diaper bag. I squatted, a toddler on my hip, to help pick up dropped baby toys and maneuver stroller handles. How could she be doing so much solo? She told me how hard it was to travel alone with an infant, and I could only imagine how hard it is to raise one with your husband overseas.

It's no wonder I couldn't speak up, as I can barely type this story without crying. I was boarding a plane to join three others who would help me read to, kiss, coo at, entertain and love on Mac throughout our trip. This mom had handled everything alone from start to finish.

I looked for her on the flight and even at baggage claim, but never saw her again. What I'd give for a moment to tell her how grateful I am for the sacrifice her husband - and, most certainly, she - is making. I have thought of and prayed for her often since.

When B works late, when Mac is having an off day, when I can't get the ornaments up or get to every event I'd like to attend, I remind myself of what matters. And of the sweet mom who would love to have her husband around, however late he might come home.

Earlier today I read this true Depression-era story about the generosity of a stranger at Christmas time and the effect his gifts had on a community.

The thought of Americans struggling so much that they had to choose between giving up their children and letting them go hungry - it's unfathomable. (And driving by the mall, the packed parking lots convince me that our current recession comes nowhere close to the impact of the Depression.)

I have moments where I wish I could snap up everything on my Christmas list and spoil our friends and families with bigger and shinier gifts. These reminders, though, put Christmas in perspective for me.

What do you do to take your focus away from picking the perfect Christmas card and remembering the perfect gift we were given?

(If you have heard me rant about how late I am in doing the former, you'll find as much irony in that sentence as I do. Oh, to have my priorities straight all the time!)

Wordless Wednesday: Sweet Cheeks

December 7, 2010

Turkey Day Catch Up

(Thanksgiving was a week or two ago, but Bradley, Mac and I had such a tremendous time I can't help but share.)

The week before Thanksgiving, Bradley was sweet enough to take me to a Dave Matthews show in Charleston! I missed his concert earlier this summer in Charlotte, so I was thrilled at a chance to catch him before his 2011 break. We spent the day strolling and eating downtown before taking in a fabulous show.

Boyd Tinsley, up close and personal!

B was a perplexed as to why we paid more not to have a physical seat. (North Charleston has general floor access, which gave us super close spots!) Even so, he graciously stood for five-plus hours as I enjoyed every last minute of Dave-ness. I was pretty beat afterwards, though - we're definitely not as young as we used to be!

Days later our family of three, plus B's parents, flew up to Connecticut to visit his brother and sister-in-law. What a treat and, considering it was Mac's first flight, a real adventure!

We drove to Charlotte for a layover-free flight straight to LaGuardia; I was a little uneasy about our busy boy sitting still for two hours once - much less for TWO flights.

Mac got a little antsy (read: had a big, uncharacteristic meltdown that gave me palpitations) on the shuttle from the parking lot, but after that he was people-watching, reading, blowing kisses and crawling from Papa and Nana to Mom and Dad and back. What a relief to know I worried for nothing! Story of my life?

Even with thirty minutes of "hang out" time on the runway that got other fliers restless, our champ kept it together 'til Uncle Todd pulled us into his driveway. Whew!

Todd and his wife Laura hadn't seen Mac since last Thanksgiving, when he was just seven weeks old. You can imagine how different their last visit with him (cuddling a swaddled bundle) was compared to the high-fiving, kiss-blowing, stair-climbing whirling dervish their nephew has become.
Uncle Todd and Mac

The day before Thanksgiving we spent a whirlwind afternoon in New York City grabbing lunch, surveying the wares at a farmer's market and gabbing about the best places to buy the world's tackiest souvenirs. (Seriously, who's in the market for a $35 "New York City" baseball cap? Eep.)

Six adults to fawn over me? I love it here!

Our gracious hosts also took us through the beautiful town they live in. Their part of the country just screams "New England" to me - but I was glad to visit it before the snow kicked in!

Mac loved being the center of attention!

The highlight of the trip was spending time catching up with Todd and Laura, celebrating my in-laws' fortieth anniversary and savoring every last tasty bite of Laura's unreal cooking. (Todd's turkey was pretty fabulous too, to be fair!)

Their neighbors had kindly lent us a car seat, high chair and a plethora of toys, so Mac felt right at home as soon as we arrived.

The best "Smith boys" shot I could get.

Mac did beautifully on the flight to North Carolina and the drive home, too. In the days after we returned, though, it became SO apparent that he had been spoiled rotten. Six pairs of eyes and ears and arms to hug him are just no match for boring old mom.

Even baths were better in CT!

We've since settled back into our day-to-day routine, but the first "no" Mac heard after a week of "what do you want, sweet boy?" was a tough pill to swallow!

All in all, a delicious, chilly, festive Thanksgiving! We were thankful our first big trip as a family went well. (I was slightly less thankful when I stepped on the scale at my physical last week. Oh well!)

December 2, 2010

What's In A Name?

You've probably picked up on the fact that I'm obsessed with names. I could tell you the full name of just about anyone I've ever met - and often ask people what their middle names are, just out of curiosity. I'm entranced by monograms and captivated by the stories behind old family names.

I was the girl who dreamed of naming, not necessarily having, a baby. (It took a while before I realized the two go hand in hand. It'd be a rare mom who would allow you only to name her child.)

I think it's because, growing up, I didn't love my name. (Cue Anne of Green Gables references. I never asked to be called Cordelia, but you get the idea.) Anne is my middle name; my first name is a family name that is unusual and easily mispronounced.

The first day of classes, from kindergarten to grad school, my palms would get sweaty when the teacher got to the "S" portion of the roll. When I saw a puzzled expression, I'd call out, "I go by Anne! Just call me Anne!"

Additionally, my whole family (of origin) has unusual name quirks. Three of the four of us go by our middle names. My brother, the sole "first namer," has four names. Three are last names; all are family names. Welcome to the South, my friends.

Most everyone I knew growing up was named after someone - a beloved aunt, their mom's favorite poet, even a Dynasty character. Few parents pull their children's names from thin air.

When it came to naming our Mac, I knew early on that I wanted to incorporate family names with a lot of meaning to us. (If your last name is Smith, you know the importance of standing out a little in the first name department. Take it from "Anne Smith #8" at my salon.)

Mac is named after several members of our families, one of whom was also called "Mac Smith." It means everything that we could honor so many with one sweet little baby's name.

Reading the top name trends of 2010, though, I am a touch disheartened that Macky's first name is number three on the list. (Yes, I did what I said I'd never do and gave my son a first name he doesn't use. Don't hate me, future Mac!)

I suppose I should take it as a compliment that there are so many baby Jacksons out there, but we named him Jackson McNeal for a reason. Mac's names each have meaning and come directly from someone our families knew and loved. (The first Mac Smith skipped over Jackson, abbreviated his middle name and went by Mac too, future Macky. You're in good company!)

Though he was born in 2009, not 2010, I hate thinking that Mac's birth certificate is one of ten thousand other Jacksons!

I won't say much else about names, though I'll wax poetic for hours with friends in an adult version of the treasured seventh grade "let's name our invisible children" game.

I have lots (and lots) of "rules" and opinions about naming a child well and with tremendous thought. Given my name history, I feel I deserve such opinions!

That said, names are intensely personal and I wouldn't want to step on anyone's toes - or their top choices. Pick an old family name, find inspiration in classic literature, choose a favorite Biblical name, put lovely-sounding syllables together, do what makes you happy - but realize names last forever.

Can I please urge you, if you're going to name your child after a politician, Olympian or television figure, as the article indicates more people are doing, to choose extra wisely? Do you really want your baby to spend his life explaining why he's named Apollo Piper Chuck Bass Finn Puckerman Smith long after everyone has forgotten who most of those namesakes ever were? Okay, then.

Read the top names of 2010. How many of these babies have you bought presents for this year?

November 29, 2010

Our Mac at Thirteen Months


Our Mac is now 13 months old, the picture of toddlerhood. Every last thing about him - his personality, his height, his tummy, his vocabulary, his monkey feet - grows bigger by the minute. He's no longer our baby; Mac is very much the busy little boy.

He spends his days climbing stairs, clapping balls together, reading books, pointing and gesturing, learning new words, opening doors and cabinets, getting into everything. When he's not asleep (and even when he is!), the child is in constant motion.


Mac is also earning his "monkey" nickname by imitating even the tiniest things we do. He hums, whistles, claps, points, pats, smiles, grimaces and pretty much "apes" whatever he sees.

His social personality is getting bigger, too - he blows kisses and waves and says "hey!" to almost anyone he lays eyes on. (Not his mama, though. Hmph.)


Mac still just has the two bottom teeth, but that doesn't stop him from chowing down at all three meals. What a healthy appetite he has! As a result, he's jumped up the growth chart this month and is, as B would lovingly say, "chunking it up big time." Just more for us to squeeze!


He still narrates our daily life, mostly with excited words that sound like a combination of Gaelic and Mandarin. (Genius!) He has a handful of definable words, though, saying hey, Dad, Daddy, Blue, dog and cup most often. I love to hear him chatter!


While Mac pulls up confidently and walks with his toys or holding a hand, he won't go solo. I'd say this concerns me, but the truth is I know he's going to be sprinting through our house in an instant. Is it awful to say I hope he takes his time?

As fast as he crawls (and climbs stairs and gets into toilets and cleaning supplies and Tupperware drawers), I'm going to need a good pair of running shoes to catch up with this boy in the coming months.


He'll be 14 months old in a week, so please forgive the late update, but I consider this a virtual baby book and am essentially writing this update for me and (one day) for Mac.


So Macky, I'm blowing you a kiss and thanking you for another wonderful month as your mom. You just get cuter, baby boy, and we love you to pieces.

Menu Monday

After our delicious Thanksgiving getaway, the Smiths' menu for the week should focus solely on lettuce, water and oxygen. Alas, it's cold outside (South Carolina cold, that is) and I'm craving comfort food in a big way.

I'll get my comfort food fix this week, but only with healthy dose of gym time sprinkled in each day for good measure. All those mashed potatoes added up quickly!

This week's menu:

Monday: Butternut squash soup with cornbread

Tuesday: Pioneer Woman roasted chicken with asparagus

Wednesday: A "brinner" of eggs, grits and turkey bacon

Thursday: Leftover roasted chicken with squash soup

Friday: Roast and potatoes

Saturday: Spaghetti

Sunday: Crockpot beef vegetable soup (with Friday's leftovers)

I'm dying for a few new chicken recipes to try this winter. Any recommendations?

(Side note: I adored the Pioneer Woman's white chili; we tried it the week before Thanksgiving and it was fantastic. Can you tell I have a soup obsession this time of year?)

November 28, 2010

Swiften-who?

As if Taylor Swift wasn't famous enough, pictures of her stepping out with Jake Gyllenhaal of late should guarantee she becomes a household name.

A sure sign that this couple is on the road to tabloid cover status? The creation of their celebrity mash-up nickname: "Swiftenhaal."

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez started the couple naming craze with "Bennifer." Next Britney Spears married Kevin Federline and "Spederline" was born.

While each of those couples has long since parted ways, the two most famous celebrity couple mash-ups were created by the following time-tested formulas:

Brad + Angelina = Brangelina

Tom + Katie = TomKat

And now, with the confirmation of Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal's burgeoning relationship, the press is eager to come up with a similarly catchy nickname.

Sadly, I don't think the "Swiftenhaal" moniker is it. Simple is better, but neither "Take" nor "Jaylor" are as identifiable as their distinctive last names. Any other ideas?

While you're brainstorming, what I'd really like someone to figure out is what Jake's sister and brother-in-law, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Skarsgaard, should be called. Have you ever seen so many vowels in two last names? "Gyllengaard," perhaps?

A Card for the Ages

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is sending and receiving cards. In recent years, as photo cards have become more popular, I've loved this part of the holidays even more. Such a snapshot of our friends' and families' lives!

When I was little, my mom displayed each card we received on our mantel and in a beautiful tree display. It made me sad to take it down after Christmas was over! I loved looking over the pictures and notes that came inside.

As Bradley and I started our own family, I grew to love the updates and cards from our friends even more. It's hard for me to part with our cards each year; I usually save them for a while before I let them go. (That's a euphemism for "throw them away," but I can't even bring myself to say the words. Tossing pretty stationery is pure heartbreak!)

Last year was the first time in a while I haven't sent out a Christmas card. Our hands were a little full and I wasn't able to get my act together in time. Instead, I sent birth announcements just after the New Year and called it an even trade.

This year, Shutterfly is offering bloggers 50 free holiday cards and I'm excited to participate! Now that I know where we'll be getting our cards, the question is which design to pick. My favorites are below and our family photos should be to us tomorrow.

Here are my top contenders so far:





There are a lot more to choose from, so I'm hoping I can find just the right picture to make our Christmas card complete. I'm sure lots of y'all are ahead of me and have your cards stamped, addressed and waiting to mail come December 1st, right?

After last year's card-less debacle, I'm happy to just to be thinking about it before Christmas Eve!

November 24, 2010

Tis the Season to be Thankful

Sorry to be silent! The last week has been a whirlwind of trips to Columbia, Charleston, Connecticut and several places in between. I have a little work to catch up on today before we head into NYC for lunch with B's brother and his adorable wife.

Tomorrow we'll celebrate Mac's second Thanksgiving with the Smith side of our family and next week I promise to be back to catch up on everything! In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have a wonderful holiday - we have so much to be grateful for, now and always!

xoxo,
A.

November 16, 2010

It's Official!!


It's official! Prince William reads my blog. Prince William and Kate Middleton are engaged.

Just days after I wrote urging Wills to put a ring on it, he took my advice did! And a gorgeous, meaningful ring at that: his late mother's sapphire and diamond engagement ring.

Side note: Engagement rings are all about symbolism. While I would normally find it off-putting to propose with a ring from a failed marriage, the fact that William's mother has passed away makes it incredibly sweet. Swoon! Not to mention it is such a memorable, beautiful (and sizable!) piece. Well played, William.

Apparently, royal brides also have their wedding bands made from the same nugget of Welsh gold as the late Queen Mother, the Queen, Princess Diana and other princess brides before them. It's all about tradition!


Can we talk about how beautiful Kate looks in her blue (play up that gem, girl!) dress and with those unbelievable locks? I need her stylist's number; it would be worth the trans-Atlantic flight.

Watch BBC footage of the engagement announcement here, but be warned that the flashbulbs and questions are enough to make even a distant onlooker anxious. I hope the royal family coached, counseled and prepared her thoroughly in the two-plus weeks since the proposal.

Evidently "Kate" is now to be known by her given name, Catherine. Perhaps it's more royal? I like Kate, but who am I to question the judgment of Buckingham Palace?


Whatever she goes by, William's future bride handled the press far better than I would at this stage; the couple's answers were rather sweet. I love that William wanted to make his mother a part of the celebration, even though he has spent half of his 28 years now without her. (So, so sad.)

The wedding will take place in spring or summer 2011. If they wait until July, or marry on Friday the 29th of that month, their big day will be thirty years after Charles and Diana's unrivaled ceremony.

So Prince William and Princess "Catherine" will be on hand in 2012 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee, her sixtieth anniversary on the throne. If they follow in Charles and Diana's footsteps, they'll also have a baby on the way.

Let's hope that is the only way their marriage mimics William's parents - this couple is too lovely ever to break up.

This news would have been devastating to me at sixteen, so cheer up, heartbroken potential princesses: Prince Harry is still available!

(Tacky thought: Can you imagine the budget of a royal wedding? Eeep!)

November 14, 2010

Sunday Do-Over

If today were third grade gym class kickball, I would ask for a do over.

The facts:
1. B had to work today, so he left the house at 6:30 am. Not entirely unusual for a weekend, but very rare for a Sunday.
2. Last weekend's cold has become a sinus infection and an upper respiratory infection. Four days of antibiotics mean I'm not contagious but still cough like the Marlboro Man.
3. I patted myself on the back for getting myself and Mac up, dressed, fed and ready for 9:15 service on time. Hair done, make up on, cute outfit and all. Until...
4. Precisely 2 minutes before we needed to be on our merry way, Mac had a mega-meltdown about wearing shoes, then dirtied his diaper. There went my schedule.
5. At 9:20, we arrived at church to find zero available parking spots, especially near the Children's Center. (Baptism Sundays are my favorites; lots of visitors come to celebrate their loved ones. Thus, lots of cars.) We circled, circled, circled, looked at the clock, panicked and parked by a curb.
6. I checked Mac in to find his class was full. The fabulous staff helped me find an open class, but by now I was very late.
7. When I finally got to service, wearing an invisible "I AM REALLY LATE TO CHURCH" sign that made me extra antsy, I couldn't find a seat. Not even in the adorable sit/chat sofa areas in the lobby. I felt so darn awkward that...
8. I headed back to the Children's Center and found a quiet spot (read: empty room for nursing moms) to watch the sermon on closed circuit TV. Two sweet moms eventually came in to nurse but wouldn't have me leave - so they let me coo at their newborns, rock baby-less in a glider and chat with them. Just what I needed.
9. After first service, I headed upstairs to teach our four-year-old Sunday School class solo, as B had done last week when I was sick. Our girls wanted to know where B was, why he wasn't coming, when he would be back, and if we would both be there next week. They understandably looked at me funny when I nearly coughed up a kidney upon arriving, before promising I was well.
10. In the midst of our big group singing and dancing, my sweater dress began riding up and got all kinds of static clingy. I had forgone tights given the warm weather; this left my hemline, shall we say, very questionable during our "shout for joy!" jumps. Not quite a role model for our sweet four-year-olds.
11. We got home, Mac ate his lunch then (hooray!) napped - right through small group. I didn't have the heart to wake him, so I partook of cough syrup and couch time, just what I needed.
12. It's 9:45 and I'm still flying solo, worn out from what was a relatively easy day (can I blame it on the sickies?), under the covers still wearing said sweater dress (and knee-high socks - hot stuff), watching the cutest documentary ever.
13. I just realized I've eaten six saltines (Sunday School snack) and half a PB&J all day. No wonder I'm cranky!
14. I also just realized I misnumbered this list in my first go-round. When you can't count to 13 without assistance, it's time to hit the hay!

While this was nothing near a legitimately bad day, I'm sure I was a sight to see today. I'd like to hug to anyone who dealt with my frazzled, fast-walking, Sudafed-head craziness today.

I'm especially thankful for the shadow who helped in our Sunday School class this morning; without her I might still be looking for the craft supplies that were in my hand as I searched furiously for them.

I rarely say this, but bring on Monday! I'm ready for a fresh start.

Sweet side note: At the start of second service, Mac's regular teachers had him switched back into their class. Evidently they couldn't bear the thought of a Sunday without our Macky. (That could just be my bias talking.) I love that the nursery volunteers give so much of themselves and get to know each baby individually.

And also, they covet the snuggles and kisses he gives each of them, our "don't snuggle me" mover and shaker of a boy. He's quite the ladies man at church, our McNugget. He blew each teacher farewell kisses right in front of me, then refused to give me a smooch all afternoon. The heartbreak!

November 10, 2010

Tag!

Callie tagged me to answer a few questions, so here we go:

1. Where and how did you and your husband meet?

We met at Clemson, though we don't exactly remember when or where specifically. We're not even certain of the year. That's terrible, isn't it? Doesn't make for a compelling story to tell the grandkids.

We were friends for three or four years before we started dating, so for as long as I could remember, Bradley was just around. He thinks I was wearing a white shirt the first time he saw me in the lobby of an engineering building. (I had a statistics class there and he was a civil engineering major, as was my boyfriend at the time.)

I wish I could remember the first time we spoke, but I can't! I do remember setting him up with someone else years later, but that's another story for another day.

Bottom line: The "how did y'all meet" conversation at cocktail parties is a little boring when we're around. The short answer is "at Clemson."

2. What piece(s) of advice would you give your 16 year old self?

1. If you had the good sense to break up, trust your instincts. No use in making the same mistake twice - or three or four times, for that matter.

2. You aren't fat. Seriously. You'll look back at photos and wish you could be "fat" like that again.
3. Plenty of people peak in high school. One day you'll be grateful to have bloomed a little later.
4. Go abroad for a semester. A summer in Paris will only make you wish you'd done the real deal.
5. In two years absolutely no one will care how many honors cords you graduated with, where you ranked in your class, or what you got on your SAT. Stop fretting over the difference between "with high honors" and "with highest honors." This advice applies doubly to college.
6.
Listen to your heart, but only if it's listening to the Lord.

3. What's your most embarrassing moment?
I'm a walking awkward moment, so it's hard to keep track. One especially memorable incident happened my first semester in grad school, when I was desperate to be the straight-A superstar, typing a furiously fast transcript of my professor's every word. (I've alluded to this before.)

Professor: If you really want to succeed in business, and particularly in journalism, you're going to need just two things. Your ears. (continues with lecture as I type)

Me: (puts hand up) Um, you said we needed two things to succeed. Somehow I missed the second one.

Professor: (smiles knowingly)

Class: (stares blankly at me as I realize he meant two ears)

4. What one thing can make you smile, no matter what?
Mac laughing. And B doing anything to make him laugh.

5. If you had $5000 to spend today, what would you buy/spend it on?
If I couldn't invest or save it (I hear you, Dave Ramsey!), I'd buy a DSLR camera, a pair of black boots and a ridiculously unnecessary piece of jewelry.

6. What do you enjoy most about blogging?
Keeping up with faraway friends and making fabulous new ones! I couldn't get by without a lot of the sweet girls I've met through the blogosphere.

November 4, 2010

Things That Make Me Old

1. I started a chore schedule for myself this week.
2. I totally love said chore chart. (My thirteen-year-old self says, "Whaaaa?") It gives my week a rhythm and saves me from a five-hour cleaning binge on weekends.
3. I was excited about the P&G Brand Saver in Sunday's paper.
4. So excited I barely even skimmed the wedding pages.
5. I just realized that people born in 1992 are now old enough to vote. 1992, people.
6. I am fretting about the effects of Daylight Savings Time on the McNugget's bedtime. (Because if he's up late, my old lady bedtime seems even earlier!)
7. I wear a cami under everything.
8. When it's under 70 degrees, I wear a cardigan over everything.
9. I buy the same pair of shoes in two to three colors and rotate.
10. I have a to do list on my refrigerator with daily meals, to do items and appointments listed.
11. I have my insurance company's phone number saved in my phone. And each of our doctors' numbers as well.
12. I keep receipts in my wallet for weeks and yesterday I found a tissue in my pocket. A tissue! Like the ones your mom kept in her pocket when you were six and had a runny nose. Ack!
13. I love coupons but am too scatterbrained to keep the ones I need with me. My solution? I keep BB&B coupons in my glove compartment so I'm always prepared.
14. I never run out of hand sanitizer.
15. I'm too tired to finish this list. (But trust me, this game could go on for hours...)

November 2, 2010

A New Spin on "Following Doctor's Orders"

Everyone has a theory for how to get an all too comfy baby to make his or her debut. Spicy foods, driving over railroad tracks, eggplant parmesan, pedicures (or was that just me?).

We followed our doctor's orders to a "t" with Mac and were happy to meet him at 38 weeks along. Had he been 9 and a half pounds and waited 3 weeks longer to arrive, however, I would have been pulling my hair out to go into labor.

(Seems counter-intuitive, I know, since labor is no walk in the park. But it's preferable to being mega-pregnant for the rest of your life; we must be designed to be so uncomfortable at the end that delivery is preferable to pregnancy. Genius!)

Please watch this video immediately. Here's a woman who is 41 weeks pregnant and has been told by her midwife to "walk it out." I'd have told Bradley to put on his strolling shoes, but this girl had other ideas.



A few things we need to discuss:

1. I have more leg chub than she does and I'm NOT 41 weeks pregnant. Or pregnant at all, for that matter.
2. Maternity jorts? Really, they make those? And Daisy Dukes at that? Is there really a high demand for those amongst pregnant ladies?
3. "Walking it out" is probably a lot more fun when your ankles aren't swollen.
4. I can't decide if I'm horrified, wildly amused, scared for her health or jealous of her moves.
5. Regardless, I can't peel my eyes away and I can't stop laughing!
6. This brings "taking doctor's orders seriously" to a new level.
7. How did her husband keep a straight face and a steady hand?
8. How did she not pee her pants or trip over herself? (Hello, altered center of gravity! I couldn't see my toes, much less bounce up and down on them!)
9. And finally: get it, mama!!

Tell me I'm not the only one simultaneously confused and cracking up about this?

Postscript: My friend Winsy believes this woman is a dancer who is "walking through" a previously choreographed routine. Rewatching it, I agree.

Makes me feel a bit better about her "spontaneous" moves. Wow. Imagine watching your mom dancing like that when she was pregnant with you! Thank goodness you can't get shaken baby syndrome in the womb.

November 1, 2010

I Couldn't Make This Up If I Tried

Let me preface this with a few facts:
1. Six months ago, Mac's first word was "Dada."
2. At seven months, he was saying "Dada" discriminately, using it to indicate Bradley.
3. In the last six months, Mac has expanded his father-related vocabulary to include Dad, Daddy, Dada and Da. It's all daddy all the time around here.
4. In his six months of talking, Mac has never spoken my name. Nor made the "ma" sound for milk, Mac, monkey, anything. That would be too close to "Mama" for his liking.
5. Every so often, we try to see if we can get a "ma" sound out of Mac. We say, "Can you say Mama?" Mac says, "Dada!" Then he laughs. True story.

Late last week Mac was his normal, force-to-be-reckoned-with self. He's a bundle of smiles every morning, and nothing makes him smile more broadly than getting his sweet baby hands on something he shouldn't have. After I hid the remotes and moved the DVD player cord out of his (insanely long, Go Go Gadget Arms-style) reach, he was quiet for a full moment. I peeked over to see him sitting on the floor, beaming at my cell phone, squealing and pressing buttons randomly.

Who, me?

No problem, I thought. I keep my cell phone locked and he's probably had it for ten seconds, max. I swap the cell phone for Mac's favorite Millie Moo book (he's not fooled), hide the phone and move right along.

Not sixty seconds later my cell phone rang. It was the fire department, checking to see if we had an emergency. Mac had somehow unlocked my phone, put it in emergency mode (what is this??), dialed 0, squealed and hung up. As is their policy, the first responding department returned our call to ensure that no one needed help.

Talk about embarrassment - I nearly died. I couldn't find a record of the call in my phone (emergency mode, maybe?) but knew he hadn't dialed 911. I didn't hear a thing and was six feet away the whole 10 seconds he had it. I must have apologized to the fire department half a dozen times in our brief conversation. My child had all but sent a bat signal for the cops! Surely DSS couldn't be far behind?

When I hung up, I gave Mac my serious mom face and said, "McNeal Smith, I cannot believe what you just did!" He looked up, all blue eyes and chubby cheeks, and said as clear as day, "Mama!"

Mama. He saved that magic sound as his "get out of jail free" card. Who knows how long he's been practicing in his crib just waiting for the right moment to bust out that heart-melting word.

I don't know if he's sly or sweet or a combination of the two, but I can tell you he chose just the right moment to say my name.

If only he'd keep saying it... I wonder if he's waiting for another mishap? Mac's lucky he's so cute!

October 26, 2010

Two Silly Peas in a Pod

"Mom says cheese, Mac!"

"Okay, now you try."

"Hey, Dad, will you give me this pen?"

"You think my super cool 'engineer' pocket pen is a toy, son?"

"All right, fine. I'll just grab it myself!"

October 25, 2010

A Picture Perfect Royal Pair

Little-known fact about me: I was born in England the week of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding. When I was a child, this made me believe I was unequivocally linked to the royal family.

I was eleven months old when Charles and Diana's first son, Prince William, was born. (Evidently they take this "heir and a spare" thing quite seriously in England. Eleven months!)

By the age of thirteen, I was entirely convinced William was meant to be my future husband. I was a dual citizen, after all, and therefore clearly in the pool of eligible ladies he was mulling over.

Alas, our paths were not meant to cross. This is particularly shocking given that I signed the official condolence book from the city of Columbia to the royal family after Diana was killed. I didn't include my phone number, but I was tempted.

Now that I'm older and wiser, I think the future Mrs. Prince William (surely that would be her official title) should be virtuous, beautiful, discreet and well-dressed: the picture of a queen.


If this pair, the prince and his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton, doesn't scream "future King and Queen of England," I don't know who does. Wills (I feel I can address you as such based on our near-kinship), please propose to this girl already. And also, please bring your dapper style Stateside.

Can we discuss how much pressure you would feel planning your wedding when you knew the future King of England (and paparazzi) would be in attendance? What about the pressure of being a prince's girlfriend? Talk about a fear of bad hair days! Good thing British wedding-goers love to sport hats!

On the plus side, I'm sure designers are lining up to dress her! Whatever she's doing, it's working. I hope her next ensemble is a breathtaking white dress to rival Diana's. We'll see!

Still Newlyweds

I saw these Newlyweds-style questions on someone’s blog and thought it would be fun to ask Bradley and see how many he got right.

Let's see how B's answers and mine matched up...

1. She’s in front of the TV; what is on the screen?

B: Gossip Girl

A: Guilty as charged.

2. You’re out to eat. What kind of salad dressing does she request?

B: None

A: True. I never order salad because my requests (no cheese, onion, croutons or dressing) are so bizarre. I eat steamed veggies instead!

3. What’s one food she doesn’t like?

B: Cheese

A: There are many, but cheese tops the list.

4. You go out to eat and have a drink. What does she order?

B: White wine

A: I usually have water or tea, but if I order a "grown up" beverage, I do go for white wine.

5. What shirt size does she wear?

B: Medium

A: Patently untrue. I'm an XXS. (Ha.)

6. What shoe size?

B: Nine

A: This reminds me of Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias: "In a good shoe I wear a size 6, but a 7 feels so good, I buy an 8." I like to think my size 9 feet suit my tall frame.

7. What’s her favorite type of sandwich?

B: Plain turkey

A: Turkey on sourdough. They were hard to give up when I was pregnant!

8. What would she eat everyday if she could?

B: Mashed potatoes

A: Creamy, carb-y comfort food all the way.

9. What is her favorite cereal?

B: Cinnamon Toast Crunch

A: I buy "healthy" cereals, but if CTC is on big sale, I buy six to ten boxes, then eat them in a day. Mmmm.

10. What would she never wear?

B: Maybe a denim dress?

A: Or acid-washed jeans. Solid guess.

11. What is her favorite sports team?

B: Tigers

A: Yes, sir!

12. What is something she does that you wish she wouldn’t do?

B: Leave hunks of peanut butter on a knife in the sink.

A: I thought he was going to say "leave cabinet doors open!" This peanut butter knife incident happened once, in his old house, circa 2005. Mind like a steel trap!

13. What is her heritage?

B: German/Native American

A: True. German explains my first name, an ounce of Native American justifies my dark hair and the remaining mix of Irish/Scottish/British provides my uber-pale complexion.

14. You bake her a cake - what kind?

B: Funfetti

A: Trick question; B would never bake. But he picked the right kind! I also love German chocolate cake. (In truth, I've never met a cake I didn't like.)

15. Did she play sports in high school?

B: No

A: To be fair, I had the hours to letter in student council. Does that step up my cool quotient?

16. What could she spend hours doing?

B: "Looking on the internet"

A: Man, I've got no secrets!

17. What is the unique talent that she has?

B: Public speaking

A: I'd say my talent is chatting in general, but B is sweet to put a finer point on it.

18. What is her type of coffee?

B: None

A: Diet Dr Pepper is my coffee.

October 22, 2010

Sweet Valley Flashbacks

Adolescent fiction must be totally different now than when I was reading it almost (eep!) two decades ago. When I dug into Ramona, the Babysitters' Club, Sweet Valley High and the like, there were no digital cameras, cord-free cell phones, Facebook or blogs. It was a different world, and our fiction reflected that.

Slambooks were like Facebook, only on paper. Mark Zuckerberg, you weren't that creative!

Nonetheless, I was oddly excited last year to hear that Sweet Valley High was being updated and re-released for a new generation. (Annoyed at the "perfect size four" change, but moving on...)


In the early 90s I was a Sweet Valley addict, reading about our favorite blonde twins, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, from their grade-school days, through the Unicorns club phase and all the way to college. I loved reading all their backstories and find out what happened to the twins, their friends Lila and Enid, dream guy Todd and the rest of the gang.

If you're a SV lover like me and have ever wondered what happened to the Wakefield girls after their stories ended, you're not alone. And you're in luck!

Coming in the spring of 2011:

According to People, the novel picks up with the twenty-six-year old twins estranged and living on opposite coasts: Elizabeth in NYC and Jessica in their California home town. What could have caused such a rift?

If you need a Sweet Valley fix before March, take a walk back through time by revisiting every last book on Wikipedia. A very devoted fan spent quite a bit of time putting this together, y'all.

As I scrolled through the hundreds of titles, I realized how very much money one Ms. Francine Pascal must have; I've heard she lives on the coast of France and I can see why! She took a great idea, franchised it, delegated to a troupe of ghost writers and retired. Not a bad gig! Almost 30 years after the first book was published, Jessica and Elizabeth live on.

Is anyone else excited to find out what comes next for the Wakefield sisters?

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