Friday, September 19, 2014


photo credit
After slapping the snooze button on the alarm clock for the fourth time this morning, I rolled out of bed, padded to the bathroom, took care of business, and started toward the kitchen/family room when I realized something....the kids weren't up.

It was almost 6:15 by this point and that is unusual in our house. My son is a morning person. My daughter isn't really a morning person, but is the kind of person who doesn't like to feel like she's missing anything, so she'll get up just to make sure.

I usually stay up late because I love the feeling of having the house all to myself while the people I love most in the universe are peacefully, soundly sleeping nearby. To have that in the morning was an unexpected and extremely delightful treat.

I stumbled into the living room and curled up on the couch, listening to the world around us wake up. Well, that and the steady, droning hum of the fans we have running to pull in the cooler air from outside. It was still dark outside and the birds were just starting to make noise.

No one was bickering about how long someone else had been in the bathroom. No one was frantically running around looking for their favorite pencil that they had forgotten they had already put in their book bag the night before. No one was yelling in frustration because wearing a long-sleeved, black sparkly shirt with last year's outgrown, too tight, hot pink biker shorts was vetoed. No one was begging for extra dessert in their lunches, or complaining that brushing their teeth in the morning was pointless because they hadn't eaten anything overnight while sleeping.

photo credit
I was thinking just how nice that was, when it hit me that without all those things, I wouldn't know to appreciate this cool, quiet morning. I wouldn't be able to sit on the couch with a cup of steaming chai tea watching the first rays of the sun fight through the mist and fog over the mountain top I see from my living room window.

I wouldn't know.

What's worse? I wouldn't even know that I didn't know.

Small blessings. Big blessings. I guess it really is all what you notice and what you make of it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rejectable me

Hi. My name is Brooke and I have a problem with rejection. 

Well...that's not entirely accurate. Rejection happens to everyone on a pretty regular basis. What I suppose would be a better description would be to say that I am sensitive to certain types of rejection. 

And, really...aren't we all?!?!

Last weekend was going to be our first 'relaxing' weekend in a while. We've been out of town or really busy for the last five or six weekends in a row. 

After a grueling week, we were all looking forward to just staying home. And then I woke up on Saturday morning, filled with energy (of the non-house cleaning variety) because we didn't have to be anywhere. 

Yeah, I know. I'm weird. ::shrugs::

So I proposed a round of errands. I needed to get some ideas on how to make the kids' Halloween Minecraft themed costumes so I wanted to hit the Halloween store that set up its tent in the mall parking lot. That led to going into the mall to look at pre-made Minecraft heads at Hot Topic. That lead to a detour to Game Stop to price a birthday present for Tucker, then it led to lunch, then to two shoe stores when we discovered my 9 year old man child wears a SIZE 9 MEN'S shoe.

From there we headed to U-Haul to pick up a couple sturdy boxes, then we drove by a pet adoption fair at Petsmart. I recently began volunteering with a local rescue organization because it turns out that I'm liking staying at home a little too much. So what better way to get out of the house than to volunteer for a great organization and get to work with innocent animals?

The kids have been asking for a pet pretty consistently for about two years. Robert and I agreed when we  had to find homes for our dogs in Germany that we wouldn't get more pets until we were finished moving at Uncle Sam's command. 

But - I want the kids to be aware of what they are getting into. My plan is to eventually let them help me when I volunteer so they can see what's involved, and more importantly, see what a big deal (for both the animal and our family) it is to adopt a pet. I hope working with these unwanted/abandoned animals gives my kids a more complete picture of the amazing love and responsibility that comes with adding a family member and the knowledge that pets aren't like Happy Meal toys - disposable when you get bored.

So as we walked along the cages of animals on a hot Saturday, I was a little surprised that the animals seemed a bit...apathetic to our presence. I love dogs in general. They usually respond well to me too. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was that fact that I had kids with me, maybe it was that tons of people had been through there and were still coming through there that the majority of the animals we saw simply could not be bothered to show any interest in us.

I mean, when multiple shelter dogs have absolutely no interest in you, it's a little difficult (especially when you have rejection sensitivity) not to take some of that personally.

One of the dogs caught my eye immediately. He reminded me of Snoopy. We made our way over the the crate, tried to pet him through the bars only to be completely ignored. We struck up a conversation with one of the volunteers, then talked to his foster dad. I asked if we could take the dog out for a quick walk and the foster dad got him out of the crate, snapped on a leash, and let us walk him around. 

Only....this poor dog had no interest in being anywhere near us. After a very short walk where the dog determinedly went in the opposite direction that we were going, wound himself around both another lady and her dog, looked positively bored any time any of us tried to interact with him, and barely tolerated it when I picked him up to carry him back, I thought that maybe we should just move on to another dog. We got back to his crate. The dog, whom we were told hated, hated, hated to be crated, balked for about five seconds at going back into the crate. You could see him weighting the decision. Out of the crate but with us, or in the crate without us. Into the crate he went. Voluntarily. "Huh!" said his foster dad. "I've never seen him do that before."


So we just walked around and sort of looked for a dog that looked like it might be interested in us. When that didn't happen, the kids approached some smaller dogs in crates set on top of larger dog crates. I should mention that Robert is the least excited of all of us about the prospect of getting a new family member. The smaller dogs allowed the kids to stick their fingers in the crates and pet them, but otherwise ignored us. A small, white dog named Pirate caught Robert's attention. Pirate is a small, older dog with only one eye. Pirate refused to make any kind of eye contact or to sniff any of our hands/fingers as a greeting. Pirate did, however. lean just enough so that when you tried to pet him through the bars, your fingers could just graze him. It was so pathetic, it was already funny. Not even the homeless animals were interested in us. That's just sad.

The next day, I had a lunch planned with a friend I used to work with before we left North Carolina. She had contacted me about a month ago and asked if I would be free for lunch on Sunday and/or dinner on Tuesday.  I was really excited. When Robert and I moved away, many of my friends said they would come and visit us where ever we went. With a very few exceptions (which mean the world to me) that didn't happen. Then we got orders to move back to NC about two hours from where I used to live and work. I was hopeful that more people would come and visit us there. Two hours to drive versus 12 or more? Way better! Yet....that's not how it's worked out. 

I really do understand that everyone is busy. But when she messaged and cancelled on me for Sunday, I was really disappointed. I had been looking forward to this more than even I realized. That's okay, I told myself, we still have Tuesday. Only, apparently we didn't, because at 5 pm I finally messaged her and told her I was just going to stay home since I hadn't heard from her. Still haven't heard from her, either. 

I feel: 

I know these feelings are an emotional reaction, and soon the emotions will settle down and I'll see it more logically. I am a firm believer in the whole 'just not that into you' philosophy. And truth be told, I know deep down that I'm better off not chasing friendships that aren't mutual. 

It still stings, though. That will all pass. Except for being rejected by shelter animals. That's a toughie. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

A trip down memory lane 82nd Airborne style

My husband and I met when he was still in the Army and stationed at Ft. Bragg.

Over the weekend, Mom offered to keep the kids overnight so they could go to a Wake Forest football game with her and Richard.

Robert and I decided to take this opportunity to head back to Ft. Bragg and take a small trip down memory lane.

Robert had not been back to Bragg since he separated from the Army in late 2000. I had only been to Bragg once since then...when Tucker and I hopped a Space A flight from Germany in 2006. Since we were only there for about 12 minutes in the middle of the night, I'm not sure that trip even counts.

It was amazing how much the area had grown since the last time we had driven away from there, Robert's truck and my car loaded down with all his worldly possessions, ready to begin a new era together.

The base looks really different. There is tons of new construction going on. There are also fences and gates all over the place since Ft. Bragg is now a closed base. In this post 9/11 world, it's really strange to remember a time before NY and DC were attacked when we were all a lot more naive about safety and vulnerability (and how much other parts of the world despised us).

What seemed even more odd than gates and new buildings was the air of neglect near the area where Robert used to live and work. The grass was overgrown, there were weeds throughout the landscaped areas, and the constant hum of activity that surrounded his company was absent. Also absent was the barracks building where he used to live. All that's there now is red clay and memories.

Off post, it was like we never left. Skibo Road looks pretty much the same. We even drove by Robert's favorite restaurant in those days...Hello, Luigi's!

Despite the somber tone this post has taken, we really had a good trip. A bit of much needed closure for both of us that we have managed to make pretty good decisions along the way and a bright future ahead...together as our own unit. And, it was nice to have a weekend to refresh our memories of the early days of our relationship.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It'll probably be okay...

A week or two ago, a friend of mine posted a recipe on her Facebook page for no-bake pumpkin cheesecake.

I love Fall. It's my favorite season hands down. Warm days, cool nights, crisp, non-humid air, all the colors...I love it. The beginning of school always signifies the start of Fall, even if Fall won't truly start for another month..or two..possibly three.

Living in Asheville, Fall is beyond spectacular. I could wax poetic for hours about it, but I'll spare you.

This might be our last Fall here, so I'm fully prepared to squeeze all the life I can out of this Fall.

Starting with this whole no-bake pumpkin cheesecake deliciousness. As I clicked on the link to see the recipe I found myself mental checking the ingredients off:
No-Bake Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes - A Family Feast
Cream cheese? Check!
Pureed pumpkin? Check!
Sugar-free cheesecake flavored jello instant pudding? Check!
Pumpkin pie spice? Check!
Cool Whip? Check!
Condensed sweetened milk? No...shoot!

My next trip to the grocery store, I picked up the one ingredient I didn't have and tonight...dun dun dun...I made it.

It was super quick and easy to do. The original recipe called for a graham cracker crust, but I skipped it.

As I was assembling everything together, I noticed a pattern. The cream cheese had a use by date of August 10. The pumpkin had a use by date of April. The pudding had a use by date of  March.


It smells divine. It smells...well, like Fall. And being the loving wife I am, I let Robert try it first. When he didn't drop dead or barf or fall to the ground clutching his stomach in the first 10 seconds, I tasted it too.

It tastes divine too.

It'll probably be okay. Right?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Meet the Teacher" (and about 1,000 strangers) Day

The kids and I had a great summer. So great, in fact, that I really was not ready for summer to end and school to resume. Unfortunately, no one asked me what I wanted and time moves right along whether you are ready or not. Parents?!? Amirite?!?

Last week was "Meet the Teacher" day. For the prior two weeks, the kids and I slept later, lounged around the house, and basically just sort of hung out. It was blissful. Once school resumes our schedules get a little crazy. So on 'Meet the Teacher' day, we had a full day planned (well, full day compared to what we had been doing...which was only what we had to do or really, really wanted to do). This was the plan...get up, head to Target, drop by Chuck E Cheese (we found a bunch of tokens and tickets while cleaning up this summer and I told the kids I'd take them before school started), then head to "Meet the Teacher".

The kids are in different schools this year. Tucker's school was open from 1-3 and Sara's from 2-4. The schools are really close to each other, so getting from point A to point B was going to be quick and easy - other than parking, road construction, and traffic.

I had a plan! Everything was awesome!

And then Target was really busy. And then Chuck E Cheese was much busier than normal.

Now would be a great time to revisit that I have not been particularly social since moving here. I have my reasons. So whenever I go from not being around a lot of people to being around a lot of people, I *might* have a bit of difficulty adjusting from time to time.

Most people have a standard 'personal space' bubble. My personal space bubble is at least twice the size of anyone else. Maybe that's because I'm larger myself or maybe it's just a personal preference. I know that since having kids, who rarely respect the personal space bubble, the bubble seems to be getting larger in response. Make of that what you will. ::shrugs::

Yep, this is pretty close
Also, I'm pretty sure I have some sort of weird sweating disorder going on with my head. I won't even feel hot and my head will be all sweaty. I'd say that is also a weight related issue, except that it's always happened. I just used to have a lot of hair to soak it up. Now, it's short and thinning, so not so much. It's also really embarrassing, which makes me anxious, which makes me sweat even more. It's like sweaty palms, only it's my head instead. It pretty much sucks.

Personal issues and preferences aside, we parked nearby and walked to T's school. Even though we arrived right at 1:00, the school was already crowded. We weaved our way through the insane crowd of people in the vestibule and headed up the the stairs to T's classroom.

His class was FULL. Students, parents, grandparents, siblings...tons of people were packed into that class, which was already pretty full with bookshelves and books, desks and chairs, various learning stations, tons of animals (gerbils, boa constrictors, birds, bearded dragons, was pretty amazing), and student cubbys. 

Each desk already had a student name assigned with various paperwork for the parent to fill out and an information packet about the teacher and the class. Right beside T's seat was a lady accepting payments for the $5 needed to issue each student a student planner. We headed over to check out his desk, pick up the paperwork, scope out his neighbors, and pay for his student planner. Naturally, there were already people there who were in the process of paying for their own student planner. One lady had her purse and phone on T's desk. She was also speaking with his teacher. So, I waited. I tried to wait unobtrusively and patiently. Right behind T's desk were some of the class animals - two glass aquariums containing lizard-like animals (Chameleons? Geckos? Salamanders?) so that area was a draw for lots of the kids who were ooh-ing and ahh-ing. Right behind the kids followed the siblings and parents and grandparents and neighbors and apparently anyone that ever liked animals. Okay, fine. That was an over-exaggeration, but that's how it seemed.

Fast forward about 7 minutes and the conversation is still going on with teacher and the same lady, with several parents, students, former students (not an exaggeration) waiting for that conversation to finish. In addition to pocketbook and phone, now the lady's butt cheek, and part of her paperwork had been added to T's desk where I had managed to squeeze into the seat only allowing myself enough space for shallow breaths so that anyone who was interested might be able to pass behind the chair to see the lizard-like animals. And yes, I was sweating. And starting to feel mighty anxious. I flipped through the paperwork as quickly as possible, only filling out the bare minimum using about a postage stamp sized area of T's desk, since the rest was taken with a Vera Bradley purse, iPhone, and butt cheek. I managed to pay for the student planner, have a nice, fast conversation with the lady taking payments for the student planners, and remove myself from the building crowd in that area without injuring myself or anyone else.


Only not so much, because by that point, there wasn't a single place in the classroom that wasn't over crowded. And when I say over crowded, it looked a lot like this:

I started to hustle the kids towards the door of the classroom, eager to get out of there and get a lungful of air more than 3 inches away from another person when I heard T's teacher announce that he wanted to meet each student before they left.


So for the next 20 minutes, we waited and I tried to stay out of the way. Only there wasn't anywhere to stay out of the way. I seriously considered trying to cram myself into T's cubby, but let's be real. No way would that have worked. And, if I had gotten in, I'd probably still be there.

Finally it was our turn to actually "Meet the Teacher". So we met, he took a picture (where I'm sure I looked a lot like a deer in, no..a sweaty deer in headlights) and I shooed the kids out the door through a crowd of people that reminded me of rush hour in New York City.

Along the way, I really tried to smile and seem friendly to everyone I made eye contact with. I'm sure it totally worked. ::snort::

And then it was time to go to S's new class. We were still about 15 minutes early and there were tons of people waiting around to get into the school, so the scene we entered looked exactly like the scene we left.


Finally, the doors were opened and we went into the building. It was hot outside, so now I was legitimately sweating on top of all the other sweating. We found S's classroom and were the first family in there.


We met her teacher and the kids wandered around the classroom while I flipped through the paperwork and asked a couple of questions. I sat down at S's desk to fill out her paperwork and when I looked up, the room was full. For some reason, sitting in the middle of a crowd of people wasn't bothering me, so I just sat and continued to fill out paperwork. One of Sara's friends from last year is in her class this year and is actually sitting right beside her. So I chatted with M's mom and the mom of the girl who is sitting across from S. Yay! I'm being social. Go me! Then the mom of the girl who sits on the other side of S walked up, took one look at the three moms already sitting, snagged the paperwork packet, and walked off.

Guys, she was sweaty and panicked-looking too! I wanted to hug her and tell her she wasn't alone! I understand! We are united in our dislike of stranger-crowded spaces! She has a friend in me!

But then I realized...personal space. And I just gave her a nod and a smile.

She totally got it.

And then she got the heck outta Dodge! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What do you mean it's only Wednesday?

A friend of Sara's hung out with us Monday and Tuesday. I love this kid. She's just the greatest kid and she and Sara play beautifully together. It's like play date nirvana when she's around.

Mom and Richard also came up for a while on Monday. Sara had gymnastics at 5 and we were running a little late, so I offered to take her friend home after I dropped Sara off at gymnastics. 

Robert usually meets us at the gym and takes Tucker home with him. When we pulled up, I didn't see him parked anywhere so I texted him: 

Me: Are you at the gym?
Him: No, I'm at home.
Me: Oh, ok. I'm going to take Sara's friend home and then come back and pick up Sara. We'll see you at home after. 
Him: So do you want me to come to the gym?
Me: No

I leave to take Sara's friend home, of course I have trouble finding the house since I am without GPS now. We go in to say hi and next thing I know (since I don't wear a watch and left my phone in the car) it's 5:48 and we are about 13 minutes away from Sara. 

Uh oh.

I head back to pick up Sara, panicked that I'll be late and she'll think I'm not coming. As Tucker and I pull into the gym, Robert calls. I don't answer because I'm frantic to get to Sara. Well, she's not in the gym. I pick up my phone to call Robert back and tell him that I have lost our daughter, I'm the worst mother ever, and that I need to be flogged. 

Guess who answers the phone? 

Yep, Sara. And she's fine. No idea whatsoever that I arrived at 6:02.

For whatever reason (and probably because he knows me) Robert headed to the gym anyway and has already picked up Sara. My one legit complaint is that he never listens to me, and now I freakin' don't even have that.
Le sigh. 

Tuesday was better. The kids and I were going to have a water balloon fight and I couldn't get the nozzle off the garden hose. No problem. I'll just fill the balloons up at the sink. 

Only...nope. I bought the self sealing ones. Have you ever tried to tie a knot in those tiny water balloons? No wait...have you ever had man hands and tried to tie a knot in a tiny water balloon? It's surprisingly difficult. At least, it is for me.

So all that happened when I tried to fill them up at the sink was that I got more wet than I would have if we'd actually had the water balloon fight. So then I let the kids try. They didn't have any more luck than I did, but the kitchen pretty much got hosed down (which didn't hurt).

It turned out okay, the kids across the street had water balloons that you could actually fill up. 

The kids had a "late over" with friends that night, which is like a sleep over, only without the sleeping. Basically, all of the fun, none of the sleepless night or next day grumpiness. 

Or is there? 

Today Sara was having a rough day. Everything seemed to upset her. Every. Thing. She slept until after  9:30, so I really expected her to wake up well-rested and super happy. At 3, the kids had orthodontic consultations. Those, thankfully, went well, but by the time we got home, I was the enemy.

After a tense dinner, Sara was carrying her plate and glass to the sink and was about to dump milk all over the floor, so I said, "Oops. You're about to spill that" and took the glass from her. So she dropped her plate and fork onto the floor. Accidentally, I'm sure. Shredded cheese went everywhere and she was inconsolable over it. She asked if I'd help her clean it up, and of course I did. I'm picking up individual pieces of finely shredded cheese and trying to put it back on her plate to throw away in the trash can. She's fussing the entire time.

I can't help it anymore and I start to giggle because it's so ridiculous. Could this be hormones? Already? Save me, please.

I go to put some picked-up cheese on the plate only to have her bat at the plate as I let go and the cheese lands on the floor.

Yummy on tacos,
horrible to pick up off the floor.
S: Mommy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm TRYING to clean up this mess and YOU are just making it worse! I have to do everything around here! No one cares about me! It's NOT FAIR!
Me: Sara, I'm trying to help, but you moved the plate. (I re-pick up the cheese and go to drop it on the plate, and the little imp moves it again.)              
Me: Oh for the love of cheezus!
I burst out laughing
Me: Stop being funny!
Me: Stop...oh, snap! Are YOU laughing too?
Sara: giggling...NO! It's not FUNNY!!!!!!
Me: I think it iiisssssssss!
Sara: (laughing now) nuh-uh.

This girl. Oh my. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Biltmore House

Oh my gosh...this is a flash forward to Tucker being a teenager. 

The rose garden

Still the rose garden

Yep, one more

Tucker is 'smelling the roses' and Sara is not quite annoyed about it yet.

My beautiful, photogenic daughter

Under the atrium. She loves that umbrella!

More gardens

She won't stop to smell the flowers, but she'll surely pose by them

1/2 of Biltmore. 

More flowers

Yep, another one


What!?!?!? Awww man! ::sadface::

A view from the back veranda

Even the downspouts are fancy

This is the veranda ceiling. Yes, really. 

They were getting tired and I'm not lion. HAHAAAAA!

More of the exterior

The front lawn

More of the house

The side porch off the library. What a view!

Steely Dan is performing tonight!

The back of the house

The side of the house. Love these trees!

The side of the house with both kids. Note the opposite sides of the picture. There's a reason for that. 


What a beautiful rose

A quick, unexpected shot

No. More. Pictures. 

Cordelia and Cornelius

One last flower shot

You've got to be kidding

So. We ended up buying a car over the weekend. We needed something with a little more room inside and more cargo/trunk space.  After spending hours at the dealership on a beautiful Saturday, we ended up with a 2014 CR-V. 

I don't like it as well as my old Accord, Robert doesn't like it as well as his old Nitro. :/  

Yesterday we get a FedEx package with all the title/registration paperwork in it with this letter (and I quote): 

Enclosed is the paperwork necessary for you to register and title your 2014 Honda CR-V in the state of SD. 

Since each state is different as to Title and Tax on vehicle purchases, we feel it would be to your best interest for you to take the paperwork to your local Department of Motor Vehicles, pay the tax and pick up your license plate and registration. We have enclosed Apple Tree's check made payable to your respective Department of Motor Vehicles for the amount of tax owed.

The title work along with the check should be taken to the DMV within the next 10 days so your vehicle can be properly registered. 

Thank you for purchasing your vehicle from Apple Tree Enterprises, Inc. Should you have any questions please give me a call.

Apple Tree Enterprises, INC

South Dakota is a 24 hour drive from here. Pretty sure I'm not going to be able to just 'pop in' and take care of this in the next ten days. Luckily, the kind folks at the South Dakota DMV were able to review the paperwork Apple Tree sent us over the phone/email and make sure all our ducks were in a row before sending them the title work. 

Part of the negotiation process included multiple reassurances from the Apple Tree employees we dealt with over the weekend that sending the paperwork to South Dakota would be no big deal, and they would take care of everything. 

Liar, liar, pants on fire. 

To add insult to injury, the Apple Tree people used the wrong address with the FedEx letter AND they spelled my name wrong.  

In retrospect, I'm guessing it might a good thing they sent the paperwork back to us, because at least now the information will be correct and sent to the right place. But they could have called us to give us a heads up - or at least told me when I was in there Monday begging them to let us undo the deal and have our old cars back. 

Very disappointed. Very, very, very. 

Where is the love competency?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A story of vacation in images...

Well, not our whole vacation because in the middle of it we gave up on Virgin Mobile and switched phones and providers. My new, awesome, excellent reception phone lets me upload pictures in two seconds instead of the five minute wait and 18 step process of my last phone.  So of course I had to document random things from that point forward because that's what you do when your phone is actually smart instead of just claiming to be.

Holy crap! Robert is smiling for real. For a picture. This is HUGE! 

Sara and I are working on our selfie skills. 

Chillin' at G-Bob and G-Sandy's house

Sara has a selfie habit already..and she doesn't have a phone yet. She's also got long legs. #lucky

This is usually what you get when you try to take a picture of Robert. He. Could. Not. Care. Less. 

This kid cracks me up. I have about 50 selfie shots of her on my phone. This is one of my favorites because when she wakes you up in the morning, this is the face she makes. 

In the car on the way home. Apparently, this is what children dying of boredom look like. 

Well, hello Missouri. I'd say hello to Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Oklahoma with pictures too, but I can't figure out how to put my old SD card in my new phone. #firstworldproblems

That's better. At least I got Sara's attention!

Rest stop! I always think of the movie Cars when I see signs for Route 66.

Robert didn't want to stop at the Candy Shack. :(

Sara did want to stop. 

When bored on a long drive, you can always do the wave. Except Robert. He wanted to be all responsible and stuff. 

Tucker's know, if they'd make a second arch, I bet McDonald's would open up right in front.

The joy of traffic. Someone should make that into a coffee table book. 

The mighty Mississippi seems to have a bit of a debris issue.