Thursday, December 30, 2010

Amelia, Phone Home

Poor Amelia. Our middle girl, surrounded by an older sister, a younger brother and a younger sister, celebrated her 12th birthday last night with family and a KU victory over the University of Texas in Arlington.

All she has wanted all year long was a cell phone. A request we came to terms with earlier this year, knowing that is just the way kids communicate now. No long phone conversations like those of the 80's. No more giggling under the pillow, hoping Mom won't hear them up past bedtime. And certainly no long exchanges... short words, abbreviations, and acronyms have taken over what should be a blossoming vocabulary.

So we dug out an old desk phone, dusted it off and wrapped it up for her - cords and all - to open on her birthday, the idea being that she was receiving a phone my husband would take her out the next day to select.

But Amelia didn't catch on right away and instead spent 10 or 12 long minutes sincerely believing her parents' only gift to her was a dirty old desk phone, since we do not really love her.

Fortunately she knows better now. And I have the texts to prove it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Crunch Time

I wrote the following poem (originally published in the Lawrence Journal-World on 12/20/10) to soothe my own soul as our third child, Luke, struggles with discovering the truth about Santa. I hope you enjoy merriment this weekend, no matter your beliefs...

‘Twas the week before Christmas
And all through my brain
My to-do list was running
Just like a freight train

From making my lists
To checking them twice
Ignoring the naughty
And spoiling the nice

The children all nestled
Each night in their beds
While visions of Pillow Pets
Danced in their heads

My husband in sweat pants
And I in my flannel
Sipped wine by the TV
While surfing each channel

When down through the chimney
One night by surprise
St. Nicholas landed,
Concern in his eyes.

“My reindeer are ready,
And so is the sleigh;
My elves have been working
All night and all day.

“The Mrs. can’t wait
For her yearly Girls’ Night
She has while I make
My deliveries by flight.

“But my inbox is packed
With requests for a gift
From Black Ops to Hogwarts
And Bieber to Swift

“A Game Cube and Xbox
For all girls and boys,
And when will Steve Jobs quit
Inventing new toys?

“I just can’t keep up
With the ‘wants’ and the ‘gets,’
I still have five cases
Of last year’s Zhu Zhu pets!

“This stress of wish-granting
Is too much to bear.
I’d like to retire,
Would anyone care?”

We patted his back,
For we knew how he felt.
I offered him cookies,
He loosened his belt.

“Dear Santa,” I started
While pouring his drink,
“I can see how the season
Of giving could stink.

“But the joy that you bring
Every year can’t be measured.
It’s your magic, not gifts,
That is annually treasured.

“So please don’t retire,
At least not this year,
Dear Santa, we need you,
Have I made myself clear?”

I watched as the worry
Vanished from his round face
And that familiar old jolly
Returned in its place.

“My Jules, you are right,
And I’ll tell you this too,
There is no greater happiness
Than giving to each of you.”

And with that he smiled
As he stood up to go
Back through the chimney
And into the snow.

But we heard him exclaim
As he herded his deer,
“Merry Christmas to all,
And a happy new year!”

Sunday, December 19, 2010


... six days and counting.

Today's festive activities aimed at forming memories for our children that will someday provide them with an endearing nostalgia when they look back on their childhood days at home included caroling at the hospital and driving around town to look at Christmas lights.

Caroling went beautifully. The ill and injured are a grateful lot, generally speaking, and were happy someone cared to sing. We strolled the halls singing about Rudolph and jingling bells and ended with candy canes in the lobby, following a mandatory stop at the hand sanitizer.

So in the Christmas spirit were we, that we decided to stop by Parkside Circle for a bit. To view the show in peace, without the distraction of Ellie's cell phone or Caroline climbing the walls of the car, click HERE.

We did not have that luxury.

But determined not to let Ellie's obsession over constant communication with the outside world bring us down, I directed us to a house sure to please even the Grinchiest in our car (who happened to be driving), a Rock Chalk show-stopper you can find HERE.

We chose to drive on after their show started with what would have been our third round of Carol of the Bells for the night. Bummer too, for the Rock Chalk song is one of my favorites, year-round.

And home we drove, into our driveway, just as John Denver and his muppets ended their Christmas Together.

Next stop to Christmas joy: gingerbread house construction.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Three of our four had their Christmas program at school tonight. (#1 had her orchestra/choir concert last week, providing the kind of entertainment only junior high schoolers can provide.)

The show started with the preschoolers. We have not personally owned or operated a preschooler in four years and had forgotten how teeny tiny they are. They have completely functional and moving parts, as evidenced by their ability to carry out the choreography to the Santa poem, and audio capabilities similar to the sound of baby angels.

And they love to be in the spotlight. They love nothing more than being in front of grownups, singing about Christmas and showing off their new dresses or tie.

(Except the token crier, of course, who is always the first kid in line for cookies to cope with the PTSD of public performance.)

Our neighbor, Mark, was sitting on the aisle, and I was next to him, both of us marveling at how deliciously precious they were. As the kids filed back down the aisle after their time in the light, I asked Mark to grab one for me to take home and put on my mantle. 

"They're just so cute!" I whispered, watching their teeny legs cart their teeny bodies down the long center aisle, unaffected by the cooing of their fans.

"I know," Mark said with wonder in his eyes. "And they look so real!"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Did not see THAT coming...

Next to the gas pedal, brakes, seatbelt, fully-inflated tires and cup holders, probably the most important feature of a car is its fuel gage.

Never more evident was this to me than this morning en route to El Dorado, Kansas when my fuel gage failed to accurately display the amount of fuel I had left until I had 0.0 gallons in my tank.

I sat on I-35, just a few miles away from my exit, for nearly an hour waiting for AAA to bring me gas. In that time I discovered that few people, including those who drive large semi-trucks, pull into the left lane when passing a car on the side of the road. I also discovered that not every highway patrolman will stop to check on a minivan with flashing hazards and a crying woman at the wheel. (One did. He rocks.)

Most importantly, I discovered our car has a serious problem that will not go away with sweet talk and charm. We are going to have to spend actual dollars.

On the plus side, I will only have myself to blame the next time I run out of gas.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snow White and her New Woodland Creature

My BFF, Jennifer, has a fabulous story you can read in 500 words HERE, or in short form here: Jennifer has three sons, all with Autism, which proved to be too much for their babydaddy, who chose Maker's Mark over being a husband and father. Jennifer left him and, four years later, married an outstanding man named Rich, who was busy with four kids of his own (wife had an affair). They formed a family with a total of s-e-v-e-n kids and two BIG dogs.

And now you have the backstory.

What happens next is moderately hilarious.

Bella, one of the two BIG dogs (a Great Dane), was diagnosed with cancer last week. (That's not the funny part.) Rather than wait for Bella to pass on at the end of the month, as the vet had predicted would happen, before getting a new playmate for Voodoo (the other BIG dog), Rich decided to adopt a Great Dane from the shelter as soon as possible, which turned out to be three days later.

With Rich out of town, Jennifer broke the news to their seven children, shuttled Bella back and forth to the vet and applied to adopt another dog.

Less than 24 hours after the shelter approved their adoption and arranged a time and day for pick-up, the vet called.

And guess what?

Preliminary tests show Bella does not have cancer. (You can laugh, Jennifer and I did.) The vet is not convinced and told Jennifer not to get her hopes up, but so far it looks like Bella will be around a bit longer.

And now my dear friend Snow White, along with Prince Charming and their Seven Dwarfs, have adopted a third 150-pound woodland creature to live in their suburban Chicago cottage, Phog Allen.

A Christmas miracle.

Monday, November 29, 2010

O, Pumpkin Pie

Wherefore art thou, dearest pie?
Thou sat before me firm upon my plate
Thou didst beckon
Though I tried to resist
But thy fragrant filling pulled me in
And, topped with whipped cream,
Thou didst win.

And now I look for thee still.

Lingering behind me
Thou dost jiggle when I move
Yet the sight of thee is unseen.

Though not invisible thou are.

And now, dear heart of all gourds,
Thou cannot stay forever.
For my jeans cannot give way to thy girth
Thou hast put upon my backside.

So off to the gym I go with thee.

Dropping thee off at the treadmill.

Leaving thee on the weight bench.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Valley of the Sun?

Naturally it rained my only full day in Arizona. But not even the chilly drizzle could wash away the fun of being away with my girls.

Ellie and Amelia were able to go with me to Scottsdale for the trip, we stayed with my in-laws and enjoyed time relaxing on a walk through Grammy and Grandpa's gated 'hood and witnessed a man in a Hummer sweep into a handicapped parking space (and side access area) and then run - able-bodied - into church.

The highlight of the trip, of course, was attending the National Charity League tea. My daughters and I are not members, but my cousin-in-law, Chris, and her daughters, Rachael and Paige, are. They had looked for a local journalist, author or reporter to speak but could not find anyone able to make the commitment that afternoon.

Too bad for those people, as they all missed a fantastic event.

The tea was held at McCormick Ranch Golf Club (indoors, for the Kansas gale that brought us there brought rain along with it). The room was decorated floor-to-ceiling in the Alice in Wonderland theme of the tea. Brightly colored paper lanterns hung from above, and big, beautiful flowers grew up from the tables, which were covered in jewel-toned tablecloths and black and white striped runners. Delicious iced tea, complete with a "Drink Me" tag on each straw, was served during the social time, with hot tea served throughout the program.

Plates full of scones rounded the table, with clotted cream, lemon curd, and strawberry preserves right behind. Just when I was coming to terms with the end of those delicious treats, Chris told me it was show time.

She gave the most glowing introduction a person could ask for, and I made my way to the platform and podium to speak.

I gave the crowd of 250 a rundown of my journey through my own looking glass and enjoyed every moment of it. Even when the sun finally came out and beat in through the wall of windows directly behind me, leaving me to feel as though my backside were under a heat lamp in a buffet line, entertaining the group of lively women and teens was a blast.

Portion lasted just a few minutes longer than had been allowed, long enough to feel the back of my dress begin to cling to my legs from the heat behind. But no one seemed to notice but me.

The Class of 2014 presented their mothers with interesting tidbits about them while I inhaled the tea sandwiches (it is a toss-up as to whether my favorite was the chicken-mango-chutney or the cucumber), and the program concluded.

My girls sat through the event - maybe even enjoyed their mom?? - and recorded my speech. They tell me they added special visual effects throughout, I cannot wait to see that.

We said goodbye to the Valley yesterday morning, but not before meeting Bruce Vilanch, one of my favorite writers, at Sky Harbor Airport. He was heading to Florida "for a minute" and then on to New York, and I was hanging on his every word. Funny and nice.

I like that.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Airplane Etiquette, Part 1

Parts 2 - ?? have not been written, but I am pretty sure they will follow shortly. As for Part 1...

It's called a tissue. You use it to blow your nose. Otherwise you risk angry glares from the 39-year-old mom across the aisle. Think I'm picky for putting on my headphones? The man next the sniffer had foam earplugs.

Worse than gum-chewing. Even worse than body odor. The three solid hours of sniffing every 6-8 seconds wins the prize for most irritating trait on a plane. I'll take the chronic talker, the bragger, the depressed ex-fiance, the parents with the baby, the bratty six-year-old, the window seat passenger with the pea-sized bladder, all of them over Mr. Sniffles.

But it is okay. Tomorrow's sunshine awaits.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Off to the Valley of the Sun!

I have been invited to speak at the Scottsdale Chapter of the National Charity League for their annual tea this weekend. The sun cannot shine soon enough on my paling Midwestern face. Oh, if I could harness the heat and bring it back with me!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hide the Keys

Actual conversation between my daughters as overheard by my husband, who they believed had already left the house...

Ellie (13): Hey, Amelia, I'm not saying we should do this...
Amelia (11): Do what?
Eliie: Well, if we were to take the car out, which one do you think would be the gas pedal?

This is why we have gray hair.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Band Practice

Once upon a time, there was a man named Billy Idol.

Billy had some rockin' biceps, a killer snarl and he loved to jump off things when he sang on stage. He likely hooked up with a number of girls in his day, I do not know firsthand. I was not one of them.

But I do know with 99.9% certainty that Billy Idol never once dreamed someday I, Julie Dunlap, would be blogging from my living room while my basement full of dads worked on their cover of "Dancing with Myself."

He probably also did not anticipate these same church-going dads next tackling Poison. (Talk Dirty to Me.)

And those are two things Billy Idol and I have in common.