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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oregon Trail (of tears)

Our third-grade daughter has chosen the saddest book ever written from the library this week, Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie; a book that conjures up images of Laura and Mary running, bonnets in the wind, down a grassy hill under blue skies, but in its pages details Hattie Campbell's family journey from Boonville, MO to Oregon along the Oregon Trail in 1847.

The book opens with an unbelievable series of events that leads the Campbell family to head northwest...

In the first few pages, Hattie writes that her beloved uncle died while fixing the roof of the Campbell family's home. While carting him to his final resting place, the wagon hits a rock, causing it to bounce with such might that the coffin slides out of the back of the wagon and into the Missouri River.

Hattie's dad jumps into the river to try to retrieve the coffin, but the coffin gets sucked into the paddles of a riverboat. It emerges in pieces; Uncle Milton's body is nowhere to be found.

Feeling terrible about churning a corpse into the river, the riverboat captain makes amends by offering the extended Campbell family a ride on the very riverboat that lost Uncle Milton to Independence, where the family can join the Oregan Trail.

In a move that would inspire trial lawyers everywhere, the Campbells accept the offer and leave Missouri behind for Oregon.

Now 31 pages in, we have learned that some travelers resort to cannibalism when crossing snowy mountains, that one will not die eating pancakes speckled with dead mosquitos, and uncured bacon will eventually gather maggots.

I can't wait to see how this ends!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sing out loud, sing out strong!

Have you ever really, really, really wanted to be good at something but undeniably lacked the necessary talent? Little secret, I have always wanted to be able to sing. Like a Broadway star. Or even a chorus member. Or just blending well at church.

I would even pass on a helping of dance (also not a strength of mine) for just one scoop of vocal talent.

In my heart I am Lea Michele or Idina Menzel. But in reality I am more like Ellen DeGeneres, just not as good of a dancer.

None of this stops me from grabbing a mic at karaoke or jumping in on Dave's band when Violent Femmes or Elvis beckon.

And now none of this has stopped me from agreeing to perform at our local theater's fundraising event in February. Clearly the coordinators have mistaken "microphone hog" for "should absolutely sing in front of others."

As soon as this sunk in a little, though, I (justifiably) began to panic and called my high school choir director (I was the accompanist, not a singer) for help. She's running a "diagnostic" on me next week to determine if I have any pipes worth fine-tuning.

Better her than a paying audience, but I'm still waaayyyyy nervous about facing the music.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Say Cheese!

Maybe it was hitting 40, maybe it was the fullness that turned out to be October. More likely it was the fact that I can recall irrelevant information, like my old high school boyfriend's phone number, but not important things. Like pulling cookies out of the oven. Or moving clothes from the washer to the dryer.

Or renewing my driver's license.

Luckily, it was I, not an officer of the law, who discovered my lapse. And the kind lady at the DMV gave me zero trouble of any kind for my error.

Still I was beyond amused when watching comedian T.J. MIller on Comedy Central tackle the highly emotional subject of driver's license renewal in his stand-up routine. After attending a holiday party tonight where a girlfriend and I debated by what percentage one could get away with lying about one's weight, I decided reposting T.J.'s video was a fabulous idea.

Hi-Lar-I-Ous...
I imagine they never questioned him on his weight.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday - or is it Thursday?

oh, Happy Thanksgiving!

Just like the Pilgrims and Native Americans, we started the morning by browsing for Christmas deals online and praying we had enough marshmallows to cover the sweet potatoes because, God forbid, we did not want to make yet another trip to the grocery store, open until noon Thanksgiving Day.

While kicking it 400-years-ago, my husband found a fabulous deal on two Christmas presents for the kids himself at Best Buy. But he wasn't quite ready to pull the trigger and decided to take the dog on a walk to mull it over. Sadly, though, he returned to find Best Buy had sold out of the cyber-deal, even removing both items from Dave's virtual cart.

Plan B (going to Best Buy at midnight) busted up when we discovered the line to get in was wrapped around the building when we drove by for recon - - 2 1/2 hours before the store opened.

Just for sport we also drove by Target and Walmart. I would be surprised at how many people were in line, but then I remember that we live in a country that keeps Jersey Shore on the air.

Still, there is no shortage of reasons to be thankful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Judgement Day

I helped judge a series of 20-minute musicals in written and audio recorded format for a University of Kansas philanthropy, Rock Chalk Revue. 

We laughed, we cried on the inside, we sat through awkward silence. Every group came in with great energy and enthusiasm, though not necessarily with great acting or singing. But what the night might have lacked in quality entertainment, it made up for with very short skirts, very high heels, and very bare legs sported by these young co-eds and adored by the gentlemen in the room.

After judging, two friends and I went down to the near-campus bar, The Wheel, for a pitcher of cheap beer and ruled the jukebox for 17 glorious tunes (plus "Jump" by the Pointers Sisters, which I had accidentally played thinking it was the Van Halen version). As the college crowd rolled in with their very short skirts and very high heels, we decided it was time to wrap things up. But first a strapping young college boy came over to us, recognizing us from the judging panel, and proceeded to grill us on his show, which, thankfully, was one we enjoyed.

He then pointed to me saying he remembered me judging last year. Fearful that I might have subjected him to a monologue on the proper use of their, there and they're, I asked him if I had been too mean to them.

"No," he said with a grin, "we remembered you as the good-looking mom-type person."

I excused myself and got in line for the restroom so I could play the game where I lift up parts of my face near the hairline to see what I looked like 15 year ago, but the line was very long. Fortunately a young girl from the same show saw me and brought me to the front of the line to grill me on the judging process. I listened to her a bit and, when the door opened, announced to the long line of co-eds that I really needed to use the facility and, having birthed 4 kids, I knew how to do it quickly. Without waiting for approval, I pivot-turned and locked the bathroom door behind me, receiving awe-struck applause when I emerged relieved and with clean hands in less than 60 seconds.

Dave told me this morning that I cannot use phrases like "Kids these days... " and "mixed tape" and complain about a 21-year-old pegging me as a "mom-type." (Dave can be such a drag.)

Off to buy some 4-inch heels so I can blend with the youngins, but only if they come with good arch support and generous inner padding.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Show-and-Tell

Subbing for Luke's 5th grade class this afternoon, the following conversation actually took place:

Teacher:  Help the kids work on their science worksheets creating food webs of producers, primary consumers and secondary consumers. If they finish in time they can work on their math homework.

Me:  Sounds good, enjoy your after---

Teacher:  And one more thing, Lisa has show-and-tell to share with the class today.

Me:  Okay...

Teacher:  It's a snake.

Me:  Of course it is.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rosie's back!

Whether you find her hilarious (like me) or annoying (like my husband), I think you will appreciate the following story she told on her show, which I have yet to see but heard repeatedly on a recent road trip thanks to XM radio (best car invention since the DVD player):

Rosie, during a period of semi-hiatus from public life in the past decade, was out on the town with her kids. A woman approached her and asked, "Are you Rosie O'Donnell?"

"Yes, I am," Rosie replied.

The woman surveyed Rosie head-to-toe, spending a little extra time focusing on the middle, before saying, "I didn't know you were pregnant!"

"Yep," the definitely not-pregnant Rosie answered, "6 months."

I love it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ode to my Teenage Girl


Has anyone seen my baby?
With soft Blond hair and eyes of blue?
Her cheeks are plump and rosy
Her toothless grin will coo

Has anyone seen my baby?
She never screams or cries
She never talks back to her dad or me
And she never, ever rolls her eyes

Something happened when I blinked
Something terribly wrong, I dread
Someone took my beautiful baby
And left me a teenager instead!

Has anyone seen my baby?
Singing “Twinkle Little Star”
My baby laughs and giggles all day,
And she’s never asked to drive my car

Has anyone seen my baby?
She’s snuggly like fluffy cloud
She smells like Johnson’s baby bath
And she loves it when I sing out loud

It wasn’t all that long ago,
When I rocked her ‘til she went to bed
But when I awoke my baby was gone
I found a teenager instead!

No, it wasn’t all that long ago
We palled around together all the time
They say somewhere in this teenage girl
Is that baby, sweet baby of mine!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hey, Hey, Hey... Goodbye

Dear Vanderbilt,

It is with a heavy heart that I offer deepest condolences on the SEC's recent acquisition of the University of Missouri. Honestly, we Kansans never thought the day would come when a fierce and storied conference of such historical and athletic significance would take the Tigers (MU, not Auburn, your original SEC Tigers) in as their own.

I will spare you, dear Vandy, the written details of all that awaits. Instead, please enjoy this video and look forward to this sampling of shining moments...



Best of luck to you, my favorite black-n-gold team,
Julie

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween

It was a crisp, clear fall night
A perfect time for a fright
With friends who aim to delight
While the band rocked with all of their might...




And little goblins had their fun too
Hitting the 'hood up for sugary goo
At lights-out they cried, "We're not through!"
Look out, they might come next for you...




But pumpkin-carving brought the most joy
Creating gourd art with our kid convoy
One question for you, I don't mean to be coy,
Which one was carved by our 10-year-old boy?...



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Luckily it came back benign

Turn 40, get mammogram...

Get compression mammogram (yes, they can compress more than a regular mammogram)...

Get a phone call from the doctor recommending a biopsy. (Which, as I mentioned above, came back benign.)

My dear and highly skilled surgeon needs to work on his sales pitch, though. For this is how the biopsy was presented.

"You'll check in at the hospital and be taken to a room to change into a hospital gown, undressed from the waist on up. You will then lie down on a table right up next to a mammography machine. Your breast will be positioned into the machine and held in place while photos are taken. Still in this position, with your breast in the aforementioned vice grip, the radiologist will insert a needle deep into your breast tissue to remove as many micro-calcifications as he feels are needed to examine by a pathologist. He will check the specimens under a microscope, not freeing you from the device until he is satisfied that an appropriate sample has been removed. The process takes about an hour and half."

(at this point he noticed my face had lost color, I noticed the walls moving in on me)

"You will receive valium," he added, as if that would make it all better. Which it did.

But the best part was the benign path report. A great way to wrap up breast cancer awareness month for our home.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Substitute Teacher

I have a degree in Human Biology, not Education. But that does not stop my kids' grade school from calling for occasional emergency substitute teaching from time to time.

This time it was the music teacher called away at the last minute who needed backup. I agreed to an afternoon-only stint, threw on something prettier than my yoga pants and planted myself in the music room.

First-, second-, and third-graders paraded in and out of the room thrilled for fresh meat (me) and surprised at how their sub (me) did not tolerate excessive noise (them) well.

But then the preschoolers waddled in. Delightful, happy, easy-to-please, these little creatures politely filed to their seats, excited to watch a DVD for our 25 minutes together.

"Elmo Presents Peter and the Wolf" held the attention of these delicious human nuggets with the exception of one little toe-headed boy who had some concerns.

With the lights dim and the movie rolling, my soon-to-be friend waddled across the front of the room to ask me a question.

"Do you think they will have a real wolf?" he whispered between his pudgy cheeks.

"I doubt it," I assured him. Temporarily confident he was not about to witness a Muppet massacre, he made his way back to his seat. For about two minutes. And then he made his way back.

"Do you think Elmo will be the wolf?" he again whispered wide-eyed.

I was impressed with his mental casting, but I did not know the answer. "I'm not sure," I replied, "why don't you go back to your seat and watch the show to find out?"

Perhaps distracted by the private Q/A session, perhaps oblivious to it all and full of questions themselves, a number of hands flew into the air. I quietly offered that anyone with a question come to me rather than disrupt the movie.

Four kids immediately evacuated their chairs and lined up before me. Led by my friend, there for a three-peat.

"Did you know Elmo and Telly are friends?" he asked.

"I did!" I answered with quiet but undeniable enthusiasm. Off he went.

The next child had stepped forward, mouth open but with no sound coming out.

"Do you need to think about your question?" I asked. A silent nod and pivot turn, and the child went back to the movie.

A serious-faced tot stepped forward next.

"I can't concentrate on the movie with all of these people talking."

"I agree," I answered. "Go on back to your seat and we'll all watch the show."

Finally, a precious little girl with big blue eyes and cherub-like cheeks stepped forward.

"I love you," she whispered earnestly.

It was the sweetest thing I'd heard all day. I considered gobbling her up, but I was pretty sure her parents wanted her back. So I simply replied, "I love you too."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

40

Bono and I both have better hair now than we did in the '80's. And "40" rings even more beautifully today than it did back then...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ode to Liana

Oh, Liana? Oh, won't you dye for me?
My real hair color's growing out with roots for all to see.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Doomed!

Pat Robertson really, really, REALLY believes marriage should be between a man and a woman in sickness and in health. But not in Alzheimer's. Because that is exactly WJWD.

Michelle Bachman is not a doctor, but she is very comfortable passing along medical information on national television based on something someone once told her. Which totally qualifies her to be president.

Rick Perry and Ron Paul can both have strong appeal with the pro death penalty faction of the pro life party, especially if failure to procure health insurance results in death.

And Mitt Romney. State-run health insurance exchanges and health care reform that includes mandated purchasing and government assistance for those in need are the best things ever! (Unless the idea was suggested by Team Donkey.)

And Joe Biden is still our vice president.

On the bright side, Kardashians are still on the air.

We're doomed.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gratitude

Dear God,

Thank you for so many of your most brilliant creations, like nachos and bacon and college basketball, but thank you most of all for beautiful fall days in Lawrence, Kansas. The clean blue sky gift-wrapped sunshine on my shoulder and happy all around.

Keep up the great work,
Julie


Dear Tylenol and Advil,

Thank you for your collective efforts that finally brought Luke's fever down after three very long days. You made it possible for me to breathe outdoor air again.

I hope I don't have to see you again for a very long time.

Sincerely,
Julie


Dear Birkenstocks,

Thank you for relieving my poor, cramping, seizing feet from their stint last night in peep-toe heels. For, darling as they were, they have left me hobbling like the elderly woman I am quickly becoming. But you, blue paisley Birks, saved the day, allowing me to book it up and down Mass Street on my own personal shopping day.

Amen,
Julie


Dear Downtown Lawrence,

Thank you for being a place where stoners and socialites, vanilla and rocky road, $1 draws and top shelf bottles, boutique stores and my credit card can live in perfect harmony, providing incentive to get the f off Facebook and enjoy this gorgeous fall day.

I'll be back,
Julie


Dear Evening Rain,

Thank you for smelling like a freshly extinguished candle and cooling off my sweaty face. You swept over our city majestically and closed the curtain on this excessively perfect fall day.

Please do not return until after tomorrow's KU game,
Julie

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Evidence

The September 5th River City Jules details my bad fashion over the years. To supplement this, I am offering some proof.

That poor little child in the red sweater with the precision-cut bangs and soft, face-framing layers originally asked for the Dorothy Hamill, but her mom told her that was out of style. Luckily her baby brother could always be counted on to wear an actual bowl on his head, detracting from her own.

I grew out the haircut in time for my well-intentioned mom to administer the worst home perm ever in the history of home perms, somewhat offset by my Easter (egg) dress. The pearls are real, as is my hair color. This girl is a looker!

The Interventionist, Kari, with Caroline after First Communion. Note the fashionably layered scarf over the necklace, the smooth never-frizzy hair, and the waistline hidden behind her elbow. My awkward phase? 32 years. Kari's? 15 minutes. Growing up with Kari was awesome.



Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sometimes mine is not the loudest

My wonderful editor is on a much-deserved vacation (though I wish she could do something more fun than move on her vacay), which is likely why this week's River City Jules was in print only and not online.

I have reprinted it here with just a little background not suitable for the Journal-World...

Within an hour of entering Yellowstone, Caroline had to use the restroom. We pulled over to the first restroom we saw along magnificently scenic Yellowstone Lake. Dave took the other three to skip stones while I took Caroline to the restroom. We walked into the rather clean, bright room to find a scout camp-like potty, a toilet structure leading directly to a hole in the ground. Just as I warned her to not look down the hole, she did exactly that.

Caroline freaked.

"NO! I'M NOT DOING IT! THAT IS THE WORST THING EVER!!!!" she cried, loud enough for Montana to hear.

This fit continued out of the restroom, to the car, back to the restroom and finally into the woods, where Caroline relieved herself of approximately 20 gallons. Remarkably, she managed to go the next 2 days without ever setting foot in another port-a-potty structure again.

And, even more remarkably, I did manage to stumble across a child whose irrational fears and subsequent fit rivaled Caroline's....


River City Jules, August 29, 2011

There are so many moments on a family vacation I have grown to expect. There’s the moment we pull out of the driveway and I realize this is the cleanest our car will be for many, many miles. There is the moment I look at our family enjoying life away from the responsibilities of home while I fold laundry fresh from the Laundromat, stifling the urge to vomit how lucky they are to have someone willing to selflessly bust her rump in order to allow such happy memories to be created.

And then there is the moment I encounter a child who makes me feel better about my own.

This poor, unfortunate lad was found at the Norris Geyser Basin on Vacation Day Six.

As my husband may have mentioned last week, I am a bit of a safety freak. I scoured books and websites about Yellowstone before leaving home, all of which highlighted the many ways one can leave a man behind while vacationing there.

Tragic, terrible fates seemed to await with every turn of every page from bear attacks (skipped that part) to the very volcano on which Yellowstone was built erupting to the worst of all: death by falling in boiling hot water found in the park’s many geysers.

My 18-hour safety speech on the drive there appeared to set in with our kids as we passed warning sign after warning sign depicting the same drawing of a little boy falling helplessly into boiling water, his parents nowhere near him as he tumbled recklessly into nature’s pressure cooker where, we can safely assume, rescuers recovered nothing more than steaming bones.

I held my children’s hands tighter than any of us deserved as we strictly followed the path on the rail-less boardwalks that wound around the geysers.

Suddenly, just up the path, I heard the unmistakable sound of a small child being poached alive.

“NOOOO!” I heard him cry. “Get me OUT OF HERE!”

I looked around for the nearest park ranger. A child was clearly in the very worst kind of trouble and desperately needed help.

“Somebody get me OUT!” his pleas pierced the sulfuric air and pained my heart. I hesitated just before we turned the corner, fearing our kids would return to school two weeks later with tales of watching a child melt into a mud pit never to be seen again.

But as we rounded the bend to Mother Nature’s cruel and public kitchen, I spied a father with an all-too-familiar look on his face, one of apology and shame, as his child, a boy no more than four years old, struggled for freedom on his mother’s lap.

“It’s a splinter,” he explained to each passerby.

I gave that man the most sympathetic smile I could muster and grabbed my kids tight to my chest as we strolled cautiously onward. The car was a pit and our laundry was dirty, but none of that mattered. For at that moment, mine were the best kids in sight. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

10 Worth 10,000

When we last left off, the floor A/C vent at church had blown my skirt high enough for choirs of angels in the very back row to see my undies, which some of you may have assumed sent me into shameful hiding for the rest of the summer. Some of you, then, assumed incorrectly.

I've just been busy.

To make up for lost time without taking up too much of yours, I present to you a short photo documentary of the past 11 1/2 weeks. Knowing a picture is worth a thousand words, enjoy the following 10,000 word essay, "What I Did This Summer."

1 - 2000... After sweating and driving people around for the rest of June, we joined with some neighbors to throw the most kickass block party ever in history. Starting with the warm-up act, Ellie on the ukulele singing Justin Bieber 

and then on to the headlining act, Thunderkat, rocking the 'hood.


2001 - 5000... I didn't think I could or would return to New York for a while after having the best trip to the Big Apple ever back in April, but I also did not anticipate BFF, Jill, accidentally winning a girls' trip to NYC at the kids' school auction. Fortunately she did not have to suffer in the city alone, as the J's Took Manhattan in July.

I got to hang with my brother...

...at a showtunes bar in the Village, Marie's Crisis Cafe on Grove Street. We totally nailed the entire Sound of Music soundtrack. 

And the J's (and my dear friend, Jamey) took a limo around lower Manhattan for the Sex and the City tour where we drank cosmos and bought souvenirs for our husbands at a little shop on Charles & 7th. We also did private karaoke and took in The Book of Mormon. Again. Because I love it that much.

5001 - 6000... Caroline and her friend, Ceci (not pictured), created a sculpture (pictured) out of reused materials. It is likely still for sale ($45, serious inquiries only) at the local art shop.

6001 - 7000... U2 at Busch Stadium.

7001 - 8000... Webelos Camp. Note the sweat. 113 heat index. FML for 52 hours. Luckily, I passed the swim test this time.

8001 - 9000... Family vacation. Lawrence to York, NE to Badlands to Mt. Rushmore to Devil's Tower to Yellowstone to Jackson Hole to Ft. Collins to Lawrence equals 2800 {priceless} miles.

9001 - 10,000... Home from Yellowstone in time to say goodbye to the woman who gave love and laughter everywhere she went. Eleanor Grace Brown Dyer, or "Mama" as we called her, was far more than a grandmother to me. I can't believe what a hole her passing has left in my heart, but I know my heart is more full of everything that is good because of my (almost) 40 years being loved by her. We sent her back to my grandfather in style on August 13th with family, friends, and a Guinness we snuck into the cemetery.

Eleanor Dyer
February 1, 1915 ~ July 31, 2011
Simply the Best.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Holy wind gust!

I was just trying to help out.

Sitting at church this morning, I noticed Father needed a few more people to help with communion during mass. As I made my way out of our front row pew and to the altar, I decided to remove my sunglasses from on top of my head and toss them onto the pew where I'd been sitting.

You know, to make my presence a little classy and all...

As I stepped towards my pew to chuck the sunglasses, I stepped onto a floor vent blowing nice cold air. Right up my dress.

I felt the skirt of the dress fly up and quickly grabbed it, stepping away from the air and patting my dress back into place. I went about distributing communion and sat back down next to my husband when I was done.

"Are you wearing underwear?" he whispered.

"What?" I asked.

"Lesley didn't think you were wearing underwear."

I looked over at my friend one section over who was shrugging her shoulders in question.

"Yes!" I mouthed to her, nodding.

Dave put his arm around me. "Apparently she caught quite a view," he explained.

Mass ended right after, and Lesley filled me in. It seems the vent blew my dress further up than I'd thought. Way up. Like, over the waistline of my flesh-colored panties up.

My first thoughts included a litany of things worse than an entire congregation seeing my laundry day undies, including the entire congregation seeing my laundry day undies in a wedgie formation, encasing monthly feminine supplies, or foregone in place of actual granny panties. Or a thong.

Still, I felt a need for confession.

Father was busy chatting, so I asked Sister Doris to cleanse my soul. She assured me the sin was not mine, however. The sin lies in the heart of those who enjoyed it.

Knowing what the view must have been, I imagine we all got out of there sin-free and clean.

Amen.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Natural habitat

We enjoyed a fabulous weekend of fun in the sun and water at Lake Weatherby with our good friends, exploring the lake and listening to our kids compare notes on who peed in the lake the most. Not revealing names, but the winning number was 5 times in one cove outing.

In that lake there live a number of turtles, absolutely darling little things who defy gravity in my mind by swimming with little flexibility.

One of these little guys (or girls?) crawled out within arm's reach of one of the kids. Far more entertaining than catching a cup full of minnows, the kids decided to keep it.

"We need to build a habitat for it," I heard my son exclaim.

At this point it looked like our home was destined to be host to the hard-backed creature. I could not let this happen, we have 4 kids, a dog and countless plants and bird feeders that need daily attention. Not to mention instruments to practice, bikes to ride, and books to read. Caring for a turtle was not fitting into my day, or theirs.

"Turtle already has a habitat," I said. "Put him back in it."

"You're not any fun," my children husband responded.

"I know. I'm not." It was a hard, cold fact. I am not fun. I am the ruler of rules, from brushing teeth to eating vegetables. I am the homework horse and the cleaning czar. I am not any fun, and I did not care to subject yet another living being to my torture of no fun.

Eventually they caved after a lecture about the morality of turtle-napping. Little guy has no idea how lucky he is.

I'm so mean.

Monday, May 30, 2011

God Bless the U.S.A.

Facebook deemed this video too offensive to allow people to share. Luckily for you, I have deemed it too hilarious to keep to myself...



... but as Great Aunt Margie says, all God's critters got a place in the choir.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bring it.

For summer eats, check out these morsels of deliciousness...

Cafe Habana in NYC, near SoHo, produces crack-on-a-corncob in the form of Grilled Corn. I have tried to replicate this delicacy at home, finally resorting to the interwebs where I found this beckoning:


Make your own with help from ShockinglyDelicious.com (where I snagged this photo too!)

Limes are not optional, and neither are Mojitos. Last weekend two other couples joined us on the deck for a summer mojito kick-off. Two pitchers? Not even a challenge. Refreshingly perfect on a muggy Saturday night as thunderstorms rolled in. Die-hards will use the mortar and pestal to mash up the sugar, lime and mint. Personally, I'm fine with using a blender...

Blend together the juice from 2 limes, 2 teaspoons sugar, 8 sprigs of mint while slowly adding 1 cup of white rum. Pour into pitcher over 4 cups of crushed ice, mix with 4 cups of club soda. Stir, garnish with additional lime wedges.



Speaking of Saturday's thunderstorms, our neighbors in Missouri were hit hard by a tornado, nearly wiping out the entire city of Joplin, MO. While we Kansans have no mercy for Missouri on the basketball court, off the court is a different story. Please take a moment to send your thoughts, maybe some bottled water or other supplies to these people as they spend their summer rebuilding their hometown.

And finally, with the promise of pool time right around the corner I bring you my favorite summer past time, floating in a pool and pretending I have nothing better to do. The best pool floats don't take forever to inflate and allow you to get wet. Enter:


Yes, it looks like an areola or a contraceptive device, but I assure you it is completely appropriate to whip out at the pool. Everyone will want a piece of the action. $14.99 at Target!

Back to wishing the rain away...

Friday, May 20, 2011

SWM, age 9

I'm worried my dear Luke might never get laid.

video

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mayday! My daughter is heading for middle school!

And guess who, at the 11th hour, was put in charge of creating the post-promotion ceremony DVD for parents and kids to view during the post-promotion ceremony brunch with a 3-day notice???

I'll give you some hints...

1. She had never created a movie on her computer before.
2. She had never burned a DVD before, legally or otherwise.
3. She was given nearly 500 photos from 26 sets of parents.

... still guessing? How about this....

4. She did no laundry the entire week
5. She still managed to accompany her daughter's class to Worlds of Fun 3 days before DVD-day
6. She still has no clue how to save the show on a jump drive.

... if you guessed me, you are correct.

I ended up putting in 20+ hours, and I know a couple of others before me did hard time too gathering all the photos. But the final product (9 minutes, 42 seconds) (can't imagine how long something like "Titanic" must have taken) succeeded in sharing happy memories of precious childhoods and, more importantly, making parents cry.

Sit back and enjoy:

http://gallery.me.com/juliedunlap#100000

Monday, May 9, 2011

No bellbottoms, no saurkraut

For some reason the by-line is not appearing at the top of this article like it should, which is a shame. It is one of my favorites...

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2011/may/02/river-city-jules-moms-love-knows-no-boundaries/

Happy day after Mother's Day!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Evil had a Face

I kissed my husband goodbye as he left for work that Tuesday morning nearly 10 years ago. Ellie, then four, did not have preschool that day, leaving me free to hang out in my jammies a bit longer and finish feeding the kids breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen. I waited until after 8:00 to call my mom with sad news that a friend had been diagnosed with cancer, but Mom wasn't able to process it.

"Turn on the news," she interrupted me. "A plane just hit the World Trade Center."

I turned on the TV just in time to see Diane Sawyer look at the off-screen producer with confusion. A second plane had just hit the second tower.

Holding my baby, Luke, and watching Amelia and Ellie play oblivious to the fright one time zone to the east, I sat riveted in front of the television the rest of the morning, emotions of fear and grief taking flight with those of the rest of the country.

Later that afternoon I joined a few friends at church to pray. I prayed for those who had died, I prayed for their families, I prayed for the missing, I prayed for those who had been found.

Over the years I have prayed for those same people and for the safety of us still here on earth.

And over those years I have wondered if the manhunt would end with predator finding prey or if the prey would elude his predators until dying a natural death in some unknown location.

When my husband called me down to wait for the president's speech last night, not knowing what the topic might be, I threw out a prediction.

"I bet they found bin Laden," I said, observing how no one seemed panicked and rationalizing that something catastrophic would have been public knowledge. Daring to speak of this aloud, the words felt unnatural as they tumbled out

But the possibility seemed too far-fetched, like finding Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. Bin Laden had almost become a fictional character, a piece of tragic lore after nearly a decade of hiding.

Then the possible was confirmed. I never see shit like this coming, but for once I was spot on.

This time it was I who told my mom to turn on the television. I heard her gasp when she read the ticker. At the risk of stealing from Oprah, that Tuesday morning heartache had come full-circle.

But what to do with this?

It did not feel like revenge, for there truly is no such thing when it comes to the senseless slaughtering of innocent lives by a man without capacity for remorse. Effort put into revenge returns as energy directed to fostering more hate.

It did, though, feel like a victory. Cheers for our brave military who plotted and planned for years, finally executing with extraordinary precision an operation that, if future behavior truly can be predicted by past patterns, should save thousands of lives. And the triumph of eliminating the threat of this enemy is immeasurable.

So I celebrate not the killing of a life, but the elimination of certain looming death. And I hope we all can agree that the greatest force our country can show to the world is our ability to pull Osama bin Laden out of the legend to which we had unconsciously assigned him and into the world in which we live, rejoicing that his reign of terror is over and, with our greatest capacity for dignity, leave his judgement up to God.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sweet Caroline

As I told Caroline this weekend, every time she reaches a milestone, she completes a chapter of our family's life. Today this milestone was First Communion...


... and now that chapter is complete!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Bunny

To save my life I will never understand how on earth we ever get our children to believe a bunny will somehow break into the homes of Christian children around the world (or maybe just America?) and leave plastic eggs, presumably laid by plastic chickens, all over the house to celebrate the rising of Jesus from the dead.

Santa? Sure.

Tooth Fairy? Perfectly logical.

But the Easter Bunny? How do we ever pull that one off every year?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fred

After 96 years, certain things start to go. Like your short-term memory, for instance. 

I suppose it's called dementia. At its root it is a heartbreak waiting to happen with every interaction. So when occasion for laughter pops up, it is important to take advantage of it or you will end up in tears far more often than Jesus would prefer.

Mama started like the rest of us, not remembering the little things like what time dinner will be served or which day of the week it is. Slowly she lost that part of her brain which stores things like where she lives or what year it is. Eventually she lost the part in charge of remembering how old her children are, who her grandchildren are, and whether or not she has great-grandchildren.

It was shortly after this latest revelation that I, her favorite (or so I've always believed) granddaughter, was visiting her. After trying to no avail to explain our familial relation to each other, I pulled out her photo album for clarification. We flipped through pages, she recognized her parents. She pointed out her brother and sister. She seemed to know her children's baby pictures, but she had no idea how old they were or where they lived now.

But then we flipped to her childhood pet, a cat named Fred. And that is when a firework of recognition ignited in her brain.

"Oooh! Fred!" she exclaimed, looking at the photo as if she could will him right back onto her lap by simply longing for him. "I loved Fred," she said with the emotion of a lover lost. "I will NEVER forget Fred," she smiled at me, so pleased she actually had a memory after all.

I tried, Lord I tried to be happy for her. But really? Her cat?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New York, New York

I'm not sure I can ever go back to New York again after this last trip, for any other attempt at fun in the city would never measure up...

Wednesday:  Flight is delayed an hour, giving us enough time to grab a couple of margaritas at the KCI Mexican bar. Delicious, relaxing and right on time to head to New York, where we find LGA is an even bigger dump than it was when we last left it three years ago. We extract our luggage from the conveyor belt without touching anything unnecessarily while some poor dad in need of attention embarrasses his teenage son by pulling out his guitar and singing "867-5309" for all of us waiting around the luggage carousel. Made mental note to never do that ourselves and caught cab to my brother's where we stayed up until 1:00 talking to Philip and his awesome roomie, Lindsay. Philip advises us, "You can't plan crazy."

Thursday:  Cross the Empire State Building

 and The Nate Berkus Show off the list,

belly up to a fabulous Indian buffet while rain falls outside, check in to our c-r-a-p-p-y West Village apartment and take a nap. Meet Lindsay, Philip and his GF, Colleen, in Times Square
for a quick bite and some vino. Laugh our a$$e$ off at "Book of Mormon." I mean tears, aching abs, the works. That kind of laugh. Want to see it again and again kind of laugh. Still 38% certain we will all burn in hell for laughing at the content.

Friday:  Walk around in the rain to find breakfast, return. Walk around in rain to South Street Sea Port and score 2 tickets to see Robin Williams in Bengal Tiger at Baghdad Zoo and eat phenomenal sushi at Nobu. Nap, throw a pastrami sandwich down en route to theater and sit 8 rows back from Robin Freaking Williams as he portrays a tiger ghost pondering the meaning of life and death. Drinks with Philip and Colleen and friend, Jess, at an old speakeasy in the Village. Walk up our crooked stairs to our crappy apartment that is beginning to grow on us and drift to sleep with visions of Robin Williams dancing in our heads.


Saturday:  Sun finally shines as we stroll SoHo. Eat the best corn on the cob in the world at Cafe Habana with Philip and Colleen. Return to our not-as-bad-as-we-thought apartment for a nap. Wake up just in time to receive text from Jason that he has 2 extra tickets to Saturday Night Live. Pee our pants a little. Respond to text and - via Colleen's for snacks and a drink with Philip - make our way to 30 Rock for the best night ever. Elton John hosts. Will Forte makes an appearance. So does Jake Gyllenhaal. And Carmello Anthony. Oh, and Tom Hanks. We decide we are now in the red with karma and we will have to be much nicer to people.


Night continues with karaoke at Sing Sing with Philip, Colleen, and friends, Max and Kristin.
Ends at 5:00 in the morning as we climb the crooked stairs to our I-guess-I-could-stay-here-again apartment.

Sunday:  Brunch with pal, Jamey, and his life partner in crime, Qraig. Nap. Walk to green line through Washington Square Park and see this guy:

with his piano under the street light. Want to stay there forever and ever but dinner is calling at Max and Kristin's, so we make our way to Murray Hill for an outstanding evening with friends and brother.

Monday:  Two very tired Kansans board the plane back home. VERY tired. And very, very happy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

For Laurie Magee

Remember the time we were in Oklahoma City last year? And KU lost to Northern Iowa? And the Kansas State fans were complete a-holes about it? And you told them to watch out because Karma is a bitch?

Guess what?

K-State went down in Round 2 this year.

And KU made it to the Elite Eight.

Karma, it would seem, has come through just as you said it would. I just wish you were here to cackle with me about it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Flat Stanley




Goodbye, Flat Stanley, it's been fun having you here!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Princess(es)

If you have not seen the Princess Diana exhibit at Union Station in Kansas City (or anywhere else) and you have any interest whatsoever in Diana, England, Elton John, fashion, and/or sparkly things, then stop reading this drivel and get your royal arse to Union Station.

If you have seen the exhibit, then you will likely agree that it is a stunning piece of pop culture's juiciest and most curious history. The expertly arranged traveling museum begins with a look at various Spencer family heirlooms, namely jewels, letters and paintings up to hundreds of years old. I asked, but they will not let you leave with any of the tiaras.

(The same would turn out to be true for all of Di's dresses, including her wedding gown, even if you offer to leave them the 25-foot train.)

Turn the corner and you are in Diana's childhood home, Althorp. Letters to her parents, favorite toys and old suitcases, among many, many other treasures, sit waiting behind glass for your glimpse and a sigh. Home movies play on a screen, with some of the unwitting props on display around the pale pink room. Hardly royal, this room could just as easily have been filled with anyone's tchotchkes from her infancy to courtship. But ours wouldn't be that interesting, really, would it?

Journals from her late teens describe, in her own writing, her courtship to Charles. Just as you finish reading a large wall plaque with the simplest version of their history, the sounds of "Trumpet Voluntary" pipe from the room next door. You turn the corner and face...

The. Dress.

Yards upon yards of hand-made silk and lace. Dated? Probably. Timeless? Definitely. While no modern bride of 2011 will ever walk into a bridal store and request a gown with enormous sleeves, mountains of fabric, bows at every turn and a train longer than most living rooms, every bride will want to look as beautiful as Di did on her wedding day.

Never mind that Charles was already flinging with Camilla. Forget the part that she was barely 21 and he was an aged 33-year-old man who still lived with his parents. Ignore every part of your brain that tells you this was a tremendous piece of pageantry that gave birth to bridezillas worldwide and ultimately ended in the most publicized divorce since Henry VIII.

Put all of the logic and cynicism away for when it is someone else's time to wed and remember how it felt to be excited about something so beautiful. So British. So unlike anything we had ever seen here before.

Remember how the blushing bride made the monarchy human. Remember the joy with the birth of each boy, Barbara Walters's interview with the young family, the growth of a young girl into a capable and independent woman who wrote her own rules and loved out loud.

Remember the beauty of England's rose, and, as you approach the end of the magnificent train and notice the trumpets fading and Elton John's familiar arpeggios coming from the next room, remember how all of her joy was swiftly and suddenly wiped from the earth, from her sons, and turn the corner into the funeral room, letting loose the ugly cry as you read her brother's original announcement of her death while Elton John sings his haunting anthem.

Feel more than just a tad guilty for ever buying any book, magazine or collectible with Diana's face, knowing that love of Di came, ultimately, at a steep, unbearable price.

Turn the next corner and see the hundreds of volumes of condolence books from all over the world. And then watch Diana come to life again as you walk through the next room filled with Diana's greatest hits and misses as a fashion icon. Try to wrap your head around the fact that she was once inside each and every one of these dresses and suits.

Try to imagine scaling the glass case and climbing inside of the dress, allowing your skin to be where hers once was.

Read her many letters of correspondence in the next room and make your way out through the gift shop.

And if you leave wishing you could go back to the wedding room and just live in a time before anyone knew any of the heart-wrecking truths and tragedies to come for a bit longer, know you are not alone.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Looking ahead

I made a deal with Dave. I would endure attend Webelos Camp with Luke again this summer if we could go to U2 in St. Louis.

As these rainy spring-ish days drag along, I have taken to cruising YouTube for footage from the show to remind me what I have to look forward to.

Waiting for the sun to shine, I've taken a particular liking to this one by Bono and the Zen Presbyterian. Can't wait until July...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Under Pressure

Very little stresses me out more than composing the perfect family photo, especially when framed for the church directory.

After growing paler by the minute all winter, I now need to find clothing for our six-pack to wear that will look good on the standard gray/black/navy backdrop in a 1.5" x 1.5" photo.

I have already given the kids the "This isn't the kind of picture where we all get to pick our favorite outfits. This is the kind of picture where we try to blend in with each other, but not in a matching-jammies-awkward-family-photos kind of way, just in a way that Jesus would do had he had the opportunity to immortalize himself in this way with five other people."

They seemed to take it well.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

School's Out (again)

No snow days this time. Optional School Conferences. Two days where we may but don't have to chat with our children's teachers about their progress. Most people take the four-day weekend and leave town.

Not us, though. We're here to weather this weather together in a mad frenzy of cleaning house that will likely devolve into watching last night's "American Idol." Again.

I think they have 2 full weeks coming up and then a week and half of Spring Break... because this winter has taxed their little brains sooooo much. Almost as much as it has taxed mine.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Artist of the Year?

Dear GRAMMY People,

Esperanza, I'm certain, is fabulous. How can she not be? But, and I'm not just saying this because I'd like to slap a diaper on him and nurse him to sleep most nights, how could you pass up the Bieber?

How could a young yet overgrown Ken doll with more talent in his little toe than most major populations have in all ten grown-up fingers be passed over like that?

And where was Kanye to defend him in his moment of need?

Sheesh.

Other than that (and the mental image of Mick Jaggar without the 10 pounds the camera supposedly adds forever burned in my brain), the show was outstanding.

For an infinitely better analysis, check out my friend, Ron, at http://www.BeDifferentlyOnline.blogspot.com/

Peace out,
Jules

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I'm (Still) with the Band

Always a bit late to the table, I have found a New Year's Resolution I might be able to complete. 

Maybe.

I've decided to learn to play one of my favorite '80's anthems, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," on acoustic guitar for our friends' annual fiesta this summer, which includes a margarita contest, a salsa contest, and open mic night. I love margaritas and salsa, we'll see how I take to guitar. Six months to learn to play. And sing.

In the meantime, I am still listening to my basement full of dads pretend, if only for a few minutes, that they are one with Billy Idol. Dancing with themselves.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snow Days

The Blizzard of Oz came dancing in this week, leaving little doubt in my mind that Mother Nature is a complete bitch who probably needs to retire.

With all of my darling children home this week, we got to do some serious bonding.

Ellie has enslaved me now as her personal hair braider.

Amelia is my number one foot massage client.

Caroline very thoughtfully informed me that "there is a commercial on TV for a lotion you can rub on your skin and it takes away stretch marks." (Luke added that if you call in the next 5 hours, you can try it for free.)

And dear Luke and I have had quite a run. He was hired by a neighbor to shovel the drive. What the neighbor failed to mention upon hiring was that his driveway was nearly completely covered with snow drifts over 3 feet high. I helped Luke drag his snowblower to his customer's drive and looked at the nine-year-old boy, alone with a shovel and a snowblower and 1200 cubic feet of snow and decided to help.

Two hours later I was certain of two things:  I never want to live in North Dakota and I would likely not be able to get out of bed in the morning.

But get out of bed I did, and a good thing too. Luke had the stomach flu. I wasn't positive he was sick until he threw up all the way down the hall from his bedroom (which, btw, boasts a toilet within five feet of his bed) to our bathroom, violating rule # 2 in our house (rule # 1 being "love thy brother and sisters"): "head for the toilet, not Mom." Because vomit is hard to clean up off carpet.

On the plus side, I have found a new distraction hobby and am working on accompanying myself on guitar to my own acoustic version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

And that is how we spent the Snowpocalypse.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sweet Home, Chicago

So maybe Chicago isn't my home. But I sure do love to visit.

This time, however, I had some company. Dave and I decided to take Caroline and Luke to Chicago for the weekend. Day One Caroline hit American Girl like a pro, Luke had Gino's AND Oven Grinder's pizza, Dave secured Bulls-Heat tickets (only to find out LeBron is out with an injury, but that's okay, they got to see lots of Mario!), and I entertained a crowd of revelers at my BFF, Sara's, 40th birthday party with some fellow sumo ballerinas:




Day Two: Lego Store, Science & Industry, tapas, Bulls-Heat and lots of Gatorade in between

Day Three: Blue Line, Piece Pizza, Shedd, stomping through the snow and drinks atop the 'cock

And the whole entire time... No one stole my wallet!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Modern Family

I love, love LOVE this show. It is my life in three segments. Julie Claire & Dave Phil have an expert-texting dingbat teenage daughter named Ellie Haley, a brainiac daughter named Amelia Alex, and then there's Luke. What they lack in a Caroline they compensate with Manny. What I lack in a hot stepmom and gay brother with partner I make up for with a hot sister and twin brothers. And we all share the same lovely, curmudgeony dad.

But lately I have gotten the impression the writers are simply following me around for their story ideas.

This week's episode, "Slow Down Your Neighbors," rang too close to my brush with the F-Bomb found HERE last fall. (And my appearance two [2] times before our city traffic council asking for speed bumps on our street.) (I won.) (Both times.)

And the autumn episode, "Chirp," resonated a little to closely to THIS STORY about my own smoke detector woes.

Which is exactly why I love it, but I would love it more if they would fork over just a wee bit in royalties.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I'm with the Band

Sometimes I wonder, as I listen to my husband's band practice in the basement, if Rick Springfield's wife ever got tired of hearing about Jesse's girl.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ensider: Holiday Edition

Check it out, my first marketing analysis ever can be found HERE on page three. Enjoy the "Freeze Tag" story by Ron on page one and his interview with Amy Grant too!