It all began in a garden

I could have so easily fallen for Thomas Jefferson! Sally Hemings would have had some good competition from me had I lived back then! I share Jefferson’s aesthetic for all things French and his love for food. He was experimental, brave, and passionate about food. The father of agriculture, Thomas Jefferson changed the way we eat in America and the way we grow food. He was inspired by the French when he lived there as the minister to France from 1785 to 1789. Living there he became a connoisseur of good food, a gastronome. Paris is where Jefferson developed his palate. Imagine the dinner parties Jefferson must have attended.

He loved French food so much Jefferson paid for his slave, James Hemings to be trained as a French chef. The French have always had a love-love relationship with food. Jefferson recognized this and appreciated it enough to bring the French culinary art home to America.

Our third President wrote, “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden…. Jefferson liked to try new things like growing unfamiliar plants and experimenting with new foods in his garden at Monticello. He grew tomatoes, introduced the potato and grew other vegetables that were new to America.

Many of which were brought back by Lewis and Clark. He also introduced waffles, macaroni and cheese, mustard, and ice cream to America. Can you say merci beaucoup?! Jefferson packed European plants in his bags when returning to America. For years, he ordered seeds from Paris. He wasn’t stingy; he would share his seeds with other American gardeners. I think it was his dream to cultivate and bring the culinary culture of food to America.

Michelle Obama was inspired by Jefferson when planting the White House Garden. I have read her goal is to improve the nutrition for her own family and inspire other Americans to make better choices with their food. This is smart because if children are exposed to and learn an appreciation for food early on, they will have it forever.

Food has always been an art form in France; a meal is something to celebrate. Jefferson recognized this. It is common in France to have a garden. I have a small herb collection and my parents have a nice size vegetable garden. I like for my children to see the fresh picked herbs and vegetables. I know my daughter is learning because when we go on a walk she points out rosemary rubs her hand on it and smells with satisfaction. We also have a beautiful garden at the school where I teach. Children are proud to see their herbs, vegetables, and flowers before they head out to recess.

When I pack my daughter’s lunch, I send her with water and her lunch in a Japanese bento box. I like these bento boxes because they have many neat compartments and I think it makes for a nice presentation.

Schools in France place a priority on lunch. French children eat off real plates with real forks and glasses. This sets children up to the ceremony and pleasure of a meal. They drink water with their meals and the cafeterias use fresh produce and prepare lunch from scratch. They also have a longer lunch time than we do in America. Yes, I know we don’t live in France! But, this sounds nice, n’est-ce pas! I taught a child from France once. It was someone’s birthday and they were passing out Little Debbie brownies; he looked at it and said, “non”!! I imagine what his mother made for him on his birthday was homemade and not out of a box!

My school has adopted a program called CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health). The plan is to promote physical activity and make healthy food choices in school. Thanks to our Health and Wellness committee we also do a “Fear Factor Friday” where the kids have a chance to try something they may have not had before like: cherries, kiwi, mangos, pumpkin seeds…It is delightful to see a child try something new and have a positive reaction to it. Children are learning that eating healthy and being physically active every day is fun and they’re building a positive relationship with food.

I can’t help but think of Joseph Pilates, and how his dream was for children to learn his exercises so they can take care of their bodies forever. I also think of Julia Child. Wouldn’t she have made a fabulous grandmother! Can’t you just imagine her feeding her grandchildren “soul food”? Jefferson, Pilates, and Child are connected in the way they each wanted more for America. These people are all gone but have stamped America with culture, fitness, and a love-love relationship with food. The key is to teach our children early so they grow up with a natural love for their health. I think teaching healthy habits to children inspires parents to change their own relationship with food.

Thomas Jefferson had a love for food. If we can implement a healthy love for food in our children they will grow up to be good eaters. Parents, teachers, farmers, and cooks must pave the road to success. Food is a part of culture and history. Remember, it all began in a garden!

Travel without Traveling

How do you raise worldly and cultured children? Education through culture gives us a new way of seeing things. This is what I want for my children. I want to teach them to embrace other customs, food, and people with their eyes open. C’est la vie!

My second grade classroom and my own children will learn “The Star Spangled Banner,” but also songs, customs, and flags of other countries. My second graders are learning the German and Japanese language thanks to some wonderful volunteers. It is AMAZING to hear how well they can pick up the accent, remember material, and always speak without fear! All the more reason why foreign languages should be taught to children in elementary school. 

A little note to teachers and parents…All you have to do is ask! People are more than willing to share their culture with you if you show the interest.

I’ve always thought travel is the best education but with this economy it’s just not possible. We must find culture in our neighborhoods and there’s no better time to do that than in the fall! Fall brings families together with an abundance of festivals. After you go to one you feel like you’ve been on a vacation!

Some of the festivals going on right now really make you feel like you’re visiting a different country. We just took our children to Addison’s Oktoberfest. I can’t believe I’m from here and have never been! German cuisine and entertainment…schmeckt und sehr spass!

Next, I’m looking forward to UNT’s World Fest on the Square Saturday, September 26th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There promises to be culture galore, international foods, music, and dance. I’m especially looking forward to seeing some Argentinian Tango!

Did you know UNT has international students from 123 countries? So see, right here in our little metroplex we can find beaucoup of culture without spending money on tickets and hotels.

Finally, on my travel without traveling agenda is the Lebanese Food Festival in Lewisville on October 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. We took our kids last year and ate so well. We also listened to Lebanese music and discovered our daughter can belly dance! Lebanese food is so fresh with the perfect blend of herbs, spices, and earthy flavors. My favorite is the Lebanese baklava that has pistachio nuts and is drizzled with rose-water syrup. Need I say more!! Mon Dieu!

I’ve always been curious about other cultures, I can NEVER get enough. I know it’s time for a trip when something inside me sleeps. These international festivals are like a dose of medicine for my soul.

When I was a child I would make my sister play this game with me…The game just involved pretending to be European. I am a Francophile (an admirer of France and everything French) but it doesn’t stop there. I’d like to experience all cultures for the rest of my life. My husband and I looked into living in Florence, Italy after our honeymoon. We both felt like we belonged there. If I could, I’d move there and raise a bunch of Italian babies!

I feel more alive and passionate about living when I’m learning something new about another country. I’d used to beg my mom to buy me French Vogue so I could try to dress and do my hair like a Parisian and look coquettish. My parents gave me the greatest gift after high school, two weeks in Europe. I think I learned more that trip than I did my entire high school career and I say this as a teacher!!

I daydream and obsess about getting on a plane daily! I can tell you what the weather is like in Italy, France, Austria because I have it bookmarked on my computer and my phone! I crave culture more than chocolate, wine, and shoes! I always have a foreign movie on my DVD player to watch, a book about Italy or France to read, and French music playing in the kitchen. I’m an American “pretending” to live in Paris!

I’d like to share some of my favorite travel without traveling materials with you:

Food: Julia Child cookbooks are my favorite bien sûr! I feel connected to her because she was an American living in France absorbing as much as her 6’2″ frame would allow her too! Mexico the Beautiful and Savoring Italy are two cookbooks I always come back to, The Sweet Life in Paris, AND Cooking for Mr. Latte (our next Julia Child Book Club book) as proven to have some very tasty and worldly recipes.

Music: Carla Bruni (She is the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy) Quelqu’un m’a dit is one of my favorite songs. Edith Piaf (France’s greatest popular singer) — my daughter turns into a classical modern dancer when I play La vie en Rose, Julie Rousseau (you can hear the song Shalom on Sur la Route XM radio, it’s fabulous)

MoviesFrench Kiss, Jet Lag, (anything with Jean Reno, I have a huge crush on him!), Roman Holiday is classic!

BooksLucia Lucia, Abundance, Eight Days in Provence: Chasing Matisse, Paris to the Moon, Almost French, A Year in the Merde, anything by Hemingway, My Life in France, Everything You Need to Know to be Impossibly French, This is Paris (and all the “This is” series. . .) by Miroslav Sasek are wonderful for children, as well as the classic Goodnight Moon in French and Spanish (Bonsoir Lune and Buenas Noches Luna), and La Petite Prince

Websites: (a fabulous source for exhibits and art related events) (celebrates all things French)

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” ~Jawaharal

Pollyanna Octopus Mom

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There is an exercise in Pilates called “imprinting”. You visualize your spine lengthening and sinking down into soft sand, lightly imprinting. This reminds me of writing your name in wet sand or cement and how it is so easy to make an impression. Well, children are like wet cement in the way it takes the smallest nudge to make an impression. Children are smarter than we give them credit for. They can sense our feelings before we express them out loud. They also pick up on what we’re saying when we think they’re not listening. Here’s to making a good impression and gentle imprinting on our children!

As a working mom with two young children, I am constantly trying to do more than I can achieve. Sometimes with all of my multitasking, work responsibilities, and household chores, not to mention my personal life, I feel like an octopus! My head starts to spin and my arms feel all tangled up! I get discouraged and feel like I’m not doing any of my jobs as well as I could and should be. My top priority is always my family. They are the most important thing in my life. Taking care of my children’s needs and making sure they are happy, healthy, and safe is my most important job.

Parents always try so hard to do the right thing. The constant cleaning, cooking, and working to make our lives better can be exhausting. When I start to second guess myself I know I can find help with a multitude of books and websites but I find the best advice is always a phone call away! Our mothers, grandmothers, and friends hold a wealth of information at their fingertips. They are our fellow octopi!

When I was pregnant with my first child, my friend Jen threw me a baby shower. She set out a book for people to write down advice on being a mother. The best advice came from Jen herself who was not yet a mother! She said, “Call your Mom!” She was right! Our Moms have been there and done that! They hold our hands when we feel like we’ve just ruined our child and caused lifelong damage. They set us straight and get us swimming again!

I have often thought how cool it would be to be an octopus and what I could do with eight arms! An octopus is an intelligent, versatile and curious animal. Aren’t we all! I put such pressure on myself to try to be perfect! With these high expectations I put on myself, I’m doomed to fail. But, I think most working moms have to be overachievers! We must imagine we have eight arms!

If I was an octopus my name would be Pollyanna because like the 1913 novel and 1960 movie, I think I’m an excessively optimistic person! Nothing is impossible! Fran Lebowitz said, “The conversational overachiever is someone whose grasp exceeds his reach. This is possible but not attractive.” My eight octopus arms may not be attractive, but they can exceed their reach and hold a baby, grade papers, cook dinner, change diapers, teach Pilates, do the laundry, read a bedtime story, and dial for advice when I need help! I can do it and I can always find something to be glad about!

One of my heroes is my ballet teacher! She has four children, just got her masters in dance, and still finds time to read. This is the kind of role model I want to be for my children. Someone who continues to do what she loves because ultimately being happy makes us better mothers, wives, and workers!
Our children mimic what we say and do. We must make sure we are good role models so they “imprint” smart choices! My daughter is becoming a little octopus herself! She likes to sweep, cook, and dance all at the same time. She is a joy to watch and I am proud of my imprinting and impressions.

Everyone has their own parenting style, mine is being an imprinting Pollyanna octopus!

Manners are Golden

One of the hardest obstacles children face today is learning good manners without seeing any. It is sad to see adults be uncivil to each other because children follow suit. What are manners? They are a happy way of doing something. Emily Post wrote, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

In my second grade classroom I have three rules: Respect others, be polite and helpful, and keep your hands, feet, and objects to yourself. But the most important rule of all that “happy way of doing” beats them all, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Yes, the “Golden Rule”! I think what most parents wish for is that good manners will become natural habits for their child.

Every year so much more curriculum gets added to a teacher’s plate that it might be easy to overlook teaching manners. With growing demands on teaching time, etiquette is rarely a priority. No matter how busy I am I find there is always time for courtesy!

When I ask my second graders and my own children to use their manners; they have more respect for me. I find the best way to teach manners is for us to model it in daily life and practice what we preach! Write thank you notes, tell someone you appreciate them, look people in the eye, greet others with a smile and handshake. It sounds like common sense to us but we must teach it to our children so they see the importance of manners and respect.

People crave respect like a dog craves a belly rub! It is more likely that our children will grow and bloom into wonderful caring adults with manners under their belts.If you ever go to school to eat lunch with your child, listen carefully for manners. You will hear, “I want” and “give me” to the cafeteria ladies and “open this” to the lunch aides. Let’s “pass the manners” and work together to teach children that please and thank you can bring smiles and respect.

Manners shouldn’t be saved for special occasions only! We can use them every day. A simple please and thank you can go a long way! In my classroom and at home with my kids I ask them to use their German and Japanese manners: Danke, Domo Arigatou Goziamasu (thank you in German and Japanese) and Bitte, Kudasai (please in German and Japanese). I’m all about doubling up and catching up! If I can find a way to combine subjects with foreign language and manners, I do it! The little brains of children are ready to absorb and retain everything parents and teachers teach them.

There’s a wonderful book I love to read to my class and my children, Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller. This book teaches children the “Golden Rule” with characters Mr. Rabbit and his new neighbors, the Otters. Do Unto Otters shows kids that a simple “please” or “thank you” goes a long way in making friends. AND what I love most is that it teaches please, thank you, and excuse me in four languages: Spanish, French, German, and Japanese (there’s Pig Latin too)!

I always praise my second graders and my children when they show nice manners on their own. Praise is power! My school is encouraging “Random Acts of Kindness”. If someone notices a child doing something nice for someone else, a teacher or student writes it down on a strip of paper called a “kindness link” and the Principal reads a few during morning announcements. This gets children thinking about the “Golden Rule” and the importance of thinking of others. It’s a great way to start off the year and the children can’t wait to see how long the chain will be.

Amy Vanderbilt wrote, “Good manners have much to do with emotions. To make them ring true, one must feel them, not merely exhibit them.” When we say something, it should be sincere! Manners can be an art form especially in a thank you note. But I think as long as we are showing each other the simple respect and kindness everyone deserves, our children will see it’s worth the effort! Because no act of kindness is ever wasted, it’s golden!

The first week of school from a teacher’s point of view

School has started; the kids are getting into their routine. The first week is a trying one. Training the children in the routines of what, when, and how to do things isn’t easy. Getting to know their personalities and figuring out the best way to reach each child can be challenging, especially with a large class. Everyone learns differently!

Then come the parents…Oh how teachers want to be respected and well liked by the parents. I think the parents feel the same way. After all, teachers are with their children seven hours of the day. It’s only natural that they want to know their child is safe, happy, and in a positive learning environment. It’s a blessing when you have parental support.

What is hardest for me is saying goodbye to being a stay at home mom after being home for the whole summer. I feel that guilt and pang that I should be at home with my own children. The transition is hard on my own kids after they’ve gotten used to having me home all summer. I never know how I will be greeted at the door! It’s honestly not easy on anyone.

During the summer, teachers have the chance to enjoy their family and friends in ways very differently than they do during the school year. I read so many books, played with my kids nonstop, had play dates and parties and swimming galore…! I soaked up the sunny summer like a strawberry slushy!

But when a teacher is working, days don’t start and stop at a certain hour. I am always thinking of something I can do to make tomorrow a great day. I check my school e-mail before I wake my children, spend hours preparing lessons plans, I work really hard to keep positive contact with parents, and I’m constantly looking for ways to REACH a child.

Expectations increase every year as we work to improve standardized tests, and meet needs of learning disabled students. This is why the summer is so important for teachers! We get to reconnect and truly enjoy quality time with our family and friends. This “recharging of the batteries” is necessary to reenergize for the school year. I think of teachers like little Energizer bunnies, especially at the beginning of the year. We are busy buzzing bees!

For me, starting the school year is like pledging a sorority! There is usually some kind of hazing (difficult children or harassing parents)!! There’s always an unexpected surprise that can throw you off your game! My very first year of teaching, 11 years ago, I was 22 and thought I’d be teaching dance, not second grade!

I was teaching during the first week of school and I noticed a student was missing! I had a child run for the principal for help! The principal came in and found him hiding under my desk laughing! The same time I was looking for this “missing child” I had another bipolar child running into the walls (on purpose)!! Fresh out of college, I wondered, what am I doing?!? Well, I’ve remained a second grade because it fits like haute couture!

Teachers are very lucky, we know that! We work very hard and are rewarded in ways that are indescribable and endless. There isn’t a job more important than being a teacher! As parents, we are all teachers! It is a labor of love and a fabulous job to have! The thousands of hugs, smiles, and thank yous we receive every year are priceless. There are certain things we are meant to do, for me…I am a mother, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher. I am proud!

Meet the teacher

Starting off the school year on the right foot is easy if you stay positive and share in your child’s excitement about school. But, if you freak out, they’ll freak out! This is my 11th year teaching 2nd grade and let me tell you, the first couple of weeks are crucial! Parents should make an effort to attend all back to school events, it’s so important to show a happy face, school spirit, and teacher support.

Please, don’t listen to stories about whether or not a teacher is good! There will always be that “favorite” teacher parents hope their child gets. Let your child make the teacher they get their favorite and you will love her too!

Make it a point to start off the new school year right by attending that first “meet the teacher night” and “parent information night”. This is your chance to make a good first impression too. Teachers take note of the parents that are there. Be friendly, and make sure the teacher knows who you are.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but make sure they’re questions the teacher can address to everyone. “Meet the Teacher Night” is not the time to tell her your life story or what a bad experience your child had last year. Teachers don’t mind questions, and being aware of what goes on in class will help you keep your child informed.

Smile! That first impression is memorable, just as it is when meeting anyone for the first time. Lengthy problems or concerns can wait for a private scheduled conference; your first meeting is informal. Teachers want a chance to get to know your children on their turf before conferencing. Children act differently in front of their parents than they do in the classroom.

Make sure to go home and say nice things about the class, teacher, and school. I’ve had children come up with stories that I know I wasn’t supposed to hear! Surely you can find something good to say that will help your child feel positive about being in the classroom.

The kids are excited and ready to go back with new backpacks in tow. Parents are excited too but also apprehensive because they can’t control everything: the friends your child makes in their new classroom, the teacher their child was assigned, school schedules…But, parents can control their attitudes and be optimistic for a great start to the new school year!

It is important to be an involved parent. Attending “Meet the Teacher Night” is a solid way to start. Here are some of the basics you can expect from “Meet the Teacher Night” and/or “Parent Information Night”:

1. Homework, correction policies, and discipline procedures. There is a student handbook that includes dress codes, school rules, schedules, a calendar of events and much more. These are valuable organizing tools for students and a clear-cut way to keep everyone on the same page.

2. Important notes the teacher may write on the board, so be prepared with paper and pen.

3. Your child’s new teacher will share with you her experience, specializations, and expectations for the year.

4. The best ways to communicate with the school and the classroom teacher are by phone, e-mail, a note from home or a personal visit. Be sure to leave your contact information as well and an open mind about keeping positive contact with the teacher.

5. Volunteer opportunities (my favorite)! Teachers want you to be involved! If it is at all possible, take advantage of in-class assignments. It’s an effective, nonthreatening way for you to see how your child is managing school and interacting with her peers and the teacher. Plus, teachers REALLY appreciate it!

6. Whatever your questions or concerns, you have every right to have them addressed. Don’t be shy, but be respectful. Parents who are positive, informed, and engaged in school have children who are as well.

7. Volunteering is different for every family. It may mean signing up to work in the classroom, buying classroom supplies, grading papers for the teacher or helping with special assignments.

8. To find your special niche, look for sign-up sheets in the teacher’s room at “Meet the Teacher Night” You could also contact a member of the PTA and mention your interests. They will find a way for you to help out at the school, the community and your child’s education.

9. Enjoy “Meet the Teacher Night”! Get to know other parents, teachers and administrators. Come with a BIG SMILE on your face!

Every parent wants their child to have a great school year. While some things can’t be controlled, there are many things that parents can do to ensure a stress-free, happy school year. Your positive and optimistic attitude is a step in the right direction.

Good Lessons from Great Coaches

Elephants are lucky creatures. Placed on shelves or by doorways, they inspire luck and longevity. There is a dispute about which way a lucky elephant holds its trunk! The belief is that an elephant with the trunk pointed up brings luck and one with the trunk down is bad luck. I sometimes can give the trunk of one of my many elephants a stroke whenever I feel like I need a little extra help. Try it out!

When I think of elephants, I think of Big Al, the mascot for the Alabama Crimson Tide (my alma mater). It is because of Big Al that I have a fondness for this beautiful mammal. Elephants are all over my house!

How did the elephant come to represent Alabama? Well… In 1930 Alabama played Ole Miss and at the end of the quarter, there was a rumble and an excited fan shouted, “Hold your horses, the elephants are coming!” Need I say more?

Roll Tide Roll! Football season is almost upon us! My husband cannot stop talking about it! Everyday he says, “It’s almost football season!” I’m excited, too, because with football comes fall, food, and family fun! Everything is choreographed around the game.

The house will smell like chicken wings, baked beans, and roll tide rolls (all served on elephant platters)! It will be filled with the noises of my husband, Dad, brother, and kids cheering on the Tide! My little ones like to get in on the action too! Like every normal SEC fan, I deck my children out in Bama gear and teach them the fight song. It’s their birthright!

I am a proud native Texan and like most Americans live and breathe football in the fall. But, it’s not just the game; it’s the ambience that naturally comes with it! The food, Million Dollar Band, Bama cheers, Big Al, Coaches “Bear” Bryant and Gene Stallings (two former coaches who were as dependable and lovable as an elephant)…

The Big 12 is not as exciting to me as the SEC (because I went to Alabama of course). Both are competitive conferences with loads of history and following. But if you’ve ever actually been to an SEC game, it just feels different! I say this having been to my share of Big 12 games and they just don’t compare! My dad will concur and he played football at UNC at Chapel Hill, NC! There’s just something about the South and football!

I will never forget the day I met Gene Stallings (Alabama’s coach 1990-1996) unexpectedly at my school! It was Halloween! I teach 2nd grade, so like all elementary teachers, came dressed up for the fun! I was dressed up like Madeline (from the children’s storybook). When I saw him, I became star struck and just broke down crying and started jumping up and down like he was a Beatle telling him I went to Alabama!

I had the unique pleasure of teaching Gene Stallings’s granddaughter 2nd grade a few years ago. So I met him again the year I taught her and this time I was a fairy! I know Coach Stallings has had numerous fans approach him but I wonder if I was memorable in a sea of dressed up children with fairy wings and a tiara!

I want to share these powerful words from two amazing Alabama coaches that I think can be inspirational to parents:

Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant once said about Alabama football:

“Every time a player goes out there, at least 20 people have some amount of influence on him. His mother has more influence than anyone. I know because I played, and I loved my mama.”

“When we have a good team, I know it’s because we have boys that come from good mommas and pappas.”

And Coach Gene Stallings said after the ’92 Ole Miss game:

“You don’t have to flaunt your success, but you don’t have to apologize for it, either”

To wish you luck rooting for your favorite football team this fall I suggest stroking an elephant’s trunk and making “Roll Tide Rolls” Enjoy!

Roll Tide Rolls
1 cup of Big Al’s Milk
1 cup mashed potatoes
2/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cake compressed or 1 package dry yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
2 elephant eggs
6 cups flour
½ cup butter, melted

Scald milk; add potatoes, shortening, sugar, salt, and cool to lukewarm. Soften yeast in water and add to lukewarm mixture. Add elephant eggs and beat Tennessee, add 1 ½ cup flour and continue beating Auburn. Then add remaining flour to make stiff dough. Turn out on floured board and knead LSU thoroughly. Place dough in greased bowl, grease top of dough; cover and let the tide rise until doubled in volume. Turn out onto floured surface, knead lightly, and roll tide roll to ½ inch thickness. Cut dough into 2-inch squares; pull opposite corners, dip into melted butter. Place ½ of dough in each of two loaf pans alternating positions. Let the tide rise until doubled; bake 350 degrees for 1 hour. Yield; 2 loaves



Have you ever been delayed and stuck at the airport just dying to get home? Here are some tips and side notes I have now accumulated after experiencing the worst travel delay ever!!


(1)  A glass of wine really does solve everything!

(2)  It pays to be an American Express platinum member to take advantage of the sky club: comfortable chairs, nice restrooms, a place to pump, and a glass of wine to ease the frustration of delay, after delay, after delay, then finally cancellation!


(3) You should wear comfortable shoes (at least carry some socks in your bag), carry a sweater or scarf that can double as a blanket, and a manual breast pump if lactating!


(4)  Pray to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost and stolen articles. This worked for me!


(5)  In the words of a NYC taxi driver, “You can’t leave New York with out getting screwed over just a little bit!” But there ARE angels out there (95% are Southern)!


(6)  Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and trust in those who don’t look trustworthy!


(7)  Carry a toothbrush in your purse.


After a lovely weekend in NYC for my dear friend’s wedding, I was anxious to get home to see my babies and my husband! The weather was not cooperating, so my Mom and I stuck it out ALL night in two different New York airports! Now don’t get me wrong, if there is bad weather, I don’t want to fly! But, let’s be accommodating, PLEASE!


Let me start by saying, there is a huge difference between the North and South! I married a Rhode Islander and he concurs! Attitude! Attitude! Attitude! My Mom and I were stuck at JFK airport with birds flying around (the 3rd worst airport in the world). The people working there must hate their jobs! They don’t care about you one bit; they just see another problem and they try to pawn you off on someone else.


We were pawned off from one airport worker to another five different times, five different lines! There were children in the middle of the night scrunched up crying on uncomfortable chairs and no offers of blankets, food, water, nothing but, “WAIT IN LINE!” A couple who had just returned from Italy after having their baby baptized, had been up 24 hours and there was no concern about their little baby, no hotel room offered! Like pulling teeth I tell you!


All the work is done by the passenger when asked, “What’s another city you could fly into instead of Dallas.” They expected us to have ESP of what was on the computer! The best we could do was leave JFK in the middle of the night for LaGuardia (the other NY airport) to wait for a flight to Memphis the next morning then a connecting flight to Austin to arrive in the late afternoon! Ridiculous! But the best part, they suggested we rent a car and drive back to Dallas!! Is your mouth open yet?


Up longer than I can remember (and I’ve had jet lag before, I also have two babies, so I’ve gone without a lot of sleep). I’d much rather sleep on the plane, but when you need to sleep you sleep! I’m not a college kid anymore roughing it because I’m young and invincible!


What I saw at JFK were older people sleeping in wheelchairs, luggage carts, and on the floor. People of all ages were seen stretched out at the airport because of delays and lack of hotel availability. We would have gone back to the city to spend the night had we been canceled earlier, but it would have been silly to get a room for just three hours of sleep with an hour to and from the airport.


At 3:00 AM we walked down a ramp outside the airport to get a taxi in the pitch dark with nobody around. We got into the only taxi there only to realize after he started driving off, it was a little suspicious looking! There was no meter! The taxi driver offered us a cold beer from his cooler that was sitting on the console! My Mom was freaking out! But he was an angel in disguise!


He drove us to an all night drug store in the deep dark bowels of Queens, NY to buy a breast pump since mine was in my bag that had been checked and they wouldn’t give me. I was not ready and willing to dry up by choice! Well, the beer drinking Italian taxi driver pulled through for us! Grazie mille!


The bathroom at LaGuardia was blocked off at 3:30AM. I was kicked out when I tried to sneak in because I REALLY needed to pump! My Mom and I ended up sitting on a luggage cart because the janitors blocked off chairs for themselves while they were on break!


Let me give you a picture! I’m dressed up coming from my friend’s post wedding brunch wearing my favorite pair of Manolos, clutching a very nice handbag, and in a cute sundress! This is not an outfit for a delayed then cancelled flight or a beer drinking taxi tour of the city that never sleeps!


Finally, we made it to Memphis and there was a total attitude change for the better! The first person we saw, Pearl, who looked at us with genuine concern and said, “Let me see what I can do for you!” Pearl, the angel from Memphis, got us a flight home Dallas that afternoon. Until then we waited in the luxurious, comfortable Sky Club.


You know how you always meet interesting people in your travels. Well, we had a long time to get to know several! Another angel, we nicknamed St. Matthew, had just flown in from Lisbon. Matthew, like us, had his flight canceled. It was his birthday, he was tired, but anxious to share pictures and stories about his wonderful trip chaperoning a bunch of high school kids on a European vacation.


We also met a family from Montréal, who spoke French (bien sur) and very little English. The five year old little girl understood my French and asked me to button up her sweater while the Mom watched on approvingly. I also borrowed a cell phone charger from a nice young man from Atlanta at JFK and later again in Memphis from a Sky Club workers husband who she called to bring it to her at work just for me! God bless the South!


You usually hear these horror stories around the holidays, but airports can be a bitter enemy even in the summer with all the thunderstorms! I was starting to feel like a lion in a cage, sitting in chairs and luggage carts all day and night! Yes, that first glass of wine did solve everything, but after I finished it, I needed a bed!


My Mom and I finally arrived home 24 hours later than we were supposed to. Anxious to grab our bags and get going! Surprise!! There are no bags to collect! My bag was in Oklahoma City, my Mom’s came on a later flight from who knows where! We checked our baggage Sunday afternoon at JFK; the airlines delivered the bags to my house Wednesday night.


My grandmother told me to pray to Saint Anthony, Patron Saint of Lost and Stolen Articles. It worked and I’m happy to end this chapter.


What have I learned? Passengers should have the right to receive timely and accurate information about delayed, diverted and canceled flights. But, I think most importantly, airline workers should be sympathetic, make an effort to smile and say I’m sorry for your delay, and offer a blanket or a cell phone charger. Home is where we all want to be after the trip is over! Really, “there really is no place like home!”

Cherish the many faces of love

What is a soul mate? The dictionary says it is: One of two persons compatible with each other in disposition, point of view, or sensitivity. I am quite certain we have more than one soul mate! We are full of all kinds of love; the love for our children, parents, significant other, friends, spiritual love…

Ahh love! I am a romantic at heart! I love to escape into a good romance; Jane Austen is a favorite of mine. And to think, she never married and died at 41! Tragic I think because she wrote of love and like me, craved romance. Austin wrote, “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” The thing about love is it’s easy to get your head stuck in the clouds! I married young, full of romantic ideas. Thinking life would be like a Jane Austen novel! It started out like one, a rescue! What girl doesn’t want to be rescued!

My husband, Derek was my John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility rescuing me from my locked out apartment (yes there is more to that story, but I only share that with people who know me really, really well)! Let me just say it was love at first sight and the romance began!

We would travel (yes, some), cook and drink (absolutely), and have lots of sex (Yes). After the honeymoon I checked marriage off the list and went on to focus on work, check. A little more travel and onto children, check, check! Hello reality! There is no time for romance like there is at the beginning of a relationship when everything is new and you have lots of time for sky rockets in flight afternoon delight!

Jane Austen had all the time in the world to keep her head up in the clouds! It was a different time! We get so busy at work and at home. We get involved in other peoples lives: coworkers, girlfriends, playdates…Our relationship with our husband or significant other can take a back seat. We spend a lot of time apart and confide in those people that we share our day with. But when nourishing that relationship even if only a quick break in the day we find ourselves alone, this reminds us of what brought us together and we can reconnect, and indulge in some romance (if only for a little while).

Investing in nurturing the love you have for your family, girlfriends, and husband is necessary for a happy heart I think.

You know those really good girlfriends you have that you might not talk to all the time but when you reconnect, you pick up right where you left off. Well, they are a gift! I’m one of those people who has just a handful of really close friends and I need each of them and would walk across hot coals for them any day!

Did you ever notice after college how hard it is to make friends and find people you have things in common with? Yes, you can put yourself out there in all kinds of uncomfortable situations! You can join moms groups and clubs galore but I think it’s rare to find a soul mate in a friend and when we do we must cherish that friendship! Ultimately, we have to make our own sorority in life! We need our relationships to stay sane in this crazy busy thing called motherhood! Just like in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the sisters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret had each other and their mother to get them through their ups and downs of romantic woes.

We need more than just one kind of love; the love of our friends, family, and soul mate make us complete. My husband and I take advantage of our small windows together. This is key in a relationship I believe. I’ve said this before, my Dad’s best advice, give great effort! Well…we have to put forth the effort to foster our relationships or they fizzle, no?

My husband is my best friend, my soul mate, my missing Pac-man piece! Together we make a great team. I want my children to see how important it is to care for our relationships (both friends and family). I say “I love you” when I feel it instead of reserving it for a special time. My daughter loves to see Mommy and Daddy kissing and hugging. It makes her happy to know we love each other! So…go on call your girlfriends, kiss your soul mate, say I love you, and put forth the effort. That’s Amore!”

Birthday Monsters

You’re not awake. It’s 6 o’clock. You hear a ring. You hear KNOCK KNOCK. You hear the door come crashing down- THE BIRTHDAY MONSTERS ARE IN TOWN!”

This is the beginning of my daughter’s favorite book of the moment, Birthday Monsters! By Sandra Boynton. Zooey recently turned three and our house was visited by the “birthday monsters” for about a week! We waited for them on the porch, we looked for them in the kitchen, under the beds, in the closets…This is a game she came up with! She was determined to find those “birthday monsters”!

It seems they only came when she was asleep leaving behind a mess of wrapping paper and crumbs from an eaten cake. Zooey was so excited about her birthday! She would say for weeks, “My birthday is coming up soon!” When it finally arrived she wanted to know, “Is my birthday down now?” Well, her birthday was on a Tuesday and her party not until Saturday. So…Zooey’s birthday and the “birthday monsters” stayed DOWN for about a week!

Who are the monsters? In Sandra Boynton’s book, they come make a giant whirlwind of a mess, leave with the presents and cake, then come back to clean up. I think the “birthday monsters” are real! They could be a number of things: a wild birthday girl, grandparents spoiling your child, you spending too much money on a birthday party…Poor pathetic parents (myself included)! Always cleaning and working so hard to make time with their child special, meaningful, and unforgettable.

Kids just want to feel special with the simple things. My 2nd graders want to share cupcakes with their class and have “Happy Birthday” sung to them! My three year old wants cupcakes too, but more important are balloons and lollipops! I think children don’t care as long as they’re having fun with their friends and Mom and Dad are smiling with them. Simplicity with a heaping cup of thoughtfulness is the best, always!

I remember my birthday parties; they were homey parties with a splash of extra love and care my Mom always threw in. I like home! I like to bake my own cupcakes, do my own planning, and try to make it about family and friends celebrating my child’s special day. Like Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, there’s no place like home! This is true for birthdays but also the holidays. Think about the memories you have of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, The Fourth of July…!

It’s all about the food, right! The kitchen provides the ambience: good smells coming from the oven, music and laughter in the background, good conversations with family and friends, a nice cup of something. That’s contentment! I remember being in the kitchen with my mom baking vanilla cupcakes, I’m sure that is what heaven will smell like! Whenever I smell cupcakes, memories of Mom’s kitchen come into my mind. I hope I can do that for my children.

Cooking is one of the very best ways I can think of to show my love for my family and friends. I love to see my daughter and son’s round tummy pooching out! I know it is full of love and I am content knowing I made what went into that adorable pooch! As cheesy as it may sound I think the secret ingredient that makes anything taste divine is love.

The “birthday monsters” come and go, but what lasts are the memories. When Zooey asks me with a giant smile, “Mommy, do I smell cupcakes?” I know I’ve made her happy with a simple birthday pleasure and she will remember the smell! Smells have a way of getting stuck in your memory. You know what I’m talking about! Now, go make something yummy and feed your child’s belly with love. And if Daddy eats the leftovers you can call him a “birthday monster”!

Birthday Monster Cupcakes
2 C cake flour
2 t baking powder
¼ t salt
½ C whole milk
2 t vanilla
1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ C sugar
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Using a stand mixer, beat butter with the paddle on medium speed until creamy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Drizzle in eggs one at a time. Add dry ingredients a little at a time alternating with milk and vanilla. Beat just until combined. Pour batter into lined muffin tins using an ice cream scoop. Bake 18-20 minutes.

Cream cheese frosting
1 stick softened unsalted butter
8 oz pkg. softened cream cheese.
4 C powdered sugar
1T vanilla

Mix butter and cream cheese together and gradually add powdered sugar beating until smooth and creamy. Stir in 1T vanilla. After frosting cupcakes, sprinkle with coconut. (At Christmas we freeze the cupcakes then roll in coconut and call them snowballs).