WKU Volleyball Camp

Last Monday, not just Bunny, but also Ladybug, attended Western Kentucky University’s volleyball camp. Bunny is an old pro, but this was Ladybug’s first experience, and they both had a great time!

A St. Louis Celebration

I, the Queen of the Wild Hair, decided that even though Ryan is currently in London for work, the Fab Five and I should go downtown today, for the rally celebrating the St. Louis Blues first Stanley Cup championship. So we got on the train. And even though our stop is pretty early in the line, we had to stand. And as the train got closer to the city, more and more Blues fans got on, until it reached maximum capacity, something I had never previously experienced. But everyone was in a good mood, and it was a fun ride!

We headed for Kiener Plaza, and then the Arch grounds, when we arrived, so we could hang out with several hundred thousand of our closest friends. We didn’t plan on seeing the parade, and we couldn’t stay for the whole rally, but we wanted to be there, and see at least part of it. And we definitely weren’t disappointed!

Some of my favorite moments included stumbling across a musician playing “Gloria,” hearing the Charles Glenn Group perform many different numbers (including Don’t Stop Believin’, with a St. Louis twist that I’m sure would annoy Detroit Redwings fans), and hearing a barge tow on the Mississippi River get the “Let’s Go Blues” chant going (as did pretty much every car stuck in gridlock downtown). And I’m almost certain that at this point, the city of St. Louis is out of beer, because if the Blues players didn’t drink it all, their fans did, but it was an affable crowd, and no one was belligerent or rude…everyone was in a festive mood, and having a great time! I definitely hope we get to do this again sometime, but I doubt anything will come close to matching the energy of that first championship!

40 Of My Favorite Things

In honor of my “Second 39th Birthday,” I thought I’d put together a list of 40 of my favorite things. I’ve been working on it for months–adding to it, taking things away, rearranging, trying to figure out what deserves to be here. It’s like an epic Top Five list! Some are serious, some are things I seriously love, and some are whimsical. If you don’t know me very well, or even if you do, it’s a great snapshot of the things I love the best!

  • Family–If this list wasn’t limited to a set number, I’d list each member of my family individually. But I have a big family, so my list would disappear pretty fast if I did! So I will just say that I love my entire family dearly, and they are definitely the best part of my life.
  • Easter Vigil–Without question, the Great Vigil of Easter is my favorite church service of the year, even more than Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. The transition from darkness to light, the joyful moment the Lord’s resurrection is celebrated…it is, to me, as close to Heaven as I can get in this earthly life.
  • Albert–My black lab pound puppy, who is over three decades old himself, originally belonged to Ryan when he was a little boy. I’m not exaggerating when I say this one stuffed animal is my most precious material possession!
  • Animal Crossing–I’ve played this series of video games since the very first one (and every version since). They’re really the only video games I like to play and the only ones I’m really good at, probably because they’re fun and happy, and not stressful or even competitive, really. I can’t wait for Animal Crossing: New Horizons to come out next year!
  • Friends–I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched through the entire run of this show, but all these years later, it’s still one of my favorites, especially in November, when I always watch all of the Thanksgiving episodes.
  • Star Trek–I have my favorites within the Star Trek franchise (Deep Space Nine will always be number one, with Next Generation a close second), but I love it all…as long as it’s prior to the reboot. And to be honest, I’m still not sure about Nemesis. But I love the rest of it, even the Original Series, which may be completely hokey, but is fun to make fun of!
  • History–I have my favorite periods of time to study (medieval/Renaissance and mid-century are at the top of my list), but I love learning about the flow of history in general, and learning how past things influence people and events, and I especially love teaching it in school!
  • Lego–A toy that I played with as a child came back in a big way into my adult life when I had children of my own. And then came back in an even bigger way when I discovered that it’s ok to be an AFOL (adult fan of Lego)…I started building and displaying sets myself, and I love that it’s something that the whole family can share!
  • Chicago–The most beautiful city I have ever seen in person, Chicago will always be one of my favorites, and I’ve come to treasure our yearly (and occasionally more frequent) trips up north.
  • St. Louis–I originally didn’t really want to live in St. Louis permanently, but life has a funny way of making other plans, and now I can’t think of any place I’d rather be! This city, home of the 2019 Stanley Cup champions St. Louis Blues, has such an interesting history (which we learned about in great detail during the STL250 year) and culture, plus so many favorite spots that I can’t imagine not living near!
  • London–I may never have seen London in person (although I hope to fix that someday), but I love it, and when I do see it for myself, there’s a good chance it may take over Chicago’s space in my heart as the world’s most beautiful city!
  • Christmas–The day, the season, I love it all…I even finally visited the World’s Largest Christmas Store just last week! I love the preparation during the season of Advent, the twinkling lights on the tree, and selecting and wrapping gifts for loved ones, and planning special holiday meals, and listening to Christmas music, both sacred and secular, and everything else about that festive season, especially the celebrating of Jesus’ birth!
  • Capers–Yes, I will try a new recipe just because capers are an ingredient…but there’s a good chance I’ll at least triple the amount the recipe calls for! It’s become a family joke that I’m always on the lookout for capers (especially the giant ones Schnucks occasionally sells, or the even more giant ones in the salad bar at Texas de Brazil!).
  • My Wardrobe–Originally, I was going to say fashion, which I do appreciate. But what I love more than fashion in general is the wardrobe I’ve curated (yes, like art!), over the years, with pieces from all my vintage reproduction favorites: Pinup Girl Clothing, Splendette, and Erstwilder.
  • Giraffes–Everyone has a favorite animal, right? Giraffes are mine. They’re so tall and leggy, and you’d think they’d be totally awkward, but they have a grace and gentleness, and they’re so sweet!
  • Apollo 13–This has been my favorite movie for a long time, starring my favorite actor (Tom Hanks), and I watch it at least once every year, on New Year’s Eve.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden–It took us a long time to visit the Garden for the first time, but once we did, we were hooked, and we’ve had a membership ever since. It’s one of my favorite places to walk around, at any time of year, because it’s always beautiful!
  • Beast Craft BBQ–Originally, Seamus McDaniel’s, the home of the best burger in St. Louis was going to be on this list. Heck, not only did I create a family holiday for Seamus, I was even on the news once, to talk about how great they are! But then I looked back at my website, and at how many times I’ve reviewed different Beast specials over the 4+ years they’ve been in Belleville, and I realized that out of all of the local restaurants I’ve eaten at, they’re my very favorite!
  • Cooking/Baking…especially for family feasts and tea parties!–I love preparing special meals and treats for my family, and trying new things along the way.
  • Baseball–Obviously, the St. Louis Cardinals are my favorite. But I also just love the sport, so we’ve visited other major and minor league ballparks on our travels, seen Frontier League games, and even caught a few outings of vintage baseball!
  • Olympics–I have always said there’s no Olympic sport I won’t watch, whether it’s a winter or summer event. Sure, I have my favorites (gymnastics, figure skating, skeleton), but I just love the games, from the Opening to the Closing Ceremonies, and every last thing in between…I’ve literally watched it all, even more than one marathon in its entirety!
  • Books–I love books of all kinds…fiction, non-fiction, series, children’s books…and I really love how books have become the foundation of so many happy family memories (Harry Potter, anyone?)!
  • Royal Families–Originally, I was going to say “The Royal Family”…as in the British royals. But Ryan pointed out that my interest extends to all of the European royals (and even some royal families outside of The Continent)…I’m just fascinated by the workings of a royal family in general! (Although the Brits, and especially Queen Elizabeth II, will always be number one to me…)
  • “Six Tudor Queens” Series–It has been over a decade since I liked a book series so much that I anxiously looked forward to the next installment every year. Added bonus: I have also been introduced to more of Alison Weir’s books, including non-fiction titles, which is a major win!
  • Downton Abbey–Given that I love history and royal families, it should be no surprise that I love a period drama about the British nobility, and I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the movie later this year. We’ve even traveled to Nashville to see a special fashion of Downton Abbey exhibit, and if the big exhibit ever comes within driving distance of St. Louis, we’ll travel again!
  • Old Time Radio–I used to hide my love of Old Time Radio, because I thought it was something I should be embarrassed of. But I’ve learned to embrace it, and now I have no problem with anyone knowing I love listening to Jack Benny, Fibber McGee & Molly, Burns & Allen, and any number of other programs…and now the Fab Five love them, too!
  • Photography–I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures, but in the last few years, I’ve really loved learning how to take better pictures. I hope I’m always continually improving and finding new ways to capture special people, places, and moments in a photo.
  • White Christmas–Yes, it’s my favorite Christmas movie, but let’s be honest…I can be convinced to watch it any time of year! I love the setting, the clothes, the music, the dancing, and did I mention the setting? Plus, Bing Crosby!
  • Mister Rogers–Who doesn’t love Mister Rogers, right? Just turning on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood has an immediately calming effect on me, and it makes me so happy that I’ve been able to share the show with my children!
  • Pheasant Run–This resort in the Chicagoland area was a place I often heard of growing up…but I never even saw it back then. Now, however, it’s become a very special place to our family, first as the home of Combo Breaker (which we’ve attended four times), and more recently, as a great Christmas getaway!
  • Rick Steves’ Europe–I frequently dream of going to Europe, and I hope that dream comes true someday. But until then, Rick Steves helps me feel like I’ve been there through his TV show.
  • Blogging–I’ve been blogging for over a decade now, and I love having the chance to share my views and experiences with whoever happens to be reading, as well as keep a record of all of the things we’ve been up to.
  • Bob Ross–Along with Mister Rogers and Rick Steves, Bob Ross is another PBS personality who has brought much joy to my life through his show. And his encouraging words even make me feel like I could actually paint a beautiful picture!
  • I Love Lucy–This show may have been the gateway to my love of all things retro, and it’s still my favorite black and white TV show. I’ve watched every episode more times than I can count, I never get sick of it, and it always, always makes me laugh!
  • Ticket to Ride–The Ticket to Ride series of board games is my favorite family of board games. Of course I have a favorite within the series (Nordic Countries, or as I like to call it, Ticket to Ride: Christmas Edition), but I love all the maps (and I can’t wait to play the new London map that’s scheduled for release this summer!), and it’s so much fun to “travel the world” while playing!
  • Food Network–I love watching the Food Network on cable TV when we travel, or on Hulu at home…I even love the Food Network magazine! I’ve gotten so many good ideas over the years, and now the children love watching with me, too!
  • Tiramisu–This is my very favorite dessert, and I love it in all its forms…traditional, cheesecake (my favorite thing to get at the Cheesecake Factory!), trifle, and the layer cake I make (often for my birthday). It’s so delicious!
  • Cabana Bay–The location of last year’s summer vacation didn’t make the original cut of this list, but Turkey pointed out that he had never seen me so happy as when we were there, and I willingly admit that it was literally like they looked inside my head when they designed it, so I had to bump the Rat Pack (who featured heavily on the resort’s speaker system) in favor of my favorite hotel ever!
  • Skee Ball–If an arcade has skee ball, it’s a winner in my book…but you may have a hard time getting me to leave!
  • Pineapples–My favorite fruit (I think I could sit down and eat an entire pineapple by myself!), and my favorite code word for trouble (from Chuck)!

Albert’s Story

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned my very most important material possession before. His name is Albert.

Albert is a black lab Pound Puppy (remember those?). He has become a member of our family, because I have created a story about him since we can’t have a dog as a pet due to allergies.

When I went away to college, I missed my dog, a miniature black poodle named Mitzi. During one of the first weeks of school, I went to the nearest Toys R Us (of blessed memory) to look for a black pound puppy, to remind me of her. I knew that Pound Puppies were making a comeback (I had a brown spotted lab when I was a child, complete with cardboard box dog house and red collar), so I thought maybe I could find one. I think maybe the stores had Pound Puppies, but not a black one, and I didn’t want to settle, so I left empty-handed.

Anyway, time rolled on. Ryan and I started dating that fall. And as we got to know each other, I discovered that he had brought to college with him…wait for it…a black lab pound puppy. It was a childhood memento that he had kept and brought to college with him. And before spring break of our freshman year, when we were going to be apart, he gave his stuffed dog to me.

Obviously, I never gave him back. I never needed to! And I gave him a name at some point along the line. I actually went through a phase of giving inanimate objects names that ended in “Bert”…there was a Hubert, and Herbert, and I don’t know what else. But Albert…that stuck, and Albert stuck around. He has accompanied us through all of our moves (five), and on some trips. And the children have been raised with him, and the stories I tell about him (including those about his job as a somewhat reluctant watch dog while we’re away from home), which has added to his personality. So even though some adults might think it’s ridiculous that I have a stuffed dog, he is important to our family, and we all love him, and the family history he represents.

So that’s the story of Albert. Sometimes, I have a secret dream of writing books about his adventures with our family. Since I have no talent as an illustrator, I doubt that will ever happen, but I do know this…he has a story, and it’s a fun story to tell!

Combo Breaker 2019

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a week since Combo Breaker 2019 began! Here’s a look back at some of my favorite moments, including some shots taken during the Tekken 7 Top Eight, which I think was my favorite game to watch this year:

The best part was Ryan being on staff this year. He worked really hard the entire time we were there (we barely even got to see him), but he also got to be part of something really great!

We’re already looking forward to Combo Breaker 2020!!!

Unexpected on Ascension Day

Tonight, the children’s choir sang for the last time of the season, as they do on Ascension Day. I went into the service assuming that for the first time since we joined the choir, none of our children would be receiving an award (although Ladybug is testing for a new level next month). You can imagine my surprise, then, when Moose received his very first RSCM medal…and not even he knew he was getting it! I’m so very proud of him!

Twelve!

Today is Ladybug’s 12th birthday!

We got an early start to the day, so she could open her presents before breakfast. She received a lot of new Lego: Avengers sets, which she was very excited about. She had, however, figured out what our gift to her was before she opened it, which was disappointing to me.

She planned out every detail of her day, which involved watching a lot of Avengers movies (including Iron Man and The Avengers), plus the Lego Movie 2. I was a big fan of the dinner she chose, because it’s also my favorite…Reuben casserole. And she picked a very chocolaty cake for dessert, filled with both dark and white chocolate mousse, and topped with a whipped chocolate ganache. I couldn’t resist adding trick candles!

I think it was a very fun birthday…I hope she had as good a time as I did!

Six Months Later…

Today marks the sixth month anniversary of that dark day when I broke my ankle. At the time, six months might as well have been an eternity, but to be honest, it now seems like a lifetime ago that it happened!

So, how have the last sixth months been? The first two weeks were the worst pain of my life, and that includes the recovery period from each of the FIVE c-sections I’ve had. I truly wondered if it would ever feel better, if I would ever be able to stand up without dealing with ridiculous amounts of burning pain ever again, would ever be able to walk like I used to again. Not to mention, would my foot/ankle/leg ever look normal again?!? Seriously, it was gruesome:

Fortunately, all of that is a distant memory. It was really like a flip switched after the first two weeks, and my recovery went pretty quickly after that, and I was even able to think about fashion again! I was out of the CAM boot just before Christmas, started my physical therapy, which thankfully I was able to do at home, and was done with the ankle brace about a month after that. It became clear to me pretty quickly that I was able to walk the long distances I was used to, in about the same amount of time that I previously did, that I could climb things to take photographs, and that I could do my normal housework without any limitations or difficulties.

Today, most of the lingering issues I have are all in my head. I have a moment of terror every time I start walking down a flight of stairs, remembering how my ankle twisted under me and snapped that day six months ago. I am super careful about each step I take, each placement of my feet, especially the left one. I also get a little paranoid every time something touches the left ankle, because I still expect it hurt, even after all this time. I will admit, that I do still have some pain, especially when rain is approaching (which has been pretty much a constant in the St. Louis area this spring), and I wonder sometimes if that’s permanent. If I spend a lot of time on my feet, I still have some residual swelling, too, which I am told is normal. But I was also told when I initially broke the ankle that it could take up to a year for it to return to normal, so hopefully it’s still too soon to tell if any of these inconveniences are my new normal.

It’s funny how traumatic this was when it happened, and how long ago and unimportant it seems now. But, as I look back on the days when I was burdened, first with crutches, then with the knee scooter (there’s no way I would have survived our Christmas trip to Chicago without it!), and CAM boot, I am satisfied with how much I got done, in spite of the pain and the fact that I was moving slow, and how I was able to keep going…and I’m also thankful for the help I had along the way!