Monday, November 30, 2009

From New to Used

A blistery winter storm threatened to coat the outdoors in sleek, dark ice that night. Sleet pelted the windows. The rhythmic sound was broken only by the familiar hum of the TV. And then the phone. Ring!

"Hello?" I asked, picking up the receiver.

"Hello. Is this the home of John Schmackton?" an unfamiliar voice questioned.

"It is. May I ask who's calling?"

"Is he of legal age?" the voice hedged.

I paused before responding. "Legal for what?"

"Well, legal. Over the age of 18?" He seemed anxious. Quick to get on with the conversation.

Was this a prank call? Was this one of my husband's employees, calling in sick for the following day due to weather ... already?

"Who is this?" I insisted.

"My name is Dave Crafton. I'm calling on behalf of the St. Louis Auto Association. Is John home?"

I took the telephone downstairs to the home office and handed it to John. As I passed over the phone, I informed John who was on the other end. I climbed back up the stairs to my position in front of the Fisher Price barn alongside my two year-old twins. And then my imagination started to run wild.

The night before, John had taken the kids to the Auto Show. Did he leave something there? His wallet? The stroller? How would they have known to call him over a stroller? Had he won a car? That's the only thing I knew they gave away at the Auto Show. A vehicle. I listened from my post at the top of the stairs, but no clues wafted up. Until ...


He had won a Dodge Durango. From the St. Louis Auto Show.

Five months pregnant with our third child, we'd begun looking at options for our family's robin's egg blue Dodge Grand Caravan. New tires were necessary. Bucket seats would be optimal for managing three small kids in and out of car seats. But as a single-income family by choice, we also chose to manage our finances. Out of necessity. And tires and bucket seats were not on the grocery list.

Then, suddenly, I was driving around town in a new Dodge Grand Caravan. Brand new tires. Bucket seats. Heated leather seats. Moon roof. Automatic doors and lift gate. The. lap. of. minivan luxury.

John had taken the Dodge Durango prize and traded in for a decked out minivan for his pregnant wife. I happily drove that van for six years. It was the nicest vehicle I'd ever owned. And we'd won it. At the 2004 St. Louis Auto Show. The Auto Show that John had left with two year-old twins in tow before realizing he'd meant to register for the Durango they were giving away. And he returned. From the exit gate at the outskirts of the building to the 50 yard-line in the center of the Edward Jones Dome. To fill out one slip. With his name, address, phone number. Slipped into a giant metal drum. To be chosen. Out of thousands of entries. On a stormy winter night. The winner. Of a brand new Dodge.

It had been the answer to prayer.
To be continued...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just a Few of My Favorite Things

I've been working on a post for a while now about some of my favorite things. (I feel like Oprah, only I don't do the give-aways!) This post isn't exhaustive, but I haven't put anything up for a while, so I thought I'd start with a couple (rather than a few!).

I recently ordered stationery and Mommy cards from Vana @ Yes, I can make my own stationery, and several of you out there received Mommy cards from me last year that, yes, I had made. But not like This girl's got the market cornered on silhouettes. And ya'll know I love me a good silhouette!

Also, I have found a gal who makes the most beautiful jewelry for an absolute steal! Pookie and I have been searching the globe for a monogram necklace and Kara is the only person in the world (and believe me, I have looked) who can make the perfect monogram necklace. And get this. She does it for pennies above cost. Can you believe that? All I have to do is measure Pookie's neck while she sleeps and tell Kara what color beads I want to hang alongside the sweet li'l K she's making for my diva, and we'll have a beautiful necklace under the tree for Pookie Christmas morning!

Another item I'm loving is my new circle address label self-inking stamp! I dunno if these guys are related to me or not, but has them for the lowest price I've found. And mine turned out just perfect! I can't wait to get started stamping all these Christmas cards that have already come in! And isn't this the perfect gift? Personalized, useful, clever, creative, trendy. All wrapped up in one li'l box. Yup. Lovin' it.

Somewhere I have pictures, of these, but I ran in the Jingle Bell Run this morning, and I'm really starting to fade, so rather than scope out pictures I may never find tonite, I'll rattle on and look for visual proof another day...but please believe me when I tell you has THE BEST, most cheapest, awesomest gift ever. A photo collage (size 8x11 for $3.99). I made one recently for the principal of our school. I framed it in my best 40% off Michael's frame ($9, people). He told me it was 'the nicest piece of artwork' he'd ever received. It looked that good. For $13. HELLO! I'm going back through ALL our old and current digital photos and printing out Christmas photos and collages to make a new gallery on my entry wall. I'm super thrilled!

And our photo book of Chicago (also from Walgreens) has been a total hit! All the kids have studied that, and turned the pages, and shared it with each other and their dad (and me, too!) for hours and hours and hours!!!

So, there you have it. A few of my favorite things.

Well, these and 5Ks are also my new favorite. I can totally run 3.1 miles in stripey fur-trimmed socks and reindeer antlers and not feel like I am dying (which I guess I already knew). PLUS, The Mister and I both kicked our PR! WooHoo! You gotta love that! And I'm signing up for another 5K in the very near future - a once in a lifetime opportunity to run down one of St. Louis' finest new highways! Oh. And come April, I am making this official. I will be running the Nashville Country Music Full Marathon. (The Good Lord willing.) But, that's never gonna be one of my FAVORITE things. That's just a midlife crisis.

Monday, November 16, 2009


As moms, we go about most of our daily business without a ton of fanfare. Most days I get by without accolades and "attaboys," but once in a while, it would probably feel nice to have someone tell you, "That brussel sprout you forced me to mush in my mouth and swallow against my very last will was AWESOME! Mom, YOU RAWK. I wanna be just like you when I grow up and force MY kids to eat brussel sprouts JUST LIKE YOU!"

Career Day. I see it now. The Stay-At-Home-Mom shares her tricks of peppering that spaghetti sauce with extra fragments of carrots and peas with energetic, wide-eyed youth - the moms of tomorrow!

And the reality is, it just ain't so. But most days, I'm OK with that. I have been called and fully blessed to diaper duty, vomit duty, dog diarrhea duty, and laundry and dusting and taxiing duty. (Among the other duties...). I am meditating this week on the Bible verse from Proverbs 14:1 which states that a wise woman builds up her house.

Last night it hit me. She doesn't just build the HOUSE, but she builds up the people in the house. Some days I'm very good at that task. Other days I spend more time mending the mistakes I've made. But last night, I decided to build these little people up for a job well done. I took out a purple marker and scrap paper and wrote them a note:

This morning Meiners told me he had something to show me. He pulled me past his door where he had cemented my lovenote with 8 miles of black electrical tape I must have left out. He led me to my bedroom door. There, he had posted this:

Translation: Oh Mommy. Love your room Mommy. Matt.

I nearly cried. It meant everything to me. That a little 5 year-old would tell me my room looks pretty. That my note meant enough to him that he felt compelled to write one of his own.

The experts tell us to consider their hugs to be our salary. Their smiles and requests to read books and play games and snuggle as our bonuses. Their full tummies and sleepy eyes as our pats on the back for a job well done. Sometimes, sometimes I just see those things as the physical filling up of my personal space (hello - spit up on my clothes AGAIN?!). And sometimes. The right times. The blessed times. I see them for exactly what they are.

I am paid in full.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Never Before

Never before have I successfully taken the Christmas photo before Thanksgiving. Never before have I completed my Christmas card order this early!

We took Daddy along today. And, although Pookie's telltale Diva-style poses were absent, joyful and childlike laughter shook their bellies and lit up their faces. No one cried. Mom didn't yell.

And I saved 35% off my Snapfish order simply by Googling coupons! Which means the extra 25 cards I told myself last year in my then-new 2009 calendar that I would need this year to have enough - were free!!!

Love it!

Now to place an American Girl order...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Letting Me Be Me

Nothing says Veteran's Day like Christmas pictures, so in a minute I'll show you some of the hilarity I tried to render into sweetly innocent Christmas card expressions this afternoon, arguing with the sun to keep itself aloft for just a wee bit more of its soft glow hitting upon yonder barn.

But first, thank you for letting me be me. Here on the blog. Me sure ain't perfect. I think I'm the farthest thing from perfect on the planet. But my mama always did tell me I was way too critical of myself, so perhaps I'm just shy of Pluto, really. Or that N1R2s;fihjse[orijt b planet they just found out there. (or was that the flu...I forget).

Anywho, if you sent me a note recently (or called --- Kimberly!) - THANK YOU! I haven't gotten back to you because I've turned into PTO Photographer extraordinaire again this week, snapping 350 pictures of Al Hrabosky and FredBird at the school assembly Monday. It wasn't bad enough last year that I took hundreds of pictures, now I know a tiny bit about Photoshopping them - and MAN can it take up a life if you're trying to get your photoboards out before the kids forget that Al Hrabrosky and Fredbird came to visit...and if you aren't from StL, then you have NO idea who those two are...but nonetheless, just know it was big! And I finished them today. Now I just have to catch up on Fall Festival and the Run/Walk (Hello September?!).

But, I digress.

Yes, Here has been Ugly for a while. And yet, perhaps part of the healing is in admitting you have a problem? Hi. My name is Karin and I'm living on Autopilot? Or Hi, my name is Ugly. (Not to make light of any 12-step programs.) Call it sunnier weather, call it self-acknowledgement, call it taking Gramma's advice and starting a vitamin regimine, or call it God. But things have been better. My Women's Bible Study group has been reviewing Power of a Positive Mom by Karol Ladd since school started. I've read it before, so I chose to finish my Lysa Terkeurst journey before getting back into the Positive book again. I've been attending the studies - and leaving feeling GUILTY every time. Then last week, I thought to myself, wow I wish I had some sort of book on spurring on a positive attitude. I then hit myself in my V-8 head and pulled out my book. I'm off to read some more of it now. But first, here's to taking four kids to the park by yourself for the 30 minutes remaining of daylight before 6PM karate when no one's eaten and ... well ... roll tape:

It all started out innocently enough...

Then someone decided to start practicing the wildly popular I-sit-down-and-do-karate.

And someone else started impersonating historical figures.

Well here, writing on the photos is easier...

it pays to make the font bigger...

Friday, November 6, 2009


I'm not really sure how to start this post - or really even where it's conclusion is - but I'll do what I do best. When stuck between a rock and a hard place, I just start talking. Think Balloon Boy's Dad. Did you see how he just started yapping after the truth slipped out - and somebody tooted - he just started talking nonsense.

Anyway, that's actually completely unrelated to anything I'm trying to say - except for the just start talking part. Eventually you'll get to the end. It may make you sweat - or toot -but eventually, you get out of it. Right?

I feel like I'm on autopilot lately. I'm going through the motions and they aren't even enjoyable motions. They just are. Motions. Open dishwasher. Take out dishes. Fill dish washer. Repeat. Sort laundry. Open washer. Take out clothes. Fold clothes. Repeat. I'm always tired. I'm always crabby. With the kids. I'm always impatient. With the kids. I'm always apologizing. To the kids. Always. Always. Always.

I'll just be honest with you. I'm not sure how to snap out of it. My husband would say, "Just do it." Is that just a logical mind? Is that plausible? Do you just turn off the faucet and move on with your life?

For the most part, I wake up in the morning and start fresh. It usually goes pretty well. At first. Then kids start dragging their feet. Or ignoring my reasonable requests. And pretty soon, frustration leads to Ugly. And I tire of asking them to pick their pjs up off the living room floor. 3X. Or to get their shoes on. Over and over. And soon enough the baby is screaming because I pulled her hair while brushing it and I won't give her her binky in the car and she wanted to sit in the backseat instead of her carseat. Screaming. And arching. And screaming.


So what do you do when you feel like you're in a pit. Flying close to the earth. Truthfully, flying haphazardly and dangerously close to the horizon. When really you just strive to be good enough. Not Top Gun material. Just able to fly at all.

I'd stop there. But it sounds so desperate. Am I at the bottom of the barrel and can't find a way out? No. Absolutely not. But I used to be the fast blinker in the Acura of life...

After dating only a short time, JT and I sat at a red light in his
blue Acura Integra in a small college town. The
blinker indicating left turn went AWOL, wildly clicking away with a
short in its circuit. The right turn signal paced at a slower
rhythm. JT laughed and likened my high spirited energy to that of the
left turn blinker. His to the right side.

Nowadays? Nowadays I have energy about 10 minutes a day. You laugh. Or at the very least think I'm kidding. ...OK, so I exaggerate a little. It's more like 5 minutes. Twice a day.

This from the mom who held her baby upright on the couch night after night catching the reflux in a burp cloth or on my night shirt. Giving breathing treatments around the clock or heading to the ER - always at 2 in the morning. The mom who regularly is woken to the quiet look of a child needing a hug or a dog that has diarrhea or the mom who just wakes up. Because apparently as you age, you do that.

I'm tired. And tired of being tired. And I'm a night owl. Always have been. Try to change. Seems like the nights I go to bed earlier, I get woken more often. More tired.

Tired of being tired. Tired of being cranky. Tired of snapping. Tired of running on autopilot with a frown on my face. I have every reason to be happy and upbeat and energetic and the mom I always dreamed I'd be.


So how do you do it? How do you take back control of the plane and use your broken blinker again?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Popular Art

I have aspiring artists in my midst. Do you, too? When they work so diligently on their pieces at school and bring them home en masse, what do you do with all that artistic papery goodness?

Pile it up?

Recycle it?

I realized today there is an overflowing box of previously-used frames in my basement. And an overflowing pile of school art on my counter. And a completely empty pallate on our half-wall leading to the basement. When these three strangers meet, here's what becomes of their instant friendship:

I love it! And The Man even complimented the look upon arriving home from The Office. Now you know it's good!

Here's the new view from our front door!

It felt so much better to keep their hardwork - and now display it for all to see - while re-emphasizing that this is a home where we all live, a la The Nester.

Monday, November 2, 2009

An Untraditional Halloween

Our goal for Halloween this year became making it especially memorable. We chose to keep Pookie home from school the day her classmates were vaccinated against H1N1 with FluMist and for 48 hours after the dosing - as FluMist is a live virus administered in the nose, and the virus sheds for 1-2 days after it is given. Because no one in our household can receive FluMist - and the standard shot option was yet to become available - we opted to keep the boys out of school, as well. Unfortunately, it was Halloween Party Day.

See our Princess Leia, Karate Master, ex-Elmo, and Fruitbat with their dad?

After some initial tears from the kids and Divine intervention with The Man's job, we packed up the kids and headed to Chicago! Although they missed the time with their friends, we enjoyed a super weekend making extra special family memories. Here were some of the highlights:

Our view of the Magnificent Mile from our hotel was spectacular! We spent hours staring out the window, watching cars drive past - even a few boats floated by on the Chicago River! The best was when all four kids gathered around the window to watch the city lights while they drifted off to sleep!

We visited Shedd Aquarium - one of my absolute favorite places to visit in the world!

-- and I think I have a budding lover of all things marine biology in my midst --

She wants to swim with the dolphins in Australia when she's old enough - Don't worry, Sweetie. So do I. So do I.
We shopped downtown and ended Halloween with a glimpse of the Navy Pier's final fireworks show of the season!

Add to that a trip to The Museum of Science and Industry, Gino's deep dish pizza, the Rock-n-Roll McDonald's, and the John Hancock Skydeck, I think it was definitely a Halloween (weekend) to remember!
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