Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's On, Ladies

October 1! It's here!

That means that all things Halloween are finally legal in the Starnes household.

Know what else that means? A trip to the pumpkin patch is in our near future. Be ready for yours by visiting this link. State by state listings of patches, Autumn recipes, Halloween goodies and more.

Let's take a look back at our punkins in the patch last year, shall we? My goodness, they're cute. If you don't agree, don't tell me. I'll never know the difference because I'm their mother.

And, a more accurate photo from that photo shoot. This is right about the time Jack started pointing at us while screaming, "Noooo!" when he became frustrated. Always lovely while out in public.

I'll be starting my "Fall Favorites" again this evening. Will be writing from the ICU in Dallas while I visit Caroline. Many will likely overlap from last year because, well, they're favorites of mine. And, they are carried out each season. So, if you're seen one before, just smile and act surprised.

Yesterday, the little ones joined me for our last Farmer's Market trip of the year. I know. What will I do for fresh veggies? I guess Target stock will be going up soon seeing as how much I cook. Might want to add some to your portfolio in consideration of the holiday season approaching.

Back to the market. Look at all the beauty we found:

Mums are on the schedule for next week. Lots of spucing up and removing of Lantana, which is threatening to take over our yard. Love that flower, but it's time to go.

Hello, cutie pie pumpkins. I do so love the first sight of you each year.

Jack and Lainey each held our carving pumpkins en route to the car. Between these, the 3 large ones on my mantle, and those scattered over the balcony and patio, we're at capacity.

After shopping, we took a walk through downtown and listened to the band.

Get down, girl. Go ahead, get down. Lainey is never scared to bust a move.

I love the crowd that gathers here on market days. Lots of kids and nice people.

Walked even further over to the park nearby. The kids love the statues and I enjoy seeing them run around. The weather is so gorgeous here right now. Crisp mornings and a slight warm up throughout the day. Perfect.

Flying out this evening to Big D. Can't wait to see Caroline and have some sister time. Crossed fingers for Blake and the kids!

In Praise Of Blake

I know I married the right man. I may not have known it at the time, but the previous 10 years have confirmed it for sure.

While I'm in Dallas visiting Caroline, he's on kid duty. Plus our sole income, his job. Plus soccer. Plus playground time for 2 very busy little ones.

When I returned from this past trip, he had the house clean, laundry finished, sheets washed, and he even managed to cross a couple of things off our ever-growing list of house projects. It was so comforting to return after 4 days away to everything in its place.

I love the little things he does, too. Look at Lainey's hair:

This is his standard "do". Two ponies, one on top and one in back. He says he likes to put it up so he can see her pretty face.

And, he dresses her well. Lots of women would be happy to see clothes on their kids when Daddy's in charge. Blake goes one step further.

I'm flying out tomorrow and he'll take over again. This weekend includes 2 soccer games and we're on drink duty Sunday. The busiest weekend and he'll be in charge.

So happy to know he can handle it.

So happy to know his efforts aren't just for me.

They're for Caroline, too. Which makes me smile to think about.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Reviews

So, I'm not just a movie nerd, I'm a book nerd, too. A few reviews of some recent reads:

The Lovely Bones - quite interesting due to the perspective alone....told by a 14 year old girl looking down from heaven after being raped and murdered by her neighbor. She watches her family move on, search for the killer, fall apart and cope with their loss. It was a very good read.....couldn't put it down. Definitely one of my favorites of recent years.

Angela's Ashes - a very well written book, but drenched with sadness. Frank is a child living in poverty stricken Ireland, barely surviving due to hunger and illness. It was hard for me to get through.....the loss of children and lack of decency on their father's part was almost too much for me to stomach. But, I would recommend it....just be ready to cry.

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything - took this to La Jolla for vacation. A fun, no-brainer book.....entertaining and quite juicy at times. About a girl coming to terms with her life falling apart financially and career wise....all the while, her family is having their own tragedies. Lots of secrets and lots of fun.

Holidays on Ice - how could David Sedaris do wrong? Never read a book of his I didn't love and this is no exception. It's a fun selection of his holiday-themed short stories, all totally demented and entertaining. One includes his experiences from working as an Elf at Macy's Santaland. Another, a fictional satire of two families out-doing each other with charities, which ends in them both being homeless after giving away their children. As always, pure genius!

The Glass Castle - my latest read and one I'm still recovering from. True story about a couple voluntarily living in poverty while raising children. A very eccentric father....who adores his kids, but his drinking interferes with his intentions. A disturbingly selfish mother whose narcissism is astounding. Three very determined children surviving the chaos. Highly recommend it.

Now, I'm starting Jewel by Bret Lott. Anyone?

Question Of The Week

Way back when......before DVRs and even DVDs existed.....(Sassafrass just play along because I know you are too young to remember such hard times).....people used to sit and watch TV together. My family had a few staples each year - often holiday focused and kid friendly:

The Wizard of Oz
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
Frosty The Snowman
It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Can you remember? My mom used to find them in the TV guide that came in the newspaper. We'd look forward to these specials, gather as a family and watch the program with popcorn and coke. Old school popcorn, made on the stove with real melted butter. Here is the recipe in case you've never made it and if you haven't, step away from the computer and get busy.

Stove Top Popcorn

handful popcorn kernels
vegetable oil
plenty of salt
lots of melted butter

Throw a few kernels in a large, covered pot. Coat the bottom of the pot with about an 1/8 of an inch of cooking oil. Turn heat on medium-high and wait for the few kernels to pop. When they do, add the rest in, again covering the bottom of the pot. Holding the lid on, shake the pot occasionally during heating to prevent burning. When the pops stop, the corn is done and it's time to salt. Don't skimp.....this is a delicacy. Melt butter in the microwave and add it, too, if you wish.

I make stove-top popcorn often for the kids and they love it. Far superior to microwave. Better than movie theater popcorn. Trust me. I'm an expert in this department.

****What shows did you watch as a kid? Any special memories?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dallas, This Past Visit and Current

Hello, friends.

Been here with Caroline since Thursday evening. This trip was better planned and played out entirely more smoothly than the one before, which included a 6 hour stall at the GM dealership in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma with car trouble....only one full day with my sister....and then a middle-of-the-night trek back home when Lainey started vomiting at 2:30am. Knowing I would be allowed no where near the hospital with a virus in one of my kids, I decided to get in the car and drive after Lainey threw up several times and was showing signs of being finished.

Try and picture:

*sweet Lainey dry heaving in the car
*me pulling over each time to comfort and hug and console her
*on the side of the highway
*in the dark
*under heavy rain
*while I worried about my sister
*as I drove in the opposite direction
*away from her instead of towards her
*feeling more and more helpless with each mile I logged

We arrived in KC around 1:00pm.....I helped Blake with the kids while he took a conference call....and then got in bed at 4:00pm. Jack started vomiting at 4:30. Sorry, babe. Promise I didn't plan it. My champ of a husband handled it like a pro and let me sleep until 10:00am the next morning. Safe to say I was a bit tired.

So, we needed a new plan for my next trip to Texas, despite Jack and Lainey's pleas to "Go Texshis wif Mama."

This round, I flew sans children and have had optimum time with Caroline. Staying overnight in the hospital is a plus. I feel like I'm helping. Like I can make her life a little bit easier by being here. Nothing major......sister stuff.....watching her sleep......just being present.

Her strength and courage and endurance continue to amaze me. Saying I'm proud of her seems weak compared to how I feel.

Ceason and I cooked this evening for Ryan, Caroline's boyfriend (or "common-law" as we call him sometimes because they are as 'married' as any couple I know). Lots of food in the fridge and freezer and so hopefully he'll have a warm meal at home soon that didn't arrive in a paper sack. Sweet guy works full time, is in school and spends just about every other waking moment at the hospital taking care of my precious sister.

My being here provided some relief to my parents and Ceason, too....allowing them to sleep and rest and hopefully, when I fly out, they will feel re-charged. They needed it....all caregivers do in a situation like this.....some relief....even if it's temporary.

I'm returning home today, but will be back as soon as I possibly can.

Keep praying, ladies. There must be thousands by now.....all talking to God and thinking of Caroline. Where would we be in life without friends?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Things That Count

It was a super busy day in the Starnes household....yes....busier than we normally are.

My Mom's Class met this morning and the little ones enjoyed their time at school. Home for lunch time/nap time. Carter walked off the bus, into the 'burb and we were off to church for Religious Education. After that? Dinner out and soccer practice. Jack and Lainey scored two trips to the playground in addition to their playtime this morning at the church. Guess who will sleep well tonight?

I've been thinking all day about a lesson learned this morning from guest speaker, Susan Crook. She spoke about the four basic personality traits in people....and thus, children....and how the knowledge of where our children fall into these traits can help us know better how to communicate with, discipline, nurture and overall, raise them into happy adults. It was very interesting and I left thinking about each of our kids and where they might fit into the diagram.

What stayed on my mind even more was a small side story that described a woman who had first, a set of triplets and then second, a set of twins. Gasps went through the room. How did she do it? Who could tolerate such stress? Can you imagine......the diapers.....the sleepless nights.....the crying and whining and tantrums. I found myself baffled at the idea, considering how flustered I get with my 3.

She went on to talk briefly about her life and then how she started having some minor medical issues. Which turned into pancreatic cancer. Which brought on her death 3 months after being diagnosed. A totally healthy woman....and this tragedy came out of nowhere.

Her point in sharing this sad story was not just to reiterate what I've already been thinking to myself as I pray for my sweet sister fighting so hard against her challenges......which is to grasp life. She went further to point out that we should appreciate all parts of this life we're lucky enough to be living.

Stop waiting for things to get "better". Start appreciating what is already "good".

If we're always consumed with waiting for things to be done with diapers, to have kids who can take care of themselves, to lose 10 pounds, to make more money, to afford that dream vacation, to have the bigger house and the nicer car, we risk missing the little things. And, those are the things that count.

I was reminded of one of my all-time-favorite quotes that I've posted before, but will again:

"You can shower a child with presents or money, but what do they really mean, compared to the most valuable gift of all - your time? Vacations and special events are nice, but so often the best moments are spontaneous ones. Being there. Every moment you spend with your child could be the one that really matters." - Tim Russert

And, who better to have shared this quote originally with me? Sweet Caroline. She's always been a smart one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More Love In The Air!

Not me, fools. I sealed that deal nearly 10 years ago to the luckiest-guy-on-the-planet, Mr. Blake Starnes.

I'm talking about Monica. Starnes family friend and now mine.

Sassafrass and Dee, meet Monica. Another girl engaged....another wedding underway!

Read her story here and wish her a happy engagement, ladies!

From The Bad Mommy Files

(OK, so this cartoon isn't totally accurate, but I thought it fit the post. Pretty funny.)

Do you......

*secretly wish your 2 year old child who has never shown a moment's interest in TV might actually sit for a bit so that you can take a break?

*close the curtains earlier than usual on some days to give the illusion it's later than it is so that bed time can arrive a bit earlier?

*skip lines in books occasionally when reading to kids who can't read in order to hurry it up?

*see two children quietly playing with trains and babies and physically tip toe out of the room to find a tiny shred of peace in the day?

Please say you do at least one of these things! I'm still on duty and doing my best....but it's one of those days.

I'd give anything for a nanny and a nap right now.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Take A Child Outside

It's actually an event! Take a Child Outside Week runs from September 24 - September 30, 2009.

What is it?

Per the site:
*a program designed to help break down obstacles that keep children from discovering the natural world. By arming parents, teachers and other caregivers with resources on outdoor activities, our goal is to help children across the country develop a better understanding and appreciation of the environment in which they live, and a burgeoning enthusiasm for its exploration.

They certainly said it better than I could. And, it's one of my passions.....nature walks and exploring the, of course, I'm on board.

I must say that our walks without an agenda turn out to be the most memorable. It's the little things like this that make me smile. Watching Jack's face light up when he hears a train in the distance.....hearing Lainey squeal when a dog comes into view.....learning a little piece of 3rd grade applied to the real world when Carter discovers something he's familiar with. This is what I love. This is what I'll remember when they're grown and gone.

So, as many of you already do, take your little ones outside and find something new. Look what we found on a recent zoo trip:

Caterpillar.....cocoons.....and lots of talk from Carter on Monarch butterflies. We heard about migration patterns and how their insect lives play out. Jack was grossed out by them. Lainey wanted to hold them. So, it was business as usual, but with a new lesson learned. Can't think of a better way to spend my day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Latest Scoop

OK, where to start?

My mind has been on Caroline lately.....pretty much all Caroline, all the time. I saw her this week in Dallas, as I reported before. She was in ICU when I arrived and out of it by the time I left. Now, she's back in. I have a hard time writing about the hard's very difficult for me to put into forgive me for not sharing it with you all. I appreciate the prayers and questions about Caroline....more than you can imagine.

I'm returning to Dallas very soon to see her again. Please keep praying.

And, while all of our thoughts are with Caroline, life moves on with the kids. Carter just completed his Bug Collection and turned it in on Thursday. Proud of Blake for helping him put this project together....usually my job.....but I was out of town.....he did it well.

Collecting the bugs took a lot of time and pushed us outdoors to take long walks in search of these critters. A few pictures from one of them....

Jack is a bike riding fool these days. (Still working on finding the right helmet, obviously).

Little punkin works so hard and loves riding big brother's hand-me-down "first" bike.

And, when he's not riding, he's wrangling.....little Lainey.....he works hard to keep her in line, too. Seems as though she's gaining some ground, though. Got away this time!

Took time to feed the baby. Always fun for the boys to stop on our walks for this.

Into the woods.

Looking for insects.

And, now switching gears to soccer. Second game on Saturday and this team just keeps getting better. So fun to watch.

Love how little brother took a seat on the players' bench. Love it even more that Carter allowed him to. :)

Lainey worked on her makeup....not much interest in soccer.

A new favorite of Jack.

And, finally.....some blog design info. A few people have asked me about my new font....which I learned about from Allison. Jen suggested that it looks like my handwriting....which I agree with and Blake confirmed with, "Yeah, I can barely read it. Looks about right."

Why do I ask?

Click here and here for information on how to apply a multitude of cute options to your blog. Warning, though......the tutorials are very well written, but the work it requires is tedious. Good luck!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Birthday Wrap Up

Some final pictures from our baby's 2nd birthday.

Can I still say "baby"? When do I have to stop?

My sweet Aunt Donna sent this shirt to it....and she'll be able to wear it for a couple more years.

The brothers with the baby.

"Present time! Present time! Open the present and see what's inside!" (for all you Blues Clues fans out there)

Hello Kitty from Ceason.....which she now calls "Ci Ci". (the stuffed animal and Ceason)

Caroline gave her some precious baby doll accessories......a super cute diaper bag, cloth diapers, changing pad, blanket, pillow and more. Safe to say she loves it all.

First lip gloss from Mom and Dad. She ate it before the day was over.

Cake time.

Pretty sure she liked the Baskin Robbin's ice cream/cake combo. Took Jack's plate when he was done and finished it, too.

So, now, we move onto Halloween.....then Carter's birthday.....then my 35th birthday....then Thanksgiving....then the glorious month of December and Christmas fun.....then Blake's 35th birthday.....all before we end the year on New Year's Eve.


You ready?

These are our busy months.....hold on tight.

Friday, September 18, 2009


This Silly Things About Me tag comes courtesy of one of my favorite blogs, Sassafrass Jane. So, I've adored this girl since we were kids (I was her babysitter way back when) and am thrilled we're in touch as adults. She is hilarious in a Coco-type way and lacks a filter like her, too. Take a look.....promise you'll love her.

1. What time did you get up this morning? 11:00am....after going to bed at 4:00pm yesterday. Traveled back from Texas in the middle of the night when Lainey started vomiting. After 12 hours of sleep over the 3 previous days, I needed to catch up.

2. How do you like your steak? Medium.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Half of the movie, I Can Do Bad All By Myself. Will go back for the rest another day.

4. What is your favorite TV show? The Office, Real Housewives of Anywhere, and The Bachelor. I love Giada and the Barefoot Contessa, too.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? San Diego, on the East Coast, overseas.....I could go on and on. Love being a gypsy.

6. What did you have for breakfast? Slept through it.

7. What is your favorite cuisine? Mexican.

8. What foods do you dislike? Sweet potatoes.

9. Favorite Place to Eat? At home with the fam, kids taking turns telling about their day.

10. Favorite dressing? Real Restaurant Ranch.

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive? Suburban.

12. What are your favorite clothes? Long skirts and tanks.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance? Anywhere historical or beachy.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full? Full. I'm a pretty positive person, I believe. (Not while I'm gossiping or being tacky, of course.)

15. Where would you want to retire? Near the water.

16. Favorite time of day? all tucked safe in bed.....time for Blake & me to unwind and chat.

17. Where were you born? Dallas, TX.

18. What is your favorite sport to watch? LSU Tigers!

19. Bird watcher? If the kids cooperate.

20. Are you a morning person or a night person? Night.

21. Do you have any pets? Batman, the most patient cat ever.

22. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share? Nothing exciting....still needing lots of prayers for Caroline.

23. What did you want to be when you were little? A Target check-out girl or a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader. Obviously, I was thinking realistically and aiming high.

24. What is your best childhood memory? Summers in Arkansas and Louisiana with my siblings.

25. Are you a cat or dog person? Both.

26. Are you married? Almost 10 years, baby!

27. Always wear your seat belt? Always. And, our kids are in the appropriate seats until the law or recommendations state otherwise. Yes, Carter was in a booster until the day he turned 8 years old.

28. Been in a car accident? A few.

29. Any pet peeves? People who don't use car seats and boosters. Nothing like peeking into the back seat of a car and seeing a 4 year old rolling around. Idiots.

30. Favorite Pizza Topping? Italian Sausage.

31. Favorite Flower? Hydrangeas.

32. Favorite ice cream? Chocolate with gummy bears.

33. Favorite fast food restaurant? Starbucks.

34. How many times did you fail your driver's test? Nada.

35. From whom did you get your last email? Traci, a neighbor, sending out a Prayer Warrior Request for Caroline.

36. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Nordstrom.

37. Do anything spontaneous lately? Can't think of anything.

38. Like your job? Very much. But, looking for a part time one, too.

39. Broccoli? Yes, please.

40. What was your favorite vacation? Hawaii in 2004, Akumal in 2005, Griswold Road Trip of 2009.

41. Last person you went out to dinner with? Ryan at the hospital cafeteria...does that count?

42. What are you listening to right now? TV downstairs.

43. What is your favorite color? Red.

44. How many tattoos do you have? None.....can't believe I made it through my crazy years without one.

45. Coffee Drinker? Oh, yes.

What time did you finish this quiz? 9:17 p.m.

OK, I'm tagging:

Clare from The Snyder Family

Jann from The Lenzers

Carrie from Hagen Daze

Jodee from Follow The Leaders

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


A quick update on the fam......I'm in Dallas visiting my sister in the hospital.....have Jack and Lainey with me.....staying with Britney.....she has the little ones during the day while I spend time with Caroline.

I sat with my sisters last night and had a nice, long visit. So good to be there with them. We always laugh, regardless of the situation.

Caroline is improving.....had a rough bout with the flu......but is gaining strength. As always, she impresses me. No one stronger in the world.

More later as time allows. Thanks so much for all the prayers.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Birthday Photos

Most of you know I'm a bit nutty when it comes to planning, so, in typical fashion....I had Lainey's birthday outfit planned about 9 months ago.

Purchased her pettiskirt in Boulder when we lived in Colorado. It's actually quite big on her, but we made do and she'll certainly wear it in the coming years. I have wanted one of these skirts for her since.....well, I was delighted to see her in it finally.

Won her shirt from a giveaway on Clover Lane over the summer. It's from Duck Duck Goose Designs.....cute stuff. Be sure to check her out.

We ventured out this evening for a few her second wardrobe change of the day......lucky girl had two birthday outfits. Her hair is a bit supermodel-esque in the first few....but she broke her headband in due time......thus, the quick pull back pony.

2 year olds can be so difficult.

(click on each picture for a crisper blog photos have seemed so grainy lately.....guess I should break out the manual to this camera.....nah)

Love these two......having silly fun while taking our walk.

"Over it. Going to play with my brothers!"