Waffles & Wallabies & Weekend Road Trips

4th of July girls

Last weekend we took our third road trip in about six weeks. If I had any dreams of writing a post called, “How to Travel with a Newborn,” THAT WAS DUMB. Unless the people of the internet have just been waiting for my “take the baby for a drive until she falls asleep and let her sleep in the car seat all night” trick.

We had a lot of fun, sleeping schedule aside. Both the girls are pretty good travelers, at least as far as the drive goes. Omaha is only three hours away, so we got there in time for an early dinner. Which was a good thing, since as it was, we had to wait 30 minutes to get a seat at the Old Market Spaghetti Works.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A 30-minute wait on a Friday night isn’t bad at all. And the weather was gorgeous. But during that 30-minute wait, we had the PLEASURE of a street performer. Also known as The Worst Magician I Have Ever Seen. Also known as The Magician That Annalyn Wanted to Watch for 30 Minutes.

Seriously, you guys. He did do one great trick, though – made my dollar disappear into his tip jar after making my daughter laugh. So there’s that.

There was also really good cheesy garlic bread and a waiter who thought my baby was cute, even though she got baby food all over the table. And he also conveniently brought the extra napkins I asked for RIGHT BEFORE Annalyn dumped orange Hi-C all over me. Me . . . and my brand-new white shorts.

Have I mentioned that I bought myself a pair of white shorts for the 4th of July? And that I have NEVER IN MY LIFE bought or worn a pair of white pants or shorts?


So, after surviving the worst magician ever and a Hi-C shower, we embarked on a journey to find fireworks. As it turned out, our hotel was not the Ritz and the guy at the desk was not a concierge. Or a guy who knew where to find fireworks. Luckily the internet was a bit more reliable than that guy.

We drove all the way across town, walked a good half mile (I don’t know that for sure. But it FELT like a half mile, so that matters, right?), and watched a fantastic fireworks show. That lasted about 10 minutes.

Doesn’t matter how short it was, though, because Annalyn was delighted. DEE-LIGHTED. She squealed and laughed so loud – and thanked us over and over for finding the fireworks. And all of sudden I forgot about my shorts getting tie-dyed with her Hi-C.

4th in Omaha

After all four of us stayed up past our bedtimes, we slept late on Saturday morning. As did every other family in our sold-out hotel with the free hot breakfast.

I know. You’re thinking, “Oh really, Mary? That’s FASCINATING. Tell me more about your very interesting hotel stay and breakfast.”

Look. I have my reasons for bringing this up. I bring this up because, well, there was an incident.


At the waffle maker.

Mark carried Adrienne down to the breakfast room, and I took Annalyn to the buffet line. We got plates and a bowl of sugary cereal for Annalyn (it was VACATION, okay?) (and a banana. I’m not totally irresponsible.). Then I headed over to the waffle maker, where I got in line.

We stood there patiently . . . politely . . . or so I thought. As the woman in front of me pried her waffle out of the iron and I stepped toward the machine, a man and his son walked up. He grabbed the non-stick spray out of my hand and started spraying the waffle maker. Then he asked me if I was next, I said I was, and he said he was after me.

Since he’d come out of nowhere and another woman waiting behind me the whole time I’d been there, I pointed to the lady behind me and said (POLITELY), “Actually, she was waiting.”

Well. That was when he got real riled up. Apparently HE had been waiting (ACROSS THE ROOM AT HIS TABLE), so HE was supposed to be next and now his little boy wasn’t going to get his waffle. But he kept spraying that waffle maker, so he could – and I quote – get me “all set up” for my waffle.

Um. Okay?

Apparently the social contract that I THOUGHT was the accepted norm in buffet lines was no longer in effect in that Omaha hotel. APPARENTLY the people in that room had come up with a pour your batter in a cup, set it on the counter like a placeholder and then sit down all the way across the room system.

But nobody told me that. So apparently . . . I cut in line and kept a little boy from getting his waffle Saturday morning.

You guys! I didn’t KNOW! I felt so bad. But also a little annoyed. I mean. How was I supposed to know? It’s not like his name was on that little cup of batter. Or the spot on the carpet WHERE I WAITED IN LINE. But I did feel bad. And confused. Is this how we do continental breakfast now?

No, really. Is it? I just need to know. If I missed the waffle memo, I need to know so I don’t deprive another little boy (and his angry father) of a timely waffle.

Because even though I’m no expert on road trips with babies, we’ve got another couple of trips planned for this summer. And I don’t want to cause another Waffle Incident!

After we recovered from the incident, we packed up and headed to the zoo. It was about one thousand percent humidity, but not too hot, thankfully. My calves would like me to mention that the Omaha Zoo – while just as awesome as everyone says – is FULL of hills. And somehow they manage to be ALL UPHILL.

But that’s beside the point. The zoo was a lot of fun. We saw tigers and leopards and wallabies and a sloth and lots of monkeys and some penguins. And after I made my whole family hike all the way across the park to see the sea lion training session – and Annalyn complained about how FAR it was and how BORING it was (before it started) and how she wanted to go back to the face painting booth – it ended up being her favorite part of the zoo. (Score one for Mom!)

So, in summary, we had a great Fourth of July weekend with a road trip to Omaha. Not enough sleep and more than enough sass from a certain six-year-old. But big picture, I’m glad we made the last-minute decision to take a mini-vacation. And remember – Magicians and waffle incidents, bad. Cheesy bread and fireworks and wallabies and sea lions and face painting, good.

How was YOUR weekend?

Throwback Thursday Stories :: Dads

Dancing with Dad

Last night we had a showing on our house. It was unexpected, since we took our house off the market several days ago. But this buyer is – apparently – desperate and asked if she could pretty please see our house. Like I’m going to say no to that?!

Anyway. It was a gorgeous day, so as the girls, the cats and I drove home we had the windows down. A couple blocks from our house, I caught a whiff of someone’s grill. And just like it always does, that smell – combined with a beautiful summer night – took me straight back to my childhood backyard, where night after night after night I played catch with my dad.

Turn your glove! If I learned nothing else from my dad (which I did, because I will never, ever, EVER pick up a hitchhiker, per his repeated advice the summer before I headed to college), I learned to turn my glove.


In the midst of wedding preparations, my mom and dad took dance lessons. I started to say my mom made my dad take dance lessons, but who knows? Maybe he was all over the idea. I don’t know. All I know is that somehow, we came up with the idea for me to attend one of their lessons and learn something special for the Father-Daughter Dance at my reception.

Now that I’ve watched So You Think You Can Dance for nearly a decade, I know that the rumba is a dance that – hmmm, how to say – is one not typically done between relatives. But the dancing-for-dummies version we learned was boxy and a little goofy – and simple enough that we got it in one lesson.

My dad is a really quiet guy, laid back and rarely the center of attention. So when we took the floor at my wedding reception and began box stepping in time to “Unforgettable,” a few people noticed. But when he turned me and my big white dress flared out like only big white dresses can? All eyes, people. All eyes were on us.

Dancing a “real” dance with my dad was one of my favorite moments of our reception. It was unexpected and hilarious and makes me smile anytime I remember it.


When was the last time you did something unexpected? (I’m definitely asking myself this question, too. I’m not sure when I’ve done something surprising!)

This post will be linked up with Throwback Thursday Stories with The Mom Creative.

A little gravel in our travel

jim's farm

We spent Saturday in the country. About 30 minutes after we left home, Annalyn asked, “Are we still in town?” When we told her no, she followed up with, “Are we IN THE COUNTRY?”

It’s weird and funny and not a little ironic that the daughter of a small-town girl and country boy is so city-fied. On more than one occasion, Annalyn has looked out the window at fields of corn or wheat or beans and claimed she’s scared of being in the middle of nowhere.

Insert eye roll here.

(Except for that one time I got stuck on a very long, very poorly marked detour in Iowa. Because driving for miles and miles without seeing not just a person but even a house? Is a little scary.)


Mark and I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Him more than me, but both of us graduated with less than 100 people in our classes and had to drive a good 15 minutes to see any kind of franchise restaurant or store. But now we live in the suburbs, surrounded by neighbors we don’t know and minutes from fast food, car dealerships, gas stations and big box drug stores.

So our kid is alternately fascinated and terrified by “the country” that feels like home to us. Or maybe she’s learning. Because she was mostly fascinated this weekend.

Despite schedule changes, calendar glitches and family frustrations that just about made my head explode, our Saturday was lined up neatly with two birthday barbecues near our hometown. Smitty and my father-in-law both had birthdays last week, and it was time to celebrate.

(Separately. Even though Mark was neighbors with Smitty before I ever met him, and all three of our families are connected in the twisty way of long-time friends and small towns.)


But before I could go shopping or pack a diaper bag, our plans got thrown for a loop one more time. Adrienne took a nap Friday evening – going to sleep a happy, seemingly healthy baby – and woke up sick. It was so pitiful, you guys! She’s never been sick before, so I think part of her sadness was just shock and confusion at what on earth was happening and why did she feel this way!?

Of course any sickness that happens at night (and don’t they all? why don’t kids ever get sick DURING DOCTOR’S OFFICE HOURS???) seems worse than it possibly is. And the baby’s cold was no different. I panicked and worried and fussed – and considered sleeping on the floor next to her crib.

I didn’t. But I thought about it.

She did sleep Friday night but woke up still congested and coughing and cranky-sad on Saturday morning. So I called the doctor and got us in for an appointment that morning. Of course, by the time the girls and I got dressed, drove through Dunkin Donuts (did you know that Friday was National Donut Day? I missed the memo, but made up for it over the weekend!), and walked into the doctor’s office . . . that baby was acting happy as could be.

She was still obviously sick, though we joked with the nurse about the curative qualities of simply making an appointment. The diagnosis was . . . a cold.


For the record, it’s a cold with possible croup and the beginnings of an ear infection. Still, she wasn’t actually THAT sick. But goodness, a sick baby is a sad baby!

Still, we decided to go to our barbecues anyway, with the contingency that we might have to abort the mission at any moment.

jim's farm 2

Our first stop was Smitty’s parents’ house. Later, Smitty and I tried to remember the last time I’d been there and we couldn’t quite pin it down. I’m pretty sure it’s been at least five years, though. But after knowing a person (and her family) for a lifetime, some things don’t change – like me remaining convinced I could not possibly live with chickens in my back yard or us honking at the house as we drove away.

We ate our first round of burgers and beans while we were there, but even though we were invited for lunch, the food was the least of our focus. Smitty’s sister and I compared baby stats (her Olivia was born about six weeks before Adrienne), and she lent me a stroller to walk around the yard when nothing else convinced by [I told you she was cranky] baby girl to take a nap. Annalyn made herself at home with Smitty’s nieces and nephews, raiding the decades-old toy box and running all around the chicken coop. And we all met in the yard to play a little dodge-softball (dodgeball with a bat? softball with a dodge ball? You know the game.).

After our game got rained out, we realized the time and headed down the road to Mark’s dad’s farm. Finally the rain had stopped and without a non-farm building in sight, nothing blocked the breeze so the afternoon was as mild as we could ask for in the beginning of June.

I mostly stayed inside with Adrienne, while Mark visited with family friends and distant cousins and Annalyn road around in a four-wheeler and fished for tiny bass with a hot dog. We ate burgers and beans again (along with some completely evil chocolate-covered popcorn that I MUST MAKE SOON), listened to old stories that we’ve heard and told a hundred times, and swapped a little small-town gossip.

Neither barbecue took place in a home that Mark or I grew up in. (His dad moved further out in the country to his farm after Mark’s mom died several years ago.) We didn’t actually have time to even drive into town – the one where we grew up, where we met, where we went to school (and where I lived).

But Saturday was full of Home and Family anyway.

How was YOUR weekend? Tell us about it it the comments!

Throwback Thursday Stories: Easter

Easter pics

Once upon a time in a land far, far away I collected every printed photo I owned and organized them. I put them in envelopes by subject matter and then stuck them, chronologically, in a box.

It was awesome. (It was before kids.) I was going to scrapbook all the the things.

And I did scrapbook a lot of things. But definitely not all of them. I did, however, keep taking pictures. And there for a while, I printed them out. I printed a lot (A LOT) of them out. (Especially when Annalyn was born!) Then I made a scrapbook for my mom and collected a bunch of old family photos for that. Then my mom and dad cleaned out some part of their house (basement? cedar chest? I don’t remember.) and gave us ziplocs full of old photos.

And still, I kept taking photos and buying photos and PHOTOS PHOTOS PHOTOS.

I have a lot of photos, people. And they are completely NOT organized.

You guys. I can’t even describe the madness, the chaos that is my bin of photos. AND THAT’S NOT EVEN CONSIDERING THE ENTIRE BOX OF PICS I FOUND IN MY GARAGE THIS SUMMER! I’ve got old school wallets mixed with baby pictures mixed with Christmas cards mixed with yellowing family photos. It’s a mess. And these days I just avoid those beautiful photos altogether.

Until my friend Jessica said she was starting a weekly link-up called Throwback Thursday Stories.

I actually pulled out almost all of the photos in that bin (the one hiding at the bottom of Adrienne’s closet-slash-my craft closet) to find something just right for this first week of #TBTStories. Even though I found a whole lot of gems, these Easter pictures seemed apropos.

Throwback Thursday Stories: Easter



That’s my grandad in the middle picture. I’m not sure why he’s wearing half a plastic egg on his head, but as I know from watching my own dad with my girls, that’s just how grandpas do.

Though the beautiful hat in that top photo is lovely, as I started thinking about Easters in years past, it made sense to share pictures of me with family. Because while Easter is obviously a celebration of the resurrection and our salvation through Jesus, it’s also been a great excuse for my family to spend time together.

I couldn’t find any photos of the cousin Easter egg hunts from 30 years ago. (Maybe my mom kept those!) But when I think about Easter, when I think about family time, I can see those pictures in my mind. Eggs and dresses in pastels, and my cousins helping my brother and me find those eggs.

I also remember Easter egg hunts with my friend Elise, and more recently, I remember singing MY FACE OFF in the choir at half a dozen church services. But what comes to mind most of all are those cousin egg hunts.

So it makes sense that this Sunday we’ll be doing the same thing. I mean, my cousins and I won’t be hunting the eggs. Our kids will, though. And somebody might even wear lace. (But no hats. I’m pretty sure we won’t be wearing hats.)

To read more Throwback Thursday Stories, visit The Mom Creative!

How does your family celebrate Easter?

When the Holidays Make You Sad

sad holidays

When I was in college, a friend introduced me to the movie, Home for the Holidays. It stars Holly Hunter and Robert Downey, Jr., and it’s a fantastic film about the special brand of family crazy that comes out around the holidays.

For a group of half-adult, half-child college students preparing to go home for a few days, it was the perfect way to simultaneously brace ourselves and acknowledge that, dysfunctional and stressful as our own families may be, at least they weren’t like the one we watched in that movie.

Not exactly like it, anyway.

It’s funny. I’d never heard of that movie before college, and I certainly don’t see it making any lists of “Best Holiday Movies.” I mean, it’s no Elf or White Christmas. But when the weather turns cold and cans of cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie filling move to the endcaps at the grocery store, I always think of that movie.

This movie – and the story behind it – doesn’t come to mind every November because my family resembles the one Holly Hunter’s character has to face. (Well, not completely.) No, I always go back to those college memories because one of my friends who introduced me to the movie and its rightful place in my holiday prep routine hasn’t spoken to me in about a decade.

The story of how our friendship died is complicated and not one I’ll go into detail about here. The details really don’t matter, though. The point is that I lost one of my very best friends, and it broke my heart – and the days leading up to Thanksgiving remind me of that more than any other time of the year.

I bet you have a few people you miss all year long – but especially during the holidays – too.

When the Holidays Make You Sad

Sometimes memories intrude on celebrations, making this season hard to handle.

The empty chair sticks out more. Or sits alone in the corner.
The room full of people feels quieter. Or louder.
The favorite dish has plenty left over. Or the favorite dish isn’t made this year.
The gifts go unopened. Or unwrapped. Or un-bought.
It’s hard to remember something to be thankful for.
Smiles look a little shaky. And tears are the uninvited guest that won’t leave.

Divorce. Dysfunction. Death. All of these things (and more) affect our families, our lives, our hearts. And though they hurt all year long, day in and day out, the holidays seem to bring out the pain like no other time can. On a day – or days – when we’re supposed to be all smiles and good cheer, our hearts crack under the pressure and the remembering and the missing.

I know. I’ve been there in the “it’s still so fresh, we can’t think about anything else, how can we possibly put on a good face this year” seasons. And I’m there every year when memories of losses from long ago and not so long ago join together to wage war on our determination to forge on and focus on the reason for the season.

Family and friends we no longer speak to – or who no longer speak to us.
Family and friends who died much too soon. (It’s always too soon.)
Family and friends who aren’t invited – or don’t show up.
Family and friends who moved away.
Jobs that were taken away.
Children who are sick.
Anyone who is sick.

We try so hard to fight for our joy, don’t we? We print out place cards and try the new recipe. We dress up our kids and bundle up for the long drive. We take photos and send cards and smile and chat and catch up and promise to call more often.

But underneath, many of us still carry wounds ripped open by the reminders of relationships and situations that are no longer. And it hurts. And it’s hard. And we’re not sure what to do with it all.

I’m not advocating that we stay in our pajamas, curl up with a turkey leg and a box of tissues, and decline all invitations in favor of a Pity Party for One. I’m not suggesting we ignore the blessings we have in front of us and spend our days off flipping through our photo albums and memories searching for clues about when it all went wrong.

No. I’m simply offering an acknowledgement – that the pain is real; a reassurance – that you can find peace and joy anyway; an understanding smile – and a hug that’s totally not awkward even if we’ve never met.

Sometimes the holidays make us sad. They make us happy, too – and it’s okay to feel both. But the sadness might still be there. And I believe that’s okay.

That sadness colors how we see what’s in front of us today – the family who can’t wait to see us across the table, the friends who don’t care if your pumpkin brownie trifle gets soggy, the children whose eyes light up with wonder and innocence – either the kind that’s truly not seen pain yet or the kind that can forget about it when faced with jingle bells and wishbones and parade floats made of flowers.

But while it can try its best to turn those beautiful gifts into bitter reminders of what’s missing, the sadness can’t compete when we remember that today is full. Full of pain, yes – sometimes. But also full of blessings and joy and things both big and small that God has given us to remind us of His love and faithfulness. Yes, even when the flip side is covered in reasons to crawl under the blanket with a bowl of mashed potatoes.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
(Psalm 34:18)

If the holidays are making you sad this year – perhaps the same as every year or maybe more than you ever imagined possible – I pray that you can close your eyes and feel it for a moment. It’s okay to do that. Really. But then open them to the good that is still around you.

And, most importantly, remember that the Lord is close. And He will rescue us from the sadness. Not with false cheer or denial or caroling or casseroles, but with the peace that passes all understanding and His joy that can be our strength.

Do the holidays ever make you sad? How do you deal with that sadness?

{Photos by rezlab and h_elise}