Friday, December 28, 2007

Clean Sweep

I got a Roomba for Christmas and I am in love. Today I did some writing, painted my nails and cooked some dinner, all while my new love was cleaning the floors. It cleaned my kitchen, living room, hallway and kid's rooms effectively and quietly while my kids screeched with delight as they ran from "the robot."

Let's take a closer look at the Roomba: It cleans without complaining or taking shortcuts. It entertains my kids better than a circus clown and it makes cute little noises when it is done cleaning. Why did I get married again?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Much-Anticipated Hale Family Christmas Letter

Here it is folks. The competition was fierce this year and I lost the Christmas letter contest to my friend, Jacquelyn. Her letter was done in Microsoft Publisher and was witty and graphic-y and professional looking, everything my lowly, single-sheeted letter was not. Sometimes it sucks to have talented friends. Here's your gold-star Jacquelyn:



2007 has been a great year for the Hale family. Our son, T-Mackeral, got accepted into MENSA, the youngest member in history; and our daughter, T-Minnow, won several national beauty pageant titles. Sean won the lottery and now owns a Prius (Yee-haw!) and Julianne is a regular contributor to "O" magazine.

Wait, sorry, that's the dream life (except for the pageant thing. I just thought it was funny). Let's stick with the meaningful tradition that I started last year: the brutally honest Christmas letter. Here goes…


T-Minnow turned two in May. She is a beautiful child and could probably win pageants if that was something that both her parents did not have major ethical problems with (and if T-Minnow would stop picking her nose).  T-Minnow's major accomplishment this year was becoming "toilet learned" (that's the new PC term for potty training—I don't want to offend anyone) and expanding her vocabulary. Our favorite word that she says is, "Otay," Buckwheat style. We can't get enough of that.


T-Mackeral turned five in November.  He's getting pretty close to outwitting his Mom and Dad and could not be more ready for Kindergarten. He's a little bored in preschool but loves it none-the-less. T-Mackeral's most impressive talent was handed down to him from his late, great Great-Grandpa Mortimer who could touch his nose with his tongue. T-Mackeral takes it one step further and can actually put his tongue inside his nostril. This will no-doubt take him far in life. Julianne fully intends to send David Letterman a video and get him some exposure for his "stupid human trick."


Sean got transferred this year from the Chattanooga office to the Cleveland office and, although it was a lateral move, he has a larger staff and is closer to home. His piece of junk car is still running but has some serious malfunctions, including a faulty heater and no defrost. He has asked for a window scraper for Christmas as if that is some sort of luxury item. How sad is that? Sean continues his slow progression towards Grandpa-dom with his many projects in his workshop and homespun gardening ideas.  T-Mackeral is a carbon-copy of his Father, which, although she'll never admit it, Julianne relishes.


Julianne has had a pretty good year. Her New Year's Resolution to get published actually came true several times over. She now writes regularly for a couple of regional magazines. At 32 years old, this is the first time that Julianne has ever made good on a New Year's Resolution. This new career of hers does impact the family and causes her to, at times, under tight deadlines, neglect her children. They all survive, though, and Julianne continues to embarrass the family by documenting their daily lives on her blog (shameless plug) but they love her anyway. Thank goodness the children can't read!


The Hales had some great travels this year thanks to cousin Janet (thank you Disney Discount!) and Grandma and Grandpa Mortimer. We went to the Bahamas (just the grown-ups), Disney World and Destin, Florida. Even under the microscope of brutal honesty, we really do have a great family and a blessed life. We are so thankful for all of our friends and family. Happy Holidays to you and yours!



Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bah Stomach Bug

I've been a blogging slacker this week. The holidays are stressing me out and my son and I were both hit with a case of the stomach bug yesterday. Yuck! I'm in recovery, still trying to wake up from the  phenergan, seriously. I took a 1/2 dose yesterday evening and am still fighting the urge to doze off (it's 2:00pm!). I don't know how people take full doses of that stuff.

I'm signing back in to prove that I haven't fallen off the face of the blogosphere and to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a vomit-free new year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Baby Daddy

Just when you thought your small Tennessee town couldn't get any lamer, you get news that knocks your socks off. News that could change the face of your sleepy, little town. News that could bring the Jamielyn
Paparazzi. That's right, folks, Jamie Lynn Spears (Brit's 16-year-old sister) is knocked up. What does this have to do with Cleveland, Tennessee you ask? Well, it turns out that the Baby Daddy works at a paper mill here in town.

Why does this please me so? I guess the prospect of seeing my little town on the pages of In Touch Weekly excites me more than I care to admit. I can just see the new welcome signs on the edges of town:

Welcome to Cleveland, Tennessee: Home of Britney Spear's sister's Baby Daddy.

The tourism industry is bound to explode.

***CORRECTION: My friend Alyson has informed me that The Baby Daddy's Father lives in Cleveland, TN; not the Baby Daddy himself. Bummer. I guess the sign would actually read:

Welcome to Cleveland, Tennessee: Home of Britney Spear's sister's Baby Daddy's Daddy.

Not quite as good, but I'll take it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Shortage of Holiday Postal Cheer

Too all of my friends and family:

I ordered about 15 too few Christmas cards this year and, as such, will not be able to send them to EVERYONE on my list. I apologize.

I'm going to post my Christmas Letter on the blog one day next week and send you all cyber-wishes.

As Virtual Tiny Tim said, Cyber-bless us. Cyber-bless us everyone.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bring on the Snow

I couldn't fall asleep last night because I was feeling leftover guilt about our solo East Tennessee snowfall last winter. The kids and I got one fleeting chance to play in the snow and I missed it for all of us. This happened nearly a year ago and I am still torturing myself. Perhaps it is because my son reminds me of the incident on a fairly regular basis, "Mommy. Remember when it snowed that time and you took us outside too late and the snow had already melted?" I REMEMBER! It went something like this:

East Tennessee received a dusting (and I do mean dusting) of snow during the night. Most moms realized the immediacy of the situation and got their kids up at the crack of dawn to play in it. Not me. I spent a good chunk of my teenage/young adult years in Central Illinois where snow tends to stay on the ground for days and weeks at a time. I rolled out of bed, did my morning cleaning, took my shower, took my time. Big mistake. By the time we walked out the door at 7:50, the snow was all but gone. My son collapsed immediately into a ball of disappointment. My daughter stood staring at him, wondering what the heck was going on and why she was in that ridiculous get-up. I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart with a santoku knife. Did I really just miss the first chance my kids had to make a snowman? Did I really miss the snow angels? The snowball fights? The wet socks? The sledding? The photo-ops? My son was crushed. CRUSHED. And it was truly my fault. I could attribute this incident, 100%, to my laziness. I sit here, at the keyboard, hanging my head in shame.

There is a slight chance for snow this weekend in East Tennessee.  Bring it on! I will set my alarm for 5:00am, get my kids dressed and coated and enjoy the snow until the sun comes up and melts it away. Bring on the snow Jack Frost! I've got some penance to pay!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I read this article in Brain, Child magazine and it really caught me off guard. Did you know that in some Eastern African cultures, a high percentage of infants are diaper-free by 4-6 months of age? Did you also know that there is a Diaper-free movement right here in the good ol' USA? I didn't. I had heard of EC (Elimination Communication) during my cloth diaper-makin' days from some of those crazy diapering Mamas on the message boards (No offense ladies but you guys can get a little nutty about cloth diapers!) but I dismissed it as completely absurd. The prospect of potty-training an infant seems ridiculous. I'm still wearing a big gold star on my lapel for toilet learning my baby girl at age 2. Go me!

My daughter (and her non-diaper-free Mother) would be behind the curve in the EC circles. Those mamas would take one look at my gold star, roll their eyes and laugh at me, "Two years old?" they would say,  "Try two months old! What kind of Mother waits until her child is two years old to take off the diapers?!" According to a spokeswoman for, there are 37 U.S. states that offer organized Diaper Free Baby support groups. Surprise! Tennessee is NOT one of them. We're still sitting on our back porches in our rockin' chairs, chewing on weeds and watchin' our babies run around in the grass in landfill-bound diapers that we purchased at Wal-Mart. We listen in awe to the stories about babies who learn to use the potty before they reach their second birthday. We consider that these children might be prodigies, headed off to some Ivy League college on a potty-trainin' scholarship.

What about those Elimination Communication babies who are toilet-learned by 4 months of age? Well, I just don't know what to think about them. Who knows? Maybe I'd be a believer if I actually met a Mom who'd used this practice successfully but I haven't. I've read a couple testimonials and frankly, it seems like entirely too much effort to save yourself and your baby a year or two of diaper duty.

Monday, December 10, 2007

He Likes It! He Really Likes It! Wait… No, Maybe Not

I was forced to be creative with my dinner tonight. I usually work with a plan when it comes to dinner. I know what I'm going to have and I have all of the ingredients for each dish. I lost track of time today. It got late and I ended up with nothing defrosted. I had to improvise. I combined all of Nuggets
my shredded cheeses together, cut up some onions and peppers and combined them with hashbrowns for some surprisingly delicious hashbrown casserole. I defrosted some chicken and made chicken nuggets and I steamed some broccoli. I thought to myself, "Damn. You're a great Mom. You threw together a delicious, kid-friendly meal in no time flat. You go girl!"

Here's the exact response I got from my son after he finished his first bite:

When I first put it in my mouth I liked it just a little bit but when I started doing this (makes dramatic chewing motions with his teeth), it started to taste bad. The taste just got worse and worse until I swallowed it. When I eat the next bite, I'm going to try to take a small one so I don't have to chew much.

It's good to be appreciated.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Manger Mayhem

In an effort to reinforce the true meaning of Christmas, my
mother purchased a Playmobil nativity set for my children. It’s really cute
and, in the grand tradition of Playmobil, has about 10,000 teeny tiny parts. My
son has a grand imagination and can play with Playmobil sets for hours at a
time. He makes lots of loud crashing noises and explosion sounds and small plastic
men are often seen flying through the air in my living room. Unfortunately, the
nativity is no exception.

My son has a tendency to keep toys made by the same toy
manufacturer together so he automatically paired the nativity up with the
Playmobil pirate ship and castle. The Baby Jesus has been on a wild ride in
recent days. He’s been attacked by rabid sheep, smuggled aboard a pirate ship
and forced to defend himself with against an angry Angel with a knight’s sword.
Mary and Joseph, tired from their trek to Bethlehem, are weary time travelers
in the Hale house, going from the stable to the middle-ages at warp speed. They’ve
been kidnapped by pirates, lost at sea on a life raft and ridden on camels over
a castle’s drawbridge.  I’ll spare you
the plight of the poor shepherds and wise men. Suffice it to say, they never
saw my son and his arsenal of weaponry coming.

I’ve read the Christmas story to my kids a couple of times
this year and have done my best to explain to my son that the story of the
Nativity is to be treated with a certain amount of reverence. I piece the scene
back together each night, moving the Baby Jesus from the basket on the upper
part of the pirate ship mast to his rightful place atop the pile of hay in the
manger. I put Mary and Joseph back by Jesus’s side and strategically place all
of the other major players in the Christmas story in and around the cardboard
Playmobil backdrop. It’s a tedious task but I do it, day after day, because I
feel like I should. I have always taken a great deal of pride and pleasure in
my son’s vivid imagination and I can’t help but chuckle when I watch him create
scenarios for the folks in Bethlehem, “But the Baby Jesus likes it Mommy.” Who
could argue with that?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Quick Quiz

How many pounds of candy would you expect to receive at a small town Christmas parade?

Perhaps you think even one pound is a ridiculous estimate.

What if said town was home to an M&M Mars plant? Would that change your answer? Maybe not, but it would probably change the quality of the candy.

My children came home with two plastic grocery bags full of candy. Good candy. We're not talking candy canes and Bit O' Honey's here. We're talking Twix bars, M&M mini bags, Smarties, Skittles and Starburst. The bags were so heavy and full that my husband decided to weigh them. He hopped on the scale holding the bags and then jumped on bag-free. The difference? Eight pounds. Eight pounds of high-fructose corn syrup delight. Eight pounds of preschool crack. Eight pounds of, well, pounds on the hips and guts of my growing family. My kids think its Halloween again, only all they did was sit on the side of the road with cow-eyed looks and open grocery bags.

The parade may have encouraged sugar-induced comas and tooth decay but all was not lost. One of the last floats was sponsored by a local gym. Floating atop the sea of candy, just below the handles of the grocery bag, were several 14-day gym passes. I won't tell you where those ended up.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Creative Ways to Downsize the Holidays

An article I wrote was published in the e-zine Simple Joy. Check it out: