Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Brutally Honest Hale Family Christmas Letter 2009

If you want a typical Christmas letter, open up your cousin Betty's card and read about her daughter, the violin prodigy, and her five year-old son who's golf game rivals that of his father's. It's a shame about the Tiger Woods comparison now, isn't it?

Here at the Hale household we like to give it to you straight. There's no need for fanfare when your life is as good as ours. We're happily married after 12 years, have three healthy kids who keep us simultaneously entertained and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. There's Dudley the wonder mutt, without whom we might actually have two matching pairs of shoes for Harper, and a healthy supply of family and friends to enrich our lives with love and laughter. It doesn't get much better, does it? Money is a little tighter than usual and we still haven't upgraded to that four-bedroom house yet but the seams of our meager 1600 square footer have yet to burst and there's always Ugly Dawg, the pop-up camper, to escape to if we need some distance from each other. Here's what the Hales have been up to in 2009:

Harper Emerson was born on March 5, weighing in at 6 pounds, 10 ounces. At the ripe old age of 9 months, we're certain she's a prodigy. While she hasn't quite mastered the whole standing on two feet thing, she's become quite adept at waving and smiling. We're sure reading and writing are not far behind. Harper is the icing on the Hale family cake. We don't know what we'd do without her.

Tatum is enjoying preschool five days a week and, unlike last year, she's not the only girl, an environment in which she thrives. She's got mad dancing skills and will be taking ballet in 2010. She can often be seen dancing around the kitchen with her Mom to "Party in the USA" or "Single Ladies," our theme songs for 2009. There is nothing her mom loves more than rockin' out in the kitchen with Tatum.

Truman is into two things: Star Wars and Legos. Thankfully, Nintendo had the foresight to combine these two passions into a Wii game, Lego Star Wars, custom made for Truman and his father. They have solved it from beginning to end at least three times. We're all about productivity in the Hale house. Truman loves to draw and seems to really excel at it. He's scheduled for art lessons in 2010 to encourage him to choose a profession that all but guarantees he will live in poverty for the rest of his life.

Sean is a rock star father and husband and fixer of all things. We haven't called a professional for one ailment in our 70-year-old house since we moved in 7 years ago. Sean's work at Wells Fargo is pretty intense these days as they try to find their way through the murky waters of this new economy. We are thankful, though, for his continued employment. Many folks in Sean's line of work were not so lucky this year.

Julianne is doing her best to balance three kids, a house, and a writing career that continues to grow despite her intentions to slow down after Harper's birth. She has discovered that doing it all is, in fact, impossible and her home is proof of this discovery. She is very grateful for Dudley, her live in vacuum cleaner, without whom she might end up on an episode of Clean House.

Merry Christmas to you and yours and blessings abound in the New Year!


The Hales

Sean, Julianne, Truman, Tatum, and Harper

Friday, December 4, 2009

Earth Fare Winner

Congratulations are in order for Amy Scott. She is the winner of the Earth Fare gift card. Special thanks to my Mom for being the guest judge. I knew many of the entrants and thought I might be a little biased. Mom loves Earth Fare and she thought Amy's entry was the best one. Congratulations Amy! Send me your address and I'll get your gift card in the mail.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009



I'm not sure if you have heard yet but Chattanooga is getting an Earth Fare grocery store. I've been to the Earth Fare in Knoxville and love it. I'm so excited to be getting one close by. In honor of their grand opening, the fine folks at Earth Fare are offering the readers of Another Gray Hair the chance to win a $50 gift certificate. Go ahead! Give it a try:


Budgets always get really tight around the holidays.  We all know that.  And, Earth Fare, the healthy supermarket, seems to know that too.  Have you been to their stores?  If so, you would know that they are  always trying to make healthy eating affordable, easy and delicious!  Seriously - have you tried their homemade, all-natural chocolate chip cookies - if not, it is .99 cents of deliciousness!  Well, in celebration of the opening of their new Chattanooga store on December 9th, Earth Fare gave me a $50.00 gift card to give away!  Yeah, very cool.  They just said, hey Julianne,give this away for us. 


So, now, we want you to tell us why you deserve or just plain want this gift card.  We've all got stories.  You may be hosting your family's holiday dinner on an extremely tight budget.  You may have lost your job recently and just need some extra help to make it through this already tough season.  You may be a cookie lover or organic food nut!  Or, perhaps for whatever reason, you've never tried a healthy food store and just want to see what it's like!  Give us your best reason, and we'll consider it for the prize.


The best story gets the card.  So, ready, set, and get writing.  Post your reason in the comments below today!  You only have until Friday, December 4 to get your entry in.  And, we're waiting..

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dum Dum Dilemma

At a recent Bunco game I listened to a Mom talk about her only daughter. She spoke of her struggles with her daughter's drive-thru confusion. Because she got a lollipop every time she went through the bank, she assumed she would get one when she went through the pharmacy drive-thru and any other drive-thru window. This Mom, a funny and relatable woman, came up with a solution: she'd keep a stash of suckers in her glove box so whenever they went through the drive-thru her daughter wouldn't be plagued with disappointment. She started it a couple months ago and now is frustrated because she doesn't feel like she can stop. I smiled. I couldn't help myself. This is something I would never do, at least not now: 7 years into parenting and on child number 3.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm a hard ass or that I'm simply out of energy but disappointment is a lesson my kids learn at least once a day. I pride myself on it. I'm so pro-disappointment, in fact, that my kids don't get suckers at the bank unless the teller offers them. I refuse to ask for them and my van has tinted back windows so whether or not they get a Dum Dum after I complete a transaction is a crap shoot.

The whole conversation made me appreciate the benefit of hindsight and multiple children. Sure, we contribute to the population problem but we only have one guinea pig: the first child. The lessons we learn through trial and error with that child shape our entire parenting experience. I'm sure Truman would be delighted to learn that he taught me a most important lesson: Disappointment is a dish best served hot. And often.

Friday, October 23, 2009



Today is a very sad day indeed. My husband is back from his business trip, my kids are healthy at the moment, and my baby girl is exploding with adorableness but I'm still in mourning. Last night, after the kids went to bed, I asked the huz to bring the "cage" into the living room. The cage is a six paneled gate that I've had since Truman became mobile. It's much larger than a Pack N Play so it holds lots of toys and the kids can move around in it but it keeps them contained safely so I can get a few things done. My living room has been cage-free for nearly three years now and I have enjoyed it a great deal. There's nothing quite like having a living room free of eye-sores. You see, our house is quite small. There's no playroom or den. As far as living space goes, we just have a living room and a kitchen. All told, the cage takes up about 8 square feet of precious living room space. Where once you could see our bare hardwood floor, now you see baby toys through the holes of a plastic fence. Rich.

I have no choice in the matter. Harper is on the move. I put her down in a seated position yesterday on the living room floor, went into the kitchen to wash my hands, and came back a minute or two later and she had rolled to the TV cabinet (about 5 feet away) where she sat chewing on the chord for the Wii remote. Not good. Now my living room looks like a poorly run home day care center and my daughter's time spent unattached to my hip will be in a homemade prison. I'm not ready for the upcoming phase of babydom. It just might do me in.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Freak Flags


We just hopped off the Disney World express on Saturday and are slowly getting adjusted to life in the non-magical world. Our trip was great. It was hotter than any week in October should ever be but we managed to enjoy ourselves in spite of it. On the Monday evening of our week long adventure, we partook in Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, an overpriced spooky celebration at the Magic Kingdom. Thanks to a certain Disney connection, we were able to get discounted tickets and it turned out to be money well-spent because the kids had a great time.

Dressed in Star Wars garments from head to toe, we strolled through the park hitting all of the Trick or Treat spots to rake in the candy and tried to take advantage of the minimal crowd. My cousin, her husband, and their two kids (also Star Wars junkies) were along for the ride. We split -up along gender lines and the boys hit the thrill rides while the girls went in search of Princesses, candy, and some Fantasyland entertainment. We scored with a trip to the Princess and Tinkerbelle tents. If you've ever been to Disney World you know that the lines for these rides tend to get out of control. It's not uncommon to find little girls with defeated looking parents standing at the tail-end of an hour-and-a-half line just for a handshake and a photo-op with a princess. We waited for ten minutes for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and fifteen for Tinkerbelle and her Fairy Friends. Don't get me wrong, watching my little girl interact with Tinkerbelle was a thrill, especially at age four when the magic is about as real as it gets, but the real entertainment took place in line to meet Tink and her pals.

Harper, decked out in her Yoda hat, got some intense reactions from two dads in the crowd. They were great sports, waiting patiently so that their little girls could shake hands with a fairy. As soon as we got in line, one of the dads caught a glimpse of Harper and his eyes sparkled. He elbowed his buddy and whispered something to the effect of, "Look at that baby Yoda. Awesome!" They both giggled and gave me props for my sheer awesomeness for dressing my baby girl up as Yoda. Then the dialogue started. I'm going to print it here but you must read it to yourself in Yoda's voice. Otherwise it just doesn't work.

Here goes:

Dirty, my diaper is.

Drink out of a bottle, I do.

Ready for my diaper change, I am.

Judge me by my size, do you?

Wear a onesie, I do.

Enjoy baby food, I do.

In between each of these genius snippets of comedy were uncontrollable giggles. This little back and forth went on for the duration of our wait to see Tinkerbelle. After the first five minutes, the two of them got so lost in their own hilarity that they forgot about us altogether. I have a deep affinity for Star Wars nerds so I enjoyed watching the two dads revert back to adolescence. I'm so glad I was able to provide them with a few moments when they could fly their freak flags with reckless abandon.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tamiflu-Induced Ramblings

Nothing like a little late night Tamiflu-induced insomnia to motivate a mama to get her blog on! That's me. I'm coated from head to toe in Lysol, I periodically wear a face mask (no, I'm not kidding), and I live in the upstairs portion of my house only, a plentiful space that I share with my nearly 7-month-old daughter. We're in voluntary confinement while the other three family members suffer in the lower regions of our house from H1N1. With all of the coughing, the fever, the vomiting, the constant refusal to take the medicine down there, it's not the happiest place on earth for my poor sick husband. I feel sorry for him having to miss work and spend his days convalescing while simultaneously caring for and attempting to entertain two sick children but our number one priority is keeping Harper (the baby) well and we will do anything in our power to do that, even if it means severing all ties with each other until this thing is over. Plus, I seem to recall multiple incidences in which I was sick and forced to entertain well children while I semi-convalesced. That's just the way it is for the stay-at-home-mom: when she gets sick there are no days off.

Moving on, my point, and I assure you I have one, is simple: Right now my life sucks. I'm forced to cover my house in chemicals that I usually avoid completely (yes, I'm one of those annoying mamas who uses green cleaners), I'm plagued with worry about my sweet baby girl catching this nasty bug, and I obsessively run to the bedsides of my two sleeping children downstairs to feel their head as if this will provide me some type of epiphany about their condition. I do this with my mask on in my nightgown, rockin' my glasses which fog up with every breath. I'm right out of a horror film. If these poor kids have the misfortune of waking up during one of these head-feeling incidents, they may never be the same again. Must. Gain. Control. Of my compulsive need to feel their foreheads. Besides, it tells me nothing. If I think they feel excessively hot, I make my husband take their temperature so that I can obsess about the number. I'm pretty sure Pink was thinking of me when she wrote these lyrics:

"This used to be a fun house. But now it's full of evil clowns"

Kinda sucks that I'm the evil clown.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Buffy the Overscheduled Stay-At-Home Mom

You know that stereotypical stay-at-home-mom, the one we all love to hate? Her name is Buffy and she's got her paws in the PTO, the Junior League, and every bake sale known to man. Her presence is felt at her children's school on a weekly basis and she's constantly driving someone somewhere. Yeah, that's me, except for the Junior League part. I get points for that, right?

Right now I'm in the bitten-off-more-than-I-can-chew phase of my rock star stay-at-home-mom stint. I'm in charge of food at my son's school's Fall Festival and 1st grade parents just don't seem to want to volunteer, I've got assignments coming out of my ears, I've got a 6-month-old-baby, my minivan (could I be more of a cliché?) is in the shop, and the departure time for my long-awaited Disney World trip just happens to fall on the same date as my son's Fall Festival. I could list all of the other things I'm up to my knees in but I think I've played my martyr card enough today and, let's face it, nobody likes a martyr, especially the stay-at-home-mom variety. Right now I'm contemplating coping mechanisms. I'm torn between a 45 minute stint on the treadmill and some aggressive phone calls or a large glass of cabernet and a nap. Right now the latter is winning. Help!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Baby Food Part 1

Baby food

I'm not a fan of feeding babies, my own or otherwise. Don't get me wrong, I treasure every second that I nurse my baby. She's my last and I know this time is fleeting so I gaze at her, enjoying the bonding and relishing every moment. But baby food? That is another story. My relationship with baby food is similar to my relationship with my gynecologist. It's a necessary evil. I don't like the smell of it, the consistency of it, or the sound the jar makes when you open it. And the actual feeding part, well that's just painful. She can't wait for the spoon to reach her mouth but, the second it does, she spits 80% of it right back out. When each microscopic, plastic-lined spoonful takes five tries to reach her belly, the process of finishing off a baby food jar is slow, messy, and frustrating. Not exactly my idea of a good time.

My older two kids react the way I am supposed to. They want to be notified when I feed the baby so that they can have a front row seat. They laugh when she spits out every bite and giggle uncontrollably when she tries to grab the spoon and feed herself. They each request a turn to spoon some in her mouth, wanting desperately to participate in this process. I let them, cringing when they miss her mouth and graze her cheek with the spoon or when they tilt it ever-so-slightly and a big chunk of vegetable medley plops on the baby's lap. They think this is hilarious. I smile through clinched teeth, doing my best to look like I am enjoying the madness. I know I'm supposed to but I simply don't. My husband enjoys it too. I'm convinced it's not real joy but his way of making up for the fact that he hasn't been able to participate in her feeding at all up until this point. He always jumps in when he sees me struggling and I'm OK with that. I try to feed her in the evenings when he's around.

I plan on making the baby food phase as short as possible. As soon as she gets a tooth or two, I'll start chopping up our meals into teeny, tiny pieces and giving her that so she can pick it up herself. I figure I've got three months tops of baby-food-o-rama to go. I can handle that, right? Until then, I'll feed her through clinched teeth, feigning enjoyment for the sake of my kids and the rest of the moms out there who can't wait to crack open that first jar of mashed peas.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Times They Are A Changin’


When I was a kid I would wave good-bye to my mother after breakfast in the summer and run out the door. I'd ride my bike all over the place, return for lunch mid-day or call her from a friend's house to tell her I was eating lunch there, go exploring in the woods and return home in time for dinner. I rarely watched TV and I managed to keep myself occupied without a Wii or a DS. My, how times have changed.

I decided this weekend that I was going to require my children to play outside a couple hours a day, provided that the weather holds. I have work to do both in my home and writing deadlines so I must have some free time. It's either stick them in front of the TV for a few hours or force them to play outside. I choose the latter. Today was my first day testing this new requirement out. My kids have been outside for a total of 22 minutes and I have had to take disciplinary action 3 times with my son to keep him outside and once with my daughter. I've had to break up three fights and turn the hose on and off four times. I have gotten a staggering amount of work done. Staggering.

I decided, just minutes ago, to try another strategy out. I sent the two older kids and the dog out the door and I locked it. I locked them out. They are confined to a fenced-in suburban outdoor prison that contains such torturous devices as a swing set, a tree house, a waterslide, a sand and water table, and a never ending supply of flora and fauna to keep them occupied. Yep, just call me the warden. It seems to be working. For the first couple of minutes they both just stood right outside the door, turning the doorknob over and over in disbelief. Is it really locked?

Yes, yes it is.

I'm happy to report that, a mere 15 minutes later, they both knocked on the backdoor not to whine and ask me to come in but to show me a big bucket full of magnolia leaves they'd collected. I admired it from the other side of the door and encouraged them to collect as many as possible. I'm hoping that will keep them occupied for a long time. It's a really big tree.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sweet Nothings

Every morning, as we're getting ready to go to school, camp, the pool, etc…, I get Harper dressed for the day and strap her in her carseat. I leave her there while I get myself ready to head out the door. This process usually takes between 10-20 minutes. Harper has no problem with this as she is the most laid-back child on earth. When I'm finally ready to begin the painstaking process of getting all four of us in the car and strapped in, I herd the older two kids out the door and into the car with strict instructions: Kids. Focus. No dillydallying. Just get in your seats and buckle your belts. Get in seat. Buckle belt. Simple, right? No. Just ask any parent. No matter what I say, one or both of them is still not buckled by the time I return to the car, Harper's seat slung over my arm and ready to be clicked into her chair.

Why? Why? Why? Why can't they just focus on one task for the 10 seconds it takes to get strapped in? Have I failed them in some way? Are they both suffering from ADD? Why?

This is usually the streaming audio in my head during times such as these when, despite the fact that I'm on time and really don't need to hurry, I feel the intense urge to rush. Rush. Rush. Rush. Sometimes I think this is the plague of the modern mother. No matter where we are or what we're doing, we're in a hurry. It's a tragedy that our kids are paying for. We might as well go ahead and prescribe the anti-anxiety medication for them now.

In the midst of all of this self-inflicted stress, I notice a small white index card placed across Harper's legs that says, in red marker, "I Love You." There's one just about every morning, carefully placed in Harper's car seat along with her stuffed monkey. Its Truman's little love note to his sister. I see this and I tell myself: Breathe. Savor this moment. It's life at its best. And I remember that while my kids may be painfully slow at buckling their seatbelts, they are also overflowing with sweetness and light, humor and joy. How did I get so lucky?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Viewing Window


Ugly Dawg, our
beloved pop-up is billed as a camper that sleeps 7. This is not so. Four is
about the max that she will hold comfortably. Toss in a dog and a baby and,
well, you’ve got yourself a crowded house. But we’ll do just that as often as
we can this summer and fall. Right now, the set up isn’t too bad. Harper (the
baby) is so small that she sleeps in an under-the-bed storage container in our
bed. It’s a King sized bed so we have no problem making room for her. The
container she sleeps in is cloth. I bought it a couple years ago to store the
kids’ artwork and craft projects in. We throw a blanket in there and she has no
problem sleeping in it. It has a convenient viewing window on the side so that
I can gaze at her sweet face while I drift off to sleep. I love it. I begged
the Huz to let me use it at home, in our bed, but he’s not having it. He thinks
the crib is a more appropriate place for the baby to sleep in. What’s wrong with him?

I want nothing more than to drift off to sleep each night,
gazing at her sweet face. She’s my last baby. Every first with her is
bittersweet because it is also a last. Her first smile was my last first smile
and it filled up my bliss tank enough to keep me humming show tunes for days. Every
time she nestles up against my chest and drifts off to sleep, I close my eyes
and try to glue the sensation to my memory. I want to remember the way she
smells, the sounds she makes, the warmth of her against me, the way it calms me
to have her there, where she should be, warm in my arms.

So, you can be darn sure we’ll be camping a lot this season.
If that’s what it takes to sleep next to my sweet Harper in her under-the-bed
storage container, that’s what I’ll do.


**It should be noted, for the alarmist readers among you,
that there is NO LID on the storage container.**

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Almost Perfect

My oldest daughter is beautiful. I know I'm biased but she's not just beautiful by her adoring mother's standards. She's beautiful by society's standards. She has tons of brown hair, giant brown eyes and a gorgeous round face. She's the reason Brown-Eyed Girl was written. When she was born I looked her over and admired the sheer perfection that was her tiny body with one exception. There was a large patch of dark hair on her lower back. Her doctor noticed it too at the 2-month check-up. He said something like, "Oh she's just beautiful," then turned her over and said, "And I see she has a little patch of hair on her back. Don't worry Mama. That will fall out. It's not uncommon in babies born a little early." I tried to hide my relief.

She turned four last week and the patch is still there. It's even expanded a bit to take up a sizable area on her little backside. I guess my princess has a touch of werewolf in her. As long as hair doesn't start showing up on her upper lip, I'm ok with that.

I brought my newest little girl to the doctor yesterday for her 2-month check-up. It was déjà vu. "She's perfect Mama. I see she has a little hair on her back but that will fall out. It's not uncommon." Yeah right. I can say, in all honesty, that my back is hair-free. Both girls have inherited this trait from their Father's side of the family. Thanks Hales! Much appreciated.

Which of my lucky children inherited my non-hairy back? My son. Figures.

**I was initially going to title this Blog, "A Hairy Pair" but thought better of it. It's pretty funny in retrospect.**

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Down the Road

My street leaves something to be desired, especially at the end, where it T's into a major highway. There my street, which sounds deceptively bucolic with a name like "Fairway Drive," is flanked on either side by some pretty intense eye sores. On the left side is The Rebel Drive-In. Aside from its unfortunate name, this Cleveland landmark is actually a pretty good place to eat. It's been around for years and I could see it appearing on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. The building is nothing to write home about but it is not particularly offensive either, except right now. The large iconic sign that faces the road is leaning precariously to one side as if it has been hit by a car or truck. It is one of those marquee signs with the removable letters. Right now, however, there are no letters but under the broken sign is a new sign, a portable smaller marquee. This is what it says:



We've got a new business moving in across the street from the Rebel, the fourth or fifth in a line of failed attempts in that particular building. While driving back from picking my son up from school one day I noticed that the new ownership was doing some redecorating. It's an auto repair shop but they had clearly been shopping in the mismatched paint section at Lowe's because they had chosen a bright coral color for the exterior and a canary yellow for the trim. The front of the building was 2/3 painted and there was no sign that they intended to finish. After uttering some obscenities under my breath, I decided to embrace it. Hell, if our car ever breaks down, we won't need to call a tow truck. We can just put it in neutral and push it to the Backwoods Barbie repair shop down the street. I'm happy to report that the original color scheme was scrapped for a much more tasteful white with canary yellow trim and the shop should be open for business any day now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Baby in the Bubble

Just as I am finally feeling secure enough in my baby's immune system to start venturing out in public again, wouldn't you know it, a pandemic strikes. What freakin' luck I have. Now I have to stay at home and listen to Anderson Cooper rattle off statistics about the impending doom of mankind care of the swine flu, I mean H1N1, I mean hybrid influenza. Whatever the name, it is enough to scare the bejesus out of a new mother. So, if you see me about town with an infant car seat wrapped in Reynolds wrap and "Police Line Do not Cross" tape, please keep your distance. I'll be armed with Lysol and enough anti-bacterial gel to sanitize a small town and I won't be afraid to use it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I'm bidding a fond farewell to my beloved blog photo. I love it dearly but feel the need for some changes. And, in all honesty, I've added a wrinkle or two to my complexion in the four years (I think) since that picture was taken. It's time to move on, to usher in a new era with an equally ridiculous, yet more accurate photo.

Special thanks to my photographer friend, Melinda Nicodemus, for taking the picture for me. I asked her to take it specifically for the blog profile picture.

Monday, April 20, 2009

That Part of the Baby Which Shall Not Be Named

Here's something you don't want to hear come out of your son's mouth about your newborn baby girl:

Mommy, why is Harper's head squishy?

Just typing that sentence gives me the willies! I am not a fan of the soft spot. It terrifies me. The fact that on a portion of my daughter's head, the only thing between the world and her precious brain is a couple layers of skin is something I choose not to think about very often. I cannot touch that part of her head with my hands. When I bathe her, I wash it gently with a washcloth, putting just enough of a barrier between my skin and hers that allows me to pretend that the soft spot doesn't exist. When I catch myself thinking about her soft spot (which I have been doing since I sat down to write this—you should see me. I'm twitching like a monkey!), I have the most horrible visions. I can't write them down because that will make them all-too-real and will make me look like a certifiable nutcase but, suffice it to say, these visions consist of the worst-case-scenarios. I'd feel allot better if I kept a helmet on my daughter 24/7 but, alas, I do not want to stunt the growth of her head. I think I can survive the soft spot stage long enough to save her the humiliation of being known amongst the preschool set as, "That girl with the really small head."

So, I responded to my son the only way I could at the time:

Don't ever say that again.

He looked at me like I was crazy for a few seconds, shrugged his shoulders and walked away. I guess in the past few weeks of postpartum-Mommy, he's gotten used to crazy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Distraction in Action

There has been personal drama abound in my life of late and I am in desperate need of a distraction. I've decided to throw my energy into couponing. Yep, that's right: couponing. I'm ashamed to admit that, until last week, I had never so much as clipped a single grocery coupon. What a wonderful world I was missing out on! Who knew that you could stack manufacturer and store coupons? Who knew that Bi-Lo and Publix auto-double coupons up to 60 and 50 cents respectively? Not me! But I learned, oh did I learn, when I decided to enroll in the Coupon 101 class offered through a local church's women's ministry. While I'm very skeptical of the connection between coupons and the Big Guy Upstairs, I did learn a great deal and I'm pretty stoked about my new knowledge and plan to capitalize on it as much as possible. Check in with me this time next year. I'll be a full-blown hoarder with stockpiles of boxed mashed potatoes and mac n' cheese in my basement three-feet deep.

In the meantime, let me brag about my scores today at Bi-Lo:

My total purchases amounted to $21.28.

My total after coupons: $5.88

Jealous yet?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Middle Ground

My writing wheels are a little squeaky so it is time that I grease them up again. My WD40 is this blog and I'm determined to get it going again. With a new baby, a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old, I have ample material.

When my first daughter, Tatum, was born, my son (2.5 years old at the time) was obsessed with her. He was practically glued to her side and used every opportunity to touch her and caress her. His favorite, and most bizarre, activity is one I'll never forget. He would grab her teeny tiny hand, place it in his palm and rub it back and forth against his cheek saying, "Oh Tatum. Oh Tatum." It was his way of expressing both his undying affection for her and his resentment of her sudden presence in his life at the same time. It was sweet the first five times he did it. After that it was just annoying. If I were a videotaping Mom (I'm not), I'd have one of these episodes on tape. They were pretty humorous.

I wasn't sure how my older two kids would react to the baby, especially Tatum. She's a bit of a wild card. She's fiercely independent, one of the most resilient children I've ever come across, and she has a less-than-stellar reputation when it comes to babies. She has no tolerance for any children that are younger than her, particularly babies. One of her friends has a two-year-old sister and Tatum refuses to acknowledge her existence. This little girl adores Tatum and wants nothing more than for Tatum to play with her but she refuses. She snubs her with all of the determination of a stuck up high school cheerleader. I asked her on several occasions if she liked babies and always got the same response, "No. I don't like them but I'll like our baby." I worried.

As it turns out, both of the kids have been pretty cool about Harper's sudden presence in their lives. They feel less jilted because they have each other to lean on and I had the foresight to prepare them for the baby by exposing them to good ol' fashion neglect in the final weeks of my pregnancy. Both kids have an interest in Harper and they cannot wait for her to smile and respond to them but they don't hover or smother her. There have been a few behavioral issues but nothing worthy of concern and they have been easy to remedy. I'm grateful to have found a middle ground with two very different kids and that my son doesn't smother the new baby and my daughter doesn't snub her completely. Here's a picture of the three of them sitting harmoniously on the couch. Harper is the little one in the middle, being forced to wave to the camera.

Special thanks to Melinda at Nicodemus Photography for taking this shot and many more. She does great work. Take a look at her portfolio at:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Harper Emerson Hale

This is long overdue but I’m finally getting a chance to
write again. Harper Emerson Hale arrived, like all of my other children, off
schedule on March 5 at 8:13pm. She weighed 6 pounds 4 ounces and came into this
world with a healthy scream. To make a very long story short, I had
hypertension and had to deliver early. The hypertension continued post partum
and I had the pleasure of a magnesium drip for 24 hours post-op. Things are
better now. My BP is under control thanks to some medication and I’ve spent the
last 2.5 weeks with a great deal of help from my family and friends. Thank you
Mom, Dad, Papa Dale and Grandma Mary and all of my friends who brought and
continue to bring meals. What a great help you’ve all been!

Here’s a little snapshot of Harper Emerson:



Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Alice in Chains

I'm feeling a little sorry for myself of late. What, with the digestive system that is all but ceased to work and the WIDE LOAD sign that is permanently adhered to my backside. Not to mention the sheer spectacle I must be getting out of bed in the middle of the night (which is something that happens quite often). The only thing I can compare it to is a morbidly obese woman trying to squeeze herself into an extra small wetsuit. Every time I find myself maneuvering from my side, surrounded by pillows, to my hands and knees, backing off of the bed, I hear Claree Belcher from Steel Magnolias in my head saying, "It looks like two pigs, fightin' under a blanket." It's a real confidence booster.

I was humbled today by an unsettling sight at my perinatalogist appointment. I was sitting in the waiting room, surrounded by high risk pregnant women, playing with my phone when I heard chains rattling and the door to the examination area open. Out waddled a very-pregnant, cute woman in her late twenties. She looked like someone I might have lunch with except for one minor detail. She was wearing a blue jumpsuit with numbers on the back and had chains around her waist that were attached to handcuffs as well as chains bound around her ankles. Oh, and she had a uniformed, armed police officer guiding her by the arm. So, for the next two weeks, when I get the urge to complain about my stagnant digestive system or my soar lower back, I will think of Alice (that's the name I've given her). She has to eat prison food and walk with chains. She doesn't have the luxury of sending her husband out at 9:45pm to get her a bag of Cadbury chocolate mini eggs and she has to maneuver her ample arse out of a cot to pee on a stainless steel toilet in the middle of the night (I realize this may not be entirely accurate but humor me. I get all of my prison info from Oz). Somehow seeing Alice with my own two eyes made the whole situation clear to me. Sure, I know about those Vietnamese women who give birth standing up in a rice field and go right back to working. We ALL know about those women but they don't resonate with us because we can't see them. Alice, she resonated. She made a lasting impression. I guess I've got it pretty damn good.

Friday, February 20, 2009

It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's OCTOMOM!

I know I might be a little obsessed but I can't help myself. Let's just blame it on my hormones. It's a blanket justification for anything I do. I might as well take advantage of it while I can. Check out this video . A non-profit has offered Octomom (this name kills me by the way) some incredibly generous help that would truly assist her children without delving into taxpayer money. They offered this a week ago and she has yet to respond. What gives? Is she nuts? Do I really need to ask that question?

And, she's looking at houses in the 1 million dollar plus range. Are you kidding me? I grit my teeth as I write this and I want nothing more than to meet her on the street and shake her until the collagen drains out of her lips. I have other fantasies that involve superfly ninja moves but I'll keep those to myself. Thoughts?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

So Many Details…

20 days and counting until the next Hale child makes her arrival into this world. Hard to believe. Right now my hope is that I make it to the scheduled date (March 11) so that I can avoid labor altogether. My daughter was not cooperative. She arrived a little over a week before my scheduled C-section and I was not prepared for labor. It really sucked. I'm hoping for a highly sterile, pain-free delivery. They'll be no doula, no midwife, no spiritual experience, no breathing exercises. I'm over that nonsense. We high-riskers don't have any birthing options and I choose to embrace my fate. Give me an OR and a gurney any day over a baby pool in my living room with Cat Stevens playing in the background. Puh-lease.

In the meantime, here's a little blogworthy randomness:

  • For those of you unaware, Nadya Suleman, the mother of those now-infamous octuplets, has started a fund-raising website. In case you were wondering, yes, all major credit cards are accepted.
  • I've decided my favorite part of pregnancy is the fact that there is absolutely no need to suck in my gut at any time, ever. It's a glorious thing, really. I'm going to miss that the most. Well, that and the kicks. I do enjoy the kicks when they aren't too intense.
  • The Oscars are coming up this weekend and I have seen nary a nominated movie. There was a time in my life when I would have seen them all. That time has passed. It makes me a little sad. I'm rooting for Mickey Rourke. I want to see him thank his dog again.
  • My daughter has to go to school dressed up as a character from a Mother Goose nursery rhyme next week. Any ideas? I'm at a loss and I refuse to spend any money.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

British Invasion

I was doing my best to get some editing work done this evening while I waited for dinner to cook so, being the fantastic mother that I am, I sat my kids down in front of the TV, turned it to PBS and went to park my arse in front of the computer. About 20 minutes later, I kept hearing uproarious laughter coming from my son and a few giggles from my daughter. Excellent, I thought, PBS must really know what kids like. A couple minutes later my son ran into the kitchen (where my desktop is) and said, "Mommy. You have got to see this hilarious movie we are watching." I went in to find my kids mesmerized by Are You Being Served?

I guess we've got a backup show when the cartoons run out. I wonder when the appropriate time to introduce, Keeping Up Appearances to the kiddos is.

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill-Recliner


My Grandmother has one of those chairs that looks like a normal, average, everyday recliner but in fact is so much more. With just the push of a button, it rises slowly and places her in an upright, standing position. My kids think it is the coolest thing ever. When we visit, they are constantly asking her for "rides." She is usually happy to oblige. I need one of those chairs right about now. That and a Craft-matic Adjustable bed and I'll be set for the next four weeks.

The baby is set to arrive on March 11. I'm going to try to keep up the blog a little better for the next few weeks.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Status Quo

Julianne has a little problem with Facebook. She's hooked on it and has, as a result, begun thinking in terms of her Facebook status which, for those of you unfamiliar with Facebook, always starts out with the word, "Julianne" and must be confined to 160 characters or less.

Julianne now thinks in the third person. She worries this may be a tad narcissistic.

Julianne likes for her Facebook status to either be clever, poignant, humorous or some combination of the three. This is difficult for her to accomplish in less than 160 characters.

Julianne hopes that this thinking in terms of Facebook status condition of hers doesn't seep into her everyday life. She may hear herself say things such as this:

Julianne wants her daughter to stop asking for a snack and start eating her meals. If this doesn't happen, her daughter will be placed in time out.

Julianne does not want to ask her son to turn off the Wii again. If she does, she will take his privileges away tomorrow.

Julianne is trying to talk on the phone. She wishes her two children would stop making requests long enough for her to change her doctor's appointment. If they don't, Julianne will be forced to lock herself in the closet.

Julianne is now locked in the closet. Thankfully, she remembered to bring her laptop.



Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lunch Lady Land

He woke up on the wrong side of the bed is not a phrase I use often. I've never bought into the philosophy that someone can wake up in a bad mood. This is ironic, considering I am the queen of waking up with a boulder-sized chip on my shoulder. I finally recognized this in myself when I saw it, first hand, in my son this morning. He woke up 30 minutes earlier than usual, came upstairs and asked me if he could watch TV (I was in the shower). I told him he could but he'd have to wait until I finished my shower. This did not go over well. He collapsed into a pile of tears and whiny incoherent victim phrases. It was a great way for me to begin my day.

I got out of the shower, got dressed, and turned on PBS for him. I explained that the TV would be turned off soon when it was time for us to go downstairs and get ready for school. His response was a tad irrational:

Son: SCHOOL? I have school AGAIN? Does Tatum have school today?

Me: Not today.

Son: She ALWAYS gets to stay home while I have to go to school. And then he made a noise that I can only describe as a dramatic screech followed by the classic arm folded, head bowed sulking pose. It pleased me so.

I chose not to acknowledge that last statement, made some kind of threat regarding the TV (I made so many threats this morning that I can't remember what this one was), and went on with the business of getting myself ready for the day. Suffice it to say, my expectations for the smoothness of my morning routine were dropping at record speed. I was dreading the next 45 minutes like a root canal.

After I finished getting myself ready, I waited two minutes until Dragon Tales was over, turned off the TV and asked the kids (by this time both were up in my bed) to go downstairs and get dressed. This request, which he knew was coming, brought forth an absurd amount of tears and drama from my son. I made another threat regarding the Wii that prompted him to peel himself off of the bed and go downstairs where he got dressed fast enough to give a sloth a run for his money, whining the entire time about the pants, the shirt, the shoes. A smooth morning of dressing, bed making and room cleaning earns my kids a token which they use to redeem for an allowance. My son asked, after his painful dressing episode, if he could add a token to his board. I braced myself as I explained that a token is only earned if the task is completed with a "willing spirit" and that his willing spirit was MIA that morning. This, as you can imagine, did not go over well. More whining and crying ensued and I ended up sending my son to his room until he was ready to behave like a civilized human being. After he composed himself, we sat down for breakfast which went off without incident. The drama, however, was not over. My son caught a glimpse of the school cafeteria menu as he carried his dishes to the sink and burst into tears. I was mystified. WHAT NOW?

In between sobs, he said this to me:

You told me that they were having chicken sandwiches yesterday Mommy and they had pizza. PIZZA! I don't like pizza. Why do you keep telling me things that AREN'T TRUE????


Well, this made me feel like a million bucks. What kind of Mom am I? After two unexpected snow days I assume that the menu is still accurate and send my son to school with no lunch and he is subsequently forced to consume pizza. PIZZA! The humanity! I told him that I was just going by what the menu said and tried to explain that it could have been much worse. The menu could have been sloppy joes or meatloaf! I then broke into a chorus of, "Lunch Lady Land" by Adam Sandler which didn't go over quite as well as I'd hoped.

So, to get rid of the enormous chip on my shoulder that I blame squarely on my son, I am watching the video of Adam Sandler and the late, great Chris Farley as the Lunch Lady over and over again. It's better than Prozac!

Hoagies and grinders. Hoagies and grinders. Navy beans, navy beans, navy beans!


Monday, January 19, 2009

White House Scandal

A little inaugural humor for your Monday:

We discussed the election quite a bit in our house. We tried to use that opportunity to teach our son about the basics of U.S. Government. In the process, my daughter picked up some information. She knows who both John McCain and Barack Obama are and she could definitely pick them out in a line-up. Both the kids know that Obama won the election and they always point him out on TV or in print ads. Yesterday, I was reading the Sunday paper and my daughter picked up the USA Weekend magazine with Barack and Michele Obama on the cover. She looked at it for a second, held it up for me to see and said, in a voice that implies a scandal, "Mommy. Did you know that Bock (her name for him) Obama has a girlfriend?"

This launched us into a discussion about marriage and family that was followed by many, many questions that I'm pretty sure she's still confused about. So, we'll be tuning in to watch Bock Obama and his girlfriend at the inauguration tomorrow. His two love children will probably be with him as well. That should open the floor up for some interesting topics.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pop-Tart Fetcher Extraordinaire


School was cancelled today because temperatures were a chilly 12 degrees this morning. I'm not sure I agree with cancelling school due to cold temps but that's probably because I don't have kids that have to wait at a bus stop in the a.m. I took advantage of the off day, letting the kids stay up a little later than usual last night so I could catch some extra shut eye this morning. This plan rarely works but that has never stopped me from trying. Today was one of those rare occasions that the kids were compliant and let me sleep while they watched some morning cartoons. It was blissful, not the kind of sleep that people without young children would appreciate (There was the occasional elbow in the stomach and lots of noise) but given my ability to tune out all non-emergencies, I slept like a baby. I awoke at around 8:30 and decided to roll myself out of the bed. I sat up, scanned the room and bid a formal good morning to my kids. My son didn't waste any time getting to the whining. Here's what he said:

Son: Why do I always have to get the pop-tarts for us in the morning?

Daughter: Because you're my Bubba.

***It should be noted that Pop-Tarts are not a typical breakfast around here. I keep them in the house for mornings when I can steal a little extra shut-eye***

That seemed to satisfy him and it made me smile so I got on with the business of my morning routine and we braved the cold for a fun day of indoor play and a lunch date with some friends. After we came home I made the kids play in their rooms for a bit while I got some things done around the house and my daughter seemed to completely forget the conversation she had that morning when I heard this coming from my son's room in a high pitched scream:


Who's going to get her pop-tarts now?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nothing Better To Do

I received a comment today from someone who calls themselves, "BeastTube" on a blog entry that was the most vile, poorly written fragment I've ever laid eyes on. I deleted it immediately but it left a lasting impact. In addition to feeling the need to take a long, hot shower to wipe the filth out of my mind, I wonder some things about Mr. BeastTube:

  1. Who is BeastTube?
  2. What possible satisfaction does it give him to post his sadistic sexual fantasies on a semi-inactive Mama blog like mine?
  3. What is this BeastTube compensating for?

Just for shits and giggles, I'll give my own questions a shot. Here goes:

  1. He's 43, lonely and hasn't been with a woman in over 3 years. He watches way too much porn and plays, "Grand Theft Auto" at least two hours per day.
  2. He's reaching and has tapped out most other demographics. Next on his list: quilting grandmas and scrapbookers
  3. This is a no brainer. Just look at his name.

Anyone else care to post a theory or two?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Come Again Some Other Day


I've got nothing these days. Nothing but rain. Rain. Rain. In January. It sucks.

So, to combat my bitterness, I'm going to make a list of things I'm thankful for:

  1. Smoothies. Without them my digestive system would stall completely.

  2. Rock of Love III: Thank you crazy DJ Nikki for making me laugh on a day when laughter was scarce by reading your Ode to Bret Michaels rap from a paper that you clearly got from the health clinic entitled, "Genital Herpes Instructions." Holy guacamole, I love that show.

  3. My son's general goodness. He received a belated gift from my grandmother yesterday that included three board books that are appropriate for a two-year-old (he's six) and a set of "erasable" markers that don't work. He responded to it by saying, "Nana doesn't really understand what a 6-year-old likes does she?" We both giggled and he gave his books to his sister. Man, I love that kid.

  4. A healthy pregnancy. I'm moving right along at 29 weeks, feeling good, even cooking again.

  5. The huz. God bless him for his patience and willingness to teach my son how to play Star Wars Battleship. I would have made it 15 seconds.

  6. Tiaras. My house is filled with them now and my daughter puts them on at random times and declares herself a princess. This is followed by a dance. Yeah, I love her too.

  7. Semi-trashy vampire novels. They're my new thing.

  8. The Dud (our lovable mutt). My snuggle jar runneth over.

  9. Eric Hutchinson. I've been rocking out to his tunes in my kitchen for days.

  10. January 7th: the date that school resumes. My kids are bored. I'm ready. Let's get this party started.