Archive for July, 2014


Lessons Learned from Buying 3 Homes…

the money pit

Book Club Lovers: We start The ONE Thing on Friday. Do you have your copy? If not, go here for details.

Top Mommy Blog Update: Thanks to all of you for helping me find some new readers! By clicking on the Top Mommy Blog button to the right, MIP finds new readers. Think about rating it and leaving a comment, too. That let’s me know what I should be writing and how! Thanks again!

As you read this, the daughter and her hubby have just signed their lives away….er…um…just signed on the dotted line for their first mortgage. In the early years of our own married lives, I would have told you that we would probably have bought 5 houses by now.  But, Texas now seems like home to us, even though we are evil, transplanted Yankees. So, here’s a little of what we learned along the way as home owners. Dear daughter and son? Are you taking notes?

1. Whatever you think is your budget, what you pay when all is said and done will be higher than that “ceiling” you had in mind.

2. Closing costs are code for “ways to take your money for really stupid stuff.”

3. Points are code for “spending more money to save money.” Only in the USA.

4. Truth-in-Lending Disclosures (TILs) should be accompanied by Prozac injections.

5. Committing to paying for something over 30 years somehow makes you feel as though you’ve just been sentenced to life in prison.

6. # 5 is actually true.

7. At the closing, after you’ve signed your name 18,000 times and been sentenced to financial prison, the bank will give you the pen you used. Shouldn’t you at least get a free sofa out of the interest they’re going to make off of you???

8. After going to prison, fall in love with your current sofa. It’s not going anywhere for a while.

9. When you have 3 teenagers, your old sofa will have to be replaced, just from the stress of living with them. Fortunately, the sofa company has a payment plan and it’s only for 15 years.

10. If you buy a new home, you will go broke buying curtain rods, curtains, blinds, grass seed, fertilizer, weed killer, bug killer, flowers, bushes, and trees.

11. If you buy an older home, you will go broke repairing curtain rods, replacing worn out curtains, and picking out new blinds from this century. And you will still be buying grass seed, fertilizer, bushes, trees, weed killer, bug killer and have to replace your lawn mower.

12. About the time you recover from the above, the furnace will break. Count on 4 figures.

13. About the time you finish paying off the furnace, the roof will get hit by hailstones.

14. About the time you finish paying off the roof, you will discover cracks in your walls.

15. About the time you repair all the cracks in your walls, your exterior paint will start peeling.

16. About the time you repaint the exterior, you will find out you’re preggers.

17. Once you have your first child, home repairs and replacements will seem really cheap.

18. Once the eldest child starts driving and needing a cell phone, you won’t be repairing or replacing anything in your house for about 10 years.

19. Plan on buying a freezer or another refrigerator if you have teenagers. It’s okay…the appliance store has a payment plan…for about as long as the appliance lasts.

20.  No matter how large the home seemed when you bought it and how little furniture and belongings you had moving in, you will still find a way to exceed the storage limits of all closets, drawers and cabinets in that roomy house.

21. When your children leave home, their stuff stays behind.

22. You will get rid of your own stuff to store more of your kids’ stuff. Your stuff will go to your kids’ homes. Weird and stupid, but true.

23. You will think about moving to the country for the plethora of barns and storage buildings available for your kids’ stuff. Okay, and your own weakness with a December holiday.

24. You will think about a storage unit for your kids’ stuff just so you won’t have to move.

25. In an effort to conserve money, you’ll just wind up moving more of your stuff into your kids’ new home so you can keep their old stuff at your house without paying for storage of their stuff. And we wonder why people complain about living on fixed incomes.

26. When you die, your kids will go through all of your stuff and throw out all of their stuff (that you bought for them) and say, “Why didn’t Mom and Dad spend more on themselves?”

27.  Your home, now paid for finally, will be worth a fair fortune to your heirs, aka the children.

28.  Your children will sell that house.

29. Your children will use the proceeds from the sale to buy…wait for it…a new home. Your entire estate will be good enough for a down payment for each of them on their next home.

30. You’d do it all over again…just for the “tax benefits”…just because that house became a home and a lot of happy memories were made in between repairing dry wall, repainting the same room 6 times, and fertilizing the yard.

Here’s to you, the newest homeowners in the family! I’ll be there soon to help you unpack. And I’m bringing some of your stuff with me. And probably some of my own.

Friday’s Post: The Odd Days of August

You Might Also Like: Lessons Learned from a Colorado Family ReunionVacation; Lessons Learned from a Family Vacation; and Lessons Learned from



Word of the Week: toxophilite

MIP Book Club Lovers: The August MIP Book Club Selection might just change your life…Do you have your copy? If not, go here for details.

Top Mommy Blog Update: Thanks to YOU, MIP is # 193 of the Top Mom Blogs world-wide! And it’s # 9 in the Everything Else sub-category. Click on the “button” to the right of this post to further bring MIP to new people and new audiences. Thanks so much for helping me with this!

Good morning, Word Lovers! Last week’s WOW (Word of the Week) was bricolage. Merriam-Webster Online says that bricolage means construction achieved by using whatever comes to hand. Does this mean that MacGyver did a lot of bricolage? 

Today’s WOW is toxophilite. My definition guesses are:

toxophilite (täk-ˈsä-fə-ˌlīt) 1. having a toxic reaction to the music of the Chi Lites (Half of you just googled Chi Lites, right?) 2. the toxicity that results when Phil lights a cigarette 3. a current resident of Philadelphia (who is actually a native of France) who believes that taxes are too high (Okay…so that one was really reaching…do you have better suggestions?)

What’s your definition guess for toxophilite? Send me an email here.

Wednesday’s Post: Lessons Learned from Buying 3 Homes…

You Might Also Like: Word of the Week: bricolage; Word of the Week: spume; Word of the Week: kickshaw; Word of the Week: preterit; and Word of the Week: offal


Slow Reader Friday: Songs in the Key of Solomon…

Grapes for Two

Grapes for Two

Top Mommy Blogs Update: As I write this, MIP is now # 250 out of 921 blogs on That’s ALL due to you, my dear readers! Thanks so much! While you’re here, would you mind clicking on that Top Mommy Blog button over there to the right of this post??? Thanks again!

Book Club Readers: The August MIP Book Club Selection is out, along with the suggested reading plan! This one is a MUST READ! Go here for all the details!

Do you know Anita Renfroe? Not ringing any bells for some of you? Well, watch this video and I think you’ll remember her just fine. She and her husband, John, are the authors for this month’s MIP Book Club Selection, Songs in the Key of SolomonThe book is a collection of couples devotionals.

Now, before you get ready to click on another blog somewhere or check your FB page, John and Anita are quick to point out that they, too, don’t like most couples devotional books because they are exceedingly boring. They never stuck with any they tried. And so, they decided to author one where you might actually be able to get your spouse to enjoy them and read them.

I floated the first few past the hubby’s very impatient eyes and he actually consented to doing one a week. We’d do it more often, but the man is on a plane 90% of the time and it’s a little tough to communicate in any way, shape or form when the FAA frowns upon such communication. So, we have to cram such activities in on the weekends and they are often so busy with us just catching up on home repairs and what admonitions we need to issue to the youngest collectively that we seldom get more than 1 night each weekend for a date.

If you think I’m lying about the fun of this book, then here are a few excerpts of just where these little “dates” take place from the Renfroes’ book:

1. “Wash some plump, juicy grapes in a colander and bring them bathtub-side. Run a nice bubble bath, light some candles, and set them around the edge of the tub. After you’ve climbed in together, read on.”

2. “Build a tent with some chairs and blankets like you used to do when you were kids. Get underneath, in the dark, with a flashlight.”

3. “Go to wherever the husband’s most prized material possession is kept.”

Do I have your attention now? As you can see, most of these devotions don’t require a lot of planning, lengthy readings or even a lot of cash and babysitters. Most can be done after you get those kids to bed and with ease.

The title is the title because the Song of Solomon is the one book of the Bible that says marital love (and the most intimate parts of it) is not only okay, but strongly recommended! Besides, there are references to the woman’s body that will just make you guffaw. Modern romance isn’t anything like Biblical romance. And for that.. I thank you, Jesus!!!

So go ahead, make some beautiful music with your spouse. Now, where are those grapes?!

What did you think of Songs in the Key of Solomon? Share your thoughts about it in the comment section below!

Monday’s Post: What’s bricolage?

You Might Also Like: Slow Reader Friday: Jesus, the One and Only; Slow Reader Friday: Killing Jesus; and Slow Reader Friday: And Then There Were Nuns


An Unlikely Mom…


Book Club Readers: I would like to know if you have done any of the devotions in Songs in the Key of Solomon and how it went. You can let me know anonymously by clicking here. Thanks!

Warning: War and Peace was shorter.

In 1985 I should have been the happiest woman on the planet. I had a sweet, funny, romantic husband who had just bought me a brand new house in a great neighborhood. I worked for a great Christian woman and did interesting work. I attended one of those “mega-churches” filled with lots of opportunities to serve and learn more about God. I was part of a wonderful Bible study group that caused my faith to grow by leaps and bounds.

But I wasn’t happy.

The hubby and I were trying to get preggers and nothing was happening on that front at all. While other friends our age were getting pregnant right and left, we were jealous and as Christians, we felt bad about feeling jealous! In my head I was thinking, “A good Christian would rejoice with her friends when they rejoice. A child is a blessing.” But, I was just sad that it wasn’t me who was getting to have a baby shower.

My head was also thinking, “It makes sense that God is not giving you a baby.” Why? When I babysat children as a teenager, they often drove me nuts. I had very little patience with them, honestly. This propensity made sense. I was the youngest in my family and thus, never really learned to tolerate the boisterous nature of younger children.

I also grew up in a minister’s family where quiet weekends were very normal because Dad was either preparing his sermon and needing the quiet or because he had just finished preaching and ministering on Sunday mornings and needed the rest. Thus, loudness, commotion and silliness were not my favorite cup of tea. I preferred to read, listen to music through my voluminous headphones (It was the 70s–everything was big.) and watching old movies. I liked solitude and solitude is not exactly synonymous with children!

And I had a knack for overreacting and saying the wrong things. How was that going to translate into good motherhood??? And yet, there was this burning ache to have a child.

We kept this torment to ourselves for a long time, despite some extended family members making it plain that they were waiting for us to make “the big announcement.” We so wished we could have complied with their wishes. And yet, our sadness was so severe that we couldn’t admit to them why we weren’t able to make “the big announcement.”

Weeks turned into months and months turned into years. Finally, we consulted an ObGyn for help. If you’ve never been through this process, it’s pretty embarrassing. You have to expose the most intimate details of your relationship with your husband to strangers and let your private parts be open “for inspection.” Okay, so it feels like an inspection.

In 1985 in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogate pregnancies were just coming to the forefront of the infertility field of medicine. So, the hubby and I had to discuss exactly how far we wanted to go down the “fertility treatment road.” We finally agreed that if the baby wasn’t totally ours genetically, then we would stop treatments and procedures and start working on adopting a child.

Few realize that if a couple chooses to adopt, they basically have to have some time to grieve. Yes, grieve. Why? Because an infertile couple has to say goodbye to the notion of ever having their own child genetically. If a couple doesn’t do that, in my humble opinion, the consequences could be really unfortunate for the child they eventually adopt. To grieve this “loss” can take years. While adopting would have been great, going down the grief road wasn’t my idea of fun.

To boot most procedures (including adoption) costs thousands of dollars not covered by insurance. This generally hits couples when they’re hoping to pay off college loans and have a mortgage. There isn’t exactly a plethora of disposable income at their fingertips during this era of their lives! This was true of us as well.

We were both tested for possible infertility causes to determine the course of treatment. I was the culprit. Now, no matter how many times I, as well as the hubby and the doctors, said I shouldn’t blame myself, I still did. How do you not do that when you find out you’re not ovulating regularly and that you have endometriosis??? Again, it seemed to be confirmation from on high that I was not the right kind of person to be a mom. I felt pretty worthless.

We tried fertility drugs to no avail. Soon, it seemed prudent to do exploratory surgery on me to see what could be done about my endometriosis and to make sure other things were not hindering my ability to conceive. The surgery was going to be thousands of dollars.

We made the decision to tell our Bible study group, because they would wonder why I was in the hospital anyway. I will never forget what happened next–a first-time experience for me. They laid their hands on me and just prayed that that expense would not be necessary!

A mere month later, I was telling them I was pregnant. The Bible study group members literally jumped up and down at the news. Surgery averted. Prenatal vitamins started! Miracle granted!

Nine traumaless months later the oldest son was born. Four years later, with the help of fewer fertility drugs, our daughter arrived. And without any medical science at all, another son arrived four years after that. (I still refer to him as “the immaculate conception.”) Guess God thought this selfish, quiet-seeking person should be a mom after all.

I’d love to tell you that I was a great mom from the beginning. I was anything but. It took a loooonnnnggg time for God to work on all that selfishness and huge desire to crawl in a big hole when things got too chaotic  for me. And I wasn’t all that great an aunt to several of my nieces and nephews (Again, there’s a reason why this blog is called what it is.) But over time and with a lot of instruction from the Lord and other great moms, I learned how to be a decent mom.

But, God didn’t stop there. He chose to give me “the adopteds.” Most of them are friends and acquaintances of my kids and a few I picked up along the way as I worked at our local university. I’m privileged to say that a few are also from the extended family. I would die for any one of them just as I would for my own children. Just the other day at the local grocery store, I heard a happy voice call out, “Momma A!” And I knew that happy voice was hailing me! Sure enough, an adopted was waiting to hug and greet me.

Today I marvel at how God answered the sad, desperate prayers of a woman who felt so unworthy of motherhood in 1985. Motherhood, in any of its forms, is such a privilege! And when the next generation becomes the people they’re meant to become, I am so proud of each and every one of them and how they, themselves, are triumphing over the sadness and obstacles in their own lives. They are a marvel, as well.

Perhaps now you understand why I find myself stalking “Mommy blogs” right and left, even though my active years of parenting are well behind me. And why, I have chosen to put the “Top Mommy Blog button” in the right-hand column of my blog. It still stuns me that I can offer suggestions, tips and encouragement when being a parent is really trying! And it may stun you to know that MIP is currently # 25 in the most popular “Everything Else” Mommy Blog category and # 565 overall, despite just being approved for mention on their site a few short days ago.

So, do me a favor: When you read a post here, please click on the Top Mommy Blog button before you leave. That will help other moms find my blog. I am so hoping that something I say here will resonate with that hard-working group of people and that I can be a blessing in their lives as they have been in mine. If you’re a mom, clicking on the button may help you find some much-needed resources and other blogs to help you with that big job of yours. And if you have a few minutes, please leave a rating and a few words about what MIP means to you. Thanks in advance–it means more than you will ever know.

Point to Ponder 1: If you’re going through infertility right now, what’s the most important thing you can do today to help your situation, either mentally, physically or emotionally? Pray? Confide in a good friend or relative? Tell me about it here? Consult a fertility specialist? Whatever it is, take the first step today to make that happen. You need allies in this fight! 

Point to Ponder 2: Do you have a friend or relative going through infertility right now? If you’re a mom, may I gently suggest that you do your “mommy venting” with friends who already have kids and just pray for your friend and relative and let them know that you care about what they’re going through? Tell them that you probably don’t understand their situation, but you would love to know how you could help them best.

Point to Ponder 3: Do you have a wonderful mother figure in your life? Let her know today how much you appreciate her efforts and influence on your life! We never know when that gesture or kind word of appreciation is the last time we may get to let her know that!

Point to Ponder 4: Having a rough day “at the office” with your kids? Been there, done that. Let an older mom know that. She often has suggestions on how to get through those rough times. My suggestion? Throw out all of those parenting books and just trust your gut. God gave you those kids because he thought you were the best person to parent them. Submit a comment below if you need more encouragement. I’m happy to tell you what this imperfect mom learned as she was “in the trenches.” And veteran Moms? What suggestions do you have for newer moms who are struggling to succeed at raising the next generation? Submit away below!

Point to Ponder 5: Have you clicked that button up there yet? What? You haven’t. What’s stopping you? Get it done now. And thanks! 🙂

Friday’s Post: Slow Reader Friday and August MIP Book Club Selection Time!

You Might Also Like: Go Ahead…Hate Me; Would You Like a Family Like This?; 56 White Men; The Tyrant; and The Honest Truth and Yes, That’s Redundant


Word of the Week: bricolage

Book Club Readers: The review will be out for Songs in the Key of Solomon this Friday, along with the August MIP Book Selection (and this one is a must-read, folks!)

Attention Chronic MIP Readers: If you like this blog, would you be so kind as to click on the “top mommy blog” button on the right side of the screen? That allows more readers to find this blog. Thanks so much for reading and for helping this blog find more people!

Good morning, Word Lovers! Last week’s WOW (Word of the Week) was spume. Merriam-Webster Online says that spume is frothy matter on liquids, as in ocean foam. Living in central Texas we don’t see a whole lot of ocean spume.

Today’s WOW is bricolage. Here are my guesses for bricolage:

bricolage (brē-kō-ˈläzh) 1. a brick’s worth of logs 2. a log’s worth of bricks. 3. what happens when a Parisian breaks a leg

What’s your guess for bricolage? Submit it here.

Wednesday’s Post: It won’t be about my Colorado vacation (And the crowd says, “Yesssssss!”)

You Might Also Like: Word of the Week: spume; Word of the Week: kickshaw; Word of the Week: preterit; Word of the Week: offal; and Word of the Week: shinplaster


Lessons Learned from a Colorado Family Reunion Vacation…

Estes Park

Attention: If you like this blog, would you please click on the new “Top Mommy Blog” button to the right of the pic above? A click a day will help this blog spread to new audiences. Thanks!

Warning: War and Peace was shorter.

If you’re a fairly regular visitor here, then you probably have detected a little themeMIP went on vacation with the extended in-law family last week. Early in the 2000’s my hubby’s family decided to do destination family reunion vacations together. Despite the diversity of people in the family, we manage to get along with each other in sometimes tight quarters for an entire week. Quite a feat for what was then a group of 24 people total. 24 people showed up this time, but that’s now only 3/4 of the family! We are up to 31.5 with a new great nephew due in early October (Yesss! More people to spoil rotten and then swiftly return to parents!).

We have taken on a number of destinations now (or they have taken on us and lived to tell the tale??): Branson, Virginia Beach, Nashville (IN), Hilton Head and now Estes Park, CO. Here’s what I learned this week while hanging with the fam-in-law:

1. Never believe the emails from a property management company regarding lock box codes.

2. Never believe the codes in the vacation home “renter’s manual” for how to unlock the dumpster. (Yes, the dumpster. Reminder–there were 24 people! And yes, locked. Bears in Colorado think a dumpster is fine dining.)

3. It doesn’t matter how much you emphasize that 1/3 of the food cost is built into each family’s housing fee, we’ll all bring food.

4. Because of # 3 and because we are all too generous, there were enough tortillas to feed a 3rd world country, not to mention fruit and Keurig cups.

5. The best solution to early morning people demanding coffee immediately is to have too many Keurig cups next to a Keurig machine.

6. Your biggest hassle arriving in the nation’s snow playground is renting a car for clear roads.

7. Breakfast for 24 takes 3 full grocery carts and 2 cars to transport.

8. When feeling the effects of thinner air, drink water.

9. You can never buy enough bottled water in Estes Park.

10. To satisfy the soda drinkers in the house, you may need another fridge for the week.

11. The freezers stay empty. This includes ice for water. And no, I still don’t understand why.

12. No hot tubbing after 8 pm. (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

13. If you ask the “sub-families” to each cook one dinner meal, your biggest problem will be finding enough dinner meals for everyone and giving everyone the Monday night meal.

14. With families coming from 3 different states, the dinner meal variety is simply awesome.

15. If you didn’t get to cook on Monday, volunteer for Friday and Saturday night. You can do “leftover night” either time and it’s remarkably wonderful…and cheap!

16. If you want to do anything with the Fowlers, get up at 2 am.

17. The earliest I went to sleep was 2 am.

18. I wish I’d had more time with the Fowlers. Wait. Did they even come on this vacation???

19. When the hubby and the DSL are ATV-ing, make sure all insurance is paid up.

20. My niece’s last name must be Andretti.

21. If I ever video my entire life, call the other niece. She was smart enough not to drive.

22. Yes, you can get a speeding ticket on an ATV in Colorado. It’s a Communist plot.

23. Your spine will tell you about your ATV-ing a full 2 days after the actual event.

24. Plan your visit to the top of the Continental Divide the day before the huge thunderstorm.

25. Elk are not intimidated by goofy tourists.

26. Elk don’t respond to, “Hey Elkie, come here!”

27. I need 2 bottles of water to get to the top of the Continental Divide.

28. I brought 1 bottle of water to get to the top of the Continental Divide.

29. I need my heart meds and frequent stops to get to the top of the Continental Divide.

30. I left my heart meds in the car.

31. When you’re at the top of the world, you need 2 gift shops. Here’s a thought: add on to the already-existing gift shop??? Oh, wait. That would require fewer tax dollars. My bad.

32. I am a sucker for 3 types of stores: food, Christmas items and hand-blown glass.

33. I had the greatest quiche of my life in Estes Park.

34. There was an awesome farmer’s market last week in Estes Park.

35. There were only 3 Christmas stores in Estes Park.

36. One glass store (out of many) had an entire snowman village, including pine trees.

37. Creditors started calling our home this morning.

38. Only my hubby buys horseradish at the farmer’s market.

39. We will be playing “Ticket to Ride” this Christmas. It’s like Risk without any luck involved.

40. I predict I will be the loser of every “Ticket to Ride” game this Christmas.

41. The hubby needs to make raspberry & pecan pancakes to make me a morning person.

42. If we have granddaughters someday, they will get “princess pancakes”.

43. When I have to get up at 5 am to help the hubby with the princess pancakes, it’s probably smart to go to bed before 4 am.

44. It’s hard to shut off my brain at 4 am.

45. There is nothing as beautiful as a rodeo with a Rocky Mountain backdrop at dusk.

46. Your kids’ favorite youth director lives a mere 2 hours away from in another state.

47. My son lives 4 hours away in the same state. You’d think he lives in TX or something.

48. When visiting the farmer’s market, take your shower early. Let’s just say the temp of my shower and the cool temps were similar.

49. It takes a full car load to bring back half of our kitchen for princess pancakes.

50. My Surveymonkey membership comes in handy when analyzing family vacation feedback.

Monday’s Post: Did you fret and fume about spume? 

You Might Also Like: Grocery List for a Family Reunion Vacation; Would You Like a Family Like This?; Lessons Learned from a Family Vacation; and Lessons Learned from


Grocery List for a Family Reunion Vacation…

grocery cart

Warning: War and Peace was shorter.

Only 3/4ths of our family attended our most recent reunion vacation and yet, that still meant meals for 24 every day. For dinner each family took a night and provided a meal for all of us, but breakfast was the domain of the hubby, since he loves to cook and is an early morning riser. Upon arriving in Denver, we spent an hour getting a rental car (Yes, we were ticked, too.) and then traveled to the Wal-mart in Loveland. It only took 3 full carts of food and 4 family members to check out. The cashier said we were her highest amount tallied for her register…ever. Here’s how that happened–the register tape listed the stuff below:

5 packages of real bacon bits

3 packages of honey ham

7 packages of sausage

2 packages of cocktail weiners

2 large packages of bacon

2 packages of sausage links

126 eggs

4 large containers of Greek yogurt

3 containers of cream cheese

2 cartons of half & half

2 cans of whipped cream

3 gallons of milk

6 blocks of cheese

2 lbs. of butter

3 cartons of heavy whipping cream

3 bags of shredded cheese

1 bottle of strawberry jam

1 bottle of grape jelly

1 large jar of peanut butter

2 cans of frozen apple juice

1 gallon of orange juice

108 K-cups

2 gallons of distilled water

1 large box of granola bars

4 bags of tomatoes

2 jars of salsa

8 lbs. of jalapenos

6 bell peppers

8 lbs. of grapes

2 large containers of mushrooms

2 large containers of strawberries

6 lbs. of bananas

1 lb. of onions

2 small watermelons

2 honeydew melons

2 cantaloupes

4 lbs. of cherries

2 containers of blueberries

2 containers of blackberries

1 container of raspberries

2 large cans of tomato paste

1 bag of flour

3 large bags of flour tortillas

3 boxes of Bisquick

1 bag of corn tortillas

2 cans of cinnamon rolls

6 cans of crescent rolls

2 cans of orange danish rolls

1 large package of wheat bread

4 loaves of cinnamon swirl bread

1 large box of toaster waffles

2 boxes of instant oatmeal

4 boxes of cold cereal

5 boxes of muffin mix

3 bags of bagels

1 large bottle of syrup

1 bag of sugar

1 large package of pecan chips

2 large packages of chocolate chips

2 sets of salt and paper shakers

1 pepper grinder

1 can of Pam cooking spray

In addition we also purchased the fixings for a dinner meal and some lunch and snack items. Here’s what it took to do that:

72 bottles of water

8 bottles of Mio

2 rolls of summer sausage

1 large container of minced garlic

1 bottle of zesty Italian dressing

1 bottle of Ranch dressing

5 cartons of soft drinks

2 large packages of boneless chicken breasts

1 bag of tostitos

1 fajita kit

1 large box of rice

2 packages of lettuce

In addition, we bought a few items just to make life a little more bearable around our vacation home:

1 large container of wet wipes

3 boxes of tissue

1 bottle of sunscreen

1 large carton of goldfish crackers

3 rolls of paper towels

600 paper napkins

1 box of gallon ziploc bags

3 boxes of quart ziploc bags

3 rolls of aluminum foil

1 partridge in a pear tree

1 large bag of bird seed

1 kitchen sink

Some of these items were also later restocked as the week went by! And, other families brought items as well. There wasn’t all that much left over by the end of the week. Let’s just say no one went hungry and no one lost weight last week.

Lest you think we footed the bill entirely for this, let me be honest. The cost of the breakfast items were part of what each family contributed towards the cost of the vacation homes. Would you like to guess the total of the above (minus the last 3 items)? Submit the answer below in a comment box. I will put a final comment down below to tell which guesses were the most accurate!

Friday’s Post: Lessons Learned from a Colorado Family Reunion Vacation…

You Might Also Like: Would You Like a Family Like This?; Lessons Learned from a Family Vacation; The Odd Days of July; and 54 Things You Have to Say Goodbye To When You’re 54


Word of the Week: spume

Last week’s WOW was written while flying to our family reunion vacation in Estes Park, CO. I think it’s safe to say that a fun time was had by all and it went by too fast! Believe it or not, the meaning of kickshaw was actually discussed while preparing dinner at our vacation home there! So, just to allow my extended family to relax about such an important issue (Yeah, right.), here is Merriam-Webster Online’s definition for kickshaw: a fancy dish.

This just blows my mind because we tried a little experiment while in Estes Park. Each family selected a night and made a homemade dinner of their choice. Some of my family members may disagree, but it was positively awesome to see what each family decided to make for all of us and then enjoy that meal together. If you ask me, every night featured kickshaws!

This week’s WOW (Word of the Week) is spume. Here’s what I’m guessing for definitions of spume and today I just feel like giving you 4, instead of the usual 3:

spume: (ˈspyüm) 1. a fuming spoon 2. the splash a Six Flags log flume makes at the bottom of that last “dip” 3. to supposedly assume 4. a speaker’s volume

What are your guesses for spume? Send your guess here.

Wednesday’s Post: Shopping List for a Destination Family Reunion Vacation for 24 people…

You Might Also Like: Word of the Week: kickshaw; Word of the Week: preterit; Word of the Week: offal; Word of the Week: shinplaster; and Word of the Week: perdure



Go Ahead…Hate Me…


The reality is…that my life is often a mess. And because others often appear to have it all together, living seemingly charmed lives, I have often felt inferior to others. That inferiority feeling has often led to really bad choices that have often harmed others. Why?

Because I want to be liked. And yes, I get that all people want to be liked, but my version of this usually results in disaster. I clamor for attention and then that clamor often makes me appear foolish, pushes people to the point of walking away from me and makes me totally depressed. It’s a vicious cycle that often leaves me in tears.

Don’t misunderstand me. To have a peaceful society, it is important to abide by the mores and rules of others and social pressure to do that is definitely a good thing. But, this is a deeply-rooted negative feeling about myself that keeps me awake at night and fuels an endless feeling of guilt for all the harm I’ve caused.

And thus, I had to accept something about myself. I had to decide to go without the approval of others.

Living without the approval of others can be a pretty solitary existence. It can hurt just as much as being rejected. But, the day I decided to ditch worrying about what others thought is the day I finally became the true MaryAnn.

The reality is that someone is actually in “Solitary Land.” His name is Jesus. And He gets rejection all too well. And when I just worry about trying to please the Best Friend anyone can ever have, then having the approval of others is not really all that necessary.

What is truly amazing is that Jesus doesn’t just stop there. When I do actually succeed at putting my inferiority on the back burner even for just a few minutes, I find myself surrounded by people who choose to stand by me and with me through the storms of life. And I find something else. I can state difficult things for folks who are struggling and they begin to change for the better, as well. To watch that process is truly humbling and I consider it a very gigantic privilege.

Does Mr. Inferiority sometimes still rear his ugly head? Oh, yeah. As I often say, “There is a reason my blog is called ‘MaryAnn In Progress”! And I mean my tag line under that title up there at the top of the page, too. My progression to becoming the best version of myself is not a straight line at all. And it often amuses me that I still can’t quite get my act together even though I’m in my 50s. So poking fun at my “mess” and blogging about it often helps me cope with my really stupid decisions and makes me a little more resolved to let God be my ultimate Best Friend.

If you’re living in Solitary Land today, know this: I get where you are and I know it hurts more than words could ever say. I know it takes a lot of courage to live there. But, Jesus wants to be your Best Friend, too and He won’t leave you there for long. So, let ’em hate you and then watch amazing, beautiful things happen. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen. And then it will be your privilege to help the next person who feels really rejected.

Have a good weekend, friend! 🙂

Monday’s Post: Do you feel like you’ve been kicked in the “shaw”? 

You Might Also Like: Would You Like a Family Like This?56 White MenThe Tyrant, The Honest Truth and Yes, That’s RedundantThe Real Memorial Day; and Eulogy for a Brother


Would You Like a Family Like This?

family vacation

When I look back on the major decisions I made in the first half of my life, many seem really bone-headed now. But one that most decidedly didn’t fall into that category was marrying into my husband’s family. They are a wonderful conglomerate of diverse Christians and somehow we manage to get along well. Unfortunately, as the years progress, we often fail to see each other due to living further and further away from each other.


Back in the early 2000s we decided that we needed another reason to gather together besides weddings, funerals, graduations, and holidays. The Reunion Vacation was born. We have been to Branson, Virginia Beach, Hilton Head, Nashville, IN, and now Estes Park. We do them every few years whenever we think the majority of us have been able to save up the necessary money to do such a destination vacation. We started renting out one large vacation home and despite renting out one the same size this time, we now don’t fit, because of grandchild marriages and subsequent great-grandchildren. So, now we rent two large-sized homes, hopefully close to each other.


Yes, four generations come together and we actually raise the eyebrows of the local residents, not because we’re the typical tourists tearing up nice vacation homes and not because we are usually fighting to the death with each other by the end of the vacation week. No, we raise eyebrows because we actually get along and actually enjoy each other’s company and do our best to leave the homes in even better shape than we found them. The first generation, aka Gram and PaPa, raised their kids right! And that has been passed down through the generations.


Now, it’s not all wonderful. We are human. For one thing, there are few shrinking violets in this group and so we can wind up with too many “Indian Chiefs”. And those few family members who aren’t as Type A often have to seek seclusion outside for mere survival’s sake from time to time. I, too, had to learn this skill since my own family was quite small.  Many of us are in our 50s and thus, none of us hear the way we once heard. Thus, all of these vacations feature excessive loudness! Again, a brief respite outside can often help.


And we do screw up, sometimes in a major way. Few of us can reasonably say we don’t have a few pounds to lose. Few of us are flexible (We breed stubbornness!) about some situations we passionately pursue. Few of us know how to quit working and thus, a feast with my husband’s family is likely to ensue at every meal and spreadsheets for all vacation logistics will often hilariously collide. (Yes, actual agendas, maps, handouts and spreadsheets abound. The Battle of Iwo Jima took less planning.) Individually, we all struggle with some internal mess at one point or another probably like any other family in America.


So, how do we cope with all of that? Grace.


Yes, we say grace, but I’m talking about the kind that comes from above. Because He loved us and forgave us, we choose to love each other and forgive each other as we congregate. Is that always easy? Nope. But this is perhaps the best part of marrying into a large family: if we get disgusted and lose our patience with one member of the family, there’s always another member we can hang with! Once I practice this little strategy, I seldom lose my patience for long and after reconnecting with those who remind me what patience looks like, I can regain some patience with the person who was driving me nuts a short time before.

Would you believe that there are 9 married ends of this family now and none of us have divorced? That love and forgiveness thing works, in more ways than one!


I hope all of you have such a family when everyday life seems joyless and pointless. But, if not, perhaps a few of the Points to Ponder below will help you begin to create such a family, even if you have to become “Gram & PaPa” and start with your current immediate family to create the next 4 generations of wonderful togetherness.


Point to Ponder 1: Name the 1 issue that seems to escalate tensions at your extended family gatherings. May I suggest that you ask for a banishment of that issue from the next “reunion”? While I firmly believe in talking things out, there are some subjects that are just too painful for some families to bear. If someone forgets that the topic is off-limits, agree beforehand to use a code word to stop that person from going any further with it. I suggest using some silly made-up word that creates a smile for most of your family members. Keep in mind that change begins with you and you may have to stop yourself from bringing it up and you may have to politely remind people to “cut it out.”


Point to Ponder 2: Can’t do # 1 because there are some really huge issues going on in your family? Here’s the good news and the bad news: You have a lot of company in America. If so, it may be time to take your immediate family and try to change only that end of the family for the better. Consult a pastor or counselor or other mental health professional to ensure that your family knows when it, itself, is getting into the same dangerous territory as your extended family. This isn’t weakness! It takes such strength to admit you need an objective opinion from someone who deals with such issues regularly.


Point to Ponder 3: Done # 2 and feel your immediate family is in a good place? Congrats! That’s awesome! Celebrate by beginning a weekend vacation tradition with your family whenever the money’s in the bank to do so. You can just go to the next town over and camp in a park or some other beautiful area, if the budget’s tight. You will be amazed at the conversations that take place merely because you are away from home. Keep practicing any suggestions that your pastor or counselor has given you to make sure the vacations keep going in a positive direction. (Sometimes a change in location can cause some to revert to old negative behavior patterns.) Your offspring will probably start to treasure these times unless they’re currently teenagers. But if so, have no fear—eventually they grow out of it.


You Might Also Like: 56 White Men; The Tyrant; The Honest Truth and Yes, That’s Redundant; Eulogy for a Brother; and We’re Still Losing This War