This month in the yard: March

It’s March which means Spring is [allegedly] here and it’s time to plant and mulch and beautify! My Southern Living magazine says it’s time to divide my Cana Lillies and Hostas.

But I have one small problem…

The yard looks way too much like this lately! Not exactly the right moment to prune the shrubs!

My Hydrangeas have looked better.

Remember my post about Nandina providing a pop of color in the yard all year? Well, here’s further proof! ha

I stepped on the lawn and it crunched. (Like my boots? They’re from Sole Society. Love!) Doesn’t seem quite time to mulch the flowerbeds although I promised myself we’d do that early this year!

The kids have missed so much school for snow (last week) and sleet (this week) but the CRAZY thing about our Spring weather is that yesterday afternoon it was 78˚ F (25˚ C) and sunny so I took the kids for ice cream after school and we sat outside the ice cream shop in t-shirts enjoying a beautiful afternoon. Yesterday. Today, every overpass and most major roads are shut down and the city is covered in ice. Ditto for tomorrow.

That is Spring in The Deep South.

And now for the benefit of blog visitors from other countries, here is a map of The Deep South – it’s the part of the US that the rest of the country denigrates. But can I say, as someone who has lived all over the US and Europe and has traveled all over the world enough to know there’s an upside and a downside to everyplace: We love raising our family here in the 21st century South.

image via wikipedia

Anyway… It feels like green grass and warm weather will never come. (I am closing my eyes and picturing a sunny, blue sky and a light breeze…) Later this month, I hope to:

  • divide and relocate the Cana Lillies and my giant Hosta Lillies
  • mulch the flowerbeds
  • add more Firepower Nandina

Now, pardon me while I go make some hot chocolate! Brrrrr!

Elvis can’t get in the building…

Last Spring, Bryan and I went to an Auburn University alumni event at the Davidson Center which was built in 2008 to house the Saturn V at the US Space and Rocket Center and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s an amazing place to be – one of my favorites. Imagine our frustration when we couldn’t get in the building. Sure there’s an elevator once you get inside, but someone had built a fence around the property that required walking down a flight of stairs. Friends from college arrived in time to carry Bryan and then his scooter down the steps.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want my friends carrying me. Know what I mean? I’d be worried they’d hurt their backs or get a hernia or break out in a sweat or go home and say, Good gosh that woman weighs a lot. Bryan was a good sport.

Back in 1990, two things happened that raised my awareness of people with disabilities. I became friends with a guy named Robert who had been paralyzed in an accident – and – President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Robert was really good looking and charismatic – he always had pretty girls hanging on him and a big group of guys laughing at his jokes and stories. He made it all look easy with his modified BMW and a wheelchair ramp into his house which was just off campus and functioned as party central.

By 1993, I was back living in Europe and then spent the next decade traveling all over the world for work and for fun. As I trod down cobblestone streets and schlepped luggage up staircases, I would think about Robert. He had loved to travel and wrote articles for the newspaper reminiscing about his adventures around the world as a Navy SEAL. I felt sad that most of the experiences I was having and the amazing places I was seeing were inaccessible to him.

Fast forward to 2010: My husband’s doctor said the words “secondary progressive MS” and Bryan went from a walking stick to a power scooter in less than a year. I had proudly noted 20 years of progress and change here in the US: wheelchair ramps, accessible restrooms and even [albeit bewilderingly] braille signs on drive-thru ATMs!

Friends, I was so naive.

The ADA is great – it’s better than nothing and it’s a start – but it’s vague and there are loopholes and even the ADA office will tell you it’s enforced via legal complaints and lawsuits that are costly to pursue and difficult to substantiate. Also, the ADA tries to cover everyone – so the person with cancer can’t be fired and the person who is deaf will have an accessible phone in their hotel. It’s the motherload – like restaurants that try to make everything and end up being good at nothing.

When I contacted the US Space and Rocket Center about our experience, they were great. I was invited to consult on needed changes and happily obliged. The changes would be inexpensive… How about handicap parking near the handicap entrance? How about unlocking the gate that blocks the handicap entrance? None of it was hard – but it was so weird that I was the consulting party. Hello!?!? My credentials include a college buddy and a husband who use wheelchairs. And that’s my point: Everyone seems to be winging it and you would be amazed how inaccessible most places are.

On the up side, people are so kind. Truly. The ADA is important, but the thing that we most need to make accessible – and cannot legislate – is our hearts. I think we’re headed in the right direction.

Maybe now Elvis can leave the building…

image via

MS Awareness Week!

It’s MS Awareness Week so I thought I’d share an update on Bryan…

Lots of people have been asking how Bryan has been doing since he began taking Lemtrada, a new treatment for MS, in December. Everyone seems a little unsure of what the Lemtrada is supposed to do, so here are a few quick facts:

What does MS do to you?

Doctors are not entirely sure what MS “is” but the leading theory is it’s an auto-immune disease where your immune system attacks your brain and spinal cord leaving scar tissue that interferes with signals coming/going to your body.

What is Lemtrada?

It’s a chemotherapy that was originally developed for people with leukemia and is now being given to people with MS. It wipes out your immune system which forces your body to rebuild it. The hope is that your immune system will rebuild correctly and stop attacking your brain and spinal cord.

Is Lemtrada a cure?

No. There is no cure for MS – and technically there are no treatments for people with progressive MS like Bryan. The only MS treatments available are intended for people with milder forms of the disease. Lemtrada is intended to slow down or even stop the process of getting worse.

The Man.
(Bryan went shaggy for “No Shave November” and stretched it through December and January!)

What’s it going to do for Bryan?

It will be months or possibly years before we know. Lemtrada works best in people who are young, active and have very little scarring on the brain and spinal cord. Some of those patients have healed! The hope is that it will provide some respite for older and/or more progressive patients like Bryan, too, but no one is sure if it will do anything.

This doesn’t sound all that great.

No one says this to us, but several think it, and we understand! So listen, when there are no treatments and you just go month to month and year to year getting worse – or seeing your loved one getting worse – you get freaking jubilant over the possibility that something might help slow this down. Make sense? It’s the best MS treatment yet. It’s worthy of excitement! :)

Tell me some good news.

On Bryan’s last MRI before the treatment, some of his scars had shrunk which seems to indicate that the round of Lemtrada he had off-label at the tail end of the clinical trials is working some magic. Will he feel better, too? Time will tell!

Some life experiences are “growth opportunities” to learn virtues such as patience. This is one of them!!! We want Lemtrada to do something while we wait for stem cell therapies to be developed – that’s the next wave.

Seen and Heard: 7, in all its glory

I often say that Michael is 7 in all its glory. Here are a few reasons why…


Michael in the maternity section at Target.


Michael: “I still remember when I lived in your tummy. When I was an egg, I was right here. <points to my belly button> Then, when I hatched, I tumbled right down over here and that’s where I stayed. I was so cozy! The goo was so warm. And I was never hungry! I remember when Leah was born, she kicked me right before she got pulled out.”

Michael: “You’re still coming to college with me, right Mama?”


Michael: “Mommy, you don’t remember the parental control password, do you?”

Me: “Why? What are you doing?”

Michael: “I am trying to get on LegalZoom.”

Me: “What? Why would you need to go to LegalZoom?”

Michael: “I’m setting up my alligator catching business.”

Me: “Ahh. Well, when you’re 7, you don’t have to do all that paperwork to set up a business.”

Michael “Great! I’ll just send out postcards to advertise! <pause> Once my business is up and going, I am going to need a jet ski for better access to the alligators.”

Writing a screenplay with Charlie.


Paw-Paw showing Michael my high school senior picture: “Isn’t your mommy beautiful?”

Michael: “Mmmmm…. not really. So so. I don’t like her hair like that. It’s too big!”


Michael: “Mama, I love you. I’ve told you that a million times, but that’s OK because I love you a million.”

Me: “I love you right back.”

Michael: “You love me a billion.”

Unattended donuts will be sampled.


Michael: “I always tell people to call me if they see a snake, but no one ever calls me.”

Me: “What would you do if they called you?”

Michael: “Go catch the snake!!! My business is a dangerous reptile removal service!!! Now, if they call me about an adult anaconda, I’m going to need a helicopter. You really shouldn’t even mess with a baby anaconda – they are crazy fast! Crazy fast on land and crazy fast in water! And their bite is no joke!”

Grossing out his sister.

First time at the ballet. Please note false enthusiasm.


Michael – from the back seat as we are driving into town: “Look!!! I’m necked in the car!!! I’m necked in the car!!! I’m necked in the car!!! Hahahahahahahahahahaha!!!”

Leah: “MICHAEL!!! GET YOUR CLOTHES ON!!! <exasperated> Mommy, he really is naked.”


A photo of my flat, Andrew’s flip flops and Leah’s boots that Michael apparently took during church.


Michael – watching a documentary about early civilization and the Hebrew language: “Mama! They’re talking about the Baptists – God’s chosen people!”


Me: “Michael!!! Stop that and get in the house!”

Michael: “But I love to pee in snow! It melts!”

Michael with his new buddy, Wyatt, and their “mean” teacher.
(You’re buying that, right?)


Michael – headed upstairs: “I am going to set up my office.”


Michael was telling Nana that she is always sweet and Nana replied, “Oh, I bet your Mommy is like that, too.”

Michael – incredulous: “Ya think?!?!?! You should come to our house at bed time. Mommy is not sweet!

Still my sweet baby.


Snowpocalypse 2015: Alabama is closed

The Deep South has had a “snowpocalypse” the last couple of years which has spawned the hashtag #alabamaisclosed. Ha!!! Remember Atlanta and Birmingham last year when all the children were stuck at school overnight and all the cars were piled up on the freeways and interstates? Everything shuts down when we get a big snow down here because there’s no equipment to clear the roads – and because we panic. Despite the sense of exaggerated urgency and the rush on milk and bread, we do love our snow days!

The snow started coming down on Wednesday afternoon…

We got 8-11″ (20-28 cm) depending on who you ask…

The winter Freddie was a puppy (2010-2011) we had several big snows and he hated it! He does a little better every year, but all in all, Freddie likes to be warm and cozy in the house!

By Thursday afternoon, the sun was coming out and trying to melt it, although we still have quite a lot of snow today.

My parents’ house.

Michael had to run out into the snow Wednesday night in his pajamas. Southerners have no real fear of cold – unlike my European friends who would NEVER play in the snow without a coat and boots!

This is our back porch before the snow stopped falling! Even the hammock was covered!

Leah and Michael went night-sledding with our friend Andrew…

Then Leah and Andrew got up the next morning to go sledding again!

Our creek looked beautiful!

This is the new pergola! Nice shade for a warm sunny day! Ha!

Another view of our creek.

Too bad we don’t have this kind of camouflage/privacy all year long!


View across the golf course.

Golf cart path through a tunnel of Crepe Myrtles.

Michael and I spent a couple hours working on a “snow tower” yesterday afternoon.

We still have snow on the ground today but the roads are clear so the kids are back at school. <womp womp> It was so nice to have a couple days off to just play!!!

Rallying the troops

The biggest challenge in ensuring the success of Operation Organization 2015 is getting the troops aligned with my plan of attack on the mess that is our daily lives! Mommy cannot conquer this hill alone so we’re implementing positive reinforcements…

chore chart screenshot

Funny enough, the kids are excited about the new chore chart! They can earn a small allowance depending on the number of jobs they do each week. Hopefully they’ll get into it and want to earn more to save up for something. They’re really pretty good little helpers as it is.

PICK UP YOUR STUFF is the hill to climb, my friends, and it is nothing short of Kilimanjaro. Wish us luck!!!

Colors in our house…

sherwin williams colors in our houseI really didn’t want to clean the house on Saturday, so I sat looking at photos wistfully and reminiscing about the days before I started pulling the house apart to “organize” and before this storm blew through. Having the kids at home most of the week (2 sick days plus late starts and early closures for winter weather) meant the house was/is torn up!!! So, let’s discuss paint colors!

If you’ve ever visited our house, you’ll notice quickly how much I love brown!

The warmth of baskets and stained wood are so calming when combined with other neutrals. Most of our house is painted off this one color strip from Sherwin Williams. Sticking to a consistent color scheme makes for easy transitions in an open floor plan. Also – and this is important – I don’t like bright colors. Ha! You knew that, huh? Bryan feels the same way, which works well.

colorsinourhouse 1


We have Kilim Beige in the entry, hallways and upstairs – and at half strength in the family room. (Um, it’s half strength in the family room because a cheap painter dumped in some white paint for who knows what reason. Ha!) I am liking European white walls these days, so next time we paint, I may go half strength on Divine White as the primary color throughout the house. (Ooooh shakin’ it up!)

family room

even our pets match the decor

(just kidding)

my favorite spot to curl up and blog

The den and kitchen are both Steady Brown. It’s darker on the walls than on the color strip – but it makes  both of these rooms very warm and calming! Originally, they were both Kilim Beige and the color fell flat in each room. When we were renovating our starter home in Florida, a decorator friend said to me of our 1970s aqua blue tile bathroom, “Don’t fight it – go with it.” I took that advice then and again with our kitchen. The darker brown did help subdue the orangey cabinets.



The dining room and office are both Coconut Husk which is a nice chocolate color. Both rooms get good natural light so neither one feels cave-like. I think that’s the trick in using a dark color – ensuring you get good light in the room.


dining room

In this shot from last Fall, you can see how the Coconut Husk in the dining room (and in the background view of the office) looks against white trim and the Kilim Beige in the entry.

The master bedroom and bathroom are Hopsack. As with every dark color, it looks darker on the walls than on the strip. I was afraid it would just look “tan” very generically but it’s truly brown.

master bedroom

master bath

That’s our tour! Hope you liked it!

Forty five

We celebrated Bryan’s birthday in style – twice! First, Bryan’s parents who treated us all to a hibachi dinner…


Then we went home for a birthday cake that Leah made from scratch! I was a little concerned because she didn’t really have a recipe – she had jotted down notes while watching an episode of Farmhouse Rules on Food Network – but her cake was delicious!

Not to be outdone, Michael wanted to cook Bryan a special birthday dinner. Michael is a great cook for a 7 year old. He can make scrambled eggs all by himself, but a full meal would be a challenge. I encouraged him to make spaghetti and let his big sister help. Success!

Michael boiled the pasta. (Mommy poured out the boiling water.) Leah made turkey mini-meatballs and added a jar of Ragu sauce.

Michael also made the dessert. We went round in circles over his top secret chocolate pie recipe because he wouldn’t tell me what was in it and I’ll just say there have been some creative combinations in the past. Turns out, if you load a pie crust with chocolate chips and chunks of cookie dough and bake it, you get a top secret chocolate pie that’s pretty decadent!


The kids gave Bryan sweet cards and one of his favorite board games so they can play together.


The game is in almost daily use! It came in handy on this snowy day…

Seen and Heard: Nana and Paw-Paw

The generational gap between my kids and my parents is sometimes pretty hilarious. Here are a few things I’ve overheard recently:

Newlyweds – 1963

Paw-Paw: “There’s a great movie on AMC tonight with [name of actor I’ve never heard of]…”

Me: “Who?”

Paw-Paw: “Oh she’s a big star! Well, she was a big star before they started making the talkies.”

Me: “The talkies?!? Dad!!!”

Senior Year, 1951

Paw-Paw: “Kids! I got a great DVD for us to watch. It’s old cartoons from back when cartoons were more than just banging into each other — back when cartoons were clever!!”

Leah and Michael: <looking at Paw-Paw skeptically>

Paw-Paw: “It’ll be great! You know Foghorn Leghorn? Yosemite Sam?”

Leah – puzzled: “I know Yosemite National Park.”

Nana – to me – while extending her foot to show me her sandals: “Are these too floozie to wear to church?”

School, 1946-1953

Paw-Paw to Leah and Michael: “Sometimes you have to wonder if folks bought their drivers license at the Sears and Roebuck!!”

Michael: “Paw-Paw and Dizzy are just alike. They are both very active when they’re not napping.”


Paw-Paw: “Hey, Michael! Don’t forget your satchel!”


Dad was telling me today that SMH stands for ‘shaking my head’ in Internet speak. He’s totally on top of Internet slang thanks to the Inside the Auburn Tigers message board.


My little Michael is a piece of work. He’s smart and day dreamy – gracious – and sweet and very, very funny without meaning to be. His new teacher is slowly getting him figured out. The first day of school in January, she saw him scrunched down by the fence during recess and was concerned until she saw him hop up, flap his arms and fly away mimicking the sounds of a peregrine falcon. Ha! That’s Michael. He’s recruited a few other kids in class to play this game with him during recess where they pretend to be various animals – and he has a new friend named Wyatt who shares his love of reptiles and has a pet lizard!

The other day, Michael went to the store with me and shared all kinds of fascinating insights:

Michael – “Mommy, you remind me of a bearded dragon.”

Me – “Great. How do I remind you of a bearded dragon?”

Michael – “Because you’re both so cute!”

bearded dragon


The other day in the car, Michael and I were discussing whether Paw-Paw is smart. (Dad had made a comment earlier in the week about making good grades in school and Michael seemed surprised. Clearly, having a Ph.D. does not impress a 7 year old!!) Understand also that Michael watched a documentary with me last week on the mapping of the Neanderthal genome. Anyway, Michael was calling Paw-Paw’s intelligence into question…

Me: “Michael, listen. You’re smart because Daddy and I are smart and your grandparents are all smart.”

Michael: “I’m not buying it.”

Me: “That’s how that works!”

Michael: “I just come by it naturally.”

Me: “Yes, exactly – naturally – genetically.”

Michael: “Then I got it from my Neanderthal genes because we’ve recently learned they were much smarter than we’d thought!”

Sooooo… super impressed with cave art and use of tools but not so much with academic credentials. Gotcha!