Ancestry Wall

We are fortunate to have a pretty good collection of old photos of both Bryan’s family and mine. A couple years ago, I was trying to think of a great way to share the pictures – and the life stories – with our kids and decided a gallery wall might do the trick! I rounded up so many photos that we’ll need a photo book, too, to bring it all together – so the “ancestry wall” as I am calling it, will feature mostly childhood photos of Leah and Michael’s grandparents, great grandparents, great-great and yes even great-great-great grandparents! I hope it helps Leah and Michael feel a deeper connection to the generations who came before them.

This is my my dad’s dad/my grandfather Harold and his little brothers. He was born in Georgia in 1900 and went to work in a cotton mill at age 9 part time – before this photo was taken! He was working full time by age 12 to help take care of his parents and younger siblings – or simply to ensure his mother continued to enjoy a certain social position. (See photo.) Harold worked 12 hours a day, six days a week until he was 55 and was fired because he had become ‘too slow’. No severance, no pension, and no Social Security until 62. He was a very, very old man at 55 and died 11 years later. He lived a hard life in many ways but a beautiful one, too. Harold was a star player on the mill village baseball team and was a devoted husband to my Gran Gran. Together, they raised four boys and two girls who all grew up to be such good people.

These are the stories that I want Leah and Michael to know.

Beatrice’s townhouse

I know why American Girl doesn’t sell doll houses… They would have to be huge! The dolls are 18″ tall. Leah tried using bookshelves, but they’re all too short. She tried making a dollhouse out of moving boxes, but the cardboard couldn’t support the weight of the dolls and furnishings. I have looked online for years but never found anything very appealing. A couple different companies sell a $300 fiberboard kit which doesn’t look very sturdy. (We are not gentle people.) I did see this very cute wooden kit for $150 but it’s only two rooms.

So I thought, Hey, I can design a really good one and build it myself! How hard could it be?!? This is where my brother Steve comes in. I asked if he wanted to help me. He was aghast that I was actually thinking I’d do this without his help. (I totally could.) Granted, my version would not include hardwood floors, wainscoting, a custom fireplace, etc.

Steve has gotten a little carried away! By the time he is done, I will want to move in with Beatrice!

What I lack in carpentry skills, I make up for in vision. I created an 11-page PDF pack for Steve with a client profile, architectural rendering, measurements, supply list, etc.


The design is a two-story townhouse with a rooftop pergola. It’s over 4 feet wide and nearly 6 feet tall!! Steve is scared Leah will decide she is too old for dolls about 10 minutes after he finishes building it. I really don’t think so… mostly because I got my doll house in the 4th grade and played with it for years. (Having it possibly helps extend the window of interest.) Plus, I want to play with Beatrice’s townhouse! And I am 44! So 10 is not too old… but yes, I’d love to travel back in time and have this genius idea when Leah first discovered AG.


From the minute Steve got involved, he’s been saying things like, “Of course it needs to be caulked! Otherwise, Beatrice will have to spray for bugs.” He calls me and says, “I think Beatrice needs a remote control for her TV… I think Beatrice would prefer hardwood floors…” He is cracking me up!!! I’ve finally convinced him that the pergola design will be sturdy. He’s making some tweaks to give it authentic architectural details. Leah picked out paint colors yesterday and provided Steve her swatches.

The project has been a lot of fun! We hope to finish it up around Thanksgiving-ish. Turns out, you can’t build it in 2 hours (not my actual estimate, despite Steve’s claims) or even one day (my actual estimate). Leah and I are both very excited!!!

Beatrice’s recent photo shoot.

Uncle Stevie testing stain colors for Beatrice’s hardwood floors.

Georgia Aquarium

Did you know the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world? They have over 100,000 animals and their tanks hold over 10 million gallons of water. They have beluga whales and whale sharks – absolutely beautiful. The aquarium has a [relatively] compact design that works really well to manage crowd flow and ensure you don’t miss anything. It’s also very wheelchair friendly!

We spent 4-5 hours touring the exhibits, having lunch, seeing a live dolphin show and a 4-D short movie. Next time, we’ll plan to visit the World of Coca-Cola (a.k.a. “the Coke museum”) next door… literally right across a grassy courtyard. I have heard it’s awesome!

The kids were allowed to touch live anemones and starfish.

This tunnel allows you to pass right underneath stingrays, giant grouper and whale sharks.

We saw river otters and then Michael decided he needed one on his face!

Waiting for our 4-D show to begin…

Michael loves red-eared sliders so he was excited to see a big one close-up.

The dolphin show is great! This is the show I was thinking about the summer we went to Sea World and we were sweating and waiting in the longest lines… Seriously, Sea World has Shamu (which is really amazing) and a few rides — but if you want to see marine life, Georgia Aquarium beats Sea World hands down. The Georgia Aquarium has cheaper tickets, no long lines, climate control and much more to see. We love it!!!


This American Girl…

Leah loves all things American Girl so it was no surprise that she asked if we could go back to Atlanta for her 10th birthday. Three years ago, she and I went for a quick trip to celebrate her 7th birthday – just one night, which was long enough to visit the Georgia Aquarium and the American Girl store. I really wanted Bryan and Michael to visit the aquarium and after some negotiating, Leah decided it would be OK to have boys on our trip since we were staying two nights this time. (She wanted them to drive separately and stay in a different hotel, but I nixed those suggestions. Ha!)

This is the place.

<cue the chorus of angels>

The weekend of fun began with a special American Girl VIP guest check-in at the Marriott in Alpharetta…

The hotel gave Leah and Beatrice a doll bed, wand and matching tiaras to keep…

…plus matching pink robes (to borrow) and they decorated the room with pink sheets, a pink beanbag, pink alarm clock, etc. Pink with pink! They even had pink tablecloths in the dining room at breakfast!

Leah and Michael love hotels so half the fun of the trip was hanging out in the hotel room, ordering room service, watching TV, snuggling in bed…

Another perk of the hotel is the heated indoor pool! What’s more fun than swimming when it’s cold outside?!?

On Sunday, we had reservations for a special birthday lunch at the American Girl Bistro. It’s adorable and the food is surprisingly pretty good. Everything is cute – pink lemonade, pink Sprite, a star shaped crouton in the soup, etc. So so so cute!

Michael was very supportive of the whole enterprise as you can see.

Leah was entirely in her element.


And, of course, Beatrice loved every minute!!

The highlight was an enthusiastic rendition of “Happy Birthday” from the staff…

… and the birthday wishes swirling in this sweet child’s head.

Flashback Friday: She’s 10, y’all. Ten.

My baby girl is officially 10 years old! A double digit! A tween! How is this possible?!? Well, here we are… she’s half-grown, as little old ladies love to say. This Friday, we’re flashing back to 2011 when Leah celebrated her 7th birthday:

I’ll let you GUESS how we are celebrating this milestone occasion…


Man down… Well, anole down. We lost our cool anole, Max, today. Michael was pretty heartbroken but not altogether shocked since Max had been ill for several days and stopped eating. He really was a great little lizard. We also lost Jumper the frog who escaped and was apparently found by the kitties. It’s been a tough couple weeks! Michael was more attached to Max though so he buried him in the back yard under a brick labeled “Max” in Sharpie.


No bra-burning required

I went looking for this picture recently and was surprised that neither of my parents remember this – it’s such a vivid memory for me. When I was 7-8 years old, we were in Florence, Alabama visiting my mom’s family and went to the Castner Knott department store. It was unusual for us to be any place besides Maw-Maw, Aunt Mattie or Aunt Betty’s houses and that’s partly why I remember shopping. Mostly, I remember loving this tote bag and Dad buying it for me. It made all my aunts laugh really hard and Mom’s camera-happy family all had me pose in Maw-Maw’s front yard for pictures. I didn’t really “get” why it was so funny to them. Title IX had passed and the Women’s Liberation Movement was in full swing – of course women have power, right? I mean, read the tote bag, people!!! It seemed normal enough to me. I certainly felt I had power – and I couldn’t really imagine that women were being paid less than men in comparable jobs, etc. Ignorance is bliss – and by the time I was grown, the gap had nearly closed. I’ve never experienced discrimination for being a girl/woman and I am so grateful for that. I recall a minister’s wife from church asking me if my mom supported Women’s Lib and I said, “I don’t know. I mean, I hope so!” Not sure it was the right answer! Ha!

At school that Monday, the teachers were stopping me in the carpool line to tell me how much they loved my bag. I thought it was about my power – no clue it was about theirs, too. In 2014, it just seems silly. We all have power – less than we want but more than so many people in other parts of our world who face discrimination and oppression every day. We’re pretty lucky, huh?

Flashback Friday

The Throwback Thursday #tbt people totally stole the idea from my Flashback Friday series!!! OK, maybe not – but I like Flashback Friday! Here’s a sweet picture of my babies in May 2009 when they were still little enough to wear matching monogrammed outfits. Those were the days!

Look at all those baby teeth! We went to the dentist this week and saw that Michael’s 6 year molars are almost in. He has only lost 4 baby teeth so we have a long way to go. Leah is losing teeth right and left – three in the last couple of weeks. I was teasing her that she’s not going to be able to chew! Our dentist said it’s not unusual for tweens to lose a bunch of teeth at once.

They grow up fast, people!!!


Michael’s soccer season with the Ninjas has come to an end and he loved every minute! Michael got to play with his best buddy Charlie and their tee-ball coaches, Jonathan and Chris, coached the soccer team. They did a great job and the boys learned so much! Michael played fullback (his mommy’s position) as well as sweeper.

On Saturday morning, it was a blustery 40˚ F (5˚ C)!  A little boy said he was cold and the coach on the other team said, “Run faster!” It was funny but the grandmamas sitting behind me did not approve! So many boys had on black jackets that it was never clear which team had the ball!

We never did find Michael’s missing uniform so he had to wear a random pair of black socks and black shorts with the improvised tee that Paw-Paw drew a #9 on. I have searched the entire house and will just say it vanished while I was on my business trip – so who knows!

I love that they’re still little enough to run off the field and hug their mamas. This is a sweet age group. Michael will still be young enough to play 8U next year which is great since this was his first year. Some kids had played since they were 4 year olds!

After the final game, we had an end of season party… outside. No one knew it would be so stinking cold! The boys were all so happy – I really don’t think they were bothered by the weather. (The parents were whining! Ha!)

Charlie and Michael… best buddies!!!

Bryan and Coach Jonathan

Michael and Coach Chris

(Or close enough! Giant trophies with spinning soccer balls!)