31 December 2011

Drydock Weatherford Lake

Lots of cheap real estate on Weatherford lake this year if you're interested! Don't buy a boat, there's more beachfront than waterfront real estate this year! Here's hoping it fills back it! Our lake is down too but not nearly this devastatingly.

Cactus azle western wear

I do not know much about the cactus on our property. Admittedly, it's a good thing they can survive Laura & I's lack-of-gardening-skills. I do know that if my cactus reaches THIS size, I will not be able to enter my driveway and it'll need to go one way or another! Found this beauty outside Azle Western Wear which is a CUTE little cowboy/girl shop. Probably owned by the two middle-aged people following me around the store trying to sell me everything from boots to wrought iron signs to top hats to huge belt buckles. It was a real treat! Save the sales pitches on every aisle, I'd visit again.

love them curves but they're hard to find

In the vast desert that is north Fort Worth. This image brought to you carefully, slowly and responsibly  (hehehehehe) on my motorcycle ride on 31 Dec 2011. This was taken on E Lake Rd of Weatherford Lake just south of junction w/ FM730.

Old gem. True beauty.

Found this gem on FM730 near (north) of junction w/ 1886. So awesome. Don't make 'em like they used to...

Yellow House...

and HUGE wrought iron lizard fouhd on Eagle Mtn Rd off 10 Mile Bridge Rd. Whoa baby. This picture and the other crazy ones about to come up to the blog brough to you from today's motorcycle outing on a BEAUTIFUL 70-degree SUPER sunny day in Texas on the last day of 2011. God bless TX...

My lil love bug

So cute. My little Claire Bear. So much fun w/ my baby this week! LOVE,DAD.

28 December 2011

Hey, look at the boob in aisle 36C!

Today I went to a nurse-in at Target. Google "Target Nurse-In" to bring yourself up to speed. Hurry. This post will continue in 30 seconds.
Just kidding. You have to scroll down, silly.
So I went as a show of solidarity. Anyone who talks to me on a semi-regular basis knows that I'm not opposed to formula if a mama needs it. Lucy had it for a few months, Claire has had the odd formula bottle (there are nights I'm just too tired to life my shirt up one. more. freaking. time.), whatever. Just keep the kid alive and thriving.
But for the 99%, I'm a pretty hardcore breastfeeder. I will say that it's not for the faint of heart. Claire and I are actually praying our way (and medicating - let's not get loopy, now) through a third round of thrush and I'm just about ready to scream. Well, scratch that. I've done my share of screaming over this whole mess, but there is just nothing that compares to feeding an older baby. For all you mamas of young babies out there who might be reading this, hang in there. The fun hasn't even started. Seeing Claire giggle as I whisper, "Mama gonna eat the baby" while I nibble on her fingers is just too rewarding to let a little thing like thrush keep us down. There is nothing in the world like nursing an 8, 9, 10-month-old. Of course, there are the gymnurstics to deal with, but we make do. Seeing the pure love between a crawler and her milk supply is just so fun and sweet. Claire loves a lot of things,
I just don't see the correlation between breastfeeding and indecency. I suppose I could take my shirt off and skip down the aisles of Target, but nursing my baby? For the love of all that is lactating, it's a baby eating. I suggest carrying a blanket with you to put over your head, should you run into a nursing mama. So, off we went, the Cookes Five. That's right, my manly man came with me to support his woman and her right to feed the dadgum baby wherever she so chooses. I believe he put it something like, "Somebody will have to take Claire home and give her formula when you land yourself in the clink for inciting a riot," but let's not split hairs.
It was mostly myself and 15 other women discussing amber teething necklaces and cloth diapers like hippy freaks so often do, but there was plenty of gross and indecent baby-feeding, too. Thankfully, the kind Targeteers were educated well in advance and left us the heck alone to feed the children from the tap and socialize. I'm sure ample media coverage and the threat of ICKY BEWBIES all over their cafes was enough to do the trick. (I did, however, buy a soda at the cafe. I mean, Claire was thoughtless enough to bring her meal from outside the store, and some places frown on that. Stinkin' babies. No manners at all. Somebody had to do the right thing.)
So yeah, it was memorable. I think I'll print out a couple of articles about the event for Claire's baby book. Such a cute little lactivist.

Laura Cooke
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. ~ Mother Teresa

Lord have mercy it happened again.

I just typed a big (and rather funny) post and the entire thing deleted itself. Wordpress, here I come. Gahhhhhhh.....you've GOT to be kidding me.

24 December 2011

Mass Hysteria.

So tonight was Christmas Eve Mass. Let me paint you a picture.
Sometime in the past three days, Angie and I decided that we would all go to Mass together. Yes, our two familes (7 children in total) would fight through 2500 people and sit together at the 4pm Mass. Last year we went to the 4pm Mass. I was 6 months pregnant. I ended up sitting on the concrete behind a giant pillar. Did anyone offer a seat to the pregnant lady? No. Twice Yearly Catholics are ruthless.
So Angie calls today around 1:15 and says, "We should leave my house around 2:15 or so." I say, "Okay, cool, we'll leave here around 1:45." I hang up the phone and glance at the clock. It's 1:35. Wha??! So I start yelling and running around. All of the girls are napping, of course. I run into our room, where I see Molly sound asleep, in the clothes I'm planning to wear to Mass. They've been lying on the bed all morning, and Molly decided to change into them before she fell asleep. It's ADORABLE, but we have ten minutes. I wake her up and she mumbles, "I'm wearing yo cwose two hours!" Umm...okay. Molly is the first into her Christmas dress. Or should I say, her 2010 Christmas dress/birthday dress/Claire's baptism dress/2011 Christmas dress. I'm cheap, and who on earth buys a dress for their kid to wear once? I bought it extra-roomy last year, and this year it fits like a glove.
I throw on my clothes, and run into the playroom where Lucy is out cold. She comes to and growls, "I wasn't even sleeping for very long." Yeah. This from the kid who naps once every 4 weeks. I throw her dress over her head and Andrew rushes them into the car. I grab my sleeping Chubbers McGee from her crib and buckle her into her carseat.
Molly's howling, I'm throwing Santa threats around like they're credible and everyone smiling by the time we get to Angie's. Angie, her daughter M (who has been instructed to bring her biggest coat) and I jump into the car and peel wheels to the church, where there are approximately four cars in the parking lot. We cackle as we rush into the church, because we know we can sit wherever we darn well please. And we do. 20 minutes later, the church is filling up and we're thrilled to pieces with our "ten rows back, near the choir" seats. People rush up to our pews, see our coats laid out and then throw us nasty looks as they realize the pews are taken. Sheesh, people, get there early! We didn't give up our Saturday afternoon to play bridge, here.
The men finally arrive with the balance of the children. They range in age from 10 years to 8 months. 8 months, 2, 2.5, 3, 4.5, 8, 10. The two oldest are quiet and sweet. The rest of them are like...puppies. Yipping, squirming, whining, chewing on things, sleeping here and there, licking each other, howling...just like puppies. The church is just crammed with people, and we're all just relieved that we have a place to sit.
With about 30 minutes to go until Mass starts, people start looking around because something smells. It smells BAD. I tell Andrew it's Molly several times, he swears it's my diaper bag. I finally decide it's really Molly, and Andrew gives me loose directions to the car so I can change her. It was definitely her, and I definitely had ONE WIPE in the car. Of course. I get her changed and she still stinks. So I spray her skirt with the first thing I can find. She asks me, "Mama, whatchoo pwaying me wif?" I throw the bottle back into the car and grab the toddler. "Lysol, honey." She beams. "Ooh, dat so niiice!" Uhhh...yes.
We run (Mama in 4 inch heels - they make me 5'6". They're worth it.) back into the church and Mass is about to start. I apologize to everyone seated around me for the "did something die in here?" incident and nurse Claire real quick, as the bottle I brought may be filling, but it's no substitute for clawing at Mama in public while the dude behind her huffs in astonishment. (Don't make me use my "Baby Jesus was breastfed" line, mister.) We make it through the Penitential Rite and Claire is now happy and ready to play hard. Of course. She starts blowing noisy raspberries at the people behind her, stopping every few seconds to let out a noise that sounds something like a dog whistle. It's her new trick. While it may be ear-splitting, the look on her face mid-squeak is just too cute. The people behind us are cooing up a storm and Claire's just eating it up. Andrew and I pass her back and forth for 75 minutes while she drools on us and spits at the neighbors.
Mass is dandy, (with the exception of Molly sticking her hands up my skirt several times) and singing Joy To The World at the end of Mass is just perfect. The joy that this year as brought is undeniable, and Andrew and I are so, so, so tickled with the life we have together. Three healthy, slobbering kids, a new house to let them run, a marriage that nourishes us, a job that puts food on the table and challenges Andrew, friends who just make us so happy, a parish we love...in six short years of marriage, we've been given the moon and stars. To think that I thought he was cute from across the cafeteria...
Mass ends and we call ahead to Texas Roadhouse. 11 starving people headed out for steak and beer. Hallelujah, indeed. We put 4 of the kids at one table and keep the youngest 3 at the other with us. The oldest 4 just confirm what every patron thought when they saw us walk in. Noise and chaos, here to run you out of the restaurant. We ignore them, for the most part. The children, I mean. It's hard to ignore the tight-lipped grimaces from everyone else. But hey, what are you going to do? The best way to kill time between Jesus and Santa is with red meat, right?
Once we've completely destroyed the Roadhouse, we super-tip our server and bundle the kiddies into the car. Almost Christmas!

Laura Cooke
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. ~ Mother Teresa

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19 December 2011

Mea Culpa

Having three kids is really farking exhausting. I feel like all I do is think, "Oh...I meant to do that..." But when I actually have the TIME to "do that," I'm too tired to do anything having to do with "that."

That includes blogging.

I'm going to try to get better about that. I promise. Maybe that will be my New Year's resolution? Excellent idea. I also need to update the pics on my sidebar, because that picture of Molly is definitely from a time when I still thought 2-year-olds were cute. I was so stupid then.

Today she took an orange marker. What did she color? What didn't she color? Let's see, she started with her arts-and-crafts table. From there, she went for...
...the carpet.
...the coffee table.
...the wool rug. You know, the one I love so much.
...several stuffed animals.
...Wii remote.
...TV remote.
...entertainment center.
...family room door.
...several walls.
...laundry room door.
...green chair.
...two white chairs.
...her arms and legs.

She's still in time-out. I plan on letting her out when she's 9. Or 10.

Let's see. What else happened today? Claire decided that she'll only sleep with classical music in the background. Just one song on a constant loop, thanks. Yeah. I have no idea how we're going to handle the rest of the night. At least we got her to stop using the seahorse toy to put herself to sleep, because having to run in every 7 minute and hit the little belly to make it play again was really not conducive to any sort of productivity in any other area of my life. Claire also OD'd on chicken piccata and may wake up in the morning looking like a caper. We'll have to see. It was the stuff of nightmares. Noodles everywhere, screaming for more...the girl loves her food.

I think that's about it around here for one evening. Just trying to win you all back over and convince you that I wasn't killed or something. I think The Facebook is partially responsible. I need to stop using that stupid website.

Well, I'm off to take a hot bath and eat some cookies. Really, anything that doesn't involve angel hair pasta or Molly would be a win at this point. Good thing she's the cutest, funniest kid I know.
When I was in the dating world, I had a boyfriend whose mother absolutely lost it if she didn't get to see her son on his birtday. She always said, "It's a holiday for me, too!"

I was thinking about that comment in Mass yesterday as I was listening to the homily about Mary and her fiat. Now that I'm a mother, Christmas takes on this intense, joyful meaning to me. Not because I'm a parent, but because I'm a mother. Mary said "yes," and I know now what it feels like to know that you're going to have a baby. Every mother across the world is one with Mary in this, that we know what Mary must have felt when she found out she was going to have a baby. It doesn't matter if it's your first or your fifteenth. Finding out you're going to have a baby takes your breath away. We're one with her in that we know what it's like to feel your baby move inside you. We know how it feels to see that baby for the first time. She may have given birth to the Savior of the World, but each birth saves someone, doesn't it? I always wonder if she spent her nights in bed wondering what he'd look like, like I've spent so many nights of my own.

Hearing Mary's story as a mother just thrills me every single year. I think in my head, "Oh Mary, you're going to LOVE being a mom!" I think of all the things Andrew and I have to laugh about as parents, and I know that Mary and Joseph must have had such fun together, even in the midst of the intense positions they'd been given. When there's a child in the house, there is joy. When I think of joy at Christmas, I think of all the joy that children bring, and I know that Mary must look down on us now and think, "If those weren't the best years..."

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a "wiwwy hot" wooden cucumber to eat.

14 December 2011

LOVE feeling better

Geez. The whole family has been deathly ill for like an entire month. It has really tested our patience and endurance the last month of 2011! That said, I feel better this morning! WOW! First morning that I've felt better in like 45 days. And, Laura is making pumpkin bread for our neighbors. She's the best. Off to the break room for some coffee. Pesky 0800 meeting interrupted my routine 0800 coffee consumption routine.

08 December 2011

Claire's Cowgirl Cute Corral!

We finished Claire's room right before Thanksgiving and I just realized I hadn't blogged them yet! Thanks to Grandpa Dick giving up a day of his vacation to paint, Claire is now cozy in her bubblegum pink room, sweetly accented with gray, black and white details! We love it!

Sent from my Samsung smartphone on AT&T

06 December 2011

Anna Lucille - 4 years, 5 months and 27 days of Sweet Perfection.

You know when you've hit on a good thing, and Lucy never leaves me with any doubt. With Lucy, the sun is always shining. And I do mean always. Lucy might have a pout or a meltdown...once a week? She loves to help Mama around the house, hold her sister, play with Molly, cut things out of paper, sing songs, play pretend, make up stories...she's just the best kid in the world.

Lucy is going to be starting kindergarten after Christmas and we're all very excited about our foray into the world of homeschooling. She'll be four and a half, but I do think that she's really ready. I'm not a pusher when it comes to formal education, and trust me when I say I'd be all too happy to unschool them forever. Having a 7-month-old leaves me incredibly unmotivated. Lucy has been working in a few reading and writing workbooks, and I think she's probably really ready to start setting aside some time in a formal "school day." Molly is getting to the point where I can distract her, and Claire's nap routine is finally evening out, so I think it's time. Right now we're moving into Book B of the Explode the Code starter series, and Lucy is really itching to read by herself. I'm not looking forward to teaching reading, to be honest. I want to fill her with information, but mechanics are not my strong suit. Thankfully, we're a family of strong readers and that's the most important foundation for teaching reading, so I guess we'll just jump in.

Lucy is so excited about Christmas this year. She and I had our very first Mother/Daughter date to see The Nutcracker and we had such a good time! She loved the dancing and was dying to buy her own Nutcracker to dance with. Sadly, we were in line behind the recipient of the last Nutcracker, so Saint Nicholas was kind enough to bring her a nutcracker ornament - the look on her face was priceless. She's been dancing around with the Nutcracker Prince all day, just thrilled to pieces to have one of her own!

We're going to see Santa at the Golf Club this Saturday, and Lucy is going to ask him for a "Hello Dolly." This cracks me up because she saw a LaLaLoopsy Doll in the WalMart ad and decided she just had to have it, but watched Hello Dolly that afternoon and has been calling it that ever since. I have no idea what LaLaLoopsy is, so I suppose Santa needs to do a little investigating!

As of right now, the entire family has been incredibly sick for about a month. I mean, we're really doing it up good. Colds, sinusitis, bronchitis, voices gone, thrush, colitis flares, you name it. We're one sick family. Lucy has managed to stay well through all of it, and is the only one who hasn't been hacking and coughing and medicating like crazy. Her immune system is just wild. I was thinking back, and I'm pretty sure she's actually never been sick, which sort of wows me. I think she's had one ear infection since birth. I wish I knew her secret. So she's been taking good care of all of us. The girl was born to be a nurse. She runs for tissues, holds Claire, wipes noses, does whatever she needs to do to make sure things are running in tip-top shape!

At 4 and a half, Lucy weighs about 35 pounds and is wearing size 8.5 shoes. She's a 5T is most clothes and really has her Daddy's body. Sort of like a rectangle with legs. Her hair is still bright red and the topic of many grocery-store conversations. She's a very gregarious girl and will take a few minutes to talk to anyone who wants to chat. Lucy is incredibly polite and does so well remembering her manners! She loves to pray and really loves learning about the Lord. I know that her guardian angel must just treasure her so much! She has so many questions, mostly about the way things are made. Today she wanted to know if all trees have to start out as bushes. So. Cute.

Lucy, Lucy, Lucy. She's our charming, darling girl. Wouldn't trade her for the world!

05 December 2011

Wherein I sound a little more positive than I did earlier.

Well, we made it through today. To be honest, I think the most exhausting part of the day was having to find my GI's office in the middle of Baylor All Saints. Is there anything worse than knowing you're about to find a tiny medical office in the middle of the hospital district? Yuck. And with three kids in tow, it's nothing short of daunting.

We left here around noon and swung by Sonic for a drink to take with us to the doctor. (I will admit right here and now that any posted "rules" a doctor's office may display are flagrantly ignored by the Cooke family. We eat, we change diapers, we use cell phones, we're really a dream.) We got to the hospital district with 15 minutess to spare, which is great because we parked in the wrong garage and had to walk about a block and a half in the freezing wind. After several calls to the doctor's office to find out just exactly where "Building D" could be, we ran into the office right on time and paid our $40 copay. ($40! There goes today's grocery money...) Now let me remind you that I have a cough for the ages, and as I'm trying to sign myself in (new patient paperwork + 3 children = gahhhhh), I'm coughing like a maniac, germs just a-flyin'.

We get called back pretty quickly, and they put us in the tiniest exam room they possibly have. Maybe...5x8? And we sit. For an HOUR. My girls? They were perfect. They sat together on a tiny foot stool and watched The Cat in the Hat on my phone while Claire screamed and clawed at my face. I tried to feed her, play with her, console her, strap her into the carseat and ignore her...nothing. She just wanted to stand on my lap and screech at the top of her lungs while I coughed so violently I could feel my heart dislodging from my ribcage. While I should have been praising my little angels for being so perfect, I was lamenting my own sorry state.

The doctor came in and was very odd. She was nice, but I couldn't tell if she agreed with me, thought I was nuts, or if I was just wasting her time. She had a very strange manner and all of a sudden I just wanted to cry and get out of there. She just kept looking at me like I was an idiot. It did, however, turn out that my self-diagnosis was spot-on and that my current GI is a complete loon. I will not be starting immuno-suppressants before Christmas, thank the Lord. We decided that the best idea would be to finish the steroids, give it a few weeks, do a quick scope to check the inflammation and go from there. I may or may not need some light maintenance drugs, but as my disease is "mild" and presents no real hardships for me, she said that a colonoscopy every 2-3 years and some light meds will work just fine.

She was nice enough to point us through the hospital to get back to our car, rather than make us walk the walk in the cold, so we hustled our biscuits back to our parking garage, where I did the "keep up for cryin' out loud" hustle to our car on the 4th floor. What's funny is that this guy, about 24 or so, was walking next to us and was clearly just over the moon. He said, "Are you here for a baby too?" I was feeling SO poorly that rather than get totally stoked for him and sing the praises of baby-producing, I looked at him like he had 4 heads and squawked, "Are you outta your MIND?!" I quickly realized that the poor guy's wife was in labor and changed my tune as I coughed and hacked in the cold. Lucy handled the entire faux-pas for me as she so often does, and told him that we just love babies and we're going to have a million more and please-tell-your-wife-congratulations! And then she gave me a, "Do I really need to talk to you about your manners?" look and told me to get in the car. Schooled.

We then went to Best Buy, where my children sat like little statues while Miguel kindly replaced my SIM card and fixed my whole texting issue. Mind you, they did not nap today. I was floored, but still too consumed with self-pity over my cough to realize just how awesome they were being. Even Claire just sat in her seat and smiled sweetly. Lucy mentioned something about Rudolph (obsessed.) so I decided to reward them for their awesomeness by just BUYING the doggone DVD already so that she can watch it until she fairly wears out over the whole thing. She was so excited I thought she was going to pop.

When we got home, I set to fixing dinner (scrambled eggs and madarin oranges. that's right. who treats you right?) and was tickled when the doorbell rang and it turned out to be a box of candy that I had the foresight to order last week from Bomboy's. (I happened to order it on a particularly rotten day, and what joy that it should show up on an even more rotten day!) I met the mailman at the door and boy was he shocked when I realized what it was and screamed, "THANK YOU SWEET JESUS!!!" and fell over the threshold coughing to death.

As soon as we got home I loaded up on all sorts of cough medicines and pain relievers and the like, and I'm really hoping to be IN my bed by 8:30. I need sleep. I need to recuperate. I also need to take the baby in for shots at 8am, so that's kind of a contributing factor. Getting out the door before 8am is pretty much my best trick.

I've gotta go. Stay tuned - plenty of cute pics coming up soon!

Santa Baby? You out there?

This is not going to be a very exciting post. Just an update for the records, I'm afraid. Don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE to update with about 70 posts on the past month, but I'm afraid I'm completely underwater and it's all I can do to just type. Let me take this moment to say that I'm very glad I never went into professional blogging. Let me also take this moment to say that I'm very glad that I never went into professional anything.

Today is my 2nd opinion with another GI in the area. I'm really on pins and needles, hoping that we can find a plan that's less aggressive than removing my liver, replacing it with half my brain and putting me on aggressive immuno-suppressants for the rest of my life.

That said, my colitis issues are SO on the back-burner until I get rid of this insane cough. I get a cough like this every, single year. I HATE winter. I do mean that. I would prefer June year-round to the mess that November brings. The cold, the illness, the heating bills, the rain, the mud, the coughs and colds, the flu, the cabin fever. It's all terrible to me. All of it. I was just getting better and I woke up with the mother of all coughs on Saturday morning. :-( Woe. Woe. Woe.

I'm taking my cell phone back today. I love it, but it's not letting me send text messages. Fail. I can't do without that. :-( Woe. Woe. Woe.

Well, Claire is napping and the kids are watching Monsters, Inc., so I should finish up some chores and find some clothes to wear. As if finishing up some chores means they're ever done. Today I'm just over it all. Thanks for letting me whine.

04 December 2011

Major date night

Started with a trip to the museum to a cool George Washington exhibit. Neat guy. Next it was downtown to Jamba juice. Then we went to B&N for some relaxing magazine reading and book buying. Then, despite current GI issues, we satisfied Laura's craving for quesadillas at Qdoba. They were GOOD. Then, we headed back up north to Lake Worth. ATT was not open, GameStop doesn't fix broken skis, Albertsons still sells huge Hershey's pies and Best Buy customer service is still the best in the industry. With full bellies, calm minds, a new phone we head home to watch Lincoln Lawyer (GOOD).

03 December 2011

The fastest huge update ever.

1) we had lots of company for thanksgiving. It was so, so, so fun. Grandpa Dick was in from WA state, Andrew's parents and brother Tim were in from MD, Char and Ben came for turkey, it was so super fun. Grandpa was here for two weeks and just left yesterday. We had an awesome visit! Tonight at grace we wrapped up with a, "thank you Jesus for this food," and Mo said, "and for Grandpa." Sweet girl. Love her.
2) Claire got baptized! Andrew's dad is a deacon in the Church and we decided to risk the state of sin to wait until he could come down to baptize her. Ben and Charlotte are Claire's godparents and we're so excited! She was baptized on the 26th and then we had a huge bunch of friends out for desserts and fun. We are so blessed by our wonderful friends down here in Texas. God has been so good to us in the people he has sent our way, and see our girls tearing around the house with their buddies while we cram into the living room to laugh together is one of our greatest joys.
3) You may have heard that my health has been a little crazy. It has, but we're hoping that it's slowly ironing itself out. I will say that I'm losing the baby weight fast and furious, but I didn't want to do it via IV drugs and major GI issues. I met with my doctor today, and it feels like he's really trying to put me on too many drugs too soon, so I'm seeking a second opinion and seeing an osteopath next week to figure out where to go from here. For now I'm on steroids and I hope to be tapering down to a smaller dose tomorrow. I feel like I'm starting to pull out of the extreme fatigue, and we're hoping that I'll be eating normally by the end of the weekend. It's been so weird having no appetite, especially right at the beginning of the holidays! But I suppose it's good, in a way, because I'd just be hating my lack of self-control right now anyway. I ate a full breakfast this am and boy did I feel like a wild woman!
4) Andrew and I have a major date night tomorrow. Stay. Tuned.

29 November 2011

Laura's dinner

One large ice water, one sippy cup of applesauce, 11 pills, one holiday Oreo cookie
** and a partridge in a pear tree ** lol.
Love, A

27 November 2011

Record US Retail Sales On Black Friday - Discovery News



US retail sales on Black Friday hit a new record for the start of the holiday shopping season that follows Thanksgiving, according to early estimates.

Sales hit $11.4 billion, up 6.6 percent compared to last year, and the biggest dollar amount ever spent on Black Friday, Chicago-based research firm ShopperTrak said in a statement.

It was the largest year-on-year gain since an 8.3 percent increase in sales between 2006 and 2007, the firm said.

Foot traffic in stores was up 5.1 percent compared to Black Friday 2010.

NEWS: Pepper Spray and Stampedes -- Must Be Black Friday

"Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and the traditional start to the holiday shopping season," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.

"Despite our sluggish economy, shoppers proved they are looking for value and ready to buy if given a good customer experience."

But the company warned: "Still, it's just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season."

Shoppers mobbed malls and went online in droves to snap up bargains late Thursday, through the night and into Friday -- an annual sales ritual that marks the start to the end-of-year shopping season relied on by many retailers.

The shopping frenzy lasts throughout the weekend and into Cyber Monday, when retailers offer hot deals online following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.


The increase in sales appeared to be far higher than the inflation rate, which eased to 3.5 percent in October as compared with a year ago, according to US Labor Department data.

The National Retail Federation was due to publish its first Black Friday sales estimates on Sunday.

Meanwhile, IBM reported a whopping 39.3-percent increase in online Thanksgiving Day spending, saying US shoppers had set the stage for 24.3-percent online growth on Black Friday compared to the same period last year.


"This year marked Thanksgiving's emergence as the first big spending day of the 2011 holiday season with a record number of consumers shifting their focus from turkey to tablets and the search for the best deals," commented John Squire, chief strategy officer at IBM Smarter Commerce.

"This momentum continued into Black Friday where the big winners were those retailers that delivered a smarter commerce experience with compelling, relevant deals that people could easily access from their channel of choice," he added.

22 November 2011

The In-Laws are coming! The In-Laws are coming!

Yee haw yippity, y'all! T-16 hours until my mother-in-law is safely in my home. It's been 6 MONTHS since I saw her. A crime. We're going to be majorly outnumbered by adult males for this holiday. It's going to take more wine and carbs than usual. We're totally peacing out of here after dinner tomorrow to pretend we have errands to run.
I am still sick. The good news, however, is that my super-keen Grandpa Dick made Swedish pancakes for dinner and I have cough syrup with codeine waiting to lull me to sleep. Sweeeeeeet.
We spent today doing "the in-laws are coming" type things. Grocery shopping, planning lunch for tomorrow, cleaning the bathroom we usually use for storage, stocking up on prescription drugs...all those things that make the guests feel welcome!
I'll tell you what's going to happen at 8:15 am tomorrow. Andrew will log into his email and find my blog subscription email waiting for him. He'll think to himself, "huh? When did she have time to blog? I was using the computer the whole time she was in the bathtub." and then he'll realize I was blogging from my phone, in the tub. Living dangerously. And then he'll email me and tell me that I will not get a phone upgrade when my phone falls in the tub and dies.
So I have to go. The in-laws are coming!!!

21 November 2011

Dang Baby.

5:43 am. It's actually good, because once the clock hits 6 I feel like things are a little more normal. Claire woke up at 5:03, and she's made it abundantly clear that she's only hear to poop and screech. She's tickled to tears to be up while it's so dark and quiet. I suppose that just amplifies her own crazy baby happy noises. I took a shower and she played happily on the bathroom floor while I got all fresh-smelling and tried to plan out a way to make her go back to sleep. That wasn't successful. So here I am, 5:46, watching Limitless and listening to the sounds of a cheerful baby playing on the floor.

We've been having a dandy week around here. Grandpa Dick is here from the Northwest, so I haven't been blogging, as we've been enjoying his company. We're keeping things quiet, but I'm also sick with some "welcome to the holidays" bug. It's been four (five?) days of crazy head and chest yuckiness. Oh, and I had a fantastic colonoscopy last Monday, and have just finished recovering from that. That was pretty fun. Starting the week with anesthesia is always fun. The procedure threw me for a loop and ended up with me on new meds, so I've also been spending the week getting Claire and I used to those new (huge) pills. Claire seems to have adjusted fabulously and my symptoms have all but disappeared in a very short time.

We spent Friday painting Claire's room, Saturday cutting down trees and working, and yesterday we did Mass and then Grandpa and Andrew took the big girls to the zoo while Claire and I napped. And boy did we nap. I think we napped enough to consider myself on the upswing this morning. THAT is very happy news. I guess the pooping and screeching is down. Sister wants to play. Fantastic. Come on 6am!

16 November 2011

Was Jane Austen Poisoned? - Discovery News


Portrait of Jane Austen based on one drawn by her sister Cassandra. Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin/Wikimedia Commons.

Jane Austen, the author of classics such as "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility," may have died of arsenic poisoning, according to a crime writer who has reviewed the last letters of the British novelist.

The crucial clue lies in a line written by Austen a few months before her mysterious death in 1817.

Describing weeks of illness she had recently experienced, Austen wrote: "I am considerably better now and recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour."

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According to Lindsay Ashford, a British crime writer, the description matches the symptoms of arsenic poisoning, "which causes skin spotting if taken in small doses over a long time."

"Known as the 'raindrop' effect, it causes some patches of skin to go dark brown or black; other areas lose all pigment to go white," Ashford wrote in the Daily Mail.

The crime writer strengthened her theory when she learned that a lock of Austen's hair bought at an auction in 1948 by a now deceased American couple, had tested positive for arsenic.

"The arsenic in Jane's hair meant that she had ingested the poison in the months before her death," Ashford said.

Austen's untimely end at the age of 41 has long been a cause for speculation among historians.

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Her mysterious and fatal illness was first identified as Addison's disease, a rare disorder of the adrenal glands; other diagnoses included the cancer Hodgkin's disease, the auto-immune disease lupus, Brill- Zinsser disease (a recurrent form of the typhus the novelist had as a child) and disseminated tuberculosis of bovine origin.

"All these conditions display some of the signs Jane reported, but none matches her description of her face in the letter," Ashford said.

She added that it is very likely Austen was given medicines containing arsenic.

Indeed, the poison was widely prescribed at that time for anything from rheumatism –- something the novelist admnitted to have suffered from -- to syphilis.

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"There is, of course, another scenario: that she was deliberately poisoned. Improbable perhaps; but not impossible," Ashford said.

The crime writer explores the murder theory in her new novel, "The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen," focusing on Austen's family, which she believes is a source of shadows and doubts despite being thoroughly investigated.

"Much is missing. Cassandra (Austen' sister) burnt dozens of Jane's letters when she died –- no one knows why," Ashford said.

As "letters and diaries cannot and will not tell us what really killed Jane Austen," the mystery over the last chaper in the life of Jane Austen is likely to remain unsolved.

It is quite unlikely that Austen's bones are exhumed for modern forensic analysis, Ashford admitted.

"It would provoke outrage among Austen fans, not to mention the scores of people who claim her as their distant relative. But stranger things have happened. Maybe one day the mystery of her death will be solved once and for all," she said.



14 November 2011

Iguazu Falls, Halong Bay On Natural Wonders List - Discovery News

Ha! Ive seen these falls!!!! Amazing! Truly a "wonder"!


The Amazon rainforest, Vietnam's Halong Bay and Argentina's Iguazu Falls were named among the world's new seven wonders of nature, according to organizers of a global poll.

The other four crowned the world's natural wonders are South Korea's Jeju Island, Indonesia's Komodo, the Philippines' Puerto Princesa Underground River and South Africa's Table Mountain, said the New7Wonders foundation, citing provisional results.

Final results will be announced early 2012, said the Swiss foundation, warning there may yet be changes between the provisional winners and the final list.

Sites that failed to make the cut include Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro, the Dead Sea and the Grand Canyon.

Residents of Jeju welcomed the announcement, with a 2,000-strong crowd bursting into cheers of "We made it," the Yonhap news agency reported.

Jeju Govenor Woo Geun-Min said the listing would open "a new chapter" for the island's tourism industry.

"This will greatly help attract tourists to Jeju, enhance investment and bolster awareness about Jeju's agricultural products," he told journalists. The island is renowned for its tangerines.

The poll organized by Swiss foundation New7Wonders has attracted great interest, mobilizing celebrities, including Argentinian football star Lionel Messi calling on fans to pick his home country's Iguazu Falls.

The results come after a long consultation process lasting from December 2007 to July 2009, when world citizens were asked to put forward sites which they deemed were natural wonders.

More than a million votes were cast to trim the list of more than 440 contenders in over 220 countries down to a shortlist of 77.

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The group was then further cut to 28 finalists by a panel of experts.

Anyone in the world was then able to vote for the final seven via telephone, text messages or Internet social networks.

Founded in 2001 by filmmaker Bernard Weber in Zurich, the foundation New7Wonders is based on the same principle on which the seven ancient wonders of the world were established. That list of seven wonders was attributed to Philon of Byzantium in ancient Greece.

New7Wonders said its aim is to create a global memory by garnering participation worldwide.

But even as the natural wonders poll came to a close, the New7Wonders foundation has set its eyes on a new survey -- the top seven cities of the world. Participating cities will be announced on Jan. 1, 2012.

10 November 2011

our first fish taxidermy! Lucy dug right in!!!

So, I'm reading a book called The Last Man Standing and there was some obscure reference to taxidermy in it. Anyways, they said that most people use "Borax" now on the inside of their catch/kills after removing all the innards. I remembered Laura HAS Borax in the laundry room soooooo....

We did it. At lunch today, I bought a new Shakespeare rod and a couple misc tackle box goodies (Thank you Merkels for the birthday Cabelas giftcard and sorry its taken me so long to use it! lol). Then tonight, Laura went to Endow, God bless her, and Lucy Molly & I went to the lake. It was cold out and the sun was dropping fast over the horizon. It was a good thing on the 2nd or 3rd cast with my new 7' rod and new hook and new rubber powerbait lure I pulled in a little bass. We quickly threw him in some water and brought him home (after a small Sonic detour).

Lucy was so excited she was dancing around like she needed to pee. Molly? Well, Molly does whatever Lucy does so, the whole car was rockin' around on the way back. After Sonic, we headed to the garage, fish in bucket, in hand. They were through-the-roof about "cut fishie up" (Molly).

I didn't want to knock it between the eyes because that'd mess up the exterior and well, we're trying to stuff this one folks. So, I took it out of the bucket and laid it on the garage floor. Lucy, astonished, said "Dad, you know he's going to die, right? He needs water." Before I could respond, she continued, "But that's okay Dad he needs to die so we can hang him on my wall". So. Cute. Molly? running around in circles w/ her fox chair pulled up over her back screaming "It Eat Me! Fox Eats Me"[repeat forever].

So, fish flops around on the floor which is WAY exciting as the girls pretending "it's chasing them around the garage". They make fish faces at it and play the touch-and-run game from it. Perhaps a precursor to cow tipping? Yikes. Let's hope not. Anyways, that garage was HOPPING with two (loud, wired) girls and one suffering (lol) bass.

Fish dies. Lucy pulls up a chair to the table where I'm now cutting in and emptying the bass. She is HANDS-ON reaching in there and pulling stuff out. ***pause. proud daddy tear*** She is INSANELY curious about it ALL. We talked about skin, scales, muscles, heart, brain, intestines, spinal cords, fins, eyes, mouth, teeth, everything. She kept comparing the fishes parts to, well, her own parts :-) She ran her finger down its spine and said, "Hey, that's just like mines" and ran her hand up her lower back. Cute, but also gross b/c when she leaned forward her hair fell into fish innards on the table (she was none the wiser, and I certainly wasn't going to say anything, she was having a GREAT time).

We put a teeny tiny bit of meat in the freezer (which she was very very excited about). I told her that if we bring a fish home, we have to eat at least a little of it. I'm pretty sure this was a rule when I was growing up (but I could just be remembering poorly b/c I think Deacon Paul G was always a catch-and-release w/ the exception of fishing trips). Sorry. Tangent.

So, girls in bed. Fish prepped. Mount designed. Just waiting for Laura to return with the stuffing(s) that she accidentally stole and took w/ her in the van. Will try to have a picture up of the FIRST COOKE FISH TAXIDERMY 10 Nov 2011 on the blog in the coming day(s). Not sure how long Laura will let it last in the house... suppose that depends on if it starts stinking or not :-P

It'll look great in the dining room!

Fwd: 444.jpg

$444 for a fishing rod at Cabelas.
Holy cow. Just the rod. Not the reel, line, bait, equipment, boat, tackle, guarantee of catching endless amounts of huge fish , etc. Nope. Just a rod.

Because silence is silent agreement.

Maybe no one wants to hear what I have to say about gay marriage. If that's the case, you have several moments to click on the "x" at the top of your screen.
And here we go.
I am so agitated by the people who say it's hateful to oppose gay "marriage." Hate? No. What I feel is an intense sorrow and disappointment that there are so many people out there who feel that whatever "makes you happy" is the route to choose for your life. That there are no consequences when it comes to the choices you make for your life.
I don't know where it comes from, the desire/drive to homesexual attraction.
Maybe it's nurture. We all have so many things to overcome from our childhoods. We're called to rise above what has damaged us and trust that there is a strength inside us that can see past our circumstances. The human spirit is like rubber, bouncing back over and over and over. If homosexuality is something a person is raised to lean toward, I would reason that they can also be raised to lean away from it.
Maybe it's nature. Does that make it okay to embrace alcoholism, since it's been proven to run in families? Can we choose to stay morbidly obese because somewhere in our genes our metabolism doesn't work at an optimal level? I personally was born with a drive to talk. Talk, talk, talk, without regard to the people around me. As I've grown into the woman I am now, I've learned that my natural drive to talk incessantly doesn't contribute to the world around me. I've learned to humble myself and keep my mouth shut, even though chattering nonstop is in my genes. Just ask my mom. And my grandma. And my great-grandma. Nonstop chatter. Some people drink, we tend to just keep our feet in our mouths. But my "nature" is something I've worked hard to overcome. Just because I was born talking doesn't mean the world needs to stop and listen.
I am of the mind that God designed the world to work perfectly. When he created Adam and Eve (is she seriously jumping on the bible wagon?!), He created a system that complements a perfect design. He made it so that we have everything we need to produce children and continue the human race. We have no need of science and outside interference. Isn't that beautiful? The male and female are so perfectly designed that we can not only live together in harmony, but we can actually make other people. I can't ignore that. I cannot subscribe to the belief that a union without the potential to produce is a union that can be free, faithful, fruitful and total.
"But Laura, what about people who can't have kids due to infertility? Are you seriously saying that their marriages aren't real? That they shouldn't get married?" Der, no. So many marriages can't produce children, for this reason and that. It's a terrible, painful, agonizing issue within marriage. But many, many cases of unexplained infertility are suddenly fruitful, and miracles do happen. The children born in these circumstances are such a blessing!
I liken it to an orchard. Imagine you have a little plot in an orchard, and you put a seed in the ground. In a perfect world, that seed (boy) will really take hold in the dirt (girl) and will grow into a tree (marriage). But you have to have a seed and some dirt to grow a tree. Some seeds can be planted in the wrong soil. We see it happen. But ideally, you've planted your seed in the right soil, and it grows into a tree. That tree may, indeed, produce apples, oranges, pears, plums. (These are kids) But what if that tree (marriage) doesn't bear fruit? Many, many trees don't. Some produce the solace of shade. Others provide a place to climb, to provide an amazing view. Yet more trees provide piles and piles of leaves for children to romp and play. (adoption, anyone?) And sometimes, just when hope is lost, a barren tree produces fruit. Every single tree has value, without or without fruit. They provide oxygen and clean air. They provide the materials to build other things. The more I think about trees, the more I totally see it. You really never know the value of a tree until, many years later, it has affected generations. Just like a strong marriage, a tree can span decades, giving different gifts to different people. The Farmer truly knows each tree, and He knows how to grow a strong orchard.
"But Laura, what about adoption?!" Adoption is so, so, so beautiful. I do not agree with gay adoption because I feel that whenever possible, a child should have the gift of a man and a woman raising the child together. Each sex offers a different way of nurturing, and those two different people work together to impart those gifts. In turn, those gifts produce a strong, confident adult. "But we have so many children that need to be adopted!" We also have SO many heterosexual couples who so selfishly do not adopt. There are more than enough heterosexual couples out there to adopt any childn many times over, but our culture is a "me-first" culture. Why adopt someone else's kid when you can get all the attention and gifts for having one of your own and posting all of your pregancy pics on Facebook? Why on EARTH would you take on someone else's emotional baggage when you have so much of your own? If married couples took a moment to truly examine their motives for not adopting, there would be so few arguments against it. Since having my own children, I do believe that a child truly yearns for the burning heart of his mother and protective heart of his father. Anything short of that feels very, very wrong to me. "But what about single moms and dads?" Of course they're out there, and I don't doubt that they give their utmost to provide, but I'm not talking about the circumstances that befall a married/cohabitating couple. I'm talking about the circumstances surrounding an adoption placement. You can split hairs eight different ways and there will always be a child in need of something, but I believe that when possible, we should start each child out (or repair prior damage) with the potential of a strong nuclear family.
There are a million questions you could ask me, but I just answered a couple of the "hot" ones that come to mind every time I hear the gay marriage debate.
I do agree that every person is entitled to love and satisfaction. Where have we strayed that love and satisfaction cannot be found in a life of service and chaste friendship? Our culture has skewed sexuality to such a degree that "chastity" is a word reserved for freaky Fundamentalist teens. In reality, chastity is something that allows you to reach beyond your sinful (and I only mean this in the most biblical original sin sense) nature and really make something of a gift of your sexuality. Within our own marriage, Andrew and I practice chastity through NFP. Everyone is called to periods of chastity, and some are called to a life of it. What you do with that call to live a chaste life can be a gift or a curse. By turning sex into a carnal need and "right" rather than a gift to honor, we've created an culture that demands what they want, when they want it. Some people just never happen upon that gift, and that's OKAY. There are so many other gifts to pull out of life.
What bothers me is the agenda set before us. If we don't agree with the homosexual lifestyle/marriage/adoption/what-have-you, we're instantly homophobic bigots. I'm not afraid of homosexuals, I'm not anti-gay, I'm not filled with hate. I simply have an opinion. Be that as it may, this post may still be seen as intolerant and hateful. That's a risk I have to take, because my silence can be seen as support for something I truly oppose. When my children come back someday and read this blog, regardless of place the world is in, I don't want them to assume that I opposed gay marriage because I hated gays. I want them to know that I opposed it because my vocation and sacramental vows rested on a word that was in danger. The life I lead is one that IS marriage. I am not a person in a marriage. I am a marriage that used to be two people. Marriage isn't a lifestyle. It's a life, and for Catholics, it's a path to Heaven. Reducing it to anything less is dangerous, and as a Roman Catholic, allowing that reduction is a sin.
The Catholic Church doesn't want people to be unhappy. When you see a friend doing something dangerous, you pull them aside and say, "What on earth is going on here? I love you and want the best for you!" That is what the Church is doing in staying strong on this issue. You can paint it with any brush you want, but the picture stays the same. Marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman, and there are reasons for that. Just as we wouldn't allow a friend to assume that drunk driving is only dangerous to the person who's driving, we can't allow our friends to assume that the gay marriage issue affects one soul at a time.

06 November 2011

The weekend that wasn't.

It didn't feel like a weekend. Bummer deal.

I'd love to know how my fat baby weaseled her way into my bed before 10pm. I'd put her back in her crib, but I'm sure she'll flip her lid. And she's really cute, so she stays.
I think I hear thunder outside. It's that or the squirrel who is forever romping around on our roof. He's the biggest squirrel eh-vuhr.
Let's see. Tomorrow we have to run to the PO and the grocery store, and I have a guy coming to clean the carpets. Much needed. Tuesday is my MOMS meeting, an appt with the pediatric dentist and I have a guy coming to clean the chimney. Wednesday is wide open. Thursday is confession, dinner ALONE and Endow. Friday is...something and then I have dinner at a friend's house. Andrew is going on retreat Saturday, And Sunday we shall rest. Busy week!
Okay, I can't concentrate on blogging with Claire pinching the skin on my armpit while she sleeps. Uncool.

Soccer Season 1, over and out!

So proud of our little Lucy! She's not a fan of running, but she's figuring out the game and loves being on a team. She told me that she "might" play next year, if she can learn to run better before then!

Little Bird

When I think forward and acknowledge the fact that she won't always fold her legs under her on the kitchen counter and repeat, "You mixes dat! You mixes dat!", my heart nearly splits in two.