Until You’ve Had THIS Conversation…

Hopefully, this will be the last time I note something on this topic. I’ve been galvanized into action recently because of my faith (which is weird for me as I usually get galvanized by my politics).

You’re all aware of the current plight of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees. You’re all also aware of these additional data points related to this topic:

  • Paris suffered a terrible terrorist attack last week
  • One of the Paris terrorists may have come into France by way of the refugee influx
  • Our country has a long history of welcoming refugees from all strifes
  • This situation is eerily similar to what happened when Jews were similarly excluded from coming to America in the late 1930s
  • Our Holy Father has commanded us (in addition to what we should do from general humanity and a quick read of the Bible standpoint) to do our part to help those in need
  • The “stupid” season of presidential politics is in rare form
  • Many of my fellow American citizens oppose anything and everything our President proposes. If he proposed putting an AK47 in the hands of every man, woman and child in America, they would oppose it. If he proposed eliminating all taxes for everyone, they would oppose it. If he proposed that snow is white, they’d argue for blue. Etc.

I find myself morally outraged to find that my CONSERVATIVE aspects (due unto others, help thy neighbor, charity, etc) are at odds with my fellow Americans who espouse conservatism simply because it is a democrat, this one in particular, that suggested it. My faith commands that I do something to help these people. We give to our church and our community already to help others in need (homeless, veterans, battered women, etc). But to hear the vicious, racist, xenophobic and ghastly things coming out of my fellow American’s mouths simply because they don’t like the president, and then pretend it’s “to keep us safe” is simply a bridge too far. Let me explain myself:

  1. There is evidence that one of the terrorists came in to Paris via the refugee “process” in place in Europe.We don’t know if this evidence is accurate at this time. I note that the Europeans are dealing with hundreds of thousands of people a day and there is no process – they just arrived.
  2. To pretend that blocking all refugees, made up statistically speaking of mostly women and children because a large portion of the men stayed behind to fight, is just nonsense. Out of 500,000 refugees in Europe, some bad apples will be in there.
  3. Our process is more formalized (although it takes a long time) for vetting refugees. We’re also talking about a fraction of the number of people Europe is dealing with and they are coming into the country in a controlled manner.
  4. To eliminate everyone at the risk of one bad person (or, as Jeb Bush suggested, only let the Christians in) is just awful.

I don’t deny that our system is perfect. I don’t deny that there is a risk. What I reject is the politicization of a human catastrophe simply to score points with the lowest common denominator of our society. It is a religious imperative for us to help. And even if you aren’t religious or think that it isn’t a religious imperative, it’s still the right thing to do.

So, lest ye think that I am just one more angry liberal decrying the acts of the republican base simply because they despise our president, my family is doing something. Despite our racist governor, we’ve decided to act. Until you’ve had a conversation about what you can do to help, instead of standing on the sidelines and whining about it or yelling because you think it’s a bad idea, you haven’t contributed anything to the national discourse. Until you’ve had a conversation about what moral, religious or political justification you have (or don’t have) to do or to not do, you’re simply just a bystander.

We, my family, have had that conversation. Over many months we’ve discussed, discerned, argued. We choose to act now, not because of that awful iconic picture of the little boy being carried from the water after drowning, not because it’s the hot button topic of the day, not because I agree with the president. We choose to act now because we are human beings. We chose to act because our Holy Father commands us to. We choose to act because, as He says: “All human beings – all of us – are important in the eyes of God.” It’s times like this politics can go to hell (along with some politicians). Go bomb the shit out of the ones that caused the carnage in Paris. As for the thousands of others that are coming here seeking a better life?  Read the damn plaque on the Statue of Liberty and saddle up.

Our family has just made an appropriate contribution to The Dallas Catholic Charities Refugee Services. You can too: http://www.catholiccharitiesdallas.org/programs/res/refugee-support-services/


Next Step – Assemble!

The progress on the playhouse has been slow going due to weather and work, but the major components are now complete (minus the roof, that requires assembly first). You already saw the end pieces, now here is the front:



and the back (simple but sturdy):IMG_0100

The width of the playhouse is exactly 1 inch shy of the width of the deck where it will be screwed in so that works out great cause I won’t have to do banister around the whole thing.

A few changes we’re considering:

  1. Putting a decking on the bottom instead of play dirt
  2. Making the bottom the first story of a slightly renovated two story playhouse (boom)
  3. Seriously considering electrical (for the Joe’s cups lighting and air conditioning).



Here’s our crew before heading out to Trick or Treat. Not everyone has a Thomas the Knight.



Andrew and Connor are the Kratt Brothers.  Connor is Martin and Andrew is Chris.  Blake’s costume is of his own making and Madelyn is a sweet strawberry!IMG_8065

Andrew and Connor decided what they wanted to be 2 months ago. The boys have had so much fun playing with the costumes and Blake was excited to dress up and have “creatures powers” too. After a few weeks I decided I better buy a 3rd Wild Kratt costume because when Halloween night arrived, Blake would be very upset and wonder where his Wild Kratt costume was.  I knew it wouldn’t be worth fighting the battle with 2yr old logic even though we have a multitude of other costumes he could choose from.

After dinner Andrew and Connor got ready and Blake brought his vest for me to put on.  Just a few minutes later I turned around to see he had ripped it off. We needed to get out the door and I was trying to tread carefully to keep him happy. “Blake, do you want to wear this costume?” was answered with a firm “no!” So I took him to the dress up buckets to pick something out. I pulled out Thomas and asked if he wanted to wear it. He said yes and grabbed the knight helmet.  So, there you have it. A Blake original costume.

Pops spent the afternoon with us and went with me to take the kids Trick or Treating. Derek stayed our house to hand out goodies.  I didn’t get a Teal Pumpkin painted to indicate such, but in addition to candy we had pretzels and glow sticks to hand out since not all the kids (like Blake with allergies) can have candy.



Pops brought a pumpkin over (I hadn’t gotten around to getting one – oops!)

It was a little backwards but after Trick or Treating and showers they carved the pumpkin!  We realized the time was changing that night and it was good entertainment to keep everyone up another hour or so in an attempt to get them to sleep later the next morning (it sometimes works but not this time).

Here’s the spooky pumpkin they created.  It’s complete with a beard and mustache.



Homecoming 2015

Friday morning we packed up and headed out to Homecoming as a family of 6! I missed getting to go last year (something about being 36 weeks pregnant) so was particularly excited to go this year. I missed Stillwater!



In order to fit the double jogging stroller I had to pack in lots of little bags (no big suitcases). The end of October in Stillwater is always a tricky time with the weather. In the past we have packed for the 80 degree temperatures we’re leaving in Texas, only to get there and have to buy warmer clothes because a Fall cold front arrives the same day we do. We were prepared this year for rain and cold.

We drove all the way to Norman before stopping.  As we walked into Chipolte in Norman, I cautioned Andrew that we were in the town of OU so if he saw any OU stuff he needed to be respectful because this is their territory. I wasn’t so worried about him embarrassing us but I could totally see him saying something quietly and Connor loudly announcing “there’s stinky OU!” Thankfully we made it in and out without embarrassing ourselves.

Our next stop was in east OKC to pick up the camper. We tried something different this year and rented the camper in OKC instead of in Dallas. It worked really well and was much nicer. The last time we rented here the camper wasn’t particularly clean, and that left us without a car. Taking care of the kids in the camper on the drive wasn’t much fun for me since I get motion sick.  All in all, this method worked much better.  Derek, Andrew and Connor drove the camper while I took the two littles.

We arrived in Stillwater mid-afternoon where it was cloudy and cool but the rain had thankfully stopped.  Gramma pulled out some of Derek’s old toys and all the boys enjoyed the space station.  Pete and Gramma are in the process of relocating to Stillwater so some stuff had already made its way from Chelsea.




Everyone enjoyed sitting/climbing on Buddy Jr. all weekend. We saw Zack some but he worked a lot since it was such a crazy weekend in town.WP_20151023_011



We had some good cousin play time and went to walk around that evening.


This is one of my favorite pictures of the weekend!

Andrew literally spent the entire weekend throwing a nerd football around. The adults took turns throwing with him and then when there was no one available he would throw it on the roof and then run to catch it. I don’t know what he would have done all weekend had he not found that ball!

We managed to all have a pretty restful night (you never know spending the night away from home). Madelyn and I slept in a room in the house while Derek and the boys stayed in the camper. I guess I don’t have any pictures of inside the camper but the boys loved it! Andrew and Connor had bunk beds, Derek slept on the queen in the back and Blake (mostly) slept in the pack n play in the front of the camper.  We headed out to the parade first thing Saturday morning. As we drove across town, I suggested to Derek that we park at Anna’s house so we could be closer to the start of the parade route. We were early (still had 10 minutes before the parade started) so it didn’t make sense to fight the crowds and parking at our usual spot over by Panera and Hastings which is at the end of the parade route.

**I’ll pause here to say the rest of this is my personal experience and perspective. I will try to write the rest with utmost respect and compassion for those whose first hand experience was much more traumatic and tragic than mine.**

It was a cloudy morning but thankfully not windy or cold (as it sometimes is).  We waved to Pete as he rode by on the float with current and former Pistol Petes.20151024_141049757_iOS



Then “our” Pete came to join us to watch the rest of the parade.






We enjoyed the parade and went back to the house.  I went right in the house to feed and put Madelyn down for a nap. When I came back outside Derek and Mike had left. Cindy and Aunt Bobbi said they left quickly and didn’t say why.  Nearly an hour later I called Derek because I was a little irritated that I didn’t know where he went, why or when he’d be back.  He said they would be back soon and “boy do I have a story for you.”  About 5 minutes later Pete pulled up in my car with Tatum and Keaton. He briefly and quietly told me that a car had run into the parade crowd and several people were killed.  (Jennifer and her family were late arriving to the parade, we didn’t successfully communicate that we had moved from our normal spot, and they were right on the corner witness the whole tragedy.) I sat down holding Keaton because she was clearly upset, although I still didn’t really know what happened. At that point I pulled out my phone and saw urgent messages and calls from Maryellen wondering if we were alright.  She was 2 states away and heard about it before I did.  Thankfully it had only been 10 minutes since she’d sent the messages so I wasn’t leaving her in a worried state for too long.  Of course I immediately got over my annoyance with Derek for disappearing.  I sat with Keaton, holding her and listing to whatever she had to say, because there was nothing else I could do at that point.  Derek stayed with Jennifer while Brian continued helping. God placed him right there to aid the injured and help bring order to the chaos.  Their experience is not my story to tell but it was a very difficult thing to experience and Keaton was very glad to see her parents when they arrived at the house about 30 minutes later.

The rest of the day was somber.  Everyone was baffled as to how this could have happened. In addition to several deaths, there were so many injuries. We heard emergency and news helicopters all day.

The game was not cancelled and Pete had a few extra tickets so Derek and Andrew were able to attend part of the game. The Cowboys were winning by a ridiculous number of points by half time so they left after Andrew got to see the bands.  Andrew has developed a love for football and has managed to pick up a ton of info about the sport and the OSU team players. I don’t really know how he’s picked it all up because we don’t watch that many games on TV and he sure doesn’t hear Derek and I talking about it. This boy truly loves sports!


We drove around campus on Buddy Jr and went to see the Pete statue in Gallagher Iba. It is so much fun to get to put around all over campus on Buddy Jr. “Our” Pete’s name is engraved on the statue, along with all the other past Petes.



Of course we had to go see the Orange Fountain! This time we took the picture from the other side because the facade of the library is covered in scaffolding.  You can’t really see from these pictures, but the rose gardens behind were beautiful!20151024_215452343_iOS


The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to wrap our brains around what happened that morning and enjoyed our time together.

(If you know my bow obsession, you know this is the biggest bow Madelyn has ever had on her head! It was acceptable only because it was O-State and it fits with the cheerleader outfit which is compliments of Maryellen.)20151024_181943041_iOS


Sweet little Cowgirls!20151024_175501023_iOS


Of course there was play time in the camper.20151024_162113950_iOS

This picture reminds me of this other one which dates back to 2010 and was the first time we rented a camper for Homecoming.  Yep, that’s Andrew when he was 2!

2010 OSU Homecoming 057

Uncle Larry couldn’t miss playing in the camper too!20151024_231050553_iOS


If Buddy Jr. was in the driveway, someone was playing on him. It’s really quite funny the entertainment this little ride provides. Madelyn thought she was a big kid too and fell off twice, scraping her face.  She has figured out how to climb up, but isn’t so good at the getting down part.20151024_223123776_iOS

And of course some good cuddle time with Gramma!20151025_001055518_iOS

Sunday morning we took Madelyn on a little ride to see the Ducks at Theta Pond (and to the Barn for Daddy sippy, of course!)20151025_150505640_iOS


And the obligatory top of camper pic before we headed out of town.

20151025_160637829_iOSThis is how we roll for Homecoming! It’s all about family, Stillwater and Cowboys!

Madelyn 11 months

IMG_8046 ‘


This little girl has hit the big 11 month mark.

She is standing very steady and will occasionally take 1-2 steps. I give it another month and she’ll be taking off on two feet!

Madelyn has made the switch to table food. I got her to choke down most of the pureed baby food I had on hand but she prefers to feed herself solid foods. She’s my first baby to not really like oatmeal. We’ll have to work on that because it’s a staple around here!  She is still breastfeeding but becoming less interested by the day. I predict we’ll hold on to the 5am feeding for several more months but she’s not too far from ready to drop some daytime feedings.

She has taken quite an interest in baby dolls!  Connor and Blake were annoyed with her always playing with their dolls so I got hers down out of her closet and she is so sweet with her baby!






Her top two teeth are in on top and two more on the way. Those top two teeth make her look so much older!!


Madelyn no longer wants to sit by and watch the fun at the park. She wants to do all the exploring she can with her little fingers and mouth. Thankfully she has gotten a little better about not putting every little thing in her mouth, but I still have to watch her very carefully.

Connor loved being her sliding buddy one afternoon when we visited the park on our old neighborhood.  These two are quite the pair!



I’ll have to get an entire homecoming post together but here’s a little preview of Madelyn.






Now this is progress

Finally made some amazing progress today!

Got the thing constructed on the driveway, then disassembled and placed on site on the pad and reassembled.


My handy white trash work bench I built:


Always remember – precut those boards! I precut the cross arms and the slats at 92.5 inches. The cross arms are 12 inches mitered at 45 degrees but my miter saw isn’t deep enough to cut a full 2×6 vertically like that so I had to use another saw to finish the job.


And we had our first injury (Janell and I both) – we were trying to reposition the thing and didn’t have three sides anchored (only two) so both of us got our digits caught between a 4×4 and a 2×6 as it swung down. Thankfully it didn’t hit Blake, close call.