Monday, November 29, 2010

Brian's Culinary Birthday Celebration!

Today is my wonderful husband's birthday! We celebrated yesterday since we all had the day off of work. Jeremy was super excited and kept saying "Hap Birfd DADDY!" So close.

As most of you know, Brian is a budding chef, and he wanted to cook a special birthday dinner himself (it is super easy being his wife). Jeremy and I were in charge of the cake, presents, and dishes.Brian made a masterful feast. Here is my plate ,which I practically licked clean it was so good:He made risotto (my photo is not the best, it was not soupy like this looks):Veal red wine Marsala (or something like that):And asparagus vinaigrette, which I forgot to take a photo of. Oops.

And Jeremy and I made a candy cake. The classiness seems to have fallen off a bit with the entrance of the cake, but we sure had fun making it! Lots of chocolate to lick off the bowl, 3 different kinds of sprinkles, and M&Ms. Yummy!Brian also made a feast for our anniversary, which was 2 weeks ago. Antipasti plate, fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad, and the most amazing lasagna ever. He made the meatballs and fillings from scratch!!So, happy birthday to the best daddy and the best husband in all the land. We love you!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


What am I thankful for? Let's see.

And this.And this.What more could a gal want??
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Joy of Harry Potter - UPDATED!

Brian took me to see the most recent Harry Potter movie on Sunday when we celebrated our four year wedding anniversary. I loved it! Each year around the holidays I re-read all of the Harry Potter books. I realize this is hugely nerdy and most would think a colossal waste of my time. However, I have been a fan of the Hogwarts crew since my freshman year of college when my dad sent me the first book and I read it in one night while on my loft in South Carrick. I then lent it to my suitemates (Melissa, Nicole - do please recall your Potter love is a direct result of our friendship) and we were all hooked. I think what I love the most about these silly children's books is simple: they transport me to a place where I am outside of myself. Impossible things seem suddenly realistic (sure, I can fly on a broomstick, no problem), shy nerdy kids become heroes (Neville!), teachers are pure and wise (Dumbledore), and good does come out on top (even Snape has a heart). I can't help myself, when I am in the world of Harry Potter, I am eleven years old waiting for my letter from Hogwarts, fourteen years old winning the Triwizard Cup, sixteen years old falling in love, and seventeen years old struggling alongside my best friends to save the world. How can that not be appealing?

I think my personal connection is a bit deeper, in that I have always lived in the realm of fantasy, even in real life. I am constantly creating stories in my head and don't even get me started on make-believe and dress-up: my two favorite things, even to this day. Case in point (the picture quality is awful, I have no scanner, I did my best):
Jack, Alison, and I before the first Harry Potter movie premier. Jack is the golden snitch, Al is Harry, and I am Hermione.

Naomi and I as Sonny and Cher for one of my famous murder-mystery dinners.

Jack and I as man-eating plants from Little Shop of Horrors.

Alison, me, and Jack as I have no idea what...village people...hos? Whatever, we were weird.

Melissa and I as quail-men (remember Doug on Nickelodeon?) in the middle of the hallway in our freshman residence hall. That's right, our underwear is on the outside and belts are strapped around our heads. This was a normal occurrence for us.

I have always possessed an inclination for imagination, and Harry Potter, random costumes, and willing friends have provided me some of my most memorable moments. My recommendation to you: if you have not picked up the books, try it out. See if you can recapture a bit of your lost youth and whimsy as I have.

And if you need a partner to dress up for the next movie premier, or even just for a random Wednesday, give me a call. I'll be there.

My dad called to remind me of when Holy Rosary, the Catholic elementary school my entire family attended banned these books. I wrote a letter to the then principal expressing my distaste for her decision. My dad kept the letter and thought I could post it here. It is crazy to think something like this ever happened. It is important to note that the pastor of the church was out of town when the principal did this and upon his return he immediately placed the books back in the library and ended the ban. Mrs. Novak was noticeably not employed at Holy Rosary much longer. Here is the letter I wrote, almost exactly 9 years ago:

November 16, 2001

Ms. Novak,

I am writing what I am assuming to be one of many responses you will receive to your recent decision to ban the Harry Potter books from Holy Rosary School. Now a Junior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I graduated from Holy Rosary in 1995, my older sister in 1994, my brother in 1997, my father in 1972, and my younger sister will hopefully join the rest of our family in this line in 2004. I, along with the entire rest of my family, have attended Catholic school for the greater part of my life. Every female on both sides of my family have graduated from Immaculate Conception, and the men, most recently my brother just last year, are all graduates of Christian Brothers High School. I hope you will see, then, that I am speaking from the point of view of a family typical to the Holy Rosary Catholic tradition in Memphis.

As such, I can say that not only I, but my father, mother, and younger sister are all avid readers of the Harry Potter series. We read these fictional books for good entertainment and a heightened sense of imagination. We also attend church every Sunday. I see no contradiction between these two practices of enjoying fictional stories of childhood adventures and celebrating my faith and closeness to God. However, when I hear that my little sister came home from school confused about a letter stating a direct opposite of this belief, I am both disturbed and disappointed.

The very first image that came to my mind after hearing of this decision was of the book burnings so popular with the Nazi Party. Being a private school, I understand that you have the right to monitor the materials available to the students. However, I have two main problems, or concerns, with this particular decision. First, I am greatly worried about the type of precedent this will set. To my knowledge of recent practice, no other books have been so publicly and forcefully banned in the Catholic school system in Memphis. I am wondering how long it will be before other works that deal with magic, sorcery, and fantasy are also banned. I strongly feel that a great number of other books fall into your category of “paganization of the imagination.” I would like to suggest that you also ban The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, all of the Grimm’s fairytales, all of the fairytales by Hans Christen Anderson, all Greek and Roman mythology, Peter Pan, all comic books, all science fiction books, almost all of Shakespeare like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Sword and the Stone and all legends of King Arthur and Merlin, and The Velveteen Rabbit. I would also like to point out that I read and studied half of these books while a student at Holy Rosary.

My second concern is the way in which you went about informing the parents and children of this decision. I cannot understand why a letter like the one you wrote should ever be put in the hands of a child. The very thought of my sister reading an announcement about a classmate’s successful surgery followed by a casual statement that the books she loves so much are against her religion and forms of idolatry disturbs me to no end. She is an avid reader, a practice always encouraged in my home, and cannot possibly understand how reading a fictional book of magical adventure will lead to a point where “the Lord will turn against us, and we will no longer be His people.” To an eleven year old, this reads that because she has read and enjoyed the Harry Potter books, she has committed sin and made God mad at her. The Harry Potter books are not evil. I am not evil for reading them, subconsciously or not. These books have brought the joy of reading back to millions of children worldwide. The 3rd grade students that I worked with at St. Louis School Summer Care read Harry Potter together instead of fighting over Nintendo games or watching TV. These books contain obvious distinctions between good and evil. They are full of delightful characters, imaginative games, and mind-filling plots. Children do not read a 700 plus page book to join “a cult of Satan.” They read them to have fun and transport themselves to a fictional world where kids can eat funny flavored candy, compete in exciting sporting matches, and have exhilarating adventures where they can triumph over evil. I hope that more books in the future will be able to touch as many children and adults so positively and powerfully. More importantly, though, I hope that my sister will never again come home from school and apologize for reading.


Jeannie Carr, Holy Rosary Graduate and Parishioner

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Body Image

Bear with me here. I have an itch to scratch.

I went to the doctor today and found out that I gained 6 pounds in 4 weeks. Yes, you read that right. I was a bit dumbstruck, then felt like I was going to cry. Then I called my innocent and unsuspecting husband and got mad at him over the phone, because clearly this was his fault. I often do productive things like this, but eventually I do get to the "aha" moment.

I have a disease called rheumatoid arthritis. When bad, it causes all of my joints to swell and stop functioning properly. At my worst, my knees failed to bend, my fingers would not move at all, and everything from my individual toes to my shoulders were sore and difficult to move. The only relief my doctor and I found was with prednisone, a steroid taken daily, which causes weight gain - particularly in the face and stomach area. There are other medications we tried (to no avail) and others still untried (unwanted side effects for my life right now).

The end result is that I feel better, I function normally, and I gain weight. I will obviously not be on prednisone forever, and have been lowering my dose considerably in recent months. So, here is my "aha" moment: my family and my life are WAY more important to me than a few pounds. Yes, I can take steps to lesson this gain with better regulation of my daily routine, but in the end, if I had the choice of gaining some weight versus not living an active life with my son, there is simply no choice.

However, a talk I had with one of my graduate assistants today made me realize I may be completely on an island with this opinion. He showed me an article from Men's Health magazine called "Do You Hate Fat People?"with the following survey results (their target audience is usually mid-age men with money who actively work on their bodies): 53% would rather go bald than gain 50 pounds; 45% would rather lose an arm than gain 100 pounds; 55% would rather their wife cheat on them than gain 100 pounds themselves; 62% would consider it grounds for divorce if their wife gained 100 pounds; 20 pounds is the amount most men consider a deal breaker for weight gain in their girlfriend while dating; 59% would rather lose their job than gain 100 pounds; 57% would rather drown in debt for a decade than gain 50 pounds; and 59% would rather lose their home to foreclosure than gain 100 pounds. CRAZY!! And these are adult men, not 16 year-old body-image conscious girls. Is this normal to other people??

My personal physical appearance is honestly the very last thing I think about each morning when I get ready for my day (not that I go to work looking crazy, it is just not a priority). Instead, I happily spend my time discussing the lessons of Clifford the Big Red Dog cartoons, making cereal and yogurt for a little man named Bud, and trying desperately to get out the door in time to get to speech therapy without forgetting shoes. Maybe I am in the minority in society today, but my priorities are no longer about my personal vanity. Surely I am not alone, right??

Jeannie: skinnier. Here I am attending Braves games every two weeks with Jack while we were in grad school. (Apparently we had time for stuff like that and I was super fit - had to snag me a husband, right?)Jeannie: happier. I never have lost all that baby weight and haven't seen the Braves in person since 2007, but look at what I got instead - my baby boy and yup, that husband I snagged while in grad school stuck around despite the weight gain! He even says he loves me more!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


A few weeks ago, Uncle Graham, Aunt Katherine, and Cousin Philip came from Nashville to visit! Brian and I spent a lot of time preparing Jeremy for the fact that his 18 month old cousin would be visiting and...gasp!...may want to play with his toys. We bought Philip a Thomas (his first!) and practiced sharing, not hoarding or screaming. He got the idea, and ran around the house saying "Philip!" for days prior to and after their arrival.

The boys ended up having a blast. Jeremy shared pretty well, and Philip, while obviously overcome with joy at his new Thomas, did not quite understand the importance of carrying it around with him ALL DAY. So, Jeremy spent most of his time picking up Philip's Thomas and handing it back to him. He was intrigued by the "two Thomases." I know it is shocking, but we did many things OTHER than play with trains. Jeremy loved reading books with Aunt Katherine (whose lap space is quickly diminishing thanks to the new baby due in January)!Philip loved ME! Naturally, I am his Godmother and he knows how special I am. We took them to breakfast at I-HOP, where they ate lots of pancakes and then threw rocks in the parking lot.After the oh-so-fun adventure of the cry room at church, we headed to the playground to work off some of that excess energy. We had a blast with our Hopper relatives and look forward to many more playdates to come!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Pop! (and adventures in Memphis)

Today is my dad's birthday! He is Jeremy's favorite human being (I am not kidding. He would trade in both Brian and I for a chance at a life of bliss with Pop. But, Thomas the Tank Engine would still beat him out, I am fairly confident). This photo is super old, but it cracks me up.I rarely get to be home anymore for either of my parent's birthdays, so I was extremely lucky this year that our state-wide housing conference was held in Memphis shortly after my mom's b-day last month. In true Nona fashion, she spent most of her birthday time entertaining her grandson. She came close to edging out Pop on the favorite list when she brought him to the model train exhibit at the Pink Palace. He was shaking he was so excited. They had Thomas, Annie and Clarabel on one of the tracks, which sent him into all kinds of wide-eyed hysterics. Mom's birthday party was fun, and Jerome and I got to see a bunch of family members we don't get to catch up with very often, which was nice. Here are photos of Nona and her homemade birthday tarts courtesy of Cheri (notice we forgot to get candles, so we had to improvise), Jeremy with Marie and Leslie, and Jeremy with my whole fam. On our last day in Memphis, Jeremy got to hang out with Uncle Joey at his house! He had a blast, as Joey is also a favorite. Unfortunately, Aunt Meg had to work, but the boys had fun on their own. So, happy birthday to my daddy, who is MY favorite person too! I wish I could be there to celebrate with you. I was hoping for a Ranger's World Series win for your present, but alas, those hopes are dashed. Oh well. Love you bunches!!

Monday, November 1, 2010


Yay Halloween! I love this holiday, and our family has unfortunately missed out on properly celebrating it for the last few years. Jeremy's first Halloween corresponded with his 4-week marathon infestation of plague/typhoid. Gross. His second Halloween was our nightmare realization that he was developmentally behind and the looming autism-diagnosis appointment drove all thoughts of celebration out of our heads. So, this year, his third Halloween, was poised to be the comeback to beat all comebacks.

Jeremy and I started by putting up homemade decorations in the living room. I like how we placed witches and ghosts so close to Jesus. We're classy like that.It seemed like a good idea to paste candy on paper and post it on the wall. Apparently, ants like candy and do not hesitate to climb up a wall to get at it. Oops.Then, we attended Trunk or Treat at the university, which is sponsored by our United Residence Halls Council. They do a great job each year and give the kids popcorn, face painting, moon bounce, and free t-shirts in addition to all the candy from the student organizations. Here are some photos of Jeremy and William enjoying the night. Jeremy is a train engineer (shocking) and William is a dragon. They both ended up in their free shirts by the end of the night when we took them out to dinner.
We also took them trick or treating in William's neighborhood, but Jeremy only lasted three houses before throwing a champion tantrum in the middle of the street. Sometimes, I am just so proud of that kid.Here is our little engineer and his monster father before we headed to a party at Brian's friend's house. Yes, Brian is scary, but check out that perfectly tied bow tie! That's right, I am amazing.Ooh, one more thing! I judged a bunch of hall decorating contests this past week at work, and wanted to share some of the crazy things our students do. Here is Nightmare Before Christmas and Circus Carnival of Death. It was really dark on the floors since they blacked out the lights, but I had to use the flash so it ruined the effect. Use your imagination.Also, Laurel did a "cribs" contest for the best rooms. Here is one photo of hundreds I took. This is a dorm room. What?! My house is not this cute. When did this happen? Who are these people and how did they do this? Our students never cease to amaze me. Overall, it was a great Halloween, tantrums aside. I need to work harder on my own costume for next year, but we had fun and I am glad that Jeremy has finally experienced the joy of the holiday! I hope you all had a great Halloween as well!!