Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Posts tagged ‘Shopping’


smiths at Johnah

I.LOVE.VACATIONS. Not everybody is good at vacation. I’m really good at them. Super talented.

Scott used to be bad at vacation. We’ve been married long enough now for me to know that he needs to be mentally prepped for fun and relaxation. He has this hard wiring that makes him question whether vacations are completely responsible.


When there is a blizzard, and school is canceled, Scott makes someone in our family walk down the street to look at the highschool. He wants someone else to confirm that there are indeed no cars in the parking lot. He wants to make sure his worst fear has not come true: he didn’t show up for work.

Scott’s Amish attitude can kind of ruin your fun. Not any more. I’ve worked my powers on him. After many years, he finally gets it. Yes. Vacations are expensive, but the return they give you in precious memories, bonding and relaxation makes each vacation a worthwhile investment.

If I was 20-years-old and writing the script for my life, I would include vacations to tropical islands and interesting places overseas. We would take the kids to New York City, Spain, San Francisco and Amsterdam. But that isn’t the life we have. That isn’t the life we can afford. Our life, instead, will include chapters on vacationing in Branson, Missouri.

Scott and I never thought we were a good fit for Branson. Branson has a lot of entertainment that includes singing, plenty of thick make up and big hair. Truthfully, I’ve never even liked musicals. I’ve always thought “Wizard of Oz” would be a great movie, if we didn’t have to stop for all the singing. Get on with it already.

I’m not sure Scott and I really had a choice though. For some reason Branson had its eye on us from the start. We were given two nights to Branson on our honeymoon 21 years ago. We didn’t see any shows, but we played a lot of tennis and enjoyed the scenery. Then, my parents bought a condo in Branson. We have vacationed with Scott’s whole family there and my whole family too. That was magnificent fun. Now we spend every spring break with my parents in Branson, and our children love it. I guess Branson is kind of ours.

(On our honeymoon in Branson.)


One year when Zeke was much younger, he made a poster for a school assignment that told people who he was. The poster included a picture of Branson. He said, “I vacation with my family in Branson, Missouri every year.”

I read that and thought, “We do? Oh. I guess we do.” I guess if our children think their Branson vacations are as important to mention as the color of their eyes, the sports they like and name of their pet, then those vacations are important and special.

We were craving a vacation this year. This winter was especially hard for Eddie. He was sicker than usual. Some how he managed to knock out a really impressive wrestling season. It didn’t end the way he imagined it would though. Like all tough kids who end on a loss, he had a sore heart because of it. Eddie is nothing but resilient. On the way out of the Kohl Center at the State Tournament he said to his Grandpa Dale and me, “At least we get to go see Grandma and Grandpa in Branson.”

I love you, Branson.

I’m not sure my parents were planning on coming to Branson this year. They’ve been to Branson for 23 straight winters; now their bodies are starting to resist their sharp minds.

Nobody’s talked about it, but I’m pretty sure Grandpa made a quick decision when he heard Eddie use Branson as motivation for beating the disappointment of losing. I’m pretty sure Grandpa decided right then that one way or another he and Grandma would get themselves to Branson this year, even if they had to strap themselves to our van to get there.

We spent a week in Branson. We had some silly fun too. We always do. The drive down is always part of the adventure. Scott does 90 percent of the driving. He doesn’t really trust me. He doesn’t trust me because I do wasteful things. I’m careless with the blinker. He says I turn it on well before it’s necessary, thereby causing wear and tear. The blinker then needs to be replaced sooner than if I had used it more modestly, as Scott does. I guess I just thought blinkers grew on trees somewhere. I’m spoiled. I grew up thinking that I’d never run out of blinkers. It’s just another by-product of being a spoiled American. I’m not even going to try to make excuses.

I apologized. I said that we just come from two separate worlds.

Same thing is true for the brakes. Scott informed me on the way to Branson that it is not his fault that we are going to need new brakes on the minivan pretty soon. He walks or rides his bike to work, but he says when he does drive he uses the brakes spar-ing-ly.

I said, “You rarely use the brakes? I never considered the brakes optional.”

He told me that you just have to coast and only apply the brakes in the final moment before you stop. That’s how unspoiled people use the brakes. And, it was pretty obvious that I could learn a lot from Scott.

Scott got us to Branson in record time with little use of the blinkers or brakes. It was a fun week.

On the way down to Branson I was thinking about something my brother-in-law, Tom, said a few weeks ago. Tom had a surprise party for my sister. He gathered all the guests together and told them how much he loved my sister, Gail. Tom and Gail lost their son, Ryan, in a climbing accident two years ago on Easter.

Tom told the party guests, “You don’t wait until people are in a box in the ground before you tell them how much you care about them.” Tom has walked through fire. I believe what he tells me. His words were indelicate, but sometimes that’s how it is with the truth.

I think Tom and Ryan would say the same thing is true for adventure. You only have one shot at adventure on Earth. I’ve passed up a lot of adventures. I’m going to try to stop doing that.

Our whole family went zip lining in Branson. This was a 3 hour adventure that involved crossing rope bridges and riding zip lines above the trees. We also had a pretty sweet jeep ride through the woods. I shocked my family when I told them I would be joining them for the fun. I think it made them happy.

I couldn’t get the timing down right on the zip lines. Your brake system involves pressing down on the cable above you with your gloved hand, and we all know I sure don’t know how to use the brakes. The first run I pressed too hard. I was so scared, and I wanted to slow down. I slowed down enough to stop completely before the landing. The guide had to reel me in to the tower. That’s annoying for everyone who’s waiting for the whole group to finish so they can move to the next line.

I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. The next time I didn’t apply any brake at all. I made such a fierce landing, with such velocity that Scott said both towers at the start and end of the line were shaking. The guide seemed to laugh a bit nervously when I exploded on to the scene and almost knocked him off the tower.

I jammed my ankle and my knee on that landing. Eddie says you can’t jam your ankle and knee. I beg to differ. Mine were jammed. My ankle was swollen. I know because I kept inspecting it, and I was sure to show it to anyone who was interested, or sort of interested, or not interested at all.

I had to limp quite a bit for the next few days. People asked me if I was hurt. I told them, “Oh, it’s no big deal. Just a zip lining injury. I’ve had plenty of worse injuries. It’s just something you get used to when you live for adventure.”

smith zip line

I was a little proud of myself after we did the zip lining. Especially when I saw some other moms who stayed on the ground to take pictures of their families. Another lady in our group made me look super athletic. As soon as she started down the zip line, she would start flailing her legs and bicycle kicking in a state of panic. It wasn’t pretty. She quit after the second tower.

zip line

It was an incredible week. We shopped, hiked, saw some shows, played Trivial Pursuit, tennis and cards, and ate a lot of junky food. It was so fun.

Did you know that people get depressed reading about other people’s vacations on Facebook? That makes me feel badly. Everyone has their own cool story to tell. Our story isn’t special, it’s just ours. If you need proof, I can tell you all sorts of things that will not impress you.

Let’s start with Eddie. Eddie’s 17 now. He’s old enough to pack for himself, isn’t he? Well, he had a duffel bag when he left the house. I’m not sure if he had a giant teddy bear in there, a coffee maker or a 8 loaves of bread. What he didn’t have was clothes that he could actually wear. He spent the whole week in Zeke’s sweat pants. We called them his sweat capris. He wore mismatched socks and my very mom-like tennis shoes. He only brought a pair of Crocs. Mismatched Crocs.

We made Eddie go with us to buy him a pair of tennis shoes. It was probably his least favorite part of our vacation. He and Zeke found ways to entertain themselves. I really think they make these looks work.


Our family also doesn’t always get along. We have our fights. The boys fights get a little crazy. One day they were doing a work out. They finished their workout with some wrestling in the grass. As is their habit, someone lost their temper, and the wrestling turned into a precious and loving fist fight. Olivia came running back to the condo to tell me the boys were trying to kill each other. Turns out they were scolded by an employee of the development. That sounded great to me. I hope that guy scared them too. If he could help me figure out how to set them on a path that doesn’t involve a future in MMA fighting, I’d be mighty grateful.

I did my best to punish the boys by playing a nice April Fools joke on them. We told them that the condo develpment managers were going to kick their Grandparents out of their property because of the boys misbehavior. That was mean. I saw some serious fear in their eyes.

Yep. It’s real life on vacation, but it’s still just so good. I love hanging out with these people. I love these people. I’m so grateful to have the luxury to hang out with them in such a fun place. We’re going to do it now; when we’re in a box in the ground, it’s too late.


fus ball smiths


How to Raise Unspoiled Americans: You Can’t

This past weekend we had a Saturday with nothing scheduled. My daughter and I were home alone. On Friday night I was a little giddy with the anticipation of unscheduled time ahead. I got carried away and made the mistake of telling my daughter that maybe we could go shopping the next day, but then we didn’t.

You DON’T do that. You don’t mention the possibility of shopping to an almost 13-year-old girl, and then not go shopping. That’s like telling a heroin addict you’ve got heroin, but you’ve decided not to give it to them. Those jokers will shoot you down.

I woke up on Saturday and it was sunny. Sunny enough for me to see we were living in a sticky, ratty raccoon’s nest. I just picture raccoon as not being very good housekeepers . I’m not sure they deserve that.

I needed to clean. My daughter needed to help. That’s fun news to break to your almost-13-year-old daughter. I wish you could have been there.

“Ahh, good morning, Sweetheart. I am sorry, but I decided that we are NOT going to go shopping after all. The good news is that you DO get to scrub the toilets.”

I like my daughter. For real. I’m sad for her that she does not have any sisters, but happy for me. She’s my best friend. We have tons of fun together. I have told Scott that I think we won the baby girl jack pot when she was born. She’s nice. She likes to follow the rules. She’s not very sassy, and she seems to have a pretty soft heart. But, she is almost 13. Sometimes she can act like it. Sometimes almost 13-year-olds can act like sweet, precious, fuzzy little hellcats. Especially when you back out on their shopping trips.

That morning I started to think about all the shopping trips my daughter has taken. She has friends who’s mothers are saints. I.AM.NOT.KIDDING.YOU.SAINTS. These women have demanding jobs, busy husbands, multiple, busy children AND they take their daughter and her friends to the mall to browse around all day. They all walk around looking for bargains. These moms usually spring for ice cream, or some other fun treat. My daughter adores these moms. I do too.

So far, Scott has hosted one of these mall browsing outings for the girls, but I have stayed away from it. It sounds just so painful. I’ve told my daughter and her friends, “Listen, I don’t think I can actually take you to the mall all day, but we COULD do something more fun; like run over my foot with the minivan.” No takers so far.

Let’s be truthful with each other. I’m not staying away from the mall because I’m standing on moral high ground. I’m staying away because it sounds super boring. I’m selfish. That’s it.

But I do have to wonder what my daughter needs at the mall. What do I need at the mall? Both of our closets are full. Do we need shoes so that we don’t have to go barefoot to school and work? No. We probably have 40 pairs of shoes between the two of us. Do we need belts to hold our pants up while we work? No. We probably have 20 belts, and we don’t do really hard work. Do we need coats to keep us warm? Nope. There are dozens and dozens of those in our house.

I tried cheering my daughter up on Saturday with a little mini sermon. She really looked that gift horse in the mouth. I tried explaining to her that like many Americans, we misuse the word “need” every day. We do not know what “need” means, because every day when we wake up in a warm house, with food to eat, clothes to wear, school to attend and freedom to say what we want and to worship whom we please, all our needs are met.

When all our basic needs are met, we make up new ones. We say, “I need another pair of leggings; I need a new hair cut; I need a new painting for that wall.” We add layer after layer of things around us. All of our stuff surrounds us. All of our stuff is insulation that protects us from ever having to feel the pain of a real need. If we don’t ever have to experience real need, then we can’t help being spoiled. It isn’t really even our choice. It’s geography. It is cause and effect. But we can at least acknowledge we are spoiled. We can do that much, right?

My daughter broke in right about there and said, “I’m going to go clean the toilets.”

I think I totally inspired her. I know it wasn’t because she just wanted me to stop talking. There is no way an almost 13-year-old would do that.

I’m being a little silly. This video is not silly. It’s sad. I found it on a blog I like to read:

I pray for peace.

Holiday Rehash

This year we had one of the best and worst starts to a holiday we have ever had. A close family member had a precious baby boy (her second) and then afterward found herself fighting to stay alive. By Thanksgiving day she was stabilized, and on the road to recovery. We had 48 very, scary hours.

I actually bought a plane ticket, thinking I was going to spend the holiday in the hospital. I canceled the ticket when things started to improve, and it looked like staying out of the way may be more helpful than going.

We all hope and pray that scary things stay far away from the people we love; when they do happen they serve to remind us that all those things we were sure were problems, just aren’t real problems at all. Our family had an “It’s a Wonderful Life” experience, and the feeling of love and gratitude in our hearts was a great to way launch the Holiday Season.

Thanksgiving 009

My kids were so happy our family member was better, and also happy that Mom would be home for the long weekend. Scott tried not to be offended when our kids attempted to ship him off instead of me. I guess the kids had more faith in my ability to pull off Thanksgiving than his. There’s a decent chance they would have been eating pickles and protein shakes for Thanksgiving in his care. I’m glad I could stay.

Thanksgiving morning Zeke led the kids in preparing some awesome food to accompany our Thanksgiving feast. He made pickle rolls, crab dip, and this delicious Paleo Chocolate Cake:

Thanksgiving 011

Zeke is developing some decent skills. He did say that he may be understanding my pain a bit more. It seemed to him as if all the food he made disappeared quickly, and without much fanfare. I told him I certainly understood. I have always thought a small parade, or a dedication ceremony would be more appropriate for celebrating the dinners I make. I haven’t had much buy-in with that idea yet though. Now Zeke tells me at random times throughout the day, “Mom, thanks again for all the cooking you do.” I’ll take it.

After our lovely Thanksgiving, we decided to go to bed early so we could get up and celebrate the real holiday, “Black Friday”. This is our third year participating. Three years ago we went to one store early in the morning with my sister-in-laws and my kids in Iowa. I don’t even remember what we bought, but we made a fun memory. So, we are in it for the adventure and the memories now. And, guess what? Keep this on the down low, but you can get some decent deals.

Our trick for “Black Friday” shopping that is fun rather than torturous is to not have a list, set no expectations, and go for just a few hours. I think we made a good memory again this year. These two were done with the mall after about 10 minutes, but they were good sports.

black friday

Friday night Scott and I went on a date. This was a real, honest-to-goodness date that did not involve Costco at any point. We went to his class reunion. Scott has never been to a class reunion. I was curious why we were going to this one. He said his old friend called him on the actual phone, at school. His friend has a silver tongue, and Scott is loathe to disappoint. His friend got a verbal commitment out of Scott while they were on the phone. He didn’t let Scott hang up with any of this, “We’ll see what we can do” business. And, once Scott commits, that deal is happening. So, we went.

I had more than a month to think about this reunion. I want to tell you something. You know how you’re not supposed to use stereotypes? Well, maybe that is true, but not if your stereotype is accurate. Catholic women in Dubuque, Iowa are pretty. They take care of themselves, and they dress nice too. Those are just the facts. Look it up.

So, when thinking about this reunion, I was really hoping to be able to put something together for myself that made Scott look like he chosen well in life. I was kind of going for the hip, sophisticated, athletic, worldly wife, mom and career woman look. I went through my entire wardrobe of Sauk Prairie Wrestling t-shirts and just didn’t think any of them really communicated the vibe I was going for with this. So, I bought a shirt that had actually never even been worn before. That was kind of different. I even bought it at a real store, Banana Republic. It was 20 dollars. Thank you, Black Friday.

The day of the reunion I woke up with an impressive case of adult acne. Just some giant red welts between my eyes. No big deal. Not in a place that was very visible, at least. Plus, I remembered that I forgot to lose 10 pounds. Darn it! I knew there was something I was supposed to do. Uhggg….I decided I’d just have to go as myself instead.

The reunion was fun. I told Scott’s old friends what is was like cheering for Scott at the Olympics, the lessons I have learned balancing my life as a loving Mother, wife and wealthy real estate mogul, and how one of our only real struggles in life is trying to decide whether Eddie should choose Harvard or Yale. I could tell by the way they were whispering to each other that they were all really impressed.

Thanksgiving 028

Sorry, that’s a bad shot. But, I wanted you to see how fancy we are. I was thinking that those Catholic girls have probably never seen jeans tucked in boots before. I told them it was just something we do in the city. I figure I don’t have to hoard my fashion intelligence. I mean, especially since it was Thanksgiving.

For Scott’s part, he just wanted to pull off a look that says, “I can beat up anybody in this room.” What do you think? I love reunions.

Like I expected, the long weekend took about 13 seconds, and then it was Sunday. I discovered that I have established at least ONE holiday tradition over the years. Olivia, Zeke and I decorate the tree on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Eddie and Scott are about as good at tree trimming as they are at Trick-or-treating. What’s wrong with them, anyway?

Thanksgiving 030

This Thanksgiving has left me feeling recharged and renewed. I’m awarding a gold medal to whomever came up with a holiday based on gratitude. That was brilliant. And, I am going to keep celebrating Thanksgiving every day for the rest of the year.

Tag Cloud