My neighborhood is haunted!

My kids begged me all month long to decorate our house for Halloween. Finally I did. I put real pumpkins in our flower bed and a cute wreath on the front door. That wasn't good enough. They wanted more. They wanted cobwebs and lights and big blow up plastic things that require lots of extension cords and electricity.

I blame my neighbors. They're the ones who put all of these spooky ideas into my kids heads. Our neighborhood has really gone all out for Halloween by putting lots and lots of crap in their yards. Below are just a few pictures of the Halloween crap that I spotted while walking through our neighborhood the other day.

We love these neighbors and all of their crap. They have lights and huge blow-up pumpkins and a witch hanging from their basketball goal. But these goblins hanging from their porch are my personal favorite.

There are lots of yards that have things coming out of the ground. I love how these skeleton arms not only have some kind of disgusting rash, but also have long, beautifully painted, red finger nails.

My other favorites are the decorations that are homemade like these bats. It took some kid a really long time to make these. You've gotta appreciate that.

I bought a luminaria kit at Target to line our sidewalk tomorrow night. However, I don't think they'll be able to compete with the decapitated heads-on-a-stick that line our neighbor's.

And how can you not appreciate the attempt to simply blend seasonal crap with Halloween crap?

May your neighborhood be filled with lots of crap this Halloween season.

God is good...all the time.

You know how a couple of weeks ago I was ranting about how frustrated I was with our health insurance? Quick recap: I had received a letter saying that they were denying to cover the Cheese's necessary eye surgery--a surgery that he has to have, a surgery that needs to be done by a specialist down at UCLA--and I was fit to be tied.

Then yesterday I got another letter from our insurance company; one of five that I've received, the previous all being negative "you're sh*t out of luck" letters. I opened it with hesitation, already assuming the worst, imagining the letter saying something along the lines of "your request has once again been denied," or maybe just a simple "you suck...we don't care about your kid's stupid're on your own."

But instead, I was pleasantly surprised. They've approved his surgery, which means we are actually good to go with nothing more than a small co-pay to take care of. Reading it actually choked me up. No headaches trying to force the insurance company to cooperate. No getting a lawyer to write a threatening letter. For once the insurance industry has come through and I was shocked and amazed. They had actually read through our case and said, "We see your son's needs and we're going to help you fix them."

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

So what did I learn from this brief experience? I learned that it's better to stay positive and hope for the best. I learned that you shouldn't give up fighting for what you know is right, even when someone else disagrees with you. I learned that sometimes...sometimes...the system actually works.

Yes, a prayer was definitely answered with that one.

And everyone said, "Amen."

Random: errands and other motherly stuff

I picked up the Monkey from preschool yesterday.

"Did you have fun today, Buddy?"

"Uh-huh. We smelled a pumpkin!"

Yes, true. I had donated a pumpkin to the class (part of the Halloween/Fall Festival/Harvest Dance or whatever the hell you want to call it "celebration") for the kids to explore. They were going to cut it open and use their senses to touch it, smell it, etc. I love preschool curriculum. So fun, so entertaining, so appropriate.

"So what did it smell like," I asked him with enthusiasm.

"It smelled spooky in there!"

Next time you pick up a pumpkin, check to see if it smells spooky.


You know how when you go to the grocery store they always sack similar items together? All of the produce is in one sack, all of the can goods in another, etc. I always appreciate that. Makes things a little more efficient when it's time to put it all away once you get home.

Today my grocery list was long and varied. So what does it mean when they pack your margarita mix and your mold-n-mildew remover in the same sack?

All I could figure is that they must have similar ingredients lists.

I plan to have some mold-n-mildew removed from my insides this weekend.


I live in a house with 3 men. 1 out of the 3 does a pretty good job when it comes to using the toilet. The other 2 tend to pee...wherever. It's like, "Hey, as long as I get it in the general vicinity, then we're all good." I've talked and talked about proper technique. I've bitched at the Golfer about how if there is ONE thing that is totally his responsibility as a parent it's to teach our boys how to aim. It doesn't seem to make a difference.

All of the toilet seats in my house are permanently pee-stained. It doesn't matter how much I scrub, what products I use, or how often I do it, the pee is there to stay. I could have a perfectly clean house, with impressive, magazine worthy decorating, a home that people ooh and ahh over, but it will all be forgotten once my guests need to use the restroom.

You know how there are things that you just hate spending you money on, but you know you have to? Yeah, toilet seats is just about at the top of the list, right behind kitchen trash cans and double A batteries.

Never having bought toilet seats, I was shocked by the plethora of choices. There are, of course, the padded seats like you'd find at your grandmother's house, and the really cheap plastic seats that leave you feeling like you're about to fall off. But there are lots and lots of other choices too that range from $15 to $50.

And what makes this story interesting, you ask? Nothing really, except to ask, what makes one toilet seat better than another? And what exactly makes a person spend 50 bucks on something that gets peed on all of the time? I think Kohler, American Standard, and all of the other toilet companies are somewhere laughing at us all.

I bought 3 seats that claim to be stain resistant and easy to clean.

Yeah, we'll just see about that.

Apparently, it is fall after all.

It certainly doesn't feel like fall around here. It's been around 90 degrees, everything is still very green, and everyone is still wearing shorts and t-shirts. It took a trip to our community park yesterday to prove otherwise. It also gave me the opportunity to use my "foliage" setting on my camera.

This humming bird doesn't think it's fall or more likely, just doesn't care. I have no idea what this purple flower is on this bush, but I love how bright and colorful they are.

I love this picture. I love how you can see how the leaf is gradually changing. It's almost like you're watching it change right before your eyes. Unfortunately, it'll turn out mostly brown. That's kinda how the seasons are here, not a gradual shift, just a sudden change. One day I'll wake up and it'll be winter, a mild winter of course, but still a winter.

This leaf was a cool color, almost a lime green, but the picture doesn't do the color justice. It's just on the verge of changing. You can tell that it's gonna try its best to be yellow, but it'll probably lose the battle and simply turn out brown.

I love this lone red leaf. It's the red needle in the brown haystack. There aren't many trees that turn red here. It's this time of year that is miss the Japanese maples in my old yard in Oklahoma.

Instead, I have to find red in other things, like this cool flower on a very Californian looking plant. Again, I have no idea what it is, but I love its colorful beauty.

Same goes for this plant. These yellowy orange pom-pom balls are so cool. You'd never find something like this randomly growing in Oklahoma. I've traded my Japanese maples for all of these cool, random plants that I have no idea what they are. I just know they're cool looking and make for a great picture.

Fall in California is very colorful, just not the same kind of fall colorful that the rest of the country is used to. (I think they call that finding the silver lining.)

Family Art Day: October

Once a month, family is invited to Family Art Day at the Cheese's first grade class. There were mostly mommies and younger siblings, but there were also a few dads (impressive for the middle of the day) and some older siblings too.

They started off singing a couple of Halloween songs for us. I wish I had a video of this. The Cheese is so out of tune it made my ears burn, but as his mother I thought it was awesome regardless.

Then it was time to do our art project. October's project was making a skeleton. Lots of cutting required, so I just gave the Monkey a fun page to color. (Notice that every one is in short sleeves. That's because it was 90 degrees today. Welcome to late October in Southern California. Fall? Where? Certainly not here.)

Out of nowhere, the Monkey picked up the scissors and started cutting. Now, we have a pair of kid scissors at home, but I've never actually seen him use them. Apparently this is a skill that he's picking up at preschool. My money is being well spent! Look at that form and technique. Quite impressive!

So once he was done cutting, he decided that he wanted to make a skeleton just like everyone else. Sweet Mrs. Henry (who is the BEST 1st grade teacher ever and who better have the Monkey one day) gave him a skeleton head of his own to use and some black construction paper to put it on.

The Cheese has been studying impressionism at school. I think the Monkey is a very impressionistic artist.

Here's his interpretation of a skeleton...

Isn't that the best damn skeleton you've ever seen. I love it! Especially since it's his own, original creation. This one's going on the fridge for sure.

The Cheese did a better job of following Mrs. Henry's instructions. I didn't know that skeleton's could bleed from their...well...skulls, but apparently they can.

I can't wait to see what November's Art Day brings. Hopefully not any bleeding turkeys.

God answers prayers about rugs too.

Okay, so remember last week when during my decorating "tackle" I talked about needing to buy a rug for my formal living and how I just couldn't bring myself to spend the money because they're so expensive? Well, it's like God heard me or something because the very next day I head over to Pottery Barn, to, uh, just look.

Timing is everything and my local store had just put a bunch of stuff on sale--1/2 off. And lucky me, one of those things included an 8x10 rug. And even better? It was a rug that was just like some of the really expensive ones that I had been looking at.

So I suck at before pics, but at least I remembered this time to take one during. Try putting down a sticky 8x10 rug pad all by yourself and see how long it takes you. I didn't time it, but between my 3-year-old and the dogs it took me much longer than it ever, ever should.

But it was worth it because this was the outcome when it was all finished {like, 8 hours later}. I wish I could have scooted back to give you the full view of the room, but you get the idea. That's Freddie and his $2 Halloween t-shirt. I think he helps to complete the look.

The new rug only made me realize how badly our furniture needs to be recovered which is the next tackle that's a little too overwhelming and expensive to think about right now.

Oh, but a girl can dream. Prayers are answered every day--even ones including living room rugs.

Olympic games, voting, and a high school/college reunion all rolled into one

We had no plans this weekend. None. No where to where to one waiting on us somewhere or expecting us to be there at a certain time...and the Golfer was going to be home with no recruits to see or tournaments to get ready for.

This never happens, people. Never.

So we took full advantage of it and did nothing. Well, not totally. We watched a lot of TV, which for me isn't that big of a deal, but for the Golfer who never has time to watch is a really big deal.

We also played a lot of Wii games. Now for the boys this wasn't a big deal, but for Mama and the Golfer who never play, this was big fun. It was like having our own little mini Olympics. The Golfer beat me in almost everything, especially boxing, but that's the way it's supposed to be I guess. I do know this: boxing is one hell of a carido workout that I plan to start doing on a regular basis.

We also voted. Yep, we voted for president this weekend. Since we are going to be out of town on Election Day, we had to register early for mail-in ballots. Guess who I voted for? Well, let's just say that I was very proud and please with my decision.

What a great option that is! We sat down with our little cheat sheet about all of the state propositions and were able to make educated decisions versus a hurry-up-because-someone-is-behind-you-waiting-so-just-mark-yes-on-everything decision.

The other thing that I discovered was facebook. Lord help me, I've found another way to waste time instead of doing things like housework, or my column, or something else equally productive. I had avoided facebook, thinking that it was only for high school and college kids, but actually I discovered that it's not.

My friend Kim got me hooked by telling me about all of the elementary school friends of ours that she had stubbled upon. So yesterday I was on the computer most of the day just looking for people. It's addictive waiting and seeing who is out there and who wants to be your friend. It's also too much fun seeing what people who you haven't seen or heard from in years are up to: where they live, if they're married, what they look like. I'm telling you, it's like going to a high school and college reunion without having to worry about what you're going to wear.

So today I'm going to try my best not to be on facebook all day, but after a weekend binge, I figure I won't try to force myself to go cold turkey.

Stephenie Bentley Freeman's Facebook profile

It's been a while since I've been to a pep rally.

But that's exactly what we did last Thursday night.

The Golfer's team was being recognized for their big National Championship win during the homecoming rally.

The Golfer even spoke during the rally. He did a great job--very natural, not at all nervous. He told me after that he could hear our boys yelling, "There's Daddy!" (That's the women's tennis team behind him, also NCAA Champions last spring.)

Coach Neuheisel was there too, of course, with some of the football team...God bless 'em.

And the Juggler. OH my goodness...the UCLA Juggler was back! Yes, that guy in the shiny blue outfit and tie is a juggler.

Let me explain...The first UCLA game that the Golfer and I went to there was a guy on the sidelines....JUGGLING! Along with the cheerleaders and the yell leaders, right next to the mascot was a guy juggling! We could not stop laughing. It was the funniest damn thing that we had seen since we moved from Oklahoma. But then the Juggler graduated and I guess there wasn't someone to jump in and take his place. Maybe that's why the football team hasn't been playing as well--there's no juggler on the sidelines cheering them on.

And how great is it that not only did the boys get a front row seat at the rally, but they got to sit next to the Bruin Bear the whole time! Between the Juggler and Josephine (the bear) they were in heaven.

Go Bruins!

Sincerely from me to you: Mama's Hair

Since you can't give my blog a gift for it's birthday, I thought I'd give a gift to you instead: the gift of laughter.

Enjoy Part One of "The Evolution of Mama's Hair."

"I was born a small black child..." (if you've never seen the movie The Jerk, then you don't get the joke)...actually, I was born without any hair whatsoever, and I stayed that way a very...long...time.

When I was about 3-years-old, I finally got some hair, but not long and luscious enough for any kind of dog ears or pig tails. I think I looked like a boy with surfer hair. Yes, being beautiful was going to be difficult from a very young age. {P.S.--I still have that yellow wicker chair.}

Okay, so this isn't my hair {I'm the one in the middle} but instead one of my grandmother's wigs. I'm also dressed up in a Japanese kimono for reasons I'm unsure of. This has always been one of my favorite pics because it shows one of the rare times that I actually was having fun at my grandmother's house. It was shortly after this picture was taken that she yelled at the 3 of us and said, "Why the hell won't you all go home!" Good times. Good times.

Okay, so this is where it starts to get good. My hair was finally growing around the same time that I had to start wearing these humongous gogs (i.e. glasses) and was only a few years away from needing braces. Lord help me, I was the Queen of awkward. (There's no question where the Cheese gets his vision or his teeth. Poor kid.)

Oh but it only gets better! This was my Sally Jessie stage. Those red frames didn't help things, especially when I had cut my bangs to feather but were actually too short to feather so they just stood straight up in little spikes. You can't tell because my tongue is sticking out {?} but there are braces on those teeth. Nice. And yes, this was our Christmas card that year.

The years "grow" along and fortunately for me, so does my hair. The pic above is actually my senior picture. I had finally achieved long and luscious, but the bangs were still having lots and lots of issues. Note: contacts and no braces. Hallelujah and Amen!

But then half way through my senior year, I decided to cut it all off. Story of my hair's life: let it grow, grow, grow and finally when it's long, CUT IT ALL OFF! Wilson Phillips was big at the time. That's all I can say. I overheard someone my freshman year in college call me Dorothy Hamel. I think she was just jealous.

I don't know what to say about the following pic other than please take my advice and never get a perm when your hair is cut really short, unless of course you are trying to look like an old lady, and then by all means go right ahead. I also had the Brooke Shields brows working for me.

If this look like a school picture, that's because it is {from my teacher years.} At this point, I had figured out that long and luscious wasn't in the cards for me. I was a short haired girl--it worked for me. And by damn, if I couldn't make bangs work, then I just wouldn't have any at all. Actually, I'm grateful for those sweeping long bangs because hiding underneath them is a band-aid where my forehead had come into contact with some pavement. It's a long story...

Stay turned for Part Two of "The Evolution." Unfortunately for me, it only gets worse.

Someone call Willard Scott

My blog is 100 today. 100 posts. I'm not sure why that's significant--I'm not sure that it's significant at all. But 100 sounds like a big deal, and big deals are what my life tends to be lacking in.

In truth, this blog is worth celebrating because of the tiny slice of joy that it daily brings to my life. A writer is told to write every day to improve their craft. That's about the equivalent of being told to floss every day. You know that it's good for you, but usually you just have better things to do with your time.

When I first got serious about writing, this seemed like an impossible feat. I mean, I'd tried {unsuccessfully} several times to keep a journal/diary in my life and usually quit after a few weeks.

I now understand that it didn't work for me because no one ever read my diary {which is probably a good thing}. I need feedback, comments, to be out there--out in the world to be judged and loved. Blogging solved the problem.

Actually, this birthday is very belated. I started my first blog back in 2005, and then just as I was getting regular followers and links, I abandoned it. I thought that a writer keeping a blog couldn't be taken seriously. Whoops!

About two years later, I was picked up by Disney to do a little blogging. {You know the story.} Blogging had become profitable for a writer and finally I was getting to partake. It felt good and satisfying. But after a year of that, God closed the door and opened a window. And when he did, a bird flew in.

And here we are, 100 blogs later, so grateful that Mickey gave me the boot. I may not be making any money off of this blog, but it satisfies my need to share in a way that neither of my other blogs every did.

As I blow out the candles, my wish is for this blog to have a long and happy life. And if I'm lucky, maybe a paycheck or two.

Decorating Update

I've been tackling a lot lately in anticipation of all of our family coming to visit at the end of the month. Suddenly I have a great excuse to finish up all of the decorating odds-n-ends that I've left around the house. The bad thing is that I'm not very good about remembering to take before pictures of my projects.

Remember my decorated table that I showed you a while back? Well, the light fixture that I ordered finally came in and I love, love, love it! It looks a little small in the picture, but it's actually just the right size for our table. I also got the mirror hung that had been sitting on the floor for a couple of months. It was an old mirror that we've carted around the last few years. I wanted to update it, so I spray painted it a glossy chocolate brown to match my next fixture. Now, all I have left to do in the room is find some kind of buffet to store my dishes in.

Again, it would help if I had a before picture of our back patio for you to really appreciate how much better it looks now. Just picture a slab of concrete with nothing on it but a Little Tikes picnic table and you'll get the idea. I finally bought an outdoor rug, which I think makes a huge difference in any outdoor room. And that's how you have to think about your patio--as another room. It's far from being how I want it, but the Golfer and I have lofty goals of re-doing the whole back yard, so I don't want to spend too much on something that will most likely change in the next year or so. But for now, I'm pleased with my simple patio, especially the new rug.

The truth is, I hate buying rugs. Good ones are so expensive and just not that exciting to buy. There's so many other things that I'd rather be spending my husband's hard-earned money on, but unfortunately a room without a rug just looks unfinished to me and something that looks unfinished does not do well with my perfectionist personality. My formal living room is in desperate need of a rug but for whatever reason, I just can't bring myself to spend the money on one. Obviously, it's on my list of next tackles.

Pottery Barn here I come!

Good Morning, Sunshine!

This is how I usually start my day. Well, only after I've gotten the boys up, cooked breakfast, cleaned up the kitchen, gotten the boys dressed, thrown some clothes on, and taken them to school. Then I get to sit with my coffee and cute pink laptop.

I took this picture because after going through all of our family photos the other day, I realized that I don't have many ordinary ones. I have lots of pics of the big moments--the touchdowns, the first days, etc. But really I don't have many pics of our day to day living.

I also took this picture because I've been tinkering with my camera (I took it in the Manual mode.) I have a Canon Power Shot S5 which is a step above a point-in-shoot, but not quite as fancy as a DSLR. But my Canon has lots of features that I have never used, so I decided to start messing with them--features that have to do with shutter speed and aperture and other fancy camera things that I've found aren't that easy to learn.

Oh, but the creative beast inside me is willing to try.

So in the future, you might start seeing more pics than usual as I try to teach myself through the help of other bloggers, like the Pioneer Woman, to write nice, simple tutorials for slow learners like myself.

Here are some pics that I took of the three faces that I love the most.

Like my mom, the professional photographer, I like taking pictures in natural light the best. I took this one of the Golfer at a flag football game. It was overcast, which is nice because there are no shadows. I love this pic because it shows his crow's feet. I love his crow's feet because he didn't have any when we first started dating 16 years ago.

Again, more natural light. The afternoon light from the sliding glass door behind the Cheese was perfect lighting. A picture showing something ordinary can make the best pictures.

How can you not love this picture. I also took this at the overcast football game. I love how it's just a tad off center and how his face fills almost the whole frame.

What can I say? I've got great subjects to work with.


It's OU/Texas weekend. If you haven't already started, it's time to start hating Texas.

If you didn't go to school at the University of Oklahoma or if you don't live in Norman, Oklahoma, the above T-shirt probably doesn't mean a thing to you.

If you did go to OU or live in Norman, you're probably cracking up right now.

I've had this T-shirt for probably about 15 years now. It's worn out--practically see-through--and soft from being washed so much. I can only wear it to sleep in. Besides, wearing it in public is not all that appropriate for a mother of two.

But I love this shirt. It's all about hating Texas during the Red River Rivalry. It's a college football thing. It's an Oklahoma vs. Texas thing. It's about loving crimson and cream and refusing to wear burnt orange. It's a weekend in Dallas that's an absolute blast, full of cold beer and corn dogs at the Texas State Fair topped off with one of the best college football games in the country.

Who is Calvin you might ask? Hum, lets' see. Calvin is...a...colorful character, a local legend, that lives in Norman. He has to wear a helmet daily because of seizures that he has. He is self-employed, selling local newspapers to people all over town. I've seen people in restaurants pay Calvin $5 for a newspaper. Calvin has even shown my step-dad (who is a CPA) a spiral notebook where he keeps track of how many papers he sells and for how much.

I'm telling you, Calvin is probably the richest man in town. He has a huge stash of cash somewhere I'm sure. Calvin has us all fooled.

I write all of this because I'm a little sad today. Out of all of the things that I miss about living in Oklahoma, game day is the thing that I miss the most. Sound crazy that I would miss football more than family or friends? Not at all. My friends and family totally understand because if they moved away, they'd feel the same way.

I gotta go. The games getting ready to start. Time to suit up.


Why is this kid so happy?

One word: CANDY.

I love getting fun things in the mail (hint, hint to all of you family members and friends who live out-of-state) and my children are of course no exception. Aunt Kay and Uncle Dust just surprised my boys with a huge box of fun, cool, Halloween stuff.

How sweet is that? It's very, very sweet is what it is...especially when the box is full of candy!

The Monkey's favorite was his very own bag full of candy, which he immediately took upstairs (without my knowledge of course.) Later that night when we took him to bed, we found several empty wrappers and the rest of the candy stashed around his room. Yeah, Halloween is going to be lots of fun this year.

The Cheese's favorite were the Halloween whoopie cushions. What 6-year-old wouldn't love a new toy that makes farting noises? As if I don't hear enough farting noises all day living with three men. I'll be sure to return the favor when Aunt Kay and Uncle Dust have kids of their own.

And of course, there's nothing more fun than playing with all of your fun new tricks-or-treats in the FedEx box that they came in.