Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Bunnies!  Bunnybunnybunnies!!!  We have BUNNIES!!!!

Introducing:  Rose Tyler (in white fur) and River Song (in the more auburn)

Some friends could no longer handle the bunnies so we adopted them.  We are still getting to know them and they are still getting to know us.

The cats couldn't care less about them.  George would like to snuggle per usual, but Fred has no interest in them at all.

Patches is jealous as heck.  He cannot stand the attention we are giving them. He wants to eat their bunny food (!). And he really, really, really, really wants to smell their bunny butts.

We are not yet in the snuggle bunny phase yet.  And with them being two, and I don't think they've been snuggled a lot before, I hope we can get there.  Bunny advice wanted!!  We have them in a pretty open area now.  We're hoping for bunny free range freedom at least part of the day once we are assured they know where they should come back to and Patches doesn't scare them to death licking their bunny bums.  :-)


Friday, August 19, 2016

Dreams of Where You Used To Live

One outcome from the Great Family Road Trip was finding out how many of my friends also dream about where they used to live.  I thought I was the only one.

As a psychologist, I'm sure sharing my dreams on the interwebs is a stupid idea.


I frequently dream of moving back to NYC, Los Angeles, and to NC.  I *loved* living in Manhattan.  I had a small apartment in Greenwich Village with a raised loft for the bedroom, a separate kitchen, and an entire wall and ceiling of windows that let me see the Empire State Building.  I also loved the density and energy of living in The City.  If I could, I would live there now and for the rest of my life.
My dreams of going back to NYC include finding my old neighborhood, finding a place with the killer deal like I had before, finding one with secret rooms big enough for the whole family, and generally the joy of living there and the sadness that I no longer do.

When I dream of going back to Los Angeles and California, I dream of driving.  I have two dreams of living in Claremont (where I went to grad school):  1) it is beautiful and I can go hiking in the mountains; or 2)  I am not in the right place.  Claremont has CHANGED since I was there.  There is a new village with lots of new stores and restaurants. After seeing that part of Claremont, I had nightmares of being lost in my former hometown.  I don't like those dreams.  When we passed through a few weeks ago, I didn't take the family through the new village.  Honestly, I didn't want to fuel my nightmares.

The other dreams of living in California involve driving and driving and driving around trying to find a bargain of a place to live that is close to both a highway and the beach or a mountain.  In my dreams, I'm in a lot of traffic and I can never find the Right House.  In all honesty, that sounds like the reality of living in LA.

Finally, I have to be honest with you. Although I LOVE my house in Charlotte, when I dream of moving back to NC, 99% of the time I'm moving back to my parents' home and I have to go back to school to 1) finish my PhD; 2) get another PhD; or 3) finish my undergraduate degree.  Ugh.  Ugh, ugh, and ugh.

I've had these dreams so many times I know the pattern.  Usually I have these dreams when I feel behind at work, which as a professor is ALL THE TIME.  Also, at some point in the dream when I'm behind in a class or behind on my dissertation, I think to myself: I had a tenure track job.  Why did I leave it.  WAIT!  I had TENURE!!  Why did I leave?! Why am I still in school WHEN I HAVE TENURE!?

And then I wake up.

First, there's the ugh of remembering the dream as I wake up.  And then there's the relief that I still have my husband, my family, our house, our dog, our cats, our gerbils, our chickens, our new bunnies, my friends, my job, and Charlotte.

As crazy as life is here, I prefer it to the dreams. Unless I could move all of this to New York City.  And then I would in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Great Family Road Trip: Epilogue

We are home.  And it is green.

The reason that was important is that as we left Charlotte, everything was rolling green and we were looking forward to the flat brown and then red sandy mountains of the Southwest and the West.  It is beautiful.

And then as we were heading back east and we left to brown and entered the rolling green, we  noticed again how beautiful where we live actually is.

I'm not trying to be (more) corny (than usual), but that's what vacation was to us:  seeing the beauty of other landscapes and coming back to see again, through new eyes, the beauty of where we live.

And the heat.  And humidity.  Sweet Baby Lemur, the heat and humidity here is oppressive.

And eating.  Oh my gosh, the food on this trip was awesome. But pretty much, the entire family has been stuffing our fat faces with fruits and vegetables and massive amounts of water since we've come home.  Yesterday, the kids went through 7 apples, 5 bananas, a entire cantalope, and a bunch of grapes.

And back to reality.  Back to work. Back to school.

All good though.  It's the first two week vacation I think I've ever had.  I highly recommend it as a reset button for your brain.

Speaking of which.....blargh.  Work.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Great Family Road Trip: Days 11, 12, and 13

Greetings from the OK/AZ border.  We are at the point in the vacation in which we are driving like the wind to get back home.

We had an active and productive last day of the conference filled with presentations, social events, and dinner with the students and faculty.

Tuesday morning, we stopped by Claremont where I went to grad school.  The childrens were NOT amused about seeing where I lived for 8 years.  In fact, it wasn't until Conor went:  "Is there where you got your doctor degree?" that he was impressesd.  I only took them by my old house and the (old) Village.  The last time, I went to the new Village and it still gives me nightmares.

Then, we drove up to the Grand Canyon.


We were only there for a few minutes when a huge storm blew in and out.  This provided us with that crazy moment every family vacation needs:  running back to the car while painful rain drops pelted us and we struggled with the altitude to breathe and move our legs.  We arrived to the car wet and lauging and with a great story from the vacation.  Plus, we saw some other visitors to the Grand Canyon.

The next day, we did not get our sorry asses up in time to see the sunrise.  However, the morning started off overcast so we felt CLEVER for sleeping in.

While all the cool kids recommended the Bright Angels hike, we note the young whiners in our midst (surprisingly, NOT Dave and me) and opted for the 2 1/2 hour ridge hike.  There were few people on it and we were able to have a nice time without a lot of other people.

And it's surprisingly easy to pick out the Europeans on this trip and it wasn't because of their funky clothes.  It was because those crazy people went RIGHT UP TO THE EDGE and FURTHER at the Grand Canyon.  We *never* got closer than 2 feet from the edge.  One fool had taken his *dog* out to a solitary rock/ledge that that was barely big enough for his dog to sit and him to stand.  Even typing that makes my palms sweat.

We saw some amazing views and vistas.  I would love to be someone who hikes the canyon or camp on the canyon floor.  But I'm going to blame the two little ones for why we didn't hike more this time.  They can blame us later, when they write their own blogs.

So now we are on the way back.  It's really a beautiful drive.  But, as my marathoner friends know, it's an out-and-back marathon and that's not nearly as much fun as a loop.  The fun thing is recognizing the same cites on the way back, waving to cities where we stayed, and freaking out when we realize we stopped at the same remote gas station in OK that we stopped on the way out.

But we're a wee bit focused on getting home.  It's still fun!  And we're still having fun as a family.  But I'm ready to snuggle with my dog, cats, gerbils, and say Hi to the chickens.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The Great Family Road Trip: Days 9 and 10

My heart is full.

I know that's a cheesy way to start a blog entry.  But SURELY you know I am cheesy.  Full of Cheese.  I am the sappy, emotional, cheese queen. Change my name to Brie.  Maybe Camembert.  Maybe even a sassy goat (cheese).  It all fits.

I joke about my boundaries being fluid, but it's true.  I just don't separate my home from my work from my life from my soul.  It merges into one big mess and it makes me so, so, SO happy.

Saturday was spent registering for the conference and taking the kids around to explore the Exhibition center--as well as connecting up with the PhD project and discussing sending a representative from our program to recruit students there, too as well as hanging out with Dave's old roommate, Heidi, and her son, Landon.

Sunday, we spent the morning and the afternoon conferencing and meeting with students/colleagues, with a trip to the beach to see Dave's cousin, Jo D and her family in between. 

And dinner with our marathon (and all around) friends Catherine and Orrest afterwards.  (I'm practicing my new sitting-with-hand-under-chin pose here.  Need an open mouth smile though.  And yes, there was a picture of all our families together on the beach above, but I looked like a turnip and I have editorial powers on this blog!)

What a day.  We couldn't even stay up to see the Disney fireworks from our balcony last night.  Have I mentioned that yet?  We're staying at the Desert Palms Suites and if you have a room on the upper floors on the back of the hotel, you have a PERFECT view of the Disneyland fireworks every night.  We strongly recommend trying to swing that if you need a hotel in Anaheim.  

I think Dave and I are still amazed at how much SoCal still feels like home.  Especially for me and how much time I spent in the OC when I was in grad school at Claremont.  And especially, especially how DRIVING here is SO MUCH BETTER than driving in Charlotte.  There are more cars here and certainly more lanes.  But sweet baby lemur, you can anticipate what folks are going to do on the highways here and the merges and lane changes are logical in Southern California.  None of that is true in Charlotte.  

Although, I have to be honest.  My favorite thing to freak my SoCal friends out is to tell them this:  We live in Plaza-Midwood in Charlotte.  It's a cool place.  We have great restaurants and things to do in our 'hood.  And if something takes more than a 15 minute drive for us, we have to think long and hard about whether we are going to do it.  

Our friends' reactions here range from slack-jawed to laughter.  As one friend said, "We can't even get out of our neighborhood in 15 minutes here!"  

Yep.  #truth

Today is a big conference day along with a UNC Charlotte OS reunion/meet up tonight.  

Tomorrow, we leave.  It's going to be weird to leave home to head back to home.  

Saturday, August 06, 2016

The Great Family Road Trip: Days 7 and 8

This is the longest vacation we've ever take as a family.  I fully understand now why the researchers recommend 2 weeks for vacation--not just 1 week.  And even though I start hyperventilating thinking of what I have to do when I get back, being away for this long with the family really resets your brain.

So we arrived in California Thursday afternoon.  You would think that driving in California--with four lanes on each side of the highway and loads of cars whizzing by--would be more stressful than driving in Charlotte.

You would be wrong.

Drivers in Charlotte are rude.  They tailgate.  They don't let you in to change lanes when you turn on your signal.  They don't know how to merge.

To me, it feels like home when I drive in California.  No matter how dense (or fast or slow) the traffic, everyone is polite.  They signal. They let you change lanes.  They don't tailgate.  They know that we are all in this together.  And it may be you who needs to get over three lanes today, but it could be me tomorrow.

So yes.  Happy to be driving in California again.

Also, there's something about traveling at (um, yeah, sure) "middle" age that makes the experience different.  I don't know if I'm going to the meteor crater or the petrified forest again.  That might be my last time driving through Arizona.  Well.  It may be the last time I drive through it after I drive through it next week.  I don't want to keep visiting the same sights again and again.  But it's weird to remember visiting these areas 25 years ago and not having any idea about the "last time" I do something.


We arrived Thursday.  Friday we went to the beach with my best friend from Grad School, Elisa, and her family. It was really fun.  It was also really cool because I follow her whole family (and they follow me) on Instagram.  So although I've known her kids in real life since they were children, I know them best from watching them grow on IG.  Way cool to see and interact with them again at the beach.

Plus.  The Beach!! And No, I didn't misremember how cold the Pacific ocean is.  Or how cool (not hot) the beach is.  But I TOTALLY forgot how strong the sun is, and we all were sunburned.  Y'all: people in California are not tanned!  They use the hell out of their sunscreen.  We look like lobsters out here!!

Then, we scooted back to the hotel and I went out to dinner with some of my best girlfriends from grad school.  Grad school was an amazing experience for me.  It was where I finally met my "tribe."  I have/had a lot of friends from that time.  This is my group of friends where we had a LOT of crazy nights and amazing experiences.

We started the "Who'd you do?" game back in the '90s that the rest of you call "Who'd you rather?"  Although in our version of the game, we picked out the grossest guys, politicians (e.g., Jesse Helms) and celebrities we knew and you had to choose which one "you'd do."  We did allow one shot to the head if the choices were too awful.

We had epic Girls' Night Sleepovers with a SUBSTANTIAL amount of alcohol, food, and compromising pictures (which we FORGOT to take last night--trust me, Ellen brought the props!).  I've never been as close to any other group of friends as I was to these women.  We had white elephant gift exchanges which involved a small amount of money, a great deal of trash talking, and take-no-prisoners approach to getting the best gifts.  On more than one occasion, I talked store owners into discounts so I get a great gift under the maximum price allowed.

How close are we still?  We all showed up with the same color of nail polish on our fingers or toes.  It's not a common polish.  But we all were wearing it.  That's crazy.

And one of the things I miss most about these women?  Sharing secrets.  There are some things I've needed to tell people that I could only tell them after a glass of wine.  And learning secrets.  Like the Hollywood trick (several of them have family/friends in the industry) of resting your face on your hand to take a prettier picture.  As you can tell, we are not idiots: we did that.  And my friends are all beautiful.  Really.  Beautiful women.  I'm lucky to be in this group of women.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Great Family Road Trip: Day 6

Oh, good lord.  We've been traveling for a week and we still haven't reached California yet!! And I've been blogging 7 days in a row instead of FB posting this.  It's like I'm running a marathon when I only trained to run around the block.

IN ANY CASE, yesterday was a tourist day off the beaten path in Winslow, AZ.  ((Such a fine sight to see)) Tripadvisor plus an actual trip to the visitor's center gave us some ideas of what we wanted to do, in addition to seeing the meteor crater.

So first stop:  Standing on a corner in Winslow, AZ.

As you can see, Kit is thrilled--THRILLED--to be part of this experience.  I have no idea what happened and when, but from the time we entered the visitor center until we arrived here (a whole 15 minutes), he hated all of us and everything we were doing. BTW, you should be able to see everything about the song from the picture above.  If not, here's a more direct one.

The little downtown area is quite cute.  And, truly, there is an amazing hotel just a few blocks further called La Posada that is gorgeous and has an amazing restaurant. And it's really not expensive.  Those of you who aim higher than the really cheap hotels should check this out as a break when you are driving down 40.  

Kit is *thinking* about not hating us right now.

After we left Winslow, we drove just a few miles to the Homolovi state park. This state park is an active archaeological site that honors both the native Americans who built massive pueblos here but also the Mormons who lived--and died--here as part of their journey out west.  We visited the cemetery first.  It was amazing to think of the people who had lived here trying to be free and the losses they incurred.  

Kit has lost his hate and is enjoying the junior ranger activities at the park

 Not pictured here are the two children's graves that broke my heart.  They were infants really.  What loss that must have been for these families in the middle of the desert.

We also visited the pueblos.  And I don't have any pictures of it.  We were too busy exploring the site, honestly. Clearly, it is prohibited to take shards of pottery from the park.  So instead, visitors (including us) would find the shards and then stack them on rocks for other people to see and enjoy.  Just a note--these pueblos were HUGE. 2000 rooms for a population of 300 or so.  Gorgeous views and a beautiful residence, build and live at around 1300 CE.  Amazing what history is in the southwest that we on the east coast think wasn't settled.

Finally, we went to the meteor crater.  I visited that site 25 years ago and it was/is one of the most important memories from that trip.  It had the same impression on the family.

This is the best preserved meteor impact site in the world.  It happened 50,000 years ago and it's amazing.  Can you imagine what the first peoples thought when they saw that?  That's a big ol' hole in the middle of nowhere.  How on earth did that get there?  It wasn't earth, people!!  :-)

So today we head to California.  Despite taking 7 days, the kids are going to experience some serious whiplash from being where there's so much space to the car and people density of Southern California.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Great Family Road Trip: Day 5

Honestly, I don't know what day we are on for this road trip.  I don't know what day of the week it is.  I just know what city we're in.

So driving through New Mexico (especially) and Arizona, can I be honest?  The landscape is soul filling.  It is beautiful.  I love the green of North Carolina.  But the brown and red and blue with the stark contrasts of cliffs and rocks of New Mexico.  If not for my deep rots (and job) in Charlotte, I could easily move to New Mexico.  It's a stunning part of this earth.

Also, one of the things I wanted to show the children was how BIG America is.  I have only ever lived in the densely populated areas of the coasts.  So driving through the middle of America and seeing all that open space is mind-opening. I'm a psychologist.  And I am interested in the effects of physical environment on people's cognitions and behaviors.  Living with a 20 mile clear view of everything around you must affect how you believe the world is and should be.  And many parts of this part of the country are so stunning.  So, really, if I need to turn my research towards this part of the country to study how the environment affects groups and communities--for the betterment of society really--I will do it.  Somebody fund me.  Stat

So we drove yesterday.

And we visited the Painted Desert.

And took our doll, Kaya, to see the petroglyphs.  Bridget is actually whispering to Kaya about what is going on and teaching her as we teach Bridget.  I love that Bridget wants to show Kaya so much about Native Americans in the Southwest.

And we found STANLEY!!!  He was by the marker showing where Route 66 came through the Petrified Forrest.  But absolutely, it was Stanley!!  (For those of you whose children are not so young, Stanley was a statue in the Cars movie--which took place along Route 66, which 40 parallels)

Then we hit the Petrified Forest.  What an amazing American experience:  Trees from 200,000,000 years ago that, when they fell, went into water, became infused with silia from the bottom of the riverbed, and turned to stone. This is a piece of wood/stone below.  It was awesome.

Then we went in search of the Cozy Cone, Sally's hotel from Cars.  AND WE FOUND IT!!!

We even found Doc Hudson's car!!

What a great day. Today we are in Winslow, AZ.  Going to Stand on a Corner (an actual park) and hit a few more historical sites before driving to Anaheim tomorrow.

At some point, I WOULD LIKE TO EAT SOME FRUIT AND/OR VEGETABLES in the next meal or two.  Yes, we've had some amazing food, but DANG, I am full of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.  My mouth is happy, but my body is revolting.  (HA!)

Ready for the next adventure!!

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Great Family Road Trip: Day 4

Yesterday, was our first full day of not driving anywhere. We celebrated by running around old Santa Fe, buying more things that is reasonable, and eating so much, I think I have the meat sweats.  This is a day best told by pictures.  So of course, now I am writing lots of stuff.

The Georgia O'Keeffe museum was amazing.  After the first exhibition room, we saw a movie on her life.  As it started, I asked Dave if he knew what her pictures were about.  "I didn't before, but I sure do now!!" I found it extremely interesting that, according to the movie, she was very upset at the interpretation of her abstractions of nature were taken to be so explicitly, um, "feminine."  I woke up this morning thinking that the architect of the Washington Monument probably didn't explicitly decide to honor the first president by making a big, um, phallus in the middle of DC.  YET HE DID.  She was in the middle of a joyful and sensuous experience with the love of her life when she created those pictures. They are beautiful and powerful expressions of feminine love.  I think they mean a lot to women about how beautiful we are. And you are on massive drugs if you thought in any way we hinted to the kids what, honestly only a few of those pictures could be about.

So the kids' reactions?  Pure, unadulterated joy.  Best museum experience ever.  Bridget and Christopher both sketched about 8 pictures from her works.  They LOVED it.

After the museum, we meandered across the Plaza.  You might note that Bridget is very excited to show Kaya (wearing a kilt!) Santa Fe. She pulled her out at every place we visited and held her up.  When we saw the Native American dancers singers and dancers, she took Kaya over to them.  At the New Mexico museum, she showed Kaya to the registration desk and explained who she was.  They didn't mind the kilt and actually said that they knew Kaya from an exhibit a few years ago.  I ALSO want to point out that Bridget has bunny ears (unbeknownst to her from her twin brother) and black soot on her chin.  All of this is Bridget:  Kind. Beautiful.  A bit messy and loved by her brothers.  

Eventually we made our way to the San Miguel chapel.  Amazing.  The kids loved discovering the hidden views to see original structures from the early 1600s.  (Note: we feel like Charlotte is old.  And it has nothing on Santa Fe)

It's after this that pretty much we started eating and buying everything in sight.  Here are a few pictures en route.

Here is Bridget showing Kaya the New Mexico History Museum.

Here are the kids at the end of the day wearing the ponchos we bought from a woman who both wove the cloth with her husband and sewed the ponchos.  ((We have pictures of her and her husband doing the work))  Amazing.  And beautiful.

What a day.  What an amazing trip.  I love spending time with my family.

Monday, August 01, 2016

The Great Family Vacation: Day 3

I'm going to lose count of what day we're on, pretty soon.  I can assure you of that after the 13 hours I slept last night.  Apparently, sitting on your sorry a$$ for many hours in car focusing on the road in front of you is more difficult than slowly running a few miles, working at a standing desk, doing some gardening, and pretending to clean.  Who knew!?

So yesterday was when we started seeing the landscape really changing.  This was one of the reasons we wanted to go on this trip:  the Southwest is beautiful; it doesn't look like any other part of America.  There are times it doesn't look like it is part of this Earth.  I just checked my phone (which is taking better pix than my digital SLR at this point), this is the only one that shows it slightly.  We'll have to take some more as we hang out around here.

((Not my best picture))

HOWEVER, as I said this to kids "Guys!  Look around!  This doesn't look like any place on earth!!" Christopher responded, "Yes, it does!  It looks like this!  It looks like THIS place on earth!"  Bright kid that one.

So we arrived in Santa Fe, coming up through amazing views--OF WHICH I TOOK NO PICTURES! ARGH!!--and entered the city.  Staying at an economic hotel a few miles from The Plaza.  Yeah.  We are cheap.  In any case, we hopped back in the car, and scooted up to The Plaza, because we saw they were having The Traditional Spanish Market.  LITTLE DID WE KNOW, it was a once in a year event.  There was a section of traditional arts (from families who had been doing art work that started in New Mexico *500+ years ago*) and more contemporary arts.  

Luckily, we stumbled first onto the booth of Sean Wells, who along with her brother is a fifth generation artist, both of whom are educators, both of whom have public access cable channels, and both do some really cool work!!  Show her some love and click on her site!  She told us about this history of Spanish art in New Mexico, explained the significance of her and her brother's art in that context, and generally welcome us to the market.  She focused on retablo art while her brother does  We bought a punched tin mirror from her brother, who also made ornaments for each of our children. Two of the ornaments are ponies, and Bridget notes that he added Cutie Marks to them.  Can't escape My Little Pony at any place.

After exploring the Market, we had dinner at a rooftop restaurant.  

We are happy to be here.  Conor agrees that Santa Fe is beautiful

The kids love Santa Fe.  

Despite falling asleep for 13 hours last night, this is an AMAZING trip.  All in all, it's great.  We are having fun as a family.  We are seeing things that we could never see in NC.  It's a once in a lifetime trip and we are loving it.  

If you are finding this in any way appealing:  DO IT.  Just get in your car and go.  So far, the trip is a five person, two thumbs up.