Thursday, October 30, 2008

Seven Questions--Top Holiday Tips

It's all downhill from here, ladies. You know how it goes. Tomorrow the Halloween candy will be in the 75% off aisle and Christmas carols will start following you everywhere you go. Are you ready? Or do you want to pull the covers over your head til the ball drops on New Year's Eve?

Never fear! Laurie is here and they don't call her "Tip Junkie" for nothing! She is happy and hyper and full of holiday help for us all. Here are her festive ideas...

1. OK, Tip Junkie! Lay it out for all of the overwhelmed moms out do you get from Hallo ween night to New Year's Day without having a nervous breakdown? (In other words, what's the game plan for gearing up and getting organized for the most hectic time of year?)

HA! No matter how prepared you are ahead of time, we all feel the stress and have those freak-out moments. However, to give yourself a fighting chance you’ll need some good planning and solid deadlines.

It’s worth taking a day or two to write down all the parties, events, birthdays, gifts, and dinners you’ll be participating in over the next few months. Break it down according to months and go from there.

1. I hate recreating the wheel and having to re-think or re-plan things unnecessarily. So, I’ve made some planners you can print out for free over on Executive Homemaker. They are easy fill in the blank worksheets that you can hole punch and throw into a binder. It also helps you keep track of what you’ve already done in the past. Therefore, it saves you time, money, and keeps you consistent and thoughtful.

Thanksgiving Planner

Christmas Planner which includes:

Family Gift Planner
Extended Family Gift Planner
Friend Gift Planner
Memory Planner

Include in your planning binders all your favorite holiday:
· Recipes,
· Menus
· Party plans and agenda’s
· Invitation ideas
· Tradition ideas
· Family craft ideas
· Decorating ideas
· Magazine cut-outs
· Tip Junkie post print-outs
· Other pictures that inspire you

Having everything in one place will save time and get you inspired to make this season extra special. It will also cut down on having to reinvent the wheel every year and prevent you from forgetting special moments and traditions.

2. Wish Lists. I love wish lists. I have my kids make a running wish list from commercials they love. They’re constantly saying “I want that!” all Saturday morning. I just say, “Write it down.” They also love browsing through catalogues I get in the mail.

Next, I take those lists and I’ll go into or and fill them in. I’ll print them out and put them in my Christmas Planning Binder as well as e-mail a copy to all the Grandparents. {{we have a bunch}} This way each child gets what he actually wants from theGrandparents and I don’t have to answer several phone calls of “what do the kids want this year”.

These wish lists also help me in my budgeting. I simply X out what I buy on the list. This way each kid gets the same number and around the same price range in gifts. {{no jealousy Christmas morning}}

3. Getting things accomplished, ordered, and made before Thanksgiving will also minimize your stress and budget.
It’s great to have a solid deadline to work towards. Keep in mind, last minute purchases and shipping will be costly. So it literally pays to have things ready early. You’ll have something extra to be thankful for this year when you’re coasting through December, enjoying the moments with your family.

I have several family members with birthdays in December. This is a huge stress for me. Planning ahead of time and shipping things before Thanksgiving, even if it’s early, is worth its weight in gold.

4. Plan for the unexpected with a Holiday Box.
Save yourself extra trips to the store and having to purchase more expensive last minute items by being prepared ahead of time. Put all of these times in one box so you’ll have them at a moments notice. The plus side is even if you don’t use them this year, you’ll have them for next year and you’ll know where they are. {{wink}}

I’ve already mentioned December birthdays. This also goes for your kids friend parties. Stock up on a couple gifts and have them handy in case of an invite.
It seems like the kids have a couple book exchanges for school or pre-school. Stock up on a couple cheap books so you have them handy.

Ornament exchanges are also big. Buy these early, before mid November, so you’ll have the least expensive, but most fabulous, ornament to exchange. Also, buy the wrapping for it the same time you buy the ornament. This way it will fit and your packaging will be just as fabulous as the ornament. It will also save you a ton of time the night of the party.

Teacher gifts. Plan them, make them, or buy them now.
White elephant gifts. Do you attend a party every year that has a white elephant gift exchange? Take some time to think it through and buy one that’s extra fun. Also, keep this in mind while you’re doing your shopping. If you find something that will work, get it then. Don’t wait.

Emergency Neighbor gifts. Have you been in a position where a neighbor or friend comes over to give you something and you don’t have anything in return? Oops. I have and it’s uncomfortable. Be sure to add this to your list and have a couple extra things in your Holiday Box already wrapped that you can pull out at a moment’s notice.

Forgotten thank you’s. Don’t forget to do something for your bus driver, crossing guard, and other people who make life a little easier for you and your kiddos. Be sure to add them to your list in your planner so you won’t forget next year either.

5. Family picture and Christmas cards.

Ugh! It’s so difficult to get the clothing coordinated, find a photographer, and get it all done. However, if you can do this before Halloween, your holidays will be more peaceful and less stressful. Find a great digital Christmas card designer from the Tip Junkie shop-a-thon and order all your cards before the 2nd week in November. Have them mailed out a couple days after Thanksgiving! You’ll be stress free and your holiday card will be the first to arrive and receive the most attention from friends and family.

2. Now, let's break it down by holiday...I know Halloween is one of your favorites. What are a few of your October tricks and treats?
It is my favorite holiday! I go OTT with the Halloween décor
I blogged about our traditions here. We usually go to a pumpkin patch and pick out our pumpkins and have a hay ride, start the Phantom every year with our friends and neighbors, go to the school fall festival, and attend several Halloween parties. I don’t usually throw a Halloween party because there are already too many scheduled during the month.

My favorite party of the month is the adult Halloween party we attend where dressing up and a skit is mandatory. My man and I have a blast coming up with our skit! It’s one of the highlights of my year.

I also made a Halloween countdown calendar 9 that we have really enjoyed doing every day.

I’ve been so happy with the Halloween ideas over on Tip Junkie this year. Be sure to check them out, I’ve spent hours researching and compiling them so you can make this Halloween extra special.

3. Thanksgiving is often the forgotten holiday. How do you make it meaningful for your family? Any shortcuts to help Mom come out of the kitchen and enjoy herself too?
I usually host Thanksgiving dinner but I tend to focus on my boys and the meaning it has for them. I have a tradition where I make turkeys out of the boys’ handprints on a place mat. Each year we use them and it’s a cool reminder of how fast the boys are growing. I usually have turkey cookie place cards, make pilgrim hats with the boys, or some other craft.

Tip Junkie has several new and creative Thanksgiving Traditions ( you can incorporate with your family this year. I really like the turkey apples. Too funny.
As far as the food goes, I keep it easy and traditional. Marshmallow pilgrim hats ,cheese ball, crackers, olives, turkey, stuffing, gravy, rolls, a yummy salad, corn on the cob, and several pies. I don’t fuss about the food or the clean up. I just want to enjoy the day with my family as well, so I keep it simple.

4. Somehow, though it's only October, I already feel like I am behind on my Christmas shopping! 'Fess up...have you finished yours already? Do you get up at 3 AM on Black Friday? What are your tips for shopping survival?
No, I haven’t finished my Christmas shopping. Way to call me out. {{wink}} However, I do have a good idea of what I’m getting everyone and am in the process of finishing up some projects. Thanks to my Christmas planner, keeping things organized, they’ll all be done in a couple weeks so I can focus on the things that are more important.

Every year, I like to do organize a day when a friend comes over and we mass produce a couple gifts. I give these out to friends, neighbors, and grandparents. It’s nice to have a friend to keep you company during a big project and it makes it easier with an extra pair of hands. We each end the day with fabulous gifts and a lot of laughter.

I have gotten up early to shop Black Friday, but personally I haven’t found it worth it. I find that the best deals are on electronics, diamonds, or specific advertisements that are usually out or have 40 people waiting in line. Personally, I like my gifts to be handmade so I usually have everything I’m looking for by Black Friday.

(my crazy kiddo)

5. And what about storage? Where the heck do you hide Santa's sleighful? How do you keep track of everything? What about all the trimmings & tags, boxes & bags? How do you organize it all?
I have my handy-dandy Christmas planner to help me keep everything straight. I also print out the receipt for anything I buy online and throw that into my binder as well. This way I can keep track of what gifts I have already purchased and when they should arrive.

I also make sure I cross off gifts I’ve already purchased and keep a running list of what’s in my Holiday box and what event it’s for. This way I can keep things straight.

As far as hiding Santa’s loot, I’ve got it easy. My boys don’t peek, so I keep it all in my closet. I’m sure I’ll have to change that one day, which will make me sad. Then I’ll have to store it in the attic, which has a lock.

I have a bin that contains all the holiday gift wrapping. However, this year I’m all about fun tags. I’m planning a craft day with some girlfriends and we’ll get them all made in one sitting. I can’t wait!

6. I know you Texas gals really like to party! What are your favorite ways to ring in the New Year? Any special recipes or traditions you'd like to share?

We do like a good party. However in my family, New Years is all about the kids. We usually throw a family party and invite our friends who have children our kids’ ages. We have a balloon drop, karaoke, air hockey, darts, guitar hero, finger foods, and lots of laughter. It is low key since the kids usually aren’t. {{giggle}}

7. Finally, what are your Top Three Tips for enjoying vs. enduring the holidays this year?
Get it all planned before Halloween and document it in your holiday planning binder.
Plan some over-the-top traditions or thoughtful gifts this year. Adding some extra excitement to your holiday will be worth the extra effort.
Get everything made by Thanksgiving, including Christmas cards. This way any last minute challenges that always come up, you can deal with calmly and happily.

Also, if you’re looking for fabulous gifts, Tip Junkie is focusing on our Mom-prenuer Shop-a-thon and challenging everyone to buy from women this holiday season. You’ll be amazed at the amazing gifts and products these ladies have created. Your friends and family will be so impressed with your thoughtful gifts this year!

Happy Holidays!! {{still a bit in denial}}

Thanks, are one energetic holiday babe! Your ideas are inspiring.

Want more tips? Visit Laurie @ TipJunkie!
Check out her Mom-preneur Shop for some creative new gifts.

Phinally...'s over.

Just try keeping 17 teenagers focused on The Gospel According to Saint Mark a few short hours after the BIG WIN. Just try getting your post-game-crazed/pre-Halloween-hyper nine year old to eat a healthy breakfast before he BOUNCES onto the schoolbus.

Just try not to burst into tears at the thought of three costume parades, three classroom parties, two neighborhood celebrations, several hours of trick-or-treating and the doorbell ringing all night long.

No, we're not going to the victory parade. I'm saving my celebrating until the lights go out of the jack-o-lanterns!

p.s. Would this not have made the most adorable Christmas card?!! The one year I ordered my photos early. Drat.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

But You're All Winners To Me...

Thanks to the help of our 5 big winners have been selected!

They are (in no particular order, of course):


Ladies, email me your address and your surprise will be coming soon!

(It's nothin' fancy...but I promise it will not glow in the dark, stick to your carpet or come in a plastic pumpkin.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mummy's Tour of Terror

Who needs to pay big bucks to visit a haunted house? I've got plenty of nightmares right here at home...

Wanna see somethin' slimy? Smell somethin' foul?

Just open the'll scream and you'll howl.

Notice the details? Like the gum on the floor

Our li'l monsters left it there for your enjoyment and horror!

(Dumb Mummy gives her kids gum to be oh-so-cool...

She thinks she's a phan, but she's really a phool!)

Next, come into the bathroom and see the trick mirrors...

they add wrinkles and pimples and reduce you to tears!

Still feeling brave? Well, isn't that great?!

Step on this torture adds 10 pounds extra weight!

Now, whatever in THIS room could give you the chills?

Look close on that desk...some spine-tingling bills!
(And when the man of the house sits down to write checks, he'll
Turn from nice Mr. Hyde to a crazed Dr. Jekyll...)

This door looks quite tame, right? Well, the worst ones all do...
What's hiding behind it?
Watch out! The kid's loo...

The floor is so scuzzy--slicked up for the kill.
And if the smell doesn't getcha, the big laundry piles will!

And last stop's the calendar, just so you'll remember...
only 49 shopping days left until the BIG DAY this December.

Got Goosebumps?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

We're a Phillies Phamily

This whole World Series thing is the most phun we've had in a long time.

We had Phrito pies phor dinner.

...and baseball cake phor dessert.

(Phillies phever is phrightfully phattening!)

We played Scripture Mastery Baseball in Seminary...

the Phillies-teens lost by one run. Un-phortunate.

Mom is buying gum philled with sugar!

We've phound a good use phor old newspaper and giftwrap.

Phinally...we are all staying up WAY past bedtime to watch the games!
It's simply phantastic.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Big Giveaway

The Gabblog has been visited over 50,000 times! (This is what happens when you have a really big extended family who would rather click on your webpage than call you on the phone...)

Now, I know this is small potatoes for all you super-cyber people out there, but for a soccer mom in the suburbs it's cause for celebration! (I don't think I've ever had 50,000 anything, with the possible exception of Peanut M&Ms at peak PMS moments and unsightly facial blemishes my sophomore year.)

And to show my appreciation, I'm hosting a little giveaway.

Leave a comment sometime in the next five days and, on Wednesday, I will randomly select five winners to receive a little gab-love via US Mail.

Thanks, friends!

(p.s. I originally titled this post "thanks-a-half-million." It was such a cute name but, obviously, I need to go back to remedial math.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Seven Questions...World Series Edition

Are you watching Game Two right now? We are.
Phillies Phever is contagious in our part of the world and I am taking a renewed interest in our national pastime. And who better to explain life in the Big Leagues? The adorable Ms. Shally, of course!
As the wife of a former pro baseball player, she is here to explain how diamonds can be a girl's best friend...

1. Where and when did you meet your husband? Was he a ballplayer at the time? Were you a baseball fan before or did you have to "convert"? Did you know marrying this special guy would mean a life in the big leagues? How did your friends and family react?
I met Zach in 1997 while I was on vacation in Honolulu, Hawaii. He had a baseball tournament there with his college team from Wichita, and I was a teacher taking a break during my off track time. We met the last night he was there, and only spoke for a few minutes. I knew he was something special from the minute we met- which was very uncharacteristic for me. We did the long distance dating thing for a year and a half before we went back to Hawaii to be married in the Hawaii temple.

I have always loved watching any sport, baseball included. I considered myself a fan before I met Zach, but I had NO idea just how much goes into baseball. I didn’t know the guys on TV played every single night for 6 straight months. I also didn’t realize just how the minor league system worked, and how hard it is to actually make it to the top (So many players are weeded out in the first few years.) I never knew just how many crazy stats there are in baseball. They keep track of every single thing a player does. Zach used to get “spray charts” that showed every spot on the field he had hit the ball that season whether it was a fly ball, ground ball etc.-- and if it was an out or a hit. They had video of every at bat from every major league player. Zach could walk in and say, “I want every left handed at bat of Ken Griffey Jr.’s in 2005 against Roger Clemens.”
--A few days later, he had a tape with exactly what he needed, along with other similar player’s at bats.
Like I said. Crazy.

When I met Zach, I knew he played baseball, but didn’t know just how much a part of his life it was until I met his mom. We met over lunch and she brought newspaper articles and pictures of him playing. And not just a few. A huge BOX. J As our relationship progressed, Zach made sure that I understood what I was getting into. It was exciting for me to think of all we were going to do together.
As for the reaction of friends…My friends and family were extremely happy for me.

Um. Zach’s??? …Not so much.
Not because they didn’t like me, but because Zach had never really had a girlfriend before--at least not one that he kept through a baseball season. They were worried I would “ruin his game”. Even the fans at Wichita State blamed me if he didn’t get 3 hits a night. A lot of people tried to talk him out of getting married before his first full season of baseball. But true to Zach- he followed his heart and we were married in the off season before he went to his first Spring Training.

2. After getting married, where did baseball take you? Please tell us about the different teams and the places you lived. What was it like leaving your old life behind? How did you adjust to this whole new lifestyle?
Oh, wow. Baseball took me to cities that I never would have dreamed of visiting. Zach was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 2nd round. He spent his first summer in Watertown NY.

To give a little background… Every major league team has 5+ minor league levels that a player has to prove himself at in order to move up. You play for 2 months in Spring training and then are assigned a city to play in. With the Indians, he played in Watertown, NY; Winter Haven, FL; Mahoning Valley, OH; Kinston, NC; Akron, OH; Buffalo, NY; and finally in Cleveland. He was then traded to the Anaheim Angels and played in Tempe, AZ; Salt Lake City, UT; and in Anaheim. We then were claimed off waivers (baseball talk) and went over to the Milwaukee Brewers organization where we spent the year in Maryvale, AZ, and Nashville, TN. Our last year we signed as a free agent with the Florida Marlins. We lived in Jupiter, Florida and Albuquerque, NM for a few months before we decided to retire. We also lived in various other places in the Phoenix area for winter ball leagues, not to mention 3 different cities in Utah during the off season.

I was okay with leaving my life behind… I am one who loves an adventure, so this lifestyle suited me. I am also fairly easy-going when it comes to change. I go with the flow- so I never stressed out too much. I loved meeting new people and living in new cities. It felt good to get away from home and be on our own. My parents were really good about coming out to visit, so that helped.

The biggest adjustment for me was learning to live without my own stuff. I used to be a pack rat. Packing everything and moving 3 or more times a year cured me of that fairly quickly! I learned to only keep what I used, and didn’t fret if my apartment wasn't decorated just how I liked it. I made due with what I had, and made each place feel like home without a ton of décor.

I think the most frustrating thing was how many times I bought ketchup!! Seriously. I would by condiments in Spring Training, then have to throw them away to move. When I would get to a new city, again-- more condiments. It is known by baseball wives everywhere that if you buy anything in bulk and stock your fridge- you will get moved to a new city. We finally got smart and found missionaries who would take our extra food for us when we left. They didn’t care if the cereal box was open and half gone- and we didn’t feel so guilty throwing food away.

3. What do baseball wives do? Describe the everyday details of your life. Did you live in an apartment, house or hotel? Did you travel with your husband? Did you spend most days on the ball field? Did you wash his uniforms, grocery shop and cook dinner? How did you fill your time?
Ahhh... the life of a baseball wife :). Our schedules were a bit different, since we were out late every night- but for the most part- we were pretty normal. With kids- you try and keep things as normal as possible. I always tried to find fun things to do in each city we lived in. We had Zoo passes, and museum passes. We went swimming and to the library.

When I didn’t have children, I worked. Most wives do not- but I missed teaching, and I would have gone crazy without something to make me get out of the apartment. I was able to get jobs at Sylvan Learning Centers in the different cities we lived in. This really helped me when Zach was away.
As your husband starts his baseball career, you usually can count on being sent to one of 2 cities after Spring training. The first year, for example, you could go to A ball in Kinston, or AA ball in Akron, depending on how your hubby does in the Spring. Each year, starting in December, I would get online and start searching for a place to live in each of the prospective cities. This was NOT easy when you were dealing with cities that you were unfamiliar with. It was also a gamble- because you never actually knew for sure where you would end up. I will never forget one year, when Spring Training Camp broke- the coaches told our friends to just drive north. They would call them when they decided which city he was needed in so they could get on the right freeway. Talk about waiting until the last minute!!

It is also extremely hard to find apartment complexes that will give you a 5 month lease. We usually ended up paying way more than the apartment was worth just because we had a limited amount of options, and the landlords knew it. The team will usually give you a list of places that other players have stayed at, but to be honest- I found that most of those places were not the nicest. The baseball players without wives or families really didn’t care where they stayed because they traveled so much. I just wanted a clean, safe place to stay in.

Once you find a decent place, you have to rent your furniture. I learned the hard way- after living one summer with Miami Vice pink and teal couches with brass trim- that it is better to go pick out the furniture yourself once you arrive instead of letting the furniture company pick it for you. The team usually pays for three days in a hotel to give you some time to get your apartment settled. During the early years of baseball, I brought all my kitchen utensils, towels, sheets, pillows, etc. It was a pain, but we only made $900 a month. Once we started earning a bit more money, I would get the apartment fully stocked so all we had to bring was our clothes. It was so much easier that way.

Shally, kids & the Miami Vice couch

The baseball years before children were very different. As I mentioned, I worked part time at Sylvan Learning Center- both to help make ends meet and to give me something to do. Zach was gone every other week, so working helped keep me sane. When he was at home, he usually went to the ballpark at around 1 pm, then I would head to work. I would get off at 7:00 pm and go to his game. During the weeks he was gone, I worked longer hours to keep busy. My bosses were always great about working around the baseball schedule.

When he was in the minor leagues, I went to every single game- and was there from start to finish. I was a faithful fan through wind and rain- even taking a sleeping bag so I could stay warm. (I have no idea what I was thinking…)

I traveled to most of Zach’s games, following the bus for up to 6 hours (the team was not allowed to ride in cars with family.) Looking back, I have no idea how I made it! Bus drivers are CRAZY fast, and I was driving in the middle of the night through back roads in North Carolina. The wives would always joke that one of us would end up a reluctant farmer’s second wife because, if we ran out of gas, we would never find our way home. ☺

As you move up the minor league ladder, the cities get a little bigger, and a little nicer. The hotels we stayed in on the road games got better also. Some of the hotels we stayed in in A ball, I would never step foot in now. I used to bring a travel candle and Febreze to try and cover up the smells. {Yuck!} By AA ball, most of the hotels were nice, and I really enjoyed going to as many cities as I could.

The big leagues were totally different. Cleveland had one road trip a season when the families could ride with the team on their chartered plane. I felt like a ROCK STAR!! First of all, no long security lines. We walked through a private security station. Then, as we walked through the gate to get to the plane, there were cold drinks (Gatorade, water, juices, and alcohol for those who choose to drink) waiting on ice in front of the airplane doors. Once we were settled, the flight attendants would hand us a menu with everything from steak, to hamburgers, to lobster on it. We ordered dinner, then were off. During the flight, baskets full of warm cookies, candy bars, fruit, and more were brought around for us to enjoy. I swear, I put so much extra in my purse!! I was obviously not a veteran.

Also, you could walk around at any time. No following the seat belt sign. We could use cell phones too. (I kinda liked being a “rebel”!) It was really fun.

We stayed in the best hotels. It was almost uncomfortable for us to be treated so well. We never have to touch our suitcases- it was all taken care of for us at the airport and brought up to our rooms. I remember staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix and feeling a little strange in my jeans and T-shirt surrounded by women draped in diamonds and men in suits. Luckily, most baseball wives on that team dressed as I did, so I wasn’t the only one.

NO! I did not wash his uniforms (thank heavens!). Each team has a clubhouse manager that takes care of his uniforms and provides food for the players while they are at the ballpark . Some were really good- and other times Zach got left over hot dogs to eat after the game (in the minor leagues). I took care of breakfast-- but a lot of times, Zach would eat lunch at the field. He had to pay the Clubhouse manager, so he always wanted to get his money’s worth.

Dinner was served to the players in between practice at the field, so I really just had to worry about me. In the big leagues the spread was amazing and I was always jealous of what he got to eat while I cooked mac and cheese at home!

I did grocery shop and cook, although Zach never ate dinner with me. If he decided to eat at home- lunch was our big meal, and I usually just ate leftovers before the game. Once we had kids, this changed. I cooked regular meals for us. The kids had to adjust to the baseball schedule, but they did well. I think our neighbors must have thought we were in the witness protection program or something! We would sleep in, leave every night, and then move at a moment’s notice when Zach was called up. We would be gone before they even saw our faces…

When Zach was called up, he got a plane ticket for the next morning, and I was left to pack up the apartment and drive to the new city. (I still give him a hard time about that.) Really.

The kids brought some sense of normalcy to our hectic life. I focused more on them than on the games. Zach knew that I wouldn’t make it every night, and he was okay with that. We brought Jaxon’s birth mom out to live with us the summer after the twins were born so I could have some help. She saved me. I don’t know if I could have taken care of 3 kids 3 and under with no family or friends around me. It was also really nice to have a friend when Zach was gone. Baseball life can get lonely, so I was so happy to have someone to hang out with.

. #4. We know the players have coaches, trainers, doctors, and teammates. Who did YOU have? Who was your support system? Were there many other baseball wives/girlfriends? Did you get along? Is it a competitive group or supportive? Do you still have friends from that time?
Baseball wives stick together. They become your family. We were very lucky to be with a great organization (The Indians) coming up through the minor league system. The wives were wonderful, and I became really good friends with many of them. Each organization is different, so I felt really blessed to have such a grounded group of women. I think you always have the few who would feel angry when her husband is taken out of the line up so yours can play-- but those were few and far between. Girlfriends got a little hairy at times (especially if they were the girlfriend of a married player!) but for the most part, we were all really good friends. There was a special bond between us. We understood each other. Baseball life is tougher than most will ever know- and there is a mutual respect there when you all are in it together. I still keep in touch with many of them.

5. As a Mormon couple, how did you fit into the baseball social scene? What were your unique challenges? Were you able to participate actively in an LDS congregation?
The baseball social scene is different for everyone. There is always the group that frequents the bars and the “Gentlemen’s” clubs, but there were also those that did not. The team knew our beliefs and, for the most part, respected them. If there ever was a team function, we always went- and if things got uncomfortable for us, we would just head home early. I think Zach had to deal with this a lot more than I did being on the road with just the guys every other week. He would go to a midnight dinner and then just go back to his room instead of going out on the town.
As for the wives, when the guys were gone, we did a lot together. DINNERS! We don’t ever get to go out to dinner with our husbands, so it was always a treat to go out. With the kids, we would plan play dates and meet at parks.

I think that the biggest challenge for us as an LDS couple was dealing with the false stigmas and stereotypes that others had about Mormons. There were so many who really had no idea what the Book of Mormon was, they were just taught that it was a bad book. Zach had a teammate tell him once that the reason we were struggling with infertility was because we were Mormon (he obviously didn’t know Mormons are known for having tons of kids! ) He dealt with a lot of teammates who-- having the best intentions-- kept telling him he was going to hell for his beliefs.

The wives were a different story. We had bible studies together, and they never once made me feel like I wasn’t a Christian. I loved them for that. We focused on our similarities rather than our differences.

I was always grateful for the Church. Through all the change- that was the one constant. I knew that help was a phone call away- even if they had no idea who I was. I held callings, and was able to attend meetings. Zach wasn’t so lucky. Most teams have day games on Sunday, so we had to always find a ward that started at 9 so he could go for an hour before he had to be at practice. I would drive him to the field after Sacrament meeting, then head back to finish the block. He will tell you that missing church was one of the hardest things about baseball life.

6. What is it like watching your husband PLAY PRO BALL? I'm sure the wins were fun to celebrate, but how did you help him through the losses and personal slumps? Were your moods affected by the team's defeats and victories?
Words can’t describe what I felt the first time I saw Zach step out on a Major League field. I am tearing up now even thinking about it. I was so proud of him. All his dreams… all his hard work… everything we had been through… it was all worth it. I couldn’t stop smiling. He had done it!! I couldn’t be happier.
Slumps were tough. But when you play baseball every day, you have to learn to leave everything at the field. Baseball is a game of failure. How many other jobs think 35% productivity is All Star material? If you hit .350 in the Big Leagues you have job security. Zach had to learn to let the bad stuff go, or life would have been miserable.

Zach and Robbie Alomar

Our first year together, I told Zach he had one hour after every game to pout, grumble, and kick things. If he needed to stay in the clubhouse for the full hour, I was fine with that. But once he stepped out, it was over. It wasn’t my fault he made an error, and I didn’t want to have to deal with the aftermath of it.

As the years went on, Zach didn’t need the hour. He didn’t need anything. When you play 162 straight games, there is no time to look back. He just focused on the next day. The kids helped too. Being a dad changes everything. Suddenly, life is not all about you. I think coming home to hugs and kisses made him forget his troubles.

Double play

I also had a guaranteed slump-breaker recipe. My Tres Leches brought him out of any funk. We saved it for the worst of times. Superstition is a huge part of baseball life, and slump-breakers were precious! I could write a book about all the crazy superstitions that were everyday routine for ball players and their wives.

I don’t think that I really got into the wins and losses until play-off time. Then I was a mess! I got nervous, and cheered until my voice was gone. The rest of the season, I mainly focused on how Zach did, and not on how the team did. That sounds bad, I know. It wasn’t like I didn’t care if the team lost- but the team losses really didn’t affect my mood. I just focused on him.

7. Ultimately, why did you leave baseball? Are you happy with your decision? Is he? Would you encourage your son to play pro sports? And most of all, what would you say if one of your daughters fell in love with a ball player?!
Zach had wanted to retire years before we actually did it. Even when he was in the playoffs against the Yankees, he was thinking about retirement. He missed the kids. Those games were some of the most exciting of his career but he had no one to come home to. I was on bed rest, and we were not able to be with him.

I think that was when he realized that the baseball lifestyle was just getting too hard for him. He would come home from a road trip just dying to see the kids. With just Jaxon, we still traveled to see Zach-- but with 3 kids, it just got more complicated. Jaxon was also getting older… he would say things like:
Dad… When I grow up I want to be a fence builder so I can build a fence around the airport so you can never, ever leave us again.” On one occasion, we hadn’t seen Zach in over 6 weeks. Jaxon said to me, “Mom, sometimes I think that my friends don’t even know I have a dad… he is never here.”

It was like daggers in Zach’s heart. We knew that once Jaxon got to school age that we would consider other options if we could. It would have just been too much time apart for us- we would only have been able to be with Zach for maybe 6 months out of the year. We felt the time was right to live a “normal” life.

We are very happy with our decision. Of course, there are things we miss about baseball life- the excitement, the fun cities visited, the friends we made… I miss feeling like life was never dull, and I miss the games. I know Zach misses actually playing the game. He loved it. But we don’t look back. We don’t sit and wonder “what if we had stayed”. We went into retirement with both eyes open-- it was not a spur of the moment decision. We knew it was right for our family at the time. I really look up to all the women who take their kids on the road each year. I still have many friends with husbands in the game. They are amazing women who are independent and strong.

Would we want Jax to play professional sports? Heck yeah!! We loved it. As long as he is grounded in the things that are important in life, he would be fine. It is easy to lose yourself in that lifestyle, but he is strong, we know he could make it. We would love to cheer him on!

As for our girls… Zach says NO WAY! Just kidding (sort of ). We are going to be happy with whomever they choose as long as he is a good person with high standards that will treat them right.

Baseball life came with so many ups and downs-- but we are so grateful for the chance we had to experience it.

Fascinating details. I'm enjoying the Series with a whole new perspective. Thanks so much, Shally! (p.s. Will you share the slumpbreaking Tres Leches recipe? Please?)

Visit Shally and her home team. They are the perfect combination of beautiful and funny. Shal's posts crack me up on a regular basis and her recipes are All-Star material.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sister Salad

I love the fact that almost every time I call my sister, Heidi, she is baking cookies.

Sometimes, I am baking, too, and our conversations are accompanied by the soundtrack of whirring KitchenAids and the mmmmms of dough-sampling.

Occasionally one of Heidi's twins starts to cry. And that's ok, because usually one of mine is crying, too.

The two of us carry on great conversations in spite of the miles and time-zones between us. We share book titles and recipes. We bemoan the fact that all this cookie dough needs to be exercised away and compare workout routines. We solve world problems. And all while we are administering time-outs, wiping rear ends, and folding laundry piles.

A recipe from my sister is a treasure...and I am sharing one of my favorites today.

Like, Heidi, this salad is an interesting mix of tart and sweet. A little bit nutty. Fresh, healthy, and beautiful to look at. Enjoyable on many levels.
My Sister's Spinach Salad
Dressing: 1 cup vegetable oil, 2/3 cup bottled Teriyaki sauce, 2/3 cup white wine vinegar, 6 Tbsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper. Mix in blender and set aside.
Salad: 10 oz. fresh spinach, 6 oz. craisins, 16 oz. water chestnuts, drained, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1 bunch chopped green onions, 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, 6 oz. honey roasted peanuts, 2 cups cooked, diced chicken and 1/2 bag cooked bow-tie pasta
Marinate chicken and pasta in dressing for two hours. Toss with remaining ingredients right before serving.
Thanks, Heidi! Love you!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Mid-October Life

Brad spent last week at a conference in Southern California...driving a sports car, eating out and at the ballpark with the Phillies and Dodgers.

I spent my week single-parenting and plotting my revenge.

I got it by taking him to this movie last night. Brad was one of three men in the entire theater. The place was so full of estrogen, I think he had a hot flash.

He actually liked the show (it WAS excellent...just as good as the book!) and bought me my favorite movie snacks. I love that guy!

I love him because, before leaving town, he installed some O-C-Delightful shelving in my closet.
As you can see from the "before" shot, my clothes closet had been a source of hidden shame for far too long. But, now it is spic-n-span (I think even you would approve, Stie!) and I want to spend all my free time there.

I got carried away and organized the kids' closets too. So, if you come over... don't mind the dishes in the sink, the toys on the stairs or the Yu-Gi-Oh! cards strewn on the floor, just ask to see the sparkling closets. I'll proudly give you a tour.

In an unrelated story, Sam was a real screaming fan on the soccer field this week. There was also a field trip (to the fire station!) and a birthday party (at Chuck-E-Cheese!)...his life is full. Sam's new talent is counting to 100 at least 100 times a day.

Em tore it up on the soccer field yesterday. She also went to the Book Fair and spent a large amount of money, but came home with no books. Only highlighters, pens and posters. Apparently, books are "too expensive." I'm glad she is a bargain shopper. Just like her mom.

Jake is only allowed to practice the clarinet outside the house. Some music is best heard at a distance. This kid is having an amazing 4th grade year and scored way above our expectations on state-wide standardized testing. I am taking all the credit.

Luke learned to ride a two-wheeler! Now we have three kids who are training-wheel free. He is slightly dangerous, but thrilled beyond words. (And the really cute thing is that his twin brother is just as proud...not jealous at all.)

As you can see, the leaves are stunning and the weather is Octoberlicious! Please come for a visit.

(The closets are amazing...)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Gabservations

  1. Chuck-E-Cheese is truly just a mini-casino for little kids and trying to get them out of there is worse than pulling a member of Gambler's Anonymous out of Atlantic City.
  2. People who think autism is just an excuse for bad parenting should be punished. My suggestion: send 'em along on a school field-trip with a classful of autistic children. Preferably unmedicated.
  3. You know you are over-the-hill if you stay up past midnight watching the PBS Documentary on Richard M. Nixon and enjoy it more than anything else on prime-time TV. (Did anyone else watch? Wasn't it fascinating!?)
  4. The only way to avoid becoming witchy before Oct. 31st is to establish a family costume deadline. Costume choices must be "locked-in" by the 15th. No minds changed at the last minute. Thank you for your cooperation.
  5. Watching the local team win the playoffs and head to the World Series can actually make the usually-boring baseball season a little more interesting. (Not as exciting as Nixon, of course. But close.)

Go Phils!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Hard-Knock Life

There's been a lot of talk about the Great Depression lately. Lots of predictions. Lots of blame. Lots of doom and gloom.

And, frankly, I find it Greatly Depressing.

C'mon, folks! The Depression wasn't all that bad. Haven't you seen It's a Wonderful Life? Places in the Heart? O, Brother Where Art Thou?

Everything I've learned about the Great Depression, I've learned from the movies. The moral of the story is that times may be bad. But with hard work, a guardian angel and/or a kind blind man played by John Malkovich, good people will triumph over hardship. (Especially good-looking good people.)

This is my all-time FAVORITE Great Depression musical.

We can learn some important lessons here:

  1. Friends can help you through dark times.
  2. Caring for a stray dog is the right thing to do.
  3. Singing and dancing makes hard work more bearable.

And, if all else fails, find a rich tycoon to take you in, fly in a helicopter to the White House and sing in three-part harmony with the President of the United States.

And, then, of course...

The sun'll come out tomorrow!

Check here for listings of other great Great Depression movies. Might as well enjoy it, right?

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