Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lake Bistineau Rib Cookoff

For the past two years, Ty and I have attended the Lake Bistineau Rib Cookoff. You've never seen people so passionate about ribs! People spend the day at their camps, preparing their entries, and then gather at the hosting camp for judging and awards.

This year, Ty's boss hosted the rib cookoff at his camp, so Ty spent the week prior creating something special for the event.

What you see Ty proudly eyeballing to his left is his frozen drink machine. I don't know how it works. I don't know why he was compelled to build this contraption. But I know my husband can accomplish great and curious things when he puts his mind to it.

Before the rib judging began, I got to spend time with two of my favorite little girls, Molly and Lila. They stripped down to their Pampers and went for a dip in the pool. There's no need for a swimsuit when you're hanging with friends at the lake.

I'm going to warn you. There are some seriously cute pictures to come.

Lila says, "Come on in, the water feels great!"

I had to leave the sweet babies to get down to official rib business. I was solicited to be a judge for this year's contest. I didn't tell anyone that I wasn't really much of a fan of ribs, but I did tell most of the people who entered where I was registered and that my opinion could be swayed by baby gear.

The crowd gathered and the judging began. Each team's ribs were judged on appearance, texture and taste, and to my surprise they were all distinctly different. Some were traditional, some were saucy, some were sweet, some were ... this is turning into a Dr. Seuss rhyme.

There I am in the bottom right corner, diligently focused on judging. I've also decided this will be about the only picture you see of me pregnant. I know, I look great for 30 weeks. The back of my head has hardly changed at all.

Also, may I point out, that I didn't know so many people would be watching me eat ... watching me eat ribs nonetheless ... while I'm big and pregnant.

These were Bertel and Walt's ribs, although I didn't know it at the time. When the boss' wife tells you to vote for her ribs, you rank them high, if you know what's good for you. Fortunately, David and Bertel love Ty like their second son, which eased my worries about my husband becoming suddenly unemployed if these ribs didn't win. Talk about pressure!

After much deliberation, the winners were announced with a newcomer, PhilipThompson, taking first place. Jeff Clark (right) attempted to bribe me with $7 and a pint of Gentleman Jack. Diapers or wipes may have led to better rankings for Jeff.

We spent the rest of the evening enjoying delicious ribs, an abundance of sides and some good company.

Molly just wished her friend Tilly was there to play, too. It soon became apparent that my friendship just wouldn't do.

Definitely, next year, Molly!

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Called It

Ty's good friend Eric (we actually call him Rock) came in town last night to stay with us on his way to Natchitoches for the weekend. Rock is known to pop in to town at the last minute, and we are always happy to accommodate his travels.

Rock is also known to leave our house in the middle of the night while we are asleep. I'm not sure why, it's just what he does. So now, I am conditioned to check the driveway first thing in the morning to see if he actually stayed the entire night. There's about a 50/50 chance his car is still there.

Yesterday after Rock rolled into town, he and Ty decided they would get in a round of golf at Westwood. With lights on half of the course, the boys could get in a late round after the sun went down.

I told Rock, "Today's your day for a hole-in-one."

He was doubtful because he said he'd never had one. I reassured him that tonight would be his night. Since more than half of the course is made up of Par 3s, odds were in his favor. Or at least more in his favor than usual!

Around 8:45, Ty text me, "Hole in one for Rock! 15."

I couldn't believe it. I thought for sure they were pulling my leg, so I called Ty only to find out it was true.

Rock made a hole-in-one on number 15, and among the first words out of his mouth were, "Steph called it."

It can probably be attributed to chance more than anything, like the circumstances surrounding most hole-in-ones. Most people have hit really solid shots and come really close in their lifetime, but whoever really knows why a certain shot decides to drop in the cup?

I've played more rounds at Westwood than most people. I've even had several close calls. But the ball has never dropped in the cup for me.

Fate's never been on my side. But maybe I should test my gift and try calling another hole-in-one. My brother said he would like me to tell him the same thing before his round Saturday morning.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bizarre Declarations of Love

There are little things I come in contact with from time to time that always take me back to the earliest parts of my relationship with Ty. Long before we were engaged, before we were even dating, before we even knew where our first encounters with each other would one day lead, I remember so many little things about him. This is where it all began, as bizarre as some of these things may seem. 


I can remember the first time I ever laid eyes on Ty. We were both at The Cub. I was with my group of friends, he was with his. We were sitting at tables right next to each other, and I thought to myself, "He's cute, but I will never date a guy who wears shoes like that." 

It's funny that I can remember thinking that. It's even funnier to look at where the comment eventually got me.

Somehow, I was able to look past his river shoes and come to love the man wearing them. And with the advice of a loving wife, he only wears these now to piddle around the house or, for their intended purpose, to wear to the river.

The Cuban.

Even after my first encounter with Ty, I was able to resist him (and his shoes) for a little while. I ended up dating someone in Baton Rouge, who was a mutual friend of Ty's, and that guy recommended that Ty and I ride together to Baton Rouge for game days.

I remember the first time Ty came to my house to pick me up for a trip. He put his hand out to grab my bag, and I extended my hand to shake his. He replied, "OK, We can shake hands, but I was just trying to get your bag."

I felt like an idiot, but a fast friendship formed. I was dating someone else, so there was no need for us to really impress each other. We could just be ourselves. For Ty that meant, we could grab dinner at a gas station, like he probably always did on his way to Baton Rouge. We pulled over at the gas station in Opelousas, where the only option for dinner was a sandwich called The Cuban. I was hungry, so I grabbed one of those and some cheese puffs, trying to acclimate to Ty's usual roadside dinner, and we quickly got back on the road.

What is in The Cuban? I couldn't really tell you. The sticker says "sliced pork," but I would say it was either bologna or bologna's nameless, mysterious first cousin. 

On my recent trip to New Orleans, I stopped at the gas station in Opelousas. I did not actually purchase The Cuban, but I took a picture of it and text it to my husband with a caption that read, "where our love story began."  

Sad, but true.

The Coasters.

With Chaocs and Cubans in our past, my friendship with Ty eventually evolved into something more. One of my best friends became my boyfriend. And as cliche as it sounds, I ran from that for along time because I didn't want to mess things up. Women are idiots sometimes, too. Or at least I am. I can't believe that I was ever willing to settle for anything less than him.

We were young and still in our "going out" phase, which often led us to our favorite karaoke spot, Tiki Tavern. I doubt I could hang there anymore, with my hatred of day-after-cigarette-smoke-bar hair and usual 10 p.m. bedtime.

This picture was probably taken the last time we were there. The night of our rehearsal dinner. We had lots of friends in town, and they always loved this little place, so we gave the people what they wanted.

That always included a duet of The Coasters' song, "Poison Ivy."

Life is much different for us now.

We don't eat at gas stations. Well, not as a family unit. I think Ty still frequents them for lunch.

We don't karaoke. Although, I'm currently dealing with the much worse, literal kind of poison ivy. My arms, belly and legs are covered in poison ivy from all the yard work we've been doing.

But even though life has changed -- and will continue to change -- more and more drastically, I like all the quirky things that brought us together and have turned into wonderful, strange memories.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My One Night Stay in the Lap of Luxury

In my day job, it is not uncommon for me to travel several times a year for company events and trade shows. I'm the person who swoops in to make sure things look good before an event. I'm also the person who gets the phone call if things don't look good when the rest of our team arrives. These phone calls have made me cry, so I typically like to avoid them altogether.

But in my very pregnant state, I've had to pass on some of my usual travels until baby Tilly arrives. After one very awkward dinner, where I was the only female in attendance (this is not uncommon working in manufacturing/construction), I learned that 15 grown men will talk non-stop about your pregnancy even if they're all secretly hating every second of it.

So, a few weeks ago, I packed up the company Tahoe and putt-putted my way down to New Orleans by myself for one night for my last work trip. It was our largest industry event of the year, and I wasn't going to risk something being wrong. If those "something-is-terribly-wrong" phone calls made me cry before I was pregnant, a full-on meltdown would happen now if I got that call.

After a long drive and several hours spent at the Convention Center, I was ready to get to my hotel, elevate my feet and not budge for the rest of the evening. The company's executive assistant, whom I love dearly, booked a room for me at the Windsor Court. This is a little nicer than my typical accommodations, but who was I to argue.

I checked in at the front desk and made my way to my room. I slid my plastic room key into the door, waited for the green light, flung the door open and immediately thought a mistake had been made.

My room was a suite. I thought there must have been a mistake when the room was booked. I thought the hotel must have made a critical error and placed me in the room reserved for my boss. I thought I better keep my mouth shut, act like I belong and enjoy every minute.

It was comfortable, stylish and very cozy. From the angle this picture was taken, my back was against a wall of windows with sweeping views of downtown New Orleans and the riverfront.

Near the front door as you enter the suite, there was a room designated specifically for bar goodies, drinks and snacks.

The bathroom was luxurious and beautiful. Not to mention the bath products that smelled so divine, like they were made from hummingbird tears. I was tempted to lift them, but resisted the urge in an effort to pretend that I was classy.

Across from the bathroom was a cute little vanity area for me to get ready in the morning.

And finally, in the back of the suite was this beautiful bedroom. When I finally tucked in for the evening, I called home to tell my husband that I was pretty sure the sheets had been ironed.

I spent the evening wrapped up in my Windsor Court bathrobe, watching TV and snacking on the pecan pralines turn down service left on my nightstand. And after I checked out and got back home, I spent the rest of the weekend telling Ty that I wanted to go back to the suite at the Windsor Court.

On my way home the following day, I finally spoke with our executive assistant and mentioned my fine accommodations. She said she wanted me to be somewhere safe and nice since I was traveling alone and pregnant.

I told her how much I appreciated it, and under these conditions, I would be willing to travel pregnant more often. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I was ready to plan my second pregnancy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Recently ... In Pictures

So much has been happening lately, I'm lucky to stay on top of things. And it's miraculous if I end up with a picture to document. But here are a few pictures I managed to capture in recent weeks, all via iPhone. I'm really going to have to work on getting a camera before Tilly arrives!

This is where Ashley and I stayed when we visited our cousin Casey in Arkansas. ... if only! I did find it enlightening all the strange things you see when you travel through the Natural State. I didn't know motel honeymoon suites still existed, but I'm certain there is a heart shaped spa jacuzzi behind door number 28.

Another interesting fun fact: We traveled through Delight, Ark., and read on the town sign that it was the home of Glen Campbell.

I asked Ashley, "What's the big deal with Glen Campbell? She's just a lady who used to be on the news in Shreveport."

Ashley roared with laughter, "That's GWEN Campbell. GLEN Campbell is the guy who sang "Rhinestone Cowboy.""

Thanks for clearing that up, Ashley. It makes more sense now.

Have you ever seen a schnauzer that likes the water? I take that back, loves the water?

I don't know if I've ever seen such a thing. But this is what happens roughly 10 seconds after we let Baxter into the backyard. He hops on the first step of the pool and dips his beard into the cool waters. Then he looks like a raggedy, wet rat until his hair dries out. And even once he's dry, he's nothing spectacular.

Baxter used to hate the water until Ty and I went out of town for the weekend, leaving my then 19-year-old brother in charge of our house and pets. We came home to reports of poolside beer pyramids and a schnauzer who wouldn't stay out of the pool. My brother is no Cesar Millan. If I had to guess, it looked more like waterboarding, but Baxter managed to overcome his fear of the water.

Do you think a mini schnauzer would make good hunting dog?

Here Baxter is again. Supervising my paint job on a dresser for Tilly's room. With those heavy eyebrows, I'm not sure he can even see, so it's easy to slip sloppy work past him. However, I am proud to report that B has had a haircut. His love for the pool has forced us to buzz him down for the summer months.

I knew I wanted a Jenny Lind crib for Tilly's room, so when my mother-in-law Margaret found this one at a garage sale for next to nothing, I jumped on it.

Let me just say, painting one of these is not an easy task. With all the notches, you would have to take a week off work to sand it down. Ty and I took the easy route. We primed it really well with some Kiltz premium primer and then used a paint sprayer to apply the new color. 

Even using a sprayer, this was quite the undertaking for Ty. You have to spray from every possible angle to get it evenly covered. And it takes several coats. He finished it up last Saturday with a spraying of clear coat, and we moved it into her room.

I think it turned out so sweet! I can't wait to have her bedding ready and put it all together. Above the crib, we hung a series of six Shel Silversteen poems.

That's Mirabelle the Bunny hanging out in the crib, waiting on Tilly's arrival. She was a gift from our friend Knox. He's courting her already!

Moving the crib into her room made the nursery feel very, very real. Up until now, it just felt like decorating. Pretty soon there will be a baby sleeping in this crib! That's going to be the sweetest thing of all!

More room pics to come very soon.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

City Life Magazine: May Column

(I write for a local monthly publication called City Life. I know some of you don't live near me, so I want to start sharing these columns with you here, too. You can click here to flip through the pages of the publication, or just read my article below. This was my column for May.)

For my column this month, I thought it would be fitting to write about one of the most remarkable women in my life, my mother-in-law Margaret. I've written about her on the blog before, but this expands a little more on what makes her so special in my life.

Happy Mother's Day to Margaret and all the other moms in my life!

A Mom For All Seasons

I was a Mother’s Day baby, born in 1981 at Schumpert Medical Center on the day before Mother’s Day.

Growing up, each year that my birthday rolled around, it was celebrated hand-in-hand with Mother’s Day. There was cake and ice cream and gifts exchanged, but I always liked that it wasn’t just for me. It was a weekend that we celebrated all the women in my family. Moms, aunts, cousins, sisters and grandmothers were all honored in unison over one Brookshire’s butter cream sheet cake. I never minded sharing my birthday cake with such a wonderful group of women.

In the years since, I’ve learned that life provides all types of mothers. There are the mothers we’re born to, the grandmothers, aunts and family members who mother us along the way, and there are the other special women we acquire as mother figures throughout our lives.

One of the best parts about marrying the guy I did is the loving family I inherited with him. They would do anything for me and Ty, and effortlessly toe the line between being involved and overbearing. Many people don’t mesh so easily with their in-laws, but this has never been a challenge for me as I became a part of Ty’s family.

At the center of this wonderful family is my mother-in-law, Margaret. She’s the mother-in-law that a new bride hopes for. She’s thoughtful, generous, loving … and has her own monogramming machine!

Margaret is so petite that you may never realize how strong she truly is. But this year, we learned that strength comes in many sizes. Even in petite, athletic women like Margaret.

Right around Thanksgiving, Margaret was diagnosed with anal cancer. It didn’t seem possible. Margaret is the picture of fitness. She’s a fixture in the local running community, nevermind the additional yoga, Pilates and spin classes she teaches almost every day of the week.

And while I know cancer does not discriminate between age and health, it is difficult news to digest when someone lives such a healthy lifestyle and is diagnosed with such a monumental illness.

Over the course of six weeks, Margaret underwent chemotherapy and radiation. In the midst of her battle, she would text me to ask how I was feeling throughout my first trimester. It was a conversation we had many times, and each time I would think, “At a time like this, who really cares about how I’m feeling?”

I would always respond and ask Margaret how she was feeling, and even in her sixth week of treatment, when I knew she was exhausted and enduring physical pain, she would only say that “she was feeling a little tired.”

I guarantee there are people acquainted with Margaret who never knew she was undergoing cancer treatment. At certain times, I wondered why she didn’t mention it more. Surely, if I were put in similar circumstances, I would be coming unglued at the seams.

But I’ve rarely seen someone exhibit such grace in the midst of personal tragedy. That’s one of the things I love most about Margaret. She loves those around her selflessly, even if it takes every ounce of energy she’s got.

Nevermind the fear I’m sure she felt. Nevermind her physical pain and exhaustion. She was doing her best to shelter those she loves from her reality.

We were so blessed to receive good news several weeks ago that Margaret was officially cancer free. Other than annual check-ups, she could get back to her normal, active lifestyle. We never considered what the other option might be, but I know our family, and this world, needs someone who loves people the way Margaret does.

I love how she’s such a loving mother to my husband, and how she loved me instantly simply because I was his wife. And I can’t wait to see how she loves our daughter, too.

This Mother’s Day, I’m especially thankful for the mother I acquired through marriage, and the lessons I’ve learned just through being an observer of her life, in tragedy and triumph.

At my table, there’s always a piece of butter cream sheet cake to share with extraordinary women like Margaret.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Our Visit with Landry

I spent this past weekend driving more than 12 hours to do this.

It was totally worth every second. Baby Landry is actually my second cousin (I think) ... but in my family, we consider her my niece. She is such a sweet little girl who seems so attentive to everything going on around her. She doesn't want to miss a second of the action.

I tried not to hold it against her that she seemed to prefer Aunt Ashley.

Maybe my big earrings were scary?

We had such a good time cuddling, playing and participating in baby bath time, but we also crossed a few adventures of our list during the journey.

On our way there, we stopped in Fayetteville for dinner at Doe's. This was enough to put me over the moon, however soon after this picture was taken, we ordered more fries. I've never been so content.

We paid a visit to the original Wal-Mart, the Walton's 5-10. It wasn't too exciting, and I think I may have said while on the premises that I hate Wal-Mart ... but it was something to cross off the bucket list. FYI, Walton's is located in downtown Bentonville. You will not find it in downtown Rogers. Believe me, I tried. All of those Northwest Arkansas towns bleed together and sometimes you just end up in the wrong downtown.

And finally, what would our trip have been without a souvenir for Tilly? She got this adorable little outfit for next spring, and particularly for pictures with the Easter Bunny. We have a certain affection for him since Ty used to dress up as the bunny for all the church kids.