Stop and Smell the Onions

It smells so bad, and yet, she can’t sniff away.
There’s been an experiment going on in our backyard, and I’m not talking about Martin’s reluctance to mow the grass.
A few weeks ago, Martin and Miss C decided to put an onion in the ground to see what would happen. No prep. No tilling the land. No waiting for a specific season.  They really just wanted to see if something as simple as burying a vegetable in dirt could be fruitful.
Would the earth just swallow it up and turn it into soil?
Would it grow more onions?
Would it just rot?
To find out, they took one from our kitchen and unceremoniously buried it next to our back fence.
And then they waited.
Every day, Miss C and Lola made a trip to our back fence to see if there was any progress. Of course, in the beginning, there wasn’t much to be seen. But you can imagine the euphoria that erupted the day they saw a sliver of green start poking through the dirt.
It kept growing, and eventually, the stalk blossomed a round bouquet of stinky-smelling flowers.

It’s a flower without the floral scent.
Martin and I were impressed, but baffled. What was this flower business? Didn’t onions come from the ground? What was this onion blossom? We could see some bulbs in the midsts of the petals on the top of the stalk. Those … those weren’t onions, were they? Was the blossom all that would grow?
I remembered once seeing asparagus blossoms in a restaurant as decoration. But onions?
Obviously, we’re not farm kids around here.
Ultimately, the stalk got too tall and the blossom got too heavy. During their afternoon inspection today, the girls discovered their stalk had toppled over, breaking away from its roots. They were initially upset by this, but then realized that the onion blossom was mobile now.
So they brought it into the house, where they waved the blossom in front of everyone’s noses: Jaz, Janah, Mom, Dad, the cats, and Patches der Hund. Not everyone was as pleased with it as they were, but we were pretty stoked that putting food in the ground did something.

Planting the next experiment. (Martin took all these photos, by the way.)
Of course, this inspired the girls to take a good look around our kitchen for more things to bury.
I love that a spur-of-the-moment activity from a few weeks ago has continued to hold their interest and curiosity. I love that they’re outside digging into the dirt with their hands, dreaming up of the possibilities. When we bought this house a few years ago, Martin and I talked about growing our own garden. We bought the books and packets of vegetables and flowers with the best of intentions.
But the two of us just never had the time as the seasons passed with the speed of light.
With two extra green-thumbs in the house, though, this season may finally see us being serious about a garden. It certainly seemed that way as the two of them searched for plantable food, holding up various items and making thoughtful suggestions of what they’d like to see as blossoms.
After awhile, Martin guided them over to our potato spuds.
After all, Nutella doesn’t grow on trees. Or does it??

Veedal Cocoon and the Grudge

She wasn’t very happy with me.

 

I finally put my foot down this evening, and colored Miss C’s hair back to her normal brunette. A few months ago, I agreed she could get some fire-engine red streaks in exchange for a hair cut. The streaks were perfect for her: adorable and sassy.

But artificial color like that fades. As she sat in the salon chair getting the streaks, I told her that when the color faded to orange-yellow, we were going to make them brown again. She agreed.

So this evening, armed with some scissors and drugstore hair color, I pulled up a chair in front of the kitchen sink and told her to sit down.

She wasn’t happy about it. Of course, she remembered our conversation. She stayed true to her end of the deal. But she did not like it, and she tried her best to sustain her grudge and pout during the whole process.

But there was one problem: she was no match for my alter ego, Veedal Cocoon the Hair Artist.

I’m not sure, but if Vidal Sassoon and Edna Mode birthed a child and she was raised by Tabatha Coffey and Julia Child, that child would be Veedal Cocoon.

I never broke character as I pulled on the gloves and mixed the solution. I gossiped about nonsense as I smeared the color on the orange-yellow streaks. (I just colored the strands, not her whole head.)

I asked if she was comfortable, if she wanted a magazine, tea, coffee, a mud pie. I made a huge show out of covering her with towels. I “freaked out” when the brown hair dye started to turn purple on my gloves, assuring her she mustn’t panic. I sang Disney movie songs — loud and off-key — telling her she would NEVER guess the correct movie.

The whole time, she tried to maintain her frown, but it just wasn’t working out for her. She wanted desperately to stay mad at me, but just couldn’t stop from laughing. Whenever it got too much for her, she either turned her head away or buried her chin into her shoulder to keep from giggling.

Finally, when it was time to rinse, I leaned her back, telling her to close her eyes.

“Now, I should warn you, I have zee problem with shooting water directly in zee clients’ faces. I mean, I’m working on it. Zee customers don’t tip as well when I do that. It’s been a good week, and all, but you know … so on the count of three ….”

That was it. She had to laugh. It was awesome.

By the time I was putting in the conditioner, Miss C was her smiling self, accepting of the idea that her red-orange-yellow streaks were going away. I think she actually enjoyed the shampoo and head massage, and didn’t protest at all when I took out the scissors to trim her hair and bangs, too.

Miss C will be nine years old this August. Those double-digit tween years are right ahead of us. I’m so excited to see what kind of young lady she will become, but I also know there will soon be days — okay, probably years — when she won’t find me funny or cool, especially when she’s mad, no matter how hard I try.

But fortunately, that wasn’t today.

When I blow-dried her hair, the color looked much better. The strands were very close to her natural color, although you could still see a hint of the red.

This pleased Miss C very much.

But, of course, dah-ling. Veedal Cocoon knows what she’s doing. For now.

Punking Our People

This is what we call a rickrolling success.

 

We punk’d our people. 

And by people, we mean YOU: our Julie and Martin readers.

You didn’t think we’d keep the practical jokes to ourselves, did you?

Since we can’t visit each of your homes create a life-size person out of your dirty laundry … or kidnap you to a foreign country … or throw Halloween props in your shower … we thought playing on your loyalty and pulling your heartstrings in the fashion of a cheesy TLC reality television intro would be a perfect April Fools Day prank.

And we threw in a little “rickrolling“, too. (You can trust that link. It takes you to the Wikipedia explanation and history of rickrolling.)

Once we decided how we were going to format the video, it was very easy putting it all together, although we couldn’t stop giggling.

We didn’t really know what to expect as we went to bed after publishing.

But we certainly didn’t expect such a jump in our numbers. In fact, it was brought to our attention that our server actually overloaded a few times during the day.

 

And a funny thing happened: most of those hits came from people who don’t normally read our Julie and Martin blog, or who don’t visit very often! And not only did our regulars visit Julie and Martin to read the news, but they came back to re-read it, or watch the video, again. Probably just to make sure it wasn’t real.

Our post about ending our blog has overloaded our blog server … again. We’ve been getting this screen every now and then since the morning, and in the past few hours, we’ve received a handful of panicked messages from readers who also got this screen and thought we totally went offline without fair warning.

In a clever twist, we realized some truths on the very day when truth is purposely suspended.

Truth #1: Creating a spoof video is pretty darn fun.

Truth #2: Watching the reaction unfold online was highly entertaining.

Truth #3: We felt flashes of guilt whenever someone immediately responded with heartfelt farewell messages before watching the video.

Truth #4: It was all worth it as people got the joke and laughed.

Truth #5: Our readership has the best sense of humor.

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Julie and Martin: The End of Our Blog

Julie and Martin, Julie Martin, Julie and Martin Blog

 

Martin and I always hoped that when the time to end this blog arrived, we would know it.

And we know it now. After 10 years, we’ve decided to end our blog. Of course, this may seem sudden, but it’s an idea we’ve been tossing around lately. We realize that we have many loyal readers — many who have been with us for years — and we know we owe you guys an explanation as to why we’re closing up shop.

So, we’ve made a video for you. We hope it’s a video that explains our decision, and reflects on the wonderful ride it’s been for all of us.

Just like we’ve told countless military friends as we’ve moved place to place … this is only goodbye for now.

 

And for those who are still not sure what all this means, this may also clarify some things HERE.

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Post edit on April 2014 – This was the post that crashed our blog. Read about how our numbers spiked and you guys showed you love us. You really really love us. 🙂

Things That Go Bump

 
Here’s something that I freely admit: I was 22 years old before I stopped hiding underneath my blankets during thunderstorms at night.

And when I say that I was hiding under my blankets, I mean it. I was burrowed underneath every layer with pillows stacked on top with my hands clamped over my eyes and my thumbs drilled into my ears.

I didn’t want to see it.

I especially didn’t want to hear it. I did this as a child. I did it as a teenager. I did it as a single Airman living by myself in my dorm in Germany. It wasn’t until the spring of 2003, when I was married and six months pregnant with Miss C, that I stopped. I remember the exact moment of my realization, too. I was in Ohio alone visiting my family at the time, sleeping in my parents’ guest room, when a violent Midwest storm whipped around the house.

I was terrified. I didn’t have enough blanket for adequate protection. I wanted my husband.

I wanted my parents.

I was just about to heft my big, pregnant self out of bed and go seek out my family when it dawned on me that I was about to become a parent myself in a few months, and I needed to suck it up and get over it.

So that was that.

Until now.

I’m no longer terrified of thunderstorms at night, but I do regularly jump out of my skin thanks to my kids and my pets.

Both make the strangest, most random noises throughout the night, and it terrifies me. I can’t prepare for it like I could during a thunderstorm, when the rain tipped me off to duck under the pillow.

Nope. It always seems to happen when the night is most dark and the house is most quiet.

I get a random yelp or scream.

I get the muffled conversations between them and whoever is appearing in their dreams. (That’s the most unnerving.)

I get the sound of footsteps coming from down the hall, thanks to my cats who are heavy enough to make the wooden floors creak.

I get doors slamming as the dog scampers around the house, chasing who-knows-what. (Ghosts? Probably.)

I get dolls dropping off the side of the bed as the girls kick them off in their sleep. It’s bad because Lola’s water baby is the weight of an actual baby. You can imagine how that causes me to bolt to the nursery, thinking Jaz somehow levitated up and out of his crib before plummeting to the floor. That is, after all, the most logical explanation of the noise immediately popping into my head.

And then there’s the absolute worst: when one my kids actually sleepwalks into our room and just stands next to the bed, staring at me with eyes open, but not really seeing anything.

Usually, I’m asleep when this happens. Something stirs me awake, and then BAM … I pop open my eyes and scream as my child stands there silent like a horror movie.

My scream usually startles her enough to speak, and it’s always the same: “Mom, can I sleep with you guys? I’m scared of the dark.”

No kidding, kid. So am I.

Come on in.

Adventures in Winter Wonderland

We made our delightful trek to a local mall to see Santa last night.Our children were precious, well-behaved angels who looked like they fell out of a Christmas catalogue as they waited to talk to ol’ St. Nick, and Martin was so charming, he wrote me a sonnet using fresh snowflakes as we patiently waited in line amongst the elves and helpers.

Or not.

Martin and I learned long ago that such evenings are about as real as … well … you know, and any expectation of such an evening is just a set up for failure. Especially when there are three kids, two harried parents and one stirring mouse involved.

Seriously – there was a mouse involved.

But more on that later …

Dinner before our visit with Santa
 

 

Truth be told, our kids were precious and well-behaved, but definitely in their own special ways.

Miss C, for example, was excited about everything. Really, really excited.

And when she gets really, really excited, she gets really, really loud.

“Mom! Look! Fake snow! Mom! Look! An ice princess!”

This was actually pretty endearing as we stood in line in the Winter Wonderland our local mall created for those waiting for the Man in Red. There were a few families in front of us, so the kids explored the giant snow globe and watched the videos of polar animals at the consoles that dotted the path.

At some point, though, Miss C started shouting, “Look, Mom! Mice!”

At first, I thought she meant there were mice as part of the winter wonderland scenery. You know, like cute white pet mice frolicking around in a plastic box or something. I acknowledged her exclamations as I played with Jaz, who did nothing, but smile and coo at those who admired his mini Santa outfit.

Meaning, I brushed her off since I do not like mice.

Even in a box.

But no.

 

There was a real, tiny mouse darting around the wonderland by our feet.

And no matter where it went, a really, really excited Miss C was there to give a play-by-play update to anyone standing around in a two-mile radius.

The mouse was freaked. The kids were impressed. The parents were amused.

The wonderland helper we notified was horrified.

Within minutes, a mall worker showed up, fluffing up the fake snow trying to find the critter with narration provided by Miss C. The worker eventually gave up, saying he’d have to return when the children were gone and he was better equipped, which I think was a polite way of saying … well, you know…

Meanwhile, Lola got bored watching for the mouse.

She much preferred to look at store display windows, or the Starbucks stand or the giant snow globe which sprinkled fake snow down on everyone.

Pretty much, anywhere that wasn’t the line.

Lola blessed us with 4.3 seconds of her attention for this photo…
 

But not this one! Oh, well. Still cute.
 

 

Fortunately, Martin was willing to follow her around, and while he was clearly not in any place to be writing me glowing proclamations of love in the fake snow, he would catch my eye every now and then, and point to the Victoria’s Secret next to the Winter Wonderland.

Pretty sure whatever he was implying would have put him on the naughty list.

That’s sweet in its own way, right?

After about 30 minutes of waiting like this, we finally gained passage to see Santa. Lola ran straight to him with open arms while Miss C confidently took her place next to him.

He immediately commented on Jaz’s outfit and asked if he could take Jaz back to the North Pole with him, but the big sisters declined with big, huge smiles, so obviously proud of their little brother.

Then they all smiled for the picture before telling Santa their wishes.

Such awesome kids. I think they made the nice list.
 
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So, what does a family do after a nice visit with Santa?

We went to get Lola’s ears pierced.

Lola’s wanted her ears pierced for as long as she’s realized Miss C wears earrings: she often tries to put on our earrings despite not having her ears pierced, a practice that is exasperating for the both of us. Miss C got her ears pierced when she was three years old. She, too, had expressed a strong desire for earrings, so we went ahead and got it done just a few weeks before I deployed. It was very quick and Miss C reacted for just a second, but she was lucky: there were two technicians who did it at the same time.

Last night, there was only one technician working, and she was concerned about having to do each ear one at a time.

In her experience as a solo technician, most three-year-olds didn’t react very well after the first piercing and parents often left the store with a screaming child and one earring.

But obviously, that wasn’t going to be my Lola.

My Lola’s a fearless little girl. This trait is terrifying when she decides to climb our stairway outside of the banister, but it comes in handy when it comes to ear piercing.

As Miss C and I hovered over her, explaining the process to her and offering encouragement, Lola just beamed at us. When it came time to actually get pierced, I took her head in my hands, locked eyes with her and smiled.

She sort of smiled back.

That is, until the sting of what just happened caught up with her and her face twisted up. She cried for a few seconds as I soothed her and others lavished praise on her.

I explained that the sting would go away soon, and we just needed to do that one more time and then we’d be done.

And so she took a gulp of air and climbed into the chair herself, stone-faced and ready to get the job done.

She cried a bit more easily after the second piercing, but just as quickly, she was over it. It was literally like a switch. As soon as I picked her up into a big hug and the technician held up the mirror, she was fine, rotating her head to admire the sparkly green jewels she picked out all by herself.
She was so proud, sporting a scarf and earrings just like her mom and big sister.
And we’re so proud of her.
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And just for fun, one more photo of Jaz in his Santa outfit.

 

                                               

Love You, Now Scream.

“Good morning, Martin. Fresh towel?”

 

Martin and I deeply love each other.

Specifically, we deeply love to scare the crap out of each other.

It’s how we show affection sometimes. Some people write cutesy love letters. Others think flowers and gifts, or warm nights spent embraced in front of a fireplace, communicate the good, sexy feelings of a solid relationship.

But Martin and me? Our love language is spoken best when the other screams like a girl and gets a little piss in the pants.

I suppose it started simple enough. You know, creeping up on the other to give a good poke in the ribs. Eventually, this evolved to jumping out of dark corners or closets. Sometimes I hovered my face right in front of his in the pitch black of night, being sure to breathe directly in his nose, until his eyes shot open with a gasp.

Usually, this did not faze him. But sometimes it did.

And those times? So worth it, because as much as one of us puts out effort to scare the other, equal or more effort is given by the other to deny a reaction: a fun, unending game that turned into war in June 2002.

That’s when Martin sic’d a stuffed man named Ed on me.

We were newlyweds, living apart in Germany because of our respective military obligations. He stayed at my apartment over the weekend, but I had to leave Sunday to escort media to Kosovo, and by the time I got home early Monday morning, he had returned to his German Army base four hours away.

But he left me a surprise. He took one of my uniforms, stuffed it with dirty clothes, made a head out of a trash bag, pinned a note on the chest and propped this “man” he named “Ed” in front of my door.

It was so eerily dark in my apartment hallway. I tried to move quietly so my landlord wouldn’t hear me in the lower levels. In a thin glint of moonlight, I saw that Martin left a simple post-it on the door, simply saying ‘Hi, Julie’ with a little arrow drawn on it. We often left little notes like that around the house, so I smiled and quickly opened the front door. I opened the door pretty fast, and standing right there in front of me was this large, ugly-looking man.

I never screamed like that before in my life. And I’m fairly certain I haven’t screamed like that since. And I can’t remember, but I may have wet my pants.*

Martin got me good. The gauntlet was thrown.

But I would have to wait almost 10 years to get my revenge.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Martin brought home two giant tubs of Halloween decorations which included these two giant skeleton women. As we have young kids, most of our Halloween decorations are pretty mellow so nobody gets nightmares. For that reason, I was a bit apprehensive about these two ladies, but Lola loved them immediately. Miss C hates them, though, so in an effort to soften them, I dubbed them twin sisters and gave them names, as we do our other decorations. They are Gwyneth and Penelope.

I decided Gwyneth is a bit of a snob with a weird accent while Penelope is shy, but good with children. Both just want to be loved and accepted. So since they’re going to be our houseguests until Halloween, they might as well be useful around the house.

And what better way to be useful than to offer my sweet husband a fresh towel for his shower first thing in the morning?  Fortunately, Gwyneth was very happy to help, especially when I told her about the kind stuffed gentleman who greeted me at the door so long ago.

Once Martin and the girls were zonked out in bed, I posted my intentions on my personal Facebook page (which garnered a lot of encouragement, poor Martin), arranged Gwyneth in the shower so Martin would see her first thing, put the video camera on my nightstand and went to bed giggling uncontrollably.

It. Was. Hilarious.

Obviously, I could not hold the camera steady because I was laughing too hard and trying desperately to stay quiet.

I couldn’t see what was going on, but when I heard Martin move the shower curtain, and the water turn on, I immediately assumed Martin was doing it again: denying me a reaction by using his stoic German stubbornness not to scream or laugh. I mean, why would he turn on the water with a giant skeleton in there? So I moved to confront him.

But then I saw his face.

And realized he hadn’t a clue. Which made it even more hysterical knowing Gwyneth was just standing there getting drenched.

I could barely breathe. By then, Martin knew something was up … and well, you know the rest.

So it was a bust. I did not scare the crap out of Martin. But darn it, I did amuse him. (And countless Facebook friends.)

And that’s another love language we speak very well, if I do say so myself.

Laughter.

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Since it was sooo much fun, we’re going to start posting some of Gwyneth and Penelopes misadventures around the house on our Facebook page, so check in and see what they are up, too.

*And the whole story about Ed and more photos can be found  HERE.

The Puppet Show

As I sorted through the many photos and videos captured the past two weeks, I decided this little clip needs a blog post all its own.
It was filmed by Miss C at the Cincinnati Museum Center last weekend, before Martin joined us for the holiday. I was in a crazy mood and decided to take the two girls by myself.

As I said … crazy.

But it ended up being a lot of fun.

I will write more about it (and post the pics) later, but in the meantime, enjoy the puppet show.

And when you are done watching the movie clip, go over and see what I posted over on BlogHer by clicking HERE.

It’s a blog post regarding my class for the upcoming BlogHer ’11 conference in San Diego. We’re down to the final weeks before this huge event, and I’m excited. Once the event planners and I conversed about the angle of my session, everything became clear. I feel very prepared.

But I’ll feel even better if you comment over there, too. So…. you know….. if you are a blogger and haven’t signed up yet for a free BlogHer account to comment, don’t hesitate! It’s a great network and online community. You’ll love it. I promise.

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And one more thing: just two more days until I’m done with this Air Force Reserve tour and we can go home. The girls will be together again. Patches der Hund will be able to sleep at my feet and I will be able to sleep with my husband in my own bed with my long body-pillow and scented pillow sheets! Two days never seemed so long!

Sweet Dreams. I’m Watching You.



Sometimes, I wonder who determines the decor in military hotels (also known as billeting).


Of course, I would never expect military accommodations to rival a Four Seasons resort. But who wants a giant, scary bald eagle staring down at you over your bed? 


I mean, who puts a poster like this RIGHT OVER the bed?


Those beady yellow eyes are watching me. I know it.


Sweet dreams!

Photo from the Top



As much as people complain about air travel (myself included), I really do think it’s a pretty amazing thing. 

Just a few hours ago, I was cutting up banana slices for Lola during lunch, and now I’m up here 30,000 feet in the air, trying to recreate one of former President Bush’s airplane photos (like this one or this one) as I fly to Ohio for my Air Force Reserve duty. Ah, the abilities of modern technology and flight.


What do you think? I think the vignette framing makes me look presidential….