My big fat Greek wedding and holiday treks to Austin

Christmases and Thanksgivings in Omaha for me meant no fewer than 10-12 adults and at least five children of varying ages, smashed into a house that was probably all of 800 square feet (my maternal grandparents’ house on Spaulding Street) and maybe SLIGHTLY bigger at Grandma Kramer’s house on 49th Street, just up the street from Gorat’s steak house (or, as my deaf Grandpa called it:  “Go-Rats”.  Very appetizing.)

The one kitchen table would be laden down with too much food and acted as the buffet once it was time to eat.   The kitchen barely had enough room for one person to turn around, let alone three or four women all trying to juggle hot dishes coming out of the oven and managing the saucepans bubbling on the stovetop.  The kitchen table being otherwise occupied meant everyone was eating from plates balanced on laps or, if you were lucky, you got use of a metal TV tray that was just a whisker away from being toppled by an errant toddler or finally folding over on its own rickety legs that were bent and misshapen from having been stuffed in a closet the other 364 days of the year.

And while Christmas was usually cold in Omaha, the doors and windows were always open – partially to let out some of the heat from the ovens and the bodies, but also to let in some fresh air to clear the Pall Mall haze that hung three feet from the ceiling (HELLO … it was the 70s.  EVERYBODY smoked.  I also miraculously survived getting to said grandparents’ house without benefit of a car seat, or even a seat belt, and I’m here to tell the tale.)

But I loved those holidays, and playing with cousins that I seldom saw the rest of the year.  I remember playing Monopoly with my cousin Laura under the kitchen table, because setting up the board anywhere else meant we were in somebody’s way.  Going to Grandma Kramer’s meant great anticipation to see Kellie, Dee Dee, and Billie Jo who were from far far away (when you’re five, Iowa seems very very far from Omaha), and pestering Uncle Bill and Aunt Karol to please please PLEASE play Mousetrap with us?  (Especially after we ventured into Grandma’s very creepy basement to get it out of that dank, dark closet with the one lightbulb on a pull string …)

Childhood holiday memories for Skip are very different than mine.  Skip’s parents divorced when he was very young, and he was raised by his mother and his maternal grandparents.  While his dad remarried, gaining Skip step-siblings and eventually a brother, Skip was raised as an only child – and his mother was also an only child.  So  holidays with his mom’s side of the family meant small, quiet get-togethers.  Those times he did spend with his dad’s extended family came with some guilt and angst from being with one side of the family over the other, so that tempered some of the joy and excitement he might’ve otherwise felt.

The first time Skip experienced a Kramer gathering, it was a bit of a shock.  It’s wasn’t quite Toula and Ian, but having come from different families and traditions, it was different.  There were a lot of people, a lot of chaos, a lot of laughter and a LOT of snarkiness.    We’re the family that sat around one beautiful summer day and played word association … my cousin Shelly said ‘bugs’, cousin Nikkie said ‘annoying’, Aunt Sharon said ‘mother’.  Grandma Kramer was next up and not surprisingly, the game came to an abrupt halt.  And while Grandma was NOT amused, the rest of us laughed ourselves into tears.  Underneath all of that snarkiness and laughter is a lot of love for one another, but to an outsider … we do take some getting used to.

So now we’ve got our only child of an only child, and the roles are a bit reversed:  while my brother has married, there are no Kramer cousins, but down in Austin there are three sets of aunts and uncles and any family gathering brings as many as seven cousins of varying ages.  The Austin houses are bigger, meaning everyone actually gets to eat at a real table, but in spite of the bigger kitchens, everyone is still in the way of pulling something out of the oven or off of the stovetop.  There’s no smoke haze over dinner, but the joyous noise and chaos are the same – and there’s still too much food.   The best part now is that Katie gets to make her her own memories.  Looking for Grandma Betty Jo’s money-loaded Easter eggs in the yard, and Uncle Kip walking in, dressed as the Easter Bunny.  Jumping on the trampoline with the rest of the cousins, and saying good-bye even as she’s counting down the days until the next visit.  Skip understands, now, what my childhood memories are made of, and we’re both grateful to the extended family in Austin that gives Katie that opportunity for joyous noise and chaos.

The good things never change.

Don’t blink, you’ll miss it

Every once in a while I have a moment where I’m engaged in something with Katie and I feel like someone hit the fast forward button on my DVR.  Just some little thing she says or does makes it seem like she leapfrogged, exponentially, in her development, and I how did I miss the steps between the ground floor and the penthouse?  A lot of times it’s something  she says – a turn of phrase or a new vocabulary word – that will make me stop and wonder:  where did THAT come from?

We just got back from a walk around the neighborhood – well, I walked; Katie was on her scooter.  Just yesterday she was out on the same scooter, right foot planted solidly on the cross bar and left foot never stopping:  pushpushpush.  She’d wobble a little but that left foot never joined its pair up on the scooter platform – it just did its constant pushpushpush with the sidewalk, up the street and back down again.

Today, suddenly, it’s pushpushpushGLIDE …. pushpushpushGLIDE.

Several years ago, when Katie was between one and two, we were at the dealership waiting on car service.  Since Katie had just gotten her own wheels, so to speak, being a new walker, I let her roam the showroom while we waited.  At every car, Katie had to stop, get in the drivers seat, and pretend to drive.  She’d do that for a few minutes, then I’d say, “Time to go, Katie”, and she’d hop out, little legs propelling her onto the next car.

We were sitting in a convertible when a man with his teenaged daughter stopped.  He looked at his own daughter, and he looked at Katie, finally locking eyes with me.

“Don’t blink,” he said.  “You’ll miss it.”


My backseat … where goldfish go to die

As much as I’d like to take credit for the title, I can’t – saw it on a blog elsewhere.  But oh how it sums up the state of my car.

We bought the MDX when Katie was just two or three months old.  The key criteria in purchasing an SUV in those days was ensuring the big honking travel stroller system would fit into the back end, leaving room for other things (groceries are sorta important, some days).  In hindsight, we should have realized any stroller THAT FREAKING BIG was just asking for trouble – trying to manhandle that monster every time we went to the mall  ended up being an exercise in futility and frustration (it folds in a SNAP they said … never mind that it weighed three times as much as Katie).

I actually spent time this afternoon vacuuming my own car.  All in all it wasn’t in horrible shape, but there were dried out raisins (I know, how is a raisin ever NOT “dried out”), broken crayons, crumbs galore, and yes, sad little remnants of cheddar cheese goldfish, rotting away in the floor mats.  Going through this exercise made me think of my own parents, who kept their cars spotless – I remember many a Saturday afternoon my dad would wash and wax the Nova (yes, we were that cool).  I’m sure that every time we pick my parents up at the airport, and my dad’s loafers grind yet more goldfish into the floor mats and my mom moves the broken, paperless crayons out of the seat so she doesn’t end up with a rainbowed backside, they wonder where they failed me.

But all of that grime and gunk comes from memories.  Countless trips to Colorado, Nebraska, and Austin – to see family, friends, and football (not necessarily in that order).  Katie snoozing in her carseat, watching movies, playing on the iPad.   And yes, Katie eating and drinking, contributing to the detritus on the floor boards.  We changed a more than a few diapers in that car and, famously, Katie once puked from Wichita to the Nebraska-Kansas state line.

The MDX has ferried groceries, mulch, and softball equipment as part of its household chores.  It also shuttled a good amount of our belongings as we moved to an apartment and then to our current house.  It put on a lot of miles as it ran around town, took us on our adventures, and shuttled me back and forth to work  The MDX’s days as the Harris family car are about over; she’s got 130K miles and every time I go in for an oil change, there is ALWAYS something else that requires attention (and, seemingly, at least another $250).

But I’ll miss that car when it’s gone, dead goldfish and all.


And this child will one day choose my nursing home

A while back, I bought a book of games for Katie – tic-tac-toe, hangman, stuff like that.  Something other than an iPad or phone to keep her occupied while at dinner, and something that actually encourages some interaction with us (why yes, I am spraining myself patting myself on the back with that one).

It also includes ‘fortune tellers’, which Katie has long made, but always on her own and never with anything in the middle.  Which I guess means you get to make your own future … very wise, very wise …

However, the fortune tellers in this little book are mostly already completed with the four main corners being “Lucky”, “Cursed”, “Charmed” and “Doomed”.  For whatever reason the creators of this little doohickey decided to have children fill in the blanks under DOOMED and CURSED.  Here is what my lovely, thoughtful child penned:


  1. You will get hurt very whare
  2. You will die today


  1. You will get punched in the face
  2. You will get hit in the privets with a bowling ball

We’ll be sticking with golf and skiing, thanks.

Aaaaannnddd … she’s off

So daunting, staring at a screen, coming up with your first official “blog”.  Do I be funny?  Inspiring?  Sarcastic?  (Oh wait, that last one will just come organically to all posts.)


What inspires me to write?  I can’t say what one thing makes me sit down and start typing.  Periodically I just have ideas rattling around in my head that are clamoring to get out.  So, the blog gives me a vehicle to do just that – and if others read ’em and enjoy ’em, great, and if not, at least I’ve silenced the voice in my head that’s nagging me to write (the voice that constantly reminds me about the M&Ms in the pantry NEVER shuts up.  EVER.  Not even when fed.)

I do enjoy reading other blogs – some quite popular (Mommy Shorts, Snarky in the Suburbs, Scary Mommy are faves) and some from friends (OnHavingOvaries – yes, you, Alison; and Sievers Stories from Tracy, one of Katie’s teachers).   I don’t know what it is about reading those snippets out of another woman’s life – maybe just the commonality and the amazing beauty of it all – the giggles, the snuggles, the late nights, the worry, the puke, the heartache – all of it.  Motherhood is a sisterhood, cliche but true.

I do have to say a big fat THANK YOU to my dear spouse, Skippy (he’s made me promise not to call him “hubs”, so here I’ve done it once and I’m done).  He bought me a laptop for Christmas as encouragement to write.  He’s  also official tech support – while WordPress has some pretty exhaustive templates and tools, he’s figured out the whole hosting thing, he’s working the best way for y’all to log comments, and he’s messing around with the different tools and stuff here in WP – all of the junk that would drive me batty in about two minutes and have me cursing at my screen.   He started the framework and picked out the initial picture on the front page, and it was Skip who put “and crap about Skippy” in the banner.  I think that makes him fair game for future blogs, no?   Also, since he’s my tech support, if you have problems with the site you need to talk to Skippy, not me.

And thanks to Heather for suggesting “Jen’s Pen” and my friends who encouraged me … I just hope I don’t disappoint y’all!

Not sure how often I’ll be on here … whenever I need to appease the voices in my head, I guess!