Garth Brooks at the Wynn

 us. before the show. november 2012.

I just couldn't end my chapter on Vegas without sharing not only one of the highlights of our trip, but one of the neatest experiences of our lives.  Many would characterize Vegas with its casinos, its over-the-top hotels, and its three-foot drink glasses, but Beau and I developed a love for the food and the amazing lineup of shows on the strip.  In what seems like a two-mile radius, you have the likes of Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsey, and Emeril Lagasse, and shows for every age, every taste, and every mood.  When we first decided to go to Vegas, we scoured the lineup of shows and dreamed about eating at one of our culinary idols, Bobby Flay's, restaurant.  And thanks to our friends, Kyle and Jen, who offered rave reviews of Garth Brooks' weekend show at Wynn, we went out on a limb and booked two tickets for one of country music's all-time greatest performers.

Little did we know that two weeks later, Garth would announce that our weekend would be the last show he would perform at Wynn.

To say this news upped the ante of our expectations is an understatement.  While we both grew up loving Garth Brooks' music, we now got to be part of one of the last shows of this man's career.  While we considered selling the tickets for gambling money (this crossed our mind for 2.5 seconds), we looked forward to this truly once-and-a-lifetime experience of seeing Garth on stage.

Most fans of Garth Brooks know him as a gifted performer, and remember his concert for nearly a million people in Central Park, slamming guitars on the stage and running around flames singing 'Standing Outside the Fire.'  I think this image of Garth is what made the setting for his show at the Wynn so amazing.  An intimate auditorium, with maybe around three hundred seats, surrounding a single stage, a single spotlight, and a single stool for the entertainer himself.  The show was 2 hours and 45 minutes of Garth, his guitar, and the songs and influences that shaped his career.  He played everything from George Jones, to Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, and Bob Henley, and connected the songs in his own repertoire to these songs that influenced so much of music.

As he played his songs and his influences, and told stories of growing up, he sent his audience on a time warp, remembering the stories and influences that shaped our paths as well.  And most of all, he brought music alive in that auditorium in ways I've never really experienced.  My favorite songs included his version of Shameless, and his version of Dylan's To Make You Feel My Love.   

I'm not sure there are any other performers whose audiences and fans knowing every single word to nearly every single song of Garth's.  It's something that makes him unique and powerful.  Singing songs like 'Unanswered Prayers,' 'The Dance,' and 'That Summer,' a capella with the crowd, while Garth stood on the stage with his eyes closed, listening to the sounds of his own influence spread throughout the crowd, was something I will never forget.  In a way, we were his last evidence of that, the last choir of voices to emphasize his great music and great influence.  Beau and I sang our hearts out, and had so much fun together.                

Vegas, Cont. (and omg, Sherman Alexie!)

Me (nervously inching my way closer, attempting to not look like a psychopath stalker with my Canon Rebel and goofy excited smile): "Hi Sherman, I know this sounds cheesy, but you are like totally my literary idol."
(kicking myself for how stupid I sounded)
Sherman (poised, confident, equally goofy): "Wow, that's really cool, and you are like really pretty."
1, 2,, click, click. 

This pretty much encompasses the ten seconds I had with Sherman Alexie, award-winning author and producer of movies like Smoke Signals, and books that include one of my all-time favorites, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianSo when the NCTE National Convention announced that Sherman would join the lineup of luncheon speakers that included Lemony Snicket, Nicholas Sparks, and David Shannon, I knew I had to see him speak.
I attribute much of what became my teaching practice to Sherman Alexie.  It was the summer before I started my first teaching job, and I remember sitting on the living room floor surrounded by old college notebooks, literary anthologies, and the course textbook, not having a clue how to start building a yearlong curriculum that was challenging, engaging, and edgy for my students.  I could imagine this American Literature course in my head --- students writing from the depths of their souls, taking part in rich, intellectual discussions about life, philosophy, and humanity, and discovering newfound knowledge through complex reading assignments. I, like most new, idealistic teachers, had Freedom Writers in my head --- I just didn't know the first thing about how to get there.

And then I read True Diary.  A semi-autobiographical account of Sherman's life growing up on a poverty-stricken reservation in Spokane, Washington.  As a freshman in high school, Sherman (or Junior in the book) decides that in order to make something of himself, he would need to leave his reservation school and attend the larger, middle class white school in Spokane.  This decision sent Sherman on a quest to discover his true self, caught between two worlds that didn't accept him.  Viewed as a traitor on his reservation, and an outcast at the white school where he says that he "and the mascot are the only two Indians in the school," Sherman learns the power that community expectations have on our identity, and seeks to write his own story instead of accepting the one already written for him.

This book led me down a path that helped ignite a curriculum centered on a questions, talk, and relevant, authentic purpose.  I used essential questions like "How do we overcome stereotypes in order to be ourselves?", and "What are the benefits and costs of advancement in our society?" to shape my unit instruction, and blended classics like Thoreau's, Walden, with 'Into the Wild,' and Sherman Alexie with The Breakfast Club.  
The wonderful thing about Sherman Alexie's writing is that it is real.  I know this now because I've seen him speak.  He is the same person in his writing that he is when he is speaking to a room full of English teachers.  He mixes humor with insight, and will have you tearing up from laughter and tearing up from sadness within one story.  I guess it was fitting because, really, "laughing and crying are pretty much the same thing."
Sherman talked about the power of stories, and that the key to writing a good story is being aware of the world around you.  That sometimes, we just need to 'shut up and pay attention,' and look for the small details that tell bigger stories.  He was humble, but passionate, and thanked the teachers for bringing his story to life for the students in the trenches.  "My books," he said, "are simply words on a page, but it's you that breathes life into these texts for your students."      
This was my experience with Sherman Alexie.  I laughed, I cried, and I felt motivated to be proud, to be aware, and to be real.  

Tweed, Jeggings, and Getting Caught Taking Pictures

Okay, here's what happens every time we take outfit pictures. I peek outside and make sure none of our neighbors are outside, Chase grabs the camera, we run outside and take pictures as fast as we can, and run back inside, hoping that nobody spotted us. For some reason I feel really vain and awkward having my husband take almost daily pictures of me in full view of the neighbors. 

The day we took these, we got two pictures taken, and then a neighbor man a few doors down walked on the porch to smoke. I caught Chase's attention and whispered "abort, abort!" and we walked quickly inside and avoided eye contact. 

Ha, we're so lame. So you get two outside pictures, and one inside picture today. :)
I'm not sure what I was looking at here. Probably trying not to fall over. Haha, just kidding.
I'm such an expert at walking in these shoes. You wouldn't even believe it. 

Outfit Details:

Boots -- Target $15
Shirt -- H&M $5
Belt -- Salvation Army $1
Jeggings -- Kohls (gift)
Coat -- Salvation Army $4.06

Total Cost: $25.06

Book review of the book "Expat Alien" by Kathleen Gamble

I am so happy that there are third culture kids out there writing books and telling us their story. Kathy Gamble not only grew up abroad but also followed suit. She married a Russian American, moved to Moscow and raised their son there. As an expat parent she raised their cross-cultural kid in Russia.

I met Kathy online through her blog Expat Alien. She has written her memoir "Expat Alien, My Global Adventures".

Her parents moved to Burma in the 1950's and that's where Kathy was born. Due to her father's job in Third World agriculture with the Ford Foundation the family moved to Mexico, Colombia and then to Nigeria. At thirteen years of age she goes to boarding school in Switzerland. She likes the school better than the one she attended in Texas for a while. In Switzerland "I felt like I could breathe" she writes. Kathy describes life at boarding school. The food was generally bad and you did not get to choose who you lived with.

While she was at boarding school in Europe she travelled the continent from Venice, Florence in Italy to Paris and London. She learned to ski in St Moritz. Actually wherever she was she travelled. "I used to run into people I knew a lot in airports and museums around the world".

The book gives insight into the life of a third culture kid. Kathy survived a plane crash, an earthquake and a military coup but to her her life was normal. It was only when she moved to California to start college that she discovered that the other girls didn't like her stories of her life abroad. They thought she was bragging or lying. Her first year was very difficult, she suffered from a "reverse" culture shock. I can really identify with this part of the book because my experience was very similar to Kathy's. I went to university in the Netherlands but had a similar experience. Kathy starts to wonder whether there is something wrong with her. During the years in America she never got over the feeling that she was different.

While living in Moscow, in her forties she discovers what global nomads are and that they are also called third culture kids. It was her "aha" moment, this was what she had been looking for. She says that she is not from anywhere. She is a third culture kid, from everywhere and nowhere.

The book is a great read for anyone who grew up globally or parents who are raising third culture kids. If you just enjoy travel and adventure stories then I am sure the book will appeal to you too.

Related Posts:
Interview with author Heidi Sand-Hart of "Home Keeps Moving"
Book review of Expat Teens Talk
New mentoring Program for Expat Teens
Book review of the Globalisation of Love by Wendy Williams


"Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life."

-Brian Andreas 


Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are less than one month from Christmas.  I was starting to think my trip to Vegas had put a damper on my holiday cheer, as it was a bit of a whirlwind being out of the state and away from Cruz, our home, and my job longer than normal, but, this wonderful little weekend at home proved to be just what I needed to fall full-fledged into this season of open fires and marshmallows and carpet picnics and baby mangers and Bing Crosby and ornaments and Charlie Brown trees and Holiday Hooplas and cocoa and shopping and mittens and...

Well, I could go on forever.

I love Thanksgiving for many reasons --- the turkey, the stuffing, the pie, the football, the napping, the leftovers...but I think there are things about this quiet little prequel to Christmas I love even more than the food itself.  

I love this long weekend for its tradition.  For the last couple of years, we have stuck to a similar plan for our special days at home --- an opportunity to ready our home for the Christmas season, practice cozy comforts of the season of hibernation, and soak up an opportunity to slow down and truly 'live in' our home.  Too often it seems our home gets taken for granted.  It is a place that provides necessary shelter and warmth, yet we come and go as we please without taking time to truly appreciate its uniqueness and live in its comfort with keen awareness.  Every home is a testament of one's story, a backdrop to the fabric of family, a dwelling place. 

Our house was 'lived in' this weekend.  Whether it was a family-style breakfast in our pajamas, dancing around the Christmas tree to Feliz Navidad, or curling up in a pile watching movies in front of our first fire, we seemed to use every inch of our space and soak up its comfort and quiet familiarity.  And while our very lived-in space didn't quite resemble the Martha Stewart inspired Thanksgiving spread I saw on The Today Show, I oftentimes stopped myself this weekend to remember that this year, this holiday season, this very 'lived-in', slightly messy house, is our snapshot into this season of our life.  It's real, its raw, and its not always pretty, but its uniquely ours and so, so precious because it can't ever be replicated in the same way. 

A holiday season doesn't approach without me thinking about years past, especially the last two with Cruz.  I think back to the first two months of his life, still on maternity leave, spending afternoons at the mall Christmas shopping with this little bundle in a stroller and spending nights curled up on the couch, watching movies and snuggling this blessing, and feeling so overjoyed with love.  I think back to last year, a little boy just beginning to walk, pulling at Christmas tree branches and standing on ornament boxes, not quite understanding the meaning of it all but relishing in the happiness and togetherness and warmth of being home.  As I think back to those memories, I have such a mix of bittersweet emotions - sad that they have passed, but so excited about what's in store for our future.  The days seems so fleeting sometimes.

I think that's why I'm a lover of traditions.  Traditions provide a comforting sense of sameness to this fleeting life --- something to hold on to while the rest of the puzzle changes as we age and grow and explore new places and new territories.  These traditions become mile markers in our histories, and like an old symbol of home or an uncovered family memento, these traditions are always welcomed with a sense of comfort, anticipation, and excitement.

Our home was 'lived in' this weekend.  

It was lived-in with a Thanksgiving breakfast tradition.  Homemade cinnamon rolls, a cup or two of joe, and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.


It was lived-in with a very special tree trimming, uncovering our favorite ornaments from our childhoods, our first few years together, and our first special Christmas with Cruz.  Cruz was excited about the boxes of breakable ornaments, but was more content standing on the end table beside the tree and shaking his booty to the Christmas music that played while we trimmed. 


It was lived-in with hot cocoa stirred with candy canes, peppermint marshmallows, and our first fire of the season. 

It was lived-in with my favorite garland on the mantle and three stockings on the staircase.

It was lived-in during a Saturday night movie night, camping out under the Christmas tree watching Arthur Christmas with our own little elf nestled in between us.

It was lived-in with late nights, lazy mornings, breakfasts in bed, and that welcomed feeling of not setting an alarm until Monday.

It was lived-in during quiet afternoons, sometimes napping, sometimes wrapping (think bows, not Jay-Z), and sometimes just being still.  Reading books, writing Christmas lists, or admiring how nice the house looks with its Christmas sweater on. 

It's growing colder outside, and it seems every morning I'm finding new layers to add to Cruz before we head out the door for another day.  And while a part of me misses those warm afternoons at the park or the pool, the season of hibernation is upon us and I'm ready to dwell in the comforts of our home.            

Squatting on the Potty for a Healthy Body (Video)

So I'm not talking about literally squatting on the potty, attempting to balance with your feet on the rims...that would be difficult and probably not very safe! I am talking about squatting on the potty with the help of a step-stool type device called a Squatty Potty, which you use when you're having a bowel movement. Bam! There it is. That's what we're talking about today...poop, fecal matter, excrement, you name it...we're talking about it. I'm going to keep it clean and stick with calling it a bowel movement, but if the talk of this makes you squeamish, then this post might not be for you.

Chances are though this post may help you. Since pooping/bowel movements are something that EVERYBODY does, you could probably benefit from hearing about the "squatting revolution  that's going on right now.

What is it?
The idea is simple, anytime you are going to have a bowel movement, you opposed to sitting in a normal toilet-style sit, and as a result your body gets healthier in a number of ways. The squatting position is created with a step-stool style device, which elevates your feet.

Why would I want to squat?
Traditional toilets have it all wrong when it comes to posture. Did you know the original toilet was designed by a watch maker? Later it was improved upon by a cabinet maker...and although they made the toilets look nice...they did not have our digestive anatomy in mind.

When we sit on a toilet in the traditional way our anal canal is at 90 degrees, which just so turns out to be counterproductive to helping us get bowel movements out. In this position, our anal canal is kinked....almost like a garden hose, not allowing bowel movements to pass through.  This is a good thing since it keeps us from "going" while we sit and work on the computer or eat dinner at the table.

Traditional toilet, all wrong. 

Unfortunately when we take on this position at the toilet  our bowel movements are more difficult to get out. Sometimes we have to strain or push...thus causing uncomfortable things like hemorrhoids or stress on our pelvic floor muscles.

This is where squatting comes in...
Since the beginning of time, humans have been squatting to have a bowel movement. They didn't have fancy, upright toilets and yet they got the "job" done just fine. They also didn't have the issues that burden our health today like hemorrhoids, constipation, and colon cancer. Could toilets be the smoking gun? A possible source to point our finger at when looking to the source of our ailments? While it's certainly not the answer to all the problems, it can certainly help.

Doing a yoga squat.

I do yoga a lot and when I was pregnant with Avery I made sure to practice squatting daily. I found that this not only helped prepare me for birth, but it also helped me see how beneficial the posture can be for going to the bathroom...lovely I know.

Now I don't know about you, but I'm not about to abandon my toilet and start "going" in a hole in my backyard for every bowel movement just for the name of "health"! Lucky for us there's an easier solution...a Squatty Potty.  This simple device that looks similar to a step stool, slides conveniently under your toilet seat when not in use and when you're ready to have a bowel movement, you simply pull  it out, elevate your feet, and let it "slide"...literally!

Feet up on the Squatty Potty.

I purchased the ECCO Squatty Potty on Amazon for $40. I got the ECCO version that is 9 inches high. They have a variety of other styles too like bamboo and their "classic style". I'm sure there are other squatty-like products out there but this is the one I have the most experience with so that's what I'm sharing with you today.

Personal benefits that I've noticed since using the Squatty Potty are:
1. More of a bowel movement (larger amount because the bowel can completely empty)
2. Less time on the toilet (anal canal is completely open so the you don't have to strain, push, or wait around)
3. Decrease in bloating (less excrement remaining in the intestines means less bloating for you)
4. Less toilet paper (with the Squatty Potty, bowel movements empty right out, so there is not much to wipe. Even better, you don't have to make multiple trips to the bathroom, since you can empty out the first time thus equaling less toilet flushes.)

Other benefits as cited by the Squatty Potty website include:

  • helps avoid constipation
  • ends hemorrhoids
  • prevents colon disease
  • strengthens the pelvic floor

One more thing I love about the Squatty Potty is that it slides under the toilet nice and easy.

The Squatty Potty slides
under the toilet easily.

See the Squatty Potty in action (well, not literally) in this week's video...

Don't have a Squatty Potty?
Get resourceful. I used to use a laundry basket flipped upside down. You could also use a box, small trash can or whatever you can find that helps get your knees up above your hips.

Laundry basket can work to create
the "squat" if needed.
Additional tips:

  • When "squatting" try to get your knees above your hips as much as you can and bring your abdomen forward to your thighs. This really enhances the squat without you having to lift your bottom off the toilet seat.
  • Still having trouble with constipation? Start your day with a glass of warm water with the juice from half of a lemon like I mention in this post, then when you feel things moving along have a seat on the Squatty Potty and see if that helps solve your problem. It usually gets the job done!

Want to learn more? Check out this awesome video by the Squatty Potty company. I found the graphics and information very helpful!

So there you have it, the talk about "bowel movements" is complete...yeah! What do you think about "squatting on the potty"? Would you be willing to try or is it just too strange for you? Or are you an avid "squatting" fan? Share your experiences below!

Happy squatting!
*Disclaimer: I purchased this product with my own money and this is my honest opinion of it.*
Recently this blog post has been linked up to:


Until tonight, I never knew the joy that would come with that first poop in the potty.

Way to go, Cruz Man!  Or as Dad would say, "you are now ready to go to camp." 


The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

On Mondays I'm going to start linking up with Kate at Classy Living. I'm not a huge fan of link ups, but this one actually is really cool. And Kate's a really cool person in real life. It just seems like a good match. :)

The Good: My sister has an awesome lifestyle blog, but she had to make it private because of some privacy issues. So since I adore blog design stuff, I made her a new blog at a different address, which will hopefully stop the problem. Her kids are freaking adorable, so you guys should check it out (unless you're a psychobitch, in which case please don't.)

The Bad: Thanksgiving Dinner was delish. But I guess I'm not used to eating so much rich food, because I spent all night and the next day sick. Fun. It was worth it, though. 

The Ugly: I love love love dancing, so on Thanksgiving afternoon, we played Just Dance. However, my love for dancing cannot erase the fact that I'm not so bueno at it. I was glad the only people watching were kids! By the way, this game is so much fun!
Now, all of you guys should write your own GBU and link up with Kate!

Classy Living

Franciscan Benediction

"May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.
- Franciscan Benediction

Who prays like this? I know I don't. But I wish that I did. So often I don't even pray because I don't know what to say. But maybe I need to pray for discomfort, for tears, and for anger. 

Finding Mercy or Sinterklaas?

Yesterday my brother phoned and asked me to accompany him to the film Finding Mercy at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (Idfa 2012). It's a film made by Robyn Paterson who grew up in Zimbabwe, it must have been about the time I grew up there too. Robyn moved to New Zealand and she starts to wonder what has happened to her friend Mercy. So she goes back to look for her. The history of Zimbabwe unfolds through Paterson's discoveries and encounters, and she is confronted with the decline of her homeland, the country she once loved so much. Robyn says: ""What I really wanted to do with this film was to engage viewers with the reality of what has happened in Zimbabwe. To provide a human face to the situation there."

Wow when my brother told me about the film I really wanted to see it. The only problem was that I had promised to take my daughter to the "intocht van Sinterklaas" (the arrival of Saint Nicolas in our town) today. So I had to choose, sometimes when you have promised a child something as a parent you have to just keep your promise. So in the cold we went to see Sinterklaas. Toady I will have to be satisfied with the trailer of the film Finding Mercy. I will share the trailer with you too.

Sinterklaas arrived by boat and them continued his way by horse and carriage. 

Related Posts:
To or not to do: celebrate Sinterklaas Abroad
Rachel Abroad: The Arrival of Sinterklaas in Utrecht
Cultural Identity Confusion and Third Culture Kids
Marit's tip: The book "Blood Brothers" all about their friendship in Liberia

A Bright and Colorful Thanksgiving!

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I generally wear grey, brown, or black, and preferably all three. But when I found this skirt, I decided it would make the perfect Thanksgiving outfit. I originally searched my closet for a black or grey shirt to mute out the brightness of the yellow, but then I decided to take a fashion risk (for me) instead and wear something colorful and patterned. 

Pattern mixing, and color mixing. Guys, I am becoming a real-life fashion blogger here. Only kidding. I don't use the words "oxblood," "new casual," or "wholesome" enough, and I would rather chew my arm off than spend a paycheck on a shirt from Anthropologie. Plus I generally look at the camera rather than the ground in my pictures. Lame, I know.

But regardless, I really really like this outfit. Maybe my attempt at copycats actually served me well. :)

I hope you guys all had a great Thanksgiving! This was Chase's and my first major holiday away from both of our families. I thought it would be difficult, but we ended up going over to a family from church's house. They were great and the food was great and I played Just Dance with their kids for over two hours which was also great. It reminded me of being with my brothers and sisters. Then Chase and I continued my family's tradition of watching a Christmas movie the night of Thanksgiving. It was really nice. I'm glad we'll get to see our families for Christmas, though.

Outfit Details:

Skirt -- Forever 21 via Salvation Army $2.06
Shirt -- Mossimo via Goodwill $2.99
Belt -- some store in Spain for around $2
Tights -- WalMart $5
Flats -- Salvation Army $.96

Total Cost: $13.01