Category Archives: family

Horror Movies: A Love Story

Song Lyric of the Day:

And then silence! It was a whole new day / I thought, “Huh, I wasn’t scared of him anyway.” / Until I noticed those rips in my sheets / And that was proof that there had been a nightmare, on my street

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince / “A Nightmare on My Street

It’s November now, time for my annual horror-movie detox. Not that I only watch them in October — I just watch more horror movies in October than during the other months. Really, watching horror movies is a year-round hobby. It’s just that October is our favorite month for me and my sisters to indulge in our love of all things horror. Why? Because we grew up watching it.

For us, horror movies were family time. Whenever the latest Friday the 13th would premiere on HBO (or whatever channel we watched them on), Mom, Dad, my sisters, and I would all be huddled together on the couch to watch. I have fond memories of my dad sweetly consoling my sister when she cried about the dog dying in Cujo, even though, let’s face it, Doggy had to go. I still laugh when I think about how my sisters and I were home during a storm watching Aliens when the power went out; I laugh because I left them yelling in the dark while I hauled ass downstairs (my bad). It was right when the Xenomorph rises up in the water behind Newt. Great timing, power outage! And I know — Aliens is technically a sci-fi movie, but only because it’s a horror movie in disguise.

I reveled in instilling what turned out to be a lifelong fear of clowns in my sisters thanks to a local TV guide cover that featured Pennywise, complete with sharp teeth, on it. Every night at bedtime I’d show them the cover and tell them that he was going to get them. The fun lasted for me until my mom caught me, rolled up the TV guide, and smacked the crap out of me with it.

Not scary, right?

Because this isn’t terrifying for kids to see at bedtime, right? #worstbigsisterever
Image found on via Google search

Of all the serial killers we watched slash their way through countless movies — and victims — Michael Myers from the Halloween franchise is our favorite boogeyman. My sister and I went and saw Halloween on opening weekend. Our verdict: good scares, great homages to all the sequels its timeline erased, and a fitting direct sequel to the 1978 original. Our other sister begged to differ.

I’d say Jason Voorhees is probably my second-favorite slasher-movie serial killer. There’s just something intrinsically terrifying about a seemingly unkillable killer running after you in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. Which is why when I’d go on Girl Scout camping trips, I’d always position myself in the middle of my troop on hikes. Why? Because if said campground boogeyman were to grab anyone, it’d be the ones on the outside, giving me a chance to run. (Issues, I got ’em.) I wish I had a photo to share with you of my mom’s expression when I told her that several years ago. That’s the only time I can recall her saying that maybe, just maybe, she shouldn’t have let me watch such scary movies at a young, impressionable age.

I don’t just enjoy slasher movies. Those can be pretty predictable and follow a typical horror-movie formula, and excessive gore does not equate fear for me. It’s just gross. There are some great ghost stories out there that don’t rely on gore or violence to scare the pants off a viewer. I watched The Woman in Black in the daytime and almost peed myself; don’t bother with the sequel, though, as it was pointless, not scary, and literally too dark to see for most of it. The Others was a beautiful haunted-house movie. The Changeling is terrifying with its mostly implied scares. And Spanish gothic-horror movies El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone) and The Orphanage (El Orfanato) manage to scare while also ultimately breaking your heart.

I’m glad my parents exposed me to horror movies at an early age, though. Even though most of those movies scared the crap out of me and my sisters, we always knew those things weren’t real. Those movies taught us the rules for how to stay safe — or at least how to survive in a horror movie. We learned to run out of the house, not back upstairs. Never be dismissive of weird, unexplained noises. Always keep the doors and windows locked. Work on your cardio so you can outrun even the fastest walker. Watch where you’re running so you don’t trip. Make sure your flashlight has fresh batteries. Keep your car properly maintained so it will always start. Don’t go investigate anything by yourself. Always, always go for the zombies’ heads (characters in zombie movies almost never figure this out in time). And NEVER, EVER leave the weapon behind.

Coraline — who I have not yet allowed to watch horror movies — once asked me why I love horror movies so much. I explained that for me, they’re like roller coasters and other thrill rides. It’s fun to know I can scare myself silly. And unlike a ride I can’t get off once it’s started, I can always hit pause on a movie and walk away if I need to.

True story.

Found on via Google Search

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Pattie and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Last Couple of Weeks

Song Lyric of the Day:

Won’t you help me sober up / Growing up it made me numb / And I want to feel something again

AJR / “Sober Up

Life has turned into a country song of late: my hubby got sick; Sebastian got diagnosed with yet another ear infection; my 10-year-old dog, Troubadour, got diagnosed with early kidney failure; and then we were in a car accident.

We had just left Costco the next-to-last Saturday in March when we got rear-ended. We were taking Kingston Pike home as I-40 has been a parking lot of late. We’d gone several blocks when, slowing to a stop at a red light, we heard a car skidding. I looked to my left (I was driving) since for some reason I thought it was that car that was skidding. Wrong. We got hit and it took a moment to register what had happened. I think Coraline started screaming; she was asking over and over, “Were we just in an accident?!?” I think I might have started screaming in between asking if everyone was OK. Sebastian started screaming in reaction to his mom and sister freaking out. Rich was yelling for us to calm down. The man who hit us freaked out when he realized we had kids in the car; I believe he really did feel awful about it. His 1990-something Ford Bronco, a nice steel behemoth, ended up with only a loose grill. Not even a ding. My Chrysler Town and Country minivan, on the other hand …


The liftgate took the brunt of the impact. The dinosaur sticker survived.

But it could have been worse. That’s what we keep telling ourselves. Rich and I have both had some neck and back twinges since, starting right there at the accident site for me. I’m still dealing with some anxiety driving the rental van while my van is being repaired. The back roads and I have become closer than ever since they are not as heavily traveled as Kingston Pike, Middlebrook Pike, or the interstate. Fewer cars means less chance of getting hit again, right? (Fingers and toes crossed.) Being in an accident, although minor (thank God), was a literal manifestation of the only recurring nightmare I have, one that started when we were living in Chesapeake. And it was so much worse when it actually happened because both our kids were in the van. But we’re OK. We’re OK. Most importantly, my babies are OK.

The van will be fixed soon (I hope), and we are now driving a rental van that doesn’t stink – literally. The Nissan Quest we got at first had not been properly cleaned, had only half a tank of gas, and reeked of cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke covered up with cheap air freshener. It smelled like what I imagine a vehicle smells like after a cologne-saturated, chain-smoking Johnny Depp is left in a car with all the windows rolled up on a hot day. Yes, that bad. Coraline would start complaining as soon as the doors opened. Also, the Quest had a meh design. It did accelerate like a race car, though, and had XM satellite radio, but those were the only pros on the list. FYI: Don’t rent from the Hertz at Windsor Square in Knoxville; we went with Hertz as Rich has President’s Circle status. Hertz corporate WILL be getting our feedback on that particular location and the vehicle, and it will not be good. At all. Thankfully, the airport Hertz location has its act together. I am now happily driving a CLEAN, fresh-scented Kia Sedona. It doesn’t have the same race-car pickup as the Quest, but it accelerates nicely and has a design we all like much better. Overall, I think it’s a much better minivan than the Quest. It does not have XM satellite radio, but I’m surviving with CDs. First-world problems and all. The tl; dr for this whole paragraph: Hertz Windsor Square, BAD. Hertz McGhee-Tyson Airport, GOOD. Nissan Quest: MEH. Kia Sedona: GOOD.

That’s the car stuff. The sick stuff is becoming par for the course, although it’s frustrating, especially with regard to Sebastian’s umpteenth ear infection. As for Troubadour, I’m still processing that. Our vet, who we love and has taken care of many of our four-legged babies over the years, was quick to say that this doesn’t mean Troubadour won’t live for a few more years. Which I pray he does. He’s my second-oldest son, after all. We’re doing our best to keep him comfortable and ensure he’s hydrated. He’s still a heavy drinker, which is good. After five vet visits — including one to the animal ER and two days of IV treatments — in one week, he’s starting to show flashes of his normal, healthy personality again. Last night he even mugged Sebastian, stealing his cracker. I never thought I’d be happy about that, but there you have it. I firmly believe my thieving dog has a lot more living left to do.

Troubadour at the ER

With his head in Mommy’s hand at the animal ER

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Coraline and Abuela Lupe

Today would have been my Abuela Tulita’s birthday. She’s been gone far longer now than she was in my life, but I miss her every day. I know she would have loved Coraline’s spunky personality, curly hair, love of all cheeses, and the button nose she inherited from her.
Which is why I am so grateful that Coraline’s own abuela lives a few minutes away and is always happy to spend time with her — and with me.

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Here’s to a New Year

Here’s to 2016 being a much better year than 2015 was. Seriously — 2015 can suck it.

Last Mommy/Coraline selfie of 2015

Last Mommy/Coraline selfie of 2015

Last family portrait of 2015

Last family portrait of 2015

Midnight selfie with the spouse on New Year's Eve 2015

Midnight selfie with the spouse on New Year’s Eve 2015


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The Mountain Birthday Party

Song Lyric of the Day:

High on a mountain top / We live, we love, and we laugh a lot / Folks up here know what they got / High on a mountain top

Loretta Lynn / “High On a Mountain Top

Last summer our friends hosted a party at their family’s mountain house, and since then Coraline has been obsessed with the idea of a “mountain party.” So you can imagine her delight when Rich decided to rent that same house for his 40th birthday party this past weekend. Friday night we hosted family, and Saturday night we hosted friends. We were running late both nights (maybe my fault as I put the pro in procrastination), but we managed to pull off a pretty great party each time.

Friday I made herb-crusted pork tenderloin, roasted garlic-ranch potatoes, salad, and my patented garlic rolls for a sit-down family dinner. Saturday night I made some of my better appetizers/finger foods (per Rich’s special request), while friends brought some sides and sweets. I stayed primarily indoors Saturday night instead of hanging outside by the bonfire since I was having too much fun gabbing with friends (while keeping an eye on Coraline) to head out into the cold.

Sunday turned out to be an unusually warm day, so for our last day at the cabin we enjoyed a nice bike ride, then walked to a nearby family-style restaurant for breakfast. I am still kicking myself for not grabbing my camera like I planned, since I thought, “Oh, it’s such a short walk and it’s only breakfast.” Which is why when we saw the bald eagle that had just flown over our cabin perched in a tree on the way to the restaurant I only had my phone handy to take pictures. Always take your camera, Pattie: I KNOW this. Ugh.

The best shot of the wild bald eagle I could get with my camera phone.

The best shot of the wild bald eagle I could get with my camera phone.

What I loved most about staying at the cabin was the quiet. Even though we were close to the main drag, it was so quiet most of the time that you could hear a pin drop. It was glorious. And it was a perfect setting in which to host family and friends. It means a lot to us that so many people took the time to head out there to celebrate my old man getting officially older.

All in all, I think Rich had a great time celebrating the big 4-0 this year. I know I (and Coraline) certainly enjoyed helping him usher in a new year.

Coraline helps Rich finish off the mandarin orange cake I made for his birthday.

Coraline helps Rich finish off the mandarin orange cake I made for his birthday.

You can see some pictures from Rich’s long birthday weekend here.

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Filed under birthday, family, marriage, personal, relationship

The Birthday Boy and the Ballerina

Song Lyric of the Day:

I just want you to dance with me tonight / So come on, oh baby / I just want you to dance with me tonight

Olly Murs / “Dance With Me Tonight

Tuesday night Rich, Coraline, and I celebrated Rich’s 40th birthday. It was a tiny celebration, just our little family, with a bigger celebration planned for the weekend. But we had to mark Rich’s big day on the day of. I made sure to preorder a German chocolate (Rich’s favorite) torte, since birthday cake at a birthday party is sacrosanct to Coraline, and we couldn’t have a devastated 3-year-old bringing down Rich’s birthday. And did I mention that German chocolate is Rich’s favorite? Coraline also insisted on having themed plates because, again, those are absolutely necessary for a birthday. I managed to find some Justice League plates to satisfy Rich’s request for Superman (he politely passed on Coraline’s suggestions of Woody or Buzz plates) and mismatched Avengers napkins since that was what was in stock. When Coraline and I picked up the cake, we also got a Mylar balloon that said “Happy Birthday” on it (she wanted to be traditional), a balloon which is now being moved around our upstairs by one very happy, oddball tabby cat. Coraline and I sang the birthday song, we tore into that cake, and Rich opened his presents.  All in all, I think it was a nice little celebration with just the three of us.

Can you tell who was most excited to be celebrating Rich's birthday?

Can you tell who was most excited to be celebrating Rich’s birthday?

Rich and Coraline pose for a birthday photo.

Rich and Coraline pose for a birthday photo.

Last night was a big night for Coraline (and us as well): her first ballet class. Technically it was a tap/ballet/creative movement/gymnastic class, since dance studios’ ballet season doesn’t begin until August. But to Coraline, it was all about the ballet; she’s been asking to take classes for months and now she’s finally old enough.

Ready to head to her first ballet class

Ready to head to her first ballet class

Of course, being old enough to take ballet doesn’t guarantee her paying attention to the teacher, which was a given. Despite her squirrelly attention span, though, she gave it her enthusiastic all. Plus, she was absolutely adorable to watch, as were her classmates — bright tutus everywhere.

Tap shoes on and ready to dance

Tap shoes on and ready to dance

Coraline enjoyed the class so much that she was actually pissed off when it ended and we told her it was time to leave. She sat down with her back to us, crossed her arms, and sulked. She brightened considerably when we told her she could go again. Now Rich and I just need to figure out which class schedule will work best for us.

Practicing making some noise with her tap shoes

Practicing making some noise with her tap shoes

At the end of each day, I ask Coraline what her favorite part of her day was. Some days it’s playing outside at daycare, others it’s hanging out with her grandma, doing artwork, or riding the train at the mall. Last night when I asked her that question, she smiled and said simply, “Ballet.”


Filed under birthday, birthday party, coraline, family, family time, personal, rich

Photoblogging: She Is … Sabrina Fierce

No sooner did I get out my camera than my niece decided to channel her alter ego, Sabrina Fierce. She’s one tough little cookie. (Photo taken 12/8/13)

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Around Knoxville: Three Rivers Rambler

Song Lyric of the Day:

Come on, ride the train, it’s the Choo Choo train

Quad City DJ’s / “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train)

Knoxville has a short-line passenger train. Did you know this? Because I only discovered this recently. I’ve heard rumors the last couple of years, and then a few weeks ago my friend Meghan and her husband took their babies on the train, the Three Rivers Rambler. Meghan told me about the trip, which I then told Rich about, and we agreed that it would be fun to take Coraline on a train ride.

Coraline has wanted to ride a real train forever. It’s basically one of her lifelong dreams. (Did you know toddlers could have lifelong dreams? They can.) Thanks to my parents, Coraline’s ridden the little train at our local mall enough times to qualify as a part owner, so when we told her about REAL trains, her mind was blown.

Last Sunday, agendaless and looking to enjoy some quality family time, we told Coraline that we were going to take her on a REAL train ride. In typical fashion, she jumped up and down yelling “Yay!” which she manages to draw out like you would not believe. We packed her little backpack with snacks, Rich and I grabbed our cameras, and we headed down to Volunteer Landing to board the train.

Lindy, the Washington & Lincolnton #203 steam engine for the Three Rivers Rambler.

Lindy, the Washington & Lincolnton #203 steam engine for the Three Rivers Rambler.

We quickly found seats facing each other, so we had a cozy seating arrangement. The seats also allowed me to keep my gimpy foot elevated during the 2-hour ride. (The website and conductor say 90 minutes, but ours took two hours including a couple of short stops.)

The atmosphere on the train was very friendly, festive thanks to some holiday decorations, and very family friendly — there were tons of families riding with us that day. Coraline loved everything about it, especially the fact that we could walk out onto the following open-air car while the train was moving (it goes really slow).

Coraline holds up her train ticket.

Coraline holds up her train ticket.

I of course took tons of pictures, with Rich handling Coraline-escorting duties; my foot was still pretty tender so hobbling around a(n albeit slowly) moving train with an excited 3-year-old was not on my slate for the day.

I did manage to hobble outside with Rich and Coraline a few times, with the beautiful views totally worth the effort. Not to mention Coraline’s sheer delight at BEING ON A REAL TRAIN. Sorry for the caps, but toddler enthusiasm is contagious. And awesome.

Crossing over the Holston River.

Crossing over the Holston River. Note the train’s shadow on the water.

We heard rumblings throughout the ride that a certain magical jolly fellow was going to be making an appearance. Just when Rich and I had given up hope that the big man would show, there he was. Coraline was giddy waiting for him to make his way back to us (we were in the next-to-last row on the last car). And even though she met Santa outside of the mall, she still told Rich that we needed to go see Santa again at the mall so she could tell him what she wants for Christmas. She is a true believer, after all.


Coraline with Santa Claus on the train, the perfect ending to our first family train ride.

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Filed under around knoxville, coraline, family, family time, knoxville, personal

The 3-Day Playdate

Song Lyric of the Day:

They’re in the car, on the highway / It’s so magical, feeling, that no one’s got a hold / You’re a catalyst to your happiness you know / This is your heart, it’s alive / It’s pumpin’ blood / It’s your heart, it’s alive / It’s pumpin’ blood / And the whole wide world is whistling

NONONO / “Pumpin Blood

This past Saturday I drove Coraline and her cousin Stephen down to Alabama to visit my other sister’s family and for the kids to have some quality cousin time. We started off by meeting Vanessa and her family and a couple of friends at the Huntsville Botanical Garden (which is gorgeous). Elliott almost plotzed himself when he saw Stephen since he thought only Coraline and I were coming to visit. During the drive down, Stephen had even said, “I’m cuzzie’s surprise.” (They call each other cuzzie.) The weather was mild and beautiful, perfect for wandering the Garden’s substantial grounds. If I hadn’t been helping wrangle four kids, I’m sure I could’ve taken even more photos than I did.  Vanessa kept talking about a huge slide she’d seen on their last visit there, so we spent a good deal of time walking the grounds looking for it. After a while I became convinced the slide was like Atlantis, never to be found again. In all our walking looking for it we passed a graveyard full of unmarked graves for all the parents who’d gone before us and perished looking for that damn slide. Maybe we’ll find it next time. Or maybe we’ll just find Atlantis.

Miranda, Coraline, Elliott, and Stephen in the Nature Center (11/2/13).

After the Garden we headed to Vanessa’s house where the kids all managed to not nap. Coraline was so tired she passed out around 7:15PM local time (Alabama’s on Central, Tennessee’s on Eastern), slumping over my arm as I read books to her and her little cousin Miranda. I carried her up to the guest room and tucked her in, pleased as punch that bedtime had been so easy. My rejoicing was short-lived, though, because when I checked on her a short while later she was sitting up smiling and said, “Mommy, I have to go potty.” After which she headed back downstairs to play some more with her cousins. Ken inflated a queen-sized air mattress for the kids to sleep on in the living room, Coraline’s first sleepover with both her big cousins. Stephen had slept over in her room at home the night before, her first-ever cousin sleepover. They were so excited about our road trip in the morning that Rich could barely get them to go to sleep. I’m pretty sure he spontaneously self-sterilized that night.

Outwardly Coraline appeared done for the night. But really she was just recharging her batteries to thwart my attempts at getting her to bed at a decent hour (11/2/13).

Elliott, Coraline, and Stephen sleep off the day (11/2/13).

Coraline and I were seriously dragging on Sunday (mostly me, anyway). We’d gained an hour driving down to Alabama, then gained another hour thanks to Daylight Saving Time. I know I certainly felt like it was two hours later than the clock said it was. The fact that all four kids were up and at it by 8AM didn’t help. We stayed close to home that day, with playground time and lunch out our big adventures for the day. Of course, the kids were all about playing together, so it didn’t really matter to them where we went as long as they were together.

At the playground Sunday (11/3/13). Right after I said it looked like they were acting out a scene from The Breakfast Club, one of the boys punched both fists in the air.

Yesterday Vanessa, Coraline, Stephen, Miranda, and I had a nice breakfast together (Ken was at work and Elliott was at school). We picked up Elliott from school a bit early to give the kids more time together before we had to head home. We set out at 3PM EST so we’d get home around dinnertime. I can’t tell you how many times I had to ask what time it was this past weekend — too many time changes. The drive home was blissfully uneventful, with Coraline and Stephen watching Monsters vs Aliens for the billionth time on the portable DVD player my sister Samantha thought to send with Stephen (Thanks, Sam!). Coraline ended up sleeping for just under two hours, while Stephen stayed awake the whole time, watching Madagascar during the final stretch.

I can’t tell you how happy I was to finally get home. I loved spending time with all my babies, but dear lord, they have a frightening amount of energy. I’m convinced that collectively their energy could provide electricity to a small town via toddler-sized hamster wheels. Also, Coraline is a horrible bed hog who kicked the living shit out of me Sunday night into Monday. As crazy as the kids are when they get together, I look forward to some more weekend-long playdates for them. The best thing about being around them? I never forget to take my birth control pill on time.

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Grandma Lee

Song Lyric of the Day:

Somebody saved me from the world you left / If you’re gonna cry my tears / If you’re gonna hold my breath / If you’re gonna let me see the sun you set / Oh, I am lost and found / Oh, I am lost and found

Katie Herzig / “Lost and Found

My grandmother-in-law is being laid to rest this morning in Iowa. Grandma Lee passed away last Thursday after suffering a stroke. And even though she reached the impressive age of 99, I think I took it for granted that she would live forever — she was just so spunky and full of life that it’s hard to imagine that life would ever come to an end.

I first met her back in 1998 when I accompanied Rich to Iowa for the first time. Grandma Lee was a tiny little thing — tiny but mighty. Mighty enough to have raised four kids. Mighty enough to have been a nurse. Mighty enough to beat breast cancer. And lord, was that woman quick with a comeback. Her snappy wit could (and probably did) cause whiplash in those fortunate enough to be witness to it.

The last time I saw her was September 2011. It’s really hitting home for me that the last time I saw her was truly the last time I would ever see her. Which is why I’m writing this through yet more tears. But I was lucky enough that my last visit with her was also the first (and only) time she would meet her great-granddaughter Coraline, which was a wonderful thing to behold. Coraline was almost 1 year old and more interested in running around the nursing home than sitting still, but I still managed to get some nice shots of her with Grandma Lee. While Grandma Lee didn’t quite remember me, she did remember her grandson Rich and knew that Coraline was his daughter.

I wish with all my heart I could be there with our family in Iowa to not only say my final farewell to Grandma Lee, who treated me like one of her own grandkids, but to be there to console my husband and father-in-law and our many other relatives as they lay this sweet, incredibly beloved woman to rest. I may be mourning from afar, but I hope everyone there knows I’m with them in spirit.

After our visit to Iowa, Rich’s Aunt Linda sent Coraline the most amazing birthday present, a hardbound book of photos from our visit with Grandma Lee. And while Coraline will never remember on her own meeting her great-grandma, Rich and I will never forget.

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