Monday, October 31, 2011

Tricks and Treats

Since Halloween is twice as nice as any other holiday, it gets two posts instead of just one.

If you're looking for a good trick-or-treating prank, try this one:

Begin by shopping bright and early tomorrow morning, November 1st, to get bargains on all leftover Halloween items. Specifically you are looking for small decorative baggies. Then begin collecting condiments each time you eat at a fast food restaurant. Barbecue sauce, Ranch dressing, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, soy sauce and salsa are just a few simple examples. You can also adapt this to be used for sit down restaurant visits as well, since you can just as easily take the Sweet N Low or Equal. A few days before Halloween 2012 comes around, take 3-5 packets of condiments and place them in the baggies. Tape them shut. When Trick-or-Treaters come around in search of sweet candies and chocolates, they instead will receive a small treat bag of liquid toppings. It does good to break up the monotony of treats kids receive.

And in case you're wondering, yes. I did do this. All of my friends who trick or treated at my house in 4th grade got a bag of condiments.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

All Hail All Hallow's Eve

I absolutely love Halloween. It's by far my favorite day of the year. My birthday has always been fun, especially because it has seemed like a good time to get family together- enough time has passed since the Christmas holidays so we want to see each other again. Christmas is of course wonderful- celebrating Jesus' birth and the generosity from "St. Nicholas"... getting to decorate a Christmas tree, make apple cider and listen to Christmas songs just seem magical. But Halloween... Halloween is different. It's the one day out of the year that I feel I can do absolutely whatever I want, because I get to BE absolutely WHOEVER I want! It's a time where I get to let my creativity shine to its fullest, eat lots of candy, but mostly I think I love Halloween because it reminds me of my siblings.

My sister Lindsay is 30. I am 25. My brother Kirby will be 18 on 11/11/11 (he thinks this is WAY cool, so talk to him about the significance of the number 11 if you ever get the chance). Being so spread apart in age we didn't ever have to fight over anything because we were all at such different periods of our life. The one thing that we found could bring us together like nothing else was dressing up in clothes from the Costume Closet...and then possibly making music videos. The Redcoats and Behind the Music with Cyndi Lauper and Paula Abdul are two family classics.

Yes, I said Costume Closet. It's so important the "closet" gets to be capitalized. It started out as a Costume box, which soon became Costume boxes, then Costume boxes and Costume bags and finally half of my entire closet was dedicated to Halloween costumes. We saved all of our costumes from growing up and would reuse them in different ways. We went thrift store shopping to see if we could find any cheap additions to our collection. The green suede boots were used by Lindsay when she and Myles Turney went to a Poison concert and dressed up like they were in an 80's hairband themselves to match. The piano vest inspired Lindsay to a costume she never fulfilled- that of the piano man at ACU's "The Bean". Many of the costume jewelry we picked up became pieces of legendary costumes like my freshman year of college's Punk Rock Princess and the aforementioned Cyndi Lauper.

I moved the Costume Closet downstairs to a hardly used coat closet when I was in high school. Before it just housed winter coats and a handheld vacuum; this was a much nobler cause! Just a month or two after I got married, my mom called me to say she was going to get rid of everything in the Costume Closet if I didn't come home and salvage it. Needless to say, I took my collected archive of clothes and stashed them away in my apartment, despite the fact that we had absolutely no room for them. They are some of my most prized possessions! And now poor Brooklyn has hardly any room for her own clothes, because let's face it, Halloween comes first. Her closet is the new Costume Closet.

We always played Halloween up BIG at our house growing up. The front door and entry way were always decorated to the nines and I can hardly remember a time when we didn't participate in Trick or Treating. The only exceptions were when Halloween fell on a Sunday night, and my mom made it clear that going to church was more important. I was upset at the time, but I'm actually very thankful she made that rule; it helped me see what life's priorities should be. And I learned just to find a place to wear my costumes to AFTER church :)

My parents never dressed up, but the three of us kids did- every year. I don't think we've ever missed a year either. And, there was an unspoken rule that you couldn't repeat a costume (this is not the only unspoken family rule- you also weren't allowed to bring friends to a family reunion, and no significant others until you knew you were going to marry them... but that's another topic altogether). What got me was how creative we got- especially Lindsay. I was bragging on her this past weekend because I always felt like no matter how good my costume was, Lindsay's was always THAT much cooler. My Halloween hero, she is.

For example, here she is as Justin Bieber last year.
Someone suggested she walk around North Park Mall dressed like that and start rumors that Biebs was in the Dallas area. I sure wish she had.

This gem is from circa 1994? I believe Lindsay was in 7th grade and I was in 2nd. Or 8th and 3rd. Regardless, I was a gypsy, and it should be painfully obvious who she was.

I have a lot of special memories of the time it was about 90 degrees outside and I was a magician with a plastic mask on and I kept fogging it up with my breath and sweat... and when I was an Alabama football player with a giant inflatable helmet and I got to take Kirby Trick or Treating by myself- I felt very old and responsible. He was a super cute little cowboy :) Or how about the time I was at Camp Classen in 5th grade the week of Halloween. I brought a hippie costume with me and wore it that night, and to our surprise, all of the teachers had brought Halloween costumes too! A witch and a cow and who remembers what else came Trick or Treating to each of the cabins. We, of course, didn't have candy, but we did offer them toilet paper and toothpaste. I think they took the toothpaste...

And now, new Halloween memories. This was the first year Brooklyn had a costume... scratch that. We bought this year's costume for her LAST year... in fact we bought it before she was born. It's Tigger, and it's a 0-3 month costume. It would have swallowed her alive last year, so we thought we'd save it for this year and see if MAYBE it would fit.

Cute, right? Yeah, but it's supposed to be long sleeves and pants, not short sleeves and Daisy Dukes. Oh well. My costume was probably about 6 sizes too small (I used safety pins and a shirt underneath) and hers was about 9 months too small. We're cheap. Sue us. No, wait, that's just an expression. Don't actually sue us... because, we're cheap.

Anyway, tonight was a great night of new memories. It had been years since I'd been to a Halloween party that wasn't for Brandon's birthday (he's never been big on Halloween because he had so many costume parties growing up. He's sweet to dress up with me because he knows it's my favorite thing to do).

It was the first big holiday party we did with our church First Family and it was the FIRST time I had ever carved a pumpkin. Which, actually I guess I still haven't done, because it became clear early on that it was a manly competition. Fine by us. More mosquitoes for the boys.

Here's ours: Pac Man eating a ghost! My invention and Brandon's creation. We even put a strobe light in it to imitate the white dots he would gobble up along the way.

It was a fabulous celebration of Halloween that involved pure unadulterated fun. No demons, no evil spirits, no witchcraft or scary bloody masks, just kids in cute costumes, adults in goofy ones and a bunch of friendly pumpkin carving. Halloween isn't evil unless you make it that way. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I'll leave you with this beaut (speak that last word in a Steve Irwin "Croc Hunter" accent) from 2008. Our best costume combo to date.
Who says we can't all get along?

PS- If you ever need a costume, call me. I'll hook you up.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Married Baseball's Nostradamus

I need a new heart. The Rangers/Cardinals game attacked mine last night.

At least I have my own Nostradamus in the house. Brandon has predicted everything (good and bad) to happen in the World Series. He has called at least 4 different home runs and never predicted a home run that didn't turn out to happen. At first it was a funny joke, but as the game went on and he predicted the back to back homers by Beltre and Cruz and then the Hamilton 2-run shot, I started to think my husband had magical powers.

Me: Predict something good for the Rangers pitchers!
Brandon: I can't just predict something good because I want it to happen, it has to come to me and be true. And so far I've been right about my predictions for the relief pitchers too- they've just all been bad outcomes!

He must have sent his "I've got a bad feeling about this" pitching vibes my way in the bottom of the 11th, because I opted to brush my teeth and get ready for bed instead of watching the Cardinals bat. I only found out what happened when I turned off the water and heard the silence of a television in "power off" mode. Game over. Stupid David Freese. And even stupider Lance Berkman. Man, I can't stand that guy. I didn't even like him when he was in Houston. Brandon asked why, and I told him I think it's for shallow reasons... I didn't like looking at him because he's fat and ugly. Now at least I have a legitimate reason not to like him.

All of this prediction stuff made Brandon pretty proud of himself. I think it went to his head.

7:00 Friday morning
Scene- Brandon getting ready for work while Tracey tries to keep sleeping. Brandon gets back in bed.

Brandon: Have a good day with our baby. I have a feeling she's going to do something extraordinary.
Me: Oh yeah? Like what?
Brandon: She's going to skip walking and go straight into running, she'll leap tall buildings, fly like an eagle into the future and speak parseltongue. And it begins when she wakes up at exactly 7:45 AM! Call me when this starts to happen so I can quit school and come home to see it. Wait, nevermind, they're throwing me a birthday lunch today. I guess I'll just have to miss all of it.

What a weirdo. Obviously his prophetic insight extends only as far as major league baseball. Or hopefully sports in general. I'd really like a prediction of Alabama being undisputed, undefeated national champs again this year :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Can't Buy Me Love

I sent an Evite today and afterwards it sent me to a page that said "This page sponsored by the following:" and then had an ad for VistaPrint, asking me if I wanted 250 free cards. Sure, why not? Then I realized they were business cards. Well, I don't have a business, so nevermind. But wait: you can make MOMMY cards. Yes folks, it's true. They were attempting to lure me in to giving them business so I can brag about being a mother.
See? I kid you not.
The website claims the following as the top 5 uses for the "Mommy Cards":
-Hand out when setting up play dates
-Leave one with the babysitter
-Put one in your kids' backpack
-Use them for diaper bag tags
-Tuck into holiday cards and invitations

Forgive me if you're into this stuff, but isn't this just a TAD pretentious? I can't imagine handing anyone one of these without sounding like Cruella DeVil.

"Dahling, you will remember to call when the play date has been rescheduled. And do try to remember not to bake cookies next time. Calories, you know!"

Please. Don't we have cell phones? Can't we plug each other's numbers in? Seems like this "Mommy Card" business is just am excuse to extort from proud parents. Its the same reason kids are so spoiled this generation: the public tells us we have to buy BUY BUY everything in sight for our children so they know we love them and they will never be in want for anything. Sorry, but no. You do not have to spend money to prove that you are a good parent.

I'll say it again.


Brooklyn lives in a 930 square foot apartment. There is not a single piece of furniture and hardly any toy that was bought for her by either me or Brandon. Granted, one reason is because there are lots of people around us (namely, her grandparents) who love to spend their money on her, and that's great! There's nothing wrong with showering the people you love with gifts. It is obviously ONE way to show your appreciation and care. But it's not the only one.

The Beatles got it right. Can't buy me love. It was true in 1964 and it's still true today. If we lived in a shack with one pair of clothes, socks with holes worn through them, ate Ramen Noodles for dinner every night and played with bottle caps and wooden spools Brooklyn would still love us. If we lived in a mansion, gave her a pony and dresses made of solid gold she would love us too. It doesn't matter. Brandon could be he prince or the pauper and Brooklyn would still give him hugs and kisses when he comes through the door.

Maybe I'm being too hard on the whole idea of Mommy Cards. Some of those top 5 uses make sense and could actually be helpful, but I'd just feel silly telling our babysitter, "We're going to dinner and a movie... here's my card..." or writing a Christmas card saying "Happy Holidays. God Bless. And for all your motherly needs, contact me..."

I'm proud to be Brooklyn's mommy. I want to give her everything she needs and a few of the things she wants too. I guess I just don't feel that I need a business card claiming that as my identity. I know I'm a good mom, and I don't need to pay anyone to prove it to me or anybody else in this world.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom

I have some confessions. About obsessions. An obsession confession. And a Dalmatian Plantation! Not really, but I've been watching a lot of Disney movies lately, so it seemed to fit.

I love organizing and consolidating things. I love when there's just one sleeve of crackers left, because then there's no need for the box. I love when we eat half of the Bagel Bites so I can just keep one tray instead of two and the container they come in. I love when I get a box full of things Brooklyn does use or wear anymore, because then it's a nice, neatly packed box that I can stash away in a closet. But perhaps my favorite things to consolidate is stickers.

I scrapbook a lot. We've got scrapbooks of our wedding, our honeymoon in Disneyworld, trips we go on, our entire college life at A&M, Brooklyn and our baseball stadiums. I make thank you notes, Christmas cards, birthday cards, and even recently baby shower invitations! I save every card the three of us get because even if I don't want to keep the whole thing for sentimental reasons, I know I can cut part or even the entire front of the card and reuse it on my own creations. And most of these gems of mine require stickers. And I'm a sucker for them. I'm the queen of buying clearance. If I see some 99 cent stickers, I just can't resist. I use them all the time, so I definitely get my money's worth. Plus let's be serious, what is the logic in paying $4 for one sticker? I could buy a Hallmark Gold Classic for that price!

Earlier this summer we had a multi-family garage sale. Though the purpose was to make money by getting rid of odds and ends we each had lying around our own houses, as usually happens, we picked up a few beauties from each others stashes. After all, as the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Which, for me, means that the Semanaks unused stickers and scrapbooking paper get to be added to my motherload!

I was making some cards the other day for a friend to sell as a Relay for Life fundraiser and realized that I have WAY too much fun consolidating stickers. This process isn't very complicated. It simply consists of taking a sheet of stickers that only has 1 or 2 stragglers left on it and resticking them onto another sheet of stickers that has a few open spots. Voila! I get to throw away a piece of plastic paper, and oh the joy that fills my soul!

It's insanely silly, and I realize this, but there is something so satisfying about throwing away 10 pieces of empty plastic sticker paper after a day of scrapbooking. I feel like I've really accomplished something! Maybe it's because I'm a list maker and I don't put fun things like "scrapbook" on my To-Do's, so seeing the carnage report of a card making session is like checking it off my list or putting another feather in my cap. Or notch on my belt. How many ways can you count things, anyway?

I do feel the need to accomplish and be acknowledged for my accomplishments. Not a project goes by that Brandon doesn't see a finished product of. I need his "looks good babe" in order to pat myself on the back. Childish, selfish, and utterly true. I'm like a kindergartener, running home to show mom and dad what I made and hope that its good enough to make the refrigerator. On a completely unrelated note, my mom and dad now have a fridge that is only magnetic on the very tiny sides and not on the front. Those types of refrigerators should be outlawed in families than have children under 10, in my humble opinion. Too many art dreams crushed by the lack of magnets and visibility of elementary genius.

It's not a terrible thing, to want people to notice when I do something well. Really, it's only certain people. I want Brandon to tell me I sing well, but I won't sing in front of others if they ask me to, because that's embarrassing (It's also embarrassing to know that I have a Bachelor's and a Master's and still always misspell embarrassing the first go at it. I also misspelled misspell just then, so that's two in the "you stink" pile for me).

We seek approval from the people we love. I know it, and that's why I try to tell those that I love when they do a good job. Brooklyn carries my keys every time we go to check the mail or get in the car. I praise her for being a good helper. Do I really need her help to carry my keys? Of course not, but she grins ear to ear like it's the most important job in the world, so I make sure I thank her for it.

I don't need someone to tell me I did a great job consolidating the stickers. I really don't, I'm not that pathetic (yet). I do that for the pure fun of it. It's just part of me getting stuff done, and I do confess that that is one of my absolute favorite things. A day is not a good day if I didn't get anything done. I used to be much worse about this principle until Brandon introduced me to the song "Time Well Wasted" by Brad Paisley. I've slowed down a lot since then and realized that I can relax without feeling lazy and enjoy a day of not working without feeling awkward about it.

Oh dear, I accidentally confessed to liking some country music. Perhaps this is the most disturbing confession of all. I better quit while I'm still barely ahead.

Photo from

Those leaves were a foot deep in the yard
And 'wash me' was written all over the car
But watchin' movies all day with you
Wasn't on my list of things to do
But we laid on that couch
Girl, we never left the house

It was time well wasted
And there's no way I trade a few more things that I could've crossed off my list
For a day I'll never forget
No, I didn't get a thing done
But I sure soaked up every minute of the memory we were makin'
And I count it all as time well wasted

Friday, October 21, 2011

So, This is Love.

Tonight I learned why my mom would put foil underneath her barbecue chicken in the oven... my pan has been soaking in the sink for the past 30-40 minutes and still has burnt barbecue sauce on it. But, at the risk of this turning into a slapstick kitchen comedy blog, I'll move on.

Is there a better sound in the world than that of your husband and child giggling and clapping together? Brandon got Brooklyn dressed in her pajamas tonight, the whole time singing and rhyming and making noises and laughing together, the very definition of adorable. And the door was open so I could see in while I sat at the table finishing my dinner. The best part of the whole ordeal was seeing the big hug she gave her daddy after it was all over. She nearly leaped into his arms and let him hold her as tight as he could. I even got them on video later in the night when Brandon made two of Brooklyn's baby dolls sing "Skip to my Lou" and then give her hugs. My husband is the best daddy in the world. He willingly plays with dolls to make our daughter happy and doesn't freak out when I record it. Some would call this incriminating evidence, but we just call it love :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Have a Girly Daughter

I remember wearing a dress to school in 8th grade and receiving about 30 or 40 comments throughout the day regarding how surprised people were at how I looked. Tracey Allen in something other than a t-shirt and blue jeans? I stopped traffic! Not because I looked so good, but just because I looked so different. It was one of the most shocking moves I ever made, and all it took was a little change of wardrobe. I've written before about what a tomboy I was growing up. Story of my life. And it appears I'm still shocking people.

A couple of weeks ago we had a family birthday party for Brooklyn, and one of the presents from Mommy and Daddy was a purple sweater, pink striped shirt, pink ruffled skirt, purple ruffled skirt and sparkly colorful tennis shoes. I was so excited when I opened it, even though I had picked it all out. My friend Susan yelled, "Tracey! You picked all that stuff out??" Shocking, isn't it? I love shopping for little girl things. I didn't even think I was suited to have a baby girl- I didn't think I'd know what to do with one. Nevermind that I had worked at a place called "My Party Palace" as a princess party leader and occasionally as Cinderella- that was a job. In real life could I have fun with a girl?

The answer is an obvious yes. And a girly girl I have, at that.

When I go shopping with Brooklyn, I hold up clothes to see if she likes them. She gets ecstatic, jumps up and down as best as she can while being strapped in the shopping cart and reaches out to hug them. When she wakes up I nearly always let her choose between 2 or 3 outfits and pick her shoes, and this kid treats it like she's never been happier in her life, like its an honor to get to wear such lovely clothes. She loves dancing more than just about anything and she's in love with a pink and purple Disney princess car that she pushes all around the house.

She's recently become obsessed with baby dolls. She has four of them and takes turns picking each of them up, hugging them and kissing them.

Her favorite non-playtime activities are making herself beautiful: brushing her teeth and brushing her hair. And she is beautiful. Those eyes- those bright blue eyes. They were what made me so fascinated with Brandon, and hers may be even bluer. She loves food and yes is still a fairly skinny kid (she's just a mini-Brandon!)

What this all adds up to is that if things stay the same is that I'm going to have a tall, skinny, dirty-blonde haired, bright blue-eyed dancing, smiling, sweet, fashionable princess. Wow. Doesn't every guy want a girl like that? Which also means I've got my work cut out for me the rest of my life keeping her humble!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Joke of the Day

Yesterday was a little heavy- not my usual style. To lighten the mood and get things back on track, here's a joke of the day:

Q: What do you call a person with a wet back?
A: A person who needs a towel :)

Enjoy your afternoon!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I had to run away from this man who, at the time, seemed something like Voldemort. I had discovered the jewels that, when shined on by the sun, would call forth spirits I would have to battle and was attempting to either protect or hide them. Brandon and Marilyn Newberry were there with me and we split up to cause confusion- he didn't know who had the jewels. I was trying to go to places where no one would ever find me. I was first at a sports writers convention and Sarina Grasham was trying to hide Brooklyn by pretending she was her own child, but I quickly realized that I was going to be found out if I stayed there because he knew I loved sports. I headed to Home Depot, where no one would ever suspect me, and Susie Holderfield was there and told us we could hide in her car. I was going to move some items from my car to hers when I realized my car was gone. That only meant one thing: he found me. I realized I was at the Home Depot in Needville, and that was a major mistake because I used to work in Needville; of course he was going to look for me there! I then received a phone call that said, "Nice to see you again on highway 8 in Needville, Texas". I saw him driving towards me and then his car disappeared. I went back to the church where this all started and began walking up the windy staircase. He was still on the phone with me. "Why did so few people help you?" he asked. "Because humanity is evil. Because we are selfish and no one wanted to put themselves in danger. Because we are full of hate." At this point I couldn't tell if I was speaking what I really believed or what he wanted to hear as if I was trying to trap him. Sarcastically, as I reached the top of the stairs, I said, "I'd love to thank all of the people who didn't help me". As I spoke these words, I saw all my family sitting in a small chapel, praying for my success. Then, from both the phone and from within the very place I stood, he said, "Let me thank them". At that moment I was sure I had looked into the face of the devil. He looked like a very light-skinned bald middle eastern man with a goatee and a hint of British accent. I knew I could not have outsmarted him and I shouldn't have relied on myself, my skills and my friends to defeat him. I couldn't trick him or trap him, and I nearly lost my soul for it.

That's a pretty intense dream to have. Especially since it couldn't have lasted more than 2 hours. I was awake at 6:30 when Brooklyn started crying and went back to sleep and dreamed THAT until 8:30.

I've always had more vivid dreams than the people around me. The first dream I can remember probably happened when I was around 4 years old. I was playing outside and came in to wash my hands. When I turned on the water faucet in the downstairs bathroom, instead of water coming out, thousands of bumblebees flew at me. I ran upstairs to escape them but found a t-rex in my parents shower and a giant killer butterfly living under the bed.

A famous middle school dream was about the Blue Bunny People. Hanson had been kidnapped and turned into blue bunnies and I had to save then. I also had a series of dreams with my friend Lindsay in them. These dreams were very revealing to me; every time I liked a new boy, I had a dream that Lindsay killed them in new and intriguing ways. These came to be known as the "Communist Lindsay" dreams. It was around this time that I bought a Sigmund Freud book on dreams. I had already had so many memorable dreams and wondered why oh why oh why I had. They play out like a movie in my mind. They may have pieces of nonsense in them, but they follow a storyline.

My senior year of high school I would walk into 1st period Government everyday and one of my friends would say, "Alright, what'd you dream this time?" Nearly each day I had something new and exciting for them. Then they'd all talk about how they didn't ever dream, or didn't remember their dreams, or they dreamed in black and white, etc. etc.

I've always been fascinated with dreams, and yet I wonder if it's a blessing or a curse that I have and can remember them so well. I didn't want to imagine what the devil looked like between 6:30 and 8:30 this morning. I didn't want to imagine Kirby being born stillborn (I was about 9 for that dream) and I never wanted to dream that someone broke into the house and shot my mom in the head (Maybe 10 years old. She was lying in a pool of blood with bloodstained popcorn around her and the Twilight Zone on television in the background). Morbid, yes? Yes. I'm tired of dreams like this. I'm tired of nightmares.

Maybe it's because I'm so imaginative. I once imagined my house (and drew blueprints for it, no less) looking like a Discovery Zone/Leaps and Bounds mixture. My room had the rope spiderwebs in it along with a trap door. My parents room had slides that you could slide down into the piano room which was a huge ballpit. There was a hole in the upstairs hallway and a fireman pole to slide from the second floor to the first which dropped you off right at the monkey bars.

I imagined being a child actress in Hollywood living with Brad Pitt, who adopted me as a daugther.
I imagined nursing Matthew McConaughey back to health after a hunting accident in the woods.
I imagined being the first female NHL player. I was goalie for the Dallas Stars, and Mike Modano fell for me. I was older in these last two imaginations, obviously.

Now my imagination is used for potential crafts; Christmas cards, baby shower decorations, show choir dance moves and lighting, and future vacations for my family. And as cliche as it sounds, I'm living my dreams. I have a husband who cheered with us at a high school football game last night and then took turns with our daughter kissing her baby doll this morning. Not many guys are willing to go on either end of the spectrum like that. Brooklyn is the sweetest girl I can imagine. She is a dream child. We have money, food, shelter, clothing, and love. We have everything that we need so I don't have any reason to dream for anything more.

If my mind knows that when I'm awake, how come I can't make it realize that when I'm sleeping? I know I'd feel more rested if I could only watch movies in my waking hours instead of 24/7. Plus, my dream movies are a little too avante garde even for me most nights.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kids These Days...

Kids these days aren't growing up right. We've gotten soft, and we're teaching our kids to be soft too. What am I talking about?
This is the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Sweet Sounds Picnic Basket (photo from Adorable toy that Brooklyn's grandparents gave her for her birthday. It teaches about food and colors and shapes and numbers AND it sings! But this is one of the songs it sings:

"I'm bringing home a baby bumblebee! Won't my mommy be so proud of me? I'm bringing home a baby bumble bee and a butterfly for company."

Whaaaaat? Upon first hearing this many family members in the room said things like, "Hey, what happened to 'Ouch, he stung me?'", or "What about the second verse where we squish him up?" I guess Fisher Price, along with most other toy companies, think our kids can't handle something as evil as killing an insect... muwahahahahaha! 

Please. Ridiculous. Kids are supposed to be around morbid things so they understand them when they get older! When the actor playing Mr. Hooper died in real life, the other adults in Sesame Street didn't tell Big Bird that he moved or went on vacation or something like that, they told him that Mr. Hooper died! They taught children about death because guess what: sometimes kids experience death too. 

And what about all of the fairy tales? I was a Film Studies minor at A&M and one of my favorite classes of my entire college career was German Fairy Tales. We focused on the Grimm Brothers but also looked at some from other countries for sake of comparison like Charles Perrault (France) and Hans Christian Anderson (Denmark) Talk about morbid! Disney really did a number sapping them up for us, making them seem happy and joyful, all flowers and sunshine. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Disney kid! I own nearly all of the animated Disney DVD's, I decorated Brooklyn's room in Winnie the Pooh and Disney Princesses and I spent my honeymoon at Disney World in Orlando. But seriously Walt, you took some messed up stuff and made it hunky dory. I applaud him for even having the guts to do it, really. Who thought that a story where girls slice off their heels and toes to fit into a shoe could be made into one of the most famous princess movies of all time? That's right- Cinderella. In order to fit into the teeny tiny shoe that Cinderella left behind, the stepsisters go to grotesque measures to marry the prince and become queen. And did you know that Rapunzel is actually a cautionary tale about unwed teenage pregnancy? Why else would she get locked up in a castle tower if not for being promiscuous? All fairy tales were moral warnings to get children to act the way their parents wanted them to.

It's not just fairy tales either. How about nursery rhymes? I can't decide what's more disturbing: bedtime stories involving things like patricide and incest or cheerful songs about diseases and death. Ever heard of "Ring Around the Rosy"?

"Ring around the rosy,
pocket full of posies,
ashes, ashes,
we all fall down".

In the 14th century, a lovely little outbreak of Bubonic Plague, otherwise known as "Black Death" hit Europe, killing about 1/3 of the European population. People thought having the posy flower on them would prevent them from getting the disease. Ashes, ashes? They had to burn the bodies. We all fall down? Yeah, we're all gonna die. SICK!

 In "London Bridge" we tell the story of how the London Bridge is going to fall down. The London Bridge has been the object of numerous terrorist attacks in England, and I'm not so sure that this ditty isn't to blame. The point of many nursery rhymes is simply to tell that someone has fallen and hurt themselves. Ex: "Jack and Jill", "Humpty Dumpty" and "Rocky-a-Bye Baby". In "Rock-a-Bye Baby" we sweetly croon about babies falling out of trees. What kind of mother put their baby in a bassinet and then put them on a branch to begin with? Call CPS on that woman!

See? I'm torn. I love the sweet, sappy Disney versions, and yet I know the truth behind them which can't help but taint my view. I didn't grow up knowing what I know now, but would I have been any worse off if I had? Was I so emotionally disturbed because MY version of "I'm Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee" ended with getting stung? Maybe so.

The only example I can think of of someone who grew up realizing the morbidness of nursery rhymes and fairy tales was the one and only Dwight K. Schrute. Go check out the episode "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day" to see him reading the German cautionary tale "Struwwelpeter" to the children at Dunder Mifflin.
Photo from

Do I want my daughter to turn out like Dwight?

Hmm...I guess I can let her be soft for a while. She can learn the truth when she's older.

Monday, October 10, 2011

El Nachito Ice Cream

 At the corner of Hwy 59 and Hwy 36 there is a banner tied to two streetlamps advertising a new store opening up in the shopping center: El Nachito Ice Cream. It already doesn't sound appetizing, but the picture does it no favors. On the banner there is a large animated corn tortilla chip holding what looks like a bowl of nacho cheese in an ice cream sundae bowl. I can't imagine anything more disgusting than this. Is it ice cream flavored nachos or nacho flavored ice cream? Either way, it sounds like diarrhea waiting to happen.

Sometimes people just don't seem to think about what they're going to call their business, or, like these poor folks, don't think about the correct amount of spacing between their words...

Photo found at
or the font they're using...
Photo found at
Sometimes it's a cultural or linguistic problem...
Photo by Tracey Strother (this place is off Route 66 in either California or Arizona, I can't remember which)
It sure seems like "El Nachito Ice Cream" falls into this last category. I guess the proprietor thought an adorable triangular chip with bulging eyes and a side to side (can't really say "ear to ear", can I?) grin would bring in business. However, I find it terribly repulsive and have to fight my gag reflex every time I'm sitting at that light.

Granted, this is coming from an admittedly picky eater. I still call my mom when I learn to eat a new food to brag and see if she's proud of me. I think the last time it was either shrimp or asparagus. However, despite the fact that the majority of my childhood meals consisted of items like cheerios, chicken fingers or hot dogs, I did find myself becoming an experimental chef at an early age. Some of my personalized delicacies included the Snack Skewer, Chocolate Soup and BLK's. Here, for your enjoyment are my recipes for these delectable delights (feel free to copy them down or print them out for your own cookbooks):

Snack Skewer

4 large marshmallows
Smooth peanut butter
Regular M&M's
5 thin pretzel sticks

On each of the flat ends of the marshmallows, spread smooth peanut butter. Then connect each of the peanut buttery marshmallows with an edible homemade skewer (the pretzel sticks). Finally, place 4 plain M&M's onto the peanut butter side of each marshmallow and eat.

Definitely a favorite snack growing up. I thought I was really cool for inventing it. I should have my own show on Food Network if you ask me, but nobody asked me.

Chocolate Soup

Chocolate ice cream
That's it.

What made this Chocolate Soup instead of regular chocolate ice cream was how I mixed it. And this was serious business growing up, too. Why take a bite out of ice cream? No, cold hurt my teeth, that would never do. So what would I do: let it melt and drink it? No, then it's just chocolate milk, that's no good. I'd stir, and stir and stir with my spoon. I'd get all the chunks out and make it a nice smooth, thick consistency similar to a Whataburger milkshake, which incidentally, you also cannot drink because it's way too stinkin' thick! I would actually pretend to be a chef when I made this snack though, and when I felt it was ready to eat, I would barely stick the tip of my spoon in and I, acting like I thought any good ice cream connoisseur would, took the tiniest taste and then savored it the way Hannibal Lector does when he eats Fava beans and a nice Chianti. If it was mixed right, then voila! Chocolate Soup (To this day, I prefer to eat ice cream this way).



A failed experiment in the early days of Chef Tracey Allen. Created at a family reunion in Gulf Shores, Alabama, it was admittedly not one of my tastiest creations. Still, a creation it is, none the less.

I feel I would be doing a disservice to my odd eating habits if I didn't mention the phase I went through where I ate mustard on biscuits instead of jam or honey. I can't claim this as one of my masterpieces though; I thank Karl from Slingblade for that one.
Photo found at

Maybe I'm being too hard on "El Nachito Ice Cream". No one ever tried my eats growing up, either. Am I irreparably scarred forever because of it? Jury's still out. I guess I'll give them I try. Cheese and Cream both come from cows after all. How bad can it be?

Photo found at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October 30th, 1987

When Brooklyn turned 9 months old, I felt a sigh of relief. 9 months was the first milestone I longed to reach with Brooklyn, not for her sake, but for mine.  I feared having children too close together and had it my mind that as long as my children were at least 18 months apart, I would be fine. Once Brooklyn hit the 9 month marker I said to myself, "We're not planning on another one yet, but if we get a surprise, I can handle it". Before that, I had an unspoken fear of getting pregnant again too quickly.

If I'm not mistaken in my history, October 30th, 1987 was the day Brandon was diagnosed with ALL- acute lymphoblastic Leukemia. That was the day after his first birthday. What a horrible birthday present, right? I'm a little superstitious even though I know there's no logical reason to be, but the day after Brooklyn's first birthday has been another day I'd been afraid of in my mind. Once she turned 9 months old, the next fearful milestone I looked towards was October 4th, 2011. That day is today.

Brandon when he had cancer as a child

This past Thursday I flew to Charlotte, North Carolina for my cousin Grant's wedding.  Friday morning Brandon called me to say Brooklyn had a fever. No problem, I said, just give her some Tylenol if it reaches 101 and call a doctor if that doesn't help. He said, "Her tongue looks like it has all these white bumps or sores all over it". Ok... call the doctor. Doctor says it sounds like thrush and prescribes an anti-thrush numbing medication. Fever continues to go up. Varies between 101 an 104. It's not until I come home to Houston Saturday night that I realize how bad Brooklyn has actually been- completely lethargic, not moving, not sitting up or walking or crawling or anything, not eating or drinking, whining and crying all day, taking cold washcloth baths every few hours to try and keep her temperature down. Brandon hid how worried about her he really was to try and allow me to enjoy my weekend with my cousins.

I took Brooklyn to the doctor yesterday and he noticed there were no sores in her mouth. None. The whiteness on her tongue is because she's not drinking much of anything. They pricked her finger and took some urine. Said she had traces of blood in her urine and her white blood cell count is high so they gave her an antibiotic shot and said she should start acting like she feels better right away. Didn't happen. Instead, she slept nearly every minute from 1 PM yesterday when we got home from the doctor until 9:30 AM today when we woke up late for our next appointment.

I didn't want to go back to the doctor today. I was alright with going on her birthday, and I'd be fine with going two days after, but I didn't want to go today. Not the day after her first birthday. Not October 4th, 2011. Not her equivalent to her daddy's October 30th, 1987. This is the sickest she's ever been. She's completely not herself and guess what? Cancer runs in the family. Not mine, but hers now. I cried and cried to Brandon last night sharing my fears about this day.

My sweet, sick girl on Sunday

He said, "But look at me. I'm here. And she's got half of me in her, so she's a strong girl."

Hm. Smart guy.

Brooklyn had shown some improvement at the doctor today (Yes, I went, despite my superstitious fears). Her white blood cell count and fever are still high, but lower than yesterday. Another antibiotic shot today. The thought is that she has a bacterial infection in her blood, which is much more common than I thought. We go back in tomorrow for round 3 of shots and hopefully she will be alright.

So... my daughter did not get diagnosed with Leukemia today. It's really ridiculous that I've thought for... the past year or so that she would, but I did. I've been afraid of this day for absolutely no reason since before she was born, and now it's passed. I feel like whatever happens now, whatever her ultimate diagnosis is, it doesn't matter: we got through this day. Today is a good day.