Dec 22, 2013

Thanksgiving in Pictures

12/22/2013 — cori
Mom and Dad came to visit us for Thanksgiving this year.  But we do so much more than eat turkey. Here is our time together in pictures.  Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures of the very first event which was Bennett's basketball tournament.  Chuck and I went on a date (actually to see Brian Regan as an early birthday present) while Mom and Dad took the kids to the tournament an hour away.  We got home from our date BEFORE they got home.  They didn't get home until after 11pm.  Crazy!

We toured the State Capitol in St Paul

On a very cold, windy day
and sat on a bench where our feet couldn't touch the floor
We visited the St. Paul Basilica 

a very ornate 100 year old cathedral

Of course we ate at Punch


We walked the skyways in downtown Minneapolis
and visited Chuck for lunch.

We walked around the Mall of America for 2 hours!

Dad wanted proof by a sign - since this was his first time.

The men discussed the best way to put up the Christmas tree.
This was the first year we ever had a perfectly perpendicular tree.
All those high level planning meetings paid off.

We constructed a train thoroughfare.

We read.

We visited the Bell Museum of Natural History on the U of M campus

Mom rescued Dad from near peril.

We got our heads stuck in a terrarium.

We tried on moose antlers for size.

We lost Gavin in an elevator.  But found him again.

We played alot of cards....

alot of backgammon....

and a lot of board games.

We did the turkey thing.  We thank God the yard didn't catch on fire this year.
The turkey fryer was leaking oil right over an open flame the entire time it cooked.

We played football in 20 degree weather.

For over an hour.

But we remembered to stretch first (a precaution we've had to take
since Chuck pulled his hamstring 4 years ago during this friendly little duel).

It was pretty evenly matched, but Gavin, Daddy and Mommy
won by one touchdown.

We went for a hike.

Practiced our balancing in the cold.

I think this is the first time I've ever seen Dad consult directions
to make sure we weren't lost!

The girls had a salon day in preparation of...

our wonderful tea party.

Dec 18, 2013

Subway Fiasco

12/18/2013 — cori

Gavin shared with me today that he received a free Subway meal coupon from school for making the A honor roll.   He commented that he should probably remember to use this one, unlike the one he forgot to use last year.  I replied, "I thought you refused to go to Subway ever again after the last fiasco."

Have you heard the Subway Fiasco story?  If not, let me bring you up to was way back in 8th grade.  He received the exact same free meal coupon and held on to it for weeks before telling me. When I found out about it I was thrilled for him, "Honey, I'll take you any time, just tell me when."

He finally deemed some random Saturday as 'the day'.  We were all together and pulled into the parking lot and told him we'd wait out in the car while he went in.  He refused to get out of the car.  "I thought you would go in with me mom."

"Why would I go in with you.  You're a big boy.  You know how to order."

"No I don't.  I don't know what to say.  What if I mess up?  Why can't you just go in there and stand with me?"

"You'll do fine honey," I downplayed, "you can't mess up ordering a sandwich.  You're 13 now, you don't need your mom helping you order a sandwich.  You can totally do this!"

It took a good 10 minutes of sitting in the car, going over ordering scenarios and play acting what to do and say.  He would rather not eat than make a fool of himself during the ordering process.  He reluctantly left the security of the car and made his way into the establishment.  After 5 minutes he comes storming out of the building, sandwich in hand and a scowl on his face.  

He storms into the car, "I WILL NEVER GO THERE AGAIN!" he said through clenched teeth.  

"Oh no, why sweetie?"

"I totally messed up my order!  I wish you went in there with me mom!  I told you I needed help!  She asked me what else I wanted and I told her that was it cuz I didn't know if I could get a drink or not and she never put anything else on my sandwich but the meat!  I didn't know she was asking about the condiments.  Why didn't she clarify?"

"Honey, it's okay to ask questions if you don't understand people."

"No.  It's just stupid.  I'm never going there again."

I didn't realize before hand what a truly big deal this was to him.  I just brushed it off as him being 'in a mood'.  But it was way deeper than that!  He honestly didn't feel he had the skills to make the transaction.  He was begging for help and I wasn't there for him.  I felt so bad.  It was so much deeper than needing me as a crutch.  He needed me as a guide because he felt blind and had no idea how to handle this social situation.  Mom fail.  We both learned invaluable lessons that day.

Back to the current day....

Again I ask,  "I thought you were never going back to Subway?"

"Mom.  My hair is what gives me a social life now. I can hide behind my cool hair and be confident."

"I had no idea hair had that much power.  But good for you honey.  Good for you!"

My son can now enter Subway and order with confidence because of his hair.  He no longer feels socially inadequate.  This is a proud parenting moment.  Did I mention that I'm also the one who cuts his hair?  So I feel I can take a little credit in the hair department that has saved his social life.

Christmas Music

12/18/2013 — cori

This picture says so, one, the kids are getting so big you can't even see the tree; two, Gavin could care less if he wears matching socks (inside out or not); three, they still have no clue how to hang ornaments and group them together on the tree so that I have to come back at later and reshuffle them so as not to hurt their feelings.  What it doesn't tell you is what we were listening to as we were decorating the tree.  I asked the kids to go put on some music.  Actually, I asked them this when we were in the 'putting the lights on' phase of tree trimming.  Chuck had assumed this responsibility and I felt he needed some inspiration or at least motivation to keep going. This is what was chosen:

Light 'em Up

Bennett had indeed outdone himself this time.  He picked the perfect song for the occasion as we were indeed lighting the tree.  This is Mallott's Thinking-Outside-The-Box at it's best.  And the bonus to it all was, my parents were with us to celebrate the festivities.  You can imagine their shock when that song came on when all of us were assuming Christmas Carols were in order.  But oh, this was so much better!  I believe they thought so too.

Then we moved on to bigger and better things like putting together the train tracks that graced the bottom of our Christmas tree.  It took a team of 4 to achieve a feat of this magnitude.  In keeping in line with the earlier music selection of the day, I found another inspirational song to help them push through the hard parts of the engineering process:

Josh Turner - Long Black Train

Welcome to Christmas at the Mallott's where you never know what to expect and have fun anyway.

Dec 12, 2013

Spring Break 1995

12/12/2013 — cori

Yep, that's us....a really, really, really long time ago.  We were just optimistic college kids ready to find our place in the world, looking forward to finally getting married and finding 'real' jobs.  We only had one more Spring Break to go before graduation.  Originally, we both thought we would have to work over Spring Break so we didn't make any plans.  However, we found out late that our on-campus jobs would be closing that week leaving us jobless.  Since we had no money and nowhere else to go, going home sounded like a good idea.  We thought we'd surprise my parents since they weren't expecting us.

Boy, did we ever surprise them.

I even made some banana bread to bring home with me as a gift for my parents.  It was fresh out of the oven when we left.  The smell of it wafting through the car made us hungry.  School was only a 3 1/2 hour drive from home.  We'd made this drive no less than a thousand times over the past 4 years.  We knew each small town we passed through like the back of our hand.

For those that don't know, Chuck and I both went to a small school in Nacogdoches called Stephen F. Austin State University.  We lovingly referred to it as 'Naca-no-where'.  We were in deep east Texas, the heart of the Piney Woods, good ol' boys and red clay dirt.  Lots of red necks lived that deep out in the woods.  We, being the studious college kids we were and the non-horse riding variety of Texan, did not consider ourselves 'rednecks'.  You could spot a redneck a mile away though...they usually wore overalls or wranglers, a cowboy hat or ball cap, a dirty white t-shirt and cowboy boots and a big buckle and spoke with a big drawl and twang.  We were surrounded by these types of people in our little hick-ville college town.

So there we were driving through the back roads of deep east Texas eagerly awaiting our one last reprieve from school before finally diving into the 'real world'.  We are about an hour and a half into our drive when the car makes a weird noise.  Uh-oh.  Not only does it make a weird noise, the gas pedal no longer works, nothing seems to work.  We just coast it over to the side of the highway until it stops.  We try the ignition...nothing.  Not good.  We are literally in the middle of nowhere.  The local people called that area the town of Jacksonville.  We still call it nowhere.   To be precise, we are actually 2 miles outside of nowhere.

Remember, these are the days prior to everyone and their dog having cell phones.  We had no way to reach my parents to tell them we had a teeny tiny problem with the car.  They had no idea we were even on our way home, nonetheless stranded on a remote highway 2 miles outside of town.  But being that we are optimistic about life and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, we start out walking in hopes of finding someone who can help us.

Not too far down the highway, set way back in the woods, we see a dirt path that looks like it could be a road.  We naively start walking down it.  The house (actually trailer) was set maybe 200 yards back. This was going to be a long walk.  As we neared the trailer we saw multiple skeletons hanging in the trees and amongst the fence post.  There were fish carcasses and heads, squirrel skeletons, maybe even a deer or two.  This was getting creepier and creepier the farther away from the main road we got.  We weren't really too anxious about all the dead things lining our path because we were too busy rehearsing what we were going to say once we got there.

At the end of the path, in front of the trailer and amongst the broken down pick-up truck littered front yard, lied a couple of card tables with many men sitting around them doing who knows what.  They were of the hick variety mentioned earlier.  They just stared at us.  Our two worlds don't often collide and when they do neither of us know exactly how to act around the other.  To say it was awkward would be an understatement.  But at least it wasn't dark out - yet.  Everything seems worse in the dark.

I don't remember whether it was Chuck or I that spoke up first, but we ended up saying something to the effect of, "Um...our car broke down back there and we were wondering if we could borrow your phone to get help."  One of the men motions towards the beat up trailer and tells us the phone is in there.  We both go in.  There is a lady barefoot and pregnant - no kidding - with the dirtiest little kid you've ever seen sitting in a high chair and a huge cauldron of something boiling on the filthy stove. Maybe she was cooking all the meat off those carcasses we saw hanging in the trees earlier.

I am able to reach my Dad and tell him we have a problem.  "Hi.  Surprise, we're on our way home to see you only our car broke down and now we don't know what to do."  I can't remember what the exact exchange of our conversation was but I know it had something to do with him encouraging us to try to get into town and they would come get us as soon as they could.  Unfortunately this was a bad day for car problems.  My Dad had just finished 18 months of taking college courses at night to finish up his degree and this just happened to be the day of his cumulative final exam.  The exam was supposed to take 3 hours.  He finished it in an hour and a half.

We come out of the trailer and one of the men offers us a ride into town.  How nice.  If only you could have seen him.  It would be akin to taking a ride with a serial killer.  These people were scary looking. We had no reason to trust them but we did.  Honestly, the only thing I can think of the whole time we're in the back of his car is "I hope my banana bread doesn't go bad." not "I sure hope he doesn't try to kill us or take us to an abandoned house somewhere."  See you should never judge a book by it's cover because he did in fact take us into town and dropped us off right in front of Walmart.  We were lucky (to be alive).

As we were walking into Walmart I happened to see a sign that said, "No Loitering" so of course I was paranoid we'd somehow get in trouble for staying in Walmart too long.  We roamed the aisles as long as humanly possible and then went out front to use the pay phone to call Mom and find out how much longer.  She said that Dad just left to go take his test and that it could be another 4 hours or more before they can come get us.

Finding a hotel was not an option for us.  We had no money.  We didn't know what to do.  And the last thing I wanted to do was get thrown in jail for loitering all over town.  Mom suggested we call the local police and ask them if they could give us a ride to their station and we could wait there.  At the time it sounded logical but as I'm calling and asking them to come get me it sounded all wrong.

Alas, a uniformed officer pulled up in his squad car.  There we are sitting on a bench in front of Walmart in Nowhere looking like two old people or two mental hospital escapees because we have nothing better to do that just sit and wait and smile at people, all while I have perfectly good banana bread we could be eating back at the car.  As the policeman walks up he radios into the walkie-talkie on his shoulder, "Affirmative, two caucasians in custody, one male, one female.  En route."

"Oh my gosh!!" I think to myself.  Did we ask to be arrested?  Is that what's happening?  I know we're novices in the 'real world' still but I didn't think that by calling them and asking for a ride you would be taken to jail!  As we are sitting in the back seat, we are answering questions from the officer behind the barred section that separates his part of the car from ours.  I feel like I did something wrong by just sitting in the back of the squad car.

Thank God he didn't book us.  He led us into the 8 x 10 waiting room and told us to "sit there".  It was the ugliest, smallest, darkest paneled room I've ever been in.  And we were there for over 4 hours. Waiting.  If one is going to loiter anywhere I guess the police station is the safest place to be.  I was half asleep sitting up in the 60's style chair they had adorning the miniscule place we took refuge in by time Mom and Dad finally pulled up.  Were we ever relieved to see them!

They drove us back to Nacogdoches where we all dispersed to our apartments and slept fitfully until early the next morning when we headed back out to Jacksonville to find a mechanic to tow and fix the car. Then we pressed on for the drive back to Dallas and spent the rest of the weekend sleeping.   We were at the mercy of my parents driving us around town on our last Spring Break because my car is now in a shop in the middle of nowhere.

Not the way most young adults spend Spring Break, is it?

Dec 10, 2013

Sun Halo

12/10/2013 — cori

For over a week now winter has been forcing it's presence upon the U.S.  It seems no one is immune to the arctic plunge that has dropped temperatures to record lows all across the continent.  Being in Minnesota, you would think the cold is something we are used to.  True, your body adjusts to anything, even cold temperatures.  But I'm not sure it adjusts to living in arctic conditions.  It seems the arctic circle has decided to make Minnesota it's new home for a while.  The high this past Saturday was -1.  It was -11 when I got up and had to leave the house.  Yesterday, because of the wind, it felt like -23.  10 degrees feels quite warm by comparison, it's all relative.

But the point to this story is not the cold, but the beauty that can be seen amidst it.  Everyday for over a week now that we've been in sub zero temperatures I have noticed a rainbow around the sun for 4 hours each day.  It makes my heart so incredibly happy I cannot even describe it.  I prefer to call it my Rainbow Parentheses.  It's just beautiful!  I know there is a scientific explanation for it (they call it the Sun Halo) but I prefer to think of it as my own special gift from God making each day more bearable and happy.  Honestly, I don't mind the cold as long as I have my sun.  I need the sun.  Now, not only do I get to see the beautiful sun each, bitterly cold day, I also get the added bonus of rainbow can that not make anyone giddy?!  The arctic is no match for me and my 3 layers of pants, shirts, socks with heated warmers stuck to the bottom, snow boots, hat, scarf, mittens with heated warmers and down jacket with hood....because I have a sun halo to keep my heart warm and a smile on my chapped face.  Life doesn't get much better.

Dec 9, 2013

A Weak Mind

12/09/2013 — cori

After a very, very long work day this weekend, I was greeted at home with lots of hugs and kisses by my brood.  I was soon to find out that I was the perfect test subject for the latest middle school humor.

I was mentally exhausted.  I had nothing left.  I was just happy to be home and see everyone before bed. They were all extra giddy for some reason.  Bennett informs me, "Mom, your socks are untied."  I look down at my stocking feet 2 seconds too early.  It doesn't click right away that socks don't have ties, therefore, can't untie. He was preying on a weak subject.

You would think I would be extra cautious with anything else that spewed forth from his mouth.  So when he told me, "Mom, did you know that if you say 'gullible' real slow it sounds like 'orange'?" you would think I would know he was up to something.  But being me, I fell for it like gullible fool I am.

I immediately start sounding out 'gullible' in the longest, most drawn-out fashion I could muster because I wanted to see if it indeed sounded like 'orange'.  "Gulllllll....iiiiiiiiii....bbbbbbbblllllllllle. "  I didn't even make it to the 'i' in my slow speaking voice before everyone was laughing hysterically and pointing at me.  But I pushed through, still unsure as to why they would be laughing so hard.  Was there a joke in there somewhere I wondered?  After I said the word as slow and as stupid as possible (you can't have one without the other), I realized, ah yes, there is a joke and it is on me.  Gullible will never sound like orange, only a gullible person would try that.  Duh.  

I am definitely not a jedi.  I am one of the weak minds that the jedi's use their superior powers of mind control on.  Apparently, Bennett is a jedi, as are all the 6th graders in his class where this joke is having a hay-day.

Dec 4, 2013

Our First Christmas

12/04/2013 — cori

Do these look like blissful newlyweds or what?!  This was our first Christmas together 18 years ago. Believe it or not, it actually got cold enough in Dallas to wear jackets, gloves and blue furry ear muffs. It was also in the age before digital cameras.  We had to wait a whole week to find out what all those photos looked like stuck inside our camera.  We had no way of knowing if they would turn out blurry, or if we would have weird expressions or enough lighting until we actually had the photo in hand.   But we still managed to have fun and have visual reminders of good times.

This particular evening we were at a very special event.  The ritzy, upscale area in Dallas known as Highland Park Village always had special horse drawn carriage rides during the Christmas season. They were rather expensive, but this was our first Christmas, we both had jobs, we figured we could splurge.

The carriage takes you through the mansion lined streets of old Highland Park where you see the gorgeous houses decorated to the hilt.  It was everything you could think a romantic evening would be. But we didn't end up going by ourselves, we went with my parents.  We thought we'd enjoy the evening together and maybe grab some tea or hot chocolate at La Madeline, our favorite little French cafe, after our special horse drawn carriage ride.

Oh how quickly things deteriorate.

Yes.  We did end up riding one of these beautiful carriages.  We waited in line for what seemed forever (probably only an hour) in the freezing cold (for Dallas, it must have been at least 50 degrees) until it was finally our turn.  Unfortunately, two other people were already in the carriage that was supposed to be ours.  These carts are made to carry two people on either side, facing one another.  How were we all going to fit when there were already two strangers in our cart?

Apparently we didn't feel the need to wait for the next carriage.  Maybe the cold had frozen our sensibilities but we were all getting on that cart do or die.  It was like the last helicopter out of VietNam and there was no way it was leaving without all of us on it.

So let's just throw 'Romantic Evening' out the window.  This is how it all went down:  No one really knows who was directing this show, was it the carriage driver?  was it my parents?  was it the other two people in the cart?  One thing is for sure, Chuck and I were the pawns and just went where we were told.  That meant that I was sitting in the middle, between both of my parents staring at the two people in the seat opposite us while Chuck was sitting on the bench seat next to the driver.  Yep.  I got to look at the back of his head the whole, romantic, horse drawn carriage ride.  Not only did he get to sit up high, he also got the special job of flipping the tape so we could have continuous Christmas music playing.  

Technology plays a big part in this little story, doesn't it?  Again, these were the days before ipods or even cell phones that could play music.  If we wanted music that could travel we either had to bring a tape deck that had enough batteries in it to last or a walkman.  But walkmans only worked with headphones (think ones with spongy ear pieces), so that was out of the question.  So Chuck is freezing his butt off with no blanket to wrap around him on this windy, chilly night as he has to play meticulous attention to the tape deck so he can manually take out the tape and flip it over and press the 'play' button again so we can all enjoy the beautiful Christmas music while sitting snuggly together wrapped in warm blankets enjoying the view from our cozy carriage.

Ahhh....the memories. Life doesn't always work out how you plan....and that's the beauty of it.  Who knew this would be the beginning of a lifetime of Mallott Family Adventures that always ended up other than we planned.  One thing's for sure....we know how to laugh - at ourselves and situations out of our control.  Who wants a bunch of boring old memories where everything goes the way it's supposed to...where's the fun it that?

Dec 3, 2013


12/03/2013 — cori

Last night at dinner Gavin was telling us about an activity in one of his classes.  He started a new trimester yesterday and in order for the teacher and students to better remember one another's names, the teacher had them all say their name and an animal that started with the same letter.  Before they could say their own name, they would have to repeat the names/animals of the people before them. Gavin was thrilled that his was number 5 to go.  I asked him what animal he picked and he said, "Goshawk".  He said that caused quite a stir since it wasn't your typical, gorilla or gator.  He likes to be different.  He likes to stump people and keep them guessing.  However, he later conceded, "Had I given it just a little bit more thought, I would have chosen 'gnat'."  Another typical Gavin move.  He likes to make fun of the English language and that technically starts with 'g' which is all that matters to Gavin.

Of course the rest of us didn't want to be left out of this oh-so-exciting-name-game.  So we went around the table introducing ourselves and our animals.  Daddy wasn't there so we got to pick for him.  Chloe just couldn't commit, she had to pick the perfect 'c' animal.  So she got plenty of help from the peanut gallery.  She ended up going with Chloe the Cobra.  I was Cori the Cougar.  Then there was Bennett the Bunny, Chuck the Chipmunk and Gavin's revised animal: Gavin the Gnat.

This little exercise reminded me of a similar activity by one of my college professors.  It was the same concept, a way to get other's to remember your name, instead she asked us to attach a character quality we felt best represented us to our name.  Better yet, in our version of this name-game, we get to attach a character quality to our animal as well as ourselves.   Bonus!  This is how we would prefer you remember us:

Chuck the Cheery Chipmunk

Cori the Courteous Cougar

Gavin the Genius Gnat

Bennett the Bouncy Bunny

Chloe the Curious Cobra

We had loads of stories going about each of our alter egos.  It reminded me of by-gone days when we were superheroes at the dinner table (all day long for that matter).  The stories wound deeper and deeper. We acted them out.  It was the perfect dinner drama.

This is what happens when the children and I are left alone.

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