The Reset Button.

It should be mandatory that all mothers get a day to themselves after the holidays are over, and perhaps two days if their children’s birthdays sandwich the holidays. There is a significant amount of damage done to the maternal figure’s inner wiring that can only be repaired by complete isolation and a significant break from the 794 questions that they are required to answer per day.

(Assuming said mother is an introvert. I don’t pretend to know what the alien species of extrovert mother needs to reboot.)

Chris provided me my first retreat four years ago when he, for my requested Christmas present, sent me off on a Mommy Retreat at a local hotel. I decided at the last minute that weekend that I didn’t want to be alone the whole time, so I invited him to take me out to dinner and stay over one night. It was productive, perfectly blissful, and the reset I needed to start the year.

Since that trip, I have done a couple variations on my January Need For Escape, including two snow-chasing adventures (one just me and the kids, and one including a babysitter), and a hybrid reboot trip. All were fun, but not quite the purity of the Mommy Retreat.

After 2016, I definitely needed a bit of a reset. I mean, who doesn’t?? But also, I had a strong urge to feel productive and get some stuff accomplished.

So I booked a hotel room in Montgomery, a smaller city a little bit over an hour south of Birmingham. It’s Alabama’s capitol, but it doesn’t exactly have the greatest reputation as a destination. However, the kids and I had taken two trips there for our Alabama History project, and I was delightfully surprised at what a pleasant city it seemed to be. Chris and I love exploring small towns, and my Marriott points could go a long way in Montgomery. So I got two nights at the Renaissance overlooking the river at a total cost of $4.15. A retreat with no spending guilt attached? I’ll take it.

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I arrived alone at 1pm on Friday, got settled in, and immediately set off for my maiden run through the city. I strongly believe that the best way to understand a city is to explore it on foot – you get acquainted with both the personality of its people and its buildings. I saw and read at least a dozen historical placards, found the church that Martin Luther King Jr. pastored, and met MANY strangers – because everyone in Montgomery will absolutely speak to you if you run by them.

Montgomery Trip 170114ALTb-Dexter-AvenueMartin Luther King Jr. was pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church from 1954-1960. You can see the state capitol from the beautiful little church…

Montgomery Trip 170114e-First-Baptist-Church-MontgomeryThis is the First Baptist Church. Never have I ever seen a more castular church in Alabama.
p.s. I know castular isn’t a word.

Montgomery Trip FullSizeRender 61This fountain features ladies bathing themselves and others. It was a hot day in January. I totally got it.

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Montgomery Trip IMG_3609Montgomery is officially smarter than Birmingham: They didn’t tear down their beautiful historic train station.

I vowed then and there that next time my kids and I visited a city for history-learning purposes, I would make them walk it – we had missed so much on our two trips!

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That afternoon, I set off into a frenzy of blissful productivity. For five and a quarter hours – until 10pm, I Excel Spreadsheeted and Quickbooksed and Crunched Numbers and made journal entries. I worked on all the year-end stuff that had to be done for Chris’ company, and adored every minute of it.

I’d forgotten how much of an accountant I am at heart – it’s just that it’s not nearly as much fun when you’re being interrupted every five minutes with a request for another snack or an extra show or to please come play a game. But give me an isolated hotel room and a spreadsheet that needs creating and I. Am. In. Heaven.

It nearly made me miss my full time accounting manager days of yore, but not quite.

The next morning, I focused on writing productivity, getting a couple blog posts organized and composed. Meanwhile, in Birmingham, Chris dropped our kids off at Noah’s wonderful godparents and drove down to Montgomery to join me. I took him back on my running route to show off the city, the river, the capitol, and the fountains. He also was charmed by the city and repented of misjudging it. We’ve driven much farther in the past to have a weekend getaway in less charming southern cities, and were happy to add Montgomery to our repertoire.

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After our run, we headed out onto the rooftop pool deck – in January – a week after a “snow” storm – because Alabama. It was well over 70 degrees and perfectly lovely for sitting and soaking up some winter rays.

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Then he took me out for a sunset drive, of course.

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Montgomery Trip 170114g-Alabama-River

Montgomery Trip 170114b-The-Capitol-of-Alabama

Our hotel was in the restaurant/nightlife section of Montgomery, so we walked across the street to SaZa Italian for dinner. It was one of those places that made you immediately wish it were in your city, and was such potent pasta that Chris came back to the hotel room and passed out for two hours – I forced him to wake up and watch SNL with me.

We got up early Sunday and had our long run – 9.5 miles around Montgomery, focusing on the beautiful historical residential areas, and going through two college campuses – Huntingdon College and Alabama State University. I learned that people don’t talk to you nearly as much if you’re not a single girl running through the city. Huh.

Montgomery Trip IMG_3730Huntingdon College looked more than a little like Alabama Hogwarts.

Montgomery Trip FullSizeRender 63We even passed our sadly sleazy Governor’s house. But that’s another story for another day.

It seemed that running as a pasttime has not really “made” it to Montgomery. In our 9.5 miles, we counted five other runners. In Birmingham, we would’ve lost count before the first mile was done.

(Of those five, two were a couple running together. As they passed us, the man said, “I have 17.6. What do you have?” and the woman answered, “I’m showing 19.1 miles.” I was convinced they were just trolling us, and I SO BADLY wanted to pass them again and say to Chris, “I’m showing 35.4. What do you have?”)

We had the most lovely guilt-free breakfast buffet at the hotel following our run (bacon never tasted so good),

Montgomery Trip IMG_3658where our water wore granny panties

then laid around for a bit, after which Chris headed out to go get our children, leaving me for the last three hours for a bit more productivity and silence to finish the rebooting process.

Every time I get away like this I remember the incalculable value in a reset, and vow to make it happen more often. So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by life and kids and responsibilities and maybe even want to work on an Excel spreadsheet for 5 hours, I highly recommend raising a white flag and yelling “Reset, reboot, RETREAT!!”

Qixels are for Mommies.

There are certain things we buy our children for Christmas only because we love them. With dread and self-loathing, we purchase those sets that we know will lose two pieces on the first day and never work again, those million-tiny-parts that we are quite confident will be scattered throughout our house in 23 minutes flat, and those toys we KNOW they won’t play with but they’re just sure they neeeeed.

But every now and then, we buy something for our kids out of love for ourselves. Something we know we will enjoy as much – and sometimes more even – than they will.

Thus was the case this year.

Noah had a very thorough list of things he wanted for Christmas, but I bought him something I wanted. And not one set of that something, but four. Because I wanted it that badly.


Qixels are the modern version of perler beads (except you use water instead of the oven to fuse them together) and the “boy” version of Beados or Aquabeads, which Ali has been enjoying for quite some time. But Beados roll away, the templates are boring, and I personally do not find them satisfying to work with. Qixels are sturdy, square plastic blocks that fit onto a frame and you create objects, usually with a template underneath, that end up looking like they’d fit perfectly into the Minecraft universe.


The minute I beheld Qixels for the first time I knew this is what had been missing from my life. It reminded me of my childhood beading days long gone – I was beyond into the beading scene in my wild junior high days. So much so that my parents would drive out of their way on family vacation when I knew there was a bead shop nearby.

(I don’t know how I knew this. There was no internet. How did one attain such knowledge back then?)

Qixels offer that same delightful pleasure of multi-colored creation, but are a much quicker experience, which is needed in my time-conscious state of adulthood. And as a bonus, I knew my son would enjoy them, so how could it be bad to buy something that we could do together?

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The kids do Lego with Daddy (I suck at Lego), they do Minecraft with each other (I cannot get into Minecraft), but there’s nothing that Noah and I do together. But Qixels could provide.

And…you could say it totally did.

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This collection doesn’t even count the Qixel village he’s already given away in Sunday School.

(If your kid is in Noah’s class and came home with a cute little monster, chances are, I made it.)

I was immediately and unapologetically hooked.

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I found the most efficient ways to sort my Qixels and get them onto the frames. I found the exact amount of water that should be spritzed to make sure all the Qixels permanently stuck together, but still minimize dry time. I even began branching out on the templates, adding my own touches, like the awesomely funky purple belt and shoes on this cop,

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Creating commissioned Items for Noah, like a ninja,

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making twists on blank templates, like this tacky LSU fan,

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(I didn’t set out to make a tacky LSU fan – the blocks decided that),

And, my Sistine Chapel, taking a picture of a race car off a box,

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and slowly and methodically using it to help me create Lightning McQueen.

qixel lightning mcqueen templateS

I am not artistic in the least but in that moment I felt like the love child of Michelangelo and Pixar.

I wasn’t the only one being creative, though. Noah created an army of “Old Men” – this same character over and over, a delightfully jolly big-eared fellow.

qixels IMG_3286 2S

I lined the old men up in front of our creations and began thinking of them as pawns. Ooooh – a Qixel chess set. We could totally make that happen.

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Only later did I realize that Noah was making a tiny army of Jeff Sessionses.

Jeff Sessions Qixels

Chris took note of our obsession and bought Noah a tackle box in which to keep our his Qixels. The delight of the organization of our craft scored Chris many kisses. From me.

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But the thing about Qixels is, you always need more. When you’re creating tacky football fans and tiny Attorney Generals at our pace, they quickly deplete. And since I might have been creating at a slightly quicker clip than Noah, I might have also felt guilty about my over-Qixel usage (at his insistence and glee, but still…), so I also might have began to buy refill sets at an alarming pace. (Thankfully, they’re fairly inexpensive.) My Google search history is full of things like “bulk qixels” and my eBay and Amazon searches are full of attempts to get Qixels at a discount price. Noah basked in the benefits of his mother’s obsession, excitedly cheering when I’d open another refill pack.

This past Tuesday was when I knew it had gone too far.

Noah heard me open the door to get a package off the porch. Or rather, Noah heard me open the door and, from his position upstairs, assumed I was getting a package off the porch.

“Mom! Is that more Qixel Refills?”

“NO…Why would you think that??”

(But it totally was. And I hid them before he came downstairs.)

Guys, I might need a detox.

The Greatest Snowstorm of All Time.

I believed in my heart.

I waited with anticipation.

I followed the forecast, minute by minute, keeping three radar apps, a weather blog, and a constantly updating Twitter feed up on my phone.

This one – this is the one that would happen. The Winter Wonderland my kids deserved. The Winter Wonderland I deserved.

Finally, Friday evening, it started sleeting. Then giant snowflakes! Huge, fluttery snowflakes mixed in with the sleet. Then back to sleet…then it tapered off.

But I still believed.

I was awoken by my son the next morning. He believed, too.

“There’s more snow than last night! There’s lots of snow out there!”

I looked out the window with great expectations in my heart.



It was our very own Snowy Utopia.

I mean we might as well live in Maine, for the giant drifts of sleet in our yard.

The children excitedly donned their warmest clothes over their pajamas and ran out to bask in the glory of the multiple feet of snow surrounding our house.


It was quickly determined that this wasn’t snowman snow. Or snowball snow. So that meant it had to be snow angel snow.


Their faces shown with the thrill of existing in a 100% white-with-snow world.


We quickly pulled out our snow board, which is pulled down hills all year ‘round by an old electrical cord, but now could fly on its very own.


What a wonderful world.


Noah remembered that it was his best friend Loulie’s birthday (it was actually the day after her birthday but sometimes 6 year olds have a breakdown in communication) and quickly declared that we needed to take a walk around the corner to her house. He and I worked our way through the treacherous snow, barely averting the very real danger of falling into a drift too deeply to be rescued.


When we finally arrived, nearly frostbitten at every end, and told Loulie about the unbelievable fun we were having doing the whole Winter Wonderland scene, she decided to join us. And so we started our long trek back, wishing we had sled dogs to help us make it through.


But the bone-chilling journey was all worth it when we introduced Loulie to our 70mph sled.


This is the kind of snowstorm that thoroughly tousles one’s hair.


The speeds were so intense that Noah preferred being walked. Like a dog.


And then another neighbor saw our fun and contributed a real device to our adventures. Wow did that thing slide gracefully. With speeds that left flames in their wake and blew people’s coats up into intertubes.


I’m pretty sure we earned our Canadian citizenship today.

All of Alabama did.