Sunday, January 24, 2010

Turning 5...

Today my babies turned 5 years old. The day started off well with the girls getting themselves up, a delicious home-cooked breakfast and great conversation with our hosts in Cumming, GA. Then things started to fall apart...Lauren threw a fit when we tried to bring out a birthday cake, refused to have us sing "Happy Birthday" to her and then stomped off when we mentioned presents. Whose kid is this?

Once we reluctantly left our friends, we were surprised at the amount of traffic in Atlanta on a Sunday. On top of that, the weather quickly deteriorated to drenching downpours, massive wind gusts, and flooded freeway lanes. It was like this, off and on, all the way to Orlando.

The girls are sick, which just drives me crazy because they are NEVER sick. Great...just great. They were so badly behaved today that at dinner, I actually had to leave the table and walk off my anger. That is a first for me. We even had to cancel their birthday cake at the resturant because they were so naughty....which is really sad. Ugh. I just feel like crying...

I hope and pray that tomorrow will be better. The weather is warm, Disney World is at our backdoor and there is still a little bit of magic left in the air. Keep your fingers crossed for us that it all works out...

Thanks!  :)

P.S. I'm sorry that your birthday wasn't very good, girls. Hopefully the rest of the week will make up for it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Feeling nostalgic...


Daddy was the first person to hold both girls at the same time...

Mommy was exhausted but totally in love...

Monday, January 18, 2010

These are a few...

I was thinking about palm trees and Pina Colada's the other day which then got me thinking about some of my favorite things. I thought that I would jot down a few of them as they came to me and here is what I have so far, in no particular order. The list is not complete by any means, just what a pencil and a few random moments got me...

Fruity drinks, hot water, bubbles, steel drums, giggles, pedicures, blue skies, freshly mowed grass, vacation, digital cameras, friends, blueberries, Coca-Cola, chop suey, pillows, 80's music, my girls, photographs, historical fiction, rainbows, Kermit the Frog, wedding cake, Geocaching, Charley's Crab, Mikey, sandals, aquamarine, Sisters,, Panama City Beach-FL, hats, family, diamonds, e-mail, 4-Wheel Drive, foreign coins, roses, singing, Fall colors

Saturday, January 16, 2010


This is my 200th post and it seems hard to believe. I've really loved jotting down my thoughts here, sharing special photos and highlighting our adventures. It's fun and it's a great way to keep track of family moments.

Mike and I were just talking this morning about some previous trips to Disney World. We were having a hard time keeping it all straight-which years, with whom, what happened, etc. Now, with the blog, everything is cataloged in chronological order for me. Very convenient. 

Along those lines, we are leaving Friday for our "Twins 5th Birthday Adventure" and we couldn't be more excited. We plan on spending some time with our friend, Russell, and his family, in the Atlanta area, do the Disney thing, see my former nurse, Rachael, who is a travel nurse now, currently stationed in Sarasota and some long-time acquaintances, Chuck & Mary, who live in Leesburg, FL.

Mike's parents will be joining us, as well as their exchange student/cousin from Germany. It will be nice to have a few extra hands on deck with the girls to give us a little break now and then. 5 to 2 odds are pretty good! I know that the warmer weather will be a welcome change and the kids are going to love the Disney magic. I know the big kids sure do!

Mike in front of Cinderella's Castle -Jan- 2001

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Personally, I never make "New Year's" resolutions. They seem so absolute and if I don't make it happen within those 365 days, what then? I'm a total failure, that's what. And what is the point of that? I am continuing my tradition of making no resolutions for the coming year. Is it to make things easier on myself? So that I don't set myself up for failure? So that I won't have to try to top whatever I accomplished this year? No. I think it's because I realized a long time ago that no matter what I wanted to "change", whether I accomplished my goal or not, it wasn't what made me happy.

Each year, millions of folks all across this great world of ours, make a pact with themselves to try to do something better. Many want to lose weight, spend less, exercise more, find a mate. And I wonder to myself, "Is this really the way to go? Are we all lacking in some way, just trying to get one more "thing" right about ourselves? Can we be perfect at some point?". I think not.

As humans, why are we so hard on ourselves? Survival of the fittest? I am trapped by the notion that we continually perpetuate the problem of seemingly never having enough. It's depressing and it's no wonder so many of us walk around in a total haze. If we allow ourselves to focus on that which we lack, we will always be left wanting. More money, more friends, a bigger house, a smaller waist, designer clothes, a newer car, buff abs, more respect, better job, more time, etc., etc., etc......

Is this how we're supposed to live? Always less than? A little symbol (<) following us around for the rest of our lives...

Instead of wanting something to be different or better, I want to just be me.  It doesn't take more money or a trip to the gym, more friends won't help (although I'll always take them!) or better clothes...all it takes is a look in the mirror every morning, and hey, there I am! I'm not perfect, no one is. Those that "have it all" never do. So if you're reading this, and you made a New Year's Resolution, I wonder if it will make you happy? Will you be complete or perfect? Will it finally make you, you? If not, then go take a look in the mirror, smile, and be so incredibly happy that you're here, that you have, and that you are. I know I am. :)

Me and my friend, Tim!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Happy Birthday!

A big "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" goes out to my little sister, Anna, who on this very date in 1980, was welcomed into our family! I really can't remember life without her!

Don't worry, sis, turning "30" really isn't that bad. I mean, now you have a whole 10 more years until the dreaded #40, so relax! And just think, I will always be older than you, so you have that consolation as well...

So, here's to the best sister anyone could ever ask for! Happy Birthday, Anna! I hope you have a great one!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Girls!

Clockwise, from the bottom left-hand corner: Tara, Hailey (my niece), Renee (my Sister-in-law), Lauren, Anna (my Sister) and me.

I was just going through my old camera and found a bunch of pictures that I had forgotten about and never downloaded to the computer. I don't remember which of the boys took this picture of us, probably Mike, but it turned out to be pretty cute! My little sister is kinda hidden behind my big head, but other than that, it's so nice to have a picture of all of us. It was taken on Thanksgiving Day. Next time I'll make sure my Mom is in the picture, too! Duh...

Thursday, January 7, 2010


The article below is featured in today's Grand Rapids Press. It marks the 25th anniversary of the death of my Aunt Marilyn, Aunt Joann, cousin Hans and 2 others. My cousin, Rhiannon, was the sole survivor. My Aunt Mary and my Mom are the two sisters featured in the piece, along with my cousin.

It's one of those moments in your life where you realize, not everyone is good. Some things don't get better and some things can't be fixed. I remember this day fairly well-I was only 7 (almost 8). But what I remember more than that was the profound sadness...the shadow it cast on our big, happy, loving family. You never "get over" something like this. It stays with you, deep in your heart, a missing piece that always reminds you to hold tight to those precious people and moments in your life. It makes the importance of family even more so and teaches us that as easy as it is to hate, it's in the forgiving that we grow and eventually find peace.

Thinking of you....

25 years after Grand Rapids quadruple murder-suicide, lone survivor has found forgiveness

By Nate Reens | The Grand Rapids Press

January 07, 2010, 7:32AM
Murder Suicide CLIP 480.jpg 
25 years ago: The Grand Rapids Press carried the quadruple murder-suicide story on the front page of the Jan. 7, 1985 edition.

GRAND RAPIDS -- Looking back on the afternoon she found her mother and four others dead, Rhiannon McCalmont believes two things happened 25 years ago: God protected her from the killer's wrath, and she learned how to forgive.

McCalmont, then 7, played in the snow with friends outside her mother's Southwest Side house when Lee Baumann shot his estranged wife, Joann Baumann, their 6-month-old son, Hans, McCalmont's mother, Marilyn Dykhouse, and her boyfriend, Joshua Thomas.

Baumann turned the shotgun on himself on Jan. 6, 1985. He spared McCalmont, who later left the outdoor cold to find the carnage inside.

"I remember vividly Lee walking from the car to the house with the shotgun," said McCalmont, now 32 and living in Blendon Township with her husband and two children.

"I remember every single thing from that day."

But in the aftermath, McCalmont discovered a rebirth.
MURDER VICTIMS Dykhouse Baumann.jpg
Marylin Dykhouse, left, and her sister Joann Baumann were murdered 25 years ago.

Her grandmother, Mary Dykhouse, encouraged her to absolve Baumann. That same night, she sat on a bed in her grandmother's home, where she lived for three years, and began to forgive her mother's killer.

"It seems crazy, but I really feel that was the most impactful thing," McCalmont said. "It took the focus off of him and what happened and told me that I needed to live."

Baumann, angry that his wife left their Upper Peninsula home and refused to reconcile because of his violent nature, searched inside and walked around outside looking for her.

"I really believe, ultimately, that I was protected, and the only protector I know is God," McCalmont said Wednesday, the anniversary of the family tragedy. "I'm not sure how I was outside and away from the house."

That didn't stop the childhood nightmares, just as the multiple murder-suicide still haunts Mary Reamer and Karen Kowalewski, who are the sisters of the female victims.

The pair, part of a nine-child family, continue trying to find the positive side of the loss of Dykhouse, 35, and Joann Baumann, 30.

Dykhouse, a mental health social worker, was a compassionate woman who could find good in anyone. She advocated healthy eating and living.

Baumann was a student teacher with a love of the outdoors. She wrote poetry and devoured literature.
Reamer remembers her sisters each day and often sees the world through their lenses.

"They were a big influence then and are today," said Reamer, who placed a memorial advertisement in The Press to honor the victims. "They taught me how to love and to care about others." The 46-year-old said the tenderness her sisters showed toward others played a role in her and her husband, Clint's adoption of six children in addition to their four biological kids.

Kowalewski revisits the loss each time she learns of domestic violence deaths, particularly when they involve children."Something like this never leaves you, and similar things bring it right back," Kowalewski said. "I mean Hans was a 6-month-old baby. "Who does that?"

Murder SUICIDE family 480.jpg
Rhiannon McCalmont, center, with her husband, Steve, and children Keegan, 9, and Ella, 7, in their Blendon Township home. Rhiannon was the lone survivor of a 1985 Grand Rapids murder-suicide that claimed her mother, her mother's boyfriend, an aunt, a cousin and the killer.

Both women praise Rhiannon McCalmont for persevering and becoming the person she is today.
They see shades of her mother in McCalmont, whose laugh, upbeat nature and quirks are hallmarks of Marilyn Dykhouse.

McCalmont credits her grandmother and father, Joe Schmitt, and his wife, Cathy Schmitt, for creating a nurturing environment where she could physically and spiritually grow away from the horrible memories.

Authorities said Lee Baumann, a science teacher who hailed from Saginaw, planned the slayings, driving from the couple's home near Marquette with the shotgun in the trunk.

He had a violent streak and had sought counseling, his mother said following the deaths. Baumann left a note that concluded with "I am sorry all."

Joann Baumann left her husband about a month before her death, after a rage that ended with him smashing an antique chair and threatening that she was next.

He apparently faulted Dykhouse for housing her sister and nephew, police said.

McCalmont moved from Grand Rapids to Grand Blanc at 11 years old to live with the Schmitts. Cathy Schmitt adopted her and became the woman McCalmont calls "Mom." "She taught me how to be a woman, how to be a mother," McCalmont said. "They showed me that I wasn't different, that I was just someone in the family.

"I lost my mother, but I feel like there's a restoration in my father's family. And I try to honor (Marilyn Dykhouse) by just being myself, by being happy like she was."

E-mail Nate Reens:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wordless (almost) Wednesday: The Tired Hosts

This is what 2 people look like at 2am after hosting a New Year's Party for over 50 people...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Our New Bathroom!

Things have been a little crazy around here, so in true form, we decided to tackle a huge project right in the middle of everything! Since Mike actually had a few days off from work between Christmas and New Years, we went ahead a ripped out our main floor!

The picture to the left was taken on the day we bought our new house. Absolutely nothing had changed in there since that day other than we fixed the toilet so it would work again. It was literally the only room in the house that we hadn't touched yet and it was driving me bonkers!

We were fortunate that a friend of ours works for an upscale Kitchen & Bath Design store and was on the lookout for a good deal for us. We were able to pick up a custom sink base, glass tiles, and a vessel sink for a fraction of the retail price. Bravo! 

So, we gutted everything and were left with a lovely shell to work with...

 Mike and I then picked out our floor tile and matching wall tile, a new mirror and light fixture, and new hardware for the walls.  Our super awesome friend, Deane, then came to help us lay the tiles. Mike ran the wet-saw, Deane laid the tiles and I ran back-up.

We leveled the floor, installed the
cabinet and did all the floor tile on the
first day, then the wall tiles the next.

Mike and I grouted on the third day and finished the rest of the bathroom on the 4th. It's not totally complete yet because the most fabulous part is still in transit. We have a beautiful Silestone top coming and our vessle sink is on back-order. We will then use some wonderful 4x4 glass tiles as a backsplash once the rest is installed. For now, we cut down the old sink and threw it back on top so that we had some way to wash our hands! It works and doesn't look terrible, but I can't wait to see the finished product in place!