A #FanAunt Walks Into a Rubik’s Cube Competition…

This past weekend I had two wild and crazy dreams come true: 1) to attend the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop (even though, once AGAIN, I failed to win their essay contest) and 2) to see my nephew Drew, the speedcubing champion, in a competition in real life.

Jenny Cube

(This is not creepy by the way, it’s TOTALLY NORMAL)

I was dismayed when I found out Drew’s only local tournament of the year was going to be at the same time as Erma, because last year the local tournament was the same weekend as my 15-year college reunion and I missed it. (I am starting to think that Drew plans these specifically so that I cannot attend, and I gotta say it’s a pretty plausible theory.) But HAPPILY, there was a 3-hour break in the Erma action Saturday afternoon, so even though I was TOTES EXHAUST from conferencing all weekend, I got in my sweet minivan and drove across town in time to see Drew in some finals, including Pyraminx (at which he is World Record Holder – watch him break the record here –  and some other fancy title like Lord of the Trigon)

Oh, by the way, this is a Pyraminx

Oh, by the way, this is a Pyraminx

and the regular Rubik’s cube, known to cubers and their overly-interested aunts as the “3×3”. Drew is national champion at the 3×3 but his pal Lucas is the World Record Holder aka LORD OF THE CUBE on that one (you can watch him blow the world’s mind in just 4.9 seconds here).

3 x 3 to those of us "in the know"

3 x 3 to those of us “in the know”

SO ANYWAY.  I walk in to this church gym where the competition is, and STRANGELY, there are not hundreds of people there, so I was able to walk right up front and get a seat. I didn’t see Drew’s mom (my sister-in-law Sarah) anywhere so I moseyed up to the front row where Drew was solving one cube or another. And his eyes met mine and they were filled with the glowing excitement all 16-year-olds when they see their embarrassing aunt walk into a room filled with their peers. You can imagine, I’m sure. Well, after Drew locked eyes with his fave #FanAunt, his eyes immmmmedately shifted away and then BACK to me and I saw that he had sent a secret message to his pal Lucas (see Lord of the Cube, above) and that the secret message said “MAYDAY MAYDAY! Embarrassing Adult Female Relative on the Premises!”

So naturally I got up and sauntered over to Lucas and stuck my hand out and introduced myself because OBVIOUSLY he wanted to meet me. DUH. (You’re welcome Lucas!)

I mean, look at me, you guys, I’m KIND OF a teenage dream.

Jenny is Crazy

So, I found my sister-in-law, acquired a pack of Skittles and a coke (very necessary to sugar up for cubing comps) and watched the action—which, honestly, was SO fast I could barely keep up. They had this thing really well-organized and it was all I could do to follow Drew from table to table as he completed the different rounds. I was trying really hard to be not embarrassing but in one round, he solved the Pyraminx in just 1.7 seconds and before I could stop myself, I WHOOPED aloud. Even though it was an accident, the look on Drew’s face was pretty priceless so I’m not even sorry. I DID do my best to keep it under control the rest of the time though. I SWA-EAR. And mostly, I did a great job, except for one time when he solved the 3×3 cube in just 6.36 seconds and I turned to the complete stranger next to me and declared proudly, “I saw him be born!” which is important because my being present at his birth DEFINITELY has a lot to do with how good he is at cubing.

Let's face it. I am the WIND BENEATH HIS WINGS

Let’s face it. I am the WIND BENEATH HIS WINGS

Long story long, Drew won Pyraminx, and he placed 3rd in 3×3 after his pals Lucas and Andy – which leads me to a HUGE revelation— Andy is also local to the Dayton area and ALSO HAS A FAN AUNT. When I walked in I saw another mom from my kids’ school working concessions and I was all “What are you doing here?” and she was all “my nephew helps organize this” and I was all “SO DOES MINE”! Crazy right? Turns out she’s Andy’s aunt. What are the odds? Her daughter in in Joshua’s class and her son is in Sophie’s class, so they have cubing cousins in common! Soooo I guess I’ve got some #FanAunt competition now….good thing I like you, Robin!

Here’s the fab 3, preparing to take over the world at an earlier competition:

Lucas Drew Andy

So, I really enjoyed my first cubing competition! My only regret was that I had the conference all weekend so I wasn’t able to prepare with any super embarrassing posters or life-size cutouts of Drew’s head to wave in the air.

I guess this blog post will just have to suffice!

Congrats, nephew! Can’t wait til the next one!



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Behind Enema Lines: The Day I Knew the Honeymoon Was Over

Author’s note: This was my entry for the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop Essay Contest. Once again, I LOST. But bonus, you get to hear the most embarrassing story of my LIFE, which I have actually told to very few people. I was hoping it would garner me a win! Talk about your all-time backfires. Pun intended. ENJOY!

Behind Enema Lines: The Day I Knew the Honeymoon Was Over


windy 2

“Marry the person who will help you to the bathroom”.


So commands the title of a recent Washington Post feature in which the author describes her spouse’s tender care after her emergency C-section.


But I can do her one better.


My own emergency C-section added some marital challenges that my husband and I hadn’t foreseen. We’d always been private about “bathroom stuff”; we never dreamed we’d go from “I do” to “Can you help me pull up my mesh hospital panties?” in just under four years.


Courtesy of a surgery side effect called an ileus, I couldn’t poop or pass gas after birth. So, my belly, (you know, the one that just had a giant hole cut in it because my hoo-hah wouldn’t perform?) swelled back up to full-term pregnant size—and it hurt like a MOTHER. To remedy this, I got an emergency enema.


Fortunately for me, the enema worked. Unfortunately, it started working at the precise moment my mother-in-law chose to visit her new grandson.


Trust me, there’s nothing like hoping the moans of your intense pain will cover the seismic sounds of your backed up bowel contents exploding into the toilet so that your mother-in-law won’t hear. (She totally heard).


But the spastic colon party was really just getting started. Back in my bed, my bowels decided to prove their reactivation once again. And my poor husband? He alone had a ringside seat for this one.


Without warning, loud enema-fueled chemical farts started spewing forth from my nether regions. We looked at each other in shock. Farts? We don’t fart in front of each other! Before panic could even set in, volley after volley of the longest, loudest, stinkiest farts that have ever been farted came jumping out of my body. It was like an eleven-year-old boy ate a 48-ounce can of baked beans plus a tube of your grandma’s stinky antibiotic ointment and just went to TOWN.


Horrified, we could do nothing except laugh uncontrollably…but the laughing caused me excruciating pain. After about 15 minutes, this cycle of fart-laugh-moan had us in such hysterics that I had to banish my husband from the room so that my flatulence would be less hilarious and I wouldn’t DIE FROM THE LAUGHING PAINS.


Somehow, I survived—and after those odiferous fifteen minutes in that hospital room, I knew that man was in it to win it with me for LIFE. Twelve years later, we still roll with laughter when one of us brings up the “Chemical Fart Incident”.


So girls, please: Do marry the person who will help you to the bathroom. Or maybe? Be like me and marry the dude who can withstand your chemical farts.

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Dear Children, I Want You to Fail. Love, Mom

Note: This post was originally published on For Every Mom. I wanted to post it here first, but apparently after you neglect your blog for 3 months, it breaks! So we had to have it fixed yesterday. Oops.

Recently Sophie and Joshua have become enamored with cooking shows, so thanks to Netflix and Hulu we’ve been watching Chopped, Cupcake Wars, and Master Chef Junior. I’ve never watched these before, but we’re enjoying them, PLUS I’m learning a lot about weird food I’ll never cook.  But, as I’ve watched and bonded with my kids over these shows, I’ve noticed a phrase that the cooking competitors say over and over again. I’ve heard it many times before in all sorts of contexts, but since we’ve been binge-watching these cooking shows, my kids and I have heard these 5 words over and over again a lot recently:

“Failure is not an option.”

And I get it. These competitors came to win, not to mess around. Winning would mean a lot for them both financially and clout-wise for their businesses.

But. I don’t like my kids hearing “Failure is not an option” over and over again. Because the truth is, failure is always an option. It is an option that all of us will have to accept at some point in our lives, willingly or unwillingly. It is a fact of life that we all need to know how to handle so that we don’t fall apart when it becomes our reality (like many of the chefs on Chopped, mere moments after we’ve confidently declared that it is not an option). I’ve been thinking about that phrase often over the past few weeks, and finally, I have to say something about it. So, pardon me while I clear my throat and take a minute to speak to my children about failure.

Dear Joshua, Sophie, and Jonah,

Hey kiddos. I want to tell you a story about your mother. When I was a junior in high school, sweet 17, I was having a pretty great year. I know it’s hard to  imagine, but I was kind of fabulous! I was the lead in the school play and the school musical. I had a solo in the honors choir. My talents were lauded and I loved what I was doing. Soon I would be a senior. The best was yet to come. (Can you imagine me being young and cool? I was, I swear.)

Jenny Annie
Your mother in her glory days. Don’t act like you’re not impressed!

At the beginning of my senior year, I approached the fall play auditions with full confidence in my abilities. I knew what part I wanted and I knew I would get it. My audition and my callback were great. There was no doubt in my mind I would succeed.

Except…I didn’t. As all of us hopefuls gathered after school around the poster in the hallway where the cast list had been posted, I eagerly looked for my name. And I looked. And I looked, and I looked. Eagerness turned to disbelief. Then the tears came. People all around me were as shocked as I was. Looks of pity abounded. I ran away humiliated.

I had failed. And not even at anything hard, kiddos. At something that came easily to me. At something I was good at. I failed big time.

I cried all the way home and all night long. I remember my mom trying to comfort me but I don’t remember what she said. I just remember the humiliation and the hurt. It was my senior year! It was supposed to be my victory lap, and I was out before the race even started. Not only did I not get the part I wanted, and I didn’t get ANY part.

Somehow I moved on—I don’t really remember how. My 18-year-old ego was bruised but I managed to show my face at school despite my failure. My friends avoided the topic, and I tried to pretend it hadn’t happened. But it was there with me, every day.

Soon, however, I had something to distract me from my failure: an accident. In one of those “urban legend” type stories, one of my best friends—a boy—had a pretty bad accident at school in shop class. And after surgeries and a solid 3 weeks of missed school, not to mention trying to study on painkillers, he needed a tutor. I was in all 3 of the required graduation classes with him, and because of my failure to win my coveted spot in the school play, I had lots of free time. Soon I was spending most days after school helping him catch up on his senior year schoolwork.

Also, since he couldn’t drive due to his injury and medications, I started picking him up for school events and soccer games. We were spending a ton of time together, and eventually, about three months after my epic failure, we started dating.

You’re smart kids, so you’ve probably already figured out that that boy was your father. But what you didn’t know about me and your dad is that our getting together was in large part due to what at the time I considered a huge embarrassing failure. If I had gotten that part in the school play that I wanted SO badly, I would not have been available to help your dad catch up on all his school work and pass those classes he needed to graduate. I wouldn’t have become his driver, his companion, his girlfriend. Maybe God would’ve brought us together some other way, but…maybe not. After all, though I am so glad your dad and I chose each other, I don’t believe that there’s only ONE person in the world out there that you’re destined to marry. Maybe if I’d succeeded instead of failed at that school play audition, we would have remained “just friends.” Maybe I would have gone to college without a boyfriend and met some nice Christian guy there and married him instead. Maybe you kids wouldn’t be here. Maybe I would have missed a life that is so, so, so, much better than a lead role in a high school play.

Since then, I’ve failed many times over, my babies. I’ve failed at jobs, at friendships, and as you know, at countless mom moments. And that’s because, kiddos, failure is ALWAYS an option. But it’s not always a bad thing. It’s only bad if you don’t LEARN from it. In a failure you may feel pain, but you may also learn to empathize. You may be broken, but because you’re broken and desperate, you can experience the glory of being fully dependent on Christ. And you may fail at opportunities you reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want only to be available for ones you’d never dreamed of getting.

Kids, I don’t want you to be afraid of failure because I don’t want you to be afraid to TRY. I’m not looking for perfection from you, my dears, I am looking for effort. Try and care! Succeed and fail! Do it all for the Glory of God and let Him do what He wills with the results. I’m here for you no matter what. You’re loved and cherished and valued no matter what. And if you continue to give your lives to Christ, you really cannot go wrong in your failures or in your wins.

So, darlings, that’s about where I run out of wise words, but I’ll leave you with this:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” —Thomas Edison

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand”.—Proverbs 19:21

I love you guys. Now go out and try some stuff!




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