Not So Merry or Bright

Here we are two-and-a-half days before Christmas, and it’s been rainy and 65 degrees (or higher) here in Atlanta all weekend. Miserable. Add to this a child with the flu. Throw in two other non-sick kids who are stuck at home with mom and the flu-ridden one. What results is a case of cabin fever reaching epic proportions.

Enough with the rain already, Mother Nature.


Our first Christmas in the new house has been…different. Good, but different. I’m pretty sure that after 9 years of living there we had perfected the art of decorating of our old house. We’re back to square one here. Where we were Southern Living material last year, we’d be doing good to show up in a Lillian Vernon catalog this year.


Tracking down the boxes with the Christmas stuff was challenging, even though most of it was labelled. I kept envisioning it in our old basement, stacked like it’s always been. But movers don’t work that way; even though we’ve been here a little over six months, some days are still like sorting through the pieces of a gigantic jigsaw puzzle that’s been dumped out.

Part of our decorating dilemma has been this thing:


Sister-Girl is knee-deep in the terrible-twos (if you adjust her current age to dog-year-age). I quit counting how many ornaments she’s broken. The ornaments on our tree don’t start until about 4 feet up from the ground, but even this doesn’t stop Kirby from standing on her hind legs, mouth wide open and aiming at something/anything sparkly. She’s part shark, part carnival act, part hoarder.


This was taken the first night we had our tree up. It’s gone downhill rapidly since then.

Thank goodness this little guy made it here safely. I cannot tell you how many friends have sighed and said, “oh, my grandmother had this exact tree!” when they see him sitting on a table. Makes me smile every time I walk by, even though it’s no doubt a fire hazard with its frayed, circa 1978 cord.


Jack’s school Christmas concert was on Thursday morning. We sat up in the attic with all the squirrels. Seriously, the balcony at Trinity Presbyterian–for this event, at least–puts any kid’s table at any holiday event to shame.


Y’all like that untucked shirt and sloppy tie? And you can’t even see the tennis shoes he’s wearing…

What is it about seeing my child singing in front of a crowd that makes me tear up? Every single time. (Actually, I was probably crying because I was stuck up in the romper room with 3/4 of the pre-K kids, all of whom were so excited they could pop.)


See that cute guy in the green shirt on the front row? Mine. 

The most beautiful part of the morning? When the schoolchildren and alums face the rest of us and sing “Silent Night.” Talk about being teary-eyed…


I mean, really. How beautiful is that?

Tuck seems to be on the mend, I hear the rain is moving out tonight, and Christmas is only two-and-a-half days away. Methinks things are indeed looking up.


I hope you’ve been just a little bit better than Kirbo this year…we’re a little concerned about her status on Santa’s list. I’m willing to bet 4 swallowed socks, myriad broken ornaments, and a destroyed dog bed that she’s not exactly on the top of the Good List.


guarding/scouting the food at our family Christmas party

I guess we’ll find out for sure on Wednesday morning.

Losing It (Almost)

Been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, I’m afraid. I must confess I’m gun-shy after a narrowly averted blogging catastrophe. And, yes, I realize there are much bigger issues in the world, but in an effort to help anyone else who stumbles across this while frantically searching for a way to rescue a blog from the netherworld, I’m providing the shorter-ish version of the story. It’s your Christmas gift.

On December 9th, my domain name expired. Sigh. Out of the gate, I’ll admit that it’s totally my fault for not just sitting down and ponying up the $10 ($10, people! Makes my apathy even more embarrassing) to renew the registration. I have no excuses–or at least I thought I had no excuses. Come to find out, Google/Blogger actually did provide me with an excuse. They/It deleted my login, so there was no possible way for me to access my account to pay the renewal fee, had I chosen–you know, like a responsible adult–to renew it in a timely manner.

That’s pretty sneaky. And pretty uncool. It’s not like this domain name is the cat’s meow. There wasn’t a queue of whackos lined up waiting to snag it. J, T and Theo B. is not snazzy or clever or supremely well established. But it’s mine. I have close to 5 years’ worth of essays and photos stored under it, so it’s important to me–to say the least.

When I woke up on the 10th and realized I really needed to renew, I finally sat down to knock it out…only to find the dreaded “holder” page up–chock full of lame ads–courtesy of Big Brother…er, Google.

I had no way to sign in. After spending a gut-wrenching afternoon trying to figure it out, I was in full-blown panic mode. There was no way to access my work; however, I must give a huge shout-out to my 9-year old who suggested I take screen shots of cached pages and then print them out–a process which, as you can imagine, takes a ton of time. And ink. And paper.

I called people all over the country. I emailed the Google machine about 15 times. I searched and searched for answers online–which is obnoxiously ironic since Google was the beast that was causing this problem in the first place.

Finally, on Monday, I received the following email. A friend of mine pointed out that the line about “kindly informing [me]” was a nice touch, especially when they’d “migrated” my stuff without my knowledge.


That screenshot’s a little tricky to read, and this message is a gem, so I’m giving it to you again.

See for yourself:

Hello Laura,

Thank you for your message, I called you but couldn’t reach you so I let a voice message. I understand that you are trying to renew your domain name

I kindly inform you that we have migrated all our customer from Google Wallet to our new online billing system, now you have an Admin console were you’ll be able to manage the renewal options and billing information for your domain name

In order to access this Admin console you have a user ending in “” and a password. I’ve sent you a message to that contains your user and the option to reset your password. Once you set your new password please continue with the steps below: 

1. Go to (try using and incognito window in Chrome).

2. Enter your user “” and your new password. 

3. Accept the terms and conditions and proceed to verify your billing information. 

4. On the left upper corner you’ll see an arrow to go back to the dashboard. Click on it and go to “Billing.” 

5. Next to Domain registration there is a plus sign”+” click on it to display more information. 

6. Make sure that the renewal option is set to: “Auto-renew my contract.” You can change it by clicking on the blue link “change.” 

I’ll give you a call tomorrow to follow up on this case.

This case will remain open while I work with you. Feel free to reply to this message anytime. 



Google Enterprise Support

To this Diana’s credit, she did call and prove she was a real person, despite the above garbled email. She explained that I was not the only one affected by this sneaky “migration”. That was a nice touch, too. But finally landing upon this point of human contact was beyond frustrating, and tracking down a way to talk/email with a live person took the skills of an M.I.T. graduate, which, clearly, I am not.

Just so y’all know I’m not over-reacting, here’s the convoluted information at the dead end of about 15 searches for how to renew an expired domain:

Renewing Domain Registration

Your initial domain registration is valid for one year. If subsequent registration renewal fails, you’ll have several opportunities to change your billing information and renew your registration:

On your renewal date – If you’ve chosen automatic renewal and the charge fails, we’ll send you a notification of the failure with instructions on updating your billing information. If you update your billing information within three days of the attempted charge, we’ll detect the change and bill you for the renewal using the new information. Within 19 days of your renewal date – If you don’t update your billing information within three days of the attempted charge, contact the support team for assistance with your renewal. If you contact our team within 19 days of the failed charge, we’ll send you information allowing you to update your billing information and renew your registration. More than 19 days after your renewal date – If we’re unable to bill you for registration renewal within 19 days of your expiration date, you won’t be able to renew your domain through Google Apps. Instead, you’ll need to contact your domain registrar directly. You may experience an interruption of service after your domain expires.

If you don’t renew domain registration within the 19-day window of opportunity, your domain name will be ‘vaulted’ by the registrar company ( or A ‘vaulted’ domain name is not publicly available for registration, nor can it be redeemed without additional charges.

To recover a ‘vaulted’ domain, you must contact the registrar company to re-obtain the domain at an additional fee of $89 for and $250 for You can find contact information for or in the Advanced DNS settings section of the control panel.

If you don’t take action, the registrar company holds the ‘vaulted’ domain name for up to six months before releasing it for public sale.

Expired domain registration

If you get the error message that Domain has already expired, please contact customer support, your domain name registration with GoDaddy or eNom has expired and can no longer be renewed through Google Apps. To retrieve your domain, please contact your registrar directly with the following contact information. Please be aware that there will be a fee associated with retrieving your domain.

eNom: phone 425-974-4623 email googleclients[at]

GoDaddy phone 480-366-3700 email gdomains[at]

These support channels are dedicated to Google Apps administrators who registered a domain during the sign-up process. Please note that if you don’t retrieve your domain, you will disrupt your Google Apps service and could lose all data associated with your account.

Thanks, Google; that’s very informative. You’ve cleared it all up and my blood pressure is back to normal.


(By the way, eNom is zero help, and the GoDaddy phone number doesn’t work.)

So, if you are facing down the covert Google wallet migration, welcome! I so hope this helps you out.

Here are a few V.I.P. tips:

1) You have a 19 day window to renew your domain name before it goes into the “vault”. Once it goes into this mysterious vault, you are looking at a serious cash investment to get it back. Why an odd, nonsensical number like 19? Who knows. It’s Google.

2) If you try to call Google, you will not succeed. Instead, you’ll want catch the next flight to California, walk up to the front door of Google’s HQ (1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View, CA, by the way) and slap the first 50 people you see. A computer answers the phone and asks you to input your DNS number or your Google Apps for Business PIN, neither of which you have because if you did, then you could sign in to your flipping account on your own, and you wouldn’t be in this pickle in the first place. Maddening, I say.

3) Don’t fall victim to the endless sign-in failure loop like I did. You will not win. You do not know the lucky Admin Email the powers that be at Google assigned to you. You do not have the ridiculous password (you’ll find it’s something totally logical like “Fc45Th89HTr”) they/it also assigned to you.

To escape this loop, you have to make contact with a real person so that real person can send you the email address and password Google magically created for you. You are just treading water until you establish a project number proving that you’ve filed a complaint.

Here’s the link to get that “support ticket number” rolling down the pike–>

4) Remember the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I filled the above form out about 10 different times and received a few computer-generated answers that did nothing but infuriate me even more. Keep at it, Warrior. Keep at it.

5) Once you get the magic email (and, if you’re really lucky–or, more likely, really squeaky–a phone call) you’ll be informed of your newly assigned Admin Email that enables you access to your console. Login–hear the Hallujah Chorus in your head?–and fork over the damn $10, and your site will be immediately re-established. (Look at all that techie-lingo! Console? Admin Email? It’s like I work for Google!)

6) Save all email correspondence with Google, and save your receipt from your renewal. Trails, folks. Trails.

It’s a good time, no? Trust me; it almost put me off this whole blogging thing forever. That link above is the Golden Ticket, though.

Good luck! And be sure to set the registration to “auto-renew” this time around. 🙂

17 Heads & Way Less Beds


Ah, Thanksgiving. You overwhelm me.

Nearly all of my Thanksgivings have been spent in a house jammed full of people. Spending a day surrounded on all sides by folks of all ages wears this only child out. 

When I was a child, we celebrated Thanksgiving 3 hours away at my grandparents’ house with relatives from places I’d hardly even heard of. I’d spend as much of the day as I could either sequestered away in an upstairs bedroom or outside in the highest branches of a tree. When nighttime finally came, the relatives, slightly pickled from whatever it was they’d been marinating in all day, would slowly filter out of the house. I’d tuck myself into bed and sneak a listen to Fox97–a now defunct oldies radio station. Each year, I’d patiently wait, feeling smug about my covert rebellion, until I heard the first few notes of “Abraham, Martin and John”–the song that to me finally signaled the end of another Thanksgiving. 

I’m not that good with crowds, even if they are swarming with one’s own blood relatives.

My grown-up Thanksgivings haven’t been much different:  the day is filled with folks of all ages and futile attempts at hiding. Thank goodness I am now old enough to partake in the human marination. Viva la vino.

We boarded the plane up to Virginia on Thanksgiving morning. This in itself was a huge victory seeing as the St. Christopher medal I wear on every single flight I take was sitting inside a safety deposit box somewhere in north Atlanta, not hanging around my neck for me to clutch like a crazy person. 

Y’all know I don’t like to fly, right?

Since Russ likes to be the first person on the plane, he and the boys practically sprinted down the jetway, dragging me along. We almost beat the pilot onto the plane. When he asked to slide around us, he also said to bring the boys over to visit the cockpit.


I love me a kind pilot. He put the boys in the captain’s and co-captain’s seats and even let them pull back on the yoke and pretend to steer. Meanwhile, I kept frantically repeating, “please don’t touch anything! Dear Lord, please don’t touch anything!” while gripping and worrying the sheet of paper with my printed out St. Christopher (thank you, internet). The pilot, whose name I somehow never caught, glanced up at me, put his hand on my shoulder and gently said, “it’s all going to be alright.” I could have kissed him right then and there.

Funny how it’s the littlest signs of compassion that can make all the difference.


Bolstered by my new found courage (for this flight, at least) and because it was Thanksgiving after all, Russ and I decided to have an adult beverage on the plane. So I was sitting in my seat sipping a Bloody Mary and simply holding–not clutching–my internet-blessed St. Christopher when Theo yelled out across the row, “Mama, why you like vodka so much?

Let the record state that this was the first liquor drink I’d had in well over 23 years. Not only has Theo never seen me drink vodka before, Russ hasn’t either. 

Leave it to Theo to make the comment of the holiday.

We tumbled into a house filled with family, and way too much time was spent doing this:


5 (of the 8) kids, 4 (of the countless) electronic devices


Minecraft online


Football online


Subway Surfer online

There are a few terrific family traditions over Thanksgiving while in Virginia. The Barracks Road Christmas Parade is certainly one of them. More beauty queens and rescue vehicles than you can shake a stick at. A truly scary Ronald McDonald (all Ronald McDonalds are scary to me by default of them being clowns…but this one is particularly eerie and pasty-faced). A giant dog riding a bicycle. Cloggers. People carrying banners advertising Smoothie King and My Gym.

But along with this menagerie of randomness comes hot chocolate. And the first glimpse of Santa.


Yes, that would be a moose hat. Jack has barely taken it off since he got it (he even slept in it).

Back at the homestead, there’s more land to roam than the boys can comprehend.


Each year, the tree fort gets a new addition–Tuck was pumped about this rope swing!


It’s hard to beat a bonfire–unless it’s an all-day long bonfire.


But Sunday eventually came, and “Abraham, Martin and John” played, and we headed home to our own beds in our own rooms. 


This Thanksgiving was a good one. A really good one.

Now move along, Mr. Turkey. You had most of November…28 days of it, you big lard.

Christmastime is here!


 “Why you like vodka so much?”