How Jamie and I do long-distance romance

Me: “Did you hang up on me?”

Him: “No. I dropped the phone & nearly broke it.”

Me: “That’s better.”

And back to our regularly scheduled life

While fun, I’m glad our few weeks of notoriety from appearing on the premiere of NBC’s The Marriage Ref has wound down. There won’t be any NBC television commercials with our face on them, nor any more behind-the-scenes glimpses at a foreign world.

Normalcy is a welcome reprieve.

We’ve been having plenty of other reprieves. From Art and Sports Camps…

To two weeks of swim lessons where this little fish shined…

this little lion finally found courage in the water….

and we played every day after swim lessons with some of our dearest, bestest friends.

As of today, I am in Utah to attend Evo Conference, followed by an extended trip to Canada with the kids. Utah brings conflicted emotions of longing for my former home, memories, travel, exploration, freedom. I spent many fun, single years there dating, playing, laughing and learning and I feel torn by two worlds:

The whimsical, carefree days when I could jump in my Jeep and explore whatever mountain or desert that struck my fancy.

And my married life–Replete with responsibility, challenges, being needed, wanted and loved beyond measure.

Despite airing our giant pumpkin grievances to millions of people, I love married life. The laughing, the crying, the changing, the working, the growing, the bonding, the learning, the praying, the fighting and the fixing. This pumpkin widow will be missing her Pumpkin Man these next few weeks as we hit the road on our Great Canadian Road Trip but rest assured I’ll somehow have the time of my life doing it….

….with inevitable Murphy’s Law appearances along the way.

Who Was the “Rightest of the Right?” Find Out on our June 26 “Marriage Ref” Appearance!

It is official: My husband Jamie and I will be appearing on the premiere of NBC’s The Marriage Ref on Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 9 p.m. MST.

If you’re not familiar with this Jerry Seinfeld-produced comedy, real couples with funny disputes appear in-studio in front of a panel of celebrity judges where they chose a winner. At the end of each episode, the studio audience votes to make one of the winners “The Rightest of The Right.” That person will receive $25,000 and their very own billboard, in their hometown, declaring they are right.

Of course, I cannot disclose the outcome (something to do with NBC’s 800-page legal contract) but I am thrilled to give you a behind-the-scenes look at appearing on this hilarious network show to debate (what else?): My husband’s obsession with growing The Great Pumpkin (background information is here if you’re just tuning in).

The Auditions
I first heard that the Marriage Ref was holding auditions in Denver for funny couples with quirky disputes on the radio. I wrote about our experience at Battling It Out at Denver’s Marriage Ref Auditions but suffice it to say, we nailed the audition. A 1,000-pound gourd is nothing, if not quirky.

The Whirlwind
Denver was the final city in the Marriage Ref’s nationwide audition tour so things happened quickly after that. Our main obstacle was we needed The Great Pumpkin as a backdrop for when an NBC film crew came to Denver to film us. Pumpkin season was over and our rotting gourd was oozing its guts on our driveway. A casting director told us it would be fine to film some video with our Flip camera and so we did just that before destroying the pumpkin.

Then, a producer told us otherwise. “If there is no giant pumpkin, there is no show,” he told us. So my panicked husband solicited his buddies in The Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers Group (nope, not kidding about the name) and he was able to unearth a giant pumpkin that had not yet been destroyed. The only problem is it was significantly smaller than his own.

While I was dreading that the camera adds 20 pounds, Jamie was praying the camera added an extra 200 pounds to his pumpkin.

The Denver Filming
After piles of paperwork, interviews with NBC’s legal department, background checks and even a live session with NBC’s psychiatrist (who somehow deemed us mentally competent), we were given the green light. Producers Zoran, Casey and cameraman J.D. flew to Denver and spent an entire day filming us. We went through every imaginable scenario: We started lovey-dovey talking about our courtship. As the day went on, the discussion grew more humorous and passionate about the big, orange wedge between us.

At day’s end, even The Pumpkin Man tired of talking pumpkins and we braced ourselves for the two-minute package that would be pulled together from 12 hours of filming.

Appearing on The Marriage Ref
In early-December, we learned we would be flying to New York City to appear on the final episode with (in my opinion) the very best celebrities of the season: Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Gervais and Julianne Moore. On filming day, a wardrobe crew met us at the hotel to review our clothing choices. At noon, we met the two other couples appearing on the Marriage Ref with us and took a shuttle to NBC’s studios. We were encouraged to talk freely with them but not to disclose “our issues.”

Kinda tough when you’re drowning in them.

We were greeted with fanfare. Because ours was the final taping, the entire crew had assembled for a wrap party that evening. I knew I was in trouble when staffers singled out The Pumpkin Man, saying they expected great things from him. One even treated him like a celebrity, asking him for seeds.

That afternoon, we hung out in the Green Room, ate a lot of food, did a walk-through in the studio, posed for pictures, got outfitted in Wardrobe and had an extreme makeover in the make-up/hair room. We felt like royalty as a producer followed us around, tending to our every need.

And then came showtime. We were the second couple to appear (though the Marriage Ref may switch around the actual order). Anxieties were high with Jamie but I was surprisingly calm, likely due to the fact I had already stressed out when I appeared on Fox Network’s morning show, Fox and Friends a few months earlier.

As we waited backstage for our queue, we could hear the host Tom Papa riling up the crowd, “Alright everyone. WHO WANTS TO MEET THE PUMPKIN MAN?!”

The crowd went wild as we stepped onto the stage with blinding lights and electric air. We somehow made it to our seats without tripping and after we got settled, we looked up and there they were: Legends Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Gervais and Julianne Moore sitting across from us as if we were having a casual chat in our living room.

Only this was no casual chat. We were surrounded by a studio audience and on Sunday, June 26, millions of North Americans will be tuning in to learn our fate. As aforementioned, I cannot disclose who won the $25,000 but each couple was given a Second Honeymoon to the Dominican Republic for participating.

After what unfolds on Sunday night, we’re gonna need it.


Also, don’t miss The Marriage Ref: In Pictures and my exciting mishaps during my wardrobe fitting in The Ambulance, The Woman and The Wardrobe.

This was was originally published at

Battling it Out at Denver’s Marriage Ref Auditions

On Saturday, my husband Jamie and I were invited to audition for the Marriage Ref, Jerry Seinfield’s brainchild on NBC.

No, Mom. We’re not on the brink of divorce but we need a comedic mediator for our ongoing dispute:

Jamie’s all-consuming obsession with growing The Great Pumpkin.

The whole thing unfolded almost by accident. When I was driving to my daughter’s Halloween Party on Friday, the hosts of Alice 105.9 were talking about the Marriage Ref’s auditions in Denver that weekend. Casting directors were looking for humorous squabbles that could be resolved by their celebrity panel.

I listened with moderate interest but then something clicked. The inordinate amount of time Jamie spends nurturing The Great Pumpkin is a kooky dispute, on par with past Marriage Ref episodes that included Fonzie the stuffed dog and a stripper pole in a bedroom.

I am not proud of this.

The show had open-call auditions at a few different locations. I did not want to stand in line for hours so tracked down a few different emails of casting agents who were scheduling auditions. Though they assuredly had a flood of emails, I figured I would hear back if it was meant to be.

And I did. Later that day, a casting agent contacted me and then the actual casting director emailed later that night. They scheduled us for Saturday afternoon and instructed us to bring props so we compiled every insane picture and newspaper article we could find.

Turns out we didn’t need them. One picture of The Great Pumpkin testifies to our insanity.

I thought I had this argument in the bag with well-rehearsed talking points and humorous anecdotes but my beloved James had some great rebuttals of his own, resulting in a fun and thought-provoking debate.

The woman doing the interview loved our quirky topic. She said we nailed the audition and made it past the first round. So now we wait. Our main challenges for being chosen:

1) Pumpkin season is over so getting video of the soon-to-be destroyed pumpkin is a challenge. They asked us to film some footage of it on our Flip camera and send it to them.

2) Somebody else is growing The Great Pumpkin and has our same issues with an even greater degree of hilarity.

If chosen to appear on the Marriage Ref, we would receive an all-expenses-paid trip to New York to be on the show and a generous prize package (last season was a second honeymoon/week-long cruise). Four different couples appear in each episode and the couple the audience deems the “most right” wins $25,000.

Fingers are crossed that will be me.

Jamie: King of the One-liners

Jamie has been going to the same hair stylist for a number of years and his haircuts have always been the same.

Until yesterday.

His normally-short hair was light and, dare I say….

“Jamie, your new hairstyle is kinda….errr…fluffy.”

“What? Are you worried about competition?”


Last week, we caught the tail end of an investigative report on Catfish, a new movie about Internet dating deceptions. As many of you know, Jamie and I met online and our courtship was speedy: we were married within six months of that initial email.

For that reason, my family was understandably a bit wary and my brother Pat even gave Jamie this movie for Christmas:

It was his version of a “Welcome to the Family” gift.

As Jamie and I watched the unbelievable web of deceit unfold in Catfish, I decided to play along.

“Jamie, I have a huge confession that I’ve been holding onto for the past eight years of our marriage.”

“Oh yeah? What is it?”

“I’m not who I have claimed to be.”


Evidence I actually have three children

I have been working a lot with Hadley on reading and numbers lately. She has progressed leaps and bounds with the former but the latter?

Let’s just say I’ll never put her in charge of our finances.

The smartest girl in class is named Mia. Hadley divulged Mia’s smarts secret: “Do you know her mommy won’t let her play or watch TV until all her schoolwork is done?”

She sounded no less appalled than if she had revealed Mia was actually a teen-aged boy parading around as a kindergartner.

Hadley is a competitive little thing so we often talk about Mia and what it would take to get to be smart like her. Jamie joined in on the conversation once.

Hadley: “I think she practices reading for an hour every day.”
Me: “Well, that explains why she’s at least at a second grade reading level.”
Jamie (scoffing): “A second grade reading level? That’s not impressive. That’s what I’m at.”


I compiled a gift guide for Denver moms at Mile High Mamas last week. As I was going through my choices, many of my recommendations came from thoughtful and romantic things Jamie has done for me during our marriage. Feeling suddenly inadequate that I don’t do enough for him, I whipped up a batch of his favorite cookies. When he walked in the door, he exclaimed:

“Wow, buttterscotch oatmeal cookies?”

“Jamie, you do so much around here that this is just a simple thanks.”

“Yes! Just the other day I picked something up off the floor!”


There is no greater obsession in our home than Super Mario on our Nintendo Wii. If anyone has ever wondered if sibling rivalry is dead, they need to watch my kids duke it out. Evidently, the stakes are high because at one point, Hadley abruptly stopped the game and exasperatedly looked at her brother.

“Bode, I need you to put the Wii remote down, come over here, and visualize yourself winning.”

Nice to see all my sports psychology sessions are rubbing off on her.

On-line love and the inappropriate grandma

I’m not usually one to do memes and it seemed like for a while, everyone was tagging everyone else. That said, Jess tagged me for the following questions and since I don’t have anything else going on (actually, I have too much, which is why it’s easier to do this), I’ll give it a shot.

Some of the questions are timely for Mother’s Day and the bumpy road to get there. Feel free to post these same questions on your blog or share any of your answers in the comments. I’d love to hear your stories!

1. If you could do anything different in your life…what would it be?

This is a good question and I honestly can’t think of anything. Of course, life is not perfect but in terms of the elements we can control in your life, we’re doing pretty everything the way we want.

Except for sleeping. That could always be better.

2. What has been the hardest part of growing older for you?

My body falling apart. I used to feel like I was invincible and could trail run for hours. These days with my rickety knee, I’m lucky to make it a mile.

That, and eating all this bran totally sucks. Oh wait, I’m still a few years away from that.

3. At what age/stage in life do you think it is inappropriate to flaunt what you got?

When you’re 85. Droopiness never was sexiness.

4. When you are wrong.. and you know it… do you just move on and forget about it.. or do you apologize and try to make amends..?

I usually will just suck it up and apologize. When it comes to Jamie, I’m generally in the wrong and eventually end up admitting it.

Except for when it comes to excessive time he spends with The Great Pumpkin. In those instances, I am always right.

5. What’s your favorite ice cream? Why?

My absolute favorite ice cream is chi chi coconut from My Favorite Ice Cream Shoppe in Calgary. That place is an institution and our summer evenings were spent there. They have an old-fashioned piano in the lobby and if you play for the crowd, you can get a free scoop. Even though I trained for eight years at the Royal Conservatory of Music, I never worked up the nerve to do it.

Evidently, I don’t value free ice cream enough.

Jamie, on the other hand, does not play the piano and would have done it in an instant. He has to have ice cream every day and it is the one thing that makes him come unglued if we run out. He claims his daily consumption is the reason he is able to keep his svelte figure.

I don’t like him, either.

6. Did you always know you would be where you are today in your life?

Nope, I never had a clear vision of where I wanted to end up. I knew I eventually wanted to get married but couldn’t even fathom having kids. I was always so career-oriented and never wanted be a SAHM. Now, it’s so much better than what I didn’t imagine.

7. How did you meet your spouse? Was it love at first sight?

I didn’t meet Jamie for a few months after we initially made contact. Like all good things in my life, I have the Internet to thank because we met on-line. And maybe, just maybe, we got engaged before we even met. So, in that instance it was love at first sight because, welp, I’d already committed to marrying the guy. (Read the sordid details here).

8. What would be your advice for a newlywed couple?

The best premarital advise we received was from Jamie’s fun-loving Aunt Kathy. For years, she had to remind her husband of every major milestone in their lives. One anniversary, she decided to not mention it and see if he remembered. Of course, he didn’t.

That brought out the flood gates and her anger was unleashed. Until she listened to a radio show that addressed this topic and posed the question: “Why do we test our significant others? Instead of having them prove their love, why can we just not tell them what we want and help them be successful?” This latter point has been the mantra of our marriage and the key in our communication efforts as we ensure both of our needs are met.

Another piece of advice: make sure there is full disclosure before marriage. The Great Pumpkin did not come with a disclosure statement.

9. What would be your advice for a first-time mom?

Just chill out and don’t second-guess your instincts. Everything is so overwhelming and you want to do everything just right. Don’t kill yourself in an effort to be the perfect mother. Oh, the stories that I could–and have–told on this blog.

10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’ll be 85 years old and inappropriately flaunting what I’ve got.

How garage doors result in the downfall of marriage

My family spent Spring Break in Utah. The children and I flew out several days before my husband who later joined us to ski Park City Mountain Resort.

Jamie is good at many things: growing giant pumpkins. Calming me down when I set the oven on fire.

Remembering to feed the cat is not one of them.

My children and I spent 10 days in Canada last winter, during which time our new cat Remy a.k.a. “Fat Kitty” was put on a forced diet due to Jamie’s negligence.

Call me crazy but “Skinny Kitty” just doesn’t have the same ring.

This time around, Jamie’s one responsibility was to take our garage remote control over to our neighbor Jean’s (we don’t do keys at our house) so she could let herself in to feed the cat. I’ll admit it: I was paranoid he’d forget. Our neighbor is in the middle of tax season so I forewarned him not to leave it until the last minute because she’s difficult to catch at home.

There may have been nagging loving reminders involved.

I’m not sure what happened next. Jamie had two garage remote controls at his disposal. He took one to Jean’s. With one to spare, he still somehow managed to lock himself out of the house for several hours until Jean came home.

Even though I was hundreds of miles away, I got blamed.

This is not unlike an unfortunate incident that occurred at my brother Pat’s house. He and his wife Jane were going to Costco to refill their large water jugs. At the last minute, Jane asked her daughter and two grandchildren to come, a process that added an extra 15 minutes to the process.

Like me, patience is not a virtue for my brother. He paced around the house before declaring he was going to put the containers in the car. He popped the trunk, loaded two jugs and waited for Jane to come with the third.

More time passed. Impatience grew. Exasperated, he backed out of the garage to get a head start. This would have been a sound strategy.

Except he forgot he had left the trunk open.

It did not survive.

Upon hearing the loud crash, Jane raced out to the garage to find my brother’s shaved, beet-red head bulging with fury.

“YOU IDIOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” he sputtered.
“We’re idiots? Why is this our fault?” Jane and her daughter were on the floor laughing.

And so the pattern continues. Wife absent. Husband screws up. Wife still gets blamed.

So, let’s hear it. Have you ever been used as your significant other’s scapegoat?

The Scoreboard of Marriage

It’s official: I survived five days as a single parent.

I’d even say I thrived as the children and I played at my happy place (R.E.I.), threw rocks into the Platte River, indulged in Little Man Ice Cream, played at the playground, went on daily bike rides, rolled down the hill at Confluence Park, went to a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, saw Planet 51, attended church, made a cake in our Easy-Bake Oven, roller-bladed and picnicked in Washington Park, ate at Cafe Rio, frolicked at drop-in gymnastics and shopped. A lot.

Evidently, I have an aversion to being home when my husband is gone.

Oh wait. I’m always like that.

And where was the Lord of the Gourds? He was in Niagara at a giant pumpkin-growing convention.

Yes, you heard correctly. His people meet annually to discuss, welp growing giant pumpkins.

And evidently other exciting things such as “watching the youngest grower to ever receive an Orange Jacket take her place in history with her NEW WORLD RECORD Pumpkin.”

This is exciting stuff, people.

I encouraged Jamie to go. Mostly because I knew he’d have a blast and partly because I felt guilty about how much I’ve been traveling. We now have a 12-day break before we head back to Utah to visit family and ski Park City Mountain Resort for Spring Break.

That’s a lot of travel, even for a family travel writer.

This is the first time Jamie and I have had back-to-back trips without each other and it’s been tough. While we generally don’t keep score in our marriage, we kind of did this time around.

“Jamie, I think you owe me after leaving me alone for five days with the kids.”
“Are you kidding me? What about the 10 days you were gone for the Olympics?”"
“Your mom was here for eight of those days. On the others, I arranged play dates.”
“And your trip to Park City last week? You were gone for 3.5 days.”
“The kids were in school for part of it, I coordinated two play dates and your sister Lisa took the kids for most of Saturday.”
“That still leaves a lot of hours. You were gone a total of 13.5 days and I was only out of town for five.”

Bottom line is he is probably right but who’s counting?

Oh wait. Evidently, we are.

Giving credit where credit is overdue

I love to tease Jamie on my blog. And for good reason: the man is obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

But where much is expected, much is given. And the man is a giver!

Every year he has surprised me with a romantic getaway. One year, it was a gorgeous cabin in Breckenridge. Last year, it was the St. Julien in Boulder.

This year, he told me he was dropping the kids off at Grandma’s and taking me on a date to Sabo Latino, a new-to-me restaurant in the funky Highlands neighborhood. An hour before we were supposed to leave, something happened that had me in a tizzy. In response, I got delusional and said we should just take the kids with us, to which Jamie shook me until the delirium disappeared.

The reason? When we were driving to dinner, he presented me with this:

Three clues for my personal scavenger hunt around town. I programmed each address into the GPS of the iPhone he surprised me with the week prior.

That alone discounts the excessive amount of time he spends in the pumpkin patch.

The first venue was indeed Sabo Latino as he had promised. The food was pretty good but I was through the moon when I discovered my foodie obsession that I developed on our Costa Rica honeymoon: plantains.

My next clue led me to our second activity: a couple’s massage at Indulgence’s Day Spa.

This photo was taken before he told me to “Shut Up.” Evidently, some people do not blabber on during their massage. Something about relaxation.

My final surprise blew me away: Jamie had arranged a slumber party with Grandma for the kids and took me to the Lumber Baron Inn & Gardens, a gorgeous B&B tucked away in the Highlands.

Did I feel guilty that he planned this romantic getaway, knowing that we have been taking a lot of family vacations lately? Certainly. But then I remembered our crummy winter that included The Lice, two months straight of illness and the immeasurable stress of starting our own web development business during it all.

And then I got over it.