Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Still Holly Jolly-ing

Hello again! It's been a while. In the midst of the holly jollyness of this time of year, I'm finding I am not the most responsible person. I've been staying up way too late working on Christmas gifts, dance costumes, and if I'm totally honest watching Hallmark Christmas movies. I might have a problem. But...since I'm no longer going into the office since the semester ended, I've been letting myself sleep knowing I can come home and do everything I normally do in the morning. Unfortunately, that means I've been missing my writing window, though, too.

This weekend was filled with going to see Rudolph (which was incredible), baking cookies with friends, and a declared pajama day on Sunday. We finished edible gifts and watched Christmas movies all snuggled on the couch. It was lovely.

This week, I'm dividing my time between the school and working on projects around the house. We've had big fun in kindergarten decorating gingerbread men and making reindeer. I'm down to one costume to finish for dance, and the only glitch has been the little sequin pieces that are stuck in my area rug. Word to the wise: do not cut sequins over carpet. Just don't. I think I will declare it Christmas magic and roll on!

For now, off to make more magic...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Just Yes

So, yesterday was one of those days that was just blissful and better than imagined--even though it was a relatively ordinary Thursday. Maybe that's what made it so wonderful.

Most importantly, Issa had her tooth extracted with zero issues. I will be forever grateful Dr. Crisp came into our lives. Issa was a bit nervous on the way there, but she came bouncing out to get me when they were finished. Apparently, they started the whole thing by adjusting the chair so she could perfectly watch all of the holiday specials on Disney while they worked. Sophia the First and Doc McStuffins make anything more fun. The tooth popped right out and the spacer popped right in, and they did a fabulous job of keeping Issa just loopy enough with Happy Gas and explaining what they were doing just enough that she proclaimed the whole experience, "Fun!" The tooth even came home in a special treasure chest for the Tooth Fairy.

The only hitch was that as fabulous as she felt she couldn't go back to school. We would have made it in time for lunch, but she couldn't eat until 15 minutes after her lunch ended. So...we had an impromptu girls' day. She helped me run errands, and then she and I went out for a nice soft pasta lunch. It's so rare that I get completely unrushed time with just her, and it was lovely. I now know all the third grade social dynamics, and we had just simply had a fun afternoon.

Later that evening, I dropped her at dance and then took Evan to ninjitsu. They were working on punching this week, and Evan throws a mean punch. It's his strong suit, so he was one happy kid. We went back to the studio where I dropped him off with Miss Gabi so I could go to a Mom's Night Out. Bliss. There is nothing better than knowing your kids are very happily playing with a sitter while you sit with a group of other moms. I always feel rejuvenated after these dinners with my little tribe.

I got home in time to tuck, and then I Christmas crafted until way past my bedtime. I realize I am not always the most responsible human being around Christmas, but I am in my happy place, which is well worth the extra cup of coffee this morning.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Elfin Kindness

When Brad and I agreed to let Santa send us an Elf on the Shelf, we also requested that he be a particularly kind elf--no messy pranks or crude humor. We wanted an Elf that celebrates Christmas the way we do, focused on Christ's birthday and giving. Thankfully, Buddy is just that kind of elf.

What I've noticed about Buddy is that he helps us stay even more focused. Yesterday morning, he left some mini-cupcake wrappers and a note suggesting we bake some treats for the neighbors. As it turned out, last night was cold and rainy and I was tired. But Buddy's note was sitting there, and so we started baking. Soon, I wasn't so tired, and the look of sheer joy and surprise on the neighbor's faces by fresh treats on a Tuesday night was priceless--elfin kindness.

This morning, Buddy left two huge gift bags for the kids, but they were empty. He reminded them that although Santa brings them three gifts, he likes to bring kids with less toys more gifts, and he also likes to be sure every toy has a home where it gets played with often. Buddy suggested we put a few things in the bag for Santa to share with other kids. Issa and Evan were nearly late for school because they couldn't wait to fill the bag, and we had a great conversation about giving on the way to school. Elfin kindness.

Buddy has helped me stay focused on what matters, and he's writing whole pages in the kids' storybooks. It's magic, and I couldn't be any happier.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Promised Pictures

As promised, a post full of pictures!

I love our tree this year:
 The ornaments the kids have made are always my favorites, and the highlight is that Brad repaired the angel so she glows again! We purchased that angel on our honeymoon, and I might have burst into tears when he fixed it.

Meet Drosselmeyer:
 Please keep in mind he is taller than I am and filled with white lights for the evening. I'm still giddy.

The kids were thrilled to know Buddy, our elf, can string popcorn and cranberries:
 One morning he was stringing on our mantel. The next he had placed his string on their little desk tree.

But my favorite under the tree scene:
Viv has finally decided a bed may not be a bad idea, and Neela wants to be where ever Viv is. So...I pulled her bed right beside Viv's, and the two of them have taken to sleeping all curled up in front of the tree. It makes my heart happy.

Monday, December 8, 2014


The last part of last week was, well, a hot mess. Admittedly, I had no emotional reserves to cope, and Brad being out of town left me sulking and overwhelmed. Thankfully, it was also full of silver linings, and this weekend was just what my soul needed.

So Wednesday. Wednesday morning I was supposed to have an off campus meeting. When I arrived, I discovered the other person had forgotten. The responsible thing would have been to go home and grade. Instead, I went home and decorated. Our house went from turkeys to festive by the time the kids got off the early dismissal bus. I was up until all hours grading, but I don't regret that decision one bit.

Wednesday afternoon we went to Issa's annual physical (she's awesome) and then for dental cleanings. Good news: both kids are great brushers, flossers, and have no cavities. Hurrah! Bad news: Issa has an abscess. Yeah. It seems that 1% of the time if kids get hit in the face as young children, when the tooth begins to get loose it can just abscess. Of course Issa is in the 1%. Thankfully, the routine x-rays caught it before it caused her any pain, and it's an easy removal scheduled for this week.

Thursday morning, I started my day at the body shop getting an estimate for our front bumper, which is now tastefully duct taped on after a run in with a raccoon. This is so not my happy place, but we have great insurance who sent us to a great place with Bobby who is my new hero. He takes care of everything--right down to the rental car. Just as I was almost to work from that fun, the school called. Issa was sick. Awesome. I turned around to get her, and thankfully we really think it was some bad lettuce. She bounced right back and all was well by noon. It also gave me an excuse to change back into comfy clothes and grade from my couch.

Friday, I discovered I can't see. I knew my vision wasn't great, but it turns out I have developed a major astigmatism. Thankfully, Issa helped me pick out some great glasses. I also am quite certain I was the subject of my optometrist's dinner table conversation. He asked if headlights looked odd to me at night, and I said absolutely but I assumed they looked that way to everyone. Apparently they do not. Now I know.

Friday night, the whole family came with me to a study break party for my students, which was very fun, and then we went home and stayed up way too late. Saturday, we had hair appointments, and Issa asked for a new look, and then asked me to get the same one. We are twinsies. I know this will be the first and last time for the request, but it did my heart good. We went from there to a surprise holiday lunch at one of our favorite spots--because Daddy is tricky--and then spent the day decorating our tree before going to a neighborhood Christmas party.

Yesterday, we had Ryan and Felicia over for brunch, and they helped finish our tree and bake gingerbread cookies. Issa had asked if they could help decorate because they really are like family, and yesterday that was so obvious. The tree may be one of my favorites yet, although some of the gingerbread cookies are very scary. Ryan and Daddy decided to make some zombies and some weeping angels, and my life may never be the same again.

The day ended with our little crew decorating outside. Our herd of deer officially needed to be retired, so we went on a mission for some new holly jolly. Enter Drosselmeyer, a tinsel, white light nutcracker that is taller than I am. He now stands watch in front of our pine tree, and he and the lit garland on the porch make me giddy.

After the weekend, I finally feel like I'm resurfacing. Our week looks shockingly calm, and we are settling in to just enjoy the season. Maybe tomorrow I'll share some pictures of our holly jolly fun, but for today I am just basking in this this joy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


We have a new member of our holiday celebrations. Buddy the Elf. After a couple years of begging, Daddy relented and said Santa could send us an elf. I think that has a lot to do with the knowledge that we are on the brink of magic changing for Issa. Right now, though, we are all still basking in the glow of Christmas magic straight from the North Pole.

Buddy was waiting for us when we arrived home from Thanksgiving, and Monday morning he was hanging from Issa's hair bows and had drawn a Santa hat and beard on the mirror for them to "wear" while they brushed their teeth.

Yesterday morning, he left us sugar seeds with instructions to plant them in a bowl of sugar:
I mentioned that I thought we could eat the extra seeds, but the kiddos wisely thought we should wait and see what they grew into first.

They were so excited, but not quite as excited as when they realized the seeds had grown into candy canes overnight. They even checked for the seeds in the sugar, but sure enough: the seeds had transformed. I thought it was safe to eat the extra seeds, but the kids reminded me that the candy canes were wrapped, which means the hard shell on the seed must be plastic. I have such good thinkers.

I love the magic of all of this. I love seeing their faces light up in the morning. I love hearing them giggle and puzzle things out. I love that we are writing pages of their storybooks again this Christmas, and that is the greatest magic of all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bring in the Holly Jolly

Following tradition, we headed out to find the perfect Christmas tree last night--the Monday after Thanksgiving. We went back to the fire department, and we were not disappointed. Life doesn't get much better than trees and fire trucks. After looking at every tree, we finally found the perfect one:
 I can't explain Issa's whatever that is face. I did insist on a new picture:
 The firemen that put our tree on top of the car were awesome. I really think one of them was part elf he was having so much fun.

Our tough guys brought the tree in:
 Look at that: inches to spare:
It is up and filling the house with pine. Once it's decorated, I'll post the final pictures!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Still Thankful

Well...this Thanksgiving didn't go exactly as planned. Tuesday morning, as I was beginning to pack and send the kids to school, Mom called to tell us that Grandma Luzny had gone Home. After years of suffering with dementia, she passed very peacefully and quietly, although unexpectedly, in her sleep. After the shock, we packed a little quicker and headed North. We are so incredibly grateful for a peaceful passing just as the whole family was already headed into town.

Wednesday was spent gathering the family together, looking at pictures and telling stories. One thing I will say for my family is we rally. Mom's house was filled with family, and thankfully laughter and warmth. We played cards in her honor, pointing out when she would have been proud of when she would have told us we were playing it too safe. The kids played in the snow, and we all knew she would have loved watching--and was watching. (I will always remember her building little snow people--and occasionally saving them in the freezer.) We were together, just as she would have wanted. While we are all so incredibly sad to not hear her voice any more, we are so incredibly grateful her struggle is over and we could all celebrate her life together. A few extra relatives filled the Thanksgiving table, and we saw more old friends at the visitation and funeral.

I am also so, so grateful that Issa and Evan were able to celebrate her with us. They have so many clear memories of her, and they loved looking at old pictures and hearing more stories. One of my favorite moments was Evan announcing he would wear Christmas socks to the funeral because Grandma always wore Christmas sweaters.

I will admit today is hard. Returning to "normal" when I'm feeling far from normal just feels so wrong. So, to honor Grandma and in the spirit of continuing the celebration, I am beginning my day with a list of the top ten things I learned from Ann Luzny:

10. When playing cards (Bridge, Euchre, you name it), always count on your partner for one and when in doubt pick it up. There is no sense playing it safe. If you ended up taking all the tricks and hadn't called "alone alone" you would hear about it.

9. Hot glue fixes just about everything--and it is, in fact, hot.

8. Always wear appropriate, matching undergarments. Preferably pretty ones. No one else will know, but you will--and it matters.

7. You are never too old to use nail polish to paint acorns. Hot pink really does look best.

6. Take a moment to enjoy God's creation. A gorgeous rose. A sunset. The trees. You always have a moment and time for a quick walk about the yard.

5. The holidays are meant to be celebrated in a big way. Decorate. Eat. Sing with great joy and gusto. Christmas was her favorite, and it's all her fault Christmas is about to explode in my house. If one strand of lights is enough, let's go with two.

4. Always tell the truth. Always. Even if it's not what someone wants to hear, they will eventually appreciate it, and you will be able to sleep at night.

3. On a related note, don't be afraid of a good confrontation. If you see something you think shouldn't be, speak up--and then be willing to be a part of the solution. She lived this model, and it was fabulous unless you were the one on the "shouldn't be" end.

2. Family first. Period. Always. We can be mad as hell at you, but everyone else better leave you alone.

1. Above all, do everything you do with great love. She loved fiercely, and everyone knew it. She lived it every day in all of the small ways. We felt it. I still do, and I always will.

Monday, November 24, 2014

There and Back Again

I spent the end of last week in Charleston with 29 of my Angels. We toured schools and the city, went to the theater, and visited the aquarium. We stretched and learned and bonded. In short, it was lovely--and exhausting.

As much as I enjoyed the trip, I was so glad to be back home with my people. Brad and I had only overlapped by less than 24 hours, and I was ready for some good family time. I got home in time for a movie night Saturday, and we all fell asleep snuggling. It was lovely.

Then yesterday, I was able to just putter about the kitchen all day making Thanksgiving for some friends. My students informed me I was hosting a "Friendsgiving." Whatever. It was fun. I love roasting turkeys and mashing potatoes. This time, we even roasted our own pumpkin for the pie and then roasted chestnuts in the fire. It was pure loveliness.

And I might catch up on my sleep sometime by Christmas...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


The ride to school is always interesting. Sometimes, we are reviewing schedules. Sometimes, we are talking about really big issues like poverty and bullying. Sometimes, we are admiring the landscape and cows. My favorites, though, are the really random mornings. This morning was one of them. Issa was on a random role with these two moments that came completely out of the blue and with no follow up:

"Ohio is a strange and curious place that's flat with food crops, rivers, ponds, and then BAM house BAM snow."

"Have you ever just sat in a car and thought, 'Man, I just really want to push all the buttons right now'?"

"No. And don't do that."

"Okay, but it would be super fun."

Oh how I love my girl.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I love the kids' school. It's not perfect, but most of the time they nail it. One of the things I most appreciate is their focus on the school community. Every Thanksgiving, they partner with a local church to provide Thanksgiving for families that might not otherwise have one. The church provides the turkey, and the school community collects everything else. Each grade level has an assignment--right down to the cranberry sauce.

The School Improvement Team then assembles the boxes, and this year I am a part of the team. Families were invited to help, and both Issa and Evan wanted to come. We talk a lot about sharing and community and belonging to each other, and I am always grateful when they have the opportunity to be a part of that.

As it happens, they were the only kiddos there last night. As it also happens, the packing was pure chaos. The donations, which were abundant, had been sorted, but there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen, which resulted in three different packing methods happening at the same time. One person started a bucket brigade system to fill boxes. Someone else started assigning people boxes to fill with each type of item, and someone else started assigning people items to put in every box. It was just as insane as it sounds. All well meaning, but too many people on a small room and no point person.

Consequently, I started literally catching cans of vegetables from the bucket brigade leader and passing them to the kids who were running back and forth counting cans in boxes and making sure everyone was getting what they needed. I even saw Issa switch some cans. When I asked her why, she had noticed that some boxes had one can of multiple different kinds of vegetables, so she was making sure everything was at least in pairs. I love that girl.

At one point, Evan got bonked in the head with a box of stuffing. His response: "It's okay; I'm a ninja in training. I'm tough." The teacher wanted to take him home forever.

Somehow, all of the boxes were filled and double checked, and we started to move them to the pick-up location, which is when further hilarity ensued. The kids were going to teamwork moving a box, but when they picked it up the bottom completely fell out. Their faces were priceless, and the room erupted in laughter. As it turns out, that box hadn't been reinforced with tape--oops. I was so proud of my kids who just laughed and started chasing cans.

It was an evening of gratitude--for a school that cares about its families, for kids that can roll with the punches, and for having a moment to count my blessings in the spirit of the season.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nothing But Time

The best news of the weekend: Issa is fine! She seems to have caught the six hour version of a bug that is sweeping the classroom. By lunch she was absolutely fine and annoyed that I made her rest all day. I'll take it.

This weekend was blissfully schedule free. Aside from a short rehearsal Saturday morning, we had nothing on the calendar. Bliss I tell you.

Brad had to be away this weekend, so the kids and I made a plan to not make a plan. We wanted to go get some supplies to start some Christmas gifts, and we needed to go to the grocery, but that was it. So, after Issa's rehearsal we decided to go to lunch. I'm sure the waitress was annoyed because we took our sweet time and chatted. There was no wait, so I didn't rush anyone. It was lovely.

From there, we went supply shopping. I let Issa push the cart, and Evan did his best airport runway impression, directing the cart with the strangest series of hand gestures imaginable. It took us twice as long to shop, but who cares. It made me giggle--along with many other shoppers. With supplies safely in the cart, we needed a Starbucks stop, and I took the one picture of the weekend:
That's my girl with her first decaf peppermint mocha. She was very happy.

We went to the grocery and then tucked ourselves in at home.

The rest of the weekend was spent cleaning play spaces, crafting, and playing. The kids had two tea parties, and we put a fire in the fireplace. We baked and cooked and just were. It was lovely and cozy and unhurried and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Friday, November 14, 2014


Well...this morning did not go at all as planned. Issa came in shortly after I got up at 5:30 and announced her tummy hurt. She looked fine and had no fever, so I suggested some toast and water and assured her she would be fine. Boy was I wrong. Hello tummy bug.

Brad's traveling. Evan still needed to go to school. I was supposed to volunteer at the school today. The final insult was this was also my one Friday morning a month off--the morning I get my massage and just relax. In short: it was not a good morning.

Thankfully, Issa already seems to be through the worst and she is sleeping soundly. Evan was really upset that I won't be there today, but he got to ride to school with a friend. Again, I am so grateful for good neighbors. I can reschedule my appointment.

After Evan was off to school and Issa drifted off, I let myself have a good cry. I hate when things go sideways. I hate when my babies are sick and sad and there is really nothing I can do about it. What I hate most is when taking care of one forces me to disappoint the other.  It's so hard.

But, then I heard Gram, "Count your blessings." I have great neighbors who took Evan to school, and he was happy to get a little extra time with a friend. My child is sick but will likely be well by this evening--no hospitals or long-term illnesses. I get a Friday morning off a month! I can be home to juggle all of this. It's going to be okay...and so will they.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sometimes You Just Need Fur

Yesterday was a rough one. Nothing went particularly wrong, but it didn't go particularly right, either. The low point was when the dogs wouldn't come in, the kids weren't exactly helping, and I knew we would barely make it to dance and ninjitsu. I spent the entire car ride lecturing about helpfulness and listening. Awesome. Always so effective.

After classes, the kids and I patched it up. We snuggled in and laughed and I tucked them in knowing they felt loved and filled. I, however, was physically and emotionally exhausted. I pushed myself through everything that absolutely had to be done, and I thought I would sit down for just ten minutes. I put my feet up, and within moments I had 65 pounds of Dane in my lap. She gave me one big lick and then put her head on my shoulder. And I melted. It's hard to stay tense when that much unconditional love is on you. As I stroked her fur, I felt myself relax.

Then, when I went to check on Issa one more time, I found this:
She is upside down in the bed so she could be close to Frosty.

Some days, I really wonder what I was thinking adopting our whole menagerie. When I'm chasing dogs or driving across town to pick up more gluten free dog food, I question my sanity.

But then, a night like last night happens, and I realize that there is magic in that fur, and I can't imagine our lives without it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

No Pictures

The kids didn't have school yesterday, and I managed to arrange my work day so I could stay home until mid-afternoon. That meant we had some time on our hands, and we decided a trip to our museum was in order. After seven years of going, we discovered a secret: breakfast.

The kids and I set off to the museum and were literally standing at the door when they unlocked it. Our first stop was the cafe for breakfast. Normally, museum food is not at the top of my list, but this cafe is actually really fabulous, and their breakfast did not disappoint. Issa has declared that they have the world's best pancakes. We also had the cafe entirely to ourselves, which was lovely.

When we finished breakfast, we discovered we were still virtually alone at the museum. We played with the wind exhibits with nary a soul in sight. We were there when the lemurs came into their play space for the day, and we had the exhibit to ourselves. We watched them play in the leaves without needing to give anyone else a turn. The wolf was enjoying the cool morning, and the bears were happy in the morning sunshine. The ducks paddled right up to us in the quiet. It wasn't until we were thinking about leaving that there were other people about. It was brilliant!

The museum was beautiful with the fall colors, and the weather was perfect. I just followed the kids about. We read signs and talked about what they saw. For one blissful morning they didn't argue a bit about what to do next. It's like they were on exactly the same page about our museum adventure.

As we were leaving breakfast, I made the choice not to take pictures. There were moments where I really wanted to reach inside my purse for the camera, but  I was too afraid that as soon as I started looking through a lens I would lose sight of the real picture. I wanted to be fully present--not mom on the other side of an electronic device. Halfway through the morning, Issa mentioned that she was enjoying just chatting through the museum. I don't think she made the camera connection, but I truly believe she felt my true presence. I know the images I have in my mind right now may fade in a way that pictures posted here wouldn't, but I hope the feeling my kids had yesterday, of a fully present mama, won't.

Monday, November 10, 2014


This was a full weekend of Fall Festival, birthday parties, shopping, raking leaves, and designing our Christmas card. To say we were busy having fun would be a massive understatement, but in the midst of all the hustle we had Saturday night. We really try to take holidays one at a time, but weekends in November get a little blurry. We do a little Christmas prep so that December isn't frantic--like doing our card.

But Saturday night, we put on some carols and Daddy made a roaring fire with the sole purpose of roasting chestnuts. Clearly, you cannot possibly roast chestnuts with playing "The Christmas Song." We had gotten some from the Produce Box, and we've done them in the oven before. But this time, Daddy announced they must be roasted over the fire. He carefully cut the x in each nut:
 And then into the fire they went:

There really is something magical about listening to them pop and the slightly smoky flavor they pick up in the fire. While they were cooling, Issa asked me to play carols on the piano as she sang along. Daddy and Evan played a board game. We all snuggled in front of the fire. It felt a little Norman Rockwell. It the midst of the crazy and the bustle, these are the moments I live for and the memories I want to live in my children's childhood storybooks. Here's to a season full of them...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Mama Fix

Being a mom to young children is tough...said every mother ever if she's honest with herself. It's a lot of the same thing over and over and over. The munchkins needs to eat at the same time every day. They insist on wearing clean clothes that they just get dirty all over again. For some reason, they need roughly six million glasses every day. It's a lot of monotonous work. It can be exhausting. Throw in the hard, complicated questions and conversations and sometimes I think we all wonder which end is up.

But there are shiny moments. Snuggles and laughter and one liners. Watching them sleep and explore and grow. My favorite moments, though, are the ones where we can actually fix things just because we're the mama and mamas know how to fix it. When both of the kids were little, they would hand me things and say, "Mama fix." It was never a question--just a statement because Mama could fix anything.

As they've gotten older, I don't hear "Mama fix" any more. And Issa is already bringing me some tough stuff that I can't necessarily just fix for her. That is one of the hardest things for me: letting them learn to fight their own battles and answer their own struggles. I so want to just fix everything for the rest of their lives. But I know I can't...and even if I could I shouldn't. 

Perhaps it's because we're on the brink of tween years that last night was such a welcome moment. I came home from work late, and Evan announced he was not friends with Neela at the moment. Okay...good to know. Then he showed me why:
 Daddy had brought that kangaroo back from Australia, Evan had taken it for show and tell, and then left it laying within Neela's reach. The joey was decapitated; the boomerang removed. His very special kangaroo was in ruins: "Mama, fix it?" He was tired, and the little boy came back out. I tucked him in, and then set to work:

A few stitches later and he was good as new. I tucked him in beside Evan, and this morning I got to watch his face light up when he saw him, "Mama, you fixed him!" Seeing his little face light up made the piles of laundry and breakfast dishes all worth it. This mama gig may be tough, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Kiddos, I might not always be able to fix everything for you. But know with every fiber of your being that I will always be here. I will always be beside you, behind you, or in front of you--where ever you need me. I will be your biggest cheerleader when you struggle to fix it yourself, and when you start to feel like you can't, I will be right there to help you...always.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Four is Twice as Many as Two and Other Brilliant Realizations of the Past 24 Hours

Some days, I think I am one smart cookie. Other days...not so much. Yesterday was one of the latter. A list:

1. Four is twice as many as two, and when you are baking cakes it might as well be quadruple. Tomorrow is the Fall Festival at school, and somehow I managed to fill out forms for both kids saying I would bake two cakes for the cake walk. I've done two the past two years, but four just adds a whole new dimension. I had to set them up assembly line style:
 I also went with the very simple cartoon rocket from the school's logo:
Even that was a stretch by the time I was on cake four.

2. I made chicken vegetable soup for dinner last night, and the recipe called for fresh corn removed from the cob and then for the cobs to be added to the soup for a while for flavor. I had some beautiful corn from the Produce Box, so this seemed reasonable. However, I detest cutting corn from the cob because it goes everywhere. But last night, I figured out that if I laid the corn down horizontally instead of with the ear pointing up it makes no mess! I'm sure the rest of the world discovered this long ago, but it was an epiphany for me. By the way, the soup was delicious.

3. Don't send a kindergarten boy to see if the dog made a mess. I knew Neela had been way too quiet this morning. When I don't see her and she's quiet, I know there is a problem. If she is sleeping, she is where ever we are. The quiet could only mean trouble. I sent Evan up to check, and he came down and reported everything was just fine and she was just sitting in the playroom looking out the window. Hmmm...not her usual MO. Then I went up to put away some laundry, and I found a coloring book torn to shreds on the playroom floor. When I asked my dear sweet boy about it, he announced, " meant that kind of mess. Yeah, she destroyed an old coloring book, but I don't mind." Issa's response: "Well, at least it was one we had already colored and left on the floor to take to the recycling." I had no words, but I did realize that perhaps we need to work on the playroom this weekend.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Long Story for One Cute Picture

Every so often, Brad gets the "Let's Move the Furniture" bug. I am the type of person who would happily leave her furniture in the same location my entire life, but Brad likes variety. All it takes is one little comment about something random and he's off.

Last week, Issa mentioned that she wished she had a desk downstairs. She and Evan doing homework at the same table doesn't work so well, and the computer desk is occupied by a computer, so actually working there is tricky for Issa since she's a spreader. If she has three sheets of homework she needs at least three feet of work surface. Her desk upstairs is too far away from everyone to possibly work up there. Alas. A desk would indeed be nice in her world.

I saw the look and I knew a shift was coming. We had an old desk in the garage, and Brad thought it would be nice to bring it in for her. However, there was no easy place for a desk to just appear. 

I woke up Saturday morning and it had begun. I came downstairs to find Brad mid-move. By the time Issa and I got home from her dance rehearsal, the whole downstairs was rearranged and there was a desk in his office for her. She was very, very thrilled.

What we didn't realize was how well this was going to work for Evan. We got a new Betta fish a couple of weeks ago when the cannibal tetra finally died. That fish was an enigma. He should have needed a school to survive, but every time we gave him friends he would eat them.The new Betta is named Fire Fish, and Evan is in love with him.

When we moved the furniture, the couch ended up right below the kitchen pass through, which means this is how Evan spends much of his free time:
He loves being able to climb up the couch to sit on the ledge and watch Fire Fish. A few years ago, I probably would have complained about the climbing, but I have come to accept the fact that my couch is really just a cushioned jungle gym. He's happy, and it's nice to have him sitting there chatting while I'm in the kitchen.

And that is the long story for one cute picture.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


It's amazing what scent can do.

It's finally chilly enough at night here that I broke out the flannel sheets yesterday--the sheets that had been carefully folded up and tucked away since last winter.

I have my grandmother's cedar hope chest that I rescued from her attic when I was in college. Rich helped me refinish the badly dried out wood, and the cedar scent came back. It was my first coffee table in college, and it has held blankets and sheets since I became a real live grown up with an actual coffee table.

When I finally got into bed last night, the cedar in the sheets wrapped around me like an extra blanket and a hug. It had been a long day, and I was exhausted. With one sniff, I was back in my childhood, climbing through Mom's cedar closet to find the perfect dress up clothes or to get the leaves for the table for a celebration. I was back in Gram's stairway closet digging out the picnic basket for a trip to the dam. I was digging through Grandma's blanket stack for the perfect throw to snuggle up in on her bed because you couldn't possibly get under the sheets with your clothes on.

I drifted off wrapped in cedar and warmth and love, and that is something to be grateful for.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Just Treats

This weekend was yet another fabulous fall weekend. 

Trick-or-Treating was a roaring success. May I introduce my clone trooper and zombie kitty:
I just love my annual pictures of them "practicing" at out house:

This year, Issa wanted to do an experiment. She wanted to see whether trick-or-treaters preferred toys or candy, so I ordered some little toys from Oriental Trading and got the usual candy assortment. In two hours both were completely gone--all 550 pieces. The toys were a way bigger hit than I imagined. In fact, I didn't give out a single piece of candy in the first forty-five minutes. On a related note, I apologize to the neighborhood for the vampire fang whistles. May they break quickly.

Saturday, Issa had dance in the morning and then we had friends over for dinner. I will be forever grateful to have found friends that are a mirror for our family. There is nothing better than listening to children laugh upstairs while sitting on the couch chatting with a friend while the men make monster burgers in the kitchen very happily. Heavenly.

Sunday, we took the kids to their first food truck rodeo with Ryan and Felicia. Evan is a big fan:
What is not to love about a fabulous bacon cheddar baked potato? Issa ended up loving it, but she spent the first fifteen minutes wandering in a state of complete overwhelmed-ness. Way too many choices. She finally landed on teriyaki shrimp and was one happy camper. They both are already asking when the next one will be.

We headed straight from the rodeo to the farm for an end of season Pie and Dye party. Yep. We ate pie and tie dyed shirts. It was really fun until it started to get really cold. Poor Issa just has zero meat on her bones, and we had to leave as soon as the dye was on the shirts.

When we got home, though, Daddy put a huge fire in the fireplace. We packed up the jack-o-lanterns and witches and got out the turkeys and pumpkins. We lit a sage candle and settled into one of my very favorite of the many things I'm thankful for this morning.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

He Gets Me

Yesterday, just as I was walking out of the office, lunch still uneaten in hand, Brad called. He asked if I could meet him for lunch somewhere--my pick. Yes. Yes, that is exactly what I needed.

We just went to a little place downtown--nothing fancy, just great sandwiches. We talked about work and nothing in particular. We went to vote. We were home in time to get the kids off the bus and do the afternoon and evening routines. It really wasn't anything extraordinary.

Except it was.

I am running on fumes. There's a lot of sadness around me. Our little family is thriving, but the sadness around me is getting to be a bit much. Work is still insane, and the housework is mounting. Families I know are dealing with things they shouldn't have to face. I can feel myself slipping into a funk, and I'm fighting to stay out. Thankfully, Brad is right there beside me pulling me out. He knows when I need a little extra of him, and for that I am forever grateful.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ninja Hiding Spot

Monday, Issa set about reorganizing our DVDs. That left an empty hole that clearly needed to be filled with something while the DVDs were scattered about the floor:
He used his stealth ninja skills to hide.

Oh how I love this boy. He certainly keeps life interesting.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pumpkin Horrors

Last night was pumpkin carving night at our house. It's always a bit of an adventure--but this year even more so. Remember those super cool unique pumpkins we chose at the patch? It appears that super cool unique pumpkins have super thick walls. Like three to four inch walls. Just getting the tops off required multiples knives, spoons, and shenanigans:
(Yes, Issa is sporting an eyeliner mustache. It's costume week at dance, and that was the best we could do for tumble, Most of our costumes would have been a safety hazard while flipping.)

Daddy and I pitched scooping them so we could still roast the seeds, but then we suggested that perhaps we could just paint them. The children would have none of that. Enter the power tools:
My floor suffered greatly:
But we ended up with great pumpkins that actually tell a story. Evan's (the far right) is an eyeball eating monster. Issa's (to Evan's left), just had its eyeballs eaten by Evan's. Daddy's (uncarved) is Issa's brain. And mine (far left) is the queen who is quite horrified by the scene:
Evan was very proud of his gruesome creation:
Issa was approproately horrified:
And we are all pretty proud of the final result:

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Little Early Halloween Fun

We started celebrating Halloween in earnest this weekend! The fun started Saturday night with a friend's Halloween party. Guests had been encouraged to come in costume, and we decided to be a family of pirates:

 We had much fun at the bonfire, and then Saturday we headed to Boo at the Zoo. (The picture of Issa above was actually taken there. Saturday night was not a good picture taking window for her.)

When we got there, each child was given a treat bag, and there were fun games to play for Halloween prizes at the entrance. We also had a ghost scavenger hunt throughout the zoo. We spent the rest of the day visiting animals and looking for the ghost cut outs.

I would not mess with this pirate princess:
 I would take my chances with the pirate prince, though:
 He doesn't really do scary:
 The Kid Zone at the zoo had some cool photo ops set up:

 But truly, we had the most fun with the animals. The weather was fabulous, and the animals were out and about. We finally got to watch the otters play:
 And we went to the aviary for the first time:
 We had such fun finding all the beautiful birds tucked in among the foliage:
 But the lions stole the show:
 They had cubs!
 We spent a long time watching the four cubs play:
 While Mama was in the thick of the playing, Daddy took a nap in the sun:
 They were so fun to watch:
They found a joint left over from lunch and tussled over that, and then they played stalk and pounce. It was adorable.

Every time we go to this zoo we see something new, and yesterday was no exception! Today, we are enjoying a day at home. The kids had the day off, and I decided to take it, too. Daddy is working, but he is working from the couch so all is well with the world!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy Early Birthday

Tomorrow is a very special day at our house: Daddy's birthday! Our plan was to celebrate tomorrow, but the kids had chosen their gifts last week and clearly waiting another 24 hours to give them to him was absolutely torture. So, they presented their gifts this morning: Mousetrap and an Angry Birds Jenga game. They put so much thought into these gifts. We have been playing more board games as a family, and they wanted to get Daddy some new ones. Issa remembered that he mentioned he loved Mousetrap as a kid, and Evan knew Daddy likes building, too. Such sweet children.

Tomorrow, he and I are going out for breakfast after we drop the kids off, and being the awesome Daddy that he is he wants to cook dinner with the kids for his birthday. We will make a Chinese feast and then probably play the new games.

And that is one of the many reasons I love this man. He doesn't choose to go out with friends or go to his favorite restaurant. What he wants for his birthday is to spend time with his family. Since it's Chinese, he will do the lion's share of the cooking. He will tuck kids into bed after extra snuggles because they will be all over him since his birthday--and he'll love it.

When we were 17, I couldn't have imagined the life we have now. We knew we would be together, but the crazy chaos we have created is better than I dreamed, and I am so very, very grateful that he chose me to be his partner in the everyday as well as the big stuff.

I love you, sweetheart. Here's to many happy returns on the day; 35 looks great on you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nervous Wreck

I'm a wreck this morning, even though my head knows I have no reason to be.

It's a bit of a big day at work. We have a guest lecturer coming in for a colloquium, and I recommended him. I heard him speak years ago as a very young teacher, and he absolutely changed the way I graded. I'm hoping he's as good as I remember!

Before he comes, we are having a reception for Teaching Fellows alumnae. By all accounts, it's an easy event for me. The Alumnae Office did all of the planning and detail work. I truly just have to show up. But I'm a wreck. I don't mind small talk and social functions like this in my personal life or even when I'm playing the good wife at one of Brad's events. I actually enjoy them. Going as the current director for a group of alumnae I don't know is making me queasy, though. It's not logical, but I'm dreading it.

It doesn't help that I won't get to see my kiddos tonight. Our new, fantabulous babysitter will get them off the bus and do all the running; Brad will be home to have dinner with them and tuck them in. Dinner is already in the crockpot, and I know they will have a great afternoon and evening. I just hate that I'm missing it for an event that has me on edge.

I try not to wish days away, but I'm kind of ready for this one to be over.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Just to keep it completely real here, I have a confession:

I have no idea what Issa's damn hermit crab's name is.

In my defense, we've been through a few hermit crabs, and  I do nothing with him anymore. Issa has been taking care of this one completely solo, and he is thriving. In fact, Brad pointed out that he's lasted longer and grown more than any crab to date; I think he was implying that perhaps I had fussed a couple other things to death in our house a la the initial series of betta fish. Aside from observing whatever cool hermit crab thing he is doing that Issa needs me to see right now, I have zero interaction with our crustacean family member.

Then this week, I realized I have completely forgotten the bugger's name. I know we had a couple of Hermes and then a Squirmy, and I feel like this might still be Tiny, but I also feel like Tiny might have been the last one. If it's not Tiny, I have no idea.

Now, I could just ask Issa, but I'm certain that would cause quite the rancor. And so...I'm hoping she just casually drops his name in conversation. However, I think she suspects I might not know because I asked how her crab was, and she worked very hard to not say his name.

Curse having smart kids and a horrible memory!

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Might Still Be Tired

Friday, I spent the day at the pumpkin patch with my littlest pumpkin:
 It was his first field trip of the year, and although I have gone on a pumpkin patch field trip every year for the past five years, this one took the cake. It was the best experience for the kids I have seen yet--lots of hands on exploration. I also learned that going with my son is very different than going with my daughter. This was my group for the day:
 They are the sweetest boys, but they wore me out! We started our day with a hay ride out to the big pumpkin patch. I had thought the patch was big, but it was the pumpkins that were big! They turned us loose to explore and climb. I just tried to keep up and keep track of my crew.

Then we played on the playground and had lunch, which was easy enough. It was a great little playground, complete with plenty of balls. But the highlight was the corn maze. Before we went in, each child was given a bag to collect three ears of corn. They were also told to get one stalk of sassafras and a sunflower. I am counting it a personal victory that I didn't lose anyone in the corn. There is nothing quite so terrifying as three little boys in brown shirts setting off into the stalks in search of corn; the path is clearly there for everyone else.

In a moment that is still making me chuckle, we tried to get a picture of the class with their sunflowers in front of the sunflower field after we left the maze:
It was like a Where's Waldo of kindergartners.

Then, we got to go feed the animals all that we had gathered:
 The goats were a highlight, but we also saw cows, horses, chickens, and pigs. It was great for the kids to see how the food was grown and then actually get to feed it to the animals! Once we were out of food, we picked our own pumpkins and then headed home. In short, it was a perfect field trip...with one tiny glitch:
That is a small sample of the patch I brought back in my shoes. When we were in the big patch, we had lined the kids up on the edge of the cornfield to take a picture. All the adults went into the patch to take said picture, and once we had snapped it I was the lead duck to get out. Unfortunately, that meant I discovered this particular part of the patch was essentially quick sand. Both feet went in deep and were firmly stuck. My only option was to pull my feet out of the shoes. Thankfully, another mom helped me dig them out, and I had a water bottle in my purse to give them a quick rinse after I dumped the mud out of them. It was hysterical. The boys were just beside themselves, and Evan earned some serious cool mom points because I laughed and just walked out of the patch in my socks. In fact, his buddy loudly declared I was a cool mom because I didn't scream. I'll take it.