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.