Thursday, December 31, 2009

Leave Behind in 2009

We sat around the kitchen table with paper and colored markers in hand. Each one of us wrote a list of things we're "Leaving behind in 2009." Tomorrow we will write a second list - a year long to do list of positive goals and aspirations.

But tonight it was about shedding ourselves of the undesireable.

My list was short, but the brevity of the list doesn't necessarily mean it will be easily accomplished.

I will leave behind in 2009:
1. Procrastination (mainly in regards to writing, scripture study, and housework)
2. Meanness (my mean streak has reared its ugly head much too often this year)
3. Debt
4. Allowing myself to be distracted from the important things in life by the unimportant

We stood with papers in hand, hovering near the fireplace, (Tman, with great excitement) and took turns reading our lists aloud. Some of my favorites included "Kicking my sisters," "Whining," "Complaining about my dish job," and "Having to be asked to make my bed." Then we struck a match and touched the yellow flame to each paper. We held the burning list for just a moment watching the paper shrink and curl, then tossed the lists into the fireplace where we witnessed their disappearance into smoke and ash.

With only one almost-burned thumb (Meya's) and no cinged eyebrows, the activity was a success.

While there was so much about 2009 that was good, I feel a renewed desire to leave behind the mistakes and shortcomings I have made over the last year, and create an even better 2010 for myself and my family.

And tonight, I am thankful for the passage of time, for the lessons learned, and for the chance to start anew.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Storm

When the children woke up Saturday morning they ran downstairs to the sliding glass door. They sat together oohing and ahhing, their noses pressed against the cold glass, their warm breath fogging in circles. And for a few moments, they were silent, sitting back, captivated by what they saw unfolding outside. To me, this picture of them together represents everything good about a storm: togetherness and awe. I love how Baby C is in the middle, snuggled between her big sisters as they introduce her to the snow storm.

There is something about a storm that I just love. Being the daugther of a former Coast Guard Helicopter pilot, I've been programmed to relish and reverence a good storm. I love how a storm brings us closer together. Sure, we're logistically sequestered by Mother Nature, but there's also the voluntary desire to nestle, cuddle, linger in pajamas, and wrap up together in blankets. I also love the sheer power of a awe-inspiring, to watch the swirling flakes, so tiny in the air, build layer upon layer until the yard is swallowed in white and only the tips of our garden fence poke through.

And of course, the other great thing about a storm--being out in it! We have taken some walks, built a snow fort, encouraged snowball fights, and sledded for hours. Again, togetherness.
In a couple days, I'll be opening presents with my family. But perhaps, the best present of this Christmas season was our perfect storm.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Car Trouble

I'm going on three days without a working car. I picked up the car from the mechanics on Wednesday, only semi-grudgingly wrote the check, and cheerfully loaded the kids in the car to complete some much-needed errands. After only five minutes on the road, with Christmas carols blaring on the radio, my car died. Completely. No sign of life, except for some erratic fluttering on all the dials before blackness.

I struggled to turn the steering wheel which had lost power steering and told the kids to start praying. Miraculously, the car re-started, and we coasted back into the mechanic's parking lot. I unloaded the kids into the cold afternoon air, turned over my keys to the apologetic mechanic, and walked back home...not so cheerfully.

Yesterday, I arrived at the mechanics very hopeful. I wrote the second check with a lump in my throat, and loaded up the kids again.

When the car stopped in the middle of busy Route 7 - fifteen miles from home- I lost it. Actually, I kept it together - but only because my friend, Karen, was there to help keep me in-check. But I sure felt like losing it. I wanted to scream, fling myself on the road, and pound my fists against the asphalt.

Today will be my third day without a car. Here's what I know about myself: I like having a car. I like having at least one outing per day (or at least the option/freedom of an outing). I get a bit stir-crazy when I'm stuck in my house all day long.

But here's what I choose to do today: I will stay positive. I will do laundry (I might as well, as long as I'm house-bound). I will make cookies. I will try to salvage some of my Christmas plans this week. I will try to see these turn-of-events as an opportunity to simplify and count my blessings.

At least, I will try.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

3 Trees

We have three trees this year (four if you count the miniature one in my front room). How did this happen?

When I was young my family traditionally had two trees each year. We always had one "fancy" Christmas tree in the living room which was decorated in red and white. Beads were hung with precision and glittering balls were placed with a patterned order. We made homemade gingerbread men which we strung with red yarn. The room smelled so good - a mix of spices and pine. Throughout the Christmas season we would inevitably hear thumps as the gingerbread men pulled free from the yarn and fell onto the train tracks of the electric Christmas train.

Our second tree was quite different. It was always in the family room. This one had multi-colored lights, our homemade ornaments, and all the ornaments we'd collected on vacations. It was an eclectic tree, at best. A tree of memories with no color scheme or aesthetic beauty. But it was my favorite. I used to sneak downstairs in my pajamas in the middle of the night. I'd keep all the other lights off and lay down near the tree to watch the colored patterns swirl on the walls and ceiling.

Since being married, we have only had one tree each Christmas. And it has always been a "fancy" tree, perfectly color-coordinated, and painstakingly decorated. This year, however, Madi insisted that we get a tree "just for the kids." We found a great artificial tree on sale at Target and a couple boxes of the new led multi-colored lights. That night I let the kids decorate the tree, with no direction or rules from me. They hung all their homemade ornaments and divided the extra ornaments equally between themselves. They laughed. They cooperated. They delighted. When it was finished they couldn't bring themselves to go to bed. So they gathered their pillows and blankets and camped out under the tree.

I sat next to them on the floor and let my own childhood memories flood back.

I have two beautiful trees this year - one all in red and gold in my front room, and one all in white in my family room. But the "kid's tree," tucked snuggly in the book nook between the kids' rooms is, by far, my favorite.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Other List

I handed out pencils and blank white paper to the kids as they eagerly sat at the kitchen table, with their hands out-stretched. "Time to write our Christmas lists!" I announced. This was only the second time I've had the kids write official "Christmas Lists." I found the lists particularly helpful last year, a pseudo-contract, a concrete wish list to counter the wobbling interests and wants of my children. Without further instruction I let them get to it. And I monitored from a distance, in the kitchen, as I prepared dinner.

I paid only half-attention as I stirred the bubbling spaghetti sauce. It wasn't until I heard something strange, that I really perked up and listened. "How do you spell caroling?" Meya asked Madi. Caroling? I thought. Now what new toy has to do with caroling? Then T-man asked, "How do you spell gingerbread?" I put my spoon down and walked over to the table.

There on the white paper were indeed lists. But they were not the lists I had expected. Instead of toys, books, and games listed - a present wish list - my children had created a doing wish list. At the top of Madi's list was "decorate Christmas tree and sing carols." Leasie wrote "take cookies to neighbors" and "act out the nativity." Other items on their lists included drink hot chocolate, have a fire in the fireplace, go sledding, go see the lights at the temple, build a gingerbread house, and do secret service for a needy family.

I was shocked...and moved. I let dinner simmer unattended while I sat down to help them finish their lists and then read them outloud. Then I got a piece of paper and wrote my own list.

The kids have since written their "Santa Letters" (their gift wish lists) which we promptly stuffed in envelopes and mailed. But their true Christmas wish lists are tucked safely in my journal as an important lesson to me, taught to me by my children, about the most important part of the Christmas season. Family. Traditions. Christ. Togetherness. Love. Service. Doing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


She toddles up behind me and hugs my leg. "Yadle a yadle a" she babbles with her eyes fixed on mine and her face full of purpose. "I love you too," I tell her.

In the evening as we gather in the living room, she bounces from one person to the next. First on Madi's lap, then crawling on T-man, next chasing Meya, and finally snuggling next to Leasie with her favorite book. She reminds me of a ball in a pinball arcade game.

As we wrote (or illustrated) our annual gratitude lists during Family Home Evening, Baby C was on everyone's list.

She is our glue. She is a blessing.

Yesterday a dream of mine came true! Madi and Leasie joined me in the kitchen with the Thanksgiving pie preparations. I rolled out crusts while they measured and mixed the filling. I handed over the filling recipe, ingredients, and measuring cups to the girls. They worked so nicely together - quite harmoniously (shocking!) - they encouraged each other, complimented each other, and shared duties without complaint or contention. We made a total of six pies - three for the local shelter's Thanksgiving feast and three for our own celebration.
This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for family. For sublime moments of sharing. For cherished moments of peace. For memorable moments of tear-inducing laughter. For satisfactory moments of accomplishment. For comforting moments of my husband's just-got-home-from-work kisses. For bumps, hugs, chaos, homemade meals, heart-felt apologies, squeals, chores, walks, sleep, holidays...and everydays.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cowboys and Indians

When I suggested the kids dress up as Cowboys and Indians this year, I didn't realize the mayhem that I was condoning. Behind those sweet smiles are michevious acts just begging to be unleashed.
Let it be recorded that Madi insisted that she was not a cowgirl. She was an outlaw!
T-man was, of course, the sheriff.

Baby C thoroughly enjoyed being in the thick of things as the youngest papoose.

Halloween Night! Let the wild rumpus begin!
My favorite moments of the night:
Madi and Leasie surprised me by getting Baby C dressed in her costume all by themselves.
T-man solicited trick-or-treaters from our front porch yelling, "Hey come to our house! We've got candy here!"
The weather was delightfully warm and the rain held off.
One house gave out vampire teeth that instantly turned the kids into vampire Cowboys and Indians (craziness!).
Baby C figured out how to eat the wrapped pieces of candy we gave her to "play" with.
We ran into a friend at the tail-end of our trick-or-treating and got to show her all the best spooky houses.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Wild Things

I haven't seen the movie. And I'm not sure I want to. Here's why:

"Where the Wild Things Are" is one of those special, sentimental books tied closely to my childhood. It was one of the picture books my Dad read to me regularly - along with "Goodnight Moon" and "The Winter Bear." I have such fond, delicious memories of snuggling under the covers and hearing my Dad's voice resonate in my lamp-lit room.

The reason I might choose to not see the movie is because I'm not sure I want my memory, or my concept of the book, to change. I don't want the images of the movie to eclipse the image of my Dad in a rocking chair at my bedside. I don't want the illustrations - stark in color, but so alive - to be replaced by the movie's images.

I guess it's like any book-turned-movie. I can no longer remember how I originally pictured Harry Potter when I read the first two books. I can't remember how my imagined Legolas spoke or how my imagined Frodo walked. And it is impossible for me to picture anyone but Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. My original "book" images have been erased and replaced completely by the movie depictions. And the truth is, I traded those images without a struggle and really without a second thought.

So what's so different about "Where the Wild Things Are"?

A good friend emailed me a link to this article this morning which got me thinking. The article touches on some amazing themes of the book/movie. Some of the themes I had recognized (especially as I read the book to my own children) like loneliness and unconditional love. Others I had missed. Does the exploration and development of these themes make me want to watch the movie? Not really.

What worries me is that somehow the movie will taint my pure reading of the book. I don't want images of the boy screaming at his mom and the mom screaming back to confuse and complicate a message that, at its heart, is simple and powerfully moving on its own.

Perhaps it simply comes down to that I'm not ready to trade in my personal "Where the Wild Things Are" childhood experience just yet. Perhaps I want to hold on to those wild rumpus pictures and let my imagination fill in the blanks. Perhaps the illustration of the still-hot bowl of soup, and all it stands for, is enough for me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Truth About Marriage

Or maybe it should be titled The Truth About MY Marriage...because I can really only speak for myself based on my own experiences. However, from many conversations with many female friends, I suspect that my experience is not isolated.

This weekend we celebrated our 15th Wedding Anniversary. Over a decadent dinner at The Bavarian Inn we reminisced about the past--our first rocky year (when I threw gigantic tantrums over doing laundry), our graduate school years of poverty and great friends (free dates to Borders Book Store and walking half a mile to meet for lunch in DC), our highs and lows of learning to be parents (still learning!), the joy of children, and tumultuous moves (driving across the country with a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and twin infants), and the last few years where we struggle to find the balance between work/commute & homelife. By the time the waitress brought the rich German chocolate cake dessert, we found ourselves congratulating each other for having made it this far.

Marriage is hard. Marriage takes work. We've experienced many phases of love: can't-be-apart/can't-do-wrong love; sacrificing-for-the-other-person love; should-we-stay-married? love; you-aren't-the-person-I-married love; marriage-counseling love; communication-is-the-key love; and glad-we're-still-together love.

In spite of all the ups and downs, marriage is worth it. The security, the friendship, the memories, the fun, the affection, and the opportunity to be with someone who knows you better than anyone else.

In a world where marriage is disrespected and disposable, where the happiness of "Self" comes before the happiness of "Us" or "The Other Person", where 45% of marriages end in divorce, I'm so grateful to be married to a good man who is patient and kind, and is willing to work with me on this journey.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mmmm Autumn

Just two blocks from my house is this fantastic mini-nursery/fruit stand. And in October it is transformed into a colorful spectacle of all things Autumn. It makes me smile just to drive or walk by and see the mounds of corn stalks, the rows of mums, and the piles of pumpkins. And so begins my favorite month of the year...


leaves, pumpkins, costumes, candy,
pumpkin muffins and cookies,
apple-picking, applesauce making, caramel apples,
crunching leaves under foot on long runs,
sweaters, jackets, boots
wearing socks to bed,
oatmeal/hot chocolate mornings,
anniversary celebration,
fireplace fires crackling,
ghosts swaying from our front tree,
the world alive with color

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My boy and Eeyore

T-man's Kindergarten teacher has nicknamed him "Eeyore." And I guess I'm not surprised and I'm certainly not worried or offended. So far, T-man and Kindergarten have not gotten along too well. During the summer, we'd talked up Kindergarten so much that his expectations were sky-high. I think he expected to do math, learn to read, study space, do science experiments all in the first week of school. And alas, he has yet to do much more than learn the rules, sit crisscross applesauce for story time, sing "Tootie Tah," and do art projects. He mopes through these Kindergarten rituals half-heartedly and comes home very disappointed.

Everyday he trudges off the school bus with the same sentence: "I hate school!" And when I probe he adds, "Too many rules! We never learn anything!"

At home, we've created an Agreeable Chart that hangs on the fridge. Everyday that he tells me something positive about school, he gets a star. So far, he has 17. When he gets to 20, he gets a small treat. In the meantime, we are trying to make-up for the lack of hard-core academics at home. T-man writes his numbers to 100, reads from the Dick and Jane series, and watches movies about the solar system.

I would never consider pulling him out of Kindergarten - I think he's gaining valuable skills like social interaction, self-control, and respect of authority figures. But I'm extremely grateful it is only half-day and I can fill the rest of his day with worthwhile activities (even if some days they are tree climbing and bike riding).

Eeyore is one of my favorite characters in children's literature. He is honest and doesn't mince words. He is also loyal and forgiving. Besides, we can't all be happy all the time. Eeyore said it best himself...

"Good morning, Eeyore," said Pooh.
"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning, which I doubt," said he.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is to it."
"Can't all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
"Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush."

So T-man as "Eeyore" is okay with me.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I'm back in the classroom and loving it. I teach English 112 on Tuesday evenings. I think I was pretty burned out the last semester I taught - grading 60 essays a week was nearly impossible and I think my take-home pay turned out to be something ridiculous like $3/hour. But it's a new semester, and I'm fresh from my maternity leave.

Here's what I love about teaching college:
1. Basically, I'm my own boss. I have a list of text books and a class curriculum outline. But I write my own syllabus and can use supplementary readings. There is no one looking over my shoulder telling me exactly what to do. And because of this, I can really create a dynamic, engaging classroom atmosphere.

2. The students (for the most part) want to be there. They are, after all, paying to take my class. This cuts down classroom management issues. And the issues that I still face (like cell phones going off during class), I try to handle with positive peer pressure (the student whose cell phone goes off gets to bring cookies for the whole class the next time).

3. I really love literature and writing. And I think the subject matter lends itself well to teach life-lessons and universal truths which college-age students are hungry for. It is such a soul-searching, life-sculpting time, so it is amazing to ask and discuss questions like "Why are you here?" "What is the meaning of happiness?" "How do decisions shape your life?"

4. Field Trips! I always schedule at least one field trip per semester. My purpose is to introduce the students to something in the humanities they might not do on their own. In the past, we've gone downtown to see a Shakespeare play, we've gone to see an "artsy" movie, and we've attended book-signings/lectures by authors.

So next week we're tackling "Shiloh" a short story about a crumbling marriage. But it's about so much more than that. We get to discuss why love can seem like a battlefield (yes, I think I'll have to play the song in class)...why it's important to set life goals...and how past mistakes shouldn't determine future decisions. GREAT fun!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Singing Again

After two years and two months (but who's counting?) I'm singing with the Pickwick Players again. And in just seven short weeks, I'll be singing on stage! I'm Narrator #1 -- they divided the very large and demanding narrator roll into 3 much-more-managable parts for this production.

The best part of the experience is that this is the first show where both Madi and Leasie are joining me. We went to the audition together and had our first rehearsal together last Saturday. Leaise and Madi are part of the children's ensemble. We hum, dance, and sing "Joseph" songs all day long. Even Meya and T-man have gotten hooked on the charming songs.

Life for me is just happier when I have the opportunity to sing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Morning Walk

A walk with a one-year-old.

We travel half a block and stop at least two dozen times. Baby C investigates leaves, collects rocks, tastes rose petals, and giggles about soft purple clovers.

She plops in the middle of the quiet, deserted road to rest. She trudges onto a green lawn soaking her shoes and pants with morning dew. She hands me treasures with her funny word for "here" that sounds like "ha."

She is entertained by a stick and mesmerized by a pine cone. I coax her with encouragement to keep walking, but she is tired and begins to cry.

I scoop her up. She wipes her nose on my shoulder and smiles. I carry her home on my hip, with her clutching fist-fulls of my shirt. She lets go only once, to wave to the high school bus as it passes us.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Well-oiled Mayhem!

I LOVE a schedule. I thrive with time-slots, appointments, buses to meet, homework assignments and weekly deadlines. I think the added daily pressures ease my procrastination tendency, and I am so much more productive. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the easy summer schedule (or lack of a schedule). But Fall is when I'm in my element, and I'm at my best.

Here's a typical day with our new autumn schedule:

6:30AM - Baby C wakes up. I gather her with her bundle of blankets and head downstairs to change her diaper and nurse her on the couch. I buoy myself in the stillness and get ready for the day.

6:45 - Wake up the kids (Meya bounces out of bed with a cheery smile, Leasie goes straight for her clothes which she neatly set out the night before, and Madi & T-man tunnel in their beds until at least the third wake-up call).

7:00 - Hot Breakfast served!

7:30 - Race to brush teeth, kneel for family prayer, backpacks on, final kisses and hugs.

7:40 - Wave goodbye as the four oldest board the bus.

7:45 - Baby C and I exercise. I run pushing the baby jogger. Baby C is good for exactly thirty minutes. Any more and I can expect either a loud protest or worse, a premature nap.

8:15 - Cleanup breakfast (yes, that means breakfast dishes and chaos was left until now - sorry mom, but it's true). I snarf a banana and protein bar (that's my breakfast).

8:30 - Read "Polar Bear Polar Bear," "Baby Neil," and "Ten Nine Eight" to Baby C, do a puzzle, and roll the ball to each other.

9:00 - NAP TIME!! My absolutely favorite time of the day. Shower. Work (it is definitely WORK) on my novel, write on my essays, and prepare lectures for class.

11:00 - Baby C wakes up just in time for us to go outside and meet the Kindergarten bus.

11:30 - Lunch served on cafeteria-style trays.

12 to 3 Various combinations of the following: Run errands, let the kids watch a DVD, craft project, playground visit, long walk, laundry, cleaning/pickup.

3:00 - Girls home, snack, homework, instrument practicing, lessons, soccer breakfast, make dinner.

5:30 - (My second favorite time of the day!) Hubby is home. Dinner. Family scripture study.

7:30 - Bedtime routine. Chapter book read-aloud.

8:00 - Clean, watch a little TV, read.

9:30 - Collapse in bed feeling grateful for a very full day!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Outdoor Party

There are some people in this world who are talented at throwing great parties. You know the kind of parties I'm referring to -- where you feel so welcome, where the conversation is easy, where the kids are entertained, and the food is...well, divine? I'm blessed to have some amazing friends who have this talent. Last week we attended their farewell to summer and hailing-in-autumn party.

Outdoor tables were decorated with candles and wildflower bouquets. Arbours and trellises ladened with late-blooming roses perfumed the air. We dined on warm spinach artichoke dip, smoky barbaqued chicken, gourmet hotdogs wrapped in bacon and topped with grilled red and green peppers, applebars with cinnamon icing, and homemade lemon cream pie.
Baby C found a chair and table just her size. She was perfectly content sitting in her comfy pink chair munching on a hot dog and watching the older kids play a game of football on the lawn.

My friend strung tissue-butterflies from her arbour next to the roses.

And the outdoor mural painting was pure genius.
Even the sprinkle of rain near the end of the evening seemed almost planned, not dampening the festivities in the least. The raindrops released the smell of sweet, wet grass and made the football game (with the added slippery footing) that much more exciting.

It's perfect moments like these...candles, laughter, sips of ice-cold rootbeer, paint on fingertips and noses, sitting by a friend, sampling my second dessert (okay, third), and heralding in autumn...that make life so good.

Thank you dear friends for a wonderful night!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Running in the Rain

The raindrops pat my skin, tiny cool kisses on my bare arms. I try to avoid the puddles, but the mud thickens on the soles of my shoes. Surely this makes for a better workout. I adjust my trusty Nike hat and look to my left as the layers of gray clouds gather and cluster in the corn field valleys.

I jog past my favorite barn with its sagging roof and crumbling stone foundation and pretend the black cows that look up at me from their grass buffet are impressed with my pace.

I can hear my own labored breathing and the crunch of gravel above the booming music on my ipod as I climb the hill and reach the top.

It is the first day of genuine autumnal weather. I feel my heart beating, rushing pulses in my ears. I smell the wet earth, the damp leaves, the baptized air.

These rare solo runs are my time to heal, to renew, to store up for all the challenges that will surely arise. For now, it is just me. The road. And the rain.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sinking Ship

It's 4 o'clock at our house on a Tuesday evening.

I'm helping Leasie with her reading homework (which requires complete one-on-one, side-by-side on the couch concentration).

Madi yells from upstairs that she cannot find her soccer shin guards. We've been working with her on putting everything "back in its place" to avoid this exact scenario.

Meya, is playing nicely with her polly pockets on the living room floor until T-man decides to attack pollypocket town with his Indiana Jones legos. Erruption and Chaos!

Baby C toddles by, attracted by all the noise. I catch a whif and I can tell she is in grave need of a diaper change.

Chili is cooking (close to burning) on the stove.

At that precise moment, the phone rings. It is my dear hubby informing me that he is going to be late.

AHHHHH! My ship is sinking!

My life-preservers:
running (earlier in the day of course)
and, on my best of days, -- a lot of laughter

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Two Milestones

The first day of school! Meya was the first to wake up, padding softly into my bedroom with an almost-whisper, "Mom, is it time for school yet?" The clock read 6:20, ten minutes before it was set to go off. I kissed her and whispered back "Yes!"

Oh the joy! New clothes, new shoes and great backpacks (thanks Grandma and Poppy!) I had to keep reminding them to eat - they were too busy talking, explaining, and wondering-out-loud about all that awaited them. The excitement reached giddiness as we waited for the bus. Then Madi and Leasie buddied up with a twin, promising to sit by them on the bus and
walk them to their classroom.
It was hard to feel any sadness about this happy day. And it wasn't until the four kids crossed the street, each older child holding a younger child's hand, that my throat tightened with emotion. And with happy tears, I waved goodbye to the big yellow bus carrying my forth grader, my second grader, and my two Kindergarteners.
Then Baby C and I walked into the quiet house together.
The first day of school was also Baby C's birthday! She is one year old. She picked daintily at the frosting on her cupcake and licked her fingers. Then signed "more more" after each lick.
I had taken the twins to the store that afternoon to buy Baby C a couple extra small presents. I let the twins choose the gifts. When we got to the checkout, I realized that I had left my wallet at home (sometimes I am such a scatterbrain!) So we left the selected toys with the cashier. With the craziness of the afternoon, we never made it back to the store.

When it was present time, T-man and Meya gave Baby C a couple of their favorite toys which they'd carefully wrapped and decorated.
It made my heart so happy to see them care for their sister.

A good day. With lots of smiles. The best kind of tears. Cupcakes. Presents. And love.

Friday, September 11, 2009


When I woke up this morning, I knew it was 9/11. I paused just briefly before turning off my alarm clock and flipping on the lamp next to my bed to think about where I was and what I was doing eight years ago. I was six months pregnant with Leasie and at a doctor's appointment. The office closed early and sent all the patients home. I listened to the radio as I drove around the beltway in complete disbelief.

The rest of this morning was normal. Routine. Kids dressed. Breakfast served. Baby tickled. With only the slightest pause to watch a bit of the Today show as I cleared the breakfast dishes and heard Matt Lauer announce the memorial services in NY. It was background noise, really, drowned out seconds later as I turned on the faucet and steam fogged the window over the sink.

Then while checking email and facebook a couple hours later, I saw this picture that my friend, Justin Hart, posted on facebook. He wrote "Rode behind this guy on the way to work. God Bless America."

I more than paused.
I felt.

The image tugged at my heart-strings. And I remembered why it is so remember.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ode to Summer

Summer, how I love thee! Let me count the ways...

Cool water on hot days
Amusement parks and elated screams

Lazy mornings with freshly picked raspberries and blueberry pancakes
Walks to the playground with post-park stops at the General Store for orange creamsicles

Spontaneous water fights in the backyard
County Fair week
Family reunions, road trips, and beach vacations

Mid-week, long solo runs on the shady W&OD trail
Library visits and entire afternoons spent reading our "new treasures" on the couch together

Back-patio grilled chicken and garden fresh vegetables for dinner
Counting stars, catching fireflies...
and going barefoot

It was a great summer

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Third Time's the Charm

I attended my third Kindergarten orientation today with the twins. As I sat in the small chair, with my knees nearly to my chin and listened to Mrs. Jacobson, I couldn't help but think back to my first mother-Kindergarten experience.

Nearly five years ago, Madi and I walked into the same classroom hand-in-hand. I was so nervous. I'm embarrassed to say, I wore glasses (fake) to look older and more intelligent. And can I just comment: Madi's poor Kindergarten teacher - I was hyper-concerned, overly judgmental, and zealously protective.

And while some emotions remained the same (none that are listed above), I'm happy to say that I've come a long way.

As a veteran Kindergarten Mom, here's how I was different today:

I left the glasses at home.

I was much more excited about Kindergarten than T-man or Meya (although Meya was skipping-all-morning-long excited).

I didn't have a single question to ask the teacher.

I was thrilled to learn that snack is provided and I don't have to pack any food - the daily love notes can wait until first grade.

I was not disappointed in the least that "birthday treats" are limited to non-edible items.

I was not concerned about Meya or T-man finding a friend to sit by.

I sat back and watched without interruption or coercion as my children discovered the Kindergarten room for themselves.

I signed up for weekly volunteering!!!!

Here's what has remained the same:

I held their hands as we entered the school.

I hugged them as we left.

As we ate lunch together, I listened with a mother's joy as they told me all about their new adventure.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pots, Pans, and a Chair

Who needs toys when pots, pans, and a chair can be so entertaining?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A "True" Bedtime Story

I've been a bit blue over the last two days. Maybe it's the summer heat. Maybe I'm ready for school to start. Maybe I'm tired of the constant, never-ending messes! Or maybe I just feel tired, unproductive, and useless. But whatever the reason, suffice it to say, I've felt blue.

As I tucked Meya in bed tonight she asked, "Mommy, can I tell you a story?"
"Once upon a time, there was a Mommy. And she was the best Mommy in the world because she took care of her children. Her name was Holly and she lived happily ever after. The end."

I was too heart-melted weepy to respond.

"Do you know what, Mommy?"
"What?" I managed to blubber.
"It's a true story."

And it was just the story I needed to hear.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Y Mountain

"Why is there a Y on that mountain?" the girls asked as we drove into Provo.

"It stands for "BYU," I explained.

"But why is it on the mountain?" they persisted.

"I guess because it gives the freshmen students somewhere to hike." I couldn't think of a better reason.

"Can we go there?"

The last morning of our Utah trip, the girls and I parked the rental car at the new-to-me Y parking lot (very nice). We ambled our way up the mountain just as the morning sun was squeaking over the top.

We held hands.
The air was thin and cool.
We took frequent water breaks.

I thought of the many times I'd hiked to the Y while I was a student, and marveled at how much time has passed. If only my 19/20 year-old self could have had a glimpse into the future to see my life now. Perhaps I would have hiked, way back then, with a little more lightness of step, a little more gratitude, a little more joy. As I remember it, I often went to Y mountain with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

And here I was, walking with two of my daughters. Laughing. Encouraging each other.

Then just when the girls were out of breath and the water bottles were empty, we arrived. At the Y. Madi scrambled up the white-washed cement like a mountain goat while Leasie and I took the extra switch-back trail so we could sit together on the tippy-top.

Ah the view - the buildings, roads, and expansive lake spread out before us miniaturized from our high perch. The city looked like it was a model under a glass case in a museum, the cars just matchbox toys.

As we sat side by side, the sun rolled over the mountain top until its rays rested on our shoulders and warmed our backs.

All is well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cousins - Woodland Family Reunion Part 2

I can count the number of cousins I have on one hand. Unlike many Utah families (or non Utah families, for that matter) who have countless numbers of cousins, so numerous they can't even remember all their names, I only have five. Total. My Dad was an only child. My Mom has one brother who had two children and one sister who had three. So with my two sisters, there are only eight Woodland clan cousins.

But pity me not, for my five cousins are awesome.

When I was growing up, we made an annual pilgrimage to Idaho or Utah to visit family. And the best part of those visits was playing with my cousins. The cousin closest to me in age is Nicole. Oh the adventures we had! We jumped on her trampoline, ate Popsicles and added the sticks to her collection in her tree house. We built a fort using old carpet squares behind Grandma's house amongst the grasshoppers and sage brush. We scoured the mall in search of the perfect present for Grandma. Nicole introduced me to swatch watches, Depeche Mode, and tube socks. Hands down, she is the coolest couz on the planet.

One Christmas, in particular, I remember having a grand time with all the cousins. We found a pile of sleeping bags neatly stored in Grandma's basement. Grandma's stairs to the basement were steep and carpeted. We dragged the sleeping bags to the top of those stairs, got in the sleeping bags and slid down. Surprisingly, we escaped with only minor rug burns and no one got seriously injured, but as I remember it, Grandma's basement door did not fair quite as well.

That same Christmas, Santa came to Grandma's house. Literally. Red suit, white beard, big belly. He knocked on the door and to our utter amazement he walked into Grandma's front room, sat down on her formal yellow wingback chair, and allowed each of us to sit on his knee and make any final Christmas requests. I have a picture of this moment. We're surrounding Santa, David is just a baby, some of us are smiling shyly (Wendy, Jen, and Katie) some are wide-eyed and in awe (Luke and I) and some are grinning uncontrollably (Jill and Nicole).

And even now, when I think of my cousins, more often than not, this picture comes to mind.

Now we're all grown up, dare I say, even adults. And it still thrills me to spend time with them. On par with the new family reunion tradition, the cousins planned a night out - just us. No parents allowed.

On the cousin-dinner evening of the reunion, Wendy (my second youngest cousin) and I were not interested in shopping and too tired to even window-shop, so we arrived at the Chez Betty restaurant early, sat in confortable chairs, sipped deliciously cool water, ordered appetizers, and talked. I learned Wendy had taken three creative writing classes as part of her English degree. I learned she loves short stories and is on a Flannery O'Conner kick. We talked about school, career, family and goals. The conversation was easy and the food, seven mushroom risotto and fried green tomatoes, was scrumptuous. It ended up being my favorite part of the night (though the Man-Jill picture is definitely a close second).

So the only thing better than an evening with my cousins, was getting to know one of them even better.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Swoosh! Woodland Family Reunion Part 1

Dad, my sistah and Joe, the girls, and I are waiting in line at Park City for the Alpine Slide!
Can you believe that people actually rode the ski lift without the safety bar?! I was having a heart-attack with the safety bar. I think I'm a bit afraid of heights. But, oh, the view!
The Woodland family at the top of the mountain. Even my Aunt Susan slid down the mountain!
My heart was racing! I started hyperventilating! I was near panic! Was it the slide?
No, it was the realization that I'd dropped my camera case (with rental car key and credit card) at the top of the mountain. Thank goodness my second cousin, Taylor, found it. Let's just say, she is my newest bestest friend.

And after slides, rock climbing with great coaching by cousin David, snowcones, cheers when Uncle Joe invited Madi & Leasie to ride the Alpine Coaster (aka crazy-make-you-swear-ride though Leasie told Aunt Katie she should probably just say "Holy Macaroni"), watching with awe as my Mom rode the zip line, and a rousing round of miniature golf, with my key and credit card tucked safely in my pocket, it was a perfect family reunion day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Coming Home

The house is still and quiet. Only the fan turns silently above me chasing the evening heat to the far edges of the room. The computer hums softly at my feet, and outside, the cicadas' screeching has been replaced by the song of the crickets.

It is night and I am home. In the days to come I will record the adventures and misadventures of my trip to Utah. But for tonight, I will write about home.

This morning I was greeted by the padding of footed-pajama feet, wobbly but brave and continuous. A new sound.

Baby C gave me kisses all day long. "Mah!" Across the room, from her high chair, and on my cheeks and hands. Her tiny head rested on my shoulder, her fine blond hair tickled my chin. She babbled with purpose, then looked at me expectantly as if to say, "Look what I have learned!" and scolding, "Where have you been?!"

We picked raspberries in the morning haze - all seven of us, lifting thorny branches, searching for the ruby red jewels hiding beneath green prickly leaves. T-man and Meya showed me "how it's done." T-man instructed with his deep little voice, full of authority: "Some need a couple more days. When they fall into your hands, they're ready."

Meya was my shadow, happy to follow me around the house while Dad took the rest of the kids on a bike ride. Who knew unpacking could be so fun?

I marveled at my Hubby's industriousness. A cleaner, rearranged basement. A new white shoe cubby to help contain the shoe chaos. T-man and Meya's completed workbook pages. A stocked fridge. And a fresh trench dug along the side of the house for the gutter drain.

My sunny yellow front room greeted me cheerily each time I walked passed or through.

My Hubby and I bumped elbows in our small kitchen, jockeying for counter space as we made dinner together. We feasted on marinated chicken from the grill, thick slices of tomatoes just picked from the garden, steaming rice, and Indian curry spinach with chickpeas. We finished with gooey chocolate chip cookies bars made by T-man (I merely supervised).

I tucked each child in bed, read "The Penderwicks" (who had waited so patiently for my return), and sang individual lullabies. As I kissed their heads, their hair still damp from tubby time, I breathed in the sweet soap smell.

It is so good to be home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Something More

Each time one of my children reached the age of about twelve months, I started really disliking being a full time mom. I was no longer satisfied to stay at home, all the time. I felt overwhelmed with the housekeeping tasks and bored with the mothering tasks. (I can only read the same book or build the same puzzle or go on the same walk so many times without going completely batty!) Perhaps the mood swing was some form of delayed postpartum depression.

I was optimistic that with Baby C I'd skip the whole negative vibes. I hoped that now that I'm so much older and wiser (cough cough) and more experienced, I'd be able to control my mood and anchor my thoughts.

I was wrong.

The last three days, I've hit the mothering wall. I struggle with the simplest mothering tasks, from laundry to the night-time routine. And I use any excuse to not mother. Facebook has become an addiction, I hide in my room to read, and I choose to run errands instead of staying put.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE my kids, but I am longing for something in addition to mothering. In the past, when I battled the anti-mothering funk, I auditioned for a musical theater production and started teaching as an adjunct professor. These two activities got me out of the house doing things I love. While the time juggle was a challenge, I was more balanced and felt whole. Frazzled, yes. But in a good, satisfying way.

With Baby C, I took maternity leave from everything. Maybe this anti-mothering syndrome is a sign that it's time to squeeze a few things back into my life that are just mine. And maybe by reclaiming some of those things that I enjoy, I'll be content with mothering again.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


When I asked my Dad what he wanted to do for his 60th birthday, he said, "Raft the Colorado River!" So for his 60th birthday, we rafted...the Shenandoah River (which was just slightly more reasonable and logistically realistic for us). We drove to Harpers Ferry, WV and boarded a big yellow bus with sixty other rafters. At the drop off point, we got in a blue inflatable raft with our able guide, Ross, and took off paddling down the river.
We hit some class III rapids which got our hearts pounding. I heard some whoops from my Dad over the sound of my own screams.
Madi and Leasie were great riders, though I think their favorite moments were when they got to get out the raft to swim and when they got to pick a treat from the rafting store at the end - they both opted for Doritos and a pushpop.
The water felt wonderfully cool after sitting in the hot afternoon sun.
We returned home, picked up the other three kids (thank you my dear friends who watched my children!), and continued the celebration with a birthday apple pie.

I've been on many adventures with my dad. We hiked to the ocean on the Washington coast for my eighth birthday. We flew on a float plane to a remote cabin on a mountain lake and stayed there for a week. We kayaked in Alaska, went apple picking in Massachusetts, and have run races every place we've lived. It was fitting, then, to celebrate my Dad's birthday with an adventure.

Here's to many more!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ABC Handwashing

In the public bathrooms in Washington DC, Amelia started singing at the top of her lungs while she washed her hands.

"A B C D E F--"
I interrupted, "Amelia what are you doing?"
"Washing my hands. A B C D--"
Interrupting again, "Can you hurry? We're going to be late for the show." (People had started watching us).
"But Grandma says I should sing my ABCs while I wash my hands. A B C D E F G--"
"I think that's long enough now." (There was now a crowd in line at the sink and I was feeling quite frustrated).
Amelia was now in a huff. "Well, if you'd just let me finish, then we can go! A! B! C! D! E! F! G! H! I! J! K! L! M! N! O! P! Q! R! S! T! U! V! W! X! Y! Z!"

Thank you, Grandma.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Just a few more...

With two days of rest, the smell of the barns has faded and my throat has recovered from yelling "YEE HAW" at the rodeo. The kids have been catching up on sleep, and I've been catching up on house work (my pile of laundry rivals Mt. Everest).

Here are my top ten new fair favorites:
1) Dozen hot mini donuts cooked while you wait, so yummy I burned my tongue because I was too impatient to wait for them to cool. I refuse to confess how many times I indulged in this treat.
2) Tears of joy shed by the two junior showmanship winners - I just love when happiness bubbles over.
3) Playing chess with Madi in the bunny barn - she won.
4) T-man asking "Can I go see the chickens again?"
5) Watching my girls walk out into the showmanship rink with their rabbits tucked under their arms.
6) Congratulatory hugs.
7) Ice cold water after five hours toting around five kids at the fair.
8) Cowboy boots - they make anyone look sexy.
9) Meya's exclamation every morning last week, "We get to go to the fair again! We are so lucky!"
10) Baby C's animal sounds.

County Fair in Pictures

Baby C did a lot of sitting...and eating. Bless her heart, she was a trooper. And for the most part, she was quite entertained by all the animals, lights, and sounds of the fair.
Leasie during the showmanship competition. She's demonstrating Chocolate for the judge.
Madi waits for her next question from the judge during her showmanship competition.
My rodeo cowboy!
5 days of fair food (good only during the first two days)
2 showmanship competitions
1 breed show
9 shiny ribbons
1 medal
1 day of unlimited fair rides
1 rodeo
innumerable smiles and memories