Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Good Day

Baby C crawled in bed with me at 5:54 AM. Her downy soft hair tickled my nose.

Leasie serenaded me with "Up on the House Top" on her violin as I made my bed and got ready for the day.

Husband stayed home from work. He cut the grapefruit for breakfast.

The children caught the bus! (Barely!)

My husband and I attended the holiday sing along at the best elementary school ever. Baby C be-bopped and twirled on the gymnasium floor to the delight of her siblings and their classmates.

Breakfast at Panera with Lisa and Molly Kay. Egg bacon souffle.

Workout date with husband at our favorite gym. 40 minutes cardio and weight lifting. (The only down side was when he encouraged me to do a push up, which I completely flopped - literally).

Lunch with husband. Followed by afternoon kisses. There was also some laundry folding and dish washing. But both were much more fun with company.

The mailman delivered eleven Christmas cards, two packages, and a check.

Talked to my parents on the phone.

Wished my baby sister a happy birthday.

Grilled ham and havarti cheese on ciabatta bread for dinner.

Carolers sang and delivered delicious cookies.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Old Rules, New Rules

When I was young, our family rule was "You can't get your ears pierced until you're 18." Whoa (I know). But honestly, I don't remember ever feeling like it was an unfair rule. And by the time I was sixteen, I dated a boy who thought it was cool that I didn't have my ears pierced--that I was unique. That's all it took. Eighteen came and went, and I chose the clip-on earring route (enduring sore ear lobes and poor selection for the past 20 years).

Fast forward to 2010. My girls wanted to get their ears pierced. My husband and I don't prescribe to the 18 year-old rule. We think 9 is plenty old. So on Saturday, in celebration of Leasie's 9th birthday, we got our ears pierced!!
(Here's Leasie's "before" picture)
We drew quite a crowd when people realized a mom and her daughters were getting their ears pierced. I went first. It didn't hurt - really. Leasie was next, and Madi was last. The girls chose their birthstones. We held each other's hands for the actual piercing and then looked up with relief when it was done - it really didn't hurt. The crowd that had gathered clapped at the end. So fun!

And here we are with newly pierced ears.

I had two thoughts as we walked out of the store into the cold. First: Why oh why did I wait so long? And second: I'm glad I I could share this moment with my girls.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Snow

It lasted just long enough for us to watch with wonder as the gentle flakes fell from the sky and dusted the roads white.
Just long enough for Baby C to rush to the window.
Just long enough for us to run outside, leaving footprints.
Just long enough for us to scoop the snow off the walk way with our bare hands,
and taste the snow.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Moments

Don't you love December? I do. I love the decorations, the twinkling lights, the music, the food (which deserves its own entry), and of course the traditions. With all the hustle and bustle of this season (which I also love) there's a good chance this month with slip by with very few entries.

But I have a few minutes and wanted to record a few moments...

Singing with the Pickwick Singers!

We gathered in the old Sona bank at the corner of King and Market Street for Leesburg's first night. We were hard to miss, with our colorful Dickens' dresses and the men in top hats. And yet, it felt just right, singing old English carols, a cappella. The notes of "Coventry Carol" and "In the Bleak Mid Winter" reverberated in the vaulted hall. After our scheduled performance, we walked the streets of old town Leesburg. People stopped us to take pictures, and we performed two more times by request (once at a Hot Dog restaurant - a rousing rendition of "Wasail" and "The Boar's Head" were quite fitting). Our breath puffed visible clouds of white as we sang on the street. I loved linking arms with Michelle and Robin to keep warm as we shivered and walked briskly to the car.

Cookie making!
We made gingerbread men...well, I made gingerbread men. Madi, who wanted to help, made gingerbread women, ducks, dogs, and her masterpiece: Calvin the Cat Head. We were dusted in flour, and the house smelled so delicious and christmasy. It was a complete mess. But oh so fun.

Oh Christmas Tree!
After decorating the Christmas tree, the kids turned off all the lights (which you can't really tell in this picture because I don't have a great camera...hmmm, Santa?). They plopped down on the floor. Baby C wasn't sure what they were doing. She cocked her head to the side, almost like a puppy, trying to figure them out. Then as though it was choreographed, she plopped down at the end of the line to join them.
They stayed there, looking at the lights, listening to soft music, until bedtime.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November Loves

Top 10 November Loves:
10. Thanksgiving dinner with friends. (I didn't have to make a turkey!)
9. The Hale family stuffing - three kinds of bread and sausage. I had thirds.
8. Time with friends. Loved being with Lisa and her family. And had a lovely surprise by the Harris family Friday afternoon - got to go on a hike to Bear's Den in the blustery weather.

7. Harry Potter with Madi and Jen.

6. Long runs in the crisp autumn weather, my feet crunching on the fallen leaves. Watching the trees go bare and spindly. (Downloading my favorite Glee tunes for the runs).

5. November rain. And fires in the fireplace.

4. The school bus driver who says hello to Baby C over the loud speaker every morning (Baby C thinks busses talk).

3. Sunday morning snuggles with my husband before being joined by the kids.

2. Decorating for Christmas. Doing our chapter book read aloud with pillows and blankets under the Christmas tree.

1. A chance to reflect and be thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More than Tradition

Standing on my tiptoes, I reach up to retrieve a glass pie plate from the top shelf of my cupboard. I hold it for just a moment before laying it on the counter top. It belonged to my grandma.

The ingredients are lined up, ready to go. I open my recipe book. The binding is split, pages fall out, and the corner is tainted with a mysterious stain. I really need to replace the book, but can't bring myself to part from all the handwritten cards and pages. I turn to the pie recipe I copied years ago when I finally converted to my mother-in-law's amazing pie crust.

Pie making in our family is more than a tradition. It is a series of memories strung together, it is an art form, it is an act of love. I have been watching the making of pies my entire life. My grandma who has been gone for four years was a brilliant pie maker - her blackberry pies are legendary in our family. My Mom and Dad can whip out pies faster than anyone I know. And Katie's use of cookie cutter decorations on her crusts (a trick I've adopted) turn pies into masterpieces.

So as I measure, sift, stir, and finally roll the dough I think of my family, spread out across the United States. This year, none of us will be together, and I feel a little sad. I form the edges using my finger and thumb and wonder what everyone else is doing. As soon as I put the first two pies in the oven, I call my sister Katie. She has just put her pumpkin pie in the oven and has already talked to Mom this morning. It turns out Mom is baking pies today too.

Katie tells me, "Mom (as you know) isn't known for overt sentimentality. But today, she began her pie making by saying softly, 'Hello Mom.'" I put a floured hand on my heart for just a moment as the "missing family" becomes tangible.

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I'm thankful for family past and present. I'm thankful for traditions that tie us together across years and miles. And tomorrow when I take my first bite of delicious pie, I'll think of all of them, and in my own way, say hello.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sister, Food, and Hockey

My sister, Jen, is here visiting from Seattle. It's been four years since I've seen her (I know - WAY too long!) I lured her here, promising that I'd go with her to a Capitals Hockey game!
But our evening at the Caps game was more than just a game. Madi, Jen, and I started our evening with a trip to the Portrait Gallery for a look at the Norman Rockwell exhibit. (Did you know the Portrait Gallery is adjacent to the Verizon Center, like right across the street?) It was well worth the stop. Those faces, the characters, the scenes...captured by Norman Rockwell...some so familiar, others new to me. Here's what I loved - I responded emotionally to each picture whether it was a laugh or a tug on my heart. What an amazing artist.

After the art museum we looked for a place to eat dinner. I had wanted to go to GB - which is a great restaurant in this neat old building with a coffered ceiling. But the wait was too long. So we walked up and down the sidewalks through the swarm of red (Caps fans are serious fans!) until we happened upon Carmine's Italian Style Restaurant. There was an open table next to the window. Carmine's serves family style food. The waiter warned us that the portions were large...but we were still surprised. I think there were at least two heads of broccoli in that bowl. We were served an entire loaf of the bread. And the meatballs were the size of tennis balls. It was so fun.

Nothing could have prepared me for the excitement of a Caps game. It's a spectacle. The red lights, the music, the fans...and of course, the game. We cheered, screamed, and hid our eyes when they started fighting. The game went into overtime and then to a shoot out. Though the Caps lost, we had a great time!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Taste of Victory

It's soccer tournament weekend which means we got to watch Madi's team play two games today. Bundled in scarves and mittens, we gathered early in the morning at the dewy green fields. The fields were surrounded by trees that blazed with autumn reds and golds. And we watched and cheered as Madi's team fought two hard won games.

In those final moments of victory, when the ref blew the whistle and the team, coaches, parents, siblings, and friends erupted in an explosion of cheers - I realized that the final victory was not one definitive moment, but the sum of all the small victories through out the game. Here are some of my favorites small victories, those I hope to always remember...

Victory was Heather, frowning at her mom because she knew it was going to be hard to cover the best opposing player, but doing it anyway.

Victory was Bree's goal punts that landed at mid field.

Victory was Diana clearing the ball out of the goal box, again and again.

Victory was MaKayla and Sidney taking direct hits to their faces with line drive kicks, shaking it off, and continuing to play.

Victory was watching Madi, Sidney S., and Fallon run in triangle formation and passing four (FOUR!) times before scoring.

Victory was Rachel being in the right place during the last ten seconds of the game to deflect a direct shot on goal.

Victory was watching Lizzy, one of the smallest girls on the team, challenge girls twice her size and never backing down.

Victory was Shannon who played with pure heart in both offense and defense positions (not to mention, taking a head butt and shaking it off).

Victory was getting shoved and shoved and even slide tackled, and still choosing to play clean.

Victory was Coach Valakis and Coach Colleen who never yelled a single harsh word from the side line and remained positive even when we were coming from behind.

I feel so blessed to be part of such a wonderful group of people. And today, I'm grateful that Madi and her team tasted the sweetness of victory...with the final whistle and in the accumulation of wonderful moments.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


This year was a "choose your own" costumes Halloween. Every other year we do a family theme. We had quite the array: Leasie and Baby C were angels. Madi was the Goddess Artemis (NOT Athena, and heaven forbid she be mistaken for Aphrodite!). She had a bow - no arrows - and a pelt which she wore over her shoulder (not pictured) to help make the distinction. T-man was a skeleton. The costume stayed safely tucked in a drawer which no one dared open for the past couple weeks because of the scare the costume was guaranteed to produce. Meya was a witch. Her favorite part of the costume was the Harry Potter wand that had sound effects.

We were bummed that Halloween was on a Sunday this year. But we got our candy fill at a church trunk-or-treat and a party sponsored by the high school. Our next door neighbor invited the kids to come over Saturday night. The leaves crunched under our feet and the air was cold enough that we needed jackets.

On Halloween night we invited friends over for dinner. We dined on ghoul intestines, vampire blood, and ogre buggers (spaghetti and meatballs) and washed it down with a creepy crawly punch made by Leasie. Then the kids gathered in the living room with treats and pillows to watch Harry Potter 3 (the world is much more wonderful with Harry, don't you think?) And the adults talked and played "Ticket to Ride" (Owen won, of course).

The loot! Baby C caught on to the candy accumulation part of Halloween in record speed. She told everyone, "Happy Ween!" and collect more candy than anyone else. Then she raided everyone's candy bags on Sunday and Monday, and I finally had to stash the candy in the basement. Her detox has been brutal. :-)

Halloween, with it's fun, sweetness, spookiness, changing leaves, and family traditions is one of my favorite times of the year.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Writer's Conference Part 2

This has very little to do with the writer's conference, and even less to do with just happened to be the same trip.

So my dear friend Lisa called me Wednesday before my trip and told me she'd love to come with me. I had made a blanket invitation to all my friends (since I had a room with two double beds) but never really thought anyone would be able to make arrangements. I was skeptical that she really wanted to come and hang out at a hotel all Saturday. But she assured me that time alone with a laptop and room service would be heavenly.

I'm so glad she came! I forgot how long 4 and 1/2 hours is in the car - but with a friend to talk to and laugh with, it was a piece of cake. I forgot how lonely a hotel room can be when you're solo - but with Lisa, it was like a slumber party.

My favorite moments of the weekend:
* Lisa administering CPR to "Judy Garland" (her not-so-trusty GPS).
* Michael's (Lisa's husband) suggestion, via phone, that we go into NYC Saturday night because "you're only 30 minutes away."
* Fabulous dinner find - little Italian restaurant between 40th and 41st street. Got seated in a window seat so we could watch the NY foot traffic (fascinating and entertaining).
* Catching the broadway play Screwtape Letters based on CS Lewis' book. So good! Great seats! And out by 10pm!
* Back in the hotel by 10:30pm and choosing to watch a pay-per-view movie "Salt."
* Yummy breakfasts two mornings in a row.
* Having fun with a friend all weekend long!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Writers Conference - Part 1

The Rutgers One-On-One Writers Conference was this past weekend. I highly recommend it for any aspiring writers. Here are my thoughts about the day... I entered the Busch Center feeling pretty nervous. I had everything I needed: copies of my manuscript, snazzy new business cards (that I printed for FREE from Vistaprint), an outfit that I thought was professional and a bit artsy, and lots of questions.

Gathering Confidence...
I put on my name tag and entered the breakfast room. I was SOOO glad I'd already eaten breakfast at the hotel, because the food wasn't great and I was too nervous to eat by then. I sat down at a table and started talking to the other writers/conference attendees. I got an immediate boost of confidence when the girl next to me said she and all the people in her writer's group had applied for the past FIVE YEARS to get into the conference. Perhaps I had beginner's luck - but I also think being published (my articles) helped a lot with my application too.

There were writers from all over the country: Los Angeles, Conneticut, Arizona, North Carolina...

So, the difference between the Rutgers conference and other conferences is that 1. You have to apply and only 1/6 of the applicants get accepted. 2. You are guaranteed face time with an agent, editor, or author where you can get hands-on help with your manuscript. 3. You can bring a work in progress. You do not need to have a finished manuscript.

My five-on-five session was great--besides my initial shock at how YOUNG the agents and editors are (SERIOUSLY YOUNG - like in their mid-twenties, as in, at least a decade younger than myself!!).

But I learned a lot. I learned what editors really want in a cover letter. I learned that when they ask for a synopsis of your book, they really want a synopsis, not a book-jacket teaser. I learned that each publishing house has a "feel" to them. I gravitated toward the Candlewick Press editors - they seemed more mature and more conservative. I left with five business cards and a promise from them that if I submitted my work, they would read it and provide real feedback.

The bad news: I asked how many new writers an editor will "find" in a many projects are accepted through normal submission process? The bad news answer: One. One out of thousands of submissions. Shannon Hale says getting published is like winning the lottery. In terms of odds, she's right.

Here was my big moment! My pitch to Annette (who works for Simon Pulse - a division of Simon and Schuster). She loved my concept and idea - especially the twist on Guardian Angels and the mystery subsplot with the murder and the clues left behind in a paperback copy of Hamlet. The most helpful moment was when she silently read my third and seventh chapters, but spoke aloud all her editorial thoughts and questions. I took notes like mad!

She asked to see a copy of the manuscript when I've finished, which is a good sign. BUT...

I learned fairly quickly that she and I (meaning Simon Pulse and I) are probably not the best fit. She told me about a recent project which is pushing the limits of YA fiction. She said "It's about incest, and it's wonderful. By the time you get to the incest, you're rooting for it." REALLY?! In my mind, incest and wonderful should not even be in the same sentence.

In other words, my novel (which has themes of redemption, choice/accountability, and forgiveness) probably isn't gritty enough for Simon Pulse.

Books Matter...
The keynote speaker was Deborah Heiligman (she wrote "Charles and Emma" which I fully intend to order on Amazon). She said that when she was young her parents wanted her to be a surgeon so she could save lives. Nothing could be more noble.

Then she looked out over the podium and this room filled with aspiring writers and said. "As a writer of children's are saving lives! Books matter. They save lives!"

I got a bit choked up as her statement resonated deeply with me. I thought of the books that have touched my life (I Heard the Owl Call My Name), that have contributed to the way I think about the world (The Book Thief), that have made me want to be a writer (The Penderwicks, Edward Tulane, The Underneath...). Yes, books save lives.

I walked out of the Busch Center with a mixture of emotions. I basically wanted to cry. I was a bit overwhelmed with the stress of the day and the harsh reality of how hard it is to get published. But I didn't cry. I sat in my car, with my hands on the steering wheel, and decided to keep writing. I decided to go back to my first novel The Letter Carrier and get it ready to send to Candlewick Press. I decided to finish The Reaping of Angels and not send it to Simon Pulse.

And then I counted my blessings...which of course, included books.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Autumn Weekend

It is Autumn here in northern Virginia. The leaves have started to change, the nights are cooler, and mums and pumpkins adorn porches. This weekend we enjoyed a family autumn tradition and started a new one.

The kids and I went apple picking like we do every year. T-man was a great apple picker but he was mostly interested in collecting leaves for his yearly leaf collage. We walked from grove to grove taste-testing the different varieties. The braeburn apples were my favorite - crisp with just the right mix of tart and sweet - almost savory. The kids couldn't believe how sweet the golden delicious apples were. Nothing like the bland ones from the grocery store. "It's like eating a mouth full of honey" Madi said. And as much as we tried to discourage Baby C from eating apples off the ground, she happily filled her mouth and her bucket with every apple she could find.
For the first time, we went camping with ALL SEVEN of us! My husband has taken the kids camping at least once a year, but I haven't actually slept in a tent since Madi was two. Here's what I loved: the crackle of the camp fire, the night hike with the park ranger, seeing a toad the size of a kitten, seeing the filmy Milky Way bow across the sky like a sparkling silver rainbow, holding my children's hands, eating foil dinners...

...licking my fingers to get the last of the sticky marshmallow, snuggling in the tent, reading our "Penderwicks" by lantern light, kissing my husband under the stars, and a morning hike around the lake.

Yes, I confess, I slept most of the night in the car (I just cannot sleep on the ground). And we could have done without the angry woman who yelled obscenities at us at 4AM because Baby C was crying (as if we weren't trying our very best to get her to go back to sleep!). I'm grateful to my dear husband who stuck it out in the tent with the kids and rocked Baby C, letting her sleep against his chest (I know he didn't get much sleep).
Despite the hurdles, the camping trip will go down in our memories as a wonderful which we plan to add to autumn traditions.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Aren't pumpkins the best? If I believed in reincarnation (which I don't) and was given the choice to come back as a vegetable (is that even possible in reincarnation?), I would choose to be a pumpkin. There's something about pumpkins--their plumpness, their cheery orange color--that just makes me happy.

A couple weeks ago T-man and I made a quick stop at a local grocery store. The store front was practically blocked with a pumpkin display. Pumpkins were stacked and piled and spilling over onto the sidewalk. We nearly tripped over them on our way into the store.

T-man begged me to buy one which I agreed to...pretty quickly. Which pumpkin to buy took much longer. T-man agonized over finding the perfect one. He narrowed it down to three choices. A tall regal looking one, a squat jolly one, and a huge one. He decided on the huge one. We hoisted the pumpkin home. T-man named him, "Jack" and placed him on our porch steps.

Welcome "Jack" and welcome fall!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Typical Monday Morning (unedited)

Okay. Here's my first attempt at writing and letting the writing stand, without over thinking, and over editing (does spell check count as editing?).

Monday Mornings: My morning usually begins around 5AM when I hear my dear husband rustling around the bedroom trying to find socks or in the bathroom brushing his teeth. I offer a silent thank you to him for being so darn good to get up so early, then gratefully, I turn over and go back to sleep.

The alarm goes off at 6:30 and I roll out of bed to say a groggy morning prayer. I make my bed (with my mother's encouraging voice ringing in my ears). Then I head downstairs in my pjs and crazy bedhead hair. I usually make muffins - but today I got lazy and made biscuits which are easier and quicker. While the buiscuits cook, I go back upstairs to gather the troops.

Baby C calls from her bed, "Mom? You Up?" Meya jumps out of bed. Leasie takes time to smooth her sheets and covers. T-man runs around in his pj bottoms looking for clean socks. Madi hides under her covers until Baby C finds her. We all stop what we're doing to cuddle with Baby C.

The beeper from the oven sounds and everyone hustles downstairs. The kids eat hot biscuits while I retrieve the lunches from the fridge and set them by the front door. Next I empty their folders (which I should have done Friday afternoon). Baby C asks for juice, a cheese stick, and Dora soup for breakfast. I argue with my two year old and do not win.

At 7:25 I give the five minute warning. There's a mad dash of stuffing mouths with the last bites of biscuit, running up stairs for teeth brushing, gathering backpacks, and kneeling down for a family prayer. Madi, with arms folded, stands as "look-out" incase the bus comes while we are praying (we've missed it before).

Outside, I distribute quick hugs and kisses. I tell Madi and T-man to put down their sticks. I demand they put down their sticks. They drop the sticks just as the bus pulls around the corner.
Some days I am sad to see them leave. But today, I simply stand by Baby C and smile and wave with her as the bus carries them off to school. It is a windy morning. Across the street leaves flutter to the ground, twirling and spinning as they go.

Baby C takes my hand asking for "George, please?" We walk back inside. Together.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

To Write without Thought

What if I were to write without thinking too much (i.e., over-thinking what I write). What would come out on this blog? I'm worried all the skeletons in my closet will jump out and scare me and anyone reading. A friend pointed out that most of my blogs are tied up neatly at the end, maybe too neatly. As if I'm really afraid to let the struggles, goofs, and untidiness of life stand as is.

But Baby C is standing next to me, hitting my arm, begging for Dora and threatening take over the keyboard with some very close-calls of palm open slaps.

Just an idea though...maybe I'll try it. For a day or two. Writing without revision. Could be scary.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It takes 2

It takes a two year-old to turn my world upside down and inside out. She wakes up cheerful, ready to distribute hugs as I stagger out of bed. She cannot resist music, dancing and snapping her fingers every chance she can gets. She pulls my hand to join her on the dance floor. It takes a two year old to make an entrance into any room. She is my most friendly, non-shy child. She waves goodbye and gallops into the childcare center at my gym without looking back.
It takes a two year-old to melt my heart with her sweet "please!" and her "hold you" request. And she cracks me up when she recites lines from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, her current favorite: "Ha ha you're dead!"
I will not lie. There are times. And there are days. When I dream of quiet and solitude, and time to think, and time...(don't get me started). The first week of school, with the big kids gone all day, was a challenge (to put it mildly). She unlocks the front door and escapes...regularly, and most unfortunately, when I'm in the shower. She opens the fridge and helps herself to everything...regularly. She is fascinated with toilet paper and rocks. It takes a two year-old to push me to my limits and beyond.
But then. It took a friend, who has had to return to the work force full time and now leaves her twin two year-olds at daycare all day long, to remind me that time with a two year old is a priviledge.
It takes two. A mom and a child. And I'm so grateful to be a part of this two.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Summer's end

It seems as though the rest of the country has already packed their lunches, put on their backpacks, boarded yellow buses, and gone back to school. But instead of feeling left behind, I've tried to relish this final week of summer.

I took the kids to our favorite swimming pool with the frog and duck slides.

I baked yummy breakfasts, and we ate them deliciously late each morning.

I stopped by Lola's (my FAVORITE!) with a friend. Though I was devastated that the s'more cupcakes were done for the season, I chose an almost equally tasty apple cupcake with cream cheese frosting. We took the cupcakes back to her house where our children were playing so nicely. We quietly grabbed cups and milk, and tiptoed up to her room where we ate our treats and talked in delightful seclusion.

I packed up the kids and drove to the National Zoo where we laughed at the orangutan playing with a tub of bubbles, shivered at the unsettling sight of the king cobra moving fast and reaching his head up to the dangling light, and cheered while watching the elephant play "tag" with a flock of birds.

And I let the kids stay up late so we could read "The Penderwicks on Gardam Street" (pure joy!)

Normally, I herald the coming of fall, but this week I've felt a real sense of loss as the end of summer approaches. Maybe it's because my children are getting so old. Madi enters her final year of elementary school this year. And the twins go to full day as first graders. Maybe I'm sad because we really enjoyed each others' company over the last few months and I'm going to miss them. And I know I'm feeling anxious about being in charge of Baby C by myself, ALL DAY LONG.

I love this quote by Thomas S. Monson (the president my church): "This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now."

So instead of jumping back into the schedule, practicing early bedtimes just to be ready (like the experts recommend), or getting out the backpacks, I'm going to find joy in these last two days of summer and hope that they go by slowly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Early Morning Gift

Last night was craziness--an evening of overscheduled activities and meetings. My husband and I communicated via cell phone to keep track of all the comings and goings (what did we do before cell phones??). I made dinner for a friend who just had a baby. I drove to the airport to pick up another friend coming home from vacation. I flung plates onto the table as though I was dealing playing cards and practically threw the chicken, rice, and salad onto the plates. I ate in the car.

My husband and I both ended up at the same church meeting. We grinned at each other over our agendas. I stifled a chuckle as the words to the song "Some Enchanted should meet a stranger..." popped into my mind.

We returned home to find the house a disaster. It resembled a crime scene--couch pillows and toys strewn throughout the downstairs, an overturned chair, newspaper pages scattered from room to room. But the kitchen was the worst. Dinner dishes piled in the sink. Dirty pots and pans on the stove. We tucked the kids in bed and dragged ourselves through the house trying to reclaim some semblance of order. We put the food away and rinsed the pots and pans. But the dirty dishes remained in the sink. We were just too tired. I flipped off the kitchen light leaving the dishes...lurking, waiting for me for morning.

Morning came. My husband was long gone having risen before me, exercised, and already completed his early morning commute. I padded downstairs barefoot and in my pajamas, dreading the sink of waiting dishes. I turned on the kitchen light. The sink was empty. The counters were clear. I rubbed my unbelieving eyes. Could it be true? Yes, the dish rack was full of clean dishes.

An early morning gift from my true love.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This is Fair Week

Start with the smells.
Smoky charcoal grills cooking up the onions and peppers for the bratwurst.
Funnel cakes drizzled with honey.
Fried mini-donuts served warm in brown paper bags.
A whiff of pepperoni pizza.
The scent of hydraulic oil from the rides.
The pig barn, which can be smelled from yards away, so strong we hold the backs of our hands to our noses as we walk through to peek at the huge pink animals and their comically small, curly tails.
Fresh hay in the goat pens.
Soap at the washing stalls that is scrubbed from the animals and travels in rivulets down the hill, making sudsy puddles near the barns.
Rabbit fur, soft and warm, with the slightest hint of wood chips.

Now to my favorite sights:
Meya as "Little Miss Muffet" and Blaze as "The Spider" in the animal parade.
Madi's farm cake which she entered in the Junior 4-H category and won the grand prize. She auctioned it off Friday night and earned a good chunk of money for her college fund.
Madi saying goodbye to the rabbit she's about to auction off. Wearing her cowboy duds, she took the rabbit into the rink and proudly held it up as the auctioneer rattled off, "$10 a pound, will ya give me $10 a pound, $20 a pound, now 20, now 20, will ya give me $20 a pound, who'll pay 30, $30 a pound...going once, going twice, SOLD at $30 a pound!"
Leasie sitting on a bench before her auction. She grinned from ear to ear as she circled the rink to show her rabbit to the bidders. Her smile earned her an extra $5 a pound. Her rabbit sold for $35 a pound!

Moments before the auction after a week of work, showmanship, judging, ribbons, fair food, rides, heat&humidity, fun, laughter, and family time together. We all agree that besides Christmas, fair week is our favorite time of the year!

Friday, August 6, 2010

This is summer

It is a summer afternoon...
Madi is curled up on the blue leather chair in the front room, her feet tucked under her, with a book in her hand. She doesn't answer when I call to her which makes me smile. She's too far away, swallowed whole by a good story.
Breakfast and lunch dishes fill the kitchen sink waiting patiently for me. A half eaten watermelon rests on the counter tilted on its side; bright pink juice puddles beneath it. I can still taste its sweetness on my lips.
I carry Baby C upstairs for her afternoon nap. She squirms in my arms as she reaches for her blanket. I kiss her cheek which is sticky with Popsicle. I brush her yellow curls away from her face and pull her shirt down over her wonderfully protruding belly.
The afternoon light squeezes past the edges of the window blind, and I pause for a moment in the artificially darkened room. Outside, Cicadas drone in rhythm as steady as lapping waves. I close my eyes and listen. Then I peek at Baby C who has already fallen asleep.
I nearly trip over the swimming towels strewn throughout the house like storm debris. T-man helps me gather and carry them to the basement. They smell of chlorine and Downy. T-man bends to push the last towel into the washer and as he does, his swimming trunks fall just enough to expose a perfect line of white skin at his waist. I'm surprised how tan he has become.
I hear thumps and thuds overhead and know that Leasie and Meya are dancing upstairs in my room. I'm sure it is a party of pink tutus, sequins, and fringe.
This chaos. This freedom. This nothing-importantness. This everythingness. This potentially forgettable moment of summer is exactly what I want to remember.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The past three weeks

A blur. Craziness. Sleeplessness. Too much busy-ness. The first three weeks of our summer has been jam-packed with doing! I was the director of the Pickwick Players Summer Drama Camp for the first two weeks. It was a huge amount of effort (which included but was not limited to) dancing, singing, acting, preparing schedules, preparing daily theater lessons, playing games, preparing daily activities, truck loads of set, and costumes.
We went from this... To this...
And I agreed to do it all...for three simple reasons: Madi, Leasie, and Meya.

They were orphans in the show and loved it! (Madi is in the green shirt, Leasie is next to her in yellow, and Meya is in the pink shirt on the end)

As the cast took their final bow and the audience (aka parents and families) clapped, Meya burst into tears. "I don't want it to be done!" she sobbed as I hugged her. "I'm going to miss all my friends."
I've felt the same way at the end of past shows, and I was glad Meya had such a positive experience that she didn't want it to end.

Today...more than a week after their final bow and goodbyes, I found the girls in my room acting out the scenes from Annie. They were singing, dancing, and laughing.
So, I venture to say that it was all worth it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


One evening this week we took a family walk in our neighborhood. It was dusk. The heat of the day had subsided and the air was full of the smells of summer: freshly cut grass, smoke from a charcoal grill, and sweet honeysuckle. We strolled to the empty lot at the end of our street. The field was alight with fireflies. The tiny blinking bugs hovered a few feet above the grass.

We introduced Baby C to the fireflies and soon she was walking with hands outstretched calling and coaxing, "Here bug."

Madi stepped through the field with hands down and cupped. She literally scooped up the bugs by the handful. Then she lifted her hands and watched as they gently took flight from her palms.

Soon all of us were scooping up the fireflies. Handfuls of light.

Later that night, after the children were tucked in bed, I flipped on my computer to check email. My dear friend had posted a beautiful blog entry about her daughter's battle with leukemia. She wrote about combing her daughter's thinning hair.

I imagined a different handful. And I wanted to cry.

Handfuls. Sometimes life gives us a handful of light, of pure enchantment that makes us believe in magic, goodness, and miracles. And sometimes life gives us a handful of heartache that forces us to believe and hope and pray. And both polar experiences make not only our hands, but our hearts full too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Juggle

It is that time of year, when I have so many things to juggle I truly feel like I'm about to lose my mind. My calendar is covered with so much pencil and ink, it looks like it has been the victim of vandalism graffiti. I've got notes taped to walls and cupboards (for those events I think I might forget...which is many). And my daily to do list reminds me of a detailed procedural list for a scientific experiment: "At exactly 8AM, have at least one load of laundry done and make the following phone calls..."

So this morning I thought I'd just list it out. My to-do, not-to-forget, list, with the hope that I'll feel much better and not succomb to the chaos and go rock in a corner.

Prepare for 2 week "Annie" Drama Camp (I'm the director of 43 children!)
Host Drama Camp Counselor Kick off Party
Soccer tournament (includes two games this Saturday)
Baptism to attend on Saturday
Madi's piano recital (30 minutes after her last soccer game on Saturday)
Prepare for my 6 week summer class (I'm teaching at Nova starting June 29)
End of soccer party (bringing fruit salad)
Leasie's Violin recital next week
Kindergarten end of the school year Cowboy party
2nd grade end of the school year Mexican party
Restaff two teachers in primary
Write script for one part of the Stake YC trek
Plan for Primary activity on July 24th
Get Madi, Leasie, and Meya ready for County Fair (4-H project books!)

I know I'm forgetting something...oh yeah, take care of five children, cook food, do laundry, and try to keep the house clean.

No wonder my mind is spinning like an out of control merry-go-round. The funny thing is...I'd venture to say that most people reading this (especially my Mommy friends) have a list equally long. And to you I say...let's escape together to the Bahamas.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

DC United

Have you ever been to a professional soccer game? I hadn't...until last night.

Madi's soccer team won a sportsmanship award from their league and they received FREE (yes, free) tickets to a DC United game. My husband and I went along for the ride. A what a ride it was! The stadium was huge. The night was steamy hot. And the playing on the field was spectacular!
Here's our favorite player of the night. The DC United goalie pulled the ball out of the air on at least three corner kicks with opposing players surrounding him--boxing him in, and jutting their heads toward the ball. He made some amazing saves--diving across the goal box. He really got us on our feet cheering.

Of course, we dined on cotton candy (which, in my opinion, is the epitome of a summer, fun treat) and pretzels. And we guzzled water. (Did I mention it was hot?)

Here a picture of some of Madi's team - we're sitting in the far seats with Madi in the middle.

But my favorite moment of the night was at the very end. We ducked out with only one minute left in the game. The three of us held hands and ran through the empty stadium corridors, down through the tunnel, and into the dark parking lot. The stars twinkled above us in the nighttime sky. I looked down at my daughters face and she just beamed.

We made it to our car before the crowds and drove home in less than an hour. Madi fell asleep before we were out of the city limits. My husband carried her inside and we tucked our happy, exhausted child into her bed.

Good times.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Storms, Butter, and Curls

I laughed out loud once and cried twice today.

I laughed when the kids and were caught in a downpour at the park. There was a rumble of thunder and suddenly one raindrop turned into a shower--a million huge plops that splattered and soaked us. What else could I do? I laughed.

I cried when I came down after putting laundry away to find that Baby C had finger-painted with butter on my kitchen floor. It was just such a big mess. What else could I do? I cried. And then I cleaned it up with lots of hot, soapy water.

And when I sat at the computer this evening, surrounded by the familiar sounds of evening (Madi practicing piano, Baby C giggling, and T-man protesting his dinner dish job), I read my dear friend's blog about her daughter's leukemia. What else could I do? I cried. I cried for my amazingly couragous friend who is facing a mother's worst fear. I cried for her dear daughter and all her pain and suffering. I cried for her thick brown curls that will soon be gone.

And when Baby C came to me with arms outstretched, wanting to be picked up, instead of sending her back to Dad or shooing her away to play with her blocks, I let her join my on lap. And I held her close.

What else could I do?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

From this... To this...

My house smells so good right now - every room is filled with the sweet aroma of fresh strawberries.

The final product of jam and Martha Stewart strawberry cupcakes did not come without lots of spills, messes, and even two minor temper tantrums (from me). The first occurred when Baby C grabbed a handfull of sugar with a soaking wet hand, then managed to wipe the sugary goop all over herself, and the chair, and the floor. The second tantrum was in reaction to finding Baby C had finger painted the kitchen floor with softened butter. My back had been turned for just a few minutes as I was washing and cutting the strawberries.

It was a day with one step forward, and two big messy steps back.

But by the afternoon, the messes were cleaned up. And all that remained were the treats.
The kids wanted jam on bread for their after school snack. And our family devoured the strawberry cupcakes after dinner.

Sure, I could wait until Baby C is old enough to attempt such grand cooking projects (or I could be smart and do my baking/jam making when she's napping), but life is too short to postpone such sweetness...right?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Strawberry Garden

Ahh, to pick strawberries from our backyard garden on a cool spring evening... After all the waiting. After counting the blossoms, then counting the hard green berries...they were finally ready.

Ahh, to eat strawberries right off the vine...literally:

Ahh, to let the sweet juice dribble down our chins...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Nothing warms my heart more than the sound of giggles coming from upstairs. I tiptoe up the stairs and peek in the room to find these two playing together. Who would have guessed that a ten year old and a 20 month old could be such good friends? Something else that warms my heart (and puts my previous venting blog into perspective)...this link sent to me by a friend. I'm singing a different tune and counting my blessings...


I'm not a happy, positive person by nature. I'm actually very much the opposite (just ask those people who really, really know me). This blog, in fact, is one of my attempts to focus on the good, as a mental, emotional exercise.

But as much as I try to keep the negativity at bay, sometimes the it comes crawling through. And most often, it rears its ugly head most fiercely when it comes to material things.

So let me just grumble and vent and get it over with.

In the past month, I've had three close friends take their families on Disney vacations. And I've had two good friends contract to have their basements refinished. Am I happy for them? Yes. Absolutely. But man, I wish we could do the same. Instead, we've had to change our summer vacation plans because we can't afford what I thought we could. And not only are we no where near being able to refinish our basement, we can't keep up with basic home repairs.

I look around me and I see a lot of affluence. Vacations. Granite. Beautiful homes. Big kitchens. Nice cars. Did I mention vacations?

So why is there such an inequality, why such a discrepancy? My husband works hard, long hours. And I guess I feel like we should have more perks...or specifically, a great vacation and a nice home.

Can you tell I'm feeling very sorry for myself? And for this entry, I'll allow myself this moment of pity, this moment of grumbling, this moment of bitterness. Then when I push publish, I'll try to lock up all the negativity and go about my day.

Breakfast dishes, here I come...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Highs and Lows of Motherhood

A three-generation mother's day gift... Tickets to Mary Poppins in July!

Meya will be sitting between her grandma and me in the nosebleed section of the Kennedy Center. We're already counting down the days (72 days to go).

The rest of mother's day was full of highs and lows.
High: I got to sleep in.
Low: Until 7:42AM.
High: My husband and kids made me a delicious breakfast.
Low: Baby C insisted on sitting right next to me and then right on my lap - sticky fingers, strawberry stains, and dropped food.
High: The kids and I snuggled on the couch to read some of our favorite books.
Low: Baby C played drums on the books with measuring spoons...while we read them.
High: The kids sang a darling mother's day song in church.
Low: I spent the second half of sacrament meeting walking the halls with Baby C who was cranky because she'd had too short a nap.
High: My husband bought me a griddle for Mother's Day (pancakes for breakfast this week!).
Low: I didn't get the Gucci perfume I asked for.
High: Handmade notes, paper-mache necklaces, hugs, and kisses.
Low: They are growing up much too fast.
Highs and Lows...a day realistically reflecting my mothering experience.
To all mom's who enjoy the highs and survive the lows, Happy Mother's Day!