Friday, December 30, 2011

A special night

Tonight was mine and Coen's and Lucy's second annual gingerbread house making night.

It was Tad's (probably) twentieth annual Techmo Bowl night.  What's Techmo Bowl night you might ask?  Well Super Techmo Bowl is a football video game on the Original Nintendo.  Tad and his friends got together over Christmas break during high school and had Techmo Tournaments, playing super-bowl style to the 1st place.  When I lived in the upper level of a duplex where Tad inhabited the lower level with friends, I spent many a post 2:00 a.m. hour watching them play Super Techmo Bowl while Bob Dylan played in the background.  My favorite things about the game are as follows:
1. The graphics
2. The cheerleaders (I swear you can see their digital underwear
3. The referee who says something in the beginning of each game that sounds vaguely like "schmack off".

Today, Tad and his friends, many of whom have children and spouses, get together over Christmas break and play this game until the wee hours of the morning.  I know that for Tad it is one of his most favorite nights of the year.  This year, he was having trouble as two of the guys couldn't actually get there until 10:00 p.m. and two weren't even coming.  

"I'm really sorry about your special night."  I said.
Tad looked at me.  Gave me a funny smile.  "You CAN'T refer to a night where a  bunch of guys drink and play video games a 'special night'" He said.
I laughed, point taken.

He's there now and I hope he is have a marvelous time.  I'm waiting for my friend Jen to get here and eat treats with me and talk.

And for the second year in a row Coen and Lucy and I decorated a gingerbread house together, listening to "Children's Holiday" station on Pandora.  I let them taste all the decorations they want and usually pull out the old Halloween candy for them to use. (Then I FINALLY get rid of the last of it).

We had a very special evening and I just know Tad is too.

Here they are in the decorating process

And finished! Lucy wants to eat it...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Another lost tooth

Coen lost his tooth today at the Milwaukee Public Museum.  He has only lost one tooth actually at home in all his years of tooth-losing.  He has lost a tooth at the Kalahari, his grandparents, school, and now the museum.

This is the letter he wrote to the tooth fairy:

To the tooth fiary:
I lost another tooth.  How have you been?  Do you have a mom?  I hope you had a good Crismas.  I hope you got good presints if you have a family.  
Love, Coen.

So when he falls asleep, he will receive a little letter back from the tooth fairy with a small gift.  Now I just have to go decide whether she has a mom or not!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Yay for temporary happiness!!! And permanent.

Today has been lovely.  Full of the stuff of both temporary and permanent happiness.  I shall document this for you now.

Lucy climbed into bed and cuddled up with us this morning

We had buttermilk pancakes with real maple syrup for the kids and homemade strawberry jam (made by Lucy's teacher)

The morning was spent indoors together, playing with all our new toys (temporary) and at one point the four of us sitting on the kitchen floor singing "who put the bop in the bopshubopshubop" (permanent)

We got to drop the kids off at a friends' house so we could have a lunch date
The lunch date included:
Using the money my mom gave me for Christmas to buy clothes at Re-Threads
After this excursion, I got in the car and yelled "Hooray for temporary happiness!!!" (which is what gave me the idea for today's blog)
Eating an Indian lunch buffet at Maharaja (delicious temporary happiness) and having a really good talk with Tad
And going for a nice, long walk.
temporary happiness with permanent effects.

Then we picked up the kids and went to Best Buy where we looked at TVs (We are considering leaving the stone age and buying an actual flat screen which would of course be temporary happiness but spread out over time.  We were there for seventy minutes and left with nothing but some good research under our belts which will arm us with what we need to make the eventual purchase. Our kids were INCREDIBLY well behaved and patient during this time. I was proud of them. And happy.

We ate dinner at home and listened to the Beatles and let the kids stay up late and enjoyed each other's company

I suppose all days are full of temporary and permanent happinesses.  I appreciate both. And feel good that I can (usually) tell the difference.

A very permanently happy evening to you all.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas in pictures

Tickle Battle on Christmas Eve early morning

Cousins on Papa and Baba's bed after gift opening
Coen with his Pokemon cards on Christmas morning

Lucy drinking Christmas morning cocoa

Tad and I on Christmas Day
Happy Holidays everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve everyone.   My kids are cozily tucked on to the couch, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special.  We will be heading over to my parents' house this later morning to eat Zafiro's pizza and open presents, later going to my cousin's house to end the evening. 

Last night as we wrapped up a few extra presents, and I watched the end of a PBS holiday documentary, Tad said, "When this ends, turn to to the History Channel.  They'll probably have some holiday-themed God-Versus-Your-Brain special on."

When Tad put Lucy to bed, she insisted that her lullaby, instead of a regular song sung by her daddy, should be Tad singing along to her electronic "Silent Night" story book.  The book is about two years old so the battery is dying.  Tad had to sing a stilted version of Silent Night to the tune of a flat-sounding dying battery.  Lucy was very happy with that.

Coen had trouble sleeping what with all his excitement, so I went upstairs and lay down with him for a few minutes. I told him the story of when he was about two years old and his Papa (my dad) dressed up as Santa Claus for a party.  Coen sat on his lap and looked at him inquisitively for a moment. Then he said, "Hello Santa. Is your name Papa?"

Everyone finally did fall asleep in my house and today we are all excited to begin the festivities. Happy happy happy one everyone.   

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The last thing I need....

My maternal grandmother was Virginia Thode (Gigi) and today's holiday story is about her.  She was the kind of grandmother that every kid dreams of. She made us noodles with catsup and bread crumbs (noodles with rusty) for dinner; she baked; she let me have coffee with lots of sugar and cream at her coffee clutch even when I was ten; she had a never-ending supply of peanut butter cups and nestle crunch bars in her freezer; she let us try on all her clothes and do fashion shows for her; she told us we were perfect.  When my sister and I slept over at her house, she would kneel before our bed and pray for our souls, ending with the phrase, every time, "And may God keep us healthy til we're all real real old."

My grandma was very funny. She called everyone honey.  The paperboy came once and during his long-winded request for payment using teenage vernacular my grandma did not understand, she said to him, "Speak slowly and wonderfully, honey."  She did not use the proper terms for private body parts and her word for a man's part was "horn".  She was said to ask my mom, after she married my dad, "Has he got a big horn, honey?"

At Christmas, my grandma had presents for everyone. Whether you were a grandchild, a boyfriend or girlfiriend of a grandchild, or a distant cousin, you got a present.  In the eighties, my grandmother waited in line for hours to make sure my sister and I got Cabbage Patch Kids. She even once got me a skateboard with a skull on the deck because that's what I asked for.  When I brought my high school boy friend one year, she gave him a canister of nuts.
"Oh, mom..." my mom said, "Jeff is allergic to nuts."
"Oh!", my grandma said to him, "Well you can give it to your mother."
"Mom..." my mom said again, "Jeff's mother died."
My grandma threw up her hands, "Oh for heaven's sake!"
She found him a pair of gloves wrapped, under the tree.

The last Christmas my grandma Gigi was alive, she had all but lost her hearing in her left ear. 
She kept saying, "What?!" "What?!" to everything everyone said. 
My sister looked at my grandma and smiled. "Grandma, you need one of those horns for your ear, so you can hear."
My grandma looked aghast.
"The last thing I need is a horn in my ear!"

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Must be x-mas

Christmas 2006
 I have always loved the holiday season.  When I was a kid, my mom and dad let us start putting up the decorations the day after Thanksgiving.  From that day forward, each night, I would walk around our neighborhood with my Walkman playing the Billboard top 20 Christmas hits of the 50s and count each night how many houses had decorations up.  A little weird, I know, but it's what I did. I loved watching the number of decorated houses grow each night.

 We would spend Christmas eve doing a little gift exchange at home and then go over to my mom's parents and then to my Aunt and Uncle's house.  At home in bed I'd lay awake for hours until I could finally calm my excited self and go to sleep. Then I'd wake before everyone else and go sit next to my sister's bed, staring at her, willing her to wake up, and occasionally, peeling her eyelids open. When she finally woke, we could go get my parents up and go downstairs.   After presents, we'd go to my Dad's parents for the day.

The best part always was in between what we did on the 24th and the 25th.  When we were young, we'd stop at a local tavern on the way home of the eve and hang out with friends of my parents.  As we got older, and my parents quit drinking, we'd come home on the 24th and all write down our problems from the year.  We'd burn them then in a metal dish and save them for spring when we'd sprinkle them somewhere.  Then we'd do an art project of some kind, making ornaments, collages, painting... 
Whatever my mom came up with.  Always a way to express something personal about ourselves or each other.  A lovely way to celebrate.


Harald and I met in June of 2000, when we both went to Estonia as new Peace Corps volunteers.  He walked around with a red backpack constantly and I noticed his wry wit and sense of humor.  We became friends very early on and have been to this day.  Harald has, until recently lived in Northern New York.  He is a carpenter and has been building his own house in the woods.  My favorite picture of his progress is him standing at the bottom of the outhouse, his head sticking out of the toilet. Harald has also lived in Norway and in the Czech Republic among other places.

This is Harald, in Kuressare, the town I lived in on the Island of Saaremaa when we were in the Peace Corps. Harald lived on the other Estonian island of Hiiumaa.  We constantly argued over who lived on "the other island".  During that trip to visit me, we went grocery shopping. I picked up a container of eggs.  Harald sidled up to me and grinned.  "Don't put all those in one basket."  He said. 
Local youth grafitti
Harald is a man with an incredible sense of humor, and a great love for women. He loves women's music, women's art and women in general. Here is is surrounded by many of his closest Peace Corps friends. (Not that he had much of a choice. Our group of 19 volunteers, in the end, was comprised only two men.

 My friend Harald needs lots of love and postive healing energy sent his way right now. He is in a hospital in upstate New York. He has a brain tumor which has not responded to his six weeks of chemotherapy and radation; it has only grown (Harald referred to his treatments as "The Hair Loss Clinic).  He is now beginning a Harvard Medical School trial on a new kind of Chemo.  Even during this really hard time, his sense of humor is well in tact.  At the beginning of his treatments, right after his diagnosis, I had called him on the phone.

Me: Oh crap!
Harald: What?
Me: I forgot my sunglasses!
Harald: Life really sucks doesn't it?
Me: Damnit Harald! 

I know most of you reading my blog don't know Harald. But if you can, send him some love and healing energy.  He's one of my favorites.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It was a tough week.  I got back from my trip to NJ, Lucy was sick and while I was there I got some bad news. A really good friend of mine, Harald, who has just been doing chemotherapy and radiation for the past six weeks to treat a brain tumor, has found out that the tumor is still growing.  My week was spent trying to figure out ways to go see him in northern New York, and trying to get my daughter to take her antibiotics.

But we did a lot this weekend and there was certainly something good about every day.

Friday, the kids had their Winter Celebration at school.  Here is Lucy's class finishing up "Jingle Bells"

There is Lucy on the floor in the middle.  I can't believe she made it through the night, which started at 6:30, 1/2 hour before bedtime! 
Coen's class sang "Would you like to swing on a star" and he was so excited to tell me about a surprise they had for the audience.  Each child sewed their own yellow star-shaped pillow which they held up at the end.
Saturday morning, Coen wanted to sew again!  I let him pick out some fabric and I thread him a needle and he made a little bag with a handle and everything.  Look at him go!

My parents and sister and her family came over in the late morning and we all decorated cookies together.  Here is my favorite. My sister made it. It's called "puke".  A true work of art.

On Sunday we went to my Aunt Karen's house to see my cousins Mark and Scott who were in town visiting and all their kids.  We looked at some old photos and I found this one of my grandmother, Helen.

Look at her! Doesn't she look like a bad ass?!! 

I had a tough Friday morning.  And  rather tough finish with getting the kids wrangled into bed after such a busy weekend...  but the whole middle of it was very nice. And I got a lot of amusing texts from Harald about his roommate in the hospital.  Apparently he coughs constantly and follows it every time with a resounding "OH BOY!"  Harald said he was about to unplug his oxygen.  I'll write tomorrow's blog post about him. 

I hope you all had a good weekend. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lessons learned on cookie day.

Every year I have a cookie day. Well, I have two. One that is mine and mine alone (usually) and another with my whole extended family.  Today was my cookie day.  As I was leaving work yesterday I ran into my coworker Pam.  Here is our conversation:
Pam: You coming in tomorrow?
Me: No! I took the day off tomorrow to make my gingerbread people
Pam: Oh, that's fun! Do your kids help?
Me: Hell no! I want them to look really good!
Pam laughs hysterically.

I'm serious though.   I love my gingerbread people. They are my winter art project and I like to listen to sappy holiday music (Sarah McLaughlin Holiday station on Pandora) and decorate gingerbread and then wrap presents all on my own.
Today turned out quite differently.  Before I launch into the story, here are pictures of my now complete cookies, followed by lessons learned from today.

My ginger-people

Linzer cookies with caramel instead of jam

My swirl cookies

Lessons Learned
1. Never ever use force to get your four -year - old to take medicine she does not like
2. Caramel made out of condensed milk hardens FAST
3. Using dental floss to cut roll cookies is a great idea
4. Sometimes you just don't get your magical cookie day home alone

Lucy, as it turns out, has walking Pneumonia.  The doctor says it's a very mild case and she can pretty much do her usual stuff--we can just expect her not to be quite her normal self.  AND HOW!
So this morning, I approached her with her new antibiotic that she took yesterday and discovered it was "Duhschusting".  She ran away from me, covering her mouth and saying she would not take it.  We tried cajoling, bribes, threats of shots and back to the doctor. Nothing worked.  I thought about how at the doctor when she did her flu mist and other things she did not like, we just had to hold her down.  So that's what I tried. MISTAKE.  She spit it back out and proceeded to scream and cry for .... wait for it... 45 minutes.  I cried too.  In fact, she stopped crying for a moment when she heard me crying in the other room.  I felt like a brute.  A jerk. A rotten mother.  And she didn't even take it anyway.  In the end, I went to her and cuddled her on the couch and apologized and sneaked it into a small bowl of ice cream of which she ate every last drop.  I guess that would have been a better route.  We're all over it. She's happily rolling out play-doh as I type. 

I may not be getting the solo day I wanted. I may be listening to the Muppets sing Christmas songs instead of David Gray.  I may be catering to my baby girl's needs instead of my own.  I may have to forgive myself for being a freak show with my daughter.   But my cookies are made.  They look fine.  Lucy's helping consisted of licking beaters and sneaking sprinkles off the table. 

I have indeed learned some lessons.  And eventually my children won't even want to hang out with me while I make cookies. So I'll enjoy it while I can.  And next time put the tops on the linzer cookies before the caramel gets hard.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sometimes you just have to be a little fun.

So I was gone for four days and then Lucy was sick and now BOY AM I PAYING FOR IT!  Lucy is testing me like crazy. 

Last night when I put her to bed, I said WAY more than once, "Well, Lucy, I am not going to (fill in the blank) unless you ask in a nice way." or "Lucy, I do not like it when you scream at me."  Yeah, I had to take a LOT of deep, calming breaths.  I did get her to bed though and nobody did anything they regretted. 

This morning it was more of the same.  I got out of the shower and little pajama'd Lucy was sitting outside the door.
"Well, hello, honey!" I said to her sweetly. 
"DON'T call HONEY!" she yelled at me in a crabby, scratchy, first-words-uttered voice.  "I am your ANGEL!" 
(Angel, my FOOT, I wanted to say.)  But I said, "Oh my goodness, please don't yell. Let's go upstairs and we'll get dressed together."  I brought my clothes and she was exceedingly patience testing and really, when it comes down to it, rather rude. Coen got up and, sensing the mood, immediately started antagonizing her with faces and putting his legs in her way as she came through the hall.  Lucy, then, directed her screaming at him.
I came downstairs,  frustrated and began to get the coffee brewed.  Lucy followed me in and clutched my leg. "I want ANOTHER SHIRT ON!!!"  She yelled. 
"Please ask nicely and I'll see if I can help you." 
"I want another shirt on PLEASE!!!" She shouted.  (Well, at least she used 'please')
Eventually I got her another shirt and when we were back in the kitchen, Tad managed to get her distracted and away from me as he was getting ready to leave. 
"Just remember you've been gone." he said, putting his hand gently on my shoulder. "And she was sick.  She's just trying to find out if you can handle her." 
"Well I can't."
"Yes you can.  Just be fun.  That's how I became the Berenstain Bear dad. I was all demanding and no fun."  He kissed us all goodbye and headed out.  I took deep breaths in the kitchen and tried to center myself.  I heard Coen and Lucy on the couch bickering about who was on who's cushion. 
I walked in and placed their breakfasts on the table.
"Hey you guys!" I said enthusiastically. "I'm going to tell you guys a story about me and Auntie Bethie when we were little while we eat!!!" 
That's all it took. They both jumped off the couch excited and looked at each other with glee.  Taking their seats at the table, they looked at me expectantly, smiles on their faces.

The rest of the morning followed...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Papa bear

  Tad is NOT a fan of the Berenstain Bears.  He has basically ejected all such books from our household.  He feels they do not have any value regardless of the fact that they try to focus on a variety of issues affecting children and families.  The children know this, as he has rid their bookshelves of these stories, claiming that they are the empty calories of children's literature.  I tell you this because it will become important later in this blog.

I was away last week from Wednesday through Saturday.  Tad was left in charge of the children.  As in many partnerships, Tad and I both have different strengths when it comes to running a family and a household.  When I returned from my trip, the mail sat unopened on my sewing table; there were forts set up in the living room from wall to wall; the playroom looked like an explosion might have recently happened.  BUT my children had spent the last three days with focused, loving fatherly attention.  (And actually, the dishes were done) Tad puts 100% of himself into the people he is with and the true beneficiaries of this are myself, our children, and now..his students.  I could not be more amazed by him.
Me? I'm good at organizing several thousand things at once--bills, bi-weekly house cleanings, several dozen cookies for the school bake sale, wrapping and completing the gift list for the holidays, and arranging play dates all in the span of a three-hour-period.  But as I've said before, I'm trying to get better at dropping all (most) of that and just giving my children focused attention.  I'm getting better. 
Anyway, the funny part of this story is that Tad told me how during my time away, one of the mornings he was frustrated and impatient and frankly sick of parenting by himself and he told the children that in a not-so-eloquent fashion.  After some moments of deep breathing in the kitchen, he returned to apologize to the children and tell them that his behavior was less than desirable.
After a moment's pause, Lucy looked at him and said.  "You're like the daddy in Berenstain Bears!" 
Coen's face lit up in a menacing grin. "YEAH!" he said, "You're like Papa Berenstain Bear!"
Oooh! They got him. Right below the belt!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happiness is...

There's a theme that's always been in my life: happiness.  And it's a recurring theme that still is there.  I just want to be happy--that's my goal in life--no matter what else going on.
So my therapist talks a lot about me making choices about how I choose to view things.  That "I can't help the way I feel" isn't necessarily a true sentiment.  I could be faced with a morning in which my children are taking WAY too long to put their coats and shoes on, any given morning.  I can 1. be patient, cool, direct and kind while insisting they do this or 2. Lose my cool. Get pissed.  Either way I handle it, their shoes will eventually get on  and we will get in the car to go.  If I choose option 1, we all feel good, getting to our destinations...happy!  In option 2, the kids are usually over it by the time we get to school, but I go to work...unhappy.

So anyway, I am at this sex ed conference and yesterday I went to a session on sex and happiness.  The presenter said this: "Happiness does not come from what happens to you. Happiness comes from the story you tell yourself."  I love this. She went on and talked about how we can choose our own stories we tell.  For instance, I thought my hotel had a pool and when I got here I found out there was no pool. No hot tub. I could have sulked and said, oh my nights are ruined and why isn't there a pool and now what am I going to do (I admit, I did complain a bit when I called Tad).  But I could then change my story. So I did. I said, well now I can run on the treadmill in the work out room and order takeout and watch a movie (which I'm doing tonight) and call some friends and catch up.  (Which I have also done).  Same situation, different story. Happier ending.

It seems so often we think: "I'd just be happy if.." or "I'll be happy when.."  But we can be happy NOW. 
So to conclude, I give you my own top ten lists of Happiness is....  You can make one too!  It's fun!!!

Happiness is...
10. An ice cream sundae
9. A new box of crayons
8. A hot tub outside in the nighttime
7. A finished sewing project
6. A good song
5. Getting a letter in the mail
4. Cuddling a sleeping child
3. The way my children laugh when they're tickled
2. A first kiss
1. Falling asleep next to Tad.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I'm a Gemini.  For those of you who believe in astrology, that means I have two sides of my personality.  I have the loud, obnoxiously cheerful, outgoing side which is the side I show as soon as I'm comfortable. So that means everyone who loves me knows that side. Anyone who works with me knows that side.  It's my favorite side.

My other side comes out when I'm in a new situation or at a place where I don't know anyone.  I'm a little shy.  Unsure.  I'm not a fan of this side and she's hanging around this conference I'm at in New Jersey.

As you can see, these two sides are not all that different.  And they can become each other and back again on a dime. I suppose everyone has these two characters in their lives in some respects.  I'm just more a fan of being the one on the left.

So, I'm at this conference and I don't know anyone. And it's put on by Planned Parenthood and it seems like most people really know each other from work or from these conferences or the field in general.  This morning when I was heading into the conference center, the strap on my bag broke and my bag flew to the ground--condoms, lube, pamphlets on sex flying everywhere. I would have been embarrassed about the contents if I weren't at a sexuality education conference!  I was just sort of feeling like a big dork.  So many of these people seem so put together with their business suits and high heeled boots.  Here's me in my orange and purple clothes dropping my stuff everywhere.

But then in my first breakout session of the day, the woman running it, unbeknownst to her, had a button undone on her blouse.  I'm sure she would have been mortified if she knew everyone could see a good portion of  her midriff.  And I got to thinking.  We're all just people, aren't we?  Cool is really a state of mind.  If I feel cool, I am cool. If I feel like an insecure intruder. Then I am.

So I said to myself, I said, "Alie. You are a person just like everyone else here. You are you.  You wouldn't be you if you were wearing black business pants and a blazer.  You wouldn't be you if you had on lipstick. You wouldn't be you if you didn't drop something all over the floor and be able to laugh about it." 

So I laughed.  And later, when I knocked a water bottle across the room with the broken strap from my bag. I laughed again.

And I'm going now to enjoy a dinner by myself with both my sides, reading my novel, and ordering dessert at the end of the meal.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Before 8:00 a.m. and I already feel all warm and happy

This morning I got up at my usual 5:40 a.m. to go for a run.  I was in our front porch, putting my shoes on when I saw my neighbor Joanne walking across our lawn with an armful of white gift bags.  She crept to our back door and I saw her emerge again, with the bags. She was putting a St. Nick present at the door of every house on our block where children live.  Joanne is in her seventies--she has twelve children of her own--she is a wonderful, kind neighbor. 

After my run, I showered and got my children up while Tad made breakfast.  I had to leave early this morning and on my way out the back door, Lucy suddenly peeked her little face through, calling me. She wanted another hug. And to give me her daily kisses, cheek, nose, cheek, forehead.  As I waved goodbye, she called "Goodbye Mama! Don't let the daybugs bite at work!"

On the way to work, I popped in a mix disc that my friend Nathan made and sent me while I was in the Peace Corps, back in 2000.  It's called "A Very Lillith Christmas" and has all kinds of wonderful women singers doing holiday songs.  The one that always gets me is Song for a winter night by Sarah Mclauglin.  I listen to that song (You can listen to it here.)  and I am immediately back in my apartment in Estonia, missing Tad.  I can feel the way I longed to be with him.  That song played in my car this morning and I immediately cried (surprise surprise) but also just thinking about how HARD it was to be away from Tad and how I felt after first falling in love with him...and to be able to listen to a song and just have that feeling right there, right now...  I'm so lucky. 

I really like the holidays.  Even though I'm re-thinking and re-thinking how we want to celebrate every year, worrying about the consumer driven aspects of it and tyring to give my children something that means something though I'm not even sure exactly what I believe it all to mean...  I love the lights and the baking and giving gifts to people and the warmth that comes with it.

This song is the last one that played this morning on my way to work.  I think these lyrics are just lovely. It was written by David Pomeranz but I know it best as sung by John Denver and the Muppets.  I had a diversity training at work yesterday and this song makes me think about some of what we talked about.

It's in every one of us
To be wise
Find your heart
Open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why
It's in every one of us
By and by
It's in every one of us
To be kind
Find your heart
Open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why
It's in every one of us
By and by
By and by

Saturday, December 3, 2011

And we're off!

November has turned into December; the 50 degree temperatures have dropped to the 30s.  Holiday music has long been on the radio and twinkly lights are everywhere. Let the holidays commence!

We put up our Solstice tree on Friday night after a nice pasta and bread sticks dinner and bubbly Martinelli's Apple Cider for all.  The kids love that stuff.  Coen tried to polish it off when he thought we weren't looking

We listened to 50s Christmas music and made our house look festive.  Winter Wendall comes tonight to fill our stockings.

Today Coen got to go to a friend's birthday party and Lucy and I got to spend a girls' day out with her friend Siri and my friend Natalie.  We visited the cats, dogs and rabbits at the Humane Society and had coffees and hot cocoas at Alterra.

Tonight Coen took a bag of perishable food items and joined my parents at the Amtrak Station for the arrival of the Christmas Train at an event benefiting Hunger Task Force. 

Lucy got to enjoy the novelty of having Mom and Dad all to herself.  She loved it--talked to us non stop and entertained all the on-lookers at Outpost where we enjoyed dinner and Yo Mama where we enjoyed dessert.

Anyone who has two (or more) kids knows how rare it can be for that second born (or other subsequent born) to get in time alone with BOTH parents.  It's really good for everyone and you get to focus your combined attention on one child--the one who did not get to have three to four years of such an experience before being joined by a sibling. 

Right now Tad is getting her ready for bed.  I hear the water splashing in the sink and Lucy saying "I better get to sleep because if Winter Wendall sees me he'll say, I'm not filling that girl's stocking! She's got her eyes still open!"

Friday, December 2, 2011

Crafty evening

Last night after the kids went to bed, I sewed.  I'm a fairly new sewer in terms of making things, so out of the three things I made, only one worked out, but I'm okay with that. I enjoyed myself.  I had a pile of old sweaters that I have decided to craft things out of.

So I made a kitty hat.  And though it was my first project of the night, it turned out the best.  Here it is:

Kinda cute!

Then I tried another hat out of the same sweater using the ends of another sweater for the trim.  I put the trim on upside down and that hat was probably too small for even a doll. Oh well. Then I started on some arm warmers. They turned out okay but then I added embelishments to the first one.  Not so good.  So all in all, I made a good hat, a throw-away hat and one arm warmer.

The house was quiet; I assumed the kids were sleeping. So after I finished, I got myself a bowl of kettle corn and turned on the TV.  Then Coen called me. 

"I can hear your sewing machine and it sounds like a monster. And I can't sleep from all this warm spit in my mouth."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter Wendall

The other night when I went to tuck in Coen, he said he was having some doubts about Santa Claus.  I tell you, I was more evasive and less forthright about this topic than I was when Coen asked me how babies are made! (Specifically, he asked, "Mommy, how does Daddy get the sperm inside you?)  That question, I answered it with calm and poise of a true sex-educator.  But Santa Claus?!! I panicked.  He said that he wanted to believe in Santa Clause but he was pretty sure it was just me and Daddy.  I let him stay in that spot and told him we could talk about it more anytime he wanted.  Then I got the hell out of his room, lest any more questions came up!  I am not ready to let go of the magic!!!

This weekend, Winter Wendall comes to our house.  Winter Wendall is our Solstice Wizard and he fills our stockings.  I posted about him in my old blog-feel free to read here.  I hope my children both believe, Coen at least for one more year.  I'm hanging on to Winter Wendall for as long as I can.  Here is my rough depiction of Winter Wendal:

It was when I was about nine, when I realized the truth about Santa Claus... I was sitting at a bar with my mom.  I think it was the Narrow Lane. 
I said, "Mom? You and Dad are really Santa, right?"
And she said, "Well, what do you think?"
And I said, "I think it's you and Dad." 
"You're right." she said and hugged me. 
"Mom?" I said.
"Does the same thing go for the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and God too?"

Monday, November 28, 2011

Possibly inappropriate lullabies

So, I have always sung to my children and I still do.  But lately I've been wondering if our choice of lullabies, obviously as presented by me... don't always carry the best messages upon which to ponder before falling asleep!

When Coen was a baby, his two favorites were The Circle Game and Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell. Lucy also loved those two in her early days...also before she had the power of speech to pick and choose her songs.  Both those Joni songs are lovely, melodic sounds to fall asleep to, but when you really listen to the lyrics


Coen cheered up both these numbers in his twos and threes when he suddenly requested to have his stuffed animals sing his songs instead of me.  Being a first-time parent and a working one at that, I was, perhaps, a bit too indulgent.  Back then, Coen's bedtime was stretched out over a period of an hour and a half (we timed it once) and the lullaby hour was a veritable variety show of Uncle Froggy, the Cat in the Hat, and Floppy-armed Piggy, taking turns on verses, in their varied silly voices.  Let me tell you, it was exhausting and after we realized the kinds of charade our son had somehow roped us into as his night time procedure, we felt rather sheepish and cut it all back to two stories and one song, the singer requiring to be an actual human being and not a stuffed creature (as voiced by a human being)

Also, both children love the song Frog on my Toe by Tori Amos...  Sung not only at bedtime but on long car trips and lazy afternoons too.  That has been a fan favorite all my eight years of motherhood.  However, here is a sampling of the lyrics

Papa I'm sure the worms have eaten you now
And Jethro's been on some Frenchie's plate long ago..

Now, Jethro is said frog in the song and Lucy's recently been asking why it is that Jethro's on someone's plate--never mind what a Frenchie is.  Also, she wrinkles her nose at that part and says incredulously "the worms have eaten who?"  

Okay, maybe its time for a new number. 

 So then one time in the car, I sang them a family song that my mom used to sing to me

Eddie Kutchie Katchie Kama Tosa Neera Tosa Nova Sama Kama Wacky Brown
Fell into the well, fell into the well, fell into the deep dark well.

Here is a link to a cute recording of kids singing
  Eddie Kutchie Katcha Kama Tosa Neera Tosa Nova Sama Kama Wacky Brown

Of course the end of this number leads one to dark thoughts as the last line is
....Sama Kama Wacky Brown

Tonight before I left Lucy, she was talking about how she's just going to stay away from any well she sees so she won't fall in.  I told her not to worry; there aren't really any wells around here anyway.

Maybe I better start looking for some new lullabies.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Googling things when you think there's something wrong with you is NEVER a good idea.

So, I have had a pretty tough week. I had a migraine Monday, one on Wednesday and another on Friday. The one I had on Friday was so bad I slept for 6 hours during the day, threw up, and then slept another 10 hours. I woke up feeling exhausted and woozy and today spent the whole day afraid of another Migraine coming on.  I tend to get migraines in the fall--September through November-- and usually around my cycle.  Not typically as bad as the one I had Friday though.

So of course, after thinking about things like triggers and barometric pressures and oh my god am I having an aneurysm.... I googled some things.


Of course, the descriptions on there were telling me that perhaps I WAS having an aneurysm.  Or even maybe I had meningitis. OH MY GOD I WAS GOING TO DIE!! Okay, so I had to calm down.  And relax. Then in the shower this morning, I started wondering if another migraine was coming on. I mean, it's been every other day, so it should follow that today again....I stopped breathing and closed my eyes in the hot steam and suddenly felt like I was going to pass out.  Okay, so perhaps this was a panic attack and not a migraine. So I googled "migraine + barometric pressure" and the first website that came up told me that it was a myth that weather had anything to do with migraines and that migraines are a serious disease that people can have a stroke or DIE from. Here I was again.  OH MY GOD I'M GOING TO DIE!!!!  Okay, settle down.  So I realized that pretty much anyone can say anything on the Internet and that perhaps a call to my actual in-person doctor might be wiser choice for consultation.

 A similar thing happened after I'd had a miscarriage in between my two kids.  When I was pregnant with Lucy, I'd google any odd symptom usually resulting in my panicked thinking OH MY GOD MY BABY IS GOING TO DIE!!!.  When I saw my OB and reported what all my odd sensations could possibly be as reported by the Internet, she wrote something hastily down on her prescription sheet and handed it to me.  It said


I smiled at her.  "Better yet." She said, "Don't go on the Internet at all."

Okay, I guess I need to take that advice again.

When you think something is wrong with you, the Internet is not the place.  It induces panic... in me, anyway.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Photo Card

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I have spend some time this evening ordering photos to give for the holidays and whilst doing so, made our family's holiday card. Tad wrote the caption.  We went bowling on Wednesday afternoon as our pre-thanksgiving fun night.  I bowled only a slightly better game than Lucy.  But she was, in all fairness, using bumpers.  Happy long weekend everyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What I'm Fankful For

First of all, I'm thankful that I have two kids who both still sometimes don't pronounce the 'th' properly in words because it is freaking adorable.  Both of them, last night, at the table were talking about what they are 'fankful for'.  As tomorrow is Thankgiving, I shall give you a brief list of some of what I'm thankful for!

My family.  (This obviously is just my immediate family but I am thankful for ALL of my family) I am thankful to have a good and working relationship with all my family members. And to have a partner that I am completely IN LOVE with.  And to have a couple of pretty cool kiddos.

I am also thankful for my friends (again, not all of them are pictured here.)  I feel so lucky to have such great friends.  Real friends, that I go to coffee/tea with, that can call me to come over and talk, that I can take Zumba classes with, that I can have dinner with once a month and talk about our partners and our children and laugh so loud, the people at the table next to us give us looks.

I am thankful for my neighborhood.  This is a cool picture of only some of the neighbor kids. But I have an amazing and idyllic hood.  We sump pump each other's basements, unplug each others pine-cone filled heat vents, watch each others kids, make each other food when there is a birth or death, have dinner, coffee, treats together.  We play date and drop in on and and have chili cook offs and twice a year block parties. 

I am also thankful for my job.  I work at a really great company who supports its employees and has a mission I believe in passionately.  I also really really really have fun in my job and feel good about what I do and very much enjoy the people I work with.

And I am also extremely and utterly thankful for my kids' school--Highland Community School.  I sometimes can't even talk about how much I love it there without crying.  Seriously. (Well, I know I am a little weird).  But it is not just a school. It is a community. It is a family.  The people at Highland love my kids and everyone is invested in the education and the community and social justice and peace.

Finally, I am thankful, this year, to my therapist. I am not kidding.  I know I am always all sunny and oh isn't life perfect all the time and that can be annoying to some people.  I have even had people ask me, are you EVER unhappy?  I am.  Of course I am.  Life can be hard. And sometimes I feel miserable, just like everyone else.  I don't mean for my blog to seem like it isn't real, because yes. I get pissed off and I get mean and ugly and I feel sorry for myself and I struggle.  Don't we all? And this year, my therapist is helping me tremendously, steer my life in the direction I would like to see it go.

But when it comes down to it, I really love my life and most everything in it.  Here's a quote that I received over email today from a woman at work for whom I have tremendous respect:

To live a life of gratitude
is to open our eyes to the countless ways
in which we are supported by the world around us.

Such a life provides less space for our suffering
because our attention is more balanced.
~Gregg Krech, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace & the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection

Everyone suffers, and often we focus on the bad becasue our brains were created to have more memory of that stuff. But I try to, as often as I can, be grateful for the things that support my being

Happy Fanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My kids' values

I know we all hope to raise children with like-minded values. And I know that right now my kids' values most likely mirror my own because their little family is their world--now expanding to school and friends and community.  But for now, I really like my kids' values. Here are two Coen and Lucy quotes to demonstrate what those values are:

This conversation is between Lucy and Coen during dinner.
Coen: (holding a Recall Walker bumper sticker)  Lucy, do you know what this says?
Lucy: What?
Coen: It says Recall Walker
Lucy: Why is Scott Walker such a bad guy?
Coen: I bet he's not totally a bad guy. I bet if you met him in person, he'd even be pretty nice. But he's making some bad decisions that are hurting people in 'Isconsin.
Lucy: Oh. (to me) Mommy? Do they have Recall Scott Walker signs for the whole family?

This conversation took place between Coen and a friend of his, who were talking about how much they like their Pokemon cards.
Coen's friend: I'm thankful for my Pokemon cards. And I'm really thankful for my DS and my games!
Coen: I am thankful for my Pokemon cards too. But I'm really thankful for my mom and my dad and Lucy.

I'm thankful to have such cool kids.

Coen and Lucy playing dress up with the clothes in my closet last night.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Four in the bed and the little one said...

This morning, Lucy came clambering in to bed with us and cozied in between Tad and me.  Shortly after, Coen came down too.  We all moved over and he cuddled up next to me.  Now, Tad and I have a queen-sized bed and it is a tight fit, of course, for all four of us. But we were seemingly all comfortable and warm and happy.  And then Lucy piped up.

This child is just something else entirely.  Here we were, all cozy, one family, under the covers.  Not Lucy.  She started wriggling around rather violently and said, "I'm too tight!"

Now, she is the smallest person in the bed.  And I'm telling you, she had ample room.

"I'm too tight!" She said again, stretching the word 'tight' out into three syllables and adding a whine.

We all, indulgently, shifted a bit.  She climbed on top of me and started shoving her hard little skull into my face. Her feet flopped to the side and whacked her brother.

"Ow!" Coen said. 

"Lucy." I said. "Honey, that hurts."

"I'm too TIGHT!" was the angry response.

"Lucy, we love cuddling with you but if you are going to yell at people, you may not be in the bed with us."

Lucy harrumphed. (If a four year old can harrumph.) "I'm going away. I'm taking my cozy blanket and going upstairs."  And with much dramatic movement and grunting, she got herself and her enormous warm purple blanket out of the bed and began to walk out of the room.

I, for one, was relieved.  But then came Coen's response.

"Awwww, the fun is leaving!"

The fun?

"The fun is taking her blanket and leaving." Coen continued.

Tad and I laughed.  Lucy returned to the room, encouraged by her brother.

She climbed back onto the bed and said, "The fun is coming back."

"Uh oh." Tad said, "Here comes the fun!"

Coen said, "Lucy, can you climb in by Daddy and give me and Mama a break?"

Fat chance, I thought.

"I'm never giving Mama a break!" Lucy said and climbed back on top of me.

Then I couldn't help laughing.

Guessing game

It's not that my children are predictable, exactly...  But they, especially Coen, often ask me for things...  And I can often tell by Coen's facial expression or tone, what he's going to ask for.

Yesterday, we were returning home from Grandpa and Nana's house where Coen and Lucy spent the night.  They had spent the morning dancing to the songs from Sgt. Pepper, wearing safety goggles and "working".  By working, I mean Coen was hammering nails into a wooden board and Lucy was hammering nails into a block of Styrofoam.  They LOVE this activity. We walked into the house after driving back and Coen doubled back from the living room and looked at me with his big eyes. 

"Mama? I have a question."

I knew exactly what it was.

"I know what it is!" I said.

"Oh, I hope you say yes, I hope I hope."

"I have an idea." I said. "I'm going to write down what I think your question is and then you ask it.  Then I'll show you my paper and see if I'm right!"

"What happens if you're right?" Coen asked.

"Then I'll feel smart." I said.

"And you'll say yes?"  Coen said, tilting his head and batting his eyes. This kid knows how to work me.  But if the question was what I thought it was going to be, I was planning on saying yes anyway.

So Coen said, "Can Lucy and me please have a piece of our Halloween candy?"

I showed him the paper.

Coen looked at me, mouth agape.  "What?! How did you know!"

"Yes." I said. You can have a piece of candy."

"Yay!!!!" He said, running away and telling his sister. 

She had "Whipper Whoppers" (Whoppers) and he had a Tootsie Roll Pop.

One of these nights I'm going to have to secretly deplete that supply!

Friday, November 18, 2011

My idea of a head shot

I'm presenting at a conference in spring and the organizers emailed me asking for a biography and a head shot.

A headshot?!

Who has head shots?  I'll tell you who doesn't have head shots.  Me!

So I was inspired to scroll through my camera to see if there are any 'headshotlike' photos of me.  I found a lot that really made laugh.  What do you think about these for head shots:

I settled on one where I'm smiling nicely, but still wearing fairy wings.  Rather an unconventional photo, but then again, I'm an unconventional person.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Zumba like nobody's watching

I am a terrible dancer.  You'd think as a musician that I'd have some semblance of rhythm, but no...I don't.  But the thing is, I LOVE to dance.  When I was in my twenties, I was out dancing with friends at Mad Planet and someone actually came up to TELL me that I couldn't dance!  That kind of soured me on dance clubs... but now I'm thirty six. I have given birth to two children. I have a life I love and dammit. I'm going to dance! I don't care what people think!  Well, now I don't anyway.

But when I first heard about Zumba, I was very leery.  I am not going to take a class that's all about dance, I thought.  Everyone will see how bad I am and then I'll get kicked out of the class!  A Zumba flunkie! That's what I'll be!!!  But then one of my coworkers offered to teach a free Zumba class over our lunch hour one day. So I tried it.

Well, let me tell you, I fell in Zumba LOVE!

The music, the dancing, the exercise, the sweating.  I tell you, doing Zumba gives me the kind of elation that I am always looking for.  When I was doing it for the first time, I felt a bubble of joy grow in my chest and explode and I almost wanted to cry. I'm serious. 

So now I'm taking a regular Zumba class with some friends.   Here is my pictorial depiction of Zumba class:

Notice my splayed fingers, how I'm facing in the wrong direction, my awkwardly placed legs...that's how it is a lot of the time.. But I tell you, I have a GREAT time.  I love it. I get to exercises, work up a sweat, AND laugh hysterically at myself for an hour.  It gives me great joy.