Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Novice, expert ... master

Lanie got Bop-it for Christmas, which turned out to be her very favorite thing. In fact, it was a hit with everyone, including Erin. We all took turns, Erin's high score being five, and the rest of us, different scores. However, I maintained high score and gleefully, obnoxiously gloated it over everyone. You couldn't turn Bop-it on without being reminded of my high score, after which it was announced, I would announce it in egotistical echo, "Thirty-nine!"


And then, the jewel, "One hundred!"

Which became a slight taunt to everyone who had to follow me. By the end of our Christmas weekend, my one hundred had reached all-caps, smiling pride.


My one hundred unlocked the next level of expert. It gets really confusing at expert, and Lanie followed the commands better than my decaf brain did. So I let her run with it. While I managed a meager twenty-one at expert, she was climbing the ranks until to her great surprise, just minutes ago, she reached the coveted master level.

"One hundred!" said Bop-it.

"One hundred!" squealed Lanie, not unlike her mama.

Bop-it said, "Novice, expert," Lanie pushed the button once more to hear, "Master."

"Master," she echoed. I could hear the power surge.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's a wonderful life

Looking at Christmas lights after the Christmas Eve service; delivering cinnamon rolls and staying for a visit; decorating a lopsided gingerbread tree; kids eager to go to sleep in anticipation for morning; watching a classic movie till way too late and feeling tears sting my eyes over happiness; coffee brewing; Lanie surveying gifts under the tree; Erin's, "It's too many presents!"; competing for the high score on Bop-It; increasing fog and nowhere to go; an afternoon in pajamas; too much chocolate; lots of hugs and kisses; watching movies back to back and playing games; homemade pizza for dinner; being unhurried; feeling full.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Left brain vs right brain

The kids have been looking at a couple of gifts under the tree for about two weeks, brought over by their "grandparents" who visited on Erin's birthday. We were going to have them wait until Christmas to open them, but this morning, I changed my mind and let them open up the presents today.

Inside one box were several goodies, including two cute kits to make pom-pom creatures. The craft was on.

Lanie turns to her dad for help. I helped Erin.

Picture this: Lanie waiting patiently next to her dad as he reads the directions on the packaging. I hear words like "1-inch pom, 2-inch bump chenille, small piece chenille stem." And I look over briefly to see Shane searching the bag for the supplies to line up, directions in hand.

On the other side of the counter, Erin and I have spilled out the contents of the bag and are looking at the pictures, gluing and stacking pom poms and eyes and twisting pipe cleaners into shapes. We had three creatures made before Shane was even done arranging supplies.

I laughed at how our brains work.


We have played a game called "Grump Alert" these past two days. It was kind of fun the first day, but not so much the next. If someone is grumpy, someone else can call out "grump alert" as a light-hearted warning to cut it out. As if it were really that easy. And because we had even created this (lame) game, should give you a glimpse at what's been living in our house uninvited. I was not immune.

"If you could change anything about me, what would it be?" I asked Lanie as we sorted through a pile of laundry. I was feeling bad about my own grumpiness.

"Nothing," she said, looking at me straight on.

"No, really. Anything you want, what would you change?" I prepared myself for the worst.

"I wouldn't change anything about you," she said. "I like you just the way you are."

Grumps and all. Humbling.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Spending the holidays with Mr. Cookie Baker

Who didn't bake cookies this weekend? Well, technically we didn't. But I did prep the dough after reading Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington. We did a library run before the big snow came and I'm glad I grabbed this book. At the end, they list four different cookie recipes. We tried "Mr. Cookie Baker's Sugar Cookies." I'm going to guess Mrs. Wellington doesn't want me posting her recipe for sugar cookies, so you'll either have to go read the book to your three year old, or Google a sugar cookie recipe.

I recommend using parchment paper. Our first batch was glued to the pan and a huge disappointment. The second batch (with parchment paper) was lovely and made me change my mind about sugar cookies.

Homemade icing, sprinkles, and two helpers and we were ready to go.

Still, as much as I like cookies, I'm glad cookie season is almost over.

Friday, December 18, 2009

66 Books 2009

I finished up my last post for the year on 66 Books. A year ago I didn't consider what the finish line would look like: Christmas lights glowing in the corner, cup of tea on my left and Bible on my right, quiet house (except for my occasional coughing fits). Almost a year ago, I wondered who'd join me and how it would happen and what it would look like and who would read it. I didn't know then the new writers who'd join us mid-year. I didn't know of the kinks that would have to be worked out. Or how I would feel when I scheduled my last post for the year.

I loved where 66 Books took me. So much that I don't want to stop. As the year end approached, I actually felt like something very big would be missing from my life and I didn't want to see it end. Not only have I enjoyed the insight from so many others, but I have come to cherish my time getting closer and closer to holy words--and the God behind them. This whole process has caused me to slow down to listen.

There's a part of me that's kinda sad this year is over. Fourteen of us wrote over the course of a year and I am so moved by their commitment. Some have decided to join me again next year, and we'll have new voices blogging with us too. And while it's the same book, it's guaranteed to be a completely different journey.

I still have some openings. Anyone interested in writing can comment here or email 66booksinayear (at) gmail (dot) com.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The worst day ever

According to Lanie this is the worst day ever, and I just might have to agree. Head cold that morphed into cough and fever. But it doesn't stop there: pink eye in both eyes. And it doesn't stop there, but I do because the horror is too great. Spent the day trying to get from doctor to pharmacy. Fortunately, my husband decided to help out and get the prescription for us as Lanie sat tearfully in the car wailing, "I just can't get out. Please take me home."

And so I did.

Loads of laundry. Tylenol. Popsicles. And at dinner she ate. As bedtime approached, her fear and anxiety grew at the thought of getting eye drops.

"This is the worst day of my whole life!" she cried. And I believed her. I tried my very best to calm her fears.

"I wish I could just drink the medicine. Why does it have to go in my eyes?"

I told her that her doctor prescribed the best medication for pink eye. That she would feel better, but she would have to take the drops.

"How long?" she asked. Wailed, actually.

"Three times a day for seven days," I said.

"Oh!" she said in great relief. "I'm so glad it's not a week!" And somehow I managed not to laugh. Just smiled and held her close.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookie swap

For the past five or six years, I have looked forward to the Christmas cookie swap. It started out much differently in the beginning, and has morphed its way into a luncheon. I see the benefits of bigger gatherings and smaller gatherings, but when time is such a precious commodity, the smaller gatherings allow me longer time with friends.

Shane usually takes Lanie to the movies, and next year Erin will probably join them on their outing. But today, she was my little helper. She entertained Denise for much of the swap, until cookies actually started being transferred, and then she was there with chocolate smeared face, eyes at table/plate level, asking for more.

This year I made Oreo truffles, which are super easy. A friend graciously made some for me over the summer, and I've been hooked since. And she's such a good friend, she gave me the recipe.

Oreo Truffles

One package of reduced fat Oreos
One package of reduced fat cream cheese (eight ounces)

Chocolate chips.

In a food processor, add entire package of cookies and the block of cream cheese. Process till combined. Form into balls and put on a wax paper lined tray. Freeze.

Later, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Drop balls, one at a time and using two forks, turn to coat with chocolate. Set on waxed paper. Freeze or refrigerate. Put in mini muffin cups or arrange on a plate.

I also had cream of crab soup--a recipe from another friend who makes incredible soups. (Wow, I'm so lucky to know people who can cook--and are generous to share their secrets with me!) Funny, though, I think I got some of the measurements wrong now that I look at the recipe, but it still turned out good.

Cream of Crab Soup

4 tbs butter
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs flour
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs dry mustard
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
cayenne pepper

4 cups milk
1 lb crab meat
3 tbs sherry

Saute onion and garlic in butter for about five minutes. Add flour and spices to make a blonde roux. When roux is ready, add milk and stir, bring just to a boil. Add crab meat and bring back to a boil. Immediately add sherry and remove from heat. Adjust salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chives or parsley. (I skipped this last part because I didn't have chives or parsley and there are only so many times my husband will cheerfully run out and get a missing ingredient.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mini fete

Erin turns three on Friday, but we had a mini party with some of her Wednesday playdate friends. She wanted a My Little Pony cake--my artistic abilities are limited to drawing a Bob the Tomato. I wanted a candy cane cake (because my artistic abilities are limited to drawing a Bob the Tomato). So I improvised (chocolate cupcakes, white icing, crushed candy canes, and a little pony figurine on top of Erin's cupcake).

Thought we were not going to have a party with the snow and sleet the night before. But woke to rain and melting snow, so that was good. We decorated gingerbread men cookies as a craft. One candy on the cookie, and handful in the mouth--and that was the kids, not me. One friend who couldn't make it asked me what our theme was: uh, sugar.

They turned out really cute.

But the singing was the best part for me. I love the look on her face.

After some playing, she comes up to me and whispers, "Mama, can I open my presents now?"

Too cute. I love her.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

As good as it gets

Lanie mentioned to Shane that I did a double workout today of treadmill and the balance ball lower body workout. He looks at me.

"How'd that feel?" he asks.


"Well, I thought I would feel a lot happier after having done it. The treadmill part wasn't so bad, but a few of those exercises made me wish there weren't so many reps. And when it was all done, I felt really cranky," I say. I left out the part about how chocolate has a much more positive effect on my mood than exercise. "I thought I was supposed to feel happy."

"Well your happy feelings are forty years old now," he says. Like that's supposed to make sense.

"What does that mean?"

"It means: this is as good as it gets."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spicy Italian soup

Dare I ever trust a recipe to my hard drive again?

This was a tasty soup a friend brought over one day. I'm always wowed when people make good soups because mine generally turn out rather bland. I assure you, this one isn't. I made a big pot of it today and stuffed myself to button popping between two bowls of it and lots of slices of homemade buttered bread. Delicious!

Spicy Italian Soup

1 pkg (approximately one pound) of hot Italian sausage (I use turkey sausage), casings removed
garlic, minced (I used one enormous clove)
1 medium onion, chopped

Brown all together. Chunk up sausage. Drain fat.

1 small can of tomato sauce
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste (which I did not have and omitted with no ill effects)
1 (or 2) cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
16 ounces of beef broth

Stir all together.

Add: carrots, cabbage and fresh green beans

Add to taste: pesto sauce (I used 1 teaspoon), pepper, basil (I didn't use)

I let it simmer on the stove while the bread rose and then baked. Served everything piping hot.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First flakes 2009

No sooner had I hit publish on my last post did I hear, "Mom! It's snowing!" followed by Erin's "Can I put my boots on and go out?" So we put on shoes and coats and went out for the novelty of the season's first flakes. Funny how the second the kids got out, tongues stuck out to catch flakes. It must be intuitive.

Erin; Erin's puppies watching from inside; Lanie

The kids decided they really did want to play outside. So back inside to get hats and gloves. Later, snow pants for sliding down the playset slides. After a good hour, they were ready to come in for hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows. Happily playing together inside with rosy cheeks and warm bodies. And outside, it's really coming down--rooftops and lawns covered. Sure is pretty.

Lanie; more snow; Erin catching flakes


Barely light in the room because of overcast skies and rumor of snow. A squirmy girl rolls over and looks into my eyes.

"Morning, Mama," she says and I smile, pulling her close. "Let's go downstairs!"

"Let's cuddle a few more minutes," I whisper and she burrows against me momentarily. A tap, tap on my shoulder and I turn to see Lanie smiling.

"Lanie!" Erin squeals. Our day is started. Shane rolls over to happy chatter.

"How many more days till Christmas, Daddy? Twenty or twenty-one?" Lanie asks. "Guess who we prayed for in the prayer chain last night?"

Erin climbs out of bed holding two Noonoos and three "puppies," walks over to the monkey we got at the zoo and squeezes his belly.

Screech, screech, screech responds its voice box. Again and again. Over and over.

"Seems fitting," I murmur of our little zoo. I love Saturdays.

Downstairs to start breakfast. Turn on Christmas tree lights. Scrambled eggs. Juice. I steal away to write and look out the window. And snow is falling.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My favorite heart

I love twos and threes. Oh, I just love them all. I love watching a personality emerge, along with all the likes and dislikes, the eccentricities, all of it. It's really cool to watch a person bloom.

Erin's going to be three next week, and honestly, the time flew by. I always say that. But it did. And I just want to write down every single minute of this wonderful, the softness of her skin, the tinkle of her giggle, the fun of her imagination.

Tonight, I don't know how I did it, but I broke a pair of scissors while cutting some flowers for a vase. Erin pipes up, "I'll fix it, Mama!" And she pulls a chair over to climb up and assess the situation.

Or at the playground today when the twisty slide freaked her out and she wouldn't go down it until her big sister demonstrated how fun it was. Then I spent the next forty-five minutes watching her go down the slide, and it could have lasted forever and I wouldn't care.

Or how she has a stuffed elephant, a plush puppy and Lanie's Webkinz pony and calls them all her puppies. She carries them around everywhere, her Noonoo blankets saved in bed for sleeping times only now.

Or lately as she recounted over and over about the scary monster in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. She said she wouldn't care about the monster if she saw the movie again, it wouldn't scare her. But she curled in closer to me anyway.

After dinner, she said to me quite unexpectedly, "You're my favorite girl, Mama. I mean, you're my favorite heart." And then I chased her down and covered her in kisses until my lips hurt.

The highest compliments I've ever been paid have been as a mother. And I cherish each one.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tis the season

Rudy; Erin; stockings

Lunch out; the girls; big cookies

street scene; cold sky; ornament shopping

Friday, November 27, 2009

Another Thanksgiving day post

I got a free turkey a local store was giving away after point accumulation. It was frozen, though, and I was nervous (my sister once cooked a beautifully browned bird that was frozen on the inside--and I vowed that I would always buy fresh--but free is worth trying). I set it to thaw on Sunday and by Thursday morning a small portion still felt frozen. I stuck it in a cold water bath and wondered if anyone would notice if I served roast chicken instead ... it all turned out just fine and that frozen free bird was tastier than any fresh turkey breast I have ever gotten. I will never snub my nose at a frozen bird again (and I can't wait for sandwiches today!)

cheese and crackers, pumpkin dip
butternut bisque
apple, feta and pecans over mixed greens with raspberry vinaigrette
evil mashed potatoes with gravy (read loaded with butter, cream cheese and 1/2 & 1/2)
TURKEY with butter and thyme
sausage stuffing
coconut cake (made by my dad)
gingerbread cake
pumpkin ice cream
peppermint hot chocolate

Below: fresh flowers, misty day, Lanie and her artful gifts, Erin, table setting, gingerbread cake, pumpkin dip in a turkey dish, salad.

Memory shots: Lanie's hand reaching between the chairs to poke at my dad; Erin saying, "I'm thankful for you, Mama!"; my dad's cake; enormous mounds of homemade whipped cream in hot chocolate; candlelight everywhere; an almost full family picture. Fine day, fine day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Putting Lanie to bed, tearful girl. Nightmares lately, ones she didn't want to talk about. Crying in my arms, terrible sobs. And then finally, "I dreamed I was standing with you at church, and then I closed my eyes and when I opened them, you were gone."

I held her close. I wanted to tell her it wasn't real, that I would never leave her someplace by herself, that dreams are only dreams. Instead I said, "It feels really sad when you feel left behind." Because something was really troubling her and maybe she just needed to feel it and let it go. (Although I can't say that logic has ever worked for me.)

"It's like you lose them. Even when someone dies, you lose them for a little while," this from a seven year old. So serious. With a touch of melancholy. She gets that from me.

She cried some more. And I realized this was her apprehension to going to bed in a bed by herself, without me. For her shadow-like help all day as I prepared the house for tomorrow's festivities. For her questions about babies and husbands and future, "Will you be happy for me if I have babies or don't? What if you are dead when I have my babies? Will you be happy in heaven for me?"

I held her close and comforted and kissed her. This sadness in her that just wanted a release, and I know that grief. But in my own weakness, I couldn't linger in mourning. And I found myself swimming to the shallow end.

"Dreams are dreams and not real--and I would never forget you someplace. I would always make sure you are safe," I said with a lilt of encouragement. I played a game with her about where I'd meet her in her dreams tonight. At the new ice cream place we discovered the other week. And what flavor ice cream I'd get. And she told me she'd get strawberry cheesecake flavor, "Because they really do have that flavor. And I'd give you the biggest taste for real. And if you liked mine better than yours, I'd let you have mine." But under that, don't leave me.

Bedtime prayers. More hugs and kisses. And I turned off the lights.

"There are so many shadows," she said. "More shadows than there ever were before."

"Do you want to sleep with the light on?" I asked. But she didn't.

Friday, November 13, 2009


A long day. Rainy. Grumbly. Out of sync and out of sorts. A petri dish for melancholy, discord. General yuck. Contagious. Looked forward to candlelight on the mantle and garlic bread that kept me coming back for more. Getting kids settled in bed, I wanted to check the time. The longest day. Had to be. Lanie came downstairs after brushing her teeth to say goodnight. She finds me in the office. She notices my books on the shelves.

"Do you have any kids books?" she asks. "Ones that kids can read?"

I handed her two: The Phantom Tollbooth and The Secret Horse (now out of print).

"I need three," she said.

I looked for more and found Someday by Alison McGhee. A quick and easy read, perfect for just before bed. Perfect end for the longest day.

"Would you like me to read it to you?" I asked. Would she let me? This reader who reads every library book to herself in morning stillness.

"Ok," she said and climbed into my lap. We admired the watercolor illustrations and I opened up the world.

"One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one," I began. Immediately, my eyes filled with tears and voice wavered. I didn't know how I could finish this book--this journey from baby to child and beyond. A mother's love simply breathed across a life. Always brings me to tears, but today was a first on page one. I forged on and paced myself, holding tears inside and taking an emotional step back.

As I closed the book, Lanie leaned closer to me and said quietly, "I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too," I said. And I kissed her head and rested my cheek on it.

"Please take me up to bed and tuck me in?"


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Lanie is doing a timeline about herself to present to the first grade class. Today we went through a box of pictures I had that dated way back. Pictures of baby Lanie. Playing Play-doh and dolls. Buried under a mountain of stuffed animals. Her first tricycle. Eating ice cream at the beach. Finger painting. Glamor day at the mall. As big sister. Her first best friend. Dance recitals. So many memories flooding back.

"You sure took a lot of pictures of me," she said. Proud.

And then the flood of Erin pictures, baby days I hardly remembered. Surprised she was even a baby ... my memory so hazy. I showed Shane the pictures we decided to use. We smiled and reminisced about the time. One picture of me and the girls stood out.

"Your eyes are so blue, all of you," he said. "You look so happy."

My eyes watered. It didn't seem that long ago. It goes so fast.

"I wish we'd started a family sooner," he said. So we could have had more.

Me too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Indian summer

I woke to a start at 5 a.m. today when I realized I'd left the ground beef defrosting on the counter all day--and all night. Ugh. Four pounds. Gone. There was no going back to sleep. At a more respectable hour, I got up and went out to the store to get more beef to make Jodie's Taco soup. Jeans, long-sleeved shirt, and fleece jacket, surprised when warm temperatures greeted me. A beautiful fall day that felt like the last of summer. I cooked banana chocolate chip breads, plum cakes, four loaves of bread and two batches of soup with windows open and children's laughter serenading.

Early sunset, candles on the mantle, all gathered at the table to eat. Afterward, the girls and I went to a friend's house to return a platter.

"I wish I could fly and reach the stars," Erin said. She wore her very favorite summer halter dress with the pink and yellow lemons. She marveled at the night sky and I wondered if she'd want to be an astronaut, like her dad did when he was a boy.

"I bet the moon is hard and the stars are soft," Lanie said. We held hands and walked down the dark country road. When Erin ran up ahead of us, we could no longer see her form and had to pick up our pace to keep track of her.

A sobering talk with my friend as life buzzed and boomed and ran around us. Talks of misdiagnoses and tragic early deaths ... "we can stop the treatments whenever you want," haunting words that tighten up my throat ... thinking of lives left behind ... preschoolers, husbands, grandchildren, friends. This life, such a vapor.

Back home to pack up a meal to deliver to a family facing a terminal diagnosis. Erin with her mouth full of bread.

"What are you eating?" I asked.

"Bread," she answered with muffled mouth. I looked at Shane.

"I put our bread away," he said.

"Show Mommy where you got the bread," I asked her and went into the kitchen to find this friend's loaf with a two-year-old hand-sized gouge removed from the top. Luckily, I made several loaves today.

Hugs and kisses. Pajama'd up. Thanks written and prayers whispered. This tune playing through my mind.

In this world you will have trouble, Jesus says. Finding comfort in the before and after.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I never thought it would happen to me, but I think I never want to see a piece of candy or chocolate again. Dreaming of salads and healthy soups.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I took Lanie to school today. Normally we carpool and she rides with someone else in the morning. This was a nice treat for me.

"Do you want me to pull up to the door or walk you in?" I asked.

"Walk me in," she said.

"Do you want me to walk you to the front doors or into the sanctuary?" I asked.

"Into the sanctuary," she said.

We get inside and a friend of hers comes to say hello. Lanie hands me her backpack and lunchbox to take to her classroom--I had offered to run it down for her.

"Can I get a kiss goodbye?" I asked.

She threw her arms around my neck and hugged me tight and kissed me. I loved it. At home, Erin and I played and ran around and folded laundry and sorted through the twos clothes and unpacked the threes. Ready for a chocolate break, I asked her, "Would you like a kiss?"

She knew immediately what I meant and came running into the kitchen with her hand out.

"One or two?" I asked.

"Two," she said after a moment's thought. Then, "I'm saving this one for Lanie after school."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pick your own

Nice that the grass mowing is nearing a halt and that Shane can spend more weekend time doing family stuff than yard work. After a housebound day in yesterday's rain, today's sunshine was like a firing shot at the start line. We were off ... to the pumpkin patch.

We rounded the corner to pumpkin parking and were all (well, all us girls) gasping at the endless sight of pumpkins spread out before us. We grabbed a wheel barrow and Erin picked up every little pumpkin she wanted and loaded them in. Lanie was looking for the biggest and the best. We settled on one biggest-and-best and two littles. The kids road in the wheel barrow for awhile, their giggles echoing out across the bounty. Heart: capture that moment.

I did a quick stop at Home Goods to get candles for the mantle. They've already decorated the store for Christmas. When we walked through the doors, it was really rather magical and Erin screamed--SCREAMED with excitement. Several shoppers stopped at looked at her in surprise. Shane and I laughed. And then we laughed harder. Other people smiled and laughed with us. Her enthusiasm and joy is untamed. And it's a wonderful thing.

We also went book shopping. I got Peter Mendel's book Material World and Lanie got an I Spy Extreme Challenger Book. She's hooked on them. I'm a bit fascinated with them as well and am guilty of sneaking off with the books from time to time. Shane and I enjoyed White Chocolate Mochas. Then we took the kids out to dinner. My man was beat by the time we got home. Erin was excited to see the moon out and wondered about stars. Lanie was quick to look at her book. And I'm just glad for a full, fabulous fall day.

Happy to be.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monkey dress

I was so excited to get some fall clothes for the kids at half the cost. I opened the package when it arrived Monday, eagerly snipping off tags and removing size stickers. I got a little too snip-happy with the diaper panties that were fastened underneath the monkey dress--snipping a nice nick into the chest of the dress. I groaned. There was no way I could return it.

Erin didn't mind.

"That's ok, Mama, you can fix it," she said. I hoped I could with such a little one looking up to me. Today, we went to the fabric store where I explained my snafu. A kind assistant sold me a 6 cent fix-it (like stitch witch) and made a great suggestion of sewing a button over the whoops. Or even a bow. What a great tip.

I wish all my snafus in life could be so easily mended and prettied up.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's all the rage

So, how is it I throw my back out on my first full day of being forty, just by getting out of bed?

Shane was quick to offer solutions. He recommended morning stretching and explained how. As my back pain worsened through the coming days, I decided to try his stretches. Lying on the floor on my back, I gently brought my knees to my chest and hugged them for several intervals. It didn't hurt and it was nice to stretch. However, upon finishing, my back went into excruciating spasms, which plagued me for the next days to the point of tears. Many tears.

"Howard Stern read a book by a doctor named Sarno," he went on to tell me. "It really helped his back pain."

Not buying it. But some curiosity got the best of me and I searched this Sarno guy online and found this blurb about him and his philosophy.

Interesting, I thought. A friend from church called later that evening and asked how I was doing. I explained what I'd been through in a week's time and I think I shared with her some tidbit on Sarno. What could make me have repressed rage on the first day of forty?

"Well, I talked to my dad on my birthday and he said he wasn't coming to my party. Maybe that pissed me off," I said. Lightly.

"I don't think you're supposed to say pissed off to a church person," Shane said lowly.


Did the back pain go away as a result of this insight? (Coincidentally, it did improve significantly. But I'm still not buying the rage relationship--mostly for lack of rage.) I never thought of myself as someone with repressed rage. Perhaps occasionally melancholic. And at times, I like to think, endearingly quirky.

Happy birthday to Lanie

Still dark when I woke up this morning to make the traditional birthday Fluffy Buns. I'm so glad Lanie likes tradition. Erin woke with me to help.

"On my birthday, can I have fluffy buns and blueberry muffins and Dora cupcakes?" she asked.

She knew the blueberry muffins were for Lanie's class yesterday. Fluffy Buns, Lanie's favored breakfast treat. And Dora cupcakes as featured on the station formerly known as Noggin, now Nick Jr.

"Sure," I smiled and looked forward to the daily reminders of her request for the next eight weeks. Erin, who can't understand why we can't put up a Christmas tree today, or just celebrate her birthday now. I think I might have to just make those Dora cupcakes to tide her over. Eight weeks is a long, long time to a two year old.

Lanie came downstairs to hugs and birthday wishes and the delicious cinnamon-sugar-scented goodness fluffing away in the oven.

"I still feel six," she said. I hear you. I still feel thirty-five, despite my body's groanings that I'm not.

"Maybe you will feel seven tonight after dinner when we're singing to you and we eat birthday cake. Or when you open your present," I suggested.

"Yeah, we got you Strawberry Shortcake!" Erin said. Exuberantly. For like the fifth time since we purchased the gift. Still working on discretion ...

"Erin!" Lanie complained.

Happy birthday to my sweet seven.

It goes so fast.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Perhaps I should have put more thought into my own gift request ...

A busy weekend ahead of us. Today's list of to-do gets heavier the longer I sit in front of a computer.

Lanie's birthday is a few weeks away, and a friend asked me for a gift idea. So I asked Lanie, "Is there anything special you'd like for your birthday?"

Without hesitation, she replied, "A robot. I want a robot so that when you tell me to go do stuff, it can do it for me."

I'm noticing serious genius in this kid.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Note to self: mommy moment

Sat with Erin in my arms after lunch. She gave me good hugs and I said aloud, "I love love." And then I said to her, "I love you!"

Erin repeated me, "I love you!" and hugged tighter. I said it over and over to her repeated echoes, each time, each one of us getting louder and until we were almost yelling. I felt my eyes water with emotion, my heart pushing against its seams. It felt so good.

In the quiet, Erin spoke gently in my ears, "You're my friend."

"You're my friend, too," I said.

Note to self: remember this moment forever.


Putting Lanie to bed last night, she was interested in talks and cuddles. She traced the lines that corner my mouth.

"Where'd you get these," she asked.

"Years of smiling," I said.

"Do I have them?" she wondered.

"When you smile, you do," I answered.

"They don't stay when I stop? I guess I don't smile enough."

"If you want them to stay even when you don't smile, you'll have to wait until you're about my age. Your skin is too young now for them to stay."

She traced the lines some more, and I didn't feel ashamed that my face bears tracks of happiness. Then she went to the space between my eyebrows.

"Are these from frowning?" she asked.

I like a friend's description of them as concentration lines.

"Maybe," I said. Probably, I thought. Thankfully, I think the smile lines run deeper.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

E & E

Lanie wore a polka dot dress today. After school and while we were having snack, she decided to climb into my lap and talk. We started talking about all kinds of things, and then the conversation naturally came to chocolate.

"Your polka dots could be M&M's," I said. I tickled some polka dots along her sleeve saying, "M, M, M, M."

"You mean 'E'," she said.

"You think they're E's?" I asked.

"They aren't E's?" she replied.

Then we laughed hard.

Friday, September 18, 2009

14, 14, 14

Overheard kiddos playing hide and seek--a favorite of theirs this summer. Erin does well being "it." She hides her face and counts, "1, 2, 3 ..." while Lanie runs and hides.

Continues along in sequence and then gets a laugh out of me as she sticks on, "11, 12, 13, 14, 14, 14 ! Ready or not, here my come!"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Feeding frenzy

I was sitting at my desk, wrapped up in a handmade crocheted pink shawl. Erin comes in and says, "Why you have that on, Mama?"

"Because I'm cold. And I didn't have anyone to keep me warm. So I put this on. Because I'm cold!" I said, shivering for dramatic effect.

"Take it off and I keep you warm."

I took the blanket off my shoulders and opened my arms, and in climbed the most delectable two year old I know. She hugged me tightly and I squeezed her back.

"I think I love you!" I said.

"I think I love you too!" she replied. And then I ate her. She laughed and squirmed and squealed as I tickled her sides and neck and arm pits. I made frenzied gobbling sounds and ate her up.

"I love you!" she told me again. "Can I please have some juicy?"

I got up to get her some juice. Lanie asked, "What are you guys doing?"

"I'm fixing Erin a juicy," I said. "And then I'm going to EAT HER UP!"

Erin laughed. Shortly after, she finds me wrapped in the shawl.

"Mama, take off you blanket and I keep you warm!" She climbed into my arms again and told me over and over, "I love you!" And it warmed me right up.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Erin's thinking of birthdays already. Hers is in December. "Please make me a Strawberry Shortcake cake? With sprinkles?"

"Ok," I smile.

"You can come to my party, too!" she says, face beaming, hugging me tight.

"Thank you!" I say. Wouldn't miss it.


Lanie was humming a song today. "Mom, what's the song about homework?"

"I don't know what you mean," I said.

"The one on the radio. You know, about homework."

I'm hoping she doesn't start to get exasperated because I have no clue what she's talking about. She offers up part of the lyrics, "I don't want to give my homework and lose my soul," she sings.

Huh? And then, oh.

"It's I don't want to gain the whole world and lose my soul!" I say. We had a little laugh over that.

Friday, September 4, 2009

SSF--end of summer

It's our last super surprise Friday of the summer, and it's a full celebration.

The biggest surprise is the play center we're going to, where they have all kinds of fun stations for kids to play: a fire truck, sand stuff, tea party stuff, and other things. And then we're having the snowball we didn't get last week. Tonight, it's an end-of-summer type of party at a new friend's house and I'm so looking forward to it. Especially the part about wearing a jacket, because I love this weather we're having.

There are a few other things to do today as well, which may or may not be considered surprise-worthy to the kids: making Italian-style mac and cheese to bring along tonight, making frozen chocolate covered bananas, dropping off food to a friend, getting diapers at the big superstore.

It's a busy day.

So long summer. Looking forward to next week's co-op orientation and then Wednesday's first day of first grade.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Hoping to unplug today.

Big thunderstorms last night, I think our forecast is rainy today. Good day for just talking to my girls, looking into their eyes, playing ponies and reading books, reconnecting after days of busy and preoccupation. Oh, and making a cake. Two actually.

Drizzle run for snow balls down the road. Lanie takes after her dad: egg custard with marshmallow.


We watched a couple feed French fries to the gulls. Erin wanted to run and catch the birds, but she stopped short at their screeches and squawks. "Mommy! They're laughing!"

Ice cream on the boardwalk.

The boardwalk. French fries. Sea gulls. Sand sculptures. Ice cream. Cotton candy. Games and prizes. Erin "won" the first game, but didn't like the prize, so Lanie got it. Lanie won a different game and picked out a white lion, and gave it to her sister. Erin looked in love as she cuddled and kissed the lion. Lanie looked like butter--just ready to melt from doing something so nice. Her angel smile glowed.

Erin, "Ferris wheel!" A sliver of moon. Tea cup rides. Hot air balloons. The carousel. A caterpillar roller coaster for four. Magical--every second.

The water park and Lanie's thrill seeking instincts in high gear. "This was the best day of my life!" Lanie said. I think it was mine too. Each day. When so much goodness and sunshine and pizza and ice cream and water and waves and sand and family and smiles and laughter and awe get packed into moments till they are bursting at the seams. Joy overflowing.