So, about this resolution stuff

I don't "do" resolutions. I used to. Dutifully. Every year I'd mull over my options over the waning days of a year trying to pin point the biggest areas of my young life where change was required. And yet, invariably, every year those things would fall by the wayside before Valentine's Day cards got bought.

It's not that I lack discipline. Really, it's a very simple problem. I'm, how do we say, quite mercurial. What's paramount today does not always hold the same urgency tomorrow. What seemed resolution worthy on December 28th may have lasted until January 7th and then, well frankly, it got trumped by a new priority.

My five year old has decided, for the first time in his life, to declare a New Year's resolution. When I was annually resolving I aimed for specifics - I will increase fitness by walking daily. I will exercise my brain by reading a biography on every president (I've been stuck on John Adams for the last 6 years, by the way.)

The boy, however, takes a different approach. He resolves broadly. His tactic, perhaps, is that it's easier to achieve a goal if you're not caught up in the nitty gritty of how you're going to do it. It's easier to make a life change if you build in some wiggle room.

"For the new year," he said with his eyes locked solemnly on mine and his warm, larger than it used to be hand tucked comfortably in the crook of my arm, "I'm going to make a resolution to try to be a better boy. I'm going to try hard to be a better listener and I'm really going to work on not getting as mad at my sister even when she's mortifying me." (Yes, he did say mortifying.)

I didn't know how to respond. The cynic in me wanted to wave the John Adams bio and say "resolutions, ha!" The mom in me won out and I praised him for identifying areas of his life where he wanted to grow and improve.

It was later, when I was recounting the day for my husband, that I referred to his plans as "lofty goals." Except then I realized the kid wasn't really "all pie in the sky." Perhaps he was better at this resolution stuff than I realized. Maybe, if I stopped projecting my own "New Year flops" on the poor kid, I'd learn a thing or two.

Looking back on the years I resolved and failed, I realized that if I had followed Logan's model I might be farther along the shelf of biographies by now. I might be in better physical shape. I might have accomplished a lot of other things. My old way of going about it did little more than set myself up for failure. It was an absolute all or nothing. I had no room built in for stumbles. It became a labor of duty not a passion for self-improvement.

Logan's resolution, however, gives him the benefit of the doubt. He's going to try. He's going to work. He's going to do his best -- and if his best falls short of literal improvement, so be it. . . because his goal is simply to try. Something tells me that in that simple, attainable goal he'll find bigger, far reaching success.

Something tells me I ought to listen to the boy and accept that sometimes he really does know better than me. . .even at 5 years old.


Oh to be 5

It started out as one of "those" days. I was up before the rest of the house. Normally that's not a bad thing. It usually means I have some quiet time to read email or take in a few pages of my book without being climbed on. Today, however, there was no relaxing. Today there was baking to be done.

A lot of baking.

We'll gloss over the nitty gritty with this - sometime between getting two kids dressed in clean, ironed clothes, getting one kid to and from preschool, getting two kids fed lunch, two loads of laundry and taking out the trash so one balking back Daddy didn't have to do it, I managed to coordinate a 5 year old in the cutting out and baking of 4 dozen sugar cookies and three loaves of "from scratch with no bread machine" raisin bread. And ALL of that was before I located lunch for myself at 1pm.

I was not very full of "the Christmas spirit" right about then. I was cranky. And I still had a classroom full of kindergartners to face at the "cookie decorating station." Yeah, so not happy I decided to volunteer to run a center at this thing.

At 1:30 Grandma and I signed ourselves in at the school office. We carried our bundles down the hall to the room - the room that was oddly empty of loud 5 and 6 year olds.

The teacher was bustling around the empty room prepping. That's when it hit me. The kids were at the Media Center (back "in the day" we called that the library) for their Friday special. She had us come in early so we could set up without anxious, boisterous kids underfoot.

In total there were nearly as many grown-up helpers as there would be children - some of us brought along grandmas. We joined the teacher in bustling. I was fighting the urge to grumble. This mom-of-kindergartner thing can be a lot of work.

Then the noise started to build.

Twenty-one kindergartners hours away from a week off with Santa arriving days into the break are hard to contain. They erupt into the room with waves of energy proceeding them.

It's contagious.

This was my fourth afternoon this year in the classroom - my third afternoon "working" the party. Logan's teacher is big on parent involvement and we love her for it. These are kids I'm getting to know. Big eager faces, giddy at the idea of spreading frosting on cookies that they can then load up on chocolate and sprinkles. I mean really, heaven, right?

These are kids who realize "skating" on school linoleum floor in their socks is about as much fun as one can have. Kids who think shoving giant cotton balls around a few cardboard boxes is a great way to build an indoor snowman and who still get giddy over the idea of making reindeer food.

These are kids that helped to revitalize me today. Kids that remind me that sometimes even though it may seem overwhelming, the preparation for and the time spent simply 'being there' is the best gift of all.

For them. And for me.


Sometimes curiosity is bad

After my massive brainstorm to update my blog (which was inspired by Peggie's mission to update her's as a Christmas present to herself*), I volunteered to help Jenn update her template.

And that's when the bad thing happened.

I am not a web designer by trade. I only know enough HTML to get myself in trouble. I knew enough to alter the basic template I had to make it Jenn's very own lovely new home on the web. Except the code I gave her wasn't working.

I was baffled. It was bugging me. I wasn't going to rest until I figured out where I had slipped up. And then I started to tinker. Tinker is bad. Very bad.

I clicked that neat button on one of the blogger template tabs that said "update" and suddenly my innocent little HTML based blog was now an XML blog...and my lovely bold red blog with the header I pieced together with stock art was gone. Poof. No more. I was left with standard templates and a header to squish into it. I almost went with it too -- except it meant no bold, flashy red background. Zip. Gone.


And so I set out on a mission to find templates offered up at the very good price of free. :) We like free. We like templates.

Which brings us to the fish - voila. The new, new template.

I did nothing. I designed nothing. I used not an ounce of my right brain...unless googling counts for useage.

But for now, at least, this template speaks to me. We're happy together. Me and the template. We're buds.

Perhaps another day when I'm not staring at the clock wondering how many cups of java I will need to prop me up at my desk in the office tomorrow I will try to resurrect the bold, red and "by me with the nice stock art" header template. But for now, I give you fish.

(But hey, I *did* make Jenn's header. Go see it. Wave hi while you're there. Ask her how the Eagles are doing and then take cover.

* If you're wondering, Peggie's new blog dwelling is NOT live yet. You'll have to keep pestering her until it debuts.


Work in Progress

Yes, I'm tinkering with the template again. That sea shell design was ready to go. I know there's a spelling mistake in the header graphic. I also know I somehow lost a second color in the background. I'm not sure I like the red I settled on. I'm tinkering.

It may evolve over time. Or not.

Got an opinion on the change? Let me know.

UPDATED (12/12) - Well I found my second color, made some text changes to the header (good call on centering Nicole!) and now I think I'm set. At least for now. You never know when a new graphic might grab me and demand to be used.


The kid will take a tall. Make mine a Venti.

I don't even remember how it came up but I recently found myself saying:

My daughter is addicted to Starbucks.

And if I recall the other end of the conversation seemed to need a moment to pop her eyes back in her head.

"Starbucks?" she said, "You mean your three year old?"

Some how the funny of a story gets lost when you need to explain it. I hate that. Even as I back tracked slightly and then moved again to push ahead I knew the tale would fall flat.

"Well, yes, actually. Only she calls it Star-boo-cks," I mumble, before hastily adding in, "It's the cow-milk. She loves it. Well really I think it's the ambiance but she knows she's only drinking the cow-milk."

"The cow milk?"

"Right. You know, the little juice box milk with the cow on it...vanilla. She doesn't like the chocolate..ahh...hey look! Is it snowing?"

Speaking of coffee houses. . .

My church moved into it's current facility in 1969. Before that the congregation occupied a small, colonial style church building down town.

Sometime during my childhood our creepy, itty, bitty library migrated to a big, airy, spacious new building. The then 'new' library was built off the back end of the old church building. The old clock tower, the bell - all still there. The choir loft remained in tact. The stained glass that did not make it's way to the new building still poured colored sun light onto the floor of what was now meeting space. I always loved having story time in there.

Over the last two years that same library underwent another overhaul. It began with a busted pipe that left water damaged books, carpet and lord knows what else in it's wake. It ended up a brand new wing and a tremendous face lift for the old section. Today our library is buzzing with the sorts of services and programs that earn it on some national association's list of top 5 libraries in the nation. Seriously.

As a child I truly believed our library was the most amazing one ever constructed. It was a treat to go poke around the stacks of books. My children, luckily, agree. We make frequent trips and leave with large, over stuffed bags of books each time.

Last week was our most recent trip. The girl child was at preschool. The boy and I were ducking in quickly to return our previous stash and to restock. He was antsy. He wanted a slew of books but he wanted them quickly. We ran through, picked out, checked out and with Logan setting the pace, we hustled out past the circulation desk into the lobby.

He was pulling my hand and dragging me towards the front of the building - the old church building that still looks like the church from the outside while boosting bits and pieces of its history on the inside.

"Can we?" he asked, knowing what lie inside that former sanctuary is off-limits when Megan is with us.

I gave in, as I normally do knowing this is a rare treat for him. I let him jog two paces ahead of me and came to a stop in line behind him. The woman behind the counter smiled at Logan's exuberance and waited for him to stop waffling over his choices.

When he finally did, I said to her, "Ok, we'll have one vanilla frosted donut with sprinkles, one container of milk and one large vanilla spice coffee. Thanks."

Moments later the boy and I were settling into the iron backed chairs at our little table just feet from the overhang of the old choir loft. His donut resting on the bag as he licked the first bits of frosting from his fingers. I swirled the sweetners and cream in my coffee. . .and then I used that Dunkin' Donuts emblazoned napkin to wipe up the bit I had spilled.

If we're being honest, I felt a small nudge of guilt for not making the kid say grace before digging into that donut - or maybe that was just a bit of stain glass tined light clouding my mind.


Ho, Ho, Ho....I got tagged

Because sometimes I like to take the easy way out, I'm simply going to tag you, you and you...and you. . . and ok, you there lurking in the corner. (I think you get the idea.)

1.) Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate. (Egg nog? Yuck. Ok, I went through a small egg nog phase. Now I can't figure out why.)

2.) Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa tries to have them all wrapped but sometimes Santa decides that a simple bow will suffice for those "hard to wrap" items. (And really, God bless whoever invented the gift bag.)

3.) Colored lights on tree/house or white? Colored!

4.) Do you hang mistletoe? Nope, but I have no real reason why.

5.) When do you put your decorations up? Most of it goes up the day after Thanksgiving. The tree makes it's way up some time in the middle of the December and this year the outdoor lights will go up next week when the elementary school delivers the fresh greens we ordered from the PTO.

6.) What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? But I love the desert! Umm, my favorite? Sweet potatoes.

7.) Favorite Christmas memory as a child? It's hard to pick one as my favorite because there are so many special ones. I think perhaps the best, though, would have to be decorating cookies together - we'd bake together, decorate, listen to Christmas music and drink hot chocolate. It's a tradition we continue with our kids...still at Grandma's kitchen, the same recipes, the same music.

8.) When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I think I was about 9 or 10. I honestly don't remember the details of how or when. I all I know is that I had to "play along" the year we went to Florida for Christmas to see my Grandmother before she died. My brother was 6. I was 10. I remember feeling so "grown-up" to be in on the secret and getting to help "pull it off."

9.) Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes. In the past it's been PJs but after the way that went over like a lead balloon last year, we're doign PJs and a small gift for the kids. None for the adults though.

10.) How do you decorate your Christmas tree? We have a lot of those "mean something" ornaments. It's a lot of different things that have some of story behind them -even if it's just "I saw it when we were [name place] and it looked too cute to pass up." Each year the kids get a new ornament of their own (Logan gets Santa. Meg gets an angel) And we try to get a 2nd ornament that symbolizes something they're "into" that year.

11.) Snow! Love it or Dread it? Depends on what I've got to do that the day it snows. ;)

12.) Can you ice skate? I used to but I'm not sure I could get around the rink without brusing my rear any more.

13.) Do you remember your favorite gift? Well...I did find out I was pregnant with the boy child in December after years of NOT being able to get pregnant. ;) That was a pretty neat gift.

14.) What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Being with my family and sharing in the spirit of the season.

15.) What is your favorite holiday desert? Cheesecake. Yummy!!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? We have more traditions in our family than I can keep track of. If I stop to think about it, I think my favorite thing, though, is the church school Christmas program. I love seeing the excitement in those little faces as they sing their songs and share their joy. It brings it all back down to what we're really supposed to be focused on this time of year.

17.) What tops your tree? A Boyd's bear dressed as an angel.

18.) Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving!

19.) What is your favorite Christmas Song? Is it rotten to admit I can't remember the name of it? I think it's Mary's Song and I have it on an Amy Grant tape. I love that song!

21.) Favorite Christmas Movie? Santa Claus is Coming to Town is my favorite special. My favorite movie is It's a Wonderful Life. . . which I never watched before Bruce made me.

22.) What do you leave for Santa? Milk and cookies, with a carrot for the reindeer. :)


Be aware of your image

On Monday last week I set about the task of obtaining quotes for a set of updates to my company's web site. Although I already have quotes from two agencies that have a history with either me or the company itself, I wanted to obtain at least one or two more.

Google is my friend. I am a champion googler and so, of course, I set about my task looking for additional advertising and/or interactive marketing firms by running a few searches on such agencies in my state.

Talk about an aggravating experience.

Let me give you a little free marketing advice. If you're going to sell web marketing services (web site design included) do yourself a favor and actually design yourself a web site that looks like a professional did it.

Ok. I'll leave it at that. I was prepared to wax poetically on the topic some more - providing elaborate detail as what these people did wrong (lackluster, text heavy, 'canned template' looking sites) and what they didn't do right (provide easy to navigate, fun to read sites that were overly in love with flash animations and "cute" gimics because the overkill is just as bad as the opposite end of the spectrum.) I'm sure, however, that my day of eye-rolling and seeking a brick wall to bang my head on is not nearly as fascinating to anyone else.


By ear

When we graduated High School my best friend and I hit a stretch of nostalgia. We had this need to try to preserve or at least commemorate the relationships we had, or perhaps just document who we had been during those years of our lives. It was the time before email. Before digital photography. It was before easy access to video cameras that didn't require a shoulder to, well, shoulder some of the weight. It was before you could, gasp, burn your own CDs. Before scrapbooking skyrocketed to all it's glory. We were just "that" far north of the 80s.

The process of creating our shared memento was somewhat laborious but not difficult. We made tapes. Between our own collections and what we could gather at the library - a good decade before iTunes - we would spend hours in front of our parent's stereos carefully starting and stopping the source and destination tapes until we had a mix that captured the desired effect.

It's been years since I've listened to the results. I came across one during a garage sale purge last year - and as much as I wanted to take the walk down memory lane my inability to locate an actual tape player got in the way of my desire.

This morning, as usual, I woke up way too early as my husband moved around the room readying himself for work. This morning, not like usual, I couldn't drift back off to even an uneasy sleep. Instead I pulled a pillow over my head, reached a hand into the nightstand and pulled out my little Shuffle. Plugged neatly into a world of random music, I was at least able to wander around aimlessly in my own mind.

As the garage door closed behind his car leaving and I lay wide awake staring at the ceiling, it was clear that I had no hope of doing anything more than sitting in the dark listening to music that seemed like a good idea to preserve on this device. I crept down the dark hall way and flipped the computer on. The player moved from a ballad by Rascal Flatts to a heavy drum beat and loud rocking vocals of Bon Jovi from a time when big hair was best way to identify a rocker.

I waited for the PC to warm up and in the dark haven of my home, I danced around like it was the prom all over again. The music slid seamlessly to Jerry Lee Lewis and so did I. The pre-coffee blitz of energy left me happy to find my leather chair waiting for me. I slipped in and began typing as the music transitioned into a little Billy Joel and from there into Norah Jones.

Her music oozed over my ear drums like caramel dripping from a spoon dipped into in a sundae. It made me wonder what someone who came across my collection of songs on this MP3 player would surmise about me simply based on the eclectic collection it contained.

Last year someone sent me one of those "get to know you forwards" that asked one simple question "What's on your iPod play list?" It seemed frivolous at the time and, since most of my listening time is spent "Oh yeah! I remember this song. Hmm, didn't realize I had put it on" it also seemed nearly impossible. Now, though, I think I see the wisdom behind the question.

Music is expression. The music that calls you can be a window to who you are - what moves you, what calls to you and what sets your feet dancing and your voice singing (off key or clear as it may be). It's not that the lyrics speak for me, but they do speak something about me.

I'll leave it up to you to decide what it says. I've got some old Nelson song to bop around to now and perhaps after that a little Nickelback.


Perhaps I'll hide the box

My brother recently moved out a lot of his "stuff" from our parents house. Ok, so sure, the biggest thing he moved out of the house was himself...but that's neither here nor there. The point is, there was lots of rooting around various nooks and crannies as years worth of dust covered stuff finally released their grasp on 'spare space' throughout my parent's home.

I don't know about you and your spare space, but in our family once you push up the sleeves and start tidying up the project starts to snow ball. What started out simply as pulling out some boxes of old college text books from the attic becomes a quest to purge the dusty space of all it's superfluous wares.

And that, frankly, means that some of the stored away remnants of the past ended up in my house taking up some of my spare space.

Logan had a great deal of fun poking around the box of my youth. It was like a treasure hunter hitting a gold mine. His favorite discovery was a long, relatively narrow blue box from my junior year of High School. My English teacher that year was on a mission to swell our vocabularies with as many "25 cent" words as she could in preparation for the SATs. The list of words she peppered us with could also be found in two boxes of flash cards you could buy at any teaching resource store. I bought one of those boxes - a long blue, relatively narrow box full of "SAT vocabulary" words.

For the last two months, Logan sets down with this box from time to time and pulls cards out of it. He will do his best to pronounce the word on his own - smiling from ear to ear as he gets stuff like "passive" correct. And then we read the definition together - doing my best to modify the written explanation on the card to something my 5 year old might connect with.

This morning he handed me "toxic" - guessing it's pronunciation properly first. I read him the card's definition, "Unhealthy; dangerous." We talked about toxic chemicals. We talked about toxic plants. Then I told him that sometimes we refer to "toxic friends" - people that are friends with you but can be not so pleasant sometimes.

"Oh, I get it. Like when Papa is cranky, he's toxic," said Logan - referring to his Grandfather's occasional quiet brooding with snappy retorts sprinkled in.

"Umm, not exactly. Papa is not toxic. Papa just gets grumpy sometimes," I told him.

He weighed it carefully and walked off quietly. "I get it. In the Transformers, the Decepticons are toxic. And in the Veggie Tales, the people that picked on the Snoodle are toxic friends."

Right, that's it, I told him and then I gently corrected the pronunciation of the next word he was looking to learn - idiom. We talked about regional dialects "We say soda, but in other parts of the country people say pop." Logan laughed, finding "pop" an amusing word, I suppose.

He came back in later and said "I get it. So the boy in my class that's just learning English has his own idioms and sometimes, like when he's knocking over our blocks, he's toxic."

Yeah...ok. I can just picture that conversation in Kindergarten today. Maybe I'll hide the box.


Start saving your pennies

It's that time of year. The retailers see the Halloween candy moving off their shelves and so they're sneaking in the Christmas goods. You can swing between howling ghouls and angelic little cherubs in the aisles of nearly any store. It's quaint.

Or pathetic.

Take your pick.

It's also the time when the holiday catalogs start arriving in my mailbox. Which, of course, means it's time for two little redheads in my house to hover over said catalogs with crayons in their hand and dreams of wrapped gifts under the tree.

Logan gets an extra half-hour of "quiet" time each night after we tuck Megan in and turn off her lights. He can read on his own. He can draw. He can do whatever he feels moved to do as long as he's quiet and in his own room. Tonight that meant he was armed with a crayon and the Lego catalog.

About 15 minutes in he came hustling down the hallway. "Look what I found!" he called out much too loud for the "shh-your-sister-is-sleeping" time frame. He was waving his catalog around and gesturing to a build-it-yourself Lego robot.

A $250 build-it-yourself Lego robot.

"Umm, Logan," I said, expecting his usual response to follow, "That robot cost $250. You are not getting the $250 robot for Christmas."

And yet, instead of the usual, "Santa can bring it" reply. (Damn that man in red!) Logan cocked his head to one side and pondered this new wrinkle. "Oh! I know," he said and gestured to both Dad and I. "How about you two put your money together and then you can get it for me."

Right. Yeah. Ok. Been there. Done that. You're still not getting it.

Dad filled the space left by my almost gaping mouth. "Why don't you start saving up your allowance? In a few years you can buy it."

Logan didn't like that idea. He thought some more. "Oh! I have an idea. How about you start putting away a little money in a box now then you can get it for me on my last Christmas getting toys. . .

You know, when I'm in 5th grade."

Sure. Ok.

The problem, my friends, is that in 5 years this kid is going to remember we didn't say no and look for that thing under the tree.


Talk about different paths

A few years ago I got an invitation to my high school reunion. I think it was for my 10th year. It's been a while and I've successfully blocked it from my memory. Suffice it to say, I did not go. Tickets ran a ridiculous amount of money per person. In truth, anyone I wanted to catch up with I already spoke to on a regular to semi-regular basis. Getting together with them did not have to cost me $100/couple and a new dress.

This weekend my brother got married. His bride was a member of my graduating class. We didn't talk much in high school because we traveled in different circles then. Some things don't change.

Two of the other bridesmaids were also classmates of mine. And again, at the time, not people I knew more than recognizing their faces as ones I passed in the hallway. Having spent time with one of them this weekend, I realize I missed out in knowing her back then. While we do have some differences, she's certainly a person I could see myself being friends with.

The other, however, has changed much since High School - at least from the perception most had have her. Sadly, none of it is for the better. In a way two of those women were frozen in time - there they were, dressed up in gowns, DJ blasting some good fashioned 80s rock and it was 1991 all over again. It was senior prom where "those" kids showed up already drunk because they didn't know how to let loose and have fun without it.

I sat watching the dance floor at one point that night and marveled how people can start a leg of life's race from the same starting line and end up in such disparate places.


Reality check

It was sleepover weekend for the boy. He left the house Friday afternoon shortly after exiting his school bus and he returned around dinner Saturday. He came bounding out of his grandparent's car with a pillow-case safety pinned around his neck and a brightly colored "TA" emblazoned upon one side of it.

"And you are?" I said, curious about the identify of what was clearly the world's newest super hero.

He had named himself. His own imagination picking over potential word combinations until he could settle upon the one he thought the world was most sorely in need of.

"I am . . ." he bellowed, pausing slightly for the appropriate amount of dramatic impact, "Think Before You Act Boy!"

Ah..ok. Yes.

He leapt up the front steps like they were small stones upon his path and practically flew into the backyard where his father and sister waited to greet him. The grandparents and I followed him. We watched him leap up on the children's plastic picnic table - setting his feet apart just so and his arms held out before him about shoulder level.

"Logan, don't stand on the table. Get down," said Daddy, weary already of what he knew has been an ongoing battle.

Logan, in all his five-year old-I-can-call-the-shots-myself glory, simply reset his feet into a new stance and smiled.

"Logan, down. Now," said Dad as he tacked on the coming consequence for the refusal to listen.

I walked over, quietly, lifted the superhero from his perch, holding him out horizontal to the ground and flew him to safety. I flipped over the small table and placed it in my dying vegetable garden.

"Clearly," I whispered to him as he glared at me, "Think-Before-You-Act-Boy has run into some kryptonite."

For real?

Anyone else think it's a bad idea to a put a three-year old in a very fancy dress 2 1/2 hours before she NEEDS to be in the very fancy dress?

Good. I thought maybe it was just me being unreasonable again. ;)


It's the 2nd. Must be time for shameless plug

That's right. Today is October 2nd and that means today was my day to compose something witty and thought-provoking for The Soccer Mom Vote. I can not promise witty in today's piece. I can promise thought provoking. At least I think it is.

Oh go on. Humor me. Go. Read. Ponder. And again, stroke my ego by leaving a comment over there. It's not for me, you know. I do believe comments make Nicole, pregnant soccer mom ring-leader, a happy girl too. And isn't it a lovely thing to make the pregnant girl happy?


And she said with pride. . .

Our school district sponsored a "fitness carnival." It was organized by the High School peer education group and open to anyone in a district elementary school. Races were held by gender and grade level.

As soon as he heard about it, Logan wanted in. Ever since he saw one of the high school's track teams running down the road for practice, he'd been determined to race. This morning he got his chance.

Going in Logan knew three things:

1. Students placing 1st, 2nd and 3rd got a medal.

2. Anyone else crossing the finish line got a ribbon.

3. He'd be running in the last race of the day (Kindergarten boys) and as a 5-year old with a summer birthday, some of the runners along side him could easily be a full-year or more older. And that means, they'd likely be bigger and faster.

He went into this race determined to at least run the entire 1/2 mile and get himself a ribbon. He'd happily take a medal, but as long as he crossed the finish line without walking or breaking, he'd have met his goal.

The whistle blew - he ran. Roughly a 1/4 mile in, Logan was nestled comfortably in the middle of the pack. He saw something that either no one else saw, or no one else cared to admit they saw. Another boy had fallen down and was having trouble getting up as the tangle of 5 and 6 year old legs ran around him.

Logan slowed his pace as he approached. He stopped. He stopped long enough to hold down his hand and help that boy up. With a quick pat on the kid's back, he confirmed the boy was ok. The boy took off running, calling a thank you over his shoulder as he went. Logan nodded and picked up speed. He had paused. He had stopped, but he didn't care.

The closer he got to the line, the faster he ran. In the end, he came in roughly 33rd in a field of over 50 boys - neither first nor last. Smack in the mid-section.

Yet, in the end, I think he was the one that really won. He met his goal. He ran the entire length except for that one short break when he reached down a hand to be the good sport.

On our way home I pointed out that he was the Lightening McQueen of the race - the one that voluntarily lost time off his own pace to make sure another contestant stayed in the game. Logan, the child that's been quite vocal about pursuing a particular vocation since he could talk, laughed and then said with utmost sincerity, "Mommy, that's just what doctor's do. I was running. I was racing myself and I was practicing being a doctor."

Is it any wonder why that kid is my hero?


TGIT (Thank God it's Thursday)

It's Thursday.

It's actual-brand-new television.

The Office is back.

I'm a happy girl.

And for the record, I honestly think I've worked with a real life rendition of nearly every character on that show. Yes. Even Dwight. My Dwight wanted to sell videoconferencing services to funeral homes. Don't ask.


In case you're wondering

I write.

It's what I do. It's what I do to earn a few bucks. It's what I do to manage my stress.

I write.

Sometimes, when I'm hotter under the collar than I'm comfortable being, I write big long tirades. It's better than the alternative. It's not a good idea to speak at the one that irks you when you're not calm. At least that's the conclusion I've reached.

In those instances - the ones where I need to tirade through my finger tips - I rely on my blog to absorb the emotion. Sometimes I keep it a private listing. Sometimes I don't.

The yesterday I did not. And that's ok. I needed to get those words out. I even needed someone else to see them - anyone. For those that did, I thank you for the messages back or at least just the eye balls. Those that didn't - you didn't miss much really. It's sounds a lot worse than it was. :)

The thing is every now and then, after the written word has done it's job of being balm to my hot temper, I have a change of heart. Like now. It's not that I take back the words. I don't. They came out on their own accord because they needed to. I simply put my fingers on the keys and let them take over. Whatever hits the screen hits it because it had to find it's way there. Then I'm cooler. I'm more level headed. I stop and think about whether those particular words are the ones I want the spark - the one that set me off - to see.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes it's not.

As much as those words were what I wanted to say to my spark - they are words I can't say to her. So I took down the posts. All this to say, if you think something's missing - it is. But it's gone because it served it's purpose and it's time had come to an end.


Happy 3rd, Moo-bear

When I was a girl fantasizing about my grown-up life, I always pictured myself with a red-headed pigtailed daughter. We'd do the sorts of things my mother always did with me. We'd bake. We'd paint. We'd play dolls. We'd sing and walk. We'd cuddle up and read a good book together.

Today the embodiment of that dream turns three.

Megan is not the docile, mild-mannered child I used to pretend I'd have. In fact, she's anything but docile unless she's sound asleep (and even that is questionable.) However, and please don't tell her this, I'm quite relieved she's taken the different route.

Today, I have a head-strong and confident little person. She knows what she wants, she's not afraid to tell you and she's certainly not about to back down until she gets it - or until it's clear you're going to do what it takes to outlast her. Megan seems fearless, except when she's not. She's a girl that understands the power of the tear and the well placed whimper.

She'll try anything once - although sometimes she prefers to have a hand to hold while she does it. She's vocal about her likes and dislikes. She's perfectly capable, even at this age, of standing up for herself. She's perfected "the look" that tells whoever is on the receiving end that they've crossed some sort of unforgivable line.

Megan is also compassionate in a way I never expected a child her age of being. She's quick with a hug or a kiss to heal hurt feelings - even the ones she did not inflict. She's first to round up a group of tykes about her age (give or take a few years) and take charge as she engages them in play. She's quite concerned about making sure everyone is included and happy.

Give her room to roam and people along the way, and Megan will make new friends. It's not just that she talks to everyone she meets. She remembers them all - by name if they've been so kind as to give theirs. She never forgets these details.

Silent is not in her vocabulary. She will whisper. She will meow. She will talk in a 'normal' voice. She will squeak. She will yell. She even talks in her sleep from time to time. She sings. She recites stories she's memorized. She tells jokes - and sometimes gets the punchlines right. She's a born entertainer.

She's her brother's shadow. And yet, she's his rival. She's his hero. She's his devotee. She's the bane of his existence and the balm for his soul.

Megan is my touchstone. She's the one that keeps me grounded and the one that let's me soar.

She's growing fast. Too fast. She's my preschooler now. Not my baby any longer. And yet, for as long as she let's me say it out loud, she's my Meggie, my Tinkerbell, my Princess and my Moo-bear. And some day she'll be all those things whispered in my heart as she outgrows her comfort with those monikers in public. She'll always be my littlest one. My baby. My dream girl. Always.


So they grow

A week ago the boy climbed up the steps of a bus for his first trip to school in which one of *his* grown-ups did not escort him into the classroom.

He attended Kindergarten for the first time.

Just days later the girl ran down the familiar hallways of the preschool - also our church. She knew right where she was going. It's the same room she's spent every Sunday morning in for the last year. It was her third year dashing through hallways at drop-off time - but it was the first time she was the one who stayed.

As a parent you worry. Will they listen? Will they make friends? Will they learn? Will they grow? Will they thrive?

Frankly, I found it easy to form an image of my child's preschool day. I get to know the families in her class as we became familiar sights at drop off and pick up. I develop a relationship with the teacher in that same time. I know if my child had a classroom job - it's posted on the bulletin board. It's a routine that I've been exposed to and I know the leading questions to ask to provoke chatter.

Kindergarten is different. I saw parents and classmates once at orientation. I met the teacher for all of 15 minutes. The hallways - although very much a sister school to the one I attended 29 years ago - are forgien terrority to me. I probe with questions and sometimes I get replies and sometimes I pull a few proverbial teeth.

Yet we're learning this tango together. Occasionally a few questions open flood gates and other times it merely leaves the tap open so that the picture of a typical day comes out little by little over time. For example, on Friday, school was simply "good." It was yesterday, I learned that he sits in the class library reading books with one Joshua and a Ben. One of those boys was in "the old Sunday School" class and so a familiar face. The second is a new friend but not to be confused with "the other Joshua in class" that happens to sit with Logan on the school bus for the ride home.

I felt some of the tension leave me as he disclosed this bit of his new life. Suddenly it's a little less unknown. Slowly we're establishing some familiarity. I known enough again to know that he's comfortable and social in his new terriority.

When Logan started preschool there was no melancholy for me. It was new. It was exciting. He loved it and I was thrilled for him. I did, if I'm being honest, chuckle quite a bit at the friend of mine who swore she'd have to be peeled from the classroom windows where'd she by crying her eyes out. Taking Megan this year hasn't been any different.

Kindergarten, however, is different. It's giving up a lot more than just a few hours in the day. It's losing that connection and control of drop-off. It's not just sending your kid to school, its putting them on the bus to get their own way there. It's not having the easy ability to put faces with names when your child starts talking about teachers and classmates.

The reality becomes stark and clear. Your child isn't just growing up and moving to a new phase of their life - something you really do reveal in. Your child is growing up and moving to a new phase of life that includes less of you. It is kindergarten not college, but it is step one in that direction.

It's a selfish thing, admittedly. Even in those moments when you moan a little and wish for just ONE trip to the bathroom that did not include an audience, even then, deep down you feel that warm fuzzy of being part of the center of a child's universe. You are the one to meet every need - not just food and shelter, but companionship and comfort.

Kindergarten, however, is phase one in the path away from all that. You realize that almost overnight you start to inch away from the center and a tiny bit closer to that spot you'll occupy years from now - the one that loops around in orbit.


Let the photo do the talking

The bus just left about a half-hour ago. He had us at the bus stop 40 minutes early!! He was excited. So was I. Then I came in the house and called my husband to tell him our "baby", our first, our son had offically begun his Kindergarten journey.

I got voicemail.

And then I cried.

I'm speechless, and besides, the preschooler (who will start on Friday) is demanding I help her paint with watercolors. Instead I'll let the photos speak for me:


What you'd hear if you were here

Over heard in my house today:
L (my brand new Kindergartener fresh off orientation): I want to do my homework.

Me: You can do your calender page. Remember, it's not due until the actual first day of school next week.

L: I know, I want to do it now.

He works diligently on printing his name in upper and lower case letters then works with utter fixated concentration - coloring in the boxes for Sept 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 with a yellow crayon just like the paper says to do.

L: I'm done. I want to do my other homework.

Me: Honey, you've got to go with Grandma and I have to get to work. You just have to draw a picture of yourself and your favorite stuffed animal. That paper isn't due until next Friday! You have time, we can do it tomorrow when we don't have to rush.

L: But I want to do it now! I want to do homework!

Me: Logan, I want you to remember this conversation when you're 15.

L: Why? (pause) Ok, can you assign me other homework to do at Grandma's today?

Also overheard at my house:

Me: So, Meg, are you excited about starting preschool next week? Are you going to make new friends?

M: Yes, with the girls.

Me: Just the girls? What about the boys?

M: The boys can make their own friends.

(Daddy is so relieved and hopes she holds tight to this philosophy until she's 30 or something like that.)

Overheard later at my house as Miss Meg is in the bathtub

M: Mommy, come here, I want to squirt you with this water bottle.

Me: No, honey, I don't want to be squirted with your water bottle.

M: But you have to. I will get your foot wet.

Me: I don't want to get wet.

M: Yes, just a quick squirt.

Me: Megan Rose, I do not want to get wet.

M: Mommy, I love you and we are still friends, but you are REALLY starting to fuss-trate me!


When downgrading is good

Three years ago we bought a Mommy-van. I hated it then. I never really got past that feeling.

It's not that it was a bad vehicle, well unless you get a flat. Have you ever priced replacement run-flat tires? Trust me, when you get three flats in 6 months you start to hate run-flat tires at a price of $250 per-tire. Tires that can't be patched. You start to realize that you'd much rather a slow leak and a $40 patch.

Things like stability control were nice; they're nicer if the sales guy bothers to forewarn you that loud screechy whistles and dings go off as soon as you hit an ice patch and stability control kicks in. The safety feature is really quite counterproductive when it causes you to slip into a panic attack the first (and only) time you trigger it.

All-Wheel-Drive was nice; unless gas costs a hair under $3 a gallon and you're considering selling a kidney to fill up your next tank. This also ignores the fact that you rarely encounter conditions requiring the extra wheel control. The raw truth is that you only moaned about not having AWD in a "LONG" vehicle because you were trying to talk your husband OUT of buying the damn thing to being with.

The extra space was nice except it meant you become the designated hauler of all things too big to fit into other family members sedans and pint-sized SUVs. The steering was nice until the little piece breaks off inside and you lose all semblance of power steering but the guy at the dealership service department tells you you're imagining things because it's all just peachy. A little digging finds out this is a common thing for the certain models of this brand. You get a new steering wheel but you're bitter.

Then one day your husband sends you an email as you're sitting at your part-time job stuffing lifesaver roles you paid to have your corporate logo and a snappy little message on into bubble wrap envelopes with a post-card you also designed. The email says "We've got a partner program through work and I can get a good deal on this vehicle."

You start to ponder. Well it's less space certainly. But truth is, we rarely use the space we've got in the Mommy-van. Hmmm, it's not one I see around very often does that mean something? Well, I see the Mommy-van (in the same color!) every other parking space which really sucks when you forget where you parked at a crowded mall.....and frankly, it did nothing to prevent the steering from breaking down no matter what the service manager thinks.

Well, it DOES get better mileage. It does NOT have run-flat tires (have I mentioned how much I loathe run-flat tires?) It is cute. Better yet, it's likely a lower monthly payment than we have today and will have for another two years with the existing Mommyvan.

We make an appointment with a dealer to go in Saturday for a test drive and a conversation. We find a better, closer dealer and head out Friday instead. The sales guy is nice. He's round and he smiles a lot. Logan plops his booster seat in the back of the vehicle for a test drive. Three tire rotations into the ride and Logan announces that we need to tell the man (who is sitting in the passenger seat) that we will buy this car. Mommy tells him we need to discuss it with Daddy. Megan makes herself at home in the cars and trucks displayed in the showroom. She thankfully never learns the horns work in those vehicles.

Daddy and the man head into the tiny little closet of an office to talk numbers. They emerge from time to time to run these figures by me. I sit in the corner of the show room entertaining too restless children with a TV hooked up to a cable system that hides children's programming on different channels than ours at home does, a few old beaten up books, a pint sized block table and one of those beaded maze things. We spend a LOT of time playing Simon says and "pretend you're a dog."

Hours later the four of us sit together waiting for the nice people in the back to spiff up our new set of wheels. We come home with a new "Mommy-mini-mini-van" and car payment that runs $50 less per month....plus better mileage (did I mention that), tires that won't run-flat but won't cost me an arm and a leg to replace and no warning systems that cause my heart to stop and my eyes to bulge out.

The kids love it. I'm finding it peppy and so much more fun than the "wreck my image" mommy-van. ;) I did hate that thing.

It does feature a third row of seating but no one with legs long enough to extend past the edge of the seat will fit in them comfortably. It's ok though because for the two or three times a year we actually drive more than four of us some place, the car seats will fit in the back row and the grown-ups will fit in the middle. The trunk is tiny - but since no one sits in the back row, the seats stay more or less permanently down and the cargo net holds grocery's in place.

I've got a moon-roof again. I so very much missed having the little rectangular spot of my roof open on a beautiful day - or at least the window exposed to let more light in. I have a 6-CD changer. I can load up *my* CDs and theirs without having to hunt them down at a traffic light and hope I can swap them out before the thing turns green.

My favorite feature? I have a remote starter. It's not quite necessary on a regular basis since, you know, I have a garage that sits just under my living room. It will come in handy when I leave the office and would like to get the A/C or heat running before I hit the drivers seat.

And if we're honest, I find a certain amount of glee in freaking out people in the parking lot by starting the car without a body sitting in it. :) I know. It's a bit mean. But frankly, it amuses me.


Freeze frame

Anyone that has had the luck or misfortune (depending on your perspective) to end up on my list of folks to send Shutterfly invites to knows that I take a lot of photos. Truth be told, if you're one of those people, you don't even get the full gamut of what I take. Sometimes I hold back from sharing some albums in an attempt to not bore/bog/pick a nice word here my friends and family with my happy photo-taking-trigger finger.

This isn't a new 'digital' age thing for me. Back in the days of film it was common knowledge that I needed at least one roll of film for each day of a trip - at least. Going digital simply helps me feel less guilt about development costs.

This hobby, ahh, who am I kidding, this obsession owes it's genesis to several sparks. I feel compelled to capture the moment in a literal sense - no matter how inadequate the frozen image may sometimes be in reality. I like the way I can trigger memories by looking over old photos, "Oh, right! I remember when we went. . ."

Sometimes, though, a photo can show you new things you barely noticed in the moment. Little nuances that only the cold-hearted eye of the lens can isolate. Sometimes it's even a detail the speed of life prevents you from seeing. Yet there in that frozen moment it's preserved - evidence of something bigger than a moment.

Over the last week I've taken two different pictures of my kids and a slide. The first was taken during Logan's swim class as he plunged down the water slide into the very deep end of the pool -- and the waiting arms of his instructor. Just after the big moment, he emerged from the water with an apparent swagger and some sense of pride for having survived it despite his then complete inability to swim in any real sense of the word. The image, however, begged to differ. (And for the record, although he swims fairly well today he still will not go on that slide again. On the other hand, shortly after emerging from that slide, he did have a new sense of confidence in the water - something that has indeed led to his new ability to swim both under water and 'on top' with a freestyle stroke.)

The second image was from this weekend. We took the kids to a nearby state park/historic village this weekend for a ride on a train, a hike down a few trails, some time in the old village and then some good old fashioned playground time. There were two slides - one with three 'lanes' and a lot of bumps and one big encased tube. Logan found the tube's penchant for static electricity amusing. He never did see his hair stand on end, but he gathered it was funny based on Daddy's reactions to it. Megan, not to be outdone, scurried up the ladder herself for a turn. I heard a lot of giggles as she came down - it wasn't until I was uploading the photos later that I saw a look that belied the sounds of glee.

Now, the thing about photos is they can't lie. Clearly she was not quite sold on the speed with which she descended. However, the next shot is pretty clear to me too - once passed the initial shock, she had a pretty darn good time with that slide. As I uploaded this image to an album, I started to reflect about what it was really saying to me. It made me think about all those things in life that we approach with some sense of dread and trepidation....and how many of those things end up just fine in the end -- sometimes even more than fine.

And this, these captured moments I did not expect to find, is why I can't keep my fingers from opening and closing that shutter. Sometimes in those photos you capture a moment - and sometimes in that moment you find details you never expected to find. Sometimes you find lessons about life.


Girl time

My daughter, in all her 3 foot glory, is a walking oxymoron.
That might sound harsh unless you recall your High School English teacher defining oxymoron as a figure of speech that combines two normally contraditionary terms. In Megan's case, she's a girlie-girl who is 110% in touch with her inner tomboy.

She delights in climbing whatever is verticle and in her reach. She dives into whatever it is her brother has or does. Set her lose in a yard full of boys and you'll find her quite content to join in the melee. Want to see an unlikely mix of confusion, stinging pain, and awe? Watch the face of the 5-yr old boy who dared pull Meg's hair before you or his mother can intervene. He'll be rubbing his arm and glaring a little with a smirk as you pull her off him -- she would pinned him to the ground and swung both fists repeatedly into his shoulder despite the fact he was a full head and half taller and had at least 10 pounds weight more to his frame. She has no fear. She has no reluctance to stand up for herself. She'll readily punch back just as easily as she'll put her hands on her hips and tell 'em what-for in the way only an almost 3-year old can.

And yet, she'll also readily turn on the water works. Slight her and you might get the barrage of tears that stop just long enough for her to peer under her very long thick lashes to see if you're paying adequate attention. She's climbing yes, but she's likely in something pink or purple. She's convinced putting her hair in two pigtails makes her look at least 4 and, well gosh, headbands make her more like 5. There's yet to be a toy or a person of any age she's yet to figure out how to mother -- much to her big brother's dismay.

She's got a thing for make-up. Now, truth be told, I have a ritual and set of "unlikely to leave the house without" items, but I'm not a big make-up person overall. I'm not even sure the foundation I own is still any good and I'm fairly certain my lipstick is probably too old to admit to being. Megan, however, is all about the make-up. She gleefully sits herself on the closed lid of the toilet and demands her turn when either mom or grandma get the make-up bag out. Meg's routine consist of moisturizer on a foam pad which she smears evenly enough all over her face. It's then an empty brush to swipe over her eyelids and a bit of chapstick on her lips.

Her nails are her big thing. The girl LOVES nail polish. We've compromised - pink yes, green and blue (which she desperately wants to wear) no way. When she goes for her regular sleep-over at the grandmparent's house, she and Grandma do their nails. When Logan left for his sleepover last weekend, Megan announced gleefully, "Girl time!" as she grabbed my hand and dragged me down the hallway. "We're going to get your polish and do our nails!"

Instead we went to the "nail polish store" and picked out a new color. It was a debate. Megan was selecting the hottest of hot pinks my poor eyes had seen since 1980-something-or-other. I was picking out a bit softer selection. We comprised on a bright pink that wasn't quite blinding. The next morning we settled in with a rental movie and set to work on our nails.

Megan, being all about the girlie-girl sleepover, is quite adament that we do each other's nails - I do hers. She does mine. Now, listen, she does a really good job at covering the nail evenly.....and my fingers. I've learned quickly that a little rubbing and some running water is better than nailpolish remover on skin.

Mess aside, this is another of those that I'll cherish long after it becomes taboo in Meg's mind to have your mom giggle and conduct make-overs while decked out in pajamas. When she stops beating Logan's friends up long enough to flirt with them and then pretend those stupid teenage boys annoy her, I'll remember her as a two year old sitting next to them and yammering on about the pink "pom poms" on the handles of her "big girl" bike.

When she's a horomonal ball of teenage angst telling me how horrible I am for something and yelling "I hate you!", I'll smile a little remembering the way she concentrated so hard, my finger held between several of hers, as she applied this bright pink color to my finger tip. I'll remember the way she looked up from her work just long enough to smile and say "Mommy, I love you. We have fun being girls together, right? We're friends."


Catch it before you miss it

My kids are not known for being quiet. In fact, their verbosity is sometimes enough to send me cowering in the bathroom with the door locked and pleas of "I'm in the bathroom guys, just give me a minute. . ."tripping off my lips in the hopes that they buy it. Yeah, they talk. A. Lot.

Hand in hand with the amount of time their lips are moving is a fairly extensive vocabulary for their respective ages. Sometimes I take that for granted; I readily admit it. And although they may use words that seem to be a big fit for such a small body, they still have some of that adorable age-appropriate struggle with enunciation. Logan, for example, is still "Wogan" when his not-quite-yet-3-year old sister decides to actually call him by name.

These are the things I'll miss. Long before they head off to college or their own homes leaving mine dreadfully silent, I will miss the little misspoken words and phrases. The ones I try so hard not to repeat back to them no matter how much I want to hear it again and again. It was cute and smile inducing when Logan did it. It's almost cuter now - not because Megan is the "baby" of the house...but because Logan has become her interpreter. It's like living in the UN with the toddler-oozing-into-preschooler nation trying to communicate with the United-Front of Adults and the Kindergartener standing between them to translate into English.

This weekend my new little fish invited us all over to Grandma's house to see his new skill. Logan has decided swimming underwater is actually a very, very, cool thing that should occupy roughly 90% of every hour he's awake. He prefers to swim with goggles on. It's something his sister copies, just as she copies most everything else he does. The original set each kid had was actually more mask than goggle. Logan had upgraded....Megan has not.

"I want my snorple," she demanded as I held her almost treading water body in the pool.

"You're what?" I said, "I'm not sure what that is Meg."

"I want my snorple! I want to put my eyes in," she explained, clearly annoyed at having to repeat herself. "You know. My snorple. Like Brubee. I want my mask and my snorple."

Logan popped up for air at about that moment and said, "She means snorkle. Her mask has a snorkle tube so she can talk when she's underwater."

Of course, because why should we breathe when we can talk?


Hot off the presses!

If you've not already checked out the collaborative web site The Soccer Mom Vote, then now's a good time to do so. I just hit the "post" button on my latest article which can be found here:
Unjustified fear justified

Go. Read.

Oh, and do feel free to massage my ego a little by leaving a comment. . .unless of course you feel inspired to say something snarky (which seems to be my new favorite word.)


Uh oh

In one month the kids each start their first year in school - one in "big kid" school (aka elementary) and the other in preschool. But this is not what has me a bundle of raw nerve endings. What is? The bigger kid is taking the bus in just a month. The bus.

The bus excites him. It's big. It's yellow. It's not got Mommy on it.

The bus is unnerving me. It's big. It's not got Mommy on it. It's requires the kid to get off and find his own way to his classroom - the kid that can spend oodles of time deeply contemplating who knows what.

I had been semi-successful in talking myself down from this parenting cliff of mild anxiety. "He's not the first kid to take the bus to Kindergarten. *I* took the bus. I survived. . . granted one day I missed the bus on the trip home and I had to wait in the principals office for my mom...but that was Mrs M's fault. The kid across the street takes the bus. Her mom says the driver is fabulous."

Slowly I was feeling less unhinged.

Then I made the mistake of talking to Logan. We talked about Kindergarten and what he was expecting it to be - all the while he worked to shoot his sister with the imaginary laser from his finger tip. Part way through the "getting closer to school!" conversation we stumbled upon the big, yellow, mommy-less bus.

"Hey, I have an idea," he said to me, taking a cease fire as Megan continued to attempt dismantling one of his Transformers. "You can drive next to the bus when I take it."

"I don't think I can do that, Logan," I replied.

He didn't answer at first. The wheels were turning and he was working through the wrench I had just tossed into his carefully crafted plans.

"How will I know where to get off for school?" he asked.

"Well, honey, I think that'd be pretty obvious, right? I mean you get off when you get into the parking lot and see the school building and the driver says 'Ok, everybody out!' or whatever it is the driver says now-a-days," I told him.

"Ok. . ." he said slowly, "But, how do I know when to get off when he takes me home?"

"Logan, sweetheart, you get off when you see home."

"Yeah, but what I'm too short to see out the window?" he asked, clearly looking to find a way to convince me to play escort to the big, yellow, mommy-less bus.

Yeah. I'm back to being unnerved by the bus.



Every autumn we pack up the kids and the grandparents in the "mommy-van" for an excursion to the orchard. It's a tradition that goes back over 25 years to when my parents used to take my brother and I apple picking at that very same orchard. I can't seem to pass by a tree in that particular set of fields without flashbacks of climbing up their centers in attempt to drop immature fruit on my immature brother's head or of shining up freshly picked gems on our sleeves before biting into them.

But it's not September today. Nor is it October. It is July, of course, and July is berry picking time.
I've not actually gone berry picking with the kids. The last time I went I was still counting years to my driver's license and my kid brother was diabolically plotting new ways to torture me. (Some things don't change, he's still twerp even if he is nearly a foot taller than me.) My soon-to-be-sister-in-law, however, has a favorite blueberry farm and a suggestion that we join her and her daughter on this summer's trip.

It's a good thing to play nice when you're adding members to the family, so I agreed. It was a small jaunt out to the berry patch - you ride from parking lot to trees on a big hay-ride type wagon (sans hay) pulled by a tractor. My daughter, the Thomas the Tank Engine fanatic, dubbed the tractor "Terence."

At the very first bush we reached I pointed a finger to a plumb, dark blue berry, "This is what you want to pick kids. Not purple even if it's your favorite color, Meg. Not green even though it's your favorite, Logan. Dark, deep blue." They nodded gravely and set about the task of filling their coffee cans to the brim. For the record - two small plastic coffee "cans" equated to roughly 2 1/4 pounds of blue berries.

It's been three full days since we went picking. We've eaten berries every night (Megan LOVES blueberries apparently, while Logan is a "in the fields only" berry kid.) We've made the most amazing blueberry coffee cake. We still have berries left.

The yield and baked goods, while delightful, are not the best part of our excursion. The blue-ribbon prize was the experience. No, not plucking berries from their branches, but the warm sun that made Megan's cheeks rosy pink as she worked diligently beside us. It was in the pride-filled grin on Logan's face as he held out his coffee can loaded with sweet fruit. It was in the marriage of "togetherness" and a beautiful day outdoors. It was in creating something to eat from scratch with something you, yourself picked -- topped only by when you create it with something you picked and you grew. (And since we've got tomato plants loaded with green fruit...that's only a matter of weeks away!)
These are the sorts of things I remember from my childhood. The ordinary things done outside the realm of our ordinary days. I sometimes wondered if this particular quirk (remembering the seemingly ordinary as extraordinary) was my own. My family took it's share of vacations - and I can tell you where we went but few specific details from most of those trips. The tradition type events - the seemingly mundane - those are the squares of my fond-memory patchwork quilt. My brother, unknowingly perhaps, offered his reassurance that my desire to give the kids the same wasn't unrealistic.
He watched his niece and nephew giggle over their harvest and lunge back into the branches greedily to snag even more. He smiled a little and looked at me over the rim of his sunglasses. "Do you remember when Mom used to take us to the park to pick the wild berries? That was fun wasn't it? That was summer. That's why I'm glad we could come today."
And with that I knew that this was exactly the sort of thing childhood memories are made of.


If it rains on your parade...splash in the puddles

We got a 1/2 inch of rain in a 1/2 hour. That's a lot of rain. In fact, after a lull in the downpour we're back up to about the same rate as it had been earlier. The ebb and flow of heavy precipitation hasn't slowed us down at all though. As the title says, if it rains on your parade, splash in the puddles:


Truth in cookies

We broke down and had Chinese food tonight. It's not something we eat when Megan's eating with us as Chinese food in general tends to be a high risk for peanut cross contamination. The kids, however, were in bed and we were looking for something different for dinner.

I don't get Chinese food often so when I do, it's hard to "save room" for desert. I tend to fill-up on my sesame chicken. This leaves Bruce with two fortune cookies - a fate he does not shirk from. He snapped open the cookies, munching loudly on them before reading the little slips of paper. Operative word here being little.

Moments later *I* was being handed two slips of paper as he mumbled something about lights and reading glasses in the other room. I stifled my giggle and urge to chide him on age related matters. Instead I read aloud the fortune sitting atop the small stack:

You will have many friends when you need them.

Then, and I am SO not making this up, I read the next fortune:

The time is right to make new friends.

Ahh....think the cookie maker is trying to tell us something?


One of those blatant Mommy-brags

Logan's been tinkering with his shoe laces in recent months. He gets about as far as a string of knots before he throws his hands up and announces the task of tying a bow simply impossible. He'd given up trying, having informed me that he would only be wearing Velcro for the rest of his life if I refused to tie shoes for him. Thankfully, he gave up that idea. Something got him motivated Friday morning, although I'm still not sure what:

I know what motivates Megan. He's in the photos just above tying his shoes. Now that she's got letter recognition down pat, she's decided to pick up on one of Logan's latest hobbies - writing things. Meg's been hard at work trying to write her name. The photo speaks for itself:


Has it been 5 years?

It's 4am on June 30th. Exactly 5 years ago at this very moment I was willing the nice man that puts in epidurals to come back and remove mine so I could finally get some sleep. There are two things different tonight:

1) I have no epidural to be removed.
2) One of the causes of my insomnia is now 5 and doing laps for the bathroom and water instead of causing excruciating labor and birthing pains. :)

There are plenty of things the same though. Just now the boy emerged from the dark hallway. "I'm not tired any more," he lamented. I walked him back to his room with the strong suggestion that he was indeed tired and the thought that he was not tired was more like excitement over the presents he was anticipating.

I sat on the edge of his bed running my hand over his hair as he lay against my shoulder. I kissed the crown of his head gently and whispered softly. He gazed at me for a moment and then humored me by closing his eyes. A satisfied and peaceful wave moved across his face even though it's not yet brought sleep. That's not a whole lot different than those first moments of his life 5 years ago.

Willing him to sleep then was as effective as it is right now - I hear him singing himself to sleep which, to me, is utterly counterproductive. He disagrees. Then again, typing this at 4am is not doing much for my own slumber, so who am I to talk?

Last night after the kids were both breathing deeply in sleep, I released 10 helium balloons into Logan's room with another 6 balloons inflated by my own hot air to drift around his floor. We hung streamers down from his door frame and placed a small pile of gifts at his seat at the kitchen table.

Bruce shook his head and laughed a little as I made myself dizzy blowing up those latex balloons. "I hope they don't expect this every year here on out. Friend birthday party, party when he wakes up in the morning, family surprise party in the afternoon...."

"But he's 5!" I said, as if that should be enough. "Five is special. And the balloons come from the dollar store. Cheap."

Logan has already, obviously, noticed the balloons and the streamers. I'm sure it's not helping his sleep anymore than the singing is. He also likely suspects the "surprise" party this afternoon since he all but requested it last week, "My party with my friends was nice, but some day it'd be nice to have a surprise party. I've always wanted one. I've wanted one my whole life!"

Wow. He *is* now 5. Really, truly 5. That's just a lot to wrap my brain around at this moment. Five. He's the child I had given up the idea of having. He's the embodiment of love that seemed just *this* far beyond my grasp. He's the daily reminder of what miracles can enter our lives when we least expect them.

Logan has grown into this person that finds new ways to turn me to mush every day. He's got an amazing sense of compassion and generosity that moves through him with ease. He's got a wacky sense of humor and a quick mind that compliment each other well. He can be fiercely independent one moment and dreadfully dependent the next. He's a bright boy that wavers between over-confidence and nerves the way a child his age often can.

He's curious - the same quiet hard stare he had as an infant still crosses his face as he studies something new. It makes me think that even as a baby he was cataloging the world around him. He's got a memory that gets me in trouble. He's got a zeal for learning that I pray remains with him throughout his life.

Today Logan is a person that I'd enjoy being with even if we didn't share a gene pool. He's a fun kid. He's a sweet kid. We have a genuine good time together.

This boy who has moved from being that wiggling, reactive bundle of need to being a person is defining his own way - pulling away from his parents little bits at a time even as he fights to hold on tight with both hands. He's cuddles one moment and then "Don't kiss me here Mommy! People can see you!!!" the next.

You often hear (or read) people refer to motherhood as having your heart travel outside your body. It sounds a little cliche and trite sometimes and yet, as I watch this person who lived within in me for 9 (long!) months, I know that such a sentiment falls short of the reality. Giving birth is watching a piece of yourself take on it's own life. Motherhood is a constant process of watching this piece grow away from you - of having the courage to let it form its own identity and praying that as it refines itself over time it still has the desire to speak to you.


Take 8 - a meme

It's been a while since I've been tagged to do a Meme, so when Nikki over at The Guilty Parent tapped me yesterday I figured why not.

It's a simple one - I've got to list 8 things about myself people may not know and then I get to tag eight of you play along. Granted, some of you may know at least a few of the things on my list but humor me and act surprised nonetheless. Oh, and just because you don't see your name on my "you're it" list doesn't mean you can't play along too. And if you DO end up on my list....well be kind. I know you're not all "meme" people but this is an 'easy' one.

Here we go!

1. I had my first article published at the age of 10. I was a children's book reviewer for a program run by our library and local newspaper. The library gave me a book. I wrote a review. The paper ran it the Sunday edition. My "salary" was a pre-release copy of a new book.

2. I earned both my Silver and Gold Award in Girl Scouts. If you're not familiar with them - the Gold is on par with the boy's Eagle Scout award.

3. In 8th grade I won first place in the school science fair. I went on to win honorable mention at the state level. My project fell into an engineering category. I work for an engineering firm today -- although not the displine that would have any use for my little project.

4. For an assignment in a social pysch class in college, I took a male friend of mine shopping for engagement rings -- for him to wear. Want to see a jewlery store clerk panic? Tell her the guy is going to wear the diamond solitaire. Want to get a sizer off a finger it's too small to be on because the lady jammed it on the guy's finger in shock? Use LOTS of hand lotion.

5. I played violin for many, many, many years. During that span I won "most improved" honors, sat 1st chair in the 2nd violin section, sat 5th chair in the 1st violin section, sat behind an amazing violinist with multi-colored spiked hair (I'm talking blue, red, green....) and spent an afternoon with my instrument hooked up to an amplifer.

6. I had a district court judge in my dorm room once who tactfully ignored or did not notice the 'artistic' photo of a pot leaf. ;) It's a long story and no the judge was not related to one of my roommates.

7. I spent one spring break in London. It cost me a whopping $150 - that includes airfare and lodging. It's a perk of attending a college with one of the largest study abroad centers in the nation. Perhaps some day I'll explain that one more.

8. I was once dared to eat chicken's feet at a restraunt in Philadelphia. I declined to take the dare. Other people I was sitting with did not. Have you ever *seen* someone eat little breaded chicken's feet? Ewww.

The next 8? Hmmm....

1. Jenn at Bman and Tink
2. Cath at Just me
3. Sandra at Getting Smaller in the Rearview Mirror
4. Dawn at Decaf, Please
5. Melessa at But I digress
6. Half my Heart
7. Toni at Travels with Toni
8. Naomi at Here in the Hills (And by the way, if you go see her, wish her a happy birthday!)


Of all the changes

Four and a half years ago (give or take a month...or two) our house began to settle into a solid routine. At roughly 7 pm the child would take a bath. At 7:30 we'd read some stories. We'd aim to have the kid asleep around 8 pm. As they moved from infancy to toddlerhood to preschooler we made small adaptations to the routine - gone was the pre-bed feeding, no rocking required, ditched the crib, transitioned to a shower. And yet, with all that change, the meat of the routine remained the same: 7pm, 7:30, 8 o'clock.

Sure once in a while we go a little wild and we let them stay up "late." Bedtime was a bit fluid while we were in Disney this winter. Special nights and occasions sometimes buy the kids 30 extra minutes in their day. It happens. The 'regular', every day routine though has remained in tact and unchanged in every way that actually matters.

Recently, however, my "great" sleeper and bedtime routine observer has gotten into the habit of nudging the routine a tad. He has questions. He needs a drink. The bathroom. Another "I love you." This from a boy that hasn't been a problem since he learned the great skill of "lulling myself to sleep" around his first birthday.

I was lamenting this new phase to Grandma one day and she, being Grandma, presented me with something to consider. "Perhaps the problem is he's not tired yet. Maybe he's ready to stay up a little later. He is almost 5."

Hmmm, ok. Ponder. Ponder. The problem, of course, is the sister. She is NOT ready to stay up later. She may think she is -- but anyone that sees what she's like when overtired would beg to differ. The problem, you see, is that if Logan is up, Megan knows it. If he's being read to, she's in there. If he's not in his room, she's wandering out. The problem is giving him more time without letting her in on the secret.

And then it hit me.

He reads. He can read on his own after "lights out" and she'd be none the wiser.

We talked about this possibility. We talked parent-to-parent. We talked about it parent-to-child. We let Logan know it was a privilege and if he abused it, he could lose it. He reverted back to his best bedtime routine observation habits. He would grin and nod as we said our good nights. He said not another word about this pending change to his routine.

Sunday night I decided to give it a test run. I told him he could stay up a little- but not the full half-hour. He had to be reading, not playing and he had to go bed as soon as one of us went in to tell him it was time. He nodded solemnly and requested his current favorite book for the adventure.

I went in 15 minutes later. He was sitting up half under his covers with his book on his lap and the biggest grin you could imagine bursting across his face. He could barely contain himself. "Did I pass the test? Did I earn the privilege?!" he asked, trying hard to whisper as to not bother his sister.

I nodded...and I realized that that nod was hard for me. I couldn't put a finger on why it was. Instead I pushed the gnawing down and kissed the boy goodnight.

Tonight was his first "official" night of staying up "late." We talked this afternoon about it to review our expectations. "You have to be quiet so Megan can get to sleep. No playing, just reading," I reminded him.

He nodded and then placed his index finger in the center of his forehead. "I'm going to read in my head because that's what you do when you read to yourself. You only read out loud when someone else wants to hear you."

That surprised me. I didn't realize he COULD read to himself in that way before. I thought he was still in the "must read aloud in order to sound out words" stage.

"Right," I said, "But if you get to a word you can't figure out, you can't really be yelling for us to come down and help - that'd wake up Megan. When you get to a word you can't read, use your pencil to underline it and then in the morning you can ask me to help you with it."

He nodded. And I, truth be told, forgot about it.

Logan announced just before story time commenced that he only wanted Daddy to read him one book tonight so he could get started on reading his favorite book, which happens to be a guidebook (of sorts) on the Transformers. He lay stretched out on his stomach with the book open before him intently focused on its pages. I heard him banging around his room at one point but I wrote it off as a trek to his water cup (which actually sits across the room from his bed.)

It wasn't water though. It took me a minute to register the reason even as I started at it. I went in to turn off his lights and say good night at 8:30 and paused to read the word he'd written on his lined pad of paper.

"Hey look at that. You wrote Omnicon very well!" I told him, honestly impressed with how neat his writing of both upper and lowercase letters had gotten recently. It's truly as if fine motor skills arrived one night via express mail or something.

"Oh! THAT's what that word was! I couldn't figure it out," he said. (Oh, d'uh! Yes, I saw the writing on the pad and hadn't connected it to our earlier conversation.)

And that was it. Lights out. Head hit the pillow and he's not made another peep. After nearly 4 1/2 years of the same routine, the boy has gone and outgrown it.

He'll officially be 5 on Saturday. (Until then, he will insist you refer to him as "four-and-eleven-and-half-twelfths.") It's stating the obvious to say that life can change a lot when you hit 5 and yet with all changes that have transpired thus far and all the ones that wait for us in the fall, it seems to be this one I'm feeling a tad morose over.

He was the boy that could read a lot sooner than he *would* read primarily because he was afraid we wouldn't cuddle in close with him and a good story any longer if he embraced the skill. And yet there he was tonight, "I only want one story, Daddy, so I can start reading my other book." With that simple sentence, with that single word written on the pad - one word in a book loaded with words I honestly figured to be a bit too 'tough' for him - that I could hear the door on those 'earliest' years of his life creaking closer to shut.

I knew it'd come to me

About four and half years ago I had a good idea. When Logan was done making fine art with his mushed up baby food, I'd clean the jars in the hot soapy waters and set them aside for an abundance of good crafty-like projects in the future like the sort we used to do in Girl Scouts - the kind that would have you scrambling for jars that you didn't have reason to have.

Today, I have a draw full of baby food jars.

Empty baby food jars. Dozens of them.

I didn't save every one of them, but certainly I saved MORE than enough. I actually did tap into the supply once over the last several years. On Logan's 2nd birthday the kids that attended his little party used the jars to hold their sand art. It wasn't much of a dent into my stash.

I tend to forget the jars are there until I go looking in that drawer for something. I never find what I want - I do find LOTS of jars.

Last summer we (as in Bruce mostly) built a patio in the backyard. There are four flower beds surrounding it. This spring I used two of them for yellow and purple daisy like flowers, a third still hosts the over sized lavender and mint that has been there almost since we moved in. The final side, the one up against the house, is my herb garden.

The garden started with some obvious stables. Then I got creative and started to buy whatever looked nice even if I had no idea what to do with it - African Blue Basil, Tri-color sage, Bi-color sage. . .when you fill a space with a dozen+ plants you have room to go a little nuts.

We've made good use of the plants so far - herb butter melted on steak, chicken roasted with fresh herbs, iced tea with lemon balm and mint. I keep digging for recipes to tap into this new resource.

Yet the plants grow faster than I can keep up with it sometimes and so I opted to hang a few clippings from the four peg rack on the kitchen wall. A mixture of the three sages I have growing (plain old safe, the tri and bi colored sages), some dill, the blue basil, and the two oregano varieties all in their bundles lending their fresh scents to the kitchen.

Then they were dried. They were dry and crumbly looking and no longer quite as "attractive" the wall art they had been at first. I needed to move to Plan B.

Then it hit me - the jars. The oodles and oodles of baby food jars. I spent part of yesterday crumbling dried out leaves into the little jars that now sport new handwritten labels. The jars are resting nicely in my spice cabinet, looking all sorts of official and home spun. Ideas churning in my mind: hmmm....wonder if I can turn this into a Christmas gift for someone.

I still won't make much of a dent in those jars (unless I do come up with a gift idea!) And yet I still can't bring myself to take the easy way out - add those jars to the recyclable bin. They have a purpose. I'll find it. Little project by little project. I am determined to finish what I started.


Backyard Lessons

My mom and I take a girls' weekend to the Amish countryside every fall. Lots of shopping and no housework. Bliss. Really.

This last trip fell in early November. We were gearing up Christmas shopping with hopes of being finished by Thanksgiving to ensure we "enjoyed" the season without the crowded shops. Sometimes we're successful. Sometimes we're not. This particular trip, at least as far as I was concerned, was a good one. I had found my present. I bought it and then later informed Bruce his shopping for *me* was complete. Luckily he was relieved I took the pressure off.

So the gift? Oh yeah. A six-compartment bird house. Big. Birdhouse. It sits upon a 4x4 at one corner of my vegetable garden . It sat through rain. It sat through frost. It sat through snow. It emerged as a popular spot in our yard as spring made it clear it had sprung.

Throughout the last month we've watched busy industrious birds. The kids will sit, yes really, the 2 year old and the almost 5 year old will sit mesmerized by this house. They were transfixed by those small flying creatures carrying twigs and long grasses in and out of that tiny building. Of the six compartments of our birdhouse, at least 4 have some type of nest.

Last week the family thought I was hearing things. (It's a well established fact that I'm slightly off my rocker so why not?) Whenever I got close to the bird house I could swear I heard chirping. I could see nothing -- but I could hear enough to know something had hatched.

Today? Vindication! Today we saw proof. I was outside watering the gardens when I heard distinct, loud chirping. I turned just in time to see a mother bird settle onto the resting ledge and the wide open, small infant bird beak poke out in response to her presence.

So yeah. Listen. I've got cameras and I'm not afraid to use them. In fact, I'm a tad obsessed with using them. I've discovered if you stand quiet and still long enough, you can 'almost' close enough to the bird house to get good photos. In fact, you CAN get close enough that a little cropping produces the shot you had hoped you'd capture when you set out on this audubon adventure. Something like this: