Monday, December 22, 2014

Break from the routine

When did my kids learn to speak in complete sentences using phrases like "filled to the brim," "you just have to deal with it" and "tooth pickle"?  Children should come with a notification sound, rather like when you receive a new email, to let us slow poke folk know that their Play Dough minds just learned a new bit of vocabulary.  What a gift it is to this middling mama to hear those bits come from those erstwhile faces. 

Our #1 is downright reading now, which [SPOILER: her Christmas gift to me] means that she can pass out all of the presents from under the tree this year.  Allow me to connect the dots for you.  She can do the grunt work and I can remain tucked under some luciously fuzzy blanket with a warm mug of coffee and something sticky sweet.  'Tis my ideal Christmas breakfast.

Today marks the first day of the next two weeks of the holiday break from the routine.  A small part of me feels relieved that the boy is around for a few days and can help wrangle the crazy.  An equally small part of me is hyperventilating a bit that the crazy dial will be set on "constant" until the routine kicks in again.

I just mapped out my week in the kitchen and, let me assure you, there will be an absurd amount of bread making involved in various guises.  I'm thinking hard about capturing some of the anticipation of the season of Advent and revamping it for some of the doldrums weeks soon to come (I'm looking squarely at you, February); more on that will perhaps be forthcoming soon.

I just had my last class session for the year, and talk about a leap of faith when I left the full-time gig for the part-time anxiety, it worked.  We figure that on average I need to teach some combination of 10 classes a year, and this year, my first full and purposeful year into this venture, I was blessed with 11.  It was looking a bit questionable when I only had 4 completed through the first 1/2 of the year.  But we have been provided with enough, and that is the warmest God hug of all.  For all of my burgeoning anxieties, worry about money is far, far down the list.  And I don't take that lightly, not even remotely. 

Friends...blessings for each one of you this joyous week.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Genetics upheld

Hi, friends.  Check this out:
Do you see what I see ('cause you're not draped over my arms like our fiesty cat currently is, so I doubt you can hear what I hear)?  Yes, it's a Christmas tree decorated like a 2-year old.  But more importantly, it's proof perfect that my genetic material lives on through my youngest progeny, the one who likes me better and who already shows definite signs of being exactly like me.  Bless her unsuspecting heart.

This was my craft of the week that we put together after a quick visit to the dollar store for some sparkly stickers and a bit of painting on some extra butcher paper.  With tree dry and hung, it was all toddler-time in the decorating avenue.  I only offered a suggestion ONE time (obviously, I held back as I'm good at offering suggestions when things DON'T LINE UP JUST SO!), banishing myself across the house where I could watch her work and listen to her rendition of Away in a Manger (on a loop) while she stickered it up. 

I abhor decorating for Christmas.  Absolutely hate it.  In part, the reason for this is that no matter what I do, everything turns out looking like this: toddler-esque.  Adorable when #2 proudly works on it.  Wretched when this is all I can produce. 

I would be perfectly happy if this was the entirety of our Christmas decorating this year.  And, as this is currently still affixed to the wee one's bedroom door, I'm sure she'd be cool with the efficiency of wrapped presents on her doorstep come December 25th. 

In other Christmas news, #1 refuses to give up the magical notion of Santa Claus in favor of a more literal one.  She understands that leprechauns, unicorns, the Easter Bunny, and elves are imaginary, but as she stated to me once recently "Nope, Santa Claus is still real."  She obviously inherited her dreamer genes from the boy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's electric...boogie woogie woogie

Friends.  My giddy-o-meter has been nearly off the charts just thinking about putting this post together.  No matter what I tell you here, let it be know that I have never given anyone food poisoning, my children are thriving on what I feed them, and the boy never complains/often makes requests from my "greatest hits" collection.  In other words, I can work my way around a kitchen comfortably and confidently so that all are fed, all are satisfied and all are welcome. 

However.  Some days the stars are aligned just so, and that 3/4 moon casts down some serious voodoo on me.  In those moments, THINGS HAPPEN.  This is one of those times.  Before you read further, I suggest you step away for a moment, find some of your own cooking successes in your own normal kitchen, pillage the heck out of that container of your choice, and settle in for a good read.

Foreshadowing: The boy whispered sweet  nothings in  my ear afterwards along the lines of "Maybe you need some Culver's tonight..."  This was quickly followed by "The flavor of the day is caramel fudge cookie dough."  He knows how to make my knees weak.

It's all because of our ugly, outdated fluorescent light in the kitchen that has long over-stayed its welcome...

Our story begins on Black Friday when we made an impromptu swing through Lowe's for I-don't-even-remember-what and walked out 30 minutes later with rumbling bellies and 2 antsy girls $200 lighter in the pocket but lugging a new kitchen light.  Of course we did our due diligence and polled the random Lowe's employee in a blue vest to ensure that we would be able to quickly and easily swap the ugly fixture for the new, somewhat better looking fixture.  Is the new one scads better in the looks department than the old one?  No.  But, we're working with limited stock on the shelves (par for the course in this town), lunchtime (I was getting peckish), and 2 children in a store that interests them not at all at lunchtime (they were peckish as well), and really, it's nothing more than a bit of nail polish for what is our house, 'Ol Bessy (she is what she is).  Bless his do-gooder soul, the boy has a highly aggravating tendency to want to read the box before purchasing something like a new light fixture.  And then he wants to ask questions of people who might be able to help him.  And then he wants to double check things on the box.  I don't even understand.  I walk into that store, see a pretty picture on the box, check the price, and hightail it toward food.  Installation issues can be hashed out in the comfort of my own home with the comfort of a full belly.  The boy has undoubtedly saved me from myself a few times over the course of the years.  

Nine years of doing home improvement projects with the boy has finally sunk into my grey matter.  We put the girls down for their respective napping/resting times in their respective corners of the house, and (I kid you not) I looked the boy square in the eyes and said "I'm going shopping for new boots.  I do not want to be around you while you put up the new light."  That's love.  No, no...that's marriage.  You learn your partner's strengths and glory in those side-by-side.  You also learn your partner's weaknesses and hightail it for the hills in order to avoid divorce court.  The boy is definitely capable of swapping out one light fixture for another, and since he things things like electrical circuits, I've no fears of him electrocuting himself and twitching on the kitchen floor in a pile of his own drool.  In actuality, the boy is a perfectionist and doesn't take kindly to those unexpected bits that pop up in every project.  I'm more of a realist in these situations and admittedly have no patience for temper flares. 

One of us was successful in our endeavors, not to leave you all hanging about the state of my boots shopping.  It was me.  The unexpected happened with the light fixture to the extent that the boy wasn't 100% confident in his electrical skills, and I was 100% sure that I wasn't either.  This put the project hold until the electrician could come in 4 days (holiday, shmoliday).  But the boy had turned the power off on that circuit, which shockingly affects a vast quantity of our lighting needs.  So we've been without a kitchen light for a week now.  And we're also down two other lamps in the living room and the lights over the fireplace.  In other words, we have a light over the sink, under the microwave, and a ceiling fan light to illuminate what is at least 50% of our house's square footage.  It's been dim, friends.  It adds a festive glow to mealtimes that's really more reminiscent of camping seeing as how the sun now goes down before our mealtime.  But nary a complaint has crossed these lips as promised to the boy when this project began to unravel. 

The proper electrical work has been installed, but now the ceiling has to be painted before the new fixture can be installed.  Not that I'm keeping track of the days that are racking up (7, actually), but this further delay is what you might call an inconvenience.  This has been a long story to get you to last night. 

FIRST.  This week has been one of those weeks where I've been scheduling down to the second, not just the minute, and that wears on a body (especially in the dark).  Yesterday, I was supposed to get some electrical work done on my car (anyone else notice the theme here?) about 7 minutes after I get home from picking up #1 from Kindergarten.  The mechanic is about 7 minutes away from our house.  The boy was getting home around the same time I did to exchange kids.  But walking-out-the-door shenanigans happened, and I switched to taking his car for some minor work.  And when I say "shenanigans," I really mean yelling half-baked instructions at him about dinner that was still frozen and which I fully planned on fixing myself because I'm just better at it but I had to cede some of the prep work.  Like any good spouse I shut the door on these words "I'll call you with specific instructions!"  1.)  This isn't the best bit of advice on how to talk to your partner--you don't always have to be in control (yes, I's my kitchen).  2.)  Take your dang phone if you're going to be making such promises. 

Suffice it to say that I never called him.

You know how as soon as you start frantically working in the kitchen in order to put together the steak & potatoes (literally, I was jonesing for some roasted potatoes big time and we have quite a bit-o-cow in the freezer right now) vision of a supper that you have in mind, suddenly the kitchen fills up with a boy leaning on the counter trying to help and two children flopping around on the floor because "we're cats--meow, meow"?  Come to my house at dinner time.  It looks like this a lot. 

When working in the dark, it's best to work alone.  It also means that you have to be the one responsible for everything.  Including the knife set in the pre-heating oven.  Yes, friend.  Knives in the oven.  If you ever come look at my house when it's on the market, you're likely to find all manner of weirdness in the empty appliances to clear off the counters.  Yesterday, I pulled that old trick out of my back pocket when I began painting part of the ceiling.  HOWEVER.  The success of this plan is that you later remove said items out of said appliances once the coast is clear and the paint can has been put away.  I did not. 

Fear not!  I caught my mistake on the random chance that I needed to adjust my oven rack, so those items (more than just knives, sadly) were only roasty toasty from a few minutes of pre-heating rather than the full on broiling that I was preparing for.  But this led to fun moment #2--chopping potatoes with a hot knife.  Picture this visual:  I'm still wearing my old, stained sweatshirt from painting, hair a disaster, mood lighting, my knife block & knives (and griddle pan and spatula and spoon rest...) spread across my counters on cooling racks, and like a genius, I realize that my inherited Christmas-themed oven mitt shall help me overcome.  Those potatoes quite literally started to roast before they even hit the pan what with a hot blade coming their way. 

But then there was a fire in the oven, just to make dinner extra special.  I just about lost it in giggling convulsions at that point.  Come the heck on.  I've broiled a slab-o-beast before and never have the fat drippings caught on fire.  The boy starts in on the handy "Don't throw water on it!" (which I knew, thankyouverymuch) teachers, psshhh.  Mercifully, no steak was harmed in this fiery debacle.  And the oven came threw like a champ again.  Two for two, yesterday.

You know what's better than eating in the dark with children?  Eating in the dark and smoke with children and windows winter-esque conditions.  Come on kids, we're roughing it tonight.

There are days and then there are some days.  "Maybe you need some Culver's's caramel fudge cookie dough."  Sold.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Making something interesting

I'm going to prove how my work life is nothing but giggles and grins.  I get to read some humorous, satirical content now and again.  If you don't...sorry, my friend.  Your life is the worse without it.  If, like me, you found yourself jumping into The Longman Reader in preparation for an upcoming class and ultimately landed on "How to Say Nothing in 500 Words" by Paul Roberts, then you may have also come across this bit: "Can you be expected to make a dull subject interesting? As a matter of fact, this is precisely what you are expected to do. This is the writer’s essential task. All subjects, except sex, are dull until somebody makes them interesting. The writer’s job is to find the argument, the approach, the angle, the wording that will take the reader with him. This is seldom easy, and it is particularly hard in subjects that have been much discussed: College Football, Fraternities, Popular Music, Is Chivalry Dead?, and the like. You will feel that there is nothing you can do with such subjects except repeat the old bromides. But there are some things you can do which will make your papers, if not throbbingly alive, at least less insufferably tedious than they might otherwise be" [bold font my own].

I didn't know what I was going to pound out here for my weekly Thursday morning coffee shop hour, and here it landed in my lap.  Buckle in, dear reader, for while I'm not going to be talking about sex, I shall be wending my way through the finer points of a truly fascinating topic: someone's sitting in my seat.  (But first, I need to finish re-reading that essay so that I can better lead my planned discussion.)

(I'm back briefly: Roberts' article uses a fictitious example of writing about college football for 500 words as the task exemplar to make his point.  At one point, he writes that you [the college student struggling through the assignment] might develop your argument about why college football is no good for the school.  One of your points might be that "...for most schools it is financially ruinous."  Obviously, Roberts lived in a different day and age [upwards of 50 years ago] than what we currently enjoy.  Financially ruinous no more, eh?)

Well, now.  Thanks for waiting, and I'm back.  On to the juicy guts of the matter: allow me the chance to state again (perhaps somewhat more emphatically now) that someone is sitting in my seat.  Their bum is enjoying the cushy leather chair that is most undoubtedly mine when I stop by this little joint.  What's more, he's ensconced there as if he means to stay.  There can be no saltier salt to rub in my fresh wound. 

Perhaps this is the climax for the series of events leading up to the moment I walked in those doors.  #2 asked me, yet again, for a snack at 8:52 a.m.  #1 asked me, yet again, if she was late at 9:00 when she was looking out the window watching the students get off the buses.  #2 asked me, yet again, how long it would take to get to pre-school.  I forgot #2's backpack for pre-school (read: no change of clothes in case she has an accident, and for some reason, pre-school is the only place where she does so anymore).  I pumped gas in the delightfully crisp air (read: bone chilling wind).  My parallel parking fiasco was exactly what it sounds like, and it involved the sidewalk. 

I think that the pumping-o-the-gas made all of the difference.  That 5 minutes that put me behind my otherwise strictly enforced time budget undoubtedly allowed Mr. Seat Usurper to swoop in and perform a coffee shop chair coup.

However, it's the season of thanks and sharing, so I will, for this day only, accede my rightful place in this socially accepted institution.  But let it be understood that in so doing, I staked my claim to a tall cafe table right beside the door (cause I like 'dem small and high ones, too), and I'm not sure it's me or my high octane wit, but the large glass window right beside me is all steamy now.  And I'm distractingly close to actual people (note that my preferred location is rather tucked away in a corner, which did lead to something of an awkward moment as I went barreling toward it with my large cup of Jamaican Me Crazy only to have to pretend that I wasn't trying to sit in someone's lap).  But this place if full of interesting people with their interesting stories, so it's also a bit of an airport luxury getting to do a bit of people watching and eavesdropping.  Shameless.

Twist in the plot!  There's now a deaf, older gentleman sitting in the table beside me.  It's hard to eavesdrop on that conversation. 

This table is serving me well.  Will it lead to a complete redux of my favorite spot?  Just call me Dickins cause that was a cliff hanger.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Georgia on my mind

I'm what you might call all caught up on my grading.  This leads to all sorts of mumbo jumbo happening.

1.  Did you know that Augusta, Georgia is in the top 10 list of most affordable housing (major) markets in the country?  So says the boy who read it on one of those fab Yahoo stories that just cycle in some bewitching manner across my screen every time I check my email.  There's just about any bit of the random and the arcane that you'd like to know that you can glean from those.  Well.  Augusta, Georgia roughly falls geographically in my "Yes, I think that I would live there someday" area of the country.  This is to say that in my old (enough) age, I'm d-o-n-e with brutal cold, with puddles of slush smeared throughout my house, and with driving on black ice.  I'm beyond irritated at marshmallow-y jackets and raw, irritated skin.  I'm frustrated getting dressed in the morning when deciding what combination of layers to huddle in for the day and irritable at night when everything requires huddling under blankets until some warmth finds its way in again.  No amount of snuggly images of roaring fires, mugs of hot chocolate, and bright sweaters will provide enough salve for this case of cold weather woes.  Again, I say...well.  Augusta, Georgia is somewhat warmer, I hear.  Charleston, South Carolina has its moments of being downright balmy come the 6 months of the year that those of us call "winter."  Savannah, Georgia would likely provide a bit of comfort for my prunish little soul.  Well.

2.  We love our fuzzy little boos, but they have moments where they just don't have anything going for them except their sweet little furry faces.  "Hey, Mom-oo, glad to see you back tonight.  I'm going to sit in your doorway and give you a sad little squeak that means, 'Give me a treat right now and maybe I'll say please with a little head-butt to emphasize my point.'  Oh, BTW...I threw up on your comforter.  And your sheets.  But I was thinking about you, so I threw up between your pillows instead of on your pillows. you.  And, I still would like a treat.  Get working on that ASAP.  Please (almost forgot to say's another head-butt which will leave a flurry of white hairs on your black pants...welcome for that, too)."  Me-ow.  And now I am running yet another cycle on my dryer with tennis balls to help pound, fluff and what have you for our down comforter, which (hey hey, lucky us) doesn't have to be dry cleaned.

3.  Fur ball #2, who was seemingly innocent in puke-gate on Mama's comforter, woke me up at 12:30 AM by retching ON ME.  I've had cats for upwards of 20 years, and this was a first.  Let's have a blanket-by-blanket update here.  I'm now without my down comforter (hello friend, this is a must here...refer to #1 above) and weighed down by (count it) 4 new blankets.  But this isn't good enough for el gatitos: let's take away 25% of my blanket replacements.  At 12:30 AM just for meows and nibbles.

Maybe, I could move to Augusta, Georgia and set up shop as a cat wrangler.  I've got some mad skills in CAT 101: Listening to what your cat tells you, even if you don't like the package that the message arrives in.  And my chapped hands would thank me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Something interesting I read lately - 2 qualities of a successful relationship

I come across scads of "articles" about relationships--building strong foundations, knowing your partner, why you/your partner act as you/they do.  Typically, I don't pay much attention to them.  But sometimes, a legitimate bit of reading encourages me to take the time.  It also helps when I come across one on a Sunday afternoon while little ones are put away in their respective corners of the house.  This one was well worth the 10-minute read, no matter what stage of a relationship you are in (pre-relationship and I'm-not-expecting-to-ever-(again)-be-in-one both count because you never know). 

Cheers to the boy who does many more things right than wrong, to friends who are entering developing moments in their relationships, and to loved ones who have shaped their own relationships and in so doing have shaped my own.  Instead of reading my own lengthy blatherings about the article, just dig in to the good stuff.  (Find a relatively uninterrupted spot, a chocolate chip-y cookie, and a beverage that suits.  I highly recommend that part of the reading experience.)

And I'll tease you with this, my favorite line from the piece: "But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward."  It matters how you argue, perhaps even more so than you act the rest of the time. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Moments of realization (and cookies, just because)

I swung by the library because I was out of books at home to read, and that always puts me in an uncomfortable place, mentally.  It's like having your kid spend a weekend at your parents: you wander around without purpose for a good 2 hours before you finally settle into something else, but it still just doesn't feel right.  Even though you've been looking forward to this time alone, you can't wait to get them back.  Being bookless is something like that for me.  Newspapers are addictive and magazines are moments of fantasy and inspiration, but books ground me like nothing else. 

Well, I got some books.  I was skimming the non-fiction section looking for a new memoir, and I had my 1st epiphany of the morning: I really dig memoir in the same way that I ravenously follow certain bloggers.  There's some amount of out-of-body decadence in it for me.  I'm fantastically behind where I should be in my ability to understand other perspectives (I'm blaming you, small-town, Midwest, homogenous upbringing!).  Throughout the course of the semester in one of the classes that I teach, I have my students complete a series of 10 personal responses based on specific topics located from short essays in a collective text.  The latest response was a response to what each student believes about peace...doesn't an ability to understand others' positions, to truly listen to them and respect their own place, do much toward engendering a sense of peace and ability to thrive as a unit between us?  I believe so.  All of this is to say that I picked up a memoir by Wendy Davis, the politician from Texas, in large part because I just finished a similar book by Kirsten Gillibrand (New York's Senator), and I find myself compelled to refuel my perspective about women by women.  But I bypassed a memoir by a Mormon in favor of Davis's book.  Here's my pledge: I'm going back for that one next.

This somewhat leads into my 2nd epiphany of the day, which happened just before logging into this bit of a blog when I was thinking "What, oh what, shall I write about today?" or something like that.  I had a common (of late) combination pity party/confessional/therapy session with myself in the car as I was dropping the young people at their respective schools.  It wasn't a fabulous morning, it was totally my fault, and I hate that about myself.  So I was sitting down here in my normal Thursday morning squishy chair, and (perhaps I'm just really dense not to have realized this before), but the times in my life when I have been most centered, most happy, and most purposeful have all been when I've been a student or in direct conversation about literature.  There's some seismic shift in my self-monologue when I have been in this mental place, and I like it.  No, that's not accurate.  I need it.  Here's my second pledge of the morning: in order for my life to make the most sense for me, I must be a participant in academic conversations and contributing to them; I will foster this ability more than I have been doing since my time as a student has ended.  If I am to return to my healthiest self, I must do this for myself in some way.  And I don't know how I'm going to get there, but I think that I have to try, somehow. 

I'm counting on some measure of accountability in so submitting this here.  Please, do check in on me if you want to in the future to see where I'm at on regaining my equilibrium. 

In the meantime, I made brownie buckeye cookies after the girls went to bed last for no other reason than I know it would bring some measure of happiness to the boy, who is an in-the-flesh cookie monster.  And that felt good.  If you know of anyone who could use some cookies for no other reason than just because, let me know.  Cookies for all--a pretty simple concept that makes me happy. 

Monday, November 10, 2014


Abstract:  I love me some weddings. I never get through everything that I want to do when I get a bit of time.  We accidentally watched TV for a couple of hours.  And, I gag through sweet potatoes.  Keep get's better. 

Here's the best bit first:  I love me some weddings.  It never fails; weddings just put me in a warm & squishy mood.  If we're invited to a wedding and we can go, then you can bet your first dance that we're going.  I'm also a fan of not taking my children to a wedding, especially when they don't have a solid emotional connection to the couple.  Weddings are just a perfect reason to call up ye olde in-laws and  plan a slumber party at the grandparents' pad.  Which we did.  And then...

Kid-free time happened, which means that I had about 10 hours of free time planned for about 3 actual hours.  Over-achieving.  For my down-time, I brought with me all of the following: a laptop (grading), an iPad (Netflix & email), a full-sized afghan that's down to the last skein or two before it's complete (Christmas present for #2), a memoir (go women, go), and 3 newspapers (it's good to catch up on 3 days ago).  Sadly, I forgot my Bon Apetit.  But no matter, I've worked through 20 pages since we've gotten back and accumulated another magazine today.  That's never ending in a good way, but still...never ending.  Part of the reason why I didn't get through my massive amount of reading & work is because...

I accidentally got caught in an impromptu Property Brothers marathon, thereby doing practically nothing else.  And the boy watched almost all of it with me without once kindly suggesting that we either check any of the other 900 channels or else just turn it off for the love of the DIY-gods.  (Here's my shout-out to the multiple homeowners on the show who have said they've been looking for a new home for 2 years.  I'll see that mark and raise it to 4 years.  At some point, we just need to suck it up and write the check, right?)  So that was a strange couple of hours that isn't how we normally spend our time.  And do you know what else I don't normally do?

I don't typically eat sweet potatoes.  Friends, I try.  There is something about them that automatically initiates my gag reflex.  But I'm also a firm believer of teaching my kids what healthy food choices are in part by example.  Fortunately, both of my tubers like their sweet potatoes.  Unfortunately, neither the boy nor I do.  We suffer through it when we feel we can't downright avoid them.  All for the sake of our children.  That's love.  Even better, I managed to hurt my thumb on the sweet potato last night.  That's right--the sweet potato, not the knife that I was using to cut it.  Indulge me while I state that again: I hurt my thumb to the point of bleeding on a sweet potato and not the knife.  Darn tubers.  Don't let their 1970s orange-vibe lull you into funky town: they're crafty little boogers.

By the way--that Bon Apetit I mentioned earlier?  It's chock-a-block full of recipes focusing on s-w-e-e-t p-o-t-a-t-o-e-s right now what with Thanksgiving looming large.  And that mag is so modern, elegant, and enticing that it makes always makes me fight back against that gag reflex.  But then I remember I like pretty everything else, so I move on with life and my Thanksgiving will remain sweet potato free.  It's a safe zone here.  All are welcome.    

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reno, reno, ren-o-vate

Here's the deal.  I'm still catching up on Scandal, don't get me wrong (season 3, my friend!).  But, it's a hard show to watch while grading, which is what I do a lot of own my own time. 

Netflix, my partner in crime during afternoon grade-fests, now has seasons of Property Brothers and House Hunters at my ready disposal.  Home reno shows give me a bit of something to watch while still allowing me to concentrate (for the most part).

Well.  This also means that I'm dreaming big dreams again of finding a magical new house exactly where we need it to be and well under our budget so that we could have the chance to do fun (FUN!) things like put up backsplashes and crown molding. 

But riddle me do these families have such crazy budgets? 

Exhibit A:  A family of 6 (soon to be 7) has a budget over $800,000.  Mom stays home with the kids.  Dad teaches.  Wait, what was that?  Teaches?  Kind of like my own family?  Well, presumably yes (minus a couple of little people).  Move us to that school district and show us some classrooms.  We'll work there.

Exhibit B:  Mom is a flight attendant and dad is an electrician.  The budget is over $500,000.  Color me befuddled.

I could go on, but I won't.  Instead, I'll point out that the young couple who is buying a house together for the first time (unmarried) based on the guy's income alone isn't staying together for long.  That house is the guy's.  The girl isn't going to be in the picture much longer.  She's not paying for anything, and the guy talks about that as well as repeatedly referring to it as "my own place."  Pronouns speak volumes. 

If I ever have a budget for a home that is closer to a cool million than a lukewarm 100-K, it was nice knowing you cause I'm not living here anymore.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Back to life ramblings

Can you notice the difference in me this morning?  After a two-week hiatus (fall break threw off my routine), I have found my way back to my favorite squishy chair in the nook of my favorite coffee shop.  Life can commence now as normal.  Apparently, I lost my head from sheer exhilaration because I promptly ordered a large coffee of the day but put a side of salted caramel cupcake on that.  That was not planned for in advance, my friends.  This mini-apolis may not have much going in the way of culture and whatnot, but it has phenomenal cupcakes at a best kept secret kind of coffee place.  So that makes up for a least on Thursday mornings.

***I used to get a semi-regular dose of these divine cupcakes when I would sometimes watch the daughter of a friend, who is big into cupcakes herself and thought we should share in the joy that is cupcakes.  We said yes we should and thank you.***

It turns out that I started a list of things to blather on about on here, but then I forgot what it was that the list was for, and apparently I took it to be some sort of rambling to-do list.  So I deleted one or two of my possible blog topics.  What I deleted was of such vital importance that I can't remember what it was that I so very desperately wanted to write about.  Not at all.  That's my gift to you this week cause who wants to slog through a blog of such epic unimportance? 

Instead, I'll throw a quick shout-out to the one item left on my fun-tastic list: family pictures.  We went all in with my side of the family for some fall-tastic family shots.  It was beyond-tastic of whatever you could possibly imagine.  Even though it was only two weeks ago, the couple of things that stand out in my mind are this:

1.  The boy and my dad both had to go to the bathroom the whole time we were there (2 hours).  Like the little boys that they both are, they stubbornly refused to get in the car and drive 5 minutes to someplace where they could make a quick stop.  They would have been gone 15 minutes max.  We could have survived without them for that long.  Neither of them would do it.
2.  The photographer wouldn't take pictures of anyone in the sun.  Is this a photography thing?  I know that you have to be aware of light and whatnot, but does late afternoon fall sun really skew things so mightily?  It seems like there were a-plenty o candid shots that were subsequently lost because of this.  Pose me not.
3.  My mom posed with her hands on her hips like Superwoman.  My mom is not one who enjoys the camera's attention, and for her to stand as such with all of us just proves that she's a good sport and that she loves her family quite a lot.   

And there you go.  I exhausted that topic it seems, which is good--how much more will you all take of this?!

In the meantime, enjoy your Halloween everyone (otherwise known as one of the biggest contradictions of parenting that there is: we shall spend much money and much time on our child's costume so that he/she can beg candy from strangers only for us to turn around and get cranky about how much candy our little angel has, which leads us to start figuring out ways to get rid of said candy on the sly...chucking it in the trash a few pieces at a time and foisting it off on random high schoolers are our two favorite routes of candy extraction)!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spoken like a true 5-year old

Kids are all levels of hilarity.  Once they start stringing words together to form complete thoughts, all manner of mus-interpretations and fails in social etiquette ensues.

We have one of those awkward little persons.  She's five, bless her heart.

*This morning at 9:48, trying to put everyone's shoes on everyone's feet in order to walk out the door for church:

#2 was modeling a shiny, patent-y bronze, new pair of shoes.  #1 (i.e. the five-year old): "You look so cute!  You look like a...step-mother!"

*Just now, at 3:43, everyone wiling away the time with their individual pursuits, but it's a small house, so what #1 (who's in the living room) says to the boy (who's in the kitchen) is still easy enough for me to overhear (since I'm in my bedroom):

#1 is lounging in the recliner with her weekend screen time: "Hey Daddy, guess what?  You're going out to your car to get my blanket!"  And she's back to "Tar-ZAN!"  I've decided to try this tactic next time I want something.  "Hey, guess what?  You're going to change out of your PJs and go get me some ice cream even though it's 9 p.m. on a school night, and I'd like pecans and brownie chunks!"

I like her style.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The holidays are coming...the holidays are coming!!!

This week alone, I have come across 40+ gifts that kids can make which adults will actually use, 100+ specific non-toy gift ideas, and an article on how to buy experiences, not things.  Are we anticipating the holidays much?

I'm also realizing how I'm morphing into a specific version of my mom...namely the one that eats just a yogurt for breakfast.  In looking at our current credit card statement yesterday, I realized that I accidentally made purchases at a chain craft store three times in the last billing cycle.  I now own a glue gun.  This isn't really the adult version of myself that I anticipated becoming. 

Something's happening, friends.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Best advice -- #Blogtober

Look at that.  As soon as I declared that I was jumping on the #Blogtober bandwagon, I fell right back off it.  Here's my last ditch effort at putting my money where my blogging mouth is because Fall Break happened.  While I envisioned moments like right now where I would peck away at my keyboard while the boy was around to take over some of my normal time-filling activities (dropping off and picking up a Kindergartner, anyone?), instead I've been choosing to do things like create an indoor hopscotch board and watch Scandal.  Guess what...I discovered Scandal! and I know I'm behind the times, but Scandal!  

Advice is a funny thing.  You get it everywhere, both requested and unsolicited.  Occasionally, it sticks; most of the time, it doesn't.  (I'm looking at you random people in stores when I was pregnant.)  But here it is, my absolute favorite piece of advice that I ever received, which has carrie me through 9 years of teaching:

You will never have 2 bad days in a row.  I don't know why, but that's just the way it is.

When you're a newbie teacher, the advice of experienced, trusted co-workers can often carry more weight than later in your career.  Thanks, Theresa Pletch.  You were invaluable in boosting my confidence and helping me understand that I have a place in education. 

Her words from 9 years ago have come back to me every time I came home defeated or angry at situations sometimes in my control but often dictated by others.  And this advice has never once failed me, perhaps because I've pre-determined that the next day will be better.  It always has been.  Wonderous.


Monday, October 13, 2014

#Blogtober - That was then, this is now

I don't follow Instagram or Twitter.  I'm fairly technologically inept and am also fairly proud of that.  I'm a just-enough-and-then-no-more kind of user in this technological kegger of modern life.  But I recently stumbled upon #Blogtober, which apparently has been around for a while.  Look at me a'jumpin' on ye olde blog wagon, at least a little bit.  Maybe I'm the blogging equivalent of a hobo who just barely manages to get a piece of the caboose at it chugs on by, gets dragged for a while, and then falls off by the wayside.  That'll do. 

I'm going to try to be somewhat more purposeful about blogging off of the suggest list.  Truth be told, I'm jumping in this all willy-nilly a week into it, so I'm really just going to pick and choose what I want to write about.  Maybe you all could help me decide the next topic.  But we'll get to that at the end.

Ah, here's a beachball pitch for my first topic: What was your childhood dream job?  What do you do now?

My job outlook as a child was divided into two distinct camps: be like my mom & be like my dad.  That sounds about right for many kids, right?

In elementary school, I'm pretty sure "teacher" was the answer whenever I was asked "What do you want to be..."  My mum is a retired elementary teacher, and frankly, I grew up with a firm understanding of what the job entails.  I would hang out in my mom's room after school, grab a Pepsi from the machine in the teacher's lounge some days, play with the borders for the bulletin in her pull-out drawers, help her put papers in the graded trays.  I can still tell you what was in which drawer and how she used to hang an extra sweater in the tall cabinet.  The classroom has always been a comforting, knowing place for me.  I helped occasionally with some basic A, B, C grading at our kitchen table on a Saturday night.  From my perch, teachers were kind, amusing, and generally a smiley bunch of people.  When you're 8 years-old, what's not to like about that?  It was like I was accepted into the order before I earned my stripes. 

Later on, when I figured out that Algebra makes sense to me because things line up neatly, and I liked writing out equations, I flirted briefly with the idea of going into business.  I liked the idea of having a space of my own--a desk or cubicle, either works.  I like the idea of having a title.  I like the idea of moving around a building to go to a meeting.  Heck...I have rarely participated in a meeting that I haven't been happy to be a part of.  Meetings = a group of people who belong, who have something to contribute, who have been accepted, who belong.  I want to belong.  My dad worked the proverbial 9-5 office job for around 30 years, which again led to some understanding that this was a solid effort at earning a living.  But that only lasted for a short span of time, maybe a year or so as a younger teenager when I realized that once you earned your way into the cubicle that you had to have some understanding of business practices.  Next.

Now...where am I know?  Ta daaaa: teacher.  I've been employed with three high schools and two colleges and have been teaching all but 2 semesters of the past 9+ years in some capacity.  I have yet to have the same semester schedule two times e-v-e-r, and rarely read a piece of student writing that I haven't read before. 

And, interestingly, my career bent is taking me in the general direction of seeking out a hybrid situation of both teaching and business.  Just let me have an office and a classroom both, and I'll be set.  Plus (BONUS!), I won't complain about coming to meetings.  In fact, I'll be there early with a pen and paper, maybe coffee, and an open seat beside me reserved for you.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Creating happiness?

There is someone sitting dangerously close to my niche in my coffee shop.  But I think that he's eating oatmeal, so I guess that it's legit. 

Here's the deal in a nutshell: I keep coming back to this concept that happiness is a personal construct, not one which is inherent in each of us but must be fostered and developed.  I'm struggling with this.

First.  Prior to the last year or so, I've never questioned this concept.  Of course I'm happy.  Of course it's a natural feeling.  It's not something that I have to work on. 

In a variety of ways, I've felt schooled as of late that this is not true.  I don't know.  How can there be such varying degrees of understanding about this?  It's just happiness

In one of the classes that I teach, part of the grade derives from a series of open forum discussion points whereupon students respond to a concept with their own beliefs and justifications.  A couple of weeks ago, the topic at hand (in response to a common reading) was "happiness."  Truly, I felt let down by them not because the students failed at the writing but because there was no depth beyond the standard and the cliche.  Repeatedly, I read "You have to create your own happiness."  But how?  But why?  What part of living a fulfilled life means that you also have to figure out how to bank happiness, not unlike setting up and maintaining a 401K?  As someone who has this sense of "happiness" as mercurial and organic, I'm struggling with committing to the Kool-Aid on this one and working at cultivating this feeling. 

Second.  Blips are becoming emotionally draining episodes.  This semester, I've had 2 really positive, out-of-the-blue exchanges with a student and a former student.  These are the moments that shore me up when I'm facing another round of grading late work (just about the worst for me).  I've also had a few rounds in the proverbial boxing ring with 1 irate student (Creepy McCreeperson), which both came at me out of nowhere and escalated beyond rational logic.  Out of this whole episode, I found out that my school has my back.  And the boy, bless his loving heart, literally waited for me in the parking lot for 40 minutes with 2 crowbars in the car (if you know him, what do you think the odds are of Mr. Conscientious Objector from ever using them?) to make sure that I made it to my car okay.  And, I want to give Campus Security a big old hug.  Lovely people, all.  So I've had some good vibes coming my way--support and appreciation.  Those are strong, uplifting, sentiments.  But Mr. Creepy and his vicious attacks drown that out.  Do I have to consciously cling to the good and actively work to forget the unpleasant in order to create the happiness?  That makes "happiness" seem like a lot of hard work and a set-up for failure. 

Third.  At what point do I try something new?  There's a position here in town (a rare occurence) for which I am qualified and about which I am moderately interested.  But it's here.  Which would mean that we're not leaving.  Which moving piece needs to be nailed down in order for the other parts to fall into place?  I have no answer. 

I blame this melancholy on another maddeningly cold & rainy Thursday morning.  And #1's inexplicable banshee wailing and whining for about an hour this morning.  Thanks for sticking with me.  I'll try to come back mid-week with something light and fluffy like a snoring puppy. 

In the meantime...snore on. (We have a blanket that looks like him.)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

When there is nothing to say

FOR SERIOUS.  I was very specific last week that Thursday mornings are henceforth supposed to be deliciously sunny for my weekly ME binge.  Someone out there made a mistake and ordered the wrong kind of weather today.  I will probably forgive you, though, so feel free to let me know who it was.  You might not get a Christmas card from this year, however. 

I don't have much to write about today, but I like this time for writing, so I'm going to throw something out there anyway.  Plus, we were able to finagle a new, free (what to the what what???) laptop (touch screen, too...weird) over the summer and got it a few weeks ago.  As much as I hated the last one, which we still have and which still works, I actually don't like this one a whole lot better.  Other than the keyboard...other than the keyboard.  It's clackity-ness is really ideal for promoting writing.  Watch out students!  I'm going to be writing longer comments on your writing!!!  Not so much. 

Lest you think that I over exaggerate my point about not having anything to write about, I will now recount a short conversation I had on the phone with my dad yesterday. 
Dad: So what's new with you?
Me:  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.
Dad:  Nothing at all?
Me:  No.  Really.

Boring, no?  Boring, yes. 

Did I tell you that there's a C.O.T.D. (coffee of the day) at my new fav Thursday morning hangout?  It's kind of a high point of my week now--guessing what the flavor will be.  I'm never right.  But I will be one day (shaking fist in the air, all Scarlett O'Hara style)!

(I warned you...I have nothing of much interest to really write about.  Thanks for sticking with me.)

Oh, I got some serious hate mail from an angry, petulant student this week.  Yaaaaay.  Bless his creepy, 40-something heart.  In 10 years of being employed as an educator, and having some seriously disgruntled students in that space of time, this ranks right up there at the top of the list.  My top 3 list of angry student/parent encounters: the student who threw a highlighter at me as he left my class for the office because of who knows what (and was summarily removed from my class); the angry mom who blind ambushed me in my classroom after school and ripped me apart for the lies that her son was telling her to protect himself (and he was there...wouldn't look at me); and the juvenile, angry, creepster who really should know better (this is college, my friend) & has a history of childish behavior I have since found out.

I kid you not, I have a taser (gift, of sorts, from my dad to all of the females in the family) and will probably start carrying it with me on Monday nights.  The boy suggested pepper spray.  Another person proposed wasp spray.  Suffice it to say, campus security has been notified.  Sad, friends...sad.     
I didn't tell my dad about angry 40-something-male student.  He already gave me a taser, no need to instigate a litany of "Be carefuls..." 

The sun came out!  I'm actually part cat, or so the boy claimed in college.  See, I had this 2nd story south facing window in my room (shout out White House!) during my senior year, which afforded me a small patch of late day sun.  And in that drafty old place, the warm spots were hard to come by.

Lest I ramble ad infinitum, I'll end with this happiness.  I had Sweetness with me in the grocery story yesterday for a yogurt, eggs & bananas run post-gymnastics, and at one point, she climbed out of the car-cart to look at something when I stopped for a moment.  While she was out, I had turned the cart around to move on, and when she turned around, she was obviously surprised as she loudly (loudly!) exclaimed "Yowzers!"  Really.  Yowzers.  It's no wonder I can't help but kiss her little pizza dough cheeks.   

So with that I say here's to the end of another nothing-happening week.  Yowzers!

P.S. If you're wondering about what kind of technology our Kindergarten program is using, I posted a follow-up comment about apps and such.  Feel free to chat about what you think, what you use, and home schooling if it applies to you.  I might write about homeschooling in the near future as it's an intriguing option that seems to be mushrooming wildly.  Maybe I just run with the cool cats.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Being "that parent"

***It was Thursday morning when I wrote most of this.  But then I had to leave my spot early to knock out a couple of errands before collecting my progeny.  Now seems like a good time to finish it up and send it out into the inter-web-world.***

It's Thursday morning again, which means coffee of the day, my favorite chair at the cafe, a groovy soundtrack, a sunshiney morning (I'm requiring it now for Thursday mornings), and children in classrooms learning all sorts of crazy cool things.  Like how to interview well for a jamming job that will predicate both a steady paycheck and us not supporting them ad infinitum.

By the way, #1 has stated on m-u-l-t-i-p-l-e occasions that she will be living with us when she is an adult and will eat whatever she wants, thankyouverymuch, and I will both be doing her grocery shopping as well as paying for it, of course.  She thinks this is fair.

Also by the way, #2 is now demanding that #1 call her "Sophia" (pronounced SO-fee-uh, obviously) whereas #1 has determined that #2 will call her Leah.  I don't know why.

Well, I sent an "angry" email to the principal of our elementary school this week.  I haven't received a response back, and for that matter, I neither want one nor do I want to continue the conversation.  I came into this school experience knowing full well that I cannot be "that parent" given my utter frustration with "those parents" over the years.  I refuse to be belligerent, demanding, confrontational, and unaware.  I've been on the short end of that stick plenty of times, as all teachers are, because parents obviously know more about my classroom than I do.  Admittedly, as a teacher, as soon as a parent starts even coming close to telling me what to do about their child or my class in general, I turn into hyper-defensive/let's-move-on-and-get-you-taken-care-of-so-that-I-can-consider-what-you're-saying-even-though-I'll-probably-grumble-to-myself-about-it-and-complain-to-other-sympathetic-teachers, at least on the inside.  On the outside, it's all about the PR.

I'm a #1 fan of teachers everywhere and absolutely abhor how the media has largely been responsible for the general attack on education that our country is experiencing.  The boy and I have NO qualms about sending our children to a public school.  At all.  I don't care how many negative stories you hear on the news about teachers who are arrested or disciplined for unseemly, questionable, or downright illegal behavior.  This is such an unfair representation of our country's educators, and it's deplorable.  Show me one teacher caught up in inappropriate behavior and I'll show you 20 (at the minimum) who genuinely care for their students and who are busting their rumps for my child.  And yours.

But I'm getting off track here; I especially want to hash out how I've been fighting the urge to try to put my two cents in when, frankly, it hasn't been asked for.  It's a fine line, fellow parents of school-aged children, to work with your child's teacher/school system and communicate about what is not working.  My gripe is two-fold: technology and the D'Nealean system for handwriting.

Our family has a love/try not to be too dependent relationship with technology, though it has not only infiltrated our lives (like pretty much everyone, I'm sure) but has also become expected of us to use and be dependent upon.  It's a bit of a challenge as a parent to model a do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do behavior in regards to technology, which, frankly, looks one and the same to the littles.  Our Kindergartner carts home her iPad mini (for which we pay a hefty technology fee now, not by choice) every day.  And we are responsible for that device--keeping it charged, not broken, not stolen, and certainly not misplaced.  That seems to be a wretched plan, especially as our child is not allowed to and will not use that device at home.  She will not.  We heartily don't agree with this trend to push gross amounts of technology on the littlest among us (there is some pretty convincing research out there that we use as a support for our argument..if you're interested, I'll post some of it).  At best, it's a gimmick.  At worst, there can be some serious ramifications.  But, as with everything in education, when scrambling desperately for answers to problems that cannot be fixed or, frankly, should not be fixed but accepted for what they are, those controlling the educational agenda tend to epitomize bandwagoning.  It must be something taught in ADMIN 101: How to be a Superintendent. 

But I wasn't "that parent" about technology.  I've tried to judiciously express my concerns (in person) about creating a technology dependence with Kindergartners and have been met with a couple of looks of befuddlement as if I'm speaking another language.  That cross is one that we will bear an deal with it as we must.  My pseudo-angry letter (it really wasn't that angry...forthright, yes, but angry, that's not in me yet) was simply to express my sincere disappointment with the D'Nealean system for handwriting, which essentially is a bridge to learning cursive writing.  We love cursive, stand behind the school system 100% to include this in the curriculum, accept this as a challenge for the future.  The D'Nealean system, however, is forcing the issue now.  NOW.  In Kindergarten.  Rather than teaching handwriting to wee young minds who are still learning gross motor skills in a standard, understandable fashion (stick & ball, anyone?), the D'Nealean system teaches all letters on a slant, with those wretched little tails on everything: "fancy," if you will.  This means that my child's attempt at a letter "a" now looks more like a "q."  Her lowercase "b" now drives me nuts.  And, what do you know, there are two of them in her first name, which she writes a lot.  (She also likes to put a period at the end of both her first and last name when she writes them...on everything...and sometimes throws a question mark and even an exclamation mark in there for good measure.  Flair.) 

I know that not every Kindergartner can write upper & lowercase letters when they enter school, but I'm going to assume that most can.  In my mind, that means that most Kindergartners are now struggling to re-learn what they were already able to do and in a confusing way.  "No, children, you are not allowed to write your letters in a) the way that you have already learned or b) in a way that makes sense.  We're thinking of how you're going to be learning cursive in a couple of years, so let's start working on that now." 

I was able to grab a quick minute with our daughter's teacher and talk with her, and it was positive because (shock) she, likewise, has similar concerns about the D'Nealean system and told me so in an open and honest dialogue.  That was refreshing.  I didn't accuse her.  She didn't feel threatened.  And, we were able to talk about an issue that also happened to pertain to my child.  Even better, she gave me her blessing for me to express my concerns to the principal, not because either of us think that the school will thus drop this handwriting system but rather because you never know.  Administrators will periodically review the curriculum such as this, and if they have honest, meaningful communication with/from parents in regard to this (and other) issues, it will be part of their discussion.  I'm certain of this. 

And because I won't be "that parent," I made sure to end the letter with a heartfelt statement of appreciation for all that our school's educators do not only for my child but for the whole kit and kaboodle of them.  Because it's true...teachers, as a whole, are a bunch of people who I believe in.  And it doesn't hurt to tell them that once in a while, even when you're not thrilled with some choices that have been made.

But then again, I slipped a note to the school secretary on Thursday saying that #1 would be out of school on Friday because we would be "out of town," which we were when we went to the zoo.  So maybe I am, kind of, "that parent." 

Thursday, September 18, 2014


I'm off my normal routine.  In fact, I have been for a while...months even.

We live in a large enough neighborhood with sidewalks throughout, which gives us a couple of decent routes to walk and take the girls out.  Every summer that we've lived here, my routine has called for a daily walk.  When that gets tiresome, there is another neighborhood across the street that we often venture into and a park just a few minutes away with a decent loop. 

But I've been struggling with a compete apathy towards anything of this nature (in nature, so to speak).  I've been at a loss as to why I should bother.  It's an utter pain to squish both girls in the wagon what with lots of legs happening in a small space, which inevitably leads to bickering about whose feet go where.  Plus, they're probably around 70 lbs. combined.  Thank heavens for wheels, but that's enough resistance to make me forgo the walk entirely.  Call me a wimp.  I do. 

El problemo is, however, that I have this thing with food.  It's something of a love affair (scandalous).  It's the good kind of affair because the affection is mutual.  (You should see the way that those brownies are winking at me from the counter right now.)  But, when don't walk and continue to eat like it's 1999 (metabolism of a teenager, friends), things happen.

The idea of a diet has entered my mind again, in part because a friend is on one and the in-laws are working through their own, but I just can't stomach it (so to speak).  I won't do it.  Nope.  No diets here.  Change of lifestyle?  Yes.  Diet?  Get away from me, tempter of evil things.

I keep coming back to the idea that really, all I need to do is reinstate portion control.  If I do, when I do, good things happen.  I feel good about myself, even if I'm holding on to more pudge than I want.  I've never been one to care all that much about what I look like so long as I can fit in my clothes.  And while I still can, I could and should fit better.  So that's what I'm striving for.  (And then I found myself at a buffet restaurant for a baby shower over the weekend, after eating a doughnut at church, and there was sushi, and about 15 desserts, and lo mein, and oh, the temptations!!!!)

Even more importantly, I've realized again that I have almost completely lost the sense of hunger.  Perhaps it's the basic, animal instinct in me, but my day typically revolves around combating even the possibility of hunger, not only with myself but also with my children and with the boy.  I keep a box of crackers in the car now for after-school pick-up drives home.  I nearly always stash something in my bag before leaving, for myself as well as the littlest.  Snacks are pervasive, and a good amount of my food bill goes toward foods that are easy to be consumed on the go.

We shall not feel even the slightest twinge of hunger!

So I'm taking on this challenge: to allow myself to feel real hunger, to avoid eating for any reason other than actual hunger, to remember what it feels like when I have need rather than want.

It's a work in progress, but frankly, what part of me isn't?  Just add it to the list.   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Anyone? Anyone?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: our youngest is content to tag along on pretty much any trip for any reason.  Even if it involves 3 hours in the car just to go pick apples in the cold rain.  Plainly, she's a breath of fresh air in my parenting life. 

In all honesty, my life has been somewhat reduced to a crushing sense of frustration upon driving down the interstate, returning home with a bushel of apples and a sleeping child, only to dwell on how I actually intended to get two bushels of apples because, obviously, one isn't enough.  Let me repeat that: one bushel of apples isn't enough.  One bushel of apples is a lot of apples, friends.  It would make the average person think "Whoa, there partner.  What are you possibly complaining about?  What are you ever going to do with an entire bushel of apples for four people?"  My children...they love their applesauce.  And, it's just about the easiest thing in the world to make so long as you have a) a knife, b) a pot, c) some sort of blending device, and d) about half an hour.  Well, now.  I have all of those.  Applesauce freezes so beautifully and provides such a lovely little nighttime snack for said daughters, who virtually never refuse it.  AND I ONLY GOT ONE BUSHEL.  Now do you see why this thought was looping through my head for at least 15 minutes? 

In actuality, this dilemma is anecdotal.  Despite my best intentions, I messed up.  Which translates to failing.  And when you're in a quiet car, just listening to the wipers, there's a certain tendency to repetition.  There's a rhythmic beat that loops and reduces the negative because a positive thought never concentrates in this same way. 

I've had a larger than normal spurt of socialization with family and friends this past week, which has called for the standard chit-chat about jobs, kids and what-are-you-up-to-in-your-life-now?  Like the isolated and rhythmic thoughts of from yesterday's drive, my answers are the same: repetitious and incomplete.  I could speak in complete answers, but small talk dictates incomplete answers.  Yes, it's a blessing to have a non-traditional work schedule (but...).  Yes, I enjoy teaching as an adjunct (but...).  Yes, it's nice to take care of the girls during the day (but...).  Isolation fuels polite conversation and forsakes meaningful connections.  It also brings about boredom, which is not (shockingly) solved by making friends with the pantry.

Typically, I try to go somewhere every day, seeking out some amount of personal interaction.  But today, I'm staying home.  There are apples that are begging to be reduced to sauce and a little bean who's enjoys herself wherever she is.  And if you read this far, would you answer one simple question?  What are you doing today?  Perhaps community is not a single entity but a diverse construct that is developed in a variety of ways.  I think it is, and I would like for you to be a part of it.  Who's up for some virtual small talk? 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In the meantime...

Even though I haven't been writing with any consistency for the last...6 months, I think about this old blog just about every day.  Usually in the shower when I am utterly lacking access to things to write with.  Let me just tell you, I'm an amazing writer in the shower.  I blow my own mind with how amazing it is; too bad I can't share that amazement with you.  Just trust me on this one.

In the meantime...

I'm sitting in a coffee shop right now after finishing up some grading.  It's a moment that I have literally been looking forward to for about 2 years now.  Both children are in school, even if it's only 1 hour and 45 minutes, once a week.  It's still some me time, some grading time, some coffee shop time without having to coordinate a sitter, some time outside of the house. 

In the meantime...

I've been struggling, mentally.  I'm pretty lost, up and down, searching, whathaveyou.  I think I'll get there, though most days it doesn't feel like it.  Right now, I'm in a coffee shop, having checked several lingering items off of my list, listening to a jamming play list, and I feel confident in getting there.  Someday.

In the meantime...

I'll leave you with this: "A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing" -George Bernard Shaw.  My life is extremely honorable.  Chin up, friends.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Playgrounds are not for the weakest among us

I'm actually not a big fan of playgrounds.  In fact, they're kind of my last resort, we-need-to-get-out-of-this-house-and-I-can't-justify-another-trip-to-Target-quite-yet, option.  You might find yourself wondering something to the effect of "What is this malicious idiocy of which this woman writes??" right about now.  I know.  What normal parent revolts against a playground.  Isn't it the perfect way to let your kids act like little heathenish hooligans while you lounge on an uncomfortable bench in the blazing sun?  Perhaps for others...not for us.  Our children have this thing about playgrounds: we have to play with them there.  They insist on it, in fact.

Oh, the slides.

Oh, the ramps.

Oh, the ennnnnndless swing action.  Endless.  END-LESS. 

Both of the girls have this love-love relationship with swings.  They love them and don't want to get off of them because they looooove them (especially the baby swings with a nice little backrest, which our 5-year old would still use if given the option).  This means that whoever is on swing duty stands there in the aforementioned blazing sun mindlessly pushing a swing and staring at a) the back of the child (which is thrilling), b) other children playing (which starts to get creepy for the parents of the other children, I'm sure), or c) clouds (yay).  And if you try to multi-task while pushing a child in a swing, you WILL get whacked in the face.  You basically need to concentrate on doing nothing.  And the girls will do this for 20...25...30 minutes without a break.  That gives me enough time to start pulling out my hair with my non-pushing hand from the boredom.

Now that I'm down to 1 child during prime playground hours (i.e. the morning...have you noticed the kick-it-up-a-notch in humidity lately?), I'm giving it another go on the playground front and have scouted out a couple of near-ish playgrounds that the little sprout hasn't been to before, and they come with benefits...namely food.  Playground and a milkshake?  Yes, indeed.  Playground and some crepes?  Why, of course.  A little bit for the kid, a little bit for the mom.  Wait.  The kid gets in on the food action as well, so it's actually a two-fer for the kid and a one-fer for the mom.  But then again, I haven't told the boy or the oldest about taking the littlest on these adventures, and she doesn't blab, which turns out to be kind of a two-fer for the mom, too.  All is fair.

This morning, I took her to what is undoubtedly the coolest playground she has ever been within spitting distance of in her entire life, all 26 months of it.  AND, we were there allllll alllloooooonnnneeee.  This was some serious mojo working.  We had this sweet, sweet land of childhood all to ourselves, the sun was shining, we could still breath because it was only the mid-80s and around 80% humidity, and there was the promise of food at the end of it.  Happy morning to us all!!! 

And it was okay.  That's it.  Just okay.  'Cause the kid was kinda lost looking with such grandeur before her.  She wasn't on top of her playground game this morning, though we did hit up the swings 4 separate times, in between bouts of walking up ramps, walking across bridges, walking up ladders, and walking down steps.  Not a slide to be slid this morning.  I have no clue why; she's a slider usually. 

But the absolute low point of the morning happened when the teeter-totter got the best of me.  See, this was no ordinary teeter-totter but a 4-seater with reclining backs and extra resistance to account for the extra bodies.  In other words, 'ya actually had to work that sucker to get it to go if you're larger than an 8-year old.  Which I am.  Little one loved it, just 'bout as much as the swings.  Me?  Not so much.  Let's compare.

Teeter-totter:  in the blazing sun
Swings: all nestled in the shade

Teeter-totter: In order to work this one while sitting on it, I practically had to sit all the way down on the ground, and there was no give to it, so every time we went up, it was me standing straight up from that uber-awkward toddler squat position.  Hello, quad muscles.  Nice to meet you this fine morning.
Swings:  I stood there, fairly comfortably. 

Teeter-totter:  Quickly, I realized that I didn't have to sit on the contraption in order to bounce it up and down but could push at it like I was trying to resuscitate it's heart.  You feel somewhat conspicuous doing that with cars driving by.  What in the world is that crazy lady doing?  Does she even understand how to use a teeter-totter...maybe I should pull over and show her that you can actually sit on it and make it move.  My discovery precipitated this conversation.  Sweet cheeks (SC): What you doing, Mommy?  Me: It's too hard for me to fit on the teeter-totter.  My legs were giving out.  SC (flying up and down through the air with nary a care in the world):  My legs are giving out, too.  Me:  No, they're not.  SC:  Yes, they are.  My legs are giving out, too.  [Now imagine that she kept saying this for the next 2 minutes before getting off the device while she muttered it yet again as in "Mommy, I'm done.  My legs are giving out."]
Swing:  Still just standing there pushing every so often.

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to feel decrepit in the face of childhood bliss when you barely feel grown up as it is.  Apparently, the 30s are when it gets real.  Firmly I believe, playgrounds are not for the weakest among us.  That would, obviously, be me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Living with a Kindergarten-er

I didn't shed even the smallest tear when our #1 started Kindergarten last week.  Not one.  There...I said it.  I don't have it in me to be "that mom."  I can sympathize with those who do, but I'm not hiding it any more.  I don't have many of those prototypical mom emotions that seem to bedevil many a friend. 

I've never once gotten squeemish or sad when watching my kids get shots.  Nope.  Hand me those chubby thighs.  I'll hold 'em down, no problem.

All kids get fevers.  They'll get over them, and they often don't mean much of anything.  Suck it up, buttercup.

It's my baby's first day of school.  Those aren't tears of melancholy welling up; they're tears of anxiety that she's going to alienate her classmates by telling them how they're playing wrong.  I exaggerate.  But still...not much.  In fact, I wasn't there for either drop-off or pick-up on the first day, and it bothered me not a bit.  It's not like I won't be doing it the other 181 days of the school year.

It strikes me how big and grown up she seems when she's in my car as we drive to/from school, and she's chatting my ear off with every detail she can think of about her day ("We had recess two times today, once with everyone and once with just our class, but I don't like it as much when everyone is out there I really just like it when our class is alone and I only sit on the swings when everyone is out there because it's too crowded but I go down the slides too when it's just our class and I was on a swing beside Anna and Conner goes down the slides too...").  But then as soon as she melds into the mass of kids being disgorged from the school buses, she just seems so very tiny in frame and stature.
 But, she walks with a purpose and is learning that her space is just as valuable as anyone's.  She doesn't shrink back but presses on to her classroom, a place of enjoyment and interest for her.  She has a cubby there and a space to store some gym shoes.  She knows where her hook is and has some measure of comfort that she has her own supplies, which are hers and hers alone to use.  She delights in earning "pennies" for good deeds and "staying on green all day."  She is a part of a group, which is still something of a new concept for her, and we appreciate that she has the chance to learn in this manner of building relationships and working cooperatively.

Admittedly, my educator's mind keeps flashing forward to what this group of littles will be in 2027, their graduating year.  Which one will she be crushing on when she's sixteen?  Which one will be her stand mate in band class?  Which one will we roll our eyes about when they're best friends?  Which ones will fall by the wayside, either moving to a new school or simply moving on with their individual lives?

And how did this little sprout, so shy and wanting to hold back and observe before taking action or speaking to others,

turn into this verifiable kid, who seemed ready for the new challenge in all regards from day 1?

There wasn't a single part of this whole full-time Kindergarten show that I was at all looking forward to prior to last week.  The whole thing felt like a soul-sucking endeavor from beginning to end, 18 years later.  Seven days in, I'm tentatively going to pop my own mopey bubble and admit that there are a couple of things that are nice about it.  The kid-who-likes-me-best is a pretty sweet little nut to hang out with alone all day.  She's up for any errand, any time.  And we have the best conversations, though there is no break in them when big sis isn't around to take over. 

We're still not in love with a few things about this whole full-day Kindergarten with iPads scenario, but when the final bell rings each day, they've been good ones so far.  And that means I don't have to gnash my teeth about making the wrong choice for her...yet.   

Monday, August 4, 2014

Kids at a wedding

Claim: My two daughters tried to double handedly derail their uncle's wedding this past weekend.

I have photo evidence of their scheming prior to the ceremony, and then the photographer has a smattering of shots where they were caught in the act.  In hindsight, it probably would have been better to dump the wailing bundle of childhood in a back pew and smile on, hoping that no one would notice.  But I'm getting ahead of myself, and despite the shenanigans (intentionally gendered), we/I did experience more good times than not.

Rehearsal:  The girls had a great time watching the goings on, albeit from a vantage point in the choir loft as we got there after things had started, and it was a good way to slip in quietly.  In hindsight, that might have been a better place during the actual ceremony.  This experience led me to an inflated sense of confidence that the girls would "love" the ceremony itself given the amount of giggles and rapt attention that was happening during the yadda-yadda-yaddas of the rehearsal.

Ceremony:  No.  Rapt attention--gone.  Giggles--gone.  Whining complaints--very much present.  Boredom--well established.  Diversions--none.  It turns out that a wedding is not an ideal place to teach some hard lessons to a five-year old about patience in the face of boredom.  Check out her mug pre-ceremony (far right); parents and non-parents alike can see this one coming.

What is that you notice?  Sweet cheeks (second from left) is also looking less than thrilled to be here?  Why, yes.  You have made a good observation.  Now fast forward to the blessed moment where she whacked her head, loudly, against the back of the wooden pew and began wailing, loudly, out of shock.  Fortunately, it wasn't at any important moment in the ceremony...just the start of the vows.  Scratch that.  You can apologize all you want for your children's embarrasingly bad timing, and those apologies are generally well received, but it is what it is: frustrating for all.  At least #1 wasn't complaining tooo loudly so that at least 3 pews could hear how she thought this was boooorrrinng.  Right.  Scratch that too.  But, I didn't have to deal with her as our girls annoy gravitate to their preferred parent 100% of the time.

What else is it that you notice from the above picture?  My nephew isn't looking quite so angelic either?  He's a bit of a light switch.  The above picture was taken at 3:30 p.m.  This next picture was taken immediately after it, also at 3:30 p.m.

He looks a bit better, eh?  My  And this next shot, again taken immediately after the one before it, is one of my favorites.

This young man...I tell 'ya.  He was my hot date at the reception after the hubs took the girls home.  But, I only got half a dance out of him, he has a mega-six-year-old crush on his new aunt, and he didn't even bring me any cake, so our date night wasn't the stuff that Hollywood movies are made of.  Then again, he was quite the dapper little man in his wedding finery and would enjoy a turn on a red carpet.

Meanwhile, daughter #2 has an intense devotion to her belly button (her "boo-y button"), which is pretty great that she can take her lovey with her wherever she goes and it never gets lost.  But then things like this happen:

The dress is in her way.  She spent a good amount of the ceremony and reception with it hiked up to her armpits so she could find it.

Also, I brought our camera along for one purpose only, knowing that a photographer will obviously be covering the rest.  I wanted one...just one...good picture of the girls together, dressed up and happy.  This is the best I got:

We had to negotiate for a while before #2 would stop chewing on the naked babydoll's face.  And #1 can't help mugging when there's a camera in her face.  For some reason, we decided that having them pose on a seriously ugly couch would also make the picture better.  Which it didn't.

All of this leads us to the pictures after the ceremony.  This is where I don't have visual evidence, and I rather wish that no one else did either, but someone does, and it's probably going to wind up in one of those horrid "21 worst wedding pictures" lists on Buzzfeed before long.  Picture this: #1 thrown more or less over her dad's shoulder as she's kicking and screaming about who-knows-what-and-it-doesn't-matter-cause-you're-not-getting-your-way-anyway-dangit while my entire family clusters, as happily as we can, around the happy couple.  I've never been involved in wedding pictures that have moved along as quickly as these did.  Not that our daughter was the only reason for this, but I have to think that she contributed her part in getting everyone out the door of the church and on to the party.  Parent of the year award right there.

And that, my friend, is why we have already lined up babysitting for the next two weddings we are attending this year. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

This week, I learned...

The week is not yet over, and already it has been an insightful one.  This week, I learned...

...that when you are limited to drawing stick people, drawing a mermaid is a definite challenge.

...that zucchini butter is a real thing.  And it is good, nay great.  Slathered on toast, studded with fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes (if one is so inclined, and hey, 'tis the season...), it is a humble feast yet a delightful one.

...that Target has a hold on me second to none.  It's like that Jim Gaffigan bit about cake: (paraphrasing) "Hey, it's Joe Smith's birthday...I don't really know the guy...There's cake in the conference room...Well, I should at least say hello."  Target does that to you.  "We need dish soap...That means I have to wash dishes...I can get it at Target and then wander aimlessly through the aisles, amassing a small fortune of vital but discounted merchandise in my cart...Well, those dishes do need to be washed."  I already knew about my attraction to Target, but it doesn't hurt to admit my affection for the old place every now and again.  Keeps me honest in my addictions.

...that the maternity bathing suit I own fit well neither when I was pregnant nor when I am not pregnant.

...that 1 box of strawberry cake mix, 2 lbs. of baking soda, and some pink tinted water when mixed together does indeed make a lovely scented Play dough-ish compound, but it also makes a mess that surpasses understanding.  And then we added sprinkles just because.  

And to close, it always tickles me purple when the girls use "big" words in conversation.  Big A as we are leaving the driveway about an hour before lunch to go to a local water park, when she saw me stash some lunch snacks in the car for them to munch on to both start their lunch and keep them awake on the way home:  "Good thing you brought those along.  We might get drowsy on the way home."  Good thing we're prepared.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The little one

Prologue:  Camping Adventure 2014 episode 2 has come and gone, again more successfully than not.  This was even a longer trip (2 nights!!  Are you gasping in shock yet?), but all survived.  Because I'm sure my devoted fan base (???) is wondering based on Camping Adventure 2014 episode 1, the answer is YES.  It was again far, far too cold at night.  In July.  It's not like we haven't made an honest effort at sweltering; Mother Nature hasn't gotten that memo. 

I want to take a moment and talk about the little one.  The peanut.  Our sweet baby cakes. 

First of all, she's almost all the way potty trained, and that's pretty great.  This turn of events led me to "deconstructing" the changing table...with a rubber mallet.  It was hauled away in the garbage truck this morning.  Why such brute force?  Well.  Surely by now I've made this point, but just in case--WE'RE ALMOST DONE WITH DIAPERS FOREVERRRRRR.  We're not excited about that.  A couple of days ago, she was working on a #2 on her potty seat when she suddenly ducked her head and covered her eyes.  When questioned, she responded "I'm hiding...from the poopy."  Aren't we all.

The little bean is good for 7-8 word sentences, which is fun.  She's also a crazy little mimic, mostly of big sister.  This results in all sorts of hilarity.  She also just told the boy to "Hey...take your hands off of me!" when he was helping her onto his lap.  I wonder where she heard that before. 

Sweetness is also good for memorizing her favorite books after a couple of read-throughs.  It's always good to let the kid do all of the work at story time.  That let's me start my own nap time that much earlier.  (Anyone want to hear a variation on Boo Boo or Brown Bear, Brown Bear?  She has a whole repertoire.)

The nugget still insists on a very specific set list for "cuddles" before sleep: Silent Night, then ABCs, kiss, lay down and tuck in (including animals), then Peace be Still, and finally Jingle Bells.  But you can't smile during Jingle Bells.  That's a crime in toddler-ville.  And you dare not cut in for the "hey!" and the "ha ha ha" parts of the favorite Christmas song.  You get a serious tongue lashing for that.

Sweet pea is turning into my baseball buddy.  As she climbed up in my lap yesterday while I had a game on, she told me that she likes baseball.  However, she repeatedly tells my boys on the senior circuit to "Don't run!  Walk!"  Who said that baseball is too slow?  Apparently, it's not slow enough.

All of this is to say that I'm thoroughly absorbing as much of the little one's incredible toddler-ness while it lasts.  For here's the thing--she's my girl.  Truly, truly, I'm her favorite, her world.  I have never, ever ever ever, had this with her sister, and this devotion working in conjunction with she's our final little homemade confection that I'll ever bake, it's my IT right now.  It's the highlight of many a day.  It's the way I thought #1 would be.

We made a good choice to make a kid that likes me for a change.  


Thursday, July 17, 2014

By special request

Red alert, red alert, everyone...I'm going to write about cats (by special request).  That opener was also a small nod to a certain science teacher in my life who used to have a Starship Enterprise alarm clock whilst a young(ish) lad, and the alarm part was actually the RED ALERT, RED ALERT sound.  It has never entered my home, nor will it ever.  I prefer not to wake up by sounds that induce pulse-stopping fear.  Also, it's not my style. 

From about the middle of June to just a few days ago, I didn't have much of anything to say.  My well of inspiration was (actually, still is) strongly resembling much of California and the Southwest as a whole.  Dry, baby, dry.  But I got a request during that yawn-inducing stretch of nothing to write about cats.  Well.  I've been there sometimes when I have waxed poetic about sweet, diabetic Leo (who's off his insulin but will forever be expensive-food-dependent for the rest of his kitty life).  But I can't remember writing about the general topic of "cats" before, so that is kind of new.  And I have actually been thinking about what I would say.  It's come down to this: stop dissing cats, people.

In all honesty, I don't get it.  Why the hatred towards cats?  Why not a hatred towards birds or rabbits, both of which I argue are far dirtier and more useless as a pet.  Cats seems to be the scapegoat for all that many in our society deems as deviant, problematic, or evil.  Shouldn't we kind of admire cats for their I-don't-care-no-matter-what-you-think-of-me attitudes?  They do have some amount of grit and self-loving that many of us could use a little more of. 

Perhaps I should offer the disclaimer that we do adore our two kitties, and I have always had at least 1 cat in my life since I was quite young.  But I also think that it's more than that.  I admire others' cats much like I admire dogs.  They're nice, but they're not mine (not unlike my thoughts about children in public).  I don't want scads of them.  Qualify me if you must, I probably am what you would call a "cat person," but in actuality, I'm much, much more so an "animal person," one who admires that which is in God's creation. 

Animals are stunning elements in our world.  Really, truly stunning.  More than once, I have been witness to someone disparaging animals in the manner of "We shouldn't care about saving animals because we don't save ourselves first."  I hear the argument; I understand the emotion and gravity of this statement.  Yet, I don't believe it to be at all this simple.  These are not and will never be the same issue.  How, and why, do we compare them as if they are?  I have a love of animals, true.  I also have a deep appreciation for the value of a human life.  Why must I feel guilty about promoting the care for animals even though there are still humans on our Earth who are not adequately cared for?  Must we ensure that every human is safe, fed and provided for before we care a whit that animals the world around have their natural habitats protected so that they may live as God intended?  Are we to be so compartmentalized that we cannot care for both elements of creation at the same time? 

I lose some faith in humanity when I hear the either/or ultimatum.  We can and quite often do open our hearts to care for God's world in total.  Perhaps the human life that we need to sacrifice, just a little, is our own in order to do so.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Speaking of miracles

The boy has an odd habit of starting many a conversation thread with the phrase "Speaking of..."  You might be reading this with confusion right now, wondering "Why is this odd?"  Because, friend.  His "Speaking of..." comments usually refer to random crumbs of dialogue from six minutes ago.  You have to be on your toes to follow his line of thought many a time. 

Speaking of being on your toes...

We took our first vacation with children this past week, and that took a lot of planning.  It didn't have to be as time consuming as it was, but the fruits of my labors, we did reap.  It was a week of small miracles.

Speaking of miracles...

This isn't really a post about the vacation itself.  It wasn't flashy, exotic or jealousy-sigh-inducing.  But, frankly speaking, it was just right for our family right now.  If A + B = C, then I'm going to go out on a limb and say that my family isn't flashy, exotic or jealousy-sigh-inducing either.  That is an accurate statement.  And, that works for our family right now, too.  Living the life, my friend.

Here's my effort to reign it in here; I know you want to hear about the miracles.  Ask and ye shall (maybe) receive. 

*Five days.  Hours in the car, including a stretch of 4 hours (a new high score for this bunch) to start the trip.  Nary a whine.  Nary a complaint.  Nary a weep.  I call that a miracle when sometimes I can't make it fifteen minutes across town without flailing and gnashing.
*Food.  I was soaking up some HGTV early in the week, and one of the participants on the show was talking about his love of airplanes.  He admires them so much to the extent that his self-proclaimed hobby is to buy a round trip cross-country ticket, say D.C. to San Francisco, and then fly the route just to fly.  He doesn't stay in the destination city, doesn't sight see.  He just enjoys what he calls the relaxation of the flight.  It was something of a light bulb moment for me.  If he can get away with calling that a hobby (though his partner definitely argued against the use of that term), then why can't I enjoy visiting new grocery stores as something of an odd hobby?  I can.  I did.  I hit up 3 upscale, even swanky, little spots along the way, and managed to seemingly bring home more food than we ate for the week.  Popcorns.  Coffee.  Vanilla macaroon granola (oooooooohhhhhhh, I love this).  Roasted coconut chips.  Coconut cashews.  One place had a make-your own trail mix bar.  One had three unique restaurants in it.  One had a line of flavored vinegars and olive oils that you could sample before filling a jar with your preference.  One had a little child care situation at the front of the store.  Finding grocery stores isn't really a miracle, but it was a miraculous bit that they were all so accessible to where we were and that I walked through all of them sans-kids.  It's hard to enjoy a good vinegar and olive oil bar when a small fry doesn't have the same interest.  So...miracle.
*Ice cream.  Prior to the trip amidst all of my hours of researching/planning/detail checking, I happened upon 3 ice cream/frozen yogurt places that were must try spots for me.  And, in two days, I did.  We hit up Jenni's, which is arguably one of the best in the country.  We found a Graeter's with a playground in the store.  I slipped into Bad Frog for some coconut (I see a theme emerging) froyo.  They all live up to the hype, and I basically still fit into my clothes.  Miracle.
*Accommodation #1.  We tried the VRBO route for the first time, and it did not disappoint.  Bedrooms for all.  A stocked kitchen.  Space to play and then veg after the kidlets were tucked away.  Cheaper than a small hotel room.  I wasn't sure how this was going to play out having never used this site before, so I'm going to label this a miracle.
*Accommodation #2.  I found a cute-as-a-button bed and breakfast cottage for the 2nd leg of our tour de force, which frankly means knicknacks everywhere.  Kitsch is one thing.  Kitsch with young kids in tow is another.  And nothing broke, which from any mother-of-young-children's point of view is a huge miracle.
*Prove me wrong.  One big reason why we haven't really taken a vacation before is that I haven't been convinced it wouldn't be torture.  Our kids generally don't ride well for long distances, and the boy isn't about to buy plane tickets for everyone.  So we've been at something of an impasse for a while.  Finally, we (mostly I) pushed aside our misgivings for the sake of a zoo and a couple of children museums that hit a good balance between child-friendly and adults-will-have-fun-too.  My parents have a lake cottage that is easily accessible to us, and that has always sufficed to be our getaway spot for the last few years.  But now, I already caught myself thinking about the next trip.  And not only has my mind blazed that new trail, but also I found myself looking forward to another trip soon with the brood.  I interpret this as all of the other small miracles adding up to this big one.