Category Archives: motherhood

Best of May

A recap of life out here in the sticks…there should be more cow photos. Next time?

1. I don’t know why I think texting with darling daughter is so hilarious. A recent exchange when she went to Harvard with her dad for an “entrepreneurship field trip:”IMG_8992

2. I met Tita, of Lemonade International out of Guatemala. This woman is my hero, a humble, modern-day Mother Theresa, working in the slums, where children grow up in dumps. She didn’t mean to start a school or change the world…”I just walked hand in hand with Jesus and He made it happen.” IMG_9002_2

3. Summer soccer got kicked off with a night game. Ohhhh…I can’t stay away.IMG_9020_2

3a. I should stay away…can’t stay away…IMG_9146_2

4. Wait. Wasn’t this “Best of May”? Why is there an old diaper buried in my garden bed? (bad doggie!)IMG_9031

5. Anatomy & Physiology. We always think “studying outside” is a good idea until the wind blows  away our books and the weather is way too nice to focus. Nice try.IMG_9073

6. Bike to School Day! I’m cherishing these moments. Our friend Gail said, “Oh, I used to love biking with my children and now they are all grown up and moved away…”IMG_9080_2

7. We found a Snapper. Do you know they are meat eaters and carry a heavy fine for keeping?IMG_9085_2

8. Warning: 40-year-old women should think twice before attempting this acrobatic moveIMG_9142

9. 8th-grade NYC field trip fundraising breakfast. Aren’t they cute?IMG_9134

10. A girl and her dogDSC_0031

11. The tulips burst open, followed by the crab apple tree, poppies and rhododendrons. And just as quickly they are gone…IMG_9185

12. Forgive the Instagram repeats, but this was a best of May…IMG_9233

13. Mother’s DayIMG_9150_2

14. Best in-laws everIMG_9313

 

15. Right?IMG_9323_2

16. My good friend, Eric and wife, Heide, came to my class to talk about Eric’s diaphragm pacemaking system. ALS stinks. But medical advances are incredible.IMG_9186

17. A best of May: walks in the woods with EricIMG_9287_2

18. Tomatoes grown from seed are now in the ground!DSC_0047

 

19. Whoever said money doesn’t buy happiness never bought their child an iPod. Kidding, kidding! (kind of)IMG_9266

20. My boy went to the state track meet for the mile and ran a smokin’ fast 5:38! #braggingDSC_0058

21. We’re having some serious beaver troubles…this is the least of it. Advice? IMG_9339

22. I love this:IMG_9353

23. Cope in Fiddler on the Roof! Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…is forever seared in my brain…it was an awesome production.CopeFiddler

24. And…we all ran in a 5k! amy5k

And we continue to run and run and run….right into summer! Tell me, how was your May?

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All a Mother Needs: Remember Me

Every Mother’s Day, following the tradition of my own mother, we take a photo. This year we looked particularly photogenic. FullSizeRenderThis picture makes me laugh and pretty much sums up Mother’s Day: We tried.

Let’s walk down memory lane, shall we? And enjoy the Mother’s Days passed.

mothersday1 2014. Better?

mothersday2 2012. The lighting was really…uh, terrific. There’s a child missing and a child bawling. And her mother’s laughing at her. How mean am I? Anyway, this picture is a favorite. Little B was so sad because we took separate cars to church and she couldn’t go with me. Oh, when I was so adored! Btw, Cope is wearing my green cardigan and that white one has mysteriously gone missing from my closet. They claim innocence.

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2011. I remember I hated my hair. I also wore running shoes to church due to plantar fasciitis. It was a lovely look. My Copey is wearing my old skirt. Brynne is wearing Cope’s baptism dress. They look so little…and so grown up!

mothersday2011 2010. Pre-braces. We liked the couch on this Mother’s Day. So many glorious naps on the red couch. I miss the couch. This was a fun age, when every time I entered the house, the children squealed with delight and Paige cried because she missed me every second.

mothersday2010 2009. Bonus points – Tenny boy was in the picture on Mother’s Day! I mean, he’s basically another child. We really liked the red couch.

mothersday20092008. Our new house. Cope is wearing the dress Brynne is wearing in 2011. And now Paige wears it. Paige says, “You look so young, mom.” Yeah.

I became a mom in 1999, but I wasn’t doing digital prints then. Be assured, there are pictures. I love those pictures. What may have once seemed “imperfect,” is a treasure.

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Here’s my own mother, so many years ago when she basically had triplets. She would say, “look at my ratty hair,” but I adore it. I adore her familiar smile. And the way my father’s elbow rests on hers. We are wearing homemade matching dresses with matching home haircuts. I particularly like my twin’s homemade plaid pants.

Ah, Mother’s Day. I’d like to tip-toe into the subject and then I shall tip-toe right back out. I wish Mother’s Day was happier for more women. I wish we wouldn’t set ourselves up to be so disappointed. Too often, idealism robs rather than motivates. It’s mythical. Children (and spouses) need positive reinforcement; that’s motivating.

Are we setting the bar a bit too high? It’s as if our imperfect family will suddenly be our “ideal” and when those impossible expectations aren’t met, we’re crushed.

Like when Gregor threw up that one year. It was like he was throwing up at me.

I took the barf very personally.

This past Mother’s Day I decided I would not be disappointed by anything. Not even if my husband had to work all weekend (he did) or if the cherubs were crabby (never!)

I decided to appreciate the fact that I have a pretty awesome life. I have a mother here and a mother there. We GET to be mothers. So really, we may as well enjoy it. Every effort, no matter how small or imperfect is a sign that we are remembered, even if we have to ask someone to make dinner, set the table, and make a card (yes, I voice my needs 🙂

When I called my mom and visited my mother-in-law on Mother’s Day they were so grateful, so appreciative. “Thank you for remembering,” they said. I understand this. Mothers don’t need a lot on Mother’s Day, but we need a pause. We need to be remembered. Jewelry is just a bonus 🙂

I heard quite a few sentiments on Mother’s Day that ranged from, “It was a terrible day. My children were wretched. I feel like such a terrible mother” to “Just another day in paradise.” I like this one. Motherhood is much more enjoyable if we bring a sense of humor with us.

So when we’re given a dandelion bouquet, the imperfect drawing that makes us look like a herd of elephants and brought burnt toast for breakfast, say thank you. Don’t forget: Someone remembered you.

It’s the thought that counts.

Unless they’re throwing the burnt toast at you.

Mother’s Day was not created for mothers to feel more guilt. It’s just a day to be remembered. Which you are. Which I do. I’m sending you my wishes and kisses. I adore you women, each and every one.

xo.

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

Occasionally I get nice notes :)

Occasionally I get nice notes 🙂

Yes, all of these statements recently came from the mouths of my dear sweet babes. And, well, if you think this household is all butterflies and sunshine…

The Top Ten:

1. “I don’t need a coat. My coat is in the car.” I go to car. The coat is still in the car. Child is at school. It’s 10 degrees outside. Fine. Child can freeze, but what must the teachers think of me? Image, people, image!

2. Let’s go exercise. “I’d rather be murdered with a rusty fork.”

3. “Ew! You’ve reached a new smoothie-disgustingness high.”

4. “You don’t listen to me! You just say ‘how was your day now go clean the bathroom.'” (I’ll admit, this one hurt. sniff.)

5. “How was I supposed to know your sweater would shrink? Actually, this is your fault; you never showed me how to wash sweaters!”

6. “We should totally get a donut. It’s totally overkill (after our Taco Bell lunch) but it’s the first day of vacation. I’ll work out later.”

7. “Mommy, I just swallowed a firecracker. It was good – kind of salty and kindof sweet.”

8. “I’m not arguing – I’m explaining why I’m right!”

9. “I ate all my snack so I went to the nurse and asked for one.” What did you say? “That I was soooo hungry and didn’t have a snack.” What about this sandwich and clementine? “I didn’t want to eat it. The nurse has pretzels.”

10. “You’re pretty. For a 38-year-old.” I’m actually 40 now. “Woah, really? Huh. I guess you’re really pretty then. For a 40-year-old – I’m kidding, mom, I’m kidding!”

I can not reveal which child said what because there would be a household revolt and they would ban me from blogging, but in my heart of hearts I know. And so do they.

And still, I love them. Imagine that.

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Getting Organized: How to Get to Inbox Zero Every Day

Did you know we spend an average of 55 minutes a day looking for stuff we can’t find? On average, that’s about a year of our lifetime. What a waste.

Even though I get a lot of stuff done, I am seeking greater peace of mind. Meaning: getting my life organized. I’ve finally realized that the best way for me to do that is to ASK FOR HELP, to learn from a coach or a mentor.

I took the plunge and signed up for this FREE on-line course called “Mind Organization for Moms,” written by my organizational hero, April Perry. And no, you don’t have to be a mom to benefit from this course! The first lesson is getting your email to zero.

Who cares about email, you say? Well, who knew that having an “Inbox Zero” at the end of the day would take away so much stress – but it has. Boy howdy, it just makes me giddy.

This is how it happens: every email gets filed into an email folder.

This is based on using Gmail, which I highly recommend.

First, you’re going to make five folders by scrolling down to the very bottom on the left hand side of your Google email to where it says, “Create Label.” (you may need to click “more” and it will scroll further down.)

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After you click “Create new label,” this box pops up:Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.34.56 PM

Create five emails folders in the left hand column of your inbox (they will not “nest” under anything). Label them as follows:

@Action, @Immediate Action, @Someday, @Incubation, @Waiting.

@Action is for emails that require you to do something, but it’s not urgent.

@Immediate Action is what you work with all day. Everything in this folders means you need to take care of it within 1-3 days. You check it at the end of every day.

@Incubation is for things you are thinking about but don’t want to get rid of, like a coupon.

@Someday are emails that have ideas you really want to get to…someday. An example is an amazing bread recipe or a photography class.

@Waiting is for emails that require a response from another person. An example is emailing a query to a magazine and you’re waiting for a response. You’ve also emailed yourself so you have a copy of the email.

The reason you put the @ in front is because Google organizes the labels alphabetically and you want those to be the first options you see on the left hand side of your email.

It will look like this on the left hand side of your email now:

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Now, all the emails you get won’t fit exactly into those folders which is why you can create all the folders you want after these five! By the time you’re done with this you’ll feel like one snazzy organizational guru!

Now, every time you get an email, you PUT that email into the folder. Caveat: if you can take care of the email within two minutes, just take care of it quickly. Everything else? File!

How to move an email into a folder? Click on the email you want to read or have read, and then click on that little envelope at the top of your inbox. It looks like this (to the right of the trash can:

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.35.33 PMOh, goody! Another manuscript rejection! I’m going to move that OUT of my inbox and into my “rejected manuscripts” folder. Or maybe I’ll just delete it 🙂

Here’s some examples of other folders I’ve created:

I get a lot of family emails so one of my folders is “Family.”

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I have a “School” label and put all of my children’s “Kid’s Activities” under that Parent “School” Label.

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Here is what the side of my email looks like with some of my folders (I make a lot!) I try to make general “big” labels and then add subcategories to those labels.

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The Password label sure is handy – I’ve saved a TON of time quickly looking up a password instead of guessing wrong ten times.

I like to make other labels to “nest” under big labels. For instance, “Schools” has sub-labels based on the schools we attend. School emails “nest” under “Better Teaching,” and “Employment” for contracts.

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Other labels include Church, Journal (which nests under “Family”), Great Quotes, and Receipts (very helpful.) I’m always tweaking.

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My “Writing” label has the most sub-labels as I try to keep helpful articles, contracts, manuscripts, and writing opportunities very organized. This fall I was in a huge panic as I could NOT find an important contract buried somewhere in the 3000 emails piled up. I had to write to the editor (embarrassing and unprofessional) for info. It shall never happen again!

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What I love most about this system is that it FORCES me to take action. I ended up unsubscribing to a lot of websites and newsletters  (like Rugs, USA – how did I get on that subscriber list???) because I had to deal with it instead of just ignoring it.

Filing everything somewhere forces me to make a decision about what I want to do with an email – will I really read it or will it just hang out in my inbox forever?

It makes me feel more in control of my whole life – which may sound a little dramatic – but it’s really how I feel.

Clearing your whole inbox takes time. When I started I had over 3000 emails! It’s taken many hours, but I’ve actually enjoyed the process. You can file in batches or make another label called @Sort and file in half hour batches. I bet you’ll end up deleting almost ALL of them.

Now, this system scared me at first because what if I put things in @Immediate Action and then didn’t look in that folder? Guess what? You have to look at the folder and look at it often! I try to do this every morning and every night. If I’m procrastinating doing something with the email, then it doesn’t belong in that folder.

I’m not a perfectionist and I’m not OCD, but I want to get better at managing my life so that I’m not so stressed out and overwhelmed. I believe it will help me be a better mother, writer, and give me more energy for the really important stuff.

I tell you, when I see this a couple times a day:

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 9.09.52 PM

I feel really, really good. It’s like a shot of adrenaline.

Questions? Let me know! And good luck!

As I go on this organizational journey (sorry for using that word), I’d like to take you along, filing each post under the tab that says “Habits” on the top of this website. (wait, am I getting organized?)

Next time: Using a digital calendar (love it!) and how to keep track of all those birthdays! Isn’t this fun?

P.S. Here’s the link again in case you’re interested in checking a free e-course Mind Organization course. It’s based on David Allen’s #1 best-selling book GETTING THINGS DONE. The Mind Organization course is a simplified, hand-holding course with eight lessons. I need hand-holding. Managing email is just the first step. Imagine what I’ll feel like after eight lessons…

Giddyap!

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The Start of it All

hay

We said our good-byes to late night summer nights and jumped right into fall. What a leap! We are busy going from one thing to the next. Before school could start however, we had some shopping to do.

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Paige found some beautiful mushroom accoutrements and Brynne found this…she was not impressed. I can’t even write the word I detest it so much. Anyway, we did not purchase the lovely little undergarment for my fifth grader.

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Mama managed to get one more soccer game in – in the pouring rain!

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To get pumped up for his last year in middle school, Nelson watched Rocky IV. My brother, Eric, waxed poetic about the great cinematic creation and ended the tribute with…”I’m not ashamed to admit I wiped a tear from my eye while writing that.” As you can see, we take our sports seriously.

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And then we really were off to school. Cope was inside eating bacon when I took the annual school photo. The tradition of four darlings in a row is totally ruined. On the first day, Nelson and Brynne scampered off to find friends, but at least there is one who still allows a photo with her mama. I’m including her shoes here because she wore these the first week. A little worn, but still perfectly good shoes, wouldn’t you agree?

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One of her friends though, deemed them unacceptable. “Ew,” she said. “Get some new shoes. Ew. Get some new clothes. You’re supposed to wear new clothes on the first day.” After school, Paige frowned while telling the story, but she later decided someone must have been having a bad day in second grade 🙁

Brynne, however, got her some fancy shmancy shoes.

And picture 3 is included because Mom is DETERMINED to pack snacks the night before school.

I’m already failing. I can’t do it. It’s a wretched late-night task. Can’t a girl just watch Jack Bauer without thinking about carrot sticks and applesauce?

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As the youngest, Paige does a lot of waiting around for siblings. Here she rolls around the floor waiting at Brynne’s eye appointment. I was wondering if it was socially acceptable to do the same. She got back at me by getting strep throat this week so I had to wait on her.

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Before school started for eldest child, we trotted to the big city so I could get those red Bean boots I’ve been drooling over. Now that I’m teaching a class on campus, I can justify such purchases, no? Red galoshes are probably not what you stylish urban dwellers wear, but come on, they’re red!

Well. Apparently, I am not allowed to simply TIE the shoelace. I have to do this thing curly-cue thing on the end and leave it untied. After my first effort, Cope shook her head sadly. “Oh, honey, no.” She really called me honey. And then a daughter tied her mother’s shoe. We have now come full circle. Sniff.

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After school, these are my peeps. Oh my goodness, what a TEAM we have! I love them so much. Our skills are mad good, sure, but we are also KIND and SUPPORTIVE. Ah, the athletic field; one of the best classrooms in life.

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Putting up the nets

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I am now back to being the bag lady: snacks, Barbies, water, shoes, dolls, pencils, gum, soccer lesson plans, whistle, dog treats?

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Cope has been playing some intense soccer as she tries out for the varsity team. Before school officially started she spent a week living at Hogwarts in the dormitory! Away from ME!

We had many text exchanges.

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My children love my compassionate, nurturing, texting tone.

Now tell me, are you off and running, too???

 

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A Mike’s Pastry Rival: Cream Puffs For Mumsie

My mother hates to cook. Oh sure, she’ll enjoy a good meal, but as she will tell you, eating is a perfectly good waste of time when you could be reading in bed. Or pruning a tree. So on this mother’s day eve, I applaud her kitchen sacrifice. To this day, I can see her sitting on the counter absently stirring a tomato sauce, completely absorbed in a book about English history. She may have disdained and detested the thankless task called dinner every single night, but she always made or delegated 🙂 There were few things more important to my mother than the family sitting down together every single night.

Breakfast was the same. We gathered. Every morning, she dragged herself out of bed to make sure something was on the table to eat. I even heard rumors that after the three oldest left home, she frequently cooked a hot breakfast for my brothers – bacon and eggs! This was her way of showing love. The value of food, was always about gathering the family. So she did it, because food brought us together.

There are a few recipes my mother passed down. she laughs at the very thought. Just last night we had the most favorite baked dish of all time: Tuna Fish Casserole. Delish!

Today I have the favorite dessert: The Cream Puff.puff2My mother also subscribes to the belief that food should be simple. She wouldn’t be caught dead with a Bon Appetit in the house. If, for one second, I could imagine her flipping through any sort of food magazine, she would roll her eyes boring and toss it aside. Which makes it all that more funny that I married a foodie, the son of a chef!

But this dessert is something my mother made frequently. It’s not hard, but has a simple complexity to it. It’s the dessert my children devour like wolves, and every single time, reminds me of my mom.

Here’s How. Remember: we are simple. this is simple.

The first step is to make chocolate pudding and put in the refrigerator the night before, or at least 5-6 hours before wanting to eat a cream puff. Now sure, you could use instant pudding, but the Cook to Serve Jello Pudding Mix is far superior. This too comes from directly from my mother, ick, I can’t abide instant chocolate pudding!

glopFirst you will make the batter, combining 1 cup of water, 1/8th teaspoon of salt, and a stick of butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add a cup of flour (whole wheat or white) all at once, stirring vigorously.

Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat. Cool ten minutes. Add four eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition until smooth. It will resemble the above picture. This is where your muscles come in, missies!

Then you will drop batter by heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet. No need to grease.

puffsWhen they come out of the oven you will have most adorable puffs! Look at those glorious puff puffies. Sadly, those sweet puffs will deflate a bit as they cool.cream puffAnd then you will fill them with the pudding. And whipped cream if you so desire. The possibilities are quite endless, but I never deviate from my fillings. It’s a formed habit that I don’t deviate from. It’s a childhood thing.

Cream Puffs for Mumsie

1 Cup Water

1/2 Cup or 1 Stick Real Butter

1 Cup Flour (whole wheat or white)

4 Eggs

Pudding

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan combine water, butter and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat.

2. Cool ten minutes

3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition. Muscles!

4. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons (I do a bit more and come out to about 12), 3 inches apart, onto an ungreased baking sheet.

5. Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Split puffs in half and fill with your hearts desire. Lightly sift powdered sugar (optional…we rarely make it this far)

Did you notice? There is no sugar in the pastry puff. There are so many eggs I eat these for breakfast.

We also  eat these cream puffs without the top so they last longer. And wouldn’t you know, the last time I had a cream puff from Mike’s Pastries, I liked Mumsie’s better! This dessert mimics my favorite pastry of all time: the eclair from Mike’s Pastries. It’s ever so easy but feels a little more decadent, a little more fancy pants than cookies.

I recall a time my mother made these for my sixth grade birthday party and my uninformed classmates used the pastries to throw at each other. She was not amused. And now, dear friends, enjoy the Cream Puffs for Mumsie. She’s not English, but sometimes I think it’s fun to call her names like Mumsie.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mumsie. I love you so. Thank you for doing the highest, holiest service assumed by mankind. Even when you hated to cook. #itwasmom Tweet that! 🙂

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Mama Didn’t Raise No Martyr: Love Takes Teamwork

When school started this past fall, we were so busy that I got lazy with our chore zones. Suddenly the house was one colossal disaster. House asked, “Amy dear, what have you done to me?”

Realizing my blunder, I quickly put the chore pinwheel right back up on the wall:DSC_0371Whew. Much better. This is for Monday-Thursday.  Friday is FREEDOM. Saturday is something more fun – like a bathroom. And while I’m still picking up socks, wet gloves, and a million pieces of paper, the kids are pitchin’ in. They are just a tad bit tidier too. It warms my heart to hear a child holler, “I just cleaned the bathroom! Who got water all over the mirror???!” It takes such a lot of time and energy to keep a house even semi-clean.

Brynne says that when she is a mom she will have a spotless home with white curtains and white carpet in every room. “My children will pick up after themselves and my house will be perfectly clean!” I thought this strange as I eyed her backpack on the floor, papers and pencils and knick knacks strewn everywhere.

I suggested we start practicing her role as model mother. choresWhat I learned from my mama? She often told us she loved us so much she was going to teach us how to scrub the kitchen floor, weed, do toilets, and play the piano and answer the phone with more than a grunt. We rolled our eyes, but my mother was the anti-martyr and I love her everyday for it.

No, the keeping of a home belongs to the whole family. Lisa reminded me: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.”

Love Takes Teamwork.

Many lament that they just can’t seem to get their children to do anything. Well, that’s hard to believe since there is always something children want.  The best thing about them having kindles, ipads, televisions and computers? Chores get done.carrotsThis picture. It just makes me so happy. When they want something badly enough, kids find a way, don’t they?

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We’ve had so much snow that it poses a huge challenge as we try to get down to feed the chickens. Love takes teamwork!

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I sometimes fear that the girls will get lost in the blizzards and not be able to find their way back. But they always come back.

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This girl has the job of shoveling the front walk. We’ve had so much snow that she’s lived out there for a few months now. It’s a bad picture because I was taking it from inside the house. Behind a thick glass door. She’s a good girl. Loves her Mama. Loves Jesus too.

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Forced to feed the chickens all by myself. Boy howdy is it fun to sink up to my knees in snow all the way there and back. It’s so cold, the Downton Flock aren’t laying quite as many eggs. And the snow is so high it actually covers the top of the electric fence that encircles their coop. I pray the fox and weasel are hibernating in some other neighborhood.

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Forcing self to run outside. Sometimes its nicer than expected. And sometimes every nostril hair freezes and I feel as if my hands are frostbitten and have already fallen off. I dream of warm. Does this picture make me look like I have hobbit legs? I like hobbits.

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Speaking of work. One of our favorite boys EVER came to visit us for the weekend. Christian Yemga from Camaroon, graduated from Brandeis with a Master’s in Finance and NEEDS a sponsor and job within 30 days or he has to go back to Camaroon. Please help???! We love him so. Being from Camaroon, he’s digging this cold. It’s -20 tonight.

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And even though it froze my fingers nearly off, I had to take the picture. Paige says “the sky guy has been really busy.”

waterlogueThe cold made me buy my first app – Waterlogue. So now I can turn all the snow pictures into a painting. Frozen in my mind forever.

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It’s cold, but trying to find the beautiful in all this teamwork and love goin’ on. Luckily we don’t have to shovel this hill. Our town works mighty hard for us. Maybe they made a pinwheel chore chart too?

 

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a Scary Mommy finds redemption (in false eyelashes)

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Today I am a Scary Mommy at Scary Mommy. Is that scary? Thank you for having me, Jill! post script: to all the concerned readers on Facebook…this story was written from a humorous angle. I didn’t include the many, many conversations that followed when the story ended – pediatrician, nurse, pharmacist, school principal, every mother I’ve ever known…I’m sorry if it came across as me not taking this situation seriously. It was scary, but mostly funny.

To redeem self from terrible smoothie concoction fed to children, I’ll tell you about the false eyelashes. I think I’ve found my Superwoman cape.

I have never worn fake eyelashes (fake? false? clueless mommy). I’ve always associated them as accoutrements only blond bombshells can or want to pull off. But when my very-brunette friend Meredith told me she and her sisters wore them for her 40th birthday a couple of years ago, I was intrigued.

How do you wear them?

Do you actually glue eyelashes to your eye lid?

Won’t they fall off?

Don’t you look like a floozy?

What if you forget they are there and they fall off in the cereal?

For years, every time I passed them at Wal-mart or Target or saw eyelash extension deals on Groupon, the curiosity grew. But still, I just wasn’t the type. Was I?

But then I too, began to climb closer to age 40. Something had to give.

Being born with puny lashes, this is just a curse I’ve had to be content with. Or…is that really not true? Having finally mastered the blowdryer after 38 years of life, I now know that “natural” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. My hair is proof.

Perhaps with a little more effort, I too, could have eyes that “pop.” Perhaps husband would fall over in swooning delight when I stepped into the sunlight and into his arms…perhaps traffic would stop. Perhaps the show donkeys would bray, the mother hens would lay down an extra egg in my vixen honor.

Perhaps we all need to feel a little Marilyn-glory.

Armed with this new dream, I stood in front of the eyelash display in Wal-Mart. Oh, the choices for the cheap and clueless. Knowing there must be differences in eyelash quality, I was willing to lay down exactly $1, throwing them in the cart with glee, as giddy as that one time I drank Red Bull with Meredith before a soccer game (she is a suspect mommy influence.)

My new eyelashes sat in my closet for a couple of months as I gathered the courage to actually wear them. Finally, after persistent badgering from darling daughters, I decided they would be showcased at my parents-in-laws’ 43rd anniversary dinner at the Red Apple Chinese-American Buffet, encountering hundreds of diverse folk in need of fried wontons and sushi rolls.

Paige and Brynne were thrilled, watching me get ready that night. Paige had lost her tooth that day and was wearing it around her neck in a very special tooth container. She carefully showed it to me as I carefully peeled off eyelashes from plastic.

The directions were easy: Put glue on the lash rim and place on eyelash. Easy enough. But actually applying them to the upper eyelash was comical. For one thing they were too long and extended almost to my temple. The extra was hacked off and reapplied.

First impression? Definitely not Marilyn. More clown-like. Fortunately, I persevered and sought out mascara. And then? Wowza! It was kind of…fun. so different. so not-me. Eyes were actually popping!

As my love language is words, I sought out the validation:

6 year old: You look so booootiful!

9 year old: Um. Yes, Mom, keep it. I love it!

I left the bathroom. And walked down the stairs.

12 year old boy: He gave me a very strange look.

14 year old: No mom. No.

Me: I’m doing it!

Husband: He does fall over. I can’t decide if this is good or bad. He does say, “Wow.”

The whole way to the restaurant he keeps looking at me, wondering who is sitting next to him. I flutter the black bird feathers that sit on my eyes. Oh, he’s definitely swooning.

The closer we get to the restaurant, the more insecure I become, constantly checking my reflection in the mirror.  Panicking, I say, “Should I just take them off?” This is a bad habit of mine. I’ll put on lipstick and then bite my lips until all color is gone and I arrive at an event in chapstick.

“No, Mama,” husband says. “Leave it.”

So I do. And the night goes splendidly. Dear in-laws like the look and look legitimately shocked when I reveal the secret. No one at the sushi bar falls over at my great beauty, but no one points their fingers and laughs either. Born this way!

We went home for bedtime, stuffed with crab rangoons, up the stairs, into the bathroom for some teeth brushing and flossing and potty time and all the rest. To have a record of the momentous night, I pulled out the camera.

While trying figure out the perfect eyelash picture, Paige carefully took out her tooth from the hanging tooth vial around her neck…and accidentally dropped it down the drain.

The lovely life she once knew? Ended.fakeeyelashes

The only picture of the night.

Pure hysteria. Eyelashes were forgotten. Sobbing wails echoed as Brynne frantically looked down the drain. There was no way we were going to find that tooth. But hark – what was that little white thing down there? A tooth? You see, we have a drain problem in this bathroom. Too much hair, toothpaste, Polly Pocket shoes, toilet paper, and who knows what else. It has had more Draino poured down it than any other sink in the state.

But could that clog save our tooth?

And so, I found the lone wire hanger I keep for such occasions and began excavation. I knew it was a lost cause, but we just had to try, right? While Paige sobbed at my side, Brynne exclaimed, “Oh sick, disgusting. What is THAT?”

All I could say was, “Oh sick, disgusting. What is THAT?”

Apparently, in a house of four girls, we lose a lot of hair. Long, lost hair that somehow gets washed down the drain and slowly accumulates for months. And then we get to a crisis point when the water doesn’t drain as it should and I wonder why I don’t try all those natural DIY baking soda drain cleaning methods. All this long hair was twisted and lodged into something black and slimy that made me turn my head and wretch.

I worked for a good fifteen minutes, using my non-existent surgical skills until finally the very tip of the hanger began pulling up a 12-inch long black snake. It was beyond horrible. Dissection began. Which goes to show how much I really do love my children.

Many times we thought we had actually found the tooth somewhere in that slime clog, but it always turned out to be something else disgusting and unidentifiable. As shrieks and “ewwww!” echoed through the house, I pondered my fallen state of fake eyelash sophistication at a Chinese-American buffet only hours earlier.

“It’s gone, Mom. You’ll never find it,” Brynne said in defeat. Paige collapsed on the floor.

Brynne began to furiously write a note to the tooth fairy, explaining the debacle. Please, please, she begged, please come for Paige anyway!

Remembering it’s not the critic who counts, but she who is in the dissection arena, I gave it one last try, and there – in the midst of the clogged slime – was the tooth. I smiled and held it up. TRIUMPHANT!

I’d like to think my lack of drain cleanliness was destiny.

Nasty slimy snake clog was tossed in the trash. Tooth was washed and presented to a awe-struck six-year-old. My girl looked up at me with shining stars in her eyes.

“Thank you, Mama!” she burst out. “You’re the best Mama in the whole world.”

I looked in the mirror, at my long luscious eyelashes, at the small child hugging the life out of me. I was struck by how our Marilyn moments come in so many different ways.

p.s. the tooth fairy forgot to come that night, but she’s just not as reliable as a mother.

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last girl standing

My brother and sister-in-law live in a real place called “Sunnyvale.” It’s warm. The sun always shine. The weather is always one thing: perfect. My brother fell asleep on his porch the other day, drifting off after reading a book…I’m tempted to burst the bubble by telling brother he’s really living on The Truman Show, that’s it’s not real, but that wouldn’t be very nice of me, would it?

I on the other hand, have turned into a snowman. snowmanThis is not Sunnyvale. This is what is called bitter and frigid. It’s so cold humans cannot possibly live here…except for some reason we do.

My mother-in-law tells me I must endure if I want to call myself a Yankee. This is another conversation.

kidsChildren used to go to school. A husband used to skip happily to work.

sickNow they all stay home sick. And want things. Like water.reader

Though some appear a little sicker than others. Darling girl.

I am not sick. I am the last girl standing, waving a flag. The ship is slowing sinking. The flag says, “Save me, Sunnyvale!”

I won’t sleep in the same room as sick husband for fear of inhaling germs. When a child makes those noises I throw a bowl into the room, cover my mouth, and yell, “Are you okay?” while slowing backing running away.

It’s hard to run, hard to motivate, hard to…be awake. I contemplate sleeping until March.

On to more pleasant topics. My mother is visiting. Sadly, she leaves us tomorrow. We will miss her adventurous ways and famous Maggie and Haggie Witch stories.walkMama is going back to sunny Arizona. I beg of you…don’t leave me! Saturday is Ma and Pa’s 40th wedding anniversary. I stand in awe and gratitude. 

Good thing I have pleasant diversions. Like this big sports nutrition test. testAre you excited for more nutrition spouting? My children are – sugar feeds disease! Thank you, Mother. You’re welcome.

It occurred to me that maybe I am not sick because I am not eating candy this month. Or perhaps I shall be struck down tomorrow? I have new healthy foods to try. I will experiment and be sure to tell you all about them.foodHusband has his own health ideas. medsOil of Oregano is supposed to STOP bacteria and viruses dead – sickness be banished! We’ve become big Ben Greensfield fans. Instead of ABBA and Katy Perry, Ben is podcasting during workouts and long runs. But this oil. It’s incredibly potent and makes the husband smell like a very oreganous spaghetti factory. One drop and the oregano wafts strongly from every corner of the kitchen, from every pore of his body. Does it work? I’ll let you know.

While he experiments with medicinals, I’m trying to stay healthy by running. Surely this shall save me? Tomorrow is a supposed to be a 6-miler and Friday is 10-12, but with sub-zero temps…Sunnyvale, take me away.

Brynne tells me I must have couragecourage

I will keep trying to be brave. Here, in Antartica.

I’m just really cold.

So, how’s your January going?

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Out of Energy? 5 Healthy Portable Snacks

Happy New Year, friends! Do you love new years too? A new calendar on the wall always makes me feel a little lighter, like wiping the slate clean. It also makes me want to invest in a dumpster.

So I suppose it’s fitting, that for my experiment of A Year of Living Without, January is the month without candy.
 
As I type this there are peppermint patties, mint truffle kisses, homemade turtles, and santa marshmellows sitting on my desk. Oh, and there’s more. I’ve tasted pistachio chocolate toffee, nibbled through a box of See’s Candy, and been wooed by chocolate toffee pretzel sticks. The gig is up.
I weep.
During the month of January, there shall be no stuffing of candy in my purse or lunchbox. No, this year we are going to feel groovy. Great energy. Less sick days.  We’re going so fast, aren’t we? The kids are too. The children spend hours away from home without mommy dearest. You can practically hear the stomach growling, feel the drop in blood sugar, see the blackening mood. And the vending machines loom. The one gas station in town beckons. Packed with luscious-looking soda, savory potato chips, stale donuts – it’s no wonder kids eat so much junk I recall the day of my youth – they’re hungry! So. Let’s talk about snacks. I have found that I feel best and have longer-lasting energy if I eat food that is both rich in carbohydrates and protein. Sadly, this precludes the chocolate marshmellow Santa.
Here are five ideas for portable, energy-packed snacks for you and your kids:
1. Boiled Eggs 
Our Downton flock is going strong, producing like good little chickens should!
 
Easy to make, easy to peel, one boiled egg packs 6 grams of protein, 12% of our needed daily value. For easier peeling, dunk boiled egg in ice-cold water. The peel will come right off. Boil a few and store in the refrigerator for days.
2. Nuts and Dried Fruit
Walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pistachios all contain high-protein and healthy fats. We need fat, but only the right kind. Nuts are the right kind. Mix nuts with dried fruits such as apricots, apples, and cherries. Try goji berries, figs, dates, and prunes to pack a load of fiber, vitamins, minerals and long-lasting energy. Try some dark-chocolate covered almonds (or not – I hide that treat in a secret drawer.)
3. Peanut Butter Sandwich and Chocolate Milk
It’s not just tasty, it’s actually a perfect post-exercise, energy-packed snack. Peanut butter on whole-grain bread, accompanied by chocolate milk satisfies hunger, and provides essential protein to repair muscles. The carbohydrates replace energy lost. 
p.s. Say Boohoo to Yoohoo Chocolate Drink.
4. Homemade Smoothie 
You know all about my obsession with the smoothie. It’s a great breakfast, but also a healthy portable snack.
Almost every single day, I or dear husband heads out the door with a smoothie in a water bottle. You like it real cold? Fill a thermos and use a cold pack.
Fruit is the sweetest and most preferred ingredient by children, but over time, greens can be added with being able to tell the difference.
Ingredients can include oranges, strawberries, pomegranate, banana, spinach, kale, and beets. For protein, add protein powder, plain greek yogurt, tofu, coconut water, and cooked amaranth (I just tried it and the darlings didn’t even suspect!)
5. Hummus
So easy to make, hummus is just ground chick peas. Give them a whirl in the blender and add whatever flavor you prefer. My favorite hummus recipe is here.
Experiment with beans for flavor. 1 Cup of black-eyed peas pack protein, but also 18% of the calcium we need on a daily basis – who knew?
If packed in a cute little container, kids will dip just about anything: pita bread, pita chips, chicken strips, carrots, cucumbers, green, red, and yellow pepper.
There you go! Five snacks for portable, energy-filled snacks.
 
What are you packing for the road? I’d love to hear your snack ideas.
Looking for tasty, energy-packed dinners? Take a look here.
p.s. Like what you see here? You can subscribe by entering your email up where it says “Subscribe.” Brilliant! Now you’ll never miss a post on chick peas, naughty children, or the best energy-packed smoothies you ever did see.

Here’s to a wonderful Happy New Year!

xoxo.

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