Category Archives: Fall

Yes, I’m alive {and other good news}

Poor neglected blog. I keep having brilliant blog post epiphanies and then…something happens between thinking and doing. A little catch-up:

We left our peaceful world of summer with one last swim…When my friend moves and sells this adorable little cottage with lake access, I’m buying!

With both feet, we jumped right into fall.Fall is my favorite season of all. The humidity lessens, the air becomes crisp, apples start growing on trees, and the colors! Such a beautiful world God created.

I found this butterfly today. It was dead but looked ready to launch…there’s a lesson in there somewhere…

What else did fall bring us? These Sistema tupperware (I found at Old Navy). My kids LOVE them. Why is it so much more fun to pack food in cute little containers? “Mom, can I please please pack a salad?” Yep!

This post could also be called: Soccer Makes a Life TakeoverBut I not-so-secretly love everything about that too! We can’t get enough!

The boy made varsity and plays as a left winger. It’s rough and tough and oh so awesome. I had more fun pictures of boy, but he sets a very high bar¬†for clearing pictures and captions. Why you gotta be like that? ūüôā

My middle school team – I LOVE them! (And yes, it took a good five minutes to stop jumping on one another for this shot.)

My Brynne girl is on my team at the middle school. We are having a blast. Our team is pure magic. The chemistry couldn’t be better!

As our middle mid, she’s one of our play makers!

We are having so much fun with the cousins who moved to town. #makechniemafia attends many many games together!

Paige doubled up on soccer AND cross-country. I have many thoughts on what I was thinking. It was a great experience, but she’s a little bit overloaded as a 10-year-old. When she runs, Paige closes her eyes and says,¬†it’s almost over, it’s almost over…

Boy is also in my Anatomy & Physiology class. We are having fun dissecting! (but I’ve had to cut down on the boy stories :))

The Professor is a busy boy, talking to other busy folk in matching black jackets. We say hi and bye a lot.

But not to worry – we make sure to have doughnut dates. (Tarte, please don’t move!)

Oh, and College Cope? She discovered that leaves change color in Utah, too!

And we FaceTime every Sunday. And she and I text, like, everyday. Because that’s just the way it has to be.

Sometimes when I’m sad my children are getting old and leaving me I’ll make boy’s bed. I put his stuffed animal in the middle and we’re happy again.

I also remind myself that Hard is What Makes it Great. Right? Family stuff is hardest of all but also gives the biggest payoff. So we have to work the hardest at it, and know that life is long and most things have a way of working out.

Here cousin Grace is, consoling Paige after they opened a package that was sent to me and discovered it was a fetal pig to be used for dissection. It was, um, rather horrifying. “Come here, Paige,” Grace said. “It’s okay.” Yes, I receive many odd packages.

This past month I’ve also been burying myself in edits, edits, edits. I kindof love it. It’s so much better than a blank page. I guess it’s as good a time as any to announce that back in February I was offered a book deal by Simon and Schuster. WHAT?!

How’s that for an announcement? haha! I’ve been so shell shocked and panic-stricken and in happy la-la land that I am just now able to publicly write that last sentence ūüôā

This isn’t even the title anymore! I could write posts and posts about this crazy, exhilarating, and yes, even heartbreaking odyssey. Would you like to read them? Publication is summer 2018, and don’t you worry, you’ll be hearing all about how to preorder ūüôā

Thanks for reading, friends, and Happy October!


Best of Fall

I know, I know. We’re on to cyber deals and Christmas parties, but¬†first I must pay homage to¬†our glorious fall.

img_8172 New season, new goals!

img_8326 School starts and she still holds my hand

img_8339 A new fridge. And a brother-in-law who is all in!

img_9340 Lazy lump days

img_8548 img_8796My favorite cows

img_8379Is any running better than fall running? img_8595 A completed piano chart!

img_8640 Girl in a tree

img_9228  img_8707 img_8800 csc_0079img_8906 img_8968 Love this guy.

img_8839 Cousin dabbing

¬†img_9392-effects img_8847 img_9021¬†Baby blow that horn! Her siblings love this sound ūüôā

img_9048 img_9051 img_9063 Grandpa moves in! We are happy.

img_9150My soccer girls! img_9227 Finishing the basement. So much work. So much satisfaction.

 img_9461-effects Fiery skies atop Maple Street

img_9315¬†The woods were lonely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep…

nelson7 Bam

img_9394 Early morning drives

img_9643 The boy paints his first bathroom

img_8707-2 unnamed-2¬†Thanksgiving!¬†¬†img_9568Our great Goody neighbor¬†cope-singsShe sings¬†¬†unnamedThe basement is almost livable! The boy’s room.

img_9725Saying good-bye to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We close today.

img_9539You were glorious.

“Seasons are not only realities that occur outside and around us, in the skies and in the trees. I believe seasons are also internal and personal, interwoven into the fabric of human life. We are designed to transition, to change, and to vary. Our souls have seasons.” -Adam McHugh



Pumpkin Cookies with Penuche Frosting (best fall cookie)

Posting again because it’s Halloween and this is my favorite treat: pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting. Woo-Hoo, BOO!

This recipe¬†is adapted from a Pillsbury cookbook (I omitted 1/2 cup white sugar and it’s still a beautiful thing.)

A warning: This cookie¬†is only allowed in October and November. Otherwise, I’d eat so many I’d turn into a pumpkin and roll away.

They are really that good.


I have resisted posting this recipe here because I like to blog only healthy treats.


The story goes like this – I made this decadent treat for my son’s eighth-grade field trip bake sale. He¬†brought them to school and came home saying, “Mom, the teachers didn’t even put them out – they ATE them! They ate ALL of them!”

Of course this delighted me.

And I couldn’t blame them. I don’t like to share them either.

The next day, several teachers pounced on me, begging me for the recipe. Okay, I might be exaggerating the pouncing part. But they really really wanted it, so I relented.

I’m just giving you what you want ūüôā


First, you’ll cream the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and pumpkin. Then you’ll add the dry mix of flour, baking powder and soda, a dash of cinnamon and salt.


I could tell you that I grew the pumpkin myself, cut, cooked, and pureed them, too. But that would be a lie. Canned Libby’s pumpkin does quite nicely!


Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes and you’ve got this glorious yum-yum. Sometimes we¬†just eat them plain and they’re still a treat.

While the cookie cools, make the  frosting.


The original frosting does not call for cream cheese, but unless you add a boatload more powdered sugar, the frosting is too runny. Cream cheese is a nice binder and the taste? Mmm.

DSC_0115Halloween party, anyone?
So hear you go, my favorite fall cookie (aka, the cookie the teachers won’t share):

Pumpkin Cookies with Penuche (& Cream Cheese) Frosting: 

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (plain, not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups + 1 heaping tablespoon flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1-2 cup powdered sugar (or to desired thickness)
  • 4-8 ounces cream cheese (optional & takes the place of some of the powdered sugar)

Heat over to 350. Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, pumpkin, and egg. Mix. Add flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix just until incorporated. Spoon onto baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool.

Frosting Directions:

Melt 3 tablespoons butter over low heat. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar. Stir constantly until small boil, slightly thickened. Cool 10 minutes. If using a hand mixer, add 1/4 cup milk and 1-2 cups powdered sugar (or enough for desired thickness.) Optional: 4 ounces cream cheese, which can take the place of some of the powdered sugar. Frosting should be thick enough to frost cookie without running off.

Now for the best part: Eat

Happy fall!


In the Land of Trees and Apples

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Fall in New England, with more apples than we know what do with. We start by¬†eating vast quantities and then move on to applesauce. Um, by the way, have you eaten the Honey Crisp apple? Oh yum, I can now die a happy woman.unnamed-15¬†Finally, after seven years, our apple trees are bearing fruit. We don’t spray (because I’m lazy and afraid of chemicals) so our apples are not “perfect,” on the outside, but they sure are perfect on the inside. There’s a lesson somewhere in there, isn’t there?unnamed-5¬†We also picked up all the drops from a tree at Hogwarts on Columbus Day when we all miraculously had one full free day, with no other obligations except apples. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do applesauce this year. But Brynne persisted – and I’m glad she did! “It’s a tradition, mom!” And traditions must be followed.unnamed-6¬†The weather could not have been any more perfect, where I could cut and core apples outside (surrounded by bees ūüôā The colors were popping!unnamed-4¬†I didn’t feel guilty about not cutting off¬†every speck of apples – off to the compost it goes (as the chickens are no longer.) It comes from the ground and goes back to the ground.unnamed-7¬†After the apples are cut, they are put in a small bath, and onto the stove until they are mush.¬†unnamed-13¬†Then it’s all pushed through the strainerunnamed-11¬†Out comes the¬†applesauce!¬†unnamed-9¬†The seeds and skin all get pushed out another chute.unnamed¬†My 6th-grader, the newly-appointed domestic diva. She loves cooking.unnamed-3¬†Her sister was especially helpful! Paige was in her pioneer clothes…obviously acting like a lady.unnamed-8 ¬†The green funnel (from Amazon) makes this job so much easier when you’ve got small-mouth mason jars.unnamed-10¬†The applesauce doesn’t need any help, but we give it¬†a touch of sugar and cinnamon. Mmmm. Brynne likes it best served warm.unnamed-2¬†What you don’t gobble, you can can. Can you do the can can? Think Thanksgiving and neighbor gifts! For the step-by-step canning, Click HERE.unnamed-1Our neighbor, Mr. Goody, is the best. So he gets applesauce. We know that in a few weeks he’ll be plowing us out of our driveway. We’ve got to make sure he feels appreciated. And doesn’t he have the best neighbor name evuh’?

DSC_0101¬†But don’t worry, you don’t have to give it all away.

DSC_0118I give full permission to lick the jar clean…

Happy Fall!


Back on the Soccer Field {in all its glory and defeat}

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and there isn’t any snow on the ground! In New England, that means Fall. And in this family, that means soccer.unnamed-3¬†Here they are, the fab four lacing up during the last days of August to play a¬†friendly game of family soccer.¬†You see, for better or for worse, the¬†competitive genetic streak is strong.

I’ve been observing what we pass down to our wee ones.

The other day at Hogwarts, we were sitting around the dinner table where all the food magically appears. A little girl walked past me wearing an adorable¬†tutu, with her hair all done up. Her mother loves dance, teaches dance, and takes her children to the ballet. I looked around my table to see soccer jerseys and ponytails. No, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Unconsciously (or not!) we encourage and condition our children to love the things we love.

Which makes me realize I’ve got to start playing more classical music around here.

Oh course, kids must find and pursue their own passions. Like when Nelson wanted to be a ninja for four years. Or how Cope loves calligraphy and knitting and listening to history tapes and Brynne paints and Paige loves dogs and collecting small rocks.

But it’s not exactly a coincidence that none of my kids play hockey. You know?

In our home, the gang is all here. In their cleats:¬†unnamed-2¬†As it should be. And the weather is turning. And the wind has shifted. There is that smell in the air…the smell of Fall sports. The smell of running and passing and scoring. Can you feel it too?

unnamed Sometimes I hear my children coaching one another. Are they imitating me?

“Pass! Bend your knees. That’s it. Your plant foot points at your target. Lock your ankle. Don’t just stand their like a stick, MOVE!”

I swear on my future grave I have never said “don’t just stand their like a stick!” (though I have surely thought it…:)


Our backyard games get physical. Soccer becomes a full contact sport. The donkeys next door love the entertainment.

(side note: please excuse the blurry photos. those darn kids move so much. and also, I’m having external hard drive issues. as in: I don’t get it.)

Anyhoo, the fall season also means coaching! Once again I’m coaching the co-ed 7th/8th grade middle school team in our little town.

We don’t have try-outs. We don’t make cuts because we don’t have to.¬†Everyone¬†can play. This means some years I have 30 kids (every year except this one) or 13 kids (this year.)


I take this job as Coach seriously.

Being¬†“Coach” holds a very powerful position in the eyes of a child. Coach is the authority. Coach has so much sway, can make or break a child’s view of him or herself. One cutting remark and a kid never goes out for the team again. But a coach who believes in your worth, sees potential when no one else does, encourages without fail: that’s the coach who changes lives.

Do you remember longing for Coach to believe in you? I do.

We should all have coaches! Read this¬†fantastic article by Atul Gawande, a surgeon and best-selling author.¬†READ it. It’s so good.

(I could have a “motherhood coach” or “organizational” coach or perhaps “how to get out of folding the laundry” coach.)

Here’s my team this year:


This year we are the underdogs, a complete turn around from last season, when we dominated. But just look at us! We’re like superheroes waiting to bust out.

Last week we split the team into two and brought up some younger players (including Brynne!). I needed another coach…and there was my girl, Cope. She was so nervous and so excited.

We rode the school bus to the game together, discussing strategy and positions.

When it was all over…she was riding a huge high. “That was so fun!” I could see her dreaming of coaching her little Copes someday. I’ve been doing this awhile now,¬†and Yes, darling, you’re right. It’s so fun.unnamed-8¬†My girl squad

Over the years I’ve learned this:

  1. We are all athletes
  2. Never ever give up on a kid because
  3. They will continually surprise you
  4. Heart trumps talent any day
  5. Life lessons are learned on the athletic field

Wondering about the life lessons? For instance, yesterday we had several conversations about being kind to one another (and not saying the “F” word on the bus, or like, ever.)

When we got off the bus we talked about being good school representatives.

During warmups I had a heart-to-heart with one of my players:

“No one listens to me!”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Because they’re like…stupid!”

“Actually, look at those girls. They are your defense. And they are very strong and smart.”

“But they don’t listen to me!”

“Let me ask you this,” I said. “Does anyone like to be bossed around and told to shut up?”

“Uh-uh.” Tears…

“Perhaps,” I said, there was a better way to communicate. We talked about¬†The Art of Charm and my “Sandwich Theory for Spouses.” Which is this:¬†for every criticism you have, you must sandwich it between two positive comments. Otherwise, I am not listening to you.

“Boy,” I said. “Your defense needs to hear you say positive things about what they do. For instance, when they get the ball and clear it wide you yell, ‘GREAT CLEAR!’ If you are kind and positive most of the time, then your team will listen to your suggestions.”

He frowned. More¬†tears. He was done talking. He didn’t want to play the first half.

But wait…second half began. He took the field.

And clear across the soccer field I heard his loud voice yelling, “Good job, great clear!”

Oh, these are the things that make me very happy.

There are other stories that aren’t quite so sunny, but we’ll leave it there ūüôā

I became a coach at the same time I became a mother.

Cope was a newborn. I would bring her to varsity girls soccer practice at Hogwarts, and she would cry and cry because that’s just what she liked to do. I would push her stroller around the field, running to quiet her. She was not quiet. She had a pair of lungs that echoed across three soccer fields and then some. And her voice triggered the most inconvenient milk let-downs.

As my babe grew, she was always on the soccer field, followed by the rest of her siblings.

They crawled toward soccer balls, tried to eat them, and learned to kick. Eventually Cope was old enough to play on a team. But she needed a coach. I looked around and knew it was meant to be.

We’ve been together ever since.

unnamed-7 Here she is, passing me the ball, on the same ground she once crawled on. A highlight of my life was playing together on the turf last week. I mean it was SATURDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

My hip was hurting. I’m a tad bit slower. When I turn it’s not quite as quick. And I don’t want to get hurt. Because it¬†might take me awhile to get up again.

I have begun to¬†fear my soccer playing is dwindling.¬†But until that time, I’ll enjoy the thrill of running down the field, wind in my face, attempting to make the play of my life.¬†And then I will obsess about all the things I should have done better…it’s that darn competitive gene.

And when I can’t kick the ball anymore? I imagine I’ll still be holding my clipboard and whistle.

unnamed-1So here we go, another season.

Where Cope is missing out due to an ocean adventure.

Where Nelson is trying out for JV1, a team he wants to make more than he wants to breathe. Where he believes his Magista soccer cleats will summon the gods of soccer to shine on him.

Where Brynne is playing on two teams, and Paige is playing real games for the first time.

And where mom and dad are on the field as coaches, working and fighting for those magical moments that come from hard work, unselfishness, muscle memory, and team spirit.

There have been mistakes made a long the way. I wish I could have some do-overs. But every year, if you’re open to learning, you get better. You know what works and what doesn’t. You understand that games are played because they’re fun, because there is glory to be found in the arena, and because your athletes (even the little ones!) have¬†something to teach you, too.


It’s a glorious thing.

Another season of coaching, another season of playing. Forget December. In these “pauhts,” it’s the most wonderful time of the year!


The End of Summer and Start of School (woo-wee!)

The night before school required one more trip to the water…unnamed-2¬†We were a wee bit excited!


Woo-hoo! (why are my pictures fuzzy? I must have been jumping, too.)
unnamed-1Mama, the water is cold….! I love how kids never seem to mind those minor details
unnamed-10And just like that, the sun set on summer. We turned toward a new school year, which always requires a new¬†mindset and is always epic in its own way. The Professor and I looked¬†at each: “I wonder what’s going to happen this year.

The next morning the alarm sounded in the children’s bedroom…beep, beep, beep. Horrifying noise.

Paige was most excited about packing her lunch because her mother had bought her a YumBox!¬†The Professor rolled his eyes. “What is this, lunch boxes of the rich and famous?” Hey,¬†I it was reasonably priced¬†($20 with a coupon,) and a justified purchase as¬†packing a lunch no longer requires¬†non-recyclable plastic bags (and maybe because it was just so super cute!)

unnamed-6¬†And now I become one of those parents who post pictures of their child’s school lunch. Hey, I get it now – it’s fun!

IMG_1778Paige thinks cutting up little pieces of food is FUN. She practically skips around the kitchen.

Sadly, after I bought one for Brynne, she chickened out: “Mom, I’m in¬†sixth grade! I can’t bring a Yumbox.” Sigh.

IMG_1776Food groups. FUN.

I’m stopping now.


unnamed-9The next morning, only two of our kiddies were going to school. We have entered a new era.

unnamed-8I told the boy to stand by his sisters. “Ha ha ha…you have to go to school.” Aren’t brothers the best? Just you wait, Nellie, your time is coming and ninth grade ain’t no walk in the park!unnamed-7

Always my favorite picture…we’re holding this hand TIGHT. It’s the last hand. The sixth grader had already dashed off! But she still gives me kisses.

unnamed-3Meanwhile, the new high schooler cashed his paycheck to buy some preppy clothes. #landsend

unnamed-5And he made his own duct tape keyboard case for his iPad. Do you think he’ll get beat up? (kidding!) Love his creativity. He sure loves me taking his picture.

Happy new school year.



The Month of the Pants and Other Weekend Love


1. So I have these pair of purple pants.

2. I find purple pants rather liberating.

3. Cope’s friends like them, too. One of them asked where I got them. I let her check my label. “That is so weird,” Cope said.


3. This is my green pair of pants. Nelson’s friends like this pair, but I don’t offer any label checking. “Mom, stop. That’s so embarrassing.”

4. Why are parents so embarrassing? I mean, I don’t walk down the street and say, “There’s my kid,¬†don’t look at me don’t talk to me let’s pretend you don’t exist.”¬†This would be a fascinating dissertation.

dance5. I mean, who can pretend these sweet things don’t exist???

IMG_6038¬†6. We’re¬†exhausted. Today my class took a difficult quiz¬†on all the superficial muscles of the body. They spell words like sternocleidomastoid. It makes me so proud I could cry. Tears would pour out¬†my lacrimal cavities which are surrounded by the ethmoid and nasal bones which are protected by the obicularis oculi muscle.

6b. Next week is finals.

6c. Have I mentioned? We are all exhausted.


7. This leaf fell on my window. I named the picture, “Fall on Me.”


8. Paige fell in the pond. But this catastrophic moment led me to this photo. So it was worth the dunk ūüôā

IMG_61339. Snow fell on my kale this morning. How rude. However, can you believe how hearty this leafy green is? Everyday I fetch¬†eggs and pluck leaves for the next day’s smoothie. And it’s November 12! Put KALE on your calendar to plant in March. You’ll never go hungry again.

10. The Halloween candy is killing me. Like, probably literally.

11. Milk Duds and Heath Bars. “Don’t eat them,” my friend said. Too late.

12. Then,¬†listen to THIS! It’s so good. It’s all about BRAIN HEALTH. I love this stuff so much I feel like doing¬†cartwheels. Can you spell G-E-E-K? I can!

13. Sadly, Milk Duds and Heath Bars are definitely not mentioned.

14. Love THIS: Amy Tan giving a TED talk on “Where Does Creativity Hide?”¬†She does not talk about Milk Duds either, though I’m pretty sure they spur on my creativity.

15. Katie talks about HOPE, HERE. She’s waiting for a baby. I hope, hope, hope with her…

16. Giles Duley rocks. Here’s when the reporter becomes the story.

17. My daughter’s chemistry teacher is blogging about How Kids Learn. And she’s SO good!

18. Psst! Missed the podcast on the Nine Most Important Minutes? Listen Here! I still haven’t ūüôā

19. I didn’t show you all my pairs of pants. Oh, there’s more.

Happy Weekend!



Stop Stealing Dreams: What Are Sports For?

Seth Godin wrote a manifesto called Stop Stealing Dreams: What is School For? and it was shared millions of times. He spoke at TedxYouth about the future of education, how we reward kids, and what we can do better. Both posts are worth diving into.

I¬†love athletics. I know this doesn’t surprise you ūüôā

So many life lessons.

It’s a shame more kids don’t get the chance to experience them.

My¬†competitive streak still comes out when I’m running and have to catch that guy in front of me, when I’m sprinting down¬†the soccer field¬†and¬†just¬†can’t get there quite as easily as before, or when my children play the long-standing rival.

With age, sore knees, and raising children, perspective grows. When your child plays, there’s an opportunity to¬†reflect on the point of it all.

Growing up I accepted the “cuts,” the “sorry, you’re not good enoughs,” the “varsity players vs. the junior varsity players” because, well, I didn’t get cut. (I considered it¬†a shame math class didn’t make cuts.)

Until one day I did get cut. I was 15 and willing to quit track to wear a Westside cheerleading uniform. Rejection¬†was a phone call. “Sorry, you didn’t make it.” As I sat gloomily in the kitchen, I imagined my try-out buddy getting picked up by all the popular senior cheerleaders and celebrated with vaseline in her hair, marker on their face, and other humiliations.¬†Lucky!¬†

My mother considers this a blessing.

I was cut again in¬†college. The list was posted outside the cross-country coach’s door after a grueling run on a freezing cold Idaho morning before the sun was even up. No¬†conversation, just my name¬†missing from the posted list.

That was TWENTY YEARS ago this fall and I can still feel the sting. I can still smell the cold Idaho air and the faint whiff of cow. I can still see the stars that twinkled on that morning. I can still remember what I prayed for…God, please let me run fast, please let me make this team. Please help me run my best.

I didn’t.

This is the stuff that stays with you.

Alas, not everyone can play or run on a college level, but by that time I could scrape my dreams off the Idaho track and keep going.

But for the kid who gets cut too early? That’s stealing dreams.

DSC_0407That’s not to say we shouldn’t¬†strive for a high level of play.

That’s also not to say there shouldn’t be tiers.

But for every kid who wants to play, let them play.

This fall, Cope tried out for the girls varsity team soccer team. She was so scared she almost bailed. I pushed. Don’t not do it because you’re scared. That’s something you’ll always regret.¬†

After a week of a grueling two-a-day preseason, her name was on the list. “I can’t believe I made it,” she said, dazed.¬†She’s young. She acknowledges she has to work on her ball handling.

You know why she made the team? The coach rewarded her preseason “hustle.”

Life lesson = guts matter. Grit trumps talent. Hard works = dreams come true.

I weep. I thank my lucky stars for such a coach.

AliciaslidesThis isn’t Cope – it’s Alicia. And it’s just a sweet shot. Um, you want to talk about grit and lessons on the field?

DSC_0413I love this photo. When Cope was devastated after a game (she’s incredibly hard on herself) this awesome team rallied.

(you wouldn’t believe how much begging I had to do for Cope to let me post this pic:)

Mentorship, compassion, kindness, love, courage, resilience

Life lessons right there on the soccer field

nelson¬†And then there’s this guy. Lucky boy, he got his mom for a coach this year. (And once again I feel terrible because it’s really hard to coach and get good pictures of him.)

This year was a life-changing year. All summer he worked his tail off. He was obsessed with the world cup and Messi, watched¬†his Youtube soccer videos, read about “the greatest soccer player in the world,” inspired that Messi is only 5’7.”

He practiced and practiced and practiced. He was never without a soccer ball. Okay, he did sleep. Once.

He started playing with me at summer soccer. Gerry, a boy’s varsity soccer captain went out of his way to make my boy feel good about his game. Free, life-changing mentorship.

In one summer my Nellie Mak was a tremendously better player, impacting the start of his eighth grade year. He had momentum. His confidence blossomed. He became a leader.

In our little town, at our little middle school, we don’t make cuts. And even though it creates some logistical headaches, everyone plays no matter the skill level.

But there are thousands of kids just like my son that get cut from their school team. So sad.

DSC_0074This year I had 30 kids. With only 11 kids that can play on the field at one time, is this a challenge? Uh, yeah.

Did we have the best year ever? Yep.

Do I want to keep all of these kids? YES. A million times yes.IMG_5537Because if there is one thing I’ve learned as a teacher and a coach, it’s this: human beings are remarkable. They’re ability will constantly surprise you.

DSC_0002With enough hustle, grit, and a little athletic ability mixed in, the kid who never played soccer before becomes a solid high school recruit.

For kids, athletics starts out as fun. But coaches are fired because they don’t “win.”

What are sports for?

What if we approached athletics as a learning environment, where attitude and effort counted as much as height and natural strength?

Seth Godin says, “When you’re six years old and you try out for the hockey team, only two things are going to get you picked ahead of the others: either you’re older (it’s true,¬†check this out) or you were born with size or speed or some other advantage that wasn’t your choice.”

A¬†seventh grader recently told me, “Adults say that winning doesn’t matter, but that’s always the first thing they ask –¬†did you win?”

As a coach, I always try to remember: soccer is so great because it’s so FUN. Because it’s hard. Because it requires so much mental and physical effort. Because you get to play with a TEAM – those that are better than you and those you are better than. You get to make plays, learn to¬†do the Maradona – you get to kick something! How FUN is that?

DSC_0041Some of my kids who I thought¬†just weren’t very good¬†last year showed up this year and they suddenly KNEW HOW TO PLAY SOCCER. All that dreaming over the summer, brain development, growing and kicking and running and world cup analysis.¬†Coordination improved, dribbling clicked, bones, muscles, balance, the ability to see the field, anticipation – all of these things¬†take time.

If I had cut them last year?

“What if we celebrated the students who regularly try the hardest, help each other the most and lead? What if we fast tracked those students, and made it clear to anyone else willing to adopt those attitudes that they could be celebrated too?”

IMG_5358Can’t you see their potential? ūüôā

As a side bonus for coaching, you’ll get to ride THE BUS! Forget the field, this is really how you get to know a kid. I would tell you about “secret circle,” but sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy. Anyway, you probably don’t want to know.DSC_0697Our last game season¬†was a friendly match-up¬†on the turf, under the lights. It was the culmination of a near-perfect season. Lucky, lucky us – TURF! Screaming fans! All our dreams came true!DSC_0147Here’s my Brynnie-the-Pooh. She loves the game so much she laughs when she dribbles.¬†DSC_0189Soccer makes stars shine in her eyesbrynne1 DSC_0230 DSC_0171¬†Perhaps you’ve heard me mention a few times how much I love this game?DSC_0417¬†And this guy. He just happened to come walking across my camera lens!DSC_0137The youngest roams during all these game. I hope she loves soccer some day, too.¬†Right now she’s soft, sweet, and easily wounded. She could go either way. It depends on what kind of experience she has at an early age. I hope it’s a good one. Please¬†don’t steal her dreams.

Recently Julia¬†wrote of the origin of the word “compete.” We often¬†connect compete with battle.¬†Beat, destroy, annihilate, kill.

It really means:

compete: verb from Latin competere to seek together, from Latin com- + petere  to come together, agree, to go to

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we saw team sports that way?¬†Seek together. You’re right, Julia, that sounds so much better than “attack.”


D.C. in Pictures & the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Fifty years ago this year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed. President Kennedy was assassinated before he saw the day come, but when Lyndon Johnson signed the act, he said their was no better tribute to our fallen president.

Many of my personal heroes come from the civil rights era, and though a quick trip to D.C. came at a terribly busy time, I was easily talked into accompanying my husband.


Our 4:30 wake-up call was worth this picture of the sky guy.


Before meeting with kids at schools, we stopped in at the offices of Foulger-Pratt. These boys are Gregor’s former college roommates at BYU. We love these good boys. It’s been years and years since we’ve seen each other, but time had hardly seemed to pass at all. They said we looked exactly the same, but I wonder, are we getting older?

That night we went to a school to speak about Hogwarts. This admissions trip is vastly different than NYC.¬†And it has everything to do with culture, family,¬†and money. I felt so incredibly blessed to have good schools for my kids, that I’m not attending school fairs to get my child out of a terrible district with underfunded schools that don’t even have paper!

I love Hogwarts with all my heart and I wish everyone got a howler – but wouldn’t it be better if every single community made education a top priority and no one had to go outside their community to get a top-rate education? Sigh. School systems are tricky and sticky.

The next day was one of my biggest motivations for traveling to D.C.: A National Mall tour where millions of tourists visit to commemorate past presidents, iconic symbols of america, and to celebrate our veterans.

Beware: If you go to DC, don’t follow my route. It’s rather erratic. Go Here¬†to get the full experience.


We had a few hours, so to get around for our tour, we put on our running shoes. Armed with ipods, and me with my iphone for pictures, we started off.


My tour guide was a little…fast. My tour was more like an interval sprint as I kept stopping to take pictures of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime-moment(!) and then had to sprint back up to my tour guide who was still¬†running! I needed to work on speed anyway.


So much history in this place. It took me a few trips to enjoy NYC, but I loved D.C. right away. Of course I was in a very clean and well-kept area, but the city had a clean, cool vibe.

IMG_5632 IMG_5613 IMG_5627

We didn’t stay long to chat with the IRS!

IMG_5635 IMG_5599

At every street corner there were suits


The architecture was incredible

IMG_5649¬†The Red Cross, inscribed with: “In Memory of the Heroic Women of the Civil War.” Love that.IMG_5653¬†Wicked CoolIMG_5657 IMG_5661 IMG_5668¬†The Washington Monument was built to honor George Washington, the first president of the United States. It’s a 555-foot marble obelisk tower overlooking D.C.IMG_5674¬†Found this in the middle of the National Mall. Made me feel right at home.IMG_5636Department of Commerce

IMG_5645 IMG_5643 The White HouseIMG_5647And bomb-sniffing dogs. Are they always around or just this morning?

Next we ran (sprinted) to the WWII Memorial. IMG_5712

From the Pacific the Atlantic…all the states are honored with the fallen

IMG_5713 IMG_5715 IMG_5714


I’ve observed: Musicians, songwriters, photographers, and writers find inspiration in sacred places.

IMG_5741 IMG_5735 The work of this artist is stunning, detailed, and poignantIMG_5733 IMG_5732


I imagine this monument would mean that much more if I was sending my son or daughter into combat.

IMG_5676 IMG_5731

From there we ran to the Lincoln Monument:IMG_5679

And I stood where Martin stood:IMG_5696This is where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. The next year, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Five years later he would be assassinated.IMG_5688The Lincoln Monument. We arrived sweating and tired from running up the stairs. It’s worth all the steps you’ll ever have to climb.


In the middle of a work week in the middle of October, hundreds of tourists were taking pictures. It was striking Рmost were foreign speaking. Of all the places they could go on vacation, they came to America, the capitol of the United States to take pictures of the symbols and monuments we have built to represent freedom and equality.

Soon after,¬†we were running again, me taking a photo and then sprinting…”Wait up!”


The sprint was worth this photo. It was a gorgeous day.IMG_5751

Eventually we ran by the Smithsonian Castle and museum. By this point, 10 a.m., I was starving, my blood sugar low from lack of breakfast.


But there were still photos to take. Like our nation’s capital…


There was a ceremony taking place


The view from the opposite end of the mall

IMG_5771 IMG_5639

Like NYC, but to a lesser degree, souvenirs for sale. I just wanted food, not a shirt. Wait up, tour guide!


Thankfully, 7 miles later, he found me an apple in the hotel gym. And I lived another day.

From there we headed to another part of D.C. where our “contact,” was.

While waiting, an old man came out. His name is Walter Ray. He was “just writing down some song lyrics.” And this guy, he’s like 80-years-old and he’s got civil rights history! He’s written songs for “I don’t know who all,” including the The Manhattans¬†.

“Do you all like to write?” he asked.

Husband pointed to me, “She does.”

He shakes my hand and says, “The thing is, you gotta have ambition! You just gotta keep at it.”


And I said, “Sir, I need to get your picture (even though I really hate my hair right now).” He obliged and after, showed me two of his published books of poetry.IMG_5816

I was sufficiently inspired.

IMG_5818¬†Walter’s walls were covered with memorabilia, including this picture. “That’s me with the man right there,” he says.

Walter Ray has two children, Roz and Walter Ray Jr. They are both lawyers. Roz has represented Bill Cosby, Kris Kross, Johnny Cochran – there was an entire wall of autographed photos, including Roz and Hilary Clinton.

Walter Ray jr showed up and we went for crab cakes and talked “business.”¬†IMG_5814Walter¬†looks like this laid-back, casual guy who you may not glance twice at. But he runs a non-profit to help kids go to school. When he¬†starts talking I start taking notes. He knows every basketball stat there is, and connections to everyone in the city.

He hints at political “rats”¬†and scandals, of people who are “distractions to the kids who could actually be somethin’ and you guys is the problem! Masquerading like you’re all that. Rats!”¬†He says, “Satan has a team!”

He says that the best don’t always rise – “most of ’em are in the pen.” Kids, he says, need someone to believe in them. And this of course is where strong families come in.

Walter is working on a documentary of his uncle, Sam Jones, who won ten NBA rings for the Celtics Рthe second most EVER in history.

We could have listened to Walter all day, but when he writes his book, we’ll be first in line.

After that we headed to Virginia to meet kids at a school.IMG_5833 I took pictures of the art on the wall Рhow cool is this? It was done by artist-in-resident Stephen Parlato. I was so inspired, again wishing that all kids could get an education with an artist like this.IMG_5834

And then it was time to say adieu to D.C.


We raced to the BMI, stopping to drop off our car rental, take a shuttle, grab some dinner, get through security, shove dinner in mouth, and hop on a plane for an hour and a half. We landed in¬†Manchester NH at midnight and drove an hour home. We were greeted by dear grandmother who had watched our children for two days, played chauffeur, fed darlings, AND kept the house clean. I tell ya, we’ve got it good.

The next morning was a full day at Hogwarts as it was parent’s weekend. I walked around campus with my daughter, thinking of this opportunity she has. Not only is there magic, spells, and arithmetic, there are people who love her, take care of her, encourage her “to rise.”

Fifty years ago the civil rights act was passed, and though we still have problems and society isn’t perfect, we’ve come along way, haven’t we? I’m optimistic for the future. As Walter says, “the best don’t rise unless there’s someone tellin’ ’em what’s up.”


Quick and Tasty After School Snack: Baked Apple Bites

Are you in an afternoon snack funk? For that magical combination of fast, quick, tasty AND healthy?

Check. Baked apples to the rescue!

True, you need an oven, but baked apples are¬†so different than the usual fare, that I was just tickled apple pink at such a quick, healthy, and tasty morsel.DSC_0056¬†Man, I love this season. The apples are in full bloom (are we really into fall?) so it’s time to¬†pick yourself some yum-yum.

Turn the oven on to 400.DSC_0057 Take a knife and cut a circle out of the top

DSC_0058¬†Just like that!DSC_0060¬†Now, darlings, use a melon baller and scoop out the middle, past the seedsDSC_0061¬†It’s surprisingly easy.

DSC_0176¬†Isn’t that pretty?DSC_0179The gorgeous apple! And I love stars. Star was my alias in college. Really ūüôā

DSC_0062 Eat the tops or feed them to the chicken. Or doggie.DSC_0063 There. All scooped out and ready to fill. I suggest putting down foil to prevent dishwashing.DSC_0066 Put a little brown sugar in the center and on the sides. Just a tad. Totally optional.DSC_0067 Add a little cinnamonDSC_0069 Perfect, no?

Now, put in preheated oven for about 15 min.DSC_0084¬†An apple full of love. Isn’t that a perfect heart?

DSC_0096If you accidentally overbake them, no worries, just eat that warm, mushy apple pie right up.

Can you only have these for after school? Heck no! They’re pretty terrific for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even Valentine’s.

Baked Apple Bites:

Preheat oven to 400.

Wash apples, cut off top

Spoon out seeds (scraping sides a little bit), making a little well

Put a teensy bit of brown sugar and cinnamon inside

Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes or so, depending on how crunchy or soft you like to eat baked apples.

I just inherited a bag of apples from my middle school soccer team so I gotta go – baked apples await! And remember, apples contain quercetin: an apple a day, really does keep the doctor away.