Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No Apologies

It seems like once a month I write a post apologizing for not posting more often. Well, this time no apologies. Life is just going at a break neck pace. It's been busy, but not unpleasantly so. I am in the thick of the "mom taxi years." There's dance and drums and scouts and swim. There's yoga for me and PTA and Advisory Councils. Life is full and I am trying to keep up. This past week has been wonderful because I've had no choice but to slow down. I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand the Friday before Christmas. Tonight is my full out typing test run. My fingers tingle but work. So far so good. We went at a steady clip before Christmas: parties and events almost every weekend, frantic cleaning and wrapping, and marathon baking. All that needed to be done was cook Christmas dinner and Rob handled that. We tried very hard to keep it simple this year and it worked out quiet well. The tree looked a little bare with fewer gifts, but no one seemed to suffer. Our newest member, Buffy, seemed to have the most fun. When I watched the video of the girls opening their gifts, you can see a frantic white terrier leaping in the background carrying her new toys from room to room.

Speaking of Buffy: first thing after my hand heals, that stinker is going to obedience school. She is almost 2 years old and carries on like she is 4 months old. She dug out from under the fence the night before my surgery and led Caroline and I on a wild goose chase through the neighborhood. We'd get a few feet away, she'd stop, play bow, and dash off. She manged to escape again on Christmas, this time cutting herself. Yesterday, the little fool dug so hard she broke a nail and then led Rob dashing after her in the mud around and around the yard. She finally willingly went over to our neighbor. Rob's response once we were in the house "Great Buffy, the neighbors already think that we are idiots! Now you made us look like jackasses too!"

OK, I guess everything isn't completely perfect. Perfect is boring anyway!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Of course it has been crazy busy around here. Do I know any other way to live? I thought that after three years teaching first grade, it would be easier, but there are some many new things this year (like an electronic grade book that hates me). October was the month of: broken dishwasher, hot water heater, washing machine, husband traveling to California for a week, mom with a month long sinus infection, teenager dating, dog chewing important things like American Girl Dolls, and six year old just being six. Despite all the chaos and utter exhaustion, I am going to focus on what we are doing right.

I just read a study that said 40% of children from 0-8 have a T.V. in their room and access to a smart phone type device. This is the one time that I can pat myself on the back. Every other study has me feeling like I've invited the Grim Reaper himself to be my girls' god parent. I don't serve all organic food, I let them watch T.V., they eat processed food, and they have very warped and highly inappropiate senses of humor. BUT, they don't have their own T.V.'s or smart phones. Heck, I don't have a smart phone. The dog just chewed the finger off of the expensive AG doll, there is no way any fancy phone if coming into this mill of destruction.

As for the T.V., that's one area where I have taken a firm stand. Sure we're are a processed food eating, movie watching, T.V. watching family, but we do it as a family. No one is going off to be isolated. It is in the den. There is one in the basement and our room, but they are rarely used. I've stopped feeling guilty about T.V. because that is our family togetherness time. And it is a rowdy good time! We love comedies and sit here and laugh together until our eyes water. Then we repeat our favorite lines over and over for the rest of the week (or in Rob's case, the year). We watch nature documentaries and provide our own witty commentary, usually involving poop or gas jokes. We love to watch shows about antique collectors. They usually lead to Rob or I sharing a story about our grandparents.

It has occurred to me that our T.V. is our modern version of the family fireplace. We are around it all together, engaged. Henceforth, I feel no more guilt! As long as we are doing stuff together and having fun, we're good!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Big Problems. Big Thoughts

Wow! Caroline, Rob, and I had the best discussion about this. The irony is that Rob and I have a history of being on opposites of political debates. We are on the same side here. He is even more fired up than I am most likely because he understands the economics better than me. I think from the heart. He thinks from the numbers. Caroline is taking civics this year and is able to really grasp this. Her question: "Why can't those with more give more?" I do wonder how all this will end. There are many disenfranchised people out there. They are overwhelmed and don't know what to do next. How do we fix this? How do we leave a better or at least tolerable world for our children?


I am feeling very frustrated right now. I've only watched a little bit of the news about the Occupy Wall Street Movement, mostly because I don't believe unorganized protests work in the US. Rob and I were talking about it and I said "What they really need is a mission statement." That alone proves that I've been spending too much time using the new educational jargon. That doesn't mean that I don't agree with the overall sentiment. I do more than anyone realizes. I am just frustrated by the people who are adding to the chaos. I don't think people in orange jumpsuits with gorilla masks are going to prove the point. The point is greed. I am so tired of people with power and money taking more and more just because they want it. It makes me understand how the ideas of socialism were first born.

As part of a new school system initiative, my class needs to develop a mission statement. Ours is full of ideas of kindness, sharing, and helpfulness. At what age do we abandon those basic ideas? When do we forget the Golden Rule? I am so tired of some many people's lack of compassion for their fellow man. It seems that as long as "I get mine" anything goes. I used to believe that being a good person was enough. If I do my best and be kind, I would have a good life. I know, I do have a good life, I am married to a wonderful man and have two beautiful daughters. Every night I give thanks for my blessings. It is getting harder and harder to maintain my Pollyanna optimism. I really do hope that things change. honestly, something has to give soon. The tension and the fighting are ridiculous.

I guess the best that I can do is teach my girls to be kind and compassionate. I can try to teach it to my students for the time they are with me. I can keep try to pass on kindness. Maybe it will spread. All I do know is that I can't sit here and be bitter. It is a waste of time. Time is priceless. Not even the CEO of the biggest corporation can buy that.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Street Cred

Well, Caroline and seem to have weathered the worst of the teen "smartassery." She gets grouchy and snaps at me, I suggest she try another tone and refuse to talk to her until she adjusts. This seems to be working for the most part. There are still moments of pure emotional roller coaster when I wish to leave her in the woods to live with the wolves (well sometimes she acts like she was raised by them).

She and I have found common ground in movies, books, and music. She has this new found interest in doing well in school and has declared that she wants to "embrace her nerdy side." Fine with me, she's the funniest and wittiest little nerd that I've ever known. Her best friend is this amazingly sharp and driven young lady who cracks me up. They both take music lessons from the same teacher. One day while we were driving home, we started talking about music. She asked me what music I thought they should listen to and I was off on a role! U2,Greenday, The Clash, The Cure, R.E.M., Elvis Costello, The Beastie Boys, and so on and so on! They were both listening to me like I was a professor and they should be taking notes. I quickly shut up before the acknowledgment went to my head. Later, Caroline asked to borrow my CDs! It seems the era of crappy over processed techno pop is over! I knew that she would come to her own tastes. I won't push my singer song writer stuff on her, but the fact that she appreciates the music of my youth is wonderful (and flattering). Next up, the indie radio station.

We have also managed to have a meeting of the minds regarding movies. We just finished watching the updated version of True Grit. Last weekend we watched The Breakfast Club and she loved it. I was shocked at how well it held up over time. I also couldn't believe that communication between adults authority figures and teens hasn't changed a bit. Now she's all excited to go see 50/50 with me! Yay, an indie film kid!! Of course that will be after she and her friend go see the new Taylor Lautner movie. Caroline is in it for the action, her friend is in it for Taylor's other guns. Oh well, they'll have fun.

Things are looking brighter and brighter! Maybe I am just the tinniest bit of a cool mom. Maybe it's just respect. No matter what it's a bond that I don't see breaking.

P.S. As I write this we are watching a VH1 special about the top bands ever. She is loving all the same stuff as me and so surprised that we like the same music. I'm not. What do you think she listened to as a baby.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


The weekend after our little earthquake we got hit by Hurricane Irene. Luckily for us, it was mostly a bad storm, wind, rain, and no power outage. I written before about how we Simpson's handle big storms. First we reasonably prepare, then we hibernate! Around here in NoVA, people tend to panic at the idea of a weather event. Traffic is snagged, cell service goes down, and the stores are insane (tell me why people need to buy all of the toilet paper, milk, eggs, and bread?). We have learned to "stay calm and carry on."

Rob watched movies, Caroline watched T.V. through the Wii, Lily watched a movie of her own, and I read. I also made the best meatloaf ever. While the wind roared and lashed outside, we were cozy and calm inside. Until.......

Lily came downstairs for dinner. She'd been upstairs playing quietly (rookie parenting mistake, I know). Her eyes were red rimmed and swollen; she looked like she had been beat up. We thought that she had put something on her face and had an allergic reaction. Lily is going through a frustrating lying phase. I am frustrated because I never know the truth, and she is frustrated because she has spent a good part of the summer in time out. We pumped her for info and dragged her from room to room trying to find what she touched. I washed her face with a cool cloth, but it still looked terrible. Finally, I decided to eat dinner. I really couldn't enjoy my meatloaf at all.

After dinner, I decided to give her a shower and lay another cool clothe across her eyes. If it didn't improve, we were going to have to take her to the ER in a tropical storm. As I got the shower ready, I asked her one more time what she touched. She led me to my bathroom and handed it to me: pink lip liner! It washed right off in the shower!

Who needs natural disasters for excitement? We have Hurricane, Typhoon, Tornado, Earthquake, Blizzard Lily!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Well, unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard that Virginia had an earthquake. It was defiantly a new experience for me and honestly one that I wasn't missing. Lily has been at camp every afternoon this week. I took advantage of the "Lily-free" time by scheduling all of Caroline's annual doctors appointments. Caroline was non too happy about this, so I bribed her with Starbucks (also a chance to use up my Starbucks' gift cards).

On Tuesday, we were sitting outside of Starbucks sipping frosty drinks and goofy around before her dentist appointment. All of the sudden the ground started shaking. At first, I thought that it was a truck, then I thought that it was artillery practice from Quantico Marine Core Base. Ladies came running out of the nail salon next door and a bunch of guys dashed out of Starbucks, laptops in hand. Luckily, we had a native Californian sitting outside with us. She calmly told us that it was an earthquake and to just sit still. When it was over, Caroline and I were excited to have experienced something that we never had before, then it sunk in: We just been in an earthquake!! We did what everyone here does in the event of major news and ran to the car to turn on the local news. That's when we heard how big it was. I tried to call my family, but the cell lines were jammed. This prompted a discussion about 9-11. We drove over to the dance studio to check on Lily. She was fine. Everyone we met was excited and wanted to tell their story. The radio announcers kept referring to it as a "shared experience." I'd agree. I was worried that we wouldn't be able to get into the dentist office because it was on the base, but it wasn't a problem.

The rest of this week has been a little stressful. Between aftershocks, thunder storms and the threat of a hurricane this weekend, everyone has been on edge. It has also been hard not to be a little silly about the whole thing and accuse people of over reacting. If you are on the east coast, stay drive and still this weekend. I am hoping that we don't loose power and can use the chance to have another Simpson movie marathon!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Next Generation

I went to an educational leadership workshop last week with my principal and some other teachers. Aside form the fact that I'd thrown my back out two days earlier and was in a ton of pain, it was a wonderful day. I am really jazzed to try science notebooks with my students this year and got tons of tips. But even better than that were the keynote speakers.

The first speaker was an expert in teaching culturally diverse students. That part was interesting, but it wasn't anything that I hadn't heard before. What really piqued my interest, though was her information about the next generation: The Millennials. This generation considers themselves citizens of the world. They don't see race, religion, or culture. They feel connected to the world through the Internet. They are very informed and can get information instantly. They consider their music, movies, books, and television shows to be very important. They are politically aware. My daughter is one of them.

I am sure that I have blogged about the time that I had my girl scouts plan an activity for Lily's Daisy troop. While they were supposed to be planning, all I heard from the den was gossiping, giggling, texting, and music. I went out there expecting to have seen nothing completed. Nope! While all of that was going on, they had created a power point, lesson plan, poster, and CD of related children's music. Their minds work and process in such a different way. Good grief, I'm a dinosaur. Did my parents ever feel this out of touch?

The closing speaker broke my heart. He had survived the shooting at Columbine in 1999, while his sister had not. His family set up an organization in her memory called Rachel's Challenge. Before her death she had written an essay encouraging others to start a "chain reaction of kindness." The organization holds workshops and presentations encouraging people to do the same. The part that really hit me was when he explained that he regretted that the last words that he spoke to his sister were part of a fight. Before I had sat down to watch him speak, I'd checked my voice mail and heard a very long tear filled complaint from Lily (how did she get my number?) about how this babysitter(her older sister) wasn't working out for her and this was not the fun day she'd had in mind and would I come get her. I briefly wondered if this young man would come and speak to my bickering children.

I left the workshop full of hope. Sometimes, I wonder about the next generation. What kind of leaders would they be. I am sure that our parents wondered them same about us and their parents about them. The next generation is defiantly different than we are, but their seems to be an underlying sense of compassion above all else. I love the idea that the racial divide is closing. My children see no color all they see is good person or not so good person.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Well, we went from a no pet household to a small zoo. We now have one sassy rabbit the size of a small dog and two baby turtles in a 50 gallon tank who will live about 20 years and both grow to the size of dinner plates. So what was missing? A dog of course! We will be adopting a medium sized terrier mix this week. She is cream and white with lots of wiry hair. She is 1 year old and very sweet. She needs training, but is a lot of fun. Her name is Buffy, I know it doesn't really seem like our kind of name, but we can't change it. We can, however change our perception of it. She will be formally known as Buffy The Vampire Slayer Simpson in honor of my twilight hating oldest child:) Oh and she'll have a pink collar for our youngest fashionista child (Caroline and I wanted a black collar with studs, but oh well).

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Last week Rob called me with very exciting news. He'd bought tickets for us to go see the Potomac Nationals (our local minor league baseball team). Stephen Strasburg was pitching. For those of you who don't know, he's the pitcher for the Washington Nationals who is currently in rehab. Anyway, this is exciting news for our little suburb! We are all excited and by Friday it's a party atmosphere. The game started at 7:00pm and was completely sold out. I planned to get there at 5:00, stack out our grandstand seats and wait for Rob. The girls and I went to the pool in the morning and by 4:30 were ready to leave and get ready for the game. Caroline took the car keys to unlock and I helped Lily get dressed.

As Lily and I left the pool, we ran into a white faced Caroline holding nothing. Oh man! I knew this was going too well! I thought she'd locked the keys in the car, but remember my kids are unique, instead she'd dropped them down an 8 ft deep sewage drain. There was no need to scold, she felt horrible. After many phone calls and the stellar problem solving skills that I have developed after years of just these sorts of screwy situations, I had a plan.

My wonderful friend came and picked us up. She drove us home and waited while we changed. Luckily, she lives right across the street from the stadium, so she dropped us off on her way home. The stadium was already packed at 5:30! The highlight was the the mascot, Uncle Slam, signed Lily's little stuffed Uncle Slam. She was over the moon. We spent the next hour and a half sitting in the hot sun with some very polite and some not so polite people. Finally the game started. Rob had a ball keeping track of how fast Strasburg was pitching (at one point he threw the ball 99mph). He was finished pitching by the 3rd inning. By that point the beer was flowing and we figured it would be best to leave. Rob and I went home and grabbed a flashlight and the tree trimmers to try to fish the keys out of the drain, but no luck.

The next day we used our best MacGyver skills and tried to get them out with string, magnets, and coat hangers, but still no luck! It rained very hard the rest of the weekend and by Monday they were washed away. The bummer of it all is it will cost $140 to replace the car key. Caroline is going to babysit for us to pay off the cost.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Just What the Doctor Ordered

My mom was right; I have been too busy this summer. I have loved all of the traveling and hustle and bustle, but last week was a glorious break. On Monday and Tuesday, we simply hung close to home. I went to the gym to work out, cleaned up the house, took Lily to swim lessons, went to the pool, and made wonderful dinners. Lily is doing great with her swim lessons; before I know it my swim school drop out will be tearing across the water.

On Wednesday, after swim lessons, I drove the girls to West Virginia to stay with their grandparents for four days. Driving by myself on long trips is not my strong suit. The nice part about trips on my own with the girls is Caroline sits up front and Lily has the back all to herself, therefore no fights! We listened to the first few chapters of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Later, we switched to the kids' station on satellite radio. Even Caroline has started to enjoy listening to it. Kids music has improved so much over the years. Once we got into the mountains, it started to rain. Between the downpours and trucks the ride got a little hairy, but we made it! Rob's sister met us partway so I didn't have to drive all the way out to the farm. On the drive back, there was even more rain and fog. Again, I made it fine (with the help of a sing along to the 50's station). By the time I got home I had been driving for 8 1/2 hours. I was really worried that I'd get lost. I was pretty impressed with myself.

On my first kid free day, I used the time to work on an online class and catch up on my T.V. I watched The Closer, an french film with subtitles, and Food Network. There were no interruptions, no arguments, and no demanding to watch something different. I can't remember the last time I had uninterrupted T.V. time. On the next day I ran countless errands without anyone asking for a snack, a drink, needing to go the bathroom, or trying to change the radio station. I met my friends for lunch. That night Rob and I went

to the movies. We spent Saturday looking at dogs and went out to dinner.

On Sunday, we drove to West Virginia to pick up the girls. Rob commented on what a nice trip it was without yelling in the backseat. On the way we got a flat tire. That was even more manageable without kids.

The girls had a great time and I hope my in laws did too. Of course they bickered all the way home, but it was easy to ignore them when we were so rested.Heck, we even joked about it. Things are back to normal now. Everyone is relaxed and glad to be back together.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yay for Bookworms!

I felt this deserved it's own post. We just got back Caroline's state test results. She passed advanced in History and Reading! She is also reading on a junior/senior in high school level. I was thrilled and proud, but the look on Rob's face when he looked up her reading level: well, it was like she'd just won a trophy! See there is a benefit to all the hours that she spends locked up with her books. He even backed me on my idea to encourage her to read a classic this summer. I'm thinking Jane Eyre. He's thinking it's like training. Will I come home one day and find her with a big thick leather bound book in her lap while Rob shouts motivating platitudes and squirts Gatorade into her mouth? I am so proud of my girl, she worked her tail off this year and shined!

Summer Time and the Living Is......?

I can't quite put my finger on what it is about this summer. It seems to be a summer of discontent. The usual charm is lacking, and me being me, I feel guilty like I am squandering this precious time. The more my girls seem to grow away from me, the more overwhelmed that I feel. This feeling of "Blah" seems to be everywhere, so at least I'm not alone. The produce seems more wilted, the girls seem more grouchy, my husband more restless.

My mother in her simple observation told me "Well you've been doing a lot." In other words, how the heck can you smell the roses when you spend your time cleaning up great messes and taxi-ing people across the sprawling suburbs.

Don't miss read this please. Many wonderful things have happened: a spectacular beach vacation, a long lovely visit from my 16 year old brother, a trip to CT to see the rest of my family, and soon the girls will go to West Virginia. Couple that with scout camp, swim lessons, dance camp, and all of the doctor visits that are scheduled because I have the time off and... maybe, I have just been too busy. I have not been too busy to read which would be the reason that I've longed on. So enough kvetching and on with my real reason to post:

Books! My goal at the beach was to read about a book and day and I succeeded! The rest of the time I have manged about one every two-three days. I must confess that this is pure pleasure reading. I am only going to list my favor ties. I have vowed to stay positive and really don't feel like trashing any books. What if whoever is still reading this loves a book that I didn't? Who am I to say what is good or not? I am trying to be less judgemental and snarky.

At the beginning of the summer I stumbled upon Bubble Reputation by Cathy Pelletier. I loved every minute of it, so much so that I was lonely when it was over. It was my favorite kind of book: a big quirky family with an intellectual side. At the same time I discovered Barbara O'Neal. The librarian smiled and told me I'd like her. Basically, it is chic lit for a certain type of middle aged woman. Every book has a similar format: middle aged heroine who is involved with food in someway (chef, baker), finds romance, and a new dog. The coolest part is there is a recipe on every chapter. The are also racy bits, the kind that my gramma always thought "kept books interesting." The are definitely perfect summer reading for someone like me. Total brain candy. I also read The Goodbye Summer by Patrica Gaffney. It was another character driven novel with lots of quirky characters, this time from a nursing home. I loved it so much, it felt like I'd lost friends when it was over. I also read Raising Jake by Charlie Carillo. Chjarlie Carillo reminds me of Nick Hornby. His characters are flawed, hilarious, and ultimately lovable. On the train to CT, I read Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers. It was a series of fictional note between a mother and her teen daughter. Of course it hit home and made me cry. Is it wrong that I think Caroline should read it and then maybe she'd appreciate me more? While in CT, I unknowingly hit on a streak of novels about reading:) I loved The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble. The book began with a brief summary of each character. I have always wanted that in a book! In college I used to write character summaries and family trees at the beginning of the novels I was reading. My American Lit professor chuckled at my Glass family tree especially. Anyway, each chapter was named after the book the group had read that month. Most of the novel was about the characters' lives, which I enjoyed, but I also loved getting more book ideas. I especially loved that I'd read many of them. My tastes aren't that odd after all. The latest book was Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast by Bill Richardson. It was a very charming and very funny book. The premise is that these brothers have created a bed and breakfast purely for book lovers. This one also had book lists. I guess I am going to have to go back to keeping a book journal so I can keep track of what I am reading and want to read. I have suddenly seen a use for a cell phone with a data plan! I can make book lists while waiting for the girls at their various events! It seems more socially acceptable than reading while waiting, but a poor reason to justify the expense:) Happy reading!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I am trying to hold on to the last bit of childhood that I have left with my girls. It seems like they grow every night. I came upstairs the other night to see Lily's feet hanging off of the bed and thought for a minute that it was Caroline. How did my baby suddenly morph into a kid? She is getting tall and leggy. She lost her first two teeth. The first one she lost over the 4th of July when we were at the beach.

I have figured that the best way to hold on is to time travel. I am going to go back in time and trying to become as like June Cleaver as I possibly can (well June Cleaver with a microwave and DVR). What I mean is we need to slow down and enjoy the simple things. While Caroline was at camp, Lily and I started taking walks. We don't live in the most picturesque area. We live in your typical sprawling suburb. Lily has rediscovered Sesame Street (I love having my morning tea with Lily and Elmo :)) and has this new interest in walking around her neighborhood. She is very put out that we can't walk to the grocery store or library or pool. Beside not being green, we were not "being neighborly." I tried to explain that everything was too far away and finally settled on let's just walk around our block and see what we can see. This reminded her of her favorite song and we were off singing and exploring.

I forget how the smallest things are so thrilling. She was delighted that she could see the flowers along the side of the road, she said hi to all the dogs that were being walked, and she laughed with delight when we got to the main road and the cars whizzed by. We kept this new tradition up even at the beach. We stayed in a gated community in Pawely's Island outside of Myrtle Beach, SC. It was full of bike paths that Lily could easily navigate. Everyday she road her bike to the fountain and raced around it while it splashed her. Then she road to the pond and watched the crabs in the shallow end. We sat by the marsh and watched the herons. She greeted every person walking by and admired their dogs. On the last night we invited Rob. He was tired and not in the mood for meandering. He raced ahead on his bike and missed the things that she thought were the most important. Finally in disgust she declared "Dad doesn't get the humor of all of this. The fun part is seeing all of the humans and talking to them." I don't know what she meant by humor, maybe she mixed it in with human, but I got her point. Slow down and enjoy the moment. I can't ask for more than that.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stage Mom!!

I survived the recital. Actually, I loved every minute of it. Lily had such a good time. I was worried that she'd be shy on stage. She is a ham at home, but very shy in large groups. I even asked her if she felt nervous and she replied "Mooom, I didn't raise my hand for shy!" She really didn't. She got on stage and may not have done every step perfectly, but she was close and most importantly she smiled like she was the queen of the world! I have been waiting to see her confidence match her ability (does that make any sense?).

I was lucky to be stage mom with an awesome group. We were crazy prepared with snacks, entertainment, and of course my "Armageddon bag." Yup, big shocker, they needed it, I had it: band aids, anti itch cream, clear nail polish, tights, hair pins, safety pins..... I am so glad that I was hanging out with other down to earth moms who enjoyed tapping into our inner divas for a short while. I can now rock an awesome bun, tie multiple tap shoes, and change tights rapid fire! I am also capable of saying things like "Lily quit wiggling your loose tooth, you'll mess up your lipstick!" At least I laughed at myself after I said it. I can also take half a dozen wiggling dancers to the bathroom, help them into and out of costumes, and keep them from dancing in the small puddle of water on the bathroom floor without loosing my cool.
Yup, Lily and I are in deep now. I'll be even more ready for next year's recital! We have big plans!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Today was it: dance picture day! The day that I'd been dreading. How much makeup? Can I make a decent bun? Why are my hippy dippy tendencies slowly being swallowed up by my suburban momness? Why do I care? Why do I fight it? It has been suggested that I tend to make simple things complicated and am my own worst enemy. Perhaps.

Friday was the last day of school and I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said it had been one heck of a year. There has been way too much sickness, way too much angst, and an obscene amount of exhaustion on all fronts. Caroline summed it up best "The last month of school it all goes down hill. The house falls apart and we all just try to survive. Then school lets out and you put it all back together." Part of that putting together is a crazy amount of annual doctors appointments. The timing is convenient, the bills all at once are not. We descended upon the eye doctors office en mass; leaving having purchased two pairs of glasses, new lenses, and contacts for Caroline.

Of course with contacts come makeup. I don't mind make up. I wear a little of it and like the way it looks. It hides subtle flaws (bags under my eyes, thin brows) and enhances what I like (almond shaped green eyes and full lips). I am more of a nut about skin care, sunscreen, lotion, face washing every night, I do it all. My great grandmother, Caroline's namesake, was stunning and it was because of her milky skin. I want the same. If she had lived to see me get older, I am sure that she would have taught me her secrets. Instead, I learned from Seventeen magazine and some girlfriends. I have always wanted to teach the girls myself. I want them to avoid that "street walker look" that is favored today and to learn how to enhance what they have. I am kind of excited. After Caroline is used to the contacts (two weeks), I am taking her out to buy what she needs/wants.

It seems like all of this has brought out my inner diva. I woke up early today to get ready for dance pictures at 11:45. I followed all of the advice that I had been given and made a darn good bun. I used enough hair spray and gel to make a Robert Palmer girl blush. Lily really wanted makeup and I plan on using it for the recital, not because I want to be on "Tantrums and Tiarras," but because I know stage lights wash you out. For today, I figured a little blush, clear mascara, and pink lipstick would be fun. She loved it! We got to the studio right on time and no one was there. I checked the schedule and the pictures were at 1:45. In my haste to do it right, I'd messed up the times. Luckily my kids are used to this quirk of mine and we adjusted. The ultimate outcome is I can make a bun that lasts all day. Score!! I can check that worry off of my list of absurd worries.

Lily loved everything about the photo session. I have to say, I have loved meeting the other moms. Yes, there was a touch of stage mom with tutu adjusting and lipstick reapplication or in my case adjusting her leotard to cover her tush. But there was just as much camaraderie. We gathered together waiting our turn, congratulating each other on hair and make up. We joked about trying to scrub off kool aid mustaches, cover rug burns, and finding tights without ripped knees. My friend gave me her extra tickets for the recital, I helped her get her daughter ready when she arrived late. There is an effortless poetry in mothers helping each other. We just know what to do without asking. Someone is always there to hold your toddler or baby for a minute, to dig in her purse for whatever you forgot, or to make you laugh when you feel like the world's worst mother. I have talked a lot about competition between mothers, but I don't say enough about this. It is a beautiful thing.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mother Lion Strikes Again

I picked Lily up from school on Friday with a big red mark/burn?? on her face. The poor girls who run the after school care took one look at my face and quickly informed me that the school said they'd called me. All I could think was "The hell they did! What happened? After everything that Lily has been through this year, they should have called me. and (this is embarrassing) Oh crap, her recital is in 2 weeks and she looks like a prize fighter." All I said was "I'm sure it was a misunderstanding." I charged out to the car and tried to figure out what it was. All Lily could tell me is she was singing and then her face started burning and the nurse gave her ice. I was tired, I'd had a long day and I probably wasn't the most coherent person in the world at that point. I called Rob livid and he decide to come home as soon as possible while I took her to the clinic. I was supposed to be going to my school's dance and babysitting, but was able to call someone to cover for me. Of course after the fact, this sounds so calm and reasonable, I'll leave out the swearing from me, the crying, the fretting, and the accidental butt dialing of my friend as I'm trying to back down the driveway, you know all of the things that make it a classic "Melissa moment."

The nurse had no idea what it could be. She thought that it also looked like a burn and gave me burn cream(which a friend later advised me not to use on her face because it can cause scarring). Rob met us and I guess was expecting to see a flesh eating virus. He was also tired and felt that I'd over reacted. I don't think that fathers feel the same outrage at seeing their children maimed.

I took Caroline to my school dance and was able to see my kiddos. Rob went home with Lily. By the time I got home, he and I were too tired to be civil to each other and the evening didn't end well.

This morning, I couldn't sleep and woke up early. Lily got up with me and I started practicing buns for her recital. I am one of the class moms. Which means I'll be wrangling little girls and fixing torn costumes, ripped tights, and fallen buns. Lily was beyond thrilled with her hair. NoVa might not be truly in the south, but I think my ice tea sipping, big hair loving little girl is on her way to becoming a true southern belle. She looked at her burn and declared "I think it looks like an upside down heart. Let's pretend I got face painted." We also had a hilarious exchange that went like this: "Mom, didn't they teach you to do buns in school?" "My school doesn't teach hair dressing, honey, I teach first grade." "Nooo, Mom, in college!" "They don't teach you how to do hair in college." "Well, why not?!" Nothing keeps Lily down. I REALLY need to take a lesson from her.

PS I know the hair looks more 60's deb than ballerina, but it's a start.

PPS We checked the home voice mail this morning and the nurse had called the house. It was a differnt nurse than who'd I've usually dealt with. I don't know why she thoguth a county employee would have been at home, but anywho, it's all done now.

Friday, May 27, 2011


I am full of little platitudes and mantras that I often quote to myself and others. Honestly, I am a walking Hallmark card and how it hasn't annoyed anyone is beyond me (are ya'll too polite to call me on it?). One day I want to take some of my favorite ones and cross stitch them. It would be even better if I could get my friend to put them into a quilt. I can think of no better testament to the art of motherhood (even funnier if I use the stupid things that I say over and over on a daily basis).

My favorite chant is Breathe. So often, I am so stressed, that I forget to breathe deeply, fill my lugs all the way, give my body, my mind, oxygen. It is amazing how well it works. The other afternoon I was manning yet another insane recess time, trying to simultaneously mediate fights, patch minor boos boos, and watch new jump rope tricks. I paused took a deep breath and smelled... honeysuckles! Unknowingly I softly sighed "Honeysuckles!" One of the little boys tearing past me stopped, sniffed the air in wonder , and broke out into a huge grin. "I smell them too. Where are they?" I pointed them out and he continued charging past me, but for a moment he and I shared a moment of peace. That has been so rare.

Ironically, one of the most important people in my life has had such a hard time breathing even shallowly. My poor Lily has been miserable with allergies and asthma. All of her life doctors have been guessing at what in the world causes her such distress. We medicate, she hacks, we pound her back she hacks, we prop her up, she hacks, I don't sleep, she hacks. Currently she is on Calritin once a day, Veramist twice, Patanase twice, Advair twice, and rescue inhaler as needed. This week was the worst. The school called me twice at work. She wasn't able to stop coughing even with the inhaler. These are the times that being a teacher is the worst, I am torn in two directions, switching Mommy hat and teacher hat, loving all my kiddos, hating to leave any of them. Finally, Rob was able to take her to the doctor and they gave her a nebulizer. So far so good. This summer, once she clears up, the allergist is going to do a full battery of tests to figure out exactly what she is allergic to. We don't want to keep her on all of this medicine any longer than necessary. Meanwhile we are all tryign to slow down and breathe.

Monday, May 23, 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons

Well, it pretty much same old same old around here. Allergy season, spring colds, two over worked parents, one anxious and moody teenager, Lily, and a rabbit. Yup, Caroline got her rabbit. We adopted a rabbit from the pound. Of course, being us we managed to find a "teen bunny with a sassy attitude." While romping upstairs, she likes to stop every once in awhile and thump the ground. Is this the bunny way of giving me the "paw?" She also likes to make her hutch as messy as possible. This prompted us to move her from Caroline's room to the playroom. Dirty clothes and books all over the floor is bad enough, but add rabbit shredding and well you get the picture.

Last week was probably the longest week of this spring. It is testing season in VA and with that comes stress and crazy schedules. Last week I came home after a very long day of switched schedule and lunch with my kiddos. I had a nasty cold and truly just wanted a break from children. I believe the exact quote as I stumbled through the door hacking and snorting was "I have been with kids all day. I really need a break." What Lily heard was "Please try to fill the giant cup left from Mommy's maternity stay in the hospital with as much lemonade as you can. Do this while standing on tip toe. Make sure to flood the counter (especially the spot with the bills and Mommy's To Do list). As the counter floods jump away so the lemonade can cascade down to the floor and create a "Club Med" for the sugar ants that have taken refuge in the kitchen." Can you guess what lily heard in response to this? Needless to say it was said with much snuffling and nose blowing and accompanied by a couple of lines beginning with "Is it too much to ask..." and "All I really want is....."

The true irony? All this happened while I was on my upstairs to take a long hot relaxing shower with my new lemon sugar scrub.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Navigating a Minefield

Parenting a teenager in this day and age is so very difficult. Most days I really don't feel at all equipped. Especially when you take into account that when I was a teen I was shy and stuck in a time warp. Think a Lousia May Allcott/Sandra Dee hybrid. If I didn't experience a normal teen life in the 80's, how in the world can I help Caroline through the here and now?

I guess, I just do my best and try not to take anything personally. It is hard when I feel like there are so few parts of my daily life where I am not being attacked or having unreasonable demands made upon me.

I am so glad that at least I am not charging through this field alone, I have Rob. Every once in a while though, I need to escape to the time when I was semi-normal or at least felt comfortable with who I was. A time when I had hope and optimism and really had no idea what true exhaustion was. I time travel to the 90's. I was still fairly alone, but I had best friends like Salinger and Faulkner. I listened to amazing music (still do!) like David Bowie, U2, REM, The Ramones, and The Clash. I had my own style of flowy gypsy skirts with Chucks and the most awesome patched jean jacket. I wanted to change the world and had an idea of how to do it. I had no idea how overwhelming a task that truly is.

I get together with my "pre-kid" friends a couple of times a year. They know me as myself, not just a mother. We have traveled to adulthood together. I can clearly look back and remember the moments when we crossed over together: marriage, houses, pets, births, deaths. That was my journey. I had/have amazing people to share it with me. It created me. All of it was important: the good and the bad. I need to let my girls take their journey. I can be the GPS (look at me moving into the 21st century), but they might not always follow. I can't force them, although I wish that I could. I would save them the heartbreak. But then again, how do you know joy, if you've never felt heartbreak?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On a Lighter Note

I have discovered how to change the background on this puppy. Watch out guys; it's time for me to flex my creative muscles:)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mixed Emotions

"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

Martin Luther King Jr.

I don't for a minute condone the acts of 9/11. I live outside of Washington, D.C. I will never forget the horror of that day. I just can't see how our nation dancing in the streets over a death is any better than other nations doing the same. I am very torn over this. I have a terrible feeling that more violence is yet to come. I also have a glimmer of hope, maybe it is the first grade teacher in me. I do think that the young people around the world are looking for better answers, better lives. Look at Egypt. We are not born hating. We are not born knowing that one race or culture is different from another. I see this first hand daily. I have a class of children from nine different countries, they speak seven different languages, they are followers of at least four different religions, yet they are united in one common goal: to play and to outwit the woman (that would be me) who tries to keep them from playing all day long:) They don't see color. That is why I choose to raise my children here. Caroline and Lily really don't see color or religion. All they see is friend/not friend, mean person/kind person. Maybe that is the way our future is headed. I doubt it, soon enough some dumb adult will come along and teach them all that they are different. Their belief system is the only right way and by default all others are wrong. As these thoughts weigh on my head, I go about my comfortably normal life. I argue with Caroline about homework, I cook dinner, I con Lily into eating "one more bite," I do laundry, I play spider solitaire, and I go to bed with this thought "I am so blessed, I am so blessed."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Simplicity of Spring

We went to Rob's parent's farm in West VA over Easter weekend. We had so much fun! They have a calf that they are bottle feeding and their neighbors have four baby goats that they are also bottle feeding. As a child, I spent my summers on my great grandfather's farm in West VA. Sitting in the barn on a haystack with baby goats climbing all over me brought me right back there. I am so glad that the girls get to have these experiences. They got to help feed the goats and calf, ride in the back of the pick up, ride on the ATV, and wade in the creek. Caroline even got to drive! It was a very nice end to spring break.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Worry Wart

Funny thing, I was looking up the correct spelling for worry wart and came up with worry guts as a synonym. That about sums it up. I worry, my stomach hurts, I don't eat, I worry and so on. I can't for the life of me figure out what on Earth I am so overwhelmed about. At 2 am I am plagued with lists: things to do, thing not done soon enough, things not done well enough. I think I spent so much of this winter in a sense of hyper alert, that my body is just on worry auto drive. It stinks because it is irrational, it is ridiculous, and yet I cannot stop. Here it is spring break, my time to relax and what do I do? I fret, I don't sleep, I'm back to being able to only keep cookies and crackers down. Oh good grief! I do have some valid worries, but they are so out of my hands. I kid myself by thinking shear determination and wishing on my part will change things. I also have turned into a bit of a maternal bully. If my family won't do what's best, I will bully until they cave. I hate myself like this. I am no fun and enjoy nothing.

What is the chief worry you wonder? Damn SOL tests. Caroline is right on the border of failing the math one again. If this happens, she looses band next year in order to receive remediation. No flexibility or creative thinking on the part of the school system. My amazing daughter is simply a statistic. It is enough to make me want to scream at the school. Of course, I don't. I also don't let her know what a crummy system this is. All that would do is give her permission to quit. I've been told that she'll get it together if she wants it bad enough. How does she know what she wants? I don't let my six year old choose her dinner (she'd pick ice cream) and I won't let my 13 year old decide her entire educational path. She's not informed, she's too young. Other's think it isn't a big deal. Things are different now. Her diploma path is decide this minute. I've also had other parents tell me they'd rather their super bright children had Caroline's work ethic (she really is a very hard worker). Oh yeah? Your kid might decide not to turn in work and fail classes, but all that matters is if they can pass that stupid test. Which of course they can. All of this has made my poor girl feel like she isn't smart. My goodness of course she is. She is kind and loving and insightful (although along with this goes naive). She just doesn't take tests well. She needs a different approach. One is not available.

I don't really blame her teachers. I understand the boat they are in. Teacher refer to it as the era of extreme accountability. Teachers have no choice they need to work within the system. I could go on, but honestly, I am loathe to mention anything about education without worrying (there it is again) about getting in trouble. I love my job and I respect teachers. I think those in the trenches of both education and medicine have it really tough these days. We know what is best, yet our hands are tied. Do we jump ship? I don't. I choose to stay and try to create change within. However, I don't work at Caroline's school. I can't follow her to class and make sure she has the best possible learning environment. Even if I could I wouldn't, I'm not that far gone. I believe in public education. So what do I do? I hire a tutor and bribe her with a shopping spree if she practices math everyday on the computer. I also pray. I am not profoundly religious, but I believe in a higher power. I know that if I have done all I can, I need to turn the rest over. I need to have faith. Faith is hard to have when you want complete control. I know how silly this seems in light of larger world problems, but my kids are my world. Getting the best for them is why I am here. It is my only real purpose.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On Motherhood

Things are really so much better now, just very, very busy. I just don't seem to have enough time to wear all of my hats: teacher, mother, wife. I am looking forward to this summer when I can be the kind of mother I want to be; when I can be the person that I want to be. I can read, go to yoga, garden, and blog. I came up with an idea as I was cleaning up vomit from the latest round of Simpson family illness. There needs to be a dance club for mothers. A place where we can cut loose and be with others who understand how hard this job is; others who can understand just how hard it is to be torn in so many different directions. How often do we get to dance nowadays? Probably only at weddings. I don't regret my choices. I love teaching and I love my family. I know this stage in life is so short.


Caroline seems to be in the thick of teendom. A couple of weeks ago, we had a heated discussion about how she could improve her grades. We spent the day snarling at each other. By the time evening rolled around, it was time to go meet my mother for a concert.My mom wanted Caroline to come see her friend's band play. She wanted Caroline to see the drummer, especially. At that point the last thing I wanted to do was spend 1 1/2 hours in the car with Caroline and her ever changing emotions jumping around the car. I didn't want to disappoint my mom, so we went. Big surprise Caroline pinged all over the car, laughing one minute, grumbling the next, changing the station, generally driving me crazy. All that I could think is that I was dragging my cranky pop music loving daughter to a folk concert. It turned out to be an amazing concert. I was expecting my mom's friend to play the hand drums. Instead she played with a full drum kit! She played with such force and passion, they had to put a plastic barrier around her. Caroline smiled and was thrilled. During the intermission, we met her daughter. Her daughter has a developmental disability. She was delighted to meet Caroline. She wanted to talk with Caroline about music, she loves Justin Beiber, Caroline not so much, but she went gamely along. At first Caroline seemed to feel awkward, but I tried to steer the conversation to common interests like T.V. They found common ground on their own. Her daughter started complaining about her mother, and sure enough Caroline jumps in with an "I know right?" I guess their are no boundaries when it comes to being annoyed by your mother.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Signs of Life, Signs of Hope

I am looking out my window and see buds on the trees. I am still sad that the coziness of winter is over, but seeing how this winter bit us in the butt and wasn't really cozy at all, maybe a change is in order. So much of what has gone on this winter has effected me, but not been my direct experience. I am an over-sharer, over-talker. My life is an open book of sorts. The problem is my husband and daughter do not wish that their lives be such an open book. Rob chastised me for sharing his life with so many people. I explained that it was hard to consider it just his life when it effected us so much. Anyway, without over sharing, he went to many doctors last week and seems to be on the right track. He has many more doctors appointments coming up, but they are all for monitoring and things seem to be on track.

I'm still running on a lot of built up adrenaline, but am slowly coming down and getting back to normal. Today, Rob and Caroline are at a Mason game and I'm just handing out with Lily. She's going to help me clean and then we'll work on some craft projects. I am woefully behind on school stuff so this is the day for that, too. My cousin, Ellen is visiting next weekend. The girls and I can't wait. We need some fun around here. Well, it hasn't all been that horrible. I've saved up some good stories that I'll post after I have cleaned and graded.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough....

the tough organize. We had a snow day today and I used it to get things in order. I took Lily to the doctor for the hacking cough, which turns out to be an ear infection and sinus infection. I called numerous doctors. Caroline now has various teen type doctor appointments over spring break (dermatologist and orthodontist). Rob has an entire day of doctor appt on March 2nd. Keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Her Whole World in Her Hands

I used to love to go to Sunday school when I was little and sing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." I loved to picture all the brothers and the sisters, and little bitty babies being held safely in a pair of giant loving hands. I had a green chair at my Gramma's that was shaped like a cupped hand. I imagined it was a lot like that.

These days, I feel like I am holding my small world in my hands. There isn't enough room and I am trying desperately not to drop anyone. For every proud happy moments, I have two heartbreaks. I realize it will get better, but right now, I am so tired and so overwhelmed.

My class is doing better. We are reaching the point in the year when most of them have learned some level of independence. I am still under crazy pressure to get everyone on grade level, but I've decided to keep trying, continue what I am doing with some tweaks, and try not to worry too much.

Caroline has ups and downs. She is working her tail off in school. I don't know many 12 year olds who would by choice work on projects over the weekend in order to not feel rushed during the week. She is still struggling in math. I am so worried that she won't pass her state assessment, which means she'll have to miss half a year of band next year in order to attend remediation. After a few sleepless nights, I decided to hire a tutor for her. It was the best decision. First of all, it gave me a feeling of being able to control an uncontrollable situation. Secondly, it will take some pressure off of Caroline. She is very aware of Rob's health now and I can see the stress of it wearing on her.

Now on to Rob, he aggravates me because to explain everything that is going on with him invades his privacy and worries his father (my chief reader). At this point, though Rob and I so entwined, there is no separating us. When he is feeling bad, I fell bad, when he doesn't sleep, I don't sleep. The more stressed he is, the more I worry, the more i have to pick up the slack. I am running a one man show here and it really can't last much longer. The fact is I am getting older. I am tired and when I am tired, I get impatient, overwhelmed, rundown, sick. I move through my days slowly and deliberately. I know when I'm like this it is so easy to screw things up. My coping is to go slow and steady, check each thing off, make it all work. I have a constant inner dialogue of need to dos and trouble shooting. This dialogue is so loud that I can't function with the normal chaos of my house. I can't cook and do homework and laundry all at once. I fake it and it looks like I am. One night as I was making chili for the school cook off and pizza for dinner and getting ready for girl scouts and laundry and dishes, Caroline remarked that I am able to get more done in one night than most stay at home mothers do in a day. At first I was honored, but do I want to raise my daughters to think that being a woman is working yourself to the point of distracted, disconnected exhaustion? Is being a woman about constantly worrying that everything around you can collapse in a minute?

I have a handle on this, for now. I am sitting my husband down and having what my southern friend calls a "Come to Jesus Meeting." I am making a plan of attack and this is coming under control. It has to. For Caroline and Lily's sakes. He'll think I am a busy body, bossy, pain in the ass, but maybe that what being a woman is about. It's about loving those in your hands.

PS Bob, don't worry. I doubt he's told you how stressed he is because he's the master of denial. Please don't call him on it. He'll be beyond angry that I even mentioned it here. I just need to vent. Don't worry, I've got it!

PPS Lighter posts soon, I promise!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Conspiracy Theory

Rob was gone for part of last weekend. I have always thought that when he's gone, the "fates" in my life get together and have a "planning" meeting. I imagine last week's conversation went something like this:

"Ok, ok settle down. Let's here from all parts of Melissa's life. First let's hear from Appliances. I know it's neck and neck between the hot water heater and fridge. Who wants to break this weekend?"

"I vote fridge. It'll be a riot to watch Melissa try to move the fridge out from the wall without swearing. There's also the frustration of the lost food."

"Next let's hear from Health. Which kid should get sick this weekend?"

"Let's switch it up this time. Melissa's had laryngitis all week. How about we amp it up to sinus infection with gross eye gunk?"


"Let's hear form Events. Is there anything she can forget and have to rush to at the last minute?"

"Absolutely! Girl Scout cookie pick up is Friday night. It'd be great if she forgot and had to rush back out with the kids in the cold. There's also a trip to Target for a birthday gift for Lily's friend and supplies for Lily's party next week. Don't forget the 2:00 bowling party for Lily's friend. There's also the 10:45 pm drop off for Caroline's laser tag all nighter. I do feel a little cheated, Melissa was supposed to be a chaperon and Rob was coming home early, but she thought she was too sick, so she found another parent to go in her place."

"See there is a benefit to these little exercises of ours. She gets better and better at juggling and looking for pitfalls."

"Let's hear from Household Management."

"Well, there's the usual: laundry, house to clean, groceries, lesson plans, and kids projects. Hey, did you know Sunday if the Super Bowl?"

"Rob and Caroline should be pretty involved in that, huh? Not much time for dishes and laundry."

"Wait a minute! Look over there in the kitchen! There she is. What is she doing? She has two list going. one with dates and times, one with list of items needed. Wait what's on the counter? Tea? Advil? Mucinex?"

"Do you think she's onto us?"

"Well, we'll have to try harder next time!"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Space in the Days

It is strange how the lose of one little creature leaves such a hole in your life. For fourteen years I have spent so much of my day tending to Callie. Now I no longer have a need to open the door a dozen times a day to let her in or out. I don't have to stand on the deck freezing in my pjs hissing "Get in here now!" No longer do I have to stumble out of bed every morning to let her out and fix her bowl of stinky dog food. When I lay down for a nap, there is no Frito smelling fur ball curled up beside me. In the middle of the night I miss the sound of soft snoring, sighs, or stretching groans. I keep listen for the jingle of her collar and the click click of her nails on the kitchen floor. I even miss tripping over her because she's sitting right outside the bathroom door waiting for me.

It has been a strange mourning period. We have had three snow days this week and have been stuck at home. In someways it has forced me to deal with life without her, it has given me time to heal. But in other ways, the lack of routine has given me too much time in my head which is never good. There is a reason why I stay so busy. When I think too much I get sad. When I'm busy, I don't think. You do the math.

All of this does not bode well for empty nest syndrome. If the lose of one little (all be it amazing) dog leaves me feeling like this, what will I do without kids someday? I regret all the times I've said if only I have more time, I could do this and this and this. I guess the truth is when I have time, I don't feel like doing any of it. Cherish your busy life, really.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Furry Baby

Most people get their first "practice baby" (read dog) a year before they have the baby. Rob and I got ours the very day we found out we were going to have the human baby. On August 20, 1997, Rob and a very nauseous me went to the pound to "look" at dogs. No leash, no plan, just us. We left with a hyper terrier mix on a 20 foot rope. As we drove down the highway, our new dog leapt over the seat and landed in Rob's lap and proceeded to madly lick his face as he tried to navigate the road. We went home to find a smaller rope so we could take her to the pet store and outfit her with the necessary items. In my excitement to leave, I shut the door and locked us out of our new home. It didn't matter, we were so excited. After breaking into our house, getting the keys, and going to the store, we came home and took a pregnancy test. The rest is history.

Callie was the best little dog, even at her naughtiest. She ran away, stole socks, ate dirty diapers, and loved Caroline's ducky booties. She led us through a cornfield chase, the stalks shaking like something out of a slasher flick, but instead of running away, we were running to a very small, agile, stubborn dog. She got to ride up front and hang out the window. She kept Caroline company after school and chilled with me on the nights that I couldn't sleep. She was a true diva. We joked that if Callie could talk, she speak of herself in the first person. She refused to sit or lay on cold hard floor. She perfected the pose "pretty dog" head cocked, one paw up, waiting for a treat. She learned how to carry her dish to us when she was hungry. She could also bark like a maniac, especially when there was a sleeping baby.

Today, we had to put her to sleep. She developed cancer and internal bleeding very suddenly. We decided to let her go with dignity. Callie will be missed, but never forgotten. She helped us start our family. We love you, Callie Bo Ballie!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

After my glowing post about the evolution of our family, I don't want people to get the impression that we are dancing around here putting flowers in our hair to the dulcimer sounds of acoustic guitar. No it's the same craziness as always with a new wrinkle: teenage girl.

I try to keep Caroline out of my blog to keep her privacy, but I feel it is my duty to warn other mother of young girls what is coming their way. I feel like I should have gone to "mother of a teenager boot camp." I never know from one moment to the next what version of my child I am going to get. Rob and I have always jokingly (to ourselves) referred to Caroline as Sybil. If you don't like this mood/personality, just wait a minute, another will come along. Caroline has tagged me as public enemy number one. Especially when it comes to homework. Getting through it is like WWIII. I see her point, some of it is total BS, but what better training for adulthood? The thing that blows my mind is teachers have made reading the text book optional. Seriously? We are raising such a generation of factoid junkies. Awesome, these kids will be able to win on Jeopardy, but write, make a plan, problem solve, have a conversation? No way.

Being the uber nerd that I am, I want her to read the text book and highlight her notes. That goes over like a lead balloon. The conversation goes something like this: me "Do it." Caroline "I don't wanna." me "Tough." Caroline: "No!" me "Yes!" and the yes-no back and forth goes on for an hour. Finally she caves and does it. She is a tear stained mess, I am soaked in sweat with a killer headache. There is no victory here. I just keep reminding myself that motherhood isn't for wimps.

I really just want to stand on tiptoe and and take my giant baby into my arms. I know she is navigating a minefield right now. There's the social aspect of trying to figure out all the hidden meaning in every teen conversation, there's the worry about making a fool of herself, and there's the fact that everyday her body has a mind of it's own. She is like a gangly giraffe, tripping over thin air. We have tried to give her the tools she needs: self confidence, humor, pop music, Ugg knock offs...

I live for the glimmers into her future. The things that let me know she is going to grow up into a confident young lady. When we aren't arguing, there is this sweet tentative friendship. We watch the same TV shows and movies now. We trade good books. She can give me an honest opinion about my clothes and I can choose to ignore said opinions (what is wrong with my purple fuzzy hat?). This weekend we watched Fantastic Mr. Fox and she loved it. She snickered like a true smart ass and we've been going around saying "What the cus?!" I have raised a kid who can appreciate Wes Anderson! Take that soccer moms! I wonder if she is ready for The Royal Tenenbaums? I really don't want to repeat the "it's too early for Moulin Rouge fiasco" of two years ago.
I am ready to boldly escort her into this brave new world. I might be by her side, I might be behind her prodding, but I will be there all the way (with Excedrin and chocolate).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crystal Ball

Tonight I caught a glimpse into the future, and it filled my stomach with dread while at the same time my heart soared. I dropped Caroline off at the high school early before her concert. As I watched her walk into the school, so tall and confident, all the while hiding a stomach full of butterflies, I realized that I really am on borrowed time. I have given her what she needs and she is making it. She might not be following the path the way I would (more on that later), but she is surviving. Watching her on stage, ponytail twitching like a little squirrel, I couldn't be prouder. I am so glad that we have supported her and let her choose her own passions. Keep on going drummer girl.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Things around here are changing, yet staying the same all at once. There is still frequent sickness, never ending mess, and large amounts of "smartassery." At the same time there seems to be this gentle settling. The four of us are at turning points in our lives, slowly turning into whoever we will be next.

Caroline is slowly finding her way to whatever path she will choose in life. She alternates between gleefully leaping there to fighting it for all she is worth. Within a ten minute time frame we encounter Caroline the young woman who quickly reverts back to her toddler self. I get flash backs to the child who made me question if I was even cut out to be a parent, the one I chased and wrestled, and tried so hard not to strangle. At those moments I look at Rob and mouth "WTH?" Yet today, when I was home with her (strep), she started showing signs of self control. She snapped at me and quickly corrected herself, "I didn't realize how that would sound, I'm sorry." Oh sweet joy! That acknowledgement is worth more than gold. It is the sweetest present ever. I know it is short lived and that when I sit down to study science with her tomorrow, I will emerge downstairs shaking and soaked in sweat like a prison torturer after a particularly hard job. But today, I will hold onto that small triumph.

I watched The Lovely Bones with her today. The book is one of the most hauntingly beautiful things that I have ever read. I have heard that the movie had been changed and sweetened losing the true feeling of the book, but was still curious. Everything I'd read about it lead me to believe it would be ok for her. It was and she loved it. If you haven't read it, you must before you see the movie and skip down to the next paragraph, so I don't ruin it. There was always one part of the book that annoyed me. The murdered girls possesses another girl to get her first kiss from the boy she liked before she was killed. Now I know why it was in the book and why it was important. In the movie, as she kissed him, I heard the smallest sigh from Caroline. She understood. The character was on the brink of becoming, just like her. Only instead of moving forward, she was frozen in time. The kiss let her move just a little bit forward.

Now onto Rob. It is no secret how much I adore and am annoyed by my husband. He and I seem to have spent many years orbiting in separate solar systems, joining together to solve family and household tasks. Lately, we seem to have found a common system. It started with running errands together and using that time to joke and chat and remember why we ended up together in the first place. Next week it is my 40th birthday. Rob wanted to do something special for me, so he took me to Berkley Springs, West Virginia to a bed and breakfast. We spent two days walking around poking in art shops and antique stores. We have lovely quiet meals and saw a movie. It was so nice and so comfortable. We swapped memories of our grandparents as we looked at antiques. He seemed truly interested in how different pottery was made and how different artists created their pieces. I told him that I have a vision of how we will be after the children are grown. I used to think that we'd have nothing to talk about after they have moved on. Now I know we can exist on our own together as more than just Mom and Dad.

And Lily? Lily is getting more grown up everyday. She is still willful, although it is usually the result of boredom or curiosity. She is learning so much everyday. She writes everyday in a journal carefully sounding out words. She dances for me and tells me the name of each step. She watches antique shows with Rob and tries to guess how much each thing is worth. She still loves and cares for her babies, showing them love that she never shows her sister. Lily is a frustrating marvel.

I am finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. We are leaving diapers, sleepless nights, and babyhood behind. We are growing up.