Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's MINE.

The girls are 7 now. I really would have thought that, having reached this age in development that we would be blessedly passed certain, shall we say, undesirable behaviors.

It would seem not.

Given two toys, which are exactly the same in every single way, these two will fight like gladiators.

"She took mine!" Ashlyn growls.

"No. It's MINE!" screeches Caedance at a tremendously high pitch.

("Girls, please let's not fight over the doll. You both have the same one.")

"Give it to me. Now." Ashlyn is sneering now; lip curled, eyebrows furrowed, stance widened and ready for attack.

"It's mine, sister." Caedance straightens herself up to her full height, which currently falls just 1/4 inch shorter than Ashlyn. Chest out. Shoulders back. Poised to intimidate.

("Girls. You are fighting over two dolls that are exactly the same. If you must fight, choose something that at least makes sense. This doesn't make any at all.")

Did I mention the toys in question are identical? I'm not stupid, you know. I know better than to order or purchase two different anythings right now. Nope. These two Peach Dolls (from Mario Brothers) are the same. Twins, you might laughingly say.

But I dare not laugh. No I do not. I am watching the epic battle gearing up in front of me. Who will win? Will it be the curly headed one with the snarl. Or perhaps the curly headed one striking the pose?

Really. It's the SAME toy.

I could sit back and let them settle this. Duke it out. Swat at each other till it's all done. Maybe bite. I don't honestly know what exactly they would do.

I do know that they are 7 years old and I had really hoped we'd be somewhat past this incredibly banal stage of Mine-No-Mine. But I was wrong. So I shall settle the mess in the only way I have patience for in this exact moment in time.

I swoop in to the battleground, firmly planting myself between the troops. Ashyn is still stooped with the snarl on her face. Caedance is still taking the walled approach. Both are emitting some strange growling sound, although Caedance's is much higher and whinier. In one mighty motion I reach forth and sweep both Peach dolls from their grasps, swooshing them up and out of sight.
Both girls drop the snarls and look at me in disbelief.

Perhaps they thought Peach had grown magic and flown away.

Perhaps, with their prey out of sight, the predator forgot what the fight was about.

Perhaps they were just stunned for a moment to have mom intervene.

But I did.

("Peach will be going away now, my cherubs. Both of them. Like your mother, they tire of the fighting. Especially since, like me, they have no clue what exactly you're fighting about. They agree that they are EXACTLY the same. So they are off to a land where children don't fight over them and will return, perhaps, some other day.")

Goodbye, Peach. It's been real.....well...loud having your here.

So now the Peach dolls sit and wait.

We'll try it again another day.

Really, they are honestly the same doll. How do they even KNOW which one they've got?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Away For The Night

The girls are up in bed.  They call it being "Put Away For The Night". It's an odd title for certain, one come up with on some long ago nightly trek up the stairs. I can't remember how long ago now.

There must have been that last sippy; older still, perhaps a last bottle. Surely there would have been the last trip to the bathroom to brush teeth, etc, etc. Most definitely one final story. Followed eventually by the Okay-This-Is-Absolutely-The-Last-Book-Do-You-Understand-'Cause-I-Mean-It-This-Time-I-Really-Do story. And of course the last call for hugs all around. Everyone involved in this no-holds-barred tangle of family that is and always has been our Night Time Hugs. One last round of "Good Night" and "Sweet Dream" wishes all around.

During one of those countless and precious evenings, it was titled "Putting The Girls Away For The Night". And it has stuck. In some off beat way, it has become our family vernacular for nighttime.

Highly progressed from the days of yore, the days when The Routine took nearly an hour and had to be very dutifully adhered to under threat of non-compliance by our munchkins. The processional of today is a streamlined version, everything abbreviated and shortened. Except for the hug; that still remains the raucous family event of its ancestor.

 When the announcement heralds "Time to put the girls away for the night!" 4 feet march to the kitchen for that last slosh of water; 4 feet go marching loudly up the stairs to the bathroom; 2 feet go bounding into the bottom bed while the other set prefers to creep quietly to the top bunk. There is the round of "Good Nights". The sweet sounds of "Sleep Tights". The story. The last story. The Really Last Story.

All quickened. Deviations from the procedure go forgiven now. An oversight in the production go forgotten.  It's a different time. Different children in some ways.

But it's still the same title. The same name.

Putting The Children Away For The Night.

I smile at that. So much changes as they grow up. So many things learned and altered. Even amongst the complexities and completeness of those changes, some of the most basic things stay the same.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Choices, choices, choices.

I had the strangest thought today. It popped into my head at some odd moment or another, lodged itself in there, and refused to leave. Ever have that? You just can't seem to shake it. For better or for worse, it stays with you for the rest of your day. For me, it ruminates in the old gray matter, stewing until I sit down and give it free run of the place, through my fingers and onto this page.

My mental fixation today, 2 days after Christmas, has been the paths I've taken (or not taken), and choices I've made (or didn't make, if that were the case). And how those actions shaped me into who I see in the mirror today. Pretty heavy stuff, huh? I'm not really one to focus on existential thoughts of being who I am versus becoming who I am meant to be. I leave those gems for the philosophers, and quite frankly I just don't have the patience for it.

But every once in awhile I can't help but wonder......

I was just 2 easy classes and an added Praxis away from getting my Kindergarten certification. Did you know that? At the time I really didn't think having that additional certification was necessary. First through the Eighth grades was plenty. And yet.....and yet when I got out into the world of education, starting off as a very busy substitute teacher, I spent most of my time where? Ah yes, in Kindergarten classrooms. Which I adored, by the way. And when the position I had been subbing opened up, could I be considered for it? Alas, no. Because of 2 short classes and a test.

Would I be a stay at home mom now if I had taken a different path then?

Then too there is the question of my husband. We met at a summer church camp. I attended the church, but he didn't. Yet we both made choices to work there. That summer. Our paths hardly ever crossed, our circles spinning very distinctly in different directions. He spending his every single hour with his duties as a camp counselor, and me in the roasting heat of the kitchen. And yet.......and yet by the end of that summer we were dating, and just months from that we were engaged. What if one or both of us hadn't decided to work there? I am a self-described home body who never had any desire to leave home or strike out on my own. Besides that, I was miserable on the few occasions when I actually attended said camp as a camper myself. What on earth made me think I wanted to work there all summer?

Would I be who I am today if I hadn't? Would Dan and I have still met, somehow?

These are just 2 of the millions of choices I've made. Any of us, all of us, have made millions of decisions just like this, and they each shape our lives in some way. Stay or go? Left or right? Here or there? Yes or no? Every day is an onslaught of This or That choices that we make whether we're aware of making them or not. And I think they all have some impact on us, or those around us. And it's all too easy to sit back afterward and wonder if it had all been done differently, would the outcome still be the same.

Some people look at all this as so many random occurrences. A whole lot of nothings that may possibly add up to a monumental something. But it's all random. Or is it?

I feels things quite differently. When I look back to those moments where I was conscious of having a real choice to make--a yes or no---I can honestly say that I have felt led to make whichever choice I did. I've never felt alone. Never felt like I was the victim of some random act of who knows what.

Each choice, for better or for worse, was the one I was supposed to make.
Thinking back to those 2 classes and a test, I remember that last semester of course planning. I remember seeing the titles of the classes in question and seeing that they fit into my rather easy (for once) schedule that Spring. I had them both on my list. I almost registered for them. But it didn't feel right. I can't explain it any other way than that. It wouldn't have been right for me to take those classes, and I knew it. So no classes, no extra Praxis, no Kindergarten certification.

And that's okay.

Same thing with my husband of 13 lovely years. Time may be speeding away, but for some odd reason I still remember applying for that camp job. (I can't remember what I made for dinner last night, or what color my socks are without checking, but I can quite vividly remember that. Go figure.) I can still feel that sense of anxiety over the prospect of being away from home and the uncertainty of how that would be. All those nagging little worries that went along with that choice to submit that application. But it felt right. It was the right thing for me to do. And so I did. And you know what? I think it was quite right for me. (Somehow I think Dan would agree with me on that point.)

For me, things aren't random. I truly feel in the deepest parts of my very being that God has led me down a path. This path. It's not always the easiest path. There are bumps and stumbles along the way. There are the times, like today, when I mentally wonder about all of those countless little and big choices I've faced. They've made me who I am. Who I am right now.

And that's okay. I see myself quite clearly. I am at this place as the result of a million or more choices and daily decisions, but I wasn't alone in making them. Never once. I know that beyond a doubt.

In fact, at this exact moment my beloved is playing one of those strange video games that, to an observer (and uninterested party) like me, appears to blur the line between reality and fiction. Is this a movie? Is it a game? What is this? I could stay and watch. (And be confused). I could. But I'm going to execute one of those daily choices and move my little old self upstairs to my waiting nook and a Stephen King diddy. I'll admit that I am making this one on my own. Fully on my own. But I'm feeling pretty clear about it.

Good choice.

Friday, December 23, 2011


It's an interesting thing to see the relationship of my daughters change over time. They each came into the world with a Beloved Other right beside them; from that single moment they've shared a bond that I do not dare assess or too closely investigate.

It goes beyond my understanding to see them do the things they so innately do and feel. The times when they finish one another's sentences as if the word trains jump from one curly head to the other with seamless ease. Their ability to share a look that seems to encompass an entire conversation just between the two of them. The ability each has to sense distress or upset in the other, and rush to her twin, dropping everything and hurdling over any obstacle, to give comfort.

I do not understand this bond. Can't come even close to it because it seems to burn too brightly.

But I can watch it. Everyday. And be amazed.

They seem to be in a constant state of minor restructuring within it. It's as if even though they were born with this bond, it didn't come with an instruction manual and they still need to tweak the boundaries a bit. Get it just right. For them.

Occasionally I'll hear them conversing in a way that sounds as though they're just meeting each other for the first time, comparing likes and dislikes, adding up what they share and where they are different. In this stage of their lives, there are still more check marks in the Alike column, it would seem.

Perhaps sometimes it IS a bit like they're meeting anew. In a sense. They're changing as they grow, becoming someone slightly different. Maybe those subtle changes don't always come with a smooth transition in their bond. Maybe there are things that need to be evaluated, weighed, considered, and placed accordingly.

Or maybe they just like to stop from time to time and catch up with one another.

Who knows.

I may never truly be inside their bond; never have a complete understanding of how it works and what it feels like to be that connected to another human being, but it is glorious to watch it.

It is amazing to watch it, actually. A daily blessing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

This Christmas

I'm sitting down and taking my first break on this utterly grey and gloomy Monday. I'm trying to refocus,
           trying not to look at my To Do List, which seems to have grown longer
           (probably when I wasn't looking),
           trying to just sit here quietly and enjoy this moment.

Easier said than done.

What is it about Christmas that seems to shorten days? Suddenly I find myself scrambling amidst tinsel and trimmings to get too many things done in far too little amount of time. I just want to throw my hands up and scream, "STOP!"

Again, easier to wish that than to will it.

As I get wiser (notice I did not say "Older"), I find myself learning to slow down a bit, and take things one day at a time. And to that end, it's a lot easier to observe this wonderful Season and actually enjoy it.

My baking will get done. Eventually.
My house can wait another week or so to be cleaned. I hope.
Those To Do Lists will be full of check-offs. At some point.

And in the meantime, we have two very eager 7 year olds awaiting The Big Day around here this year. Seeing their excitement grow every year, their anticipation starting a bit earlier each year, is pure joy for me.

And seeing Christmas through their eyes is a miracle. Each year they show me something different because they are a little bit different. A little bit older, a little bit changed. And they share that with me.

I keep a running record of  it in my heart, filing it all away in those secret places Mother's have in there, just for memories that are both seen, felt, and relived. The Year I Held Them In Their My First Christmas Outfits. The Christmas They Toddled About With Their Dress-Up Pig & Tiger Tails Tucked Into Their Pants. The Year All They Wanted Was A Choir Of Sing-A-Ma-Jigs. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Every year, a little bit different. Each year special in its own way and for its own reasons.

It's a gift in itself to be able to sit back and observe it all. And I will make time for it. I will.

This is the year.
No more fussing.
No more worrying over what is done and what isn't.
No more trying to do more than I can.


Not this year.
This year I watch.
I observe.
I laugh.
I smile.

I take mental pictures of it all and store it.

Because it's all precious.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And another thing..

Today I'm trying to remember all the things that don't really need to be finished right now. Right. This. Second.

I'm trying not to add to my list of TO DO's that needed checked off yesterday.

I'm really, really, really attempting to keep in mind that I am, in fact, just one person.

Just little old me.

It's okay to let that laundry sit in the laundry basket another day. (It's folded, after all.)

It's acceptable to fore go steam mopping today if it means I have a 15 minute break to sit and breathe and think amidst this otherwise hectic day.

There's nothing absolutely wrong with having a mishmash of books and errant toys covering most solid surfaces of the downstairs. (At least, for right NOW there isn't).

It may not be on par with who I am, generally.

But on this day---this one right now---

     it's who I have to be.

Here's hoping that tomorrow will have an extra couple of hours added to it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ball Pit Joy

I packed up the girls' Ball Pit today; rescuing it from its dreary resting place in our attic, and sending it forth to an exciting new life in the land of Younger Cousins. If toys can have feelings, I believe I sensed a sigh of anticipation wafting off that carrying bag. An air of excitement for being played with once more.

Ball Pits. You know, if ever a toy had been the embodiment of a past childhood memory, I think this would be it. How great are ball pits? Either you've had a grand experience with them, and thus want to recreate it with your children, or you've been deprived and seek to save your own offspring from a similarly dire fate.

My situation was the former. Glorious memories of Ball Zone Happiness abound in my mind's eye. Having children was like a green light for trying to relive those days of yore and not seeming to be completely and utterly insane along the way.

When I was a kiddo, knee high and a bouncy, happy little mite, my favorite place in the entire world was Cedar Point. More specifically, I adored a long gone treasure inside Cedar Point called King Arthur's Court. Anyone else remember this? It still semi exists today as Kiddie Kingdom, but it's been upgraded to a mass of Snoopy inspired rides and games. But back in the day, it was  home to Ball Pit glory. There were two different ball pits to choose from. There was a little kid pit where in the average 4 year old could pounce about under the watchful eye of the parent, completely seen and observed. And then there was what I adoringly called The Big Kid Pit. This pit was bigger. It was deeper. In this pit, it was possible, should one desire it, to disappear completely in a sea of multi-colored bliss.

How I loved that Big Kid Pit. I eagerly awaited the growth spurt that would graduate me from the little kiddy pit to the place Where The Big Kids Play. And when my head at last tipped the measuring line and I was finally able to take that first joyful leap at the sound of the whistle, oh how tremendous it was. Just as I had hoped.

For 5-7 minutes it was just me, and 9 of my closest non-acquaintances, and what had to be a squajillion multi-colored, hollow balls. I remember the sound of them all; the bumping of the ones nearest to me, and the overall rumbling of that huge mass all moving as one. I remember that odd feeling of being suspended if I held still, supported by a solid rainbow; and the fluidity I felt while running straight ahead, launching myself and crashing down on a prismatic sea. There was, of course, the Other Child Hazard that always loomed; that risk of either smashing into a hidden person who chose to slink in the under layers of the balls, or to be smashed upon as you lay semi-covered and an eager leaper launched himself onto your person. But as with most of the happy games of childhood, I was fairly oblvious to the danger and just had fun anyway.

And of course the bacteria. (You know I was going to go there eventually). Can you even imagine how disgustingly microbial coated those things were? What if some kid dropped a number 2 in there?? You know it happened. Had to have. So what did they do? Did someone go in there with a rag and wipe each of the bazillion balls down with bleach? One by one? Was there some vacuum operation that sucked all the bacteria out of the entire area? I think no.
I shudder.

But of course, as a child I cared not for worries of germicidal nature. I just saw a Pit of Joy. End of story. From whistle blow to whistle blow, I was carefree and loving every micro second of it. After my turn had ended, I remember begging my parents to let me wait out the line again. Back in those days, it was actually safe for them to leave me there while they went on with my much more adventurous brothers, getting them on and off the (gulp) roller coasters and coming back for me shortly after.

Flash forward 20 years or so, and enter two little girls and a first birthday party that we weren't sure we'd even get to have for them. What better gift to celebrate the smoothing out of what had been a rocky start and usher in the start of childhood then with the hero of my OWN childhood?? Hello, Ball Pit Ball Zone. You rock.

They loved it. I loved it.

Did it recreate my joyful memories of Kiddy Land? Nah, not really. (We were short several squillion balls, it turned out). But it sure was a blast playing with them and watching them have a blast in it. And now that they've completely outgrown it, it's a pretty awesome thing to be able to move it on to a new group of kiddos to enjoy as well.

Memories are good.
Seeing your children get a glimpse of those same memories is even better.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Crispy Orange Chicken Happiness--A Recipe

This one is dedicated to Dawn, a fellow lover of orange-ish things.

I have mentioned before that I am a fan of Do It Yourself cooking adventures. I celebrate cookbooks that utilize the phrase Copy Cat. Sometimes I will sit at my laptop, spending my free time just idly seeking out copy cat versions of my favorite foods. I'll stare at the screen as mental images of All Things Delicious drift through my mind, mentally snagging a few and running searches on them to see what I can uncover deep in the bowels of the Cyber Vaults.

One such foray yielded gold. Sheer gold.

I <heart> the Crispy Orange Chicken Bowl at Applebee's. So very much so that it is what I get, almost every single time I go. I say, "almost" because I also like to get the Asian Wrap or the Santa Fe Wrap. But that is neither here nor there at this moment in blog-time.

But I digress.

I found a Copy Cat version of this most favorite of all things one day and was eager to try it out. To my joy and surprise, the sauce is exactly like Applebee's version. Exactly. I'm including the recipe for the sauce, but not for the batter-fried chicken. I'll explain that later, so read on.

Orange Chicken Glaze

What You'll Need:

1 TBS veggie oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh orange rind
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup Hoisin Sauce
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup granulated sugar

What You'll Do:

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic, sauteing for 1 minute. Be careful not to let the pan get too hot or you'll end up with bitter garlic, which is boo.
Add the rest of your ingredients and bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, allow to boil for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring from time to time, until it gets to your desired consistency.

Applebee's serves theirs with stir fry veggies, rice, and some crispy noodles & slivered almonds.

Here's what I did to make this come together quickly and with amazing results. I used popcorn chicken to star as my Crispy Chicken in this particular role. If you get a good brand--the type that looks like fritters---you end up with the same result.It's quick. It's easy. And it keeps the Fry Daddy away and in the basement, which I consider a boon. I baked the chicken and then mixed it into the saucepan, tossing to coat well.

As the chicken was cooking, I stir fried some frozen veggies. Applebee's uses broccoli, snow peas, red peppers, and mushrooms.  To be quick, I used a frozen blend. Costco has a wonderful Stir Fry blend that has everything in it. By the time the chicken was done, the veggies were ready.

I served this on brown rice, in bowls, with egg rolls on the side.
My children, who traditionally hate all things that are not Peanut Butter, Pizza, or Yogurt, actually consumed the entirety of their bowls, and impressed me greatly in the process. They even asked me if we could make it again the next night. That's mighty high praise from these two Pizza Lovin' Ladies. So I mark this as a really good recipe.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Closing Of The Year

The winds of November have blown the vestiges of October off the calendar page. Days have drifted into weeks, which have pulled us closer to that holiday of plenty once again.

One week away.

Then Christmas. Just around the corner.

The closing of the year is always an interesting time for me. For our family. Probably for most families, each in its own way. For me it's a time of nearly perpetual motion; set in gear by that flip of the calender page back on November first. It always seems as though within days of that action, we're getting ready to sit down to The Feast. The one day wherein it's completely socially acceptable to be an utter glutton. For the the whole day. I read somewhere that the Pilgrims celebrated their Thanksgiving for three full days. Each one adhering to a rigorous schedule of eat, play, sleep; repeat. For three days. .

November comes and my house is bedecked in all things Holiday Cheer. Trees. Lights. Colors. Ornaments. All up and shimmering. A shiny way to smooth out this year and usher in the next. Christmas songs fill the house and our car, carrying us along our way, floating on a cloud of Yule Tide Cheer. I know everyone has an opinion about it, but for what it's worth, I actually like hearing Christmas songs played in the retail stores throughout the season. Even when "The Season" starts on November first. Along with that fateful page flip seems to come a strange compulsion for some people to become completely oblivious to the existence of other human beings around them. For an entire 2 months it seems, there are those in our realms who feel they are alone:

On The Road ---so let's feel free to cut over a lane without looking. Surely there is no one there.

In the Stores--- it's okay to push your way through, since surely there is no one there on whose toes you may have just stepped.

At the Checkout Lane---if there's no one in front of or behind you, it doesn't matter what lane you choose. And no, you haven't cut in front of anyone. Besides, you need to get home, right?


For the rest of us, those who don't disappear into a world of No One Else, we have to put up with the pushing, cutting, and rather aggressive driving. With a smile. Christmas Music helps me with that.

When a stranger, dwelling in the land of No One Else, runs their cart into my child, nearly knocking her down, and then passes us by without a glance....well, the happy rhythm of Jingle Bells goes a long way towards helping me keep my focus on my perplexed child, and not on trailing the offender and expressing something somewhat less than Christmas Cheer.

All season long.

Every year I promise myself we'll make the focus on The Birth that means more than brightly packaged presents. Yet it's so easy to get caught up in the fast pace of it. So I end my year promising to keep better focus next year.

A cycle.

Will this year be different? I have to hope it will be. There's always great hope in that pure intention. Our decorations are out, halls having been decked over the course of the last 2 weeks, thus saving me from an onslaught of sudden Christmas Season Fervor. Lists have been written up by two little girls who very endearingly informed me that they didn't really need more 'things' this year. And we're all gathered together, remembering why we have this glittery holiday to begin with. The story that goes back longer than the tale of St. Nick; back to a simple town, and a lowly manger, and the Miracle that was born there.

On this calm November day, I find myself quite peaceful and focused.

And ready for The Season.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Art Of Laziness

I am not a lazy person by nature. At least, I like to think I'm not.

But I do love some of the traditions often found in those who are lazy. The sacred rituals of The Lazy Ones.

......I love to sleep in.
            Really, if it were a sporting event, I would feel like a true athlete, able to sleep in with the best of them.

....I adore my pajamas.
            I have a pair of sock monkey jammies that hang out with me all year, despite their flannel material and Christmas stocking decor. They're just that darn comfortable.

.....I like the open-mindedness of no schedule.
           "No Schedule" was a kiss of death back when the girls were younger. Having a schedule and sticking to it every single day was the only thing that kept my sanity somewhat in tact. But Now I want to pad around in my jammies, coffee in hand, aimlessly wandering the downstairs of a quiet house. For as long as I want.

.....Nothing irks me more than having to get up and jump directly into the shower.
        This goes back to my adoration of No Schedule. After all, nothing declares, Something Which Must Be Done quite like having to get all gussied up for it immediately. Nah, slow down; stay in your jammies for awhile, friend.

It's not that I'm not a morning person. I pop out of bed chattering about the day and the plans from the moment my eyes open.
But I just love the coziness of doing nothing in particular at any given moment of time; the smoothness of a day spread out before you with no lines filled in, just waiting to be explored. You know, whenever.

And I find myself quite blessed that I married someone who shares my love of these rituals of possible laziness. Don't let the Monday through Friday alarm clock wake up call at 5:00 am fool you. On weekends and vacations, he's right with me in his pajamas and aimless, pad-footed wanderings.

And it's an abundant blessing that my offspring feel the same. What are the odds that two kiddos would be lovers of the art of sleeping in? (Must be that twin bond).

Here's to sleeping in. To hanging out in your pajamas for longer than considered socially acceptable. For not filling the day with plans, but winging it as you go, filling it with the stuff of adventure. For keeping that bed head just a bit longer than others might think appropriate, risking the possiblity of scaring the mailman.

And to being together while doing it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


"Yes, but how do you know you are doing the right thing?"

I was asked this most important question recently as I spoke to a friend about teaching the girls at home. It's a good question, really.

I can't even count the times in my life when I've found myself staring down the barrel of A Big Decision; an action that needs to be taken, a cause and effect that needs to be dealt with. I positively hate that feeling of "Should I or Shouldn't I? Is this Right or Wrong?" that nags at me in nearly everything important that I decide to do. Or not do.

Whenever faced with a choice, be it an ugly or pretty one, I pray. I can't come up with the answers all on my own folks, and I don't really want to try. There's peace in that too, a sort of giving the pressure up and letting it go.

Sometimes God's answers aren't what I wanted to hear. (Yes, it's true.) Sometimes I get a no when what I desperately wanted was a yes. But even though I don't always get what I want, it's true what they say. I get what I need.
And that is just right, too.

Needless to say, the choice to school the girls at home was at the end of a path paved with many prayers. We didn't enter into this lightly.

But we sure are having a blast.
Yes, we sure are.

Everyday I wake up and pull myself together, snagging a few Me Moments (aka Coffee) before awakening the girls. After getting them ready, we head downstairs To Start Our Day. Our school day revolves around the dining room, the family room, the kitchen, and outside. We move when we need to move, pick up where we left off, and go with along with the ebbs and flow in our moods.

I teach. They learn. Heck, I learn. And they're teaching me in the process.

At the end of our lessons, it's all put away; books and pencils back on shelves, papers sorted into folders, activities checked off lists of things to do. We take a break from each other. They in one room, me in another; a quiet repast that, in the end, will bring is together again.

Then after dinner, when the table is cleared and my mind has wound down from one day's adventures, I set it all up to start again the next day.

And do you know what the miracle in all of this is? While I'm setting up for the next day, I'm smiling. Really, truly smiling.
I love this.
I love this.
I love this.

Every moment is teachable, my friends. And I'm grabbing them all, each and every one. Sometimes I have two students and other times  I am the student.

And it's all good. It's amazingly good.

When I can go through a full day that is mentally challenging and emotionally taxing, and still get ready for the next one with a smile on my face and a sureness of purpose in my heart......
                                                       I know I'm doing the right thing.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Halloween has come upon us.
Yes, here it is.
And as always I find myself plagued by that all important question faced by many parents whose children don't have any input on it: What Shall The Children Be For Halloween.

It's not that my girls don't care; I wouldn't say that. It's more that (or so it seems) they spend a great deal of their daily life pretending to be a plethora of things: cats, mice, Charlie & Lola, skunks, raccoons, the aliens from Toy Story, chipmunks, and rats. I think that by the time October rolls around, they are just tuckered out of their daily adventure routine and not able to come up with a solid idea on their own.

Enter mom.

Here I come, every year, to save the day and create a costume that will be joyful and, above

I really need things to be cheap. Really. Spending a lot is not an option or something I'm remotely willing to do. So I think. And think. And think.

We've had our duds, let me tell you, but we've had some good ones too. This year the girls told me they wanted something that involved a Tu-Tu. And that gem was the extent of their artistic direction. Sigh.  A trip to Hobby Lobby revealed a well timed sale on tulle in a multitude of Halloweenish colors. I chose Black, Orange, Purple, and White. I looped and stitched a piece of wide elastic to create a waistband. I cut all the tulle into 5 inch wide strips, which is a task I'll be joyfully happy to never do again considering I started out with over 7 yards of tulle for both skirts. After cutting my strips, I tied them all on to the waistband, one at a time. Because these strips were longer, the overall effect is a slightly craggly, witchy look.

Aha! Witchy. My subconscious mind sparked by that uniformed look.

I then dug out our fabulous black and white striped leggings, which I love and think are far too difficult to buy in the store given how gosh darn adorable they look under any number of splendiforous things. Cute.  We added to that orange sparkly pumpkin shirts and a feathery orange boa.

We were close, but not quite there yet.

I then remembered the forever-old foam witch's hats I had bought several years ago for a Halloween themed birthday party, and which had been gathering dust ever since in our basement. After finding them and knocking any lingering residents of the arachnid sort, (shudder) I determined we were almost exactly right.

But what these little witches needed most was a name. A cute name. Something fun.

The Witchy-Poos.


A quick print-shop project and hot glue session later and my little witches were labeled and ready to head out the door.

Maybe not my brightest costume idea; but given that it's a complete hodge podge that started out with the vague idea that the costume should somehow have a Tu-Tu in it, I think it pulled together rather well.

The Witchy-Poos

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Table Scraps And The Cat Who Loves Them.

Here is a tale of woe-ish-ness from my mind today.
It's about my oldest cat, Anna. She's feeling each of her 14 years lately, I can tell. Her favorite spots are the warmest, coziest nooks and crannies she can curl herself into, and she'll spend her days mostly just snoozing there, coming out when she's ready for attention.

As you may recall we lost our middle cat, Zoey, back in August. It's a hole that is still quite there; filled in with time and the regularity of each day, but the indentation of something missing can still be seen. During the long road that led to that sad day in August, I think some of our Very Important Standards regarding How We Treat Our Pets were inadvertently lowered.

Ipso facto: We fed Anna table scraps.

I know, I know. Bad pet parent. But it seemed like the thing to do at that moment. She was interested, I was elsewise engaged; before I knew it, I had dropped a few morsels of chicken in front of her. Morsels which she quickly gobbled up, eyes shinning, nose up and sniffing the air for more.

And now she spends her days meandering around, ever looking for that mercy-drop-of-manna from someone else's plate. As I cook she's sitting there, waiting to see what may fall. As we eat she sits watchfully by, eagerly eyeing the eratic eating styles of our seven year olds with an expectant air. And every time someone heads down the basement, to the place where All Manner Of Animal Food And Treats Are Kept, she races down like a bullet, nosing up to the pet supplies and waiting for someone to open a can.

She's become a Moocher.

And I can't stand it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bringing Them Home

Seven years ago today, October 19th 2004, we brought our preemie twinfants home. Today I've found myself transported back to that very day. It's the grayness and near constant rain that keep tugging my memories back to that surreal experience.It was a day just like this, after all. I know I've written about this before, but hey, it's where my mind has drifted to today.

Can anything really prepare you for bringing your first kiddo home for that first time? Think about it. You prepare for 40 weeks (or 34, as it were) for this little person who is gestating inside you. For the duration, it's been there and you, the expectant mom, have tried your darnedest to do everything exactly right.
Vitamins? Check.
Eating healthy and ditching the caffeine habit? Check.
Getting lots of rest? Check.
Eating enough for 2 (or 3)? With relish, check.
Baby items purchased and a place for the wee one readied? Check and check.

And then the big day comes. The water breaks. The pain starts. There's some pushing. Voila! You've got a brand spankin' new human being to call your very own. Yes I know I've over simplified the process, but those are the main points, right?

I remember looking at the girls after I woke up in the recovery, blearily pushing through the drugged stupor of an emergency c-section. "You have 2 healthy little girls," I was told and shown several pictures. I was stunned. Stupefied, really.

Let me be clear, I knew they were coming. I did. I understood the process of it.
But somehow hefting around that 12 pound belly was quite different from seeing them outside of it. As I stared at the pictures, I felt an odd disconnect. My husband visually introduced me to each girl, one at a time. He'd already spent time with each of them while I was still knocked out. I had no clue who was who. Despite having carried them for 34 weeks and kept them to myself, I had no idea who I was looking at. No clue.

Hello cutie. Who are you?

Getting to hold them for the first time was a mind bending experience for me too. Why didn't the What To Expect books prepare me for this moment, I wondered. It was beautiful, make no mistake. But daunting.

This little girl is mine? How is that possible? That one too? My, my.

It seemed we were surrounded by other parents who all were completely confident and comfortable with their new offspring; I felt like Dan and I were wearing giant "Newbie Parent" hats. Flash! Flash! Flash! We don't know what we're doing!

And then they sent us home. With the babies. Alone.

Alone? Shouldn't one of you fine nurses or doctors come with us? Clearly we don't know what's going on here. We only just met these two after all. Are you sure sending them home with us is the very best idea?

With the finality of the doors whooshing closed on our behinds, we headed home. I remember sitting them on the couch and staring at them. I remember whispered conversations that went a lot like this: "What should we do with them? Should we leave them here or should we move them? Are they supposed to do something? Do you think they're bored? They're not LEARNING anything right now! Aren't we supposed to teach them something?"
All of it whispered in hushed tones lest the newborn twinfants overhear and take offense.

Those first days are shadowed by a haze of sleepless wonder. A million and 4 "Firsts" came winging at us one after another. In rapid succession. All of the "How Are We Gonna...?" questions were answered and we adjusted quickly.

Life changed completely. Up-ended. New. Before and after; clear cut lines that divided us from our pre-parent selves.

And now they've turned 7. It's funny the amount of confidence you gain after you've Been There, Done That time and time again. We no longer wonder what we'll do with them, no longer worry about if they're bored, learning, or in need of something. The rhythm of family life is a fairly smooth path at the moment, barring the occasional bumps and rocks in the way.

We've traded our "Newbie Parent' hats for "Yeah, We Got This" headgear. And it feels good. Looking back at that day 7 years ago when we started this journey I can see how far we've come; sense the many changes that have taken place already, and still have enough sense to wonder about the changes yet to come.

It's been a pretty amazing journey, after all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When They Turned 7

Tomorrow is birthday eve at our house. And then they turn 7.

Seven years old. Can you believe it?

If you glance back at my birthday eve entries from years gone by, you'll notice a trend of melancholy that winds its way through my words. It seems that my daughters' birth date sends me into an odd emotional state; standing just downstream from Utter Carefree Happiness, but still upstream from Complete Despair At The Passing Of Time. Every year I found myself in an odd limbo that seemed to straddle the boundaries between wanting to celebrate all that is to come, yet needing to slightly mourn another year's passing, another step in that forward march towards independence and ever more away from babyhood, toddler hood, childhood.

I have to tell you, friends, this year feels different. There's a different feel to the air surrounding this birthday event. I don't know how to explain it; it just feels comfortable. Yes, they're turning 7. Yes, they're growing up. Yes, they're far more independent now than I had ever dared hope they'd be 7 years ago.

And I'm okay with that.

Really. I am.

I've watched them take numerous huge strides during this past year. So many steps towards becoming these amazing little people. I can only say it has been an awe inspiring adventure. They seem more complete as individuals; still deeply connected by that powerful (and sacred) twin bond that I adore, but more fully "self" , each on her own. They're expanding their educational horizons by leaps and bounds every day. These two kiddos who used to despise all things writing are now eagerly putting pencil to paper to  make stories; and my former Math-Avoiders daily anticipate our math lessons with actual smiles on their faces. Smiles, people. Smiles. 

And there's a whole new world opening up to us in terms of their level of maturity; places we can go, things we can do. They actually want to go to museums and love to explore the past and discover new places. I can see the first inklings of that wondrous feeling I know so well in them. It's the feeling you get when curiosity takes over and you find yourself wondering Why to every little thing around you. But more than just wondering, you want to know the answer. The real answer. Knowledge is like a drug, and the quest for it is pure addiction. Ask them about Mummification in ancient Egypt and they'll give you the lowdown on the whole process. All 70 days of it.

Who they are becoming, these new people they are turning out to be, is a daily source of amazement for Dan and for me. And it is an enormous privilege for me to be able to be a part of that transformation. I still find myself staring at them in wonderment thinking, How cool is this that I get to be a part of their lives? I get to see this? I mean, really, really see it. How awesome is that?

It's beyond words.

They'll be 7 on Friday. 2,555 days old. (If my math is correct, and I'm not promising that it is. They get that former math gene from me, after all).
This year I'm not accepting any melancholy into my mood. No sir. No melancholy at all.
This year is all about celebration. It's about the new things, the bigger things, the questions. Everything. It's about all of it, wrapped up in these two amazing people who are changing right before my eyes.

This birthday will be filled with all of that wonderment. And everything that they are.

Happy 7th Birthday,Caedance!
Happy 7th Birthday, Ashlyn!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Welcome, October. It's birthday month again!

After posting my previous blog about the random, ne'er-do-wells who boldly go where no one should go and make stupid comments to me in the store in front of my daughters, I thought it would a pleasant change of pace to share a happy thought about these two dynamite little ladies.

This is their birthday month.

Yep. That's right. It's here once again. Yay!

This turn 'round the sun brings us to lap number 7. Can you believe it? Seven years old.


They have been eagerly awaiting the dawning of this first day of October since the last day of October in 2010.

And it arrived today. And they knew it. Boy, did they know it.

When I went in to their bedroom to say good morning, they both greeted me by springing out of bed and saying, "Mama, it smells like October."

"Does it? Huh."

"Do YOU know what October means, Mama?"

"Do I? Hmmmm..." Sometimes you just have to play coy.

"It's our birthday month, Mom! Remember? Our birthday?"

"Birthday, huh? Is it really? Are you sure? You are awfully young, you know. Maybe you got the wrong month. It could happen. Kids tend to forget stuff."

"Mom!" they giggled, "Kids don't forget their birthdays."

I smiled at them and caught them up in a hug, taking in the smell of their just-woken-up little selves. That smell that somehow is still the same from when they were infants. (Well, minus the dark aroma of a fresh diaper trout, naturally.)

"Of course I know it's you're birthday month, sillies. And I love it!"

We spent the morning celebrating Day One of Birthday Month in the best way possible: eating Cookies and Cream Pop Tarts and romping around in our jammies until afternoon.

My girls. My sweet, precious girls. Practically ladies now, aren't they?

Let's enjoy this month and celebrate it for all its worth, girls.

My nearly seven year olds.

Friday, September 30, 2011

It Takes All Kinds

It's a funny thing when you travel around with multiples; you tend to become a magnet for the well meaning, yet socially challenged members of society. You know her,she's the one who will go up to a complete stranger and ask if she breastfed as an opening line. Or will smilingly ask a lady she doesn't know just when she might be due.

Yes. Her. She's the one I run into quite often as I'm out and about, living my daily life. She takes on many forms, of course. That's why it's exceedingly hard to spot her ahead of time and steer myself away, thus avoiding 5 very awkward minutes of pseudo-conversation. I know she's out there somewhere, lurking perhaps just around the next aisle. Sometimes I just don't recognize her. She could be young or she may be older. She may be well-kept and unassuming, or perhaps look as tired and bedraggled as I tend to feel. You just never know.

Today she appeared out of nowhere in Target. She had on her Mother Of 30 Year Old Twins disguise.

"I never dressed my twins alike," she said as she blocked my path.
A statement made as a pointed fact. I've seen this one before and always find it perhaps the most boring of all opening lines.

I gave her my standard, "Oh". Picture it with a closed mouth smile and raised eyebrows. (It's great with the raised eyebrows, and a slightly tilted head). I've found this is usually just enough to show I have heard the spoken words, so as not too appear snotty; and yet just aloof enough so as to imply I'm moving on my way now.

"Never." My path was blocked. Okay, apparently this lady was feeling a bit needy today. I'll play.

"Isn't that interesting? (Not really.) These two really enjoy picking out their clothes and today they chose to dress alike. And I'm okay with that." (Please allow me to pass.)

"How much did they weigh?" Her eyes were squinted at me, as if my answer were going to truly count for something.

We're still doing this? Okay. "Umm", I stalled as I mentally pulled out the Facts I Don't Use Often But Need To Use From Time To Time file,  "Five-fifteen and six pounds."

"Seven-twelve and seven fifteen," was her reply. As she said it, she tipped her head back, actually raising her chin in a defiant act of pure one-up-man-ship in a competition I wasn't aware I was a part of. (And was apparently losing.)

This sort of interlude is, thankfully, rare for me. Usually She doesn't show up with war guns, but today She did. So I pulled on my 'Well bless your heart, you're half crazy, aren't you darlin'?' smile that tends to also imply a readiness to move away.

But she stood her ground, still blocking my path.

"How far did you go with them?" Squinty eyes again and looking down her nose at me. This lady was in it to win.

"34 weeks."

"Full. Term." She turned the compound word in two words. Both spoken with clarity. With an underlying growl of sheer will. Full. Term. I pictured a poker player laying down his winning hand with  a Read 'Em and Weep air.

"Imagine that?" I said as I delicately moved passed her, ready to end this insanity before she started asking my about bra sizes or something odd.

Out of her line of vision, I hastened the girls and wove around, trying to put some distance between us and this strange competitive gal.

She found us in a household aisle. And stared me down with that intense glare of hers.
"Where. Do. They. Go. To. School." Each word punctuated and precise.

I scanned around for some hidden camera crew or perhaps someone else who may be able to claim this lady and say that she didn't have her medication today, thus explaining this ridiculous situation. Honestly, I just came in here for pencils. Please let me leave.

"Actually, they're schooling at home." Somehow (though I couldn't tell you how) I figured this would get her. Take that!

It did.

She loudly "Hmmmpphhhed" me and marched away.

I was dismissed, it seems.

I sighed and looked down at the girls. They were looking at me with silent and stricken looks on their faces. Eyes wide. Equally perplexed at what had just occurred.

I found the pencils and scooted right on out of there, thankfully avoiding any more interaction with her.

They say it takes all kinds to make the world go round. I guess I'm lucky to be meeting so very many of them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Stormy Seas

The day started out picture perfect: blue sky, tannish sand, balmy breeze. Everything you want a vacation day to be; just enough of everything and nothing in excess. Bright but not blinding, hot but not boiling, breezy but not gale-force blowing. Perfect.

We spent the morning standing on the Apache Pier, gazing off into the vast expanse of the Atlantic. Lost in its rhthym. Quiet in its presence. Straight in front of us a pod of dolphins frolicked in our view. Several pods of them, actually. Breeching out of the water, skin shimmering in the sunlight. To our left a sea turtle floated idolly by, dipping beneath the glassy surface of the calm water and occasionally poking his head far above the water for a better view of something that had obtained his interest. To our right a flock of seagalls bobbed lazily together, a large group in the water. They made me think of a group old chums with their constant squawking. Perhaps they too were sharing the daily gossip and remincising days gone by over snippets of the silverfish that foolishly showed themselves. Below our feet schools of needlefish darted here and there, always in search of something that we couldn't quite make out. It was always just out of our eyesight, but very clearly within theirs.

As we made our way back to our hotel "home", the wind stirred behind us. Looking back from the direction we had come, the air shirred with haze and the movement of current and changing tempreture. The stillness of the air around us dropped to our feet, replaced by an electricity that hastened our pace, pushing our feet forward.

We reached our room before the first booms of thunder sounded across the shoreline. From the safety of our balcony we watched as a line of dark, churning clouds marched across the ocean in front of us, covering the blue sky and brightness with heavy, dark clouds. Dark. Heavy.

The wind picked up, swirling the clouds and pulling them from the ocean's now rippled, chaotic surface and enveloping them into their billowing depths. Swirling rolls of fast moving clouds rolled before our eyes, making their way down the beach in one magnificent push. The thunder sounded and the lightning streaked from the surface of the water, illuminating the dark clouds above.

As the first wave of exotic clouds paraded past, they pulled a veil of rain behind them. Drenching, blowing rain that obscured everything around us. It blew past the buildings, forming a white mist as the wind whipped it past. We were enveloped in a cloud of persistent rain.

Beach umbrellas left open were buffeted in the wind, pulling the fabric and exposing the white shaking skeletons beneath. We kept waiting to see one uproot and take flight, but alas, they all stayed snug in their spots.

The waves rose up, forming lines of white caps far out from the shore. They rushed in, crashing heavily on themselves as they made their way to the beachfront. In their fury, small fish were swept up along with a tangle of seaweed; all to be deposited along with seashells along the shore.

And then it was gone. Just as quickly as the wind whipped up the world, it calmed back down again. The clouds, like Sherman's army, marched forcifully on their way down the shore, gathering up stray clouds and pulling them along the way.  The sky cleared. The sun came out from hiding. The beach refilled with umbrellas, brightly colored beach towels, and people.

And it's calm now. Again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The wonders of human nature never cease to hold me captive in their wonder. Nope. Never.

Today I had the occasion to visit Barefoot Landing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. For any of you readers who haven't come upon that locale yet, it has my high endorsement, and so you should go.
But I digress. This evening I also had the experience to visit the "Powder Room" at said location. Twice, actually. But that is neither here nor there.
For those unfamiliar with this location, you'll need a primer on Barefoot Landing Bathroom Stalls. You see, they are a bit different from the stalls you may be familiar with. Or at least, they sure were for me.
It seems I am used to a bathroom with many stalls, all in a row, and all sporting doors that go from near the floor to high above my head. I think of them more like closets of anonymity really. I go in there, I'm hidden from view; all on my own in my own little cell of solitude. Then Flush and out I come.
Call me crazy, but I feel a certain need for this particular level of privacy in a public bathroom. I do. I need it. I love it, really.
And so it came as somewhat a surprise when I entered this bathroom to find that the stall doors stopped where my chest began. I felt like an absolute giant (all five foot, 6 inches of me) as I stared out around  me; a mighty creature surveying the kingdom of the bathroom. My eyes briefly met the furrowed brows of several other patrons, equally confused as to why we were able to make eye contact in a place where little to know ocular acknowledgement is the way to go.
I hastened about my purpose, keeping myself bent at my knees and truly begrudging my silly choice to wear a stupid belt. And then I was outta there, with no plans for a return visit.

And then Caedance had to go.

"Mommy, I gotta go poopie. I think it's coming out, right now."

Great. Let's run, honey. Off we go.

I quickly ushered my slightly waddling offspring into the bathroom, delivering her to the nearest stall and stepping inside with her as she began her important task of "making a twosie". Normally I would lock the stall door, but honestly I couldn't see why that was necessary this time. I mean, for heaven's sake, with my standing up in there I was more than completely visible. You could read my Bayside Tigers shirt. (I love Saved By The Bell). How could you miss me? So I stood there, silently hoping that Caedance didn't do the whole "Take My Time" thing right now because it was just really awkward to stand there.

About 3 minutes into our quiet contemplation over "Where The Poop Could Possibly Be" (I didn't have an answer for her), the door to the bathroom opened up and another lady walked in. Now I'm not sure if it truly exists or not, but if it does, this lady literally waltzed into the bathroom doing a lovely rendition of the Pee Pee Dance. She truly did. She had her pants ready to go, all that was needed was a stall.
And that's when she began to push into the stall that Caedance and I were in. Since I was against the door, it didn't really open, but that didn't phase our intrepid, Pee Pee Dancing visitor. She pushed harder.

"Um, yes..I'm in here, actually," I said as I looked down at our unwanted guest over the door. Her head was down in concentration, perhaps more worried about her own issues just then, so she gave the door yet another gentle push.

"Hello there?" I smiled down at her.
She looked up at me, startled perhaps at the vision of a blond giant looking down at her from the bathroom door.
"Yes. Hi then. We're actually in this stall. So. You know, maybe you could try another one?"
She snapped out of her stupor just then and shook her head. "Oh!" she said in surprise. "I'm sorry. So sorry. I.......I'm sorry."
"No problem. None at all. Have a nice day," I added generously, being the kindly giant that I clearly was.

At this moment Caedance announced that all was good and she was done.
It was with a feeling of great relief that out we went, leaving that odd little porcelain kingdom behind us as we entered the nightlife that is, Barefoot Landing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Two Weeks

Today we passed the Two Week milestone. We've made it through two weeks of our newest adventure: schooling at home. There have been 'Ups' and there have been some lows; some times where I've felt like I was on top of the world, and other moments where I felt trampled on, ground into the dirt.

You know what those two extremes have in common? It's one very, very simple phrase: This is why we're doing this. This is why we're sacrificing with my staying home. This is why we're giving up so many things.

For better or for worse: This.

Both of the girls have struggled with math. I'm not sure how genetic such a thing is, but if heredity plays any part it, they had a 50-50 chance of this. And no, I'm not too ashamed to admit that I am the weakest link in the genetic train of thought here. Math and me got along about as famously as a feral cat and a rabid dog. Which is to say, I would have rather been almost anywhere in the whole entire world (including a backed up bathroom stall in Grand Central Station), than sitting in a math class. I'm sorry, Mathletes of the world, I do not mean to offend. Math just never came easily to me. It's why I'm dabbling in words right now and not numbers.

But I digress. Math has always been their weaker area. I have approached each of our daily Math lessons with some amount of thoughtful trepidation; my eyes keenly scouting out cracks in the foundation of their understanding. And this week I spotted a gap. I taught the concept, Greater Than, Less Than, with the same hands on approach that each lesson takes. They played with my base 10 blocks, we used flash cards to create True or Not true statements, and we played rounds and rounds of Ready, Set, Compare. And for each activity, each new thing, they did well. Perfectly well. And yet the very moment I put a worksheet before them for more practice, the 3-dimensional world of manipulatives and play fell away and they were faced with the flat reality of numerals on paper. 34 __ 88  had no meaning for them. They could not do a single problem.

My frustration level grew. How could this be? When I handed them the 10 rods and some cubes, they were golden. 34? You mean 3 ten rods and 4 cubes? OH! Yep, that's smaller than 88. But to look at it on paper, no go.

But, as I said before. This is why we're doing this. It's for times like this. Rather than let them feel behind or move on to a new concept, we put the work and frustrations aside and took a breather. We did math in other ways: counting, reading numbers, finding numbers on signs, and so on. We did math, thank you. In a different way, going back to a place where they felt comfortable and confident. They smiled. I smiled. We breathed again.

This morning we revisited those irksome Greater Than & Less Than devils, with rested minds and fresh perspectives. And you know what? They didn't get us today. Not this time. The girls rocked the snot out of Chompers and his unworldly hunger. They did every problem with a sense of confidence that wasn't there yesterday. They took a test on it with assurance and strategy in place.

Then they looked at me and declared, "Mom! I can do this. I can. I really, really can."

And I'll say it again. This is why we're doing this.

Monday, September 5, 2011

It'll still be cute, even when they're 20.

"Mommy, we are a family and in our family we love 'our-chother'", one of my daughters joyfully announced to me today.
And even though she's nearly 7, I am very much determined never to correct her choice of words there.
Not today, and probably not ever.

It's not as if the girls are unaware of the word 'eachother' and it's various uses. They are most familiar with the term. It's a frequent guest in our daily routine; a common companion along the journey of our everyday life.

"Girls, please share with each other."

"My ladies, let's wait for each other before moving on."

"Yes, dears you do look very much like each other."

And the list goes on and on and on. A nearly infinite lineup of 'Each Others' parade around our world, it seems.

But not when it comes to our family and the deeply precious affection we share for one another. Then it's 'Our-Chother'. Universally; to each of us. That is the word they began using forever ago and what we continue to say.

"We love our chother".

And every single time I hear it from them, my heart melts a little bit. Because  I know they know the correct wording, but are choosing to continue on with the little tradition we've started in our own family. Because even though every single aspect of their lives is blaring out "I Am Growing Up!" at the highest decibel possible, this one little bit is still mine; it's still belongs solely to our precious family. "Our chother".

 I am all too aware that the forever well intentioned "Society" at large will see fit to attempt to change that; they'll try to steal that bit of innocence from them and from us. But rest assured that I am here awaiting their arrival and will fight with claws out to keep them at bay and away from my precious little creatures.

Because we love our chother around here. And no one is coming in between that. Not as long as I can help it, thank you very much.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Puttin' On The Teacher's Hat Again

Today I taught my first lesson in 7 years.

I did.

Granted, my students also happen to my offspring.

But hey, still counts.

We started school today. And surprisingly, the day went quite smoothly. I wasn't sure what to expect, or how to expect it. I didn't know if I'd be able to pull off the transitions and segues that the girls would need to keep going. But I must have figured it out somehow, because they did.

And you know what the best part about the day was?

They smiled.

I sat them down for lessons, and they grinned with glee. And listened.

I sat them down with work to complete, and they smiled. And completed their work.

I had them working at their computer stations, and they giggled. And used the computer with a strange amount of saviness that I didn't know they had.

Will this peaceable behavior continue? Who knows. (But let the record state that I am choosing to turn a blind eye to conventional wisdom here and proudly shout out, "YES. Yes it will. All year. Smiles, smiles, smiles galore. I'll be the Woman Whose Children Smile During Homeschool All The Time. So there.)

Day One: Score.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Night Before First Grade

A little diddy, in honor of our new adventure with Ohio Virutal Academy.

'Twas the night before First Grade
and all through our house,
everyone was sleeping,
but not Genie, our pet mouse.

Our school things were put
on the shelving with care,
awaiting the morning,
which soon would be there.

The children were 'snuntered',
all snug in their beds,
while visions of Tinkerbell erasers
danced in their heads.

And I in my "Teach's Cap",
and OCD on my brain,
had finalized my lesson plans,
and felt much less insane.

When out on the roof
there arose such a clatter!
Wait. No, it was just one of the roofer's
leftover ladders.
It fell from a peak
to the sidewalk below,
narrowling missing the shingles,
and avoiding a row.

Both of the PCs on small tables
with tiny chairs pushed in
gave the lustre of "An Office"
and of working there-in.

But wait!
What to my wondering
eyes should appear
but a blue screen of death...
the thing all techies most fear.

More rapid than a junky's,
my heart how it raced.
 And I whistled and  shouted,
as 'round the room I did pace.
"Now how could this be?
Now what shall I do?
Stupid computers!
What's the matter with you??
My daughters start school
and I need you to teach.
Without your help, we're
left in a true breach.

And as odd thoughts that before
a wild dream comes to an end,
as the chemicals of waking
cause conciousness to begin;
up to my brain the Seratonin, it flew,
I awoke with a shudder and in an instant, I knew.

The blue screen of death
was no phantom, or haint.
It was a meaningless dream!
Oh! Thank you, sweet Saints.

As I cleared out my head,
and was turning around,
my alarm clock rang off,
with the usual, unnerving sound.

Still fresh from my nightmare,
I meandered downstairs.
I turned on the computers and
at the screens I did stare.

No blue screens awaited me!
No message of doom!
Just familiar homepage,
so I danced a jig 'round the room.

Let the school day begin!
Let this new year start.
Our courses are ready...
I've even made a chart.

The crayons, how new
and how perfectly tipped.
The pencils so sharp,
and by two girls, hand picked.

And with cupboards full of materials,
and books filled with such knowledge,
We'll get this thing started,
and pray "Scholarship" for college.

But before I call
those two ladies to wake,
another look around the room
I quickly must take.

We're ready to go.
And now I shall say,
Happy "Day One" to all!
(And let's rock out First Grade.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back To School

School starts for us on Monday.
For the girls.
For me.

Last year I started the year with tears, sending them off on their way with moisture blurring my eyes.

But this year is different. When they start school on Monday, I will be sitting right along side side them; teaching them this vast, expansive plane that is First Grade. We'll walk it together, they and I. We'll share a new journey, one day at a time.

I've spent today putting the final touches on our learning spaces; organizing it just so, and then reorganizing it again. Pulling out my lesson plan book and making last minute changes to how we'll approach each subject, each lesson. I'm dusting off my Teacher's Cap; gosh I missed it.

I'm ready for this new adventure. More than that, I'm excited for it.

I hope my students are too.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Learning A Lesson Of Patience

I am an impatient person. It's a fault to which I will readily admit.
I have a very extremely hard time waiting to see the fruits of any true labor, whatever it may involve. All through my  life, a constant companion on my journey has been the ever multiplying question of When.
                                        When will I get a teaching assignment?
                                                 When will I get pregnant?
                                                         When will we get a house?
Often times those questions of "When" are joined by their sinister second cousins, the "What If" family.
                                          "When will my babies be born?" marries with
              "And what if everything goes wrong before they have a chance?"

                             "When will they potty train?" joins the train of thought with
                       "And what if they never do??"

Voila. Now you have the granddaddy of all troublesome mental states: Doubt, which so eloquently parlays into Uncertainty.

I find that my tendency towards impatience often leads to doubting so many things.
             I worry.
                    I hedge.
                          I fret.

In general, I have the power to make myself completely and utterly miserable. All on my own, thank you very much.

And I'm working on that, earnestly. Being a mom has taught me to slow things down. To take a "Wait and See" approach with so many things in my life. I have gotten very careful about wishing the present away; planting my feet firmly in the Terra of Today. Here and now.

I pray about it. Constantly. But carefully. Praying for patience can be a tricky thing, you know. Sometimes His answer is to hand off more "practice opportunities", after all. Not that I'm not in need of practice. I am. I surely, surely am. Sometimes I just feel like I've got all I can handle right now.

But I'm progressing. I think so. But slowly.

                                                  I'm learning a lesson called Patience.
                                                         Can't wait till I have it all learned.

This whole Adulthood-Responsibility-Growing Older & Wiser thing is a lot harder that I thought it was going to be. But I'm learning an awful lot along the way.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake. And Let It Be Moist.

I love to bake. Oh, I sure do. Put me in the kitchen, hand me a bowl, a wooden spoon, a couple of ingredients, and I'm in heaven. Love it.

I'm always on the lookout for some stellar new recipes to add to my repertoire; always seeking out new ways to make my favorite things even better.

My current search has been for a yellow cake recipe that stands up for itself with some pride. I'm not knocking the boxed mixes (they're great), but sometimes only homemade will do. There's just something irresistibly homey about from scratch vanilla cake. So good. And yet, so incredibly coarse and completely unlike what I've come to associate with Yellow Cake.

I know that thanks to the folks at Betty Crocker I have been programmed to believe their version of yellow cake IS yellow cake, but I've always felt there is something else out there calling to me. Some yellow cake recipe that is greater than the mighty Betty which could stand up to her and her boxy old ways.

I was aiming to knock Ms. Crocker down a peg or two.

For awhile, I was starting to think Betty had won.

But today, Eureka!  A bakery success worthy of accolades and much glad tidings. Using a combination of recipes and techniques, I may just have stumbled upon one of the quickest, easiest, and tastiest from scratch yellow cake recipes I've encountered yet.

It was light, yet had a moist, tender crumb. Hallelujah. Bring out the forks and plates. No ice cream for me; this cake deserves to be enjoyed un-a-la-mode, thanks.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

What You'll Need:
1 cup butter OR you can also use a 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of shortening
(Shh, fat haters. This is cake. Cake has fat. Cake has calories.
 If you're balking, go eat a rice cake.)
2 cups white sugar
(Sugar-haters can join the fat haters in rice cake bliss).
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
(Use the good stuff here, please.)
1 package (small) Vanilla Instant Pudding
2 3/4 cup cake flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup milk
(Don't use skim for this. Fat helps in cakes so go for 2% or higher. You've already got all that butter going on, might as well finish the race, right?)

What You'll Do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cake pan (9x13 or 2 9 inch round pans), line with parchment, then grease and flour. (I know that sounds redundant, but it works, okay? Why must you always question me? Geesh).
In a mixer, beat together butter (or butter/shortening) and sugar till creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and pudding. Turn the mixer to medium, and let it go to town on the mixing for 8-10 minutes. Sound like alot? Maybe. But the longer you beat the sugar, the more it will mix into the fat and the less grainy your final product will be. Grainy cake = boo. Keep on mixing, my friend.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt with a whisk until very well blended and light.
Add flour mixture to the now fluffy and beautiful wet mixture, alternating with the milk. Mix until well blended.

Pour batter into your prepared pans. Stand back and take a moment to admire your handiwork. You just made a cake, darn it! From scratch, no less. Lick a beater, pat yourself on the arm, and say "Well done, self. Well done."

Bake for 30-45 minutes until cake tests done, depending on your pan size.
Note that if you've gone the all butter route (which I did), you'll want to watch for browning after about 15-20 minutes. Cover cake with foil to stop that from becoming over browning.
When done, cool completely and frost.
Note: Be very careful with 8 inch pans with this. 9-10inch round pans work better. If you use 8 inch, watch carefully for overbrowning. I'd let it get the color you like and then cover with foil for the rest of the time.

Why yes, I'll have a piece.

Don't be a hater, Betty Crocker. You had your day in the sun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why do today what you can deal with tomorrow?

Getting ready for anything feels like a crazy thing.

At least with kids attached it does, anyway.

Quick run to the store? Alone, sure; add the munchkins and not so much.

Just want to go out for a fast paced walk? Err, guess again.

Need to head out to a doctor's appointment? Too bad it was set for 5 minutes ago, oh ye who was never late.

The funny part of all of this is that when the girls were babies, truly time consuming babies, I had my routine so ironed out that we were able to plan a trip to the store and be on our way in under 15 minutes.

(I'm taking a moment to remember those amazing feats of diligence. Sigh).

Now it seems there's always some small crisis separating me from the car. A lost shoe, another round of pee, a sudden affliction of thirst or hunger, a misplaced toy.

Out. All I want is to open the door, walk through it, and close it. Bye-bye. Off I go.

They're slowing me down, these two.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about it. More like, just curious. How is it that when they were tiny and stereotypically supposed to be slowing me down, we were out the door in a flash. And now when they should be more independently adept to this cause, they're bringing our truck to a screeching halt?

I'm pondering this even as I sit and wait for them to get themselves pulled together enough to walk out the door. Sure, I could impose more rules on the topic: We're out the door by the count of 20, or Whatever is in your hand when I call Blue is what you bring, or No Toys, etc, etc, etc.

But mostly I just don't care at the moment. Mentally, it's not a fight I want to deal with today, so I'll put it off till tomorrow.

Yes, I know where that tricky road leads. I've been down it before.

But sometimes, you just got to revisit places, right?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Keeping Your Feet On The Ground

May it just be said that although I love adventure and discovery, I do not love heights. Take me out into Nature and I'll explore the heck out of it; I'll check out the local flora and fauna, tramp about from one path to another, and even sit and stare at the wonder of some amazing site.

Just please let me keep both feet on the ground.

And I prefer to not do anything the involves raging speeds either; I am more of a meanderer, if it's all the same to you.

Caedance, on the other hand, is my speed demon. Show her a hill and she wants to stand on the top of it. Go a bit fast in the car, and she'll be calling out from the backseat to go faster.

And she loves roller coasters.

A lot.

Yesterday she went on the Magnum at Cedar Point for the first time.
205 foot hill and speeds of 72mph. I watched as my 6 1/2 year old waved to me at the base of that first lift, smiling as the cars started going up. I watched as the train pulled higher and higher, and gulped when it went higher still. I held my breath when it cruised over that first hill, soaring down, down, down, and out of sight. And I smiled with relief when I saw her grinning face as the train made it's way back to the station.

She did it.

And she loved it.
A lot.
Caedance & Dan

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Not ready to let go...

Be warned, this is a long, rambling bit that I've written to clear my head. It's late and I need closure. And yes, it's about a cat. I need to put these words down to read them later. So I can remember that it all happened. Just this way.

In late June our "middle child-cat" Zoe was diagnosed with diabetes. That was a hard thing for us to deal with, not so much because of the disease itself, but more because of our lack of ability to help her with treatments. Opting not to put her down at that appointment, the vet sent us home with the understanding that she had 2 weeks at most left.

We decided that if we couldn't offer her the insulin she needed, then we'd do the best we could for her in whatever ways might help. We'd make those 2 short weeks count for something.

Our main strategy was to change her diet. We weaned her off her high carb, high yucky, diet and put her on a high protein, all natural food. We were told to expect positive results with it and so we waited. Expectantly.

Around the time of our anniversary, which was also about the time of the dreaded "2 Week" mark, it looked like the vet's predictions were coming true. She was weaker. She was tired. We decided to put her down.

But then she rallied.

She gained weight. Her eating returned to normal. She had the glint in her eye that was so clearly Zoe that it could not be mistaken. She may not have been fully 'back', but she sure as heck was fighting for it.

If she was going to fight, then we were going to fight.
If she wasn't giving up, then we weren't giving up either.

She continued on the upswing all though July. I couldn't help thinking that we'd found a way to manage her diabetes through diet. It happens and given her progress and improvement, I still think that's what happened for us.

She had been quarantined to the basement throughout most of this due to the fact that she developed a preference for pooing on my rugs upstairs. A bit of background on our house is that when we moved in, there was lots of "accidents" left over from the previous owner's pets. Getting that smell out took all of our efforts, along with re-sanding, staining, and varnishing the floors. I couldn't risk inviting Smell back into our house.

It broke my heart having to tuck her in at night down in that old, nasty basement. It has spiders that skitter in the dark. Rainstorms can make it wet, sending small rivers through it. She had a small pallet against the wall, covered in towels and elevated off the floor so she would never get wet. There were foam mats linked together around her for her litter box and food/water areas to be dry as well. I even had a bowl of multicolor Christmas lights right by her bed to keep on all night. But I still hated doing it. It was the nightly ritual that weighed me down like a ton of bricks on my shoulders. Every night.

Miracle of all miracles, as her condition improved, her ability to use the litter box improved as well. Suddenly I could leave the house without gating her in the basement. We could let her sleep in the kitchen and know she wasn't going to be using the rugs as a drop station. We began to think we were getting our cat back. And we were grateful for it. So very grateful. 

Something happened then that changed it all. I don't know what it was. Perhaps it was nothing, perhaps it was damage done to her poor body from the diabetes, or perhaps it whatever "it" was had been there all along, staved off by her efforts to fight and stay with us. Whatever the reason, Sunday night she stopped eating. I tried everything, all her favorites; food held no interest.

Monday and Tuesday arrived with more of the same. She wouldn't eat. Couldn't be made to eat. She lay on her pallet all day, a sad version of what once had been Zoe. Our upswing was gone.

Without eating or drinking, she quickly grew weaker. She'd been a bit unsteady on her feet, swaying with any over correction or misstep, but suddenly her gait looked painful. I understood why she preferred to lay down. Today, Wednesday, I noticed continued weakness and a new symptom: lethargy. Worrying that perhaps her blood sugar had dropped too low, I tried to get her to eat again. Tried. I used a syringe to attempt to shoot milk into her mouth; she meekly swallowed the miserable amount. More worried about her lack of "self", I began giving her corn syrup to try to boost her blood sugar, gently shooting it into her mouth. She swallowed with effort and no response.

And then it happened. The moment I knew she was done with the fight she had been waging for almost 7 weeks: she fell. Ready to be away from me and my full syringe, she began to untwist herself from my arms. I eased her down, helping her to sort out her appendages, but her back legs were tangled and she tripped, tipping over on her side. She righted her legs and tried again, gaining what should have been firm footing, but instead her left leg gave out and she fell again, this time into her water bowl. I began to cry. The most heart wrenching moment of this was that she didn't even attempt to get up. She stayed there, in her water bowl. Wet. Unmoving. Done.

I pulled her up and got her ready to try to stand again, hoping she'd find her footing and that I wasn't witnessing the white flag of surrender that I thought I was seeing. She pulled herself up on her front legs, aligned her back legs, twisted, and fell again. And again. And again.

In complete tears at this point and utterly sobbing, I called my husband at work.
"Please come home", I pleaded. "It's time. It's time."

I gathered her up in my arms, wrapped in one of her familiar, comforting towels, and brought her upstairs; freeing her from the darkness of the basement. I had about an hour to wait with her before Dan came home. An hour to be with her still body. I held her. I talked to her, thanking her for fighting for us, and letting her know it was okay to be done with the cause. She'd been so brave for us, we could be brave for her now too. And we would. 

Dan took her to the vet. He said she went peacefully, quickly, readily.

He brought her home. Home. We laid her to rest in our backyard. Home.

And now I can't stop crying. I've tried. Believe me, how I've tried. I keep reminding myself that this is a cat. I am surrounded by true sorrow of my friends and family: the death of a spouse; a child; the illness of a parent. This is a pet. I should be able to categorize it. Stash it away in the place that one keeps such things; just out of reach in daily life, but available to be thought of when the time calls for it.

But I can't. For whatever reason, that ability eludes me.

Maybe it's the stress of it, building up for the last 7 weeks, always there, always needing to be dealt with, but left untended to. I didn't have time to think about how her slow decline made me feel. I was too busy making the changes to keep the balance in our home. Barricading the many hidey-spots in our basement and protecting all my rugs. "I'll think about the toll this is taking on me later", I said through the headaches, the backaches, the pinched nerves, and popping jaw. "Later."

Later is here, my friends.

And I'm thinking about it.

The basement is still. Empty. I keep waiting to see her carefully treading her way over to me. I turn the corner and wait to see her laying on her pallet. But the floor is bare. The towels are washed. I had to do it.

I put one of the under linings of her pallet on the floor though. It still has some of her hairs on it. Her smell. When I laid it out our oldest cat, Anna, trotted over, sniffed the familiar smell of the cat she's shared most of her life with, and laid down on it. Her head resting against the past. My heart broke. She lost a friend today.

As I type this, Zoe's favorite little toy is sitting next to me. Through this entire journey, Barkley has been by her side. Through vet visits, through her quarantine in the basement; through her final journey today. As we buried her, I almost tossed it in. Almost. But I couldn't. Stupid, sentimental me. I've kept it and now I'm holding it. It even smells like her, if you can believe it. I'm not sure if it's really helping me. I see it. I think about how she saw it. I touch it and remember her paws batting at it, flipping it into the water bowl, her head laying on it. I cry. And cry. And cry.

I've lost cats before. Just in case you were wondering, and because I know that this novella makes it seem like this is new to me.

I can't explain it though. There are just more feelings with this right now. More words. Less of the busy-ness with young twins that broke the grief when we lost our other cat, and more of an awareness in the painful art of losing anything than when I lost cats as a child. Just....more.

I miss her. She was there before I became a mom. She was the bridge to that part of my life, the part I can't remember anymore because this role is so all consuming. So redefining. She, and Anna, and Lily were the reminder that there was a "Before". I'm not saying I long for "Before". I don't. Emphatically, I adore my life as a mom and wouldn't change it. But like looking at old photos, it's a nice daily reminder of a time when my life was different.

I miss her. Even if it's "silly" or "childish"; if it makes me seem like some bizarre Cat Lady (which I am most certainly not).

No matter how I try to talk my way around it and wiggle my mind through it, that simple fact remains. The basement is empty. The corner she called home for the last 2 months is bare. Tonight when we watched our evening shows, she wasn't laying on the floor between us, enjoying our attentions.

There was no bedtime ritual tonight. No cat to tuck in. No gate to set up. No Christmas lights to plug in.

I miss her.

Zoe Isabel