Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dancing Queens

My little dancing queens had an opportunity to pay homage to their own musical idols yesterday. An ABBA tribute band was playing at Lock 3 and Dan's parents were kind enough to tote our little cherubs there to be infiltrated by the energetic disco beat.

When we told the girls that this would be their afternoon surprise, Ashlyn clasped her hands to her chest and gushed with joy, barely concealing the utter excitement attempting to split her in two. "Oh, they're my favorite! My very, very favorite!"

Why is ABBA their favorite? It's not exactly conventional 6 year old listening material. Eh, who's to say. It couldn't be because I have an affinity for all things ABBA myself, could it? Okay. It probably is. But let's face it, the beat is catchy. You put on Chiquita and you're going to smile. It will happen. Maybe not at first, but it by that last Sousa-like piano solo that leads the song out, you will be.

How I wish I could have seen them at that concert; they were singing, they were wiggling their hips. My Dancing Queens. Letting go and just loving the music and loving the fact that they were a part of it. Childhood at it's very very best.

If that's not a little bit magical, I don't know what is.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Making A Heart

I love dinnertime at our house. It's the one time during each day when no matter how crazy or chaotic our individual days have been, we can all take a breather, sit down in one place, and talk. Together.

There is much varying conversation to be had at that rectangle each night, but whether it consists of "Important Somethings" or "Many Nothings", it's a true blessing to be together to share whatever comes to mind with one another.

Tonight's conversational journey was more of a meandering stroll with everyone stopping by one topic or another, each pointing out a bit of this and a bit of that. Dan and I shared pieces of our day, commenting on stresses and laughing off annoyances; our dialog punctuate by the occasional insertion of the random Childhood Offerings so kindly put forth by the girls: "Daddy, I have green beans on my plate." ("Yes, I see that. Isn't that nice?") "Mommy, I like to rhyme words that aren't real words." ("That's a mighty fun thing to do, cher. Truck-bluck. I like to do that too.") "Daddy, our roof won't fall off, will it?" ("No, I don't think we need to worry about that happening.")

But then, through the hodgepodge of daily domesticity came this:

"Mommy, did you know I love having a twin?"
("You do? It's a very special thing, having a twin. I'm glad you love it.")

"Mommy, did you know that when I hug my sister, it makes a heart?"
("No, I didn't know that. Does it, really?")

"Yes. See?" Across the table from us, the girls hugged each other tightly, and then rested their heads together for a moment with smiles on their faces. "See?"

I'm not sure what exactly she meant by 'Heart'. Maybe she means that there is a love between them that goes beyond words or even understanding; an abiding love that forms a connection of sorts when they are physically near to one another, leaning on each other, and offering support for the other; a completeness to be had just by being nearby. A heart.

Yes. I see that. Very clearly (and with some small amount of jealousy). I see that. And I love it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

: Homeschooling Adventure

This Fall marks the beginning of a new adventure here in our household. As many of you know, (and maybe some of you keep trying to forget), we're going to be giving the Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA) a try.

People keep asking me if it's a homeschool program. No. And yes. Yes, they will be at home to learn as opposed to going to a brick and mortar building; however, unlike my homeschooling counterparts, I did not have any say in what curriculum I'll be teaching. As in any public school, the curriculum was chosen for me and I have to teach it. That is the main difference. OHVA uses the K12 curriculum. It includes all the subjects taught in school, with the exception of Library and Physical Education. Everything was sent to me and we'll also be given a computer and printer, as well as a monthly stipend towards our Internet access. My girls will still be undergoing all the same tests that their peers in public school will be undertaking as well. I should also mention that all of this is free.

That being said, I'll be attempting to keep a running record of this first year. Will we like it? Will it be a huge flop? Who knows and only time will tell. I had considered starting a new blog specifically for this new adventure in twin parenting, but the thought of maintaining two doesn't really appeal. Besides this new journey will be part of our parenting adventure. With twins. It belongs here on these pages just as much as the tales of their antics and quirks.

I hope you'll continue to read along with us as we explore this uncharted territory. Maybe you've considered teaching your kids at home and want to see a glimpse of what it might look like. Maybe you're already homeschooling and want to compare notes. Or maybe you just want the joy of seeing our daily follies on the computer screen so you can turn to your family and laughingly say, "Manda's got herself in a pickle now."

Whatever your motivation may be, please read on my friends. Stay with us and read on.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sparkly Dress of Splendor.

The girls and I spent the morning wandering around a few clothing stores. I was looking quite specifically for dress shoes for them that meet my strict guidelines: Chunky, fun, feminine, Mary-Jane style.
(Incidentally, this is becoming harder and harder for me to find in their size.)

And they were specifically looking for anything sparkly, flouncy, or lacy.

As we snaked our way through the store, me in the lead and they following closely behind me, I heard a chorus of, "Ooooh. That's my favoritest one ever, Mommy." And the occasional, "All I want is that. It's perfect forever."

Intent on my own purpose in the store, I'd give the items in a question a cursory glance and a courtesy, "Uh-huh. Yep, that's lovely," before moving our little train forward. But our progress grew slower and slower until we came to a complete standstill in front of a rack of very gaudy and slightly inappropriate, but incredibly sparkly, dresses.

They were the sort of dresses that are impeccable in their ability to be completely impractical for a child. Sure they've got the aesthetics, but they cannot rate anywhere near "Comfortable" with all the tulle and silk under layers and scratchy outer layers. And it seemed that all the extra material that bedecked the lower half of the dress was surely taken from the top half, which seemed shockingly bare and incomplete.

But 4 blue eyes had been turned, and 2 rapt attentions captured nonetheless.

We stood before that rack of impropriety, our eyes taking in the sight before us. I imagine that despite our shared gape-mouthed looks, the thoughts swirling in our individual heads were quite different. The girls looked upon the confections before them thinking of the twirling and shining joy they'd have in such apparel. Meanwhile inside my Mom-Head, my thoughts focused on how scanty the tops of the dresses were, how revealing such a thing would be on my two little girls, (on ANY little girl), and how sad it is that our society is trying to tell us that's okay.

(It isn't, actually, but thanks, Society.)

The girls turned to look at me, waiting for my reaction. My decision. Yes or no?

I smiled and agreed they were very sparkly dresses. But not dresses we needed to buy today.

They disagreed.

I countered.

They countered my counter.

I smiled and began walking away.

A few steps behind me, I heard two heavy sighs. I peeked back to see two pairs of slumped shoulders sluggishly following my lead. Slowing down so I could wait for them to catch up to me, I put my arms around each one of them, drawing them in for a hug.

My girls.

My little girls.

No matter what our culture has to say about that, it's the truth.

Their bellies do not need to show.

Their pants labels do not need to read "Low Rise".

And there really doesn't need to be any writing across the seats of their pants.

They'll grow up faster than I'd like them to all on their own. It's going to happen; chronologically, it's a certainty. But right now, in this moment, they are still children. And I'm going to keep them that way as long as I can.

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's Here, It's Here! (No, not the new phone book)

It came today.  The delivery of K12 goodies I've been waiting for has finally arrived. And there is excitement at our house, let me tell you.

Okay, so it's me who's excited more than anyone else. But, come on. There was new school stuff! Curriculum and supplies! Manipulatives! Organization to be created from the mass of chaos, people. I was in my home turf and feeling giddy as a school girl, I guess.

I have an extreme love for organizing things. I do. It's like I purposely seek out closeted, cluttered messes just so I can have the sheer joy of making it all neat and tidy. And it has to be my work, mind you, not someone else's work. No thank you. So even though their first grade Art kits came in nice boxes with everything lined up just so, I still had to Manda-ize it by putting all the tempera paints in Rainbow order (is there any OTHER way to do it, I ask you? Who doesn't love them a little Roy G Biv? This gal is his biggest number one fan).

OCD, much?
But slap whatever label you want on it, I still love it.

There were boxes and boxes to be unpacked and put away. Somewhere. Everything had to have a space in a place that seemingly had no space for all many 'everythings' involved. Cupboards and drawers were opened, scrutinized, and cleared out. With nary a glint in my sentimental eye, stuff that had been horded or just stashed because I didn't know what else to do with was trashed.

Space was needed and acquired. Success.

Looking around this evening, I am happy with the results. A place for everything: student & teacher books lined up on the work shelves; manipulatives put away; anything extra stored away; the boxes, once full of the awaiting chaos that every organizing-addict so loves, broken down and ready to be stored.

I'm in heaven, remembering the days of getting my own classroom pulled together and ready for another year. Those twilight days of the summer when I had one foot in the school year already, anticipating the year (and its struggles), and the other foot planted firmly in those last lingering days of freedom. Ready, yet waiting.

And truth be told, the thrill of this new adventure is a very welcome companion.

Stroke of Genius

Oh the difference a year can make.

This time last year the girls were still very much our household Anti-Artists. Born to a self-defined Lifelong Crafter and an admitted Perfectionist, my non-coloring, non-drawing, non-crafting children were a mild source of bemusement to me.

It's not to say they were not creative. Not at all. Put these two together and they'd come up with a new language, new game, a new reality. They've always been extremely creative, but their choice of medium just never matched my own.

While this was okay with me, (let it not be said I am a Craft Enforcer, please), the teacher in me saw the potential set backs their lack of practice would herald in the arena of fine motor skills in school. Deciding to let that rug unroll on as it would, I was not surprised that they did struggle with writing and with using scissors in school. Improvement was vast with one-on-one therapy, but interest still waned and never really took off.

Until this summer.

Suddenly my once stagnant artists have found their collective voices. Caedance spends her days writing and illustrating her own little books. Once needing my assistance and guidance through the process, she now sits and will diligently plod away for hours (yes, hours I tell you), on her various creations. I've lost count of how many handmade books she's created, and toted around with her; tattered, well-read, shared and shared again, cherished.

While Caedance has embraced the medium of paper, Ashlyn has opted to express her inner artiste on chalkboard. In a spree of "Last Ditch Effort", we put several in our house a few years ago in hopes of stirring some desire to hold something in their hands and create. No dice back then, but we've hit the jackpot now. Every time I pass one of the boards, I find a drawing or two on it, always changing, always evolving. She'll stand before the board in thought, as if surveying her canvas to determine the correct placement of her forthcoming masterpiece. And then she unleashes the fury that is her art; unrelenting and truthful.

I'm grateful that we chose not to overstress about their extreme lack of interest in the past, even given the issues it caused in school. As much as I would have loved to lighten their load during the times of stress and frustration, I can see very clearly how those struggles shaped a part of who they are right now. It gave them each her own motivation to move on and go forward. When Caedance completes her umpteenth book today, or Ashlyn sketches out her next epic chalk creation, it won't be my voice in their heads pushing them on. It's their own.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

They Way They Love Me

"Mommy, I just wanted to let you know that I really love you now".

(Oh. Because you didn't before? But now you do?)

"Thanks, sweetie. That's really great to hear. I am wondering what you mean when you say that you love me 'now', though."

"Well, before you were my mommy, see? And I loved you because that's what you were, because kids are supposed to love their mommy."


"And now, cher?"

"Oh. Well, now I see all of the things you do for all of us. You do lots of really nice stuff, Mom."

(That's true. No argument there. I'm a pretty stellar lady, if I do say so myself.)

".....So now I love you because I see all of that and I know you don't have to do it; you choose to do it because you love me. I love you for that, Mom."

(Oh, my.)

"You know what sweetie? That may be the best thing I've heard in a long time. I love you too."

And then she said 4 magical words to me:

"I know it, Mama."

(Very high praise, indeed.)

My heart is still melting.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Version Of Frontega Chicken Sandwich

As much as I adore soup, I equally love their chewy companions, the all mighty, often cleverly crafted Sandwich. There is something divine about the unlikely partnership between an array of unrelated ingredients and two pieces of bread. Alone, not so interesting. But stacked together? Sheer culinary genius. 

Thinking along the lines of my current obsession with Panera, my mind fell on my favorite sandwich there: The Frontega Chicken Sandwich. Yum and Yum.  In my recipe, I've streamlined a few of the ingredients to keep it easy and quick. Taste wise, it's all still there. Still yum. And yum.

What You'll Need:
1 rotisserie chicken
 (why not let the grocery store do the cooking for you?)
1 tomato
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Loosely chopped basil
Chipotle Mayo
 (Buy this in the mayo aisle. Easy Peasey Lemon Squeezy).
1 red onion
 (I saute the onions, caramelizing them with some sugar. Tasty).
Foccacia bread or Ciabatta rolls
 (You can buy the Foccacia from Panera, or making it isn't too tricky; there are recipes on line if you want to give it a shot. I like using the Ciabatta rolls myself; they squish down nicely with the panini press.)

What You'll Do:
Pile all ingredients on to your choice of bread, and then grill away. I use my handy dandy panini press, but you could just go Mr. Grilled Cheese on this and use a skillet. It's all good.


Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup (a.k.a Bowl Of Joy)

I am a lover of all things soup. I am. The stuff is amazing and I celebrate almost all it.  To quote my mom's 1960's era Better Homes "New" Cook Book, "Soup's on. And wonderful it will taste." (Is that not the most awkward sentence you've ever read? It was high on my list, personally.)

Anyway. I make a lot of it around here and especially love to create restaurant favorites on my own. I recently found a copy cat version of one of my very favorite of favorites, the Broccoli Cheddar Cheese soup at Panera. Two words describe that bowl of delight: Yum-Yum.

As will most recipes that find their way into my paws, I have tweaked this one a bit based on the ingredient list of the actual Panera version. It's a favorite around our house. See what you think.

What You'll Need:
1 TBS Butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-half
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound broccoli, chopped small
1 cup chopped carrots (small cubes)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2Tbs-1Tbs Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2-3 dashes hot sauce
8oz shredded cheddar cheese

What You'll Do:
Saute the onions in the 1TBS of butter. Then set them aside (you'll use 'em later).
Next, cook flour in the melted butter over medium heat, whisking constantly. Slowly add the half and half, stirring constantly. Next add the chicken stock. Allow this mixture to come to a simmer, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.
Add the onions, carrots, and broccoli. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until veggies are tender. Add the salt/pepper, cheddar cheese, Dijon, and hot sauce, and nutmeg. Stir until cheese is melted. Adjust seasoning as needed and enjoy.

Yum and Yum.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Cinnamon Roll Kinda Day

Some days are good. Some days are not so good.

And some days just call for homemade cinnamon rolls. Yep, they sure do.

Days where the whisper of cinnamon sugar is in the air, beckoning you to roll up a pan of goodness, bake up a dozen pieces of heaven, and devour them all yourself. Or, if you're feeling especially selfless, to share them with your family whom you love ever so much.

Incidentally, some days are brownie days around our house too. Actually, a lot of days are. Cinnamon roll days are much fewer and far between, and must be respected when they arrive.

Today I heard the call. And I answered.

I think everyone has a favorite recipe that they love. Me, I'm more of a "It's What You Do With It" kinda gal. I'll try all manner of recipes, snatching a bit from this one and adding a skosh from that one. I love trying each one out to see if I can build my own Perfect Recipe.

The following recipe is one of those mismash conglomeration of multiple recipes. Is it the end all be all heavy weight champion of the cinnamon roll world? That's for others to decide. But it has become a favorite around here.

1 1/3 cups milk                2 1/2 TBS butter
2 eggs                                3 TBS sugar
2/3 tsp salt*                        4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp yeast**

Filling: Mix together
5 TBS sugar             2TBS cinnamon + extra for shaking on

For brushing:
2/3 cup melted butter

*A trick I learned when dealing with thirds of things is this: 1/3 tsp is a heaping 1/4 teaspoon.
**I make so much bread around here that I keep jars of yeast, which make measuring a breeze. If you're using the packages, 1 packet is 2 1/4 tsp of yeast. I recommend buying yeast at the price clubs because it's cheap. As in 4 bucks cheap. And you get a brick of it. I keep a jar of it in the fridge and keep the rest tightly wrapped in the fridge so it's ready to go when I need to refill the jar. It stays good for a long time, is fresh when you need it, and is oodles and oodles cheaper than the packets.
Whew. Aren't you glad I said all that??

So, I cheat and use my bread machine to do this. Using that method, I add all wet ingredients and then add the dry stuff, saving the yeast for very last. I select the dough cycle, press Start, and sit back for an hour and half, which is when the dough will be done. Check your machine rules though because I know some require the dry ingredients to be put in the pan first.

If you're using the mixer method, activate your yeast first by warming up 1/3 cup of the 1 1/3 cups of milk. It should be warm but not hot. Add 1 TBS of the sugar, and 1 TBS of the flour, and then stir in the yeast. Let that sit for a few minutes until it gets foamy; at that point it's ready to use.
In a mixing bowl, mix your yeast mixture, eggs, butter, remaining milk, and sugar until combined. Add the salt and remaining flour until mixed. Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes until smooth and elastic (I use the dough hook for this). Place your dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rest until doubled...(30min-1hour). Yes, I know that's vague. But dough will not be rushed. It won't be. When it's doubled, it's ready; if that happens in 30 minutes or 60, it takes what it takes. A good hint is to let your dough rise in a preheated LOW (170 degree) oven with a dish of water set on the bottom. If you have a proofing cycle on your oven, that's even better.

At this point, whether you used a bread machine or a mixer, you should be ready to create the rolls. To do this, roll your dough out into a rectangle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon/sugar mix. Now, I happen to think that in a cinnamon roll the predominant flavor should be the cinnamon. It's a quality I admire about a cinnamon roll, actually. Anyway, if you feel the same way, you'll want to do this next step. Remember that +extra cinnamon part of the ingredient list? This is where it comes in. Sprinkle your dough with the cinnamon as much or as little as you'd like. Now roll it up like a jelly roll, from the long side.

Cut your dough into 1 1/2-2 inch wide slices and place them in a greased pan or pans. Cover them and let them rise. Again, I use my oven for this, preheated to 170 but turned off. They should double in 20-30minutes.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Start checking for over browning after about 10 minutes. Cover with foil if you feel they're getting too brown. When done, allow to cool. You can then glaze them with a milk/powdered sugar glaze while they're still slightly warm if you'd like. Sharing is recommended, but completely optional.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Laundry Soap: Revisted

As you should all know by now (because I talk about it darn near constantly), we have made the switch to homemade laundry detergent. I can't say this was the easiest thing we've done; the call of the Laundry Soap Aisle is strong, my friends. It beckons with scents unknown, fun colors, and new formulas.

But I have resisted. I have been strong.

"So. You're off the merchandise?"

"Yes. Yes I believe so."

"How long've you been off it?"

"Going on 4, 5 months now, I think? Close to it."

"How do you feel since detaching yourself from said products?"

......So much better.

How wonderful is it to be able to say, "Oh! I'm out of laundry soap. Gotta go make some more!" And just like that, laundry soap galore. Out of my own cupboard. Whoa. It still kind of mystifies me that simple ingredients, all of which I have on hand, can turn into a product that I use all of the time. Magic.

It's cheap. It's easy. And it works. Really well. Actually, after you've seen just how well it works, how much like store bought stuff it is, you start to get angry that you paid so much for so long. Because they told you to.

"Here. You need this. You'll have to pay this. Seems like a lot, does it? Well, we don't know about that. It's magic you know. You should have to pay this much for magic in a bottle."

Much like his cohort in Oz, the detergent Wizard has been revealed as the greedy little man that he is.

And I won't pay him anymore. Na-uh.

An added bit of wisdom I've picked up through this: Fels-Naptha makes an amazing pretreater. It sure does. With two girls who use their clothing as napkins, and a husband who seems to do the same, I need a good pretreater. It's essential to me. By wetting and rubbing the bar directly on the stain, be it grime, grease, or gore, it comes out in the wash. And at .99 cents a bar, this is the cheapest stain treater I've found. I vote yes.

I'm also learning to use less of it. It seems like I should have to use a lot, since it's non-sudsing. But that's just not true. I've been trained to need bubbles and suds and foamy scents, but months of being free of it is showing me how simple ingredients can, in fact, simply work. And they do.

For those of you who have tried it, I wish you continued homemade laundry soap happiness.

For those who haven't yet tried it I ask this: why not give it a shot?

You can find the recipes for the liquid and powdered versions here:

Happy Washing To You!

Thinking Clean

I ran out of all purpose cleaner today, in the middle of cleaning the kitchen.

There was a time in my life when this occurrence would have been extremely annoying and more of a hassle than anything else.

But no more.

When I threw out my store bought laundry products, I began to make my own cleaners as well. I've been doing this for several months now and am in love (if you can feel that way about a cleaner) with my All Purpose Cleaner.

Here's the recipe for those who may want to try it:

What You'll Need:
A spray bottle
1 tsp. Borax powder
1/2 tsp. Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
2TBS white vinegar
1/2 tsp vegetable-based soap: I use Dr. Bonner's Castile Soap. Lavender, yum.
2 cups hot water.

What You'll Do:
Add everything to the spray bottle and shake. Now when you're talking about adding powders, this can be more of a challenge than it seems, depending on the opening to your spray bottle. I usually put the powders on a small piece of paper, roll it into a cone shape and then funnel it into the bottle. Then I add the rest of it. I tried mixing everything together in a bowl and pouring it the bottle once. Once. Did you ever make a volcano in science class? Yeah, it felt a lot like that.
Anyway, once you've got it all in the bottle, give it a happy shake and you're off.

This stuff works great on all hard surfaces. And the best part is that after cleaning a room with it, you won't feel like you've just sniffed glue for an hour. (That may not be a selling point for those who like sniffing glue, though).

And the even better part of the whole thing is that when you run out of it, like I did today? You just mix up another batch. Hooray! No fuss, no muss.

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day After Birthday Ponderings

I just spent a half hour typing out a wonderful piece on birthdays and how much they change from childhood to adulthood.

It was filled with humor, sarcasm, and wit. My favorite trio.

I had spell checked it.

Proof read and actually edited it.

It was golden.

It was great.

You would have loved it, I know I did.

And then in the midst of typing the title :" 'Nother Birthday", which may or may not have been a clever title, it went away.



I hit some sadistic combination of keys on my keyboard. You know the one; it's the kind you'll never actually figure out exactly other than to know that you sincerely hope you never accidentally hit it again.

In the blink of an eye.


So you sit here reading this instead. Maybe it's not so glamorous. Not so sophisticated. But rest assured it's got feeling. Oh, just ever so much of it, typed right into all these words. Click-click-click-click. So much feeling.

And so today, the day after my birthday, I have decide to disdain technology.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Just A Glimpse...

It's one of those hot summer days that just begs for pool time. Unfortunately, neither girls are swimmers yet, and we haven't a local pool wherein to teach them. Consequently, Pool Time around here means dragging out the plastic one and filling it up.

It's funny to look at them in it right now, mentally comparing them to their younger selves. Today when they scoot down the slide, the resulting splash looks like it could empty out the entire pool. It almost does. Today their nearly 7 year old bodies take up the majority of the space; a far cry from looking like small fish in a big pond. When they were younger we would fill the pool up with an assortment of tub toys and play food from their kitchen set, but today I don't think there's really any room for that. They seem to be content playing Kick The Water Out Of The Pool, a staggeringly easy task for two so tall as they.

Looking at them in the bathing suits, I feel the reality of their growth like a slap in the face. Gone are the chubby thighs and pudgy bellies of toddler hood, replaced by long torsos and even longer legs of looming adolescence and womanhood. That word, "womanhood" when applied to my daughters feels like sandpaper across my tongue; abrasive, sudden, and not completely welcome. They're my babies. Even still,I know the end result of all this parenting is to have 2 beautiful women, mothers, and friends. Our gift to humanity.

It's just that it's going so fast. Too fast. Time is slipping by and I feel helpless to stop it, doing my best to hold up a hand and require a hug and a cuddle every now and again. Stopping them as they go along their merry way, growing up before my eyes, to remember it's okay to want to be with Mommy and to need me. I can still fix the boo boos, still soothe an injured heart. I can still be the one they turn to for a smile, encouragement, a hug.

Most of the time I insist on seeing them through the hazy gleam of the past; still little girls, still trying to outgrow each other in a neck and neck race that never ends. But in times like these, days when I can see them for what they are, I see how fuzzy the edges of the past truly are. They are traveling over the gap between Big Kid and Tween; getting ready to knock on the door of Teenager, and then Woman.

Time, it stops for no one. The only thing to do is to get acquainted with the present and to plant my feet firmly in the now. As for these two precious girls,  I have the honor of knowing where they've come from, the privilege of seeing who they're working on being now, and the excitement of watching them become the women they'll be.

I count my blessings as very many, indeed.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Searching For Harry Potter...

We're raising Harry Potter Fans at our house.

Yep, we sure are.

When the girls turned 5, we upgraded our bedtime stories to chapter reading out of books we decided they should hear. Harry Potter was at the top of the list because we were excited for them to hear the story. (And really, isn't that what makes being a parent so gosh darn awesome? You get to decide what books your kids will have to sit and listen to. Also, I can read in an awe-inspiring English accent, making it completely enthralling to listen to, I'm sure. But mostly, they listen because we've told them they'll like it.)

Our initial plan was to not allow the girls to see any of the movies if we hadn't yet read the book to them. We were pretty successful with that goal in the beginning; however, interest waned, and time flitted discreetly away.

Consequently, here looms the last installment of the series, ready to release in a little over a week, and we've only gotten through book 2, The Chamber of Secrets. So we've begun a Harry Potter Marathon at our house, gearing the girls up for our last opportunity to take them to the theater to see a Potter film released.

Here's what they've told me so far:
1. Harry was "cutest" in the first one. (I suspect that is because he appeared closer to their age)

2. No matter what the wizarding world can do, cars should most definitely not fly. Ever. End of story. (Clearly they've not seen Back To The Future II).

3. It would be okay to have a pet owl. "Can we have one, mom?" Nope. (End of story).

4. Spiders should not ever, ever, ever grow that big. "No, mom, they really shouldn't." I agree. Completely.

We're cruising our way through each DVD, the girls experiencing them for the first time, while Dan and I reminisce about where we were and what was going on in our lives as each was released. It's a family affair here.

.....and I still hate the spiders in Chamber of Secrets. Hate them.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

This Anniversary

Thirteen years ago today I became Mrs. Dickinson. I stood before a pastor and vowed that I would cleave to this man, my friend, until death us do part. I meant every word I said.

I still do.

I know it's cliche to say it, but the truth is I am amazed we're at 13 years. Where did it all go? We've had our ups, our downs, goods and bads; life has a way of wriggling into the cracks in the fortress you thought you built so well, doesn't it? What I love about our marriage is that the bad times and struggles drive us closer together rather than further apart. He is honestly my best friend; of course I need to lean on him when the going gets rough, and I consider it an honor that he feels the same for me.

We understand each other.

Of our 13 anniversaries thus far, we've had an eclectic variety of celebrations. We planned get aways for a few of them, but that was before kids, when there was extra money to be found in the budget to allow that. Since the girls have completed our family, we've included them on our day, making them a part of the celebration of it. We choose a fancy restaurant and all get dolled up for it. They know to be on their very best-of-the-bestest behavior, and off we go. Maybe it's not the uber romantic anniversaries of the past, but there is something sweet about celebrating a marriage that has created 2 precious people with those 2 people.

There was the year we moved on our anniversary. That just plain sucked, I must honestly say. I don't remember how it worked out that we planned such an undertaking on that special day, but it did. Never again. Ever.

This year we're in the midst of a crisis with one of our before-children cats, Zoe. She was diagnosed with diabetes last week and has been struggling since then. This is the topic of a whole other entry, Say It Ain't So, Zo. We've watched her continue to ebb and flow with the disease, desperately trying to figure out what treatment we could honestly afford. After much research, our decision today...TODAY...has been to put her down. Of course, it's Sunday and our vet is closed, and naturally tomorrow is the 4th Of July....leaving Tuesday as the Date.

I hate this choice, which was really not much of a choice to make at all, really. But she's not herself. She's weak, struggling to even get up the stairs. She's stuck down the basement all day and in the bathroom at night, unable to roam freely with her sister-cats because of accidents she's having. Looking in her eyes is like looking at someone who has fought a long hard battle and is ready to let go, but can't. She's so tired. So deeply, deeply, inhumanely tired.

And so it came to pass that I've spent the better part of our anniversary sobbing over the weakened form of our previously vigorous cat, (when, by the way, I had formerly decided NOT to shed any more tears over this), agonizing over a decision which feels more like some murderous plot, and feeling completely wracked with guilt over the whole entire thing.

Well, happy anniversary to us.

It's one of those times to cleave; and so I do. Dan is my friend, my comfort, my support, my encourager. He's standing beside me, attempting to calm his slightly neurotic wife, assuring me that this will be the best choice for our cat, and that we can get through it together.

Just like we always have.


As in, not alone.

I like that.

A lot.

Today is a day to celebrate that. Our togetherness in the good times and in the bad; to draw close when the choices are plenty and easy, and when they are few and hard.


In that sense, it is a Happy Anniversary after all.