Monday, November 19, 2012

Thinking Thankfully

Another Thanksgiving is rounding the corner once more, giving us all another chance to be still for a moment and reflect. To think. To thank. Together.

At our house, as I've already mentioned, Turkey Tom shares real estate with Saint Nick and manger scenes, but we appreciate him nonetheless.

This thoughtfulness in mind, I asked the girls today what they were thankful for.

Caedance is thankful for our dinners--be they large or small, well planned out and presented with care, or thrown somewhat haphazardly on the plate a la Hectic Mom, whether eaten at the table with family, or picnic style on the floor with a family movie. She's thankful for them. She appreciates them, and is aware that not every one has the blessing of knowing a meal is coming every evening.

"I'm actually quite thankful for what we have for dinner every night, Mother. I feel bad for those who don't have that."

I love her heart.

Last week we visited a local food bank and took a tour around the huge facility, hearing about their programs and how they help our community every day of the year. Both girls are eager to volunteer and do what they can to help out.

Ashlyn is thankful for her family. "I love the fun we have together, Mama. I love that you all take care of me and make sure I'm okay. I love that you love me. I love you."

Did you read that first line? She has fun when we're together. All of us. The weight of those words is precious to me. How many times have I been tempted to get a few more loads of laundry folded, or wash some more dishes, or put some stuff away, rather than sit and be engaged in whatever activity we were doing? The pull of those Adult Responsibilities can be strong and hard to ignore; there is always something else that needs to be done. Urgently. But I try, I really do, to stay those whispers of work left undone to just sit in the moment and be with my family. Playing  game. Watching a movie. Reading a book. Talking. I try to be part of whatever present we are in rather than bowing out to my To Do list.

And she sees that. They both see that. That sentence is proof that my children see this sacrifice, this giving of my undivided time and appreciate it. And they have FUN when we're together.

I love that. Very much.

As for me, well, I'm thankful for each of them. Their differences make them as unique as their similarities do. I have been blessed by the good days of raising and schooling them, and the tough days as well. There is always something to learn when you're around kids all day. They are a mirror held up to my face, pointing out my own strengths and weaknesses and giving me an opportunity to either grow and flourish, or stay the same and wither.

This may seem cliche', but they make me a better person in every way imaginable.

And I am thankful for that too.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Early Christmas

Today I come to this post with a Cyber Declaration of sorts. Here it goes:

It's November 9th and I already have Christmas decorations up. What's more is...I am proud to say it. And once and for all I shall declare it loudly: I Decorate Early For Christmas. So take that.

For years I've hid my early-Christmas glee in the shadows, decorating only the back part of our house so that no one driving by our house could possibly spy the merry twinkle of multi-color lights coming from the family room. It was just our little (dirty) secret. No one need ever know.

But the simple fact of the matter is, come November 1st, I'm ready to give orange and black the old heave-ho, ready to unroll the holly and deck the halls.

Now I know you might be chastising me about rushing through Thanksgiving and all that, but let me tell you right up front that, in my mind, these two holidays go together perfectly. Hand in hand.

Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate our blessings; to gather with family and friends and cherish the memories we've shared in the past, while building new ones for the future. It's a day set aside to just enjoy what you have and not worry about the rest of it. For one whole day.

Here's the thing, for me that defines Christmas too. Only it's not just a day---a set of 24 hours. It's an entire Season to reflect on blessings and family and friends. A time to be grateful. Forgiving. Kind.

For all the materialism that Christmas has gathered around it throughout the years, the commercialism that vies greedily for the spotlight rather than sharing it with a silhouette of a simple manager, I still find it to be a time of being thankful.

Honestly, come All-Saints Day, I'm ready for a change in pace and attitude, aren't you? I'm ready to think candy canes and reindeer; twinkle lights and evergreens. Songs that sing of peace and love, of kindness and generosity, of hope and truth, just have a way of uniting us all amidst our differences. For this one time of the year, it seems, people are okay with the things that set us apart. It's like we can all agree to disagree and be together as mankind.

I like that.

And sometimes it seems a long trek from one December to another, doesn't it?

Maybe this is just my personal view but around our house, we're not exchanging Tom Turkey for mangers and St. Nick; they're getting along just fine together, thank you very much.

And for that I am very thankful.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bread Machine Dinner Rolls

In a previous post, I declared that making soup was like filling your home with sunshine and rainbows. And making homemade rolls to go with that soup was like inviting unicorns to the party.

Want to invite the unicorns over for a playdate?

Here's a recipe that lures them right on in.

I've been making these rolls for so long that I've memorized the recipe. Which is saying something since memorizing any sort of bread recipe can be tricky, and perhaps a bit fool hardy.

But there it is.

I got this recipe from a bread machine cookbook by Donna R. German. They're consistently perfect--just the right texture with a subtle sweetness that doesn't overpower whatever you're serving them with.

Perfect with soup.

Bread Machine Dinner Rolls

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Put all ingredients into pan according to your manufacturer's directions. For mine, that means adding all the liquids first. Select dough cycle--on my machine that is 1 1/2 hours. After the cycle completes, divide dough into 9-10 parts; shape into balls. Place each ball into a greased muffin cup. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise until doubled--30 min. to 1 hour. (If you set your oven to 170 you can proof your rolls faster). When doubled, you can bake as is or brush the tops with egg white and sprinkle with coarse salt. Yum.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Watch for over browning after 10 minutes--you may need to put a piece of foil on them.

Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

Okay, so here's the solid truth: I am a soup junkie. I am. Really.
I celebrate the stuff in all its various forms and presentations. And the only thing more intoxicating than eating it is making it.

Especially on a cold, wet, gray day.

Making a pot of something that involves the magical word "Simmer" is like harvesting sunshine and filling your house with rainbows. Add homemade rolls and that's like inviting unicorns to the party.

But I digress.

A favorite of ours around this time of year is a super easy to throw together one. Chicken Mulligatawny. Even the name sounds fun, don't you think? I like the way it rolls off the tongue....mulligatawny.

Here is the recipe for this great soup that even my picky eater children l-o-v-e.

Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

1/4 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 green peppers (or red & yellow too), chopped
1 large tart apple, cubed

1/4 cup flour
1 cup cooked rice
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
2 whole cloves
1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
2 TBS dried parsley
black pepper

2 cups milk

In a soup pot, saute onion, carrots, celery, peppers, and apple in butter until onions are translucent. Add flour, stir till well mixed. Stir in tomatoes, rice, curry powder, cloves, tomatoes, sugar, broth, salts, and parsley. Stir well. bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Stir in milk, simmer on low to reheat.

This soup is great the next day, (as most soups are), so leftovers are a bonus. It also freezes really well. I've been known to make a double batch and freeze part of it for another gray day when I'm in a hurry and need to have dinner made like 15 minutes ago. You know those days.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Loved Beyond Limits: Happy Birthday, Girls.

This week holds a very special day for our family; the anniversary of the day we became parents. (Otherwise known as The Girls' Birthday).

They'll be 8 this year and I find myself, as ever and always, both amazed and positively alarmed at how quickly time has passed. What happens upon the birth of a child that suddenly negates all rules of time and space? How can time go at once so incredibly fast, and yet completely slow in other respects?

I just don't get it.

I seem to be viewing this annual celebration in a different light as the Birthday Girls.

They are excited for the honor of turning 8; ready for the upping of that age-identification. Ready to truly be Eight Year Olds. Growing up.

As for me, well, I'm just trying to figure out where exactly the last 7 years have gone. How is it possible that I have the clearest memories of bringing them home; caring for their preemie selves; of being eye dryingly, mind numbingly if it was just yesterday. Yesterday. Not 7 years ago.

How does that happen, I ask you?

In any event, we will celebrate this year's upping of the age in grand style; A Build A Bear party. There will be friends. There will be family. There will be giggles and fun.

And there will be two newly minted 8 year olds as well.

Happy Birthday, Ash & Cae.
You are both rare and sparkling gems whose beauty and lies both inside and out. Your kind hearts, caring minds, and loving smiles brighten my days and bring such joy to our lives. Thank you for blessing us with your indefinable essences. You are loved beyond measure, adored beyond words, and loved without limits.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I mean, really.

Just recently my nearly 8 year old twins have started doing an odd thing. Okay, well, they started doing another odd thing. (They take after me you see, so having only a singular oddity would be like saying the moon has one crater. You get my point).

But I digress. When we are out in the public sector, going about our daily lives doing the daily mundane things-like our near daily trip to Super Walmart-they have begun hugging each other at random moments.

I'll be reaching up to get box of rice and turn around to see them mid-embrace.

Checking out the selection of cereals; they're just behind me, hugging it out.

Over in housewares, they're at it again. Hug.

The pharmacy area has a healing dose of the feel-goods too; as I reach for the multivitamin, they're over my shoulder giving one another a side-hug.

Other shoppers have begun to take note of their open signs of affection. I get smiles and nods from those passing by; looks that imply "Awww, you're doing something right there, lady." (Okay, maybe that's not what they're thinking, but I'm going to take it that way.)

And the thing is, I have no idea where all this extra love has come from. It's not as if they've ever been at each other's throats or anything. That is simply not their way. But still. They're together nearly all the time; you would think they'd be just about hugged out at this point.

"Girls, why are you hugging in the store?" I ask them after one such loving embrace. They look at me and smile sweetly.

They look at each other and (I kid you not) seem to have an entire conversation without any words. Incidentally, I am certain that this conversation has to do with how unfortunate their poor mother is that she has to ask her children why they are hugging in the store. As if to say to me,  "I mean, really."

They hold hands and skip off, just ahead of me. Already on to the next area on our list. Moved on. But still together. Close.

I will never understand these two. And that's okay. Completely and utterly okay.

I mean, really.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bitter Kitty

I have heard people say that cats can be rather dim; that they exist solely to be petted and loved. These people do not know cats. At all.

Friends, if you listen to only one thing I say, let it be this singular truth: Fickle is the mind of the feline.

I mean, like, really, really fickle.

We have this cat, Anna. She is furry, and loving. And old. She is 15 1/2 years old, which sets all sorts of records for longevity of cat-life at our house. So we're in new territory here with her.

We have her on the Senior Plus sort of food, which is supposed to have all the goodies that older cats need to have all types of healthiness heaped upon them. And it's not cheap. Nope. This stuff is pricey. But hey, what are you gonna do, right?

So we put it out for her, every single day.

And she turns her nose up at it. Every single day.

She wants canned food.
She yowls when she doesn't get canned food.

I admit I've indulged her, figuring there is certain amount of entitlement that should be rewarded to a cat who has seen our household flip flop from Pet-Centric to Kid-Centric; from the evening brushing sessions on the couch, to continual attacks and tail-tugging by little ones; from the playful pursuit of a younger kitten chasing her, to the all out stampede of 4 feet in a full-on run in her direction. In this golden season of her life, if she wants canned food, she shall have canned food. Job well done, Kiddo.

Every morning I put a can out for her and she happily dives in.
Every morning, except today.

Today was one of those days where I had 4 million individual things to do, and less than 5 minutes to complete each one. Our day began early and was scheduled to be full. I had to hurry; I needed more time. Something had to be skipped for sanity's sake. I can only do so much.

So I skipped putting out the can of food. She yowled her disappointment at me when she didn't see me set it out. I looked at her and said, "Go eat your dry food. Can food later." And then I rushed out the door, but just as I was leaving I could almost swear to you that I saw her squint at me. Narrow her eyes in a look that clearly conveyed calculations were being made. Plots were being created. Retribution being mapped out.

But I had to leave. No time to worry about it. I'll deal with it late, I mentally declared.

Later is now, my friends.

After a full day of being gone, I returned home ready to get back into the school lessons we had prepared to work on. Everything was all laid out: pencil boxes, books, work pages. Everything was at the ready for our return, so we could just jump right into what needed done.

Perhaps you have a thought of where this tale is going; perchance the mention of an angry cat and set up table put you in the frame of mind of what took place. And you'd be half right.

I say "half" because despite the fact that the entire table was set and ready for school, the only damage done to anything was done solely on MY half. Mine alone.

Anna had jumped up and shredded this week's pages of my Lesson Plan Book. Ripped it up. Anywhere not chewed had tooth-stab wounds through it. She completely ripped out Monday's Language Arts sections, in fact. And Friday's History lesson will be, well, a mystery, for me until I go back and check the book again because she annihilated that box as well. To further her vengeance and drive her message home, she found my sheet of award stickers, which I give out for a Job Well Done, and somehow managed to get the sheet crumpled up into a ball riddled with tooth punctures.

Her message was clear: Job NOT Well Done for me.

Nope. Not well at all.

She didn't touch anything on the girls' side. Dan had papers out and she didn't touch those. Just my stuff. Me. Bullseye.

Touche, ma chat. Touche.

I've heard it said by others that cats are not thoughtful creatures.

Clearly, those who think that have never had a cat.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Too Fast

I know this isn't true for everyone, but I swear to you that before I had kids, I existed in this strange continuum whereby time marched by at very normal, very regal pace. Like slides lined up in a slide show, Holidays clicked in and out of focus; each one coming directly after the one before it. Seasons were marked by the inventory at the local retail stores; I noticed the changes from shorts to jeans, t-shirts to sweaters, fuzzy light up Christmas Tree socks to pale pink Bunny Ear headbands..and knew a new time was upon us. Nothing was too fast, nor too slow. It was the Baby Bear of Time: everything was just right.

That was before having kids. Before.

Time has since sped up. Quite a bit. It seems I never have a moment to settle into one day, week, month, season, or year, before we're wheeling out of that one and onto the next. Everything is a constant blur.

Case in point: my girls were born, like, yesterday. Yesterday. I kid you not. I was there; I remember this very well. A mother is just not going to forget that sort of thing, you know. So will someone explain to me, being that I have these two newborns and all, how it came to be that I just bid goodnight to two very much grown up girls? They are not at all the newborns I so very clearly remember them being- well, yesterday.

How did that happen?
WHEN did it happen?
Was I looking the other way and they shot up 48 inches and grew into very grown up little people who only whine on occasion?
Was I in the bathroom? Is that what happens when you have privacy in there? It doesn't happen very often you know; there is usually an audience of 2 applauding my efforts.

How do the lyrics go? "I don't remember growing older...when did they?" That's me. Right now.

<Gulp> Is it going to keep happening? Will they be getting married tomorrow?

We're starting 2nd grade next week. They're turning 8 in a few months. They're independent. They're growing up.

This is another moment where I must say how blessed I feel that I can say I've been here for everything. I've seen it. I may not have been able to fully focus on all of it, what with the manic high speed carousel of Time ride I've been on. But I've been here. I've seen them. I'm grateful.

So now I take a deep breath; it's time to get going once again. All ready? All set? Let's go.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So Long Summer

Summer is riding off in the distance, waving farewell and whistling a tune as it trots merrily away.

Fall is gunning right for us, wearing all the vestments of Autumn as it charges our way: School. Shorter Days. Comfort Food. Foliage. Bonfires.

While I'm sad to see Summer receding into the distance, I think I'm ready for the changes of Fall. I've written about this before; I love Fall. (I do. I can't help it. I've tried to be a Spring girl......or even a Summer girl....but I keep getting hooked on Fall's gloriousness.) It could possibly be because I have a very short attention span which is generally soothed by the constantly changing environment of Fall: Colors! Wind! Cold! Hot! SNOW! (yes, I said it), Bare Trees! Sunshine! Gray Clouds!......possible all in one day, in our neck of the woods, thank you very much.

This Summer has been an adventure of many newthings for us this year. Caedance got an expander and has endured (quite marvelously and bravely) the nightly "Clicking" to widen it. This child has not uttered one negative word on the topic of her sore mouth. "Mother, I feel it working!" she will exclaim in the morning. Or "I do feel it, but that doesn't have to ruin my day." I seriously need to learn from her how to deal with life's unexpected donations--the ones I don't want very much. Her attitude is undefeatable.

The girls took swimming lessons. And succeeded. These were the children you heard screaming in the pool of the hotel. They were the ones clawing up the parents' necks when dipped in water at the water parks. At the age of 6. We held off until they were 7 to take swimming lessons, and then begged them to Please Please Please Get In The Water With Your Instructor And Please Don't Scream Please Please Please You Have To Learn This Please.
They got in the water. For all 6 lessons. And by George, they learned to paddle about. No screaming. No clawing. Just learning. Huge sigh of relief there.

Both girls have gained a large amount of Independence this summer too. Loosening the connection between them and venturing out in differing ways. They slept in different rooms for the first time ever. And didn't wake up crying. They spent time with one parent or grandparent without the other. And even managed to have fun without the other. Don't get me wrong, these two are still closer than close, but it's nice to see their individuality peeking through.

And so here I am, setting up lesson plans and getting everything ready for 2nd grade. Another school year is set to begin and I think we are each excited about it in our own way. Ready to get back to the routines that offer consistency and meaning.

So long, Summer. You've been great. See ya next year.

Hello, Fall. Welcome back. Let's do this thing.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grandpa Joe

This week has been devoted to the beautiful patchwork quilt that is Family. Such a colorful and unique piece of art family is. People who are like you; surrounding you, at times annoying you (yes) and perhaps driving you crazy. But under all that, through every up and down you take with each other, there it is; that invisible string that ties you together. And you still love one another. Why? Because of that magic patchwork that keeps you firmly linked.

You may come from different fabrics, or be in a different patterns, but put us all together? My gosh, we're stunning. Intricate beauty that defies explaination. Held together with seams made strong by small, overlapping stitches. Every piece placed precisely. Purposed. Perfect.


Today a precious member of our family passed away. My husband's maternal grandfather, Joe.

Grandpa Joe.

Now here was a man who could light up a room, even in the darkest of moments. There was joy to his entire being. He loved life. He cherished his friends. He adored his family. Intensely. And you know those people who seemingly know no strangers? Here was one of them. This man went out of his way to make sure every single person in his vicinity felt comfortable. Welcomed. Respected. Every family needs people like that, don't you think?

When I met him, I was the new girl coming into a large and incredibly close knit family filled to the brim with love and laughter. At the time, the thought of finding my place in this beautiful work of art was daunting for me. Would they like me? Where could I fit in? I had so many doubts - until I met Joe Avsec. From the start, he welcomed me with open arms and a smile. I knew from those first tentative family gatherings that I had a place within. And that was a magical feeling.

When I married into the family, I had the honor of calling him Grandpa. And what a blessing he has been in my life. His laughter and stories, his thoughts and advice; I am honored to have them as memories.

My daughters have had the joy of calling him Great Grandpa, and he's been a huge presence in their lives. They loved playing at his house, seeing what little treasures Grandpa Joe might have for them (he always seemed to have some little toy waiting for them to play with, and he was always willing to let that toy come visit at our house); playing in his backyard pond, investigating tadpoles and catching the goldfish. You know, I'm not entirely sure how well the fish they "caught" fared after they were returned to their habitat, but he never stopped them from their exploration, and I think the girls adored him all the more for it.

Every single memory is precious. So very, very precious.

And I'm grateful for each and every single one of them. He will live on through them; for us and for the girls. The hotdogs and beans that I'll make for Dan from time to time, ONLY in a cast iron pan and ONLY with bacon grease. The potica I still make out of the Slovenian cookbook he gave me, linking me to the heritage of this family. The silly cat cards he'd mail to us. The way he was genuinely glad to be wherever he was, and with whoever he was with.

Families are filled with people who make our lives a little brighter, aren't they? The ones who rally around us, always cheering for us and pushing us forward with their words and encouragement. And the thing is, we know special they are in our lives. How bright they make us shine by sharing some of their light. But somehow, when they leave us, we're still left looking at that giant space and wondering in awe at the size of it anyway. As if we simply couldn't comprehend just how special that person was. Not completely. And we feel it keenly.

Thank you for your laughter and your love, Grandpa Joe. I know this isn't goodbye. Not really. Until we meet again.

P.S, every Potica I make is dedicated to you. Every single one.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


We just got back from spending some time with family. Glorious, glorius family. The immediate kind and the extended kind. The sorts you see daily to the ones you only see on holidays; the ones you talk to regularly to the ones who are names on your facebook site. Family.

No matter how close you are or how frequently you get together, there's always that tie that connects you. I love that about family. I love the way you can walk into a family gathering, even when it's filled with people you haven't seen in years, and feel almost as though are are walking into a conversation that has been suspended, picking up where you left off.

Family is the blanket that covers you.

It's the place you call home no matter where you may go.

Watching the kiddos get together at these extended gatherings is part of the joy. Cousins. 2nd cousins. Removed. Whatever. They're kids; they travel in a small world of ready made family and relationships. Every new person they meet is related to them in some way. "Hi! Let's go play!" And off they go, onward to hours of exploring, adventuring. Carefree, virtually tireless fun.

The start of memories.

There is something artfully unique about being a part of a family; whether you always get along or not. You're tied together, by that powerful and invisible gordian knot of coded history. Shared experiences, shared memories. No matter how much or how little time you spend together; or how often you check in or catch up, that knot is stronger than time itself, and infinitely more entwined.

I count myself grateful for the family I was born in to. And for the one I married in to a well. Two very nifty bunches of people, these.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I was her, once.

Walking through the aisles of the grocery store the other day, I saw a ghost.

Okay, not really a ghost; it was more of an image that hearkened to my not-so-long-ago past.

 I saw a mother of twinfants walking down the aisle.

I recognized myself in her instantly:

Slightly shocked look (as if still in disbelief that it is possible to be this tired and still be semi-functional). Check.

Dazed expression and glassed over eyes. But don't let that seemingly vacant look throw you off. She's in survival mode. You might not think it, but behind that very tired visage enormous thoughts are taking place. She may not know exactly which store she's currently shopping in, or what that stain on her shirt is, or even when she last showered...but I promise you that complex math is being worked on in her head. She's in a near constant state of mental math, working out how long she has until the next feeding. Just how much time remains before one baby starts to fuss. And as most parents of multiples will tell you, once one starts fussing, you've already lost the game (if you're going for a perfect score, which would mean a feeding that does involve massive amounts of crying. In stereo.) Check.

"Shopping Mode" posture, which means she was pushing the giant double stroller in front of her while pulling the shopping cart behind her; managing somehow (miraculously) to avoid hitting the displays, running over toes, or bumping into the Curious Public who come out of the woodwork to look as soon as a double stroller is in view. Check.

I used to be her.

I watched her from a distance, remembering the time when I was her. When that was me. I glanced over at the girls who were standing beside me, quietly chatting about some new idea they've been mulling over; probably some plan they're hatching, no doubt. (I made a mental note to find out what all the secrecy was about).

Suddenly, I found myself fully confronted with how far we've come in their seven and half years. I was standing just 15 feet away from this young mother with her babies, but the distance between us was vast. The milestones between her children and my own were many and monumental. I hadn't completely seen it before this moment. We have come so far. Beyond far, really.

At that moment, one of her twins kicked a toy off of the stroller and to the ground without the mother noticing. The girls walked over to pick it up and I handed it back to the mother. She thanked me, in the automatic way of the truly, very tired, and then noticed my own set of twins beside me. She looked at me with the same look that I remember (oh-so-well) giving to the parents with older multiples that I used to encounter when we were in the thick of those early days of primal survival; the look that begs the unasked questions: So you can survive the desperate tiredness? Does it get easier? Can I do this? Can I do this? Can I do this?

I smiled at her and said the very words that were always soothing for my own frantic mind back at that time: "It gets easier. It really does. But the best part is that every step along the way is magic. You'll see."

She smiled at me. I smiled at her. One of the babies started to cry. One of my girls meowed. (God bless them, my two girls still like to be a cat when we're  in public. If they don't turn out to be method actors, I will be surprised.)

So we bid our farewell and moved on.

I remember those days so well. How is it that I've traversed such a great distance from Twinfants to nearly 8 year olds, but still remember exactly the position I sat in while feeding them--that gentle jockeying to keep them both on the pillow at the same time. How does that not fade?

Time marches ever onward; but it's the memories that anchor us to our lives, I think.

There are things about those early days that I miss, sweet memories of softly sleeping babies that I cherish. But I wouldn't trade places for a moment.

But it's always nice to see just how far you've come, when you didn't realize exactly how big the journey really was.

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Little Helpful

Today I have a bona fide parrot on my hands. And Polly's name is Ashlyn.
She is diligently repeating every blessed thing that falls out of my mouth. To be clear, she's not doing it in the way I used to do it growing up, in what I call the "I'm Not Touching You" mode of sisterly aggravation that one uses to embed one's self deeply beneath your oppressor's skin. (A perennial favorite, always in season).


She's attempting to be informative. By taking everything I say and rewording it so that it comes out exactly the same as the way I just said it, only now apparently easier for her fellow 7 year old teammate to properly understand.

She says she's being helpful.

It was helpful of her to listen carefully as I said, "Today you need to take showers", and then turn to her sister and say, "Today we need to take showers."

It was also helpful of her to help Caedance understand the perplexities of the odd taste in her slice of banana bread by re-informing her (seconds after I had), that "it could be a bit of unmixed flour, or maybe baking powder".

And it was monumentally useful when she re-uttered, "sometimes coffee is the only way", solemnly and with deep intensity.

Helpful, right.

For her part, Caedance just smiles at her twin, patiently and with no ill will. Sure, she's capable of hearing everything the first time. In fact, she did hear it the first time. Perfectly. But that's the way with these two. One's "helpful" intentions are generally well received by the other; whether it be Ashlyn's parroting efforts or Caedance's Helpful Computer Tips, which usually end up closing out any program that Ashlyn happens to be in since her "tips" almost universally involve a step that says "Click The Red X".  Every time.

As for me, I figure if Caedance can be okay with it, than I should be too. So I allow it, smiling at my little echo in (what I hope) is taken as appreciation. It is an art, after all, repeating everything exactly as it was said. Annoyance cannot diminish that feat.

Of course, this also means that I have to be on my best behavior language wise. No hasty, unplanned utterances of any expletives can be made. Not that I make a habit of uttering them, mind you.

But it wouldn't do to have my 7 year old parrot re-uttering them. Would not do at all.

Here's to a happy Friday, everyone!
(Here's to a happy Friday,everyone!)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Zumba Zealots

Our dear little family has discovered a bonding point: Zumba for Kinect.

Oh the hilarity it must be for our neighbors to watch the four of us, clad in special Zumba clothing, bouncing about in the family room. I imagine that to the casual observer we must appear to be a motley crew consisting of two tall ones, each in various stages of Flail, and two small ones, whose moves all seem to morph into synonyms for hopping and jumping, and with wiggling arms added.

On most afternoons you will find us all thusly, progressing in our various ways through classes. I used to get worried about "keeping up appearances" when it came to the magical Zumba Hour. Before starting any class, I go around closing blinds and shutting windows so as to keep alive the mental image I have in my head of just how staggeringly amazing we all, in fact, look while doing Zoka Zumba. I have a distinct feeling that seeing our neighbors' laughing faces and pointing fingers will kill that image completely. I have since dropped the pretense and all windows and blinds stay open now. How bad can it honestly be, right? (Don't answer that. Let's keep the dream alive).

Besides all the great health benefits that go along with having an exercise program, I've also enjoyed watching the girls really get into it. Sure, getting them going was like asking paint to just dry faster, but they've really come around in the last few months. They each have their own little "Zumba Station"; an individual space meant just for her, to hop, and flail, and Zumba to her little heart's content. After we go through a whole class, with each girl taking breaks now and again, they'll step up and spend some time choosing their favorite songs and dancing to those. They're gaining a lot of coordination, balance, and timing that they didn't have before.

As they complete the challenging steps, they'll each start a chorus of "Mother! Come see us! Watch what we can do!" Each new step they "master" is a source of complete and utter pride for them; that they want to share their accomplishment with their mom is a source of joy for me. These two are sweethearts, through and through.

"Mama, look! I can do it. I keep practicing. Watch me---it's sooooo tricky. But see? I can do it anyway!" Gold star and a hug for my Caedance.

"Mom! Mom! This step is really hard. Really. But see, when I keep trying, it's easier now. I didnt' give up, and now I can do it!" Gold star and a hug for my Ashlyn.

They're not just mastering random dance moves; they're learning the value of not giving up, and trying until you succeed.

Would you look at that? Who would have thought Zumba came with Life Lessons? Smiles all around.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Little Mousie-Poo

There is something inherently gross about opening up a drawer and finding it covered in mouse offing. Many, many, many little offings, indeed.

 "No, sweet children, those are not chocolate sprinkles."

Yesterday I opened the cupboard to (innocently) grab a packet of oatmeal, only to find that several furry little friends had not only visited that very packet before me, but had the audacity (and rudeness) to poo all over the box. And the cupboard. This made me annoyed. Truly. I was really in the mood for oatmeal.

Minor annoyance turned to anger when I found that the same little party had invaded my various packs of grain AND my bag of Chia. I was especially mad about the Chia because those of you who've tried it know it gives you a nice zap of energy. Having mice was one thing; completely energized-ready-for-the-long-haul-pepped-up-on-Chia Mice was quite another, thank you very much.

"No children, I did not gnaw a hole in all the bags, or dump all the barley out. But thanks for asking."

So began my impossibly dreary and irritating day of painstakingly pulling apart my kitchen, piece by piece; inspecting for evidence of Mouse Invasion; and then, if no evidence of visitors was found, warding them off with lots and lots of dryer sheets. I am told mice do not like the smell of dryer sheets. Let me tell you that after filling every available nook and cranny of my kitchen with them, I don't like them either.

I had accomplished what I thought was a feat of amazement in hauling out every piece of stored food, cleaning every shelf, and reorganizing my entire pantry in my dining room, when I pulled open a drawer to get out the masking tape. Ahh yes, the sprinkles. The little boogers had invaded not only my kitchen junk drawer, but also my flatware and utensil drawers  as well. This means war, mice. War.

And did I mention that they pooped on my Le Creuset pans?? No one poops on my Le Creuset pans. No one. It's on, Mice. Bring it.

By late evening, my entire kitchen had been completely emptied, cleaned, inspected, and reassembled (in a transient fashion) in the dining room. Every little crack, no matter how inconsequential it might seem, was stuffed with steel wool, jammed in with a knife. 8 mouse traps were then baited, set, and positioned.

"No children, those are not toys. Not at all."

This morning not one, not two, but 3 little villains awaiting disposal. Part of me felt bad, I do like mice, after all. The other part of me (the one who did the 12 hour kitchen clean up and relocation stint) was not so sad at all.

 3 down. How many more to go? Until the traps stay empty for a looonnnnggg time, we'll be enjoying a homey kitchen atmosphere in our dining room, and packing up whatever is needed to make every meal; making the 15 step journey into the kitchen.

I will not rest until this battle is won. (By us, not the mice). I will have my kitchen back again. I will. (I hope.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Just Another Tuesday

Yesterday I was busy doing The Mom thing-cleaning and otherwise occupying myself with the mundane tasks of making the household run seamlessly. You know, a Tuesday.

Just as I was piling up the socks to deposit in the drawer, my happy housewife routine was broken by a scream of epic proportions echoing up the stairs, preceding the quick thud of running feet.

In mere moments, Ashlyn stood before me, hand on neck, face arranged in a look of complete outrage. "Mom!" she began in dismay and shock, "Caedance just pinched me. Pinched me! MOM--it was really, really hard!"

Socks forgotten, I looked at my other daughter. The Instigator. Caedance.

"Caedance," I leveled my gaze at her pointedly, "is that true?"

(Side Note: I'm not sure what exactly I was expecting her to say. She is 7 after all and they are not always known for retelling things with the most accuracy. Whatever I had in my mind when I posed that question, I certainly was not looking for hearing the truth. Not at all.)

"Caedance, is that true?"

She looked straight at me, nonplussed, "Oh yes, Mother. I did. Right here," she lifted her mop of curls and pointed to the very spot where she planted the pinch on her twin. (A quick check on Ashlyn's neck confirmed the truth in that.)

"Why exactly did you do that, Caedance?" This was getting interesting.

"Well she was losing, Mother. She was playing her game (a ds game) and she was losing. I really don't like it when she loses, so I figured if I pinched her she would stop losing."

"Really?" (This was a lot more interesting than putting socks away.) "And Caedance, do you think that was the right thing to do?"

"Probably not, Mom. She kept losing." She stopped her, looking around and considering her next words. "But I'm okay and am ready to move on."

Oh. I see.

Honestly, part of me was on the verge of laughter, part of me appreciated her logic, and the other part (the parent part) figured I should probably do something "Parent-ish" about it.

Caedance was smiling at me. Ashlyn was furrowing her brow, waiting for whatever I was about to dole out to her sister. I still had piles of clothes to put away. A toilet to scrub.

I looked at my first born and said, "You don't need to worry about losing at DS games for a little while because when we pinch, we lose privileges." (Should I even need to say that?? At 7?)

She smiled sweetly, gave Ashlyn and quick kiss on the cheek (on her own accord), and skipped off to play.

Ashlyn shrugged off her dismay, apparently satisfied with the result, and followed her sister off into Playland and fun.

As for me, I picked up where I had left off, putting away all that lovely laundry, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

It was Tuesday, after all.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Did I mention they're made with a bread machine dough? ('Cause, that's an awfully important part too, don't you think?)

How many times have you started your morning off by yearning for a sweet, gooey, ultimately horrible for you Cinnamon Roll? And how many of those misty mornings did you spend kicking yourself because, darn it, you want that Roll Of Goodness now, not 3 hours from now.

I know your pain. I truly do.

Those who know me know that I am a bakery buff. I heart all things baked. And one of my favorite things is to spend time seeking out recipes that can be crafted and tooled around with, and made yummier.

I came across a version of this recipe while on an online hunt for something to make for an upcoming brunch. I read through it and decided that this just happened to be an awesome basic dough recipe that could be used to make a huge assortment of rolls. Easily. (Maybe a little too easily). And the fact that it required almost no work on my part was a huge bonus. I made a few batches of it, playing with the filling as well. Turns out, this dough can play host to any number of delicious variations.

Here's the basic recipe for the dough.

Basic Overnight Sweet Roll Recipe

1 cup warm milk
(the higher the fat content, the tastier these will be, FYI)
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter,melted
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp yeast

Add all ingredients into the bread machine pan in the order listed. (Check your user manual to make sure your machine works this way, some have you adding dry ingredients first.)
Select Dough cycle and step back; you've got about an hour and a half to go do as you will. Sit for a moment (you ARE making cinnamon rolls, you know. You deserve a break. Go read a book. Take a walk. Resist the urge to fold that load of clothes. This is Cinnamon Roll making time; it's special).
When cycle completes (don't you feel rested?), leave it in the machine for another 10 minutes. Then punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
Roll it out into a large rectangle, getting it as wide as you can. You don't want paper thin here, maybe an 1/8- 1/4 of an inch thick? Once you've done that you are ready for your filling. I've made a few that I will share; what you use is up to you.

Classic Cinnamon Roll
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 TBS cinnamon
Brush prepared dough with butter. Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle over dough.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cinnamon Rolls
1/2 cup (give or take) cup Nutella softened
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped chocolate (I've used semi-sweet & milk chocolate with great results. Chocolate chips are fine for this).
Spread softened Nutella over the dough. In a small bowl, combine chopped chocolate and cinnamon, tossing to coat well. Sprinkle chocolate/cinnamon mixture over the Nutella.

Orange Blossom Rolls
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup white butter
Rind from 2 large oranges (I've not tried it, but you could also try a lemon in this for a more citrus-y joy.)
Brush dough with butter. In a bowl, combine sugar with rind, mixing well.Sprinkle over dough.

(I've also made Potica Rolls with this when I was making Potica and irritated by how much filling didn't make it into the loaves of bread; that extra filling was just enough for one batch of these rolls. And it was yummy, rivaling the Potica itself).

Okay, your dough is rolled out, you've chosen your filling, and hopefully applied it. Now roll the dough, starting from the long side, jelly roll style. You should have a long log of dough sitting in front of you. Before moving on, get a baking sheet and spray it with non stick spray. Have it near your workspace.
Using a sharp knife, begin cutting 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch slices for each roll. Place them on the greased sheet.
(If you have any ends or straggling pieces left, put those in a greased mini loaf pan--they bake up well, right along side the larger pan of rolls).

Here's the great part. (Are you ready for it?) Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place the pan in the fridge. Let it sit overnight. (Goodnight, little rolls of joy).
In the morning, grab your cup of coffee, (there are priorities here, my friends),  remove plastic wrap from pan, then  put it into a COLD oven. No preheating here, people. Set your oven to 350 degrees, set the timer for 20 minutes.

Check for over browning around 15 minutes, and doneness around the 20 minute mark. I've had batches need foil covering and another 5 minutes of cook time. Crazy art, this Cinnamon Roll making thing.

When done, allow to cool for a moment. You can either glaze or frost them, your choice. If glazing, brusht it on right now, fresh out of the oven. They'll be shiny and look professionally made (impressive, huh?). If you want to frost them, wait till they cool a bit before applying. If you make the Orange Blossom version, try adding some lemon or orange juice to the powdered sugar for an extra punch of flavor. Need a recipe for it? I've included my "formula". I don't measure, I just toss it all in a bowl until I get something I'm happy with. Yeah, I'm a rebel that way.

Put 1-2 cups powdered sugar in a bowl. I like to add a TBS or so of softened butter & a bit of vanilla for extra flavor. Add milk, 1 TBS at a time, stirring until it's as thick (or thin) as you want it. Too thick? Add more liquid. Too thin? Add more sugar. You can also add some Maple extract for a maple frosting or glaze.

Nutella Rolls
Cinnamon Rolls with vanilla frosting
and maple frosting

The wonder and joy of this roll recipe is that you go to bed with them already made, waking up to the simple need to pop them into the oven. These are fantastic for large groups because you can make several batches--even different batches--and not want to pull your hair out with stress.

My inner baker grins with contentment with these oh-so-easy rolls. I hope yours will too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Adventure Worth The Taking

Spring break has come and gone; we're closing the month of April and getting ready to dust off May for public consumption.

Where have these past 365 days gone?

What a year of wonder this has been for us. This first year of schooling at home has been a uniquely glorious experience for our family, most especially for my girls and I.

Picture this: going into a new situation, unsure of how it would work out. It's not exactly a "tried & true" method, and it has a lot of detractors, after all. People constantly asking, "How well will they do?" I spent hours asking myself if they would do well at all. Would they even like it? What if every day was a struggle? What if I couldn't do it? Or worse, what if I wasn't good enough to be the teacher they needed.

I might have all the right intentions, but it would boil down to nothing at all if I wasn't enough.

To say we were starting a grand adventure would be putting it mildly. I, the consummate classroom teacher, was switching up everything I knew and withdrawing my children from the brick and mortar brand of schooling and keeping them (gulp)- at home. With me. All day. (Gulp).

Believe me, that last thought brought on plenty of panic attacks. I adore my children more than words can proclaim. But even I need a break every now and again. I'm good, but I'm not that good.

After much inner reflection, I came to the simple conclusion that I was just going to have to deal with it. Good days and bad days alike; I'd put a smile on my face, and teach. In my mind's rosy picture, I'd teach and they'd sit and absorb every single word, demanding more. A standing ovation would ensue after particularly good lessons where much knowledge was imparted.
Then probably we'd fall into a heap of hugs in the afternoon, discussing our favorite works of fiction: me, the newest Philipa Gregory, they, the newest Fancy Nancy installment, while expanding our pallette eating rare and new foods we'd previously been afraid to try. Urchin, anyone?

Rose tinted glasses aside, this truly has been an amazing year. Maybe not every single lesson was an opus performance by me, but despite that, the girls have come so incredibly far. I am daily amazed. Things that they struggled with in the Fall are now second nature and not given a moment's hesitation. They're making rapid deductions and reasoning with logic that is based on understanding and comprehension. They're thinking outside the dreaded box, making leaps in the scaffolding of their knowledge, and I find myself envious. I know I sure didn't understand the process of the water cycle to that degree in first grade. And I certainly hadn't the foggiest notion of multiplication.

Perhaps the best gift of all, besides the return of their curiosity and interest, is my rare opportunity to get an educational Do Over. Remember how in Elementary School you were just there to have fun? I showed up, did some worksheets, some group work, played outside, and went home with a folder full of To Do stuff haunting me. I didn't really worry about what I was all seemed a by-product of my time at school. Consequently, I never really internalized a lot of what I was supposedly learning, and thusly, it fell out of my head and was quickly forgotten. But now I'm revisiting it all again, lesson by lesson, concept by concept. Maybe to some it sounds an inane and boring perk, but to an avid acquirer of knowledge like myself, it is a rare gem indeed.

We just re-enrolled for second grade. There is simply too much I still don't, I mean, they, still don't know. Much to be learned and to be explored. More connections to make and more understandings to gained. How could I not want to do this all again? And the best part is that, going into this next year, I'm not afraid. It's not some unseen thing on the horizon, off my road map; it's an experience that I cannot wait to have.

First grade is nearing its end. Second grade and beyond await just up around the bend. Bring it on. We're ready.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pointing That Finger

Ashlyn has taken to gesturing with a finger while she talks.

No, not THAT finger. The phalanx in question is her pointer finger; also known as, "The Socially Acceptable Pointing Finger".

Whenever she speaks, her pointing fingers makes its pointy appearance, gesturing and coinciding with whatever she may be saying.

You might expect to see this particular movement partnered with phrases such as: "If I may disagree with you", or "Just one moment please", and "If I might have your attention please", and so on.

Only in our house, it is pairing quite well with: "Caedance is really an excellent DS player", or "We are having peas for dinner", and "I completed all of my math work for today".

Perhaps not the most common uses for The Finger Point, but there it is.

Sometimes the finger not only points, but you'll also see it waggling back and forth, or bending up and down in some strange gesture calisthenics. Every once in awhile the film lover in me cannot help but think of Danny's "Redrum"ing finger from The Shinning.

I'm not completely certain what brought this conversational prop to the forefront, but it has been with us for several weeks now and doesn't seem to be ready to make an exit any time soon.

So there it is, I conclude (with finger pointed).

Let us start a new fad. Raise those fingers high. (The pointer finger, people. Not Mr. Middle; he stays down.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

And The Bucket Too

Quite some time ago, (so long that I cannot begin to define it), I was wandering the aisles of one retail chain store or another and come across a most interesting item. At least, it seemed to be a the time. It was a popcorn bucket, you see.  It had a round, slotted tray at the bottom, presumably so that all of the extra salt and buttery joy that sloughs off of said kernels would fall through the slots rather than creating a sludge of salty, buttery goodness that encases the dregs of the popcorn. (If there's such a thing as Too Salty or Too Buttery Popcorn dregs...well, that's news to me).

At the time, I thought it was pure genius. (I was also apparently forgetting the fact that Popcorn does not make it onto the snack list at our house very often; nor does it arrive in any other form than in a bag earmarked as  Microwavable. Yes, certainly this bucket was made for savvy consumers. Just like me.

I purchased said "treasure" and, needless to say, it has held actual popcorn maybe one time in its partnership with our house. Maybe twice.

This is not to say that the bucket has gone unused. Mais, non. Where there are children, there will always be uses for an empty bucket. Always.

For awhile it was a hat. I wish I could say the girls were really young during that stage, but I would be lying.

Then in a sudden burst of musical genius, it was upturned and carted around as a traveling drum. "Mom! Listen to this" (bang, ba-bang-ba-bang, bang). "What do you think?" Oh. My. Such....sounds.

During one of the girls' rotating recurrences of Chipmunk Mania, it held the whole gang--including the Chippettes, with some roasted peanuts tossed in for good measure.

For the past week it has belonged solely to Caedance. It has sat nearby during our schooling. It's come with us on trips to the store. It even gets tucked into bed with her at night. And this time it carries a precious cargo: a small handful of Littlest Petshop figures; mainly those in the burrowing, nut eating variety.

She walks around with her bucket, quite nonchalantly. "Yes, this is my bucket of Pets. Thank you." Every once in awhile she stands very still and shakes it vigorously, nods, and verbally confirms, "Yes, they're all in there," before walking on her way again. The bucket gets set aside while she engages in some other activity or another, and is picked up and carted away again. Reunited.

It used to be an odd sight. Now it is quite ordinary. Caedance and her popcorn bucket. With Littlest Pet Shop pets inside.

Tonight, when I tuck her into bed with one more kiss and one more hug, I'll have to move the bucket aside. She'll worry that I'm taking it away. I'll reassure her that would not happen. Then I'll put it back once more. She'll smile and turn over, falling asleep quickly.

With a large popcorn bucket by her head. And small woodland creatures inside it.

And I'm completely okay with every bit of that.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Memory Makings

Sitting across from the girls today at breakfast, a thought suddenly flitted into my still slightly groggy brain. My lovely ladies have reached the age I was when I began really remembering my childhood.

My parents have scores of pictures of me sitting in the midst of vacations and adventures we took as a family. I'm young in most of them, anywhere from 3 to 6 years old. Looking at these pictures, I can see that I'm obviously there, but without any memory of it of my own, it's more like I'm a part of the scenery.

Side note: I do have very hazy memories of a family trip to Washington D.C when I was 4ish. Not many, but a few. I have a picture of myself sitting by the Reflecting Pool. Now, based on that photo alone I can only tell you two things: Firstly, sitting down in that moment was apparently the highlight of my day, judging by the look of sheer exhaustion on my face. Secondly, it was apparently alarmingly hot when we were there, if the melted expressions on our faces is any indication. What I do remember from that trip; my singular memory from my one and only trip to our nation's capitol is this: Standing at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, hearing my mother tell me that the man in the chair was one of our presidents. And being terrified. I mean, truly and utterly terrified. THIS man was a president, I pondered. He's a giant! How on earth did he ever fit anywhere? Was there a house big enough for him? Did he step on people and not realize it?

Clearly, effigies and monuments cast in marble were outside of my 4 year old mind.

My memories of Childhood seem to all begin around the age of 6 and 7. Finally I felt a part of all of those family trips because I actually remember being there.

And now these two ladies are at that age too. When I ask them questions about places we've been in the last few years, they remember and will engage in a conversation about being there and what they did when they were there.

I am loving this part of their childhoods; this stage of collecting of memories. Everywhere we go exciting and everything we do is fabulous. They're along for the ride.

And it's a pretty great ride, if you're asking me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Littlest Author

Caedance spent all evening frantically writing one story after another, her pencil scrawling across the lines, ceasing only in her mad dash to be the illustrator of the tales from her mind.

To say that this child likes to write would be like saying Niagara Falls is just a waterfall. It describes it, yes, but inadequately at best.

I think Caedance needs to write. Her mind is constantly tangled with characters and plots; a wicked brew of scheming creations twisting around up there, waiting to be put on paper and set free.

I think writing is her best form of communication. Pencil in hand, this child owns her language and her conversation. She is in control when she's wielding the implement and smoothing out the paper.

Every child has their purpose; the drive that will mold them into their future. Caedance must write. She will write. Sure, she's presently published under the Dickinson Staple & Tape label; but one day......oh, one day......what other places will print her name?

Do you want to know why this copious amount of writing is such a miracle around here? Just a matter of months ago, this is the child who could barely hold a pencil. This is the one who had such a disinterest in writing. Who cried when asked to complete a worksheet because it hurt her hand.

And she's writing.

"Mom! Quick, I need to write a book!" she calls out, making her mad dash to the table, digging through her pencil box to retrieve her pencil; settling herself in her chair, and getting ready to pour forth her next tale.

Let the writing begin. This child who not so very long ago was bested by this particular form of communication now has an awful lot to say.

And I for one cannot wait to read it. All of it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Aren't I Just Something?"

One is painstakingly, sometimes irritatingly, tidy.

The other seems to take great pains to be otherwise.

One little girl, I kid you not, could eat tomato soup while riding atop the swaying back of a camel. While wearing a white dress and using a spork as her utensil. And not get a single drop on her. Not one. It's true. (Untested, but true.)

The other one finds a way to make a plain piece of white bread into a laundry nightmare. I don't know how she does it. I don't. But she manages it. Quite well.

I've never worried about my tidy one. Sure, give her a chocolate ice cream cone, I'm not worried about her white shirt. Absolutely, she can have that big glass of cherry Kool-Aid, her Easter dress is in no danger. Let her eat the spaghetti; I do not fear the clean up.

My other darling, on the other hand, my not so neat one? It's her meal time antics that keep my worries honed to a point. I know everyone has a messy eater. In a family with more than one kiddo, you gotta figure you'll have at least one. And the funny part is that I don't think she's trying to be deliberately sloppy about the process.

Our untidy one also happens to be our non-eater. In the past, food held little interest for her, being as it was just a forced break between all the fun she had been having before being called to the table. "Do I HAVE to?" she'd mournfully ask.

"You do," was our non-negotiable reply.

Shoulders slumped, she'd make her way to her chair. And sit. And sorta eat. Pick. Pick. Pick. Pick.

"All done!"

"Not so fast, lady." Rearranging food on a plate is not the same as consuming any amount of it.

She's finally reconciled herself to the fact that meal times are a reoccurring event which she must endure. She sits. She eats. But I often wonder if those earlier years of disinterest fostered a sense of Devil May Care-ness about the entire process.

Hair. Shirt. Pants. Socks (yes, even socks). These can be used as napkins. Under our watchful eye, not so much; but when our backs are turned, oh, it happens. I see the evidence every time I do laundry.

"How did you get yogurt on your sock?" I ask her.
"You're so silly, mom!" she laughingly replies. As if that explains it all.

"Use your napkin today, hon. Please?"

"OK. I will mother. No worries."

Yeah, the thing about that is I'll still find whatever she's eating all over her clothes. Inevitably. All over. Napkins or no.

She just manages it.

And then laughingly says, "Mom, aren't I just something?"

Yes. You are, sweet one. You certainly are.

Maybe one day my neat eater's habits will rub off on her. Until then, I'll take her messiness and love it as part of her unique self.

She certainly is something, after all.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Found At Last!

We live in one of those older homes with an attic. A real, true, honest to goodness attic. On a side note, I love our attic. How cool is an attic with its angled ceilings and cozy little knee walls? They are fabulous.

I digress. We haven't quite gotten around to making the renovations that will turn our glorious attic into fully finished 3rd floor; it's more of a semi-finished 3 season room. Instead of the plush carpet I dream of, it currently has a clown hair orange remnant-cut covering the bulk of it. My feelings about this clown hair rug are fodder for another blog, another day, but I can tell you that when we moved into the house, we found a book hidden beneath the it.

It was an old copy of a Golden Book Alice In Wonderland.

The girls were enthralled that we found this buried treasure and spent a lot of time seeking out nooks and crannies to see if the Literary Fairy had left them any other joyous gifts. She didn't. But they loved this singular find anyway.

Then one day it disappeared.

This happens a lot in our house. Books and toys are loved and enjoyed, and then somehow dissolve into the ether. Where do they go? Who knows. What I do know is that the girls will happily move on to a new love, a new devotion, and forget all about that lost object.

Until something makes them think about it again.

And then they want it. The very thing that is missing. Whatever it may be. Even if they have another of it. They want THAT one.

So it was with the Alice in Wonderland book. After they lost it, they moved on. They adore books, so it wasn't hard to distract them. Every once in awhile they asked about it, wondered about it, searched for it. They couldn't find it. I even ordered another copy from that great purveyor of replacements for the misplaced: EBay. It mollified them, but didn't quell the curiosity for the location of the one they'd lost.

"It's somewhere in our house, Mom. Do you think the house ate it?"

 I did not.

Recently, their curiosity has sparked anew, sending them scurrying hither and thither in search of this great white whale in our house. Where could the book be? I asked them not to tear through the bookshelves; we'd already done that. I asked them to avoid the toy boxes; checked those too. I suggested under the furniture, behind the furniture, all places we'd checked before but which didn't add to my Clean Up List, which made them a-okay searching spots in my mind.

And so they looked.

I suggested they give up. (I sure did). We have no fewer than 4 copies of that tale of Alice and her adventures down the rabbit hole. Really, we do not need this one copy that is missing. Move on, my darlings.

They disagreed.
And continued their search. I shrugged and went on about my day, forgetting all about their renewed hunting efforts.

But then, miracle of all miracles, Caedance found it. She actually found this book. This lost treasure that had been missing for well over a year. You read that right. One year; more than that. Gone. They'd torn through every conceivable spot to no avail, and yet she found it today.

The joy. The jumping. The squeals of delight. Both girls were beside themselves with glee. Myself, I was just stunned. The impossible had just occurred. How could this possibly be? Where could it have been for all this time? Why had it alluded us?

Where was the book, you ask?
Was it tucked in some far put and awkward place?
Was it crammed behind some unused knickknack, gathering dust in its forgotten place?


It was under the cushion of the chair. The chair I sit in all of the time. To write the epic adventures of Twin Parenting, in fact. This very blog.

Right. Under. There.

I suppose it says something about my cleaning skills that I haven't lifted the chair cushion in over a year; a revelation I'll have to ponder closely.

But mostly, (I have firmly decided), it speaks to the determination and perseverance of my girls that they wouldn't give up looking for it. No matter how many replacements they got. No matter how many days, weeks, months, or years passed by. They still remembered. Still wondered. Still searched.

And they found it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Same or Different?

Despite being 7 years old, neither of the girls is really that into the whole clothing thing. I'm not complaining, mind you. I've seen what awaits us out there.

Shoe Horses
Sock Hoarders. (gasp!)

I am quite content with life in my little world of "I Still Pick Out All My Kids' Clothing Because If I Didn't, They'd Happily Wear A Potato Sack."

I am, however, hoping to teach them the independent art of choosing their own clothes everyday. And since they'd gladly spend their days shuffling about in pajama pants, I guide this daily procedure carefully.

"Girls, what would you like to wear today?"

"Pajamas!" (of course)

"Yes, okay. I know that. But we might go out somewhere later and wearing pajamas isn't the best choice for that. What else might you like to wear?"

Silent stares. (Pajamas or nothing).

"Let's start with this: Do you want to dress the same today or do you want to look different from each other?"

"The same!" they both cry out with glee.

"You want to look the same?" I ask, just to double check, even though quite frankly this is their daily response.

"Of course we do, Mom," they say with a hardy dose of Eye Rolling.

I won't lie. I like this. I like that they choose to dress the same right now.  But I want to know why. I know why I like them dressed alike, but why do they choose it?

"Why do you want to dress the same today, loves?"

"Because we love are-chother (each other) mom."

A statement, made as if it were the most obvious thing in the whole world. They love each other; therefore, they want to dress alike as a outward profession of that feeling.

They love each other. And they want everyone to see that.

I like that reasoning. Simple and to the point.

They love each other.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Case For Being Different

Every single school morning since August 29th I have awoken the girls with a simple morning greeting: "Good morning my loves! Time for school!" I know it's not a particularly flashy wake up call, and really I probably could dig deeper and come up with something brilliant if I tried, but morning is still morning and I'm not completely my superior self in those hours. So there you have it.

And every morning as the girls hear my greeting and begin to stir in their cozy beds, their response is always the same: "Homeschool right? Not school at a building?"

Every night as I plant one more kiss on their heads and squeeze one more hug in before the lights are turned off, I ask them what they are most looking forward to in the next school day. What new piece of learning are they excited about?
And their reply is always and ever this: "Homeschool right? Not school at a building?"

Here we are, greeting the month of February already, and still they worry about school. Even after 5 full months of this routine;103 days, each a continuation of the day before. They each still suffer a moment of worry every day. (Or at least 2 moments of worry, I guess).

Has mom changed her mind?
Has something changed?
Will tomorrow be the day we have to go back?

My heart hurts for them in their worry and fretting. They only went to one year of school at a building. One traditional year. And it was Kindergarten at that. But still it has left its marks on them. I think back to my own Kindergarten experience and I still smile. It was fun. I'm a natural chatterbox and being around a squajillion other kids all day suited me just fine.

But not my daughters.

They are not me. They are their own individual selves, and for this stage in their lives they like quiet and stillness. They like the neatness of moving fluidly from one subject to another. Or having the ability to linger on something that might be tricking them up, going over it "just one more time, just to be sure I've got it, Mom. Please?". Or being able to delve deeper into a subject that interests them, further exploration, more discussion, an impromptu field trip. "I just can't believe how amazing this is, Mom!"

This works for them. It works for me. Win-win. We'll do it as long as we're able. For as long as they're willing to put in the effort, because it is by no means a small sacrifice on their parts to do this every day. It takes a lot of work on the part of the parent and the kiddo to school at home successfully. Anyone who thinks otherwise may want to rethink it a bit. I'm just sayin'.

But how I wish they had happier memories from their time in a classroom. I truly do. They are living proof that there are no cookie cutter learners. We are all different and unique. And I feel like we're kind of celebrating that with this first year of OHVA. We're taking what works best for them and absolutely embracing it every single day.

And you know what? That's a pretty good thing. It really is.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The End Of January

The month of January is coming to a close. See ya next year, Jan.

January, as the first month of the year, is like the trial for the entire 12 month stint. Have you ever noticed that? It's subconscious, I think, but we all jump on board the Resolution Train on January 1st, readying ourself to make this year the best year. Ever.

And we have one whole month to prove it, right?

It's not cynical to point out that by the end of the month we've relaxed our expectations. After all, the year will be okay if we don't jog every single day, right? And really, what were we thinking when we thought that the year would somehow be better if we stopped partaking of the Lord's special gift to us: sugar products? January is kinda the trial test-month for the whole enchilada. Maybe it's a good thing we found these important truths out now, you know, before we get too far into things. It would be especially painful to come to these conclusions in say, October or something right?

Really, January is a great month, located in just the right place: right up front. It gives us time to sort through all those resolutions to see which ones are really useful and which ones are not so much. Doritos are not our enemy, people. They're not.

It is always with a sense of "Don't Let The Door Hit Ya On The Way Out" that I bid a fond farewell to the month that is January. Casting off this first month feels like shrugging free of some sort of restraint and finally being able to charge full force into the rest of the year. (Now that it's not that hindrance of January anymore.) Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but I greet February first with a smile and a confident, "Let's Go Get 'Em" attitude.

January at our household is winding down with the clatter of teeth falling out. Both girls suddenly have no fewer than 5 teeth each that look as they they are hanging on by a strand of DNA. The other night, Ashlyn happily yanked out her first top tooth. We rejoiced in the new found vacancy in her upper pallet; two hours later she evicted its next door neighbor, creating yet another vacant lot on Upper Street.

Last night Caedance joined in on the fun, pulling out her first upper tooth, and freeing up a spot on her top  deck. The tooth next to it is wobbling, wobbling, wobbling. We await a repeat performance any day now.

So January ends with Jack-o-lantern grins at our house. An interesting close to the month.

February is poised to greet us with a smile. And inevitably the jingle of more loose teeth. But we're ready.

See ya later, January.

How ya doing, February?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How To Spend A Snowy Day

We awoke this morning to a fluffy layer of snow on the ground. White and beautiful, it lay in waiting for boots, snow pants, sleds, and mittened hands to scuff it up.

When I was a kid, an overnight snowfall like this always, always, always meant a morning of playing outside in it. There was an understanding at our house that undisturbed snow was just waiting for a Rumpus, and we were more than happy to provide that. My brothers and I had a never vocally acknowledged competition between the 3 of us to see who could muck up the most of the fresh, smooth snow. Considering we had 2 acres of open yard, it was a free for all in those first moments when we were bundled and released into the wild.

I remember my frustration of watching my older brothers toss on a coat, some work boots, a ski hat, and a pair of rubbery day-glo orange gloves (which, incidentally, made absolutely wicked snowballs), and head out the door first. While I had to endure the entire process of bedecking that involved putting on multiple layers, one after another, and then squeezing into a last layer, which by this time felt to be about 4 sizes too small. I still cringe at the memory of squeezing my multi-layered foot into a tight boot, and shoving my hands into yet another layer of gloves.

At last ready to finally go outside, it was with extreme dismay that I looked around and saw that my hard working older siblings had canvassed pretty much the entire expanse of the yard while I was still enduring the Suiting Up process. Most of the yard had seen the Rumpus. If they were feeling especially generous, they might have left a small patch for me, or they might have avoided the furthest corners of the yard, by the treeline perimeter that surrounded our property.
This gesture was really not such a gift considering I was absolutely terrified of heading to that part of the yard unaccompanied. And they knew it. So they would heroically offer to escort me to the frightening End Of The Yard. Naturally, once there they'd proceed to dash in all directions, quickly mucking up everything in the vicinity.

Such givers they were.

Snow meant fun when I was a kid. It meant going outside into the freezing weather bundled to the point of near paralysis. It meant playing for hours making forts, slides, and having snowball fights, (which I always lost and wherein I  was generally injured). It meant going back inside, half hypothermic, and having hot chocolate, and warming up by the fire, having competitions to see whose appendages were the coldest, the most bluish, and the most numb.

Apparently that particular gene did not get passed down to either of the girls.
At the sight of today's fluffy white blanket, both of them cringed in dismay and sincere disapproval.

"Girls, do you want to go out and play for awhile?" I asked them this, fully ready to commit myself to the half hour long ritual of bundling that I knew would come next.

They stared at me with an incredulous look upon their faces. The look clearly stated that they were sure mom had officially danced off the pier of Sanity into the dark abyss of Crazy Land.

"Mother?" They questioned in unison, as if to ascertain that they had heard my ramblings correctly.  "Oh my no, mom. No we do not."

At that last, they turned and pranced into the family room and each snuggled up with a book on the couch.

How can I complain with this turn of events? After all, although I love my childhood memories of dashing here and there through drifts of freezing cold snow, I never have been taken with the other side of that fun: The Mother's Side. The side where you pull and tug and shove your child into multiple layers amid their groans and grunts of frustration, only to have them go outside for a few minutes, cringe at the cold, and stand at the door waiting to come back in, looking like sad puppies who have been neglected. Then there is the Disrobing procedure that involves unwrapping the now cold and unhappy children, and piling the wet, snowy garb somewhere out of the way to be dealt with later. Of course by the time you get to the wet, snowy gear that you put out of the way, it has melted all over, and in addition to putting it all away, you now have a wet mess to clean up as well.

Freed from this ritual, I shall take a lesson from the girls instead. Book. Couch. Blanket. Mug of tea. Perhaps a biscotti.

Maybe they do know the right way to spend a snowy day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Keeping Their Histories

"Mommy, I have a question," Ashlyn asked with her usual sweet demeanor.

"All right then, my sweet," I said, turning to face her. "I'm ready for it."

"Do you remember when I was in your tummy?"

Ah, yes. This one again.

Both girls have been revisiting their collective pasts over the last few months. The surge of Growing Up that has hit them has also left its traces of melancholy and an extreme need to know and understand what came before.

And both are fascinated with the idea that they ever, ever could have fit inside of anything at all.

"Yes, as a matter of fact sweetie, I do remember it. Very well. That was a very special time for me." I smile at her, welcoming her to continue.

"What did I feel like in there, Mama? What was I LIKE in there?" Her head is cocked to one side. Curiosity has gotten the better of her. I have memories of herself that she does not own. She wants the information I have. Who was she then.

Pulling her into a hug, I wonder where to begin. How can I tell her how amazing it was? To feel not one but two little heads moving around. Two bodies twisting in a space built for one?

What words can I use to paint the picture of awe that I felt when they were fighting inside their confined space? There were the kicks from 4 legs, punches from 4 arms, and 20 fingers grabbing all around. Never enough room. Never. And two little girls who made it very clear from the earliest moments that they needed their space and would have it, one way or another. (Even if it meant punching at their mother's rigid frame.)

There were the peaceful moments where all I'd feel is a flutter here or there. A brief stirring as if one was waking from a nap. Gentle movements that felt almost fluid, comforting in their reassurance that the two lives inside me were quiet and okay.

There were the uncomfortable moments too. Times when those collective 8 limbs felt like 80 or more. Their motions so quick they morphed into a squirming sensation that radiated throughout my entire being. True to what became their nature, these night owls performed feats of dexterity and flexibility throughout the night hours. When they were not at rest, I was not at rest. Could not be at rest. My prenatal night times were spent rocking on the glider chair in their nursery. A dry run for the months to come. Months before the big day arrived.

How can I put these many feelings into words that will truly express how it was?

How can I tell her that even though I couldn't see her or hold her while she was wrapped tightly in her cocoon, even though her features were dark to me, I knew her the moment I held her. The first time she was placed in my arms, it all connected. The little girl whose face I stared into was the one who sat on this side of my belly. The one who spent the happiest of hours with one toe wedged delightfully in between two of my ribs.

How was she in there? WHO was she in there? She was exactly herself. Exactly the way she is today; this girl standing before me, a grown up version of her baby-self.

There is no way to put this all into words. No way to make her understand that entire experience.

So I look at her, wrapped in my arms and smiling up at me, waiting for an answer.

"You were you, Ashlyn. You were a precious miracle. When you moved I smiled. When you kicked, I laughed. Sometimes that hurt a little and I would say, 'Ouch'. I knew when you were awake, and when you were sleeping. I knew which baby was you and which was your sister. You were both yourselves, even when I couldn't see you. Even when I couldn't hold you."

"Did you love me in there, Mama? Even when you couldn't hold me?" Her face turned somber. Serious.

"Oh yes, my love. I loved you very, very much when you were in there. And I love you even MORE now." I give her a squeeze.

She looks up at me, wrinkling her nose with deep concentration.

"Was I ever really that small?"

"You were then. For that very short period of time you were very, very small."

"Mama?" Her look is thoughtful again.


"What's for dinner?"

And just like that, our trip down memory lane is over and we're back to the present once again.

Come back again, my love. Anytime. Your history is written inside my heart. I'll be here when you're ready to learn another part of it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Still Lovin' "Are-Chother"

Today I witnessed something that made me feel sad, confused, and, in a way, angry. All at once. That's a lot of feelings to roll up into a ball and toss
anyone's way, but I had to take a moment to get it out of my head. I hope you don't mind.

I suppose I should start by setting a background to our parenting style. You see, I was raised with the belief that respect is something that is earned, not a given right. If I wanted my parents to respect me, I needed to first and foremost show respect to them. And not just because I wanted to be respected, mind you, but because...(are you ready for this?) they were the parents. How do you like that one, huh?

Cardinal rule number one in our house is firm: Children will respect and obey the parents.

Does this mean we dominate our kids and treat them like chattel? Of course not. We love them dearly and want them to feel secure in these truths: Mom and Dad are there for them. Will protect them. Care for them. Provide for them. Will listen to them about anything they need to say. Will love them unconditionally. Always. Part of instilling that sense of safety is by setting rules and letting them know that however much they want to, they do not rule our roost. That's our job. It's a big job, but it's one we signed on for. Let us take the reins on this one, sweetums. We've got it.

Okay, so back to today.

 I was waiting for the girls to finish up a dance class and had the opportunity to watch a mother and her son, who appeared to be about the same age as the girls, perhaps a bit older. He was playing a video game while sitting in a chair.

The office was getting crowded, so his mom asked him to move to a smaller, Kid-Appropriate chair to make room from some of the other adults.  He ignored her.

She asked again. He threw an angry look that included his eyes and his upper body, physically grinding himself into the chair in defiance. His eyes screamed, Make Me.

She gave up. Stopped asking him.
Adults shuffled in around all of us, the room was crowded. Everyone was just standing.

She made one more attempt to have this kiddo move to the children's area. "Please move to that blue chair."

He looked up with effort from his game. Met her eyes with his. "Blah-blah-blah-blah. Stop talking to me. Can't you see I'm concentrating?"

His tone smacked me in the face, and I have no idea who he is and doubt I'll have to deal with him again. But what about his mom?

She just smiled at the curious strangers around us. Perhaps to say, "Oh yes, this happens all of the time. It's normal you see. He never listens to me."

Every part of me was itching with sheer irritation. Why didn't she do something? This kid has been given the freedom to set his own limits, move back the boundaries, live in his own world. Now would be the perfect time to pull out some Love & Logic and turn this bad choice into a learning moment.

Instead, she pulled out her phone and proceeded to peruse the Internet. Content to wait. Meanwhile, Lil' Mr. Sassy pants played on, game volume turned to High. Now, my girls travel with their video games when I know we'll be waiting for awhile, so I am all for the simplicity of letting technology keep an otherwise bored kid out of your hair. For us though,  when they are playing the games in public, the sound is off on them. No questions asked. The girls are good at this now, turning the volume off before the game even starts up.

Mom was getting annoyed at the dinky-tink-tink-waaa litany coming from the device and asked him to turn the volume down. He ignored her. Played on. She asked again. He threw The Look and squared off his shoulders. (I have seen that stance on many a student. He was prepped for battle, this one). She shrugged her shoulders and sat back against her seat. Back to the Internet again. Defeated.

Honestly, the whole thing made me sad. How tiring her days must be, forever struggling with him over small things like these. How draining. How long those 24 must seem, when one hour to the next is a new battle. An ongoing war.

I'm not judging here, either. I am not. My girls have their days, and I'm sure some people have looked at me and thought, "What is up with that lady?" I do not judge.

Truthfully, the entire scene made me incredibly thankful. Thankful for so many things. I'm thankful that my parents raised me with the beliefs that they did, and that their parenting style was one that made me see the importance of respect. I'm thankful that even when it was hard, and when Dan and I were sleep exhausted and consumed with the need for a laissez-faire attitude, we still persevered with a discipline. Still pushed on with another time out, another "Bummer, this is so sad...." I don't have these constant struggles with my girls. I have struggles, sure, but...not constantly. Not non-stop.

After dance class, I felt the very strong need to hug them.

 "You two are pretty good kids, aren't you?" I asked them on the car ride home.

"We are, Mommy. You're pretty good too, you know."

"Hey thanks, loves. Do you know I love you?"

"Of course, Mother!" Caedance laughed.

Ashlyn added, "We love are-chother."

"We sure do, sprite."

We sure do.