Saturday, December 31, 2005



Definition - to be required
Usual form in sentence - purposs to
Example - See, Mom, the tree is purposs to lean that way. Otherwise, all the ornaments will fall off this side too. (The all knowing five year old's outstretched hand is critical for getting the point across.)

Yet an other word to watch. For its passing will mark heart rendering maturity of my littlest one.

I'm not ready for that.

Friday, December 30, 2005

What are we thinking?

I had the wonderful pleasure to go to the theatre this week. It isn't a trek we make once a year or even once every two years. As a matter of fact we hadn't been to the city for such a purpose for eight years. But when I heard White Christmas was coming to town I suggested we make the trek, sans les enfants, (another fact of life that we don't experience too often).

As we waited to enter the theatre I couldn't help but admire the rich artwork that adorned the foyer. I love gilded and ivory Rubenesque art. Where the smiling women and child are healthy, and beautifully curved. Their bodies are full and warm, eyes round with contentment, lips pleasingly wishful. They are relaxed, reclining on clouds, or draped in silks. Just looking at them I couldn't help but relax myself as I anticipated seeing the play.

And then I started to think about what is beauty? Let's just for the sake of argument foolishly say that beauty is skin deep. (After all we all know this is not true.) If you look in the usual woman's magazines, or watch any of the usual tv shows, beauty is blatantly defined as something between needing to rent a shadow and dead. No matter where we turn we are bombarded by images of women that are unheathily thin. And this time of year, everyone is willing to show us and help us, for a fee, to lose weight so we too can be a fashion doll clone. We are told, in no uncertain terms, that if we have a two digit size, if there is a curve across our backside or thigh, we are not acceptable. And God forbid we have what I call a ripe midsection, a waist that is comfortably embraceable -- we're second class citizens.

Think about it. Visualize it. What if this plush theatre were decorated images of hipless and breastless wonders? Women and children gaunt and angular. Ribs showing, hips, collar bones and sternums straining against tight skin. Personally I would find it disturbing. And instead of enjoying the art around me, I would be wondering which charitable organization I could send money to, to help these poor unfortunate souls.

Think about it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Vacation Balancing Act

This little week in December, (previously known as Christmas week), when the kids and husband are home on vacation. I love the laid back scheduling, playing games, playdates, but not the laundry, vacuuming, cooking, and cleaning up.

In the past, unless we left the house, this week was never a vacation for me. After all I'm the Mom and since when do Moms get time off, even for good behavior? Never. There are still meals to be cooked, dishes to be washed, beds, vacuuming, and there is even more to pick up with the holidays. But this year I think I have found a solution.

I have scheduled in some vacation time for myself. Yesterday the girls wanted to do some cooking and painting with their Christmas bounty. This was after cooking pancakes, a morning playdate, food shopping, and lunch. I pushed them off. Telling them after I ate my lunch I was going to read. And after I finished my book, (I had 20 pages left), we could do some more cooking out of their new book. So they attempted to entertain themselves, and the interuptions to the written word were limited to reading the instructions to a paint by number set, at which point my husband took over the art project, and retying a shoe.

The frozen fruit dessert done, I picked up the next book on my list and started reading while the girls watched a Christmas movie and my husband folded the laundry. (Can you say, MERRY CHRISTMAS! I can!) Later in the day I promised the middle wonder that we would stain enough shingles to finish the roof on her dollhouse. At 3 p.m. that promised was fulfilled. Today we will glue them on and the exterior of the house will be done. This will be a great relief to me and to her. She got this kit Christmas of 1999.

So one day into the vacation, I don't feel like the maid, cook and bottle washer. I feel like the Mom, who has taken a very long shower, helped the kids cook pancakes and make a frozen fruit dessert, finished reading a book, unloaded the dishwasher, lit some candles and started another book, did some food shopping, and watched a great movie with my husband. I might not need a vacation after this week after all.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas is still about Jesus

Last night, in the span of 0ne hour, 38 spirit-filled children showed a standing room only audience the true meaning of Christmas. They sang their hearts out. They danced. They prayed. They showed us that when a door closes, God opens up a window. Like the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" I could watch their production of "Just Believe" every year until the year I die.

Rehearsals started the week before Thanksgiving. And in these 5 weeks the children learned more about their faith and the love of God than most people learn in a lifetime. Thank you, Mrs. W., their wonderful Director.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My Name is Ptcakes....

and I am a mean mother.

It's true. I am mean to my own kids and I'm mean to everyone elses. At least that is what my kids say. For instance, tonight at pageant practice, I separated two angels that couldn't stop hitting eachother. I asked another if his mother let him jump all over the furniture the way he was doing it in the church hall. He said, "No." Then don't do it here, was my advice to him. I stopped two choir members from balancing on the back of folding chairs. I said, "A black eye or a broken wrist for the pageant... not a good idea."

I admit it. I have a problem watching kids doing dangerous behavior and just letting it go saying kids will be kids.

The Middle One - Saved Again

My middle daughter is my sensitive one. The one who cries when the world doesn't spin her way or if she perceives one of her sisters might be getting one second extra of my time. The one who won't let me kiss her good bye; dodging my every two lip attempt - even to the top of her head.

Making our relationship even more complex she questions my every move and utterance. I say, "Did you do your homework yet?" She whines, "I don't want to do it now." I say, "Please hang up your coat." She says, "I'm going out again (in 4 hours)." I say, "It's winter, get your hat and mittens." She says, "But I'm wearing my sweatshirt."

Get the picture...

Yesterday when I was picking the girls up from school, she was walking the usual 5 paces ahead of everyone else, so she could be first. As she went to cross the street she stepped right into the path of an on coming car. I SCREAMED, "NO STOP! DON'T CROSS! STOP A CAR!"

Did you hear me? I am sure half of the northeast did. But my daughter didn't. Well that's not true, she did hear me, but she kept on walking into the street all the while giving me that "I don't see a car" look. And the reason she didn't see the car was, as she was galking at me, the car was coming up behind her.

Thankfully the car stopped and she crossed somewhat safely. Seatbelted in the car, I couldn't talk. I didn't know how to control the fear and rage that was building. We ran the afternoon schedule and nothing was said until it was just she and I in the car on the way to pageant rehearsal. " Why didn't you stop when I told you to?" I asked. She murmured, "I don't know." I said nothing more. It is one of those moments a mother will never forget.

Usually in the winter I will drive the kids to school. Today when we stepped outside, the weather seemed warm enough to walk. No wind and the sun was out -- the perfect winter day. So that is what we did. Hand in hand we walked. Actually I walked, my middle one stomped on the ice and climbed over snow drifts all the while talking. Pouring our her deepest wishes and secrets. She wants a bell from Santa's sleigh for Christmas. "Mom," she asked "do you believe in Santa?"

"Oh yeah," I replied. "There is a Santa." But I didn't tell her I'd already gotten my present; a walk to school, hand in hand with my middle wonder. It was one of those moments a mother will never forget.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Land of the Noon Moon

I heard on the news that in one months time the sun will rise over Barrows, Alaska. To be specific the people in that fair city haven't seen the sun for a month and, unless they travel, won't experience its warmth on their shoulders for yet another 30 days.

Yesterday, as I did the late afternoon taxi thing to kids' activities, in the dark, I wondered what it would be like not to see the sun for weeks on end. To eat, sleep, go to school, shop, run the taxi, and to play in the dark. I wondered if the people walk around wearing reflective clothing so they can be seen like the evening joggers that pass my house? Do the kids play outside when the temperatures warm to a balmy 15 degrees above zero. (Can the temperature get that high without the benefit of the sun?) Today and for the next 10 days it looks like this would be a marked improvement over the predicted subzero temperatures. And I doubt mothers in Barrows have my problem of kids refusing to wear their winter coat because its not really cold out. I would think if you stepped outside, without several layers on, in Barrows you'd freeze into the human popicle I'm always screaming about.

In the summer (or is it really in the light) I am more apt to start a project after dinner. Now I tend to clean up the kitchen (sometimes) and then curl up with a book or a movie for the evening. And what I noticed over the past two years is, come February, after dinner, I'll get itchy to do something, (not the dishes), and work on a project that's been hanging over my head. If people in Barrows have this same mentality then nothing would get done in the winter. So instead of taking their activity cues from light they must be clock watchers. Where if the little hand is on 6 and the big hand is on 12 its time for dinner and not bed.

The article went on to say that some people experience the no light winter blahs and will lavishly decorate with Christmas lights to brighten up their space and their lives. Is that what we do here in the not so frozen northeast? Do we put up lights to claim back some of the ebbing sunlight. If Christmas were in June, (or if we lived in South America), would we go so wild over Christmas lights? Would we plan trips just to look at them?

Since I don't really like driving around after dark (can't really say at night now, can I) and I'm not crazy about cold weather, I don't think I'm a candidate for moving to Barrows, but I would love to visit in the dead of winter. I want to experience the lack of daylight, see if I can lose all track of time and schedule and eat lunch by the light of the noon moon.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

What's Important?

This week, at the neighborhood tres chic coffeehouse I picked up some disturbing news. A dear friend's husband has opted for his third overseas tour. This group event doesn't involve walks along the Seine or gondola rides on the Great Canal. It's of the military type. The other shattering news was in a nearby town a small boy died of cancer. Both events hit me hard. Still both events weren't unexpected. The decision to go or not go has been waffled on for months and that poor child had been sick for years. But still, as I said to a writing friend, the wind has left my holiday sails.

Since hearing this news, I've been plodding through life. Sure the girls got to school, parties, and playdates, and dinner was on the table, but life had lost its luster. Both events are centered on the lose of a loved one; either by choice or disease. How could I go through this season continuing to worry about whether the girls would LOVE every one of the 4 billion presents Santa was bringing, whether the Christmas Day dinner would be just so, or whether I would be able to stick to my diet? What's Important?

Yesterday I got my answer. The schedule was full as usual: volunteering at the school, setting up for the community craft fair, finishing a scouting project and babysitting. The girls up, and fed we headed out the door and the process of finishing the list commenced.

Volunterring Done (check)

Helped With Set Up (check)

Then the strangest thing happened. As I was heading home to babysit and collaborate on the project I got a migraine. Thankfully they are not painful, but I get that aura where I can't see clearly and I'm exhausted afterwards. And thankfully again it wasn't full blown until I was safely parked in the driveway.

As we walk into the kitchen we were greeted by the holiday red light of the answering machine. We didn't need to babysit, which was fine. Then the phone rings and there is a change of plan. We won't be finishing the scouting project; fine too. Our afternoon had melted away; my little one and I ate lunch.

The best thing for this type of headache is to relax. So I suggest to my little one that we have a snuggle on the couch. She gathers her favorite blankies and we get cozy. First she is sitting on my lap, all tucked in and safe. Then we are laying side-by-side. She is wrapped up tightly in my arms. We're blanketed in our shared warmth when I remember the little boy and the children my friend's husband is leaving behind and I start to cry.

What's Important? Warm cozy afternoons on the couch, preschoolers washing dishes, school-age children telling you about their day and listening to them, walking with a child's hand in yours, hugging, doing puzzles, reading together, snuggling in bed an extra ten minutes, hearing your child say, "I love you," and knowing it's true, and loving them back.

So, with a renewed effort I will unfurl the holiday sails. And I will remember to love my children and even those that aren't mine, for all those people that can't.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Death By Chocolate

Help! Save Me! I'm expanding hip deep in chocolate!

Normally, I wouldn't put out such a plea. Normally, I squirrel away my stash of the good stuff and eat it when I don't have to feel guilty about not sharing. But Christmas is not a normal time in our household and when the air turns frosty, like a compass pointing north, every fiber of my being becomes focused on making candies. Specifically, truffles, toffee and fudge of every and any flavor. Well not every flavor, but before it's time for the school bus in the morning I can whip up a mean batch of kahlua, ginger, jalopeno, or chocolate cherry fudge and still get the girls out on time.

Last year I swore I wouldn't go down this rocky road, that I'd save myself the hassle of trying to lose this holiday 20, as well as last's. But as Christmas drew closer I found myself, without thinking, writing on the shopping list: sweet and condensed milk, heavy cream, butter and more butter. (I buy all my chocolates from Mountain Man.)

So, with the ingredients in house, I was determined to be strong. Make the candies, not eat them and give them all away.

For the batch of Kahlua fudge I did just that. Made it, cut it up and put it in the freezer. Okay, I admit I sampled a few crumbs. But I had to. How else would I be able to answer the question, "Is it good this year?" I had to do some research, at least that is what I told myself.

Next was the toffee. I managed to make one batch, that safely saw the inside of the refrigerator. I didn't taste any. Instead I had my three official toffee piglets handle the horrible task. After three pieces each, they deemed it adequate, as they reached for more. I rescued the rest for Christmas giving. And last week I made a double batch. From this I have been pinching the small pieces. Afterall, who wants a piece of toffee less than three square inches? With a clear conscience I'm making this sacrafice.

Finally the truffles; and as my obit will read, "She died with the sweet scent of chocolate on her breath." Really I tried. I ate one when I made them, just to make sure I had added the right amount of Port, (it's perfect). And then I was fine. I could tune out their gentle calling from the back of the refrigerator. I wasn't tempted at all until today.

Today, I took them out to put together a "Thank You" gift for the designer who had drawn up the plans for our new kitchen. He was coming over to see the final (sans paint -- because I am the painter and I've too busy making candies) product and of course get paid.

He asked if I had been enjoying the new stove and in turn I asked him if he wanted a truffle. As he let the confection melt in his mouth I thought I saw his knees buckle a bit as his eyes rolled back into his head. I asked if he wanted some to take along to his family and he said sure.

Still, when he left I wondered if he was just being polite. Or maybe my truffle defenses were down, but I knew I had to try them to make sure they were okay. The first one, bathed my taste buds with wonderful chocolate. But was it too sweet? I'd have to try another. As the second one melted I knew that the sweetness was fine, but was the powdered cocoa too thick? The third gave me my answer, No, but I wondered if maybe something a little stronger than Port was required. The fourth one sent me into a coma. And as I slipped away I couldn't image a better way to go.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Who Decorates Your Tree?

Every year, relatives and friends decorate our Christmas tree. And gratefully, every year, this number grows. See, every ornament that gets hung on our tree has a story, a past and hopefully unbroken future. Yesterday was our day for visiting.

At the very top of the tree is my grandparent's star shining above the remaining 6 thin glass ornaments they gave us. The paint chipped balls are so old I imagine they've been in our family for almost forever. My absolute favorite ornament is Nana's bell-shaped little girl in a red dress. Her little legs are the clapper. She's a twin, and when Nana died she came to me and her sister hangs on my Aunt's tree. Near the little girl are the two clip on birds that remind me of the childhood bottle brush tree that my father still insists they set up every year. I remember the first Christmas we had that fake tree. It was the first time I'd ever seen a tree in a box. It seemed fuller back then. But those huge gaps between the branches make decorating easier these days.

A set of little glass Santas remind me of Christmas in Florida with my in-laws. Memere and I were out on one of our shopping marathons when I saw them on sale. Still my favorite ornament from her is the petite point beaded brown bear she made. It is always given a place of honor. Hanging front and center; the Santas always seem to circle it. She died 3 years ago, but she is still with us.

There are the gold era ornaments. Shells my grandfather painted gold while they wintered in Florida. Even my littlest one knows that these get hung of a good strong branch because they are so heavy. I love to hear the kids say "this is a grandpa ornament." He passed away 6 years ago, 4 months before the youngest was even born. But through his ornaments she gets to visit with him every year.

We have photographs of cousins in snowmen and snow flake frames. The girls laugh at how young they look, and I show them their baby picture ornaments and remind them that they are growing up and older too.

We have ceramic ornaments from my old college friend Peggy D. Peggy had lupus and died almost 2o years ago. But each Christmas I am reminded of those porch swing sessions and the pizzas we shared. She loved life and lived each day better than anyone I know. When I hang her ornaments on the tree I get a lesson on the important things in life.

Our tree is graced by ornaments from Arkansas, Texas, Vermont, New Jersey, Colorado and Ireland. Decorations like the Texas boot with the words "Merry Christmas Y'all" painted by Aunt Marion, the hummingbird sent by Aunt Louise, the gold tone bells from Aunt Judy, the wooden bells from Aunt Beth, china pig from Aunt Karen, Aunt Jeanne's painted eggs, inspired by the first story I ever tried to get published, Aunt Steph's Christmas spiders, and the Irish farm house from my folks' travels.

We've picked up decorations on our own too. The "Collectible CVS" ornaments, the skiing moose I bought during my younger skiing hay day, the clarinet, which yesterday served as a reminder for a practice session, the step dancers, the skates, and the karate kid to list a few. Our glass vegetable ornaments are always a big hit. Now old enough to hang some of the more fragile ones my oldest takes great joy in putting these on the tree. It's a rite of passage.

This year I let the little ones hang the glass icicles. With each one I handed out they'd ask, "Mom, isn't this your favorite?" I'd just smile and tell them they're growing up and can handle them. And they did.

Each Christmas the girls get a new Barbie ornament from Santa. This year the Barbie section fills 6 branches. I would love to ask Santa to stop, but they love to look in their stocking and see what Santa brought. When they have homes of their own, their ornaments will hang on their own trees. I hope they will linger over each ornament as they do now.

I am so glad that nestled among all the shopping, card writing, wrapping, and running around that there is a special quiet time to visit with relatives and friends.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Snow Causes Brain Freeze

I suspect that when the Powers That Be stepped outside to determine if they should cancel school in our town they experienced PROFOUND BRAIN FREEZE and upon returning to their warm cozy homes forgot to make the call. How could they not cancel? What criteria went into their decision? Safety? Road passability? Possible bus accidents? Can walkers truly walk with all this wind and snow? (Will an added day at the end of the year effect my golf schedule?)

Everything, absolutely every other activity on the docket for today was cancelled today EXCEPT for school.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Scheduling Ebb and Flow

I am always amazed by the fullness of our calendar. I am even more amazed at the ebb and flow of said schedule.

Last September I was asked to help volunteer at the local family center's holiday craft fair. I looked at the calendar and said, "Sure." There was nothing on that date. I should've whispered my answer because I truly believe the schedule demons get a hold of a date and then somehow effect the space time continuum (there is that word again) so that every other event in our lives is suddenly scheduled on that day. For on that once empty little square we now have penned in the usual weekly volunteering gig at the local elementary school, the carpooling that has to be fit in between the fair set up, the fair itself, a Brownie meeting (which includes a cookie sales presentation by moi), a Drs appt (right before the Brownie meeting), and visiting inlaws. For two days now I have been mentally mapping out the big day. I even called the Drs office to get a sense of whether it was realistic for me to think I would get to the brownie meeting at my appointed presentation time.

THEN POOF! There is a winter storm barrelling our way. We've been warned that a white blanket of 6 to 10 inches is heading our way. The Weather Channel said there will be early releases in Boston. In my recollection, our town doesn't do impromptu early release so I wonder if the kids will even have school, hence no volunteering; no carpool juggling. And if there is school, there might not be brownies. No brownies, no cookie talk. If it snows, there is no holiday craft fair. If it snows a lot there won't be any visiting in laws. (We truly want them to come. We like them.) Of course, the Drs. office will probably be open, but if road conditions are iffy; I probably won't want to drive. I wouldn't want anything to happen to my new fuel pump. And, if the storm is really bad will our bread winner opt to work from home? (This is a goodthing.)

It just goes to show you, until the day is over, you really don't know what is going to happen.

The most important scheduling detail is that we are all home safe and sound at the end of the day.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

All I Want for Christmas

Joy of joys... Santa is bringing me a fuel pump.

Don't you love it when reality strikes right in the middle of the
holiday season. Nothing like a big repair bill to reign in the spending.

Clean or Dirty?

I am stuck at home today. Or at least I am without a vehicle since mine is in the shop for fuel issues. (But let me get back to the topic at hand.)

Being home I decided to clean a bit. Not too much; I didn't want to upset the universal dust continuum, but getting out the vacuum and a 3 inch stack of swiffers seemed like a good way to start the process.

I tackled the oldest's room first. I even dusted all those wonderful little nick nacks she collects. Still I doubt she or anyone else will notice.

Next was the little ones' room. On the initial inspection all it needed was a bit of dusting and a good vacuuming. As I pushed my trusty Oreck about I noticed a pair of socks peaking out from under the dresser. Being in a thorough mood I bent over to pick them up. As I pulled them out from their resting spot a pair of cinderella panties emerged as well. And when I looked closer I saw the tip of a shirt sleeve poking out.

Now on all fours I gave the underside of the dresser a good look. I found ALL the clean clothes I had given my youngest gem to put a way for the past week or more. I counted 13 little panties, 4 pair or tights, hundreds of socks, 7 shirts, and 8 pair of pants. Two of which I hadn't seen in at least a month.

So the dilemma -- the clothes are all stacked waiting for my lovely to put away. But are they clean or dirty??? Does she get her wish of not having to put them away, and I get to do YET another load of laundry? Or does she put them away and wear them anyway?

These kids are always coming up with interesting ways to keep me off my ever expanding behind.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Delicious Fruit Cake

rum soaked dried fruit
very little flour
cinnamon, cloves, all spice
baked for an hour

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Retrospective Introspective

Thanks Super Rob!

20 years ago I was newly married, at the great U of I studying Biophyics and figuring out how to teach Freshman Chemistry.

15 years ago I was happily living in Ithaca, truly God's Country, studying and using God's true science (local density approximation, for those of you that didn't know this) to prove it was doable to use a computer to model chemotherapeutic drugs.

10 years ago I was a single mom, living with my parents, embracing a new career in QA engineering and realizing my life wasn't over, but a fantastic page had turned and the best was yet to come.

5 years ago I was delightfully remarried, a mom now for the third time and realizing that the best of life is filled with children's wet kisses and snuggling hugs.

A year ago I realized that the dream of having a kitchen bigger than a postage stamp was going to be a reality.

Yesterday I said good bye to a good friend who is moving a way, went shopping with my littlest one, who said, "Mommy, how can that be my Christmas present, I'm here when you are buying it." I replied, "Trust me, it is." (From the clearance bin at R.E.I., down-filled slippers, and really cool wool socks)

5 snacks I enjoy... what snack food don't I enjoy... that is the problem. Hummm... chocolate, nuts, crackers with hot artichoke dip, sushi, most fruits

5 song I know all the words too... I know a lot of songs when they are on the radio, but can't think of the titles now.

5 things I would do with a million dollars - I would share the money with my family and friends, set up a publishing house and publish the fantastic books, stories, and essays that pour forth from the world's most wonderful writing group. Then I'd go to Paris, pour une tasse de cafe, and maybe buy an apartment so I could go home more often.

5 places I would runaway to - Paris, Paris, Paris, Seattle and Seattle (If I'm not home, you only have to look in these two places)

5 things I would never wear - the list is endless, but anything that is tight and makes me look like a bowling pin in spandex.

5 favorite tv shows - The weather channel while I'm doing the treadmill thing. Other than that I watch movies.

5 bad habits - very little patience, over eating, trying to run the world, not saying "no" enough, PMS.

5 biggest joys - my family, my writing, my photography, cooking, enjoying life through the eyes of my children

5 favorite toys - my camera, computer, treadmill, stove, and US-122

5 fictional characters I would like to have dinner with - Martha and Charles Boss, Didi's Helen, RB's April, Stephanie Plum

5 people I tag to do this: Do, or do not. There is no tag.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Road Less Travelled?

Along with the billions and billions of others we will be travelling over the river and through the woods to feast with family and friends. Usually by now, except for the toothbrushes, everything is packed and ready to go. Not so this year. This year somethings are gathered, but for the rest... it seems to be a catch as catch can. I have a list of things we need to take, including the turkey, stuffing, the pan, a few appetizers and crackers and cherry pie. I packed a few items for the girls to share with their cousins and made sure they know to grab hats and mittens. But that's it. That's all I've done. I think I've skipped over the vacation panic mode and have slipped into the vacation relaxed mode even though I have a mountain of prep work ahead of me. Maybe it's denial. Maybe it's because in some social circles I am old enough to be a grandmother and those calming grandmotherly brainwaves are kicking in. Or maybe it's all that yoga and I've inadvertantly discovered a new way to go through life.

Regardless, it's one of life's gifts and I'll keep it.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Is there writing after the book?

Actually the title is misleading. It's not after the book, it's between drafts. I've decided to put Sarah and her woes on the shelf until after the New Year. I figure the distance will do us all good. After the holidays I'll be able to edit without being so emotionally attached to every single word.

What will that do to my word count? As things stand now I've only penned 48,000 or so beauties. Two thousand short of that required for the impressive "Write a book in the month of November" gig. It took me 6 years to write "my baby", that's 8,000 a year, which translates into a vowel less than 22 words a day. Am I slow or what?

The fact remains that since finishing the draft I haven't really latched on to another writing project. I have two small irons in the fire, an essay and an old children's picture book, and of course this blog. None of which is ready for prime time. I will say I have started to carry around paper drafts of the two tangible pieces and have resorted to using a pencil to brain storm edits.

Hopefully at one of these sessions I will become enamored and start productively writing again. After all I'm only looking for 22 words a day.

(Blog word count 217)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Today I Found Time

Kid-free from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. It was almost too quiet, almost. The house to-do list as long as ever and nagging at me. So what did I do? Whittle away at an odd job or two? Did I find the wood filler and caulking gun and start working on the kitchen trim? No, I read.

Oh I did a bit of food shopping and then made a fantastic batch of lamb curry, but for the rest of the kid-free time I read and worked at pushing back a sizable amount of sitting on my expanding backside guilt. Afterall, I was learning how to write cleaner transitions. Evanovitch is a FANTASTIC author and her transitions are masterful. And like me, she started writing after her kids went back to school. So I feel a kindred spirit when I read her material.

So, at 1:30 when I had to re-enter the real world, I had dinner made, 2 gallons of milk and other food stuff, and an overwhelming sense of wanting to write flawless transitions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It Escapes Me

Time escapes me. You would think being a stay at home mom that I would have more time to write. But no, I get up, do the treadmill thing, then the yoga thing, (which I am loving), the shower thing, and then the kids up and ready for school things. I get them out the door, do the laundry, the cleaning, (yes, I do clean), the shopping, run errands, and in the warmer weather I do try to do the gardening thing too. I start each day with a few hours , GOD FORBID, home alone, and the next thing I know I off the collect my loves with all their homework, Christmas pageant rehearsals, playdates, brownies, music lessons, sports and dance. And let's not forget someone has to cook dinner.

My heart goes out to all the moms that don't have the option to stay home. I don't know how you do it. I can't.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Fall Leaves -- A Sign of Whats To Come

For two entire weekends we have been raking leaves. The last count on bags lugged to the compost dump was 35. And the front yard needs to be raked again. But really I'm not complaining too much. All our trees are Maples, and in early spring when the sap starts to flow those trees produce the most wonderful maple syrup.

The sugaring season is months away and already I've taken stock of our supplies. I have a mental note to put in an order for 6 more taps, and 10 new buckets. I think Santa will leave them under the tree.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Why is it if one child is allowed to circle possible picks on a book order form that all others must, at that same moment, circle the books they want? Do they think the form will self distruct when there are a billion and one circles draw over the entire booklet? Have they ever not had the chance to inform me of their latest gimme list?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Swimming Part II -- The Swim For Life

For as long as I have known our wonderful neighbor, Sunny, she has taken on the Swim For Life, a 1.4 mile swim across Provincetown Harbor. (Actually she has participated for longer than we have been neighbors as this year was her 10th swim.) The money raised from this event goes to help people with AIDS, and for youth programs. As it is a wonderful cause, every September we would sponsor Sunny and wish her well.

This year after I swam my first half mile in the local pool I started thinking about joining Sunny instead of sponsoring her. I remember the early June afternoon I crawled out of the local pool and said to her, "I just swam a half mile. Think I could do the Swim For Life?" Sunny smiled and said sure. I figured if I swam every day, building up the mileage, that I would have a chance.

So everyday, hot or cold, rain or shine, I was swimming. Believe me it was no sacrafice. I love to swim, and I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment as I was quickly able to swim a mile without much effort, and then a mile and a quarter. Then twice I swam 1.4 miles, figuring I only really had to do this distance once, in Provincetown Harbor.

While training I mentioned my goal to family and friends, figuring I was letting them know I'd be looking for sponsorship. I got that and more. Another friend, Mrs.G, decided to join us. So we swam and swam and swam the summer away. Actually, Sunny and Mrs.G, are very strong and fast swimmers. And usually they would be finished their laps and I would still have several to go. But the Swim For Life was not a race for me. My goal was to finish. Go into the water at the light house and come out on the other side.

The morning of the swim we met up at the registration booth, got our numbers, and found wet suits. There were over 250 other swimmers doing the same. There was even a dog, Spot taking the plunge with his owner. The sun was out, the atmosphere filled with excitement. The announcement was made for the swimmers to make their way to the ferries so that we could be taken to the start. The support people were urged to get their boats into position in the harbor.

It was on the ferry ride that I first saw and felt the choppy water. Still my spirit wasn't dampened. The opening speeches over, the signal was given and I entered the water with the other 250+ humans and Spot. I had heard from several people that the beginning of the swim is the worst. Its not the cold that gets you its the fact that you swim towards the water tower and it doesn't seems to get closer. And that was how it was for me. Making matters worse was that everytime I went to take a breath I was getting hit in the face with a wave. So I started to alter my breathing and stroke, and soon realized that being in the middle of a harbor was no place to start a new training regime. So I slogged on, and finally I found my rhythmn. I was swimming and breathing and felt good about my situation. But when I looked up I was being pulled way off course by the current. And for all the smoothness and good feelings I was experiencing I had not made much progress towards land. I wasn't tired, and I wasn't cold but I also knew I had only swam about six tenths of a mile, not even half way, and having swallowed a lot of water, I called over a boat and got fished out.

Two wonderful women and Stella, a water dog, came to my rescue. They offered me a towel and Stella for warmth. Indoctrinated into their support team I watched over other swimmers. And when we got closer in, where the chop had settled down I opted to finish the swim under my own power.

As I crossed the finish line, Sunny and Mrs.G were there waiting for me, cheering me on. And despite the fact I had taken a boat assist I felt great; now cold but great.

Now when I think about doing the swim next year, and each year after that I will know about the chop, and I know now that I can finish. I'll just take it slow, don't panic and the water tower will get closer.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Perfect Gift

Not to sound trival, but gifts come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you can see them coming. Sometimes you don't.

Yesterday my middle child came home from school complaining of a headache. When I reached over to give her a hug, my arm wasn't even touching her when I could feel the heat emminating from her body. "Get the thermometer," was all I said.

Two minutes later, and a temperature of 101.4, I called the school, reported her illness and told them she wouldn't be in school the next day, today, my birthday.

Last night, as I was falling to sleep I wondered what today would bring. Would I get to work on the last of the three doors I need to strip? Would I make headway raking up the pine needles that are raining down from our trees?

Five years ago, my middle one took it upon her self to close the lock on a foot locker I had been lugging from life to life since 1978. I remember getting mad and yelling, "NO, I don't have the key." But it was too late. The latch was locked. Not wanting to deal with it right then and there, the foot locker was pushed to the side and over the years buried under life's other essential valuables.

Every year we have a Halloween party. Where we decorate the house like crazy and the kids get to invite a few friends over to carve pumpkins, play games, and eat Halloween food like Cheesy bat biscuits, Eye of Newt sandwiches, jello brain and the highlight of grossness , Litter Box Cake. This year, for the party, we decided to set up an area in the kitchen dedicated to Harry Potter. We set up brooms, wands, glasses, a cape, and a snitch. As we were looking at our little display I remembered the old foot locker. "Let's unbury it, and pretend its Harry Potter's." So we shifted heaven and earth and dragged it up from the bowels of the basement. The lock was still holding fast, but it didn't matter. It was the prefect flat surface for a friendly game of Wizards Chess.

This morning, the oldest and youngest off the school the house was quiet except for a little bit of hammering that I thought needed investigating. There in the kitchen was the feverish one with the meat tenderizer banging on the lock. "Mom," she said, "I might be able to get this open."

I smiled, and left to find our oversized screwdriver that has more uses than the boring task of turning a screw. Meat tenderizer in hand, screw driver poised, the two of us hammered until the locking plate hit the floor.

Inside was my life. A life I hadn't visited since my post graduate days. There was a rather professional looking slide presentation on my forays into Molecular Biology and using a gene gun to blast DNA into unsuspecting plant cells.

There was a hefty stack of overheads I had used to present my work on using Pseudopotential Theory to calculate the bond angle, and length, of a hydrogen bond created between a pair of water molecules, to a group of pure solid state physicists in Belgium. There was something in my hand writing about Hartree Fock, Electron-Electron coulomb energy and The Hamiltonian. I had filled three overheads with more Greek letters than I ever thought or remembered I knew.

Inside the chest was a mountain of stencils (plus all the brushes and paints) I had created of all different kinds of animals after my oldest one was born and I wanted a crafty diversion until I returned to work.

There were patterns I had drawn for building planters that looked like a Pelican, Canada Goose, and a Great Blue Heron.

We laid everything out on the floor. It was fun to watch my middle one looking through my sketches and stencils. She seemed amazed that I might have had talents beyond folding the laundry or emptying the dishwasher.

Then my little birthday buddy asked if she could stencil one of her shirts. I felt her head, the fever minimal at best; I nodded okay.

We spent the rest of the quiet, peaceful morning putting a horse stencil on her shirt. It was the best birthday present this Mom could ever ask for.

Today's The Day

Today's the day the calendar advances for me. A day for reflection, taking stock, planning, fixing what is broke and for appreciating all those truly wonderful little things. Today I kiss my girls really big and hug them extra tight.

Its a day for saying thank you and for smiling.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Will this be a year of finishes?

The book is done, okay just the first draft. But its out there in black and white.
Next is the doll house. Another 6 year project. I have two courses of shingles to stain and put on. Can I get this done before December 31, 2005? What about running the wiring, wall papering. and putting down flooring?

And the cross stitch, a 7 year project... And let's not forget the kitchen that still needs to be painted.

Wouldn't it be nice to have all this closure for the start of the new year.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I Finished My Book!

After thinking about it, worrying over it, reading it, reviewing it and let's not forget writing it for 6 years, I have finally finished my book. Well maybe finished is too strong a word, I have finally taken all the details that were being held in my grey mattered-squash and got them into a computer. (1st draft)

I printed out all 159 pages and I am currently reading it all together for the very first time.

What a relief to finally get it all down on paper.

But-cept Your-chothers

My youngest has two phrases that I will miss when she starts to grow out of her preschool age, But-cept and your-chothers. I love it when she says, "I'll eat all my soup but-cept the mushrooms." Or when she says, "You love your-chothers." Once or twice I found myself correcting her. But I won't do it anymore. Such innocence.

My other two had similar phrases I swore I would never forget, but I have. It's sad that life's too many details clog my brain. The sweet memories are shoved into the darker recesses of my grey matter to make room for school and car pool schedules, playdate details, quick food shopping lists, or the latest most sought after birthday present must have.

Hopefully they're not lost forever. Perhaps when I am much older, and more forgetful my heart will be warmed by them. How could it not?
Just say, "You love your-chothers." Doesn't it put a smile on your face?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The End Is Near

I dusted today. I won't say just how many swiffers I went through. Let's just say it a good thing we shop at a warehouse store.

Dust is a constant. I dust one day and the next day it's back. So I wait a week or two or three or more before dusting again. Why rush there will just be more the next day. I call it job security.

That and dishes. Mary the Good Fairy does not come to this house. If I leave a dish in the sink when I go to bed, it's still there in the morning. I think dishes could fill the sink, spill out on the floor and no one in this family would notice until they blocked the tv or got in the way of the hottest and latest craft project.

Its almost inspiring when I'm picking up after the troops, after all to justify the mess there has to be more than 5 of us in this house, and I get asked if I'm busy. I must be projecting an image of lounging on the couch eating bonbons.

I could do that; especially if I just dusted it.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Forgotten Holiday

On a child-free trip to an oversized discount store I decided to take a look through the seasonal aisle. With Halloween a week away I was hoping to grab up some good buys for next year. To my shock there were maybe 6 or so seemingly discarded ceramic pumpkins, and a few Fall throw rugs being pushed to the side by several tons of Christmas "must haves."

I shouldn't have been shocked. Afterall every single store I've been in recently, with children in tow, was bursting with Christmas. Even so, I wanted to scream, "WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THANKSGIVING?"

What has happened? If there are no gifts, no material gain to be had, does a holiday simply disappear?

Thanksgiving is my all time, every time, favorite holiday of the year. Years ago the tradition to gather with my Mom's parents for the feast was started. Their tradition to escape the northeast in winter meant they would leave for the Sunshine State the weekend after the big Turkey event and return sometime after Easter. So if you wanted to see them before their sojourn, this was the family event to be at. I can still remember waking up in my Aunt's old room with the smell of turkey and fixing already wafting upstairs. Nana ruled the feast and proudly cooked from dusk till dawn the whole week before.

When my Grandparents grew too old to host, and for that matter, to travel to FL, we all gathered at my Aunt and Uncle's. Marriages and childbirth had increased our numbers, and the gathering became even more special. We are a close family by most standards but when do most families just stop and visit for 3 days? No school, no work, no sports to run to, no mounds of ironing or mending calling out to be attended to. Just a pure and uninterupted visit full of family.

The one feast that will always stick out in my mind is the last Thanksgiving my Grandparents were with us. My Grandmother's health had been failing, my Grandfather somehow knew it would be their last. After that wonderful meal, when we were all pushed back from the table making room for our expanded waist lines, my Grandfather, with tears in his eyes, proposed a toast to his family and then gave us all our Christmas presents, a card with a check for the children. In was the following Spring that my Grandmother left us, and shortly afterwards so did my Grandfather.

I miss my Grandparents, but I miss them more at Thanksgiving. However, when I am chilled by the November air, I reach into my Aunt and Uncle's hall closet and pull out one of Grandpa's woolen shirts. I am warmed two fold. Once by the wool and once again by the spirit of my loving Grandparents.

The tradition to gather at my Aunt and Uncle's home still stands. But new traditions have started. We all contribute to the meal. Instead of a turkey being the center of the meal my brother and I plan and prepare a turducken. It is a turkey, stuffed with a duck which is stuffed with a chicken. And layered in between each bird is a different flavorful stuffing. We start the planning sometime in late September. We discuss who will bring which bird. Who will do the deboning? (My brother is much better at this than I am.) Which stuffings will be made, and whos meat thermometer still works.

We gather at my Aunt and Uncle's home on the Wednesday evening before the big day. The stuffings are made, the birds laid out, the assembly completed; a turduken. The masterpiece must cook for 11 to 13 hours in low heat, so it goes into the oven between 11 p.m. and midnight.

My husband and I get the family room sofabed by the wood stove. We are lulled into a fitfull sleep by the aroma of wood burning and are awaken by the sweet smells of turduken. I've never asked, but I am sure that everyone else has the same sensual wake up call, for soon everyone is in the kitchen with their noses pressed as close as possible to the oven window.

Midmorning my brother takes over the watch. His cooking skills far out weigh mine and I leave the finishing to him while I turn to help with the side dishes that will complete the meal.

For the whole three day holiday there is no fighting. The children play games, or knit, or sew, or read. There are usually a few of us now adults that hit the road for a mile or two, trying to ward off the Thanksgiving Ten. It never works. During the big day the parades and the football games are on in the background, at night we watch movies. On a few occassions my sister-in-law and I have been moved to sing the Turkey Song. And of course we give it the dance movements it deserves. On these occassions I am very thankful no one in the family owns a functioning video camera.

There is always food out for snacking.

So, all you oversized discount stores feel free to miss the best holiday of the year. You would probably try to spoil it anyway by suggesting we all become involved in a mass marketing frenzy of having to buy gifts for all our family and friends instead of enjoying their wonderful love and company.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Swimming Part 1

My Mom told me that before I could walk I loved playing in the water. The story goes, on my first family vacation she sat for hours in her beach chair, at the shore, holding my hands so I could jump up and down in the water. As I grew so did my love of the water. At Girl Scout camp I was always the first one into my swim suit and lined up for the pool. In high school when I had knee surgery and had a year of swimming during gym for PT there were no complaints. And in college I when I tried to squeeze in some exercise I'd swim a few laps, in between classes and experiments.

Then life dealt me the "NO SWIMMING" card. Oh sure, we had the prerequired paddling pool in the backyard. You know the one that looks olympic sized in the store. However, once set up and filled in the backyard, shrinks to the size of a thimble.

And when my oldest lovely was big enough for swimming lessons at the town lake, the second lovely was a mere few weeks old. My time was spent sitting on a shaded bench making sure one didn't drowned while the other slept in her car seat or stroller.

And when the third lovely came along I was twice busy watching my eldest fish dive and swim, and convincing the wader not to test all the theories concerning near drowning, all the while holding the wee one in my arms. Still no swimming for me.

This past summer, all my lovelies swimming, with our without a bubble, I entered the water, just for me, once again. There is a such a sense of freedom when I'm gliding through the water. The laps quickly float by as I dwell on the sound of my breathing, the way my hands push through the water, the fact that I could be kicking more, my writing, what we'll have for dinner, how it is easier to swim in cooler water, and of course the girls.

At the beginning of the summer, the girls played together in the shallow end of the local neighborhood pool, waiting for me to finish so I could take the little ones into the deep end. They were becoming as much of a fish as their older sister.

As the summer heated up an amazing thing happened; the lovelies started swimming laps with me. First the oldest. On many occasions she stayed with me for a half of a mile of more. At the lap ends, when I would check on the wee ones, I'd proudly watch my partner take the turn and start her next lap. Like most things she does, she's a very good swimmer. Her stroke is smooth and steady, as she seems to cuts effortlessly through the water.

Then the little ones started their own type of laps, always wanting to race, always winning and always laughing and smiling when they touch the wall before me.

And now that Fall is here, and the pool is closed, I find myself dreaming of the next pool season when we will once again swim in our own family school.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Fall and Winter Morning Gifts

I love waking up at 4 AM. It's a gift of 2 hours of quiet mommy time. Two hours of solitude to write, or read , exercise, get lunches ready, or God forbid, dust.

As I am a slave to day light, in the summer, its easy to get up early. The sun and the birds do most of the hard work and the floors are never cold. But as winter draws near, and the days squeeze down to nothing, getting up early almost never happens. Where most days, I get up well after my dear husband's 6 AM departure, but thankfully prior to when the girls need to get off to school.

But these sleepy winter mornings have their charm as well. For there are very few things that can compare to waking up and finding one or even three blessed bundles peacefully lying next to you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I'm going out a limb here. I'm going to tell the truth, "I hate soccer."
I am the anti-soccer mom. Mind you I love to watch my daughter play. She plays well, and she loves the game. So, she plays, and socializes and has a great time.

But I hate, no despise, the fact that once a game is missed you can expect that email from the coach stating that the make up game is on such and such date, at such and such time, and, oh by the way, have your daughter there 45 minutes early. There goes the daily schedule and I start the blood pressure raising task of getting everyone where they need to be a la soccer.

If the email would come with the sentence, "I hope you all can make it" or "I know this is short notice, but it would be great if we could all do this for the greater glory of the game." But, there are no hopeful statements, just the daunting task of schedule rearranging.

I will say this year's coach is by far the most understanding coach she has had to date. Prior years, family events, like going away to Florida for April Vacation, were met with statements like, "Can you leave on Sunday instead of Saturday so she won't miss the game?"

So, I count my blessings, and try to focus on the facts that she absolutely loves the game, enjoys her team mates, and all the schedule rearranging is good mental exercise.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I'm a writer... or maybe that's a writer wannabe.

I have been working on the same book for 6 years. Not constantly, but enough so when I run into friends they ask, "How's the book is coming?" Well, on a not so recent "addition-forced" trip to the laundromat I penned the final chapter. The next day, I announced to my writing group, even buying a round of coffees, that it was finished. And now, for the last 8 weeks, maybe more, I have been trying to squeeze in the time to move it from my notebook to a hard drive. Preferably the one that already holds the previous 33 chapters.

Why is it taking me so long? Am I afraid I won't know what to do with myself when its done?

One reason for the lag is the addition, and the painting I refused to pay someone else to do. There have been days when the first thing I do in the morning is paint and the last thing I am doing before bed is still painting. Still, I would rather be several several thousands of dollars not in the hole and dissatisfied with my own lack of painting skills than poorer and have a constant source of complaining due to someone else's. So the addition work drags on. This week I polyurethaned the new steps, if the weather improves I'll finish painting the outside steps and then next week it will be tackling the entry way and kitchen. Maybe I'll be done in time for Christmas.

And I could lay blame on the lack of book work on the kids. Afterall my schedule can only be laid down after I know theirs. And when I find I have time on my hands it takes almost a full hour just to get used to the peace and quiet. The silence is almost deafening, almost.

But the truth be known, or for what I take to be truthful, the book writes itself. And we are at a standoff. I sit here and type, and the characters tell me that there has to be more. The ending is not complete. There has to be closure and I have to let Sarah and Martha find their own peace. So maybe in this peaceful quiet morning, filled with no arguing, no tattling, no whining, it will be quiet enough for me to listen to my long time good friends and finish their story.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Like a was saying before, I never know what is going to happen during a day until it is over. Today is case in point. My youngest, She-Who-Will-Rule-The World, SWWRTW, is staying home from preschool. (All you Moms with kids in the same class can thank me for not spreading the bug. Of course, she probably got it there.)

Anyway, SWWRTW has had this cold for a few days now. Usually in the mornings it is worse, and by 9 AM, too late to go to school, she has a miraculous recovery. But I have been fair warned...

This past winter she had a similar cold for a week, okay 10 days. Finally when one of my other daughters, there are 3 remember, got an ear ache I decided that majority rules... off to the Drs we go, for both of them. Well SWWRTW had double pneumonia. No fever, no complaints... except for me to carry her in hip deep snow, because she was tired, just the morning cough and runny nose.

I'm giving her until tomorrow morning to have a full recovery. Otherwise it will be off to the Drs.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Last spring Didi lent me her copy of Simple Steps. In ten short weeks, if I followed their guidelines, I would have a neater, thinner, more orgainized life. I read the book, cover to cover, in two days. Basically, your make a few (maybe 4, if I remember correctly) changes each week and in the end you are a new "thinner" person. That said, I made a valient effort for a few weeks and then quickly fell off the bandwagon.

Maybe it was the chaos of the addition (new kitchen, roof, siding, and all that goes with it), that way laid my intentions. Maybe it was just laziness. Whatever it was, I am trying again to bring order into my life, and to loss these extra pounds I seem to have collected over the years.

So I drink plenty of water, take a multivitamin, walk on our dusty treadmill for 20 minutes a day, try to clean up some extra clutter for 10 minutes each day, make a to-do list for each day and make my bed. The bed making is key. Supposedly, when you make your bed, before doing anything in the morning, you have already accomplished something. The pressure is off. A task has been brought to completion and you should feel fullfilled. I try to tell myself that as I pull up the sheets and covers. But still I find myself stressed about getting "things" done.

That said, today I started to tackle the lack of filing that has been taking place for the last 8 years. Three hours later, I had gone through two mountains of papers, and a good size box of papers. I can actually see the dust that blankets the top of my desk. This in itself is a miracle.

Maybe tomorrow I'll dust.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I'll be 45 soon. In a few short weeks. I have 3 girls and an advanced degree in biophysics to show for all my years. However, the days pass like clothes through my washer. I often say I don't know what will happen in a day until its over. It is so true, trips to the ER, runs to the store, impromptu home improvement projects... after a miraculous finding in the toilet. Does anyone have any idea how the lid of the water bottle found its way in there?

Even worse, my baby just turned 5. Time slips past each and every day.My oldest daughter's cousin, and one of my dearest friends, recently blogged about embracing today for tomorrow is not certain. I have to agree with her. Each and every day is a gift.

Do you wonder how a dear friend can be my daughter's cousin? Well actually, she is related via my X. But I am so thankful for her. We met in the cry room at our church and over time she discovered our relationship. Who said you can't be friends with your family.