Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Last year, when we were given the gift of Disney from my folks, my girls got the autograph books and we stood in lines for endless hours to get signatures and pictures. This year, I thought we wouldn't be doing that, and left their books at home. I was wrong... But in the end this was a great thing.

At Epcot that have an air conditioned character center... no hot lines in the sun to meet the major players. And everyone from Mickey to Chip and Dale were glad to sign our canvas bag. Goofy, a family favorite, even delighted us with a sketch of himself. So, now I am busy embroidering over their signatures to make them a bit more permanent than the pen.

p.s. The back is better, but I'm still moving very slowly.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mother's Day Gift Idea

Our parish's youth ministry program is having a fund raiser. They are selling Mary Kay Satin Hands pampering kits for $30. If you're a local reader, and would like to help us meet our financial goal, as well as obtaining a great gift for Mom or someone else special in your life, then get in touch with me.

Up, up, but not away

Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you'll be walking across the floor.
Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you'll be walking out the door.

I can't imagine how a snake would feel with a sore back. Being all back, a slipped disc would truly put a kink in their style. It has mine, and I'm only 30 percent back at best.

Thankfully its raining, so my desire to work in the gardens is on hold as I watch the fertilizer work its greening magic on the lawn.

For today's agenda, I have a guest over for most of the day. We will color, watch movies, read, and hang out. No fancy errands to be run. No running around or swinging in the back yard. Maybe she will turn out to be a Sudoku wiz and help me with the latest puzzle.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh about a weak back

(From China -- when I could bend and look up with a camera pressed to my eye, simultaneously.)

All I can say, is thank God, this didn't happen while we were away.

I was picking up from our extravaganza when my back went. I knew something was up, but it took a few hours for the full affect to cement itself to my spine. I'm moving slowly -- but at least I am moving. And feel I should continue to do so, or I might become a performance art piece -- the human board. No bed rest, or I'll be that bed for eternity. But it's also no gardening, no picking up anything heavier than a piece of toast, no deep knee bends, as if I could do them before -- it's nice to dream, and breathing is still good.

It's ibuprofen and ice, my two new best friends.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The parade

At night they dim the park lights for the most wonderful illuminated parade with all the favorite cast of characters. Still I was most amazed by the vendors selling light up bracelets to swords, and the swath of colors that trailed them as they walked down the street.

Another amazement was how thousands of people easily walked out of the park and acquired transportation home, whether it be by boat, monorail, car, or bus, without a lot of hassle or waiting.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Oh one more pic before bed

On Wednesday we dined in Morocco, sharing some of the most delicious couscous and tabbouleh I've ever eaten. I looked around the shop afterwards, scouting for a cookbook, but didn't find one.

There and back again

Once again we hit the road, driving. So over the next few days I'll post pictures from our trip. Can you guess where we went?

I'm finding that these family trips need a day at the beginning to leave the rushing around behind, and a day on the end to ease back into the rushing.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What happens if you're not the princess you hoped to be?

What happens after you've scaled the middle-aged mountain, when you're avalanching down the other side, and you realize you'll never be that princess daintily strolling her dream castle, with it's countless turrets or riding in a carriage being drawn by six white horses? What happens when your footmen fade to an illusion, and no one opts to bring you breakfast on a tray of silver?

Is all to be forgotten?

It's so easy to miss life's big picture, while facing a kitchen of dirty dishes, or a floor caked with the day's mud. Or better yet, yesterday's clean and folded clothes, back in the laundry basket, because someone was too lazy to open a drawer...

Thursday, April 17, 2008


My sidekick won't be back today. She's back to preschool, and I'm returning to reality. No more fun and games. It's raking the lawn with vigor, and cleaning with a vengeance. When my own were younger, I can remember the cuddling, the cozying, giving them a crazy name for a day, reciting the ABCs with the occasional chicken throw in. But I also remember wishing they were older, and lamenting, "Oh, when your older, you'll be able to buckle you seat belt, and I won't have to carry you across long parking lots." It's only been a few short years, and still yesterday, I joyfully picked up my friend and sang silly songs as we, crossed the great black sea before our beloved bookstore. I buckled her seat belt, not making a big scene about at her age, after all we had the little shelf and cup holder pulled out so she had a place for her lunch.

Last night, I went hear ANTHONY E. WOLF, PhD, best-selling author of: "Get Out of My Life, but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?" talk about what else, teenagers. It was humorous, as everyone in the audience thought he had been living with them, writing down each and every not so humorous at the time, hair pulling, incident. He shared that his children were just like our own, and that there is hope and a light that shine down upon you at the end of the high school tunnel... or sometime around there. I learned my lovelies are normal, and I am not alone with my alien child replacements.

My take home lessons were:

1. Cozy your children. Even in high school, they need it, and deep down inside, want it. Actually, I had noticed that with my teen. A quick brush of a kiss to her cheek is all I can get, but each day, it does us both wonders.

2. After making a decision, disengage from further discussion. This act sets the limit, and lets them know that your mind is made up. I noticed Dr. Wolfe did this with the audience at the end of his talk, giving us a good technical example of how to pull this off.

I walked out almost patting myself on the back about that one. For that is one technique that we have been using at home. After the decision is made, and if it's not popular, we do get some begging and whining. But we have a guideline where we say, "The answer is still no, and if you want me to say yes about (whatever in the future) then stop."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Cupcake Kid

I think the kid and I will go to the hardware store, the post office, count cans at the church, and then hit the bookstore, before we venture home for some lunch and some baking. A very different day than one I envisioned on Sunday, when swimming dominated my schedule.

My new sidekick is great.
Yesterday, she told me my banjo music was beautiful.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The many shapes and sizes of gifts

Gifts come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. Some are wrapped in bright shiny paper, adorned with ribbons. Others come in paper sacks, stuffed with tissue. Some come from the heart, not needing wrapping at all. And then others are a phone call away.

This morning the phone rang, and a gift was given to me for the day. A sweet, lovable, little girl, whose sitter's daughter was too sick to play. So today, I was given the gift of play. I also received the gift of mac'n cheese with olives for lunch. Followed by a cupcake chaser. We shared the gift of the hunting for grasshoppers while we raked out the gardens. And I absolutely relished the gift of her smile, and her mugging for the camera, as she impressed me with her pleases and thank yous.

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, but I love the smiling, loving, and warm ones with the soft centers best.

The pen is mightier than the time out chair

Last week, it became apparent that something had to happen parent - child. And since I can't change the child, and all the nice talking, all the screaming, all the consequences in the world weren't working, I suggested the pen. It was my hope that the word would prove to be more powerful or at least more enlightening than a frayed, and frazzled mother.

My lovely loves to keep track of all that she gets, and all that her siblings get as well. Some of her favorite sayings, used to be:
"She has more."
"I haven't had a cozy yet, and you cozied her twice."
"She had two desserts since last Saturday and I've only managed one that whole time." (It didn't matter she was sick as a dog, and tossing everything she ate... so why waste good dessert when saltines will make the trip equally as well?)

The idea to use the pen, and its sister, the notebook, came to me after her usual shrill litany of haves and have nots that I couldn't substantiate. So I demanded she write down everything that she asks for, the date and time of the request, and every response she gets from me. I told her she needs to prove her case and what better way than to wave cold hard data in my face. "Show me that you don't get what you want. Show me that your needs aren't being met in this house."

Quickly she embraced this empowerment, and set on the counter by the phone, a half used art notepad, and pen. And so, for the last almost a week now, she has been writing things down. In this time period I have handed down the no twice. Once for more potato chips. That got a conditional no, where she had to eat some real food before anymore chips. And the second was for gum, right before dinner. The rest of her requests have been met with a yes. A yes to popcorn while doing homework, a yes to chocolate milk, a yes to a longer cozy, a yes to razzles for a snack, a yes to watching a bit more movie before bed, a yes to putting her hair up in a funky bun, yes, yes, yes. I have not become more lenient, it's been standard mothering according to mom.

The outcome is a more relaxed and confident child. For she has in her own handwriting and spelling, all the proof she needs that she is just as pampered, and loved, and doted over -- as her siblings.

The pen is mightier than the sword, the yelling, the angst, the tears, the lectures, and the time out chair. Thank God for the pen.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Someone's rock is another one's home

While weeding today I happened upon a neighbor of sorts. It was refreshing to know that we share a garden spot peaceably.

Took Me Out to the Ballgame

I had the great luck to go to last night's game between the Red Sox and the Yankees. As I walked into the park, I remembered the movie Bull Durham and Annie's line about attending the church of baseball. I must tell BigMama. Maybe she can go to Fenway in her 52 church quest.

Last night, I tagged along with friends. We had field level right field seats. It was my first time there.I can now say I've been to Fenway.
Balanced a beer, my camera and my knitting, not necessarily in that order.
Saw Dice-K pitch and Manny hit and run.
Learned the YOUK cheer,
and Coco Crisp is more than a breakfast cereal.
Red Sox won 8 to 5.

Dear BigMama

Dear BigMama,

It was great to see you the other day. They say, siblings think alike, but perhaps cousins do as well, as we both liked the artist's work.

Have a wonderful trip.


Your Cousin

Saturday, April 12, 2008


During a recently phone conversation the party of the first part, me, was explaining how I ended up staying in school till the bitter PhD end, when the party of the second part, them, replied, (and I'm paraphrasing) "Someday I'd like to go back and learn all that stuff I missed." I almost laughed, but instead said, "Yeah, learning is a great thing."

I know this from experience, and not from all those books, test tubes and computer programs I poured over some 20 years ago. I know it because since then I have learned so many things like website design, photography, writing, the planning and management of large venue events, managing the calendar of a busy household, how to reupholster kitchen chairs, making jams and preserving other foods, quilting, distance swimming, knitting, maple sugarmaking, how to insulate a house, how to paint, how to ride a motorcycle, navigation, and how to lead a Girl Scout troop. I know this because I'm learning to play the banjo, will soon learn how to make my way into Fenway (YIKES! a solo lesson for Sunday night), and I confess, while I was talking with the party of the second part, I was preparing to learn how to replace zippers in two pair of shorts and a pair of pants. (I was removing the broken zippers.) I've never done this before. But I'm willing to try; willing to learn.

There is so much time we spend out of school. If you postpone your learning until you go back, then you risk missing an awful lot of learning.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Is it me?

Or is it cell phones?

I've had a cell phone since before most of these cell phone toting execs were learning their ABCs. I carry mine with me, seven days a week, and know where it is, or where I've left it, 24 hours a day. Like right now, I left it in my husband's car when I was on the last child round up. I'm not cell phone phobic. My problem is conducting business over a mobile connection that is sketchy at best. It's hard to focus on project details when the person's voice fades into a babble of clicks and clacks. And it makes me wonder if we are going to do business long distance, is this the best connection I'm going to get?

Are we a country that is going mobile crazy? Is this the latest version of the Emperors New Clothes? If so, let me be the little girl who stands in the street and points.

"No signal!"

A Small Act of Kindness

While walking home from getting a coffee, I picked up a screw that was lying in wait of an unsuspecting tire. A conversation ensued. Could there be a children's picture book showing the effects of small acts, such as picking up a screw? We envisioned on one side of the page a hand fingering the ribs of the screw. And the facing page a mom in a minivan full of children parking in the same spot. Would there be words, or just pictures? Does the screw come home to become an integral part of a school project or hold up shelving in a workshop where beautiful furniture is made?

While walking in the woods I came across a set of keys; weathered and lightly dressed in rust. We hung them from a nearby tree branch that cut the edge of the path. We couldn't relieve the panic and worry that occurred when the keys first went missing, but maybe if that keyless traveler walked that way again, those keys could offer some sense of being restored.

While walking the lovelies to school we said hello and smiled at the neighborhood woman who has trekked herself thin. Eyes cast downward, trapped in her own mind, I've watched her as she stops and starts mid driveway, mid sidewalk, mid parking lot. She's walking sun, rain or snow. Does acknowledging she exists, instead of ignoring her much the same as the litter that blows over from the strip mall, bring her closer to a reality that we could share?

I read a story once about how one person can make a huge difference in the world. I wonder if it can be done with infinitesimal acts of kindness.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Morning from Hell

I need a photograph of hell. I get through the tough times with my camera. Today instead of capturing the bright sun, and brilliant blue sky, I needed to envision the underworld. I bet it would be swirls of blood red mixed with black and chartreuse. For that is what I saw this morning when an ugly situation, I've hope, prayed, wished had been resolved with negotiation, discussion and consequences, raised its menacing head.

I have thrown down the gauntlet. I have made my rules and expectations quite clear. I have drawn the line at the door to my house; a safe place where love abides. If the line is crossed the door will be locked. And I will forget those for whom the door is closed.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Foggy foggy dew

As I padded downstairs this morning I glimpsed the fog through the window of my past. I was 14 and spending the summer with my grandparents in Pennsylvania. There, on that hill, mornings were always blanketed by low lying clouds offering wet kisses to their tomato and pepper plants. That summer my wake up call rang with the smell of bacon. In my whole life I only remember Nana cooking bacon on a weekday.

So this morning I cooked bacon. Standing before the stove, barefoot, and in my robe, I wondered if the little ones would be ushered down the stairs by their nose, as I was when I was younger. And I wondered more if my grandmother enjoyed growing old. Or did she fight it, as I'm fighting it, not wanting to give up the excitement of youth as I'm being lulled by softer comforts that come with age.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It's fun being on the other side of the pen.

Rhubarb coming up in the garden.

Twice in the last month I've had the pleasure to be interviewed. Once for my maple sugaring fanaticism and again for being a Girl Scout leader of a very active troop. It's nice being on the other side of the pen. It reminds me that there is more to me than these ten or so extra pounds that sit on my hips. How quickly we judge ourselves based on our personal failings. I don't know when the pieces will go to press, but it was nice to see the excitement I usually reserve for my own interviewees in the eyes of another.

Rhubarb also brings excitement to my life. Spring is here! The chives are coming up too.

Monday, April 07, 2008

We have STREP!

I can't count the number of times on this blog I've started or ended an entry with the words,"You never know what the day will bring you until it's over." Today, those words were once again, oh so true.

The little one's glasses got broken, so she was home to get them either repaired or replaced. She can't see without them, so no sense it going to school. Lingering on her lips, and in the back of my mind, was her complaint of a sore throat. When it came time for lunch again she said, "I need something soft. My throat is still sore."

Her temperature was minimal... She'd only been complaining for a day -- max. But today she was home, so today we went to the doctors. The doctor took one look past her tonsils and reeled, "Oh that's a red one." Faster than a penguin on ice, she had the swab out of it's package and down the little one's throat. Of course, this didn't make the little one too happy. But they have a relationship, based on tightly pressed lips that open for no one. I, on the other hand, was smiling as I watched the fastest swabber this side of the Mississippi in action.

Today, after a dozen or so checks over the winter for strep, we have strep. Why do I feel like we've won the lottery? You just never know what will transpire over the course of a day. It makes life so much more interesting.

BTW: CVS has their leftover Easter goodies on sale at 90% off. Egg jump rope skippers normally $1.99 now 19 cents; another great for today. And if we didn't have strep we would have never been at CVS.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

It's okay for them to see you struggle

I don't know where parents, in general, got the idea that our children shouldn't see us struggle. After all what kind of message does this give to our children? Do we, as a group, want our children to think that life comes easy, without practice, or failure? Do we want them to learn that anything worth having is worth working towards? Do we want them to see that if you want something then you have to try and try again?

I took up the banjo, a few weeks back. I'll be the first to tell you it's hard. Or maybe it's just hard for these 40 something fingers and this 40 something brain. But still without my parents standing over me, I face the music everyday, and practice. More often than not it's painful. I wonder just when will my fingers remember where the %$^# strings are, never mind the frets. Song after song, sometimes repeated measure after repeated measure -- and still very little improvement.

But there is improvement. I can get to that C in Worried Man; a miracle. I can almost hear the melody of Cripple Creek. It's slow, but it's there. And my kids hear it too. They see me practice -- forgoing TV, to put in my time. Sometimes they join in with their own musical practice time. Sometimes they even practice extra... another miracle. But the biggest miracle of all will be when they tell their own children, "If you want something, if you're willing to work, then it will be yours."

Friday, April 04, 2008

Stop the Bus!

I want to get off...

When every moment of every day is scheduled, it's time to throw on the brakes. Girl Scouts, Magazine articles and photos, Variety shows, Sleepovers, Parish breakfast, and Dress fittings.
Mondays never looked so good. I wonder what's on the schedule for Monday... I seriously doubt it's sleep.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

My Bro' Was Right!

Last Fall when I went to start my motorcycle after a few weeks of not riding, it wouldn't start. We put the battery on the charger, we checked the gas; still nothing. All winter it sat. All winter I worried. Would it start in the Spring? Would I need to bring it to the shop? Was this serious?

In January, during the thaw, I tried recharging the battery and pulled the bike out to try again. Still nothing. Oh it would crank, but nothing after that. "Maybe it needs a warmer day," was my husband's advice. Maybe, was my hope.

A few days ago, my bro commented, "When the sap stopping running, it'll be time for your bike to start." The sugaring season over, I contemplated his words and my husband's January consultation, as I waited for a warm, wind-free day. Today, I pulled the bike out and left it in the sun. I put the battery back on the charger. And after dinner, with the help of the man put the bike back together and after a few cranks she turned over. Like a drowning man being handed a life line, I breathed a sigh of relief. I'll be riding again.

I took her for a spin. Feet and hands in sync with the cycles of the pistons, as if that is all they have ever known.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Edmund Fitzgerald

About two weeks ago, while driving somewhere, the chief driver packed up some CDs for the road. Included in the stash was some Gordon Lightfoot.Talk about singing yourself down memory lane. Lightfoot always take me back to the old high school days.

Since that trip, the middle one has been a voyage of her own, playing and replaying over and over the song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. She sings along. Is trying to figure out how to choreograph a step dance to the beat, and constantly talks about the clues and information that Mr. Lightfoot is giving to her. Yesterday we went on the web and read multiple pages about the Edmund Fitzgerald. She even took a quiz to test how much she has learned. I truly hope she has to write a paper about it someday, she is so passionate about it. It's almost overwhelming to watch her. Her eyes shining with each new fact she processes. Her hands shaking as she collects copies of the webpages we've printed out. She absolutely has to hold the written words.

One of these years we'll have to take a driving tour and visit the lakes and the Maritime Sailor's Cathedral. Every November they have a service for all those who have lost their lives on the lakes. It would be nice to be able to attend.

So taken with her current fixation, I searched online for Gordon Lightfoot concert tickets. Wouldn't it be great it she could see him in person? There is a concert in a nearby city and then again in the next state, both dates around her birthday. Ticket prices are $245! I laughed, and when she saw what I was doing, she said, "I guess we'll be singing in the kitchen."

We will. Maybe I can find a DVD of one of his concerts.

This song has linked this walking and talking little information processing plant to 29 souls. Isn't the power of music amazing.