Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Best Part of You

For the past few weeks I've been working on a poem that I believe encapsulates my feelings of thankfulness to all of the amazing people who make my world go 'round. Since I don't drive because of my seizures, I find myself constantly at other people's mercy, and I won't lie: it is infuriating. It is a terrible feeling and one I try to avoid as often as I can.

But I've lived this way now for many years, and I've tried hard to find the good in my situation-- to find the helpers, as Mr. Rogers would say. I have been blessed with such great people, but I don't think I'd know them the way I do if I didn't really need to. If I didn't really need them.

So, here is the poem. You know who you are, and you are wonderful. Happy Thanksgiving.

The Best Part of You

I know that
daffodil in the snow part
of you, that
shiny penny on the path part
of you

You stop everything to
pick up my kids
to take me to work
to the doctor
the store
the pool
the library

You drive me home
yet again
you pile muddy baseball boys in your
extra seats—smells like death
but you laugh,
a soft laugh of knowing
of caring
of giving

You teach my class for me you hold me
while I shake you carry me when I can’t
walk myself you let me cry

You change plans to drive me
when it rains or snows
you get blood in your car so my
son can get stitches

I see the light in you I see
the warm, glowing goodness
others never get to know
because they don’t need you
like I do

I’m thankful that

I get to see the best part of you

Fall time shenanigans 

Thursday, October 11, 2018


I took a break from everything. Mothering, teaching, managing meals around our family's various activities schedule. It’s been great. I took a LONG weekend (nearly a week) to spend some time with my parents in Idaho. My dad had open heart surgery a little over a month ago and my siblings and I have taken turns going out to stay with them. I think I planned it out just right though—my brothers and sister have done all the hard work of getting their farm and house ready for winter and I mostly just spent time with them. 

Part of me is still here in in this place.

Sunrise from the deck

My dad is limited in what he is supposed to do, and my mom is limited in what she can do only because she is, contrary to what some might believe based on what she accomplishes on a normal basis, human. And she has to keep Dad from doing too much. They are the hardest working people I know, and they live off their land. They can make anything grow. Anywhere. They have two big gardens, a gigantic berry patch, and a large orchard. 

This is their retirement. They live on a hill above the lake I spent my summers at when I was a kid-- just up the hill from where my grandparents lived.  

Have I been a little anxious about how all my boys are holding up back home? A little. And I miss them. I’m so thankful for Brian being so supportive of my decision to come out, and for taking care of the boys all week. But this is the place I need to be right now. And it’s so quiet.

We always come here in the summers, but then it is busier. There are all the summer boaters and swimmers and it's very much a vacation-y time for me and for my family, as well as for most other people at the lake. Now it is quiet and chilly. There are a lot of fall colors in the orchard and in the brush along the roads. I’m rockin’ my flannel shirt. The deer smell hunting season coming. Most everything in the garden has been harvested. The old raspberry canes are stacked up to burn. All the apples and pears have been picked. I picked the last apple tree the other day and helped my mom and dad press cider and make applesauce.

The earth is getting ready to sleep under blankets of snow.

I got to watch playoff baseball with my dad, the one who taught me to love baseball when I was little. The highlight of that was seeing the Yankees get eliminated. I got to go kayaking on the still, blue lake, roast s’mores over a fire with some cousins, and visit my grandparents’ graves. I picked herbs from my grandma’s herb garden for her and Mom picked various noxious (but flowering) weeds and some pine tree branches for Grandpa, from his fields and woods. I went to water aerobics with Mom and some old ladies. It wiped me out, except for my biking legs, that held up fine. :)  

I helped my mom cook a ton of tacos and burritos for their church’s Awana kickoff night. I did a fair amount of paper grading at the table while watching sunrises. Now that I type this all out, it seems like I did a lot. But it felt very laid back and peaceful, and like I said, quieter than my normal life.

It has put me in a poetic mood, but I haven’t come up with a poem I’m happy about sharing yet, so I’m sharing one I wrote the summer before last about being in Idaho at my parents’ house. The power of place interests me. How people can become so much a part of a certain place. I have lived in Virginia nearly as long as I lived in Idaho, but there’s something about those formative years that leave an imprint on a person. I do love Virginia and could (and should, actually…good idea) write a poem about Virginia too. But for now, here is what I wrote about being part of a place and a place being a part of me.

In summer dry air
In cool blue mountain shade
In prickly yellow wheat fields,
always whispering, never heard
It’s Here.
In quiet gravel steps
In calm rows of cabbages and corn
In dust ribbons rising behind trucks,
dancing away, never remembered
It’s Here.
In slender pine tree needles
In silver blue green water
rippling on a lake born of glaciers
always moving, never changed
It’s Here.
In still moonshadows at the garden gate
In crickets’ midnight songs
In silent zig zag lights of a car descending a mountain
always inching, never stopped
In pink purple clover blooms
In tangled orange honeysuckle
In ditches of milkweed and teasel,
always growing, always spreading
I’m Here.
I’m the little girl in braids
you almost see
skipping under sweet cherry trees
shoulders pink from sunshine
Always Here, never gone

And now, when my plane leaves from Denver, I'll be on to my noise. My beautiful, beautiful boy noise, which is another place where a very large part of me is.

apples from the last apple tree



Friday, October 5, 2018

My Scrapbook

This is my scrapbook. There are stories on here that I would have forgotten forever if I hadn't chronicled them-- if I hadn't whispered and shouted about them when they happened. The boys all love to hear me read these old entries about them when they were little, and there's so much that exists here that I would have forgotten if I hadn't written about it. So...after two years of not blogging, I'm back. I make no promises about frequent posting, but I think anything will be better than nothing.

My life is considerably different than it was when I started this blog. I am no longer a stay-at-home mom, who needs to write to stay sane, but a working mom. I no longer use the word "diaper" fifteen or more times a day. We no longer live in our little cozy condo, but have upgraded to a townhouse in an adorable little neighborhood not far from our old condo. The place feels gigantic. We have had all kinds of discussions and conundrums trying to figure out what to do with all this space. It's a new adventure. Really a whole new mindset from the angle I took on my other blog, At Home In A Nutshell.

The twins are now in fourth grade and Teddy is in kindergarten! I love the snuggles Ted gives me and all the kisses. He's a very affectionate little guy, who always tells me he loves me. Granted, he also has told me I'm the meanest mom ever, so it's a mixed bag, but still. The love is there.

Reading over past entries I see how much my life was consumed by taking care of my kids. It still is, but there are also so many other things consuming my life now on top of them. I love that I had that special time at home with them and was able to give them so much of me. I love it, even though we lived in such a small space for such a long time. Totally worth it to get to stay home and see my babies every day. But now I have a basement. And a backyard. And a workout room. And an office. It really might be too much. I sometimes feel paralyzed because I don't know where in the house I should be or what I should be doing. That doesn't feel normal.

I bike to work every day-- I leave home at 7:15 AM. I usually get to see the boys puttering around in the mornings but I miss all the super fun stuff like forcing them to get dressed and brush their teeth in time to leave for school. My amazing mother-in-law comes over and does that.

My bike ride is perfect and beautiful. It now takes me only 12-13 minutes and it's hilly, but not too hilly. I'm winded when I get to my classroom, but I'm not out of breath or soaking in sweat. I give myself a little time to change and cool down before my students arrive. I teach 130 teenagers about reading and writing. It's a tall order, but I like it...most days. I love it when girls who say they hate reading fall in love with Atticus Finch and when students throw notebooks across the room in frustration when Elizabeth Proctor lies to try save John Proctor in The Crucible. To see them so engaged and emotionally involved in literature is awesome. To help them become stronger writers is rewarding. This year my big project is reviving the school newspaper. It's a shame, but our high school has been without a school paper for several years and I have a grand total of eleven journalism students determined to bring it back.

I believe I've reached a healthy work/home balance. I try very hard to get my school work done at work. I bike home-- stopping on my way to get the boys from their school-- walk home with them and make dinner or pack something to eat for dinner out at the ball field if it's baseball season. Play with the kids. Read books with the kids. Help them with homework. Inevitably I end up doing a little grading at home and a little planning, but not most weekends, because mostly my work life and home life are separate.

Brian works close to home also-- he's still doing technology support in a couple schools in the district. He keeps very busy with coaching the twins' travel baseball team, their house baseball teams, and being on the board of the local Little League.

So there's a catch-up for any of my old blog-readers who might be out there. My next entry will be more entertaining and less informative, as I strive to continue my whispers and shouts as a scrapbook of my little life of teaching, parenting, and writing. Cheers!

My three little loves are getting big!  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Our Month of Fun Things

I have a beautiful and blessed life. I love my life. I just have to share what our month has been like, because it amazes me what we've had come up the past few weeks. 

First of all, in April I broke my ankle when a line drive hit me at a softball game. But didn't know it was broken, so limped around on it for three weeks in pain before finding out: The x-ray didn't show the break, but the MRI did.

Calvin has had the most remarkable month of all, though: He...

  • Fell out of a tree, ripping up his chin, and cutting up his eyebrow and mouth and knocking out his tooth: needed a stitch and antibiotics for the tooth.
  • Got a horrible case of poison ivy all over his face-- swollen almost beyond recognition, the day before      his field trip. That lasted about a week and a half.
  • Got lice and consequently a shaved head-- thankfully this seems to have been taken care of quickly (fingers crossed).
  • Has a very sore throat that might be strep
  • Has had almost all of his baseball games cancelled due to rain.

    The kid is holding up remarkably well, even though he made several questionable decisions in the baseball game he played the day after his stitched up eyebrow and skinned up chin: slid headfirst twice. He rationalized it by the fact that he was safe. I'm not sure why sliding headfirst was necessary, but that is a debate I don't want to get into again.
Meanwhile, Teddy's eczema flared up and resulted in a staph infection, and then steroid cream, antibiotics and lots of baths. He also got lice. I could not bring myself to shave his head, so I'm guessing it might take a little longer to cure, though it's looking good so far.

I found out that my ankle was broken and cannot put weight on it-- this has been for the last week and a half. I have at least two more weeks to go without weight-bearing. Then I got lice. Thank you, first grade.
Clark joined in on the party by also getting lice. Though aside from that and a few baseball rainouts and a particularly bad flip into the boards in a hockey game, he's had a relatively smooth month.

Brian hurt his back and neck somehow, so he's had a hard time doing normal things as well. Since we've had record amount of rain this spring, we've barely gotten any baseball games or practices in, which has been frustrating for him as a coach especially. But he has risen to the many challenges and been great about picking up the slack around the house, and scheduling make-up scrimmages so the kids can have a bit more baseball this spring.

I started this blog as an outlet for myself to write, and especially to record parenting things that might seem frustrating at the time, but in which I could see the humor by writing about them and sharing them with readers. This month seems to fit the bill. I'm still in the midst of hobbling around doing 47 loads of laundry and combing hair with lice combs and trying to do normal household things with one leg, but writing this has made it seem less exasperating and a little more comical. I'm also buried in a super messy house while ironically maintaining a blog about a clean and less cluttered house. I know it will pass, but I still feel a little fake about it. 

I've been shown once again how amazing our friends and family are with all the help that they've generously given us. I couldn't have survived without them.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Seven Years My Boys

I just want to document today real quickly before I forget it.

Today Calvin and Clark turned seven years old. Celebration started last night with a Hungarian cake that Brian made for them. It was his favorite cake growing up and this year he made one for the first time, with his mom's expert, Hungarian help. We had cake with Gammy and Poppy and the boys opened their gift from us-- roller blades! They are naturals, though it's a good thing we bought the extra pads for their hands. They're used to ice hockey and having a bit more protection when they fall. They roller bladed until dark.


Eight little cakes

Teddy helps open

Tearing up the cul de sac

This morning Calvin woke up without his other front tooth! It fell out in the night and we still haven't found it.

For breakfast we had crepes on their request, with Nutella. Gammy brought over their favorite Izze-- blackberry-- and they had sausage. I stuck candles in their crepes and we sang happy birthday to them. They opened a little gift from Gammy-- a set of Minecraft handbooks. They are quite obsessed over the game, even though they're barely actually played it. They love to talk about it.

Crepes, sausage, Izze, and Minecraft books
Teddy and I went to school with them and I lead the community art project that we have once a month. This month we did little projects with patterned paper and learned about Eric Carle. Ted and I stayed for lunch and the first part of recess.


Cafeteria lunch
All the girls love Teddy
After school we met them with a frizzbee and candy from Grandma and Papa. We played with the frizzbee at the playground. When we got home I gave the boys my birthday poems, which I've been writing for them almost every year since they were born. They were unimpressed and pretended not to like them. I think one day they will. They opened another gift and card, I made them a smoothie, and they headed to hockey practice.

When they got home we grilled up the steak Brian had marinated for them, had some sweet potato fries and veggies. Calvin loves to talk about how much he loves steak. He ate a very large amount of steak tonight.

We had to chase them to bed. They all three wanted to sleep in the same bed, but we were able to convince Cal to sleep on the top bunk, but Teddy and Clark cuddled on the trundle, leaving the bottom bunk open.

I can't believe it's been seven years of these wonderful boys. I feel blessed to spend my days with them.


Impossible to take a normal picture of them

Cal reading his poem that was "Ok, but weird"

Friday, January 15, 2016

Another Morning

We are a quiet trickle
marching gently
There is bacon in my teeth
We flow from side streets
falling into line
bunched in twos and threes

Familiar good mornings to
the dad with the always-bundled baby
the mom with the screen in her stroller-boy's face
the tall woman clutching her NPR travel mug,
awkward next to the young man in kitchen pants
leaning on the bus stop sign
The 552 is late

It's kisses, it's there's egg on your lip, it's clip your gloves together, it's mommy did you take your medicine

Airplanes weave patterns in the wide blue
Holly bushes shine silver dollars of sunshine
back to me
The bacon is gone from my teeth

That old New Jersey jeep hiccups,
White puffs disappear behind it
The steering wheel shakes
like always

Garbage trucks beep and clang and
slow motion drop this week's scraps inside

carpet installers
hoist a tight roll on their shoulders
aiming at an open door
nodding good morning

I smile into my vest, thinking of mornings
and family and cities and
open the door
to my full coffee pot

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My $2 Homemade Thomas the Train Costume

Teddy loves Thomas the Train. I love making costumes. Halloween was approaching. We had a bunch of recycling piling up. It all came together for a perfect storm.

My materials:

1 diaper box
1 box of milk cartons three-pack, cut in half
1 empty tub of Greek yogurt
1 empty tub of broccoli cheddar soup (same size as yogurt tub)
3 dessert-size paper plates
1 dinner-size paper plate
strips of cardboard
4 feet-ish of thick ribbon
1 can blue spray paint
1 can black spray paint
red acrylic paint
yellow acrylic paint
black sharpie
hot glue gun
picture of Thomas or Thomas toy to look at

The only things I had to buy were the blue spray paint and the ribbon because I wanted ribbon cuter than what I had, It totaled roughly $2, and that's rounding up.

The funnest part about the costume was that I made the funnel be the place where the candy goes. That way he didn't need to carry a bucket or bag for candy. Here's what I did. Maybe it will be helpful to someone out there who likes to throw cheap stuff together for costumes. :)

Started cutting a diaper box

Found this in the recycling

Cut a hole in a box flap and hot glued the container to it-- a spot
for candy!

Later I cut a trap door into this so the candy could be taken out easier.

So the top looked like this and I cut the hole at the bottom a little bigger
for his feet to walk.

Attached the other box-half with hot glue and spray painted it all blue
Spray painted the next container black for the funnel, and glued it around the hole

Cut slits and glued the ribbon down

Painted red lines and let Cal help attach spray-painted paper plates 

I had also spray painted these blue cardboard strips and then
glued them on top of the wheels

Painted my yellow "1" on the sides, drew a face on a trimmed dinner plate with
a sharpie, and BAM. Thomas.

Teddy approved
And so did his Wizard-Brothers

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Fall for Books: Seasonal Suggestions

We've been reading all kinds of fall and Halloween books lately. It helps that our library children's section just got a face-lift and that Teddy is recently easier to handle in the library. I've always loved the children's section, but last week we visited and found that they have even more tables and chairs and stools and bins and display shelves.

Teddy's favorite spot is on the giant Teddy Bear's lap.

Books organized by character-- we always have to run to the Thomas bin
first and then the Berenstain Bears bin.
This is my favorite new piece of furniture. It's a book bar for kids!

Anyway, on to the seasonal books we've found. Some were appealing to Teddy, some more appealing to Cal and Clark, and some I liked better. Here are most of the books about fall and Halloween that we've read lately. (Yes, I'm the annoying mom who puts a bunch of seasonal books on hold at the library all at once, and requests review copies for my blog whenever offered.)

The first pile of books about autumn and Halloween 

 Our top books and honorable mentions:

Hoot Owl

I will admit that when I first read Hoot Owl I thought it was weird, though I chuckled a little. The boys also thought it was weird. Then we read it again and laughed more. And again. And now they want to read it all the time and say it's awesome. We love that little Hoot Owl! I was trying to think of what is unique about this book and I think it is that it's a little sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, but in an optimistic and child-like way. It's not your average children's book, and includes some excellent words and metaphors, that prompted great discussion for the twins and me. Teddy (two years-old) doesn't get much out of it yet, but I highly recommend it for kids maybe ages 3-7. Give it a chance to grow on you.

Monster Needs a Costume

Another favorite of the boys is about a creative, yet distracted monster. The illustrations are great and the concept is soooo familiar, as mom of specifically one indecisive child.

My First Book of Football

My First Book of Football is a brand new one from Sports Illustrated for Kids and Cal and Clark absolutely adore it. It breaks down football into easy-to-read and understand concepts and also has pictures of all the NFL stars. There's a little guy in there with thought bubbles that makes them laugh. That one's a big hit.

Here's a poor quality picture of a couple pages. 

Cal and Clark also liked reading Olivia Loves Halloween, though they'd probably not admit it to you, since she's a girl. It's cute with a cute little moral and I like that.

Ghost in the House

This one is more Teddy's speed. Ghost in the House has super cute illustrations and flaps to open and close. It is a counting book with a great cadence and rhyme with a silly ending. Who is really afraid of whom?! The boys (age 6) enjoyed reading it and Teddy (age 2) also liked listening to it and of course lifting the flaps is always a fun way to get them engaged.

Teddy also loved the Thomas the train book Ghost on the Track, because he loves everything that is Thomas. There are a couple counting ones that Teddy likes, but his favorite is the counting down one called 10 Trick-or-Treaters. He likes looking at the kids' costumes, but mostly at the school bus on a couple pages, and he loves countdowns.

My favorite two are The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger, and Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead. The Little Yellow Leaf is whimsical and friendly and Bear Has a Story to Tell is just adorable. Cal and Clark enjoy it as well. Calvin and I got to meet the husband and wife author and illustrator for this book a few years ago at the National Book Festival, and they are such peaceful, sweet people that I just love them. They live in a barn in Michigan...which is weird but somehow cool, and the charming story of Bear is perfect.

Another good one is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. This comes with a cool story. My grandmother used to do storytime for the kids at the library when she worked there many years ago. She just this year sent us a copy of the book that she used to read to her kids at storytime around Halloween. The kids loved it any I can see why.

The other books we read weren't much to write about, but I thought I'd share these recommendations with you. Thanks to Candlewick Press and Sports Illustrated for Kids for prompting me to review some books!

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