Wednesday, December 31, 2008


My de-friender apologized. The full story is long and complicated, but the ultimate outcome is that my conclusions were off the mark and the whole sequence of events should not to be taken personally. I considered deleting the blog out of respect for the de-friender since she had the nerve to tackle the issue head on, but I decided to keep it because I still think de-friending (and Facebook itself for that matter) is an interesting social study, and because it still seems worth thinking about how to handle relationship dynamics -- no matter what your age, gender, or technology. The blog is also a good reminder on how there is always another side to a story.

So as I go into 2009, I am humbled, optimistic, hopefully a little wiser, and definitely out of shape.

(136 words)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Antisocial Networking

I've been de-friended on Facebook! Rejected. Kicked out of an e-sorority. Should I be distressed? Ignore it? Stop feeling like a pre-teen whose friend is mad at her? What's the etiquette here?

Nobody warned me of this side of social networking -- the antisocial part. Until now, Facebooking has been all fun, restorative, entertaining. I've connected up with people I haven't known in years. I see what my West Coast colleagues do when they're not working. I know what my sisters are doing on a nearly daily basis. Sure, these e-relationships aren't deep, but they are meaningful in an amusingly diverting and lightweight kind of way. Not to mention relatively effortless. I can't imagine actually de-friending someone once I made the decision to engage them. I might choose to see less of a person on Facebook, but a de-friend sure seems like a harsh, end-of-the-line measure. On the other hand, it's a quick and easy way to let someone know how you really feel...

Interestingly, I was chatting with the de-friender just a couple weeks ago at a cocktail party. She was lamenting about how all the "housewives in Williston are now on Facebook" and how she doesn't want to know everyone's every move. Little did I know that she was talking ABOUT me TO me. (Since I'm not a housewife, I didn't recognize myself in her resentment.) I could go on about why she was even talking to me if she wanted to de-friend me, but there's too much background to cover there.

So at the end of the day, as I consider the dynamics of adult relationships -- and now e-relationships -- I realize that sometimes they're really not all that much more mature than the issues my 10-year-old daughter reports about her social circles. My advice to her:

(1) address the issue head on;
(2) back off the relationship for awhile and see how it evolves; or
(3) completely move on to more authentic relationships.

Seems like that same guidance appropriately applies to my own life and times -- and that my de-friend has clearly taken path #3.

In a twisted way, I'm grateful she made the split so painless. No ugly confrontation. No second guessing. Just the click of a button that took me a few weeks to even realize, and now I clearly know where she stands. More proof of the new e-world order.

(400 words)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wire Me Up, Scotty

It's three days after Christmas 2008, and I've concluded -- after years of fighting it -- that we are a wired family. As soon as we finished opening gifts on Christmas morning, each kid pulled out their Nintendo DSs to play their new games -- Petz Vet for Mia, Club Penguin for Max, and Sonic Chronicles for Will. (This information is telling...) So as Tom and I were relaxing in our PJs, with the fireplace stoked and scones baking in the oven, we realized the joyous sounds of our Christmas morning were the beeps, ditties, and tones and of three Nintendo games. Sad? Not necessarily so.

I've done everything I can to redirect my kids toward creative pursuits, board games, great books, sporting activities, the great outdoors. To some avail. They humor me. They'll go outside for 15 minutes and ride something around, then come back inside because they're "cold". They'll play an occasional game of Backgammon or Monopoly. Mia’s learning to sew. They make their beds everyday and unload the dishwasher. But I know they're really just buying time to get to the "next level".

Tom and I have also set screen time limits -- an hour a day, DSs only in the car, no video games after dinner. But we're weak, and there are days when the kids play all they want -- even sometimes after dinner.

Honestly, my kids don't watch much TV. My daughter might turn on a few Disney sitcoms here and there, but we allow her that downtime. Heck, we watch "The Office" and "30 Rock" every Thursday. But if given a choice between a show or a game, my boys would choose a game every time.

So is this all bad? Other parents often lead me to believe so, with their renouncing of video gaming -- and attitudes laced with righteousness. And the American Pediatric Society says that we should restrict screen time to 1-2 hours a day of "quality programming". (I’m pretty sure Mario Kart doesn’t qualify as “quality programming”.) The Society suggests that screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family. These things I agree with, so we do what I consider a decent job trying to balance out game time with real-life time -- piano lessons, taekwondo, tennis, baseball, reading, and so on.

But consider this: Will was completely motivated to learn to read so he could understand his Gameboy games. Mia knows more about animals than most people I know from playing Zoo Tycoon. My kids know how to type. Both of my boys shock me with things they can compute in their heads. They can find answers to questions using the internet. We love spending a Saturday night at the Wii bowling alley. And this morning, after breakfast, we all went to the basement for a rousing Guitar Hero World Tour gig. Some quality family time to be sure.

We have our low moments though: Last night during a small party at our place, Max walked up to Tom, who was playing Guitar Hero, tugged on his shirt and said, "Dad, can I have a turn 'cause I have to go to bed soon." Poor little fella, needing to beg his dad for a turn on bass at 10:00 at night. On the way to restaurants, we also make sure everyone has their DS with them. It simply makes for a more enjoyable dinner out.

So my ultimate conclusion is that it's just the world we live in now. People are plugged in and charged up. Today's kids are growing up in a Global Super Charged Information Age, and I personally hope mine have all the tools they need to succeed. So if that means a little cyber bowling or baseball, hand over the controller.

(638 words)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nana's Christmas Cookies

Today was Christmas Cookie Day -- the day we mix up my great-grandmother's sour cream cutout cookie recipe, roll out the dough, cut out the shapes, bake them, then personalize them with frosting. I believe many families follow this same tradition, but for my family, the tradition is rooted in the recipe...

It's not that it's the best cookie recipe in the world. Nor was it created by my great-grandmother or filled with secret ingredients. I searched online a few years ago for an updated sour cream cutout cookie recipe and found plenty.

That said, there are a few things about my recipe worth noting: (1) The cookie itself isn't too sweet, which balances nicely with the frosting; (2) if baked properly, the cookie stays soft and flaky; (3) the cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon extract flavorings give it a subtle, festive, and rather unique flavor.

My kids have come to love Cookie Day as much as I did as a kid. Today, Mia did her best to decorate hers like mine. Will tried to stay in step with his father by creating the goofiest cookies -- or at least by joking about a cookie while he frosted it. And Max spent at least 20 minutes on each of his cookies, creating masterpieces that only he'll eat. I think this is the first day that Tom and I didn't end up frosting the majority of the tray.

Nana's Christmas Cookies
1 C brown sugar
1 C while sugar
1 C shortening
3 eggs
1 C sour cream
1 t lemon extract
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
5-6 C flour

1. Cream together sugars and shortening; add eggs and extract and mix thoroughly; add sour cream and mix thoroughly

2. Whisk together dry ingredients, and add in parts to the creamy mixture. (You may need to add four to achieve a roll-able dough.)

3. Refrigerate dough for at least an hour. Roll out on a floured surface and shape with cookie cutters, adding flour as needed.

4. Bake cookies at 375 degrees until the edges start to brown.

5. Cool, frost, and decorate.


Confession: I broke rank one year and tried a more traditional sugar cookie recipe, but it didn't really work for me -- you just can't mess with tradition. I didn't admit this to my mom or sisters though. Until now.

(410 words)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Tao of Snow

This is what happened to us last night...My estimate is around 8-10 inches of the fluffy kind with more on the way. I have friends who think this is an uncivilized way to live, but we've deliberately chosen to live on a northern parallel, and if it's going to be cold, I prefer to have snow along with it.

I don't love snow, but when you live in it, you have to find ways to accept it. Acceptance is key; if you don't somehow embrace it, you'd feel pretty grouchy and shut in for almost half of the year here in Vermont. Some say St. John's wort helps; I say a vacation to a warm place in February is paramount.

We've found lots of other ways to cope with winter:

Sledding -- We have a little hill in our backyard that entertains the kids for hours. They especially like sledding in the dark wearing headlamps. On free afternoons, we venture out to the big hills known for great sledding around the area.
Skiing -- With Max on skis for the first time last year, we *enjoyed* days at a lodge about 20 minutes from our house. (I say *enjoyed* because I'm not sure lugging five pairs of skis, boots, poles, and three kids in snow gear up the hill was really *fun*.) This year, we're hoping to do more Nordic skiing and snowshoeing.
Scarves and neck gators: You simply have to add these to the bins of mittens and hats.
Smartwool socks: They really do keep your feet warmer than the average sock.
Baking: There's nothing like waking up to a fresh snowfall and warm cinnamon buns for breakfast...
Arts and crafts: Mia is learning to sew and quilt, and I'm going to start knitting socks this weekend. Max can usually use up a few hours coloring, painting, or gluing something; Tom and Will don't do crafts; they play Wii instead.
Hang out the bird feeders: I love seeing cardinal pairs against the white snow. We don't hang out bird feeders in the other seasons because there's a bear in the neighborhood that tears them down and eats the seeds, and I don't want him ambling around our yard.
Enjoy the summer: You sure don't take the summer months for granted when you live in a four-season climate!

So Tom told me it's my turn to snow blow the driveway this morning. (He says things like that to see if he can get a rise out of me.) I told him I sure would, but I know he'll do it anyway because he kind of likes clearing the driveway. Besides it's 6 degrees out, and I've got socks to knit and Christmas cookies to bake...

(445 words)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Big Holiday Lie

A week or so ago, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to a blog written by a [self-righteous] “Grinchmommy” who didn't believe in "lying" to her kids about the existence of Santa Claus. She was sure that the proliferation of the jolliest elf of all led to mistrust and disappointment. And she called Santa "a beast":

I guess her bell just doesn't ring anymore.

I tell ya, I had just read 'Twas the Night before Christmas to Max right before I read that bog, and I wouldn't trade the wonder on his face during that story for anything. I love the intrigue, magic, and fun that Santa -- and the season itself -- brings to our house. Mia knows "the truth", and when she found out, she thought she had been let in on life's biggest secret. She wasn't upset or let down. Instead, she was tickled that she had such an advantage over her brothers. She was also thrilled to realize that it was me who made her wooden horse barn, not elves.

At age 9, Will still claims to believe. He doesn't ask any questions; I think he may not want to know the answer. He did tell me a few years ago that while he did believe in Rudolph, "there's no way he can have a red nose. It's impossible." [Yet it's possible that he flies? I didn't press that issue...] This year, when I asked him if he'd go visit Santa Claus with Max, he said no because he isn't into the fake Santas. Just the real one. So my guess is that this is Will's last year on the Polar Express.

Max is in the full swing of the fantasy. I'm not taking him to see Santa though because I'm pretty sure he won't sit on Santa's lap if Will won't. (That's just the nature of the brotherhood.) But we're reading all the stories and watching all the movies. ("Elf", "The Santa Clause", and "A Christmas Story" are our favorites.) The kids are buying each other gifts -- with their own money for the first time. And it's likely Cookie Day this weekend.

So even after Santa is outed for everyone, we'll still watch the shows, eat the cookies, carefully choose gifts for one another, and do what we can for those in need. We'll cherish the opportunity to remember the joy in traditions -- and such singular phrases as "You cotton-headed ninny muggins" (courtesy of "Elf"). And contrary to Grinchmommy's allegations, we'll experience understanding and acceptance from the spirit of giving that only this season brings.

(440 words)

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Second Childhood

I was cleaning out our basement yesterday -- seriously purging -- and fussing over our bookshelves. I mentioned something to Mia about getting rid of some books, and she said something like, "Yeah Mom, you always say things like 'Oh, I remember this one. I can't get rid of that.'" Implying that I'm a sentimental old fool. Which I am. Sometimes.

Without a doubt, my favorite time of the day is bedtime. Not because the kids are out of my hair, but because of the time we read together before they fade off. It's also the time of the day when all work is unconditionally put aside for a good book. That doesn't happen often (enough) for me.

Our current routine is that I read to Max first and tuck him in, then the older two and I head off to whatever fantasy we're living in pages. With Max, I have the chance to relive stories and picture books that have become family favorites over the years:

How I Became a Pirate
Muncha Muncha Muncha
There's a Cow in the Cabbage Patch

The Carrot Seed
The Mitten and most other Jan Brett stories
We're Going on a Bear Hunt
Felicia Numeroff's circular tales
My Many Colored Days
The Magic Tree House series
Sophie's Masterpiece

Max has also added a few to the list himself:

Anything written by Mo Willems -- the Pigeon series, Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Knuffle Bunny
Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies
The Mercy Watson series

For the older two, top picks include the following:

The Peter and the Starcatchers series (at the top of both kids' lists)
Dragon Rider
The Tale of Despereaux
The Miraculous Journal of Edward Tulane*

The Charlie Bone series (We're in the middle of Book 6 now)
Trumpet of the Swan
The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, and The Diamond of Darkhold series

The list of books we still need to read is pretty long, so I hope they don't mind reading with me when they're eighteen. We haven't tackled Harry Potter yet; mostly because I've already read them all on my own, and Mia thinks she's not interested. I'm determined to bring her around to Hogwarts, Dumbledore, the Sorting Hat, and J.K. Rowling's seven-volume brilliance however.

So yes, Mia's right. I can't give bring myself to give away any of our books (and my second childhood) yet. Wonder how long it will be before I blog about finally letting go of them...


*When we were reading Edward Tulane, we came to a rather sad part of the story, and I started to cry. "Just take it slow mom. Calm down. It'll be OK," the kids told me. Who's the parent here???

(454 words)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

No Need to Knead

A couple years ago, the NY Times published a recipe for "No-Knead Bread".

I just took a loaf of this out of my oven a short time ago. It's has a beautiful carmelly crust, and the inside will be moist and de-lish, I'm sure. We've been using this recipe since it was published, and it has never disappointed us.

Like the title says, you don't have to knead the dough. You mix the flour, salt, yeast, and water in a bowl one day. Cover it and let it rise overnight. The next day, you fold it onto your countertop, add a little flour, let it rise again, then bake. The process is contrary to what you would expect to do to make a near-perfect loaf of bread. The only challenge is that you have to plan ahead. It also doesn't keep for more than a day or two, like most homemade loaves.

I cook the loaf in my Romertopf clay pot, which I think helps hold its shape and moisture. My husband, a man of more traditional bread-baking convictions (and skills), prefers to put it directly on a pizza stone in the oven. Either way, you will end up with a loaf that tastes like it came from an artisan bakery. Obviously, I hope you give it a try and enjoy it as much as we do.

(228 words)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blame It On a Full Moon

December 12th -- a gorgeous full moon in the sky tonight. The kind that makes you want to do something in the dark.

So my two older kids go to bed tonight giggling uncontrollably because their dad tells them that he's giving them a "swift kick in the ass" for Christmas. They think this is the funniest thing they've ever heard, and they tell him the same. Then they brush their teeth, and I lie down with Sweet Mia (like I usually do), and Darling Will comes in and tries to crawl in Mia's bed with us. Mia says, "Get out of here Will, or I'm going to kick your ass." Then they both start laughing like there's no tomorrow. And I do too because it's fun to cuss. And now they know it too.

So I'm downstairs blogging, and I suspect they're upstairs still laughing in their pillows.

All under the Moonlight in Vermont.

(From Wikipedia: "Moonlight in Vermont" is a popular song about the U.S. state of Vermont.
It was written by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf and published in 1943. The lyrics are very unusual for an American pop song of the 1940s, because they do not rhyme and are impersonal, focusing mostly on the sensory appeal of the Vermont countryside while alluding briefly to romance. The lyrics are also metrically subtle: Each verse (not counting the bridge) is a haiku.)

(231 words, thanks to Wikipedia.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Under Where? Under There.

My blog-friend honeypiehorse recently wrote about needing to buy a new pair of underwear while traveling, and the most accessible pair was "fabulously expensive":

I also needed some new knickers while traveling last week, which I picked up at a Gap Body store on a "Buy 5 for $20" deal. Not fabulously expensive, but all five were not necessary. (I'd also recently purchased a pack at Costco.) But I splurged anyway, and as I was doing the laundry this morning, I found myself proud of my stack of underwear. They're all relatively new and clean. No holes and such. Made me feel like my life must be in some semblance of control because a pile of old, worn knickers is an indicator that you (1) don't have enough time, energy, or cash to shop, or (2) you've given up.

So while this blog really many not go anywhere important or interesting, I thought I'd give some thought to underwear this morning. I won't mention anything about my husband's underwear, for my guess is that he'd find a way to disengage my blog if I did. My kids' underwear is so cute, though -- especially those early pairs! To think how tiny they once were...

I know a few people who change their underwear twice a day. That means that they need a stockpile of at least 14 pair. My family changes only once a day -- at night during the PJ change. I haven't found the need for a clean pair after sleeping yet.

Is it OK to share underwear after a child has outgrown it? I have accepted and used hand-me-down underwear for my kids without any second thoughts, but my mom thought that was weird and a little gross. But the underwear was clean and stain free, so why not? (I've tried to avoid using "stain" during this post, but it has a useful and almost unavoidable purpose in a discussion on underwear.)

On the other hand, underwear -- especially the child variety -- really isn't very expensive, so maybe I've taken thriftiness to an objectionable level in my "reduce, reuse, recycle" convictions. I wouldn't want underwear hand-me-downs myself, so I probably shouldn't impose them on my children...

Against these conclusions (and apparently my better judgment), I've also passed underwear down. They were like new, however, because my daughter has strong hygiene practices and because I usually throw away any underwear that needs to be cleaned before it goes into the washing machine. Nevertheless, now that this blog has helped me agree with my mother, I won't make the mistake again of assuming someone else wants our used undies.

Wikipedia features an impressive history and display of "common contemporary types and styles of undergarments". I didn't know that a male thong was called a "tanga" or that demand for boxers is "easing off in favour of hipster trunks similar in design to the swimming trunks worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale." Interesting.

So in this free association on underwear, a few things have come to light:

Why is underwear referred to as a "pair"?
Used underwear shouldn't be paid forward.
I still don't feel the need to change underwear more than once a day.
Underwear really is disposable.
The state of one’s underwear may give clues to their state of life.
"Knickers" is a cool word.

I'd love to know if, after giving some thought to underwear, you have any flashes to add to this list. (And I mean "flash" in the enlightenment sense of the word not in the lack of underwear sense.)

(596 words)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Out of Bullets

Scene Set Up: If you couldn’t tell from other blogs or from knowing me in person, I've been working a lot lately. I'm on the books as a part-time employee at Workday, but the reality for about the past five months has been something more all-encompassing. The fruits of my labor have ripened recently, however (i.e. my projects are done), with December 5th being the day I was going to reclaim my life.

I had been in California a few weeks ago; went home to Vermont for Thanksgiving week; then back to California the first week in December. Due to time zone differences, I usually don't get enough sleep when I travel. I've been fighting a cough, congestion, and sinus issues for about 10 weeks now. And suffice it to say, I was just plain dog tired.

On December 5th, I was scheduled to fly home for hopefully an extended stay before my next business trip. I had stayed at my friend Amy's house the previous night, and our plan was to drop me at a BART station where I'd pick up a train to San Francisco International. Breakfast at the airport.

Due to a run-in with some old friends at Amy's kids' school, she dropped me off a little later than we both had planned. At the station, I had to wait about 12 minutes for the train. At the airport, I boarded the wrong AirTrain and ended up at the rental car hub instead of my terminal. Then at my terminal, the quick check in didn't work for me because by now, my flight left in less than 30 minutes. My only option: The live check-in agent at the front of a long line of people.

So I'm pretty certain I'm missing my flight. I step up to the counter, hand the agent my information. He takes a quick look at it, shakes his head, and tells me with a slight chuckle that he can't check my bags in because I’m way too late.

I tried very hard to stay controlled, but my tear ducts let loose (damn those tear ducts), and tears started rolling down my face. I was having an adult-onset meltdown. Hungry, tired, thirsty, and wanting terribly to be heading home -- completely "out of bullets" as my friend Romy says.

"What do I do?" I snuffled. The agent typed away at his keyboard for about three full minutes without looking at me. I tried hard not to full-on sob at his counter. And I tried not to be too embarrassed that I was crying over something that wasn't a hugely serious issue.

"Any of the flights to the East Coast will arrive too late to get you into Burlington tonight." My only options are to fly to Philly and stay the night, or schedule a flight out of San Francisco the next day. I wiped my eyes and took Option 2.

So I BARTed back to Romy's, and my outlook improved. I scheduled a red-eye home instead. Bought some cozy sleeping clothes for the flight. Enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon in the Bay Area. Happily visited with other friends in the evening. And boarded a flight shortly before 10 p.m., wearing my airplane "PJs" and primed for sleep with Dramamine. I even purchased the airline-standard pillow and blanket to help be that much more comfortable for the sleep coma I was planning for.

My travel karma still hadn't recovered however, and I spent a more typical night on the plane. No comfortable position in 30-40 different attempts. Earplugs sticking to the pillow and falling out. Neighbors not turning off their television screens. No noticeable effects from the Dramamine. And the fleece blanket creating enough static electricity to rival a wool sock in a dryer.

So as I write this blog, I'm sitting in the airport in New York, waiting for my Burlington air shuttle. I'm still dog tired and my hair is probably standing on end in places from static, but I've shifted gears a bit and am now counting December 6th, today, as the day I'll return a more normal and manageable pace. After a nice Saturday afternoon nap at HOME.

(698 words)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The eDark Side

Three months ago, I was lucky if I could find my cell phone. I left the house with it only when my husband reminded me to take it with me. He doesn't go anywhere without his Blackberry, and he has been trying to get me to jump on his techno bandwagon for years. I've resisted, not because I wanted to deny Tom but because I wanted to remain un-wired. I didn't want to be bothered with telephone calls and messages when I was away from my work space.

Today, I've joined the eDark Side. It started with LinkedIn in the early fall. I signed up to see if I could offer any support for recruiting for the company I work for. The HR team convinced me that LinkedIn was the latest rage in recruiting, so I thought I'd see if I could help. Unfortunately, I haven't recruited anyone, and I haven't discovered any other value in LinkedIn yet. But I haven't given up hope.

Next came this blog. As I mentioned in my very first post, the blogsphere forces caught me by surprise. I never imagined myself as a blogger, but here I am. And so far, I'm planning to stay. I really enjoy the writing, even if nobody reads it.

Shortly after the blog took shape, I turned to Facebook. Tom started up his Facebook page a few years ago, and I was honestly turned off by the whole notion. Who cares? I thought. But for whatever reason, I tuned in and turned on. For the first couple of days as a newborn Facebooker, I was obsessed. I loved checking out all my new friends' profiles and statuses, and changing my own. I was a little disturbed by how consuming it was. But my husband, in his old-pro wisdom, assured me it wears off after awhile, and he was right. Now, there are days I don't even check Facebook. Not too many in a row though.

I often wonder why Facebook intrigues me. I was happy not being connected. I was content not knowing what my "friends" were doing every day. I didn't mind not being in touch. But since I don't have much time or space for a real social life these days, I'm guessing that Facebook must be filling some void.

So what's next? I'm afraid it might be a Blackberry. My latest plan is to get Tom a Blackberry Storm and transfer his current BB to me. Once again, I can't explain the change of techno heart. I can only admit that I like it.


Yesterday, when I was flying to CA, I realized that I forgot to charge my cell phone before I left. So I planned to charge it in the airport. But when I got ready to plug in, I discovered that I had a Nintendo charger with me, not a Razr charger. This was vexing, for I needed to call Romy to find out if she was picking me up at the airport or if I was taking a train to her place. The solution of course: a pay phone. I haven't used a pay phone in years, and this seemingly simple activity required me to get change for a dollar, spend the whole dollar on the long-distance call, and call back two more times when Romy didn't answer (requiring change for two more dollars). I now pledge to give my cell phone the attention and respect it deserves. Tom shall never need to remind me to carry it -- fully charged -- again.

(590 words)

Monday, December 1, 2008

I Am My Brother's Keeper

Every time I listened to Barack Obama speak during his campaign, my absolute favorite part of his message was “I am my brother’s keeper.” This is the part where I usually choked up.

Community service is one of my top 10 ways to spend time. I’ve been involved in Meals on Wheels (MOW) for eight years -– driving for three years and coordinating the routes and drivers’ schedules in my town for the past five. I also sub when a driver can’t make it. As the coordinator, I serve as the contact for people who need meals, set each month’s driving schedule for the volunteer drivers, recruit new volunteers, and communicate with the drivers about changes in the routes. In a typical month, I spend about six hours doing this.

As a driver, I pick up the meals –- a hot lunch -– from a local church where an amazing group of women cooks 100+ meals every day for four towns. I then deliver the meals to the homes and apartments of mostly older people who have trouble staying on a decent diet or cooking for themselves. Part of the service is making sure the “clients” are OK, as the MOW drivers are sometimes the only people they see or talk to in a day. I haven’t had any incidents where a client needed immediate help, but one of the drivers on my route found a client no longer alive a few years ago. (Thankfully, someone found him…) Delivering takes about two hours, and on average, I drive about once a month.

There are days when it isn’t easy to fit MOW into my schedule, and it feels like a burden. But I always finish the route feeling content, happy, and fulfilled in a fundamental way. (I believe the Buddhists call this a “wholesome state”.) All this for less than 10 hours a month! (Interestingly, the roadblocks that originally made my MOW commitment seem like a burden suddenly become the burden themselves.)

In addition to the personal reward, I love that MOW gives me a chance to be a volunteering role model for my kids. This isn’t the reason I’m involved, but I hope it will inspire my kids to donate their time when they’re able. I've taken all three of them with me to deliver over the years, but they stopped wanting to come after one too many awkward hugs from the clients.

Something must have gone right though, because Mia is already coming up with idea after idea for her 8th Grade Challenge in three years –- a middle-school requirement that students run a soup-to-nuts project that benefits the community beyond their school or home. I mentored an eighth grader a couple years ago who cooked desserts and delivered meals with his mom as his challenge. To date, Mia isn’t interested in MOW for her challenge; I guess that’s “mom’s gig”. She seems to be leaning toward collecting or making something for children in need – books, quilts, pillowcases, stuffed animals.

At the risk of being preachy, I write this blog in hopes that it will encourage someone (other than Mia) to be a brothers’ keeper. For even just a few hours a month, the help or support you give someone could make a big difference in their lives. I guarantee it will make a difference in yours.

(559 words)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Finding Yourself (In Prison)

I turned on NPR in the middle of an interview this afternoon. I don't know who the interviewee was, but it seemed that he was an advocate for prisoners who had completed their jail sentences and were being reintroduced into society (usually not very successfully). In the 10 minutes I listened to him, he made a few really potent points...

He said that the five virtues that all religions agree upon are STRONG, CALM, KIND, HUMBLE, and CAPABLE. That when we're faced with hard times, these are the traits that will get us through the chaos, pain, or sorrow. This struck me as a fascinating list. Calm? Capable? Surprising -- I've never really considered those as virtuous -- but so on target. You really can't successfully get yourself through any challenge without these qualities.

Sidebar...I recently read an editorial in our local paper (from a syndicated columnist whom I can't recall), that focused on parents who just want their kids to "be happy". The author wrote that this is a relatively new trend and is leading to an over-indulged generation that can't cope. He suggested that we should want "strong" and "intelligent" for our kids instead of "happy" because happy isn't really going to get you through life. I couldn't agree more. Sure, I'd do anything for my kids to be happy, but hopefully that happiness will be a by-product of first being strong, calm, kind, humble, and capable.

Back to NPR...another point that resonated was that the interviewee said that as people face inner challenges, they often look to spend money or hire someone to fix their problems. Rarely do they truly look inward at themselves. His point was that prisoners don't have any resources other than their own souls, so when they look inward, they do it under the purist possible circumstances, and they end up stronger and more absolute than the average person. Whether I buy this, I'm not sure.

First, I'm admittedly wary of former criminals and their self-actualization journeys. Someone who has done time in the Big House makes me wary. (Guess I need to practice a little Buddha love here.)

Second, therapy sessions have certainly helped me find some clearer paths in the thick of my mind's forest. So I've used resources to help me look inward, and it worked for me. I'm sure I wouldn't be where I am today without some objective third-party nudging. Nevertheless, relying on only yourself for self-discovery sounds like a pretty liberating approach. But it seems like prison or an ashram in India -- where you have absolutely no other options -- are the only places you could do that. So I guess us average people will just need to pay up to find ourselves.

A cop out? Probably. But I'll accept strong, calm, kind, humble, and capable in any way they find me. Some truly glorious personal goals indeed.

(486 words)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks for That Roomba

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. Of course, in our home we're giving thanks for each other, the wonderful sense of place that we have in Vermont, and a fine table full of traditional food at my in-laws this afternoon. I'm not sure we can give much thanks to our health, as most of us are dealing with a cold, sinus problems, or a fever. I suppose we can give thanks that we'll be able to get over these issues.

For a change of pace, I'd like to go full-on materialistic for a few moments here, and rave about how thankful I am for my iRobot Roomba. If I were Oprah, I'd put this on my Favorite Things list (though I hear she's moving toward more accessible and maybe even homemade items this year).

A Roomba, if you don't know, is a robot vacuum cleaner. I received it for my birthday last July, and it has roamed around our house for probably about 80 percent of the days since then. We have two dogs and a cat (and a young son who likes to cut paper and leaves lots on pieces in his trail), and Roomba helps keeps our wood floors and carpets free of daily dander.

It goes under the sofa and beds. (Our kids call it a "he", but I haven't brought myself to that level of a relationship. Yet.) It turns itself around when it finds furniture or other roadblocks. It navigates over area rugs and room thresholds. If it hasn't roamed too far away, it returns to its charging base when it’s low on power. And it stops itself from falling down stairs. Dust and pet hair begone.

Sure, we have to pull out the big-gun vacuum periodically to clean out the tight spots, but far more infrequently than we used to. Without a doubt, this is a luxury item but one I'd choose over most others.

We have to clean Roomba frequently, removing mostly dog hair from its brushes. Honestly, I had no idea there was so much dog hair in our house. And I'm a little embarrassed by what my house must have looked like Before Roomba because we didn't sweep or vacuum almost every day like we do now.

There was also a time Before Roomba when my husband often fell flat with birthday and other gifts. Pine-scented hot pads from Maine and dangly salmon earrings from Seattle are good examples. But for whatever reason (could be the 25 years that we've known each other), he seems to have turned the Good Gifts corner, and I've been blessed with a greenhouse, an engraved iPod ("Mom, you rock"), and Roomba in the past few years. What a guy...

Disclaimer: I have no relationship to the iRobot company or its employees. I just really like this thing. My 2008 Product of the Year.

(478 words)

Monday, November 24, 2008


It's school conferences week. We kicked off our tour in Kindergarten today, and the first words out of Max's teacher were "That Max. He's a pistol."

Not exactly what a mom hopes to hear at her child's first educational checkup. But she did laugh and shake her head. I could only apologize.

He is apparently quite the entertainer whenever there's a captive audience at hand. (I warned them of this on his pre-K paperwork.) His teacher also busted him under the projects table trying to cut his hair last week.

To his credit, she said he's amazing in math and is progressing on task with early literacy and writing skills. He is also "not mean" and "doesn't need any behavior modification." Those are positives indeed. But he does talk ALOT. She thinks that could fix itself with a little "maturity." I'm not so sure...

To my surprise, she showed me pages in his writing journals, and he is actually building words, thoughts, and pages. I found it fascinating to read things like this: FRDNRWEWNTTOALSFRIZ

Translation: For dinner, we went to Al's Fries.

I envision that pink little mind working hard to think about the beginning and ending sounds of words. How exciting is that? I would've never guessed he could do it. In a few weeks/months, he'll add spaces in between those words and start adding vowels. I could've spent a couple of hours talking over the process of learning with Max's teacher, but she cut me off after 30 minutes due to other parents waiting in the hallway.

Did I ever mention that I've always wanted to be a teacher? There's a good chance I may have missed that boat. I didn't really realize this until about 10 years ago after my own kids were born and I had the chance to reconnect with lure of literacy. Instead, I got caught in the
corporate tides. (Not a complaint; I have a great job.) But hey, there's still time, and you never know where the tides may take you...

(339 words)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Babies in Trees

Yesterday, an Abenaki Native American woman visited Max's class. The topic came up at dinner tonight:

MAX: "I don't know how this happened, but a real Indian came to my class."

MOM: "What did she tell you about?"

MAX: "About how to pull another kid up on a horse."

MOM: "Did they do that for hunting?"

MAX: "No."

MOM: "What else did she tell you about?"

MAX: "You know those things that you carry a baby in? Well they didn't have those back then. They just put the baby on the horse...And sometimes they even put it in a tree."


Oh, the things that stick in a Kindergartener's head...

We didn't get any further explanation about the baby in the tree. Mia and Will wondered if the Indians just left the baby there and came back for it later. Or if it fell out of the tree. Max didn't know. And he didn't seem concerned about it.

So Mia and I Googled “Indian babies in trees” and found a poem and a picture of a papoose hanging in a tree, and it all made a little more sense. What a cool way to spend an afternoon, hanging in a tree with the birds singing all around you.

Where this story really leads me isn't in the wonder of hanging in a tree but rather…thank goodness we have Google to clarify those all those things that are left hanging in the chronicles of a five year old.

(247 words)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Notes to Self

The Workday conference ended yesterday, and so did my lack of life hopefully. Thanks to my generous company, I enjoyed an amazing afternoon in the spa at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. I haven't done such a thing in years. It's really funny how some nice lotions and warm towels make a person feel so much better.

More importantly, as my shoulders (and my mind) were letting go of the rocks that had built up within, many reminders about balance and self-preservation came to light as I was being shined up and rubbed down. So I wanted to write them down and check back in a few months to see if I actually achieved any of them. Of course, I could write them down on a traditional piece of paper, but I thought I'd share in hopes that you might be inspired to pay a little attention to yourself and the life around you too.

Here goes...

  • Let the dogs take me for a daily walk.
  • Blog.
  • Knit socks.
  • Plan a night out with Tom for our 19th anniversary that we missed last month because I was sick and stressed.
  • Schedule massages.
  • Go to a yoga class.
  • Play family games.
  • Bake things.
  • Read "Beloved" for myself.
  • Read "The Giver" with the kids.
  • Plan a vacation.
  • Find a few things to enjoy in my work.
  • Check out Jason Mraz's music (because I really dig his single "I'm Yours"--it makes me feel in love with everyone I know.)
  • Host a holiday party.
  • Get back on a monthly lunch plan with my friend Anne.
  • Update the kids’ photo albums.

And finally, eat brown rice. The wholesome answer to everything!

(294 words)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Good Days, Bad Days

In my head, the success of a day is measured by whether the dogs get a walk. On most days -- at least as of late -- they don't. I'm in the Month of Insanity at work, so my kids are raising themselves, and the dogs are misbehaving (digging holes, eating rugs), and Tom is on the road. The dust is definitely piling up, and even Max told me the other day that one of our bathrooms needed cleaning. (That's rough when the 5-year-old notices...)

So yesterday, I walked the dogs! We've had lovely 60-dgree weather all week, and I've barely looked out the window. I had no business choosing the dogs over business, but I couldn't stand it any longer. I even invited my friend Daria to join us, so I was able to squeeze in 30 minutes of social. Bonus.

Of course, when 4:30 p.m. rolled around -- with three work projects, a taekwondo class, dinner and a pie for a school fundraiser still on the docket for the evening -- I wasn't so sure that dog walk was worth it.

Today's a new day though. No dog walk yet, but I did fix a picture that had fallen from its mat. It hangs in our entry way, and has been skewed for a couple of months now. I've looked at it every day, and every day, I've rolled my eyes at myself for not fixing it. It's done now, and my head is just a little clearer.

I also took a little time out today for a book club kickoff with a team of readers in Will's class. (We're reading Because of Winn Dixie, written by one of my favorite authors Kate DiCamillo.) I was pretty stressed when I left the house, but 30 minutes with four cute and curious fourth graders fixed that. More clarity.

Followed by a 10-minute rock session listening to Pete Yorn, and I was almost ready to walk the dogs. But the emails started piling up and the deadlines starting poking at me. No dice for the dogs. But I'm not giving up on calling it a good day. They didn't get their walk, but that picture got fixed, book club got started, and I'm offering up some of my favorite advice to myself: Appreciate what you did get done today, not what you didn't.

(391 words)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rock the Vote

Kids today.... least my kids...seem so much more politically aware than I was at their ages. They've been talking about the election for weeks. Local candidates have visited their school. They've made posters that hang in their school hallways. Mia is studying the electoral college in her enrichment math program. And today, Mia and Will are both voting in mock elections. I don't remember any of this from my childhood. The only thing political that I remember from my formative years is this:

"Grandma, what's the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?"

"It doesn't matter. You're a Republican." End of conversation.

Oh, she's rollin' in her grave today!

So this morning, I reminded the kids to vote sensibly today.

MAX: "Who are you voting for, Mom?"
ME: "Barack Obama."
MAX: "Who did Dad vote for?"
ME: "Barack Obama."
MAX: "I thought he voted for Pollina." (Our independent candidate for governor.)

This is funny, of course, because Max is five, and he knows the names of our candidates -- even if he's a little confused on who's running for what.

Maybe it's Vermont that makes politics so accessible. "Vote for [Me]" signs are everywhere. We often see candidates -- even gubernatorial ones -- waving to cars on street corners. Heck, the hotel where Howard Dean announced his run for the presidency a few years ago is just down the street. We love our politics here.

So Will and I sung the Schoolhouse Rock "Preamble" song this morning. And the kids asked me whom I was voting for. I told them, in my best Martin Luther King, that I was voting for Hope, Change, and the People. It's truly an exciting day, and I hope with all my heart that I feel the same tomorrow.

I'm going to I'll listen to a lot of Bruce Springsteen today...

(307 words)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween Letdown -- or Not?

I'm afraid Halloween was a bit of a bust this year due to my sinus infection, Mia's virus, and Will's headache. (Geez, we sound like a bunch of delicatos, don't we?) Our favorite holiday passed by without frosted pumpkin cookies or cupcakes, our "scary dinner", the spider web strung around the house, and the black curtains I usually hang on the front porch. I felt a little bad, but I had to go with the good old "there's always next year" approach.

We did manage to set up our Halloween village, carve pumpkins, and rally for the "hayride" in our pickup truck with friends. (My friend Daria has some good pics of our trick-or-treating crew on her blog: Will was a skeleton guy, Mia a wizard, and Max a clone trooper.

After a week of lying on the couch, Mia tried to mobilize for trick-or-treating, but she made it to only three houses. Will went home with a headache after about seven houses. (I fed him a hamburger, and he instantly recovered. Wish I would've done that before he went out...) Max finished off the night with the rest of the kids, running a mile a minute up and down the long driveways in our neighborhood. At the last house, he finally told Tom he was ready to go home. In bed by 8:00; probably sleeping by 8:03.

After the festivities, the kids immediately filled up bowls with candy they didn't want and put them on the porch for the Great Pumpkin. We discovered about four years ago that if you do this, the Great Pumpkin exchanges your candy with a gift. I only know of one other family that does this, and it's interesting that the kids (Will and Max) haven't realized that this isn't a global tradition. Or even a local one. I would think that if this only happens at your house, you might catch on...

On the other hand, if you catch on, maybe you don't get that gift anymore!

So despite the lack of our typical Halloween celebrations and our fragile states of health, the day came and went, and everyone was still happy. I started collecting all the Halloween decorations today to make room for the turkeys that Max has started making. We already have four hand turkeys, a toilet paper roll turkey, and a turkey that he colored and glued together yesterday. I haven't pulled out the paper plate turkey idea yet...maybe next weekend.

(414 words)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wake Up Call

I've been nursing a bad cough and a sinus infection for the past few weeks, so I haven't been very inspired to do anything, let alone blog. I've worked through three days of antibiotics, though, so I'm feeling the haze lift. In fact, I've got about three or four blogs brewing in my head already this morning.

So let's start with this morning. Or any given weekday morning. My alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. I snooze it for 10 minutes, and on the second alarm, I get up and greet the cat, who is already waiting outside my door for her breakfast. We go downstairs, where the dogs start dancing around in their crate, way too excited for the hour. They head outside first, then come in to dishes full of kibble. The cat is already well into hers. After breakfast, they're routed back outside.

About 6:50, I head back upstairs to stir the little darlings. Mia first. I open her shade and try to talk her awake, but she doesn't budge until I give her a gentle shake. Then she growls and tries hard to ignore me. She's like trying to wake my sister, who could bite off your hand if you're not careful in the morning.

Over in the boys room, same routine. Shade open, morning greetings. Will sits up and smiles. "Good morning, Mommy," every day. Max dives under his covers or says things like, "Can I just skip school today?" (He's in Kindergarten, mind you. What does that mean for high school?) This morning, he tried to hide a smile while fake snoring.

I give a shout to Mia to get her moving.

Then I pick out Will's clothes because his morning goal is to get dressed in his bed before touching his feet to the floor. There was a day when choices like this would completely vex me, but I've come to realize that pre-pubescent boys do these kinds of things. They're just weird like that. (I made him gag this morning with some moldy tomatillos, and I think that was the highlight of his day so far.)

Another shout to Mia because it's highly likely she hasn't moved. Then I drag a protesting Max out of bed and help him dress, always with some random topic of conversation. Today: "July sure was a long month."

"Months are mostly all the same, Max."

"Well, July went a lot slower than September." [Just a reminder that today is October 27, so I'm not sure why July, or September....]

A final shout to Mia before the boys and I head downstairs for breakfast. She generally follows in another 5-10 minutes, unable to speak much before she eats her daily bowl of cereal.

Wondering where Tom is? He's still in bed, trying to ignore the noise. Funny how he doesn't move a muscle when my alarm goes off. Invariably, though, we hear the floors squeak upstairs long about 7:15. He ambles down and heads directly for the coffee. I've learned not to speak much to him before coffee. Mia hasn't figured that out yet, and any morning efforts directed toward Dad usually require me to put on my referee uniform. Until that coffee warms him up.

To his credit, he's always up to walk everyone out to the bus and to bring in the newspaper. I love to watch the kids walk our long driveway out to the bus. From that distance, I’m always awed that "Wow, those are my kids."

Will runs like he's in a race (which he probably is in his own head). Max often skips. Mia walks behind her brothers like she's herding sheep with a crook. Surely, she's instructing them to do something.

And the house sighs and goes quiet.

(628 words)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yard-Sale Mom

Forgive me for yet another Max post, but the kid is full of non-stop material...

This evening while Mia and Will were at piano, Max and I went to the grocery store. He talked incessantly in the car the entire way there, of course (in his "party of one" mode, as Tom says.) At the store, he sat in the bottom front of the cart, near my feet, and talked up at me.

"Max, I can't think very well when you keep talking to me so much."

"OK, mom, I just have two things for you to buy -- one good, one bad. A small bottle of apple cider just for me and some colored Hershey's Kisses."

I ignored him because I was trying to find some vanilla extract, but I did hear him say this:

"Then I'm just going to start shouting 'yard-sale mom, yard-sale mom'."

"What does that mean?"

"You know, 'free mom, free mom'."

And he didn't mean "free mom from some shackles or a prison." He meant that he was going to give me away.

"Where did you hear something like that?" I asked him.


So I'm once again bewildered by this kid's mind. I didn't buy either the cider or the Kisses, and I clearly wasn't sent home with another family. But aren't I worth more than a yard-sale deal? I guess not when I’m up against a bag of colored Hershey’s Kisses.

(239 words)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

From Red to Blue

The kids and I picked apples today while Tom was jetting off to the West Coast. Perfect day for it. We picked a peck of red delicious and filled a grocery bag with "drops." Farmer Adams charges only $6 for a whole bag of drops, and frankly, the apples we found on the ground were in great condition!

In this morning's Burlington Free Press, I read an article about a family that is investing in a pellet stove to save on energy costs. I'm interested in that idea. I read another story about a guy who grows his own wheat so he can mill it and bake loaves for weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) bread shares. Also intriguing. (Wheat isn't easy to grow in Vermont apparently.) Then there's Chris Bohjalian's weekly column that's the highlight of the Sunday paper for me. He wrote about the change of the seasons today. Think of that -- a best-selling author writing in the Burlington paper every week!

The most interesting article, however, was the cover story: "Going from red to blue". Twenty years ago, Vermont was a red state. I knew we had plenty of old-timey Republicans in our state, but I didn't really know we were a GOP stronghold for most of the 20th century -- one of the most "reliably red states in the country." Shocking. The shift to blue started in 1962 with the election of the state's first Democrat as governor, but we didn't become true blue until 1992, Clinton's first term. Now, were solidly left.

So I'm feeling pretty proud of my new home state today. For having beautiful apples at $6 a bag. For having people who try to save on energy costs (and pollution) and who grow wheat for homemade bread. For a nationally-acclaimed author who shares his musings about nothing in our newspaper every week. And for being a state of blue -- even with a Republican governor. It's a good feeling to be happy with and proud of where you live.

(334 words)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Best Age to Become a Vampire

I'm nearly finished with the fourth book of the Twlight teen vampire love series. And my daughter asked me the other night what it would feel like to die and would I choose everlasting life like the Tuck family in Tuck Everlasting. Both of these events have led me to consider this: What would be the best age to be bitten by a vampire?

Interestingly, I don't think it would be now, in my 40s. While I'm certain I'm more self-aware at this age than any other, and I wouldn't trade the opportunity to be with the kids at ages 10, 9, and 5. But the early 40s can be tough, with hormonal and physical changes that really aren't very attractive. The old grey mare...

So what about those college years? They were something to remember. I still envy the UVM co-eds on Church Street in Burlington with their cell phones, skinny jeans, and waists. Not many responsibilities beyond what's happening that day.

The 20s? Probably not. They were fun but self-centered years with little sense of self, in retrospect.

The 30s? They were good. Time for babies with a body that didn't yet droop too much. I see moms on Church Street with their babies in their front packs, enjoying a lunch and no demands of a profession. Too bad I didn't know then what I know now -- about how luxurious it is just to spend a day with your baby, completely focused on their needs activities. I think these are the years in which I would want to be bitten. You still feel (and look) young, and you still have loads of energy.

So would I really choose everlasting life? Mia thought she would because "there are so many beautiful things to see and do in the world." I told her I would choose it too, but today, I don't really think I would. I wouldn't want to give up the chance to do and see all those things with a lifetime of experience, knowledge, and insight behind me. So in my future days, please remind me that life doesn't have to head downhill after 40. Those 30s were great, but maybe the 50s will be even greater. It really could be a completely exhilarating uphill climb until the peak. Let's hope so.

(385 words)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Many Uses of a Placard

Tonight, all our breakfast places for tomorrow morning are already set with carefully created name placards. They were placed there by a little guy who danced into the kitchen like a wood fairy singing the Indiana Jones' adventure tune. "Da da da daaaaa. Da da da.

"Mom, you can also put it on your shirt as a nametag if you want. Just put some tape on the back and put it on your shirt. And the way you make the tape is to roll it around your finger.

"Or you can use it as a bookmark. I made it for all those reasons.” (Though I’m certain he thought that up on the fly.)

"That's a good idea, Max."

"Yeah, I know."

Contrast this with a day of dealing with budgets, decisions, a too-long To Do list, deadlines, and demands. Tomorrow, I swear I’m going to somehow work the Indiana Jones’ adventure tune into my day.

God, I'm glad I know a 5 year old.

(164 words. Missed my goal but not the simplicity…)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Who Said That?

"Autumn...I think it's the most contemplative of seasons."
(Five points to anyone who gets this reference!)
We're having one of those beautiful, classic, colorful autumn days in Vermont. I was riding in the car today, letting the sun fall on my face, and I fell into one of those perfect moments of peace. All photos for 2009 calendars will surely be taken today. Time to get out the Spice candles and put away the Fresh Breeze.
Also time to get out the Halloween decorations -- a favorite day for my young ones. I also love this holiday the most. For Halloween this year, Max will be a clone trooper; Mia, a magician; and Will, Frankenstein. Tom will load the pickup truck with hay bales, decorate it with twinkly lights, and drive a group of trick or treaters around the neighborhood. A family custom that the kids are already making plans for.

"If there's somethin' strange in your neighborhood...Who ya gonna call?"
(Four points for this one...)
We'll likely to choose pumpkins tomorrow, and maybe pick apples. I still need to clean a few things out of the vegetable garden and many things out of my perennial beds. The list of fall chores and traditions is long, but the time in which to do them is too short. It'll be only a few weeks until the…
"the witch of November come stealing."
While I’m not really anticipating the coming months, I do often enjoy the quiet of the winter and the inward focus it brings about. Time to knit!
“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep…”
What was your score?
(271 words)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Newman O's and Other Assorted Cookies

Today Max brought home two drawings for me -- one a family picture and the other a series of "colorful fenceposts." That's different. He says others kids in the class drew them, so he did too. He also brought home another diaper (just for himself); none of the other kids are making diapers yet, however.


I've become completely obsessed with a book series about teen vampires, werewolves, and love: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. The books aren't particularly intelligent, but the vampire lifestyle details are clever and the story is really sexy without graphic details -- and I appreciate that since they're clearly written for the age 12+ set. They heroine isn't a particularly strong-minded young woman, and the vampire love interest seems a bit possessive, so I'm not sure why I'm so taken with them (or why I'm admitting it). But I flew through the first two books last week and started the third last night, and I can't wait for the movie next month. Sometimes it's just plain fun to lose yourself in imagination. Even as an adult.


During my travels last week, I didn't blog. I was busy with work (not to mention those teen vampire books), but I also didn't have any inspirations. I was struck with the truth of needing to intentionally and mindfully make space for personal or "wholesome" pursuits. They definitely don't just happen in the wild course of any given day. I know the "enlightened ones" always say that. But they're right.

John McCain was such as ass in last night's debate. What's with his endlessly calling everyone "friend"? He's no friend of mine with his "freeze all spending but military" attitude.


Mia and Will bragged that Dad bought Oreos while I was in California. "Not those wretched Newman O's," said Mia. Wretched? I like Newman O's...

(311 words)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Max's Daily Gift

I'm home from California and finally finding a little space for some blogging...more on that tomorrow. Today, I have a odd story to tell.

Throughout Max's career as a Kindergartner, he frequently and proudly comes home with little drawings or packages of things. Always four -- one for Tom, Will, Mia, and me. We've received teeny tiny diagrams of the life cycle of a butterfly. And books. He's in a phase where he makes little books about things, held together with three or four staples. Apples are a favorite subject in his books. Yesterday, I'm not sure what it was we received, but it had apples drawn on it, and he tossed it around like a paper airplane.

Today, he didn't disappoint -- so he thought. Everyday, the first thing he does when he comes home from school is empty his backpack. First his lunchbox, then his presents for everyone. When he brought me mine today, I asked him what it was. "A diaper." (But of course.) A little paper diaper folder and taped with some coloring on that inside that represented...something.

I tried to get deeper into this diaper thing over dinner:

ME: "Max, what did you do in choice time today?"
MAX: "Worked at the writing table."
ME: "Did your friends make diapers with you at the writing table?"
MAX: "Nope."
ME: "You did that all by yourself?"
MAX: "Yeah."
ME: "Did your teacher know you made diapers for everyone?"
MAX: "No."

So I'm definitely vexed by this one. Having a hard time encouraging his creativity here. Why diapers? I objectively know the answer, and it has something to do with his age and gender. But it still seems a little weird to me. Wonder what we'll all get tomorrow. Probably nothing since I interrogated him today, but I think I'm hoping for another book about apples.

(308 words)

Monday, September 29, 2008

On the Road Again

I arrived in San Francisco today. While I don't really enjoy business travel, at least I feel some comfort in the familiarity of the place. Land of designer stuff, where few people wear sneakers. (This is only an observation, not a judgment.)

I stay with my friend Romy when I'm here. Her hospitality and company is really what makes the travel bearable. I tried a real hotel a couple times, but it was lonely. She and I visited the Berkeley Bowl (an old haunt) for some groceries this evening. Oh, the shelves of olive oil, cheese, yogurt, and produce. So many choices. The olive bar was singular.

At home, the kids are excited to go grocery shopping with Dad while I'm gone. The last time I left, "he bought us Devil Dogs and gum!" His explanation: "It's hard taking all three of them to the grocery store."

The instruction list I left with them:

  • Water the lettuce in the greenhouse.
  • Make sure the hens have food and water.
  • Remember to take showers.
  • Read.
My guess is that they'll check on the hens, but the lettuce, showers, and reading will all be packed into Friday night, before I come home on Saturday.

So tonight, Romy and I will drink tea and catch up on Mad Men. Then I get to retire under one of Helen Harness's (Romy's mom) beautiful quilts, which the cats will jump on every time I move my feet when I'm sleeping. Home sweet away from home.

(253 words)

Friday, September 26, 2008

For the Love of Books

Mia came home from school today and EXCLAIMED "I checked out a book from our library today! We have the best library ever. I can't wait to use it. It's my favorite place in our school." (It was her first visit.)

How cool is that?

On my own nightstand, the kids and I recently started The Diamond of Darkhold, the fourth book in The City of Ember series, which we all LOVE. Highly recommend the prequels The City of Ember and The People of Sparks for middle-level readers.

I also have a Billy Collins poetry book that I pick up every now and then for some quick enlightenment.

Then there's good old Lee Iacocca's Where Have All the Leaders Gone? (recommended by my old mentor and friend Jim Lutzke). This is hoot of a book, really. Mr. Iacocca completely skewers W, everyone in his service, all his misplaced policies, and especially the war. Funny coming from a rich, white, former oil guy.

A few facts worth sharing: If we took all the trillions we've spent on that war and invested them into our own country, we could...

Hire 8 million teachers or 8 million police, fire, and EMT workers.
Give free health care to everyone for a year.
Provide 25 million college scholarships.
Give Americans free gas for a year.
Build 3 million affordable housing units.


I'm about halfway through, and the book basically advocates most things that I already believe in, so it's not a life-changing read for me. But it's entertaining, candid, mindboggling at times, and easy to read. Recommended.

(268 words)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nature Walk

It's another perfect fall day in Vermont today -- two in a row. So I thought I'd go outside today...

Last week, I taught a "Four Winds" nature unit to Max and his Kindergarten classmates. The subject was, in Max's words, how animals find their way. This is my fifth year of teaching these monthly classes, starting with Mia in Kindergarten. Since I'd worked my way up to third and fourth graders last year, I'd forgotten how darn cute those little ones are in Four Winds. They all want to tell lengthy stories -- usually completely unrelated to the subject. Before last week's lesson, I asked the class to tell me about some of their classroom rules: "Don't wiggle around too much." "Don't hit other people." These weren't actually the class rules, but they were good ones anyway.

Other than the curiosity in the kids themselves, the greatest thing about these classes is the stuff I've learned. Here are a few things I know now that I didn't two weeks ago:

  • Digger wasps don't sting, but they find their way back to their ground holes using nearby landmarks.
  • After their adventures out in the ocean, salmon find their way back to the stream in which they were born by the stream's smell.
  • Some migrating birds use the low-pitched sounds of crashing waves to help follow coastlines.
Cool stuff to know.

So I'm going to rely on my own landmarks and sense of direction to head out and visit my garden and hens for a few minutes before I check in to work this morning. Hopefully, I'll find my way but lose track of time!

(277 words)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Advice for the Young

I didn't really have a clear idea of what I wanted to write about today. I was feeling contracted at the end of the day yesterday -- a difficult day at work, and someone said something to me that I really took issue with. Tom suggested I just blog about how grouchy I was feeling. (Thank you to Tom for noticing that I was grouchy and for offering a solution. In another solid effort to redirect me, he also suggested we play tennis or walk the dogs today.)

Blogging seemed like a real downer for any readers though. So I tried oatmeal, yoga, dusting, and getting organized with work instead to help myself recover. Aren't these things the answer to everything? God how I wish Coke and brownies were the real answer to pulling yourself out of a funk.

Then I remembered some advice someone once gave me when my brain was working overtime processing some negativity. "What advice would you give you daughter -- because it probably isn't the same advice that you’re giving yourself?" As it turns, the advice for Mia was clearer, simpler, and damn good, if I may say so.

So today, I'm going to practice that I'm a fickle, moody, funny, prepubescent, loving 10 year old, and I'm going to give me some advice for dealing with the world. Wonder if I'll actually follow up on it?

(232 words)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Will of Will

"Time is a mother's enemy."

Will turns nine today. He was born in 1999 in the early afternoon, with a big head and big set of lungs. We had a relatively peaceful labor and birth, following by nearly four years of not so much peace. He was a strong-willed youngster, prone to meltdowns and head-to-head confrontations

In quieter times, he was a funny little boy. He frequently allowed his sister to dress him up -- as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, or a Buzz Lightyear fairy. And he was always walking around in other people's shoes.

A few "Willisms" from the family history books:

MOM: "You're a good boy."
WILL: "Mommy's a good boy too."

MOM: "Who did you play with at school today?"
WILL: "Nobody. I just played with myself, which is named Will. You know that guy, don't you? "You're driving him home right now."

Then there was the time when he burst into tears when we told him he probably couldn't be King when he grows up.

Today, he has returned to a more peaceful person. He's friendly, affectionate, smart, sweet, and observant in ways you don't immediately realize. He has the mind of a steel trap, and he thinks his dad is really funny. His teacher calls him a little old man. But he's only/already nine! Two weeks ago, I dropped him at a birthday party, and for the first time, he wouldn't give me a hug when I left. He actually said, "No, mom" and walked away. So I guess all that's starting.

Today, Tom started the morning off with the Beatles' birthday song. ("Oh no, here comes the song," said Mia.) Will has requested cinnamon rolls for his class treat. And after school, he'll visit the orthodontist and taekwondo studio. A typical day, but one where he can finally be King.

(309 words)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ghost No More

I've been a ghostwriter most of my professional life. Writing in the name of other people or companies. A few bylines here and there, a few journal entries. But little writing just for me. I was thinking the other day that if I my job ceased to exist, and I didn't have the opportunity to write something everyday -- to feed the addiction to my laptop -- then I just might feel a void. (This could, of course, be just another one of those girl-after-40, kids-in-school vacancies.)

That very same day, my joyous friend Romy suggested I write a blog after I told her about the weary details of my day. (She didn't think the details were so weary, I guess.)

Then a co-worker sent me a link to her blog about moving to Germany.

The Higher Power of Blogging covertly aligned in my world, so now here I am.

My goal for this blog/journal/download/dump is at least 200 words a blog. (Ideally, I'd write 200 words a day, but I'm not sure I can commit to that yet.) About anything that strikes my fancy, passes though my conscience, or should be shared. I may bore you with the pursuits of Mia, Will, and Max (the children), the vexations of Tom (the loving spouse), or the antics of Kobe, Kip, Pixie, and The Girls (the pets). But I promise to try to use the word "vex" wherever possible because it doesn't get enough airplay.

(Word count: 243. That was easy!)