Month: May 2011 (page 1 of 2)

We Take a Walk, The Sun is Shining Down

One day last week, on the way home after dropping Julia off at school, Lucy asked if we could take a walk on the trail near our house. The weather was beautiful and she’d even made up a song about “Mommy and Bee! Walk with meeeee! To our treeeee! I so happyyyyy!” How could I say no to that? I couldn’t. And so, we loaded Phoebe into the stroller and we set out on the trail.

The trail

We headed north toward our favorite spot: The Tree of Many Trees.

Tree of Many Trees

I love that place. There’s something peaceful about it. Probably because it’s just far enough from the house that the walk wears the kids out and they’re quiet for a few minutes while they catch their second wind for the trip back.

We moved along slowly as Lucy was stopping to investigate and admire everything that caught her eye. She couldn’t possibly walk straight and steady when there were flowers to pick, rocks to collect and sticks to…plant. (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that’s not exactly how trees grow.) We lingered at The Brown Bridge and peeked over the side to watch the fish dart around in the muddy stream water. We talked about frogs. She found a Robin’s egg and a berry bush. But somewhere between a rendition of “I like to eat! Eat! Eat! Apples and bananaaaas!” and a bunny rabbit sighting, I started to get impatient. Too much time had gone by. My thoughts drifted back to the mountain of chores waiting at home. We were dawdling. We were wasting time. Guilt gripped my insides.

I checked my phone.

“Mommy! Look! A yellow bird! Do you see it? Do you see that yellow bird?”

“Uh huh. Come on, Lucy. Let’s get moving.”

“But Mommy, I never saw a bird like that! Look at it!”

“I know, but we need to keep going so we can get to our tree and head back home.”

“Okay….Hey! Mom! There’s a bluebird!”

“Alright! Alright! Come on, Lucy!”

I charged forward knowing that if I got more than a few feet away, she’d probably stop whatever she was doing and catch up. But she didn’t. When I got a step farther from her than I was comfortable with, I checked the time on my phone and turned, ready to spit out the words, “Lucy! COME ON! Let’s just GET THERE so I can relax a minute!” But I hesitated. Because there she was.

Running and giggling.

Chasing butterflies

And chasing butterflies.

See the butterfly?

I put my phone away. I stopped. I breathed. I watched my daughter. I listened to her squeal and laugh as she ran toward me shouting, “That butterfly chasing me now! He likes me!”

And I wondered, what’s the rush? Why do I have to get to the tree to relax? Why can’t I forget my to-do list for a moment and just be here, now? Isn’t this – time with my daughter – isn’t this what’s important? I thought about all the variations of quotes and advice I’d read about how it’s the journey and not the destination. But I really felt it that sunny morning. Lucy knew it all along.

Lucy at the tree

When we finally arrived at our tree, we sat close together on a bench and drank some water and ate bananas while Phoebe slept. I stayed quiet, just watching while Lucy kicked her legs and hummed to herself. I noticed a fresh crop of freckles splayed out over her nose and cheeks and couldn’t resist reaching out to touch them gently with my fingertips. “It looks like the night fairies where playing in the mud. They left tracks when they danced across your face last night. You’ve got freckles!”

She strained to see them a few seconds. Then her eyes met mine and sparkled with mischief. “They had a picnic in my ears. Know how I know?”


“They left crumbs.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yep. Ear wax!” she giggled and jumped off the bench. She ran to check the lady bug nest we’d found on our last visit.

I closed my eyes and turned my face toward the sun, praying that the dark clouds I’ve been dragging around would remain scattered, so I could continue to feel it.

Should Julia ever choose to marry, my guess is she’ll choose a candy maker only because I don’t think a marriage to cotton candy would be recognized and that’s the next logical step. Is Willy Wonka single?

Julia only has a few days left of school. (You can’t see it, but I’m doing a happy dance.) This –

Julia's job

– is one of the reasons I’ll be having her write in a journal each day through the summer.

The Bee and the Pea(s)

Phoebe tried some peas yesterday.

I think she prefers toes.

Phoebe eats toes

Heart World

Early in the morning, I heard Lucy stirring. I peeked in on her just as she was sitting up in bed.

“Good morning, Lucy,” I cooed.

“Mom! I’ve got to show you–” she sucked in a deep breath, raised her arms above her head and dramatically let them fall back to her sides as she exclaimed, “Heart World!”

“Okay. Did you sleep well?”

“Let’s go!” She grabbed my hand.

I followed her as she padded into the playroom. She dropped my hand and moved ahead to the open closet. She curled her little fingers under the edge of some loose wallpaper and peeked over her shoulder. “Mommy,” she started quietly and with a suspenseful crescendo sang out, “Heart World!”

She peeled back the wallpaper section to reveal old wallpaper dotted with hearts.

“There are hearts EVERYWHERE!” she declared with a jump.

Heart World

I don’t think that kid could be any cuter.

It’s Life – Plain and Simple

I love Amish Country. And since I love Amish Country, I often pick up this little freebie magazine to get the skinny on what’s going down there. I snagged this particular copy so I could leave it on Dave’s pillow with the page for the Bed and Breakfasts dog-eared as I am hoping to score a romantic getaway to Holmes with a View. One day. When we have time. And money.



I have only two questions. 1) What is happening in that cover photo? 2) Does it make you want to go to Amish Country?

It’s not the end of the world…your mom will just make you feel like it is. (If your mom is me.)

I make a lot of mistakes. I think most people do. I try to be reasonable and understanding when it comes to my kids about the mistakes they make. I mean, if I – a grown human being with a fully developed brain – frequently makes mistakes, I can’t exactly expect my kids – who haven’t lived nearly as long and whose brains aren’t even as big as they’re going to get – to mess up less than me. Still, I have the job of turning their mistakes into lessons, which means I have to recognize some of them. And sometimes, life has this Murphy’s Law-ish kind of way of playing out and I make a mistake when trying to correct one of their mistakes.

Let me provide you with a fresh example.

Yesterday was Julia’s piano recital. She was slotted to perform Allegretto I, a song she knows and plays well (as evidenced in this blog post). But yesterday, she did not play it well. This was mostly because she was chatting it up with a new friend instead of paying attention as she waited for her turn in the pews designated for performers, which was just outside the reach of my Pay-the-Frick-Attention Glare of Doom. And so, after her teacher called her name TWICE and she finally trotted up on stage, she wasn’t really thinking about what she was supposed to do there. And she messed up.

To her credit, she worked her way through it, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. Also, maybe, just a little mad, if I’m being completely honest. I mean, we were all dressed up! Some in new items purchased just for the occasion! And I’d been doing the Happy-Toddler, Quiet-Toddler Dance all while holding the baby (which is comparable to juggling fire while riding a unicycle on a tight-rope over Niagara Falls) through the entire recital up until that point just to see her play that song! Not to mention the hours of class time and practice time! The whole family showed up for her, but she didn’t. Her body was there, but her mind was somewhere else. So, when she came to sit down after her performance, I turned to her and asked, “What happened?” And she burst into tears.

In hindsight, that may not have been the right thing to say to her just then. She was already disappointed enough in herself and I should have known she would be. I felt like a jerk – like one of those parents who sits on the sidelines and screams at their kid, “Get in the game! Don’t be so lazy! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THROW THE BALL!!!” It takes some courage just to get up and participate in something, particularly something with an audience. I really believe it’s best to praise in public and criticize in private when that’s possible. And while it’s not like I stood up and told everyone, “Stop! Don’t clap for her! She didn’t earn it!” I still took the wind out of her sails. And I didn’t let her feel how truly proud I am of her for getting up there and how much I love her, no matter what. I disappointed her even more than she disappointed me, I think – me, with the big brain and experience. Ha!

We talked about it after the show and agreed that we’d both made mistakes and went to have cookies. Then, I tried to get a picture of my girls all dressed up together.

Phoebe and Julia

Where is Lucy? Oh, here she is…

Phoebe and Julia that Lucy?

…looking like she probably sounds like that monster in the fridge from Ghostbusters.


After that, Grandma and Grandpa treated us to a late lunch at Hot Rod City.

Having fun at Hot Rod City

And we had fun.

Then we came home and we all took a nice, long walk.





…and Lucy.


Julia called it the “best day ever,” as I tucked her in bed.

“Really?” I asked. “Even though I made you cry?”

“It’s okay, Mom. No one’s perfect.”

Some Things Never Change. Or Change Very Little. (Never is such a strong word.)

Once again, thanks to the not-really-all-that-romantic circle of life, we have kittens in need of good homes. Adorable kittens. Like this one..

New kitten

…purrfect, except for one little problem…

Six claw kitty

He is claw number six. A good cat should have, like, five. (Can you name the movie I’m paraphrasing?!?)

Kitty has six claws on each front paw and you know you want a cat like that. You could probably train it to open your mail. Or your beer. Or something.

If free kittens don’t float your boat, you may go for a not-free, but affordable sock monkey made by hand.

Latest sock monkey

Because, yeah. We’re still doing that.

That’s Despicable

The announcement of bath time sparks a panic in my children. The death of the day is imminent. Oops! They’re out of time! And so, they lose it. For about fifteen minutes, it’s pure frenzy. Sure, I advise them to stop. Repeatedly. And at an increasing volume. But their brains have shut off and there’s really no stopping the crazy train. So, I tend to let them ride it until they derail. Then, I scoop them up and toss them in the tub.

I was pulling towels out of the linen closet at the height of their fervor one night when I heard an I’m-not-playing-this-is-serious scream from Lucy. “Hey! What’s going on?” I yelled as I made my way to their door.

I wasn’t prepared for the deplorability I was about to see.

There, was a half-naked, fully frightened Lucy half-way up and clinging to the bunk bed ladder with a pair of underwear over her head. The butt part was covering her face.

“I CAN’T GET DOWN! HELP! HELP!” she shrieked through the cotton veil.

Julia was naked and doubled over with laughter on her bed. I immediately recognized the underwear as hers. I flew to Lucy’s aid, removed the offending item from her head and lowered her to the floor.

“JULIA!!! Did you put your underwear on her head?”

“Yes,” she giggled to a halt when she saw the sober look on my face. “It’s funny.”

NO! IT! IS NOT!!!!!” And it wasn’t. To Lucy or to me. I mean, really. Who does this?

I launched into a rant that lasted pretty much until lights out.

“How about I take my underwear off and put them over your face, huh? WOULD YOU LIKE THAT?”

I was furious. How could she do that? TO HER SISTER.

I burst into my bedroom where Dave was just waking up for work and yelled, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR KID DID?”

“Uh oh. Which one?”

“The first one. She-” a giggled escaped from my throat. I cleared it. “She-” another giggle. “She actually-” more giggles. “She actually put her underwear on Lucy’s head.” I tried to keep my composure, but it turns out, it was kind of funny to say those words out loud. “She had the butt part over her face,” I laughed. And then I got my serious back. “Lucy was partway up the bunk bed ladder – and you know she’s a little scared on that anyway – so she was afraid to take her hand off to pull the underwear off! Julia thought it was hilarious!!! I think it’s mean. Really, really mean.”

Dave simply agreed.

“Is that normal?” I wondered out loud.

My grandmother happened to be visiting during the whole ordeal. She told me I sounded like my grandpa. He was also an only child and couldn’t understand how anyone could be cruel to a sibling – someone a person should be thankful to have. And I remembered the story she’d told me about her brother and the time he peed off the porch roof and onto her and my grandfather’s heads as they kissed goodnight when they were dating. Also about my great-grandmother’s brothers and how they taught her to spell her name for the first day of school, which she proudly demonstrated on the blackboard: S-H-I-T-H-E-A-D. And I realized, this meanness – the underwear hat, the homemade handcuffs, the edible ants, the sand wedgies – it is all my fault. My grandma made it clear: it’s genetic.

I get that I’m the kind of mom people like to roll their eyes at. Still, my kids are alright.

“You have to hold my hand,” Dave whispered and I felt his fingers brush my arm as they searched for my hand in the dark. “This is too much.”

I felt the same way. The suspense was killing me. It had been 73 minutes since we’d left her backstage and only two weeks since what we now call The Meltdown: Nursing Home Edition. That’s two weeks of stress and worry and badgering studio director with my diva list of demands for Lucy to perform in the recital – demands which I ultimately relented on and was then, at that moment, worried I’d regret.

It’s true, the dress rehearsal the night before had gone well. Lucy danced! Happily! Well, except for the first run through when she didn’t see the feature ballerina water her and so she stayed crouched in her flower pot whisper-shouting, “Girl! GIRL! You forgot to water me!” But you can’t fault her for that. She was in character and taking it very seriously. Flowers need water to dance. Without water, where’s the motivation, James Lipton? I can almost see her discussing it on Inside the Actor’s Studio.

“And in 2011 you took the stage for the first time. What role did you play?”

“A flower.”

“Yes, a flower. A very special flower. How did you prepare for that role?”

“Well, I had to be watered…”

But dress rehearsal was yesterday. And wasn’t it Thomas Carlyle who said, “Today is not yesterday: we ourselves change…” Also probably Foreigner.

Dave’s hand found mine and I squeezed it as tiny puffs of green tulle began to wander onto the dimly lit stage. My little puff was struggling to find her X and my breath caught in my chest. “This could be bad. This could be bad. Oh, this could be really, really bad,” I told myself. I was waiting for her characteristic foot-stomp-body-toss-floor-flop that sometimes comes from frustration and a little too much pressure. But the teacher pointed from her spot in the pit below the stage in the direction she should go and Lucy made her way to her flower pot. She stepped behind it and crouched down low, then popped up one last time to say, “I love you, Miss Tia!”

The crowd laughed and I exhaled. Dave and I exchanged hopeful glances. Maybe it would be okay. This really might be okay! And it was. Lucy did her dance and it was fantastic! I could hardly stay in my seat until intermission when I ran back to her holding room to give her flowers and tell her how proud I was of her.

Lucy and her flowers

She was proud, too, and having such a great time backstage that she wanted to stay there until the end of the show. Dave greeted me with raised eyebrows as I entered the auditorium sans Lucy, but I assured him she was fine. Lucy was fine. It all turned out okay.

We sat back and enjoyed the second half of the first show, enjoyed a meal and then came back for the second show as Julia had performances in both. And she was lovely, as always, but wearing way too much make-up. I should have realized it was looking a little KISS-ish when she looked in the mirror and said, “Wow! I look like The Black Swan,” after I applied it. (And NO, I didn’t let my 6 year old watch that movie, crazy people. She just happens to live in a world where there are previews on T.V. and a poster-size ad for the DVD at Wal Mart.) But for some reason, it didn’t seem so, I don’t know, extreme until she was among the rest of the kids. She felt special wearing it, though, so that’s something positive, right? Right?! Oh, hell just add it to my big ole pile o’ mistakes!

Given the whole make-up ordeal and the high I was on after Lucy didn’t blow up the stage, I have no photographs of Julia from recital day. (Yet another mistake! Are you keeping track? We’re at 2,987,013,482.) But I have these.

And all the memories from another year of dance, now complete.

I Owe My Smile

I have extraordinary teeth. I’m not bragging. That’s actually the official word from the dentist. In fact, he is so confident in the remarkableness of my teeth that he offered me a free pass on my biennial x-rays. That’s like getting to skip a grade. But with teeth.

“I don’t do this for everyone,” he explained as he cradled my tongue gently between his fingers with a piece of gauze, gingerly pulled it to the left, then right and peered back at my molars just one more time. “Your teeth are really special.”

The hygienist widened her eyes and nodded enthusiastically with an, “Oh yeah.” They bantered for a moment over the sublime condition of my magnificent mouth. Then I ran out of modesty and joined in.

“Well, I do care about my teeth. It’s the first thing I notice on other people. That and their eyes. I can’t stand it if someone has, like, a lazy eye or crossed eyes or grimy, nasty teeth,” I told them, shivering. It got a little quiet and I knew I’d probably said too much. But then I told them about how my grandma used to freak me out by flipping her dentures. Also about the lady I knew who had no teeth, but could still eat corn on the cob with her gums. (She used to shave her head in the summer, too, but that’s really something else entirely. I should tell you about the time she was mistaken for a bear thanks to a pair of pantyhose. Remind me.) It was actually her husband Carl’s teeth I remember best.

One Sunday morning I was standing next to Carl, a quiet old man with a gruff little voice. His daughters and I were good friends. He’d accompanied me many times out the path and into the holler where they lived and back again when I went to visit them as a little girl who was very much afraid of the deep, dark woods. I’d chatter my face off while we walked. He was a great listener. He rarely made a sound, except to chuckle at my unintentional silliness. He once told my dad I was “funnier than T.V.” And so, on that beautiful morning as we stood together in our pew and also on the promises of God, he nudged my arm. I turned to look at him and he held out his hand. Full of teeth. His ugly old false teeth.

I dropped my hymnal and covered my lips to stifle a squeal. I could feel the eyes of the congregation turning to me as well as the hard “settle down and we mean business” stare coming from my parents at the pulpit and the piano. My reaction must have met his expectations because he snickered as he put his teeth back in his face while I watched in horror. He gave me a coy grin and wiggled his eyebrows. I spent the rest of the service with a bad case of the grossed out giggles. And the rest of my life trying to convince everyone that he really did it.

Carl has since passed away, but I still feel like I owe him a shout out each time I visit the dentist. So, thank you Carl. For making me smile and for burning a lifelong reminder in my brain to keep it beautiful.

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