December 27, 2011

And a Happy New Year

Did you all have a Merry Christmas? We certainly did!

Full of silliness and family and food and fun and Farkle (have you played it? It's addictive!) and late night and too much traveling.

Presents we didn't want (aren't there always?) and those we did, and more importantly, memories made with family.

My parents and Carl's mom are coming to us for New Year's, and then that will be the end of an exhausting and rewarding holiday season. Whew!

Next year, family? You get to come to us.

Ho ho ho.

December 22, 2011


Taking a break from Christmas baking to read a few chapter in Betsy-Tacy, one of my very favorite stories (and series) ever. Thrilled to be introducing such beloved friends to my girls now.

On a related note, if I ever suggest homemade baked goods for Christmas presents again, you all have my permission to come hit me with something solid until I come to my senses. I am sick to death of my kitchen and everything in it, and last night I dumped the boiling pasta water without putting the pasta in, and put the peas on the stove without adding water ... my brain, she is fried.

As were the peas.

December 20, 2011

Christmas Cookies

I was fretting just a little about not being able to find Grandma's recipe. With her passing this year, it was really important to me to use the recipe I always remembered using with Sister and Grandma and the younger aunts and uncles.

I glumly resigned myself to not having it, and asked on FB if people had favorite recipes from their families they wanted to pass along. Within minutes, one of my dad's cousins had found their family's version of the recipe, almost identical to Grandma's, and shared it. I almost cried, I was so happy.

It didn't take long after that for the fun to really begin.

And of course, the reward at the end of all their hard work.

Spurred on by the cousin's sharing on FB, my youngest aunt, the one who inherited Grandma's recipe box, went through her files, founds the original recipe - OUR original recipe, took a picture, and posted it on my wall. By the end of the day, Sister, two aunts, and two uncles all announced they were getting ready to make the family Christmas cookies.

And that? Makes this plate so much more important to me than just the sugar high. Carrying on the family tradition, keeping those ties that bind firmly in place even in my own little family.

Thank you so much, Dad's cousin Marilyn.

December 19, 2011


About this time every year, we gather to celebrate the winter solstice with family and friends. It's one of my favorite holiday traditions.

On the longest night of the year, we gather under the dark sky to celebrate light.

Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

December 14, 2011

Winter morning

I love waking up to a baby full of smiles...

And to a sky making all sorts of beautiful things happen outside my window.

Spring and summer mornings have warmth and birdsong and light. But these winter mornings bring the snuggles like whoa.

December 13, 2011

Birthday, Belated

I've realized that I never posted details about Joy's fourth birthday party ... over a month ago. Bad blogging mamma!

So, even though it's late, and we're all now in the throes of holiday prep, I thought it time to share. It was, after all, the first "real" birthday party I've done as a parent ... everything up til now has simply been the birthday kid's favorite food, presents, and as much family as we can get around. This was our first party with a theme and everything.

 The timing was crazy - two days before my grandmother's funeral, and right after all the busyness and sadness attending her last days, but we were all determined to still make Joy's party memorable and fun. I soon found out that my mother and sister's ideas of what makes for a memorable party were a lot more elaborate than mine ... but it all looked beautiful when they were done decorating.

Old sheets, white lights, gold beads, and felt flowers, butterflies, and hearts that Sister and I cut out while staying up way too late and watching figure skating and Dancing with the Stars - because that's what sisters do, y'know.

More sheets and white lights, a garland made from the aforementioned felt cutouts, and a table decorated with all the teacups we could find. (Also, my dad in butterfly wings, because he is Awesome.)

Lavender shortbread decorated with edible gold hearts. Mom and Sister did the decorating, I did the food. We also had honey cupcakes, cut veggies, and a cheesecake for Brother-in-Law, who was a good sport to also wear butterfly wings and let his niece consider this a shared party with him, since his birthday was just a week earlier.

Joy was so surprised to walk in after a few hours out having a midmorning snack and bookstore-browsing with Papa and see Oma and Grandpa's house transformed into a fairy wonderland and all of us wearing wings. She almost started crying just from the surprise of it all, but a quick escape into Mamma's arms, followed by her Very Own wings, skirt, and headband, along with the promise of getting to open some presents, and she was good.

After the presents, we had a lovely tea party (lavender tea and lemon-rose tea - both the girls loved them, even without any honey), during which Sister tried her best to put out everyone's eyes with her gigantic wings

(they looked smaller in the package! she kept wailing, as everyone tried to dodge every time she turned around), and then it was time for the pièce de résistance.

Oma and Grandpa, acting on information received, gave Joy a tricycle for her birthday. Thrills abounded. Grace wanted her turn, naturally, which led to the inevitable conclusion that there will be two tricycles in this household come May, when Gracie turns three. Joy rose it all over the house (hurrah for unfinished wood floors!), and once we got home and got her a helmet (I am kind of a crazy lady when it comes to bicycle safety HELMETS AT ALL TIMES NO EXCEPTIONS (I even yell out the car window at bicyclists who aren't wearing helmets to "wear a helmet, PUNK!")) she took it outside. She pushes much better backward than forward, but she's getting better with the forward motion, too. Once she gets another half inch on those little legs of hers, she'll do even better.

The only problem, as I told my sister afterward, was that I think we set the bar too high. How are we going to top this next year? And what will we do for Gracie's party?

She already had a few ideas. As long as I can keep her as my party planner, I think we'll be safe.

December 12, 2011

Fa la la la la

Here's what's bringing me joy today...

We made this Christmas wreath, Lulu and I. (OK, James helped--and Lulu's input was small, I must admit.) It's not perfect, but I find myself making excuses to go outside so that I can look at it and smell its spicy scent.

What's making you smile on this chilly Monday?

December 8, 2011

Fighting the Frump: Coffee Shop Edition

Today, I get to go out and have coffee with a friend, sans children. After working crazy hours to get a project done last week, Carl's been able to be home all this week, so when my friend sent me a note on FB and said, hey, want to get together on Thursday, and oh, should we go out or stay in, I said GO OUT.

And then I immediately started thinking about what to wear.

Any winter outfit for me automatically starts with my boots, and I can't find any pictures that show them. I have two pair of tall boots, one black (that are awesome), and one brown (that are not quite awesome, but still pretty terrific. When I want to look good, and more important, feel like I look good, I wear the boots.

So if I'm going to wear boots, I am going to wear skinny jeans, so I can pull the boots over them and show them off better. And if I'm going to wear skinny jeans, I better wear something on top that comes down to or past my hips. Because hips, I haz them, and while they were very useful when it came time to give birth, they don't always look the loveliest in skinny jeans.

Which leads me to ...

The long open cardigan. My new BFF, next to my boots.

photo courtesy of banana republic

I have two LOCs, one in white and one in purple. I want one in black or grey, one in brown, and one in either red or yellow or orange - something bright and unexpected that I could wear with my neutral-colored t-shirts and not blend into the background (something I do all too well on my own, without my clothes helping).

I love that I can throw these on over any ordinary outfit and - voila! warmth and style. Or I can wear them with a dressy outfit to add a touch of flair. My mom's a big fan of boyfriend cardigans (and she looks good in them), but I like the flowiness of the LOC.

They are multi-seasonal, too - wear them over long sleeves, and they are great in fall and winter, over short sleeves and they are perfect for spring or even cool summer days.

In short, they are awesome.

So, the coffee shop outfit today? Brown boots, skinny jeans, teal shirt, white LOC, and my own weird eclectic mix of jewelry - brown tigers eye earrings my sister made, gold dove necklace I've had since I was about twelve, the ubiquitous copper cuff, and copper twisted bangle that I made back when my sister was first starting out in the silversmithing (and other metals) business and I thought it might be fun to try my hand at a piece of jewelry, too. The soldering job is terrible, but it's still a fun statement item.

Oh, and I even straightened my hair. It looks nice, but it's tickling my neck more than ever and reminding me rather urgently that I am far overdue for having it all chopped off.

photo courtesy of my husband. I was supposed to be smiling - not sure why it looks more like a sneer.

What's your go-to item(s) in your wardrobe that help you make any outfit a good one?

December 7, 2011

Parallel play

Baby A. is the son of J.D.'s oldest friend, Patrick, and his wife, Jamie, both of whom have become my friends. I don't like them because they are J.D.'s friends and because I have to--I like them for themselves, because I want to.

Baby A. is four months older than Lulu. I actually got my positive pregnancy test the day of Jamie's baby shower. When A. was born, I had just crossed the threshold into the second trimester, and holding Baby A. was a little bit magical for me, not only because he was my friends' kid and I loved him instantly, because I was starting to see that there was one of these soft, squishy bundles waiting at the end of the road for me, too.

When I was on bed rest, Baby A. and his parents came to cheer me up. After Lulu was born, when she finally came home from the NICU, Baby A. was one of her first visitors.

From the very beginning, Jamie and I would laugh about how much fun they'd have together when they grew up, all the adventures/scrapes/mischief they would get into. We couldn't wait to see it happen. We watched to see it happen.

But for the most part? The kids ignored each other. At best they were extremely wary of each other.

Sometimes Baby A. seemed curious about Lulu, and would kind of test the waters by hitting at her. When Lu didn't hit back, he'd crawl away. For Lulu's part, I'm not sure she really knew that Baby A. existed. Sometimes she'd focus her eyes on his face for a second, but then they'd slide away toward something else. Four months was too big a gap; they weren't on the same developmental playing field.

Until this weekend--when Lulu finally caught up. J.D., Patrick, Jamie and I spent the day at their cabin in the mountains...and the kids spent the day playing together--actually playing together!--on the floor in front of the picture windows.

Sophie the Giraffe was the rock that finally broke the ice. Baby A. reached for it--Lulu snatched it back. Baby A. gave up, very chivalrously, and spent an hour or so gently feeding Lu her other toys in the most gentlemanlike fashion. He knows how to treat a lady.

When they got tired of the toys, Lu lay on the floor and Baby A. crawled over her a few times and even got a little fresh, taking a bite or two of her cloth-diaper-covered behind. Then he crawled away to eat a bug. There was some brief static over a bottle that both babies wanted to claim for themselves, but it was soon forgotten. As Lulu fell asleep on the floor, Baby A. stroked and patted her hair. Maybe with a little more force than was strictly necessary, but the right sentiment was still there.

I love that Lulu has a friend. I hope they will be friends their whole lives. And I can't wait to see what kind of mischief they'll get into, together.

November 29, 2011

Family Memories


That's what Thanksgiving has always been about for us. Food is fine, but we haven't always had a turkey. Mostly, it's about spending time with family.

The fact that we had pot roast on the table on Thursday evening, since we were waiting for turkey until Saturday with my mom's family, was completely irrelevant compared to the fact that my little girls were sitting with their grandparents, that my husband was next to my grandmother, and the uncle who lived with us for a while when he was in college was across the table with his wife and son.

My sister and her husband had their Thanksgiving meal with his family, but before they left, Uncle D went outside with Joy and they built a snowman together, followed by a tramp through the fields. Uncle D is my littles' favorite person in the entire world.

Although I think Great-Uncle C might be close in Grace's eyes - she snuggled on his lap most of Thanksgiving Day when we weren't eating, rubbing Shiloh's (the dog) head and sucking her thumb. She was in a state of bliss most of the day.

This photo slays me. Mom peeling carrots; D chopping them; Joy eating blueberries and casting her eyes to heaven in disgust that the adults are not taking her excellent advice on the proper preparation of glazed carrots. Every time any one of us did anything that weekend, a little voice chirped, "I can help!" and a little shadow followed behind. My sister says that when Mom was washing dishes and she (sister) was cooking, Joy stood on a stool between them and directed them with waves of her hands, like a conductor of a symphony orchestra.

This is A, my cousin's youngest boy. He's just a month and a half older than Grace. The kids weren't at all sure what to make of each other at first on Saturday, at GG's, but after playing outside with the bigger boys (Carl, D, and my cousin C), they warmed up to each other. Grace still likes Shiloh the best, but she asked about A all day on Sunday. In this picture, they are reading stories and listening to songs and all three of them humming along. Joy was in her element with two younger ones to boss. Usually we hang out with older kids or babies, so this was great for her.

My memories of Thanksgiving all center around family - grumping about having to sit at the kids' table at Dad's parents', eating caramels and divinity and Mom's AH-MAZING Tollhouse Pie and choking at all the cigarette smoke at Mom's parents'. Somehow, even the smoke, that made my sister and me horribly ill every year, doesn't seem so bad in memory, now. It's all just part of what makes up the family - loud, laughter, and smoke. At Dad's family, it was loud, laughter, and my cousins getting into trouble.

The constant, through every holiday, no matter which family was hosting it? Laughter and love.

And that's what we had this year. That's the heritage my children have been born into. Nothing could make me happier than to see that particular tradition handed down another generation.

I can't wait to see what the second-cousins group photos look like in ten years!

November 22, 2011


Poor Grace. Second-year molars are no fun, especially when you've just woken up from a nap and you mother and sister want to do silly pictures on the computer (mostly because Mamma is trying to put off packing for the trip north to visit Oma and Grandpa and GG and Aunt Zizzy and Uncle David for Thanksgiving).


Those peanut butter cookies Mamma made? Those go a long way toward making you feel better. Though not enough to smile for the camera, still.

That's ok. Your sister will smile for the both of you. She loves posing.

It is, I think, going to be a looong car ride north tomorrow.

November 18, 2011

A run of luck

This has just been an exhausting week. It seems like every water-bearing appliance in my house is conspiring against me; the condo board raised their monthly fee by $50; Lulu had a cold, which she kindly passed to me. And then my managers at work asked me today, very nicely, if I would consider working my full 20 hours next week to make deadline, despite the fact that I haven't taken one lick of PTO all year and was really looking forward to it, despite the fact that from Tuesday through Saturday, I am going to be visiting family 200 miles away from my computer.

This afternoon, I pattered around the house in desultory kind of way, folding random sweaters and seeking pairs for tiny, solitary baby socks, blinking past the aura of an impending migraine. Feeling sorry for myself. Allowing a few tears to squeeze past my eyelids and drop down onto my shirtfront.

And then I found it, at the back of a desk drawer: a Christmas present from last year that I had forgotten about, a voucher from J.D. to a local spa. I had planned to use it for some pre-baby beautifying, but then I was put on bed rest and then Lulu was born, and then in the hassle of NICU and swaddlers and leaking boobs, I forgot.

I turned it over in my hands, which were suddenly shaking with hope. Please don't be expired. Please don't be expired.

It hadn't expired. I picked up the phone then and there and called to book myself a massage, a facial, a haircut and manicure. We have a lot of packing to do, a long car ride ahead of us next week, all the tantrums and nursing strikes that go along with being in a strange place, far away from home ahead of us yet...but the week after next, I have some SERIOUS pampering to look forward to.

And there was suddenly a spring in my step that hadn't been there before.

Then my mother called. J.D. and I are driving down in a few days, but she can't wait to see Lu, and wants to drive up this weekend. If I have anything to do this weekend, she'll be willing to watch the baby and give me a few hours for myself.

Suddenly, I see a way out from underneath my mounting workload. Feeling greedy, I asked my mom if she'd be willing to babysit tomorrow night so that I can go to see J.D.'s band play a show downtown.

"Are you serious?" she said. "I'd love to."

The migraine began to lift.

And now I'm cuddled up on the couch with a steaming bowl of pho to help my stuffy nose, and some illegal episodes of Downton Abbey sent to me by a friend queued up on the TiVo.

There's a saying in these here parts: if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.

There's a saying rattling around in my head after my run of luck: if you don't like your mood, wait half a day.

Because everything just might turn out all right.

November 17, 2011

Gracie Days

I love this picture of Gracie, even in all its blurriness. 

It captures so much of her, her enthusiasm for everything, the speed with which she attacks life, even the open mouth as she takes it all in.

She's getting to be a lot of fun. She's always had a decided personality, but these days we're actually starting to understand it. 

For example: the other day, I asked her if she wanted carrots with her lunch.


"Peas?" I asked.

"Nope! Just hummus and chips."

Note - hummus and chips were not on the lunch menu at all.

A few months ago, that would have translated into tears and frustration instead of her actually being able to share what she wanted.

She ended up with carrots and peas, but at least we were able to talk about why chips and hummus are better for a snack, not lunch.

She can pronounce her sister's name, or at least the nickname, now. I kind of miss the baby babble, but it is sweet to hear her holler, "Hey Joy, what you doin'?" from the other end of the house.

Yesterday I picked her up to take her upstairs for her nap, and she snuggled down into my arms and said with a contented sigh,

"I sleepin' now, Mom."

Babies are darling, but I enjoy kids so much more from age two up. These days are still as full of work and frustration as the baby days, but the rewards, for me and my personality at least, are so much greater. From answering Joy as she asks about all the different definitions for the word "mean," to listening to Grace shriek with laughter as I chase her through the house, or tell me exactly what she wants for breakfast, there's always something each day to make me laugh in delight.

November 15, 2011

Accepting the Frump - Sometimes

"No pictures of me," I told Carl sternly as I handed the camera over to him. Normally the camera is mine, but Gracie was snuggling in my arms, and I would rather cuddle my baby then try to capture the moments of Joy's third birthday celebration in as many weeks. "I haven't showered today," I reminded him.

He grinned cheekily, and started snapping.

I considered deleting the pictures. After all, we had plenty more of Joy opening presents. And these are B-A-D of me - not only do you get the greasy hair, you get the stress breakout, a nice clear side shot of the receding chin, my rounded shoulders - pretty much highlighting everything I hate most about my appearance.

But then I decided to keep them. And not only to keep them, but to put them up on the public blog. Why?

Because sometimes, fighting the frump doesn't mean looking our best. Sometimes it means living in the moment, and looking part the imperfections to the fact that these are pictures of me lovin' on and snugglin' with my babies. These are the moments of mommyhood I really want to capture, not the moments when I actually have washed hair and makeup on, and I am conscious of my posture.

Well, ok, I wouldn't mind if I was conscious of my posture all the time. I really should be. 

But still. 

Sometimes fighting the frump means raising our chin (hey, it elongates our neck!) and stepping out bravely into the world, or in front of the camera, even knowing we are covered in baby spit, wearing yoga pants, with two-day unwashed hair scraped back into a ponytail, etc. Because that's all part of being mommy, and we shouldn't be ashamed of it. We ought to be able to celebrate every moment of mommyhood, even the unglamourous ones.

So I'm keeping the pictures, and I'm not even going to flinch when I look at them.

But I will double-check to see if my shoulders are back and my neck straight.