That’s my girl.

IMG_0097My 5-year-old girl: “Mommy, did you know that some boys wear dresses?”
Me: “Yes, that’s true. I did know that.”
My girl: “Oh, I didn’t. People used to tell me that, and I would say it wasn’t true. But now I know it is true. Some boys do wear dresses. ”
Me: (Smile)
My girl: (Smile)

Nice personal growth, sweetie. Keep up the good work. #winningatgrowingup

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Egg-cellent

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If you are looking for an excellent how-to guide on how to make the perfect Easter eggs, you’ve stumbled in a very wrong direction, my friend.

I somehow managed to do a lot of things wrong when preparing to color our eggs this year. How difficult can it be to complete a craft from a $2.99 PAAS kit? Apparently, quite difficult indeed.

In fact, I’ve been doing at least one thing wrong for many years now according to Slate. This article recommends you never, ever actually boil your hard-boiled eggs. Which kind of makes me wonder why “boiled” is in their flippin’ name, but I digress.

So I got started off on the wrong foot, boiling the crap out of my dozen right off the bat. In fact, I even took a pic of my beautiful rolling boil (which I thought was the point) before seeing this piece. Ahh, well. Strike One.

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After the well-meant stove session, I immediately soaked my eggs in ice water then put them in the fridge for our dyeing delight later in the day.

It wasn’t until I pulled them out of the icy air late in the afternoon that I read on the box: Do not use cold eggs! Well, fudge. Strike Two.

Next step was just filling the little plastic cups with water and dropping in the color tablets. Connor managed that part just fine on his own, and I added a drop of vinegar to all the cups … before reading the next sentence: Do not use vinegar in red or purple dye! Double fudge. Strike Three!

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(You’d think as someone who reads and writes for a living, I might actually take a gander at the instructions before starting a project. But, alas, no.)

Here’s the most beautiful part of this whole experience, though: It all worked out, and really well, despite all the errors.

The kids and I laughed through the hiccups, deciding just to press on and see what happened. It could be an experiment, I said, and maybe later next week we’d do it again the “right” way to see if it turned out differently. I was almost a tiny bit disappointed the eggs turned out so well, as there is not much to test against in another trial.

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But I was mostly pleasantly surprised and relieved the eggs turned out so gorgeous. I think it has a lot to do with having a good foundation: We started with brown eggs, and if I can give you any serious advice on coloring eggs, it is this. Use brown eggs. The natural hue makes the end result rich and warm and lovely. I’m a big fan.

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Again I’m reminded of my New Year mantra: Don’t let the perfect ruin the good. I’m a perfectionist by nature and, though this can be an asset, it can also be a bit like being having a huge albatross permanently attached to your back. Especially if said albatross is constantly whispering, “You could do better.”

However I’m (very slowly) learning that perfection is unattainable, so striving towards it is futile.

It’s a simple yet liberating idea. Things don’t have to go perfectly to turn out wonderfully. I don’t think there would have been half as many giggles today without the little Uh-Ohs. And I doubt it would have been half as interesting to share the story if it had gone smoothly. Those little things that appear to be obstacles are sometimes just the spice of life. And we all need a little extra flavor now and then.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to grow and be better every day, because we should. But forget about “perfect,” it doesn’t exist. Mistakes are not only OK, they can be fun!

To put it another way, even if you f*ck up, life can still be beautiful, so no need to freak out about the f*ck-ups, ya’ll. My completely non-solicited advice of the day.

Hoppy Eggster, everybody!

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Spring-a-linga-ding-dong!

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Hello, Sunshine!!

Where have I been the past week or so? One word: Outside.

The month of March always seems to bring me a slightly nostalgic feeling of simple joy. It’s like I’m suddenly waking from the coma called winter, and I remember how to enjoy the littlest of things. Feels like childhood, if you will.

A drive down the street turns into the Fourth of July, as we endlessly “Oooh” and “Ahhh” over the pink and white blooming trees and bursts of purple and yellow flowers.

I feel a sense of freedom as we all slip out the door without jackets.

Sunshine. Laying in the grass looking for pictures in the clouds. Kicking around a soccer ball in the grass. Frisbee. Tennis ball fetch with the dogs. Playing with a hula hoop on the back patio for an hour. Converse without socks and even – dare I type it – flip flops (yes, I wore them comfortably today!).

S U N S H I N E.

I am overcome with a desire to be outside all day long. Whether we load up the little red wagon and head for the park, hop on our bikes, or just crack a beverage and lounge around in the yard, I’m happy to completely forget we even have a house, much less it’s never-ending list of chores. (Didn’t I just clean that bathroom two weeks ago, anyway? It can wait. Besides I hear germs are actually good for your immune system.)

And once the sun is shining on my face, working outdoors is a welcome responsibility (except, of course, picking up the dog poop). I love gardening, and weeding – in small spurts – is my idea of a good time lately. The kids love it, too – C is actually a decent digger, while Ona likes to look for wiggly worms. We have great plans for a sweet container garden on the deck, planting in the next week or so. (I’m thinking cherry tomatoes and snap peas, any other locals have suggestions?)

This year we are very excited to be trying our first hummingbird feeders, thanks to our dear Nana and Papa for sending us the goods. Hope to soon have some cool pics to share of our small and speedy feathered friends!

Oh, and because of the sunshine, we are able to enjoy our cool solar lights again! They’ve been dormant and dark with the rest of the world the past few months, but now are full of sparkling light ‘til the wee hours. I tried to take a picture for you, but it didn’t do them justice. Take my word for it – they are neat-o.

Did I mention the SUN?? Because I really do enjoy me some sunshine. In case you hadn’t picked up on that. And our hot little rock-star fireball is back in all its yellow glory, from wake-up to bedtime (at least the kids). Except when it’s cloudy or rainy, which it still is at times, but it’s so much better. I can’t even tell you.

Here’s to warm, bright days ahead for all …

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On Weeds

**CAUTION: THIS POST CONTAINS WEEDS SEASON 8 SPOILERS**

[I admit: I really like watching television, especially on Netflix or Hulu (less commercial interruptions). Everyone needs a show or two (or 29) that entertain, amuse and provide a well-deserved escape from our regular scheduled programming. Used introspectively and in moderation, TV watching, like everything else in life, can be a valuable tool in making our own choices. We can learn from the mistakes of the bumbling idiot Homer-types, bask in the wisdom of Carol Brady-like moms, and protect the world from vampires and demons with the naturally buff ones such as, well, Buffy. So, that’s why I’m talking about the boob tube here today, and probably will again in the future.]

**SPOILER ALERT ** SPOILER ALERT**

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If anyone can make me feel a little better about my parental ability, it’s Nancy Botwin.

Weeds Season 8 is on Netflix and I’m two episodes in. I have to say, Ms. Nancy usually irritates the crap out of me. I often wondered if the show would be better off without her, because I really like most of the other characters much better (the poor saps).

But as she lay lifeless in a drug-induced coma, nursing the bullet wound in her head, I was surprised to discover I missed her. It was kind of a Duh moment, when I realized, Of course! She is the classic love-to-hate persona. What would the show be if we didn’t have our beloved anti-heroine to judge, despise, laugh at, and, yes, even root for at times?

Her selfish, depraved, insane choices in life make me feel a bit better about my own little mishaps. “Well, at least I’m not a drug-dealing, sex-addicted egomaniac, and my kids haven’t killed anybody yet. We’re doing OK,” I can say.

So I was happy when she was up and about by the second episode, and even welcomed her new Pollyanna-esque view on life. My heart was as warmed as anyone else’s when she thoughtfully gift-wrapped and shared her special cookies with the hospital patients at no charge. This defies the very essence of her being. What charity! What pureness of heart! I mean, as much as giving away free pot-filled baked goods to the terminally ill can be.

It’s easy to enjoy her adorable little attack of conscience because (I’m calling it!), it won’t last. She’ll be faced with some tough choice later on in the season, and pick (anyone??): Nancy.

But let’s move on to a few other themes. I’m wondering about Shane’s sudden affection for the police academy. This could be a good thing for him or an extremely dangerous, horrible thing for everyone else. His instability continues to worry me.

Doug continues in his role as a humorous distraction to the ridiculousness of the Botwin clan, but did anyone else find his coma-groping a tad creepy? I know, of all the things in the show to bother me, and yet, it did.

Andy. Oh, Andy. Nancy’s sister? Could anything be more cliché and doomed for failure than this? As my favorite character, I feel for you, man. Part of me wishes you’d stayed in Copenhagen where you seemed mildly happy and somewhat free from the madness; the other part is having a hard time looking away from the car crash.

And the little infomercial for the vagina weight? Priceless. I’d like to say I didn’t Google it, but …

The S&M is new for Silas … are we to assume he’s now an in-control grown-up manly man? Okie doke. Mostly I’m just glad he’s blond again.

Ahhhh, Botwins. It’s so good to have you back.

Well played, iPod. Well played.

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As I sit here working, I’m contentedly bopping my head along to the music playing in the kitchen. All seems normal and good, until I fully listen and realize I’m getting my jam on to Yo Gabba Gabba’s Hold Still. And there’s not a kid in sight. (Don’t worry, they’re around here somewhere.)

Perhaps the more alarming aspect of this statement is that I’m completely fine with it. I’ve grown accustomed to children’s music. In fact, I even enjoy it for short stints. I am not embarrassed to admit this. (OK, not very embarrassed.)

But not everyone is so lucky to have my weak and impressionable flexible and accommodating nature, which allows me to cheerily sing along to The Laurie Berkner Band. I’m married to a music fanatic who loves a wide range of music from hip hop to folk rock to jazz to metal. His tastes are eclectic, but they do not include kid bop.

For example, on a recent jaunt, he switched the moppet mix that constantly streams in my car to random shuffle in the hopes of hearing some “normal” tunes on the drive.

First song, a rousing recording of kids singing Ain’t No Bugs On Me, which Connor immediately joined in on, making it impossible to skip.

Next came Sleigh Bells Ring (this one really got me giggling, as he is not too fond of holiday jingles even on December 25) and Ona happily shrieking at the first note. Trapped again.

But he patiently sat through both, and when the next children’s title popped up (which of course it did) he quickly skipped it before either child noticed and lucked out with a track from The Black Keys. But not before we both had a good laugh.

I suppose I get the aversion. Children’s music has been labeled as overly peppy, annoyingly catchy and totally devoid of any artistic merit. Which may be true from a grownup perspective but let’s face it, most kids (and many adults) love it. There must be a reason it resonates.

Perhaps it is the lively, upbeat (or lullaby-like soothing) nature of the songs. Or the topics, which are all the major themes of youngsters’ lives right now: loosing teeth, starting school, making friends, holidays, birthdays, bedtime, siblings, making mistakes, making choices, growing, food, playing, camping, sports, toys, games, dinosaurs, space, monsters, even puppy love.

The kids hear the words and realize they are not alone in all this. Others out there have the same interests and struggles and vivid imaginations. On the same vein, I am suddenly immersed in kid-important issues, making it easier for me to remember what’s going on in those beautiful brains and hearts.

Of course, there is also the valuable learning hidden between the notes. I try to appreciate education in any disguise. Even if they deny it when asked directly, most kids love practicing skills like counting, rhyming, memorization and alliteration.

And let’s be honest, on days when my brain is mush and it’s school carpool time, there’s a certain peace and satisfaction in putting on the kiddo’s favorites and letting us all take in some sweet life lessons and silly scenarios through the sounds of music. I can focus my mind on driving and not playing word games or looking for orange cars.

Maybe that’s why I love my kid bop. It’s yet another friend lending a helping hand in my parenting realm.

The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.

Bring it to the table

About six months ago, I felt like we’d entered a new stage in our family life. Ona was turning two, Connor was starting kindergarten, and I finally reached a point where I remembered not only do I know how to cook, I also very much enjoy it.

(Apparently I need about 730 days to get my food-making brain back after giving birth, as the exact same thing happened when Connor reached his 2nd birthday. It was a short-lived stage, however, because Ona was conceived soon after and we reverted back to feasting regularly on a variety of Trader Joe’s prepackaged goodies.)

But now, family dinners are in full swing, and we are reaping the benefits. I’m thrilled we are enjoying healthier, home-cooked cuisine almost every night and saving a little money with less restaurant time and meal planning. I’m also digging the creative release I get from trying new ingredients and tweaking recipes to suit our particular tastes and needs.

I have to admit, though, that’s all just (ahem) icing on the cake. It is another little bonus that has really sparked my desire to (forgive me) cook up this master plan of regular table time.

It’s not so much about the dinner as it is about the family. The whole process is something we do together. The kids help prepare the food by chopping, pouring, and stirring. Connor and Cory set the table with the necessary utensils and napkins. Even Ona grabs her own fork (sometimes two) every now and then. Once we sit down to eat, we put away all outside distractions: no phones, no computers, no toys, no books, no magazines, nada.

It’s just us, sharing food and our sparkling wit.

Well, the wit part may be a stretch, I’ll admit. Mostly we end up playing games: The Color Game (everyone takes a turn naming colors without repeating any until we can’t think of any more), The Zoo Game (“I went to the zoo and I saw a {blank}.”), The Superhero Game (Describe a superhero while the rest of the players try to guess the character.), The Dinosaur Game (see The Superhero Game and replace the word ‘superhero’ with ‘dinosaur.’)

Cory and I do, however, attempt to fill each other in on little details of our day during all the delectable diversions. It sometimes gets a little confusing recapping our lives in the midst of shouting out “Lavender!”, reporting a recent sighting of a walrus at the zoo, and asking questions like “Are you a carnivore or an herbivore?” but it all works out.

Another fun development involves my instinctual gravitation towards flavors from my childhood. For example, one of our current favorite desserts is the same pudding sundae my mom made for me and my sisters (one layer chocolate pudding, one layer whipped cream, another layer chocolate pudding, a dollop of whipped cream on top.) I tell the kids about my own mom, who did not buy pudding from the store in a tub like us, but made it on the stovetop. Then she used lovely clear glass sundae cups (I have to find some for us!) to serve, but she made them before dinner and put them on display in the fridge so we had to salivate over them FOREVER. How many times was I scolded for opening the refrigerator door just to glimpse their brown-and-white deliciousness?

When I share this little memory with my own children, they take it all in with big eyes and toothy grins. I try to imagine what their little brains are envisioning: Mommy as a little kid, slurping down dessert and laughing with girl versions of Aunt Jen and Aunt GiGi. I adore the incredulous looks they pass back and forth, with slightly raised eyebrows and crinkled eyes that seem to say, “Are you buying this?”

I remember exchanging those same glances with my sisters, and in a flash I realize I’m witnessing the bonds of siblings form right before my very eyes. How cool is that.

It’s a rare moment of clarity: I am so fortunate to be part of such an awesome family.

In the immortal words of John “Hannibal” Smith, I love it when a plan comes together.

All you need is love …

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Happy Valentine’s Day! How can you not have fun with a holiday that involves crafts with colorful paper, safety scissors, glue sticks, glitter, and lace?

Well, I found out this year as we bought our cards, but Connor still painstakingly chose and filled out each one with tremendous affection for the recipients. Ona sort of scribbled on a few and then went off to be distracted by a shiny object in the other room. I felt a bit like a slacker in the creativity department, especially when we received some really nice handmade cards from friends, but we all enjoyed the day just the same.

Next year maybe I’ll be more ambitious … but I’ll probably just Ooh and Aah over the amazing ideas on Pinterest and then hit the dollar store again.

But we did do cards, so that’s an accomplishment in itself! It always feels more like Valentine’s Day when cards are involved. And lots of chocolate, of course. I plan to pick a red wine with dinner, as well, so color me festive. Hope you all also found the perfect way to celebrate for You!

And mad, mad, mad, mad love from our home to yours!

Like mother, like son

7957795548_991816cc9cThere are a lot of things I like to think my son has inherited from me – his love for making (insanely creative) art, a totally corny sense of humor, the ability to enjoy an impromptu dance party in the kitchen for no other reason than Dance Yourself Clean starts playing on Pandora.

I’m more than happy to take credit for the good things.

But there are things about me I’d rather my children not inherit, like my terrible eyesight, my vertically challenged frame, my fiery temper, and most definitely my intensely timid nature.

Yet early signs are pointing in that very direction. My sweet Connor is – so far – a very cautious child. He has passed on countless activities – which I really think he would have enjoyed – simply because they make them too nervous. Perhaps because it means he would have to go without Mom or Dad, or Mom and Dad are there but on the sidelines, or maybe it just involves a wild mob of party people and a piñata.

If he was fine about not taking part, I’d support him. Smell the flowers just quietly, my little Ferdinand, I’d say.  (Insert your best cow joke here, book fans.)

But I can see the internal struggle as he starts to put on his coat with a brave smile … then flings it down again crumpling in a defeated heap.

“I want to go, but I don’t want to go!” he cries woefully.

And I kind of want to bawl right along with him. I feel my muscles tightening, my jaw clenching, my blood pressure rising …

I get so worked up about Connor’s inhibition because it strikes a very familiar nerve. I was an extremely introverted child, and I am not a naturally outgoing adult. I’m much more comfortable tapping out my thoughts and feelings on a keyboard than opening up to even the most kindred of spirits.

(Luckily, my dear friends understand this about me and love me anyway. Thank you so very much, by the way.)

So this shy scenario? It reminds me of my own painful issues, and I just don’t want him to have to deal with that crap. I know, he has to have limitations. But not my limitations.

Because if his struggles are the same as mine, then isn’t it my fault? I must have passed them on in utero. If it weren’t for me, would he be happily trekking all over creation, eagerly meeting new people, and excitedly trying interesting things??

Instead it seems he is in turmoil at times. And I get how he feels in those moments, maybe a little too much. Instead of my experiences making me more nurturing and soothing when  he’s melting down, the guilt and bad memories just stir up irrational anger. Not at him, of course, but at myself and the Universe. But unfortunately he probably feels my cross mood, which in turn I’m sure just makes him feel more anxious.

Ugh. I’m creating a vicious circle here.

Deep down, I know I just need to back off and let him find his own way. I’m working on it. I’ve been focusing on deep breathing and counting down from 1o in my head to stay serene when he needs calmness the most. All the things I tell him to do when he’s upset, but I somehow forget to role model when it really matters.

He’s only 5, after all. I do understand this could just be a short-lived age-appropriate developmental stage he is in right now (fingers crossed). After all, there have been a few breakthroughs. He talks about the (the) time he went to the neighbor’s house to play by himself, and he was scared at first but he went anyway and he had such a good time he didn’t want to come home.

“Remember, Mom?” he asks, eyes bright with pride.
“Yes, love,” I reply. (I don’t remind him of the 20 minutes we struggled to walk out the back door. Then 5 minutes to step off the patio. Three more before we open the gate. Ten to walk from our yard to theirs. A 30-second trip took 40 minutes, but whatever. It’s progress.)

I need to remember this feels much more extreme right now because we are in the moment. Very likely, he will develop his own self-confidence and courage at his exact right time. And having a supportive, sympathetic (not pushy and controlling) mother in the background will do nothing but help him find his way.

In a blink of an eye, I will probably be re-reading this post with a heavy heart knowing my son is becoming assured and independent, and he is also pulling away from (sniff) me.

I will think, What the heck was I complaining about anyway??

Hair of the Dog(s)

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No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich.” – Louis Sabin

Especially if dog hair was a valuable commodity.

For those animal lovers out there who welcome furry little beasts into their families like ours does, do you ever wonder how much pet hair you and your loved ones consume on a daily basis?

I pondered this question while grinding coffee this morning, as I removed a hair caught in the lid. A few minutes later I felt a something odd and pulled a rogue strand out of my mouth. Then I turned around and saw Ona eating spilled cereal off the not-swept floor. Huh.

Maybe it’s more of a dog issue, but we will never be rid of the mass amount our dear Odin and Lelu shed. It’s a never-ending stream. It’s incredible in volume. I’m surprised they aren’t bald by now.

It’s simply part of our existence now, embedded into our lives just as tightly as the hair weaves into the fabric of our furniture, never to be separated. Just like our dogs in our hearts.

Let’s face it, even though the cleanup can be a pain, that hair is big part of why we love our furry pets so much. I’m sure turtles, fish, and porcupines are nice, but I can’t say I’d enjoy a snuggle with them. I would assume the word “pet” was derived from the fact that people loved to pet animals, at least those with hair. We very much enjoy the comfort that soft hair brings when our furry friends curl up next to us.

We love them because of their fluffy coiffures, not in spite of them.

Even if it means we have to invest in an industrial vacuum that we have to employ hourly. Which we probably could should.

Maybe we should be more enterprising and produce something worthwhile from it, like these people. But really, who has the time. (Or the inclination.) Strangely impressive, though.

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