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Monday, January 31, 2011

Maya's Madness

And here is Maya's...

Our Pocketful of Sunshine

To round out the week, we made two last videos- one for each girl.

Here's Ella's:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Taking our wild animals to meet theirs

Yesterday was Disney's Animal Kingdom, one of the parks I was most excited to visit. Animal Kingdom is the largest of all the Disney Parks, fully 5 times larger than Magic Kingdom (of Cinderella's castle) and home to many wild roaming animals of Africa and Asia. By wild roaming I don't mean out in the Florida Everglades but on a preserve that Disney created by in 1971 (Animal Kingdom itself didn't open until 1998). The best part? The Kilimanjaro Safari Ride takes visitors around the dirt paths of the makeshift savannah so you can see the animals rather close-up and not behind fences or motes.

Disney's message on these grounds is all about conservation, protecting the animals and the environment and educating visitors about how to minimize human impact on their fragile habitats.

My new favorite quote I saw across a massive wall at Animal Kingdom:

"We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." - David Brower

In other big news, Maya finally made piece with the terrifying "Goofer" and Tiana, from the princess and the frog, made another appearance with hair so shellacked it was still place despite an overnight rest on a pillow.  Also, Ella tried out her daredevil skills on yet another intense rollercoaster which scared her (and me) silly.  I know, I know, why don't we just say no?  Because when your timid child wants to do something gutsy you forewarn them and then say yes.  (And hold their hand and encircle their shoulders in a vice grip.)

We saw the "Lion King" and "Finding Nemo" the musical, which were both so spectacular I found myself in disbelief that they put these phenomenal, high energy shows 4 or 5 times a day.  The shows alone at Disney and Sea World are almost worth the admission price, I swear.  I will admit, I had a problem with some serious fluid-out-of-eye leakage at the end of Nemo when dad and Nemo part and the music swells and bubbles pour out of the ceiling. To see the looks of sheer awe on the girls faces as they reached their innocent faces upward and extended their hands to catch a falling bubble.  Oh man...Sandi's dad patted me on the arm and said, "Yup, I've been there."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

As Ange said to us before we left:  this boutique was made for girls like Ella.

A place to make (most) little girls' dream come true:  to become a princess.

And, naturally, Maya with her recently acquired shiner on the side of her forehead, had to do it to.

Disney does a great job with this one I have to say, it's pricey (to say the least) but you get a lot for the price (including a photo shoot) and they make it so very special for the girls. All day, wherever we went in Epcot all the Disney cast members called them "princess."

All in all, the girls felt extraordinary and we felt...well, very ordinary.

But no fears, there will be no pagenting in our family's future!

Sitting "still"

Here are some more stills of our last few days...

Airplane ride: the miracle of a sleeping Maya.

What we use our TV for...except for the girls who watch morning cartoons on their TV.

From Ella: "I think I finally realize how lucky I am to have a sister."

From Maya, rolling over in her sleep: "You are berry, berry, berry bad."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sea World Wonderment

Admission to Sea World = $71 per person

Chef Mickey's character breakfast = $100

Getting lost on the way to breakfast in the Disney Compound, causing upset in the car including some short tempered shouting when the girls wouldn't stop smacking each other in the back = at least one month off my life and yet another debit out of the account of Sandi's patience with Suzanne (hopefully a limitless fund).

The looks on our girls faces all day long = utterly, surely and completely PRICELESS

Sea World is an AMAZING place- a place to inspire any human to bow at the feet (or fins) of animals and revere them for the wonder that they are. They are humorous, enchanting and incredibly beautiful.

Since last February when a trainer died at Sea World at the hands of one of the killer whales, the Shamu show no longer allows trainers in the water with the whales and so, even though the show was still captivating, a different and phenomenal show "Blue Horizons" stole our hearts. Acrobats, dolphins, diving, air-popping tricks made us unable to blink our eyes for even a second.

And, even if the show Shamu has lost some of its original pazaaz, Maya fell whole heartedly in love with "Shampoo" and now carries a stuffed version of him everywhere. Except now that she knows his name is Shamu, whenever we jokingly call him Shampoo she scowls and corrects us. "It's SHAMU."

Here is the next (9 minute!) installment. We've tried to whittle it down but as Sandi reminded me, as much as we want to share these videos with all of you, they are ultimately for our own family album. We won't be offended it you don't watch it all... you can skip below and watch a shorter 3 minute video :)

Love the Water!!

First, this is a must watch.  Second, many apologies to our frigid friends in Maine for showing this during the winter.  Third, double click on the video to blow it up fullscreen and not watch it behind our sidebar pictures.  Enjoy!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Magic Kingdom

 Yesterday was all about the Disney Magic, brought to us in technicolor at Disney's Magic Kingdom.  Sandi's parents came along and we had the best time.  We saw princesses, Minnie and Mickey, watched a parade, rode the boats of "It's a Small World" and scared the bejessus out of Ella by allowing her to go on Space Mountain.

(For the uninitiated Space Mountain is a rollar coaster in the dark which, very effectively, makes you feel like you are being propelled through the depths of space, dodging meteors and black holes while being shot at with lasers in the process. Not for those vulnerable to seizures, anxiety, or impressionable 6 year-old.)

We explained the ride to Ella, informed her of the degree of fear potentially involved and she was adamant about going on it.  She kept saying, "It's not real, right?  It's a ride." We each had our own seats in a row- me in the front, Ella next and Sandi behind. I reached my arm around to hold Ella's hand.  Sandi held her shoulder.

This is by far the most fun ride I went on all day, but I can tell you it was ruined completely by the voices in my head shouting at me, "You are a terrible mother!  How could you let your six-year-old make this decision!  The authorities are going to be waiting for you at the exit!  You will have to sleep with her every night until she's 16 because of the nightmares! She's going to be in a catatonic state of terror when this finally ends!  When is this ride going to be over for pity sake?!"

In all honesty, she was utterly terrified (and said that at one point she said to me, "Momma!  I'm scared!" but I couldn't hear her over the raucous noise) but I truly think that she was proud of herself for doing something SO gutsy.  At least that is the spin we put on it for the rest of the day telling her how tough and courageous she is.

But really, the best way to show you what a good time we had is to, well show you...

(Our apologies that this movie is 8 minutes long but it is hard to distill down such a big day into any less than 8 minutes apparently.)

child leashes, confiscated toiletries and snap dragons

If any of you have ever wondered (as we used to) why such an inhumane thing as the child leash was invented I can now lay all your pondering to rest.

Busy airport + running Maya + arms heavy with bags weighing down your chase response = need for a leash.

We haven't flown in a while and, despite our efforts to educate ourselves about the rules, we ended up with a bag that (although we weighed it on our home scale and it said 38 pounds) was 66 pounds.  This meant a $50 overweight charge in addition to the $25 checked bag fee.  (I did the bulk of my flying in the days when kids could visit the cockpit, you got meals and movies on the planes and the smokers sat in the back.  Paying $25 for a bag is nuts to me, but $50- well, forget it.)

In a moment of serious focus, I pared our overweight bag down by putting some heavy things into the carry-on (an LLBean tote holding only 2 light booster seats, intended for easy navigation with 2 kids through an airport) including the toiletry bag.  I got the bag down 20 pounds (!), saving the extra fee but making for an ergonomically incorrect tote bag that now weighed 30 pounds and had to be carried all over when we changed planes and took off a layer of skin where is was slung over our forearms. Clearly, a barrier in a Maya chase.

The upshot, though, is that we then had our toiletries in our carry-on and our sunscreen, Maya's detangler, and Oil of Olay put us over the allowable liquid threshold and so Sandi had to thrown them away since our checked bag was already gone.  (Ironically, the man "helping" us was the Carver's former Schwan's man who now works security at the Bangor airport.  And, while he is a nice guy, he did not offer us any frozen chicken with the news.) For a family who doesn't waste much, throwing $25 worth of brand new toiletries doesn't sit well.

Overheard from our girls first air travel:

Ella, regarding the airplane toilet: "This is the coolest bathroom I've ever been in."

Maya, upon descent into Philadelphia, said to Sandi: "You pinched my ears! Yes you did!"

We were beyond thrilled to see snowless palm trees and green everywhere when we landed.  While I can't say it is summer here (mornings starting in at 28, but 60s during the day) I truly can't believe that our home is sitting empty and shivering in below zero frigidness and that 3 days ago I spent 90 minutes digging our driveway out of a blizzard.

As a one time extravagance, we rented a convertible- a gorgeous, sleek, silver mustang.  I said it was for the fun of the kids, but Sandi knew better and gave just a few sighs of disapproval when our luggage wouldn't fit in the tiny trunk.  I mean, how ironic is that?  How much a reminder that the free flying days without kids is no longer?  We can't even FIT into the smokin' car of singlehood.  Sandi had to ride with a giant suitcase on her lap.

We put the top down as we rolled out of the airport (in the brisk 54 degrees) but the squeals coming from the backseat were worth it.  I knew everyone passing us was shaking their heads and thinking "Northerners" as they bundled up for what they considered cold here in Florida. Crazy mainers.

So we traded snow shovels and wool socks for lush green grass and blooming snap dragons (FLOWERS people! There are FLOWERS down here!).  And, of course, Minnie and Micky...

Friday, January 21, 2011

(almost) packed out and, after the blizzard, headed out

We are going to be in the air tomorrow at this time.

That would seem REALLY awesome if there wasn't SO much to do between now and then.

This is my first real, grown-up, plane flying, resort staying vacation.  We depart for Orlando tomorrow to stay for a week, most of which will be spent at Disney and Sea World. 

The girls are beyond excited and everyone we talk to says, "It will blow them away" "they will have so much fun"  "they won't believe it."  So, once the laundry is washed and folded and packed, the pellet stove is cleaned, the carry-ons figured out, the dog secured at the kennel, the house cleaned up, oh and I run 9 miles, I will be ready to be blown right out of this blizzard we are having, and to sunny Walt Disney World.

The girls are beyond excited.  Their high points so far?  The plane, the rental car and the fact that the breakfast with the characters we are going to MIGHT serve dessert with breakfast.  Priorities. Maybe we could have saved the $1200 theme park tickets and just flown to Florida to eat some dessert...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

mealtime, overhauled

First, thank you friends for your comments. It has boosted me and inspired me.  (We loved Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution- when we had cable- but I have thought of it as on ongoing resource.)

Last January we put our kids through Food Boot Camp- a self-created masochistic approach to getting our kids to eat more nutritiously and to end the insanity of making double meals (one for us and one for them) every night.  It was RIP to tofu soba noodle stir-fry for the moms and chicken nuggets and applesauce for the kids.

And largely it worked.  When the tears subsided and their culinary repertoire was extended to include salad, pasta with sauce (instead of just butter), fish, non-nugget chicken, green monster smoothies and turkey sandwiches as well as a massive volume increase in fruit consumption....well, I guess maybe there was some laurel resting on our part.  Then summer came and school started and then the holidays and our kids with their tiny appetites soon were just not hungry enough at mealtime to want peas, carrots, broccoli or corn (our go-to vegetables.) 

Mealtimes became tense power struggles with lots of complaining, cajoling and bargaining again.  We would sit down for family meals when Sandi was home and when she was at work, I would try to sit down with the girls but by the time I got my own food ready (usually a salad) they were already bitching about their meal, demanding refills on drinks, needing to go to the bathroom, and any other distraction under the sun.  I found myself short of breath and dangerously irritated with them.  How to win?  Be their mom and sit to eat and be stressed out or be their waitress?

We knew it was time for an overhaul again.  The words of our pediatrician over a year ago rang in my head, "Feed them what you eat.  Don't make separate meals.  They won't starve, I promise you.  They may be hungry for a few days but they will eventually eat."

I have to give credit where credit is due.  I have no problem towing the hard line and being firm.  I can let the kids go to bed hungry. I can be unwavering if need be.  What I kind of suck at is making it fun, appealing and motivating for the kids.  This is where Sandi comes in. 

She started by settling on one key food she wanted the kids to start to eat as part of their diet- brown rice.  From the book "Healing with Whole Foods", Paul Pitchford has this to say about brown rice: "Brown rice, like whole wheat, contains a plethora of nutrients, including magnesium, that all but lost during milling into white rice....In addition to reducing blood sugar levels, rice bran (the coating on unrefined brown rice) is thought to be one of the most nutrient dense substances ever studied. It embodies over 70 antioxidants that can protect against cellular damage and preserve youthfullness."

Product Details

And if you are looking for any more inspiration about whole foods (I was) read what else he has to say: " The most vital, bitter-tasting parts of whole foods are the ones refined away, often discarded, put in nutritional supplements, or fed to animals.  Yet the bitter part include magnesium, selenium, antioxidants and dozens of other nutrients that we need in order to avoid the stress and ills inherent in the twenty-first century lifestyle.  Most of the general public fails to realize the protective and rejuvenating benefits they miss and the suffering they incur when eating denatured foods.  But, considering the lack of vitality of many people today, the time is ripe for whole-food awareness to manifest widely.  If a nutrient-starved nation can rediscover the potent value of these grains, a land of excess should soon become a land of moderation and abundant health."

Imagine that.

We've done a ton of (expensive, I will be honest) grocery shopping to basically overhaul most of our food supplies.

Then we did a ton of cooking and juicing (of carrots, cucs, beets, apples and even a garlic clove thrown in to spice it up.)

We also got a stand up freezer for our basement so that recipes could be doubled and dinner sized portions could be immediately frozen (which also serves the added benefit of reducing my stress of making supper when I'm alone with the girls.)

homemade granola:

and granola bars.
(Recipes to follow)

This week I also made tofu meat balls with sweat and sour sauce, cottage cheese pie, an autumn vegetable gratin, tahini/balsalmic dressing and we made an enormous batch of vegetable soup.

So, with a little imagination, firmness, and good old fashioned fingers crossed hope, we set off to introduce new and amazing foods, in their purest form, to our kids.

We let Ella dim the lights for supper, put things in tiny bowls, placed a candle on the table, stopped dessert for a while and brought out our tin box of dinner games- little index sized cards with games you can play at the table with kids their age.

We started holding hands and saying what we are thankful for.  The kids LOVE this part.  Maya always thanks us for whatever is on her plate, which in turn makes her eat it because she has claimed gratitude for it.  (She sounds like a starving person "Thank you for the rice and water." "Thank you for the noddles and water.")She reconvenes grace about 10 times a meal just so she can do the "squeezy" part with everyone's hands at the end.Ella is usually grateful for some event or time spent or person, and sometimes for one item on her plate.  Sandi and I bring in the more abstractly spiritual and it all balances out perfectly.

And the most amazing things are happening. 

Both the girls now LOVE brown rice AND soba (buckwheat) noodles. The other night they ate veggie/lentil barley soup for supper.

They are THRILLED when they get any dessert.  Here is Ella enjoying a vanilla yogurt frozen pop we made from popsicle molds.

The girls are getting really into it.  Here is Maya helping me make vegetable stock.  We take the pulp left from juicing, add some water and boil it on the stove then strain it and push it through the food mill.  It makes the most INCREDIBLE stock (and consequently soup) we've ever had!

Ella asked me just before we started this why I had to boss her around about food so much.  I told her it was because she wasn't making good choices for her body, which was true.  I am also letting her choice more things for herself, but choosing between two acceptable options.  And we still let her get pizza for hot lunch once a week as a treat as long as she eats some (nutritionally compromised) fruits and vegetables. 

I'm not a complete hard ass after all.

But you want to know the most amazing part?  Our girls are HAPPIER.  They are in better moods, overall.  I swear it is true.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Maya cries nearly everyday getting on boots and (god forbid) snow pants.  She cries about them feeling wrong on her feet, the jacket being to tight around her wrist, the mitten being anything less then plum on her hand.  Yesterday she screamed, "BUT IT'S NOT PERFECT!" about how her jacket was zipped onto her person. She is obsessed with seams on socks, bunching arm sleeves and the inseam of her pants- all things that are unidentifiable to any other human eye as a problem.

It gets old. 

And Maya doesn't just whimper a bit.  She cries and screeches at full volume. 

This morning Skyler, having noticed an obvious pattern, said to me, "Does she do this everyday?"

Well it sure seems that way.

conflict resolution

From the McGraw kindergarten lunch room:

A little girl asked me (by way of challenging my deeply set desire to be my own individual self and STILL be a mother): "So whose mom are you?"

Another little girl (the girls really crack me up) waved me down frantically with a complaint about her neighbor.  Feelings crushed, forlorn look on her face she pointed to the boy across the table and said, "He said he would only be friends with me on Fridays."  It was Monday.

He was kind of smirking.  I asked him if he would like it if a friend told him he would only be friends with him on Wednesdays.  He shook his head quickly from side to side.  He quickly apologized for hurting his neighbors feelings with a friendship schedule.   She grinned and said, "That's okay!"

We could SO learn how to handle world conflict from kingergarteners.  Imagine if we call up Iraq and say, "We are really sorry we wanted to protect our oil supply and so we declared war on your country and came in here and haven't ever left.  We don't know what we were thinking."    I'm not sure, "That's okay!" would exactly be the response but an apology is always better than no apology.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Recently I saw two things that scared the shit out of me.

First, a girl of about 10, sitting on a bench in the grocery store while her parents shopped, reading a book, her gut hanging out over her pants.

Second, a pamphlet at our pediatrician's office for a program to address childhood obesity.  Grade school kids can now have a "team" of professionals, doctor, nutritionist, trainer to help combat their weight problems.

I've heard this talk for a while now about fat Americans, and worse, fat American children.  But I was like an ostrich with my head in the sand, looking around at only my super healthy friends and their kids who are all perfectly proportioned. 
Then I went to our town's indoor pool.  Then last summer to the beach.  I sat with my mouth agape.  Oh, my goodness...this is what all the talk is about.  School age kids with the enormous bellies of a beer-drinking couch potato. Just think of how almost impossible it will be for these kids to be a normal weight as an adult.  They will have all those hungry fat cells to feed for the rest of their lives, not to mention a likely host of physical ailments and diseases. 

I know I'm going out on a limb here, but this feels a bit like child abuse.

Hospital and doctors offices now have those "couch" seats that are twice as wide as a conventionally rooms waiting room chair.  The rate of childhood Type II diabetes, previously reserved for the middle-aged and, usually, overweight, is on the rise.

And all the while physical education has been cut to 2 days a week at Ella's school, TV watching is at all time highs and her school cafeteria offers chocolate milk everyday of the week.  Does anyone else see the irony of this?

Recently, I wrote an email to the director of food services for Ella's school district about the chocolate milk.  As a lunch volunteer, I know that about 95% of kids get chocolate milk every single day.  I told her I wondered if it could be reserved for Fridays, offered that maybe it would be better for these young palates to learn to like plain milk along with healthier food so their taste buds and appetites won't be slave to sugar, fat and artificial flavor.  She responded with the patent: "We think it is better for kids to get the milk into them and they drink more if it's chocolate."

I backed down when I hit resistance but recently have gotten fired up about it again and I think I'm going to try to challenge the school policy (and I'm sure make a ton of friends in the process.)

The third thing that happened that scared me silly is that a dear friend's mother, a vibrant, healthy woman living the model lifestyle, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  How could she, of all people, get this insipid disease? The prevalence of cancer, even in the healthiest of people makes me certain that there is a strong environmental component.

Sandi has been reading this book about eating whole foods (as in unrefined, unprocessed) and we have been having lengthy discussions about food and nutrition for ourselves and our kids.  I said to her, "Maybe in order for the general population to start taking pesticide use more seriously there needs to be some massive outbreak of sickness to wake everyone up. (Pause)  Oh, yeah, everyone is getting cancer and still the poison on our food is legal."

As a result of all these startling awarenesses, we have been doing some major revamping at our house.  We've aimed to not buy things in boxes unless they are minimally processed or organic, to try to eat foods in the their most whole, unadulterated form, to buy more organic and swallow hard when it is prohibitively expensive and to be unapologetic about demanding better nutrition for our kids- at least within the wall of our house. 

Their little bodies develop only this one time and it is our job to give those growing and multiplying cells the best chance they've got. 

There is a TON more on this...stay tuned.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

long haul parenting

I am such an idiot.

I remember last year, being in the thick of it crazy-wise with the kids, especially Maya, wanting to pull my hair out and craving something that required use of my brain cells rather than my (very poor) referee skills.  A mom, with teenage and college age kids said to me, "You know it just gets harder. Little kids, little problems.  Big kids, big problems."

I smiled and thought, inwardly:  Clearly you have amnesia. Obviously you don't recall what it is like to have people scream like they are being axed when the zipper is stuck on their coat, to have them take off on you in public venues, to hit and spit and shove their sibling over a plastic pony.  Oh, and you must not remember what whining sounds like.

This past week I have spoken with a few moms who have older kids.  They are dealing with issues such as drug use, blatant disrespect, looking back across 18 years of parenting and wondering how their best intentions resulted in a nearly grown child who shows no signs of the individual they thought they were cultivating.

My 8-year-old niece is dealing with catty girls from her Girl Scout Troop who taunt her, tell her she is not wanted in the group and one who told her she was going to come into her room at night while she is sleeping and hurt her.

Don't even get me started on the puberty, sex, alcohol thing.

A few weeks ago Ella wore one of those fun jester winter hats to school and one of the kids said she looked like a clown and now she refuses to wear it.  Forget that I explained that the kid likely wasn't being mean, that it is a jester hat and jesters were clowns...she won't wear it.

So this is why I'm an idiot-  I didn't BELIEVE the mom who told me.  I just tried to humor her as she said it. Actually, it wasn't really an option to believe her.  I don't think in that moment I could have handled the thought that what I was doing was the EASY part.

Now, along with my other mantras (You will miss this and Surrender to the moment)  I think I have to add this one:  small potatoes.   It has to be no big deal when Maya draws all over her humidifier and our newly painted wall, when she poops in the tub and pees the bed for the third time this week.  It has to be no big deal when Ella changes her clothes 3 times a day, lies right to my face about something insignificant and screams bloody murder in a boy-who-cried-wolf manner in the absence of any real emergency.

I held Maya's hand tonight while we snuggled in her bed.  I tried to memorize the slightness of her fingers and the tuck of her head into my neck.  Small potatoes. Yes, I do believe that mom was correct.  I will take these little problems in the safety of our house, rather than the big problems waiting outside our door.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Alternate title: Frosty the Runner

Week 1 of 18 for our training for the Sugarloaf Marathon ended with a frigid "long" run of 8 miles.

I can tell you that, while it is in a marathoner's best interest to learn to look at 8 miles as a run around the block, this morning our 8 mile long run deserved such a standing.

You see, it was a mere 1 degree.

Just one, teensy, tiny degree.

Let's start by going over what one wears to be running in cold that would freeze wet hair in the instant you go to start your car after you shower and before you blow-dry.

On bottom: silk leggings underneath poly/nylon blend running pants, Smart Wools on my feet, toe warmers tucked into my sneakers.  On top: all long sleeved- silk shirt, technical running shirt with thumb holes, turtleneck fleece, windbreaker, mitten-gloves with hand warmers, balaklava and hat.  That actually doesn't even sound like enough but, due to the hand and toe warmers, it was.

I was so very grateful, as always, to have two of my five Sole Sisters (that is our official running group name now) running with me because I had to work through hard thoughts such as: I want to stop now.  I want to turn around now, not in 2 more miles.  Why do I do this to myself?  If I can't run faster than this, I don't want to run.  What if I have to quit at 7 miles?  What if I have to stop and walk and I freeze into a sweat-frozen igloo right here on the side of the road? How can 8 miles feel so hard?
In reality, your body just has to work WAY harder in single digit numbers. To be honest, I really wasn't cold but I know that it took a lot of bodily energy just to maintain normal temperature.

Two things cheered me enormously (I am not counting my friends because that is a steady given):  the morning was stunning, everything dusted with silver and sparkling in the early sun, and the warm tea and muffins Emilie's mom Beth had waiting back at her house.

We decided to run a different area and so stared and ended at Beth's house.  Seeing her beautiful face would have been incentive enough, but a warm house to begin at and return to?  In addition to muffins, coffee and tea?  Color us lucky.

(Regretfully, I didn't manage to get a smiling picture of Beth but I couldn't NOT post a picture of our lovely host.)
The table...set with hot drinks, food and two Garmins.  Must be a runner's post-run meal.
I did tell Beth that we run the risk of being truly spoiled to have such luxurious treatment after a run.  She told us to come back all six of us and she would make us a big breakfast. We already RSVPed.

Anyone else want to host us?

(For an awesome description of the entire of our Sole Sisters team , check out Emilie's post about how it all came to be:  I am just a fortunate add-on to the original group and feel so very blessed to be.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Most recent edition of the funnies:

According to Maya...
Instead of udders, a cow has "milkers."

It's Santa and Mr. Clause that delivered the goods. (Is that a child exposed to diversity or what?)

As we get ready to go to Disney World, Maya is talking a lot about "Goofer" rather than Goofy. Big Bird is "Mr. Bird" and Maya is slightly afraid of him.

The number eleven is "eleventeen."

The other day when I went to get her out of the car she looked up at me lovingly and said, "Momma!  You're hair looks beautiful!" 

And I heard myself say to her while we were having a family snuggle in our bed: "Maya if you pick your nose and wipe your boogers on my pillow one more time you will get out of this bed."

Maya said me the other day when she was hanging up her coat: "See my hookers?" in reference to the loop with which to hang it.

When she couldn't get her finger in the raisin box far enough to scoop them out she yelled: ""My raisins are broken!"

She's had a runny nose and doing a lot of sniffling and finally she yelled: "I'm trying to get the snot back into my nose!"

I hear her say to things that frustrate her: "You're driving me nuts!" and I am certain I have uttered these words in more tense car related moments laden with crying and whining and unauthorized seat belt unbuckling.

And, my personal favorite, Maya LOVES to announce her joy.  In any random moment, when the feeling overcomes her, Maya yells out: "I'MMMMM  HAPPYYYYYYYYYY!" 

I think we would all be better off if we did this.

And from Ella...

On the way to school I asked Ella and Skyler if they had any interest in the Mandarin Chinese club.  "It would mean I would bring you to school a little early on Tuesdays and you could learn to speak Chinese."  Ella replied:  "Nah.  I care more about having play time in the morning."  Skyler said, "Well, I care about both Chinese and play time but I choose more play time."

"Today, at school Callie's tooth was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,  very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very wiggly.  It feel right out at snack time.  She couldn't find it.  Will the tooth fairy still bring you something if you can't find your tooth?"

(On a similar note, our 4-year-old nephew, Brevan, lost his first tooth and refused to surrender his tooth for the Tooth Fairy.  "Will she bring me $100?"  he asked.  The answer, reasonably was no. "Then I'm not giving it up.")

Auntie Krick, Brevan's mom, got the girls matching dresses for Christmas.  Unfortunately, Ella's is too short and if she isn't careful her undies show.  She has been very resentful about it and went on a bit of a tirade:
"Who made this dress anyway?  Was it some weird man?  Don't they know how big a six-year-old is?  Have they ever seen a six-year-old?!  I love the dress.  It is so beautiful and now it's TOO SHORT! I mean, it's not fair!  Maya's dress is long enough and fits her!  I think they did it on purpose!"

We went to my mom's choral concert in Camden and after the second song, Ella leaned over and said, "I didn't know a song could sound so beautiful."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ella: future esthestician

Since we got rid of our cable (and have, joyfully, never looked back) the kids are SO much more creative.
They run into the house and go find something to play with (or they chase me down with inconsequential things like straightening a sock hem or dealing with a minuscule spider that has crossed their path) and often they play with each other. 

Ella got a make-up kit and a headband making kit for Christmas. Voila!

Here they are working on some very important project, which they are doing this very moment.  I can hear Maya singing her Christmas medley of about 5 combined songs, Ella directing her this way and that and Maya's running feet stomping around and yelling "I'm here Ella!  I'm here!"

And all the while it does this outside:

causing nearly all of the state of Maine to be closed including Ella's school which I almost took her to but thankfully my friend Ange informed me that she might not have school .  I guess they preemptively closed school because the blizzard was moving up from the South (we didn't see a flake until 9 AM) but I would have been driving the lone mini-van into the lot this morning because...remember?  WE DON'T HAVE CABLE.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

the last of Christmas 2010

Here are some more pics from the Christmas season that I just love.

First, assembly of the yummy plates we give to our friends and neighbors. There were 21 in all this year.

Ella, future thesbian.  (No, I did NOT say future lesbian.)

And who can resist Maya, as rough as a hurricane surf, demurely dressed in her self-selected outfit:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

gotta get some sugar(loaf)

I was pleased as punch to have committed to another marathon.  (And equally pleased that our whole running group is on board.)

And May seemed, really, like a distant mirage in the January cold. 

Then Emilie gave me the training schedule (that I requested.) 

I told her I wasn't sure I could run 10 miles right now in a winter race the first week of February. I ran 4 in the freezing my ass of cold yesterday morning and was looking forward to stopping.

"Well, you're gonna run 8 next Saturday for our first long run,"  she replied.

Suddenly I was a little less sure of my grand plans.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011...ready to go

Last year I set a few New Year's resolutions (a phrase I don't particularly like, so allow me to say I set some intentions for the year.) 

Here's how that went:

- join Facebook (yup)
-find out why asparagus makes pee smell (yup)
-run a marathon (yup)
-be able to do 5 unassisted pullups (nope- still at 2 1/2)
-take a real vacation (had a long summer vacation at camp but have a real, plane-flying trip to Disney in just 2 1/2 weeks)
-obtain a Kitchenaide mixer (yes- thank you Martha)
-learn to make brioche (jury is out on this one- I made it but it was only marginally good)
-learn the balance of sanity, joy, fun and rest (did I think I would get this in one 365 day span?)

My intention for this year can be summed up in my previous post regarding my children.  I want to see them for who they are, appreciate them for where they are, enhance their being and living and expressing by keeping my own agendas separate (or maybe putting them in storage and in a year's time forgetting why I needed them?  One can hope.) I want to relax and enjoy them more, let Ella put make-up on my face.

We have big changes as a family.  Sandi has been accepted to graduate school at The University of New England to become  a nurse anesthetist.  She starts in September and will be traveling to Portland (2 hours away) for classes Tues, Wed, Thurs.  This means she will be gone overnight 2-3 nights per week which sometimes doesn't seem like a big deal and other times seems like we just signed ourselves up for a spot at the funny farm.

So I have decided to do the only logical thing I can think of...I've decided to run the Sugarloaf Marathon in May and, hopefully, the Mount Desert Island Marathon in October.  And Sandi and I are planning to bike the Trek Across Maine (a 3 day 180 mile bike ride for the Lung Association) in June.  That is my equation to counteract stress with exercise.  It is the only math I really understand.

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 3, 2011

the bipolar nature of parenting

On the real Christmas day (which I spent the morning at home with my mother and the afternoon  at my sister's) I found myself irritated and in short supply of patience.  I wasn't sure what to make of the day that was Christmas to everyone else and felt a lot like another day of single parenting to me.  I drove home from my sister's house in the dark December night, passing houses adorned in colorful lights, and cried most of the way.

I guess the resounding theme was this:  it sucks to be the one person responsible for making a day or event incredibly special for children.  Of course I had my family with me but I still felt a touch sorry for myself.  The pressure of knowing that they would only be 3 and 6 this one year and that I wanted so much for Christmas to be magical and memorable...but of course, this wasn't really our Christmas day.  It was made 100 times worse knowing how sad Sandi was to be in the midst of dying and tragedy all day. I don't have great memories of my childhood Christmases and, naturally, I want SO much more for my kids.  But that night, feeling the weight of such a responsibility resorted me to tears.

So really the theme under the theme is:  What if I'm not good enough at being a parent to be a good (or because I'm a high achiever, great) parent?

Before school vacation I was so fed up with getting Ella out of the house in the morning.  Three out of five mornings a week there would be yelling and usually some crying (on both our parts).  I felt so frustrated with her disinterest in getting herself ready, my having to nag and my lack of patience to handle the incredibly irritating situation.  After all, aren't I the grown-up? I thought maybe she needs to spend less time with me.  Maybe I am not good for her.  Maybe I am stomping on her spirit. Maybe I was not cut out to be a mom.

These are not the finest moments of parenting.

Yet, then we have our non-Christmas day celebration of Christmas and all is well- harmony and love and devotion abound and I wonder how any other moment of wanting to run out of the house to escape the whining of my children could ever possibly exist.

Trish got the girls a digital photo frame for their bedroom for Christmas and each night I lay in bed with them and watch their babyhood scroll before my eyes.  These are the moments that shift my perspective back into place.  I realize how fast they are growing. I realize I will never hold them as babies again. I realize that, for all the tax of this young part of their life, it will be gone in a blink of an eye.  I am more tender, more present, less interested in looking for a quick escape from bedtime so I can finally have some coveted time alone or with Sandi.  This is how I want to feel everyday- I want to always (or the majority of the time) TREASURE my children.  I want this so much that it makes me ashamed when I don't have it or feel it or express it.

We took the tree down New Year's evening, after the girls were in bed to minimize the closing of Christmas for them. I was a mess.  As I sorted their ornaments into their assigned boxes (we get them an ornament of their choosing every year and they have had many given to them) I became (somewhat irrationally) overcome with grief.  Grief as I held their little Sesame Street ornaments and their soon-to-be-lost innocence when Grover and Elmo no longer hold appeal.  Grief that someday they wouldn't be awed by the magic of Christmas, when time with their moms won't be the center of their world, when (heaven help me) they would take their boxes of ornaments to THEIR houses for THEIR trees.  Grief that next year they will be a whole year older and Maya's little voice won't sound at all the same when she sings her foreign language version of "Deck the Halls."  I kept telling myself that they were right upstairs sleeping- my grief was so profound it was like I had lost both of them for good.

Sandi wrapped me in her arms as I was, by then, sobbing.  "You're killing me,"  she said, through her own tears.  Then, trying to be helpful, "You know we still have a few years left."  But this only reinforced the inevitable end of our children's childhood and made the cut that much deeper. 

It doesn't help that I am very sentimental and have a flair for the emotional, but I swear I welcome these experiences of emotional bareness.  Like the baby photos, it is the thing that puts me where I long to be- looking through the lenses of appreciation and wonder and love at my children rather than those pesky, smudged glasses of irritation, crankiness and humorlessness.

I don't wish for babyhood back, that is for sure.  I remember what Maya was like as a finicky baby- when we couldn't go anywhere or do anything because she was a time bomb ready to howl, cry or scream at a moment's notice. I would kind of like to freeze the girls at 3 and 6 since there are so many ideal things about this age- the imaginative play, the hilarity of what they each say, their independence, their boundless affection, their curiosity, their innocence, their awe of everything.  Since I have no such capacity for age freezing, it is my most profound wish to simply be present in this moment and appreciate it.

So when we go to visit Sandi at work this afternoon and Maya is running like a banshee through the hallway of the Intensive Care Unit and through the hospital corridor yell-singing "OLD MACDONALD HAD A FARM!  FA LA LA LA LA! LA LA LA LA!", when Ella can't follow a simple direction such as "please put on your underwear" because she is busy gazing at the way her mouth twists in the mirror, when they are simultaneously complaining about and rejecting supper and begging for dessert, when Maya hugs me and nearly pokes my eye out, when they argue over a washcloth, a chair, the right to sing freely in the house and all the while the cat is eating supper off the table and the dog is peeing on the floor...I must breathe and surrender.

To the crazy, to the fun, to the moment.

Because the theme under the theme under the theme is:  these are the moments that make up my life and I want to relish them because I don't want to miss a minute of my living.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas: a week late and utterly perfect

To sum up our family Christmas this year I would have to say: GRATEFUL.

Grateful that Santa came 5 days later than his usual rounds.  Grateful that having it on a alternate day did nothing to diminish its wonder and magic.  Grateful that we selected the perfect gifts for the girls to reflect what we want for them, imaginative, creative, self-expressive FUN- nary a battery in sight for their toys and at one point Ella said, "Mommy and Momma give the best gifts to me because they know me the best."  Grateful that with all our family and friends we always make a special Christmas day for the four of us where we don't leave the house and we are simply present for each other.  Grateful that there was no arguing or bickering.  Grateful that after Santa's reindeer left bells for the girls in the lawn that did NOT jingle that when I went back out later I found one I had missed that DID jingle. Grateful  that we somehow have managed to teach our kids about the spirit of Christmas and it was palpable in our house on our special day.  Grateful that we took 8 hours to open gifts because we stopped and played with everything, took time to play, to snuggle, to eat, to love. Grateful that there was no ripping and tearing and not once did I hear "What else did I get?"

Santa had filled the stockings with goodies and ate all his cookies and milk.  Good Santa. He also left the house spotless. Perhaps he is more charitable and has a surplus of time when it isn't Christmas Eve.  (Something to keep in mind in the future parents.)

Mrs. Claus choose two lovely matching dresses for the girls (as requested) and hung them in garment bags fashioned out of wrapping paper.

But the grandest of grand gifts:  The Dollhouse.  Requested by Ella and decided by Santa to be given to BOTH girls.  Funny, Santa can get away with that sort of thing.

A kit for Ella to design her own fairy by tracing on vellum paper each part of the fairy using beautiful metallic colored pencils.
Since Maya doesn't care too much about toys and would rather do things that we do, all the gifts we got for her were to allow her to participate in regular activities and/or develop her motor skills.  She got this cool beading kit...

 her own pouring pitcher with child-sized tumblers.,

building logs and her own mini clothes basket and drying rack complete with tiny clothespins.

There was lots of time to snuggle, which was good because Ella was  bit under the weather, and no one was in a hurry (a rarity).  No one needed to get anything done, do any laundry, go to school, go to work, make a phone call or run an errand.  So instead we watched "Miracle on 34th Street" and well...

we remembered how it all started, the journey it's been and just how utterly blessed we are.  And, truly, the gifts under the tree dimmed in comparison to the love and appreciation in our circle of four.
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