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Tiaras and Trucks

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Finding The Magic Room - A Book Review

A snowstorm almost kept my mom and me at home, but we put on our Michigan driving boots and drove to the bridal store for my appointment to try on dresses.

I had an appointment to try on a dress during a trunk show, and any bride can tell you that the discounts you can find at trunk shows might be worth a few extra minutes of driving time.

We slid our shoes off at the door, ice and snow immediately glistening into puddles in the cozy store, temperature elevated enough to make it comfortable to slide into strapless dresses while frigid weather raged outside.

I had tried on wedding dresses with my friends, but this was my first trip with my mom. I thought I knew what I wanted, and I wanted her to see it before I purchased the gown, though I was paying for it myself.

A gorgeous magazine photograph was carefully pressed into my wedding binder, yet the dress lacked something as I twirled in front of the mirror.

A little disappointed, I started trying on other dresses, including a fabulous, and out of my price range, ball gown that made me feel like a princess-one wearing way too many pounds of lace and tulle.

Seeing my eyes slide to a lovely and simple dress across the room, the sales consultant brought over a dress I may not have noticed on my own. Without embellishment, the strapless gown impressed me with its simplicity and the sheen of the fabric.

There were tears in my mom’s eyes, and she’s not the crying type.

I bought the dress.

April 23, 2005

I can’t imagine how exciting it would have been to try on my dress in the Magic Room, a specially designed room in Becker’s Bridal in Fowler, Michigan, a room designed specifically for women who think they’ve found the gown they want to wear while walking down the aisle.

The Magic Room, by Jeffrey Zaslow, chronicles the stories of several women as they purchase dresses from Becker’s Bridal, a store owned by the same family for several generations.

Not all of the stories found within The Magic Room are fairy tales, not all of the brides live happily ever after, some of them facing tragedy before their weddings and some finding pain after their vows have been exchanged.

Still, Jeffrey Zaslow writes about parents and daughters with a light hand, lovingly telling their tales in such a way that it’s not surprising to learn that he is a father of girls himself.

He also writes of statistics and facts surrounding the wedding and the wedding industry, but the magic in this book is found in the hearts and hopes of the brides Zaslow chronicles within the pages of his book, not the least of whom is Shelley Mueller, owner of Becker’s Bridal, the one who imagined the Magic Room and brought it to life.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the small sense of pride I felt reading The Magic Room, and knowing that a small town in Michigan was the home of such a special place to so many women.

Join the discussion about The Magic Room at BlogHer, where it’s the latest selection from the BlogHer Book Club!   Did you have an "aha!" moment with your wedding dress?

I was provided with a copy of The Magic Room to read and review as well as compensation for my time, courtesy of BlogHer and Penguin Books.  All opinions, as always, are my own.


Monday, December 26, 2011

My Little Elves

As usual, I was a little behind with my Christmas tasks, so on Christmas Eve Eve (what? that's not an official holiday?) I set up a sweat shop* consisting of four children under four. 

The almost two and one year olds dropped out quickly, after swiping a couple of cookies for their own use.  I guess I'll consider them the quality control department?

Abbey and Brendan worked diligently, and we frosted and sprinkled all of my cookies for the year.

Days pass at a glance lately, preschool and dance lessons and play dates and errands and museum trips enrich our days but make for a whirlwind of car rides that sometimes force me to check my little planner several times a day to see where we need to be.

Abbey brought home a gift for Ryan and me from preschool on her last day before break, handmade paper painted and glittered into a crinkly package she insisted I open even before Daddy got home. 

It cradled a homemade ornament; her smiling face peered at me from in front of a tree at school, and tears sprang to my eyes at the thought of how quickly her first school year is rushing by before my eyes.

Last year, our little elf helpers couldn't have frosted and sprinkled cookies with minimal supervision, knowing better than to lick the frosting over and over or to pour the sprinkles directly on the floor.

In the new year, I vow to take the time to slow down a little and cherish these moments with my babies even more than I already try to do.

Our schedule probably won't change too much; we all like being on the move, and hunkering down inside the house might work for a few days, but we'd soon be looking longingly at the car and the calendar for something more to do.

Yet, I can find moments in our invited chaos to savor the present.

I can turn down the radio and chat before turning it up to sing along to our most favorite songs.

I can encourage their stools in our crowded kitchen instead of trying to entice them out from underfoot with Legos and crayons.

I can grab a brush and watercolor paint with one hand in my planner instead of a hand in my planner, another sweeping the floor, and another folding laundry (what? you didn't know moms grow an extra hand when necessary?)

I can do my best to keep my mind present instead of racing off to our next adventure or my next task.

I can enjoy them.

Because these moments are fleeting.

my mom's sugar cut-outs
Abbey's best friend is the son of a Certified Master Chef
it looks like talent runs in the family

*If you've ever decorated cookies with four year olds, you know the idea of a sweatshop is laughable.  It took more time and effort to clean up the errant frosting globs and sprinkles than it would have to frost them myself.  But they were the sweetest and cutest helpers ever!
I'm pouring my heart out a couple of days early this week
a new book review is coming Wednesday
(Michiganders, it features a Fowler bridal store-bring on the Mitten Love!)


Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Season of Anticipation

our first Christmas party of the season
one hand on his fire truck
the other on his Dinosaur Train book

Planning sends a little thrill through me; sitting down with my calendars and highlighters and favorite pens to map out the month or doing research on hotels for vacations both make me a bit too giddy.

Anticipation for events might be my favorite part, or at least it was until I had kids.  Nothing beats the light in their eyes when they're in the midst of a trip to the beach or bouncing into Grandma's house for a sleepover.

Christmas Eve gathers anticipation and gratification together and ties it together with a glossy red ribbon.

Our family gathers in our hodge-podge of traditions-shrimp cocktail and beef on weck and lasagna, sugar cookies and pumpkin bread and fudge, a shrimp and cream cheese dip always served in my mom's Waterford dish.

working on her new laptop
Scented candles perfume the air, mingling with the scent of her spruce tree, and the house always seems warm and inviting, and when you're a child, presents are never opened soon enough.

Yet the joy of the night is still just a preview of the magic of Christmas morning.  Christmas Eve, my favorite day of the entire holiday season, is the soft kiss on the forehead of a sleeping child, promising a new, exciting adventure with the light of dawn.

Merry Christmas to you and your family this year.  And if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you enjoy the weekend and the anticipation of 2012.

a million thanks to Shell for the
giveaway that made this picture happen


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dressing Up Pine Cones

I hear whispers of an elusive thing called "quiet time," an event where an older, non-napping child plays by herself in her room while her younger brother takes a nap.

Abbey gets the memo about quiet time and gleefully covers it in glitter and cut up construction paper and asks for more crafts

Recently, we visited a friend and abandoned a pine cone craft due to overly sappy, damp pine cones, but thanks to her neighbor, we left with a bag full of cones ready to be used once they dried out a bit.

Glitter crafts mean we wait until naptime.

this is the face of a girl who would rather make a mess than take a photo

What we used:

Pine cones
Spray craft bond
Fine glitter in pink (NOT red, Mommy!) and green
Large glitter in silver and gold

fine glitter coats everything and generally makes for better crafts
but Abbey doesn't exactly have a light hand with the shaking
we balance it out with the larger glitter

What we did:

covered the table with a giant plastic bag

I held the pine cones and sprayed with craft bond
(the spray glue is great for holding glitter, but it's definitely not for the preschool crowd to use without supervision-sticky and messy)

Abbey shook the glitter over computer paper so we could pour the extra back and use it again

What we did with a glut of glittered pine cones:

Let dry on plastic placemats
Gathered on a cake stand
They're currently in the middle of our dining room table


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Elevator Scrooge

Scrooges confuse me, too

Lights are twinkling on our tree, and I’m curled up on our couch, filled with pizza and a little wine and the contented feeling built on conversation with close friends.

We spent the day reading Abbey’s new Christmas book and making hair bows at a play date, and I finally felt like I was able to breathe and enjoy the chill in the air that signals it’s time to remember my scarf each time I leave the house.

Yet a few things linger in my mind, prompting me to purge my thoughts in the hope that they’ll be exorcised and allow me to enjoy my chopped-off-at-the-top tree with only the holiday spirit brewing in my mind.

Dylan and I waited patiently near the elevator door at our bookstore today, and anyone who’s been shopping with Dylan knows that patiently waiting isn’t his usual shopping demeanor.

When he happily says, “Tank oo” as the elevator doors opened and hold onto the rail on the side of the wall, it is a little out of line, Ms. Lady-on-the-Elevator, to shoot him a withering glance and say, “Well, THAT’S not necessary.”

He may not understand, but I do, and it makes me want to press the stop button on the elevator and make you late for your next stop.

Please know, as I attempt to explain to my daughter that the candy canes in the end cap are cherry and not mint, it is only partially an accident when my cart bumps into your rear end as you cut in front of me in the awkward line at the grocery store.

As an ambulance screams down the street and I pull over to the side and slow to a stop, don’t shake your arms and yell at me. I can see you in my rearview mirror.

I know it takes me a while to load groceries into a car and two kids into car seats. Honking at me as you wait for my parking spot doesn’t make wrestling a toddler in a winter coat any easier.

Holiday shopping and waiting in lines and driving in extra traffic are the dark side of the holiday hustle and bustle, and I know they can be annoying. And really, these things that struck me as utterly rude at the time really aren’t that terrible.

Still, as I run my errands tomorrow, I will try to smile and hope I’m not on someone else’s list of exasperating holiday shoppers.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Making Real Holiday Memories

Our Christmas tree this year is a little more Charlie Brown than Rockefeller Center, gaps in the branches letting in the light streaming through the windows.

Despite the promise shown at the store, our tree has proven to be the final cog in my husband’s case for an artificial tree, an argument that began on Thanksgiving Day, when my brother proclaimed they were getting an artificial tree this year.

My reluctance to leave our real fir at the curb for recycling for the last time has less to do with the joy I get from a real tree and more to do with the memories hidden within the branches already shedding needles at an alarming rate.

I can see my parents walking up and down rows of trees, holding one than another at arms’ length, gauging the straightness of the trunk, the symmetry of the branches, the ability to hide the sparser sections in the corner of the room.

I can feel my nose tightening in the cold, breath warm within my scarf, digging gloved fingers deeper into my coat pockets as I pushed snow around with the toes of my boots.

The warm blast of air from my mother’s kitchen floats through my mind, wrapping me warmly in the anticipation of knowing we would have to wait patiently, maybe as long as twenty-four hours, before the branches relaxed from the cold enough to hang ropes of gold garland and multi-colored lights.

My family’s prized ornament gently hangs on my mother’s real tree in the same spot each year, a faded red candle my dad made in first grade is always front and center, out of the reach of little fingers not yet ready to understand that paper and glue can be more valuable than delicate glass bulbs.

These memories hang in my mind tied to the sap-infused branches of a real Christmas tree.

Artificial trees come out of boxes.

My lower lip trembled into a pout at the thought of giving up a real tree, the thought of depriving my kids of those memories pulled freshly to the surface each time I smell the freshly cut branches of a Christmas tree.

So I sought the words of the wise Dr. Seuss:

Memories and magic and tradition aren’t linked to the tree.

They’re linked to my mother’s no-nonsense choice of a tree short enough to be easily decorated by my short family.

They’re linked to my dad’s eyes sparkling bluely between his beard and a Carhartt hat.

Next year, our tree will likely come from a box, twinkling with hundreds of already-attached lights.

But our holiday memories? Those will come from me.

Every MONDAY join us…
Write, post, link-up, share your story and your voice.
Be part of carrying the weight of confidence and share our mission
to empower, inspire, and remind
women, parents and children

that the time has come to celebrate ourselves!

Just.Be.Enough. is back to an open ended theme:Be Enough Me.
What gives you that be enough feeling?


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Under the Tree

Long after the Santa myth had been dispelled, I looked forward to Christmas morning. Brightly wrapped boxes held the reminder that there was magic in the world.

My mother has an uncanny ability to shop without a list, finding treasures that are just perfect-books I wanted to read, journals to spill my thoughts, lotion in my favorite scent-treasures that show she pays attention all year long to figure out what I’d love to receive.

Now that I am the one doing the wrapping and know the secrets of the majority of the boxes nestled under the tree, I find that the anticipation of Christmas morning is a little different. My eyes don’t search for the gifts labeled with my name but focus on the expressions on my children’s faces as they pull open paper and tape and discover their own treasures inside.

Finding joy in gifts seems a little like cheating during the holidays; I know there’s so much more to the season than the material things that tumble out of Santa’s sack each Christmas Eve.

But Abbey and Dylan remind me that the magic found in gifts doesn’t have to be about the price tag or the quantity of gifts they get to unwrap. They’re amazed by the paper and the opening and the idea that there’s something they wanted hiding within a box.

Their excitement makes me realize that Christmas surprises are gratifying for the gift giver in a whole other way than they are for the receiver. It’s a way to show you’ve noticed a want or a need and have worked to find a way to grant that wish.

The surprise doesn’t have to be wrapped in paper or tied with a bow. It can be an offer to help make dinner or watch someone’s children for a few hours or relinquishing the remote for the evening.

Surprise someone you love this Christmas. You won’t regret it.

And you won’t regret watching this video. It will infuse a little extra holiday spirit into your day.

This post is sponsored by T-Mobile, but all opinions expressed are my own.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Taking a Field Trip

As I put together little gifts for Abbey's teachers this year, I thought a little about the countdown that inevitably happened around this time of year when I was in a classroom.  Kids and teachers start to look outside for signs of snow and begin to mentally calculate how many more times you would have to hit the snooze button before the holiday break.

When I left the classroom two years ago, I fully anticipated going back to teaching at some point.  I'd love it if you would come over to Theta Mom today, where I'm talking about how blogging has made me reassess those plans.

I'm beyond honored and thrilled to be pulling up a chair and hanging out at Heather's place today.  Her blog is one of the first I followed, and her community button might have been the first one I posted on my own blog. 

She's a supportive, authetntic, generous blogger, but she's more than that; her entreprenual spirit and drive to grow her site into a brand and a media company is truly inspiring. 

If you're visiting from Theta Mom, welcome!  I’d love it if you looked around a bit.  Feel free to listen in as I write to Abbey onher first day of school, remind myself about what matters, and disagree with (way ahead of me in the writing game) Stephen King.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Crossing Off My List

Earlier this week, I undertook a holiday tradition that fills me with both anticipation and dread. Not a visit to Santa or trying to find a parking space at the mall after ten in the morning, but the annual photo calendar making.

We make calendars each year for a few different people on our Christmas lists, people we’re pretty certain like looking at photos of our oh-so-adorable children every day.

Setting up the calendar as a year-in-review has worked well each year, leading to the anticipation portion of my emotional roller coaster.

Last January, my little man turned one, smearing frosting all over before tossing the cupcake onto the floor. His sparkling eyes and few-toothed-grin brought tears to my eyes as I looked over to watch him carefully stacking Legos in a single-stacked tower.

I gathered photos together, Abbey peering over my shoulder, asking about pictures and telling me her own version of the events as they appeared on the screen. I pulled her close, straining to remember when her hair smelled like baby shampoo and not the adult Aveeno we use now that her hair is grazing her waist.

Looking back on the year is my favorite part of the process, seeing their baby faces smooth into toddlerhood, the sparkle of joy in their eyes as they do something new, the silliness of Abbey’s favorite dress-up clothes.

The dread lies in finding the photos I want to use.

Though I try to keep the overabundance of my pictures organized in a way that makes sense, when it comes time for the calendar, my system seems inadequate.

Live On is a fantastic new site that could help immensely with next year’s calendar. It allows you to capture your photos in a timeline of memories-birthdays, vacations, June’s countless trips to the zoo.

I love the idea of looking back at my year as a collection of moments, drawing my favorite photos from the days that meant so much to our family, even if those memories are something as small as a Saturday at the cider mill.

Their promise to keep your memories forever is another factor in my decision to try Live On’s timeline, along with their Time Capsule feature. Capturing memories for Abbey and Dylan is so important to me, and I appreciate that Live On pledges to keep my memories intact for them to look back on years from now.

For those events that occurred before the digital age, you can use Live On Rewind to digitize photos and videos to add them to your Live On timeline.

My dad did something similar for my grandmother’s old home movies, and I can’t describe the thrill of seeing her as a young mother, pearls and lovely dresses making her look a little like Elizabeth Taylor.

Next year, using Live On might make my calendar task a little more jolly!

Interested in Live On Rewind? Use the code HOLIDAYREWIND for 30% off LiveOn Rewind.

Thank you to LiveOn for sponsoring this blog post. Please visit LiveOn to learn more about sharing and preserving your most important memories. I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective. Although story ideas were provided, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Santa, Then and Now

Christmas 2010
Abbey happily sat on Santa's lap
She really, really wanted a dollhouse
Dylan happily sat on Santa's lap
He was quite the snuggler (and still is!)

Christmas 2011
Dylan barely noticed Santa; don't you see that choo-choo?
Abbey wanted to make sure, "Dylan wasn't too scared of Santa.

Christmas 2011
The thaw came when it was time to talk about the gifts
She really, really wants a new doll
Dylan really, really wants to make sure
Santa's not planning to sit on the train

Creative Kristi Designs

thank you Tonya and Natalie for hosting such an adorable link-up
have you linked up yet?
there's prizes...


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Celebrating Victories with Cake

along with a birthday cake, my parents got a new kitchen this September
my dad's birthday celebration happened in the living room
cake tastes good anywhere

My dad is a cancer survivor.

Thanks to successful chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he beat cancer and has been cancer free for over twenty years.

That's more than twenty birthdays and more than twenty birthday cakes since a frightening diagnosis.

The American Cancer Society believes birthdays are special:

We believe every birthday you celebrate is a victory. Another year that cancer has not prevailed. Your birthday means everything to us. That's why we're dedicated to creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Thanks in part to our work, 11 million cancer survivors will celebrate another birthday this year. But we can't stop there. With your help, we can create a world with even more celebrations, more laughter, and more birthdays for all. Join us.

Every September 29th, my dad celebrates another victory.  I can't imagine my life without him, and I would love it if you would watch this video (it's under a minute!) and help The American Cancer Society fight for more birthdays.

This post is sponsored by American Cancer Society.
All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

I Meant to Stop at the Tree Stand

With December’s calendar moving into overdrive, I’m making lists and adding stars and exclamation points and trying to figure out if I’ll ever be able to highlight more completed tasks than I add new ones each day.

Our highest priority Sunday was getting our Christmas tree. As usual, we seem to be racing against time to find a fir that meets my aesthetic standards and Ryan’s financial ones.

Needing our tree stand, Ryan pulled the rubber storage totes from the attic.

Dylan snoozed on the couch after falling asleep to Christmas music on the way home.

Abbey immediately wanted to dig into the shiny, sparkling, trinkets packed away so carefully last January. Visions of checklists pushed aside the dancing sugarplums of our beloved ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Hoping to quench her decorating thirst, I pulled the stockings and stocking holders from the box, clearing our mantle onto my little desk, hanging our four stockings across the white molding.

Despite pleas to play with something besides the holiday decorations, she pranced down the stairs, cradling a box of colored glass balls.

Almost reluctantly, I walked up the stairs for the ornament hooks, bringing her stool over to the wall where we decorated our giant candle holder with purple, gold, red, and green bulbs.

Her eyes sparkled more brightly than the ornaments, her spirit transfixing me to our task.

My eyes snagged on the mantle, the stockings looking lonely below our oversized mirror.

Minutes ticked by.

I adjusted poinsettias and filled a flower bowl with ornaments, moving things around and adding lights and oversized red balls behind the stocking holders.

More minutes ticked by, starred items pushed back and pushed back again.

We wrapped pre-lit garland around the banister.

We filled the tree with water, Abbey hurrying back and forth, Dylan using his “careful” walk, both hands clasping a small cup as he proceeds with deliberate steps towards the tree. 

Abbey fastened the oversized buttons of the tree skirt, smoothing and adjusting it until she was satisfied.

I’ve written twenty checklists. I have starred items and circled stars and made little notes in red Flair pen.

Minutes slide into hours, and my priorities shift into place, my to-do list forgotten until after bedtime.

this week's theme was priorities

Every MONDAY join us…
Write, post, link-up, share your story and your voice.
Be part of carrying the weight of confidence and share our mission
to empower, inspire, and remind
women, parents and children

that the time has come to celebrate ourselves!

Next week we are going back to an open ended theme:Be Enough Me.
What gives you that be enough feeling?

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ready for Visitors

Holiday decorating with the kids is an exercise in patience and wonder, creativity and futility.

Perpetually behind, our tree has finally been purchased but won’t be decorated until at least Monday.

Our real tree, a little too tall for our dining room, needs to sit overnight and let its branches relax from being tied up and together in the cold.

In typical preschool fashion, Abbey keeps asking when the branches are going to “fall off,” picking individual needles off the wood floor to prove the tree is ready to be adorned with ornaments she has already begun taking out of boxes.

Amazed by the colors and the sparkle and the pinpoints of colored lights around the house, Abbey and Dylan are fascinated and eager to help, and it’s impossible to keep their fingers off the holiday trimmings for long.

We're one day into decorated mode, and I’ve determined that unless Ryan or I are in the room with them, the stockings can’t be hung by the chimney with care. We’ll need to flip them up and toss them on the mantle, ruining the photographic effect but saving a little noggin from a tumbling stocking holder should Dylan decide he needs to pull his stocking down to investigate the choo-choo further.

Adding festive embellishments to a house already teeming with toys and books and laundry in various stages of completion seems impossible.

As Ryan pulled the rubber totes of Christmas décor from the attic this weekend, he just shook his head at the amount of baubles that would soon be competing for space around our home.

I’d like to think we could welcome visitors at any time during the holidays, which means keeping on top of organizing and cleaning.

Too many years with a sports-enthused husband means the old adage “the best defense is a good offense” comes to mind.

I tend to keep a small sweeper plugged in and leaning into the corner of my dining room, letting me quickly vacuum up crumbs from meals and errant pine needles a few times a day.

Snacks and beverages other than water are supposed to stay in the dining room, but I'll confess I find myself wiping up milk on other floors at least once a day.

We’re working on picking up toys as we finish playing with them, though it seems that they won’t learn that until they’re ready to leave for college, and they can take their legos and stuffed animals and doll furniture with them.

Hopefully visitors can overlook a few, or a dozen, crayons strewn around the construction paper on the floor, remnants of our reindeer hats just made this morning.

Pumpkin bread and pine are weaving together in the air, and I’ll do my best to make sure the floor is free of breakfast debris before you arrive.

I am sharing my holiday home decor and cleaning tips for the chance to win prizes from The SITS Girls and Great Cleaners.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Scents of Iron and Pine

The doorbell rang, a tinny version of his college fight song drowning out their ragged breathing as their eyes locked.

She tilted her head slightly, trying not to wince.

He nodded, almost imperceptibly; she was the only one who would have noticed his jaw spasmodically clenching.

With permission tensely granted, the balance of power shifted. He reluctantly offered his hand to her, but she looked away and pushed herself to her feet on her own, willing away the blackness dancing in front of her eyes.

Years of practice propelled her forward in a straight line, and despite the dizziness that threatened to buckle her knees, she took a moment to pray their daughter was listening to headphones.

Her smile automatic, she wiped trails of mascara from beneath her eyes and opened the door. A lush wreath wafted pine into the foyer.

“Lottie, how are you?” she breathed musically into the space over her elderly neighbors head, the sky grey and heavy on the horizon.

Probing eyes searched her face.

“I brought over my cookies,” Lottie began, paper thin lips faltering as they tried to smile.

“Thank you so much, Lottie. Garrett always looks forward to your Madelaines.”

Knotted hands passed a festive tin over the threshold, warmly pressing against her hand. “Dear? You look tired; I hope everything’s all right.”

She forced her eyes to lie, “Just the holiday schedule running us ragged, I’m afraid.”

Self-consciously, she smoothed her hair, fingers brushing a sticky patch at the back and folding themselves into a loose fist to hide the tell-tale stain from Lottie’s rheumy, worried eyes.

In the next room, Garrett methodically dabbed at a red smear on the wall, marking his wife’s height.

Four eyes pleaded with each other in front of a holiday wreath as snow began to fall.

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
the prompt:
Use the holidays to inspire a piece beginning with "The doorbell rang" and ending with "snow began to fall."


Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Circle Around My Heart

Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring my writing. There's no limit to the baking possibilities, so grab your favorite Duncan Hines mix and Comstock or Wilderness fruit fillings and Bake On!
the four of us (plus baby Abbey)
circa June 2008

Over ten years ago, the four of us gathered together with a dinner of appetizers and candy and lounged on a comfortable couch to watch an MTV awards show. We scooped queso dip and nibbled on desserts and talked about who rocked the red carpet and commiserated over fresh-out-of-college jobs and wordlessly comforted whoever’s heart needed it the most that evening.

Filled with food and bolstered by friendship, we decided to meet again the following week, quickly transforming Wednesday from Hump Day to Girls’ Night, and our “eternal circle of friendship” was formed.

Weekend nights could be spent in heels and crowded bars, conversation and laughter strained over the din of music and echoing loneliness; our Wednesdays were about enjoying each other’s company in comfort.

Ten years holds many Wednesdays, and we’ve seen our circle shrink to three and sometimes two, as our living radius expanded little by little until one of us is now living almost 6600 miles away.

Our Wednesdays have included full holiday dinners and sushi and chili cheese fries, enjoyed while sprawled across the floor of one of our living rooms. During our Girls’ Nights, we’ve admired engagement rings and taken field trips to try on bridesmaid dresses, and hung out with a friend on bed rest. Over the years we’ve exchanged hugs, Christmas gifts like MAC make-up that boyfriends just don’t know how to purchase, and tears of both sadness and joy.

With the responsibilities of husbands and some children and growing distances between us, our Wednesdays have dwindled to maybe once a month, often out instead of in, choosing a restaurant in a convenient location, like the one three of us sat in this Monday night.

Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of the holiday season or knowing that the fourth cog of our circle is awaiting the birth of her second child so very far across the oceans, but despite the ease of our conversation and the delicious bursts of spicy tuna and crumbled tempura, I felt a pang for our Wednesdays spent at one of our homes.

I miss kicking off shoes and sometimes sliding into yoga pants, opening take-out bags and spreading store-bought frosting onto ready-bake sugar cookies. I miss the conversation that emerges naturally with E! playing in the background.

I left the restaurant on Monday night, snow falling lightly onto my coat, and I realized a busy schedule shouldn't mean sacrificing time with friends, especially during the holidays.

Time and distance stretch our circle, until our fingers are barely touching, yet I know my friends are there; their presence is a part of my heart.  But sometimes that's just not enough.

I think it’s time for a Girls’ Night In.

Remember to check out Duncan Hines' website to find some great recipes for your holiday get-together! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Choose Your Day

Freshly baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and steaming coffee, sweetened with a smidge too much sugar, on the table.

All before 7:00 a.m.

You're looking at either a terrible morning or a beautiful one.

Can changing your perspective change the outcome of your day?


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Monday, December 5, 2011

Pressing Pause

Thursday morning rain lulls us all to sleep later than normal, snuggled under comforters and burrowed into pillows.
Preschool beckons, so we finally creep into action, dressing and eating and remembering water bottles and lunches and homemade play-doh.

I kiss her palm, and she tucks it into her backpack; he reaches up: "Care-Me".

Precious moments that stop my heart then get lost in the rush of the morning.

Sighing as she and Ryan walk out the door, I snuggle Dylan close, wishing I could stop time for just a moment to imprint their today-ness on my memory.

Thanks to Alison and Galit, I took some time to capture some little things about them.  Today. 

Because tomorrow may not look the same, but I know it will be just as lovely.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Merry Mugging

I've been mugged by the hilarious (and mysterious) Momma Kiss, and it didn't hurt a bit.

Many thanks to Liz for masterminding

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop had a Five Things prompt last week, so I thought I might use that to introduce myself a bit if you're visiting from #MugSwap2011.

5 Things We Don’t Know About You

- I'd rather wear heels than flats
- I majored in philosophy for two semesters
- I always thought I'd live in New York City, at least for a little while
- I don't eat red meat, except for Ball Park hot dogs at baseball games
- My favorite sport to watch is women's gymnastics


5 Things You’re Knowledgeable About

- 1980s movies
- The Oxford comma
- The mood-boosting power of ice cream
- Beverly Hills, 90210 episodes (the original)
- Random minutiae

5 Things You Know Nothing About

- How to convince my kids that sleeping is fun
- Being tall
- Finding the perfect pair of jeans
- Buying and selling stocks
- Cars, besides how to drive them


5 Things You Believe

- Abbey and Dylan become louder and needier the moment I open my computer or pick up the phone
- Positive thinking is a choice you can make each day
- Part of me will be a little sad when Abbey and Dylan no longer become louder and needier when I need a minute to myself
- Cheese and bread is an acceptable dinner
- Love matters

Mama’s Losin’ It


Friday, December 2, 2011

Improvise, Improvise As Fast As You Can

Grandma. A trove of kisses and hugs and endless patience.

Grandma. A cornucopia of surprises and treats and toys and little gifts.

Grandma. Purchaser of a gingerbread men kit, sent home with Abbey and Dylan after their night with Grandma and Grandpa.

Grandma. Ignorer of directions.

run, run, run as fast as you can
you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man
poor Gingerbread Man

Because while rolling hunks of fondant to a specified thickness and delicately cutting icing into darling clothing items for gingerbread boys and girls may work for some craftier moms, the idea of it sent me running for the kitchen and my filled-with-chemicals food coloring.

I push the fold-out flyer of directions, thick with restrictions, to the corner of the counter with the rest of the junk mail and other recycling.

I may not be a whiz with pastry knives, but I can whip up a batch of buttercream icing and a plan B while singing the Gingerbread Man song and tossing packets of fondant into the recesses of my baking cupboard.

Fondant is a foreign word to Abbey, but she knows the sweetness of frosting, dipping a finger into the stainless steel bowl before I have the chance to divide and color the creamy, sugary peaks into festive colors.

Dylan knows he wants his chair in the kitchen with his sister and me, fascinated by the tiny candy balls that tinkle into ramekins, chasing them across the floor when they tumble from his grasp.

Without the burden of cutting out dresses and itty bitty scarves, we giggle while digging Abbey’s tea party knives out of her toy kitchen goodies, though Dylan prefers working with his own utensils.

Without the danger of pastry knives or kitchen shears, they spread icing with plastic knives, without my assistance or my nervous hovering.

Small hands frost and taste test and decorate with whimsy, choosing colors and licking fingers and imagining their creations rival those on the box.

Which they do, of course, when seen through a mother’s love-tinted lens.

We may have ended up with this:

instead of this:

But we had this:

and this:

An afternoon craft without tears or impatient tantrums or gritted teeth.

Proving that sometimes the best directions are the ones you don’t follow.

(Please don’t tell my kids that!)

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