Sunday, May 31, 2009

Savory Summer

Does anyone else associate specific foods with different seasons? I certainly do, and I adore summertime food.

We (okay, the hubby) fired up the grill this weekend. Friday night, he grilled bratwurst in honor of Curly Girl's return home from Germany. Tonight, we enjoyed burgers (Don't freshly grilled burgers always taste the best?) and corn on the cob (yum! yum! yum!). We'll also probably toss London Broil on the grill a lot during the summer. I would love to try a great grilled shrimp recipe. Does anyone have one to contribute?

I have to confess, though, that I have absolutely no idea how to fire up, use, or clean the grill. In the past few years, I have only touched our grill to move it around on the deck. Perhaps, I'll actually learn how to use the appliance this summer. I really need to know how to grill because I am currently at Patrick's mercy of being home and in the mood to grill out. I did purchase the grill a few years ago (with my winnings from an NCAA basketball pool), so I probably should figure out how to use it.

I also absolutely love summertime desserts. Really, I love any desserts- major sweet tooth over here- but I associate several of my favorite recipes with summertime. For a chocolate fix, I concoct Oreo cookie cake and, when I have a hankering for fruit, I whip up a fantastic sugar-free strawberry shortcake (Oooh, I think I'll swing by the farmer's market for some strawberries, so I can whip this up.).

I'm also very certain that I'll make an apple pie or two this summer. My husband, who once claimed he did not like pies, will most certainly request one for his birthday in mid-August. Long, long ago when we were dating, I tried to impress Patrick with my homemade apple pie. Not wanting to hurt my feelings or his chances, he didn't tell me that he had no interest in eating any meal with a crust. (I so don't get this. The crust is my favorite part of pies, chicken pie, and pizza.) Anyway, he bravely ate my homemade apple pie and loved it, perhaps it is the fact that the pie has an oatmeal topping rather than a crust on it.

This afternoon, I whipped up a batch of no-bake granola bars. They're yummy and very easy. Patrick and the kids insist on calling them no-bake cookies, though. I guess that means that Patrick, Curly Girl,and Car Guy can only have them for dessert or snack since they are cookies, and I can eat the treats at breakfast since I think I made granola bars. See, it's all in the semantics. What do you think- cookies or granola bars? I did slice them into bars, so that may not be a fair question.

I do have one issue with summertime cooking, though. No, it's not my lack of fruits and vegetables. I know it's horrible, distasteful, poor parenting, whatever that I don't like green food or most fruit (Strawberries dipped in chocolate are one of my favorite things, though), but I've survived this long without all the vitamins, so I think I can make it a bit longer. Anyway, I really need some ideas for pool food. We hit the pool almost every day during the summer, and I get soooo tired of packing pb&js. If you have any great ideas for snacks and easy meals to take to the pool, I would love to hear them.

Have a great summer! See you at the pool!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Self-Indulgent Summer Reading

Aaaahhh....Summer.....I have really been looking forward to summer break this year and perhaps enjoying a bit of self-indulgence during the sweltering heat.

Aside from schlepping Curly Girl and Car Guy to and from swim practice and their other activities, I plan to exercise, write, and read.

I'm most excited about engaging in more reading time this summer and what better time is there to read than when lounging by the pool?? Car Guy is finally swimming well enough that I can actually sit in a chair by the pool, instead of having to be in the water with him- yea!!!!! Don't laugh; he spent the entire summer when he was three decorating the pool deck with a paintbrush dipped in water. You don't know how thrilled I am that he can finally swim a lap with a legal stroke.

Everyone in our family loves to read, but to add a bit more excitement this summer, our crew is embarking on our Family Summer Reading Contest. (Thank you very much for the idea, Melanie.) The rules are simple: You get one point for each book you complete during June, July, and August. Whoever has the most points at the end of August gets a $20 gift card to a store/ restaurant of their choice. (I tossed in "restaurant" just in case I can weasel an evening at The Melting Pot out of this.)

Assigning one point per completed book seems to be the fairest thing for everyone involved. Car Guy has just started reading chapter books on his own and will probably focus on Magic Tree House books this summer. Even though his books are shorter, it takes him longer to read them. Curly Girl reads voraciously, but tends to stop and start books without always finishing them. Having a stack of half-read books lying around drives me absolutely crazy, so I am hoping that assigning points for books finished, not pages read, will light a fire under Curly Girl to complete what she begins.

My guess is that one of the kids will win the contest, but I'm at least going to try to beat them. I'm currently compiling my list of books in which I want to indulge. It includes classics I've never read (Cervantes's Don Quixote), rereading favorites from long ago (James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), some non-fiction selections (Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea), popular books that I just haven't taken the time to read (Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl), and some chick lit and maybe a trashy romance or two for some super-fluffy summer reading.

So here are my questions: If you had to recommend just one book for someone to read, what would it be? Also, what books are on your summer reading list?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

European Sojourn

Curly Girl returns tomorrow from jet-setting through southern Germany and Austria. I can hardly wait to wrap her in a giant bear hug when I spy her at the airport.

Throughout most of the trip, my father has e-mailed me pictures of their trip, and it has been fabulous to see what my eleven-year-old daughter has been experiencing.

She beamed with joy when I dropped her off at the airport,

Enjoyed apple strudel with warm vanilla cream sauce at a sidewalk cafe in Rothenburg,

Took in the sights of Nuremburg (When I first saw this picture, I flipped out because I thought she wasn't wearing her knee brace. Then I saw the lumps and realized the brace was under her pants.),

Ate a gigantic chocolate dessert (For some reason, they kept sending me pictures of food. I think they were trying to make me jealous.),

Checked out the Vienna Opera House where Curly Girl purchased some Mozart memorabilia (Curly Girl loves music, especially piano, and was super excited to check out Mozart's Vienna.),

Spent an entire day in the Leopold Museum (Aaaah! bliss...), and

Drooled over the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.

(After visiting the palace, Curly Girl called to tell me that we should have been one of Maria Theresa's children because each child had five rooms and his/her own maid. She also informed me that everyone also had a boyfriend or girlfriend, even if they were married. Out of all the possibilities, infidelity trivia wasn't quite what I hoped my child would remember from her palace tour. I was wishing for something different, such as trivia about art, politics, architecture, ... anything else, basically).

Curly Girl also visited Regensburg and Heidelburg, Germany, and I can hardly wait to see her pictures. I hope my parents took some shots of Curly Girl in the same Heidelburg locations that I visited at her age.

I can hardly wait for my hug and kiss tomorrow! It has been much too quiet in my house without my daughter home.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Procrastination 101

At this point in my life, procrastination has become an art form. In the past hour since I sat down to work (Yes, I am working on Sunday night. I usually work 2-3 hours every day), I have:

- Played with Nibbles the bunny

- Fed Nibbles hay and made sure he drank some water

- Took the dogs outside

- Checked both of my e-mail accounts (One is for personal e-mails, and one is for homeschool Yahoo groups)

- Played around on Facebook and looked for new people to friend

- Surfed itunes

- Called my grandmother (There was a "Private Caller" on my caller ID, and I called my grandmother to see if it was her. It wasn't, but she enjoyed hearing from me anyway.)

- Wrote a blog about procrastinating (This is truly a low point.)

Thinking that I would have a lot of free time with Patrick and Curly Girl out of town, I had planned to write a lot this weekend. Of course, that hasn't exactly happened. Car Guy and I had originally planned to go to the track (Me- run; Car Guy- play soccer) and pool today, but it rained. Instead I got on the elliptical while watching a PBS special about Michelangelo, wasted an hour or two doing nothing, went to see "Night at the Museum 2" (Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!), ran some errands, ate dinner at La Ha (I know we're there too much when several waiters stopped by our table to ask Car Guy and I where the rest of the family was), and attended a funeral home visitation.

So now, it's 9pm, and I have just finished my cup of hot tea which will hopefully keep me awake for a few hours. I'm really going to try to make myself work, but I just cannot get focused tonight and knowing I have a deadline tomorrow just makes it worse.

I'm definitely up for some more procrastination. Let's see, what could I do now that Car Guy is in bed and I am home alone? Hmmmm..... dance around my house while rocking out to my Ipod, check into seeing The Connells at Cat's Cradle next month, talk on the phone, IM people on FB, put new music on my blog..... Any other ideas?... Buehler? Buehler?...


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dear Squirrels,

Dear Squirrels,

I am hurt, angry, and stomping mad. Is it not enough that I provide you with entertainment and perfectly good sustenance? I constantly refill your corn bungee at the rate of one ear per day and trek to the Wild Bird Store on the other side of town every other week to purchase said corn for you.

Per our agreement, I will provide you with an unlimited supply of corn as long as you leave my garden alone. As of today at 3pm, you have violated this contract. Upon returning home from the pool, I found two half-eaten tomatoes in the yard. If you are going to consume my tomatoes, please have the decency to A: eat the entire tomato, or B: If you don't eat the entire tomato, please do not leave it laying right outside the garden fence where I will most certainly notice it.

At least, you have not, to my knowledge, recently consumed anything else in my backyard. The chili peppers seem to be intact, and the flowers have not been eaten to the ground. I know I previously forgave the rabbits when they chewed my lilies down to nibs, but you, pesky squirrels, will not be that lucky.

I will give you one more opportunity to respond to a kind and gentle gardening approach. It will be in your best interest, dear rodents, to avoid the tomatoes after I sprinkle them with Critter Ridder this evening.

If you, squirrels, continue to violate our pact, you will be in for it when the man of the house, the main tomato consumer, returns home on Monday night. At that point, all bets will be off. I may even let my husband get out the BB gun that I have so far refused to allow him to use against you, and I'll remind you that Car Guy is itching to stake out the garden with his sling shot in hand, too.

Be warned: If you touch my roses, you will be dead squirrels, and, at that point, I will not hesitate to take matters into my own hands.

Warmest regards,

P.S. My sincere apologies to any squirrel-lovers (Jay and Kelsey, I'm thinking of you) who may have been offended by my anti-squirrel rant.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mr. Hudson

While being busy and wrapped up in the hub-bub of today, my thoughts kept drifting back to a person from long ago in my life. When I read the newspaper this morning, I noticed the obituary for my high school speech and debate coach and history teacher. After a long battle with Parkinson's, he finally succumbed to the disease.

Mr. Hudson was certainly a teacher that you could never forget. I'll always remember him:

-Getting excited while talking about Louis XIV, the Hapsburgs, and the Kings of England

- Wearing a purple sweater

-Somehow managing a speech and debate speech class which contained 9th-12th graders working on a myriad of projects

-Putting up with students who could be very full of themselves, and not always in a good way, at times

-Having a classroom with a door that connected to the office

-Being brave, or maybe clueless, enough to take male and female high school students on overnight trips

-Loudly announcing that we were "going down the mountain" on the way home from the Appalachian debate tournament

- Making a bus full of high school students be absolutely quiet while ascending and descending the mountains on said trips; perhaps this is the root of my fear of mountain driving

-Somehow not losing students at speech and debate tournaments when we were all in different buildings on college campuses

-Getting lost and going through the same intersection four times while trying to find our way to Independence High School in Charlotte

-Administering the only exam I had to take in high school when I got mono and missed too many days in my first period class

-Giving me the confidence to speak in front of a group of people; how I wish that skill could have translated into making small talk at social functions

-Being married to the typing teacher who had to teach on actual typewriters and use correction tape

-Always being supportive whether you won or lost your debate

-Always giving me a hug and speaking to my children when we ran into him around town in the years before he became ill

- Being a good sport about the roastings at the year-end speech and debate banquets at Quincy's

- The sweet-sounding way he said my name

Here's to you, Mr. Hudson! Thank you for everything you did!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day at the Zoo

While Curly Girl flitted through Europe,

Car Guy and I spent yesterday exploring the zoo.

I cheered on my son as he hatched from an egg,

and flew a helicopter.

Car Guy and I did have a bit of a discussion about his cartography addiction, however. He drove me absolutely crazy constantly checking out and telling me about the zoo map in great detail. He did exactly the same thing when we visited Washington, DC, in September. Car Guy would actually look at the DC map instead of checking out the actual landmarks he was walking by.

At the zoo, we located the Victoria Crowned Pigeon, but not the scarlet ibis, in the aviary,

thought the brown bear needed a manicure,

and laughed at the turtle's flipped-up legs. Check out the turtle that is second from the right.

After all this for my child, after traipsing up and down hills, providing endless snacks, and banter, what does Car Guy go and do? This morning, my dear seven-year-old made a sign saying, "Dad is Best!" and proceeded to parade around the house with it. He even marched up and down the driveway with the offending paraphenalia as he fetched the morning newspaper, and the sign is still in his room. Mothers just are not appreciated. According to my son, I need to bone up on my snuggling, tickling, and pillow fighting skills.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Curly Girl safely arrived in Germany this morning. She has been so excited to embark upon her second trip to Europe, and I am thrilled that she was offered the opportunity to fly across the pond.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to travel a bit with my parents, and Curly Girl's trip has brought to mind some of my fondest European memories:

-Blowing up a hairdryer in the hotel (Yes, smoke was coming from it.)
-Seeing "Noises Off" in London's West End
-Eating horrible apple pie containing a minimal amount of sugar in Dover (Either I prefer an excess amount of sugar in my apple pie, or the British don't put enough sugar in theirs.)

Stairs in Paris:
-Climbing up all the stairs to Montmartre and having my portrait sketched while on the Left Bank (Maybe it's just me, but I prefer this artsier area of Paris.)
-Climbing up a dark (as in, very difficult to see), twisting staircase to reach the top and then descend the Arc de Triomphe. The worst part was rubbing against people in the dark on the stairs, but not being able to see them.

- Neuschwanstein that looks like it popped out of a fairy tale
-Chambord in France's Loire Valley
- Versailles where my parents and I snuck in a non-tour door since we didn't want to wait in line. Then we just sidled up to English-language tours when we wanted to learn more about the palace.
Heidelberger Schloss which stands on a hill overlooking Heidelberg. I'm looking forward to Curly Girl visiting this beautiful city next week.

Art Museums:
-Louvre where my love of art history began
-Musee D'Orsay, my favorite museum, since it focuses on Impressionist art
-Musee Rodin which houses my favorite sculpture, Rodin's The Kiss
-A museum in Bruges, Belgium where I ran into someone I knew from home

-The endless array of pastries available in bakeries
-Eating freshly-made baguettes each day
-Chocolate- After feasting on European chocolates, nothing else even comes close.
-A funky fish dish in which the fish still had a head and eyes and was covered in a very nasty cold mayonnaise-based sauce (I did not touch this dish.)

Spending a month with a family in Belgium when I was sixteen:
- The family's funky house with a green and purple living room
- Living on a cobblestone street with several embassies on it
- Exploring Brussels via its public transportation
- Visiting the family's beach house by the North Sea
- Visiting the daughters' school which included students from many different countries

Cab drivers:
-Cabbies who were the model of deportment in London
- Thinking I was going to die when a Parisian cab driver crazily darted in and out of the traffic circling the Arc de Triomphe

- Being in the center of a traffic jam in Paris when our cab driver got out of cab, then started yelling, banging on the top of the cab, and directing other cars to break up the traffic snarl

Fabulous hotels:
- Europaischer Hof in Heidelberg with its high ceilings and ornate furniture
- Hotel Regina in Paris- One of my favorite locales in the world: Sitting on a corner balcony overlooking the Place de la Concorde while sipping hot tea and eating croissants. If you want to make me very, very happy, meet me in the morning with a continental breakfast and English breakfast tea with cream and sugar.

Seeing where my father lived:
My father lived in France for several years as a teen. His dad, my grandfather, was in the Army and stationed in France after World War II. Since he was going to be in France for several years, my dad and his mother moved there, too. On one trip to France with my parents, we visited the Loire Valley chateau where my father and grandmother lived with the French family who owned the chateau and vineyards surrounding it. As a teen, it was incredible to walk through the vineyards, wine cellar, and home where my father and grandmother resided, and to venture down the roads where my father rode his bicycle to school and the bakery each day. (This is the chateau where my father lived. Sorry for the grainy quality. It was already an old photo, and I had to scan it through the glass.)

I am just thrilled, but also a wee bit jealous, that Curly Girl will be waltzing through Germany and Austria for the next week. I have no doubt that I will again have the opportunity to travel and explore the world, but this is Curly Girl's time to learn about the world around her. For this season, though, my job is to provide her with stable roots, so she can extend her wings.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Exploring North Carolina

On Thursday, Curly Girl, Car Guy, and I visited Morehead Planetarium and tooled around Chapel Hill a bit. We had a great time, and Car Guy especially enjoyed the Magic Tree House show at the planetarium. The flexibility to make our own schedule and take lots of field trips marks one of our favorite aspects of homeschooling. On the way home from Chapel Hill, the kids and I discussed our favorite North Carolina haunts that we have visited over the past year or so. See what you think of our list. Perhaps you'll discover a great spot for a summer jaunt with your family.

#12- Lazy 5 Ranch- Mooresville
A drive-through park with loads of exotic animals. Tons of fun, even though I did momentarily panic when our wagon broke down while surrounded by water buffalo. Pay extra to ride in the wagon, so you can get up-close-and-personal with the animals while you feed them (Honestly, you don't want a water buffalo approaching and drooling on your own, personal car.). Curly Girl even let a giraffe pluck a leaf out of her mouth. You probably need to call ahead to make reservations to ride in a wagon.

#11- North Carolina Museum of Natural Science- Raleigh
Great museum in downtown Raleigh and, best of all, admission is free! Younger kids love the Discovery Room and tweens and teens thoroughly enjoy the Naturalist Center. One of the museum's programs about mammals led to Car Guy's desire for a pet mouse which morphed into a guinea pig and progressed to the rabbit we have now. The hands-on outdoor learning programs at Prairie Ridge are also fabulous!

#10- Wright Brothers National Memorial- Kitty Hawk
Tons of fun, even if you are not a history buff. Walking the grounds of the Wright Brothers' first flight brings their accomplishments alive. You can also see a reconstruction of the brothers' plane and living quarters, as well as markers indicating the length of each of their flights. We also took in a great park ranger talk on our visit. Free!

#9- Museum of Life and Science- Durham
A great science museum for kids, but my absolutely favorite part is the Butterfly House. It is magical to walk among the butterflies and totally interesting to check out the chrysalises in various stages of formation. Some even have butterflies bursting from them!

#8- USS NC Battleship Memorial- Wilmington
When the kids and I visited the battleship last spring, it marked my first trip there since I was about ten years old. Climbing up, down, and around the ship certainly gave me a new appreciation for nautical life, even if Car Guy did get a bit claustrophobic when he realized how far we had descended below deck. Great fun, but not a good trip for people who have difficulty climbing up and down ladders (The ship is not even close to handicap accessible).

#7- Reed Gold Mine- Midland (near Concord)
If you want to take a jaunt to the sticks, head to Reed Gold Mine. Here you learn about the first gold strike in the United States (Yes, it was in NC!) and take a tour of the mining tunnels. This is a great summer day trip since the temperature in the tunnels stays around 60 degrees. Unfortunately, this locale is also not handicap accessible. Free, unless you want to pan for gold which just costs a few bucks.

#6- Duke Lemur Center- Durham
I happen to think lemurs are very cool, so I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about them. Zaboo from the Kratt Brothers' Zoboomafoo lives at the Lemur Center, so you may even sneak a peek at him. The Lemur Center is a research facility, so younger kids may be disappointed if they are expecting a spot akin to the zoo. Tours are only given at scheduled times, and you must call in advance to reserve spots for your family.

#5- Chimney Rock State Park- Chimney Rock
Considering my fears of heights and driving in the mountains, it's a miracle that I made it through our trip to this beautiful spot. The drive was lovely, and we traipsed through some quaint hamlets (Bat Cave and Lake Lure, anyone?) on our way to one of NC's newest state parks. Once I made it up the drive to the top of the mountain, I did manage to trek out to the uppermost outcropping. The kids and I also enjoyed a scenic hike to a waterfall.

#4- North Carolina Zoo- Asheboro
The kids and I love visiting the zoo, except in the summer when it can be so hot and muggy. We like to arrive when the zoo opens in the morning, so we can take our time exploring and checking out the animals. Car Guy and I will probably visit the zoo one day this week while Curly Girl is otherwise occupied.

#3- ArtQuest- Greensboro
Curly Girl claims ArtQuest as her all-time favorite field trip, and Car Guy loves it, too. ArtQuest offers a great arts-making space with individual rooms dedicated to painting, clay, found art, drawing, and Kapla blocks. I don't know about you, but I much prefer that my children spatter a location other than our home while being creative. I recommend telling your children to paint at the beginning of your visit so their artworks have time to dry before you take them home. Believe me, I am speaking from the experience of getting covered in wet paint while toting handfuls of my children's projects to the car. ArtQuest is located in the Greenhill Center for NC Art across the street from the Greensboro Children's Museum.

#2- Lighthouses at the Outer Banks
Our family absolutely loves the Outer Banks, with visiting the lighthouses ranking near the top of our list. We are partial to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse with its quiet surroundings and the great view it affords after you climb to its apex. Hatteras Light also makes a great outing, but usually has more crowds than Currituck Light. Our family was fortunate enough to witness Hatteras being relocated several years ago and couldn't believe how far they safely moved the structure. Park rangers regularly give free talks at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse since it is owned by the National Park Service.

#1- Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education- Corolla
My absolutely favorite NC spot, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, sits in the shadow of Currituck Light. Our family loves the Center's programs so much that we try to hit several of them each OBX trip. Over the years, we have gone fishing, animal tracking, birdwatching, and enjoyed a nighttime walk where we spied an albino deer. The best program, though, was Kayaking the Sound where a naturalist pointed out the birds, plants, and other wildlife of the sound habitat while we paddled about in our kayaks. The best part is that all the programs are free and include all the equipment you may need. You must make reservations for the programs in advance.

I hope this provided you with some ideas for summer jaunts in NC. A few places on my want-to-visit-in-the-future list: Grandfather Mountain, Biltmore House, the waterfalls in Transylvania County, and the Wildlife Education Center in the Pisgah National Forest. We're also trying to squeeze in a trip to the Outer Banks and a hike around Pilot Mountain.

So, do tell, what are your favorite places and locales to visit in NC?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm Finished!!!

WooHoo! Party time over here! I have finally finished writing my most recent literature guide and sent it to the publisher. I am so super-happy to get this set of books off my to-do list. Since March, I have been working on the guides for Avi's Wolf Rider, in addition to the twenty-hour a week writing project I have also been working on since the beginning of the year.

In a shameless bit of self-promotion and to try to explain what-in-the-world I write, here are some of the guides I have written over the past three years. Literature guides are geared toward teachers to use when teaching a novel in the classroom. Guides include vocabulary, comprehension activities, literary activities, tests, and projects for the teacher to utilize.

The Wolf Rider guide that I just completed is for Novel Units. For this company, I have also created guides for Deborah Ellis's The Breadwinner, Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember, Gary Paulsen's Brian's Return, and Karen Hesse's The Music of Dolphins (I finished it just before Christmas, so I don't have a hard copy yet of it.)

To see specific examples of the literature guides, check out the Secondary Solutions website. They have published my guides for Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting and Lois Lowry's The Giver. The guide for Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee hasn't been released yet, but, hopefully, it will be out soon.

Links to see specific examples:

Ok, the commercial is over. Now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I won't have to do huge rewrites for the Wolf Rider guides.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day Weekend

As I am sure you know, this past weekend was Mother's Day. If you are expecting to read a loving treatise to motherhood, you are out of luck. Yes, I love my mother. Yes, I love my grandmother. Yes, I love being a mother, but much to the chagrin of some of my family members, I am not sweet or sappy, so you're out of luck if you wanted to read a love-in today.


Our family spent the evening at a local park with Curly Girl's soccer team to celebrate the end of their season. For a first year team, they enjoyed a great year with a 6-6 record. Even better, I can't say enough positive comments about the coaches and girls on the team. Everyone was kind, supportive, and welcoming. I also never had to worry about inappropriate language or conversational topics from anyone on the team. We had a great night at the park, even though Curly Girl couldn't play kickball with everyone else because of her knee.


Patrick took Curly Girl and Car Guy to Teach a Kid to Fish Day, so I had most of the day to myself. Sponsored by our local Parks and Rec Department, Teach a Kid to Fish Day was fabulous, and even better, it was free! The kids were taught how to tie a hook, put worms on hooks, cast, and then spent several hours fishing. In addition, each child was given a t-shirt and tackle box, and Curly Girl and Car Guy both won fishing rods in a drawing. Hopefully, Parks and Rec will host another kids' fishing event in the fall, and I can't recommend it highly enough.


Curly Girl and I began the day taking in a fabulous piano concert by Randall Atcheson. He sounded truly amazing, and I could have listened to him play for another hour. Since it was Mother's Day, we also went to lunch with my parents and grandmother.

Now comes the not-so-good part of the weekend. If I had to pick how to spend Mother's Day, I would certainly not select working in the yard, but this load of mulch was most certainly not going to move itself.

Grumbling under our breath, Car Guy and I trudged outside to load the mulch into the wheelbarrow (I don't even want to know how many loads we moved), haul it to the garden, and spread it between the rows. I really despise schlepping mulch around the yard, but I hate pulling weeds more, so we spread the mulch thickly in hopes of keeping down the weeds. Yes, in this picture I may be smiling on the outside, but on the inside I am cursing this shovel and wondering how many blisters I am going to have on my hands.

To treat myself, I wrapped up the weekend by downloading some songs from iTunes. Rooting around the garage the other day, I ran across some old mix tapes from forever-ago. I've had so much fun singing these long-forgotten songs this week (It's amazing how you suddenly remember lyrics to songs you haven't heard in 15 years) that I just had to add them to my IPod. If you have your volume on, you should be listening to them, too.

Have a great week!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Take My Breath Away

I experienced the most amazing vision when I was driving home from the grocery store an hour ago. As I was cruising along, what-I-originally-thought-was-a-dog steadily trotted across the road. On second glance, I realized it was a fox, though- an amazingly,beautiful red fox.

What came next took by breath away. A small, completely innocent, adorable small red kit followed closely behind its mother. At that moment, I stopped the car and just watched them cross the road. We live in the county about ten minutes outside of a city, so it is not unusual to see deer crossing the road, but I don't recall seeing a fox (especially in the middle of the day) in many, many years. It was an experience that I would love to recreate, but is a sight that will probably not appear again for quite some time.

Seeing the animals innocently going about their day gave me a such a natural high that I started thinking of other experiences that take my breath away:

Multi-colored sunsets

Unexpectedly running into or hearing from a long-ago friend

Fresh flowers

People who stand up for themselves and others

Hearing a song that expresses exactly what I am feeling at a particular moment

A thoughtful, in-depth conversation that isn't about children or parenting

God's love because most of the time I certainly don't deserve it

Hugs, kisses, and I love you's from my children

Books that stay with me long after I finish reading them


Getting out of my comfort zone

Art museums

Venturing down a scenic trail

Amazingly, I didn't value many of these things years ago. I was so caught up in material desires that I unknowingly bypassed many breath-taking facets of nature. Years ago, I pictured myself living a big city loft, but now I dream of a renovated farmhouse where I can't see another home from my front porch. Twenty years previously, I thought my high school friendships were temporal, but now they are the women I most desire to keep in touch with. In college, I didn't know if I would ever want to have children, but now Curly Girl and Car Guy anchor my existence.

It's incredible how people can change so immensely, yet still keep the inner core of who they are. I think I'm that way. Over time, weaker facets of my personality have faded, but the stronger aspects of who I am stand out more intensely. That also takes my breath away- the ability of people to grow and change, yet retain the inner essence of who they are.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Stream-of-Consciousness Life

I have this whole stream-of-consciousness-brain thing going on. My brain never stops running. I cannot think of a time that I wasn't thinking about something, even something as inane as my grocery list for the week.

I frequently wonder if other people think as much as I do. I so don't get people who can sit still and do nothing. My brain stays in overdrive too much for me to sit still for too long. I sometimes wish that I didn't think so much, but then I wouldn't be me.

Here is a sampling of my stream-of-consciousness brain from this evening:

- I so feel like a Seinfeld episode- you know, writing a blog about nothing.

- I have a rather odd fascination with bats. They don't scare me a bit, and I am so excited that Patrick spotted one gathering insects near our deck. I'm bummed that I didn't get to see the bat, even though we tried to attract it back to the deck by tossing a set of keys in the air. I also love to hear the owl in our backyard. He usually hoots while I am writing about 6:30 each morning.

- "Grey's Anatomy" tonight was absolutely fabulous. I admit to seeing all 100 "Grey's" episodes and to harboring a not-so-secret-fantasy about Patrick Dempsey. It's all about the tall, dark, and handsome thing.

- I'm trying to decide how to spend the upcoming Saturday that I will have all to myself while Patrick takes the kids fishing. I'm deliberating between a totally, fun day just for me such as visiting a museum, spending the day in a bookstore, or shopping vs. the things I need to do (run, write, and hit the grocery store).

- I love Facebook. I have had more fun lately catching up with long-out-of-touch college friends, laughing at pictures from high school, and catching up with people's current lives.

- One of my favorite feelings is curling up in bed at night. To fall asleep, I must lay on my stomach with one leg wrapped around my body pillow. I also usually cocoon completely under the covers. Speaking of which, I am traipsing off to bed now.

Good night! Sleep well! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Two Left Feet, Part Deux

Injuring the left side of the body must run in my family. If you recall my Two Left Feet post from April 28th, I have a nasty habit of injuring my left foot and leg.

When eleven-year-old Curly Girl landed herself at the orthopedist today, she trumped all of my injuries and then some.

Over the weekend, Curly Girl banged and twisted her knee when she slipped in a river. She iced the joint, but it still swelled some. Thinking her knee was okay, her father and I wrapped her knee and let her go to soccer practice yesterday. Ten minutes into practice, Curly Girl's coach helped her as she limped to the car. While running, my daughter's kneecap turned all the way to the side, and her leg collapsed.

When we arrived home from practice, I iced her knee, elevated it, and iced and elevated it some more. When it was still swollen this morning, we ventured to the orthopedist. Apparently, Curly Girl tore one of the ligaments that holds her knee in place. If we don't give her knee time to heal properly now, her kneecap will keep dislocating and she will end up having knee surgery in the future.

To allow the ligament time to heal, Curly Girl has to wear a large brace that keeps her leg completely immobilized for six weeks. She obviously won't be playing soccer any time soon and is very upset that her injury eliminates competing in the summer swim season. We're hoping that she will at least be able to get in the pool to cool off because we will be at the pool a lot once it opens on Memorial Day.

Since Curly Girl was going to swim the water lap in a team triathlon that our family has entered, Patrick and I are looking for a new team member who can swim 300 meters. Anyone interested?

Bunny Bath

Car Guy and I gave Nibbles the bunny a bath today. Nibbles is recovering from his bout with pasteurella. He does still have head tilt, but is much more stable than he was a week or two ago. Since being ill, Nibbles has become the world's tamest bunny, though, acting much more like a kitten than a rabbit.

So how do you give a rabbit a bath? Run a little water in the tub,

Suds him up with Bunny Bath shampoo,

Rinse him well,

Wrap him in a towel and snuggle,

Blowdry him on low,

Kiss the bunny,

and tell Nibbles how handsome he looks.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Parenting 101

I just love this Baby Blues comic strip. It is so true. Parenting is truly the toughest, most challenging, most taxing job in the world. After I chuckled at this comic strip, I started thinking of all the parenting skills I have utilized in the past week. Amazingly, none of them have anything to do with my expensively acquired art history and political science degrees.

Parenting skills I have used in the past week:

Organizational Specialist

Author (Working from home as a writer enables me to be home with my kids.)


Chef (Yesterday, I baked some cinnamon bread and a baguette.)



Assistant Engineer (Car Guy created catapults and launched marshmallows from them all weekend.)



Musician (A 7-year old requires assistance when practicing piano.)

Athletic Supporter (I am slowly learning the rules of soccer, including corner vs. goal kicks. For chuckles, I just realized that "athletic supporter" sounds like I performed the role of a jock strap this week- which I most certainly did not.)


Scheduler (Scheduling activities for two kids presents a giant puzzle.)


Star Wars light saber sparring partner


Athlete (I did manage to squeeze in some exercise.)


Horticulturist (My roses are blooming!)


Curriculum Consultant (Already thinking about the home school plans and curriculum for next year.)


Manicurist (I trimmed rabbit and human nails.)


Plumber (Don't you just love to start your day by unclogging a child's toilet?)

So what did I forget? Feel free to add any parenting skills that may have slipped my mind.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Quiet Friday Evening

Well, here it is . . . Friday evening, actually it's about 10:18pm . . . despite my plan to curl up in bed and read by 10pm, I am still sitting at my computer working, writing, now blogging.

The house is quiet, except for the playing of Car Guy's Sign of the Beaver tape and Nibbles the bunny's attempts at hopping. Curly Girl and her father are out of town for the weekend, so it's just the little guy and I spending some mom-and-son-time together. We don't have any big plans for tomorrow- just some errands in the morning, Car Guy will be getting spoiled by his grandmother in the afternoon (I do have a new running route I plan to try out then), and a movie night in the evening (probably The Shaggy D.A. or Spy Kids). I do also have a painful amount of work to do (I'm definitely in the "feast" part of freelancing, at the moment, and had to actually turn down some work this week), and I need to figure out the school plans for the upcoming week.

Aside from that, I'm still immersed in the rather introspective mood that has possessed me for the last few months. It's not a bad or mopey mood, just a thought-provoking one sprung from having more quiet time than I am used to. I certainly have plenty (ok, more than plenty) to do, but the daily chaos of children constantly needing my complete, undivided attention has begun to subside. Seven-year-old Car Guy can now play outside without me having to keep an eagle eye on him. Eleven-year-old Curly Girl enjoys reading, drawing, or playing her keyboard in her room by herself. Hubby is involved with his own activities and seems to be out of town or out of the house a lot lately. So, solitude is mine.

I've always craved solitude and need time to myself. Some people, my husband is one of them, feed off the energy of others and always want to be out among the masses. I, on the other hand, require time to myself to recharge. I adore my friends and family, and I love to travel and try new things, but, at the end of the adventure, I am always ready to retreat to my home and my thoughts. Which is what I am doing tonight, but, for some reason, this evening I also feel like sharing or talking, as it is.

No big reveal, no big moment. . . just me, plain and simple, that's it. For your listening pleasure, the play list includes assorted songs I have been listening to this evening. I admit that the Bill Ricchini song is painfully narcissistic, but I never said I was modest or humble. The song's actual title is "Angela," not Track-02 as the play list incorrectly states.

I hope you have a relaxing weekend. I'll be here writing, running, and ruminating.