Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gratitude for Dad

Life is Good: my dad knows how to use a wrench!

Month of Gratitude, Day 29

Well, the big kid has a loose tooth. It was bound to happen. As much as I am trying to get him to stop growing up, he just keeps doing it. I told him he should stop eating such nutritious foods. He told me that I am the one who serves them and that it is his job to keep growing. It's hard to argue with that.

But in all seriousness, it is an exciting time in life. Oh, okay, when is it NOT an exciting time for us? We are blessed. Every day, we have a ritual where I try to pull out his tooth. It is getting there, but it may take a while because just when I start to make some progress and hear that "crunch" (you know, the tooth pulling away from the gums), the big kid tells me to stop and we should just "let the tooth come out on its own".

We have the tooth pillow ready. I bought these two adorable ones from a shop on Etsy last year. (I wanted to make sure I was ready when it happened!)

And so now, we wait...

This daily ritual of (kind of) teeth pulling has reminded me of my own tooth loss memories. I remember the excitement and the amazement at the magic of the Tooth Fairy. What an innocent, precious time childhood is. I never could understand how the tooth fairy got into my bed, grabbed my tooth in an envelope out from under my pillow, and left a dollar for me without my waking up! She is very quiet, that Tooth Fairy!

All of this tooth business has also reminded me of my dad. You see, when I was about eight, I lost one of my front teeth early in the day. I remember it was a Sunday and so we were home all day. No school to distract me. All I could think about was that tooth and the Tooth Fairy. I kept going into the bathroom and smiling, admiring my new look. Then I got the idea to compare what my smile looked like with and without my tooth.


I sneaked into my parents' bedroom and got my newly lost tooth. The tooth that my mom had expressly told me to leave alone until it was time to put it under my pillow that night. The tooth that had been put into an envelope and sealed.

Well, now the tooth was unsealed and in my hand. I stood on my tip toes over the bathroom sink to look at my smile in front of the mirror. With the tooth and without. With the tooth and without. And then. Clunk.


That "clunk" was the sound of my tooth falling into the sink and right down the drain. And then another crying. No. Wailing.

I ran to my mom and through my whining and wailing and drama, told her what had happened. And also pointed out that the Tooth Fairy would not come if that tooth wasn't under my pillow! She was not pleased. but I recall her remaining calm.

The good news was that I hadn't run the water in the sink, so the tooth was most likely at the bottom of the U-shape of the pipe. So she told my dad what had happened. And then she asked him to crawl under the sink, open the drain pipe up, and get my tooth back. I recall him being a little less calm about it. (He is the lively balance to her quiet, for sure!) I think he questioned her sanity or an equivalent of that. I am pretty sure he asked her a few times if she was serious. And then he went and got a wrench and climbed under that sink and...voila! got my tooth back.

The tooth quickly went back to an envelope where it remained sealed.

This story isn't really about a lost tooth. It's not about a silly kid and smile comparisons. It's not about an understanding mother. This story is about a daddy. A daddy who hated to see his daughter cry. A daddy who would have done anything for his daughter.

Today, I am grateful for my dad. I am grateful that he will drop anything to fish a tooth out of a pipe or just chat on the phone. I have always been a daddy's girl. Growing up, I loved watching my dad "working the crowd" when we would go out to dinner. The term, "social butterfly" was invented for him. I would watch him bounce from table to table, leaving people smiling and laughing.

My dad is a storyteller. His delivery is so good, most people are left wondering if the story was true or not. He's always up for fun and adventure. To my dismay, this adventure often involves his motorcycle! Oh, yes. If it were someone else's dad, I would think it was great, too.

Often, if you ask my dad how he's doing, he'll say, "If I were any better, I'd be twins!" Oh, dad. The world is not ready for two of you! Or rather, when God made you, he broke the mold!

My dad has a big personality and is a lot of fun to be around, but there is so much more to him. He is generous with all that he has. He is a champion of the underdog and can't help but offer help when he sees that someone needs it. He loves the Lord and everyone knows it. And he has the most sentimental, tender heart. He's also the epitome of a public servant and community leader--he's served his community in myriad ways, on committees and boards and more, over the past 50+ years.

My dad was the first person to encourage me to be a writer. He noticed something in me that no one else had when I let him read a letter to the editor of our little, local newspaper that I had written. And there is nothing that I have wanted to do that he has ever doubted.

Today, I'm grateful to be born to a dad who loved family time, whether that was on a boat or in a pool. I'm grateful for a father who passed on a love of people and a love of laughter to me. I'm thankful for my dad's twinkling blue eyes and wide grin. I am grateful for a father who is interested in anything that interests me. A dad who has never met a stranger, makes friends with people of all walks of life, and walks around with his heart wide-open.

Today, every day, dad, I am so grateful for your presence in my life and proud to be your daughter. I know people who cannot say those things about their parent and I am so glad for our relationship and the love we share for one another. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving for Thanksgiving

Life is Good: there is so much to be thankful for!


Month of Gratitude, Day 28

Happy Thanksgiving! This post is a day late, but that doesn't diminish my gratitude. It was a full day, no pun intended.

We had an easy three boys played together while I baked a turkey breast (white meat only, please!), an apple crumble pie (new fave...I will post the recipe asap!), and some appetizers for our dinner with friends (simple stuff--artichoke dip, guacamole, crudites gathered together in the shape of a turkey, of course).

Then, we were off to the ER at Children's Hospital. Wait, put on the brakes. Nothing was wrong. In fact, everything is great. We are so grateful to the staff at Minneapolis Children's Hospital. When the big kid was two, he had his first infection ever. Unfortunately, it resulted in a life-threatening bout with croup and a secondary infection. With their proactive treatment and exceptional knowledge, the staff at Children's saved his life. So when we have been in town on Thanksgiving, we have dropped off snacks & goodies and a thank you note in the ICU where he was treated.

We're very fortunate that we have only been in the ICU once and it was a short stint. Now, the big kid has a tendency towards croup and when he gets it, it is not the ordinary scary kind, but a super scary kind. So a couple of times a year, we have landed in the ER at Children's Hospital in need of help. So this year, we decided to drop off a goody bag to the ER staff who, instead of celebrating the holiday with their friends & family, were there taking care of kids, saving lives, giving families another reason to be grateful. It meant a lot to the big kid. He loved "giving stuff to people who help us. It feels so good inside."

And hearing him say that made me feel good inside. We are working hard to raise kind, loving, responsible, generous, grateful little people. Hearing that makes me think we might be on the right track...

In the car on the way home, the big kid asked about the kids who were in the hospital on Thanksgiving. He asked if we could pray for them. So we did. But not without tears (mine). Not without tears for those kids and their families. Those kids who may or may not leave the hospital healthy. And tears for the ones who do leave the hospital to resume their lives, like our big kid. And tears for the memory. Tears for that little two-year old of ours and the faint voice and the limp body, for the mama I was, arms wrapped tight around him in constant prayer. Tears for how long ago it feels in some ways and how recent it feels, too. Tears for all we have done and seen and accomplished and lived since then.

We got to watch the Jayhawks play basketball for a bit (Rock Chalk!) and then it was time to go over to our goddaughter's house for dinner with her family. We are so blessed to have friends to share the holiday with. A special shoutout to their families for sharing their holiday with us, too!

Check out the bird!

And the chef!

Our darling goddaughter and her lil sis provided the entertainment. Sorry for the blurry pic...there was a lot of dancing involved!

The award for having the most fun might have gone to our little one. He did a great job of keeping up with the big kids. The kiddos played and played and played. How can I harness some of that energy?!

 My friend, Laura, and I wrestled for the wishbone. (Not really.)

We are so very blessed. Wishing on a wishbone (does anybody have a tradition of doing that?) seems greedy. I am so grateful for the simple things and the extraordinary, too. We have them all. I am grateful for the relationships that keep me happy, peaceful, and everything in between--our little family of four, my parents, some wonderful extended family, a wide group of friends near and far. We had a lovely Thanksgiving, despite my missing being with my parents. Our friends loved us up and filled our bellies.

Every Thanksgiving, I remember a card that I sent to my grandparents. I wrote in it, "Happy Thanksgiving to two of my favorite turkeys!" They called me as soon as they got the card. I was living in Atlanta and I can still picture where I was standing as I spoke to them on the phone. My Grandma cackled and giggled with delight and my Granddad, attempting to sound stern and serious, said, "Now you listen here. Who's the turkey?" and then we all laughed and laughed. I miss them dearly. On holidays and every day. If you have a special turkey in your life, tell them. Okay, maybe don't call them a turkey, if they wouldn't find that funny. ; ) But today, if you have someone you love dearly or a friend that makes you feel special, tell them. You'll be thankful that you did!

Friends Who Fly

Life is Good: we have friendly skies


Month of Gratitude, Day Twenty-seven


Remember my post about friendships on Day 26? I received some lovely emails, facebook messages, texts, and even a phone call about that one. Thank you! I am so grateful when you take the time to read this little blog. And even more appreciative when you take time to write me about it.

My Day 27 gratitude is for another long-lasting friendship. It happens to be a long distance friendship, too. Today, I am grateful for friends who fly all the way from Brazil to see you.

About a month ago, my friend, Hobbes, came to visit us. We met in grad school in Atlanta. I went to a lovely school that welcomed a lot of foreign students. I was fortunate to meet and form friendships with people from Brazil, Lebanon, Denmark, Thailand, Portugal, and many other places. I loved hearing about their homes and what life was like for them there. And I just loved hearing them talk...the accents were divine!

My friend, Hobbes (we had lots of nicknames for her, but this was the one that sounded most like her Brazilian nickname, Robis) finished up with school and left to go back to Brazil, but through the magic of the internet, we have remained close. When she emailed to say that she was making a trip to the US, I was so excited. She planned to pop into Atlanta and then on to Chicago, where many of our friends have settled. That night, I told Grant that I would need to figure out a way to make a little trip to Chicago. ("A way" most likely meant asking my mom to come up to visit and help out with the little boys while I was gone for a couple of days.)

And then I got another email from Robis. She asked if it would be easier for her to come up to Minneapolis to see me since I have two little ones. Gosh, I have the most thoughtful friends. I told her that I would gladly fly to Chicago to see her, but that we would love to host her here, too. Later that day, she emailed me with her itinerary. She wouldn't be able to be here long, but we would make the most of our time.

And we did!

I picked her up bright and early from the airport and we drove to Patisserie 46 for some yummy pain de chocolat and espresso. While we were there, I ran through a list of things we could do that day and asked her what sounded best. Then she told me to, "Stop being so Susie!" and that she just wanted to hang out with me and meet my little boys. When someone tells me to "Stop being so 'Susie'" , I know that they really know me. Do you have friends like that? Friends that you haven't seen in a long time, friends who you only email and facebook with and yet, they are friends who know your personality so well? We had a good laugh about "being so Susie".

We dropped off her bags and drove over to our lake, Lake Harriet. I showed her the bandshell and boats bobbing in the water. We stopped to take a little walk and some pictures.

Our next stop was the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden across from the Walker Art Museum. A photo at the Spoonbridge & Cherry is a MN must!


Then, we took a tour of downtown Minneapolis. It is pretty small for a major city. It is a series of one-way streets and on one, Robis was surprised to see the restaurant, Fogo de Chao ( a Brazilian steakhouse). And even more surprised when she heard the way I pronounce it! (I guess we Americans have it all wrong.)

I gave Hobbes a few choices for lunch (again, "Stop being so 'Susie'!") and we decided to be very American and go for hamburgers! I had heard about this place downtown that was supposed to have great burgers, so away we went.

Band Box Diner was a hit. A hole-in-the-wall? Yes. Tiiiiiiiiny? Yes. Delish burgers? Yes. 

And of course, my little one won't look at the camera. He's got that whole "mind of his own" thing covered.

We raced home to meet the big kid at the bus stop. Hobbes asked if it was a "real bus... you know, yellow and everything?" Yes, a real, big, yellow school bus. She loved it. She told me how our neighborhood looked exactly like what she thought an American neighborhood should look like. The yellow school bus was the icing on the cake. We also talked about how many people were walking dogs in our neighborhood and how Americans treat pets like family members rather than animals. I find conversations about culture so fascinating.

We got the big kid a snack and then pulled out the globe to show him Hobbes' home in Brazil.

Being "so Susie", I had a whole list of places we should go next. I wanted to show her Minnehaha Falls--the pergolas, Longfellow gardens. Or go to the MN Arboretum or the Weisman Art Museum. But she wanted to stay at our house and hang out. She wanted to just be together. She wanted to play with my kids and chat and laugh and enjoy being in the same room together. And that is exactly what we did. It was relaxed and lovely. We were exactly where we needed to be--together.

But, we did have to go out for dinner! Grant stayed home with the kiddos and we did our version of a Girl's Night Out---sushi at Seven. We sat up on the roof. It was a lovely night with great weather, food, and conversation. We talked about careers and kids. We talked about our days in grad school including a potluck dinner we had where everyone brought a dish unique to their country of origin. I was talked into bringing hot dogs. I do not know how that happened! It would never happen now, I will tell you!

It was a lovely (too short) visit and I was so grateful that Hobbes took the time to come up to see us. My kids adored her. Adored! And I was reminded that years can separate our physical selves, but our hearts stay connected no matter how many miles separate us or time passes. Robis was still full of love and bursting with joy and she still understood that I have to be "so Susie!"

I am so grateful for this friendship. For this memory. For the technology to keep in touch with friends and family near and far. For friends who make the extra effort, whether that is in person or otherwise.

And for photos like this. The big kid showing off his new art of "photobombing". Quite possibly the best photo of the trip...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gratitude for Friendship

Life is Good: Real Friendships Endure

Month of Gratitude, Day 26

For the past four years, one of my dearest friends has been sailing around the world with her husband and two boys. It sounds amazing, right? And it was. They sampled special places and met interesting people. They made memories that all four of them will carry in their hearts and minds forever. For. Ever. But she will be the first to tell you that it wasn't glamorous. It wasn't neat and tidy. It was I mean, hard. work.

Besides the work that it takes to keep a boat working and sailing, throw in days--sometimes weeks--at a time without internet (gasp!) which meant no email (what!?!) and no...wait for it...facebook (unfathomable!). And of course, since they were away from the U.S., phone calls were an infrequent luxury. So she and I went quite some time without speaking. I mean, hearing each other's voices. We were able to keep in touch by email and facebook messaging, which often felt like a (faceless) conversation when we caught each other online at the same time---a real treat.  And I was so grateful for those short minutes of connection. Our correspondence was bite-sized. We kept things concise, with the important stuff being upfront. We never "buried the lead".

So when she announced that they had begun their way back home to the U.S., I began to wonder how many "catch up calls" it would take us to...well, catch up! I was so excited to hear her retell their trip--year by year? place by place? How had living on a boat changed her boys? How did the trip affect her marriage? Or did it? What was the single most important moment of the trip? Or was there one? And so many more questions. I had received snipits of answers to these questions already, but surely there was so much more to tell.

I looked back on my last four years and pondered how full they had been. When she left, I had a 1 1/2 year old. Now, I had a five and two-year old. Many ups, a few downs. My family, my life had changed by leaps and bounds. I had gone here and there. I had done this and that. While mine might not have felt as exciting, I, too, had many stories to share.

I was excited (and grateful) to hear that Pip, as I lovingly refer to her, and her family had arrived safely on the East Coast (and relieved--- in all honesty, was a dangerous trip!). And I was excitedly (but patiently) awaiting our first phone call. Gosh, how would we begin this first "catch up call"?

Well, as it turns out, we started in the middle.

A couple of days after their arrival, Pip called me. There was no chit chat or small talk. There was no "how are you?" or "what are you up to today?" She needed to talk about something, so she called and when I answered hello, she dove right in.

So we talked and we gasped and we laughed. And we did all of those things again. And again. And at the end of our conversation, she apologized for just jumping right into a conversation instead of "catching up" first. But there was no need for an apology. And she knew that, too. I was honored that she had thought of me to call. It seems to me that "starting in the middle" is one of the most honest signs of a true friendship that you can find. When you have a friend that you can call at all hours of the day or night, a friend that you know will drop everything for you, a friend who will try to understand when there is no way anyone could understand, a friend with whom you can "start in the middle" must cherish that.

I've always been naive about people. I'm idealistic. I'm an open book. And I walk around with my heart wide-open, too. So when I meet someone and have a great conversation, discover similar interests, I consider them a friend. And I assume that we'll both put something into the friendship and we will be friends for a lifetime. I know, it sounds like a four-year old's view of friendship, doesn't it? That's what I thought as I typed that. I guess it is just the result of my personality. Or the place from which I begin. I don't just want to like everyone. I want to love everyone. There are worse personality flaws, right? (And believe me, I have those, too!)

In the past few years, I have discovered firsthand that not everyone else wants to like and love everyone. I have discovered that some "friends" would rather tear you down in order to build themselves up. These women feel the need to smear a reputation in order to create one of their own. Or they are eager and willing to believe what someone else makes up rather than trust their own experience of you. It's sad. To think that there are adults out there who still have the insecurity and competitive nature that you expect of someone in middle school, someone who hasn't matured and evolved yet. Or they use your "friendship" to take, take, take. And then they move on to the next person that they can take from. Or maybe they delight in casting (even when inaccurate or unfounded) judgements over you because it makes them feel better about their own faults and inadequacies or life, in general. This is not to say that I am not a good judge of character. I think I am and I have good instincts about people. However, I have this innate need to give people "one more chance" which often turns into one more chance times fifty. And I think really good people can make really bad choices. It is a slippery slope. Words come out quickly and there is no taking them back. When you put them out into the world, you have no control over what others will do with them. So you better be sure of every syllable.

Those little tidbits have kept my mind and heart at work way more than I should have let them. But I am a questioner. And a ponderer. I have a desperate need to understand before I can accept. And to be honest, I often let my "understanding" excuse people (which I know is wrong). But I've tried to use this all to let lessons be learned. To better define my own standards. To strengthen the person who I am and want to be. I think I've finally accepted that I need to keep a safe distance from people like that. It's a difficult task for me, though. Pulling back, only sharing a piece of myself, only dipping one toe's just not me. And being true to myself is really important to me. For my own happiness. And as an example to my children. But I still find hope in the fact that while we do not all come from the same starting point, if willing, we all can end up at the same end place of love. I warned you...I'm a dreamer, an idealist, a sappy, sticky, hopeful! I'm also a Christian. And my faith teaches me that we are all flawed and we all deserve forgiveness as we have all received forgiveness from God.

I've decided to take my energy away from the people who baffle me and towards the dear friends who lift me up. I am grateful for so many great girlfriends. And I am so fortunate to have several long-standing, lasting, supportive friends. They are a mixture of personalities. Some live in MN, some live in different cities and they all have lots of different interests. Some are sassy and some are sweet. Some can finish my sentences and some think I am completely nutty! But the thing they have in common is full hearts. They are "at the drop of a hat" kind of girls. They are hug and cheer and squeal kind of souls. They are laugh with you, join right in, talk when you need it and listen when you need it kind of wonders. They are treasures. Absolute treasures.

So today, I am grateful for long-lasting friendships, like the one I share with my friend, Pip. For friendships that endure--the ones that endure time, trials, bad hairstyles, miles of separation, growing pains, husbands, kids, and more. For friendships that come from the starting place of love. For friends who don't compare, but celebrate. For friends who feel like family. And for friendships that are so close, so natural, so intuitive, that you can "start in the middle".

A Month filled with Gratitude

Life is Good: even when you're playing catch up!

Month of Gratitude, Day 24 and 25  

I really love this month of gratitude thing. It is easy for me to list a thousand things in my head that I am grateful for. Not so easy to take the time to sit down and write them out! Well, I guess it could be easy. I could have written Day 24's gratitude if I wanted to miss out on reading books with our kids. I could have written down Day 25's gratitude if I wanted to miss out on making a Lego creation (or twenty) with our big kid. Instead, I decided to live in the moment and write about it later!

Day 24
I love coffee. There. I said it. I love the taste of coffee…be it in candy, ice cream, in a cappuccino or just with cream and sugar. I. Love. Coffee.

I love coffee so much that often I discover at 6PM that I haven’t had anything but coffee to drink all day. I know, I know! This is bad news. So about 5 or 6 months ago, I began a campaign to beat the habit. I have whittled my addiction down to either one or two cups of decaf a day. After all, I have my enthusiasm to keep me going! ; )

But decaf still has "caf", so in an effort to wean myself from my afternoon cup, I have started drinking this delightful cocoa mix from Target. 

It is totally decadent, full of calories and sugar, and has more sodium in it than I would like. BUT, it is doing the trick! I think I am fooling my brain into thinking that it is getting coffee! So, to the makers of Archer Farms cocoa and the fine folks at Target who thought, “hey, salted caramel hot cocoa mix sounds tasty!”, I am ever so grateful!

Day 25
Today, I am grateful for my chiropractor, Dr. Dani. She is theeeeee best at popping and cracking backs, for sure. But she is so much more. She has gifts and talents beyond words. She is such an inspiring, positively positive person. Joy and hope just burst out of her. She has been a great friend (and back cracker) for twelve years. She has helped ease my TMJ, rid me of migraines, reset the rib that the big kid kicked loose when he was in the womb, put me back on track many a time, and so much more. Most Minnesotans are natives and have family and friends from way back to surround them, but I am states away from my family and most of my lifelong friends are scattered across the country, so I am especially grateful for the support system we have up here. Neighbors, church friends, school friends, colleagues and a very special chiropractor lift us up, surround us with love, and fill in the spaces left open. I am so very grateful for the many special people who show us love and care in the Upper Midwest.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Girls Night Out

Life is Good: viva la cheesecake!

Month of Gratitude, Day 23

Last night, I went out for a "Girl's Night Out" with a couple of old friends and a couple of new friends. It was a nice time. We ate a yummy dinner and talked about everything from college to karaoke to earrings made from lost teeth. I know, I know...

I returned home to find what may or may not have been a level one hurricane. Or just a lot of fun. And a report that something had occurred resulting in the two-year old needing his hair washed before bed time. Don't ask. I wish I hadn't.

It was a fun night with the girls. And I was happy to come home to two sleeping cherubs and a welcoming husband.

And this morning? A half of a piece of cheesecake leftover from last night that reminds me


                                                               photo from

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thank Goodness for Little Boys II

Life is Good: I have sunshine on a cloudy day


Month of Gratitude, Day Twenty-two


My dearest Big Kid,
You and your brother are my sunshine. It's true. You are the brightness and warmth in my days. You ooze love and shine happiness and make any old day extraordinary. Your daddy and I are so much more fulfilled because you and your brother exist. Today, and everyday, I am grateful for how you have touched our lives.

I love how big your eyes get when you realize we are listening to a Paul McCartney or John Lennon solo on the radio and you shriek, "It's one of The Beatles!!!" I love how you crack up so easily. Your laughter is easy and infectious. And your dimple. Courtesy of my Grandma. She would have gotten a real kick out of you.

I am amazed by your imagination, your creativity, your ingenuity, your inventions, your curiosity, and the silliness that drips from everything that you do. I am awed by some of the creations you make and how you use the most everyday things to execute some exceptional ideas. Hold on to that skill and continue to hone it. Keep dreaming and doing. Never stop "playing" and daydreaming. If you can think it, you can do it. So keep thinking and keep trying. This is a real gift. I am excited to see how it will serve you as you grow.

You are so thoughtful and sensitive. And oh, so tender. You notice things that others overlook. You have a desperate need to "understand". I'm afraid you get a lot of this from me, dear one. Our strengths are often our weaknesses, too. It is my aim and goal to teach you how to use these pieces of your personality to love people and not let them hurt yourself.

I love your long legs--exact duplicates of your daddy's. They looked like long, frog's legs when you were a newborn. Now, they look more like stilts--ladders to that deep heart and big, always thinking brain of yours.

I am amazed that you always wake up happy. It's always been that way. Ever since you were born. I pray it will always be that way. The way you start the day has so much to do with the way you feel throughout the rest of it.

You just can't understand why kids would be mean to other kids. You are baffled by intentional unkindness. You have such a pure, loving heart. Don't let anyone change that. Never betray who you are. And remember our family rule--"Everything (done) with kindness."

You are so sweet. Truly. Your unsolicited hugs and "I love yous" mean the world to me. You are full of energy and smiles. You are a loving brother. You can tell the silliest stories! You have excellent rhythm, too---you started tapping your toe to music at five-months old! And that's fortunate, since you tell us that you and your little brother will someday have a band called, "Spider Sock".

One of my favorite joys is to hear you tell me that I am your best friend. I know that others will claim that title someday, but I hope I always remain in your inner circle. That you always feel you can talk to me. About anything. I might not always like what I hear, but I will always love you.

Am I going a little overboard? Of course not. Every mama should adore her child this much and more.

Oh, my precious one. Words cannot express deeply enough the impact you have made on our lives, the imprint you have made on my heart. You have introduced me to my purpose---motherhood. I used to live life looking forward, but now, I live in the moment because "right now"--no matter where that is-- is the best time of our lives. Nothing else is more rewarding than accompanying you and your brother on the road of life. May we have all the time we want together and may the bumps in the road be small and short-lived and the curves and swerves be full of fun.

I love you dearly.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Eat Quinoa with Gratitude

Life is Good: I've found gold!

Month of Gratitude, Day 21

Remember yesterday's post about the little things? Well, today I am grateful for a little (big) thing. I feel like I just scaled a mountain or finished a marathon (or some other great feat that I know I will never actually accomplish because I could care less about stuff like that).

Today, I am grateful that I discovered the way to get my kids to eat quinoa without whining. Ready? Got your pen and paper? Because you will want to write this down. CHEESE! Who knew? A little bit of parmesan cheese and that grassy taste that takes even adults a little while to get used to just goes away. Our two-year old devoured his. Eureka! Everybody eats a healthy dinner and I sigh with relief! Thank you very much!

Giving Thanks

Life is Good: even with a headache

Month of Gratitude, Day 20

I didn't post anything yesterday, so I am, once again, playing catch up! It isn't that I wasn't grateful for anything. In fact, I am so grateful for this little month of gratitude project that I invented for myself. I think I do a pretty good job of acknowledging our blessings, but this post a day thing has been good for me to stop, sit down, think, and write.

I've been trying to focus on "the little things", the simpler things, because I think it is easier to be grateful for the gargantuan stuff. But to be thoughtful, aware, and glad for the most ordinary of things is quite possibly, the truest form of gratitude. 

Yesterday was such a full day and by the time I had a break to write, it was 9:30 PM and a run of the mill headache had turned into a pressure cooker in my head. I felt like my head was a balloon just about to pop. I'm sure that rubbing my head was not Grant's first choice for closing out the evening. But he did it. He rubbed my head until the balloon lost some of its air. And while he did, we talked about the day. I told him all of the cute things the little one said and the hilarious things the big kid said. He laughed. I giggled. And I was grateful. Grateful for the slowness of the night. Grateful for children who entertain us. Grateful for a husband who will pause "Modern Family" so that he can rub my head. Grateful for the pressure cooker in my head being turned down to "low". Grateful for the most ordinary of things.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Doughnuts and Friendships: both works in progress

Life is Good: and sweet!

Month of Gratitude, Day 19

I had a couple of girlfriends over this morning and they brought their little ones along. Mamas chatted and kiddos played with, quite possibly, every toy we own! Snack time was courtesy of my latest lab experiment: eggless, baked maple-cinnamon doughnuts. The recipe is still a work in progress, but I do think I figured out what I need to adjust to make them less dense and more cake-like. So stay tuned...

Today, I am grateful for homemade doughnuts and good friends with whom to share them!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Acknowledging the Gifts of Art and Great Artists

Life is Good: art is all around us


Month of Gratitude, Day Eighteen

On Mondays, our two-year old has art class. Today, as I watched him dive into paint and printmaking with exaltation and bliss, I said a prayer of gratitude for art.  Oh, how I love it. I'm a writer by trade, but my true love is art. I love making art and I love viewing it, too. I am so grateful for the colors and the textures and the creativity behind it.

 "Turtle" by our two-year old. Media: oil pastel on paper.

Art has brought me such joy in my life. It is both centering and calming and invigorating, too. It has given me confidence. It has taught me to trust my ideas. It has been empowering and therapeutic. And while I still question my own work, I delight in the journey.

"Mommy" by our then four-year old. Media: Collage paper on paper.

I am grateful that my children each have a love of art. I love to watch each one of them draw. They are so focused and intent. I enjoy watching them in process (especially choosing colors) and then try to figure out their motivation. I treasure the sight of the twinkle of glee in their eyes when I praise their work.

"Baby Brother" by our then 4-year old. Media: tempera paint on paper.

I am grateful for Matisse and Picasso and Michelangelo. For Fauvists and Cubists and Outsider Artists alike. For the Impressionists. For artistic groundbreakers like Warhol and Pollock and Chuck Close. For self-taught artists who bring a new definition to the word, "art". And for their bravery and courage in presenting their art to the world and undeniable need to make art. This courage applies to all artists, indeed.

"Man" by our two-year old. Media: oil pastel on paper.

I am thankful for those who have encouraged me to keep making art. To my high school art teacher, who fished my work out of the trash at the end of the school year and put it on display in our little town's "art gallery". For the people of Atlanta and Tallahassee who bought my pieces and the gallery owners who encouraged me to keep on creating, I am deeply appreciative. That was a turning point for me.

I could go on. But this is not about me, this is about the art. So all encompassing. Absolutely everywhere. Paintings and photography and sculpture that moves and inspires us...

For all its many shapes and colors, sizes and forms, I am so very grateful for the gift of art. Today. All days. And for the One who created all of these blessings for us, the greatest creative of all, our God. I continue to be amazed at His ingenuity and originality. It's baffling and humbling.

Here's to photographers and painters, sculpters and seamstresses, architects and gardeners. Here's to makers of things and the boldness to dream, create, and place it before the world.


Double the Gratitude

Life is Good: times two!

Month of Gratitude, Day 16 and 17

This weekend was a good one. But aren't all weekends great? Since the big kid is now in kindergarten, I cherish our weekends even more. It's family time.

This weekend was a cozy one. It was jut the four of us. Nowhere to speed off to, no one to fling the door open with a big "Hello!" and "Welcome!" And don't get me wrong...I love to run off to the museum and utterly enjoy hosting brunch. But this weekend was just about us and that was lovely in its own tiny, intimate sort of way.

I am grateful for a slow Saturday morning and kids in their jammies until noon. I'm grateful for the easiness that the overcast morning brought. The coziness of the grey skies. For kiddos sprawled out, drawing Ninja Turtles (or course) and Buzz Lightyear on the floor. And the giggles. Times a million.

And I'm grateful for our friend who came to hang out (we don't say "babysitter'!) with the little ones so that Grant and I could do some fall cleaning in our basement. Whew! That felt good.  Then we hurried off to try out The 5-8 Club's Juicy Lucy. It's taken us a decade of living here, but we've now sampled the Juicy Lucy from both places that claim to have invented it--The 5-8 Club and Matt's Bar. We tried the latter just this past summer during our family time/staycation.

I didn't eat the Matt's Bar Juicy Lucy. I ordered a hamburger. And yes, the server looked at me like I was an alien. So I went ahead and ordered the Juicy Lucy at The 5-8 Club, for fear of being publicly ostracized. (Not really.) And no, there was no way I could eat the entire thing.

It was a quick meal and not our "usual" kind of dining experience. But it was nice to be together. To talk without little people interrupting. It was a nice, little moment for which I am grateful.

Grant determined The 5-8 Club the winner. He added that the onion rings sealed the deal. I will add that the atmosphere at The 5-8 Club is better, too! Both places are small, so expect to wait in line for a table.

Sunday brought more family time, for which I am always thankful. I felt a little icky, so I spent the morning willing myself healthy. I tried out a new recipe for homemade (eggless) doughnuts. The three men in the house approved. I think it needs some work. I'll post it went I have tried it out a couple more times and tweaked the recipe.  I am so grateful that neither of us has to leave our family to go work somewhere on the weekends. And that my husband is an eager participant in my kitchen experiments. He is both easy to please and appreciative of the meals that I cook. And I am thankful for that.

After a month of first, Grant getting sick with a virus that turned into pneumonia and then our littlest one getting sick with a virus that turned into pneumonia, I'm grateful that everyone is in good health. I'm grateful for the basic blessings of food, indoor plumbing, a warm home on a rainy day, and good, clean water. I try not to take those things for granted. And I pray for those throughout the world who don't have these same essentials.

It was a sweet, simple weekend. More and more, I realize how much our family needs these slowed down times to balance us out. This doesn't mean that my enthusiasm for go-go-going is waning! I'm just trying to get the scale a little more centered. After all, that's one of my jobs. I set the pace and tone for our family. So I aim to keep things joyful, balanced, and...pleasant! ; )

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Day Full of Gratitude

Life is Good: it's been a great day!

Month of Gratitude, Day Fifteen

Today has been a great day. I am grateful for many things:

1. Waking up to forty degrees because on a November morning in Minnesota, it could be so much colder!

2. A sweet, silly two-year old's pretend conversation between a Little People lizard and a squishy frog that included the words, "Rock chalk, KU!"

3. Sunshine, a 54 degree afternoon, and a five-year old who bounces off of the bus with a smile.

4. The delivery of my Bon Appetit magazine--the only subscription I have. Thank you for the inspiration and excitement to try some new recipes.

5. Leftovers for dinner. I'm inspired to start cooking...tomorrow!

6. A husband who, upon arrival home at the end of the day, makes sure to kiss me hello before he does anything else.

7. A phone call with my mom discussing nothing important at all, but rather just to hear the sound of her voice.

8. Clementines. Need I say more?

9. It's almost Friday night. Oh, how I love Friday nights! They mean family time. They mean friends. They mean dinners out. They mean staying up late because there is no work tomorrow. They mean tomorrow is Saturday morning. They mean Fashion Police on the Tivo. They mean the end of the work week and no school tomorrow. They mean the start of the weekend!

10. Music on the radio today: Kelly Clarkson, The Wanted, REO Speedwagon, The Killers, Mumford & Sons, Pink, and Taylor Swift (don't judge).


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Give to the Max MN

Life is Good: we have enough to share

Month of Gratitude, Day 14

Today, I am so very grateful to live in Minnesota. I am sure there are a lot of raised eyebrows and gasps at reading that statement. No, my blog has not been hacked.

Today is Give to the Max MN Day. A once-a-year celebration of non-profits (this year, 4,000+ are participating) and opportunity for people to make donations to their favorite causes, often with their donations being matched (by board members, corporations, etc).

Minnesotans are a generous bunch. And for that, I am oh, so grateful and proud to stand beside them. Sure, I may complain from time to time about the winters (oh! the winters!), your provincialism (c'mon, let's be honest!), a bit of the culture (lutefisk? really?) and to be sure, this is not the Midwest, but rather the Upper Midwest, and that brings about a lot of differences from the area where I was raised.

But you are innovative and creative, Minnesota. You are a green, sustainable, recycling people. And you are generous. I just took a peek at the Give the the Max MN website and millions of dollars had already been donated by noon. Wow.

So today, my hat is off to my friends and neighbors. I am proud to live in a state that gives so much. A state that doesn't turn the other way, but rather, looks the needy in the eye and puts out their hand to help.

"Give to the max." What a great phrase, huh? Words to live by. Generosity can take many shapes and forms. May you be both the recipient and the bearer of "giving to the max". Today and every day.
 graphic courtesy of

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Photographs and Memories

Life is Good: and we're documenting it

Month of Gratitude, Day 13

Today, I am grateful for this photograph...

I'm grateful for our family and the children who make Halloween and all of the rest of the holidays more enjoyable, magical, wondrous, meaningful, and just plain fun.

I am grateful for my husband who did not say a word when I informed him that we would be dressing like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Halloween. I didn't have to beg or plead. And when October 31st came, he put on that turtle shell and mask and smiled.

I always say that last year's photo from Halloween proved that Grant loves me...
Last year was the first time I'd asked him to don face paint and wear itchy raffia-lined clothes. And I asked him to do it several times---for a party, for the big kid's school celebration, and of course, Halloween. So he did it. And I loved him for it. And so did our kiddos.

I guess this year's photo proves how much we love our kids. Those costumes were warm, but oh, so unflattering. Grant and I both looked pregnant (from either side!) with a padded shell on our backs and a padded undershell on our fronts. But it was the big kid's brainchild. From all the way back in September. And we were happy to oblige. I am grateful for his sharp mind and creativity. So I went to work researching what Ninja Turtles look like and turned to my friends, felt and hot glue (plus a little fabric glue) to make four (kind of) Ninja Turtles in varying shapes and sizes.

I am grateful for this photo and the friends who took the picture. I am grateful that they invited us to their house to celebrate together. And for the fellowship of the night. I am grateful that my children have their children. We are blessed by their friendship, more family than friends.

I am grateful for the little person in the front of the photograph, who joined our family and dived right in. He is always up for an adventure. As long as it includes sunglasses, goggles, or a mask...

I give thanks for this picture of a family just happy to be together. A foursome who love each other and like being around each other. We love going to extraordinary places and doing extraordinary things, but we also can make the ordinary feel extraordinary...just by being together. I am grateful for the moment. And for the memory.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Living in the moment and being present in the present

Life is Good: my kids are great teachers

Month of Gratitude, Day Twelve

Today, I am so very grateful to my children for helping me to live in the moment. They have taught me to be present in the present.

For as long as I can remember, I have been thinking about what comes next or planning for time ahead. And to be sure, I am still a planner, I am still thinking about tomorrow and next week and next month. But I have learned to give the planning, and the thinking ahead, and the preparing a smaller amount of time because I don't want to miss out on what is happening right now.

A perfect example is lunchtime today. I decided to forego, or at least delay, my lunch so that I could get some things put away and clean the kitchen while our littlest person ate his lunch. But he decided that he wanted me to feed him his lunch. Bite. by. bite.

Now, he is in no way incapable of feeding himself. He is a few months past two years old. Really, he wanted my attention. Okay. Fine. I get it. So I sat down and tried to efficiently (read: quickly) feed him his lunch. But, nope. He wasn't having any of that. "I see through you, mama. You need to slow it down," he seemed to say through those dancing blue eyes. And if I didn't get it? He would make sure that I did.  By requesting that for every bite I gave him, I gave one to this little person, too.

This is "Baby Boy". A doll my brother gave to the big kid when he was a baby. Our big kid loved Baby Boy, but passed him down to little brother when he acquired a certain pet tiger and dinosaur aptly named, "Rex". Well, recently, little brother has become obsessed with Baby Boy. He must be in the vicinity of him at all times. Often accompanied by a sock monkey my mom made, a whale named "Licorice" (which is especially fun to hear a two-year old pronounce) and a couple of dogs named "Snickers" and "Buster", Baby Boy is hugged and snuggled, shown how to play with "guys" (baseball, football, Playmobil, etc), taken on "trips" that require a backpack, put to sleep so he can snore (loudly, I must say), and today, fed like a real, live boy.

So I did it. I gave the little one a bite and then I gave one to Baby Boy. Another bite for our little one and another bite for Baby Boy. And so it went. Slow and slower. All the while, our little one smiling and giggling with satisfaction. And I smiled, too.

I didn't get my tasks done until later. But what I got instead was far more valuable than the gratification of clean countertops. I got time, smiles, and a moment with my child that I can never get back.

I know parents are supposed to teach their kids about the world, but my kids are teaching me about life. They're teaching me to stop and feed a doll and savor the moment. They're teaching me that I need to enjoy today because none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow.

Today, I am grateful for two blue-eyed, curly-headed cherubs who have changed my life and changed my everyday. And for the sense to treat every moment like it is the best time in our lives. Because it is.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day Gratitude

Life is Good: I'm proud to be an American

Month of Gratitude, Day Eleven

My due date was July fourth. Maybe this is why I have been called a firecracker more than once? : ) I don't know if being born in July is what did it, but I have always felt very patriotic. I get goosebumps when I hear the "Star Spangled Banner" and tear up when I recite the "Pledge of Allegiance". A lot of this is because I think of people across the world who don't have it as easy as me. Parents who can't get medication as easily for their children, mamas who don't have access to clean water, women who can't complain about how fat they look in their jeans because they aren't allowed to wear jeans. And more.

On Veteran's Day, I salute veterans, past and present. Freedom isn't free. Freedom sometimes squashes dreams and breaks up families. Freedom sometimes breaks innocence and worse, hearts. Today is not about analysis of battles or occupations. Today is not about opinions. Today, is about veterans and their families.

On days like this, I can't help but think of my Grandma's brother, Bob, and the story she told me about the last time that her family saw him. You can read about it by clicking here.

Freedom isn't free, so I thank you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gratitude for the best Sausage, Basil & Cheese Lasagna recipe

Life is Good: when you give, you receive


Month of Gratitude, Day 10

Today, I am grateful for Sausage, Basil, and Cheese Lasagna. This is my go-to lasagna recipe that I found in an old Gourmet magazine (may it rest in peace--I will never understand why that went out of business!).

As I mentioned in my Month of Gratitude, Day 8 post, I wanted to do something good for the world to celebrate my sister's birthday. I will go to Feed My Starving Children with a couple of girlfriends later this month to pack meals for the truly starving in the world, but until then, I decided to feed some other people a little closer to home. I have some friends who could use a prepared meal or two. Some of them have been ill, some of them have recently welcomed babies, all of them would enjoy a night off from the kitchen.

My mom taught me that delivering a meal to someone is a simple way to show you care and that when you give to others, you receive so much, too. When you show a kindness to someone, it works like a boomerang and warms your heart. So with that notion, I took to the kitchen to make meals for some friends' freezers. It felt good to put my mind to work thinking about the recipe, the ingredients, the families I would take the food to.

Today, I am grateful for my parents, who are great examples of thinking of others. They taught me that it is better to give than to receive, but that when you give, you always receive the blessings of fulfillment and joy. And I am thankful for newborn babies and good test results and the medication & technology that we can easily access in America. And for sausage, basil, cheese, flat noodles and the brilliant person who first thought to put them together!

Gourmet Magazine's Sausage, Basil, and Cheese Lasagna
Sauce Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (I leave this out when cooking for others)
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion (do not drain) (or plain diced tomatoes)
Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1 15-ounce container plus 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 large egg (I skip this due to our food allergies)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I skip it. The cheese makes it salty-tasting enough for us)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Assembly Ingredients:
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8-ounce package
  • 3 cups (packed) grated mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • Nonstick olive oil spray
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausages, onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and sauté until sausage is cooked through, mashing sausage into small pieces with back of fork, about 10 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with juices. Bring sauce to boil. 

Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled.) 

Using on/off turns, chop fresh basil leaves finely in processor. Add ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg (we leave it out), 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Using on/off turns, process filling until just blended and texture is still chunky. 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread 1 1/4 cups sauce in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange 3 noodles on sauce. Drop 1 1/2 cups filling over noodles, then spread evenly to cover. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layering of sauce, noodles, filling and cheeses 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 noodles. Spoon remaining sauce atop noodles. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Spray large piece of foil with nonstick olive oil spray. Cover lasagna with foil, sprayed side down. 

Bake lasagna 40 minutes. Carefully uncover. Increase oven temperature to 400°F. Bake until noodles are tender, sauce bubbles thickly and edges of lasagna are golden and puffed, about 20 minutes. 

Transfer to work surface; let stand 15 minutes before serving to ensure your pieces cut neatly.

Photo and recipe courtesy of

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Another Gratitude Blog

Life is Good: I'm just plain thankful!

Month of Gratitude, Day 9

I am grateful for...
good health, safety, and well-being. A roof over our heads that keeps us warm when it is cold and cool when it is warm. I am grateful for my two little alarm clocks even on the weekends when I'd love to sleep in! I'm grateful for music and art and the magnificence that is nature. For walks around the lake in the sunshine. And just for sunshine! For painted skies. For sushi. For the words, "mommy" and "mama" and all of the other words that are strung together in story and song and love. And chocolate. Of course, chocolate.

I am thankful for...
technology that keeps me feeling close to loved ones far away. And newborn babies for their teeny tiny feet and the hope they bring to the world. For crisp fall mornings surrounded by yellow, gold, red, and burnt orange. For the ocean and the sand. For a steak cooked on the grill by my dad. And the sparkle in my dad's eye. And salted caramel anything.

I give thanks for...
second and third cousins who love and support us like siblings. For days when everything is in its place! Or at least moments like that. For family time, butterscotch budino from 112 Eatery, photographs and the cameras that capture moments we will never get back. For the process of making things, party planning, and hosting. And for the friends who allow me to entertain them in our space. For levity. For poetry. For fresh-squeezed lemonade on a hot day. For foot rubs and acupuncture and my Pilates trainer.

And friends. On the phone or across the table. Smiles, gestures, invitations. Listening ears, laughing hearts, and kindred spirits. Slow mornings, a warm bed, the miracle of the nebulizer, paper, markers and paint. And cashmere. Peonies, tulips, and new blooms in Spring. Cheese of any and all varieties. Art. From Michelangelo to Matisse & Picasso to the Outsider Artists of which no one knows their names. For color and texture and wonder. For treehouses and quilts and picnic blankets.

For Cape Cod and North & South Carolina. For southern accents and my mom calling people, "sugarplum". For long, hot showers, broccoli, cheesecake, and lazy summer nights. For baby bunnies, kittens, hammocks, and pedicures. For cheese curds, which sound gross, but taste amazing.

I am grateful that my husband goes to work earlier than most so that he can race home and spend quality time with us at the end of the day. And that he takes out the trash so that I don't have to. For coffee with cream & sugar, blue skies, sunflowers, giggles, snuggles, Lego inventions and reinventions, vacations to extraordinary places. For my grandma's handwritten letters. For a great pair of shoes. And zucchini!

I am thankful for all of these things and more. All created for us by God, who is infinitely creative and wise. Whose majesty is simply beyond my words, my capabilities. I am so very grateful for the enormity of this world's blessings...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Gratitude for Sisters

Life is Good: our memories fill us up

Month of Gratitude, Day Eight

Today is a tough one for me, I'll admit. Today is my sister's birthday. Each year, my aim and goal is to celebrate her life. Since I've been an adult, I've used her birthday to do something good for the world. I've worked with young children and battered women, collected gloves and hats for those who have none, I've worked on a house for Habitat for Humanity, packed meals for the truly starving, and more. And that feels good. But to be perfectly honest, it's hard work celebrating someone you miss so desperately. It's hard work keeping a smile on your face while thinking of all of the moments you didn't get to share, what might have been. And mostly, it's hard not to mourn when I think about my parents. They, too, must be feeling a rush of both celebration and pain. They always say that they want to celebrate her birthday and remember all of the great memories. But I know it is not that easy.

So today, I am grateful for my sister. I only got a handful of years with her. But my memories are vivid. And I thank God for that. I remember so much of what life was like when I was so little. I remember everything from vacations and boating on the weekends to endless piano playing and eating apples on a newspaper placemat at the dining room table. I can see the (sassy) sparkle in her eye. I remember her vibrant energy. And her sweet, pure, soprano voice.

Both my sister's death and her life have affected me. And I am grateful for that, too. Her passing solidified my parents' faith. It was an anchor for mine.

I am grateful for girlfriends whom I love like sisters. No, it's not the same. But they are as close to a sister as I have on this Earth and I cherish them. I am so grateful that they love me despite all of my wounds and flaws. And I am grateful for extended family who feel closer than the bloodline dictates.

And I am grateful for those, over the years, who have not forgotten my sister. Friends and family who remember her birthday, classmates who have sent cards or flowers to let my parents know she has not been forgotten. It means so very, very much to my parents. It warms my heart. 

Mostly, I am thankful that I had someone in my life worthy of tears. Tears mean that someone mattered. Tears mean that they touched your heart. Tears mean that they left an imprint on your life. So I will smile and remember Barbies and choir practice and making slushes in the blender. I will say prayers of thanks and gratitude. I will hug my children tightly and be grateful for every breath with them. And if the tears come, I will be grateful for them and what they represent---my sister and the impact she made on our lives.

This is one of those posts that feels a bit too personal. I hesitated to post it. But I need for my children to understand this piece of me. This post barely brushes the surface, but it is a little something. And I need to acknowledge this day. A day full of blessings and yes, some sadness, too. I told myself when I made this blog public, that I would always be real and be an open book. So this post is keeping with that. I'm sorry that it isn't uplifting. I always aim to be positive with a smile on my face. But we all have hurt and most of us have someone we miss in our lives.

“... it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.” (Arthur Schopenhauer)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thank Goodness for Little Boys

Life is Good: with gratitude to our youngest

Month of Gratitude, Day Seven

Today and every day, I am grateful for being a mother. It is my greatest thrill. It is my biggest source of joy. What I believe will be my most important work in life and my greatest contribution to the world. It is truly my purpose.

Today, I focus my gratitude on our precious little one, affectionately known around here as "Mister T".

Oh, you are a persistent one, aren't you? You are unstoppable. Seemingly, invincible. And boy, you get stuff done. I love your determined attitude. You have absolutely no idea that your age or size or anything else should prohibit you from doing anything. Anything. Absolutely anything. This super power will serve you well, I imagine.

I love the mischievous sparkle in your eyes, your sheepish, stinkerish expressions, and that you walk into a room and make friends with everyone you see. Your smile beams like sunshine. All proof you have your granddad's DNA.

Right now is an extraordinary time in your development. I love how you talk as if you are sharing your every thought and feeling in real time. I get it, kid. We're two of a kind, that's true. The word in spanish is, "Simpatico". Maybe it's because we share a birth month, a zodiac sign. Maybe it is because you spent ten months in the womb with me. Whatever it is, I am grateful for your words and can't wait for all of the conversations we will share!

I will never get tired of hearing you sing. You are the sweetest sounding duet partner a mama could ask for. When my voice cracks, it is from an overwhelming sense of joy that you are here on this earth with me. If tears appear, it is because I am simultaneously saying silent prayers of gratitude. The blessing that you are is nearly impossible to explain in words. If I miss a word or two, it is to hold back giggles. I'm not laughing at you, but rather reveling in the sweetness of the sound, the moment.

You are quick to smile, to laugh. Your love of all things art is so exciting to me. I love to watch you draw...such intensity. I am always amazed to hear you tell me what you are drawing. You always seem to have a vision and a goal. Paint seems to be your medium. The mere sight of a paint brush makes you effervescent.

You love to build and uncover how things work. It's been that way since I can remember. I might guess that you would be an engineer when you grow up. After you've made it as a rock star, of course.

You have a sweetness that seems to radiate out of you. Friends and strangers alike comment on it. Am I gushing? Shouldn't all mamas adore their children so?

I am so very glad that you are a part of our family. God knew exactly what He was doing when he brought you to us. It is an honor to be your parent. It is a blessing to be your mama. It is a joy to be your playmate.

I treasure each moment with you, my little one.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Gratitude Blog

Life is Good: dinner is done!

Month of Gratitude, Day Six

This morning's gratitude is's 7 AM and dinner is ready! Being the head chef at Casa de How to be Pleasant, I am always looking for ways to make dinnertime delicious but simple. I have two secrets to efficiency at the end of the day: doing prep work in the morning or making your dinner at breakfast.

Lean in for a minute while I divulge another secret. Let me make sure that no one is watching. Okay, don't tell anyone, but...I don't eat breakfast.

Shhhhhhhhhhhh! Quiet down! I know, I know. It's the most important meal of the day. Blah, yada, whatevs.

I have never been a breakfast eater. Even when I was pregnant. I just don't wake up hungry and it takes me a few hours to develop an appetite. So I take this time while the kiddos are eating their breakfast to pull meat out of the freezer, slice veggies, etc. We talk while I cook and they eat. Not everyday, but some days. Of course, nothing keeps me from sitting down, looking them in the eye, and listening when they need me to.

I also like to make the entire meal in the morning and stick it on low in the oven (for example, a pork loin or pot roast) or turn to my best friend, the crockpot (for everything from soups to cooking juicy chicken for enchiladas and more). I've discovered a great website that has tons of crock pot/slow cooker recipes. This one for broccoli beef is a fave.

Oh, sure. Gratitude for dinner being ready seems silly. But when you really think about it, whenever we can make the busy times of the day less stressful or open up time to be spent with our loved ones, it's a win. When I am stressed, everyone feels it. When my kiddos ask me to play and I don't have to tell them I can't because I have to make dinner, everyone is happy. So I am also grateful that there will be more time for snuggles or Ninja Turtles or giggles or Legos or all of the above tonight. And dinner's done, too!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Morning Gratitude

Life is Good: celebrate the gift of time

Month of Gratitude: Day Five

Brace yourself. I am about to expose a shocking truth about myself.

That's right. You heard it here first. I am not-- and am pretty sure I will never be-- a morning person. Ask me to stay up all night and have a smile on my face at 5 AM? Done. Ask me to get up at 5 AM and dance around like Mary Poppins while cartoon character birds whistle and tweet around me? Nope. Can't. Not gonna do it. (I hope you read that last line in a George H. W. Bush voice.)

But now that the big kid is in kindergarten, I've been forced to become (my version of) a morning person. His school starts early. Really early. The upside of that is that he gets home early, too. And I utterly enjoy that. But because of timing, we've decided that the only way we can respect little brother's routine (naptime being the deciding factor), the big kid needs to ride the bus. And he loves it. He loves school, he loves the bus, and we are grateful for this!


In order for the morning to feel peaceful and not to be rushed, in order for our house to feel more zen and less chicken-with-its-head-cut-off, I set my alarm for 5:40.

Let's take a moment for all of the gasps to stop.

I know, it is painful even to type those numbers! It is still painful every night when I check the alarm. But for now, it is what I need to do to get myself in order in the morning so that I can be the jolly, peaceful, loving mama my big kid expects.

I am grateful to wake up each day. I am thankful for the little boys I turn and see on the video monitor when I open my eyes each morning. I am grateful for the opportunities that a new day brings. I am grateful for God's mercies and grace and blessings. But, man. Ideally, this would all start a couple of hours later!

Blame it on Daylight Savings Time, but the big kid woke up at 5:53 this morning. And I am grateful. No, I didn't get through my "talk yourself into being Mommy Susie Sunshine" routine. I didn't get a few moments to myself to make a mental check list, say my prayers of thanks, and prepare. But what I got instead was a few extra moments with one of my favorite people in the world. I got to hear a story, acted out in character, of a little chick about to have breakfast. I was anointed with the wisdom that "you should never keep butter in your hat". And I got to see that dimple. Oh, that dimple. Gifted to him by my Grandma, for sure. It makes itself known when the big kid is especially proud of himself and grins from ear to ear. And also when he is being a real stinker...

I am so grateful for that dimple. A daily reminder of my Grandma, who I adored as a child and was fortunate enough to become friends with as an adult. She's been gone more than a decade, but I can still hear her voice. And see her dimple...which would hide until she was especially tickled about something. I like to think that when the big kid was born, she kissed his cheek and planted that dimple.

So today, I am grateful for time. A little extra time with a little person I love a lot. Times like these just might make me a morning person after all...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Gratitude for Mothers

Life is Good: it's my mom's birthday!

Month of Gratitude, Day Four

Today is my mom's birthday! Miles separate us, but she is always near me for she inhabits a place in both my heart and my head. I feel her love. I hear her voice. Today and every day, I am grateful for my mother.

Everyone thinks that their mom is the best, right? But my mom really is! ; ) My mom epitomizes the words, "unconditional love". She is quick to help and easy to forgive. She is creative and innovative, talented and energetic, and there is no skill she cannot learn, no idea she cannot manage to bring to fruition. My mom has accomplished much in her life, but I would dare to say that she is most proud that she has raised both a son and a daughter who call her their best friend. 

I often say that the words, "thank you" just seem too flimsy for the gratitude I hold for you. I thank you for your support. It is apparent--when you agree, when you understand, when you feel the same. But it is also obvious when you question, when you wonder, when you worry, when you disagree. The support, the love, the dedication is still abundant. I thank you for your example---the kindness and care you show to your closest friends and strangers alike, the patience you show whether that means waiting or indulging or remaining quiet.

I'm not sure many people are aware of some of your most admirable qualities. For example, that you have taken people in, dusted them off, and nursed them back to health. Literally. And figuratively. That you've been the caring, understanding voice on the phone when everyone else scattered. That you've been willing to stand in the shadows, letting others take credit and praise. You put everyone's needs before your own. And do it quietly. You show so much grace. And yet, the ones you show the most grace to...have no idea. Because you are so good at it.

You are our matriarch. You keep our family functioning. You are holidays. You are celebrations. You are our glue. You are our heart.

We may not share the same personality. I take up a lot of air in the room and you are focused and intent. I am quick to speak and you sometimes never do. We do not have the same taste! I could list a million examples of how different we are. But none of those differences matter as much as what we share in common. Our hearts. You shared yours with me from the minute I was in the womb. And I carry a piece of your heart with me everywhere I go. Your heart, full of love and acceptance, support and endurance. Your heart brimming over with compassion, open wide with forgiveness. Your heart is intertwined with mine. Forever. For always. No matter what separates us, we cannot be separated.

On this day and every day, I am so grateful for a mother who has set such a loving example.

Happy birthday, mama!