Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 30: Something Silly

Rainy days can go either way in my house: whiny, cabin-fevered children getting into fights and complaining they’re bored, or happy children enjoying the chance to do inside projects. Today, thank goodness, turned out to be the latter. We started the day with a play date at home with some friends, the kids all chasing each other around and wrestling (yes, even Katie) to burn off energy, but once our friends left, the kids were impressively mellow and asking for an art project.

My son has discovered a fun concept called “Artzooka,” which is basically making things out of found and recycled objects from around the house. We’ve made jet packs for stuffed animals out of empty water bottles, rubber bands, and tissue paper; we’ve made pinwheels out of construction paper and straws; we’ve made interesting but indescribable sculptures from broken toys and scotch tape. And today, we made a minecraft helmet out of an empty baby wipes box, construction paper, and magic markers.

You can’t see it in this photo, but there is a big smile hiding behind that swath of cardboard. And there were lots of silly noises coming from inside it. And I have no doubt there will be lots more silliness coming from both inside and around that helmet for the rest of the afternoon.

What better way to spend a rainy afternoon than by doing something silly?

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 29: Contrast

To find a contrast in my life, I only have to look as far as my children. One boy and one girl; one brown-haired and one blonde; one carnivore and one near-vegetarian; one night owl and one early riser; one truck- and rocket-lover and one tutu- and crown-wearer; one fond of orange and one of pink; one who doesn’t nap and one who does; one who’s built like a tank and one like a delicate flower. 
Even where there isn’t an innate contrast, there is often a passing contrast: he’s cranky when she’s cheerful; he’s sleepy when she’s wide awake; he’s in the mood to play outside when she’d rather stay in; he wants a PB&J when she wants a grilled cheese; he wants to race around when she wants to snuggle. Fortunately, many of their contrasts are actually complementary. When we have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, he eats her spaghetti and she eats his meatballs. When he finishes playing with the Legos, she’s ready to start. He wants to hear one bedtime story, she wants a different one. When she’s ready for bedtime, he’s happy to play for another half an hour. Just when my ears start to bleed from listening to his favorite song 27 times in a row, she demands her favorite 27 times in a row.

But even beyond just my children, my husband and I demonstrate some contrast. He’s an extrovert; I’m an introvert. He’s technically inclined; I am not. I am more comfortable with the written word; he’s more comfortable with the spoken word. He loves being in charge; I’d rather take orders. He prefers red wine; I lean towards white. I love ethnic food; he’s a meat and potatoes guy. He likes the Hilton; I’m happy with Motel 6. He is a human GPS; I can get lost in my own neighborhood.

The four of us together, however, are proof that contrasts can be complementary. Among the four of us, we’ve got blond hair, brown hair, red hair, and bald all covered. We’ve got tall, average, petite, and husky. We’ve got short sweater, long sweater, vest, and jacket. As long as we’re all together, someone will be happy with whatever’s on the menu; someone will know how to get where we’re going; someone will find a toy that makes them happy; someone will like whatever is on the radio; someone will have an interesting story to entertain guests with. And someone will look terrific in whatever family theme colors we’ve decided on.

I’m pretty okay with that contrast.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 28: Chaotic

“Chaotic.” That one word pretty much sums up every day of my life for the past few years. Particularly recently. At this moment, I am attempting to potty train two children at once, which, as any mom will tell you, is an exercise in chaos. You have to be prepared at any moment, no matter where you are, to rush to a bathroom. You need to be able to unhook, unbutton, unzip, or otherwise undo various assorted garments in a split-second. You need to be able to locate and reach a bathroom in any public place in under 30 seconds. You have to have the magical ability to determine the exact urgency of the situation at a single glance. You must develop secret psychic powers to determine the exact moment when a child needs to relieve him- or herself and somehow get him or her to a toilet before all hell breaks loose. The word “chaos,” in this instance, is an understatement.

This pretty little potty chair looks so innocuous, doesn’t it? And yet, it is the hub of chaos for every parent for a period of approximately 6 months per child (although in my case, I’m starting to have the feeling it’s going to stretch out to closer to 6 YEARS). For those 6 months, your life seems to revolve around potties. You let your child watch you use the potty. You watch Elmo use the potty. You talk about using the potty. You talk about Elmo using the potty. You watch videos, read books, and have conversations that all revolve around toilets. You invent new words for bodily functions involving toilets. Your world, for a period of time, is centered around toilets.

It is a sad, sad period of parental life.

But eventually (or so they tell me) it is over, and the chaos transforms into freedom. Freedom from diapers, freedom from diaper pails, freedom from diaper bags, freedom from all things associated with diapers. I yearn for that day. But until then, I will just deal with the chaos.

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Photo A Day, Days 26 & 27: "Enjoy the Little Things" and "Under My Feet"

I suppose this could be considered cheating, combining two days into one. And even though I was a couple of days behind, I honestly intended to write two separate entries for this weekend. But when I found my subject for “Enjoy the Little Things” and realized it was also perfectly appropriate for “Under My Feet,” I couldn’t help combining them. And when you see my photograph, you’ll understand why.

Tiny toys are the bane of every parent of small children. As much as kids love big play kitchens and oversized stuffed animals and giant toy fire trucks, it seems like they spend even more time playing with the tiny cheapo toys that came from McDonald’s or in a 30-pack from the Dollar Store or the local party store. (Or the tiny not-so-cheapo toys that came from the Lego store.) And these tiny toys have two major problems: 1) they are so small that they are constantly getting lost (between couch cushions, at the bottom of Mom’s purse, under the seat of the car, in the pocket of a seldom-worn jacket), and 2) they are constantly – and painfully – underfoot.

The most obvious case of tiny, underfoot, hated-by-parents toys are Lego blocks. Not the big Duplos that you can convince your kids are Legos until they’re about 3 years old, which are much softer underfoot and come in bright colors that can be seen from the moon, but the genuine article, the miniscule, same-color-as-the-carpet, only-one-way-to-make-a-spaceship-from-this-set, 3,000-pieces-per-package, sharper-than-a-serpent’s-tooth, Daddy-will-you-put-this-together-for-me stuff of parental nightmares. The one minor advantage to Lego blocks, of course, is that since you have 500,000 of them around your house, any one piece that gets broken or “accidentally” thrown away will not be missed by your child. (It may suddenly be missed by you when you are attempting to construct that scale model of the Millennium Falcon that your kids have been begging you to build for weeks, however.)

But with pretty much any other tiny toy, your child will know – and weep – when one is missing. At the moment, my daughter’s favorite tiny toy is a pair of plastic pteranodons that Santa bought by the dozen at the party store and tucked into her stocking on a whim. Now, we can’t leave the house without mother and baby pteranodon in tow. Conveniently, they’re small enough to fit both of them in a pocket or purse, and they’re soft plastic so repeatedly dropping them on the floor in church or, say, a dance recital (not that that has actually happened, of course, but hypothetically) is not disruptive to others nearby. But because there are so many places they can be tucked, there are also so many places they need to be looked for every time they disappear. I now plan on leaving the house 15 minutes earlier than usual no matter where we’re going so we can stage a massive dinosaur hunt before getting in the car.

But I’m glad that my kids do know how to enjoy the little things. Even if those little things do tend to end up under my feet.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 25: Remember

Do you remember when February and April vacation seemed to last forever?

Do you remember when an hour blowing bubbles on the front porch was the most awesome hour you’d ever spent?

Do you remember when a playground with swings AND a slide was heaven on earth?

Do you remember when your idea of gourmet food was macaroni and cheese with hotdogs in it washed down with a juice box?

Do you remember when all your problems could be solved by eating a blue popsicle?

Do you remember when a kiss from Mom could cure any hurt, emotional or physical?

Do you remember when life was so exciting that you hated going to bed at night and couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning?

Do you remember when playing tag with your best friend was the best possible way to spend an afternoon?

Do you remember when reading a book all by yourself was a tremendous source of pride?

Do you remember when curling up in your dad’s lap while he told you a story before bed was your favorite part of the day?

Do you remember getting up early on Saturday morning, making yourself a bowl of Captain Crunch, and watching cartoons until your folks got up?

Do you remember catching fireflies in the backyard?

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 24: A Pop of Color

When I married my husband, our finished basement was beige. Off-white walls, beige couch, dull taupe rug, light brown furniture, even the single painting on the wall was black and white with a hint of beige. It had no color, no personality. It was just…beige.

But once small children entered (or, in his case, re-entered) our lives, so did color. The baby toys were vivid primary colors and bold, bright shapes. The toddler toys were slightly more subtle but still bright and vivid. The preschool toys are becoming a bit less of an assault on the eyes, but still solid, bold colors and patterns. And the toys are everywhere. So on every formerly dull, bland, beige surface, there can always be found a pop of color.

Today, I glanced at my beige couch, covered with a dull brown blanket, next to a boring black chair, with a single pair of plain white socks resting on it, and saw a single piece of bright red, glitter-coated tissue paper. A pop of color. And it made me smile. Because not only is it a cheerful color, it is also a reminder of the project that my son and I did together earlier in the day. It was a symbol of how my son can now read directions himself, how he can figure out how to put things together and how to make them work. It was a reminder that he loves to be creative, and that he loves for me to watch him and to help him in that creativity.

It reminded me how, in the sometimes dull beige of my life, my family is always a beautiful pop of color.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 23: Entrance

My mom used to get very nervous and slightly flustered every time she was expecting company. After I was married, I was talking to her about getting ready to host a large party with my husband and she told me, with just a hint of envy in her voice, “You have such a gift of hospitality.” Her name was Martha, and her friends often teased her that she was well named, because if Jesus had been coming to her house, she would absolutely have been the one fussing over whether there was cream for the coffee instead of sitting at His feet, enjoying His company. I, however, tend to be more of a Mary, preparing carefully in advance for guests but once they’re here, spending less time worrying about their needs and more time enjoying their company.

But that’s not to say that I’m not concerned about making my guests feel comfortable and welcomed. That is very important to me. I try very hard to make my house feel welcoming and cozy. I scrub the floors and the tables, I put everything in its place, I light candles, I make sure there’s plenty of soap and towels and toilet paper and food, I set out snacks and wine glasses and cocktail napkins. And when my guests pull up in my driveway, I meet them at the front door.

As a hostess, I feel like the entrance to my home is the first impression a guest gets of my hospitality, and I want to make it a pleasant impression. I turn the chandelier on to a low glow, I make sure the rugs are laying properly, I clear out enough hangers in the hall closet that I can hang guests’ coats neatly, I light a candle and put flowers on the hall table, I put decorations and plants along the walkway and the front stairs. And for just a few days every spring, Mother Nature herself decorates the entrance to my house by sending our magnolia tree into magnificent blossom.

The deep pink buds explode into white flowers with bright pink tips, bursting with color against the pale beige and dark green canvas of the house behind it. Our front yard won’t sustain much other than evergreen shrubs, hostas, and a handful of dwarf irises which won’t bloom for another month, so the splash of bright pink is doubly striking as the only color around. Those blossoms may be spring announcing its entrance, but I appreciate the fact that she does it so conveniently in front of MY entrance.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 22: Four Things

Since there are four people who live in my house on a regular basis, “four things” is a pretty easy subject. Actually, there are so many options to choose from that it becomes a difficult subject. Should I take a picture of our four dinner plates after we’ve finished eating? Should I take a photo of our four beverages at an average meal (interesting contrast of Daddy’s soda can, Mom’s coffee mug, Ryan’s plastic tumbler, and Katie’s sippy cup)? Should I line up one of each of our shoes? Should I eschew connecting to the four family members altogether and just pick four random objects that happen to be close together? I took advantage of a quiet moment and walked through the house waiting to see if any “four things” would catch my eye. And sure enough, they did: our four Easter baskets, lined up on top of the piano.

I love the uniqueness of each basket’s contents, and what those contents say about each owner. My daughter’s has a chocolate bunny in a bright pink box, stickers of princesses and fairies, and a cheerful bright red poppy growing kit. You can’t see it very well, but her basket is nearly devoid of jelly beans – not because she doesn’t like them, but because she has already snuck into her basket and shoveled piles of them into her mouth. My son’s basket has a cheery yellow package for his chocolate bunny, packs of Spiderman and rocket ship stickers, a sunflower growing kit, and the goopiest, gooiest chocolate egg the Easter Bunny could find. It also used to hold a Matchbox car which was immediately commandeered and has been tucked in some pocket or other ever since. My husband’s basket contains jelly beans, plenty of chocolate eggs, and an elegant, gold foil-wrapped chocolate rabbit. Mine contains a package of Peeps that will be opened prior to eating so as to attain the perfect state of staleness for the desired time of consumption. It also contained several K-cups which have already been consumed and enjoyed; likewise a goopy, gooey chocolate egg like my son's (I'm actually eating it while I'm writing this, so if you find any typos in this entry, it's all Mr. Cadbury's fault).

When I – ahem, I mean, the Easter Bunny – put those baskets together, there was some thought of adding nametags so the recipients would know whose was whose. But there can be no doubt as to who would delight in fairy stickers and who in rockets; who longs for high quality chocolate in gilt wrapping; and whose Easter would be made by a couple of cups of good coffee. The members of my family can easily be identified by those four things.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 21: Close

The word “close” can be pronounced two ways, with correspondingly different meanings. Said with a soft, hissing “s” at the end, it is an adjective meaning “near” or “intimate” or “secretive.” But pronounced with a hard “s,” a buzzing “z” sound at the end, it is a verb meaning “shut” or “obstructed” or “inaccessible.” There are many moments during an average day when I could illustrate the former meaning: snuggling in bed with my kids when they come in to greet me in the morning, hugging my husband when he gets home after a long day of work, wrestling on the couch with the kids before bedtime. But one of the most wonderful parts of my day refers to the latter meaning: it happens when I put the kids to bed and close the door to their bedroom.

That simple word “close” represents such freedom. Close the door to having to be on alert at all times. Close the door to concentrating on someone else instead of myself. Close the door to wearing the “mom” hat. Close the door to making sure that everyone has eaten and used the bathroom and read the proper books and found the right toys.

Don’t get me wrong; I love being a mom. I love being on alert, on concentrating on others, and wearing the “mom” hat. I even love making sure that everyone has eaten and used the bathroom and read a book and enjoyed a toy. But I also love that moment when I can close off that part of me and just be me. The me which has a part that’s a mom, but also a part that’s a wife, and a part that’s a singer, and a part that’s a writer, and a part that’s a seamstress, and a part that’s a bookworm. There are many parts of me on the other side of that door, and all I have to do to find them is to close it.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 20: Egg

The first Easter that my husband and I were married, he dug out from the attic a big Rubbermaid tub of Easter decorations, which included a handful of dyed Easter eggs that he had made with his daughter over the years and carefully saved. A few have been broken in the intervening years, but I’m pretty certain that at least one or two in the collection are still from her childhood, over a decade ago.

And I have no doubt that in the coming years we will be adding more and more of the creations of our two younger children to the collection. This year, my 2-1/2 year old managed to participate for the first time, and did quite well at being gentle and not squashing the delicate shells nor spilling the dye all over the floor (well, not much, anyway). But my 4-1/2 year old really came into his own artistically this year.

Last year, as I recall, his most creative artistic endeavor was to dye an egg one color on one end and another color on the other end. Given his lack of patience at the time, the result was generally a white egg with a vaguely pink tint on one end and a vaguely green tint on the other. But one year has made all the difference. This year, he very patiently mixed colors to sponge-paint the eggs in just the right hue; he experimented with sponge-painting the eggs first, letting them dry, and then dying them in the “dipping” dye to fill in the blanks; he figured out how to hold the eggs carefully to avoid smudging his own artwork. In fact, he got a bit upset when he mishandled an egg and accidentally left a fingerprint.

But I will admit that this is my favorite egg from this year, specifically because of that fingerprint. Five, ten, twenty years from now (if the egg manages to survive that long), I will look at that small fingerprint and think of the small fingers that carefully made that egg, exploring, examining, experimenting. I will marvel at how much larger those fingers have grown and how much more they can do. I will delight that those fingers are still being used to create, to build, to explore. All that, just from one single egg.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 19: Money

My family’s usual morning routine is that my daughter wakes up first, turns on both the closet light and the room light (and often the CD player as well) in the bedroom she shares with her brother, and then either climbs into his bunk shouting, “Wake up, Ryan! Wake up!” or bangs on the door shouting, “Mama! I hungry!” Either way, the next step is usually that either I or my husband gets up and goes to get her dressed (and her brother, if she was successful in waking him up), then she runs into our bedroom to greet whichever parent won the coin toss to stay in bed for a few more minutes.

And speaking of coins, her next step is usually to pilfer something from the pile of change that my husband empties from his pocket every night before going to bed. 

She doesn’t really understand what money is yet, or what it’s used for. She just knows that she likes how it looks, and how it feels, and how it sounds (and how it tastes, but we really discourage that). She knows that this kind of money is called a “coin,” and that the different colors and shapes have different names, like “penny” and “nickel” and “quarter.” She likes that sometimes pennies are dull and brown and sometimes they’re shiny and sparkly. She’s fascinated by the pictures on the flat sides and the ridges on the edges of some. She especially likes the way Mummy chases after her when she steals a piece or two.

I’m glad that at the moment she just likes it because it’s pretty. But I know it’s only a matter of time (and a very short time, at that) before she realizes the power of money.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 18: Good

My husband and I have quite a few catchphrases that we repeat to each other on a regular basis. When we both say (or think) the same thing at the same time, we say, “Get out of my head, David Blaine!” When we pull out of the driveway on any kind of a road trip, we announce, “’We’re off!’ the captain shouted!” When one of us makes a clever remark or wise observation, the other one says, “You’re good at this game.” And when a messy or unpleasant situation of some kind gets resolved (or at least, ends), we remark, “It’s all good.”

No matter how nasty things get, once they’re over, it’s all good. My daughter nearly drowned in our swimming pool last year, and the week she spent in the hospital was the worst week of my life. But the day she came home, it was all good. Our family has lost loved ones, some suddenly and unexpectedly and some with weeks or months of preparation, and our hearts were broken, but life goes on and it’s all good. I got laid off and struggled with depression over it, but then I became a stay at home mom, and it’s all good.

Today is Good Friday, which for a Christian is about the worst day ever. God was dead, in a sense. How much worse could anything possibly get than that? And yet, just three days later, Christ arose and our sins were forgiven forever. How much better could anything possibly get than that?

Christ is dead today. But Sunday’s coming, so it’s all good.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 17: Something I Learned

I learned several new things today. One thing I learned is that popsicles come in many more varieties than they did back when I was a kid (back when what I called a “Popsicle” was actually grape juice with a toothpick in it that my mom had frozen in an old ice cube tray). Another thing I learned is that some boxes of popsicles come with highly-prized (by my 4-year-old, anyway) white “mystery flavor” popsicles. Still another thing I learned is that some popsicles come with jokes printed on the stick, much like the beloved Bazooka bubble gum of my youth (and the jokes are just about the same quality).

Want to know the most important thing I learned today? I learned the answer to the question, “What’s the only kind of bone that can make music?” Give up? A trom-bone! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

I also learned that popsicles will buy me a full 15 minutes of quiet, calm time with no-one yelling my name. 

And that is definitely the most useful something I learned today.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 16: My Vice

My “vice”? The only thing about this topic that makes it difficult is the fact that the word “vice” is singular. Oh, if only I were afflicted with just a single vice. But alas, my vices are legion. I am tempted by so many things: by chocolate, by liquor, by laziness, by procrastination, by cheesy television… But at this stage of my life, I must admit that the vice I struggle with most often, that I fight against the hardest, that I am tempted by the strongest, is…food.

But not just any food. Food, in the purest sense, is not a vice. I’ve heard it said that food is the one thing you can’t give up cold turkey. You can give up categories and components of food, like meat, gluten, alcohol, or seafood, but you cannot give up food in its entirety and expect to live very long. Food is necessary for life. So I would never call food, in and of itself, a vice. Gourmet food, however, is my vice. And this past weekend, I indulged deeply in that particular vice.

As a 40-something female with two children under the age of 5 and a sheer revulsion for exercise, rich, indulgent food like this is definitely a vice. The increasing tightness in the waistband of all my pants will attest to that.

But you know those annoying diet ads that claim, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels”? Those ads are total bunk – for me, at least. Filet mignon tastes better to me than being thin feels. Hot chocolate ganache tastes better than being thin feels. Crispy duck breast, crème brulee, lobster bisque, and venison all taste better than being thin feels. Girl Scout thin mints taste better. So does deep dish pizza, Brie and bread, and Ben and Jerry’s Late Night Snack ice cream. 

If the price I have to pay for indulging in these delights of the palate now and then is going up a jeans size? Bring on the elastic waistband, baby. And pass the nachos. Because they’re my vice. And I looooove my vice.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 15: I'm Reading This

I’ve always been an avid reader. My mom told me that I learned to read well before kindergarten, and I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t in the middle of some book or another (and often more than one at a time). I loved getting to know the characters in a book, and I was sad whenever I got to the end of a book, because there were no more adventures to be had with them. And then I discovered the joys of book SERIES. I didn’t have to abandon my friends at the end of the book, because there was another one to start in on right afterwards! Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, the Pevensie children, Trixie Belden, Anne Shirley, and Laura Ingalls kept having adventure after adventure, and I was right by their sides, eagerly awaiting each new installment.

So when my son began to read on his own recently, I began to think about the kind of books we could read together over the coming months and years. I looked back through the beloved books of my own childhood; I recalled the delightful new children’s books I discovered later in life through my mom, a children’s librarian; and I browsed through bookstores looking for interesting stories to share.

During all this research, I naturally pored over my own eclectic book collection, both my legion of hard copies and my growing Kindle collection. I leafed fondly through my boxed set of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia (my third set, having loved the first two to the point of disintegration), I pulled out my dog-eared copy of The Phantom Tollbooth, I set aside my copy of The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes for Easter reading. But the books I kept returning to, the ones I kept wondering impatiently when my son would be ready to read, were my Harry Potter collection.

I pulled one of the books off the shelf; it happened to be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I meant to just read a few lines, yet once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. The beauty of re-reading old favorites, of course, is that you can jump in at any point and know exactly what’s happened so far. So it didn’t matter that the particular book I chose was in the middle of the series; I have read and loved these books so well that I might as well have read the preceding book the day before. I was merely rejoining old friends.

Not surprisingly, as soon as I finished re-reading that book, I couldn’t help but grab the next book in the series.

It is a sign of a well-written book that reading it is just as enjoyable when you already know what is about to happen as it is when the ending is a complete mystery. I know the fates of every character in the book; yet I eagerly turn each page, excited to let their story unfold before me yet again. It is like taking a journey on a familiar and well-used road; I know where I’m going and what I’ll see on the way, but I still like to watch the road going past, wondering if I might spy some little detail I’ve missed all the other times I’ve passed by. I never know what new delight I might discover when I’m reading this.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 14: Dirty

The word “dirty” has many different meanings, but when you have small children, the most literal one is the one that jumps to mind first: “soiled with dirt; foul; unclean.”

Since it is spring – or, as we often refer to it here in New England, “mud season” – there is no lack of dirt in my house or on my children. There are always several pairs of muddy sneakers parked next to my front door, and yet there are also still muddy footprints leading into the kitchen. Now that the weather is warm enough for outside play, every pair of pants that goes into the wash has mud and grass on the hem or the knees. Every hand that has been outside needs scrubbing when it comes back inside.

But the largest reservoir of dirt in my house, nearly any time of year, has to be…you guessed it. The laundry basket.

I caught up on all the laundry on Friday, right before we left for the weekend; I haven’t even finished unpacking my own bag from our trip yet; and still, there is a giant pile of dirty clothes waiting for me.

Seeing a big pile of dirty laundry does make me thankful for a few things, though. It makes me thankful that I and my family have enough clothes that I can let this many get dirty and yet we all still have plenty of clothes to wear. It makes me thankful that I have a washing machine and dryer to help me get everything clean, rather than having to scrub it by hand and hang it up on a clothesline. It makes me thankful that I have access to safe and effective cleaning products. But most of all, it makes me thankful that my kids are able to go outside all the time and have themselves some good, cl- er, dirty fun!!

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Photo A Day, Day 13: More Please!

This entry is a day late because I spent the weekend in New York City with my husband celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary. It was a whirlwind of amazing food, amazing theatre, and amazing sights. We had dinner at two spectacular restaurants (Aureole and Le Bernardin), caught a production of "Madama Butterfly" at the Met and of "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" on Broadway, stumbled across a beautiful Iranian ethnic festival and parade, explored the Sea, Air and Space Museum aboard the Intrepid, had brunch with friends and drinks at a revolving rooftop bar, and enjoyed just generally taking in the atmosphere of the city.

We fit an amazing amount of fun into two and a half short days. Which is pretty appropriate, since we've also fit an amazing amount of fun into six short years. And in both cases, I'd like to say, "More please!"

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 12: On My Left

I don’t have a laptop computer, so close to 100% of my writing is done at my desk, in my office. And since the afternoon is when my son is allowed to have computer time, and the evening is when I usually get chores done around the house, the majority of my writing time at my desk happens in the morning. And as anyone who knows me or who follows my Facebook is well aware, it’s not really morning until I’ve had my coffee. So it’s not surprising that almost any time I am writing at my computer and I look to my left, I will see a sight similar to this one.

I was never a much of a coffee drinker until I was well into my 30s, and even then, I was more of a “social” coffee drinker: I would drink it when I was out for a meal with friends (more likely lunch or dinner than breakfast), or I’d grab a cup at work when I was heading for an afternoon meeting. But once I had children, coffee in the morning became a necessity.

Despite being a necessity, though, it feels like a little luxury, a little treat, a little indulgence. Instead of feeling like I can drag myself out of bed because I know there’s a cup of coffee waiting to get me going, I feel more like I want to get out of bed because there’s something wonderful waiting for me in the kitchen. And there’s always something wonderful waiting for me in my kitchen! Sometimes it’s my husband, sometimes it’s my kids, but always it’s my java.

It’s waiting there for me, right there on my left. 

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 11: 3 of a Kind

Before my husband and I got married, naturally we discussed having children. Not surprisingly, he (who grew up in a family of three children) wanted three children, and I (who grew up in a family of two children) was more comfortable with the idea of two children. Since he already had one, it worked out perfectly that we simply added two more to the one he had, and voila! Three of a kind.

Although it’s not apparent from this photo, taken when our youngest was still in the “blob” stage, all three kids are happy, easygoing, and laid back. They all have terrific senses of humor and they love to make each other laugh. All three are social and affectionate, happily doling out hugs and high fives to friends and strangers alike. They are all content to spend time with others and also to have quieter times with only themselves for company.

And yet, they are each unique individuals. My son is all boy, rough and tumble and physical, fascinated by bugs and farts and trucks, preferring to play by building things or destroying them. My littlest daughter prefers to dress up in a tutu and a crown and make up stories with her stuffed animals, speaking in a different voice for each one and saving them from various dire situations. And my stepdaughter is a thinker and a storyteller and an athlete, equally comfortable tending bar and herding cattle and fixing HumVees. I’ve even got a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead.

That’s what I call a perfect 3 of a kind. 
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 10: My Fave Part of the Day

There are so many options for my favorite part of the day. I love waking up in the morning and hearing my kids playing and chatting together down the hall. I love wordlessly snuggling with my husband before we get up and start the insanity of the day. I love lying down next to my daughter and reading a story together before her naptime. I love doing the same with my son while he waits for his turn in the tub before bedtime. And I love once again wordlessly snuggling with my husband as we drift off to the sleep at the end of a long day.

So what do all these favorite times have in common? Yep, you guessed it.

I’m all about the bed. I’m all about the soft sheets, the perfectly firm mattress, the soothing colors in the room, the fresh-scented pillows, and the beloved bedmate. My bed is my haven from the world, my place to relax and decompress, my escape from noise and demands and stress. Any time I get to be in my bed is my fave part of the day.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 9: Dark

Dark. Dark is easily definable, but very difficult to take a picture of, at least of its most literal meaning. I could try to take a picture of my kids sleeping in the dark, but either it wouldn’t come out or I’d use a flash and it wouldn’t be dark any more. I could attempt a photo of some dark, shadowy corner of my house, but I know I’d never be able to capture those fascinating, elusive shadows on film. I could go with literal but the adjective instead of the noun, and take a photo of someone with dark hair or eyes, or a room with dark-colored walls, although those seem a bit like cop-outs. I suppose I could try for some more figurative meaning of the word: the cover of some horror novel (I don’t really have any of those on hand), some creepy illustration from a book (I still have my parasitology textbook from college), or some similar dark-themed image. But that doesn’t really fit with the general theme of my blog.

So how to show “dark”? I was suddenly reminded of a drawing exercise I did in art class in 8th grade or so. The teacher put together a jumble of chairs and instructed us to draw the “negative space.” We were not trying to draw chairs, we were trying to draw the spaces between the chairs. But looking at the contrast, we were able to see the objects. So why not show “dark” by showing “light”? And what better example of “light” than a candle?

Without light, there is no darkness. The light, in a manner of speaking, is the creator of the darkness. So whenever there is darkness in my life, I know there is some bit of light somewhere, allowing it to be. Look for the light, and you will always find it, even in the dark. Especially in the dark.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 8: Hobby

I’ve had quite a few hobbies over the course of my life. My first real hobby was probably decorating my Barbie Town House in elementary school. I designed furniture by stapling fabric remnants from my mom’s sewing projects onto scraps of wood left over from my dad’s projects; I drew pictures and taped them to the walls as artwork; I fringed the edges of scraps of wrapping paper to make area rugs. When I hit junior high, my design hobby gave way to my musical hobbies: I sang in the choir, I doodled around on the piano, I took up the flute and later the French horn. In high school and college, I took up various types of needlework, from sewing to quilting to embroidery to counted cross-stitch. I even tried my hand (somewhat unsuccessfully) at knitting, crochet, and trapunto. But although all those hobbies have waxed and waned through the years, one hobby has persisted throughout my life since childhood: theatre.

For someone who considers myself an introvert, I have never had a fear of performing. One of my earliest memories is from the age of about 3, performing as one of the littlest angels in the church Christmas pageant (the specific memory is of getting yelled at by my big sister for dropping the back of my robe in the toilet, but that’s beside the point). My first “big” role was playing Mabel in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance in sixth grade. Since then, I’ve played every character from an amnesiac nun to a Nazi-sympathizing prostitute to a grumpy stepsister to a tomboyish princess to an Irish mum to a feisty union rep. I’ve made entrances posed on a bed in my underwear, through a gym locker, and dripping wet. I’ve been hit on by puppets and sailors, I’ve had knives thrown at me, I’ve been tossed in the air by a bunch of teenage boys. Over the course of time, I’ve expanded into backstage and production work as well, designing costumes, running crew, assisting with set design, dressing actors, selling tickets. And I’ve loved it all. 

Doing theatre, for me, is a source of satisfaction and relaxation. And isn’t that the whole reason to have a hobby?

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 7: Where I'd Rather Be

For all that I'm a hardy New Englander, I do love warm weather and sunshine. So most of the time, if you were to ask me in the early spring where I would rather be at the moment, I would answer something like "Aruba," or "on a Caribbean cruise," or "on a tropical beach." But since we've had a week of warm, sunshine-filled weather, I'm not craving the tropics as I usually am this time of year. There is somewhere I'm craving to be, though - or, more accurately, there is somewhere I'm looking forward to being: New York City.

For our 6th wedding anniversary in a few weeks, my husband and I are planning on spending a weekend in the Big Apple, seeing a few shows, having dinner at some interesting restaurants, and just generally taking in the excitement and hustle and bustle of New York City. And also, reliving our very first trip together, nearly six and a half years ago.

I love New York just because I love New York, but ever since that trip, I also love it because of the wonderful memories of falling more in love with my sweetheart there. We weren't married then, we weren't even officially engaged, but we had discussed marriage and we both knew privately that this was The One. (As a matter of fact, we shopped for engagement rings at Tiffany's on that trip!) In some ways, this was our pre-honeymoon: It was a chance to spend a few days together, 24/7, to get to know each other better, and to suss out whether or not we had any weird, quirky, as-yet-undiscovered habits that would drive each other crazy. It turns out, we did both have some weird and quirky habits, but nothing that drove the other crazy. This trip served to confirm, in both our minds, that we were well-matched.

So this picture shows one place I'd rather be right now: New York City. But it also shows me in my sweetheart's arms, and that's always where I'd rather be.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 6: A Taste of Spring

When I think of things you eat that signify spring, I think of fresh herbs and vegetables. But those don’t usually arrive until later in the spring. Edibles that DO arrive at the very start of spring, however, are all the delicious candies and treats associated with Easter: Cadbury crème eggs, jellybeans, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow Peeps, and – in our house, at least – jello eggs.

We have a set of Tupperware molds in the shape of eggs, and it is an annual tradition for either Dad and the kids or Mom and the kids to mix up a bunch of colors of jello, pour them into the molds (occasionally layering the colors for artistic effect), then wait impatiently for them to set so that we can pop the eggs out and nibble the wiggly, fruity deliciousness. 

To me, the bright cheery colors of the eggs remind me of stained glass windows. They glisten in the sun almost like crystals, the colors glowing from within. They remind me of all the bright spring blossoms that will soon be – or already are – bursting forth in my garden and in my neighbors’ gardens. The fresh, fruity, sweet smell combines the best of sugary Easter basket treats soon to come and the green growing things that are finally peeking out of the ground in spring. And the sweet yet tart flavors make my mouth pucker and water, anticipating all the wonderfully fresh and fruity flavors of spring foods.

Jello eggs are my favorite first taste of spring!

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Photo A Day, Day 5: Not Mine

With the beautiful, warm weather we’ve had most of this past week, my kids and I spent as much time outside as we could. We had a picnic on the porch, they rode their bike and trike, we went to the playground, and we did one of my favorite spring traditions: we took a walk through the neighborhood looking for signs of spring.

Our yard is not particularly sunny, and I am not much of a gardener, so there aren’t many signs of spring in our own yard. I don’t have any bulbs that bloom this early, no snowdrops or crocuses, and my dwarf irises have barely peeped their little green noses through last year’s mulch. The best we can do is listen for lovesick chickadees and cardinals high up in the trees, and catch an occasional glimpse of the robin who likes to attack his reflection in the side mirror of my husband’s car. But I have neighbors whose yards have started to remind me that spring is truly on its way.

One of the first peeps of green we saw on our walk was this clump of white and purple crocuses shooting up through a few of last fall’s leaves. You can practically see them reaching towards the sunshine and straining to burst open and show their fuzzy gold hearts. Thanks to my neighbors, I can be reassured that spring is coming, courtesy of their beautiful flowers, even though they’re not mine. 

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