Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Role Model

As is October 31, it was only fitting that today's set of Listicles be inspired by this great holiday - Halloween!

The world appears to have clear distinctions in terms of Halloween excitedness. From what I gather, in my 33 years of life, most find this day to be tolerable at best. They find a costume for the kid or kids or self, grab a few bags of candy, mainly the stuff they want to eat (or stuff they won't eat) and tolerate the trick or treating, Halloween decorations, and parties. Almost as a gateway to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
These are the folks with the jack o'lanterns on the porch a few days before and maybe a couple of stray cobwebs and skeletons for good measure.
There are those that hate it. The ones that keep their porch light off, and hide in the back of the house as the kids come round.
Add in those that don't celebrate for religious reasons and there are a few left.
The upper echelon of Halloween celebrants. Those that meticulously plan, decorate, craft, and scavenge to make the 31st of October awesome. Their houses look as if Halloween vomited over their front porches and yards. Their candy selection may include full size bars, and their costumes rival those of a Broadway performance.

Growing up, my mother was of that upper level.
Halloween was her day. Our costumes, her obsession from the beginning of summer through the town parade the week before. She took it seriously, thus leaving an indelible mark on my soul and causing terrible self doubt and disappointment as I dressed Mo in that first Halloween costume purchased at Old Navy. My Mom would have made something kick ass, because that's how she rolled.

Today, my list honors the ten best Halloween themes my mother used during my childhood. I would be remiss if I did not mention that she took the art of family costume to another level, which may or may not have included borrowing other children to make her vision come to life.

1. Hershey's Candy
This was the first year my mother forayed into the art of family costumes. Meticulously, she crafted two brown and orange fabric into rectangles, effortlessly painted, and topped both with glittered top hats. Then using cardboard, more paint, and one silver tutu, she finished the pieces. In the end, my father and sister stood, with arms stretched wide as a Hershey's Chocolate Bar and a  pack of Reese's Pieces. My brother dressed in a circular cardboard cut-out, became the piece of Reese's pieces with the bite out. While I, in silver from head to toe, became the candy Kiss.
The photographer from our local newspaper captured this shot and we were featured front page.

2. Liberty
As I recall our years of a family costumes, I often found myself the center of attention. This year was no different. Dressed in dyed green sheet from head to toe, and my face painted to match, I stood tall as Lady Liberty. My sister dressed in a red robe, mini glasses, white bonnet and small flag with needle and thread in hand, became Betsey Ross, while my mom found an Uncle Sam costume complete with red and white striped pants and white beard for my little brother. At the time, he must have been about seven, which only added to the hysterical nature of the costume. My parents in their matching white wigs, my mom in a house coat fashioned to look like a dress with added ruffles to the sleeves with white apron complemented my father in his regal jacket, pants hiked up with high white socks & shoes, ruffled sleeves, and three point hat. Martha and George Washington in the flesh.

3. Wizard of Oz
It all started with the dress.
My mom's cousin was in the local high school pageant and for her talent portion, she clogged danced. Can't make this up. Her costume of choice, a dead ringer for one young girl swept away to the land of Oz.
With the dress only a bit big for me, inspiration had arrived. Finding red kitten heels at the local shoe store, my costume, complete. Using a pattern from Simplicity, my brother became the Cowardly Lion. Finding some old jeans and plaid shirt, she hot glued straw to create my father's Scarecrow. My poor, poor sister. In what seemed to be an unfortunate pattern, her costume became the most unfortunate to wear. A box the size of her nine year old torso, covered in aluminium foil covered her grey sweat suited body. On her head a makeshift hat from a silver funnel and her face covered in grey paint. A heart fastened to the front completed the look as the Tin Man. My mother, as the Wicked Witch, dressed in head to toe black, donned a black wig, then covered her hands and face with green paint. We followed that yellow brick road right to a victory in the family section of our town parade.

4. Peter Pan
Sure, me in drag as Peter was memorable, as was my school aged brother in blue footed pajamas, my sister in drag and top hat, and my mom out in public in her nightgown, as Michael, John, & Wendy. Those costumes were fine. We borrowed a friend's four year old that year as Tinkerbell. With brown hair and brown eyes, and a name that started with J, Jessica fit the bill perfectly.  Hook made the show. In a wig similar to something Cher would wear, my father embodied Hook. With the pirate hat and hook on his hand, my mom transformed a pair of sweat pants, and a standard waiter costume into Captain Hook's pirate fare. Emblazoned with ruffles down the middle and sleeves, she added starts and buttons to the piece, and simply Pefection!

5. Mickey & Minnie
I was thankful that year that I was not the central character. My sister and brother became Minnie and Mickey Mouse with their white four fingered gloves, black ears, turtlenecks and leggings, and  the black swim caps covering their heads. They were those two icons. Dressed in white turtlenecks and jeans, my mom and I had it easy. Using a marker, she had written "Annette" & "Sharon" arched across our chests, and a curly wig covered my own hair. I was Annette of course, and I needed the hair to match.

6. Alice in Wonderland
My sister stood front and center in this grouping as a blue look alike dress precipitated this theme. My brother became the Cheshire Cat, in a striped turtleneck and a pair of cat ears and nose. As the White Rabbit, I dressed in a white sweat suit. A puffy tail, hat with ears, vest with watch, and plastic teeth completed the look. My uncle Steven, an artist, drew the Queen of Hearts playing card on a piece of cardboard. Wearing all black underneath, her hair under a hood, crown atop her head, and her face painted white with ruby red lips, my mom was the Queen of Hearts.

7. Fairy Tale
My poor sister, another year where she was subjected to the worst costume.
Having been a junior bridesmaid in a wedding a few months before, my mom became inspired. The pepto bismal pink gown was exactly something a damsel in distress might have worn trapped in a tower, and with the addition of a the cone shaped hat, the damsel was born. In grey sweats under the plastic helmet and chest pad, my brother became the pint sized knight in shining armor. My mother and father, in their robes with the addition of holiday garland around their sleeves and down the center, and crowns atop their heads,  became the regal Queen and King
As I mentioned previously, my poor sister, the victim of circumstance, donned the green dragon costume my mother sewed. As if the costume itself was not enough, she agreed to paint her face green and wore a plastic dragon mouth.

8. Devil & Angel
I think this was what precipitated my mother into making us dress together. For my brother's second Halloween, she found a pattern for a devil cape with hat at the local fabric store. Sewing it up rather easily, she realized that at his age, she would most likely be spending most of the evening carrying him. In response, she made herself the angel, wearing a white draped dress, wings, and halo.
She slacked that year for my sister and I. Perhaps it was our own insistence, but we wore borrowed costumes, I the tap dancer with faux eyelashes, and my sister the beautiful bird.

9. Addams Family
My parents were invited to a costume party, an adults only version. I remember my mom looking around our dress up box and closet in an attempt to find a cheap and quick costume pair for my dad and her. Finding a seventy's dark hunter green dress, something I can now imagine someone wearing to a disco, a long back wig, my mom became Morticia. My dad wore a suit from his closet and with his mustache, he was an easy Gomez.

10. Barbie Ballerina
There was a time where most Halloween costumes were made of plastic. One typically would sweat ridiculously in the jumpsuit as a plastic mask would cover one's face.
I don't remember my mom every permitting me to wear those.
In retrospect, I am thankful, especially as I look at the costumes she created over my childhood. However, at five, I wanted nothing more for Halloween then to wear the plastic Barbie costume I had seen at Jamesway store.
My mom compromised.
She permitted me the Barbie mask, as long as I wore the pink costume and tutu we had initially agreed upon.
Of course, I agreed and Ballerina Barbie emerged, ready for the Kindergarten Halloween parade.
I don't remember much of that year, except that I believe the mask spent most of the time off, then on.

Let me take these last words to thoroughly and thoughtfully thank my mother for all the time, energy, thought and love she put into those most memorable costumes. I am forever thankful for those memories. While you have left huge shoes to fill, I hope I am doing you justice.

Halloween 2011
Maeve in her DIY Glinda costume minus the crown & wand

Does this look familiar?
Learning from the best, I reused this costume from Mo's 3rd birthday party.
What a great $4 thrift store find, Grammie!
Happy Halloween from one of those who longs to be in that upper level!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Life in Twenty-Two Moments

I am thirty- three years old and in my life thus far I have:

1.  received the swim team as a Christmas gift at five years old.

2. been  known to subject my younger sister to a childhood filled with imaginative play where she was the pet. Think me: Annie, she: Sandy, me: Dorothy, she: Toto

3.  had perfect attendance in Kindergarten.

4.. been chosen from the audience at the now defunct Sea World of Aurora Ohio to feed a killer whale a fish during our only trip to Ohio.

5.  survived a nearly 24 hour car ride in a rented minivan with my parents, grandparents, sister, and brother at the age of twelve for first (and only) trip to Disney world.

6. stopped going to our local public library when I was a kid, mainly because I lost a book and thought I would have to pay an exorbitant amount of money in fines.
You know, like $100. It never crossed my mine that they would just fine us the cost of the Dr. Seuss book.

7. spent a week in Mexico living with a family after only taking 3/4 of a year of Spanish in high school. I still am not sure of most of what they said.

8,  starting tossing the javelin, at 17, the last few months of my senior year in high school.

9.  waded into the Mediterranean Sea during a long weekend in Spain.

10. met the love of my life sometime within the first month of college.

11. walked on to a Big East Division One swim team as a Freshman.

12. earned a partial athletic scholarship on that swim team.

13. received votes to become assistant captain my senior year of that very swim team.

14. stretched out my college experience an extra semester just for student teaching.

15.  started my first real teaching job approximately forty-eight hours after finishing my student teaching.

16. forgone family tradition, to spend Christmas in shorts and flip flops in Key West, Florida.

17. exchanged wedding vows in a simple beach chapel on the eve of a near monsoon.

18. spent time intended for vacation in the hospital.

19. lived like an international rock star for seven days for our much delayed but anticipated honeymoon.

20.  had to rename our honeymoon to a babymoon after discovering myself pregnant three weeks before departure.

21. endured the anticipation and heard "It's a girl" two times (on different occasions*) in the delivery room.

22. found my hopefully someday perfect happily ever after house after nearly 8 months and close to 80 house tours.

What are your 22?
What 22 things have you done in your life? Join up with Mama Kat.
* Reading comments, I realized intially this read as if I had twin girls. Nope, two girls just under 22 months apart. No twins here!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Evaluating Expectations

Moira started nursery school this year at a small program in our town. Twice a week, for two hours and fifteen minutes she joins fifteen other three year olds. Together with their two teachers, they paint, sing, learn, and play. Throw in a snack and bimonthly time in the chapel, it's the perfect first school experience.
Having had worked in the early childhood level, in Kindergarten and first grade for nearly eight years before babies, I feel like I have a pretty good background in child development, and in turn, realistic expectations in relation Moira at school.
For the most part, the routine has been going well. The transition has been seamless, as she enjoys going each day. The teachers are lovely, and the class appears to starting to interact with each other. I assume by May, just as the school year finishes, she will master all their names, instead of referring to them as "I don't know" or "the boy with the Phillies backpack".
Perhaps, that's why yesterday surprised me.
We had our first field trip, and in keeping with the autumnal theme, we headed to a local farm for a early morning hayride.
Driving ourselves, as a way to keep costs a minimum, we navigated the directions and arrived at the farm. Minivans, SUVs, and school buses quickly filled the dirt parking lot, and we walked to the entrance. Meeting the teachers, I noticed a few other parents and children. Three other classes from the same school waited as well for full attendance.
Our good friend D arrived with her daughter A, and together we discussed the awkward directions and the cool weather that surprised us at our arrival.
Soon after, we were instructed to line up and walked toward the tractors and wagon. Hayride time!
Filling up the hayride, Mo snuggled into me as I leaned back onto the wooden side. The tractor started forward as the wagon circled the large apple fields. Coming to a clearing, a field dotted with orange pumpkins spread before us.

 Leave it Moira, to run ahead into the field of pumpkins, as her classmates gravitated towards the same spot. Within minutes she found the most perfect one and with pride (and a little dirt) shared with me her discovery.

Climbing back into the wagon, we started back towards the farm. Sharing giggles with A, my goofy little girl was excited about the remainder of the trip.
As we readied ourselves to disembark, our teacher reminded us of the corn maze, play area filled with hay, and small animal area open for our enjoyment. Watching others leave the wagon, I notice they are walking away. Classes around us are joining together for a group photo.
Upon descending the stairs, I notice one of the teachers had wrangled many of the parents and children back. Bringing them into a group, the cameras and iphones begin snapping away at the adorable scene.
Again, the teacher mentions all the things for which to play, and dismisses the kids.
Off Mo runs, into the haystack maze, where many other children have taken to climbing on the top. My first instinct is to tell her to get off, but as I look around, it appears that running on top is acceptable.

D and I spend about twenty minutes with our girls and some other parents and children in this area. We make small talk with a few others as A & Mo ask to go somewhere else. As she runs into the corn maze, A, D, and I follow. About ten minutes into our trek, my phone begins ringing. It is Bry.
Mo's pumpkin is missing.
Someone stole her pumpkin from our front steps.
Luckily, we're at a farm so a new pumpkin is on our list to carve later with Popsie. (Who's home watching Maeve.)
After what seems like countless turns and a small bit of worry that we might be lost forever in the maze of corn, we find the exit. (Thank you D!) Walking around the other areas, we see parents and kids haphazardly. Other schools have arrived, filling the farm with an array of children and adults of all sizes.
As we walk to the farm store, I notice in the picnic grove, groups sitting down together for snack. Cider and donuts, or juice boxes and popcorn, as the groups sit, parents conversing in the background.
At the store we find a suitable replacement pumpkin $9 worth!, apple cider donuts without sugar Moira's request, strange I KNOW!, and a bottle of water. D buys similar stuff as we walk back to the picnic tables.
We spy no familiar faces at that point, and finding an empty picnic table, we sit and eat.
I expected other parent child duos to walk by, or to be sitting in the grove, but aside from one other mother and child, we see nothing.
After some time sitting and eating, I notice many of those around us are eating lunch. The clock reveals it's 11:20.
The trip is officially over.
There were no formal good byes.
No comments about Halloween on Thursday.
At first, I thought I was alone in my disappointment, however Mo revealed the same as she asked me to find her teachers and other friends. D confesses she too was disappointed.
Besides the hayride, the field trip was no different then one we could take on any weekday.
Sure, the kids from the class were all at the farm, but their presence made little difference over Mo's time at the farm.
I assume my definition of field trip needs to be altered.
Interaction amongst classmates appears to not be a necessity.
Providing snack for the  group, again, not a requirement.
While I believe it to be a major oversight, I must understand a formal dismissal is not in the cards.
This field trip may not have been the learning experience I expected for Mo, but for me, I learned a lot.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pregnant Pause

Cookies Mom chose a wonderful topic this week for our Listicles. Her suggestion: 10 tips for new moms.  
While this is a great topic, I decided to spin it a bit, and in turn, came up with

 10 Tips to Survive Pregnancy
without causing physical harm to anyone

1. Practice the art of selective listening
Family and friends may suprise you with their comments. Lines such as "Wow, you're SO big!" and "Are you sure you're not having twins" when only 6 months pregnant will cause your blood to boil, or perhaps, throw you into an emotional tailspin.
This can be prevented, however, by learning the art of selective listening. When their mouth starts moving, tune out, think about your To-Do list or the chips (ice cream, pickles, or cream cheese bagel) you'll eat.
Nod, smile, then excuse yourself. Perhaps, throw in a belly rub or better yet, a small massage of your back and wail away.

2. Remember: People are morons.
For some reason, one's bump appears to be a  magnet for crazy people. Strangers will come up asking to touch or perhaps, they will miss the ask part and touch without asking.
 Not okay.
The acceptable response in those situations, is to ask to touch their belly or better yet, touch it too!
Want to really make it uncomfortable, start rubbing their belly.
The look of horror will stop them dead in their tracks.
Lesson Learned!

3. Give up the Guilt
You're pregnant, not sick or lazy.
There's something growing inside you twenty-four seven for forty weeks. That alone affords you the right to pass off responsibilty without feeling guilt.
Laundry, cleaning, cooking,
That's why there's the cleaners, housekeeping services and delivery.
 (Or in some cases Mom.)
Delegate and take it easy.

4. Buy these Books

This will help you figure out what the hell is happening inside your body.

This will help you decide which brands to purchase for all those items your little lovie will need.
There's way too much and getting lost in Babies R Us is not fun, trust me.

Borrow this from the library
I really do not like Jenny McCarthy due to her autism perspective (not going to go there now) however this book is a light and funny read.

5. Embrace the Bump
Most people are self-conscious about dress. Camouflaging flaws with layers hide those "problem areas" and getting dressed daily can be a real pain. However, around 18 weeks when the bump appears almost overnight, dress to showcase it. I'm not saying go Britney on me. Keep the Daisy Dukes and midriff shirts in the drawer (or trash) instead wear some form fitting shirts to show off the bump. For most of us, it's one of the few times our belly is showcased.

6. Talk it Out
There most likely will be moments where you'll feel overwhelmed and emotional. The hormones racing through your body will only add to crazytown.
Find someone to talk it out with. Preferably, someone who's been pregnant.
Not that a never been pregnant person can't understand, but it's having someone who has done it, being able to sympathize without hesitation and often explanation there is a relief.

7. F--k with People a Bit
Maybe it's just my nature, but I like to play around with people and being pregnant gave me the best excuse. My personal favorite was the name game.
We chose on both occasions to refrain from sharing our name choices and we didn't find out gender.
Of course, that opened the gates to everyone and anyone offering their suggestions. So, I started giving out misinformation just ot mess with them.
"We're thinking Cordelia Francesca and Sven Oskar Oliver."
Some would try to hold in their opinions while others could not.
Faking labor pains also works well here, but please take into account your audience.
I would not do that with my sister, as I believe she would have called 911.

8. Keep a Food Stash
What's the only thing worse then a hungry baby?
The hungry mama to be!
Keep little snacks in the car, your work desk, and the kitchen. Or at the very least, have some change or dollar bills for emergency runs to Wawa (of course I'd mention that) or the vending machine.

9. Allow Yourself to Enjoy the Moments
Easier said then done when your ankles are swollen and the indigestion keeps you up all night! However, remember the kid will be out soon enough, 40 weeks isn't really that long in the scope of life.
For some, it's the chance to have boobs for the first time.
For others, it's the thrill of watching the baby under the belly.
While others, it's simply pregnancy itself.
It's frightening, amazing, thrilling, and exciting all at once.

10. Screw Everyone Else, and Do What's Best For You

Want a water birth and done the research, but your parents are upset?
Go for it. It's your body, birth, and baby.

Want to eat pizza on Thanksgiving because turkey gives you indigestion?
Do it.
Pizza is awesome any day of the week
Want to skip out on your brother's girlfriend's 30th birthday party?
Ultimate excuse, next to the actual baby, pregnancy gets you out of those events without much reaction!
Stay home, dress comfy, and watch tv or better yet, curl up and sleep.

Want to buy the $700 stroller because it's pretty?
Now, don't be a jackass.
Put it on your registry and let the other jackasses buy it for you!

If you're reading this and knocked up for the first time, congratulations and enjoy the ride!
If you're a seasoned mama, feel free to add your own advice in the comments.

If you fall into the other category, I guess you just wasted five minutes of your life that you'll never get back.

In honor of my favorite Preggos right now! You know who you are!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Doctor G

"Are you sure we can park here?" I turn to Bry adjusting my dress in the car as we park. "The parking around here has so many rules." I add.
"Yes, we can. Don't worry, we have plenty of time" he responds as he successfully parallel parks.
The butterflies have taken refuge in my stomach as the motor stops purring. Removing the keys from the ignition, he tosses them into my lap.
"Put them in your purse, would ya?" he says, slamming the car door.
I can't help but notice the throngs of people passing on the street, as I step out of the car onto the city sidewalk. The need for directions is moot, as many are on the same pilgrimage.
Families walk, pride across their face as they pass the regular workday commuters consumed by cell phones and routine. I hold back the urge to grab a passing stranger and share my excitement and pride. The feeling is overwhelming, as we make our way down the cement sidewalk.
Thirteen years of primary schooling, then four years of undergraduate work, one year of post-baccalaureate, then four years of medical school and now here we are waiting for the stroll across the stage and the piece of paper.
This final act changing the Miss to Doctor.
Reaching the front of the Center, our final destination, I attempt to scan the crowd for a familiar face. Unfortunately, my vision is overwhelmed.
"Jac" I hear the disembodied familiar voice yell. "We're over here."
It is in these situations I am thankful for tall and big husband and he easily located my family. Walking forward, the crowd appears to part as I follow close behind.
"Can you believe this crowd?" my mom laments. Her anxiety reads across her face. "It's going to be hard to find seats."
"I'm not worried" I say, "We've got dad on our side!"
They laughs and nod in agreement, then continue to wait.
As the doors open and the throngs gravitate to the doors and stairways leading to the balcony.
"Keep your dad in sight" my mom insists, as he makes his way through the crowd. Easily he finds his way to the front of the crowd, going up the stairs, he disappears into the auditorium.
Holding on to each other, we patiently follow behind. Slowly ascending the staircase, and entering into the balcony,  my father's voice echos.
"Over here! I've got enough seats for us all". he screams across the collection of rows.
The heat rises up my cheeks as I navigate the rows to the seats my father has secured. Embarrassment is an emotion he seems to lack.
Sitting down,  I have the first opportunity to read the program. My fingers trace the embossed logo. College of Medicine Commencement the program reads.
Tears fill my eyes, as I open the beige pages. Following along the rows of names, I search. Listed under those who secured the requirements for medical doctorate, it is there in black and white.

My little sister is a doctor.

The graduation ceremony is a blur. During the various speeches and honorary doctorates I am thankful for the stash of mints held in my purse, and decide against a game of hangman with Bry at one exceedingly long and boring speech. After  two hours, the announcement rings that hooding will begin, and a buzz overtakes the crowd. The time has arrived.
I steal a glance at my parents. Dabbing her eyes with a tissue, the tears well up easily today for my mother. The emotions are overwhelming.  While he finds himself in a precarious position over the side of the balcony. My father often attempts to find the perfect place for a photo, and today is no different.
Looking down into the sea of black robes, I spy her curly hair tamed under the black cap. She looks up to us, and for a moment, her smile meets mine. 
Walking across the stage, her name is announced. Arriving before her professor, she turns and faces the audience. The green hood is placed over her shoulders.

This post was initially written June 2011, and edited today. The topic "Success" was the inspiration for this week's Dare to Share link at the Lightening and the Lightning Bug. Immediately, my mind returned to this moment, and the pride I felt as I watched my little sister graduate medical school.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Fear

U know what U did
now so does every 1 & ur mom 2
<3 twitter & FB 4 that!

What can be worse then those fears we have as adults?
Why, teen angst fear of course!
This post was inspired after reading my high school age cousins posts on facebook.
God, I hope that they know how to write a complete sentence with proper grammar and syntax!

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
This week, we invited you to compose a text–160 characters–that would either elicit or express fear.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So Thankful

The table set.
Exquisitely decorated place mats, courtesy of Mo define each setting, as the anticipation of Thanksgiving dinner swirls with the scents from the kitchen.
Our tradition, bringing our respective families together for Thanksgiving is in full effect. They sit in the living room, waiting, snacking, and enjoying "not" cooking.
The turkey removed from the oven, resting under an aluminum foil tent. It's perfectly golden brown skin crisp and inviting sits on the counter.
The buzz of the timer rings, as cornbread stuffing with crisp bacon and sweet potato casserole are removed. After a few years of experimentation,  the perfect balance of sweet potato, maple syrup and butter has been achieved, creating a deliciously yummy dish.
On the stove top, pots of green beans and corn simmer, as the asparagus with roasted garlic finishes it's roast. Taking the large pot of potatoes over to the sink, the water is dumped. Milk, salt, and an obscene amount of butter is added. Under the weight of the masher, the potatoes turn into a creamy velvety mash. The spoon meets mouth.
Twisting the handle, the jelled cranberries are poured into the plate. One of the few items not created from scratch. The twist and pop of the biscuits from their cylindrical container, the other.
Transferring the vegetables into serving bowls, the feast begins to take shape. Moving into the dining room, the bowls line the center of the table. Serving spoons are matched to their respective container.
The crowd begins to gather. Drinks in hand, as they find their seats, awaiting the main course.
I enter the dining room, pausing for a moment to look at those around the table. I find my seat, as he enters. Carrying the white tray, the turkey is presented.

Damn him.
Another fabulous Thanksgiving dinner under his belt.

Daddy teaching Mo the ways of the turkey

Turkey placemats care of Moira

Linking up with Mama Kat
3.) Describe a meal your spouse actually cooks better than you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Autumn's Arrival

He walks over to the red wagon sitting on our porch. Grabbing the little blue rake, he insists on taking care of the leaves.
"I'll help you." he says. "You got a lot of leaves".
Our next door neighbor often comes to play with Mo and Maeve. Only six years,  but in their eyes, an expert. The pride visible in his eyes as the parade follows.
Mo first, accomplished on the art of stair climbing she asks him of his intentions as she follows close behind.
Maeve reaches her hand to me. The stairs still a daunting task to her nearly two year frame.

Step, Step, Step, then hop.

Reaching the final step, her hand escapes mine, as she runs to meet the others.

He works intensely. His inexperience with the rake evident by the lack of piles. The leaves looking no different then when he began. They stand, watching.
 In a moment,  inspiration overcomes me.
"Watch the girls for a moment" I ask. "I need to go get something."
Grabbing the keys, I begin down the drive, to the garage. Unlocking the door, I find it easily. Balanced against the wall, the silver rake sits. Hibernating through the year, now with autumn's arrival, the rake is alive again, a tool of necessity.
Walking up the path, I hear the familiar voice before I see her
"What you doing mama? Whatcha got in your hands?" she asks.
Her blue eyes look up inquisitively.
"I'm going to rake the leaves." I explain.
Her giggle overtakes her body as she explains, "You no rake! That's daddy!"

Today, it is my turn. 

Red, yellow, and orange overtake the green of the grass, as the weight of the rake falls into my hands.
The small, blue rake has been abandoned. Bodies race by in a whirl of laughter and shouts, as my own rake begins it's task. Creating small piles, the green is revealed again, occasional leaves fly by.
The pile emerges slowly. Quietly, they assess the scene.
Without reservation, they jump. Their smile and laughter fills the air.
I abandon the rake and join them.

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

For you, what does autumn evoke?
Show us in 300 words or less

Monday, October 17, 2011

So Good it's Bad

Wasn't that an intriguing title? I assume the mind is spinning over what I could be speaking.
Today is Monday, therefore Listicle day at The Good Life.  This week's topic, chosen by the hysterical Jacqui at Chick Tuition is Guilty Pleasures.

I will admit, all week my brain has been simmering. Slowly thinking, pondering, this topic, mainly because I find little guilt in the things I love.
Alas, I arrived at the following list.

(Guilt may or may not be associated)

1. Ice Cream

On the boardwalk, I prefer soft served frozen custard from Kohr's - chocolate vanilla swirl w/chocolate jimmies. (If you aren't from the Philly area- jimmies are what others refer to as "sprinkles" such a girlie word)
At Duffer's challenge, it's the Fluffernutter sundae.
Yes. The whole sundae is mine. No sharing of the peanut butter ice cream, swirls of peanut butter & marshmallow, sprinkled with peanuts and the homemade pizzele on top.
Late night, it's my friends: Ben & Jerry.
Have you met their offspring?
(At our local Wawa what a cluster is named Clusterfluff)

I apologize if you read this blog often. This post seems eerily familiar.
Yes. I just wrote about ice cream in the last post.
Can you blame me? It's good!

2. Wawa

There are convenience stores. From what I hear, 7-11 is okay and in Taiwan quite the local hangout*.  Quick Chek is good for coffee in the early morning, while if one goes south of the Mason Dixon into Maryland Royal Farms pop up. I've heard of Cumberland Farms  
There is nothing, however that takes the place of Wawa.
Need a hoagie at 4 am?
Try Wawa.
Milk for your breakfast cereal?
Ben & Jerry's after bedtime for the kiddos?
Sugar cookies that are super soft and sugary?
Soft pretzels? Iced Tea? Mac & cheese? Gatorade? ATM? Gas?
Coffee after Thanksgiving dinner, since the hosts (that would be us) don't drink coffee.

One word:

Mo is three. She knows only a few letters of the alphabet, yet she can read Wawa.
I don't know whether I should be proud or scared?
My friends outside of the Wawa universe. I am so sorry. My heart goes out.
Just ask anyone from the greater Philly area, and they'll let you know, how important Wawa can be.
Information gathered from my brother in law*

3. Pedicures

There was a time where I did not like people touching my feet. As a teen, I scoffed at the idea of a pedicure. Why would I pay someone to touch my feet?
I was so stupid.
Pedicures are pure bliss.
From the hot water bath, to the foot massage, to the attention spent on my feet that usually are so neglected, it's worth every single penny for that forty plus minutes of uninterrupted time.  
A pedicure is complete pleasure, no guilt at all.

4. People dot Com

I place 100% of blame for my interest in those in Hollywood from my mother.
 Growing up, some families had the nightly news on their television, my mom had the tv tuned into Entertainment Tonight. From a steady diet of People and those TV shows, I developed a fascination for this. People dot com somehow seems like the grown up version of those shows.
At times I embarrass myself with the things that have somehow made it into my long term memory.
I can't remember the formula for finding the area of a square but I can rattle off facts about real housewives, the actors in Lost, and the name Tori Spelling used for her third child.*
Hattie Margaret

5. Fluffernutter Sandwiches

A few months ago, I was obsessed with the idea of making homemade whoopie pies. It seemed that every site I visited had a recipe, and the photos looked amazing. I jotted down a recipe and at the grocery store picked up the ingredients, of which Fluff was one. I never got around to making the whoopie pies, however the Fluff sat on the shelf. One morning, I was out of cereal and imagine my surprise when I spied, Fluff in the cupboard. Paired with crunchy peanut butter on a potato roll and a cup of orange tea,  that Fluffernutter sandwich was a delicious breakfast.
I admit it, for the next few days, that was my breakfast.
There was a bit of guilt with this one, especially as I ate it with two sets of little eyes staring inquisitively at me.
Mo asked for a bite and I said no.
Mama doesn't share her fluffernutter!

6. My Message Board

On facebook, I have 300 plus friends of which about fifty are women I have never met in real life.
I have belonged to a message board for nearly seven years. (I will not disclose my refuge, for fear of outing myself as a complete and utter mess.)  I have offered advice, recipes, parenting guidance, and recommendations with a multitude of women whom I know mainly from screen names. I have purchased toys that were "must haves" Sophie the giraffe & Sing a Mi Jig , I have been updated on world events, Celebrated births, mourned losses, read reviews of vacations and gotten straight up advice from these ladies. Checking in daily, I find happiness in Friday pregnancy announcements, heartbreak over miscarriages, empathy over illness and diagnosis, and at time laughter at the opinions related to tv shows & field trips.
This place is my sanctuary in times of chaos and a place to brag over successes.

7. Pizza

 Is there such a thing as bad pizza?
Even pizza deemed as less satisfying is still yummy.
A good slice of pizza covered with warm cheese still stringy, the aroma filling the confines of our home.
In our fifteen years of being together, Bry and I have lived together for ten. We are in our third and hopefully last place together. With each move to a new town, we were on a mission to find the best pizza. Until we found that, we truly didn't feel like we were home.
Yes, but good pizza makes it worth staying in to eat.

8. The Amazing Race

This is by far the best reality show on television. 
I know as you will see in entry #9, but this show is heads and tails above all the others. 
Season to season, the pairs are extraordinarily casts as they weave in and out of airports and foreign countries, dealing with language barriers, sleep deprivation and crazy stunts like bungee jumping off a bridge in Australia or unrolling stacks of eight foot high hay for a clue in field in the middle of Germany.  All while testing the relationship of the twosome, be it the married couple, or the friends/former showgirls, or the lawyers dating.
Each week is something new, and exciting as those lucky pairs race around the world.
In our house, the conversation has remained the same.
Who would be pair best made for casting?
Bry swears it would be either he & his brother, he & my sister (lawyer/doctor in-laws) or he & my father (in laws). The thought of that last twosome would be horrible, or brilliant?
I think my sister & I might make good for tv, though we might kill each other and neither of us know how to drive stick, yet?

9. Bravo TV

Andy Cohen, the Real Housewives, Rachel Zoe, Top Chef,
I could go on and on.
I am a closet Real Housewives watcher. I don't set the DVR, I mean, do I really have to? Bravo shows those episodes over and over, but those trainwrecks make really bad/good TV.
The new show, Mad Fashion, showing Chris March from Project Runway (formerly on Bravo) is ridiculously fabulous creating over the top dresses for his famous/nearly famous/ want to be famous clientele.
I'll even admit, I've watched a few episodes of the Millionaire Matchmaker. Enough to realize that Patty would tell me to lose a few lbs, get a tan, make up application, and wear a better bra.
Whatever goes on at the Bravo clubhouse has me hooked.

10. Monday Listicles

I'm not just kissing up to the talented and terrific Stasha, but I really love Monday Listicles.
These weekly prompts have helped me break out of some writing blocks and more importantly given me an opportunity to write a lot about my family, my culture, my traditions, and me. 
A guilty pleasure? 
Mostly no. 
But pleasurable none the less. 

Thank you Stasha!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Five Question Friday

I was looking for something a little light & fluffy this week for inspiration. As I perused the blogosphere I came across Mama M at My Little Life. She hosts a Five Questions Friday link up, and this ladies and gentlemen was exactly what I was in the mood for, especially when I read the first question...about ice cream!
Consider me a follower!

1. Do you prefer your ice cream in a bowl or in a cone?

Difficult question.
I guess I'm a bit of an ice cream snob.
Soft serve?  Vanilla chocolate swirl in a sugar cone with chocolate jimmies. YUM!
Hard ice cream? I prefer in the bowl, no toppings.
Late at night, trips to Wawa = The cardboard container of a pint of Ben & Jerry's to be the closest thing to heaven on earth.
Have you tried their Milk & Cookies flavor yet? Oooh, what about Clusterfluff?

Ben and or Jerry if you're reading, I love you!
Drop me an email: if you're looking for a taste tester or want to do some sort of ice cream related giveaway.
I'm your gal!

2. What three things do you love the smell of?

Ivory Soap - Whenever I smell that, I think of my mom-mom. I wrote about her a few times, but most memorably in this entry.

Coffee - I love the smell. Unlike many in my extended family, I never liked it. I tried time and time again to start drinking it, but I just can't. Yuck to the taste, but yum to the smell.

My Kids - I remember reading a fellow blogger comment on that smell of her children, freshly woken from slumber.  Grabbing Maeve from her crib, she burrows her face into my shoulder, turning her body into mine, as my lips kiss her head, I breathe her in.

3. Giftcards or no? (In regards to gift giving...)

There are people (Jeanna) who regardless of what they (Jeanna) tell you will never like what you purchase them (Jeanna).
Gift cards are necessary in those (Jeanna) situations.
I do try and purchase  cards for places I know they shop, and I usually try to find some tangible little gift to go with it to wrap and then unwrap.  Be it a bottle of wine or book, or something of that nature.

I personally love receiving gift cards too. Easier then returning things!

4. What sports did you play in high school if any and do you still play them?

If you read any posts on here before, you know I was a swimmer. While I became a serious one in college, in high school I was "eh". Here's a link for further explanation.
I joined the field hockey team as a freshmen with my friend Ashley. Most of the girls had played in middle school, thus leaving us in the dust. I stopped playing my senior year. I wasn't too good, and I don't think the coach liked me.
During my junior year, the track team was looking for people to do the stats. So Ash & I volunteered. It was okay, gave me something to do between winter and summer swimming.
The following year, my senior year, I decided to join the track team. Not as a runner, but as a thrower. The Field coach knew I was swimming in college and was terrified I would injure myself. He forbid me to pick up the shot put, though I think had I started earlier, I might have been okay at that. Instead, he suggested the javelin.
I was the second best javelin thrower on our team, out of five.  Not bad for someone who picked it up a few weeks before the start of the season.
Looking back, I wish I would have tried throwing earlier.

5. Were you in band in high school? What instrument did you play?

No. No band for me.
My parents did push the piano during elementary then middle school.
I had no drive for it. My sister, the perfectionist was far more talented then I, and honestly I didn't really like it.
Now as an adult, I wish I had the opportunity to learn how to play the violin. I do know, however based on the week my sister took up saxophone, my parents probably didn't push string instruments as a survival strategy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back to Work?

My resume has been updated. There have been discussions recently in our house over my return to the working world, and so a few weeks ago, I began the honest search for a new teaching position.
A visible break comes across from April 2008 until the present, leaving the inevitable questions:
Where have I been?
What precipitated the leave from a tenured position?
What have I been doing?

I can answer that in one word:

However, during the interview process I do not think this will be an acceptable explanation.
Those three plus years will be explained away with excuses.
My husband accepted a new position which required us to relocate.
I became pregnant again.
We moved to this area.

Now, I am in a position to begin teaching again.
All of these things are true, but are excuses for this past three and half years.
Why did I give up tenure and a job I loved?

Because, honestly I found something I loved more.
My girls.

Now, I am scared, frightened, sad. Torn even, over whether this is the best decision for our family.
What sacrifices will we have to make with me working full time?
I was a teacher for nearly eight years working at the Kindergarten and First grade level.
I poured my heart and soul into every moment.
Getting there early, staying late.
I was vested, truly vested in my time as a teacher. Hours spent at home cultivating the perfect lessons and activities to motivate and educate. I remember feeling as if those students were my kids for the year, their happiness and success my responsibility.

Thus a problem has emerged.
That spark for teaching is gone.
That motivation that got me out of the bed every morning for my "kids" now has been transferred to my kids. I cannot fathom leaving my twosome for twenty other faces.
What will I miss?
What won't I see?
But the money will be helpful. In time for the holidays, the paycheck will make things that much easier. Then there's the personal fulfillment, walking back in the classroom, doing what I love and am good.

After a week of deep reflection, tears, and unfufilling sleep, a message greeted me yesterday for an interview for a leave of absence position. This opportunity brought the idea to reality. Discussions of daycare, finding balance, and the costs of my return peppered our evening conversation. The realization emerged simply.
I'm just not ready.

So the resume and cover letter sit, accumulating a little more dust. The time between my last position and the present continues to pass, making the possibility of return that much more difficult.
However, this is what's right for me, for our family, right now.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Branches on our Family Tree

I think I may say this every week.
I love Monday Listicles!
And this week, I Love, Love, Big Squishy heart Love this prompt! I apologize if I write that every week, but when somethings good, it's good!
In case you are new here, or live under a rock, Stasha at the Good Life hosts a weekly link up with her famous Listicles. This week we're encouraged to write of "10 family tree related things".
If you know anything of my family in real life, you know we've got quite the family so you can imagine my excitement with this list!

10 Facts about our Family Tree

1. Our family likes to reproduce

Usually you hear adages about large Italian or Irish Catholic families, however in our case, I come from long lines of large Polish/Slovak families. My mom is one of six. My father is one of eight.  Every one of my aunts and uncles except one has at least one child, most have two or three. My uncle Jim has seven.
Throw in my grandparents siblings, my parents cousins, and their children and what have you got?
No family related function is small. 
Poor Bry when we were wedding planning.

2. Grandparents' marriage stories. 

Legend has it, my father's parents HAD to get married. (wink, nod) 
While my mother's parents eloped after only dating a few months.
Funny, all of their children had traditional weddings.  

3. President Adams'

My mom swears my grandmother's lineage can be related back to John Adams & John Q. Adams. I have yet to see the paperwork on that one, however it makes for a good story.

4. Military Service

Both grandfathers served in World War II. Pop-Pop L as a cook in the Army, while Pop-Pop D was a seaman in the navy. Both my father and his brother, Paul were drafted into service during Vietnam. Uncle Paul followed my grandfather's footsteps and became a cook too. Somehow, someway, my dad ended up in military intelligence.
We still are trying to figure that one out.

5. Names

If you're pregnant, I've got a suggestion for a name. Go with Steven, Paul, Frank, Joseph, Kathy, or Marie. 
In our family that appears to be the naming guidelines, hence Uncle Joe, dad Joe, Brother Joey, Uncle Jimmy, Little Jimmy, Pop-Pop Paul, Uncle Paul, cousin Paul Michael, Mom-Mom Marie, Aunt Marie, Pop-Pop Frank, Uncle Frank, Great uncle Frank, Cousin Kathy,cousin in law Kathy, &  great cousin Kathy.
Then there's the Steve conundrum: 
 Uncle Steve, Great uncle Steve , Cousin Steve, Second cousin Steve, Uncle Steven (or Steve-out if you're Mo),  and Bry's best friend who is Uncle Steve too.

And people ask why we chose Moira & Maeve?

6. Small Town Ties

Both our families have very strong and deep ties to my hometown, as both sets immigrated here five generations ago. Our town, originally a steel town, gave refuge to a large group of Eastern Europeans. Lots of Slovaks- like both my grandfathers, a bunch of Poles- like Mom-Mom L.  and then the Irish/Welsh mixes like Mom-Mom D.

7. My Parents Courtship

Baseball brought my parents together, so it only seems appropriate they are the Phillies fans that they are today. 
My dad coached Babe Ruth baseball and had both his youngest brother and my mom's middle brother on his team. My mom, being nearly 8 years younger would go out to the field to watch the games and would swoon over my father. Eventually they started dating and the rest is history. 
Family legend has it that their wedding reception, the last to be hosted at the Slovak Club, was wild and crazy.

8. Teaching & Health care

These professions are prolific in our family, and not just for the woman. Besides myself and my brother, there are three other members with teaching certification, while nursing has been a field that at least five close relatives have chosen, one cousin is a respiratory therapist and then, of course, there's my sister, Auntie Doctor G.

9. The Traditions

I have mentioned before that there are quite a number of Polish/Slovak traditions that have been lost over time. Mainly as the generations have passed, so has our ability to speak the native tongue. Except of course, for a few choice words. My girls now know two polish words: that for butt & sit.
Really what else do you need?

10. Our Story

I met someone from "elsewhere", which seemed to expand the family tree. We chose not to place our roots in my hometown. 
 We're crazy like that.
Now, all these stories from above are being mixed and melded with Bry's family tree to create our own tree. Those stories, those roots will have an important part as will those stories Bry shares, giving our girls their own unique family tree. As greater cultural mutts then I, they've got a lot of learning to do!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Alma Mater

"Are we there yet?" her voice rang through the minivan.
I took another glimpse out the window. The scene looked familiar, as we made the left at the stoplight. Looking down the large hill, the village (really a downtown) laid before us.
It looked the same, yet quickly as we passed, we noticed the differences. New restaurants, stores and outdoor seating peppered the pavement. Familiar sites were there too. The drug store, the Indian restaurant which hosted the Halloween party where I was the farmer and he the cow, the pizza shop that delivered until 3 am, looked the same.
Imagines of that very first day quickly came to mind as the tall metal fence came into view. I could feel my heart skip a beat as we turned into the entrance. Fifteen years ago, I had sat in the back of my parents minivan, my belongings stuffed in all its corners as my anxiety was at a fever pitch.
The first day of college, seemed like lifetimes ago.
We were back.
There it was, the place we called home for four (and a half) years.
College, a place like no other.
An alternate reality, for those lucky enough to partake in all it's splendors.
College; the bridge between childhood and adult responsibility.
College, the place where I feel I found myself (and a husband).
As we pulled into the incredibly tight parking spot, I looked around as did Bry. It looked surprisingly so similar. The dorms stood tall, overlooking the parking lot, as Bry unloaded the double stroller. I watched as a father carried a case of water for his daughter down the path to the dorm. They engaged in some conversation over their respective shoulders. The scene could have been my father and I a few years ago, I thought and then, a shiver overcame my body as I thought that in fifteen years, this scene could be Bry and Moira.
"Is this it? Is this your school?" Mo asked as she climbed into her seat. Her voice regained my attention.
"Yup." I said, "This is Mommy and Daddy's college."
Attaching the straps to Maeve, I attempted to point out our surroundings. As Bry pushed, I began marveling to Moira. Informing her of the dorm that was Bry's home for three years, the library, the cafeteria, but it fell on deaf ears.
"Them got a bouncy?" she asked.
"Don't you want to see some more of Mama's school?" I pleaded.
"No." Her response short and without contrition. "Them got a bouncy? I LOVE bouncies."
And so we headed to the field house for the bounce house and other kid friendly activities.
Meeting up with a few friends over our trip, we all agreed somehow, returning here brought memories to the surface. It felt so similar, it was still the same in many ways, yet it had all changed. It was the same but yet so different.
Kegs and red plastic cups had been replaced with diaper bags and sippy cups. Walking leisurely with arms intertwined across the green now involved strollers and threats of time out.
Perhaps, the school was the same and it really was us that had changed?
Returning to the pool was the reunion I looked forward to the most.
The smell of chlorine hit our faces as we entered.
Arms and legs splashed about as they finished their practice for the day. Moira's eyes were as large as saucers, as the enormity of the natatorium stood in front of her. Diving boards, lane lines, and starting blocks abound.
I found her place of interest.
For me, the pool, this pool was sacred ground.  I had spent the most time during my tenure here, so sharing it was so personal.
The crystal blue water turned calm as the swimmers returned to dry land. A few girls came over. Introducing themselves as two seniors and sophomore, bits of nostalgia floated to the surface. With her little hand in mine, I introduced Mo. Gushing over her cuteness, I quickly offered my warning.
"Enjoy your time, every little moment here," I begged. "It will be over so quickly and you'll be wishing for one more night."
They giggled as they walked away, perhaps making light of my plea to each other, or maybe discussing their plans for the evening or lunch.
It was then I introduced Mo for the first time to my pool.
 We toured the deck, stopping to touch the water in the hot tub for the divers. Looking up, she gasped as I pointed out the 3 meter diving board, and asked to bounce on the 1 meter. She laughed at the pirate face on each starting block, and then told me the numbers as they increased on the digital pace clock. Rounding the corner, she seemed honestly interested and intrigued, and I couldn't have been happier to share my place, my history with her.
Not soon after our pool visit, we attempted a viewing of a production of the Wizard of Oz unsuccessfully and then arrived at the book store minutes after closing time. It seemed a good time to end our return.
We returned home.
Sitting down to dinner that night, Mo looked up to me and asked, "Tell me about your swimming pool, mama." A smile came to my face as I recalled my memories of the pool.
I guess our trip was a success.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


His hand reaches out to mine.
His embrace so familiar,
So strong.
Into his arms I melt.
For the moment, nothing else matters.
With each breath, I find my calm.
The hurricane continues around me,
But shelter, his gift to me.
My mind finally abandons the turmoil
And I let go:
The sadness,
The hopelessness,
The fear.
In its place he gives me hope.
My rock.
My love.

This week Galit asked  to conjure something. An object, a person, a feeling, a color, a season- whatever we liked keeping it under 100 words. Not sure about the word count, but this is exactly what I needed.