Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Vacation

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

Laying in bed until 9. Staying up late. Eating Christmas cookies, especially Lemon meltaways for breakfast. Shopping and lunching with girlfriends. Reading 3 books, starting 2 more. Ah the joys of Christmas vacation....okay, that all did happen. But was that it?

Mrs. Virginia and I were reading a mutual friends Christmas letter on the phone. I don't like the letters. mostly because it means whoever sent you one, has no intention of ever calling you. And I like phone calls. I like interaction. And I usually hate the letters. Especially ones that tell you they have a better life than yours. But does anyone tell you the day to day reality of their life? What was my vacation really like this past week?

Getting up because the dog was barking. Stumbling out of bed one morning because the boss called and I had to go into work. Getting up to listen to the latest renditions of Guitar Hero 3. Getting up to find the kitchen was totalled with boxes of cereal, hot cocoa wrappers, half full cans of pop, cheese wrappers and boxes of macaroni and cheese, and listening to my kids, as I am viewing this mess and they are munching on potato chips at 9 A.M., tell there is nothing to eat.

After 2 hours of daily de-gunking the house, I started on the mounds of laundry each day. Then I proceeded to drive the little cherubs to one friend and then another. And then I shopped again for something or returned yet another item. And waited in traffic. And waited. And I got home to pick up junk from which ever kid was home while I drove around. Then I cooked. And I ate more cookies. Then I picked them up and we started the routine all over again. Twins arguing over guitar hero. Wild Child with 3 friends on the computer. Dog barking wildly. Food everywhere. Dirty laundry pilling up. FUN!

Today started with cuddle time. I was laying in bed until 9, me the woman who is up at 5 most days. I was reading and sipping coffee. And then cupcake came down and joined me and the mutt in the covers. And I flipped over, pulled the covers up and said I didn't want to get up today. And cupcake pulled the covers back, and placed her face right in front of mine. I still laid there, with my eyes closed saying, NO, NO, NO, I WILL NOT GET UP. And then I opened my eyes and burst out laughing. There cupcake was, with her face pressed one inch from mine, doing this huge cheeky smile. You just can not help but burst out laughing.

And then the song, "Stinky breath, Stinky breath, Mama's got Stinky Breath. "

Your breath is worse. Is not. Is too. Is not. Is too. Is not, followed by a blanket tackle and a tickle.

Now that's the reality I prefer to remember and smile about.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Appliance Monsters

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

The pageant is over. All that remains is the crinkled wrapping paper, the cardboard boxes reused as gladiator swords and the tinsel everywhere, even though we never buy tinsel. The after glow of a sunny Christmas morning collides with the aftermath of empty wallets and tired Moms.

Why does the cheer of Christmas quickly disintegrate into reality TV without the prizes?---me

Woke today and decided to do laundry. Big mistake. Huge. Never put laundry in before the caffeine super craving is satisfied. Moved yesterday's washed closed to the dryer and hit the minutes. Started new laundry. Made coffee. Showered, singing, happy to have another day off and a 50% Starbucks cafe discount. Life is good.

Have cuddle time with the cupcake daughter. Nice, happy. Decided to try and discover America again in the form of a kitchen counter and living room rug. Both still intact, the rumor that they were missing was totally a lie. Went to switch the wash, opened the dryer.

HMMM. Cold. Crap. Really? And the DH thought the fact the clothes were taking longer to dry was because I suddenly forgot how to wash clothes after 18 total/16 happy years of marriage. No, really, the heating element went.

Dryer number 4. Vacuum number 6. Stove parts in the hundreds. Weird car breakdowns in the thousands(whoever heard of the locking mechanism for the ignition going? How about the axle?). We always have the best of luck in the days following Christmas. It's like Santa really leaves us a new gift and it isnt' winning the lottery. Here we go again. Jeesh.

Oh well. Who needs towels to dry ourselves with? Just turn the heat up and streak. Or clean undies? Isn't commando all the rage? It's vacation week, so jammies are perfect attire. Let's not talk about the kids sheets. I am sure the health department doesn't really need to know about the stench coming from the vicinty of Wild Child's bed again. And I am sure leftover Christmas cookie crumbs mixed with homemade eggnog really won't stain. I hope.

I don't work again until Tuesday. Can you send some quarters by then? Or better yet, can I come have some Christmas cheer while I borrow your dryer?

Happy Day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Christmas List

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.


When I was about 12, I desperately wanted pierced ears. All my friends already had them, along with the requisite 12 pairs of earrings and matching necklaces. I was this skinny girl with red hair and freckles and no visible curves, while my blond-haired, green eyed flirtatious best friend was already turning heads with her figure and clothes. I just wanted to fit in like all the other girls in junior high. So when my parents asked for our Christmas lists, I wrote in very large letters across the top "PIERCED EARS."

But it was not to be. My mother's ears bled terribly when she got her ears pierced, so she wanted to delay this possibility with me as long as possible. So no earrings again. I was so crushed.

My closest brother Joe, was doing odd jobs in the neighborhood for one family and making some serious spending money. Probably 40 bucks a week in 1974. He saved his money up, and on Christmas Eve, at age 14, walked the 2 miles into the local hardware store, Arthur's. There weren't any Walmart's or close malls at that point in time. Arthur's had a little bit of everything, including jewelry. He got me a pair of clip on Santa earrings. He also bought an electric blanket for my Mom, because "she was always complaining she was cold." He walked in a pretty good snowstorm and bought the stuff for that night.

I remember opening the earrings and being so happy. I wore them everyday, even when we went back to school on January 6. I was just so ecstatic over the earrings. It was really sweet that he did that. I wore them every Christmas for many years until they fell apart. I don't have them anymore, but when I do my day-after Christmas shopping like I did today, and I see the marked down Christmas jewelry, it always makes me smile in remembrance.

Joe was so happy working for that family. They treated him great and just loved him. The Mom made cookies just for him and give him great snacks. I remember how fondly he talked about them. He just loved all the attention. Years later, when the drugs finally over took my brother and his life was over too soon, that family showed up and talked about what a great boy he was. It was such a comfort and joy to hear. 20 years later, it still sticks in my brain.

I spent a lot of time growing up at my friends' homes and having the Moms show me great love and food. Even my blond-haired, green eyed best friend fed me many a night, even though it was often dinner number two for me. Kathleen's Mom. Sheila's Mom. Elizabeth's. I just loved how they opened their homes to kids and fed them and laughed, so I try to do that in my home today. My DH would rather not have the noise and mess, but I just ignore him.

Tonight Wild Child has Soccer Boy over. I had clementines in the house one time last year, and Soccer Boy managed to eat a whole box of them, leaving the peels in the box. It just made me smile. Someday I will run into Soccer Boy the man and joke about who ate all the clementines.

So tonight, I ran out and bought a new box of clementines just because. And smiled and laughed. I tried to tell him he could only have 2. But of course, he snuck back a half hour later and took 2 more.

I don't mind the noise of the kids, because I hope it makes them feel the house is theirs and that we will always be there for them and their friends. I like to know what they are up to, at least for the night. I am sure they are pulling the wool over my eyes at times, but at least I have them close by to see it.

Showering them with love may be all that I have at times. But least they have that to carry them into adulthood. And if this helps them reach it, so be it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cookie Day

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.
Elbert Hubbard


My Mom always filled the house with love and cookies at Christmas. Not just a plate of cookies, mind you. But dozens and dozens of 10 different kinds of cookies. Italian Fig Cookies. Mexican Wedding Cakes. Peanut Butter Blossoms. Cutouts. Leuberkiens. Hello Dollies. Rum Balls.

Each recipe was doubled or tripled to make 10 or 12 dozen at least. Baking began after Thanksgiving and was complete by her birthday on December 12. Everyday brought another treat, and we'd get some samples. But most of the cookies went in our cookies closet, which was really the closet by the front door that had no heat. It stored all the cookies perfectly, at around 45 degrees. We'd sneak out a take a handful whenever we could, but especially when my parents napped after dinner. Mom didn't want all the Christmas cookies to be gone before company came, so she'd make a hold over cookies for us:

12 dozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies.

These cookies were open season and we could eat all we wanted. If she was lucky, we would chow threw them and leave the Christmas cookies alone.

So as a grown-up (okay, not really, I just pretend) I continue on with this tradition. I force myself to cut back to around 6 kinds, at about 10 dozen each. I have to try and just live with what I can crunch out in a weekend.

This year, my friend the Queen asked if we could do a cookie day together. I don't have any sisters, so this was a special treat to me. I always wanted someone to bake with again. I did it a few times with friends in my 20's (B.C.--before children) and it was a blast. So I looked forward to a cookie day at the Palace (the queen's nest).

So, the questions started. Want me to pick up supplies and you just give me some money? Sure.
Okay, what kinds will be make?. Well, whatever. What do you mean, whatever? Well, I'm not really a cookie person. I only make one kind. So, whatever you make is fine.

This should have been my clue "I'm not really a cookie person." (<--major foreshadowing).

So I stopped at 2 different stores, and bought 4 bags of stuff. Then I asked if she had a stand-up mixer? No, just a hand mixer. Hand? Forget it. I am not breaking my hand. So I loaded up the 40 pund Kitchenaid. Then I went to look for my cookie tubs. I couldn't find them anywhere. Oh well, let's just go.

Arrived at the Queens'. Brought in the ton of stuff. And started. Mixed the dough for the pastry with nut filling Croatian cookies. This dough needs to set, so I had to make it first. As I started to mix and pour, the Queen is getting antsy. I don't know why. I am putting stuff away as I go. I am washing as I go. I am only in the one area. I know she's and anal retentive neat kitchen freak, so I am trying to guess what I am doing that is driving her up a wall. She's trying to be what too nice and not tell me, but I can tell by the 2 smokes in 15 minutes that I am driving her absolutely nuts.

Finally I asked. What. What do you mean what? What am I doing that bothers you? The dishwasher. What about the dishwasher? I am not using it right now. Well, you are getting flour all over it and all over the counter. Well, of course I am. It's a dough. I have to mix it, and then I have to knead it on the counter. Well, there's flour in the crevices of the dishwasher. Oh, sorry. Move out of the way. I have to put tinfoil over it or you will drive me nuts. Ok.

So the dishwasher got a bib. And the queen spent the day washing up after me. Now, I know I have to wash as I go and I did. But the Queen takes the cleaning while baking to an extreme. I mean, you do have to use things to bake with. And as I put cookies in the oven, and waited for them to come out, she would wash up the bowl and mixing cups I just used. Okay, not a problem. Cookies would come out, and I would use the metal spatula to take one pan off the sheet to cool, while sheet 2 was still in the over for a couple more minutes. I would take the hot cookies off, and move some cool cookies to a container to make room. Then, I would go get the next cookie sheet.

And the spatula would be gone. Missing. No where to be seen.

Did you take the spatula again? Yes. Did you wash the spatula again. Yes, it was gross. But I was still using it. I know, just get a new one out. But I don't want a new one each time, I just want to keep using the same one. But the Queen would keep taking it. And then the oven mits. I would set them on the counter, waiting for the next batch, and she would put them away. And so on, and so on.

Baking with a clean freak is hard. It's just a lot more work to keep getting the stuff out. Again and again. And then she picked on some of my cookies. Well, my family won't like these. Ouch. But we did manage to make her husband's Aunt Marge's cookies. Can't quite get the shape or texture, but they tasted excellent. So the King was pleased. And now he yells when I am on the phone "Come over and bake some cookies. No scratch that. Come over with cookies. No scratch that. Come and LEAVE some cookies. "

It's so nice to be loved.

And for Christmas, please send the Queen some tinfoil for her dishwasher. And some more dish soap. I am pretty sure I used it up when I was there. Or, just to be fun, spill some flour on her floor!

The Atomic Bomb made less noise then the Queen when you get flour on her flour.

But I love her anyway.




Friday, December 21, 2007

Yuletide Joy

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

The wells of joy are a little thin this year. No real reason either. Everyone is healthy. Everyone is working. The day to day problems of kids growing older and Mom's losing their sanity still abound. Money is tighter then ever. Planning is worse than ever. God took care of most of the problems in the form of overtime this fall and in the form of a Christmas job. And we also balanced by cutting back on the mindless Christmas shopping. Bought smaller. Bought smarter.

So today, when I asked the twins to give me something to feel joy about, they responded thoughtfully. We're all on vacation tomorrow from school and work. (Yeah!) And we can all be together next week and do a jammie day (Awesome!).

And the dog isn't farty today. (Nice!)

It doesn't get any better then this.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Water Works

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.


I love sappy stories, always have. Tonight I watched the sappy Christmas movie of the night, "The Note" on the Hallmark Channel. A plane crashes and a Dad writes a last minute note to his child "All is Forgiven." The movie tells the story of a columnist searching for the recipient of the note. Pure modern day TV, all wrapped up in 120 minutes minus 100 minutes of commercials.

I of course totally relate to any human interest story with buckets of tears, or "the Water Works" as my boy twin calls it. He simply watches me and calls, "Ok Mom, here comes the water works" and he goes and gets me kleenex. (Mom, why are they called Kleenex? They do not clean and they are not clean when you finish using them.) His twin sister called out from the computer when he went to get the tissues, "And give her a hug." Nice. God's answer to tears, the twins.

The best thing in the world is when muffin boy and cupcake girl surround me and yell "Twin Hug" while they both grab on. I try to store these moments for the future years when the hormones hit and I suddenly become the plague when it comes to hugs. I know it's coming, but still, I dread it. I bank every hug for future withdrawals.

The water works thing? It came on about 4Th grade. I was reading "The Red Pony." Really enjoyed the book, but you get to the end, and the horse dies. I burst out crying, right there in the middle of the living room. My Dad asked what was wrong, and I yelled, "The horse died." From then on, whenever I cried at something sappy, it became "Oh, the horse died."

Reading that book was the first time I really felt something from reading a book. From then on, I was hooked. I was transported instantly into another world, a world of love and tears, hugs and fears. All wrapped up, and dealt with, nice and simple. I grew up in a emotionally cold household. No hugs. No kisses. No I love yous. Books game me all that. Later, as video changed our ability to re watch our favorite movies whenever we wanted, it was movies that stirred me and helped me release my emotions. I learned to cope through books and movies.

And now, when the water works hit, I am sharing the books all over again with the twins, when I tell them "Oh, the horse died."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Self Talk

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.


By the time our kids reach adulthood, we will have repeated the same 10 things over a million times each. Hang up your coat. Eat your vegetables. Put your dirty dishes in the sink. Bring your laundry to the laundry room. Clean your room. Stop beating your sister/brother. Don't watch so much TV. Be nice. Smile.

Have you seen the YouTube video about the things Moms's say in 24 hours?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxT5NwQUtVM
It's set to the William Tell Overture. Hilarious. Very true.

Unfortunately, it's the things you say only once that sink in. Somehow, even in the age of 21st century technology, we don't know how to hotwire our brains to override any bad things people say about us. Or the ugly messages that slip out in the heat of anger. Or the days when we didn't do our best and get belittled instead of encouraged.

I think one of the most powerful things we can teach our children is how to talk to ourselves, how to encourage ourselves, how to shake off bad days. It's not something people really talk about, but self talk really sets the tone for our entire day. We repeat messages in our brains, and eventually, they become hotwired inside us, so that we don't even have to say them outloud anymore.

Self talk messages tend to be bad things, but we can flip them around and make them mini rewards to ourselves. We can teach ourselves to go with the flow this way, instead of getting upset when we can't have what we want right away. Don't holler about the traffic jam, use it as time to list your 10 best friends in elementary school, or think of your top 5 funniest movies of all time. Someone spreading bad rumors about your in school or at work? Think of the most ridiculous work situations you've experienced and get a laugh about it again.

Challenge yourself to make some funny lists and remember funny things today when you had a bad moment. See if if doesn't feel like a hug. Then, share the story with a friend and make them laugh today.

We all need the happy self talk and funny stories. Go spread some today.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Encouragement

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

"Clarence, you have to go down to Earth tonight. There's someone in trouble named George Bailey. Oh, what is the matter, is he sick? No, worse, he's discouraged."--From the movie, It's a Wonderful Life.

It's too easy as a parent to become discouraged when things don't seem to be going our way with our children. Bad behaviors and bad report cards become internalized, as if we were the ones with poor greades or who punched the bully on the bus. The 24-7 rapid fires lives we lead as parents seems never ending in our devotion to our children. We start our days an hour early to drive someone to Pop chorus, give up our lunch hour to get the material for the class project that was due yesterday, and end with running to the book store to purchase another copy of the book they forgot over the long holiday weekend. We clean, organize, and encourage. We read magazine articles on pitfulls to avoid in rasing our children.

We think we have it all together, only to find out they are failing 4 subjects. Or that they treated someone horribly and hung up on their best friend on the phone. Where did we go wrong? What are the neighbors kids doing so well, and we can't even get our kids to pick up their underwear after taking a shower or put their dishes in the sink? What program can we buy to make it all better? Where is our magic pill? Where is Mrs. Brady when we need her?

I have found the best thing you can do when the sky appears to be falling, is to look straight ahead, not up. See what is in front of you, and really pay attention to it. Compliment your child, not matter what. Find something to be happy about and smile.

So Wild Child is failing 4 subjects. He got a 91 in his technology class. A 91. That's a really amazing achievement for him, in a class I made him take instead of study hall. It teaches the whole Microsoft Office program, keyboarding, and basic computer office skills. I am sure he will be able to help me figure how to make a good Power Point presentation when he finishes the year. Or at least, make up excellent graphics for his My Space page. But it's a beginning, and I know I need to start there. Play it up. Be excited.

"Getting the first goal gives them the confidence to win. It's the key to the whole game."--BL, age 11, explaining his philosophy of the Sabres wins to his twin sister.


Sometimes when we listen carefully, we get all the encouragement we need from our own kids. While watching the hockey games this weekend, my youngest son got very excited when the Sabres scored the first goals in each game. He was jumping up and down and screaming, telling his sister they would win for sure. And she wanted to know why. Well, that's easy he said. Scoring the first goal gives them the confidence to win. They starting winning, and everyone is happy with them and congratulates them. This give the confidence to keep on going. Because they are happy, they are on top of the world, and they play well. They have fun. And then they win.

So, I was gratefully reminded to once again compliment my children and make them happy. When they have something to cheer about, they do better in other stuff. That's why I like to give candy bars when they get a hundred on an assignment. It makes them happy all over again, and reinforces the joy of succeeding.

And in their success, I find my success and joy. And that's all the encouragement I need.

Compliment someone today and see how joyful you feel.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fantasy World

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.--Henry David Thoreau

When I was a child, I often played 3 houses down the street with my friend Lizard. We didn't need a lot of toys to use as props in our imagination, since her bedroom was our stage. The tiny 7 x 9 room was the scene for many escapades. She had bunk beds with a ladder, a built-in tall dresser and armoire, an 8 foot long closet. easy access to the kitchen and a first floor window.

We often played house. We would take pillows and blankets and lay them down in the closet for the bedroom. The bottom bunk bed became the kitchen, and the top bed was the living room. The armoire contained her older sister's clothes, so this turned into the clothing store, complete with long mirror for viewing our magnificent finds. The funniest thing we did was around age 10, when big sis was a curvy 16. We put on some of her shorty nightgowns, and blew up balloons which we tied together and wore underneath. We added lots of jewelry and big girl heels! Were we ever hot!

In our make believe kitchen, we cooked our own concoctions. One was "Maple Milk," which was milk with maple syrup stirred in. Yum. The other weird thing was raw peach jello. We liked the taste of the powder and used to dip our fingers in it and eat it. Another was peanut butter with Nestle quik powder stirred in it, with just a little water, and frozen. Kind of a candy bar.

The first floor window had its uses also. We took the ladder from the bunk bed and propped it outside. The bedroom was now a "bank." This became our drive thru teller. For money in the bank, we used playing cards. We carried old purses from Mom and Grandma. And then of course we would go shopping, or play "The Price is Right" where you have to guess the prices to the nearest amount.

Modern day bedrooms often lack this imagination. Most kids have their own TVs and DVDs, stereos, laptops and cell phones. This is to give kids their own "space" and identity. My kids lament their lack of "toys" in their rooms on a daily basis. As teenagers, they of course are in the entitlement phase. We all went thru it, and so are they. I say they are entitled to ask, and I am entitled to laugh hysterically when they do.

Still, I noticed when I was up in the war zones that masquerade as their bedrooms, that imagination is not lacking in my children. The rug is really the "closet" since they leave everything lying all over it. The dressers are really pantries, where they store all the contraband snacks, candy wrappers and pop bottles. Dresser drawers are step stools for the closet shelves. The clothes hamper is used as a garbage can when they can find it. Under the bed is the laundry shoot, complete with easy access kicking zone. Pillow cases are Halloween candy bags. Blankets are living room comforters. Lampshades are basketball hoops for homework detention notices wadded up in a ball.

And curtain rods? Well, those of course are swords, the scene of many duels when Mom is not looking.

Now if we could only figure out what they imagine the lamps are that they break every other week. Basketballs maybe?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Big Foot

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

What do Eskimos get from sitting on the ice too long?Polaroids.

Funny Fridays. Fun Fridays. TGIF. Whatever we call it, we should think better of it because it's the end of the week. I'd like to have nothing but jokes and laughter on Friday, since life is too short anyway. So I think Friday's column should be about laughing and loving and smirking and joking and rolling on the floor dying with gasps of laughter.

Lots of people can laugh at life, but can never laugh at anything about themselves. Not me. I have been the bunt of bad jokes since puberty struck many moons ago. I grew 6 inches one summer. My bright red hair got dark. My face freckles went away. And my feet....well, they got bigger. And bigger. They suddenly grew to a size 10 1/2.

It was the half size that did me in. Suddenly, I had to really shop for shoes. Now when I do manage to find shoes, I buy every pair that fits that day. You never know when you might next find a pair. Still, the 10 1/2 was manageable. Life went on.

Then I had my first child. Gained a keg size belly and the feet, well, the feet went up to an 11. Still not bad, but more searching needed. Specialty catalogs or Penney's when they had a good day, became the way to go. Then the twins came along. How to say this delicately about the size you grow to when you have twins. Hmm. Well, my doctor explained it at 8 weeks when the sonogram clearly showed "the two heads, " as the sonogram technician so gleefully pointed out. The size I was at 9 months with my first child, the extra large maternity clothes, well, I was that size at 12 weeks with the twins. And kept on expanding. The condo was so big at the 40 week mark, that my belly measured 60 inches. I could put my arm at a 90 degree angle to the belly, and my stomach stuck out to my fingertips.

And the feet? Well, they grew to a 12. A 12. Now it's really a pain to shop for shoes, and at times, I get almost desperate to find a nice pair in my budget. Still, the one good thing about having big feet was my ability to just pick out the biggest shoes in the pile and put them on. Easy, they were always mine. No thinking needed. I always had the biggest foot in the house.

Until about a month ago. My son's feet grew a size. He's a 12 men's. A good extra size and then some to mine. It was weird to have someone Else's shoes I could slip on. I hadn't been able to do that for decades. I felt like a little kid playing dress-up.

And my "throw on the biggest shoes in the pile" theory. Well, it backfired on me last Friday. There I was, walking across the driveway into work and I looked down. Grass stained sneakers. Not mine. Not even close.

Shoot. I wore my sons sneaks to work. Oh well. Everyone has a good laugh. At least it wasn't the pair with skeletons on them!

Maybe I can wear those sneaks for Halloween!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Survival of the Fittest

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

As I have discovered by examining my past, I started out as a child. Coincidentally, so did my brother. My mother did not put all her eggs in one basket, so to speak: she gave me a younger brother named Russell, who taught me what was meant by "survival of the fittest." Bill Cosby

Growing up, I was always taller than my brother Joe by several inches. He had 2 years on me, but I had a loud mouth and the determination to not be bullied by him. I gave back what he dished out. Gave it so well, that my mother had a little talk with me when I was in around 3rd grade and Joe was in 5th. "Now, I know he aggravates you. And you can hold him down and punch him. But just because you can, doesn't mean you should. "

I stopped beating him up and we had a truce...for maybe a year. Then the tides changed. Suddenly my little brother grew biceps. Large biceps. My best friend had a balance beam that stood about 5 feet high. Her Dad made it custom for us to do tricks on in the back yard. My brother used to go to beam, which hit him at should level, since he was only about 5' 6" tall. He would put his arms on the beam, and from a standing position, push himself up into a hand stand. It was really cool. He became really strong.

One day, while sitting on the couch in my parent's living room, I discovered just how much those early beating bothered Joe. He came in, picked me up, lifted me over his head, and dropped me on the floor. From then on, he had the couch whenever he wanted it.

Joe never got much taller, but he got a lot of muscles. His friends all towered over him, but he got them back. We had a mini-bike, that he took the motor out of. He designed and welded himself a go cart frame, that was full body, with a cage for protection in case of rollovers. In case of roll overs? Yes, he even padded the whole frame and covered it in leather. It was a sweet machine, and perfect size for him. His friends Mark and Tom had to literally ride with their knees up by their ears to fit in it. It went really fast and they made a whole track in the miles of empty land in our neighborhood. They zoomed around in that go-cart for years. Broken bones became a badge of honor amongst them. Oh, the fun of it.

I remember well the shouting matches and fights over stuff I had with Joe. It makes me smile when I live through the hormones years with my kids. My little twin cupcake is 70 pounds of concentrated anger. She can yell with the best of them. Her 56 inches takes on her older brother's 70 inches with no problem. If Wild Child is really bothering her, she just jumps on his back and attempts to pound. He easily hands her off because he has muscles right now while she looks like a 2nd grader. She gets sent to her room very often now, just to calm her mouth.

One day, Wild Child will get his licks. And I hope he smiles years later when it happens to his kids. I know I do.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hot Mama

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

meno·pause· (men′ə pôz′)
noun
the permanent cessation of a woman's ability to bear children, when she questions her sanity in every having them in the first place---ME


I get up most days and go to the health club at 5:30 a.m. To make it easier, most of the time I just sleep in my work out clothes. I know my own mentality at that time of day, and I have used any excuse there is not to leave the comfort of a warm snugly bed. It's too cold, I'm too tired, I'm too happy laying here, it's raining outside, it's foggy outside, it's nice day outside, my feet feel toasty, the dog is comfortable laying on me or the coffee smells really good, and I need to lay here and enjoy the smell. You name it and I have taken it as a reason. I either have to set the clothes out on the dresser all ready to go, or I have to sleep in them. Some days, I think my pink polka dot jammies would make excellent sweat pants. I may find out if they do yet.

So I get up, throw on socks and sneaks, grab the Creative Zen and keys and go. I drive the half mile and run upstairs to the club. I walk in the door, grab a rubber band in the pen basket, tie my hair up and zap in my membership card. I hop on my favorite ellipitical machine, crank the tunes to the max and begin. I don't really open my eyes or my brain until I have released all the pent up hormones raging inside me. It's a wonderful thing to be sweating so hard people think tears are running down your face; your shirt is sticking to you, your hands are falling off the handles from the river running down them and you think there can't possibly be any more sweat inside you until bam!--a hot flash hits you, creeping up the neck and drenching the last possible strain of hair that isn't wringing wet. Heat from hormones mixes with heat from exertion and becomes volcanic.

I push harder on the machine, punishing it for this impossible feeling overcoming me, the heat, the sweat and most of the time the overwhelming need to cry. The hormones are raging, pushing and pulling me, filling me simultaneously with angst and hot sexual need. I ride higher and faster, stomping, straining, running; ignoring the pain in the knees, the sticking of the joints, and most of all, ignoring the desire to just lay down and give into the hormones. I carry on, filling my mind with erotic images while my body protests that it is no longer 18. I push while I pretend to dance, glide while I transport my mind to an earlier time and age.

The minutes tick by as fast as the years. Where was I when I met him? Who was I with? How did it end? I work to burn off the energy and take my brain to an even plain, a place where I am still in control and my body listens to my commands. I ride hard to lose the anxiety, the stress and the fear. Will I ever feel that joy again? Will I ever be a rising star at work again? Am I doing a good job as a Mom while I feel so out of control? When will it be about me again and will I be ready? How long with this ocean of desire last? And do I want it too? I ride to enjoy and ride to forget. I ride to make it through the day.

Finally, the energy spent, I return my brain to present day Mom, the one who has to plan the day, run the house and organize the fun. The one who does laundry while cooking breakfast, defrosting dinner, packing her lunch and putting on her work clothes. The one who leaves the house an hour early to drive her kids to choir practice and flag football. The one who puts on her makeup while waiting in traffic. The one who somehow holds it together while being ignored at work, pretending life is good and smiling at everyone, when she would rather scream , "Don't you know how I feel??? Are you really that stupid?" The one Mom who loves her life, her kids and their every changing lives. The one who feels the heat and laughs at the world. The one who secretly smiles at cute guys thinking, "Red Roof Inn, 5:30?" The one who hears the hormones rage in her teenagers and thinks, "I can relate."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Say Thank You

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.


Many days I hear, "This, Too, Shall Pass"--words that my late mother often said to remind me that whatever it is, it won't last. And I often find myself mentally asking, Where's the Thank You Power?--a reminder to look for the blessings in every situation because they are there.
But my personal tagline is "Here to Make a Difference." I have never for a moment believed that life was just a series of days, and then you die. I believe we were meant to experience as much as we have the opportunity to, and to have meaningful connections with the people around us. I think that when we leave this earth, something about it should be better for our having been here.
There are so many ways to make that difference, which is really what Thank You Power is all about. Doing something for someone else makes both of you feel good. The broaden-and-build aspect of feeling good makes you more adventurous and more inclined to try the new things that make life invigorating. The new experiences give you memories that, when recalled, lift you up even more.1 It's an upward spiral that all starts with Thank You Pow
er.---from the book by Deborah Norville, Thank you Power

I started reading this book last week and just had to share some of it. I have always found myself gravitating to my tried and true beliefs during stressful times. Years ago, I read in a Jan Karon "Mitford Series" novel, that we need to give thanks for all things. In the book, Father Tim stops stressing for his being afflicted with diabetes, and gives thanks for this to God. He finally sees that the blessings in his friends and parishioners that help him with his disease, in the foods that he is allowed to savor occasionally and in his need to slow down and take life as it comes, instead of rushing through it like a freight train.

I know in times of stress that it's hard to find the grace, to look for the good, and most of all to try and do something good for someone else. It seems to be the last thing we have time to do, but in reality, this is the thing that sets us free to experience God's love in ourselves, to feel his healing power.

Last Sunday I came home not to a new set of kitchen cabinets, but to an empty kitchen because the new layout was not right for the current space. I had no cabinets, no counter, no dishwasher, and worst of all no sink. I loaded the dishes in my 5 gallon pail and threw them into the utility tub. I couldn't imagine what we were going to do now and was screaming inside, trying hard not to show how distressed I was. I took out my frustration on a bag of pretzels and hot cheese. Yum!
The next day I tried to come up with a plan and called our kitchen designer and got some options on what we might need to change in the cupboard layout if we did indeed measure wrong. I tried to think positively and picture the final, beautiful kitchen I would have, thinking Easter was a good time frame to plan for. Easter 2009. After all, I really like washing dishes in a bucket!

Then I came home, I found out the real problem was the new window we just put in. The bigger window which was moved 5 inches to the right to make room for the bigger sink. Except, it should have gone 5 inches to the left, since the corner most cabinet was smaller. Oops. My husband did not want to do this, since it meant a probable extra week without the kitchen. ()Think 3 extra weeks). He didn't want me to have to go that long without a kitchen. He was desperately trying to make it right. When I realized this, I stopped him and thanked him for working so hard on the kitchen, even when his hands were going numb and he couldn't lift another tool. I said it was okay, and the suggested he just get an opinion from his Dad. Just talk to him about it. And I silently gave thanks that my father-in-law was a home builder for many years.

When Dad saw the problem, he just said, "Move the window." Simple as that. Just a mistake. Fix it and go on. Fix it and forget about it. No big deal really, stuff happens.And he came the next night, and helped move it. I returned home that night at 9, to a 8 foot by 6 foot gaping hole in my kitchen wall. At 9 o'clock at night, when it was going to be 45 overnight, a hole large enough to drive a car through. Augh! Well, I locked myself in the bedroom and proceeded to kill a bag of potato chips. Bad chips! Bad! Take that! I was tired and went to sleep to the whir of the saws. I gave thanks for the help and figured they would stop soon and just board up the space. We would be cold, but we would be on the way to having it fixed. Tomorrow is another day.

I woke up to a nice, shiny new window in the right space. All lined up for the new sink. They worked until midnight. My mother-in-law was calling every hour trying to get her husband to stop and rest from his diabetes. But he hung on, and got it in for us.

Thanks Dad. Thanks husband. Thanks friends who are helping me through this remodel. Thanks for all the kind support and love as I write this blog. Thanks for getting me writing again. And thank you God for my wonderful life.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It Was As Far As They Could Dream

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.


The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.-- Eleanor Roosevelt

We received the Sears "Wish Book" in the mail last week. I remember eagerly paging through the Sears catalog as a child and eagerly composing my wish list for Christmas. The haven't published the book in the last 14 years, so my kids did not have the pleasure of doing the same when they were little. Not all the need is the Best Buy add to compose a list that will take me 5 minutes to purchase and 5 years to pay off.

When they were little, it was great to encourage them in their dreams of the moment; the fire truck and helmet, the police car and badge, the princess crown and pink tutu. Dreams were so simple, but in their choices of toys were the real life elements of careers that might interest them someday. We encourage our children in so many ways to live up to their potential, to gravitate toward their natural interests, to believe in themselves and be what they are meant to be.

Be all you can be. Just do it. Grab the bull by the horns. "Hey, your never know, it's a dollar and a dream."

Many of the way in which we help our children develop is just by helping them to open their mind to new things and new ideas. We try to expand their horizons by showing them the world outside of which they live. To believe they can have anything they want. Dream it, think about it, save pictures of, think about what your life might be like if you did that, and picture yourself there, doing it, owing it, experiencing it.

In the movie "Cheaper by the Dozen," Steve Martin is trying to get his 12 children together at one time to take a family picture for the Christmas cards. The oldest daughter is off with the boyfriend, so Steve says he will photo shop her in the picture. Then of course everyone would like to be photo shopped in, rather that rearranging their schedules to do the real thing. Its kinda funny in the movie, that technology was replacing a "real" family moment.

A friend at work likes to photo shop himself in events at Ball games with co-workers that live in other parts of the world. It's funny in that he is bringing himself together with people he works with, talks with, co-designs reports with, has meetings with, but can't actually be with in today's global workplace. In this instance, he is creating moments that can't happen as reality. But then one day, he took a home vacation, and each workday, sent us a different picture of himself in Paris. He was standing in front of the Eiffel tower and we all laughed. We posted the pictures and other co-workers were jealous of his fabulous dream vacation.

So we asked him one day when he was really going to Paris. He was surprised by this, since his answer automatically came out "never." It set him back, and made him think, when did he stop dreaming? When did his dreams shrink down to the area he lived in?

Neighbors of a family friend lived in a poor section of the city. The houses there are from the turn of the 20th century, working class housing stock on very narrow lots. Very dilapidatedhouses that often share a driveway with the house next door. House values run in the low teens. Often people own cars that are worth more.

So the family friend shared a driveway and had a restored '69 Cuda with a custom paint job in the driveway, with their sons motorcycle parked behind it, and another car and a van behind that. The neighbor backed the van around, but in their hurry, bumped the motorcycle, which tipped over and smashed into the Cuda, scratching the paint. They asked our friend to let them pay cash instead of billing their insurance, so they did. The repair would have been $1800, and the neighbors were shocked. They didn't even have car insurance, and thought it might be like $200 to repair the scratches. They refused to pay, so our friend took them to small claims court.

One of the court TV shows picked up the case and flew them to New York to tape the story. Our friends won the case, and the show paid them the money owed. The neighbor got off scott free, but everyone couldn't believe they were willing to stiff their next door neighbor. Usually, the story would end by maybe something bad happening to them for stiffing, "karma" getting them back, but no.

They win the lottery. They win $800,000. Wow. They can buy a real nice house and get out of the poor section of the city they live in. Everyone expects them to buy land, and move to a real nice suburb, or move to another state, something big. Definitely, everyone thinks a move is in the future. They can do basically anything they have ever dreamed of with that much money. What was in their dreams? How far would they go?

They moved one half mile down the road, just over the city line. The houses are double what their house was worth, maybe $40,000. One half mile. It was as far as they could dream.

I think of that story amazed and dismayed at the same time. How could they want so little? When did they stop expecting more? Are we grown-up when we stop dreaming, or are we just self-limiting?

How do we encourage our children to dream while we keep dreaming ourselves?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Instant Forgiveness

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

Mom, wouldn’t it be great if we could have remote control for Molly the mutt to turn down the volume?”—muffin twin, on being told to bring in the barking dog again.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have stuff the instant we want it? Come home to the messy house, with dishwashers to be emptied, dishes to be washed, laundry to folded, mail to sort, clutter to put away, beds to make….and just one push of the Instant Button and Presto! Alice from the Brady bunch makes it all better.

Lately, the twins have been killing themselves over what TV shows to watch. It seems like no amount of pre-discussion and compromise is going to work. Every night the same blood curdling yell can be heard all around Buffalo.

“MMMMMOOOOOMMM!!! He/She did it again!!! They changed my channel. Make them change it back now!!!! MMMMOOOOMMM!!!!!”

And so on, and so on. I would like to instantly change back to age 4, when they just loved the world and got along fabulously. Every new experience was delightful and fun. Their smiles just lit up the world. Give me an instant rewind any day. But there is one thing kids are born with that is the best and somehow we lose it as grown-ups. I wish we could bottle it and send it to all world leaders. The world would be such a better place if we all had this: Instant Forgiveness.

Have a bad day at work and yell a little too loud, apologize profusely and the twins will say, “That’s okay Mommy. Want to go watch the Goosebumps marathon?” They just love you and move on, all the time. Instant Forgiveness. No worries, mate. It’s really amazing.

I’d like instant forgiveness at work, for the bad days with co-workers, for the bosses that lose sight of you, for the customers that take out their divorce on you when you answer the phone hello, for the jealous behaviors that creep up all the time. I’d like to be able to forgive the mistakes I make and do the same for others. For being overlooked as a part of the team, I would like forgiveness to flow out of me instead of anger (Do you think when a new guy of 3 weeks goes to a global meeting to give input instead of your tenured self, it’s a bad sign?).

So for today, I will work on practicing the simple act of forgiveness and watch it flow. Try to make work a better place, one day at a time.

The Saint was discussing Instant Jobs at work yesterday. One push and boom! There’s your new job just for you. It would be everything you wanted and more. So then I asked the age old “where am I going” question:

If you won the lottery today, and you could have any job you wanted, what would it be????

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Can I play with Not A Toy?

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

"But rules cannot substitute for character." — Alan Greenspan, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board (b. 1926)

I left the world of elementary schools last week, with their Halloween parades, green day-yellow-day, blue-day, RED rules, birthday treats and holiday sing-a-longs. I matured and had to navigate strange new lands called middle school for the twins and high school for Wild Child. Somehow all summer I looked forward to it, but I couldn’t really picture what it meant until the open house.

The MS technology teacher had the best reality check, “Last time they were in school in June, they were getting walked to the bathroom and told when to go. Now we unleash them on an 8 day rotating schedule that has 8 new time periods every day. They need a chart to know what day it is and where they should be, but somehow they memorized this and found their way around the maze of 1500 students. And to top that off, we let them loose with electronic drills and saws. Welcome to middle school.”

I loved and feared it at the same time. Will they be okay? What will all these strange children teach them? Will they be okay? Will they have their first boyfriend or girlfriend soon? Will they make new friends? With any luck, the friends they make there will be with them the rest of their lives, if not actually in their lives, in their hearts. The painful lessons they start to learn now are theirs to learn. It’s hard for me to see that and understand, but I know I must. I know I need to also make sure I am being a good person, a role model, someone for them to look up to. Am I kind? Am I helpful, considerate, understanding, patient and loving? How are my bad tempers impacting them? How about my good days, what am I showing them now?

When the twins were little, their big brother went off to the scary land of pre-school. For Thanksgiving, they made these cool headdresses like the Indians wore. I remember the beautiful red feathers all over. No other colors, just red. The twins were one year olds and really wanted that headdress. They kept picking it up and running with it when they found it. No amount of “No” would do it.

"I SAID NO!!!" This really meant nothing to a one year old, whose first words were, "Can I play with Not a Toy??" They just weren’t listening to the rule. They wanted to do their own thing at age one.

Finally, I just hid the hat so they couldn’t get into it. Problem solved, I removed the item.
The next day little muffin boy seemed out of sorts. He kinda made faces and didn’t eat a lot. No fever, I thought he was cutting some teeth, until I opened his diaper. Inside was a mountain of poop, with a single red feather sitting clean as could be. He obviously had eaten the feather. Nice.

No matter what they do, kids will still decide what to put inside themselves and what not to. Most of their lives, you work to teach them love and kindness, and hope it is what they store inside. You can make the rules all you want, but it’s the character that you can’t legislate. When they get to be adults, you hope it’s the goodness that’s guiding them. Sometimes your old fashioned ways have to be pushed aside, and you wonder if what you taught them will be enough.

Last Christmas, the video game system “WII” was all the rage. Its sales started out slow, with systems being abundant, but they quickly became the hottest toy of the season. Of course they sold out everywhere. A friend’s son had bought himself one with the money he earned at his high school job at a restaurant. A woman he worked with there wanted the system for her young children but could not find it anywhere. The son went home, boxed up his system, and sold it to his co-worker to give to her children.

And my friend has the best present a Dad could have, a good child with love and compassion in his heart, who put his own needs aside for someone else’s happiness. Make all the rules you want, but it’s the character that comes out when you are not there, not the rules.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Do Animals choose us or we choose them?

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.


Dachshunds are ideal dogs for small children, as they are already stretched and pulled to such a length that the child cannot do much harm one way or the other. ~Robert Benchleyy

Dogs laugh, but they laugh with their tails. ~Max Eastman, Enjoyment of Laughter

If you want to laugh about the most disgusting things in life and smile during your most upsetting times, try getting a dog. Better yet, get a puppy, and you can enjoy watching them as YOU grow (as a person that is, since dogs teach us everything.)

Miss Virginia has a new puppy named Luke. He is a Jack Russell terrier-beagle mix; very cute, very full of life and curiosity, finding his way through life by tasting everything at eyelevel. Miss Virginia already had a beautiful senior citizen dog named Freeway (think Heart-Heart TV series) and didn’t need another dog when Luke wandered in the yard. She found 3 different homes for him, but he kept coming back to her. It’s like Luke chose her, and that is it.

Can dogs really choose you? I think they pick us most definitely. I think they are wiser about us then we sometimes are about finding a mate.

Doc came to me on my 8th birthday. He was a pure breed miniature dachshund, black with tan markings. He was the size of my little hand at the time, and used to fit easily in my sweatshirt pocket or on the back of my neck. He weighed about 2 pounds at the time, and only grew to be 8 pounds. 2 days before my birthday, our tan doxie Charlie Brown was hit by a car. We all cried buckets for that little guy, and Dad went right out and bought us Doc. He stayed with us until I was almost 25. He died of a broken heart the week I moved into my own apartment.

His full name was Doc Hoctor, after the race car driver we liked out at Holland Speedway racetrack. We used to go in our jammies on Saturday nights to watch him race. Doc used to go to work everyday with my Dad, who picked him up and carried him in his arm, swinging his black metal lunch pail on his one hand underneath Doc, while carrying his briefcase in the other hand. Out they would go to Dad’s pickup truck to go work in the city. My father had his own small business (Buffalo Sweeping Compound Company) where he manufactured a sweeping compound used in heavy industrial sites.

When he went out on deliveries in the pickup or the big truck, Doc rode along. Dad said he used to protect the truck so no one could steal it while he went into the plants to get paid for his product. At lunchtime, Doc would share lunch with my father, eating half a sandwich and 3 Oreo cookies. Doc would pull them apart and lick out the frosting first. He loved cookies.

One night, about 18 months after Doc found us, Mom & I came home from my dance class ( 7 years with Jack Greenan for tap and jazz, thank you very much) to find a gate up in the kitchen. We used to put this up when Doc was sick, but I saw him laying in the living room Then I heard the “Oh, Rick, No” from my Mom and saw Dad’s laughter. There in the kitchen was a dog that looked a lot like Doc, but he was kinda fat and broad-chested. Dad told us his was Doc’s half-brother and was the runt of the litter. No one wanted him and he was 4 months old. And incredibly stupid.

While Doc came to us with poise and grace, the new dog seemed to have no intelligence whatsoever. When you held him in your lap, he would jump off and land right on his chest. He didn’t know how to put his feet out to hold himself up. And when he drank water, he would get his ears all wet, not knowing how to hold them up. And he kept walking right through his pee! “What should we call him,?” Dad asked. Maxwell Smart we decided, for the bumbling idiot secret agent on the TV show at them time, “Get Smart.”

Max soon learned from boss dog Doc. Doc ate and drank first, then Max. When we sat in great-grandpa’s horse hair chair, Doc would get in, and lay along side us. Max would go in next, getting behind Doc, and sitting up like a human so he fit in the chair with us. When they went to work with Dad, Doc got to eat, and get picked up, Max chowed down a little, ran to Dad, and got picked up second. My Mom folded up an old blanket for the dogs, and sewed the edges together for their own comforter. Doc always got in the bed first, then Max, both of them scooching under the covers together. Wherever they slept or lay, they did it together, always Doc first, then Max. They were never apart.

We had the boys for almost 18 years. In the later years, they started to lose all their teeth and their tongues hung out of their mouths. They had bad cataracts and couldn’t see well. But they stayed in the downstairs in the living room or in their bed, still giving us love and comfort. They weren’t allowed upstairs in my bedroom, parents’ rules. But whenever my parents traveled and were out of town, they would sneak up and sleep in my bed. It was the funniest thing. I didn’t bring them up, I would tuck them in as always, but 30 minutes later up they would come for a cuddle.

After college, I moved to Florida for a year. And for the whole year, Doc and Max laid everyday at the foot of the stairs, waiting for me to come down from my room. They missed me that much. I eventually moved back for another year, and then moved out permanently when I earned a teaching fellowship for my Masters’ degree. Max died a few months before that, but Doc still hung on, until the day my brother Joe came with the delivery truck and picked up my stuff. I kissed Doc goodbye, and left him in his bed for my parents, who would be home from a trip later that day. And Doc had a stroke the next day. I still think he died of a broken heart.

And part of me died too. My childhood was over, it was time to be on my own. And Doc knew, just as he found me on my 8th birthday, that it was time to let me go. And so he did.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sock It To Me

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.



There’s nothing like warm fuzzy socks on a cool fall morning. Today I have on my soft red fuzzies with my pink polka dot jammies. It’s like being cocooned while you walk around trying to get warm.

Did you ever notice how socks seem to have a life of their own? How else can you explain the fact that you put them in the wash, two by two and they manage to come out 5 by 3. Where do they end up? Are the single ones jumping ship to have a mad affair with a pair of leggings? Do the tube socks come out of the closet to become a pair of knee his? Where do all the lone socks go? Is there a sock commune I don’t know about?

I just did the fall clean-up of my sock drawers. I like to have the white athletic socks separate from the boring business trouser socks. You can’t mix them or anarchy will occur, the oceans will rise and the heavens will part. I ended up with a whole bin of ripped, old unmatched socks, lots of quitters, socks that won’t stay up no matter how much you tried. I have to go attack the kids’ sock drawers. For that, I may need the fortification of an adult beverage.

It’s amazing what you find when you go looking for missing socks in their rooms. Cupcake likes to “clean” her room by shoving all the dirty clothes 1) in her dresser with the clean clothes 2) in her toy boxes in her closet 3) kicking & screaming under her bed during the 5 minute tidy up. It’s amazing how little time it takes to clean when you hide the clothes. The boys just like to leave the clothes in a large heap, covering the rug from one end of the room to other. When they finally clean (think eclipse of the moon timeframe), Babe Ruth likes to say, “Hey Mom, look, someone put a rug in here when we weren’t looking.” Nice.

For years, ever since about age 11, I have had the biggest foot in the house (size 12 women’s). Well, last year Wild Child finally surpassed me and achieved an 11 men’s. I thought this would be so great. I can slip on someone else’s shoes when I run out to get the dog. But it turns out, when a size 11 puts on other people’s socks’, they stretch out and stay a size 11. Who Knew? The good thing, Wild Child has 98 pairs of socks. The bad news, the rest of only have quitters that fall off with the first step.

So it’s time to go sock shopping again. I dread this on two fronts 1) They cost as much as a pound of good steak 2) I never seem to buy the kind anyone likes.
The Queen mentions the problem of buying the RICHT socks just the other day. Her DH wanted socks, and she had a $10 JCP coupon. He wanted crew socks, all cotton, this style only. She uses the coupon and buys $30 worth of crews. Takes them home, and they are the wrong socks. He pulls out what he wants again and she takes one to head back to the store. Returns the original socks, but they won’t give her the $10 credit or the coupon to use again. Screwed out of $10, she spends $40 worth now getting lots of socks and takes them home, making sure to get the all cotton like he wanted. DH opens the socks, puts one on, and gets frustrated. Still the wrong sock. She gets mad, and tells him to go to the store and get what he wants. He does, coming home with an acrylic cotton blend!!! “Well, of course they are,” he says “they have to stretch to stay up.”

“Can you believe it,” the queen says, “he needed a blend and didn’t even tell me. But that’s not the weirdest thing about socks and my hubby,” she tells me. What now? He sometimes gets wild and goes sockless to work? He walks around with mis-matched socks on weekends? What on earth could it be?

“When you wash his socks, they always come out together. Always. He is never missing one. I’ve never seen anything like it, must be the accountant in him or something. It’s like the socks wouldn’t dare leave him unbalanced.”

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cuddle Time

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

Are you sunshine or are you darkness in the morning?

I woke up this morning to a soft, cool air. The light breeze came in the window and stirred me awake to pull the covers over my toes. I love cuddling in the fluffiness of the comforter and rolling up in its softness. There’s nothing better than having a few minutes to roll over and enjoy the cool, fresh pillows.

When the twins were little we always had cuddle time in the morning. They would join me in cuddling in my big bed and we would just take a few minutes to wake up. We would read little stories, do word search puzzles, or look for items in the “I Spy” books. As they got older, we added our warm morning drinks to the picture, coffee and hot chocolate. It was great just to feel their laughter and joy so early in the morning. One of my most prized possessions is the drawing of cuddle time cupcake made for me in the 3rd grade. I have it on my keychain.

I always wake up instantly, ready to go. My little muffin boy twin is the same way, just instantly aware and in tune with the day. My cupcake girl twin would be better off if she didn’t need to see the light of day before noon. Discussing things with her is a waste since she would not remember them. She’s best left to her own wake up methods. Coffee is a must for her and has been for awhile. It’s really a latte, half milk, one quarter sugar, one quarter coffee, but it does the trick. Silence and being left alone are the best things for her in the morning. She definitely needs her space.

My experience is that people are one way or the other with the waking up. Either you are a bundle of sunshine or you’re not. There’s no way around it. And everyone better clear out and understand this, or your mornings will be a bear to get thru. As for me, cuddling and enjoying my morning coffee are the way to go.

Which one are you?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Princess and the Pee

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

“Bargain of the year, a $179.99 suit was $99. Then I had a $15 coupon. Then they gave me 20% off on top of it. I got it for $58. I added a beautiful icy blue satin shirt. I bought new pumps. I looked amazing.”
The Queen, telling us the rest of the story

The fashion world has us by the in a tizzy most of the time. Short pants, long pants, high waist, low waist, wide leg, tight leg, button enclosure, hook and eye or side zipper. Whatever the latest trend is, every designer gets on Oprah and says “This makes everyone look thin.” And we run out and have to buy it. We just about get beyond this and find our own style, when our kids get to be that age…

“You’re not going to wear that to pick me up later, right? No one wears THAT anymore.”

So we start re-evaluate our clothes. We rethink the colors that we love. We buy things a little snug, because we are in a happy place and will soon fit in this just fine. Then, to really make our insides hot, we get a bargain to boot.

The Queen started to tell us this story at lunch the other day. I laughed so hard; I almost fell off the bench and rolled on the lawn. We were talking about pants and needing to get new ones for our business casual office. A lot of the stores show Capri’s for the winter, with little boots or neat stockings. Don’t like this look on me in winter in Buffalo. Need the full leg to cover up the globs of ice sticking to our legs from the 1 mile walk in from the car (not really, but you all expect Buffalo to be like that. It’s not. My teacher friend in Richmond has more snow days then my kids. No lie). And a lot of the pants are also really wide legged. What am I, 400 pounds, that I need to cover up the legs I ride the elliptical machine 4 miles everyday to get? And then we were on the subject of the enclosures. Button or hook and eye ? (button, because Hook and Eye make your belly bulge).

And then the side zipper stories and clothing mishaps come out! If you have one, send it to me! (kwsmythe@yahoo.com). We all seem to have horror stories of the side zippers from hell. They don’t stay closed. They won’t go up half the time. They seem to break easy. I was just in safety pins a few weeks ago, shirt pulled over the zipper, because at the end of the work day, one hour more to go, the zipper conks out. There I am, with a zipper flopping in the air and nothing to do but cover it up. What is up with that? Can you really tell the boss at that point you need to go home and change? Can we ever admit fashion problems to our male bosses? No, of course not. We live in pins, bemoaning ever trying to wear a side zipper. I figure I have the best story. But no.

Then the Queen tells the rest of the story. Beautiful new suit. A little snug. Looking smashing. Busy day, running around like crazy. Holding the pee awhile. Finally go in the stall, can’t get the zipper down. Nothing works. Grreatt. Decides to hold it. Keeps working like mad. Hours later, runs home, straight to it, goes in, pulling like her life depends on the zipper, really needing to pee, it’s been hours. Bladder is huge.

Nothing. Zipper won’t go. Hubby not home, she's dying, can't figure what to do, bouncing up and down, pulling on the pants, needing to pee so bad. Calls in princess daughter to help. She’s pulling on bottom, Queen is tugging on top, Still won’t budge. Pull harder. Crap, the zipper pull comes off. OMG, really need to go now. Runs to couch, lays down. Has princess get the pliers out and yank on the zipper. Still nothing. Expensive couch about to be ruined. Immense pain of a really large bladder needing relief. Can’t believe it. Nothing left to do.

Screw it. Give me the scissors.”

Cuts the pants off herself. Cuts right down the zipper so she doesn’t ruin her beautiful new suit. Gets relief. Finally. Takes the pants to the seamstress.

“Do you have any idea how much they get to put in a new zipper? $19. The whole suit only cost $60 and they wanted $19." But she got it fixed anyway.

And she never wore the suit again. And that’s the rest of the story.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Expect Amazing Things

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.



“What’s your dream?”
---homeless man pushing shopping cart on Hollywood Boulevard in movie ‘Pretty Woman’

From the time they are conceived, we are filled with dreams, hopes and desires for our children. We picture the nursery and then the toddler room, all perfect in matching Sesame Street characters (only to find the brand new Wall border ripped off the entire wall, 10 minutes after you put it on.) We see ourselves teaching them to walk and ride their bike and throw out the first pitch. We see them graduating and having a wonderful life, thanking their parents in every speech they ever make.

One of my favorite jokes on the internet surfaced again the other day. 3 woman are at a crowded bar after work. The door opens and in walks the most gorgeous male you have even seen, thick full hair, strong muscular physique, GQ attire, sexy smile and a charismatic charm oozing out of him (ok, so the joke didn’t get that detailed, but we can believe it, right?) He locks eyes with the one woman across the crowded room and walks directly toward her. She is filled with delight and anticipation. He whispers in her ear, “I’ll do ANYTHING you want for $20, but you must tell me in 3 words only.” She reaches in her purse, grabs her keys….

We immediately fill our brains with scenarios as to the next line. Is she flirtatious? “Dance with Me.” Is she sensual? “Kisses lasting hours.” Is she naughty? “Tie me up.” Oh, we delight in the dream, like picturing our winning Mega millions tickets. She opens her purse, grabs her keys and address, hands him a $20 dollar bill and says…..

“Clean my house.”

Oh, the laughter!! I love it. But then I get thinking, what great dreams can we sum up in only 3 words for ourselves and our kids? What sage advice to live by?

Go graduate college. Pursue your passions. Never stop learning. Reach for the stars. Call your mother. Wear clean underwear (do we need to explain this again?). Keep finances organized. Love yourself first. Follow God’s laws. Laugh everyday. Clean your room (ok, going overboard again.)

Here’s my favorite of the month—

“Expect Amazing Things
---Me.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Love the One You're With

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.



“And if you can't be with the one you love, honey, Love the one you're with. Turn your heartache right into joy”---Love the one you’re with, band of your choice


Sometimes as Moms we go 90 million miles an hour taking care of our families, neighbors, co-workers, spouses and even our pets. We love everyone and we do everything for them. We get pushed to the back of the list. We forget to love the one we’re with---ourselves.

I’ll spend hours carefully pre-treating, soaking, scrubbing, folding and ironing laundry for the family. I separate the 3 kids carefully in their baskets and put DH’s away in his dresser. I’ll do this while talking on the phone with girlfriends, making doctors appointments, checking in with parents and paying bills. I’m cooking something on the stove, emptying the dishwasher, doing more laundry and taking care of the dog at the same time. I’ll even pick up windex and wipe off the TV.

Everyone gets carefully done laundry, except Mom. I woke up today, looking at the large pile again on my dresser. It never starts out that way, but in the middle of the night, a laundry monster comes and reproduces there. Mom just comes last or not at all. I can deal with the mess, but don’t ask others to. I tell myself it doesn’t matter.

In discussing housework with my friends, and our inability to keep to the standards our mothers seem to have had, a little know fact came to light. We all seldom clean our own room. Dusting in there becomes a feat only known to occur before the big Christmas party or summer barbecue or not at all. When I do get to it, I feel so charged. It’s invigorating for some reason. We seldom take care of ourselves the way we do our families.

Why is that?

When I have a bad day, and I need to recharge myself, my twins often give me a “twin hug.” They both get on one side of me and hug in. It feels so good. It’s love in the biggest form.

We all just need to give ourselves a twin hug now and again. Love yourself and then share the love. It feels good.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Honey, it's just a little paint"

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.



“Spackle? Who gives someone spackle at a baby shower?”—young friend receiving our “survival” kit at their baby shower.

Most families need to have a little spackle on hand for the little mishaps that appear on walls when you have children. The dent from Wild Child playing tackle with Twin 2’s head, the cracks from the inside football game, the dents from the moving the entertainment center for the 15th time (a little to the left honey). We never even bothered with the 16 ounce economy size. No, we had to buy the 5 gallon bucket. And buy it again. And buy it again. We keep it on hand. We look for sales; we don’t feel complete unless we have it on the shelf.

There hasn’t been a project in our “starter home” (16 years later) that hasn’t involved lots of spackle. I could have owned the company by now. First, during the OJ trial, we decided to redo the living room; it had glued on ceiling tiles, painted over woodwork, linoleum glued on the window seat in the bay window, dark paneling and brown carpeting. Yuck. Next, during my 36th week of pregnancy with twins (think 3 foot extension sticking of my ribs, and you might get the width ratio); I decided to fix the ripped wall paper in the bathroom. We found the light switch dangling in the air, and the floor (5 layers of it) was covering a 3 foot hold in the sub floor. Nice. At 9 months pregnant, I am laying on the new piece of the floor, so my husband can nail it while he’s laying on top of the air-conditioning unit in the crawlspace. I was running up to the 2nd floor bathroom while on bed rest with twins. Fun Wow.

Next, we redid the master bedroom, with the lime green carpet and more glued on ceiling tiles. We put in white carpeting that never saw the light of day again. We ripped that out last year and redid the original hardwood floor. We did the hardwood floor and walls in the living room the year before. On this living room remodel, we finally finished painting the ceiling by the front door and putting up the wood work. Nothing like remodel number 2 to get the job done.

Last month, I decided to paint the dark wood kitchen cabinets again. I did it during the twin’s pre-school year the first time. You can really get a lot of painting done in 2 hours of free time. So I bought paint, and took the doors off. I basically have the 1970’s brown striped linoleum, the country style counter in a U, the cedar ceiling with beams, and to top it all off, Z-Brick, the 1970’s answer to bad drywall. So I was looking at the counter, when I decided I want a new one. I want to get rid of the U, and have a center aisle.

I tell the DH (dear hubby). “But if you take off the U on the counter, I have to take off the cabinets above it.” Yup. “And if I take off those cabinets, I need to rip off that piece of sofet hanging there. “ Yup. “And If I take off the sofet, I have a hole in the cedar ceiling. I don’t think I could fix it. I’d have to take down the whole thing.” Yeah…next thing we know, we’re at the Super Home Improvement Center looking floors and counters. We figure we’d repaint the cabinets, put in a laminate floor, and a new counter.

We call the brother-in-law #1 (BIL#1) to help rip out the stuff…with only 1 days notice. Nice family, aren’t we? He comes, and gleefully destroys and conquers. He even puts holes in the wall while ripping out z-brick, just because he can. And then he says the one thing that will then become everyone’s mantra who visits in the next month. “If I were doing the kitchen, I would….”

BIL#1 mentioned new cabinets (Done!). BIL#2 added more light switches, a larger sink and the microwave above the stove (Done!). Work friend mentions a new window above the sink (Done!). Mom-in-law says to add power to the center island (Done!). Another friend talked me into the larger work space by the oven (Done!).

Now, got any more ideas? You have to anty up to the payment book if you do.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I Never Get ANYTHING!!!!

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very souls.

WE STRIVE TO HAVE WHAT WE WANT, WHEN WE SHOULD JUST WANT WHAT WE HAVE---UNKNOWN SONG LYRIC

“I am not a Mom, so much as wheels with an ATM Card”---Nature Mom


Happiness often comes from a feeling of contentment. We finish a big project, buy the furniture we oglooed for years, take the big trip, get a promotion; all things we pictured in our minds and finally received. All seems right in the universe. We dreamed and we succeeded what more could we want?

Lots of things. It’s human nature to want more things, a better cave, more sun, a third drumstick from the brontosaurus, it’s never ending. Still, we can’t make the sun shine for us, so we make do and find happiness in other ways. Turn the lights on, buy a new sweater, and create a drumstick from tofu. We get by. We go on. We make do.

Unless of course you are the species know as teenagers.

Life is continually out of balance when you are a teenager. It’s not the hormones that do us Moms in, it’s the constant “I want, I need, I must have, Can I buy, Will you pick up, Did you get me, Where’s My ____, That’s mine, I never get anything, I always look stupid and you always buy it for____ (fill in name of other sibling).” They genetically don’t know how to make do, get by, or love what they have. They search for newer, bigger, faster, more expensive and more obnoxious in every nook and cranny we call homes. You get in heated arguments and end up taking everything away and sending them to their room, the ultimate punishment. Just last week they demanded bottled water, now that’s so over, they need VITAMIN WATER. Granola bars became ENERGY Bars. Yogurt graduated to GOGURT in tubes. American cheese slimmed down to CHEESE STIX. Gatorade became RED BULL. Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches morphed to LUNCHABLES. Bubble gum turned to STRIVE. Deodorant is now AXE Body Spray. Bath Soap is BODY WASH from the Mall. My sons ask for Hair streaks and my daughter wants boxers.

My eldest Wild Child turned 14 the other day and my Dad called. “14,” he said. “Good Luck. You wanted EVERYTHING at that age. You were so rotten.”

Who Me?? I just want to be sent to my room for 3 hours without a phone, TV or outside communication with the world. Now that’s contentment.