Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Little-Big BabyGirl

I write here so often about BigGirl, and really quite rarely about BabyGirl.  This, of course, has nothing to do with any discrepancies in my love for the two of them, but all to do with the nature of the relationship between a 6 1/2 year-old and her mommy, versus a 3 1/2 year-old and her mommy.  However, I can honestly say that I can see this is all about to change.

BabyGirl is still my little Snuggle Bunny and Whiny Britches.  She’s the youngest, she knows it, and she takes full advantage of that status.  She still gets “free rides” whenever she wants them.  She has her own little blue pillow for sleeping in my bed beside me.  She is “scared” to be alone, even in her own room when it’s bright as day.  She has a “woe is me, I’m so pitiful” face that could win academy awards…if it didn’t make you laugh.  She can stick that lip out at least a mile.

But, everyday she’s growing up.  She’s pushing and testing and sassing and declaring her independence – but only when she wants it.

“No – I do it!” as a two inch length of toothpaste falls into the sink.

“No – I can do it!” as she pours half a cup of parmesan cheese onto her plate, and then asks for a spoon.

“No – I don’t wanna wear dat.  I look like a BOY!” as she sees me approach her only pair of jeans.

“No – I don’t want dessert!” as she climbs down from her chair, refusing to eat her meat.  (Apparently, she’s interested in trying vegetarianism.)

All of this, and I can honestly say she’s actually getting better.  This is NOTHING compared to her terrible two stage.  My little Miss Thing has a temper and a will that cannot be broken.

Recently, she’s accomplished a few firsts for her baby book.  It’s funny – as a mommy, at some point you quit tracking things like first tooth, first word, first steps, and start tracking other sorts of milestones…like, “first cat fight at school”. 

“Picked BabyGirl up from school today.  Was so excited to hear that she got in her first fight today!!! This little girl of mine, she’s a feisty one…she wouldn’t let that sassy little friend take HER swing.  No, she let loose her fury and cat scratched that little girl’s neck before shoving her to the ground…oh, what a day it was today.  *sniff, sniff* My baby is growing up…Wish I could claim credit for this achievement, but alas, she gets her ‘fightin’ skillz’ from her Daddy.”

Or, another example, “first trip to the ER”.

“It finally happened!  We are so proud of our BabyGirl!  I thought for sure BigGirl had her beat when she fell reaching for a CD player on the bar and pulled it down on top of her head, but I was mistaken.  Tonight, BabyGirl actually made it happen!!! She took a lesson from BigGirl and, she too, fell from a stool.  But, my little overachiever didn’t rely on something heavy to hit her just right in the head.  No, she took matters into her own hands – or mouth, so to speak – and sent three teeth straight through her bottom lip.  They actually went clear through to the other side!  I’m so proud of my girl!  Many kids try this, but it doesn’t always go all the way through.  I always knew she could do anything she set her mind to!”

All joking aside, she is growing up every day.  She pushes our buttons, but I know that is a sign of strength.  And that strength will take her far one day.  (She seriously did wow me with her bravery throughout the excitement of her fall and subsequent trip to the hospital.)  So, look to hear more about her here soon.  I expect she will bring her strength and courage to this venue just as intently as she brings it into my days.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

I was making my bed one morning when something came up about a crab.  Without thinking too much, I made reference to my own association with a crab.  This, most obviously, raised questions and eyebrows with BigGirl.

DSC_0018I don’t remember when I first learned about astrology.  I suppose it was a piece-meal process found within the pages of Mama’s morning newspaper horoscope section and the back pages of Glamour magazines.  Regardless of its origin, I’ve always been naturally drawn to astrology.  I latched on and nursed it fervently, thirsty for more.  It was sweet and familiar and comforting.  I have returned to it time and time again throughout my adolescent and adult life. 

On that morning with BigGirl, I stood at the edge of my bed, smoothing sheets.  Pulling at the coverlet.  Neatly piling pillows, European, standard, throw, bolster.  I talked about stars and planets and symbols – crabs, twins, scales, fish, insects, lions.  I spoke of constellations and personal traits.  She listened, wide-eyed and fascinated.  Until, as I finally draped the chocolate blanket gracefully at the foot of my side of the bed, we left our lesson and the Wedgewood blue walls of my bedroom behind us for the day.

The next night, questions arose again.  I retrieved my trusty bank of astrological knowledge from the top shelf, and we poured through its pages together at the kitchen table.  FireDaddy joined us and dove into the pages for a few moments before passing it back. 

He remembered the many late nights I spent long ago on the floor of our office, leaning over my bulbous pregnant tummy, working on birth charts.  Consulting the internet for latitude and longitude coordinates for our birth places – first mine, then his, and finally BigGirl’s.  BabyGirl’s had yet to be determined. 

I remembered the mess of numbers and charts that flooded my mind for weeks.  I could see my yellow legal pad and scraps of paper with notes about days, times, places, and calculations.  Long stretches of self-doubt had been broken by fleeting, yet glorious, moments of triumph and sure success. 

I am aware that many people do not condone or believe in the mysterious knowledge revealed by the stars.  But, that doesn’t really matter to me.  I love watching BigGirl’s knowledge, theories, understanding of this universe grow and change everyday.  She, a brilliant star somewhere within the Gemini constellation, will form her own beliefs and feelings about God, heaven, and our amazingly temporary existence on this plane of consciousness. 

As her mother, I will open my heart, spirit, and beliefs for her to freely question and explore.  She will know the word namaste and, I hope, believe it.  I will tell her my stories of angels and baby Jesus and visits from souls of friends and family who’ve passed.  I will listen as she asks why God makes things happen and what I believe lies in the darkness between the stars. 

Until the day for which I’m anxious finally arrives, when I will hear from her lips how her intuitive little mind has explained the wonders of our world.  And, on that day, I will be the wide-eyed student and she will teach me.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Someone mentioned foie gras.

When BigGirl was 10 months old, I left her for the first time.  I spent a week in Baltimore for corporate training.  I sat in the airport, waiting for my plane, crying.  The novel I had borrowed from a friend was unable to distract me or lift my spirits.  I carried in my purse a piece of paper with four inkjet printed pictures of FireDaddy, BigGirl, Bo and I smiling together in the warm spring sunshine of my parents’ back porch.  paris park bench

My week in Baltimore was mentally exhausting and emotionally draining, but good, nonetheless.  I met people from all over, laughed till my sides ached, collected expense receipts, explored the Inner Harbor area, shopped for souvenirs and frequented the hotel lounge with my new girlfriends.  At night, I would call home and miss my baby more and more with each day that passed.  I slept hard every night, a nice escape from the loneliness bottled up inside that hotel room.

That’s when I met Jane.  Jane had just moved to the States from France, where she was formerly employed by the French division of our company.  Amidst an international company conference, she met the American man who would be her husband.  He quickly swept her off her feet and ushered her across the Atlantic to a new life as his wife. 

Jane wore her French nationality like a feather in her bonnet.  Her jet black eyeliner extended beyond the corner of her eye just slightly, and angled up towards her brow, à la Cleopatra.  She kept her mocha hair neatly tied at the nape of her neck in a bun or simple ponytail.  The way she wore her Land’s End company logo button-downs made them look not only feminine, but sexy.  Her black heels flaunted toes that reached a sharp point and industrial-sized buckles and grommets.  They looked like pure couture beside my Mossimo heeled sandals.  Everything she said was music – a beautiful love song, whispered between sheets.

I suppose I had a bit of a “girl crush” on Jane.  I was completely enamored with her.  I hung onto her every word.  I found myself wanting to ask her to tell me everything – tell me again how you met your husband, about your family, about school.  What of the French division of the company? What does your home look like?  I wanted to know it all. 

At the time, my brother lived in Silver Spring and worked in Baltimore.  Sometime midweek, after being dismissed for the day, I left my room at the Hilton Garden Inn, hopped into his Murano waiting at the curb, and headed to dinner.  He took me to a French restaurant he and his wife enjoyed on occasion.

We sat at a cafe table outside, just within the low wrought iron fence.  As my eyes surveyed the menu, early French vocabulary lessons replayed in my mind…poisson, haricots, les frites, jambon… Finally, I chose a lovely skate with capers and brown butter.  It was magnifique.

The night was wonderfully delicious.  The spring night air was cool and helped me stay awake, despite wine and fatigue.  We laughed and had a wonderful visit before I collapsed in their downstairs guest bedroom. 

The next day, surrounded once again by the neutral corporate classroom, I couldn’t wait to tell Jane about my dinner.  I couldn’t remember the French word for skate, and the English name had no meaning to her….which is actually quite funny.  A skate is closely related to a ray…and the French word for skate is “raie”.  I struggled to define the fish with my words and hands until, finally, our minds connected again.  She smiled and reminisced about her mother’s cooking and meals with her family at home.  And, again, I listened with envy and admiration.

I never saw or spoke to Jane again after that week.  But, I’ll never forget her.  She is filed neatly away in a beautiful drawer in my mind marked “France” – alongside images of the Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre, L’Arc de Triomphe, fields of lavender in Provence, charming boulangeries, and bridges crossing the Seine. 

I bought a French guidebook last week.  It was on clearance at a bookstore going out of business.  Someday, hopefully not too far away, that will come in handy.


Photo credit: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It’s no secret…

This week, Girl Talk Thursday asks us to spill the beans on beauty secrets.  Apparently, I’m pretty above-board and traditional in my beauty regimens, because I can’t think of anything that’s really a “secret” per say.  However, as always, I’ll be happy to share what comes to mind. 



I remember sitting in an airport terminal one day, years ago, waiting for my brother’s flight to land and deplane.  Sometimes, as you drift further away mentally from the real world in which you’re surrounded, your face starts to sag and look a bit mopey.  This sweet, unnamed man walked by, with his carry on bag in hand, and beckoned me back from La La Land with the words,”You look much prettier when you smile.”

Wise words.  I have remembered that moment on several occasions since then.  I’m pleased to say that, as a general rule, I walk through the world with a smile on most days, most occasions.  In fact, it’s a quality I’m actually proud of in myself.  (Stop the presses – I’ve just publicly admitted something I like about myself!)  That man was right – any and every face looks better with a smile.

I had this very conversation last spring with a coworker who – believe it or not – actually argued against me.  She can’t stand her smile.  She doesn’t like what her teeth look like and she doesn’t like what happens in the lines on her face.  I say: bull honky.  A smile makes eyes sparkle. It says, “I have good to bring into your life.  Come, speak to me,” to those around you.  That is beautiful.


I also have been trained (That word sounds much nicer than “brainwashed”, doesn’t it?) by My Mama in the importance of proper undergarments.  Foundational pieces are essential in many ways.  (1) Like Colleen, I cannot stand panty lines.  They flatter NO behind.  (2) Droopy boobs are not hot.  Not even close.  I don’t care how big they are.  There are no excuses.  (3) A slip IS important.  Now, I will be the first to admit that there are SOME skirts with which you just cannot wear a slip…knit skirts with roll tops, for instance.  But, in most cases, slips make a huge difference in creating a smooth, soft silhouette.  It makes a difference.  (4)I feel prettier when I look pretty UNDER my clothes, too.  I look for a panty that flatters my own body. I want color, lace, pretty patterns.  Hell, I want my bra and panties to coordinate!  (Let’s get real, I want them to match my outfit, too, when the Laundry Fairies are cooperative.)  All of this matters to me.  I don’t want to feel like I’m hiding something ugly beneath the surface…beauty is subliminal.


Speaking of subliminal, good shoes are SO important.  Not only because your feet need to look pretty…but it is important to wear shoes that are comfortable for you when you’re walking.  By this, I mean if you cannot walk in those stilettos without relaxing your butt cheeks and thighs – do not wear them.  A hobble is not an attractive gait, nor is a wobble.  Watch beautiful women walk.  They walk with a long, but not too long, relaxed stride.  They stretch their legs and open their body, without looking like they’re jumping over puddles.  If your toes are crunched and you’ve got blisters on your heels or you’re about to fall off the pedestal on which you’ve perched yourself for the day – it will show in your every move.  That is not beautiful.


Related to walking, posture is SO important.  One of my best friends used to carry herself tucked up like a little rolly-poley.  Eyes downcast, shoulders slumped.  Beauty (by my definition) is an invitation to the world to want you, to love you.  Carry yourself with pride.  Carry your body like you love it, even if you don’t.  Stand tall and straight.  Not only will your clothes look better, your boobs look better, you will look thinner, but (beauty is subliminal) you will shine to those who see you.  If this is is a change for you, pay attention when people compliment you.  Don’t be surprised if people smile bigger when they see you coming and, perhaps even, call you “Beautiful” or “Gorgeous”. 


As far as wardrobe issues are concerned, choose clothes that make you feel like a million dollars.  If you feel uncomfortable, if your waist is cinched too tight, if you keep tugging at the top of the dress, if you don’t LIKE the way you look – you will not be beautiful.  Trust me.  This is why (personal issue coming out now) I take FOREVER to get dressed in the morning.  I insist on feeling “just right” everyday.  If I leave the house in an outfit that makes me feel frumpy or itchy or fat or anything less than “I love myself today and I can’t wait to wear this outfit again soon” – I will be miserable all day long.  I will think of nothing more than going home, putting on my pajamas, climbing back into bed, and hiding beneath my covers until I get a chance to try again the next day.  Beauty is subliminal. 


My last “secret” to beauty is to be a risk-taker.  You only live once (that we know of for sure), and that life is all too short.  Dare to think outside of your own box.  Dare to try something new.  If you’ve worn the same makeup since you were twelve, it’s time to break that mold.  If you’ve worn the same style of jeans since you left high school, it’s time to hit the dressing rooms.  If you’ve worn your hair the same way for as long as you can remember, call your stylist.  Now.  If you need one, call me and I’ll help you find one.  If you can’t decide which necklace to wear because you love them both – ask yourself how it would look to wear them both.  You never know till you try.  Think you can’t wear green or yellow or red?  Try a different shade…(Need help with color? Call me…I can help you.  Or read this book.  My Mama always had it in our house when I was growing up, and then it was a textbook for one of my fashion classes!)  Wear the flower in your hair.  Choose the red coat, not the black one.  Try it with a hat.  Wear boots with dresses.  Hell, wear pirate boots!  You will be glad you did.  And, beauty is subliminal.


I suppose I could have written a post today listing all the products I use, my daily facial cleansing routine, how I style my hair, and revealing the secrets that unfold behind the doors of the salon.  But, when I really thought about what made me feel pretty, that is not what really mattered. 

A few months ago, FireDaddy and I were looking at old pictures.  (By old, in this case, I’m referring to the beginning of our digital era.)  He told me he’s always thought I was pretty, but he thinks I’m much prettier now than I was back then.  What do I think has changed?  Between those days and these, I’ve worn my hair many ways, my clothing styles have changed, my weight has gone up and down and up and down…but the biggest difference I can see is that I like myself better now.  I really do.  As I age, I am learning to be the person I want to be and love the person I am.

I am convinced, friends, that this is life’s real beauty secret.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


kids 1 I remember my brother saying once, about a boy I was madly in love with at the time, “He would be a great guy, if he wasn’t dating my sister.”

Brothers.  They are quite a story.

Of course, my story about brothers is from the perspective of a sister.  People talk so much about a girl’s relationship with her father and how important it is in her future relationships.  I have no doubt that is true.  But, in retrospect, I also know a girl’s relationship with her brothers can have just as powerful an influence on her relationships with men, 2

My brothers and I played cars in the den.  We set up our own garages around the room – under the piano bench, under the skirts of chairs and sofas, beneath chests and coffee tables.  We acted out scenes and stories with Corvettes and Firebirds and Lamborghinis in the lead roles.

My brothers and I played G. I. Joe.  Well, they played G. I. Joe and I played Barbie and, at times, their two worlds mingled.

I remember playing spy.  We’d load ourselves down with canteens and flashlights and assorted supplies before we crawled through air ducts (under and between furniture) and snuck into darkened offices to rifle through imaginary filing cabinets.

kids 3 Riding together in the backseat on long road trips, we giggled till I nearly wet my pants, making up personalized license plates with potty puns.  Mama and Daddy would fuss from the frontseat for us to quiet down.  It’s not safe.  We were distracting the driver.  We’d bite our lips and whisper for a minute or two before our laughter roared all over again.

My brothers taught me to play and laugh.  They taught me to appreciate boys for what they 5

I still learn from – and about – my brothers today.  Brothers, be they old or young – want to fix things.  They want to advise and counsel.  It’s their way of protecting.

Brothers send friends to look out for you on dates.  Brothers walk behind you and your friends to and from school.  Brothers silently watch you do stupid things and, years later, tell you it hurt them – even though you thought they didn’t care.

Brothers look upon sisters like a big mess of tears and ribbons and puffy hearts and nonsense.  But, that big mess is theirs for keeps.

kids 4 I hope that brothers also look upon sisters as a soft heart that cares for them.  The first girl that ever loved them and thought of them as their own.  A girl that knows them to be a strong, capable man that carries inside him the heart of a baby boy.  The boy who cried at the sight of his mama crying and when his beloved pet lizard died.  Boys that suffered heartbreaks at the hands of girls like me. 

Boys that hug their sister and make it feel like home.

Boys and girls are so different.  But, on the inside – in the quiet little memories and spaces between their souls – brothers and sisters are really very much the same.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

That really gets my goat.

As much as the topic for this week’s Girl Talk Thursday excites me (Because who doesn’t enjoy a chance to gripe about the little things in life that send you to the brink?), I really don’t need something else to get me worked up right now…if you know what I mean.

However, I’m choosing to embrace this as a fun opportunity to let off a little steam.  So, I invite you to pull up a keyboard and play along.  This week, we’re talking about pet peeves. [Sound cue: nails on chalkboard]



BEING IGNORED.  I HATE to be ignored.  If I say something to you – do me the common courtesy of RESPONDING.  Even if it is just a “hmmm” or “huh” or “uh-huh” – do something to acknowledge my existence, please.  I cannot stand to be ignored.

BEING TOLD WHAT TO DO.  I experience a physiological response to being told what to do – and it is not pretty.  You can tell me to do something that I fully intended to do and blood rises in my body, making my face flush and my head throb.  I nearly bite my tongue in two to stop the reflexive, “DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO,” from blurting out.  I am more than happy to help you, cooperate with you, and pull my weight – but don’t - do not - TELL ME what to do.  I will thank you for kindly phrasing your needs in the form of a request, and I will be eager to play along.  Tell me what to do, though, and you are bound to see a bit of my ‘tude.

RUDENESS.  Can’t we all just get along?  Is it really necessary to snap at people? Lay on your horn when someone doesn’t take off like a bullet when the light turns green? Must you really treat others as though they are inferior to your supreme importance and awesomeness???  You really aren’t “all that”, you know.

DANGLING PREPOSITIONS.  Yes, I did just say that.  For those of you that may have unknowingly been violating my ears, dangling prepositions are not to be confused with dangling chads.  I have not always suffered from this particular grammatical intolerance**, but it is strong, nonetheless.  I cringe when I hear people say things like, “Where is the ______ at?”  Habits are hard to break, I understand, but please acknowledge that it is a habit that needs to be broken and work on doing better.  It is not uncommon that I, too, find myself stalling midsentence, realizing this string of words is not going to end well.  At such times, I write and rewrite until I can avoid any linguistic disasters.  I promise you, if you take the time to rephrase, you will sound a thousand times more educated and intelligent. 

And, the final peeve I’ll allow myself to diverge today…


Ladies, I totally get that longer is leaner.  I’ve watched all the shows too that tell us that, in order to create a taller, thinner silhouette, only the tips of our toes and the very bottom of our heels should show from our pant legs.  However, you can be drop dead gorgeous, and look perfect everywhere – smooth hair, impeccable make-up, to-die-for purse, luscious necklace, a blouse that flatters every curve, an oh-so-stylin’ faded look to your second-skin jeans – but the second I notice the hem of your jeans looks like someone’s rabid dog used it for as a teether, and I watch the streamers of your once intact denim hem trail after you, the image is ruined.  Like throwing a stone at a mirror, the once perfect picture of modern beauty is shattered.  Now, you just look like some girl who maxed out her Amex on her Coach bag and can’t afford a new pair of jeans.  I’m sorry your friends haven’t told you this sooner, but it’s true.


**Please note that stringing together multiple descriptive phrases is nowhere on my list of pet peeves.  Also, you will also not find inventive spelling, creative capitalization, or clever omission of spaces.  These grammatical infractions are all perfectly acceptable.  Well, at my discretion.**

Photo credits: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


december 330 I always wanted a sister.  I still wish I had one.  One that was really mine – not just obligated by marriage or some sort of Uber-Friend.  I dreamt of a sister on whom I could stake my claim, in whom I could expect undying loyalty.  A bond of blood, chromosomes, life and heart.  A history filled with pinky-promises, tearful fights, side-splitting laughter, and whispers in the dark.

I love watching my girlies cuddle like kittens – in front of the TV, eating snacks, beneath quilts and sheets, even at the kitchen table.  Everyday their closeness – or, rather, their absence of personal space and boundaries – amazes me.  It is not the same with brothers.january 243

Yet, I am surprised at how rough and tumble they can be.  More and more, lately, I find them man-handling each other – wrestling around like hyper little puppies in a pen, knowing full well that Mama will snatch them up by the scruff of their neck any  second.  I’ll walk through the den and find them behind the couch, halfway beneath an end table – one sister pinned flat on her back as the other straddles her chest.  Their giggles escalating uncontrollably like wild fires.

january 288BabyGirl was less than a year old when we moved them into the same bedroom.  At a routine well check-up, I hashed out  some baby sleep questions with the pediatrician.  At the time, he asked me if I wanted BabyGirl to be more reliant on me or her sister.  Did I want her to learn to be comforted by BigGirl in the night, or me?  I knew then that, while I did not wish to place a burden on BigGirl, I wanted them to share a close bond that would comfort them both throughout their nights – and days – forever.january 220

A long time ago, My Daddy told my brothers and me that we were the closest thing in the world to each other.  He spoke these words in a fit of frustration and heartbreak; we fought like cats and dogs.  I’ve never forgotten that lecture.  In fact, I’ve preached my own version of it a few times to my girlies.

On the last occasion I tried to impart that pearl of wisdom to my girls, I watched BigGirl’s eyes tearfully soak up my message.  I explained to her that, one day, a long time away from today, Mommy and Daddy would be gone.  We would be in heaven.  But, they wouldn’t be alone because they would have each other.  That is the best, most important gift Mommy and Daddy has ever given them – each other.  They will be best friends, worst enemies, soul mates, teacher and student, companions, playmates, competition, and – one day – parents to each other.  Over time, they will be everything to each other.

january 282To each other, they will scream obscenities, hurl prized possessions, confide deepest secrets, and confess dreams and fears.  Between them, they will protect each others’ stories.  They will know each other better than FireDaddy and I will ever know either of them.  A bittersweet thought.

I love my girlies.  I love BigGirl and I love BabyGirl.  I love them more than I know how to describe.  But, what I love even more than either of them is their sisterhood.  My love for them as a pair is exponentially larger and grander and more amazingly overwhelming than my love for either of them independently. december 339

When I was pregnant with BabyGirl, I feared that this wonderful new addition would jeopardize my relationship with BigGirl.  I worried that I could not possibly love another baby as much as I so obviously loved her.  I worried about jealousy, sibling rivalry, perceived favoritism, and all sorts of potential threats.  I sought the council of friends, my mother, and every mother of multiple children I knew.

One mother, I don’t remember who, finally spoke the words that settled the worry in my heart.  “Don’t think of it as taking something away from her…you are giving her a gift no one else can, a gift like no other.  You are giving her the best gift of all – a sister.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

12x12 January 2010

I seem to be collecting projects lately.  It’s really getting out of hand.

Cheryl invited me to join in on this project this year.  I’ve watched her post her own 12x12 posts each month for a while, and always thought it seemed like fun. 

Here’s the concept:  On the 12th day of each (of 12 months) you take 12 pictures.  Then, you do something a little like this…


*You can click on the collage and it will open larger in a new window.*
From the top left corner, working clockwise:


  • My breakfast this morning, unexpectedly provided by students.  This is why I need to lose weight - my students love me and spoil me. Note to self:  Be meaner.
  • My officemate and I chatted this morning about how wearing tights makes us feel spunky.  Well, she likes tights; I like boots with tights.  Either way, we laughed.  Note to self:  The pirate boots are soon to be retired.
  • One of the perks of teaching where my daughter goes to school: I love walking down the hall and smiling at her picture hanging outside her room.  Even when I’m not running into her at lunch or in the hall, I get to see her smiling face.
  • When I picked up my class from media today, a student noticed an old typewriter on display among other tchotchkes.  I overheard him marvel, “Woah…it’s a typewriter…”  Obviously, I found this amusing.  After polling my class, about half of my 26 4th graders had never seen a typewriter before. Note to self:  I. Am. Old.
  • A coworker of mine just got a new baby dachshund, Ellie, to replace the one they lost recently.  I couldn’t resist a little after school puppy playtime!  Ellie is wrestling a friend’s glove while wearing a Build-A-Bear t-shirt.
  • That’s my Big Boy, my last picture taken today.  Bo, I feel the same way, buddy. 
  • Breakfast for dinner!  The girlies set the table for me.  Didn’t they do a good job?
  • I tutor after school for the “Extended Day” program at our school.  It is the first job in my entire life for which I’ve ever had to actually use a time card!  I think it’s pretty darn cool…I feel like Laverne and Shirley!
  • After school meeting amongst the teachers who tutor.  Talking data, rituals & routines, tu-tus, talking bananas…you know, good stuff like that.
  • Where my bootie was planted for a decent chunk of the day today.  We [my classes and I] are totally engrossed in this chapter book right now.  We’re only a few chapters from the end – and you know what that means!  We can’t put it down!!!!
  • Lunch.  Mmmm, mmmm, good.  Diet DP and Baked Ziti at my desk, laughing with my officemate, tweeting, and breathing.

And finally,

  • The center photo is the coaster on my desk at home.  She’s my role model.


I can’t wait for February 12th!  What a fun project!

PS – Do you or any bloggers you know participate in a 12x12 project?  If so, leave me a comment with links.  I’m looking forward to checking out other peoples’ pics!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Things I Take for Granted

Every now and again, life smacks you across the face and says, “See how lucky you are?!? Now stop complaining!”

Over the holidays, I helped FireDaddy and his fellow firemen collect donations for a family who lost everything in a house fire a week or two before Christmas.  This family was low income, to say the least, and had NO insurance.  None. They lost it all and were on their own.  American Red Cross is very helpful to families like these, but this is only a start.  This single mother needed a lot to help give their family (her son and mother) a jumpstart. 

As I drove around one afternoon, collecting items from friends and shopping for gift cards and such, I talked to my girlies about what I was doing.  I want them to know what their Daddy and I believe is right – helping others.

Last night, it happened again.  This time, it was an apartment building across the firestreet from the school in which I teach.  Six of our families are displaced from their homes and starting from scratch. They have the clothes on their backs and, gladly, an empty apartment, hastily made ready for them by complex management.  The American Red Cross has them set up in a hotel for three nights and, at this I’m truly amazed, the local Ruby Tuesday has granted these families FREE MEALS for as long as they need it!  The road ahead is still very long for these families, though. 


But, that’s really just one thing I take for granted…

I also take for granted that my husband will go to work everyday and come home safely at the conclusion of each shift.  I must admit that, fairly recently, haunting thoughts have run through my mind as I kiss him good-bye as he leaves for work.  I always give him a big hug and tell him to be safe.  There’s a little, frightened voice in my mind, only about an inch tall, that whispers to me, “What if this is the last time?  What if today is the day something happens?”

Morbid, but true.  It could happen. 

Friends ask me how I stand it.  How am I not worried ALL. THE. TIME?


I answer them honestly: I don’t think about it.


Until the nights when I stay up to watch the late news after his evening call home, recounting the excitement of a good fire.  I proudly watch for his face on the television.  And, then I hear the details he cleverly omitted from his reporting…

“…live rounds exploding…grenades found in the home…”

Or like the night I heard about the shooting turned car chase turned hostage stand-off.  Yep.  He was there for it all.  What I found out later was that he was pulled by the SWAT team to go in closer with them as their medic…or something like that.  I’ve blocked most of it out. 

It is always after the fact that he reveals the true danger – and his fear.

Even simple, “innocent” stories he tells me remind me of how aware he is of the risks.  I hear it when he tells me about arriving at a call, realizing “something isn’t right” and calling police to the scene.  It’s not just the element of risk from accidents or fire – but the element of CRIME. 


And then there’s the other thing…him.  Even if he comes home alive and in one piece, he isn’t the same. 

I asked him something recently.  It occurred to me that when I see those “Drive Safely” signs on the side of the road, I think to myself, “Someone died there.”  When HE sees those signs, does he remember the night they died? Does he still see the wreck?

Yes. He does.

Every time he drives past this corner or that pillar of an overpass or that tree, he relives that scene. 

Every time he drives past that house, he remembers that call.

Every time he eats at that restaurant, he remembers the man that choked.  He remembers working on him, spread out in the middle of the tables, as families and diners sat watching, stunned and helpless.

Every time he drives past that parking lot, he remembers the young man that died there, a bullet in his head.

Every time.

Every time.

Every time.


He told me this summer, “You’d think it would get easier.”

I think it’s rather the opposite, in fact.


I take for granted that, since he came home safely in one piece, life goes on as normal.  And, since he doesn’t talk much about these things, especially right away, I often never know what is on his mind.  I am thankful for the days he comes home and says, “We had a bad call.”  At least then I know. 


On September 11th of his first year on the department, FireDaddy was on duty.  I met him at a local remembrance ceremony in which his department participated.  I stood by the ladder truck with all the guys on his shift and watched interpretive dancers and other such performers take their turn on the stage of the amphitheater.  We talked and joked and enjoyed the beautiful weather as the American flag, perched atop the erect ladder beside us, waved in the ocean air. 

At the end of the night, the dancers brought roses over to the firefighters and shook their hands in thanks.  They saw me standing amongst them and the lead dancer asked, “Are you a wife?”  I replied with a smile and a nod.  She hugged me tightly, presented a rose and thanked me, too.

At the time, I laughed and said, “Don’t thank me!  I don’t do anything!  They’re the heroes!”

I still think that, whole-heartedly.  But, after being the wife of a firefighter for nearly a decade, I also realize I sacrifice more than I think about.  More than I care to admit.


And then there are the good days. 

“I saved a life today,” he texted me last week.  CPR conversions are rare.  When they happen, it is a celebration. 

The call toned out CPR in progress at a doctor’s office.  They arrive on scene and none of the three doctors in the room were touching the patient…and it was apparent they hadn’t yet.  One of the three offered their help once the firefighters arrived, but it was refused. 

FireDaddy and his guys got busy immediately.  Thank God the woman let out a sudden gasp after a while and she, shockingly, “came to”.  FireDaddy later told me that he’d never seen anything like it.  In the case of those fortunate successful conversions, the patient is usually still very much altered.  This woman, though, was fully alert.  On this day, they walked in the office men and walked out heroes.  They saved her life.  They truly saved her life.

If there were only more days like those.


There is so much I take for granted.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wouldn’t that be lovely?

january 063 Last night, I cuddled next to BigGirl in a booth at Denny’s.  I held her under my arm and rested my cheek on her familiar sandy blonde head.  I told her that earlier, a friend of mine talked to me about her daughter that was all grown up.  She’s in her twenties.  And, I told her, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like when my baby was all grown up. 

“It will be exactly the same, Mommy.”

“It will?  I’ll still be able to hug you and squeeze you and kiss you and hold you whenever I want to?” I questioned.

“Yes.  I promise.  It will always be just like this.”


I wish she was right.

Today, I’m going to steal another bit of love while I can.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


snowflakeEven in Florida, it has been darn right cold outside this week. The kind of cold that makes you crave pajamas. Sweat pants. Big, squishy, crew socks. Hoodies. Blankets and quilts. Blazing fires in your fireplace and hot cocoa -- or the “grown-up” version of cocoa, hot lattes.

My bed has taken quite good care of me each night; a quilt, and sometimes a throw blanket, layered on top of my coverlet. Even with the assistance of a crow bar, I would still struggle to pry myself loose from its warm embrace. My personal bed heaters, Bo and Daisy, have risen to the occasion beautifully. Bo dutifully curls up by my feetsies, keeping my sock-clad toesies warm. Daisy wads her balled-up self under my arm and, on occasion, moves to my pillow in the night, molding to the top of my head like a canine stocking cap.

My kitchen, this week, has pumped out comfort food: crock-pot chicken with dressing, pork chops, chili, spaghetti, and, coming soon, asparagus & green pea risotto. For this weekend, I’m planning a roast, cooked over the course of the day. On Monday, we celebrated a successful first day back to “the grind” with a fresh batch of fudge brownies and tall glasses of skim milk.

Ironically, this week (by far the coldest week in recent memory) BigGirl’s homework included star gazing. Star gazing. In freezing temperatures. So, she and FireDaddy bundled up in their warmest winter gear, and spent time in the dark night yard, searching for constellations.  Orion, Cassiopeia, Lepus… The Lollipop. They shivered as they came inside, sporting red noses, rosy cheeks, and excited smiles.  They talked loudly and with renewed energy as they told BabyGirl and I their every observation.

Each night this week, the girlies have prayed for snow, wishing against all odds that the magic of inside-out jammies would bring a winter weather miracle to Florida. BigGirl has gone so far as wearing three layers inside out…an undershirt, and two layers of pajamas – all inside-out. Each morning, BabyGirl has crept straight from sleep, eyes filled with hope, to the sliding glass door to check for snow. Each day, these hopeful girlies have been disappointed only momentarily, realizing they can try again tonight, and maybe tomorrow will be different.

While much of me is tired of the frivolous annoyances brought on by the cold – covering plants, dripping faucets, the weight of extra coats, bundling up protesting children, searching closets, drawers and hampers for weather-appropriate clothes for the girlies, starting the car early each morning and carrying blankets to warm my Drama Princesses on the way to school – I must admit that much of me has enjoyed it.  In some ways, it is a fun, refreshing change of pace.  It’s fun to wear scarves and hats and gloves and tights and boots.  Create a new look, a new “cold weather you”.  It’s fun to cozy up in the big bed together, shivering between cold sheets.  It’s such a treat to enjoy a warm fire (especially living with FireDaddy…but that’s another post) and feel your heart flutter at the prospect of future flurries. 

The cold has returned pieces of my childhood to my mind.  The smell of snow.  Counting marshmallows in my hot chocolate.  Watching the way those marshmallows slowly soften and get bubbly as they melt into my warm treat.  My Mama relentlessly prodded and stoked the fire.  Daddy, in his Wellington boots, stocking cap, brown jacket and gloves, replenished firewood from stacks out back.  I remember how cold my feet were as they walked on the tile in our Texas home, and how, as I played outside, my fingers and face stung long before I confessed my chill to anyone.  A gray winter sky hung low above brown, dormant yards.  Barren gray trees stretching from cold red clay to touch heavy clouds.  Freezing cold air carried the smell of burning wood to my nose.  I hear the crunch of snow under my feet and remember stiffly walking in my heavy winter jacket and boots.  One year, the lake froze and I stood fearful on the safety of the back law, watching in awe as my crazy uncles walked out onto the ice, playing and goofing around like a bunch of overgrown boys.  One year, the unexpected sight of snow in the morning as I woke up at a friend’s house made me homesick.  You should be at home when it snows, I thought.  I missed My Mama and My Daddy and my brothers.

I’m a little homesick today at the thought of it all. 

Hello there, Winter.  I’ve missed you, too.


Photo credits: / CC BY 2.0


…What I DON’T like is being hollered at by two too-young-boys headed through the “out” door of Target as I race through the “in” door, “Hey girl!”

I turn my head to see if I recognize that voice.  I don’t.  Not having time or interest in this sort of nonsense, I nod and keep up my brisk pace.

“I like ya boots,” he called out behind me.


That sort of attention just doesn’t make me feel girlie.  It makes me want to reply, “You do?  So does my husband!  And my six and three year-old daughters.  …What’s the matter?  Why are you in such a hurry, young man?”



Monday, January 4, 2010

I lied.

I guess I lied.  girlie

I am making one New Year’s resolution.  In 2010, I want to wear more lipstick.

You see, here’s the deal…

I like feeling girlie.


I like wearing boots with my dresses.  I like wearing necklaces, especially long ones.  I like my hair long and my mascara blackest black. 

I have this dress that comes off the shoulder just a little bit and I love, love, love it. 

I love hats, even if my brother says I look like Blossom. 

I like dangly earrings, especially when my hair is pulled up so you can really see them. 

I love a great pair of heels, especially strappy or open-toed ones.  (Even though I can hardly last a whole day in them anymore.)

I love pearls.  And recently, I’ve decided, the more the merrier.  You only live once.

I love pretty red toenails and pink purses.


And, you know what?  As much as men can annoy me, I really like men.  More specifically, I like being a woman in the company of men.  Especially well-behaved men – the ones who still have a shred of gentility. 

I remember one day being in a meeting with my assistant principal (a man) and a deputy superintendent (a man).  It was just the three of us.  (Yeah, um, I was NOT the one in trouble, and we’ll leave it at that…because that’s another post entirely.)  Both of them were probably old enough to be my father…at the very least, an uncle.  The DeputySup was so kind and respectful.  I remember him apologizing to me for mentioning something “in mixed company” – regardless of the fact he handled it extremely professionally and it was completely necessary to the business at hand. 

Both of my brothers tower over me.  And I love it.  I stand about 5’6’’, so I’d hardly consider myself “petite”…but in the company of men, I feel like I am.  I love that.

I love that there are still some men who hold doors open, insist you go before them, smile, call you by name, and ask you how your day is when you pick up your to go meal, and nickname you “Bautiful”, “Gorgeous”, or “Princess” – when they are truly, 100%, just being sweet – no ulterior motives at all.  That is priceless.

And, you know what? I just eat that up. 


Let them hold the door.  Let them innocently flirt while I wait for my fries.  Let them call me Gorgeous when they say hello each day.  I just eat it right up.

I smile and make pleasantries and walk a little closer to 5’6 1/2’’. 

Because I like feeling pretty.  I like feeling girlie.

And tomorrow, I’m going to wear my pearls with my boots, paint on some smoky eyes and try a new shade of lipstick.

Maybe next year I’ll try out false eyelashes.


**To clarify – my assistant principal was not in trouble either. I don’t want to wrongly imply anything.

***Neither was the Deputy Superintendent.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

It’s simple.

My dear friend, Cher, wrote a New Year’s post yesterday.  She was inspired by this post to choose One Little Word as a theme, if you will, for her 2010.  I think that’s a fabulous way to avoid the dissolution of resolutions while still setting a goal.

So, here I go.  december 275

I want to focus on what is important: family, friends, health, and home. 

I want to target my work as a mother, a wife, and a teacher.

I want to make choices that bring peace into my home.  I want to give myself, my children, and my husband the gift of time, and I want to spend it, not money, to make us happy.  I want to sit by the fire with cocoa and cookies more often.  I want to dig in the dirt together.  I want to party in our PJs.  I want to take walks and ride bikes and blow bubbles and color.  I want to smile at the sun and enjoy a cool, ocean breeze.

For the past week, ever since we’ve returned from our Hillbilly Holiday, my girlies and I have been a bit reclusive…and we’ve loved every minute of it.  I’ve cooked and crafted and sewn.  We’ve read and colored and played games.  I’ve worn yoga pants, a bare face, and a ponytail for days at a time.  It’s been marvelous.

In 2010, I’m not going to try to keep up with the Joneses – or, for that matter, the Millers, the Popes or the even the Nguyens.  I will search for contentment with where I am in life. 

I also want to CLEAN OUT.  How much stuff does a person REALLY need?? I’m a sentimental kind of gal, so this can be hard for me…but I’d like to try traveling light for a while. 

I will surround myself with things and people that make me happy. 

I want to simplify my life. 

My word for 2010 is SIMPLIFY.

What is your word?

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