Monday, December 24, 2012

Our Normal

We have a new tradition in our house.

It's not necessarily about family in the broader sense like so many other people this time of year, but our family.  We live 800 miles away from the rest of our family and refuse to trek to Chicago for the week. It is ours, it is our girls.

It is a little bit maddening.

We've come to the realization that we need to do something, ANYTHING, to get us out house when the rest of America tucks away into itself. And so, we started a Christmas Eve trip tradition, and went to Hershey Park.  Bet you didn't know they were open in the middle of winter, huh? Let me tell you, they are and it is awesome.

Hershey's Christmas Candylane is a must on our holiday agenda now. At least until the girls out grow the type of ride that can function in the middle of winter.

But really, does anybody really outgrow Peanut Butter Cups?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Sparkle

We made Christmas cards yesterday.

Gifts for the teachers, that they wouldn't feel obligated to keep forever and if they did at least it is easy storage. Plus, it's the added bonus of something to put cash in and so I don't feel like we didn't try to be creative.

The girls absolutely loved it though, and they turned out so cute.  It was actually an exercise in giving up control for me too, but in the end it was awesome.  I'm so glad I just took a step back and let them do their thing.

They turned out perfect.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pine Trees and Coco Beans

It's tradition. Every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, we go hunt for our White Pine.

It has to be a White Pine.

For some reason, it never goes smoothly though. Grace is five this year. This is the first year that she hasn't had some sort of fit during our Christmas tree expedition. Clare decided to pick up the reins though. So we tromped through the forest wooded lot, back to where our trees were hidden, to find a perfect one.

All a while Clare screamed while mist from her mouth from the frigid air, and snot ran down her face. We persevered though, and found the tree.

After the half mile hike back into civilization we wiped noses, dried tears and bought hot chocolates. And everyone was happy again, because chocolate makes everything better.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Voted

So Grace is obsessed with the President. She calls Barack Obama her President.

Sometimes asks to call him at the White House because he is her President and she wants to tell him something. Although when pressed, she will admit most of the time the call would be placed just to say hi.

She's slowly been making a presidential montage over the last year. This fine original acrylic is my favorite piece.

It is called "President Barack Obama Stands by the American Flag".
The bumper sticker is mine.

And today, much like most of America, she is excited. And nervous. And outraged that 5 year olds aren't allowed to vote.

Don't worry though baby, Daddy and I have you covered.

And no matter what CNN tells us tomorrow, he will always be your President.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tricks and Treats

The Fall is flying by. We once again seem to be trapped in a series of trigger events.
Wedding. Birthday. Hurricane.
And now, Halloween.

OMG Halloween. It is a sugar induced crazy fest. I am never sure if the girls are excited about Halloween, or if it is just sooo built up that they are thrust into the pseudo-holiday. Either way, we embraced it.

We carved.

We trick-or-treated.

We feasted.

And Grace has shown her true colors and will follow in my footsteps, much preferring to had out candy like the Soup Nazi ~ One piece for you! ~ instead of collecting herself. Clare on the other hand, would have 'Knock, knock, trick-or-treat'ed (her phrase to each candy giver, not mine) if it hadn't been so cold this year.

And both girls are already plotting next year's costumes.

Friday, October 26, 2012


I love this time of year. Even with my new found allergies going crazy, I love it.

The girls seem to also. Yesterday was a good day. An outdoors kind of day. An enjoy this weather, because it doesn't get much more perfect than this kind of day. Particularly with Sandy giving us the eye.

So they rolled and played and laughed.

Then, they suited up.

Yesterday was the Trick-or-Treat on Main Street in our little town, and the girls got their first test run of Halloween 2012. For Clare, at 2.5 yrs old, this is her first real Halloween. The first time she is excited about the costumes and the candy. And after getting over the trauma of having to wear pants, she was game.

Their insect coordination of costumes was completely unintentional. Clare's bee costume was a recycle from Grace (with the same disdain for the antenna boppers), but Grace's was her new, much anticipated, blue butterfly costume. While the awesome mask wasn't part of the costume, the dress, wings and antenna were perfect. 

Now, let's just cross our fingers that the weather is clear for them to rock the costumes on Halloween. 

* Wholesale Halloween Costumes sent us the Ballerina Butterfly dress in exchange for the inclusion of the links you see above. Thank you! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Party Like a Five Year Old

It's amazing how fast time flies by. 

How quickly 24 hours can turn into 72. 

That is what Gracie's birthday was this year. A 72 hour bonanza ear marked by the arrival and departure of family, with a moonbounce and lots of sugar in between.

Friday, October 12, 2012


To Grace on your 5th Birthday:

This is a day we've been counting down to for so long, the promise of five. It really is such a big number officially declaring you the big kid in a school full of littles. It is such a proud number for the both of us, five years of not only survival, but a thriving vivaciousness for life.

Your energy bubbles, pulling everyone around you into your giggles. When your happy your eyes twinkle and your smile sings. Your ability to empathize makes my soul happy, and I know it will make you a great person long after my days of parenting are done.

You, my big girl - my FIVE  year old - are one of the best people I have ever known, and I am so proud you are mine.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blurred Lines

Growing up, I thought the world’s population fell into 3 categories:
1. Irish or Polish Catholic
2. Italian Catholic
3. Other

In my little Chicago suburb, we have 3 Catholic churches within a 2 mile triangle radius of each other. You were defined by the church you attended. The Polish church said one of three masses a day in Polish. The Irish church’s Father had a thick brogue. Our family bucked tradition, and attended the church with German roots, but was taken over by a mix of the remaining who had quarreled with the other two parishes. Plus, it was an easier walk from our house than the Irish church.

When I was in my early tweens, my Aunt married into an Italian family, and my experience with cultures that didn’t stew cabbage on a regular basis was expanded. I think I loved my new Uncle from the first moment I met him, pronounced by the fact that he is Clare’s Godfather. Still, some in the family whispered about his parent’s off-the-boat Southern Italian bloodline. He’s not white. What on earth were they talking about?

When I went to college, it was the first time I was put in a situation where not everyone I knew fit into categories 1 and 2. My first assigned roommate was Shaniqua from East Saint Louis. Seriously. While I made jokes about we might be confused with each other since our names were so similar, I was terrified to know that the person I would be sharing a small room with for the next year was coming from such a hard area. She never showed up though. Instead, the day before school started I was assigned a new roommate, Emily, who was a transplant from a blessedly soft suburb much like my own. While we were not best friends by any stretch, we were definitely solid enough that she explained what a perm was. If it wasn’t for her, and later Chris Rock, I would be clueless.

When I started taking my Political Science courses, I became friends with a black guy who was a constant in many of my classes. We would study together relatively often, I presume because we were in the small faction that wasn’t already set on the notion of law school. One day, as we sat in an open quad after class going over notes, a group of black girls past us. I was mostly oblivious, but he groaned. Moments later he told me that he couldn’t study with me in the open any more, that the fact we had just been spotted together was going to earn him a lot of grief with his friends. I can’t be seen with a white girl, it ruins my chances with anyone else. What on earth was he talking about? He later apologized, but we never hung out again after that day.

Today, I think I have finally found a place where I can surround myself with like minded people, regardless of race, and more importantly, have been able to incorporate Grace and Clare into environments where they see more that Irish and Polish faces. From the time they were born, they have been cuddled, cared for and honestly loved from faces spanning the world. Mexico, Cameroon, Somalia, Egypt, South Africa, India, Iran, China and Japan on skin. Catholic, Methodist, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim in hearts. I love the fact that culture, outside of our new slice of suburbia, is a constant in their school and lives.

We talk about race occasionally. Most of the time it is about tradition and celebrations, but occasionally, skin color comes up. When playing doll dress up games on my iPhone, Grace often picks black skin colors. She asks if she had dark skin, if she would still have freckles, because dark skin colors are so much more fancy in their pigments; but, then decides that she likes her white skin because she doesn’t want to take the chance of NOT having those freckles anymore.

I know that these experiences won’t stop someone from not wanting to be their friends because of skin color, but I do hope that it isn’t even a factor for friendship for them.

 This post was inspired by The Black Count

Alexandre Dumas' works were heavily influenced by his father, also named Alexandre Dumas. In the biography The Black Count, author Tom Reiss tells how Dumas went from slavery to become the equivalent of a five star general in the French military. Join From Left to Write on October 11 as we discuss the The Black Count. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes

Thursday, October 4, 2012

To the 9's

I love this day, the day of our love. I mix it up in my head sometimes though, are we 9 or 14 - 4 or 9? In the end it dosn't really matter, because it is all the same, plus you remind me.

Nine years married, 14 years together. Married on the 4th, first date on the 9th. It is all about the same thing in the end. Our commitment to the end. And despite the bumps we have been though this past year, we are solid and unbreakable; forever.

Happy Anniversary Matt. You make me just as happy today as you did on the 4th and the 9th.

Monday, September 24, 2012


When I was pregnant with Grace, the world seemed so black and white. To me, there were lots of hard questions with easy answers.  Matt felt more grey.

 It's an age old childhood question forcing you in a corner to choose between friends: The house is on fire and you can only save one person. Who do you save? Our conversations, considering my high risk status, was always my press of: If something goes wrong and you have to choose, I want you to choose the baby.

For me, the conversation was black and white. Of course I would sacrifice myself for someone I already loved. I would give everything. Matt saw the greys of a life without me. I also think he was gripped with the heartbreak of knowing that if we were pressed to make a terrible decision like that,  he would be powerless.

Luckily, we never even came close to making a decision like that. There were slight hiccups, but nothing that made us much different from the billions of childbirth stories out there.

This post was inspired by The Bloodletter's Daughter. The description below says that this book is about murder and power. I believe that it is about self sacrifice. What struck me the most was the end of the book and the choices the protagonist makes for those that she loves.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Inspired by a real-life murder that threatened to topple the powerful Hapsburg dynasty in the 17th century, The Bloodletter's Daughter imagines how one young woman holds more power than she thought possible.  Join From Left to Write on September 25 as we discuss the The Bloodletter's Daughter. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wedding Bells

We survived.

Sure, there were mishaps outside of our control, but my children were well behaved.
(To the point that strangers kept approaching to tell me how wonderful they were acting.)
((Which, never EVER happens. EVER.))

The ceremony was beautiful.

*Stolen off my brother's Facebook page

The bride was flawless.

*Stolen off Jill's Facebook page.
Since my entire family is in it, I figure I have rights to it

And the girls had sooooo much fun.

And all of my doubt melted away as I watched my brothers face as he watched his bride walk down the isle.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pictures are Deceiving

By the pictures, we had a wonderful weekend away.

There were blue skies and a sparkling lake.

Matt was able to show the girls how daddy rode up the worst road known to man.

They touched his brick for the effort in last years Savageman.


What the pictures don't show is the fact that Clare was on another tear again this weekend. The three hour drive from Baltimore to Deep Creek alone had us rethinking our weekend plans. By the time early evening rolled around, I was using my phone to see if I could rent a car to drive back home with the girls that very night.

What there are no pictures of is the fact that I was walking, seething with rage over temper-tantrums, small town rental car hours and slow 3G connections on my iPhone, and playing with my phone instead of looking where I was going. Or that I am a clutz and I always look down while walking on uneven terrain.

There are no pictures of my fall down a few rustic, nature preserve stairs, when I insisted I was fine to finish the walk down to Matt's bike drop off, or when my vision went white and I was .this.close. to fainting so I made Matt move road blocks to come pick me up in the car.

There could be pictures of the fact that my right foot is still swollen to about double it's normal size and turning the most delightful shades of purple, black and blue, but it is so grotesque, I will spare you that visual.

There are no pictures of the fact that it meant that I couldn't attend the triathlon the we had driven 3 hours to watch and cheer at. That attitudes did not improve, adults included, in our 2.5 days away.

Honestly, the best part of the weekend? The drive home.

We are headed to Chicago tomorrow. Wish us luck, and maybe send a prayer or two our way.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Blue Skies and Green Fields

We always start off with good intent.

"Let's do something new this weekend! My friend does equestrian stuff, let's take the girls to go watch," Matt said.

The day was beautiful, the weather perfect.

What we fell a little short on though was behavior. Oh my goodness are we going through a phase. And apparently, horses don't like phases. Who knew? I thought we would be outside in a big grassy field with lots of sunshine and fresh air and space for the girls to exhaust themselves.

The folks who participate in these things though had other ideas. No loud noises, no sudden moves, nothing that might spook a tense horse and its owner...... Which, in hindsight makes sense, but at the time. Ugh. It was not quite the day we'd had in mind.

On the other hand, now we an say that we've been.
And in a few more years, it would be a lovely afternoon. 

Except for when the girls start asking about horse back riding lessons.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Nemo 3D

Our friends at Disney, with a little prod from our Fairy Godmother, hooked us up again.

It is funny how the timing worked out, since we had just been on a Finding Nemo kick in our house. With the announcement of Finding Nemo 3D popped up in my mailbox, how could we say no?

The movie is exactly what you expect. It is a fun movie that you have probably seen 8 million times before with a little bit of bonus - Oooooo - thrown in every so often. It totally didn't matter that the girls had seen it 8 million times before. This time they were seeing it in a big movie theater with popcorn, slurpies and fancy glasses.

It was magic all over again.

* The tickets to the screening were complementary (we still shelled out $25.00 for popcorn though), and the complements are all my own.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mr & Mrs

We are a two weeks away from a big moment. My brother is getting married.

I don't know why I haven't specifically written about it. It has been a significant part of our life for the last year. Our entire family is involved; Matt as best man, I as a bridesmaid and the girls as flower girls. It is the reason for our last two trips back to Chicago.

I want him to be happy. I want him to have a home and a family and beyond everything love.
I don't know....

It's not  that I'm not happy for him, because I am.
I think I am being selfish.
I am mourning my loss of a single brother. Of someone who has 3 day weekends that are unattached and can be spent focused on.... me. On my family, my girls. That is going away now. To be honest, that didn't really happen all that often, but still.... he will be more of his own person now. Not just a brother, or uncle or son.

So much more, something bigger.
And I assume in the near future,

And nothing trumps that.

My heart burst with happiness for him, but trickles with just enough sadness for me to compel writing this.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


While baking with Maga was a treat, it is not an unusual practice in our house.

The kitchen is the center of our home.

The girls jockey for position to help cook meals. Part of the reason why vegetables have made such a big resurgence on our dinner plates is that the girls can easily help prep them. Peeling corn, snapping beans, picking tomatoes and prepping salads are all proven and fulfilling toddler-preschooler activities.

But just in case anybody forgets the drill, Grace has taken it upon herself  to create some signage.

Oh, and as an afterthought.....

To bad the person they are directed at can't read yet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The last two posts I've put up were kind of throw aways. Two weekends in Chicago, over 1200 miles in the air. It's exhausting.

But it's been making me think about family a lot.
All of the things we are missing. All of the memories that aren't being made for us and our girls.

During the first weekend, my mom was at the center of the trip. She had grand plans for Gracie. She wanted to make up for lost time with some of those memories. She wanted to bake.

Armed with three kinds of chocolate chips, they worked together, side by side, in a sweltering kitchen without pause.

I'll crack and you stir.
You pour and I'll stir.
Careful, only the eggs are supposed to go in the cookies, not the shells.
Let's taste. Does it need more chips?

There is something so back to basics about baking. I can't imagine a childhood without it; without those memories of stirring, pouring and kneading. Teaching your kids how to cook is like teaching them about soul. How to put love into something inanimate, that has the ability to animate.

And I'm glad that Grace was able to have that afternoon in the kitchen with my mom baking cookies.

Eggshells, salt pockets and all.


This post is inspired by Sarah McCoy's The Baker's Daughter. In a small Texan town, Reba discovers Elsie's German Bakery and falls in love with more than the pastries. Shes drawn to Elsie's life in Germany during the last year of WWII. Join From Left to Write on August 29  as we discuss The Baker's Daughter. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.