For Your Weekend

Before bed last night, Lily sat up scouring over the costume catalog.

"Mom, I want to be a honey bee for Halloween," she declared.

"Great! You already have a honey bee costume," I replied.

"But it doesn't fit me very well," she said. "And look, there is a good one in here." She held up the catalog and I sat down beside her so she could point out the costume.

"They even have honey bees in your size, Mom," she said, flipping a few more pages to show me an entire row of some slightly more adult (read: skimpy) honey bee costumes. "Maybe you could be a bee, too!"

"You mean we could be mommy bee and baby bee?" I asked.

"YEAH!" she said, grinning from ear to ear.

"I don't think I am going to get a bee costume, Lily," I told her.

"Well, then what are you going to wear?" she inquired.

"I'm not going to wear anything," I said.

"You mean, you're going naked?" And with that she collapsed in a fit of giggles, never to be heard from again.

Have a great weekend!


Love Me Some Gator Stories....

While in Florida, I was told of a story (that I later read in an online news article) about an airboat tour guide who had been giving an airboat tour. In order to try to attract the gators closer to the boat, he dragged his hand in the water. Well, you can imagine what happened. But in case you're not from those parts, I'll tell you: his hand was bitten clear off his body! But the best part of the story was that he was later fined for feeding the gator. Now, I'm no genius, but I am pretty sure that the natural consequence of losing a hand is probably far bigger an incentive NOT to feed alligators than a little monetary fine. But then, you never know in FL.

So, today my mom sends me an article about a lady who fell into a canal. And had her arm bitten off. Of course.

This story in and of itself is not funny. Just another little old woman falling into the canal (seriously people, if you don't have great balance, STAY AWAY FROM THE WATER'S EDGE!) It just accentuates the point I am trying to make about NEVER GOING IN THE WATER IN FL....silly northerners....(unless you are trying to lose weight because I understand that losing body parts can help with that.)

At any rate, the end of the article caught my attention because they quoted the man who rescued her from the water. It read:

Zickefoose said he'll treat the small gators he sees differently. 

"In the future, I'm going to take out my net and smack them in the head. I want them to be afraid of me," said Zickefoose.
And perhaps there is the real problem. Good luck with that Zickefoose. (My guess is he is a likely candidate for making the next article my mom sends me.....)


The Homework Problem

While some kids will happily do their homework with very little in the way of parental involvement (i.e.. Madeline), others will do anything and everything they can imagine in order to avoid it. 

Aidan is one of those kids. He has procrastination tools in his tool box that rival the world's greatest slackers. He has spent countless hours whining and complaining, has perfected the art of staring into space, gone out of his way to "forget" the work at school (at least it seems so), and has even helped his sister complete her homework (instead of doing his own???) by reading her the directions aloud, explaining the work and going as far as correcting it and signing off on it like parents are supposed to do daily. 

But today......today we have reached a new low. 

"Mom! Come here, quick! I think I am setting a new world record!" Aidan yelled at me this morning.  (He is home from school because he was out late with his father last night attending his first, and perhaps last, Rush concert. He is supposed to be completing his homework and resting.)

Out of idle curiosity, I walked over to find this:

Wait for it.....

Wait for it.....

There isn't a whole lot you can say to this. Really.

"Um, Aidan? What are you doing?" I reluctantly asked.

"I've been like this for at least ten minutes, it's a new world record I bet," he said.

"But.....why are you doing it?" I questioned, hesitantly.....very hesitantly.

"Because Solly likes it!"

That's when I walked away. And the next time he starts to complain that he has too much homework and can't get it done, I believe I will direct him here....a little reminder of the truth behind his homework problem.

Have a great day!


Letter to My Teenage Self

This week, Emily Freeman who writes one of my favorite blogs, Chatting at the Sky, is challenging her readers and fellow bloggers to write a letter to our teenage selves. This was an interesting exercise and I must admit, quite therapeutic. It is longer than I had intended, big surprise, so you might not have the time, or interest, in today's post. Unless you are my mom, or future teenage daughter, then I am sure you are interested. Happy reading!

(draft 1)

Dear Teenage Self,

I was challenged to write you a letter. And so I am. But I also know you so well that I know nothing I say will change a thing you do or don't do nor would I want you to alter the course of our life so, carry on.

Your Future You

(draft 2)

Dear Teenage Self,

You are kind of half spaz, half idiot but you turn out okay and get us here alive (although I think that is more divine intervention than anything you have done!) so enjoy the ride.

Your better self

(draft 3)

Dear Teenage Self,

There are far too many things I want to tell you and I know you will have a hard time listening because you don't like people to tell you much of anything. I get it.  It can be hard to look at yourself honestly, to hear the truth, to learn from mistakes. But I promise you it is okay to be wrong. It's okay to make mistakes and you won't die when people call you out on them. A little vulnerability won't kill you. So pay attention.

See that scrunchi on your wrist? You might consider getting rid of it a decade sooner than you think.....just saying.

Being a teenager is not easy. But you will look back fondly on it like you do of most things. You are lucky. But for those harder times, the times you don't expect to happen but they do anyway, the times where you feel like crawling into a hole and never coming back out, the times where your laughter and joking are replaced by tears and sorrows and you can't seem to find your way out of that darkness, for all the times when the only thing you can do is pull the covers over your head and sob silently into your pillow, (no, I am not trying to freak you out but s#!t happens) here's what you need to know. It's going to be okay. It's normal to feel ups and downs. It's normal to feel like a misfit; it doesn't mean anything. It certainly doesn't mean you are.

And you might not know it now, but you are stronger and more secure than most people your age. You roll with the punches, you ooze resilience, you laugh in the face of, well, everything. And that will be your greatest gift so no matter what anyone says, hold your laughter close. (Just don't hold it in because you might implode!) People will remember your joy (read; obnoxious laugher) and quite frankly, that's a pretty good way to be remembered. (You might want to lay off the dairy now though so that your joy is the only thing they remember....)

But, I know, even in your confidence, you are confused and you hold onto some inner demons. So, here it goes. When you listen to stories other middle school girls tell you about all the things they "have done" with boys, it's okay to feel bothered by that. You aren't weird if you don't feel that way about boys. Trust me, that will come in its due time, kinda like a hurricane (with the same potential for utter destruction....). It is normal to have mixed up feelings and ironically enough, most people you know feel that way at some point, they just don't tell you. But if you open up, others will, too.

When a friend convinces you to throw a huge co-ed party at your house, it's okay to feel out of place and uncomfortable, even in your own home (and especially in the solid salmon colored outfit).

Partying will never be your thing....actually, large groups in general will never be your thing, and while it doesn't seem so cool right now, it really isn't a bad thing at all. You will go with the flow with that party and everything will come out all right but remember, when the stakes get higher, it's okay to say no, loud and clear. Saying no will sometimes be really, really difficult but more often than not it is the difficult thing that is the right thing.

And no, I am not referring to your homework. You need to say yes to that much more frequently than you do.

When your best friends tell you in the locker room that you are built like a boy and have no hips, and that you will have a hard time giving birth when you are older....well, let's just say you don't need to lose any sleep over it.

I know you struggle because you have been told repeatedly that you are ugly. But you are not. Your brother is in pain and he tells you lies to hurt you because he thinks it will make him feel better. One day he will say he is sorry and he will mean it. Try to forgive him now and ignore everything he tells you. You have no reason to be self conscious about your teeth or your smile or anything else. I know your inner critic believes the lies and so you think you are the ugly duckling of your family.
Perhaps if you feel that way you ought not draw attention to yourself with the explosive shirt, although, I think I'd still wear that one....which is your fault.
You see yourself as homely and plain. I wish I could convince you otherwise but since I know you won't listen, just know that your adult self sees your beauty, inside and out, and one day you'll see it, too.  Just keep fighting off that voice in your head that tells you otherwise.

Believe it or not, boys will actually be a huge source of stress for you, LIKE EVERY OTHER GIRL YOU KNOW. It will be a challenge to keep things in perspective. And you aren't going to have a lot of guidance in this area, at least not that you are going to listen to, so pay attention.

Boys are not worth your time until you are at least 18, so focus on practicing piano and violin a lot more, will ya? 

Sigh....still not listening? Ok. Here's the truth. When you are in ninth grade, a nice boy is going to ask you to the school dance. You say yes and then this unexpected thing happens. A knot begins to grow in your stomach. You worry that people will think you like him in a way you do not. And you worry that you can't tell your parents because you don't tell your parents anything personal. The worry eats away at you and you put so much weight on it that it becomes a huge, intrusive, ugly monster and right before you get swallowed up by it, you tell him you can't go with him. (That happens all in like 24 hours.) That monster is called anxiety. Get used to it because you'll see it from time to time and you need to learn to deal with it. I won't tell you to go ahead and go with that boy but lighten up. It's okay that you are all of a sudden uncomfortable with the idea of boys or worse yet, talking to your parents about anything relating to, well, anything. But it won't kill you to just tell your folks what is going on in your life. I know your siblings' stories now so trust me, they'll think nothing of it.

When your interest in boys reappears, it's okay. You don't need to feel guilty about it. And when your mom has a complete conniption fit because at fifteen you start to go out with a twenty year old from another church, Well Hello! You are only 15! What are you thinking?! Seriously, can you really blame her? (No, it has nothing to do with the fact he is Presbyterian...try again.) You will be the one to crush him though. The truth is, you have a very competitive nature that really enjoys "the chase" and winning over the boy but is not so into the actual relationship part. Don't worry, you'll grow out of it soon enough. Just remember, every time you break a heart, yours shrinks just a little, so ease up on the boys. They have feelings too and you will hurt far too many along the road if you aren't careful. Remember, it isn't all about you. Oh, and you know Karma? You don't want to be on her hit list.

When you get to high school, you will fall for a guy that is really not a good fit for you (as if the last one was). You know what? Go for it. You need to learn about love and failure, with someone your own age! But try not to let boys get in between you and your friends, or you and your education, or you and your music, or you and God. You will miss a lot and experience a lot of heartache by hanging out with that boy and his buddies instead of your girlfriends and your music and God. Guess who will still be in your life years down the road? Be patient and have faith that you will meet the right person one day. (Psssst, it isn't him....nope, not him either.... You know how you dream of owning an Italian violin and having a pet wolf like that friend of yours does? Well, let's just say one day you'll meet an Italian Wolf. And you won't have to house train him either! Score!)

Now, on to your parents. They only want the best for you. They will love you and support you and will forgive you so many times that you will lose count. Reach out to them. It will make things easier even if communication with them seems like an impossible feat. And don't forget to forgive them, too. Sometimes even parents make mistakes.

And savor your time with Grandpa, he won't be around much longer. Listen to him closely, okay? One day you won't be able to remember the sound of his voice and your heart will ache.

And your mom? She is right a lot more than you think. When she suggests that maybe you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, (or wear that particular outfit) there is a darn tootin' good reason. Listen a little more, will ya?

Seriously, you let someone take this picture? In knee high socks with shoelaces printed on the front and jean shorts? And what's with the midriff?  Show-off....or could you not afford the rest of that shirt? Yeah, I do sound like your mom.....get used to it.

Speaking of your mom, one day your dad will tell you that your mom is the strongest person he knows. That is probably true, but Karen, he is not talking about muscles! Stop taking everything so literally. You don't have to rush out and lift more weights so that you can be strong like her. You already are.

Oh, and when your Aunt tells you at the regional track meet that, "Wow, you sure have slimmed down," she is not saying you were once fat and now you look so much better. You look like an athlete and not a little girl, that's all. It doesn't mean you need to take your fitness obsession to a whole new level. The goal is not greater vanity. Good health is fantastic but your worth is not based on your personal fitness, how much weight you can lift, speed, agility, strength, tone or any other physical attribute. And no one, especially those who matter most, will ever care if you have six pack abs and striated shoulders...(Although I have to admit, your older self is impressed....look at those abs! Oh, sorry, no, don't focus on that. You spend far too much time doing crunches....go do your homework!)

You can't believe it now but your body will one day fail you. Try not to get too attached.

At the same time, for crying out loud, DON'T GIVE UP! When you see that you are running 5th in that track meet and you know that you have to be in the top four to advance, don't slack off because when you do, you will miss out on a chance at state. The person in front of you....Actually, you know what? Do it your way (you will anyway). Either way, you will learn a huge lesson.

As a matter of fact, in all that is right and noble, NEVER GIVE UP! And even more, DON'T QUIT BEFORE TRYING! You will continue to struggle because you want to be the best and the fact is, you won't be. There are always bigger and better fish in the sea. You won't begin to learn and understand that until college and beyond so for now just be the best you can be in all you do but also go ahead and try your hand at some things that are new and challenging for you. That will take you a lot farther than letting your fears keep you from trying things at all. Certainly, you will fail, over and over, and that is okay. It won't kill you.

But that gigantic, fiberglass horse might....get away from it quick, please!

Your heart is big, so much bigger than you know, and you want to give the people you love everything you can and you want to love everyone. You come by that honestly but be careful. There are a lot of broken people in this world and some of them will take advantage of your giving spirit. Don't let it break you.

And speaking of love, the people you love the most will often hurt you the most. Forgive them and move forward. They are holding on to pain you can only imagine. Love them anyway.

And when your school experiences the year of terrible tragedy and Callie is killed in that car accident, trust your instincts and go hug her brother, whom you don't yet know.Your sadness over a life lost is not a sign of weakness. When you see him in the hall and are filled with that sudden urge to do something for him, well, it's called compassion. You will know it when it hits and you will do the right thing.  That one act of kindness will mean the world to him and as a result, you will find yourself in the company of some wholesome new friends. Trust yourself. Harness that compassion and hang on tight. Love is the way to life.

Don't sell yourself short when it comes to school either. You place a much higher premium on your many extra curricular interests (mostly boys) but in the end, your education is important to you. Listen in that AP English class. Your teacher will like you more (which isn't saying too much since she doesn't like you at all) if you settle down, stop joking around and especially stop the incessant giggling. Just give her some respect. She is old and has been teaching a long time. When she tells you that you are not good at writing (which, by the way, is not really what she said if you had been paying attention....) and that you can't mix metaphors, don't stop writing silly, just try harder. Your writing will one day save your life. Or at least get you through some tough times. And for crying out loud, READ THE BOOKS YOU ARE ASSIGNED! You will really like them. Trust me, they're awesome. But really, just pay attention to what she has to teach you. She will die the next semester.

Finally, when it comes time to look at colleges, remember, there is a much larger world out there than the university your boyfriend is going to. You already know he isn't right for you. You already see the red flags but you are afraid of change. And you are stubborn. And you don't want to let anyone down. That's okay for now. I am not going to tell you to go somewhere else because those experiences will shape who you become and that road will lead you into an amazing life of love and laughter and loads of children. (Yes, loads!) But if you really want something, go for it. (Except for that entire head of cheese covered broccoli....I highly advise not going for that! Oh, and one day your ego will lead you into a Goldschlager drinking contest against a guy twice your size.....big mistake....huge! Although I must say, the resulting alcohol poisoning is great prep for labor....) But I digress, don't putz around wondering if you should or shouldn't do this or that. Paralysis doesn't get you anywhere. Trust yourself, you are wiser than you think (minus the parenthetical above of course). Just get up and go to it. Don't look back. Let go of resentments and regrets, let go of your fears, let go of the safety you feel in the small world of the known. They don't get you anywhere. And when things get tough remember, sometimes the roads you take will not be familiar and will not feel safe. But it's okay because you are in good hands and all those roads lead to home.

Good luck and keep laughing! You'll need it!

Your Older Self

p.s. Look out for school buses when you take your drivers test.....and for God's sake, pay your speeding tickets BEFORE they suspend your license! Better yet, SLOW THE HECK DOWN!


What's a Runner Without the Running?

There is something wrong in the brains of many runners. I will acknowledge and admit this, even as I scoff at its validity. Once you make running habitual (or insert whatever other exercising obsession you may hold dear) it becomes all consuming when you find yourself unable to exercise; unable to draw out that sweat, to push yourself beyond what you did yesterday, to set goals and meet them and move forward again and again......

The runners I know, myself included, get jittery when they can't run. They get agitated in their restlessness. They begin to wonder if they will ever move again, much less race. They go from dreaming big dreams, setting lofty goals and craving unforgiving training runs to wallowing in self pity and drawing from the little reservoir of fitness they have left just to make it through each day. And because we are an OCD breed when it comes to fitness, sidelined runners are often found doing some bizarre things to keep in shape while they can't get their jog on. (My kids can tell you all about some ridiculous exercise videos that both mesmerize and repel them simultaneously but hey, if it weren't for having had five kids, I could show you some rock solid abs right now....sigh....)

While in FL, I committed myself to taking it slow. Even though the MRI revealed only slight soft tissue strain and minor contusions under my left patella, the insignificance of the injury has not panned out to be very insignificant at all. As it turns out, even as minor as it appears to be on the screen, it has disabled me from the very act I feel like I need to do to stay mostly sane, or at least in good shape. Now, over three months post marathon, I am still sitting, enviously watching the runners go by while wondering if I will ever fully recover enough to run at all, much less run Boston in April. While my brain had launched into grandiose ideas of doing an Ironman Triathlon one day, or at least pushing my marathon time down by another half minute per mile, my body has other ideas, receding into a heap of stillness I haven't known since that bout of pneumonia last year. (Editor's Note: Given the intensity and frequency with which the Graceful Chicken exercises, we cannot confirm the validity of the last statement and wish she'd perhaps drop the drama....)

Already, I have had to back out of the August Duathlon I was registered for with a friend. If I can't run a mile without having to stop, stretch, rubdown and stretch again, I obviously could not run two 5ks, an hour apart. When she asked if I would just be willing to walk them, I gave her such an uncomprehending look, she quickly realized that purposefully walking during a race was not exactly in my deck of cards. Perhaps one day it will be. But I am not willing to claim that day just yet!

But as I glance ahead and realize that the next half-marathon (that I won't be running) is only a month or so out, and training for Boston starts in only another couple of months, I get jumpy and anxious. Do I register for Boston tomorrow or just assume I will have to re-qualify some other time? Have I missed my one and only chance? Is it even really that big of a deal to actually run Boston? Why is this suddenly important to me when only a year ago I had no intention of running any marathons, much less that one?

And on top of that, I have become increasingly more irritable about fitness. As I said before, we runners are kind of OCD about our workouts. While in FL, I bought a jump rope, which I quickly realized I couldn't use, so instead I dusted off and tediously used some old fitness bands (that my mom found in her garage) for strengthening exercises. I did Ashtanga yoga a couple times a week, massaged down that leg, iced it and basically bided my time in hopes that I would be able to run after the full two weeks of "rest" I put in. No such luck.

I am still "resting" and icing and going to physical torture therapy, which is so intense on some days that I am left with bruises up and down my legs. You see, Rusty, the PT, takes great pleasure in using a 4-inch sink plunger on my IT band, followed by a small wooden dowel at the top near the hip and finishing with a long, weighted pain-stick that he terrorizes my quads and IT band with where the bruises of that day are already coming to surface.....Who needs a foam roller for myofacial release when you can pay to be tortured?! Seriously though, I sometimes have to bite my arm to offset the pain (it's a good thing I have delivered five babies to prepare for this but still, I feel like maybe a safe-word is in order here). Even so,  I find myself laughing at it all. Who would've thought, after getting through all that training and racing without a problem, I'd be biting myself in agony from PT that I go to because of an "insignificant" injury. At the very least, I am now fairly certain that I could never participate in Sado-Masichism, in case you were wondering.

So, there you are. This is the week I register for Boston (or not) and yet, I face a ridiculously-unimportant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things-kind-of-dilemma: To pay or not to pay.....that is the question. If you have an answer, I'm all ears...well, ears and bruises. :)


Thoughts from the Graveyard

My dad didn't talk much about his childhood when we were growing up. As a matter of fact, much of what I know about his childhood came from correspondence with my grandma in the years after I left home. (Don't worry Dad, she was kind.) But the stories he did share were sewn upon our hearts and woven into the fabric of our own personal history.

There was the story of his first job, sweeping out the dime store before and after school for what, a penny? He was five. And as I watch my almost 5 year old Liam, I have to kind of chuckle. Five year olds are not usually adept at the art of sweeping although they can certainly put on some show with a broom. Now give them an iPod and you might be on to something! Anyway, he must have had a very loving "boss." (Insert understanding head shake here.)

There was also a story (that pretty much haunted me for years) of his friend who was given a horse for his 9th or 10th birthday, the day he would lose his life after falling off that horse. I can't remember if he had been kicked in the head or simply fallen off while riding too fast and landed on a rock. My imagination painted a picture that included both. And I am almost sure that helmets didn't exist back then, at least not there. Needless-to-say, none of us received horses for our birthdays growing up. (Nor did we ask!)

But the story that most fascinated me was the one he told about his ventures into the graveyard of that tiny, one church town. I am guessing it was a stone's throw from his house but I seem to remember him saying something about loading up his little wagon and spending the night all by himself in that graveyard. I could have embellished it in my mind of course but I always thought that story to be of the lonely, spooky sort. Even at a young age (or possibly because of the young age!) it sent chills down my spine as it seemed to me that the graveyard was not a place for children. Especially not children who were all by themselves! I always assumed it said a little something about his childhood, that he'd purposely camp out alone in a graveyard. But, I digress. 


So, a few nights ago was date night. The babysitter arrived and off we went to our favorite restaurant where we ordered, ate and enjoyed a glass of wine in under 45 minutes. Usually that's when we look at each other and say, "Now what?" but this time we had ideas.  We walked to the bookstore, browsed the crazy-big magazine section and then decided we'd run an errand before heading to the coffee shop for a cup of decaf. (Exciting, I know.) Our evening ended with a venture to the nearby graveyard. 

Now, before you give my husband a hard time for his romance skills, I will admit the graveyard was my idea. You see, for a long time now our kids have been asking to go visit Wally's grave. (If you recall, Wally was a dear friend and neighbor who passed about 2 years ago now.) And, maybe because it got stuck in my head that kids don't belong in graveyards, we just haven't gotten to it. But, as kids tend to be, they are persistent and keep asking, every single time we pass the graveyard to be exact. So as we were sitting and musing about the kids over our coffee, I suggested we go to the graveyard and pay our respects to Wally so that next time the kids ask, we know precisely where to take them. 

It was a beautiful evening and while we sat on Wally's bench there next to her grave, I realized after all these years that my dad had been right. Contrary to many a horror movie, it really isn't a scary place at all. It's calm and peaceful. Maybe even slightly reassuring. And as we listened to the song of the quiet wind chimes singing in the gentle breeze, the sun setting low in the sky, I realized it really was the perfect ending for our time together. 


So here's to you Dad, and anyone else sharing his birthday: May your birthday be as calm and peaceful and full of cherished memories but without any sweeping, or horses, or graveyards of your own. 

Much love, 



Each year we plant sunflowers. And even though we have seen it happen over and over, we still wonder if our thumbs are green enough. Will those seeds even grow? Can we provide them with rich enough soil? With enough water? Enough sun?

And each year, we watch and we wait, and wait, and wait.....until we get lost in our busy-ness and we forget that we planted them in the first place.

And then one day we notice they are growing up and we marvel at how fast it happens. And we begin to take more and more pictures. And they grow.....

and grow.....

and grow.....

...until they are seemingly as tall as the trees.

And once they are as tall as they can possibly become, they open up into these beautiful, radiant flowers and they make people happy.

And the flowers continue to get bigger and bigger. The bigger they get, the more joyous and impressive they become. 

And after some time, we realize that where there once was just one incredible flower, there are now five.....

(One was just a little delayed and um, shorter in stature.....)

And we watch them from afar, dancing with the wind and we marvel at how much they look alike and yet, how very unique they really are.

And we begin to look ahead and realize that our time with them is so brief and we have to make the most of it. Because one day, even as magnificent as they are and even as much as we love them, they will leave us. We cannot keep them forever, no matter how much our heart yearns.

And then, dragged down by the very weight of our sorrow and being, our heads will hang low to the ground, as if what we were made to do all along, was simply bow our heads.

And, as we no longer try to stand so tall and impressive ourselves, we realize that this is a very comfortable and peaceful position. 

And then we go hug our children because this is their story. 

(And this is also how you know what time of the month it is at our house......)

Have a glorious week!!!