Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Live, from the dungeon, Lady Epiphany's new 'do

Seriously, I had to post this. Why did I think this would be a good picture? I look like I may be a well-fed refugee in some sort of laundry prison camp. My basement is just scary. But the haircut is cute, at least.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More fabulous presents

The cool thing about the Christmas/Hanukkah overlap Chez Stoll has been opening a present a night. I have to say it is much better than the Christmas tradition of a frenzy of unwrapping a stack of presents because well, for the kids anyway, it means you get to play and enjoy each gift separately. Last night, Lauren opened a Lucky brand hoodie and tee from Mark, and declared it the "coolest hoodie ever". She wore it to school today with her sparkle jeans. Lindsay got a magnetic dress up doll (think paper doll but with magnets) from Tutu. She named her Rebecca.

The first night of Hanukkah brought us ornaments all the way from Florida from cousins Allie and Chris, which we so needed since our tree has taken a couple of dives since we put it up. Lindsay really likes the red box that they came in.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lindsay's favorite gift

Not to say she won't like other presents she receives, but Lindsay has big love for this charming little knit cat - an early present from Sybil aka Auntie Who Can Fix Nearly Anything. As you can see, she is well-loved - already a little knit fuzzy. Lindsay has named her Pickle Catty because she is green. Her favorite part is her tail, because Catty didn't have one.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

In our winter wonderland

We got some snow yesterday in Jersey. This was a picture of our house before the snow turned to sleet and then froze, which, incidentally, is my least favorite application of precipitation. Our just-serviced Mazda, parked at the edge of the driveway so that we only have to shovel around it and the apron. Thanks to my across-the-street neighbor Ed for the tip.

Lauren and Lindsay check out Elmo Live! at the local Toys backwards-R Us. We found it very amusing to make an entire end cap of them sing at once. This must be an expected hot-ticket-item this year because there were about 10 end caps of them around the store. I believe we made each of them sing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Her boyfriend

As a kid, I had a huge capacity for memorizing. So the note home about re-reading books to "increase understanding", I don't push Lauren very hard because if she reads something twice, she's memorized it.

She's also memorized most of the songs on the radio. I listen to a Top 40 station, so really there are not all that many songs, and they get played over and again. Today she was singing:
When you're gone
The pieces of my heart are missing you
When you're gone
The face I came to know is missing too
When you're gone
The words I need to hear to always get me through the day and make it ok
I miss you
Avril Lavigne

"That song makes me think of Stephen."


"From my class?"

"Oh ok."

"He is my boyfriend now."


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fire breather

I was telling Lauren today that a friend of hers will have a little brother next year. She looked at me a little doubtfully.

"How could you know it's a boy?"

"Well, they have this tool called an ultrasound which is able to send sound out of the range of hearing through a transducer into the mommy's womb so they can make sure the baby is OK. Do you remember...we went a few times when Lindsay was in Mommy's tummy?'


"Yeah. There was one time that my doctor did it and you told him you were not having a sister, you were having a dragon...and he'd better watch out because even little dragons breathe fire. He looked a little afraid when you said that..."

Lauren laughed. "No..."

"Yeah, you said that."

"I don't remember that."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Unabashedly crazy

"There's a virus going around school..."

"Yep. I know. It's a bad one with lots of throwing up....so what are they doing about it?"

"Well, there are trash cans everywhere."

"Trash cans?"

"Yeah, in case you have to throw up and you can't make it to the bathroom..."

I blinked, my daughter is living in a Monty Python sketch. "Huh."


"Why do you have a pitcher and an ice tray?"

"I am pwaying wemonade stand."


"You want some for a quarter?"

"You used my pitcher and ice tray for your lemonade stand and I have to pay a quarter?"

"A yes. I going to go make some eggs now." She takes the ice tray over to the play kitchen, which for some reason is speaking in Spanish today.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

My inner martyr is out to get me

I took the title from Rose's comment because it made me laugh out loud. It is a bit painfully true.

The tree toppled in the middle of the night on its own, so we were awakened at 3:30 AM to a huge crash and then had to deal with fallen ornaments and broken glass. Parenting sort of prepares you for dealing with stuff while mostly asleep. I think I basically hung all the ornaments I picked up in the same part of the tree because even distribution was too hard to contemplate. Alec is much better at dealing with stuff at random times - it is probably among the reasons he can cross 6 time zones twice in a 48 hour period and seem fine - and swept up all the pieces of cookie and shards of glass. Since he was going to have to get up at 4 AM anyway to make his flight this morning, he didn't come back to bed. I struggled to fall back asleep and then to wake up at 7 AM.

On top of it, Lindsay is a shrieking little tantruming shrew today. I had thought about going to Target and the grocery store this morning, but only made it about halfway through the Target list when I had to head home with little miss "I want a cookie". I think both of us need a nap if we're going to make it through today.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The end of Nablopomo

This is what happens when you leave a 2 1/2 year old alone in a room with a tree. Please note that no children were actually hurt in this picture, but there were quite a few ornament casualties, and we rehung the gingerbread cookies without thinking that then rendered all of the cookies inedible (since they likely have glass shards in them).

Otherwise, the weekend was great. The tree looks great (again). The outside lights are up and cheering up the early arriving dusk. I am currently enjoying my Thanksgiving weekend tradition of Beaujolais Nouveau with the leftover cheese as a pre-dinner snack. Tonight's application of leftover turkey is Stroganoff. Alec has stock going with the turkey carcass, so the whole house smells wonderful. We have a loaf of baguette in its first rise, and a batch of peanut butter cookies resting in the fridge. Tonight will be a bit of baking before we get into the hustle-bustle of December.

We did some new stuff this year - we ate the turkey liver sauteed with bacon, onion, and apples on Wednesday after we set the bird a-brinin'. It was very good, although Alec and I were a little timid, the girls thought it was terrifically delicious and demanded more. We shared the holiday with friends. We went to see a matinee movie. We didn't shop until today, and that was only to stock the Advent calendar (since tomorrow is December 1) and we picked up a few baking items we'd maxed out over the weekend.

Oh, I should say something about this year's NaBloPoMo, even though I failed. Twice. I should resolve to post more often just for me because the formula is easier. It works better. Every year it has improved my writing. Having said that, I don't know that I will even try to post every day in December. In fact, I will probably take Saturdays off.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What is with Saturdays?!

Sorry, gentle readers. I failed yet again. I did have a paper due yesterday, spent an ungodly amount of time in the car and had to spend the afternoon with my inlaws, so perhaps that might give me a bit of a reprieve.

Nanny gave both of the girls dolls yesterday. Lindsay declared that it was, "Her very favorite doll". When asked what she named her doll, she replied, "Sharon."

I looked up at Alec, "That's cool. We don't have anything named Sharon. She named her last doll Missy."

"Yeah, well I guess we know who will be the novelist."

"What do you mean," asked Alec's father.

"Lauren still names stuffed animals things like 'Turtle'."

"Actually," I replied, "I think she branched out and called the newest one 'Turty'..."

"Very clever." Alec retorted.

Friday, November 21, 2008

And the first rule is...

Lauren, Lindsay and I helped out with a craft hour after school to create snowflakes for our winter community service initiative at school. We were there until about 5 PM with another mom and her son. Adrian is a year younger than Lauren, but they were playing some sort of game that was somewhat violent while Maddie and I finished stringing snowflakes and cleaned up all the crayons and scraps of paper. At some point, a para came in and had an exchange with the kids. It ended with her yelling at Lauren for blocking the door with a foot raised.

At talking time once Alec was home, we discussed the days events.

"And then Lauren got in trouble for trying to kick a para..." I said.

"What made you think that that was a good idea?" Alec asked.

Lauren erupted into tears. "I...don't know..."

"I think that maybe Lauren and Adrian were playing a game and they thought that the para was playing too until she...wasn't..."

"Is that what happened?"

Lauren sobbed.

"Why don't you tell me what happened?"

"Adrian and me were playing cops." She said through tears. "And we were investigating a perp who tried to get away, so I was trying to stop her."

"Was the para playing?"

"I thought she was, but then she got mad." Lauren once again began sobbing.

"Alright. You don't have to cry about it...it sounds like a misunderstanding. But Lauren, trying to kick a teacher is not a good idea - that will always get you in trouble. So, it sounds like you were playing, and there was a misunderstanding and you made her angry. What are you going to do about it?"

Lauren hiccuped.

"What do you think the first thing is?"

"Don't kick a para?"

Alec and I avoided each others eyes and stifled a laugh.

"To say, 'We were playing yesterday, and there was a misunderstanding. I am sorry for making you angry.' to the para."

"Okay, Daddy."

"Oh, and Lauren?"

"Yes, Daddy?"

"Don't kick a para."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Things with a very high Eww factor

I had said to a friend yesterday that I really need to blog about something besides Lauren's school and church. Today is not the day to start that.

A friend of mine called me yesterday. "Do you know where you can bring kids to get them deloused?"

I took a deep breath. Before I could even answer I realized I was scratching at my scalp because just the mention of lice makes me itchy. And it's a kid Lauren plays with a lot - they were at Katie's birthday together on Saturday night watching a movie. Oh gosh, were they sitting next to each other? Touching heads? Eww!

"No," I replied. "You really need to call a townie for that," and I suggested a mutual friend who might know.

When Lauren came home I grilled her about whether the nurse had done a scalp check. She looked annoyed, "No. She measured us and checked our hearing."

I carefully looked at her head. No bugs.

I told Alec this morning while he was getting dressed. "Ew. Don't get near anyone's head. No hugging."

"Why?" Lauren demanded.

"Lice are worse than fleas. They lay eggs on your head."

Lauren, who has a fascination with bugs, blood, boogers, and all things icky, replied, "That is the grossest thing you've ever said."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Welcome to 15

I've been magically transported back to age 15 this week, starting with a visit from a friend from high school. We discovered a week ago that we live about a mile apart, and her daughter is about 4 months younger than Lindsay.

I don't have a lot of good memories of high school. With my overloaded academic schedule, chamber choir, orchestra, a smaller string group, a civic orchestra, drama club and working 2 part-time jobs, I was always running around like a crazy person. Near the end of my sophomore year, Carolyn and I became friends along with a couple of boys from the next town. They were all seniors. There was another girl who hung around with us who was a junior. I remember we had a good time that summer, and then Carolyn and the boys all went off to college. Most of the rest of the details pretty much escape me - other than it was a very straight-edged crowd: no one drank, did drugs, or had sex.

"Do you remember when we used to decide whose house we were hanging out at based on who had Tostados and salsa?"

I squinted at her. I have no recollection of this at all. I remember we played a board game called "Encore" that involved a lot of singing. I remember we went to see the laser light shows at the Science Museum's planetarium, but I don't remember any details about that other than we were probably the only ones there who weren't stoned.

Perhaps my life became very tumultuous after that? A lot of bad things happened to my family - death and divorce. I got into a relationship that wasn't good for me. I don't regret the things that happened. They made me who I am. The year and a half that followed eradicated that summer. Or maybe it is just it's now almost 20 years ago.

We listen to a radio show when our alarm goes off in the morning. Every day at 7:10 AM, they have a call-in contest. If your initials match the ones they announce, you call in to win $1000. This morning they called my initials. I squealed and ran downstairs to grab my replaced cell phone. My hands were actually shaking when I tried to key in the number.

But with my replacement phone all of my user preferences haven't been added yet, so there's no auto-redial when I got a busy number. I tried a bunch more times and finally got through, but no one answered - someone must've already called in. As I listened to the phone ring I thought, I haven't called into a radio station since I was trying to win tickets. I was 16, I remember driving around trying to find a pay phone to call.

I know a lot of people say they'd like to turn the clock back 20 years, but after this week, I think I'll pass...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Happy birthday, Dad!

Dad turns 57 today. If you have moment, go over and wish him a happy...

I wrote this post a long while back. It was my post 300, and I'm on post 870 or something. I think it encapsulates both our serious and silliness. I hope my dad is around for a long time, purely selfishly, because he has great perspective and doesn't take himself too seriously which is a lesson at 34 that I haven't quite learned. Also? We had our first summer vacation in August with Ben and Maria, and it was just awesome.

Here are 100 things that I learned from my dad:

1. To keep my eye on the ball.
2. Honesty is the best policy.
3. Except when it isn't.
4. To distinguish right from wrong.
5. That there's a lot of gray area in life.
6. Sometimes good people do bad things, and that doesn't necessarily make them bad.
7. Sometimes bad things happen anyway.
8. To ask for it "Medium Rare".
9. To order it "very dry on the rocks with an olive".
10. That olives out of a vodka martini are very tasty.11. That two wrongs don't make a right.
12. Don't put it in your nose.
13. Don't put it up your brother's nose.
14. And certainly don't eat things that came out of your nose.
15. Or (JESUS CHRIST!) your brother's nose either.
16. How to play PIG.
17. How to play HORSE.
18. That HORSE is just a long version of PIG.
19. That I was never going to play professional basketball.
20. How to back in to a parking space for my driver's test.

21. How to look up words in the dictionary.
22. How to properly hold a fork.
23. To chew with my mouth closed.
24. Not to wiggle in my chair with my fork in hand.
25. Not to run with scissors.
26. To enjoy escargot.
27. How not to mortify Gramma while dining out at "her club".
28. To be a ham.
29. How to eat a lobster.
30. That my napkin belongs in my lap.
31. How to do the crawl stroke.
32. How to play Monkey in the Middle.
33. That the game was more fun when you're NOT the monkey.
34. To be able to name any Beatles song ever recorded just by listening to the opening 5 chords.
35. Not to do something simply because I can.
36. Different people like different things.
37. Ninety-five percent of the people you encounter are assholes.
38. That we're part of the other 5 percent (most of the time).
39. Sometimes the best laughs you have are at your own expense.
40. Particularly when you've forgotten your own birthday.

41. All the words to Don McLean's American Pie.
42. My multiplication tables.
43. How to ride a bicycle.
44. Not to ask someone to do something I was not willing to do myself.
45. To always end a conversation with "I love you".
46. That respect is something you earn.
47. That it's possible to have faith and to be a good person without belonging to or attending church.
48. That there are 3 sides to every story: mine, his, and The Truth.
49. That it's possible to forgive someone without forgetting her transgression.
50. That a firm, strong handshake is important.
51. The difference between a Phillip's head and flathead screwdriver.
52. To love Casablanca.
53. Not to say "I can't", or "I'll try", instead to say "I will".
54. That anything worth doing is worth doing well.
55. That truth is stranger than fiction.
56. That even a truly mundane experience can later make a funny story.
57. That it's a good idea to have a back up plan.
58. How to ice skate.
59. Not to be the first person out onto the ice.
60. That making people laugh is a good ice breaker.
61. To love music.
62. To listen to different types of music, whether or not you think you like the genre. You're usually surprised.
63. To be comfortable on stage.
64. How to make hospital corners.
65. How to operate the washing machine and dryer.
66. To learn from mistakes, but not to dwell on them.
67. To accept responsibility for my actions.
68. To graciously accept praise.
69. That a good sense of humor can carry you through many unpleasant situations.
70. That it's best not to play favorites.
71. A drink won't fix it, but it can't hurt either.
72. Not to date famous rockstars in their 60s.
73. Even if they have a lot of money.
74. That persistence sometimes pays off.
75. That sometimes it's better NOT to try to fix it yourself.
76. That "texting" someone is just dumb.
77. To appreciate Alan Alda's sense of humor.
78. That in every generation, there was a "right" way to do something that we now look back on wondering what the hell people were thinking.
79. To love your mom even if she is a crazy nutball sometimes.
80. How to keep a scorecard at a baseball game.81. To order it with hot fudge, whipped cream, salted nuts, and a cherry.
82. To be patient.
83. That being patient isn't always the correct response.
84. How to memorize a script.
85. That the spinning rides at the amusement park were a lot of fun, and more so before eating.
86. To like pistachios.
87. To appreciate the relationships I have with my siblings.
88. To listen without judging.
89. You can't lose if you don't play.
90. Never get into a fight with an ugly person.
91. Never argue with crazy people.
92. Always wear clean underwear in case you get hit by a bus.
93. Sometimes it's really funny to state the obvious.
94. Parsimony.
95. That if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
96. To wait for a better offer.
97. That tough love has its place, and so does telling someone what they need/want to hear.
98. That making my bed and keeping my room clean were a good start.
99. That if you can't knock 'em dead, at least leave 'em laughing.
100. To live well, to love completely, and to never regret anything.

Happy Birthday, Dad! I hope you have a great day.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Lauren and Lindsay, October 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Too much already figured out

We started giving Lauren an allowance several weeks ago. She has a chore list, and earns 25 cents per completed chore, with the potential of earning just over $10 per week. A far cry from the dollar I earned at age 6.

Of the $10, a dollar goes to the charity of her choice. This week, it is going to UNiCEF. Last week, she put it in her offering envelope for church. She has also put money into the school food drive for our district's needy families for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Half goes into her Orange Savings account, which is earning a paltry 3% interest these days.

The other half, she can spend as she chooses, this week she bought a bag of candy corn (kandy korn?) and a Littlest Pet Shop toy.

This conversation ensued about her spending money...

"Mom, can I really spend my money on whatever I want?"

"Sure. You can buy a box of Fruit Loops (not a cereal we usually get) or a candy bar if you want. Or save it up a few weeks and buy a DS game...whatever you want..."


"Yep. The only two things you can't buy with it are cigarettes and beer."


"Because cigarettes are very bad for you..."

"Yes, I know that..."

"And the State of New Jersey says you are too young to drink beer."

"Yes. But you said I get to spend my savings money when I am in college."

"Yep. You can use it to help you buy a car, or maybe pay for stuff you need at school..."

"Well, then I will use it to buy beer."

Yes, I guess you will.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


On Tuesdays, we sort at the thrift shop. Though it is a lot of work, it is tremendously rewarding to leave two hours after we arrived as we stand back to observe neatly organized toys and racks full of clothes. It seems to be my job, besides to oversee the children's section, to encourage. I cheer on, and always applaud at the end of our time - Look how much we accomplished! - because otherwise, it's work never done.

Juliana also volunteers at the thrift shop. I don't know how old she is. My guess is probably in her 70s. Her job, besides to stock the women's racks, is to keep things light. She often will put a crazy outfit over her clothes and model it on her petite frame. "What do you think, girls?" she'll say, tossing a scarf over her shoulder with a flourish. "Is it me?"

"Gorgeous, Juliana."

"I'm so glad. And now, it is time for my cigarette break..."

At church, she always comes over to my family during the passing of the peace, she squeezes my hand in her cool palm. "Are you coming on Tuesday?"

"I hope so," I always reply.


There is something about Juliana: her slight frame, her coiffed hair, or her girlish silliness that reminds me of another, much younger Juliana. Who it warms my heart to think of as an old woman still making people laugh with her spontaneous sense of humor.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


We have a metal basket in our front hall for shoes. It works out well - it's very unusual Chez Stoll to have to hunt down shoes.

Lindsay took off her sneakers when we got home from dropping off Lauren at school this morning. "Put your sneakers in the shoe basket," I reminded her.

"Yes. I know. And I put my socks in the sock basket."

The sock basket? "Ok." I replied.

When I went back into the living room, I passed the shoe bin and noticed her sneakers neatly placed on top. She'd also neatly placed her socks on the top of the dirty laundry. The sock basket.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lauren playing soccer

Her feet don't even touch the ground when she runs, see? I think she is running sprints between the sidelines here...

More Lindsay

"No hitting, Lindsay."

"Sorry, Mommy."

"If you can't stop hitting, you're going to get a time out. Do you want a time out?"

"No, thanks."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

According to Lindsay

"Did you want a snack?"

"Yes, I'm hungry. Please get a bee-ah."

"You want a banana?"

"Yes. I need a bee-ah, please."

"Ok. Do you want to eat it like a monkey?"

"No. I want to eat it like a tiger."

I blinked. Like a tiger? Whole, skin and all? I didn't suggest this aloud. "How does a tiger eat a banana?"

"Cut up on a plate."


Thursday, October 09, 2008

With the webcam

Turning this over in my mind

When I was 19, I worked for a professor babysitting his two kids. His son was 6, and his daughter was 8. Every day, I took the T out to the suburbs, picked them up from school, walked them home, gave them a snack and helped them with their homework.

I smoked back then, something that didn't come up until some time later because they hadn't asked. It didn't smoke in front of their kids. I think it came up because I'd left something in their car, and they returned to the train station where I was having a cigarette while waiting on the T back into the city. They were unhappy about it...and I recall after I left the job after a year, that the posting for the next sitter said "nonsmokers only".

When I met the sitter who watches my girls, since one of her jobs was to feed them dinner, I let her know that we don't do food punishments or rewards in our house. If the kids don't want to eat something, they aren't made to. If there is dessert, they get it regardless of how much dinner they ate. I explained the reasons why, and she said it wasn't something she'd thought about before.

As she was leaving on Tuesday evening, she mentioned in passing that she was on her way to the gym. "Wow, it's late" I replied. "I like working out in the morning.'

"Yeah, I worked out this morning."


"I'm trying to fit into this dress I bought for a wedding. I have to lose 15 pounds in 3 weeks, so I am going to the gym twice a day."

I think my jaw dropped. I realized I hadn't seen until that moment under her "college wear" - loose-fitting jeans and hoodie, that she had lost quite a bit of weight since last I saw her. I guess even if I had noticed, it's been a few months.

I replied quickly that I'd just dropped off a couple of dresses I'd worn before I was pregnant to formal affairs at the church thrift shop, and I was sure if she went in with $5 she could buy one of them which would cheaply and easily be altered to fit her in 3 weeks time. She smiled politely but it was clear that she was still heading for the gym.

There's a normalcy of this behavior. Plenty of women who I know lose huge amounts of weight to look good in a dress or wedding pictures or whatever. This sort of behavior is praised. I tried not to sound like the professor's wife, but I was entirely at a loss for words.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Lauren: "Deer die easily."

Me: "They do?"

Lauren: "Yeah. They are too soft on the outside and their insides are too fragile."


Lindsay, playing pirate: "Hi, Mateys!"


This morning, Lauren sat reading a book to herself about Ernie and Bert.

"What are you reading?"

"It's a book about Sesame Street, y'know the tv show?"

"Is it good?"

"It's kind of predictable."

Friday, September 26, 2008

At my computer

I thought this picture ended up kind of cute. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Some quick points and pictures

Don't get too excited. My camera is broken, so these are some bad ones from my phone.

We're doing soccer and children's choir at church, so all our activities are compressed into the first 3 days of the week. Last night we didn't get home until 7:20 from soccer, and then had to make and eat dinner, bathe, and get the kids to bed. After struggling to make dinner after soccer practice on Monday, I did all my dinner prep early. It meant we got the kids to bed at 8:30 instead of 9:15, so that was good.

On Fridays, we go to the farmer's market in town, and drive out to Suydam Farm to feed the chickens and buy eggs. They also have sheep. We pet them. When Lindsay and I got there on Friday morning, we discovered they had about a dozen piglets.

Lindsay called them "scaredy pigs" because one of them would startle and then they all would run into the barn. Lindsay thought this was very funny.

On Tuesdays, Lauren has soccer clinic. She wanted me to take a picture of her posing. You can actually see her new 'do in that picture. No more ponytail. Unfortunately, every other girl she knows has this same chin-length haircut (though most of them don't wear it with bangs), and I still don't recognize her all the time with short hair.

Lindsay gets really into the practice. Here she is dribbling the ball. She's the red blur in the background - she was wearing an Elmo shirt. She was sort of playing with the blonde in pink the the foreground who didn't understand, as Lindsay does, that soccer is a game you play with your feet.

Yeah, that's the youngest Anderson girl, but I don't remember her name.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A bit of an update

I had thought about pulling Lauren out of school today and trying to attend a memorial in the city, but the idea of going into the city with my two kids was a little scary for me. I thought I might make my morning walk longer, but I found that walking this morning, catching my clock at 8:43 AM, that I remember those details just too vividly...walking down 8th Avenue to work, noticing people were stopped and pointing up. Looking up, finally. Ducking into the coffee shop, smelling their dark roast. They were listening to 1010WINS, and they were just announcing the second plane hit as I paid for my morning cup. I went outside into the little alcove where I would sip my coffee and smoke a cigarette, looking at a grotesque hole in the North Tower, with flames leaping out and smoke billowing. The atmosphere on the streets was becoming panicked, and I retreated to the silence of my office - I was the first one in always. My phone was ringing as I sat down, it was my mother, and then Alec. The phones were gone pretty much directly after that with all of the circuits either jammed or gone.

Today, I walked to church to sit on this bench under a weeping willow, but with the construction on our church grounds, the bench is not there right now. I sat on another bench with Lindsay, watching squirrels gathering acorns, birds bathing in nearby mud puddles. Lindsay gathered sticks from the ground (in her bare feet) and tried to put them back on a nearby bush.

I tried to focus on how much life we've lived in those 7 years, as I looked at the big muddy construction site due to be housing for a family transitioning out of a homeless shelter, the beginnings of our church's community garden planted so that we could provide our town's food pantry with fresh vegetables, and what will eventually be a prayer garden. It's not much now, but it is brewing hope. A promise of what will be.

September 11 didn't shatter my hope. My hope was already shattered then. It stomped on broken bits. Things couldn't be the same after that. Many of my coworkers left New York City shortly after that, never to return. I ended up closer. Six months after that, I took a job on Chambers Street, two blocks away from where those buildings once stood.

For today, I will try to carry on, maybe not business as usual as life around me seems, but with some semblance of profound gratitude and hope.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lauren's birthday

It's hard to believe that 6 years ago, I held you...my itty bitty little munchkin...for the first time. This picture was taken about 30 hours after you were born, because, as I described yesterday, I was too sick in the 24 hour period after having given birth to be taken down to the NICU to see my baby. My first few days of motherhood were filled with these sort of disappointments - it was not the "birth plan" I had chosen - to be admitted a full day before having you, on what seemed to be every sort of monitoring machine in the unit while they tried to keep my blood pressure stable. The long period of not getting to see you while Daddy gushed about feeding you from a tiny bottle holding a mere ounce of formula. Being told that you would be kept at the NICU for some indetermined amount of time after I left...which ended up being only 24 hours...there was something that felt like failure in that first day, being home with no baby. Daddy would call the NICU to find out when you'd had your last bottle, when you'd gone to sleep to try and stave off the tears.

You were so tiny. 16 inches tall, 4 pounds 3 ounces at birth and just 4 pounds when we brought you home. In those first 8 weeks, we had 8 weigh-ins (one with a visiting nurse at our home), and feedings every 2 hours by the clock, even in the dead of night. Daddy and I split feedings so that we could get a mere 4 hours of continuous sleep.

And those out there in the Internets probably remember that even though your newborn wasn't 4-pounds that at times it felt you were only keeping her alive by the sheer force of your will. You'd get up even when it wasn't one of those every 2 hour feedings to stare into the bassinet at your bedside to watch her tiny chest rise and fall.

Self portrait, August 2008

You're just too cool for me these days. Our conversations are punctuated by eye rolls, foot stamps, and door slams, but you're still my little munchkin.

I love you, peanut. Happy birthday!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

It may not be happening, but it did happen

I've been doing more than my share of whining lately. It's not very appealing or productive.

It occurred to me that my current state of upset is bigger than adjusting to the day without Lauren, my current level of activity including Irving, the PTO, art history class, church, whether or not Lauren can bring a snack for her class for her birthday, even flea abatement. My reactions are so far over the top from what's reasonable. I wrote today "I'm struggling a lot", and it is true but with what? I'm behaving as though the sky is falling.

And it dawned on me.

Seven years ago this Thursday, the sky fell.

And when I had that thought, I started sobbing uncontrollably. I write that with some guilt because although I was in NYC that day, I was 12 blocks away. Lives were much more effected than mine. I don't know anyone who never came home. But I can say when I think of that day, I feel the thick smoke caught in my throat. I hear the constant sirens roaring down Seventh Avenue. I remember how lost we were staring at signs in the twice closed Grand Central Station not able to comprehend.

There was heightened alert, as though you were constantly vigilant to hear what couldn't be heard and see what couldn't be seen. There were weeks when you had to plan your commute around the subway you were on being evacuated for suspicious packages and Anthrax scares. The fires burned at Ground Zero for months. The posters of the missing and then presumed dead their smiling faces from happy times of their lives holding children, dressed on their wedding day...spouses, children, parents were mourning them.

I just don't have the words to make you understand the ache inside me when confronted with all this. I have maintained media silence every 9/11, including the one I spent a year later in a New York City hospital a year later waiting for someone to tell me how my tiny 4 pound baby was doing because I was confined to my bed and she was in the NICU. The charge nurse who cheerily came in to introduce herself at the 7 AM shift change found me sobbing because I'd convinced myself I was never going to see little Lauren, and with all the drugs I was on they had just not told me yet she hadn't survived.

I'm not doing a good job of just pretending that it's just any day where we soldier on and walk on treadmills and go to school. I don't know what to do about that right now, but it seems I have 48 hours to figure that out.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

First day of school

Lauren sporting her new "back to school" 'do, the butterfly dress with a built in sparkly necklace(!), and her 1st grade present - a ladybug bracelet from Auntie Jules.

More later...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Adoption notice

In response to...
Those poor animals, sounds as though you can't handle them. Why not put them up for adoption?They shouldn't be left outside while you take a nice vacation.
Two geriatric flea-infested black cats:

Nearly 14 year old male cat who will urinate and defecate on everything except the litter box. Particularly likes to poo on the seat of the dining room chairs. Lately, he makes a hornking noise when you look at him, as though he might cough up a hairball at any moment.

Twelve year old female cat has an anxiety disorder, or maybe an esophageal defect, or a combination of these two that results in random vomiting around the house. This usually occurs about 3 times per day, but up to 8. She prefers to vomit behind radiators and under furniture so that you find it months later, hardened like cement.

Monday, August 25, 2008


I wanted to share with you the very relaxing and wonderful vacation we had last week, but the past 40 hours or so since my return have been tremendously stressful. Despite the money we've spent having the house fumigated and bombed, the flea infestation was at a fever pitch when we returned on Saturday. Although we'd left Seamus outside, he snuck back in to soil several pieces of furniture. Alec had tried to shut Shannon out of our bedroom to keep her off of our mattresses, but it resulted in her getting locked in Lindsay's room. I can't blame her for using Lindsay's changing pad as her litter box. If you've watched nature shows featuring piranha, the fleas were similar when we returned. I immediately took the girls outside and sprayed them head-to-toe in bug spray.

We had had the foresight to schedule another bug treatment on Saturday afternoon, so Alec waited with Lindsay for the Orkin man, while Lauren and I went out to take care of some critical errands - buying presents for her friends' birthday party, replacing the pair of glasses Lin broke while we were on vacation. We finished in time to pick up Lindsay and Alec as the Orkin man told us that if we were to let the cats back in the house, Frontline or not, we'd be doing this until December or January.

We'd made the decision given Seamus' new no-litter policy, that he would be living in the yard from now on. We debated what to do with Shannon while we were out. I can give you a hundred rationalizations about why it's best for us to do that, but ultimately, Shannon herself made the decision. While we were out, she somehow escaped her pet carrier.

We spent yesterday throwing stuff away and vacuuming. I had saved quite a lot of Lindsay's smaller clothes in the drawers under her bed, where Shannon slept while trapped in her room. We bought a new vacuum, an upright canister vac with a HEPA filter and Alec vacuumed nearly every surface of the house. I've done approximately 8 loads of laundry, despite having returned from vacation with 3 suitcases of clean clothes. Today, there are still 3 loads in progress, and despite seemingly constant cleaning, our kitchen is too filthy to cook in, but the laundry and kitchen have to wait for other commitments today.

I'll tell you about vacation when I'm feeling a little less overwhelmed. Given school starts in 10 days and Lauren's birthday party is Saturday, that might not be soon...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My mind is still at the beach

Karen captured this moment. Bethi and I are walking out to look at the rocks. The storms from the night before hung over the eastern sky, strong enough to upset the canoe and lodge it underneath the neighbor's stairs to the beach.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I want to write about the weekend, leaving it in the warm, diffuse light of the Canadian sun shining through the windows of a cabin on the shore of Lake Erie. The warmth of wood walls painted in cheerful apples with Christian names of family who sleep in these bunks and tent in the yard. Who comb the beach looking for smooth stones with a hole that goes the way through.

I came without expectations...without anticipations.

The Steven King novella titled with a Ben E. King song came out the summer I turned 13. There's a line at the end about how you never have friends like you do when you're 12, and I remember the group I was in with and how we laughed easily and often. Your words spilled freely, some nice and some not, but they were accepted as they were and not subject to the later angsty teenage paranoia and interpretation.

To be in a group of women, a group of friends some of whom friends longer than half their lives, longer than they can remember a time before they were friends is like being able to step back into that moment of time when you were too self-conscious to let a friend see you exactly as you are and not as you'd like to be or as you like for people to see you.

And maybe it is this group of friends that the love is just so big and so deep that you're instantly enveloped in it.

And maybe it is being in a cottage so full of five generations of family.

Maybe it is the easy laughter, the in-jokes, the release of being undefined by husbands and children. Maybe it was the August snow and full arched rainbow in the middle of the drive home and yesterdays storms.

I feel renewed. And yet, already counting down the days until WTHS 2009...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Calling it like it is

Lauren: "You can't ride two riding toys at once, Lindsay. You only have one butt."


Lindsay: "No pizza bagel. No wan that! Ew. Bagel has cream cheese. No pizza."


Epiphany: "How about I put on your new sneakers?"
Lindsay: "How about not?"


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Swear word goes here

My cats have fleas.

My toddler has borderline iron.

Today wasn't fun.

I just spent a small fortune in flea repellent, shampoo, spray, combs, and extermination.

Dr Google says iron deficiency is bad.


Monday, August 04, 2008

Among life's great mysteries

Lindsay had a doctor's appointment about a week and a half ago. I don't know if it's a Jersey thing or a living in a very old house thing, but we were given a script to go to the lab and repeat her blood work from last year - CBC and lead.

When we sat down to do paperwork, the technician looked in horror at Lindsay's skinny arms. "It's for the baby? Oh no."

"She'll be fine." I replied brightly. "She didn't even notice last year."

She looked doubtful, but didn't reply.

As we sat in the scary looking blood drawing chair, Lindsay held her arm out and let the tech tie on the tourniquet. The tech's hands were shaking.

"They are just going to take a little blood out of your arm, Linds." I said calmly, as I held across her chest, pinning her right arm beside her. "And Mommy's giving you a special hug to help you keep still."

A second tech was there with the butterfly, sliding around the first who held Lin's arm taut. Lindsay watched, completely fascinated, as the needle pierced her skin. The second tech spoke quietly about the three tubes to the first, dropping each in her pocket as they filled. The first tech's hand was still now, looking at Lindsay's interested expression.

"I've never seen anything like that," she exclaimed.

"She doesn't mind needles." I replied.

The second tech stuck a purple sticker on Lindsay's shirt that read "I did very whale" with a cartoon whale on it.

"Tanks." Lindsay said.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A few days late, a few dollars short

We were in Atlanta last weekend - landed Friday afternoon and took off Sunday afternoon. We decided, in the tradition we started in San Diego, to end our first night with a trip to the local ballpark. It was a 7:30 PM first pitch with fireworks afterwards...

Turner is a nice park, and our seats were pretty good considering this was last-minute. We were behind home plate on the first mezzanine. It was a nice evening - about 80 degrees still when the sun set.

The girls were hella-tired. I'd forgotten Lindsay's blanket in the hotel room, which meant she couldn't nap in her stroller (she might not have anyway, but we would've had a better shot with blanket). I took Dad's approach of snack every 2 innings, and I have no idea if he was using it as a diversion technique, but it is an awesome one. Hot dogs in the 2nd inning, cotton candy in the 4th, and ice cream after the seventh-inning-stretch got us all the way to the fireworks...

...which were a lot more spectacular than I managed to capture. It really was an awesome 20 minute display and neither of my kids minded the big booms. What I didn't know about Atlanta was that the traffic is terrible. We spent an hour driving back to our hotel, which was only 4 miles away. We did the Walk-of-Shame you may have read about on Worst Mama.

We got up and had breakfast with Alec before he had to go to his conference, which was what he was there to do. We were there to spend time with our friends. I took the massive SUV we rented (alright, it was a Toyota Rav 4, which is a bit bigger than my Mazda 5) and drove out to Decatur to meet Jeremiah, Sarah, and Kate at the gazebo.

Sarah and Lindsay eyed each other. If they were dogs, this is where the sniffing would've started. Sarah said, "Hi, Baby" through her pacifier at Lindsay. Lindsay responded with a little wave. Kate and Lauren were instantly thick as thieves. They discussed relationships: "Where's your dad?" "He's at work." "What's his name?" "Alec." "My dad's name is Jeremiah." As well as their mutual admiration for Disney princesses. "So your favorite princess is Aurora? Mine is Snow White."

We went back to their house and met Lisa, with her brand new hair. The children played. We caught up. There were pork sandwiches with fried lemon (OMG! so good). Lisa and I tucked Sarah and Lindsay for naps and walked with the big girls to the Oakhurst Community Garden. Lisa blogged about the garden here, if you haven't seen it already - I didn't take pictures there for some reason. When the little girls woke up, we all went to the McKoy Park Pool.

Jeremiah playing with Lindsay. I think she's feeding him a toy. She thought he was hilarious, and just couldn't get his name right, so she just kept calling him "SarahDad". She called Lisa "Weesa".

Sarah and Lindsay

Lauren has some serious skills now she's taken some swimming lessons. She shows Lisa how long she can hold her breath underwater in this picture. Considering she wouldn't go IN the water at the beginning of the summer, this is a huge accomplishment.

Sarah plays in the fountain.

Lisa whipped up some smoothies for the girls for dinner, and Jeremiah got to work on some beef tenderloin.

"My kids need to go to sleep, "Lisa said. "Maybe we can put them all to bed and enjoy our dinner?"

And so, we did. Dinner was some serious meat candy. We enjoyed some wine and dark chocolate with rock salt for dessert. Lisa and Jeremiah helped get sleeping girls in the car and I headed back to the hotel.

On Sunday, we went to see the aquarium, and Alec finally was done with his conference. We met there around 9 AM, sharing sleepy expressions - Sarah had kept Lisa and Jeremiah up most of the night, and we just didn't sleep very well on the lumpy mattress at the hotel. The best thing was this giant tank:

My pictures from the aquarium were the worst of all. That's Kate and Lindsay looking into the giant tank. We saw the performingest octopus ever - usually you get to see a tentacle or two, but this guy was hanging out and actually swam across the tank. After the aquarium, we headed back to Lisa and Jeremiah's for lunch, and then had to make our way to the airport.

Atlanta - awesome. I chat with Lisa most days, so it was really cool to see her in person, and even better that our kids got along.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A quickie from moi

If I hear any more ABBA today, I think my ears are going to start bleeding. I. HATE. ABBA.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Things that made me laugh today

Why is it when I order pb&j sandwiches they come with enough of each to ooze out the sides and not cut in half? Who do sandwich makers think are eating these sandwiches? Today's version was on a pita which Lindsay kept calling "my pancake". Yum.

I sort children's clothes at our church's thrift shop on Tuesdays. It always seems like a daunting amount of work, and then it is so satisfying 2 hours later when the racks are all nicely organized. Today, I perked up when I heard Kathy say, "Oh what a nice size 1x jacket from Ashley Stewart!" "May I see it?" "Oh my gosh, you're not a 1x!" "Yes, I am. Ohhh. It is nice. I'm taking that today!" It was new, though without tags...and Lois charged me a dollar! I also bought a pair of never worn Dora boots in black "suede" for Lindsay for 50 cents.

Photographic evidence for Karen's thumb sucking and handedness experiment

Lauren has a Princess diary she's been writing in this summer. I figured it was a good way for her to practice writing without it seeming like an assignment. Of course, since Lindsay has to do everything Lauren does, she is "writing" in a book also.

Karen, Lindsay's handedness would appear not to support your theory. She always colors with her right hand, and yet she only sucks her left thumb. Alec is left handed, and I am right handed. Lauren is right handed.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I had never felt so alone - and, yet, so connected to God - in the face of so much uncertainty.
Paige wrote about the anniversary of finding out Zane was on the way a few days ago. It's a great post about discovering your path to parenthood.

It was three years ago today I found myself in the emergency room with a ruptured left fallopian tube. Although my parents and my husband were there when I came out of surgery, I was with Nanny during the intake, tests, meeting the surgeon and all the things leading up to it. I was in the moment of all of my worst fears, and yet I was calm. At one point, she said, "Everyone is moving very slowly here." And I said, "I know. It means I am not dying. If I weren't OK, everyone would be moving very fast..."

As I was being wheeled into the operating room, I looked up to see the anesthesiologist. The surgeon was joking with the nursing staff about just needing a few tools, listing them, and then he said, "I'm pretty easy" which was met with some giggles. "Is it good to have an easy surgeon?" I asked studying his face.

"He's the best." replied the anesthesiologist.

Right before I was put under, I touched the sleeve of the surgeon.

He was saying something silly, but I don't recall what it was.

I said, "I know you're trying to put me at ease by joking, but I really need you to say, 'Everything is going to be okay, Heather'."

His eyebrows broadened as he smiled under his mask. "Everything is going to be okay, Heather."

And it was okay. It wasn't good. But I walked away from that with a different appreciation about what I wanted from life, and although that's on the short lists of worst days of my life, it was...okay.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The girls

Lindsay and Lauren, July 2008

No, I have no idea why Lindsay is making a Gene Simmons face. I am pretty sure she doesn't know who he is. To further complete your morning:

"Hey, Lindsay, I have something to show you."

"I coming. I coming." Lindsay climbs down the stairs. "Wassamatta?"

"Nothing, I wanted to show you something."

"Oh! Hewwo, Lawwen."

"Hi, Linds."

Thursday, July 10, 2008


My discovery of the week is many great beverage reuses for a peanut jar. I have been making cold-brewed iced coffee in it, but who knew you could also make a super-concentrated cold-brewed iced tea? It means I can use pretty much any tea to make iced tea, not just the ones in the flat teabags.

Last night, after I finished my dinner of grilled salmon, squash with pesto, and couscous, I piled my plate high with the locally grown organic red leaf lettuce. I had some Annie's Sesame Dressing on it. Mmm mmm. Lauren eyed my plate.

"Do you want some?"

"Maybe just to try?"

I put two leaves and a good amount of dressing on her plate for dipping."

"Hey, that's pretty good."

Yeah it is!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Fourth of July Weekend

It always amazes me how a 4-day weekend always turns into a fun yet exhausting marathon of barbecues and fireworks. Thursday was spent on a quest to replace Alec's linen sports coat, which somehow ended up in the washing machine. Since all of the department stores have had their summer clothes on sale for a month now, it was a challenge. We found a suitable replacement at the 4th store, considered ourselves lucky, and headed to the pool.

Friday was an overcast day here. We made some salads to go along with dinner, and I made a fruit crisp (this one was peach and blueberry, and very good) but mostly Alec played X-Box and Lauren supervised. Since one of our dinner guests is 3, our party broke up before 9, and we decided since we were heading up to Dad's the next day where we'd probably see fireworks that we'd forgo the local ones and get the kids to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour.

Saturday, we had a great time at Dad's, although I expected it would just be the four of us, Dad, Ben and Maria, my grandparents were both there along with Aunt Diane and her girlfriend Bevvy. Except for a minor poisoning incident, we all had a great time and even managed to see the fireworks in Hartford.

Yesterday, we visited some friends in Westport on our way home. The drive wasn't too terrible once we abandoned I-95 for the Merritt Parkway, except for the stretch of the Hutch in Harrison that's always bad.

I have quite a lot of laundry to do, though our house isn't too bad since we mostly were just home on Friday. Lauren has declared it a "jammies all day day", so it would seem I'm not the only one feeling a bit tired after the weekend.

Friday, June 27, 2008

All you thirty-something blonde mommies are interchangable

Scene: Church hallway after children's choir practice. JANE finishes getting a drink at the water fountain and is startled to see EPIPHANY standing with her two daughters.

JANE: Oh, hi!

EPIPHANY: Hi, Jane. How are you?

JANE: I'm fine. It's Shannon, right?

EPIPHANY: No, it's Epiphany. I can see why you thought that, though. We're about the same height, with short blonde hair and glasses and have little kids. Shannon has three children.

JANE: Oh, right, she has two boys and the baby?

EPIPHANY: Yes, Charlie and...I don't remember the middle one's name.

JANE: I think the baby's name is Brianna.

EPIPHANY: That's nice.

JANE: What are your daughter's names again?

EPIPHANY: Lauren and Lindsay. Lauren is 5 1/2 and Lindsay is 2.

JANE: Nice. Do you go by Jessie or Jessica?

EPIPHANY: Neither. My name is Epiphany.

JANE: Oh...I'm so sorry.

EPIPHANY: Jessie is also blonde, sometimes wears glasses, and has a 3-year-old son.

JANE: Um, I have to go now.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Snippets from my life

Lindsay peed on the bathroom floor upon exiting the bathtub. She stopped, midstream, and looked surprised at herself.

"Lindsay, do you want to make a pee pee in the potty?" I asked, hopefully.

"No," she replied tersely, squatting on the towel wrapped around her. "I'm finished now."


"I saw a diary today that had princesses on it. They even had princess pencils. We could get that for you and you could practice writing write down your thoughts."

"I don't have any thoughts. When I close my eyes all I see are blue squares mostly. Occasionally rectangles. They are blue also."