Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Most Improved

April 28, 2010

Danielle won the trophy for Most Improved on her softball team! She had a great season and is already looking forward to next year.Also, last Friday was Western/Rodeo Day dress up. I think Danielle is adorable in the corn field-country girl look.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wouldn't It Be Nice?

April 26, 2010

We had a disagreement last night at our house. It's the rare instance when Doug and I don't fall on the same side of the fence on a political issue, but it happens. (What the issue was I won't go into here, since I'm not trying to start a political debate about it right now.) The important thing about it was that although we both feel very strongly about why we believe what we believe, we both recognize the validity of the opposing point of view and respect its merits. We can both agree to respectfully disagree, without resorting to name-calling and judgments about the intelligence level of someone whose viewpoint differs from our own. Wouldn't it be nice if the politicians and activists and pundits of the world could do the same? How much could be done if those in power spent more time hearing the other side than they do disparaging the character or intelligence of people who feel passionately about the causes they champion?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

So Many Books, So Little Time...

April 25, 2010
I've got a new post up at the other site at Sisters Recommend. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Letter to My Seventeen Year Old Self

April 24, 2010
I saw this on Fidgeting Gidget's blog the other day, so I hope she doesn't mind if I borrow the idea.

I teach high school seniors, and we are in the spring of prom, finals, AP exams, and end-of-the-year senior celebrations. There are new relationships blossoming, and others crumbling under the weight of separate colleges on the horizon or the promise of new-found independence ahead. Some friends are pledging eternal bonds, while others are succumbing to the rumors and gossip that can be fuel to the fire in a high school social hierarchy. Some students are relishing the idea of moving away from home, away from parents, away from what they see as provincial life, while others are terrified of losing the safety net that's been under their feet for the past seventeen years. The drama can be all-consuming.

What I wouldn't give to be able to impart what I have learned about this era in life to the kids I teach--relax, and enjoy it all. The reality is, though, that it's a lesson we all have to figure out on our own--it's part of the process of growing up--knowing what to appreciate, and knowing what to let go of. If I had had someone to tell me these things when I was seventeen, in a way that I would really hear, these are some of the words of advice that would have been helpful (I'll pass, for now, on advice about hair and fashion sense, though that might also have been useful at the time):



Dear Donna,

You've almost made it--the light at the end of the tunnel is near. You've worked very hard for everything you've earned, and you have a right to enjoy it. But while you're counting down these last few weeks of your high school experience, there are a few things I'd like you to think about, to consider.

---Take pictures--lots of them. You think you'll be able to hold on to these days as the best of times, but you'll miss not having pictures of these days later in life. A picture really is worth a thousand words, and a thousand memories.

---Try not to take yourself so seriously. Your grades are important to you, and they should be. But later in life, no one's going to ask you about that time you were Salutatorian in high school. They will ask you what you were like, what you did for fun, who your friends were, what you thought about. You are more than your grades; make sure you have something to show for it.

---When you're thinking about college, don't sell yourself short. There's nothing wrong with Fresno State, but don't limit your options just because you think you have to. And, by the way, while you're there at college, open your eyes every once in awhile to some of the other things going on around campus. Experience it; live it. Don't let your college memories be just about books and classrooms.

---Get your driver's license now. Why wait until you're out of school? It might be fun to experience some of that freedom like so many of the rest of your friends.

---Your best friend? She's not going to be around to stay in touch into your twilight years. Make the most of the times you have together now. Write letters, take pictures. Call a little more often when you go off to college and she's still in high school. Spend time together and don't take that time for granted. Some people leave this earth much sooner than we are prepared for.

---And the boy who dumped you a couple of months before prom and broke your heart? The one you believed you'd marry some day? I know it seems like the end of the world. You feel the shattered pieces of you are too fragile to repair, too damaged to be fully whole again. I know it seems like you'll never survive. You will. Remember to breathe. Remember to take each day as it comes. Remember to not let yourself be defined by the loss. I know it's tough, but I promise it will get better. And eventually, it'll be great. And, by the way, the friend you actually do end up going with to the prom? Yeah, you and he will have a great time. The first boy, the heartbreaker, is not a bad guy, by the way--just a kid like you, trying to navigate his way through the same teen angst and insecurities you are. He turns out to be a pretty good guy in the end.

---Oh--and at the prom, when you double date with your sister, perhaps think about the fact that if both of the guys are wearing white tuxes (I'm not making any judgments here--that kind of thing is cool in the 80s), perhaps having dinner at an upscale Italian restaurant where red marinara sauce is the featured ingredient is not such a good idea. I'm just sayin'. Someone should have thought that one through a little better.

---You may not know it now, but your mom's world is crashing down around her right about now as well. She, like you, will eventually discover that life goes on, and can even get better. But right now? Cut her some slack. When she needs to take a little vacation from everything for a few days, let her. She'll come back, and life will go on.

---That little group of friends that was such a sense of comfort and safety and love last year is the real deal. Across years and miles, that bond is unbreakable. These are the people who will love you your whole life. This is the family you choose. They are the ones who will come back to you.

--Sometimes it seems like you are a bit of an outsider for sticking to your guns about what you believe in. That's okay. Those are the things that make you who you are, and there are people who respect that about you. You might not know it now, but you will someday.

--Summer is around the corner--that stepping stone between high school and college, between childhood and adulthood. It's gonna be a big one, so have the confidence to make the most of it. It's important to look back to see where you have come from, but don't forget to look forward, too.

It's often said that high school is the best time of your life. I can understand that. Rarely do you come back to that place where you feel everything so deeply, so purely, so extravagantly. Each high is unsurpassed, and every low seems like the end of the world. The reality is, though, that high school is a small world, and there's so much more out there beyond those walls. Before you know it, these days will be fading away in the rearview mirror. Sometimes you'll fall as you forge ahead, and sometimes you'll surprise yourself with all that you're capable of. If you make the most of it, if you reach out for all that is out there, the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Crying Over Spilled Milk

April 18, 2010
It happened in a split second, as accidents often do. Before we could even react, the freshly poured glass of cold milk tipped over and saturated the keyboard of Doug's beloved laptop computer. The ENTIRE GLASS of milk. We jumped up and grabbed the computer, attempting to drain the milk off the side, but almost immediately we smelled something akin to sizzling human hair--the frying of internal electronics, the smell of toasted circuitry headed off to the landfills.

I've got to admit, he handled it far better than I would have expected. In these days when our computers and cell phones and iPods are like extra appendages, seeing the destruction of one of these before our very eyes can be somewhat traumatic. Yes, of course he was incredibly frustrated and upset. Yes, he yelled a little at the YouTube guy whose video on how to recover a spilled-on laptop stressed the importance of acting within SECONDS after an accident. (He looked up the video on my computer. It took a long time to load the video, thus negating the whole 'acting within seconds' advice. Also, YouTube dude's first bit of advice? You're stupid if you allow any kind of liquid next to your laptop. Really? YES, we know that. We should have been more careful, more diligent. But we lapsed, okay? And a lecture right now isn't going to help any.) But me? I would have cried. I would have railed. I would have temporarily lost sight of the fact that in the grand scheme of things, it is, after all, just a THING. He, on the other hand, was surprisingly calm. After awhile of talking through how we were going to replace his computer, which surely was lost, he wondered aloud about the unlikelihood that his warranty would cover a laptop swimming in milk.

Not likely of course. Unless...why not check anyway. I jumped back on my laptop and checked into Best Buy's Black Tie Premium warranty. Scrolling down several pages, I saw that his coverage did, in fact, include Accidental Damage DUE TO SPILLS. Really? Could it possibly be that in the face of bad luck, some pre-planning and proactive measures might actually have worked in our favor for once? Despite skepticism from Doug, I couldn't see anything in the fine print that disqualified us, and he still even had his receipt that would seem to verify that our accident wouldn't result in a total loss. We resolved to head to Best Buy first thing the next morning.

Once we determined that we might find some good news about the computer, Doug started realizing the amount of sheer content he might lose if the computer was dead. He had actually just purchased a back-up external drive a couple of days before, but hadn't yet had a chance to transfer his files. There was so much in the way of ebooks, photos, and music on his computer that it was hard to even contemplate what he might have lost. I know how I would have felt if everything I had written and my pictures on my computer had been fried. He spent the evening adjusting to resigning himself to starting back at zero.

When we woke up in the morning, Doug was still pretty in control of his emotions, surprisingly. At Best Buy, we were helped by Dane, who assured us that, yes, we were covered by our warranty, and although the 2-3 week turn around was a bit longer than we were hoping for, we were relieved that there was no hassle with the return. On top of that, Dane came back with some pretty fantastic news: miraculously, although the computer itself wouldn't start up, the actual hard drive still had recoverable data. His music and pictures could still be saved! We brought in the external hard drive he had purchased for that purpose, and Dane transferred all his files before shipping off the actual computer for repair. He also told us that if the computer couldn't be fixed, Doug would be offered a comparable new computer in its stead.

It's going to be a long couple of weeks without the computer for Doug, but at the end of a couple of weeks, there'll still be a computer, without us having to empty out the bank account to replace it. And that makes BOTH of us very happy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bruin of the Month

April 16, 2010
Nicholas was nominated by his Academic Block teacher as Bruin of the Month, so on Wednesday I got to attend a luncheon honoring him and the other nominees. It was wonderful to listen to his teacher stand up in front of Nicholas' peers and the other teachers and sing his praises.

In this letter, which may be too small here to be read easily, Mrs. Clemings says, "His parents are his greatest source of inspiration. Here's why: 'When I have a problem with something, my parents always tell me I can do it, and they tell me I will find a way to figure it out,' Nick said, and he pointed out that it has been 'a pretty good year at ASI.'"

Definitely a proud moment for Mom. Nicholas has made the transition to junior high far more easily than I ever expected him to. He has not only transitioned well, but he has absolutely blossomed.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Because I've Got So Many Brain Cells To Kill

April 15, 2010

GLEE is back! I love that show, and I've been one of the many who has anxiously awaited its return. Some of the reasons I love GLEE? Lea Michelle has a fabulous voice, the character Brittany cracks me up ("Sometimes, I forget my middle name..."), Chris Colfer is from our home town, the dialogue is quick and witty, especially between Shu and Sue, and the muscial power numbers are fantastic. Add to that all the guest spots coming up (thank you, Neil Patrick Harris!) and themed shows--what more could you ask for? Oh--and how could I forget? My sister will be making an appearance in the show on one of the episodes this spring, which is very cool indeed.

Dancing With the Stars--Can anyone tell me how Kate Gosslin is still on DWTS? How does she still have fans? Are people just voting for her because she's got all those adorable kids? Voting for someone because they're good at procreating is incomprehensible. She either sleepwalks or stomps through her routine, and her facial expressions are zombie-like on the dance floor. Not appealing. Not at all. And her personality in the behind-the-scenes packages comes off as whiny and annoying--less than endearing. So why has she not been voted off yet??

Speaking of dancing, I'm not sure I'm a big fan of all the changes that are coming to So You Think You Can Dance. Old contestants are coming back to partner with new dancers, but they're cutting down the finalists to a Top Ten, instead of a Top Twenty. Have they exhausted the pool of good dancers? Probably not, but I guess the producers feel that re-introducing familiar faces will draw more viewers. I have to admit, though, there are a few of the dancers I'm excited to see returning--Pasha, Mark, Twitch, Anya, Allison, and Dominic. I think there are a few more they have yet to announce, too. Is it too much to ask for to have Nick or Blake back from Season One? I also think it's a pretty safe bet to assume that dancers like Travis and Benji will continue to be around in the role of choreographer, which is great. I can't wait to see Adam as judge again, and I'm hoping Wade will still be a part of the show. Mary I could do without.

I'm not going to admit to watching American Idol, because I've already given away that I watch too much T.V., but if I WERE going to admit it, I would have to note here how happy I was to see Nuttin' But Stringz putting on a performance the other night. Those boys are just fantastic, and to be visually represented by Travis Wall's amazing dance number was the perfect complement to their music.

While we're on the subject of television, let's talk about Modern Family. This is the best show to hit the airwaves in a long time. Witty dialogue, dead-on delivery, characters that are completely believable and relatable, and flat-out funny situations. This is a true ensemble cast--I can't pick out a member among them who is dead weight.

Between the shows, of course, are all the commercials. Obviously, in today's world of Tivo/DVRs, many of us fast-forward through all the commercials. Some of them still sneak into our consciousness, though, either because their arresting images make us rewind the DVR to see what we missed, or because (gasp!) we're watching a show in real time. Here are a few commercials that have caught my attention, for better or worse:

The Crazy Burger King: This guy has got to be the creepiest mascot in the history of mascots. They used to have him standing outside bedroom windows at night, staring ominously in. Then they had him standing over unsuspecting sleepers in their bedrooms. (If I woke up and saw that guy standing over my bed, I would NOT be thinking, "Hey, I'm kinda hungry for a burger." I'd grab the mace or the baseball bat by my bed and start swinging.) Now, instead of being a silent stalker, he's grabbing food out of people's hands and running through plate glass windows. Doesn't that make you hungry? No? Me neither.

Flo the Progressive Girl: Doesn't everybody love this girl? What an infectious personality! I wish she'd move next door to us. She seems like she'd make the perfect BFF. Wouldn't it be fun to go shopping with her? She'd convince everyone to let us name our own prices and we could carry around our own pricing guns. We tried to get Bree to dress up as Flo for Halloween last year, but she didn't go for it. I think it would have been an awesome costume.

I'm On a Horse Guy: Look at me. Now look at your man. Now BACK TO ME. Who cares what this guy is selling--you've just got to follow his commands, no? What is he selling, anyway? (According to the picture, I guess it's Old Spice.)

Stolen Butterfinger Commercial: Okay, so I'm no fan of violent means to an end, but that commercial is funny! I hate to say it serves him right, but...there's an app for that.
Oh, I'm sure there are lots more I could talk about, but my DVR is overflowing. I've got to go clear some space.

This Is Why We Married Each Other

April 15, 2010

When we celebrated our anniversary yesterday, these are the cards we gave each other (I'll spare you the smooshy insides of the cards):

Doug's card to me

My card to Doug
Storybook beginning, storybook ending. Great minds think alike!

I love that we've decided to celebrate our anniversaries by exchanging small traditional anniversary gifts.

Year One: Paper
I typed up and framed our wedding vows (which we wrote for each other).
Doug gave me some fancy writing papers and books.

Year Two: Cotton
I gave Doug a t-shirt from the Robert Cray concert we went to.
Doug gave me beautifully soft and luxurious cotton sheets for our bed.

Year Three: LeatherWe got creative with this one. We both had a bit of a tough time coming up with something small--we don't do over-the-top for our anniversary--so we chose our own interpretation. We went out a wonderful restaurant called Rio Grill, a restaurant that features Brazilian waiters who bring out a never-ending supply of a variety of delectable meats--turkey-wrapped bacon, tri-tip, lamb, top sirloin, pepper steak, garlic steak, and parmesan encrusted chicken, just to name a sampling. Each serving is a bite or two, but you can try as many of the dishes as you like, and as often as you like. The meat is complemented by a beautiful salad and hot side dish bar. This delicious food, these tasty bites, we decided, were the cousins of the bovine that would eventually become someone's leather belt. How's that for creative interpretation?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

To Doug, On Our Anniversary

April 14, 2010

Three years ago today, our family and friends were there to celebrate with us.

Three years ago today, I donned a princess dress to walk down the aisle.

Three years ago today, two worlds were joined.

Three years ago today, my children welcomed their step-dad with open arms.

Three years ago today, you took my hand in yours.

Three years ago today, you looked into my eyes.

Three years ago today, you promised your love to me always.

Three years ago today, our happily ever after began....

I love...
how you make me laugh each day
how we can talk for hours--about everything or nothing
how much you love our kids
how we've made our home together
how you make me a better me
how we cook together, watch TV together, hang out with friends together, snuzzle on the couch together, play together
how we hug, kiss, hold hands
how all the little things add up to the deepest love
how excited I am to spend the rest of my life with you

I love you--happy anniversary, babe!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Checkmate

April 13, 2010









It was fairly early on that I recognized the distinct possibility that my kids were going to be smarter than me. I'm not saying I'm dumb; I'm just saying that sometimes the things these kids come up with are pretty amazing.

Take Brianna, for example. When she was in second grade, she and her best friend Macie spent all their time planning out sleepovers and playdates on the weekends and after school. They were little twins, inseparable.

It was no surprise, then, when I picked Brianna up from school one day and she said, "Mom, can Macie and I have a sleepover this weekend?"

"Have you guys already talked to Macie's mom? That works with our schedule, but I don't know what kinds of things they have going on this weekend."

"Macie said her mom said it was okay, too."

I looked back at Bree in her car seat through the rearview mirror. "Okay, so what do you want to do? Do you guys want to go over to Macie's, or sleep over at our house?"

"Mom," she said, in a slightly patronizing tone, shaking her head at me, "we don't make those decisions." She pinched her forefinger and thumb together and mimicked picking something up and moving it over. "We are merely pawns in your game of chess. You and Cindi are the players who get to decide when and where we move on the board."

Seriously? I'm not even exaggerating here; those were her exact words. This was my seven-year-old. I had no idea that she even knew what the game of chess was, let alone that she had the ability to use it as a metaphor for parental power! I knew right then and there that it would only be a matter of time before I would be out-matched.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Maybe Pockets Would Have Been a Better Idea

April 12, 2010

When Danielle was about three, she was fascinated with rocks of all shapes and sizes, and all of them were her 'favorite'. She was a proud collector. Don't ask me why, although, I'll have to admit they were a cheaper toy than the cars and Barbies that the other two were always after. So although I thought it was kind of weird (Danielle has always marched to her own drummer), I didn't do too much to discourage her interest, and consequently there was a never-ending assortment of rocks in her bedroom, in the living room, in my car....you get the picture. Whenever she was napping, a few of them would disappear, and she was none the wiser, so we managed to keep her habit from taking over our house.

One weekend, we had been down to visit my sister in southern California. Just as we were loading up the van for the five hour trek back home, Danielle spied a few of her 'favorite' rocks on Lisa's driveway. "I want to take these home! They're my favorite rockies!" She began to scoop up several treasures in the up-turned end of her dress, like a farmer's wife gathering eggs.

"Let's just take a few," I said. I spied in her collection a fist-sized rock that would make a powerful pelting weapon, should Nicholas decide to get bored on the way home. I had a flash of me slumped unconscious over the steering wheel, careening off the road with my three babies strapped in their car seats holding on for dear life. "Let's maybe leave this one here for Aunt Lisa. How about that?"

"But that's my FAVORITE!"

"I know. But it's Aunt Lisa's favorite, too, and she'd be sad if we took it from her yard. Let's just take some of your other favorites, okay?" After a little cajoling, we narrowed her selections down to a few and settled in for the trip home. She begged to hold all of them in her lap, but I'm a safety girl, so I thought rocks might be safer on the floor of the van rather than in the hand of the toddler sitting in the car seat behind me.

"Can I hold this one? Just this one? It's my favorite." She held out a pebble the size of an M'nM. Hmmm. Even if she chucked this one right at the back of my head while I was driving, it wouldn't be too much of a distraction. Plus, it would appease her. Five hours in the car with a cranky toddler is the equivalent of 18 normal human hours.

"Yes. You can keep that one in your hands. Of course!" I am a reasonable woman, after all.

So we were off. Southern California traffic kind of stresses me out, so I was concentrating on making sure I wasn't getting rear-ended or missing freeway on-ramps. (This was in the days before my beloved GPS, Elizabeth. Yes, we named my GPS. She's a part of the family. Since we had no GPS, and my sense of direction is as highly developed as that of a two year old, if I got lost it was going to get ugly. Oh--did I mention that this was also before I had a cell phone? Taking wrong exits and ending up goodness-knows-where with all of my kids was one of my biggest fears.)

So--there I was, concentrating on, you know...DRIVING. And the kids were being quiet, and all was going well, until...

"AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! Mommy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I nearly had a heart attack. "What? What is it, Danielle? Bree, what's wrong with your sister?" I was at a particularly difficult interchange on the freeway--all kinds of cars trying to merge in and out, including me. Danielle's panicked scream did not help.

"Get it out, get it out!" she screamed, crying and frustrated.

"What? Get what out? What's wrong?" Bree couldn't see any blood or obvious signs of distress, other than the contorted face of her sister, who was continuing to scream and bellow.

"Danielle, listen to me. What IS WRONG?"

"Rocky! Rocky in my nose! Get it out! Favorite rocky in my nose!"

If she hadn't been so upset, and if I wasn't still actively trying to avoid being smashed into by the L.A. racecar drivers who were my companions on the road, I would have laughed hysterically. Maybe she got bored holding it. Maybe she wanted to see what it smelled like. Maybe she just wanted to see if it fit. Whatever the reason, my baby had stuck her favorite rocky right up her nose. And yes, it fit. It fit tightly. It fit so well that a tiny finger sent up after it to retrieve it had no room to wriggle it out. It only served to push it up further into the tiny nostril, where it got stuck. I knew that kid had been too quiet for too long.

She begged me to pull over so I could help her, a virtual impossibility in the current traffic. "Did you try to get it out with your finger?"

"Yes! Rocky out, please! Stop, Mommy!" she yelled frantically.

"I can't stop yet, Danielle. Did you try to push it down with your finger from the outside? Bree, can you reach across and help?" Man, it was noisy in that van with all the yelling and the panic and the frustration. Yes, she had pushed it from the outside. No, Bree couldn't reach her to help. And no, I still couldn't get over to pull off at the exit. Still much yelling, and Danielle kept sticking her finger up her nose to try to get rid of the rock, lodging it deeper and deeper. "Don't, Danielle! You're making it worse!" Try reasoning with a three year old sometime. I dare you.

"Rocky out, ROCKY OUT! Mommy, PLEASE!" She wasn't hurt, just really, really annoyed.

Finally, Nicholas, who had been unusually quiet, piped up from the back seat. "It's not that hard, Danielle. Just plug your other nostril and blow it out."

Good solution. "Hey--how did you know that?"

"That's how I usually do it." I didn't even have time to contemplate how often he stuck things up his nose in order to have a 'usual' way to address the problem.

"Okay, we'll try that. Danielle, push your finger over the other side of your nose and blow really hard." She closed up the other nostril and blew. Through her mouth--a big fat raspberry. "No, sweetie, blow through your nose." She tried again. Blew through her mouth again. I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw her looking at me like I was crazy. How could she blow through two plugged up notrils? "Blow like you're blowing your nose, okay?" Have you ever seen a three year old blow his or her nose? Ineffective. She stopped crying long enough to blow through her mouth one more time.

"Stop, Mommy! Rocky ouuuut!!" She was near hysteria, big tears rolling down her blotchy red cheeks, exercising every bit of her lung power.

Finally I was able to pull out of traffic and onto a ramp leading to the middle of nowhere. I drove up and down a few side streets until I could find a spot to park so I could get out of the van and help her. Meanwhile I was scanning the local street signs hoping to see something pointing me in the direction of a local hospital. If I couldn't get the rock out of her nose, there was no way we were driving four and a half more hours with her screaming like that.

I parked, jumped out of the van, and opened the side door to get to Danielle. Just as I was opening her door, I heard a thunderous sneeze. The door slid open to reveal a triumphant Danielle, slimy rock in her grubby little hand. "Look, Mommy--my favorite rocky! Rocky out." She smiled sweetly.

"Yeah, sometimes a sneeze works, too," chimed in Nicholas The Expert from the back seat.

After a sigh of relief and a few moments to get my heart rate back to normal, I got back in the van and headed for the on-ramp, favorite snot-covered rocky deposited discreetly by the side of road in the middle of nowhere.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

That's My Little Girl

April 11, 2010

Guess who got straight A's for the quarter (seventh quarter running, so far)?

Yup--little Miss Danielle!


And guess whose softball team is undefeated?

My Daniella Darlin'.


One more game to go this week to finish out the season.

Can you tell I'm a proud mama?

Happy Birthday to Justin!

April 11, 2010

On Thursday night we got to celebrate my nephew Justin's 28th birthday. Justin is Doug's sister's son, and someone who is a big part of our lives. As it turned out, Justin's pool team was scheduled to play his mom's team on his birthday, so they decided to make the pool match a family celebration, with pizza and cake, and lots of family and friends to root them on. (For the record, Justin's team won, which was fitting, after all, since it was his birthday!)


Justin and his mama, Lisa:


Justin getting ready to blow out the candles:


Justin and me:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Letter To My Niece

April 8, 2010

Yesterday I found out (via Facebook status update, no less!) that my oldest niece had gotten married. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked to find out this way, but it's not as bad as it seems. She and her finance Brandon have been planning a wedding for the upcoming Fall, and they are still planning to have that big formal celebration with family and friends at their sides. Legally, though, they tied the knot yesterday. I now have a new nephew and a married niece. Seriously--when did I become old enough to have a married niece??




In light of her new role as wife, I'd like to offer her some advice about what I've learned about marriage in the past several years--some of which I learned the hard way.

Dear Tiff,

As you move side by side through this life with Brandon, there are a few things that will help you enjoy the best of times and survive the worst of times:

--Remember that marriage is hard work. Like parenting, it's GOOD work, but make no mistake that it IS work. If you stop working at being a partner, you stop being a partner.

--Laugh with each other every single day. It will keep you young indefintely, and help you to always remember the smile that you love in each other today.

--You know that old saying that tells you never to go to bed angry? It's a great goal, but it might not happen. It's okay if you go to bed angry every once in awhile. Just don't throw things. Sometimes you need the space before you can have a calm conversation.

--If you fight, try lowering your voice rather than raising it. It encourages the other person to listen harder to what you have to say.

--When you disagree, make it more important to respect each other's perspective than it is to be RIGHT.

--Know that you are two different people, and you won't always agree on every issue. Sometimes, unless it's a deal-breaker issue, it's okay to agree to disagree.

--The best way to be a strong and loving partner to your husband is to be strong and true to yourself. You cannot be a contributing partner if you lose yourself, so make sure you each nurture your own interests and pursuits.

--Be each other's biggest cheerleaders. Always.

--Mind-reading is not part of marriage. When you have concerns, speak your mind, calmly and respectfully. It's not fair to assume that your partner knows when you are happy, angry, unsatisfied, joyful, content, or hurt. Let him know so that he can share in your joy, or support you in your pain. Even if--especially if--he is the cause of your pain at that moment.

--Don't belittle each other, even in jest, and especially not in front of other people. It gives others permission to think less of you than you deserve.

--Be an amazing addition in the lives of your step-children, but remember to respect the relationship they have with their own mother. Note that I did not say you have to respect her or her choices; sometimes this is not possible. However, respecting that the children have and desire a bond with their mother is a gift that you give to them. Doing your part to have a cordial relationship with all the people who touch their lives shows them by example how to be mature, respectful people. Someone else's poor behavior shouldn't be an excuse for you to stoop to their level--think of it as an opportunity to model taking the high road for your kids. Sometimes it will mean biting your tongue when it would be satisfying to say something hurtful. That's okay. Go ahead and bite your tongue. Kids are smart; they'll know when they're older who was there for them without you having to say it now.

--Strive to create the relationship you want your own children to seek out when they're older. Children learn what they see, what they live. When your daughter is old enough to start looking for her own partner in life, you should know that she has seen the very best kind of relationship, and that she need not settle for less than that.

--Give your children everything that they need, and a little of what they want. Let them learn the value of working for things.

--Take traditions from your own families and make them your own. Create new traditions together as well. Traditions speak to what you value, and bond a family in ways you might not even know.

--Let family, immediate family and extended family, be a priority in your life. Family is forever.

--Hold hands. Kiss often. Hug freely. Cuddle. Say "I love you," and mean it. Share the affection you have for one another and your children, so that they don't have to guess how you feel. Be the couple who, in old age, others see and say, "Aw...look how they still care about each other after all these years!"

Tiffany and Brandon, I wish you all the best. Congratulations on the path you have chosen to travel together. I wish you a long, happy, and beautiful journey!

Love,
Aunt Donna

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Has Sprung and the End is Near

April 7, 2010

Things I'm thankful for this week:

Feeling rested after a week off for spring break.

Only eight more weeks of school.

Doug back at work after a long lull in the construction business.

The prospect of FINALLY getting our pool fixed.

A new nephew and a great niece on the horizon. (Great niece--can that be right??)

Nicholas bringing home a note from the cluster office yesterday telling me he's being honored as Bruin of the Month at a luncheon next week.

Having Thin Mints in the freezer.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter 2010

April 5, 2010
The kids were at their dad's house for most of Sunday, but since the Easter Bunny made his appearance at Mom's house, the kids came home for a couple of hours to check out their baskets and do a little egg hunt in the front yard. Bree, unfortunately, worked almost all of Sunday, so she missed out on most of the festivities, but we still kept the littles out of her basket so that it would be intact when she picked it up. Easter was a pretty cold day, incidentally, so I'm glad the egg hunt didn't go into a round two or three or four, as often happens at our house.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bombproof Your Horse

April 4, 2010


You know how sometimes you find yourself just clicking on nonsense on the internet, wandering from one random link to the next, meandering through the maze of everything-under-the-sun on the web? Yeah, that's how I happened to find this: The World's 10 Oddest Book Titles. Mind you, I found more than one list of Oddest Books, but this one has some definite standouts. Some of them are almost intriguing enough to make me want to read them. I'll let you guess which ones...

1. Developments in Dairy Cow Breeding: New Opportunities to Widen the Use of Straw

2. Weeds in a Changing World

3. High Performance Stiffened Structures

4. Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service

5. Living With Crazy Buttocks

6. The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories

7. Bombproof Your Horse

8. People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It

9. The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification

10. If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs

Source: Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year

**Don't you find it interesting that two of the books on this list feature horses?

***This year's Diagram Prize went to Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes, which beat out the strong challenger Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Conscious Choice

April 2, 2010

Inspired by Miss Natalie....

I believe that everything happens for a reason. Each person who enters our lives, whether it be for a season or a lifetime, touches us in a unique way that imprints itself and changes part of who we are. These evolutions of self, these iterations of our beings, are all real, genuine facets of the person we are now and the one we will become.

I don't regret a single soul who has come into my life, even the ones who caused me pain, or the ones I have caused pain. Those people, those experiences, have made me who I am. By the same token, I won't ever say that I am completely fulfilled or fully realized, because that negates the potential for all the people I've yet to encounter who will, in ways large and small, touch my world and open my eyes to new facets of myself as I continue to grow in this life.


People in this world will hurt you, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes with purpose. Jump in with both feet anyway. Live fully, grow from what you've experienced. Look for the best in people, even when they don't see it in themselves. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Be nicer to people than they deserve. Be nicer to yourself than you sometimes deserve. Because ultimately, we're all just stumbling along, doing our best to survive the war. Sometimes we forget how we impact our fellow-travelers on the path. We don't know each others' stories even when we think we do; we can only ever know our own stories fully. So how to proceed? How to move forward rather than get mired in hurt? Acknowledge the strength gained and lessons learned, and chose not to carry the rest with you. It is, after all, a conscious choice--your choice. At the end of the road you'll find your load is light, and your heart full.