Thursday, June 30, 2011

My neighbor

Monday nights mean swim meets around here.  Home meets are at the pool just up the street from my house, literally, we walk up the street.  I stay to watch M-Lyons swim her 25 free style because it is such a challenge for her and about half way across the pool she gets discouraged, but she rocks her back stroke so I leave after the first event and let the babysitter get her a hamburger and a desert and wait for her next event.  If you've never had a swimmer - summer meets are some 4 hours long there are 5 events and in each event we start with the  youngest group boys and then girls and then progress. They are so long that I refuse to get my kids there for warm ups because then someone would have to be at the pool for 6 hours.  Usually Tim is there timing, and I send someone along with M-Lyons so she isn't wandering around all night, and I get Bitsy out of there.  Way too long for a 4 yr old to sit on the side lines, and way too hot!
I was walking home from the pool and my neighbor was walking his little dog and so we walked down the street together and it always starts with him talking about serving in the Korean War because I have Korean kids and then he'll tell other stories.  Last night he told me a funny story about meeting his wife.
He was a police officer after the Korean War.  He worked not too far from here in Newport News and he road a motorcycle and he got off his motorcycle one night to go into a restaurant and he tripped and fell.  IN the car next to him was a fellow and three young ladies and they were all laughing.  So he went inside this place and when he came back out they were still all laughing.  So he said to one of the girls something along the lines of what is so funny and she answered that she thought it was funny to see a police officer fall on his face.  So he told her there was a penalty that went with that and she had to tell him her phone number.  She said no.  But he recognized the fellow driving the car, they'd gone to high school together and he said to the guy, who is this girl?
Turns out it was his sister.
So he told the guy, you give me your phone number.
He rang her up later and asked her out.
She said no.
He went over anyway.  He sat on her couch and said he was going to sit there on the couch until she agreed to go out with him.  Well she decided to go and they dated 8 months and at Christmas
"I gave her one of those electric razors in a clam shell"
(I'm thinking you gave her a razor for Christmas?  really?  that would not go over well with me.  Please, if you know Tim, tell him no friggin razors.)
"And my sister who had been engaged 3 times had an extra ring or two so I asked for one."
(seriously.  Grandma's old ring absolutely, your sister's cast off?  hmm...)
"And put it in the shell, in the razor.  So I gave it to her and she said, "Is this all I'm going to get for Christmas?" and I said well, why don't you open the razor and see what it looks like.  So she did and the ring fell out and she said, OH!  And I said, when do you want to get married?  and she said "next week!" and I said, no, I'm not going to marry you until I'm 23."
Well his birthday was April 2 or 3 so they got married on April 5th.
As a police officer he gave lectures at the schools like they still do.  So he invited the kids to his wedding.  They all came.  200 plus kids!
I wish I could tell the story the way he told it.  He was so funny in his delivery.
Well we talked about some people he'd hired and he talked about how he liked to set his mind to something and get it done (like chosing his bride right?) how he'd drive around on that police motorcycle and decide he'd have a big fancy house on day and belong to a country club one day and he decided he was going to be a millionaire by the time he was forty.  He smiles smugly, "I was 41.  I missed it."
Then he said to me, "what is your birthday?"
I told him it was in December.  He asked what day so I told him and he said, so you are a Capricorn.  Yes I am.  "Well that tells me a lot about you."  Well sure, I do have my fair share of typical Capricorn traits.  And he listed off a bunch - actually it was interesting because he didn't pick the normal ones, he picked other ones but they all fit.  And then he said, "it takes a lot to keep up with you" which was very sweet.  It might if I ever got going, but I get all my energy together and then I get out of bed and it starts, the breakfasts, the dishes, the laundry, the toy picking up, the asking the 4 yr old to stop stealing everybody's stuff... and I'm wiped out and I've gotten nothing done.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Play time with Nana

On Sunday my mother came over for dinner.  I thought I was thawing out steak so I made a fabulous steak marinade but it turned out to be chicken - so we had marinated chicken and zuchini fried up in olive oil and sweet potato pie that was 1/2 pie and 1/2 not (baked up in a graham cracker crust and mixed with eggs and sugar but not all the rest of it) and cucumbers - everybody got plenty of veggies (and sugar)...
and then my mother took the four oldest and headed down into the basement to play "Clue" while I cleaned up.  
On Monday she called me.
"I have to tell you something funny"
"Tiger said, 'G*d damnit' while we were playing last night.  And I told him, 'never say that. never ever.  You can say shit on a brick and your mother will wash out your mouth with soap but never ever say G*d damnit."
"Well, I told him you'd wash out his mouth with soap."
Mother, washing out a child's mouth with soap is considered child abuse.  As is just about every other consequence I ever received or was threatened with as a child.  I can't believe you said shit on a brick to my kids!
Nothing like raising young men and ladies in Virginia with a NJ Yankee for a grandmother...

Cousins, Weddings, Jewelry, Photography

Alicia on Jack and Meghan's wedding photos:

Can't think of a better compliment than having one of my photographs turn up on the Kendra Scott Jewelry home page! Kendra Scott is a celeb fav when it comes to jewelry design. Meghan's jewelry, featured on the site's main page was designed for her wedding which I photographed in early June. I love the photo, love the jewelry and love the bride! Thanks for sharing this link Shelby Mulhare!
Colorful cuff bracelets, cocktail rings, bib necklaces, chandelier earrings in vogue styles that are perfect for the trendsetter to the modern bride. Be the designer at Kendra Scott’s online interactive Color Bar where you can have fun customizing own unique color mix.

for more info on Alicia's photography check out Yellow Rose Photography
or find her on Facebook at: Yellow Rose Photography

July 2011:

Hey friends!!! I have an announcement! In the next few days Yellow Rose Photography will officially become Alicia Renee Photography. Same business, just a different name. My new website is The new FB page will also be up soon...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Skiing in the summer

In the northern hemisphere it is summer.  Yes. But to a die hard alpine skier, what is that?  Keystone is open till July 4th, Mt Rainier is open as well, and there is racing camp at Mt. Hood.

ski nut in his shop, setting bindings and waxing skis (and is that a dataxstream shirt he is wearing? of course it is)

this is the ceiling of the shop

and so is this.

there are GS skis and Slalom skis and there are the skis that are waiting to be handed on because people keep growing but there are still more little people in line so...
and I don't race, so I only own one pair of skis.  And they are even 5 or 6 years old... so I'm feeling conservative *grin*

tell me again, why do I live in a swamp on the coast instead of near mountains?


so it is interesting - english phrases, where they come from and what they mean.

Jack of all trades... I always think of it as someone who can do many things and yet there is the second half "master of none" which I guess I don't associate with the phrase but most people do...

Wikipedia's page

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jack & Meghan

my sister-in-law flew to Virginia a few weeks ago to photograph this beautiful wedding.
Meghan my cousin, and Jack were married on June 4th.
My sister in law owns Yellow Rose Photography

I love looking at the pictures, Meghan is beautiful and they are both so very happy.  Wishing them all the best in their life together.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bossypants & Bean Dip

Last Night was book club night.  Yay!  Crisse hosted - I love Crisse's it is artsy and minimalist and well designed and still comfy and zen- she made a salad, and people brought black bean salad, salmon, chicken, zucchini cake, trader joe's brownies and I made a fat free bean dip.
As I regularly keep track of recipes I've been pleased with by the blog labels (really I do) I have to include the bean dip:

This simple, fat-free appetizer works well with fat free sour cream, too. Serve with baked chips or cut veggies.
  1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  1/2 cup salsa
  1/2 cup plain fat free Greek-style yogurt (such as Oikos or Fage)
  1/4 tsp cumin
  2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Place black beans and salsa in a blender and puree until smooth. Spoon dip into a bowl. Stir in yogurt, cumin and cilantro.
Makes 2 cups.
Per Serving (1/4 cup): Calories 48, Calories from Fat 0, Cholesterol 0, Sodium 190mg, Carbohydrate 9g, Fiber 2.6g, Protein 3.1g

I thinks its YUMMY and it works well with celery too
So, Bossypants.
 Everybody loved it but me and Jen.  Jen hasn't read it yet and even though I hadn't finished it (I made it to page 190-something though) I wasn't into it, so I gave my copy to Jen to take to the beach next week.  I am not sure if it is my sense of humor, my lack of pop culture knowledge/awareness or just the fact that I'm exhausted and cranky.  I really wanted to like it, I like what little I know of Tina Fey.  I thought she was very funny in the latest movie I saw with her, "Datenight"
but somehow I didn't get into the book. On the other hand, like I said, I'm tired and cranky. BUT it did launch a most interesting discussion over dinner - because Crisse pointed out that she had read that Tina Fey has been criticized roundly by feminists for not doing enough for women. Which totally blows my mind. I mean really - she's a comedian. What do they want her to do? Make women funny? But really - she wrote about going from women being props in comedy to be comedians in their own right and she got to be part of that transition in some places and that is rather cool - but also she writes about doing a show, staying up all night with the writers and her young child (daughter? am I remembering this correctly?) waking up in the morning and everybody was still there working... how on earth would she (Tina) have time for "doing more for women" if that is her life? Ummmm hello??? I admit - that bit really did make me feel a little complacent and lazy...
And then M said she thought we were dating ourselves by talking about feminism which I thought was fascinating.  Because that was a discussion that happened a bit when I was at Mount Holyoke in the early 1990s.  That while there are still gender gaps and glass ceilings there are significantly more choices available - and yet - we keep spinning in the hamster wheel because if a woman chooses to be a mother it still generally falls to her to figure out the child care and child rearing... and then someone said, there are lots of women who don't have choices that work because they have to, and not to be obnoxious but I quibble with that being "feminist."  I am fairly certain my husband feels that he must work to support his family and that he doesn't have a choice.  Now to be fair there are choices with in that - he could choose to work fewer hours and have less material comforts, but as far as working... that was a given from the moment he was born male.
M did go on to say though, and it is true, that at that table of 6 women there were 6 intelligent, well educated women who had not come close to realizing their full career potential.  And why?  Nearly all of them because of children (but not all.  I was a non starter even before I became a mother.)
So book club was wonderful -
and I do think, when I'm less tired, perhaps I'll give Bossypants another go.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sand Soccer revisited

today in my email was a note from Mr. Cooper who helped organize and coach our boys for the sand soccer tournament a few weeks ago. He attached a scan of a letter from Governor McDonnell, which is kinda cool. Kinda silly, but kinda cool too:

previous Sand Soccer post here

First Landing Park, VA Beach

First Landing State Park, web link here
Tuesday the kids and I drove to Virginia Beach
There is a state park there with camp sites, some trails, and the pines always transport me out of the muggy swamp that is Virginia to the beaches of the North East of my childhood.  

land crab?  We were not at all near water and this little crab scurried across the path.  I was holding the dog so K took the iPhone and tried to get pictures, I have several photos of blurry pine needles... and this one

perfect day

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Watercolors on the porch

Debbiedoo's is having a blog party - it looks like a lot of fun.  Mostly it is wonderful wonderful summer projects... but at my house summer painting means painting on the porch.

That is M-Lyons there in the pink.  She declared last summer or so that she was going to be an artist.  I have felt guilty a lot lately that I don't spend enough time supporting that.  At this age K wanted to be an artist too but I let house work and other nonsense take over and she has moved on to more lucrative ideas  (which is not a bad thing but...)

I was looking at a book about Laurel Burch and so the first piece M-Lyons did was inspired by her work.

(Laurel Burch, from her website.)

more by M-Lyons

Blue Heron fishing by Dragon
Dragon always tries to say he has no talent.  That his art isn't any good.  Ummm hello?  

Mine.  I have this idea in my head - a story with two princesses.  But I need to update my paint selection, and probably clean off a space (omg. I just said clean) so that I can actually paint regularly.  We'll see how it progresses.

In the meantime head over to Debbie's fun blog.  There is lots of inspiration going on...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bitsy's Hair Shop Dance

As Bitsy was HORRID last night at the swim meet I feel absolutely no guilt about sharing this *wicked smile*
I was doing M-Lyon's hair and Bitsy was playing with our neighbor Savanna's hair and I asked her if she was playing Bitsy's Hair Shop and she started this silly bit "mommy go to the store and get Fancy Nancy books and ponytails and... shake my booty." We all started to laugh and Tiger ran to find his father's iPhone and so she did it again and he recorded it.

As the blog needs a bit of levity after the last few days, here it is...

**HORRID. Bitsy has been acting like she's two lately. It is easy to get away with. She is the size of a two year old and can charm nearly any one. She will be 5 years old this fall. After I fed her a fruit salad we were in line buying K a pasta salad between swimming events and Bitsy stole grapes off of someone's plate. Visualize this, I am in line, and Bitsy is with me and the person in front of me has a fruit salad and Bitsy is taking grapes off her plate while I am saying something to K. And the woman in line notices and so I notice her notice... and why does my child feel the need to steal food? Who knows... but it was the final straw in a very long day with Bitsy...

Monday, June 20, 2011


this one is personal, for those that know me -
My husband's grandfather passed away June 13th.  He had been sick with alzheimer's for over 10 years and it was difficult to watch this man whittle away to a the shell that he was at the end.  A beautiful shell to be sure, he was always handsome and he was always charming, but a shell of the man that he was.  He spent the last two years of his life in bed.
I am by some people's standards a cold person.  I don't think I'm cold, in fact I think I'm quite the opposite, but it was hard for me to keep my mouth shut and stay out of the way.  Over the last two years I often wondered if the family was making decisions that were best for Grandpa, or if they were decisions that were based on fear.  Fear of death, fear of loss, fear of sadness.  What do you do when the person next to you is sad?  Most Americans I know rush to "make it better."  Few will just sit there and be sad with you.
It was hard for me to be understanding when a man who had been in bed for two years, with a catheter because he'd lost the function of urinating on his own, had to be woken up to be fed, why didn't they just let him sleep?  And why, when they couldn't wake him up to feed him did they freak out and call an ambulance instead of just letting him sleep?  People used to die in their sleep of old age.  We don't let them do that anymore.  How is that okay?  How is that not abusing medicine?
It was very hard to keep quiet.  It was harder still to be supportive of those people who were making these decisions.  And support they did demand.
And so he did die, eventually, and it was hard.  He labored to breath for days.  And everyday my husband went over to be with his grandfather and I took the children when I could.  Why take the kids?  Because death is a part of life.  Nobody lives forever.  And because I think we over insulate ourselves and our children.  And well the oldest 3 remember him well and even number 4 remembers him before he was bedridden.
Number 4 - M-Lyons who is 6 years old - was never afraid of the disease and would climb up into his lap and kiss him every time she entered the house.  And then when he was in bed they would all go in and say hello and talk to him and M-Lyons would get us to help her reach over the bed so she could give him a kiss.  And so when we went in to say our goodbyes that last week, M-Lyons ran around outside picking flowers and laid them in her great grandfather's hands as he lay sleeping.
On Monday after we received the phone call that he had died, I went over to sit with the family for a little bit.  Of course I had small people with me and Bitsy is as self centered as any 4 yr old so that was a bit tricky, though I think for my mother-in-law it was a welcome diversion.  I sat with Grandma for a little bit.  I am not afraid of sadness.  I'm also her granddaughter by marriage so I don't have the same associations that I would have if I'd grown up with her.  So I could pull her head into a hug and hold her while she cried.  And that is what I did.  I am not one to shush a crying person or say to them "they are in a better place."  Yes, I do believe the dead go onto other adventures, but it still is difficult for those left behind.  We still miss them.  And grief and sadness are part of missing them, to not grieve is not healthy.
(and when I say that I could do that because I'm not her actual granddaughter, I mean, I don't know if I could hold my grandfather or my grandmother like that - they are the grown ups and I am the child - but I could do it for Ad because she and I don't have that relationship that goes back to childhood.)
And then Thursday - traveling to NJ.
Grandpa's parents had bought burial plots for their children and spouses so they would all be together.  So we traveled to NJ to bury Grandpa.
The family used Moore's Funeral Home in Wayne NJ.  And I'm gong to link to them here, because I was completely impressed by them.  They treated the family with dignity and respect like every funeral home I've ever come into contact with but they also did so with a warmth that was so lovely.  Warmth is the only word I can think of to describe it.  They truly wanted to facilitate celebrating the person that was David Campbell French and to help the family honor his memory and celebrate him.
And they were so family friendly.  We took four children to the wake and the funeral.  At the wake, the children came in, to an open casket.  We gently took them through the motions of kneeling by the casket and either saying a prayer, or saying good bye or just sort of looking- and then it was brought to our attention that there was a little drawer in the casket, open, and waiting to receive notes or trinkets.  Someone provided the children with papers and they wrote notes and poems and cards to say goodbye.  And placed them in the drawer, and it was such a lovely way to say goodbye and so helpful for both the children and any adult who needed a tactile way to work through their grief.  My husband and sister in law had worked together to offer  tribute in pictures and they put a copy of the disk in the drawer to go with David.
After a bit the kids had done their duty there at the wake but my husband and I were not done sitting with family and Moore's offered a small children's waiting area.  With a table and chairs and books and a few toys.  And so I let they head over there with the admonition to be respectful that there people here who were sad so they shouldn't get too loud - but again, what a relief for all of us.  My husband was able to be with family and do what he needed to do to say goodbye to the man who he loved so dearly and the children were able to say their goodbyes and then go be quiet someplace.
At the funeral service I needed to be two people.  My husband got up to speak, and started to cry.  I almost got up to go finish reading what he had written but he managed to pull through.  Seeing their father crying got all the children crying, so I was holding children and crying myself and trying to be strong for my husband all at once.  And they had a bagpiper to accompany the body into and out of church and then to the grave which was lovely as David was always so very proud that he was Scottish. He was born in Scotland and came to the United States as a small boy.  But he was also a Campbell so even then at the end when they called for a bagpiper they asked my mother in law from which clan was the deceased and she said Campbell and they said, "oh those Campbell's!  But I'm sure your father was a fine man."
And there goes the timer - it is time to get the kids off to swim practice.  Tim is back at work, the world keeps turning...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

David French

On Monday my husband's grandfather died. David French was a wonderful man and I owe him a great deal as he strongly influenced the man that is my husband.

We've spent the last several days saying good bye and waiting with Grandma and now it is time for arrangements and travel to New Jersey. Today my husband and his sister completed this tribute they will be sharing as we celebrate his life and lay his earthly body to rest on Friday.

Monday, June 13, 2011

W00T! Sand Soccer!

Tiger is my soccer player.  He loves the game.  When asked not too long ago: if he could be famous for anything what would it be for he answered: "soccer"  So when some of the dads from Tiger's soccer team decided to form a team to enter a weekend long sand soccer tournament at VA Beach Tiger wanted to play.  I wasn't sure I could commit to getting him there, and as it turns out my husband had clients/company at our house over the weekend, but several parents offered to drive Tiger to the tournament so it worked out.

They won every game they played.

these blue ribbons are perfect for Blue Monday with Smiling Sally

Smiling Sally

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pink Saturday - Post Card Collage #2

So last week I challenged myself to a small, post card sized collage for Pink Saturdays.  We had company come into town Friday and spent the day at Water Country, and on Saturday I got Tiger off to VA BEach for a Sand Soccer Tournament, the daddy's took the older kids golfing, and the mommies had two four year olds, a six year old, and a 21 month old to keep them busy.  After lunch we took the crowd to the pool and then to the Marina for dinner... and then later I "disappeared" with a glass of wine for 30 or 40 minutes to play with paper and make my pink collage.

I was going after "rose"

Friday, June 10, 2011

Soccer, new season new uniforms but we can donate the old ones...

My son plays for VA Legacy, a travel soccer team.  We had registration this week, registration for next year's teams.  At registration a group was accepting donations of old soccer cleats and soccer uniforms:

at the beginning of the week we received the following appeal:
For this set of donations, we are partnering with the Trusted Angels Foundation, 
which will deliver the gear to children in Liberia. Last week I had lunch with the 
doctor (John Hunt) who started Trusted Angels. For a time, he was the only 
pediatrician in the country of 3.5 million people. If you don't know much about 
Liberia, it is in a post-conflict period after a prolonged civil war, and the people 
there have known a lot of misery (for the Hollywood version, see the Nicolas Cage 
movie 'Lord of War'). Nevertheless, the people are crazy about soccer, and the 
country produced a World Player of the Year in George Weah (also a former 
candidate for the presidency of Liberia). Dr. Hunt assured me that the kids in 
Liberia would greatly appreciate any donations - in particular, cleats are highly 
Today we received this thanks:
Dear Virginia Legacy families,

Thank you so much for the generous donations of uniforms, cleats, and other soccer gear. We filled up the car, including 82 official uniform jerseys and almost as many cleats, and should be able to legitimately outfit six teams in Liberia with Legacy gear. Thanks also to the Legacy staff and coaches for their support. 
It is cool because even though I encouraged Tiger to keep his black jersey as it was the favorite, and he is keeping his shorts to practice in, his out grown cleats and his other jersey can help outfit a team.  Think about it, one jersey randomly sent is one jersey, but a team sending 82 uniforms can offer a community uniforms for their team(s)

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I find that I am currently very interested in Medusa - the Gorgon - of ancient legend.
She keeps coming up in random places,
like playing with play-doh

I am not sure where I am going with this, or why...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

holy cow! twenty one years in elementary school - as the mom!

some people are so incredibly amazing (and yes. I'm going to buy the book)

this is from the Rainbow Kids website:

Still Here After All These Years!
Family adopts 5 children after raising 4
June 01,2011 / Melissa Fay Greene
Yep, we're still here after all these years!
No Biking In the HouseThis is my twenty-first year in elementary school. For twenty-one consecutive years I have carried in cup-cakes, enclosed checks, and provided emergency phone numbers. I have staple-gunned and I have hot-glued. I have rented band instruments. I have given standing ovations, volunteered at the school library, and stood in the cafeteria line as the servers dropped balls of Thanksgiving-flavored foods from ice-scream scoops onto my wet tray. My husband and I have clapped with pride at a child's graduation in May and returned in August with a different child for Registration Day in the "cafetorium." Where else can you find a deal like a PTA membership? For five dollars, you're in, and urged to accept the presidency! Where else are adults so thrilled to see your children? "Did you have a great summer!?" cry the beaming teachers, and your child shyly leans into your side and confesses that yes, it was a great one.
The friends with whom we raised our oldest three (now in their twenties) are enjoying their empty nest years. They have warm memories of long-ago kindergarteners dressed as puppies, swinging their arms and dancing on stage in winter musicals. They recall the night the fourth-grade band attacked "Au Clair de La Lune" with shiny cheap instruments for the first time, honking and bleating like a pen of panicked farm animals. They remember the gift-wrap sale and the Fun Run.  For them, as for most of our generation (we're in our fifties), it happened a long time ago.
My husband Don Samuel, a hefty, grey-bearded criminal defense attorney, and I have lingered here longer than most. We pushed beyond our biologically-reproductive years into adoption. To our children by birth: Molly, Seth, Lee, and Lily (born in 1981, ‘84, ‘88, ‘92), we added five school-age children, four from Ethiopia and one from Bulgaria: Fisseha, Daniel, Jesse, Helen, and Yosef (born in ‘94, ‘94, ‘95, ‘96, ‘97). While the parents our age graduated, Donny and I, like the big dim-witted students of yore, hunched over small desks at the rear of the classroom, have been held back, forced to repeat grades with people a lot younger.
There is a gravitational pull around a grade school in autumn. Donny and I have not yet broken free of the annual rotation. Like outmoded satellites we still circle, rattling in close again each rusty fall. For us, wrapping paper is available right now; the Fun Run is coming up; and last night I fitted Yosef in my satin quilted vest and my widest belt to make him into a courtier for the school musical, Cinderella.
All this lends a knowledgeable perspective. For example: I can state with some confidence that the school musicals repeat once every five years. Because this is our fourth Cinderella. And only one of our nine children ever got a speaking part.
At the start of the adoptions, when the presence of Bulgarian Romani and Ethiopian children still felt a little surprising, Donny referred to their end of the upstairs hall as "the international concourse." If one child was complaining and another one piped up, Donny said: "Oh, great. Another country heard from." In July 2007, the eleven of us flew on a plane together for the first time (because two Ethiopian brothers, Daniel and Yosef, 13 and 10, had joined the family two weeks earlier). At the Delta check-in desk, eight minutes into our first public appearance, a stranger approached and said, "Excuse me? Miss? I think one of your students dropped a mitten."
Mitten? I thought. In July in Atlanta? Later it hit me: One of your students.In-flight, a middle-aged African-American businessman leaned across the aisle to ask our son Lee, "What’s the name of your organization?"
Lee said, "Um . . . the Greene-Samuel family?"
Disembarking from the plane, the businessman tapped Donny on the shoulder and said, "I’d like to shake your hand."
At baggage claim in Santa Fe, a frail elderly white couple from our flight made their way towards me on walkers. "May we ask you a question?" said the old woman in a quavering voice. "Are you a scout leader? Because we were always very involved in scouting."                                 
This book is the story of the creation of a family. It began in the usual way: a woman, a man, some babies. But then it took off in a modern direction, roping in a few older children from far-distant countries. In retrospect I see that Donny and I have steered by the light of what brings us joy, what makes us laugh, and what feels right and true. Those instincts have served us well. The journey has not always been easy. Sometimes, I wondered if we'd taken on too much weight, if we were at risk of capsizing.
In shaky times, I've thought, Did we do a wrong thing?  Did we take on too many?  Are we at risk of capsizing? What do the experts say? But we and the children all seem to be thriving. Each arrival a surprise and a miracle; each child, whether home-made or foreign-born, a revelation, a treasure. It seems we were right to trust love, laughter, and happiness.
The older four joined the family at conception and birth, while the younger five arrived at older ages and not in birth-order: Jesse at four-and-a-half in 1999; Helen (a year younger than Jesse) at five-and-a-half in 2002; Fisseha (a year older than Jesse) at age ten in 2004; Daniel and Yosef at thirteen and ten (a year older and two years younger than Jesse) in 2007. This book is about the joy of living with these children: learning to ride the wake of wrong turns, near-collisions, stalls, rivalries, and self-doubts without despairing or ever giving up on a child; and about the thrill of hanging on for the ride when first one, then another, then another happens upon the spark of something great that may give shape and meaning to the rest of his or her life. With us, the bonds of love and commitment coexist with the bonds of DNA; and middle-aged parents and young adult children step foot into a backyard Neverland of ongoing childhood.
Everyone wants a happy family, but some parents fear they don't have the knack for it. We tilt anxiously above our children, examining them from every angle, consulting experts, and reading how-to books about increasing their popularity and enhancing their odds of getting into the expensive university of their choice. We're afraid to steer by the light of what makes us laugh, of what makes us feel good. Yet most of today's adults grew up happily enough while our parents were otherwise engaged. Concerned with work and mortgages, our mothers and fathers didn't know the word "parenting," didn't give a damn if we had "self-esteem," and didn't regard us, their offspring, as their most important achievements. They mainly wanted a little peace and quiet.
Like many modern parents, I have invested a lot of energy in non-emergencies over the years; I tried to fix problems when it was a child's right to try to set things straight by himself or herself. I dashed onto the field when I should have stood on the sidelines. I over-empathized with transient disappointments when I should have invoked the big picture, the bright future. I validated when I should have pooh-poohed. For example, when Seth was seven, he woke me one night by suddenly appearing at my bedside, wide-eyed and pale.
"What if I’m buried alive?" he whispered.
I should have asked: "What on earth were you reading last night?"
I should have said: "Don’t be ridiculous. Go back to bed"
I might have said: "If you ever wake me up again with anything this moronic, you’re grounded."
Instead, ever the empathetic mother, I propped myself on one elbow and, thinking of Edgar Allen Poe, nodded and sagely replied, "That’s a very important consideration. Some very famous writers have wrestled with that issue."
When I looked back at Seth by the light of the digital numbers on my clock radio, the look on his face was now that of the character in the Eduard Munch painting, "The Scream." Many nights over the next few weeks he startled me awake at a god-awful hour to elaborate upon his concerns, while I groggily invented, and swore to install, safeguards, including an in-casket walkie-talkie, an underground TV camera, an all-glass casket, and an "Eject!" button. Donny was out of town for a trial and Seth was wearing me out. As I heard him creep down the hall towards me one night, I sensed that my empathy had ended. He leaned over in the dark, to make sure I was awake, and then whispered: "What if the dirt they shovel onto the coffin clogs up the walkie-talkie?"
That was it. No more attachment-parenting nurturing mothering murmurs were coming from THIS mother, not at this hour of the night. It was time to react more like my father.
"FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!" I shrieked, "Can’t you ever have a HAPPY thought?!!"
Startled, my skinny curly-topped little boy turned and trotted away confusedly.
He returned a few minutes later with a trembling smile.
"WHAT?" I snarled.
"I had a happy thought," he timidly offered.
"Why would anyone want to bury me alive? I'm just a little kid."
And that was the end of it.
Like many modern parents, I've helped too much with homework. I've engaged with science fair projects as if they were assigned to me. "Oh no, another science fair project??" I groan when the teacher’s memo comes home, glancing at my calendar to see when I'll have time to get it done.
Lee, in sixth grade, brought home an assignment so far over his head that I sent him to bed and took over. The teacher, wanting to offer accelerated work to top students, had gotten hold of somebody's old college exam. Essays by two French 18th century Enlightenment philosophers were presented, excerpted from Montesquieu's "Persian Letters" and Voltaire's "Letters on England." The questions included:
"Summarize Montesquieu’s critique of Louis XIV."
"Which aspects of the English political regime appealed to Voltaire?"
"Discuss Voltaire’s characterization of the mercantile character of English society vs. the feudal character of French society."
I sat up well into the night, working on my answers and fielding calls from Lee's friends. "Hi, Josh," I said, picking up the phone around 11:30. "No, Lee’s asleep. But what did you get for, 'How does Montesquieu show that self-interest can overawe justice in human affairs?'"
A few days later, Lee came running down the hill from school waving his graded homework. "Mom!" he yelled from the stop sign across the street. "You got a 74!"
And I have worried too much, sometimes about the right things and sometimes about stupid things. When Seth was 16, there was a party, a bad party, the kind of party you remember fondly from your youth and begin to dread the moment your first baby is born: parents out of town, under-age drinking, pot-smoking, music blasting, drunk boys hooting at passing cars, and neighbors calling the police. The scandal swept the 10th grade.
Seth missed it. He had been upstairs in his room that Saturday night, reading science fiction and playing trombone. As the news of the party tore through the high school community, I, like all the tenth-grade parents, felt very concerned. I wanted to get to the bottom of it. I didn't want to get to the bottom of why these young people were already experimenting with substance abuse. I wanted to get to the bottom of why, while young men of his generation courted arrest, my child was upstairs reading. "So, did you hear the police came to Scott's party Saturday night?" I asked.
"Yeah, well, that was obvious. I knew that would happen. That's why I didn't go" he said. "You were invited?" I asked happily, my chief concern laid to rest.
No Biking in the HouseDonny and I feel most alive, most thickly in the cumbersome richness of life, with children underfoot.The things we like to do, we would just as soon do with children. Is travel really worth undertaking if it involves fewer than two taxis to the airport, three airport luggage carts with children riding and waving on top of them, a rental van and a hall's length of motel rooms? Can sleep be as sweet as when it is wrested from those who would interrupt it? I love the Atlanta Symphony, but it's a sixth-grade band that moves me to tears when the children play the C-scale together for the first time.
Of course we have careers, friends, functions to attend, holiday parties to dress up for. But, by the mid-1980s, we noticed that our favorite part of social events was dressing up for them while small children bounded in and out of the room in excitement. I remembered, from childhood, the sense of anticipation kindled by shower steam wafting into the parents' bedroom at night, mixing with the golden scent of aftershave and the astringent odor of black shoe polish, while a mother sits on the bed in satin under-things pulling on sheer stockings, and the father requires a small girl's help to insert his gold cufflinks. Compared to this build-up, this breathless anticipation of the exclusive and bejeweled affair the children think we're going to, the actual party feels a little anticlimactic. When we reach our destination, at the summit of the long brick walkway across an expensively-maintained green lawn, and the massive door opens to us, and we're swept into the champagne-colored candle-lit rooms, no one gasps: "You both look so beautiful!" We circulate, chuckle with friends, nibble canap├ęs, remember a funny thing that happened years ago, and return home before the children are all asleep so we can be greeted like global celebrities. The children peek down from the top of the stairs. "Are they really home?? Is it really them?" and then slide and leap into our arms while I remove from my purse the chocolate meringue puffs and key-lime shortbread cookies I've wrapped in cocktail napkins and smuggled out of the party for them.
Donny and I loved these times and wanted them to continue. When the clock started to run down on the home team, we brought in ringers. We figured out how to stay in the game.
Love this preview? Read the full, hilarious account of Melissa and Donny's experience raising 9 children by ordering today. No Biking in the House Without a Helmet

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mom vs Mom

I was away a few weekends ago visiting our friends - and the wife said.  "You know, there are two camps. The working mommies and the stay at home mommies.  I didn't realize it until I went back to work full time."


Like the mother in Trader Joe's last week with her 3 kids, 4 kids? I don't remember.  A little one and two other ones and some older woman asking about the kids, and did she stay home?  And then the older woman going on about her daughter who works full time and has twins and how the older woman is tired just thinking about it - and the mommy in Trader Joe's snaps back "oh, all the working mothers I know would agree that staying home is much more work." as she reaches for the cucumbers she adds, "and I home school."  I almost laughed out loud.  Instead I ducked my head to hide my smirk and quickly walked away.

I remember getting rather passionate about that some 9 or 10 years ago.  I was an at home mommy, and very happy to be at home.  And I was frustrated by what I perceived as a "looking down the nose" from the working mommy camp.  I think some of that was just wrapping my head around the new identity - I was a smart girl - I had gone to a competitive college initially with the intent to study veterinary medicine.  And without having had a secondary degree, or really a career, I was at home with kids and there was something nagging in the back of my brain that I was supposed to have done something a little more exciting or "newsworthy" than just be mommy...
But I also noticed that the at home mommy culture looked down their noses at the working moms.  And I really was bothered by everybody's need to prove that they were working harder than everybody else, that they were doing the best for their family and everybody else wasn't.
And then among the stay at home moms there were the breast feeding moms vs. the bottle feeding moms, the yes to sugar vs. the no to sugar, the only sesame street vs. the whatever tv,  and it goes on and on.

And here is my 2 cents.

Feminism as I understand is it the right to choose to do what works best for you and your family.  There are some stay at home moms who are miserable and would better serve themselves and their families by working, and there are some working moms who maybe should stay home.  And there are those who say "they have to work" and I think really?  My mom stayed home and we were broke - broke but happy.  Which my mom will point out is easy for me to say because I have the luxury of staying home without giving up anything to do so.

But really - would it kill us as moms to stop competing with each other so much?  Would it kill us to all agree that all of us are doing the best that we can and that often the grass looks greener but whichever situation you find yourself in, it has its challenges?

Monday, June 6, 2011

door mice and fish

K had a Latin event Sunday - a banquet I guess.  And we are supposed to bring a dish to share.  Apparently traditional Latin dishes are not quite the same as Italian American dishes.  Not so much pizza & spaghetti - in fact in one of the lessons the kids transcribe from Latin to English there is a description of buying door mice at the market.  So when I asked K what sort of foods she could think of that were "Latin" she answered, "door mice and fish."  Uh-huh.

So, we improvised:

this is from: Easy Cupcakes
where you can find this:
White mouse cupcakes
Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

mouse cupcake
White mouse cupcake
Here’s a cute little white mouse cupcake for any party, Christmas time, etc. Make a bunch of mice in different colors! The fuzzy look comes from “pulling” the frosting up with the edge of a butter knife or spatula. Also, get your melts from the supermarket bulk bin to save money while buying only what you need.
What You Need: 1 cupcake; white frosting; 2 white chocolate “melts”; 2 mini chocolate chips; pink jelly bean or other pink candy; black string licorice.
How to Make It: Frost cupcake with a thick layer of white icing (canned is fine). Use a butter knife or spatula edge and press lightly onto frosting and then pull up to create little peaks for a fuzzy appearance. Add wafer candies for ears as well as candy eyes and nose. Stick one end of licorice into back of mouse for tail.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pink Saturday - Post Card Collage #1

So.  I've been on myself for not creating.  And I recently remembered a challenge my Aunt Chris used to partake in.  One of her art groups she was in did a "Post Card" challenge where they each created something on a postcard and mailed it to another person in the group.

So I have issued myself a Pink Post Card challenge and I shall endeavor to produce a postcard a week for Pink Saturday.  (bearing in mind that school ends in 2 weeks and preschool is already out... so it may be a bit touch and go)

I used to keep a large sheet of paper up on the back of my dorm room door - and I would randomly collage on it.  It was a good mind exercise when I was either working on an assignment that I didn't like or I was diligently trying to finish a piece that was taking too long.  A bit of tearing and pasting and throwing patterns and color around and voila! I was back and ready to finish whatever task was driving me nuts.

And so - despite the fact that I have a bizzillion paintings and various projects floating around in my brain - I am hoping that these little collage challenges will help me find that spark again despite my inability to be organized enough to make real art time right now.

Bitsy worked too:

catching up-

wow its always a whirl wind around here lately.

Last weekend Tiger had a soccer tournament - 2 games Saturday. 1 game Sunday.  Luckily - in town.  After the first game on Saturday the husband drove the three girls to Wintergreen Resort to stay with friends from the ski team.  After the game Sunday the boys and I joined them.  Monday we went for a hike to a waterfall and spent the afternoon at the lake in the mountains and we were back home about 9 PM Monday night - full week ahead-

Tiger got his soccer team phone call.  He sort of made the A-Team for next year but he'll be playing with both the A team and the B team.  I am not sure how this will work out and I am nervous about the schedule - but he's excited to be playing soccer.  K also tried out and she hasn't received a phone call yet.  Disappointing.

Swim Team practice started Tuesday after school.  I luck out.  The pool is down the street.  Everybody rides their bikes and I only have to attend M-Lyons practices.  Unfortunately the "baby pool" area is closed due to a manufacturer's recall on a product.  UGH.  But one of the other mother's offered to keep an eye on M-Lyons so Bitsy wasn't sweltering on the side lines in 90+ degree weather and insane humidity levels.  (it isn't the heat - I grew up in Nevada.  Its the dang humidity.  Humans were not meant to live in this swamp!)

Wednesday night my brother came into town from Texas.  He and his gang are staying at my mom's which is not far from my house.  They came over last night for dinner.  I have two nephews and a darling niece. House full of BUSY-ness.  (4 boys ages 10 to 7 in full glory - plus everybody else) so we let the chaos run until an hour after bed time and then reminded everybody that my kids had school today.

This morning we were running late so we dropped K off at school at 8 and then headed to the elementary school.  It's field day.  So extra clothes, towels and sun screen required.  I hope they have fun.

Tiger's been having a problem on the bus for the last few weeks.  So I've been hauling them back and forth.  It throws my day off a bit - but I hated the bus as a kid so I get it.

After the school run I grabbed some scraps of papers (I adore paper and have piles of scraps) and sat outside on the porch to play.  It's relatively cool this morning and the humidity seems low.  So cup of coffee, my girl Bitsy, scissors & glue and we had some fun.  I used to keep a large piece of paper on the wall when I was in school for random collage work.  I never took them seriously or anything - they are just quick and easy and kept my head in the game when I was working on a long project.  So I thought I'd challenge myself a bit this summer to do some postcard sized ones and see what happens.

It is still cool out so we went for a walk.  Well I walked.  Bitsy took the bike.  It has its trainers on it and she pedaled for a mile and a half!  Way to go Bitsy!  And the dog was soooo happy to get out without over heating.