Friday, August 5, 2016

I'm still here, I promise!

No, really, I am.

While I've been less-than-faithful about keeping this blog updated, I've actually been writing more than I have in years. I am regularly contributing to two different websites. Both sites are very professionally done and have a growing readership and I'm still so excited I get to be a part of them.

I've been writing for the Moms Code Blog for about 6 months. I love the funny and relatable content. Here's my latest post:

More recently, I've been writing for an online magazine, Go Idaho!
They don't seem to mind that I don't actually live in Idaho, as long as I keep writing about the cool people and places in the state. New issues come out every Friday. I often have the girls with me when I visit a new place, so you might just see a picture or two of your favorite 7 and 2-year old.
Here are a few articles:
UI Arboretum (You can see the girls hunt for fairies.)
Q'emiln Park (Lana's pink hair makes a cameo.)

And if you really want to know what we've been up to, I guess I can tell you.
It's summer. For Lana that means camps, VBSs, working on her summer reading list, and generally having a grand time as all 7-year olds should. Nora's schedule has fewer camps, but no less fun. Dan and I still go to work everyday, make dinner every night, and definitely get the short end of the summer vacation stick. Sigh, thus is adulthood.

Here are some pictures of summer so far.
Lana soaring high!

Nora swinging (not too) high!

Nora poked her head out of the window and said, "I want coffee please!" Perhaps she's seen Mommy order a coffee or two. Perhaps.

Lana loved dancing with sparklers on the 4th of July.

Cougar Kids Camp is AWESOME!

Both girls got to take a lovely painting class.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

His Biggest Fans

I wonder, in the history of fathers and daughters have two little girls ever loved and adored their daddy as much as these two do? Do other daughters ask when their daddy will be home? Do other little faces light up with excitement when they hear the familiar sound of their dad pulling into the driveway? Probably. But that certainly doesn't diminish the joy that seeing these sweeties love on their dear daddy brings.

 In Lana and Nora's eyes, their daddy is really a superhero. He can drive anything, fix everything, lift the heaviest object, and still snuggle with them before bed. He truly is their favorite person in the whole wide world. Which makes sense, because he's my favorite person too.

Happy Father's Day, Dan!
From your three biggest fans.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Seven (7!)

This lovely lady turns seven years old today.

School just ended five days ago, but Lana already considers herself a full-fledged second grader. She's excited to try new things, fearless, and full of ideas for new stories, new inventions, and new ways to have fun.

Oh, and right now she has pink hair. The summer you turn seven is the perfect time to have pink hair.

She's artistic, compassionate, works hard, and is the most loyal friend you could ever wish for. She loves her little sister fiercely, is incredibly creative, and still likes to snuggle with me on the couch.

Lana has made a couple for goals for herself this summer, including learning how to ride a bike and learning how to tie her shoe laces. She'd also like to swim often, camp in a tent, and have a giant water fight. I'll have to see which of those requests can be granted.

She's as sweet as that s'more she's chomping on and brings me so much joy I can hardly contain myself.
Happy Birthday Dearest Lana! I hope 7 is just as awesome as you are!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Does it taste good?" Thoughts on family history, traditions, and food.

My Grandma Carol makes the most delicious canederli you'll ever eat in your whole life. They're dense and hearty and full of flavor. They're also full of history. Grandma learned to make them from her grandma, who very likely learned from her mother or grandmother.

(Side note: I've also seen it spelled kenederle, kanederly, and canederle. I have no idea what spelling is authentic and "correct." If anyone reading this is knowledgeable about foods from the Italian-Austrian border region, please fill me in.)

Canederli is a traditional dumpling that is made of dried bread, chopped meats, and an onion. The dumplings are held together with eggs and a bit of milk. The dumplings are cooked in simmering (not boiling) stock and served hot and still steaming. Canederli is very typical cucina povera fare. Cucina povera translates to "poor kitchen" and this is the type of food that was typical in the peasant diet. Cucina povera recipes call for staple ingredients, and those that could easily be found locally, or like this one, used bits and ends of leftovers to create something filling and delicious. Peasants weren't in the habit of throwing out still-usable food, and neither am I, so this recipe that has been passed down for generations has a special place in my heart.

First, we start with the bread.Traditionally, staling bread would have been torn apart into small pieces, here I have my two sweeties ripping into some day-old bread from my lab. Because the bread wasn't stale, the torn pieces were dried in the oven for a few minutes.

While the girls were being my helpers, I explained to Lana how through the generations, it's typically been the women who have cooked for their families, and therefore it's been the women who have passed on their family's food histories and traditions. I'm not sure she felt the true weight of what I was trying to teach her, instead asking, "Yeah, but Mom? Does it taste good?" She's clearly only focused on the end result and hundreds of years of tradition can be thrown out the window if the recipe in question doesn't taste good.

The dumpling balls came together nicely.

And the end result? It tastes good, Lana. So very good!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Whew! Where did January Go!

January was apparently 31 days long. Certainly didn't feel like it.

We had a cold and frosty spell. The sky was so clear and blue, making for crisp and beautiful and dangerously cold days.
 Then we actually got some snow, so Mr. Plow and his trusty helpers had to clear the driveway.

Nora decided her soup bowl was a great hat.

Dan and his hunting buddies had a great weekend together. The dogs had fun too.

Nora made me laugh by clomping around in my shoes.

Lana went to cheer camp and had a blast! Go Hounds!

And then she was recognized for her artwork at WSU.
January was indeed great. Let's see how February follows!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Two Years of Nora Jo!

This Girl.

Oh this Girl!

For the past two years your blue eyes have charmed me, your strong will has challenged me, and your snuggles have turned me into a pile of sentimental goo. You've stretched my patience with your throw-your-body-on-the-floor-kick-and-scream-and-punch temper tantrums, and calmed my frazzled nerves with a gentle hug and a sweet slobbery kiss.  

Everyday is an adventure with you, dear Nora. You keep me on my toes and give me some of the biggest rewards.
Two Christmases before you were born, we weren't yet pregnant with you. I had been hoping for months and months that you were on your way, and really trying to be patient. But that Christmas, as your older sister happily unwrapped presents and sang silly songs, I had the overwhelming feeling that someone was missing. You were missing. I thought it strange that I was longing for someone I didn't even know, but I was. I was missing you before I even knew you.
The next Christmas was a different story - you were mere hours from arrival, and I was so very excited to meet you. What a difference a year makes!

In two years, this girl has grown and changed and learned and is definitely her own person. She has strong opinions and an iron will, and the most beautiful blue eyes you'll ever see in your whole life.
Happy Birthday Nora Johanna! We can't wait to see what year three brings!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Golden Mermaids

In October we finished up our first season of parks and rec soccer. Lana and six kindergarten and first-grade boys dutifully practiced drills, ran laps, learned the rules of the game, and played games on 1/4-sized soccer fields.

It was pretty chaotic some days, but toward the end of the season, the kids were actually starting to pay attention and run plays and pass the ball. It was pretty neat to watch. Lana really enjoyed it and I'm glad we signed her up. I figured that participating in a team sport would be good for Lana, what I didn't figure on, were all the great stories we'd get out of one season of K-1 soccer. Here's my favorite:

Team Name. Really? The Golden Mermaids?
Yep, Lana's team was called the Golden Mermaids.
After one of the first practices, I heard the team gather in a circle and chant a cheer:
"Who wants to play some soccer?"
     "WE DO! WE DO!"
"Who wants to score some goals?"
     "WE DO! WE DO!"
"Who wants to have some fun?"
     "WE DO! WE DO!"

The kids cheered and practice was dismissed. I was extremely curious about the team's unusual name, so I asked Lana and we had the following exchange:
Me: You guys are the Golden Mermaids? That's a fun name.
Lana: Yeah, it was my favorite. All the boys wanted to be the Cougars. But I wanted to be the Golden Mermaids. So we're the Golden Mermaids.
(She didn't actually drop the mic here, but I feel like she would have, had she had a microphone and knew what a mic drop was.)

They kept the name, Golden Mermaids, all season. If any of the boys on the team didn't like it, I never heard a complaint, and Lana, of course, thought it was wonderful.

Thanks Parks and Rec Soccer, and thanks Golden Mermaids!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Eight years, what I would (and wouldn't) change

As of about 4:00 this afternoon, Dan and I have been married for eight years.

Eight Years.
Eight Years of goodnight kisses, morning coffee, and dirty dishes.
Eight Years of I Love Yous, inside jokes, and back rubs.
Eight Years.

In those eight years, some lessons have been learned, and some choices looked back on with bewilderment. We'd definitely do some things differently had we known better, and some things we'd never, ever change.

*Fiesta Ware.
I knew as soon as we hit Macy's with scanner-in-hand to make our wedding registry that these were MY DISHES. And eight years later, they're still exactly what I would pick. I love the durability, shape, and size, and the color is still perfect.

*Fancy Fruit Bowl.
At the same time we were registering for the above Fiesta Ware, we also scanned a beautiful, artistic silver-plated fruit bowl. It was amazing and ridiculously expensive, and someone bought it for us. However, it needs to be displayed as art, not used to hold a week's worth of bananas.

When I'm asked to give advice to newlyweds, I always tell them if they have TV, get a DVR. They think I'm joking and silently wait for the punchline, but I am absolutely serious. Dan and I have never once had a fight about what to watch. An argument about Downton Abbey vs. Sunday Night Football has never occurred in our home. I can record all the cheesy Hallmark movies I want, and he can record his myriad of Discovery Channel shows.

These two. Oh these two.
If we had to go back and pick out our kids, these are who we'd choose.
Every. Single. Time.
Oh these two.

*Real Christmas Trees.
After years of insisting that only fresh-cut, real Christmas trees would ever be in our house, we broke down and bought a gorgeous fake tree. Now we're kicking ourselves for not doing it sooner. It's perfectly shaped, drops no needles, requires no watering, and is certainly less of a fire hazard than the real thing. We can switch the lighting scheme based on our whims, and we know it will fit every year.

*Inside Jokes.
I love that Dan and I have certain phrases, words, or even sounds that bring on laughter. Of course they make no sense to anyone else, but when timed properly, can bring one or both of us to our knees laughing. These inside jokes are used to diffuse potentially awkward situations, or just to embarrass the other in the aisle of the grocery store.

*I Do.
Just two words, but they've certainly made all the difference. Saying yes to Dan, yes to marriage, and yes to this life we've built together are all decisions I'd absolutely make again.

Happy Anniversary Dan! I love you!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

To Lana on her first day of First Grade

Dearest Lana Jean,

Well, guess what, Sweet Girl? You made it! You got through summer and school days are here again. I know you think nothing could possibly beat the wonderful time you had in kindergarten last year, but I promise you, first grade will be it's very own special kind of adventure. You will come to love your new teacher, make new friends, gain new responsibilities, and take on new challenges.

As excited as you are, the questions you've been asking make me know you're a bit nervous too. Yes, there will be more reading. There will ALWAYS be more reading. Yes there will be more math. There will ALWAYS be more math. This year's reading and math will be tougher than last year's, and just like you worked and practiced in kindergarten, you will work and practice in first grade. There will ALWAYS be more work and more practice.

I want so many things for you dear Lana. I want you to have nice friends to sit with at lunch. I want to never forget to send you with a lunch. I want you to take risks and try new things. I want you to love your teacher and everything you're learning. I want you to keep trying on the days you think you don't love it anymore. I want you to be willing to try, be willing to take a chance, and be okay with failing if it doesn't work out. I want you to think critically and creatively, act kindly and respectfully, and love purely and fiercely. In short, I want you to keep on doing what you've always been doing. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and I'm so stinkin' proud of you my heart could explode.

You have so much to share with those in your class. They need your sweet encouragement and contagious enthusiasm. They need to hear your belly laughs on the playground. They need to see you reaching out to the shy girl. And they need to teach and share with you too. (Maybe you could learn from one of them how to tie your shoes, because Daddy and I completely dropped the ball on that little life lesson.) Please, continue to recognize the special and unique in others, just like we want them to see the same in you.

This morning, you were dressed and ready by 6:15. I love that you spent so much time planning your perfect first day outfit and accessories. You dutifully packed your lunch and paper work-filled folder in your Minnie Mouse backpack. Prayers were prayed and pictures were taken. Last year's newly-created tradition of First Day of School Donuts was (of course) followed and then Baby Sister and I gave you hugs and kisses and sent you on your way. I was a bit surprised when, at the playground gate, your ran back to me, insisting on one more kiss and one more hug. Oh Dear Girl, I will ALWAYS give you one more kiss and hug.

Have a great day, and don't forget to be awesome!

Love you,

Monday, July 20, 2015

I hope you have one just like you......

I hope you have one just like you.

I remember hearing that saying, those words, as a teenager. My mom and I were arguing about something, and neither one of us would budge. (Likely it wasn't much of an argument. My mother had stated a law. I didn't like it, whining ensued.) I thought I was right and she was wrong. She was loving me in a way I didn't understand at the time, likely protecting me from my own bad judgement. But I saw none of that. My strong will versus her compassion, authority and experience. I'm sure raising me (and in my defense, any of my siblings) wasn't easy. And I'm sure those words, I hope you have one just like you, were meant to serve as a warning, or perhaps to remind herself that the day would come when her feisty, strong-willed daughter would deal with something oh-so-very-similar.

And now here I am. Two dear and precious daughters later, I have thought (although yet to say out loud) to both of them. I hope you have one just like you. 

In the frustrating, you-are-on-my-last-nerve times, I picture my daughters grown with their own brand of strong-willed babies, struggling just as I am. I see a tow-head asking question after question about EVERY. SINGLE. THING. And accepting no easy answers. I see dark eyebrows furrowed and little feet kicking the floor in the middle of another temper-tantrum. I see spilled milk due to dancing at the table (after being told not to) and the arched back of a toddler, refusing to be strapped in her car seat. I hear whining from the backseat from the girl who insists a milkshake is certainly her divine right, and I hear the screams and NONONONO from the tantruming toddler who has just been told she can't play with the contents of the knife drawer.  Oh yes, I think. I hope you have one just like you.

Then after we all break to our separate corners and calm down, we can stand each other again. Apologies can be made. Naps can be taken. Snacks can be eaten. Talks can happen in regular voices. Hugs can be given. I remember that not only do I love my daughters, I actually really like them too.

The big girl and I can talk about her myriad of important questions and I can figure out what it is she's really asking. (Yes, if our house caught fire, Mommy and Daddy would make sure you and Nora were safe before we rescued the TV. No, our feelings don't actually look like cute little Pixar characters. Yes, Daniel in the lions den and Moses on the mountain were both neat guys, but no, they weren't BFFs.) I can marvel at her creativity and intellect and see glimpses of the awesome young lady she's growing up to be. I can admire her curiosity and desire to always want to know more and learn more. I can see the care and compassion she has for animals, strangers, family members, and inanimate objects. Oh yes, I think. I hope you have one just like you

After a nap and a snack, the toddler and I can regroup and be friends again. I am no longer the big, bad Mommy and she'll offer me her tightest embrace and wettest kiss. She'll bring me a peace offering of every single toy from the giant toy box and we'll play together on the floor. She'll laugh and I'll put the sparkly pink tiara on her head and she'll spin in circles. I can sit, amazed at the growth and development that has gone on right in front of my eyes for the last eighteen months. I can be awe-struck by how truly beautiful this child is. Then, with her thumb in her mouth, she'll curl up in my lap and put her head on my chest. Her little body will contort around my soft and squishy bits; my imperfections her comfort, and we will both be in our Happy Place. Oh yes, I think. I hope you have one just like you.

Of course we could do with less whining and fit-throwing. But if that is the price for heart-to-heart talks and sweet snuggles, then I'll continue to pay. And I'm sure I'll continue to think (and probably one day say) that same time-tested phrase. Because truly dear ones, I hope you have one just like you.