Missing It

She drives herself most places now—work, school, the ranch. Where she doesn't drive herself, her boyfriend typically takes her. And her choices, for the most part, are good ones. They are all age-appropriate choices. They are far less concerning than many of the choices I made at her age, if we're comparing choices.

He gets to and from most places on his own, too. No desire to drive, still. He's proficient in the arts of public transportation and begging a ride. I still can't figure out how he knows what he knows. He's simultaneously smarter than me and dumber than me; I think it's one of the things he knows, but he doesn't let on.

They are finished baking, but still on the cooling racks. I didn't get them to this point on my own. I really thought He'd be here for this (not God the other Him). For them. For me. Forever.

Would've been our twentieth wedding anniversary at the end of this month (plus another 5 ½ years together beforehand). That either means I'm old, we met young, or He's been gone a long time. Maybe all of that.

She Is Sixteen

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It feels cliché to say I can’t believe you’re turning sixteen, but I can’t. And for all kinds of reasons—because you’ve already seen more of life than many kids your age. You’ve learned that life is not meant to be measured by fairness, and you’ve learned it head-on. Still, you rise. 

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You make better choices at sixteen than many adults I know and certainly better than the ones I made; it’s exactly what Daddy and I hoped for you, but the actions are all your doing. We wanted our kids to know how to make decisions for themselves, because we knew we wouldn’t always be there.

From the time you could dress yourself, you knew what you wanted, and that hasn’t changed. You have strong convictions about how you think things should be, and how and whom you want to be in the world. You may not always think of yourself as tenacious, but I challenge you to look at all you’ve seen, done, and accomplished—take a deep breath, my child, you are resilient. 

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If I could give you anything for your birthday, you know I’d give you more time with Daddy in a heartbeat. I miss seeing the light in your eyes that was automatically there when you were with him. All other gifts feel like poor substitutes. They just do.

They have an easiness together that everybody sees.

I am forever grateful that you have a passion that gives you such peace and joy, because your smiles feed my soul. Your ponies are your happy place, and I imagine they’ll always be part of your life. 

Riding Deuce

Happy 16th Birthday, Peanut. You are my favorite daughter, and I am so incredibly proud you are my child. 

Seventeen

By the time the story hits my fingers it’s a roaring waterfall of words I cannot stop. This one is about you, looking up at him. Just before he died. It was his last race before the cancer returned. You look so small. Him, so big.

You fill doorways now. Your voice fills rooms. Your laughter fills the hearts of those who miss him and love you. Taller than even your grandfather, you are no longer a little boy looking up.

You turn seventeen this month. I am asked what you’d like for gifts, and I fight giving the answer that’s always in my heart—your father. Gift cards and games seem poor substitutes, yet that’s all you say you want. Or a sword. You’re practical like that.

I read an article yesterday about a neuroscientist’s research that showed autistics don’t lack empathy; in fact they feel more than others. They experience the world as a sensorial overload, taking in too much too soon. I cannot think of a better way to describe your sensitivity to the emotions (and information) around you, the people you love, and how you care for others. The way you just know things without ever letting on; it’s always left me dumbfounded.

You notice things so many people miss. I adore your texts telling me what you see on your daily commute. I hope I still get those no matter how old we get nor how far apart we live from one another.

Happy Birthday, bud. You truly are a gift and an amazing kid. I know teenagers get a bad rap from a lot of people, but I really do like mine. You make my world and the world in general a better place.

Love,

Mom

Your Tree

You were born during El Niño, rodeo weekend and even though it was June, it was rainy and cold. The gladiolus in our front flower beds were taller than I'd ever seen—I swear some were four-feet high. To celebrate your birth, Grandma asked if she could buy us a tree to plant in our yard. We picked out the biggest fruitless plum the nursery had, mostly in hopes it would survive. As new homeowners, we weren't sure how green our thumbs would be yet. Every year, I would prune your tree and watch it grow. I would also watch you grow. Eventually, your tree and you reached a size where you could climb your tree. This became one of your favorite past times. When we moved, I think leaving your tree was difficult. Today, I went back to prune your tree. Just like you, it has continued to grow and change into an amazing part of the universe. And I sent you a picture, but I thought we should share it with the world because it's kind of impressive to see how much a tree can grow in fifteen years.

Middish Week Review: I'm Making It A Thing

POLITICS

Rape. Yeah. The news is chock full of rape, but guess what, so is the world. Get your heads out of the sand if you think this is just about Akin, folks. And keep in mind that since this is my personal blog, I'm expressing my personal opinions. If you don't know by now that I have some opinions, we probably haven't met. Here are some of the articles that really spoke to me over the past couple of days:

An Appeal to Rep. Todd Akin by Maureen Herman, former bassist of Babes in Toyland, founder Project Noise, and a mother of a daughter born as a result of rape. 

Using the Right Words About Rape by Kelly Wickman, an educator, mother of four, and all-around amazing person who has very important things to say on this subject, with perspective that speaks to me and might speak to you.

The Official Guide to Legitimate Rape by Katie J. M. Baker, Editor at Jezebel. This article is one of the most comprehensive I read on the concept of what is defined as rape and how legislators continue to undermine the good that would come from a zero-tolerance approach to rape by playing the game of trying to define "types of rape as if they were different flavors in an ice cream shop."

DEATH

If you're more comfortable with your head in the sand, we can talk about death. Phyllis Diller died this week. I loved her. I spent part of today listening to this tribute on NPR, which included an interview she did with Terry Gross in 1986. It was every bit of the awesome I expected, with a slice of gold on top. 

SCHOOL

We're also sending a big kid off to high school this week and a little one off to kindergarten. A time for transitions. And questions about why school districts can't seem to get their calendars to actually reflect meaningful information like start and end times to the day or truly import to the apps we all use with some sort of ease-of-use. Or maybe updated websites with links that aren't broken, less paper—hell no paper—especially when you're asking us to donate paper, which will presumably be used to produce copies of things to be sent home, just as easily made available online or also available online already—redundancy you are my nemesis. Silly things, I suppose, but they irk me every year and seem to be an issue across the country, so I don't feel alone. And who are these parents who can take off from work for hours, day after day, to attend registrations, open houses during the workday, and orientations, for varying grade-levels all held on different days and times, AFTER we've registered online multiple times in the spring and again in the fall? What an assumption of privilege, I think, to require parents to do these things, and make them feel less-than if they don't. It is wholly unnecessary that inefficiency or poor planning should result in longer hours for staff, volunteers, and parents. It doesn't show that anybody cares more or is more important. It is a waste of time and resources. It doesn't build community. It builds burnout and resentment.

And now, I'll be stepping off my little soapbox so I can get my house in order for back-to-school and daily life.

Enjoy the rest of your week, folks.

Drink something cool and fruity if you're able.

 

My Son Is Quite Able: Riding BART

When my son was in fifth grade he was asked to leave his private school because of his disabilities. In the middle of a school day. With no warning. With no plan. Some of you will find this deplorable. Some of you will think they had a right to ask him to leave because they were a private school.

After an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether or not the school violated my son's civil rights under Title III of the American's with Disabilities Act, the case was closed without a finding.

What I do know is that today, on his first day at a school he selected, my fifteen-year-old son, is a better person for having been asked to leave that school.

Why?

That day was a turning point for our family. From the day the school sent my son home he started homeschooling.

We didn't know if it would be a temporary situation or not, but we knew it was the right thing to do for him at that time. It turned out to be the best thing we could have done to lessen the stress he was experiencing there—stress we didn't fully appreciate until he was outside the situation.

Toward the end of the lengthy and often ugly legal process with the school, before the ruling came from the DOJ, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Since we were homeschooling, my son had the gift of spending my husband's final year of life at home with him. We had no way of knowing that was how life was going to play out, but it worked out that way, and it was a blessing. I am thankful every day that somebody perceived my son's disabilities the way they did or he would have missed that time with his father. And I am so glad his father got that time to see his son happy.

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Making the choice to defend our son's rights was a process that brought us closer together as a family. We regularly checked in with each other and with our son to make sure we wanted to continue the legal process. As soon as one person wanted to stop, we agreed we were done. Fortunately, the DOJ took over the case, and it was out of our hands. We never intended to pursue a civil case. Our goal was to make things right for other children for the future. We didn't see a civil case achieving that goal. Our daughter was an amazing witness when the DOJ came to our home to interview us. She was fiercely protective of the truth and her brother, which hasn't always been the case in their relationship—having a sibling with special needs can be stressful sometimes, but she wanted to make sure it was clear to the attorney just what had and had not happened since she was actually present in his classroom.

And today, on his first day of school, my son rode BART by himself. He also packed his own lunch, got himself dressed in the clothes that he washed, and ready for school on time. He attended his brand new school for seven and a half hours. He was calm. He was confident. He had a great day at school, and he can't wait to go back tomorrow.

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If you didn't know he had Tourette's, you'd be hard-pressed to tell. In fact, even the people who live with him have trouble spotting his very rare tics. As for the Asperger's, well, I just think of that as who he is. I don't even know that I'd be able to separate him from the things that would define his position on the spectrum, nor would I want to. After fifteen years of him being him, I am so accustomed to who he is and how he works, that I rather like his wiring. Our world needs him. Somebody else's oversight of his awesomeness on that day in October of his tenth year was so very clearly a lucky day for the rest of us. They missed out on having the opportunity to watch him grow and learn these past five years. We didn't.

Guess what, world: he is able! Very, very able. Don't let that slip past you this time or y'all might miss out on another five years of watching him in action.

 

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I love you, Bug. I wish Daddy were here to see this. He'd be so incredibly proud of you.

Teetering Or Tottering

It's getting closer. The day. I don't like that there's A Day. The Day. I don't like that there's a day that Bob died.

I don't like that it looms large on the horizon. I don't like that it carries a weight or significance greater than other days, and I can't decide if I have the power to undo that or if I should.

This will be the second trip around the sun without him. It was a different trip this time around. It was different for me. It was different for the kids. Some parts were easier. Some parts were deeper, heavier, and not what I expected. Every part was new and will always be new, I guess. It will be new because I have never done this before. I have never been a widow in Year 2, going on Year 3. Shit, I hope it will always be new. I don't want to be a young widow again. Once has been plenty. I'll settle for one version of that t-shirt.

So, I'm still trying to figure out how I want this Day to be for me and for the kids. I know I can't define it for them. I don't want to do that for them. I want it to be what they need it to be. I also want it to be what I need it to be. Hopefully, those two things will mesh together into something similar. Hopefully, I can be present enough for them and not overwhelmed by my own grief. Thankfully, I have a partner who loves us all in a way that gives us room to grieve when we need to and how we need to. We are truly blessed. He is incredibly selfless when it comes to his family, and we are his family.

Until the 18th, I'll be riding the roller coaster of not knowing, which is okay. I'm going to let my intuition guide me on this one. I have definitely learned that grieving isn't about doing what somebody else thinks we're supposed to do. And it's not about stages. If anything, it's fluid. So, I'll ride the wave and see where I end up. Maybe it will be a peaceful day; maybe I'll end up fetal on the shower floor. Whatever happens, it will be how it's supposed to be, and that's okay.

(Not OSHA Approved) #casabesttogether

Life: It's not OSHA approved.

 

Do We Expect Or Allow Too Little?

The Wall Street Journal published a provocative piece this week on the state of middle-class children in the U.S. It was prompted by research done by UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families. I urge you to read the article. Shirley Wang does an excellent job of summarizing the research and bringing up some key concerns about what the research might indicate for our children.

For me personally, with kids who had an academic start in Montessori and then moved to unschooling, I have serious concerns about the dumbing-down of our children. As parents, we are have been conditioned to be so quick to do for our children that I wonder if we are raising them to become incapable of doing for themselves.

Is it unreasonable to teach a preschooler how to make toast? Or fold laundry? Maria Montessori didn't think so. Neither do I.

Is there any reason why a child can't use a proper glass or silverware when eating rather than cartoonish plastic dishes? Our children do, and they manage just fine. In fact, we've found glass drinkware is more stable than the plastic cups. They're also learning to clear their dishes, load the dishwasher, and put away their clean clothes. The older kids learned to do their own laundry around the second grade. They each got a laundry basket and instructions on how to do laundry. Why? It's a life skill. Just like learning to read, do math, and all of those other important subjects we focus on in school, why do we then assume our children are incapable of such basic life skills in the home?

As they've gotten older, I've involved them in other life skills as they've become physically and mentally capable. I want children who can make decisions and understand natural consequences long before they leave my home. If I helicopter overhead, that will never happen.

When my daughter decided to start public school for the first time in her life this year, I supported her decision. I do not ask her to do her homework. Ever. She does it because she choses to. She gets it done. She gets an A average in school. Why? Because she wants to get those grades. She earns them, not me. All of the pride associated with that achievement is hers to own. I can be proud because she is a responsible person who makes good choices, and I feel like I helped foster that within her.

There's not only a sense of pride when children are responsible for taking care of their family and their environment, but also a realization that things don't just magically happen. Clean clothes don't magically appear (so, you might not want to toss every little thing into the hamper). Food tastes better when you participate in cooking it. It takes a family—all of us, working together, to make a household run well. We are each important members who have something special to offer, each with unique strengths, complementary skills, and working together, we can be successful.

Lorax—Snorlax

We took the kids to see the Lorax in 3-D today. We were seriously disappointed. It felt far longer than an hour and twenty-five minutes. They lost the Seuss of it all, if that makes sense. And there was very little offered to keep the adults or, hell, anyone engaged after the first twenty minutes.

I am the choir this story preaches to, and I felt preached to in a college-lecture-hall kind of way. Had I not ingested half of an over-sized, -priced iced-tea, I surely would have nodded off. That said, the kids in tow (preschool-elementary age) enjoyed it, but I should qualify this is only the third movie they've seen in a theater—the novelty of moviegoing still holds their attention almost as much as the movie.

It seems to be the way when Hollywood tries to get a feature-length film out of a children's storybook. Sometimes it's best left on the pages of the book for us to enjoy at bedtime or in the classroom. Dr. Seuss has so much to offer early readers, and his messages don't need to be forced onto the big screen to make them enjoyable.

I'M BOOOOOOORRRRRRED

Got a bored kid? Tired of hearing "I'M BOOOORRRRRREEEEDDDDDD."

"What can I doooooooo???????"

Here's what you need:

  • paper
  • crayons/pens/colored pencils/some kind of drawing implement or magazine pics or some such way to create pictures on the paper
  • container to put the pictures in (we used a coffee can from Trader Joe's)
  • stickers to decorate the container (totes optional)
  • bored kid or kids

Procedure:

  1. Have kid draw pictures of things s/he likes to do when not bored.
  2. Label each picture with the name of the activity so siblings don't look at the picture and go WTF? is this?
  3. Fold each picture so it fits into the container.

Outcome:

Bored child has now been inadvertently (yeah, right!) entertained for a good amount of time AND created entertainment for future I'M BORRRREDDDDD moments!

Next time a kid is bored, hand 'em the can, have 'em pick out an idea and get to it. Oh, she doesn't like the idea she chose? Get to drawing! Make some new ideas!

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Shock: The Blurry Bits

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It's normal, I suppose–all of the bits and pieces I can't remember.

Something will trigger a slice of a memory, but I can't find the pieces the go around that memory; I can't fill it in. I don't know if I want to. I don't know if I need to.

My head will get swimmy and full with the trying to remember if I push too hard.

I was playing a silly little game called Unblock that I play to help me get to sleep where you shuffle cars around to make way for your car to get out into traffic. I've played it countless times, but tonight the black cars reminded me of a funeral, which made me think of Bob's funeral, which made me think of how I got to the funeral, who drove me, what car I rode in, and who was with me in the car. I remember pieces, but I can't put it all together.

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There are chunks of time I can replay so easily, but others that are just missing when I go to find them.

I have read and been told by many widows that year one wasn't the hardest year for them–it was year two when things really hit.

I don't know if harder is the right word, because this year is so much less of a roller-coaster than last year and, honestly, the time leading up to it. What I do know is that, so far, it's feels like the grieving process is different somehow–more solid, maybe? Deeper? More whole?

I finally have a pace to my life where I can experience the grief in a way that gets to my core. I don't think I could do that in the first year—I was in survival mode then. I had to make sure we "made it."

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Now that I know we can survive, I feel safe enough to let go and feel all of these emotions that were buried. It's heavy sometimes. It is a frightening feeling being the only parent. Not a single parent. THE parent.

Now that I have a year of being THE parent, I am learning how to let myself be the grieving parent. I am learning that it is okay. I can do this. I've got this.

To My Son: As You Approach Your Fifteenth Birthday

Serious face

This Sunday you will turn fifteen.

It will be the anniversary of your birth.

It will also be the twenty-month anniversary of your father's death.

I hate that those two things have a shared date.

I hate more that you have no father. I hate that you don't have YOUR father.

I have given you his razor so you can shave, a milestone he missed.

I have given you his cell phone, his clothes, his wallet, and all of the love I have within me, and it still isn't enough to give you back your father.

Yet, somehow, you are okay.

A-OK

You are kind.

You are loving.

You are happy.

You laugh.

You bring us joy.

You make sure the people you love are okay in the world.

You make sure the people Daddy loved are okay, too.

You continue to learn and grow and drink all of the milk in a 25-mile radius of our house and, for that, I am truly thankful if not slightly poorer monetarily.

Your dance moves rival those of the late Michael Jackson, but with more Chris Farley overtones circa the Patrick Swayze SNL Chippendale sketch.

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Your modeling poses are less Blue Steel and more Lavender Aluminum, but you'll get there.

And keep doing that thing you do in the kitchen, because I think you've got real talent there. You can cook, my boy. You have a flair for the flavors. Your sauces are coming along nicely. The béchamel is a great place for any teenager to start.

I love you,

Mom

P.S. Don't forget to research getting that learner's permit. We need to get you behind the wheel as soon as is legally possible, sir. That minivan you're destined to inherit isn't going to pilot itself.

Day 22: Operation Eleanor - Pie Time

It would be so much easier to buy a pie. It would be so much easier to buy a pre-made crust. It would be so much easier to use canned pumpkin.

Fear would be NOT making a pie, probably. See, my fond memories with my maternal grandmother were learning to make pies. However, I stepped up the pie making a notch in college when I decided to start cooking my pumpkins from scratch.

pumpkin

 

I have it down to a bit a science now, and today was step 1. It would also be easier to do all of this by myself, but what's the fun in that? My grandmother didn't do this alone. She taught me. She made sure I knew my ingredients needed to be cold. She is the reason I use ice water in my pie crust.

cold butter

So, I made my pie crusts last night with my daughter by my side. I taught her how to cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, making sure she kept the butter cold so the crusts will be flaky.

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We talked about why we add vinegar to the egg mixture before adding it to the flour. (In case you're wondering, the vinegar, is used in your pie crust recipe because the acid, along with the shortening, keeps the gluten strands from getting too long—making a more tender, flaky product.)

Today, we'll make the pies.

Holidays are hard when you're grieving, but forcing ourselves to do some of the things that we remember fondly can help us work through that pain. Trying to get back on that horse a little bit this year. At least step into the saddle. I have a houseful of little people anxious to help with the pie making, so I'm on the hook to get to it. Sometimes I think the next generation was created to make sure we don't stop living when we suffer a loss. They are so very, very good at making sure we stay in motion.

 

Days 16 Thru 18: Operation Eleanor - Jump, Try, Speak

On Jumping - Day 16

I was a gymnast back in the day. WAY BACK IN THE DAY. Like, when wheels were still not quite round, but getting there. Anyway, I loved the trampoline. In college, I even took a class where we learned a technique used to teach astronauts how to orient your body in space called Bio-Flight and we practiced on the trampoline. It wasn't until that class that I was finally able to master a back with a full twist.

Well, we are now the proud owners of a trampoline, albeit one that is 12 ft. diameter, so I doubt you'll find me doing a lot of back flips on there any time soon. It HAS been fun teaching the kids games we used to play on there when I was a gymnast and watching them assemble it and enjoy it. Getting up there and letting loose wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it might be and only required a few hours of heat and ice to recover. Totes worth it.

Jump

On Trying - Day 17

We ventured to a new restaurant for date night, something we are fairly religious about, party because we understand the importance of couple-time, but also because we really dig each other. We've been trying more places outside of our usuals comfort zone, which has been fun. We're always up for exploring, even in our own neighborhood. I tried a great gin cocktail with fresh egg white (don't worry, I lived) and we had fun chatting with the owner as we ate appetizers from the bar menu. Might keep the name of the place a secret for a bit longer, though. With the Christmas Shopping Season upon us, I'm not sure I want to crowd downtown any more than is necessary. It's nice to have a corner that's still got a parking space!

Date night. #bettertogether

On Speaking - Day 18

If you see something happening that isn't right, speak up. Let somebody know who can get that child help. If the situation at Penn State has taught us nothing else, let it be this lesson. Children depend on adults to protect them. Make sure you are that kind of adult. Listen when children speak. Teach your children that they are entitled to say no. Teach them that you will get help for them or anybody else who needs it. Teach them that abusers do not look like monsters even though they behave like them. Teach them that concern for a friend is a valid concern. Listen. Listen. Listen. Understand that sometimes the help needed isn't for abuse, but other needs, and that you will still be the person they can come to. Listen. Listen. Listen. Teach them how to speak to a trusted adult (you, a teacher, a school counselor) and let them know it is not their job to shoulder a friend's needs when they require the intervention of a professional. Teach them how to get the right people involved. Be the right people. It is not the job of a child to determine whether a friend is telling the truth, nor is it our job, it IS our job to get that child help. It IS our job to make sure that child feels heard.

There have been two pieces written about the abuse case at Penn State which I feel compelled to share. It would behoove my readers to read them both, in my opinion, and since this is my virtual soapbox, that's what I offer here: my opinion. As somebody who lives with a Penn State alum, this has been a heavily discussed topic in our home.

The Brutal Truth About Penn State: The problem can't be solved by prayer or piety — and it's far more widespread than we think by Charles P. Pierce

The Cruel Lesson of Penn State: How what happened at Penn State forced me to confront my own abuse. by Mark P. McKenna

I have written about it elsewhere, but this is the first time I've discussed it here. If you have been dismissing this story in the news because you think it's about football, I challenge you to read these two pieces. Child abuse is not about football. It is relevant to our world. If you think the silencing of victims doesn't happen across the board in this culture, you are also wrong. Let's learn from what happened at Penn State. Let's make it matter in a positive way. And, if you haven't done so already, consider donating to an organization that helps in areas of prevention, education, and treatment: RAINN: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network. To date, the grassroots effort by Penn State alum has raised over $430,000 for RAINN in the wake of these events. Their goal is $500,000.


 

 

 

 

 

 

James Brown Rice And Egg Carton Caterpillars

And sometimes, no matter how many crafts they make out of egg cartons and pipe cleaners...

Peanut's Pet

No matter how many model airplanes they build...

model airplanes

There will still be moments when you find yourself standing in the kitchen, hugging a child who might be nearly your height or taller, sobbing because she misses daddy. There will still be moments when he tells you his life is hard, and it's not because he has Aspergers. It's not because he has Tourette Syndrome, because those are things he has learned to manage so very well over the past fourteen years. This. This is still fresh for him as he becomes a man. And late at night or when you least expect it, he needs his mom and he needs to talk. So we do. And she needs hugs. Lots of them. She was her Daddy's girl. We hug and we talk. We also make silly caterpillars and build model airplanes. When the mood strikes. We can be moody. We've earned it.

And sometimes, after a day like this, you look at the brown jasmine rice sitting on the counter and you swear it says James Brown Rice, which might inspire a certain food blogger you know to make some sort of fabulous recipe, especially if you tweet about your creative stupidity. (I hope he does. I'm fresh out of creative rice ideas at the moment.)

Before You Judge What I Can Do...

Seriously? Why do people think they know what I'm capable of when they don't even know me? I am truly a greyhound when it comes to activity.

Admit it...you need a sandwich.

Want a sandwich for your school lunch? Cool. I like to use giant cookie cutters to make mine so they're shaped like fun things. Sometimes I make butterflies. If it's fall, I'll make leaves. For spring, I make bunnies. To make sure things fit into the lunch well, I pack it bento-style. I don't get as fancy as a Japanese mom might, but I have fun. Why not? And it's just as easy to pack one lunch like this as it is to pack five. Stack up the cheese, whack it with the cookie cutters. Ford was onto something with that assembly line business.

Laundry for the masses: Teach 'em young how to put their dirty clothes in the basket, how to put their clean clothes away, and once they're ready, teach them how to run that washer and dryer. My teenagers have been able to do their own wash for YEARS. It's not complicated, it simplifies life to have them responsible for making sure they have their own clothes clean, plus they make sure they don't wear things for two seconds and toss them into the hamper when they know they're the ones who'll be washing them.

Cooking: Kids love to help in the kitchen. Include them. Get them aprons, turn the kitchen chair around or grab a stool so they can join you at the counter. Let them help set the table, clear their dishes, prep the veggies with you. My kids have been with me in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. They started out in their high chairs, and now they make full-blown meals.

Work In Progress

Get Creative: We have a game and craft closet that would make most school teachers drool with envy. It comes from years of collecting, teaching, and savvy shopping. We have a high-powered microscope for exploring finds in the pond or pool. We have craft supplies that keep the "I'm boreds" at bay. Two sewing machines stand at-the-ready. There's always an unexpected find or forgotten treasure to be found in that closet.

Books: A home is not complete without a library. My children are avid readers. I used to track their literary pursuits on Goodreads, but have since given up on maintaining that pursuit. They've just read A LOT of books. I try to keep their books sorted by subject, type, sets, etc., and rotate them to draw interest when possible, especially when they're younger. A well-placed book or two can pique a child's interest without much effort on your part.

Pears. #nofilter

Gardening: Herb gardens are fun and our current home has an enormous one. The kids love identifying what's growing in it, harvesting things to use in our meals, and taste things like mint or dill.  We're also fortunate to have a plethora of fruit trees that provide year-round bounty. Currently, we've been picking pears. In past weeks, we've used the fruit picker to pick plums and have even had a few figs. Getting kids involved in gardening is a great way to connect them to their food, even if it's just an herb garden in the kitchen window.

Family Dinners: They might not happen like the Norman Rockwell painting, but they happen in some fashion as often as possible. We sit together, we eat together, and we talk to each other. Every person in the family has a place, a meal, and voice, and is heard. We work on manners when we feel it's a teaching moment. We get silly when it feels right. We are us.

These are some of the things I do to take care of my children. I also take care of my significant other, my home, myself, and my life. I always have.

Again, this is just a SLICE of life. My life. Our life. It's not the whole slice. It's really just a sliver, but it's more than is apparently known about me, assumed about me, or my home, my children, or my family. It's how we do.

I can haz my camper girl back. Yes I can. #shehadablast

It's also good to keep in mind that much of what I do I've done for many years, some of those years while my husband traveled for weeks at a time, some while my children were in school, some while I homeschooled one or both children, and some of those years my son's Tourette Syndrome was severe, most it wasn't. Some of those years my husband was dying and I was caring for him in a wholly different way, in addition to caring for our children. One of those years, he was dead, and it was just me. It wasn't always perfect, but it got done. My children are happy, healthy, well-adjusted teenagers in spite of all they've been through. To me, that's what matters most of all.

Rebuilding from memory. #LEGO

So, before you judge what I can do, you might want to reconsider who I am and what I've already done. And, don't short-change my kids. They're amazing. One of them loves nothing more than helping younger children. The other has an IQ that's higher than most and likes choreographing dances to old show-tunes just to make us all laugh. Mostly, they're awesome.

Trying my damnedest not to look like every other mom in this suburban car line at after-school pick-up.

Seriously, we all know it's rarely what people say it's about anyway, right?

The More The Merrier

I remember asking Bob's mom once how it was she raised six kids. She said, without hesitation, that once you had three kids, adding more was less work. The older kids help with the younger kids. She never had to worry about playdates. Her house was a hub of activity whether the neighborhood kids were congregating there (they were) or not. Her home wasn't a page out of a Pottery Barn catalog, but the last time I checked there weren't a lot of pictures of happy families on those pages.


Family is about knowing you are loved, feeling safe to be yourself, a place where judgement is rare not the norm, and dammit, good food should be plentiful. Memories of Thanksgiving at my grandparents' home with my cousins are some of my favorite. I loved feeling like we had a great big family for that bit of time, all of us around a long, makeshift table, my cousin, Eric, and I seated at the piano bench, anchoring the stern of the feast.


There is no magic number that defines a family. Did I think mine would grow to include more children after Bob died? I had no idea, but I am so thankful it did. I can't imagine life without our bonus family.