Don’t Forget Thanksgiving!

It’s still fall, y’all.

Doesn’t look much like it outside, what with the white stuff covering the ground (already.  Again.  So soon after it went away.  Sniffle).  But seriously, it’s still fall.  That’s what the calendar says, anyway.

You can’t really tell from the store displays, either, or from the TV commercials and Hallmark movies and the Hallmark Christmas station on my XM radio.  But seriously, we still have four days till Thanksgiving.   Seriously.  Still fall.

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?  I love it.  It’s like a Farewell to Fall event- the opportunity to get together with family and sit around the table and just be thankful, before the full-blown chaos of the Christmas season sets in.

Fall decorations are my favorite.  The colors, the natural elements; you can decorate your home for fall almost exclusively from nature.  The changing leaves, the bare twigs, the pinecones, the assortment of squashes: pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash.. you can make a centerpiece from all of these things for super cheap!

My grandmother had the prettiest Thanksgiving dishes.  We used them every year, and seeing them even today makes me think of our family gatherings when she and my grandfather were still alive:

Blog- friendly villiage dishes

Friendly Village Dishes by Johnson Brothers.  Image via Google Images

 

Since we don’t typically host Thanksgiving, I don’t have holiday-specific dishes.  However, I do have enough versatility in my collection that I was able to round up a few ideas for you, in case you’re looking for simple ideas to set your table beautifully enough to keep your kinfolk gathered round (while the men do the dishes, amiright?)

Disclaimer: my decorating style is a little quirky.  I love mixing up different styles to add elegance to simplicity, a dash of modern to the traditional, or some country to the urban.   I guess that’s just me- a juxtaposition of contradicting ideas and styles.  Obviously, any of the ideas here could be changed around to include what you already have and to suit your own style and the mood of your gathering.  Play with it.  Have fun.  SHOP YOUR HOME! (or, as previously mentioned, your backyard.  Or your pantry.  Or your neighbor’s…with permission, of course).

 

 

I guess I should also add that in our home, almost everything has a story.  The plates in this setting, for example, are locally crafted near our town.  The candle holders are place card holders- leftover favors from our wedding.  And the turkey centerpieces and pumpkin napkin rings are ceramics my mom painted for us.  The glasses with the spiral design are vintage Libby glassware, inherited from the attic of a family friend.

 

This setting makes me think, “urban rustic,” with a more formal place setting (a discontinued pattern from Pier One, my favorite dishes), made modern with my favorite wine glasses- a prekids purchase from Crate & Barrel.   The absence of a tablecloth softens the formality of the dishes and brings a bit more rustic to the table. The tall candlesticks are also from Pier One, and those leaf candles were from the head table at our wedding.  The centerpiece is a collection of random items I collected from around our house- the candles, again, are from our wedding (a decade ago), and the plate was a gift that I’m too afraid to serve food from in a houseful of boys.  Under the candles and ribbon I’ve buried potpourri; this centerpiece is often on my dining room buffet.

 

 

I tend to think of this last setting as being more “traditional,” with the plain, solid color dishes and traditional stemware.  Mixing the styles of the plates- the round with the square- adds just a subtle enough twist to make it fun.  The pumpkin and napkin rings, again, are ones my mom painted for me.

 

There are so many ways to make your table inviting and pretty without purchasing special…everything.  Do any of these speak to you?

 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  May your holiday be full of food and love.

 

xoxo,

~d

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Reason #408 why motherhood just may kill me

Wanna know how I spent the twins’ naptime today?

Putting clean sheets on the boys’ beds.

Seriously, the whole hour was consumed by putting sheets on three beds: twin bunks and a full size bed.  AN HOUR, friends.  Well, 50 minutes.  To put sheets on three beds.  The actual breakdown is probably closer to 45 minutes for the bunk beds, 5 minutes for the other one.  Still, there were a lot of other things I could’ve accomplished in that time.

Ever consider where bunk beds came from?  I have.  I’ve also pondered his painful demise.  Yes.  His.  Because it was certainly a man who invented those blasted things, knowing full well it’d be woman who would be changing the sheets the majority of the time.

We’ve had bunk beds in our house for almost a year, but we just stacked them two weeks ago.  I’ve changed the sheets three times now.  Every time I’ve damn near died.  The first time was a near concussion, lifting my head too fast while trying to raise the mattress to tuck the sheets.  The second time was the same day, when I came one step closer to a concussion by bashing my head off the ceiling while repeating the same process on the top bunk.  (Yes, I’m aware of the definition of insanity.)  The third time my socked foot slipped on the ladder while I was trying to smooth the wrinkles from the sheets and blankets and return all of the fuzzy friends to their happy home in the bed.

Repeat every week until the end of time.

To be fair, I totally get the functionality of bunk beds.  I’ve toured a few war ships in my day; I get that sometimes function and practicality has to be a priority.  We have three boys; space in our home needs to be used wisely as well.  Aesthetic be damned, I guess.  And, it’s a fun hideaway for all three; they’ll be entertained for hours, climbing up the ladder and hiding in the top bunk.  So, it’s kind of a no-brainer and a necessary evil.

We kept their beds separate and both close to the floor for as long as we could, until they started asking us weekly how long until we could bunk them.  It made sense to stack their beds; they’re getting bigger and they’re playing in their room more and more, and they need the floor space.  And they’re doing really well with the change.  Clearly, changing sheets has no effect on their perception of the intricacies of making a bed without headroom.  What do they know?  They’re three feet tall.

Just make sure my tombstone reads, “it was those damned bunk beds.”

 

xoxo,

~d

Que Sera, Sera

I love the saying, “Que sera, sera.”

While I’m a very firm believer that we’re all responsible for our own destiny, I believe even more firmly in divine intervention and a higher plan, a deeper meaning, and a purpose beyond the greatest limits of our imagination.  I think we should work hard toward our goals to make our own dreams come true.  I also believe that some circumstances are beyond our control and we have to know when to take a step back to see the bigger picture.

I went to college to learn to be an interior designer.  My family thought I should be a teacher, or possibly a writer, but my heart was set on design.  I finished college right before the recession of 2008 and jobs became hard to find- particularly jobs in a luxury service industry like interior design.  I had put all of my “eggs” in the basket of my internship with the VA hospital, an organization whose mission had solidified my belief that I’d found my highest purpose: using my passion to positively impact the healthcare experience of our nation’s heroes.  It was my dream job; I found my home with my mentors and coworkers within the hospital.  The additional perks were that it was a government position, with decent pay, lots of paid holidays, and a very decent retirement plan.

Alas, it was not meant to be, as a permanent position was not approved for me before the end of my internship, and the intern who came after me took the position.  By that time, I’d moved on to searching for my “place” elsewhere, in the midst of an economic downturn, and ended up leaving my dream behind in favor of any position that offered a paycheck.  I tried my hand in sales, knowing that my confidence needed the bolstering of clients’ rejection in addition to the extra practice of selling my own ideas.  The experience, while not one of my most pleasant, served the purpose I had intended, and one of my sales jobs actually led- completely unexpectedly-  to a management position, which helped my confidence issues even more.  I didn’t stay there long, though, as that job was only part-time.  My next venture was as an administrative assistant for an insurance company, where I sharpened my organizational skills and learned that I’m actually pretty good at keeping other people organized as well.  I learned a lot from this position, and was there until our field office was closed as a result of new corporate leadership.

At that time, a friend of ours recommended me for another- temporary- sales position with our local newspaper, introducing a trial program.  Knowing me outside of work, she knew my passion for writing, and she recommended me for an intense writing assignment as well.  The sales project failed to take off, however, and after a few months, that position was eliminated.

There is, believe it or not, a point to all of this rambling, and it does relate to the belief that sometimes, “whatever will be, will be.”  My point is, I started college with the goal of becoming an interior designer, then spent ten years after struggling to figure out how I’d make it happen.  After all these years and all the life experiences I’ve tucked into my (expanding) belt, I’ve made it to my 30’s, and just like every other 30-something who’s come before me has promised, I’ve found a confidence in myself to pursue my passion in a way that still allows me to be constantly present for my HIGHEST purpose.  I’m a wife and a mom first, above everything else.  My family depends on my experience in planning  and organization and leading operations to keep track of all of the things that need to be kept track of in a houseful of boys.  That’s my purpose.  And it’s pointed my ambition to create beautiful and functional spaces and to help others like me to do the same.

I’m pursuing interior design again, in a professional capacity.  I’ve been spending the last few weeks and months sharpening my skills in an electronic format.  I’ve learned that there’s a whole new approach to interior design that allows the client to submit their goals and visions for their space to a designer who can envision the space without being face-to-face.  AND, working this way allows me the flexibility to work from my house, while my boys play next to me, with all of us in our PJ’s.  OR, I can work at night when the house is quiet and I’ve fulfilled all of my domestic duties for the day.

One of my first practice projects is my vision for the office where I plan to set up shop, in my home:

My office_Office (1)My office_Office 1

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This “office” is actually a 25 square foot walk-in closet in the room we use as a guest bedroom.  The limited space and the lack of windows for natural light forced colors and shapes that will, I hope, inspire my creativity and help me to be at my greatest problem-solving capacity.

 

I’d love to hear your feedback!  Love it or hate it, tell me!  I’m a seasoned professional at accepting constructive criticism.

 

xoxo,

~d

Goodbye, Summer…until we meet again

It’s been a busy summer.  A trying summer, with two 3 year olds and a 5 year old at home all day every day.  My patience has been tested, and the guilt-meter has been off the charts, knowing every trying day is a day I’ll regret when they all go to school.

We’ve purchased three backpacks.  We’ve attended orientation for one, scheduled the other two, and fulfilled three school supply lists, gone school clothes shopping, and have filled the pantry with lunch and snack-packing supplies.

One week ago, my firstborn baby headed off to his first day of kindergarten.  Four days ago, he turned six.

He was calm, and he was ready for Kindergarten.  Way more ready than his mama.

He offered to get my camera ready for our traditional first-day-of-school shots.  He made his bed, made his own breakfast, brushed his teeth, dressed himself, and kissed us goodbye in the garage.  And then, when the bus came, he turned and gave me one last kiss and said, “I love you, mama,” and got on the bus without looking back.  That moment alone nearly killed me.  Each day since has gotten incrementally easier, but next week the twins are off to preschool and the cord-cutting process will begin all over again.

I’m sad to see summer end.  I’m sad to have to say goodbye to the warm days and sunshine and afternoons in the pool.  I’m sad to see the end of the last summer before all three boys are in school.

But I’m satisfied by what we accomplished this summer.  Our oldest boy is confident in his swimming abilities without his life vest.  The older twin is an independent swimmer with his life vest on.  And the littlest one isn’t far behind.  We played mini golf, spent a few days at the zoo, took a beach trip and visited a new aquarium and a battleship and a cave.  We squeezed in a few date nights, checked out a hot air balloon festival, spent several Sundays watching Ryan race his new go-kart.  We had play dates, took walks, hikes, and bike rides, and spent a lot of time in the pool.  Through all the tough and trying days of being at home with a five year old and two three year olds, we made a lot of memories this summer.

And now that they’re on their way back to school, I’m wrapping it up by fulfilling one last summer goal that had, until today, gone unmet: I’m sitting on the back deck, fresh out of the pool with a cold drink and my laptop.  I’m planning to focus more time on some exciting ideas: a new look for the blog is coming soon.  I have TWO secret projects under wraps, and I’m working on some new design projects that I hope to share on the blog in the coming months.  Stay tuned, friends.  Mama’s got free time on her hands, and it just might be fun…

 

xoxo,

~d

This Never-Ending Winter and my need for a change of scenery

We here in the northeast are experiencing the winter that won’t end.

It feels like it hasn’t stopped snowing since Halloween.  It feels like we’ve been trapped inside, staring at the same walls day after day, week after week, for half a year.  In a Facebook group I’m a member in, someone from Alaska commented last week that winter here has lasts for too long.  Alaska, people.  Let that sink in for a minute.

We’re trying to stay busy.  We’ve walked and been outside as often as we can, but sick kids and exposure to freezing temps aren’t always the best combo.  We planted seeds for veggie plants a few weeks ago.  The boys have a hockey net in the basement and can use that space to run off some extra energy.  T-ball season has started and we’re beginning to see a day or so a week that is suitable to be outside.  Regardless, we’re all tired of being inside. One day last week, upon returning from our errands, the boys filed out of my car and made a beeline for the driveway where big, fat snowflakes were beautifully, gracefully, tauntingly falling from the sky.  The three of them ran around in circles, arms spread wide, catching the flakes on their tongues.  It was heartwarming and beautiful, and I was so fulfilled to watch them, and yet…I’ll be just as fulfilled when I can sit in the grass and watch them roll up and down the driveway on their bikes, draw pictures on the concrete with sidewalk chalk, build castles and mountains in the sand, and push weeds from my flower beds in their big trucks while I soak up sun and heat.

But that’s just me.

In the meantime, I’ve stayed motivated by changing and reorganizing basically every room in our house in the last month.  I sometimes feel more energized when I rearrange things to change the flow and the way the light hits different aspects of a space.  That, in turn, gives me an idea of what accessory items are working for us and what we could maybe replace.

In our living room, for instance, I  played around with a completely different layout that seems to work really well for us.  What I noticed, though, is that we needed a new, larger area rug to tie the space together.  The rule of thumb for a rug is that it should touch all the pieces of furniture in the space to make it feel cohesive .  The rug we had isn’t big enough to do that; far too much of the floor was bare, which is not only an aesthetic problem, but a traction problem for our 12-year-old golden retriever.  She’s having a hard time getting up from the slippery floors after she’s been lying down.  So last weekend, we trooped into town, the five of us, for a family trip to Dick’s.  And I played the “Oh, but I’m the only girl, and can’t we please, please, PLEASE go to a fun store for me to look for house stuff?” card.  And we left with a rug.

I travel with the paint swatches we used on every wall in our house.  This way,  when I’m out and about, I always have the colors on hand to compare.  So, I pulled the swatches out of my purse in the middle of the store to check, and my three super manly boys and my one super manly man each grabbed a spot of the rug and trooped it to the checkout for me.

Another thing that I’ll be addressing in the living room is the blank wall above the sofa.  I’m currently searching for some artwork to frame and hang to make that more of a focal point.  My problem is deciding on what I want.  Because your space should tell your story, I don’t want something to just “put” there; I want it to be personal, have significance, and to tell a story about our family.  I have family portraits on the wall going up the stairs, so I’d like to do something artistic or inspiring in the living room.  My top ideas right now are to frame some photos of our town or from our travels and have them made into canvases, or blown up for large matted frames.  Because the sofa and curtains are neutral colors, I’d like to bring out the colors of the rug with the art…and then possibly repeat those same colors with some new throw pillows on the sofa and love seat.

I’d love to hear from you; does anyone else get suffocated by their surroundings when the weather keeps you confined in the same spaces?  How do you deal with it?  Are you painting?  Tackling a renovation project?  Replacing furniture or accessories?  Leave me a comment!

 

xoxo,

~d

 

 

Busy

It’s a word that gets thrown around often.  Not just with me; we all use it.  Busy.  We’re ALL busy.  Caps, bold, italics.

“Sorry I never got back to you; I’ve been so busy!”

“How’s your summer?” “Busy!”

Me, personally?  It’s never occurred to me to keep track of how many times a day I say it, hear it, think it.

Any time I take my boys (three of them, all under age five) out in public?  At least one casual observer will offer a grin and a sympathetic “I bet you’re busy!”

When my husband reluctantly asks me to do a favor or take care of something household related because he works pretty crazy hours anymore?  “Babe, I know you’re busy enough already, but if you get a minute during naptime or whatever, could you…?”

When I look at the stack of library books on my nightstand or on the end table in the living room? “Ugh, if I wasn’t so busy, I’d be through those already!”

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A lot of my busy-ness is of my own making.  Apparently I took Aesop’s Fables a bit too literally as a child, because every time I ignore work to do something pleasurable, I’m reminded of the Grasshopper and the Ant.  Remember that story?  The ant worked and worked, never taking time off, while the grasshopper, all “Carpe Diem!” played and forgot to prepare for winter.  So when wintertime rolled around, the ant was warm and full, while the grasshopper died a cold, hungry death.

That must be it.  I hate being cold.  And hungry.

So I stay busy.  Not always particularly productive, but definitely busy.  And when I say busy, I pretty much mean in the sense that I start 349587348962 projects and approximately 2 get done.

Take, for instance, this spring.  I found an ant infestation in my spider plant (here we go with the ant theme again). So I carried the plant to our back deck, where I drowned those suckers out, then gave them a nice, healthy dose of old coffee grounds to show them I meant business.  Apparently, ants hate coffee.  So maybe I’m not as much like an ant as I thought.  Anyway… my spider plant.  I didn’t want to bring the ants back inside, so I let my plant sit on the deck for a couple of days.  It was still spring, and we weren’t finished having frost then, so a few leaves on my plant were sacrificed in the effort.  When I pulled them to make room for new growth, I put the dead leaves on top of last summer’s hanging basked from the deck, my Mother’s Day petunia from Ryan and the boys, which I never emptied last fall.

Fast forward to late July.  This past Saturday morning, Ryan took the boys with him to run an errand while I stayed home.  After they left, I wandered back to the deck to pick up yesterday’s swim suits and towels, and decided maybe it’s time to finally clean out that hanging basket.  What I found when I moved those dead spider plant leaves took me by surprise.

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My point is, yes, I’m busy.  We’re ALL busy.  Caps, bold, italics.  It’s not exclusively a parent thing, or a student thing, or a career thing or a sports thing or a…well, you get it.  Life is hectic, and messy, and crazy, and unpredictable.  And sometimes, under all that busy-ness, there are surprises budding that we aren’t expecting.

And aren’t those the best?

 

xoxox,

~d

 

Pumpkin Spice. Nuff Said

I have a problem.

Actually, I got 99 problems but…

Right.  Family show.  Moving on.

So,let’s focus on my two biggest problems of the moment:

  1. I cannot for the life of me back down from a challenge, even when (especially when) it comes from my four-year-old.
  2. I have zero capacity for resisting anything that comes labeled as “pumpkin spice.”

There’s a humorous back story here, and a semi-related and wholly hilarious YouTube video parody to go along with it.  The back story is this:

Our oldest son goes to preschool three days a week, for two and a half hours each day.  He takes a snack every day, and he really loves to pick what he’s going to take- though, some days he prefers to be surprised; it really is a mood thing.  Among his favorite snacks to take are yogurt, these seasoned pretzels, fruit, graham crackers, goldfish crackers, and granola bars.  I started making my own granola bars about two years ago because they go REALLY fast in our house.  Ryan loves them at breakfast time.  And after dinner. They’re perfect for the boys’ “after nap snack,” as our oldest says.  And I love them too.  So those little boxes of eight that you pay $2 for?  Doesn’t even get us through a day- I can’t justify it when it takes just a few basic ingredients and little more skill than one needs when making Rice Krispy Treats.  So last week, the little guy asked me if we had any granola bars for me to send for his snack this week.  I didn’t, at the time, but I’d purchased what I needed with the intention of making some.  Then, he said these magic words: “Mom, could you make pumpkin spice granola bars?”

The words were music to my ears.  I immediately began searching for recipes.  Google, Pinterest, and all of my cookbooks.  But…I kept coming up empty.  I had a few results, but nothing that really sang to me (or the ingredients I had on hand.)  Sadly, I couldn’t let it go.  I had to find something that would work.  Because, not only had my baby boy asked me for something and I wanted to deliver, but also because it’s October and I’ll put pumpkin in ANYTHING this time of year!  So, I resorted to experimentation.  I went to my go-to granola bars recipe, then found one recipe on Pinterest I could tweak to my needs, and attempted to mash the two together. (By the way, if you’re following the links to check out the recipes, note that the first one is for a 13×9 pan-sized batch; the second is for an 8×8).

And so…the first attempt turned out to be pretty decent.  I would say they could still use a little something (chocolate chips are at the top of that list.  I’d also say mixing in a half a cup or so of finely chopped pecans might take this right up to where it needs to be).  But, for my first attempt and also for a completely fabricated recipe, on the first try, I’m a little proud of myself.  And my boy was happy, so, yay me!

Wanna try them?  Here’s how I did it:

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3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
Heat over medium-low heat until just boiling.
Add:
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

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Pour immediately over:
2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups crispy rice cereal
1/4 cup wheat germ (or flax-seed)

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Stir to combine, then pour into a 13×9 pan
lined with aluminum foil (this makes it easier to
pull the bars out to cut them, and also helps with
cleanup)

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If you’re going to add chocolate (and, by all means, DO!), make sure you don’t mix them into the pumpkin mixture; they’ll become a melty mess.  Instead, once you’ve pressed the bars into the pan (I use a sheet of waxed paper.  Press HARD), sprinkle 1/3 cup or so over the top, then press gently once more.  And if you’re thinking of adding nuts (I totally will next time; this version is missing a bit of crunch), add them to the oats, cereal, and wheat germ or flax-seed.  Probably 1/4 to 1/3 cup is a good starting point.  And when you fall in love with these…

you can thank my son. Because I’m off to Starbucks for a PSL.

Cheers!
xoxo

~d

 

 

 

Could Not Be Fuller

Holy crap, guys.

It’s been way longer than I thought since I last posted here.  I haven’t posted anything in nearly a year and a half.  Do y’all even remember me?  Do you know what’s happened in a year and a half?  Obviously not much, if I haven’t been around to tell you about it, right?  Except…

The last time I was here, I was the mother of one amazing, beautiful, perfect little boy.

Today?  Today, I’m the mother of three amazing, beautiful, perfect little boys.

Yep, you read that right.  Three.  For the next two weeks, three under the age of three.  Boys.  Three. Boys.

My heart could not be fuller.

I always said I wanted three kids.  I come from a large family (I’m the oldest of five), Ryan comes from a small family (he’s the oldest of two); three seemed like a good compromise.  You should’ve seen our faces when, at a six week ultrasound for my second pregnancy, the tech announced, “There’s one.  And there’s two.” (Actually, I would’ve liked to have seen our faces.) Obviously, she was telling us we were getting twins, but we were a bit slow on the uptake.  It took us both a moment to catch up.  Um, ok, it took us quite awhile to catch up.  In fact, we spent the next few hours in almost total, shocked silence.  Until one of us would say, “Holy crap, twins.”  Or, “Wow.  There are TWO of them,”  Then we got in the car and drove two hours to tell our families in person.  Some days I think we’re still a little shocked.

Granted, this was not a total surprise.  My dad is a fraternal twin.  My maternal grandfather had fraternal twin siblings.  But because I always joked about how cool it would be to have twins, I think I had talked myself out of the possibility.  Mentally.  I think I had a gut instinct though that they were twins.  Because this is what happens to someone who has the perfect singleton pregnancy first time around, breezes through the whole nine months and labor, then wonders why people get so stressed out about infants.  Life hands those people two more at the same time, in conjunction with the terrible twos/ threenage years.

We’re managing.  In fact, we’re more than managing; I think we’re doing really well.  Our days are not nearly as stressful or as chaotic as I had envisioned.  I can still get all three of them out the door before 10AM without help.  Everyone is fed, bathed (at least every other night), wearing clean clothes, and getting individual cuddle time.  I can still get a hot, cooked meal on the table at least three nights a week, and Friday is still always pizza- homemade, more often than not.  This week I baked two batches of cookies, homemade pretzels, and a batch of zucchini bread between naptimes and diaper changes.

Of course. it can get stressful.  One can be stressful, three (without ever experiencing two) has, admittedly, brought me to my knees a time or two.  But it’s the best kind of stressful, and there’s nearly always humor to be found in the midst of it all.  “Twin B” has a tendency to wait until his diaper off to show off his ability to impersonate a fire hose.  This has earned him the nickname “Squirt” (he was also a full pound smaller at birth; he was such a little squirt!)  “Twin A” is often on his third outfit of the day before 9AM.

I used to judge stay-at-home moms.  I never understood how a person could sacrifice a career that they’d worked their tail off for, to stay at home.  To trade analyzing data for analyzing the color of the substances within a diaper; to trade dressing up for yoga pants and a ponytail; to trade business lunches for being on the receiving end of launched pureed peas.  I didn’t get how giving up a paycheck made sense.  Now I get it.

This isn’t about me.  It’s not about my climb up a corporate ladder, or breaking any glass ceilings.  It’s not about whether my boys are wearing Burberry onesies and riding in a $4,000 stroller.

New classic check Check Cotton Twill Shirt - Image 1

(Image from Burberry.com)

It’s about them having me at home because we can have it this way, spending time and making memories and learning from one another as we navigate this road as a family.  I used to be embarrassed, when asked about my career, to admit that right now, I don’t have one.  I’m still working on my education- and I’m damn proud of it.

I’ll have lots of years to go back to work, to build my career as long as it works for our family.  For now, I’m trying to savor every second I can with these precious gifts, stockpiling the love and the snuggles they give so freely for a day when they’ll be “too big,” or “too old” to show Mom affection.  For now, my job- my career- is Mom.

And I couldn’t be prouder.  My heart could not be fuller.

xoxo,

~d

The Field Report

This weekend was a rough one for some of my favorite football teams.  Penn State, fortunately, managed a win- the 409th in Joe Paterno’s career, by the way.  But my fantasy team took a hard hit, leaving me with a sorrowfully losing record for the season and newfound motivation to do some hard-core trading in the coming week.  In addition, my favorite pro team suffered a hard loss last night after trading off one of my favorite running backs, which in turn negatively impacted my fantasy team.  Rough week, like I said.

However, my very favorite football player had an amazing week, with one win on his high school JV team, and one loss with some notable plays on his varsity team.  Oh, and this amazing player?  He just happens to be my youngest brother, a sophomore in high school.  Proud big sister?  Yeah.  That’s totally me.

Cory went out for football early in his middle school career, but I had named him our family football player almost from the day he was born.  It’s in his bones.  It’s who he is.  And that first year, his quick movements earned him the name “Crazy Legs” from his teammates.  He moves quickly on the field, his determination obvious in the way he carries himself and the football.

Now in his sophomore year of high school, Cory has spent this season playing on both the JV and Varsity squads.  Though his teams have both had a rough season, my brother still pours his heart and soul into every game.  To watch him dressed at a game, watching from the sidelines, one can see how ingrained the sport is in his very being.  He becomes so engrossed in what his teammates on the field are doing.  He sways his body in the direction he would be running.  He shakes his head in agreement or disagreement with the refs’ calls. He shifts his weight anxiously from one leg to the other, itching to get out there and do what he was born to do.   And when he makes it to the field, the focus in his stances make it evident that his only thoughts are what his coaches taught him in practice.

This past week, the whole season’s worth of hard work reached its climax when, during the last JV game of the season, Cory scored three touchdowns and racked up over a hundred yards’ worth of runs.  The final score of the game was 20-0, all 20 points belonging to Cory.  The following day, our hometown newspaper printed Cory’s team picture, with a caption listing his accomplishments from the night before.  But my brother is so modest that getting him to talk about earning those points was sort of like pulling teeth.  Here’s a rundown of the text conversation we had following the game:

me: I haven’t heard from anyone; how’d the game go?

Cory: Good.  I put 20 on the board.

me: Sweet!  Way to go kid!  So you won?

Cory: Yeah 20-0.  It should have been more but there was a penalty.

By the end of that conversation, my jaw was scraping the floor and I was literally jumping up and down, unable to contain my pride and excitement.

Friday night, Cory’s varsity coach gave him the opportunity to get in on one of the biggest rivalry games of the season.  My brother didn’t disappoint, as the next day’s newspaper reported: “Sophomore Cory Brooks was the star of the drive for Punxsy, receiving the kickoff as the up-man and returning it to the Chucks’ 41 and finishing the drive with runs of 11 and two yards, with the two-yarder putting Punxsy back within 13 at 27-14.” (PunxsutawneySpirit.com).

Saturday’s local newspaper printed my brother as the “Player of the Week,” recognized and saluted by the town as one of the strongest student athletes for the week.  He has one varsity game left, this Friday night.  He’ll be going in with 3 rushing touchdowns and 1 interception for a touchdown on the season.  He estimates that he’s run for between 200 and 300 yards

My brother lives for two different kinds of fields: the football field and wide open fields where animals roam to serve his hunting hobby.  After a hard week of work on the football field, Cory spent his free time over the weekend hunting- something he doesn’t have time for during the week, as he leaves the house for school before it’s light out, and comes home from practice long after dark.  Saturday night I received a text message from Cory saying that he was bringing home a five-point buck he shot.

Not bad for a week’s work, huh?

Keep up the good work, Cory; we’re proud of you.

xoxo,

~d

 

Pumpkin Farm- Part I

One of my favorite memories from childhood was our annual trips to the pumpkin farm.  There was a place about 40 minutes from where we lived that Mom would take us to pick our would-be jack-‘o’-lanterns.  Derek and I would ponder for what seemed like forever- usually making it a competition to see who got the bigger one.  There was also a little shop at the farm where Mom always shopped for crafts and gourds and Indian corn; it was her reward to herself after enduring any length of time with my brother and me and our constant bickering.  That’s all she wanted: some cute little craft, a couple of gourds, and a bunch or two of Indian corn.

“Punkin pickin'” is still part of our fall tradition here in the Merrow household.  Every year when the leaves start to change and the weather starts to cool, Ryan starts asking when I’ll be ready to go.  He likes to plan the outing.  And picking a pumpkin is, for both of us, very serious business.  In the six years since we’ve lived here, I think there have only been one or two that we haven’t had pumpkins.  Sometimes they come from WalMart.  Last year they came from the buffalo farm up the road.  I think once we even dragged a few from Punxsy- from my sister’s pumpkin patch that she plants and lovingly tends every single year.  We just haven’t found that special place yet to make our new tradition.

This past weekend was miserable: cold, windy, and rainy.  It was the perfect weekend to stay inside and eat chili and drink cider.  But by yesterday, I needed to get out and DO something.  Anything.  So when he asked the question, “when did you want to go get pumpkins?  I found this new place we should check out,” I had made the decision and jumped in the shower before he finished asking.  We were going, rain or not.

It was cold.  It was raining.  The wind was blowing and the place was deserted despite the rows of cars in the parking lot.  We approached the admission window for some information, while I said a little “thank you” to my aunties for the Uggs they bought me last Christmas; the rest of me may have been freezing, but my feet were toasty, and for that I was thankful.

When the one lonely lady manning the booth slid the window aside to let us in, she began to run down the list of attractions the farm offers: “Oh, we do hay rides and the haunted corn maze…but they don’t recommend that for kids under ten.  And there are slides over there…you know, for the kids…and there’s a petting zoo…for the kids…and… Oh!  The white barn over there has a cafe and craft shop.  There’s a corn box…for the kids… and over here, you can pick your pumpkins.  So…will you be trying any of the attractions today?”

This was sort of a strange question, and I, at least, was a bit thrown off.  After all, we were alone.  No kids in tow, no stroller, no car seat.  We were alone.  Just the two of us.  Finally, after exchanging a look with Ryan, I responded by saying, “It’s so miserable out today, I think we’ll just check out the craft store and buy some pumpkins.”  This statement saved us the admission fee that’s charged for the other attractions.  Armed with wrist bands, we entered the farm and headed for the barn.

The atmosphere there was a fun one; as we entered, Ryan said it reminded him of what he would expect to find at Roloff Farms of Little People, Big World fame.  There was a small cafe in one corner, with picnic tables lining the walls, and a game of corn hole set up in the center aisle.  In the back corner was nestled a small, cozy primitives shop.  We walked through, staying long enough to see everything, and headed back out to tackle the task of tracking down some pumpkins to take home with us.

There were so many pumpkins to choose from, I got confused.  I would point out one that had a good shape, vibrant color, substantial size, and was consistently round, and then promptly lose it.  Ryan would find one that looked perfect from the front, but was completely planar on the opposite side.  If we pondered and walked around for five minutes, we were there for forty-five.  Finally, we settled on two that were similar in size, shape, and color, and headed for the check-out booth.  Ryan carried them while my eyes wandered to the potted Mums and the boxes of gourds and cooking squashes.  We noticed some wagons, provided to help patrons “cart” their finds out of the patch, and I snagged one in order to continue shopping.  Once Ryan had dropped the two large pumpkins onto the wagon, he immediately suggested we pick out a pumpkin for Clohe.  He found her a smaller one that was perfectly round and perfectly orange, and urged me to pick some gourds to take home.  While I pondered over those, he checked out the pie pumpkins.  “Babe,” he called to me, “do you use these?”  I turned to look, and admitted that I never had, but I knew that they were used for all the wonderful recipes canned pumpkin is used for.  “I could bake a pumpkin pie from scratch,” I said, wheels turning.  He picked out three for me to bring home.

With a new project to focus my energies on, I couldn’t sit still when we got home.  I hauled my gourds and pie pumpkins into the kitchen to wash, while Ryan balanced our future jack-‘o’-lanterns to carry to the front porch.  And I set to work…

 

More to come!

xoxo,

~d