Friday, May 31, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments at

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Summer List*

If you asked me when summer was as a kid, I would've told you it spanned the distance between the last day of school one year and the first day of school the next year. As an adult, I lack that marker in my life, so summer is a bit looser. Also, where I grew up, school is out for the year. But here in Virginia? Kids will be slogging through the year for a couple more weeks. And although I love not starting school until Labor Day, ending in June breaks my heart every year.

On Monday, Helen insisted we go to the pool. I cautioned that I would not get in the deep pool, I would only put my feet in. I had hoped the little pool would be as warm as it was a week ago when we visited, but too many cold nights between then and Monday meant that even it was cold. I *might* have gotten feeling back in my feet around bedtime...on Tuesday. But it's summer now, and in summer - we swim!

Over the years, the list of activities we pack into summer has grown - and to get through the list we dreamed up at dinner on Monday is going to take a lot of effort. But we're ready to make a go of it. In no certain order, here is what we plan to do this summer.

  • Go to a waterpark
  • Find an ice cream truck
  • Rent a paddleboat or canoe
  • Eat raw oysters - preferably plucked right from the ocean by Captain Barry!
  • Go to the swimming pool (accomplished by Helen already - not sure my toe dipping counts!)
  • Go fishing
  • Attend an outdoor concert
  • Ride on a slip and slide (I don't think the kids knew I tossed our torn one in the trash at the end of last year - anyone have one we can borrow?) 
  • Run Amuck!
  • Go camping
  • Listen to jazz at the Sculpture Garden 
  • Splash in the fountains at Buzz Bakery (kids) while having a drink at Rustico (adults)
  • Have a lemonade stand
  • Light fireworks
  • Make strawberry, chocolate, cookie dough, vanilla, and cookies and cream ice cream (I'm really looking forward to this, as up to this point, vanilla is the only flavor a certain 7 year old boy in our house will eat!)
  • Pick peaches and blueberries
  • Light a fire
  • Go to a baseball game
  • Bike to get ice cream
  • Visit the frozen yogurt store 
So...let's hit it, team!

 *Idea stolen from Therese.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My Culinary Masterpiece - the Strawbluple

Last winter, Facebook served as conduit to an amazing information exchange. My friend posted about a dessert called a "Cherpumple". Go ahead, check out that link. I'll wait. You want the summary? Three pies baked into three cakes to form one dessert. I was stunned by the notion. Even now, having made my own, I realize it is nothing but ridiculous. But celebrating 40 calls for ridiculous - so GAME ON!

An important note, with the exception of brownies, I don't tend to bake with boxed mixes or frozen goods, so rather than using frozen pies and boxed mixes like the dessert's originator, I'd be baking mine from scratch. Also, I don't like pumpkin pie, so that would need to be subbed out - and I had the ingredients for a strawberry pie and an apple pie already packed away from last season when I froze a few gallons of strawberries (finished just in time for fresh strawberries to appear at the market this season) and picked apples.

Knowing full well that my experiment could fail, and worse, I could be turning three incredible pies and three probably delicious cakes into one mess, I forged on.

Presenting, the making of my Strawblueple. A strawberry pie baked in a dark chocolate cake, a blueberry pie baked in a yellow cake, and an apple pie baked in a cinnamon cake.

Baking night 1 - the pies! I made an oat crust from The Earthbound Cook, and rolled it pretty thick, hoping that would make flipping the pie out of the pan easier. I also lined the bottom of the pie tin with parchment paper and par-cooked the bottom crust for 10 minutes before adding the filler and top crust.I could not risk having a soggy crust that would stick to the pan when I went to flip the pie.

I don't own three appropriately sized cake pans, so the cake baking took place over a few days.

Baking night 2, I made the chocolate cake from a cookbook a friend gifted me at my 30th birthday party. Usually when I bake I have at least one assistant, and often I have two. I had almost forgotten how quickly and how little mess could be made sans assistants. It was a good reminder of why I love baking, which I realize I don't do as much of now as I used to, in part because of the ensuing mess.

Step 1. Mix the cake.

Step 2. The flip worked! There is actually cake batter beneath the pie, but it's hard to see.

Step 3. Bake the cake. Mmmm...

Step 4. Flip out the cake - with the pie baked inside!

And, because I couldn't fathom moving that cake again, it was deemed the bottom layer.

Baking night 3: Repeat the above steps for a yellow cake with the blueberry pie inside. I flipped it out onto one of FOUR identical cookie sheets. That fact is important.

On Friday, baking night 4, I had plans to meet friends for dinner, so after putting the final pie-cake in the oven, I told Ed "I have no idea when it will be done - but the cakes seem to be taking a long time. Please flip the pie-cake out of the pan when it's done", which he agreed to do.

One very important instruction is missing from that list. "Move the blueberry-yellow pie-cake." That, as it turns out, was not a mistake on my part.

For whatever reason, when Ed went to flip the final pie-cake, he decided he had to move the blueberry-yellow pie-cake, and use the pan it was sitting on (rather than one of THREE identical sheet pans we own!). This required Ed to flip the blueberry-yellow pie-cake off it's current baking sheet onto another pan. And that's when structural problems ensued. The blueberry-yellow pie-cake died. When I got home with one of my friends who was spending a couple of nights with me, Ed looked at me soberly and said "I hurt the cake". And there it sat, all gooey and broken. There were questions on my part. There was disappointment. I did not, however, totally lose my cool.

Instead, I shoved the clearly underbaked mess back in the oven and crossed my fingers. Also - I made note of the structural issues and determined that this would be the TOP layer of the Strawbluple.

This is what the blueberry yellow pie-cake looked like BEFORE Ed touched it.

I don't have a photo after it, because I was so stunned. The mess that it had become is NOT something that needs to be documented on film - or digitally, as the case may be. I will say that the kids witnessed the disaster, and both of them noted very early in the morning "Dad did it". Well played children, well played.

However, one cannot let a little collapse get in the way of projects like this. So the next day, I stacked the apple-cinnamon pie-cake on top of the strawberry-chocolate pie-cake, and then piled the rebaked blueberry-yellow pie-cake on top.

Viola! It's taller than Helen's head - which is a pretty tall cake.

The Strawblueple served many people - and was definitely the dessert that just kept on giving. I have to admit that my creation might have gone down a little better with a side insulin. Wow. I was a little jittery after my slice.

Several people asked if I will ever bake this again.

No, I will not. Like many projects, the temptation to do it over is high - given that now I sort of know what I'm doing. However, it truly is a ridiculous dessert, and I can't imagine an occasion that would call for one (except maybe a 50th birthday?). A parent at Helen's school did suggest I could auction this off at the school's annual auction, but that would be way too much pressure. No rebaked, crumbled, blueberry-yellow pie-cakes would be appropriate if someone had actually paid for the dessert.

However, I would make a single layer again. I like the taste of pie and cake together. And I had forgotten how simple it is to bake a pie, so having an excuse to make another seems like a good thing.

If you should try this at home, I have two pieces of advice. First, do not let Ed touch it. Ever. Second, acquire a giant spatula like the one seen in the above photo to serve it. There's no way I could've transferred slides of the Strawbluple to a plate without that monster spatula.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


There are many songs I have sung hundreds, if not thousands of times to my children. The songs were established when they were in utero, meant to bring comfort. For Connor, I couldn't stop singing "Baby Mine", my most favorite Disney song ever. It suits him perfectly. I also would sleepily intone Eddie from Ohio's "Hey Little Man" when I'd walk him around at night, wishing sleep would find my home. By the time Helen came around, I sang "You Are My Sunshine" and later, when I heard Red Molly sing "May I Suggest", I started to croon that, too.

A couple of days ago, I was not in a good place. Nothing seemed to be going right, and I was just sad. And then, what should I hear from the backseat but a request from Helen for each of these songs that have brought me comfort so many times. We sang them together. And by the end of our car ride, I felt much better.

Thanks, Helen. Sometimes you know what I need more than I do.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments at

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mother's Day Tea

The neighborhood branch of the library hosted a Mother's Day tea last Saturday. The first day it was announced, Helen signed up. Connor thought about joining, but ditched us at the last moment when a playdate opportunity arose.

Helen insisted that we wear our fanciest, long dresses. She topped off her outfit with her very fancy homemade hat, impressing many. I wore my sparkly gold sandals, which seemed to go unnoticed by all except Helen. We were, by far, the most dressed up of the attendees.

During one of the stories, the daughter is helping the mom out with various tasks, including putting make-up on. During this part of the story, Helen told the entire audience of attendees incredulously - my mom doesn't even wear make-up! But she assured me, should I start, she's ready to help.


Monday, May 13, 2013

On Turning 40

Dear Helen and Connor,

Today, I'm 40 years old. I don't know when you'll read this, but however old you are, I hope you know that I'm not the kind of person who pretends I'm a different age (though if you ask me how old I am, I swear the number that comes to mind is 27, and I am almost always surprised when I calculate that it's much higher than that). I claim my years. I'm proud that I've made it through every imperfect one of them. I know how lucky I am to be alive.

I'm also lucky to be your mom. I've seen your first steps, heard your first sentences (Turn 'da mixer off! and Helen made a mess!), and you've given me a million memories to fuel my soul. Why I have trouble recalling those memories sometimes, I do not know. But they're in my heart, and many are recorded on this blog as well. It's a great joy for me to reread them. Connor, you have mentioned that it would be nice if I made you a book full of photos and stories. I haven't yet told you about this blog, but that wish brought me a lot of happiness. I hope you find what you're looking for in these blog pages.

I've thought a lot about what I would tell you on turning 40, and the thing that always comes back to me is how exceedingly lucky I am. I hope you never underestimate what a huge role luck plays in your lives. We don't have a lot of control in this world. Terrible things happen, wonderful things happen - and almost all of them are completely unexplainable, or their explanations ring hollow if given more than a moment's thought. I urge you not to dwell on either. Just keep moving forward - luck can turn on a dime. And wear a hat when it's sunny!

When you are your age, your lives are filled with good news. Something new is happening - a discovery on the playground, a friendship develops, a teacher gives birth, you learn to tie shoes (even you, Connor, and trust me we are all amazed)! When you hit your twenties and thirties, friends are getting married, babies are being born, careers are being realized, you learn to demand a raise! Announcements typically mean good things. When someone comes up to you and asks if you have a minute, they almost always divulge some lovely secret that is filled with hope and promise. Wonder abounds.

As my children, you both provide a great buffer to news at 40. Because news at 40 is not as kind as news even 20 years ago. Forty tries to beat you down. A friend has cancer, a friend has ALS, a friend dies, in fact, more than one friend dies. Friends of friends are dying. It almost seems impossible. When I was 24 and a very close friend died, most of my peers really couldn't know how I felt. Today? I can mention in passing some awful piece of news I'm digesting and the friend next to me knows exactly what I'm going through. Chances are, they're going through it, too. At 40, you know what to wear to a funeral. You wished you had to call your mom to ask, but you don't have to anymore. (And some people even wish they had a mom to call, and I am so lucky that mine is still around!) You even receive notes that say "if you want to say good-bye, NOW is the time to do it". Those notes are dreadful, though I'm grateful they are sent. I have never regretted responding immediately, rather than waiting for just the right thing to say. Trust me on this one, when you receive these notes, don't wait. Just act.

Forty, as it turns out, can be lonely. Forty will sometimes find you crying silently and biting your lip. Forty sometimes bursts into tears. I am learning that forty requires a very positive attitude. Forty makes you grateful for the memories you built at 20 - and before. Forty also sometimes mixes words up. Forgive me for this, it confuses me, too.

Your dad recently told me that he thinks people often mistake me for someone younger than I am, and he thinks it's because I smile a lot. I hope when you're forty, you smile a lot, too. I mean every one of those smiles. I love being in this dimension. And for as many days as you are granted here, I hope you love them, too.

Forty comes with confidence. You can ask a complete stranger in the bathroom if she has a spare tampon. You can send work back when it's not done correctly, rather than staying late and correcting it yourself. You can remain calm when the world around you spins out of control. Forty can say "I'm sorry" - and mean it. Forty also allows you to accept that help that you were too proud to accept before because you really did believe you needed to do it all. On the rare occasion that I find myself with a child at the grocery store, I say "yes" when asked whether I'd like help with my bags. I appreciate that help, and I don't mind waiting for the checker to find someone to help.

Forty allows you to sing really loudly on the way to school. Forty can tell the officer that just pulled you over that indeed, you missed that stop sign. And when that officer asks if it's your first visit to the park, you can confidently answer back "No sir, I've been here dozens of times. I have no explanation for missing that stop sign." And if you're me, he will check your license and tell you to have a nice day. Because at forty, you're somehow able to communicate silently that you're doing the best you can, and sometimes, no foul no harm is the name of the day. I do promise I'll stop next time, though.

Forty with kids celebrates life. Just this year, I've enjoyed a bike ride down to the cherry blossoms with Connor self propelling the whole way and Helen happily cruising along on the trailer bike waving to onlookers as if she were in some sort of parade. I've watched you both play soccer. I've seen Connor hit the ball hard, catch the ball, and run with more determination that I would've thought possible a few years ago. Where did that little wandering boy go? I've also enjoyed both of you coming up with mostly logical answers to sometimes perplexing problems. It's a lot of good news, to be sure. I am even learning to laugh inside at the foot-stomping insistence of an absolute untruth - as Helen refuses to believe the world operates in a way other than how she imagines it. I hope by the time you read this you're still standing your ground, Helen. Insistent and smiling can be a formidable force.

You both remind me how much fun snow can be (even when it falls on March 25!), how many colors of flowers exist, and wondering if, in fact, it's possible to ever touch the sky. We've tried so hard, jumping and bouncing. If anyone can do it, Helen, it's you. Ad astra per aspera. We've danced in the rain, gone on scavenger hunts, and enjoyed a lot of ice cream together. I will warn you - all this ice cream has a downside at 40 that didn't seem to be present before this! Really. At 40, you have to choose which dessert you're going to sample at the party, instead of eating them both. Until then - eat them both and love every minute of it. And when you're 40 - start lifting weights and running. Cross your fingers that the pounds fall before the knees give out. It sometimes feels like a desperate race. But I'm living proof that the race is far from over. Since November when I entered a 5K with no training outside of chasing kids to now, I've seen my race times drop from 10 minute miles to 8:43 miles. I'm gunning for 8 minute miles now - and then I'm going to start increasing race distances. Run, Mommy, run!

I've spent the past year trying to live a more contemplative life while at the same time trying to live in exactly this moment. I've been thinking about how powerful 40 can be. It's a large enough number to demand to be taken seriously. It's got enough punch behind it to know that the person turning 40 likely has a strong foundation from which to draw. It's an age that begs of the owner to shed the weight (both physical and meta-physical). It's an age ripe for challenge. Bring it, 40. I'm ready!

And just in case you're listening, 40 - you may be intent on kicking my backside with all your unfortunate news. But you know what? I'm going to crush you. I won't spend one moment hoping for 41 or wishing for 39. Because this year? I am 40. And oh, how lucky I am - to be forty.

Hope to see you the same time, next year!

Friday, May 10, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments at

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Facing 40: We Run This Town

I want my kids to know they can push their bodies into doing almost anything they want. I want them to know that they don't have to be first, but it's a wonderful thing to finish. I realized, recently, that one of the rewarding things about running at my pace, is that since everyone running near me knows we are not going to win, there really is a feeling of everyone encouraging everyone else to keep going and finish.

I'll probably never be as fast as Ed. I used to run so slowly that it was actually painful for him to run with me, although he would occasionally try. For our 8K back in March, he ran with me most of the way, possibly because he knew it meant a lot to me to run sub-10 minute miles (which I did!), and keeping up with him was part of my race plan. However, as Ed was running with me, he was chatting away, clearly at leisure. I was grunting "yes" huff, puff, "no", huff, puff until finally Ed realized that I just can't talk when I'm running. It takes everything I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Connor's elementary school held a 5K and 1 mile fun run last weekend. I signed the whole family up. A mile is a long way for both Helen and Connor, but they had 30 minutes to complete it, and with enough walking, I was confident they'd finish. And they did!

Connor ran somewhere around an 11 minute mile - which is to say - he ran at about an 8 minute mile pace, walked, and then dashed off again. He was fast when he was running. I started off with him and he left me in the dust. Thankfully, he started walking not too far into the race so I could catch up with him. Helen trotted along with Ed and it was pure glee when she caught up to Connor and me. At that point, Ed took off with Connor and I ran / walked the rest of the way with Helen.

Helen ran / walked for 13:15. And she came in strong. As I ran with her across the finish line, I showed her how to pump her fists in the air and cheer for herself. You Go Girl!

The great thing about running at an elementary school is that there are a lot of parents cheering on all of the kids. It's a great environment for a first run.

Connor liked the donuts after the race.

After completing the mile, Ed and I went on to run the 5K. He left me in the dust pretty quickly. He ran sub-8 minute miles. I'm not sure I'll ever get that fast - although I'm now hoping to get to an 8 minute mile by next year.

I finished the race in 27:05, which is good for an 8:43 minute mile. This is, by far, the fastest I have ever run - and almost 40 seconds per minute faster than I ran in March.

Check out that heel-to-toe form I still have at the finish as well as the fancy new running shoes I treated myself to after I nearly injured myself at the March run, wearing shoes with literally no support left in them.
Next up? Run Amuck at Quantico. Ed and I both need to practice our push-ups and monkey bars before the race, since those are two of the obstacles in the course.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Seat Belts

I don't like wearing my seat belt. I think it's genetic, because my mom doesn't like wearing one either. My dad is a big fan of seat belts. In fact, he refused to teach me to drive until I promised to always wear one. Which is just to say, that I fully understand that anything bad that happens to me for not wearing a seatbelt is completely deserved. I also understand that it is the law in Virginia that every driver must be wearing her seatbelt.

But I freely admit, that when the kids aren't in the car, and I'm going somewhere close, I don't often wear my seat belt. In fact, one of my favorite features of my car is that the little bell that dings when the driver doesn't have her seat belt on has worn out. It produces no sound. It has given up on its one life function. I know my dad just fell out of his chair, trying to calculate how many times I must have failed to wear my seat belt to wear the bell out, although it's possible he doesn't even know there is a seat belt warning bell since his probably never dings. Let's just say this, Dad. It's an impressive number. It takes years. I bought that care in 2001. The bell used to ding all the way from my old home to the Safeway parking lot (several blocks away). It would stop about 30 seconds before I turned my car off. And then one day, it just stopped. It had given up and admitted defeat.

A few mornings ago, I went to pick up something less than two miles from my home. I came to a four-way stop and who should arrive to the right of me just a nanosecond later? A police officer.

I did not have my seat belt on. It was my turn to go. I was in a pickle.

I paused, hoping the officer would cruise on through. He sat on his motorcycle staring at me.

So there we sat, staring at each other. I'm not sure what he was thinking, but I was debating in my head whether it would be better to drive off and pretend like I wasn't doing anything illegal, or if I should put the seat belt on which would certainly draw attention to the fact that prior to our stare down, I wasn't wearing a seat belt. I also considered just turning the car off and walking around it, pretending to check the tires or pop the hood.

This waiting was getting endless. Someone would need to make a move. We were at two connecting side streets with little to no traffic, so there was no one honking at either of us forcing the issue.

I made my move.

I reached over my shoulder, grabbed the seat belt, and buckled. I figured I could preserve my defense that he hadn't actually SEEN me driving without a seatbelt with this action.

The officer smiled big, gave me a thumbs up (both of which I returned), and then drove on his way.

Thank you, officer. I should promise to be better about this. But...well...all that effort to wear the bell out would seem like such a waste.

Do as I say, people, not as I do.


When I told Ed the above story, I could tell the whole time he waiting to see how big a fine I would get. When I didn't get one, he simply admonished "you should wear your seatbelt".

Friday, May 3, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments at

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I have two boys that live in my house, and the natural byproduct of that is an occasional drop or two of wetness on the floor near the toilet. Not pleasant, but bearable.

Twice in the last year, I've found an actual puddle. I don't even want to imagine how this happens - because the girl in me tells me that this means the boy in the incident is within inches of peeing on his own feet. And that thought makes me squirm.

Last night was one of those two nights.

I put Helen in the shower and then called "men of the house", to no avail.

So I stepped out into the dining room and called again for both men to meet me in the bathroom. When they arrived, I pointed to the puddle and mentioned that one of them appeared to have missed their target, and one of them needed to clean it up.

At this point, Helen called out from the shower "It wasn't me! I SIT!"

Connor and Ed looked at each other, spent a little time trying to blame the other, and then settled on a game of Rochambeau to determine who would clean. Connor threw rock which Ed covered with paper. Connor quickly called out "best two out of three". Trust me when I tell you this is just about as exciting as it gets at my house.

Tension was in the air. Connor threw scissors and Ed covered with rock. Connor's fate had been sealed.

Ed went to get the cleaner.

Connor balked. No way was he cleaning that puddle up.

Ed sprayed the cleaner.

They argued some more.

Finally, I left the room and the puddle was cleaned (I presume by Ed, but I'm not certain, I had left by that point). I did hear a lot of "well you have to carry the toilet paper" and "that is disgusting".

(My point, exactly!)

That evening, I told Ed I couldn't believe how long he and Connor had spent determining who would clean the puddle. Ed's response?

"That kid lost fair and square."


If things like this happen in your house as well, hop on over to the Honeywell Facebook page and like Honeywell. Then enter to win monthly housecleaning service for a year at 

*I have not been compensated for this post. The contest announcement landed in my inbox the morning of the above incident. Seemed like fate was telling me to share, even though it lessens the likelihood that I will win the above prize myself! Good luck, all.