Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Dancing a happy dance here . . .

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Grandparents - thoughts, tips, and ideas

First, let me post a few pictures of our kids, because I haven't posted any in a while and they're growing up fast. Plus, they're gorgeous. I'll throw in some that have me, Mark, and Scout, too, for good measure.

A boy and his dog

Volunteering at the library
Scout and me
Thing 1 and a visiting out-of-town friend
Goofing around
Off to a Daddy-Daughter Dance

I’m sitting in the library and the WiFi isn’t working, so I think I’ll write. Being highly distractible, it’s kind of good for me that I can’t seem to get the Internet to work right now. I came here to write, after all.

Our local library is the cutest little building. There’s an upstairs and a downstairs. Thing 1 volunteers here regularly. We’ve attended programs here. We’ve even run programs here! Thing 2 is starting a gaming group here. Mark has lectured here. We’ve helped with some advocacy to get funding for the library. We love love love our libraries.

Our small town library has this cool room for kids – there are games, cards, and computers. It is just for kids – no adults allowed. We come here now and then to enjoy this room. The kids meet up with friends and play. I sit upstairs at a table and write. It’s fantastic.


So today I’m sharing my musings on grandparents. It is something I think about a lot. I think of my own relationship with my grandparents. I think about our children and their relationship with their grandparents. I think about my dad and how it sucks that he’s not here to enjoy his grandkids – he would love spending time with them and they would have his absolute full attention. I just know he would dote on them – buy them ice cream cones, sit and play games with them, watch them enjoy their hobbies for hours on end. I get a little melancholy around this time of year. Father’s Day is hard for me in a way. I am always reminded that I can’t call my Dad, and I feel a hole that exists even more keenly on that holiday as Mark calls his Dad and I sit and think about mine. I love making the day special for Mark and recognizing the wonderful father he is to our children. That part, I love.

I watch my friends and observe their relationships with their parents and grandparents. I notice the relationship our kids’ friends have with their grandparents. I even think quite a bit (probably more than most people would guess) about how I hope to be as a grandparent, though I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising or odd – I grew up thinking about the kind of mom I’d be, too. I take copious notes when I see or hear of cool ideas for grandparents. I read articles on the subject and my ear is always keen to conversations about the topic.

To be clear, I’m not in any rush to be a grandmother and I know it’s a ways off. I’m just collecting ideas now just like I collected mothering ideas when I was a kid. My family means the most to me, so I try to put my actions where my words are, you know? I love people and relationships and I love creative ideas, so it stands to reason that I simply and genuinely enjoy this stuff.


Yesterday, I went out with some friends to our local coffee shop (seriously, I love our little town!) and the subject turned to, you guessed it, grandparents. My friends both said to me, “I don’t know how you guys do it” and “I’m so sorry; I feel so bad for you.” Honestly, we get that a lot, because most of our friends have children whose grandparents are here in town or at least within 2-3 hours of here. They know that ours are in New England and across the country in California. Our kids visit with grandparents about 2-3 times a year, on average, including both sides. People often give us a pitying look and I’m not going to lie, we do often feel alone in that way. It is our choice to live here (it’s where work and education and affordability brought us), so we own it.

Most of the time we’re really fine (ha – and often those same friends also tell us that sometimes they envy that we have that distance and space from our extended relatives), but sometimes it’s tough. Mark and I often feel like we’re playing the role of parents and grandparents, trying to make it up to our kids somehow since they so often see their friends’ grandparents at birthday parties, recitals, baseball games, dinners, picnics, etc. On the plus side, we are most definitely a close-knit family as we pull together as a unit in all that we do. We don’t have grandparents nearby that we can fall back on. I think in many ways it has made us even stronger. We are happy and tight. 

So yes, we don’t have any family members here we can call in a pinch to help us out. We have no familial back ups for rides or support in that way. And when we’re stressed out of our minds, we just pull through and do the best we can. And yes, we have friends here, but they’re all busy, too, and it’s just not as comfortable asking friends as it is family. Theoretically. (We are looking forward to the Johnsons moving here – they don’t have any extended family here either, so we’ve had multiple long talks about being that for each other). They move here for good in 21 days – not soon enough!


I grew up especially close to one of my grandparents – my maternal grandfather (my VavĂ´). I adored him. He couldn’t speak English, so we always spoke in Portuguese. He was my summer care and my after-school care for my first 14 years. He was a pretty quiet man, not much of a talker. But he was always attentive, always up for snuggles, and very quick with a smile and kisses. He would do anything with me, just to be with me. We’d sit for hours under his grapevine. We’d watch TV together (“Lassie” was his favorite show – easy to understand with the language barrier). He’d snuggle with me and watch me play piano. And he always shared his brownie with me from his “meals on wheels.” I loved his toothless grin and his bald head. I took college classes during my senior year of high school and whenever I’d drive into the city to attend my classes, I’d always stop to see him (and kiss that sweet, bald head). It always felt good for the soul to see him, sit with him, and know that I was loved.

He died during my senior year. I was 17 and it was very difficult for me. It killed me a little bit inside when he looked at me and didn’t recognize me toward the end. I missed him terribly and his death was hard on me. I think part of the reason I think so much about grandparents is because I had this special, close relationship with him and I want so much for our kids to have special, close relationships, too.

I was six when his wife, my maternal grandmother, died. I don’t remember her much. I didn’t ever meet my dad’s mom, as she died when he was 15. My paternal grandfather lived in the Azores, Portugal, so I only saw him once or twice when we visited there or when he visited the U.S. He remarried, so I also had a step-grandmother. I have pictures of her washing me in a basin and plucking chickens with me when we visited the Azores when I was 3. I don’t think I ever saw her again after that.

Mark grew up not having ever met his maternal grandfather – his maternal grandfather died before Mark’s mom even got married. He knew his paternal grandfather, though he didn’t live in the same town. His grandfather bought baby furniture for Mark and took him to Disney and other outings. Mark was 8 when his paternal grandfather died. He has some memories, but not super strong ones. Mark grew up knowing both of his grandmothers – both of them were at our wedding or wedding reception. That’s pretty special. Being the youngest by far of my generation, I came along much later and didn’t get much time with my grandparents before they died. All of them had died by the time I graduated high school. Amazingly, Mark’s great grandmother was alive when we got married. I didn’t ever get to meet her, but she made Thing 1 a lovely baby blanket that we cherish. Nana died right before turning 100.

Mark has a grandmother who is 90 and going strong. We’ve been able to visit with her several times over the years. We even traveled several hours to meet her when we got engaged. It was a special visit that I loved. I think it’s pretty special that our kids have a living great grandparent. She is always thoughtful of every birthday and holiday (something she has passed on to her daughter, as Mark’s mom also does the same) and often writes them poems and sends cards and lets them know she is thinking of them. We call and email with her and she even recently joined Facebook!

Anyway, Mark and I have varying experiences in the grandparent department. And, like I’m sure all parents do, we want so much for our kids to have good relationships and closeness with grandparents and grandparent types. Distance makes it a challenge, but there are things you can do and things we try to do.


A friend of ours (who has both sets of grandparents in town) once asked me, “Aren’t you busy with the kids’ activities and appointments and things?”


Confused she asked, “Well, what do you do if between all of your stuff, you have to be in, say, 3 places at once?”

“Something gives,” I shrugged. “We don’t go to one of those things.” That has happened to us multiple times. Usually, what gives is something Mark and/or I would like to do. We don’t bag the kids’ stuff for our own. We’re not monsters! :P

“Huh,” she said, as if such a thought were completely foreign to her. And, to be fair, in her situation, it kind of is!

It takes a village, so what do people do who don’t have grandparents living close by?

  1. Know your limits and schedule wisely. You have no back up, so don’t ever count on any. Approach all activities and appointments and opportunities accordingly.
  2. Pull together as a family – it’s all on you, so get along and work together.
  3. Enjoy the good aspects of the situation. Every time a friend of ours deals with family drama (which seems worse if both sides of the family are in the same town in some cases), they tell us they envy us and we are reminded that that kind of drama is not something in our day-to-day life, so embrace and enjoy that.
  4. Play the role of parents and grandparents. You obviously can’t do both and you obviously can’t be replacement relationships, but you can think of all the things cool grandparents would do and try to do them, too. It’s not the same, but it’s something. (Warning: This can get exhausting).
  5. Try not to compare yourselves to others and own your situation. Sometimes you feel down and sad. Don’t stay there too long. Acceptance.
  6. Be proactive in befriending people in the community to add to your fabric of relationships, for both you and your kids. Build meaningful relationships.
  7. Take notes. Be the kind of grandparent you’d love to have or that you’d love for your kids to have.
 Our kids always love when Mark’s parents come to visit us. We appreciate their effort in coming out here – we know we live far away. Our situation has not exactly made it easy for all four of us to fly out there and visit. In fact, we haven’t done it in over 10 years – how crazy is that? It’s a combination of factors, including expense. (Though we did do a HUGE, over 3-week, cross-country road trip in 2009 to attend a family reunion for Mark’s side of the family, where we also got to see Mark’s grandmother and our kids’ great grandmother). But they do come see us every year or two and they’re always very attentive – we eat out, we play games, we cook, we visit places, we watch funny shows. We sort of have to squeeze in a lot to the 5 or 6 days they're here, because that’s about how much time we all get to spend together every 1-2 years, so you make it count! Mark’s parents are more than a decade younger than my parents and are both still working full-time, so they have to really coordinate their vacation time to visit all their kids(6) and grandkids(13)! It always feels strangely GOOD to have grandparents in the house playing with our kids. They’re having fun together and we sort of don’t know what to do with ourselves, because we’re not used to it! 

My mother is retired and lives about 5 hours away and comes to visit about once a year, sometimes twice. Our kids also enjoy when she visits and they absolutely love to see Jim as well, since he usually brings her down. She usually brings us all kinds of yummy Portuguese food and the kids try to show her everything they have and can do within the first half hour she steps in our home. She saves up coins in a jar and every time she sees the kids, she has them split whatever coins are in the jar. She tells them bedtime stories and does puzzles with Thing 1 and plays games with Thing 2. She watches shows and movies with them (she usually falls asleep). Then the kids tell her she snores and she refuses to believe it. It’s tradition.

In these brief visits, it’s nice to feel “looked out for” by parental types. It feels like some kind of invisible safety net has been temporarily hooked up beneath us. It’s nice.

Between these visits, we try to Skype now and then. And of course we blog and the kids blog. Our blog was originally started as a means to share with grandparents, since they all live so far away and we try to update it and share that way.


Besides our kids’ actual grandparents, we also have “grandparent types” – some here and some far. Jim certainly falls into that category. As do some friends around us.

For those out there with estranged or disinterested grandparents, you can’t force them to be involved. You also can’t exactly go around asking strangers to please adopt you and your kids (I’ve tried). But you can put yourself out there (law of attraction, anyone?) and simply make friends.

About a year ago, we met an interesting empty-nester couple at a local group of non-religious folks. They are intelligent and well traveled. They have raised 4 children together – all of them college graduates at pretty prestigious universities. They have great relationships with their children and speak highly of them all. Both of them came from rough backgrounds, having dealt with various kinds of abuse in their own childhoods, so they are keen on treating kids with respect.

We’ve gotten together with this couple multiple times – at their house, at our house, at local goings on, etc. They always, always show an interest in our kids and often email us to tell us that they are jealous of our children and the loving, respectful upbringing they are getting from us (something that is always sweet to hear). They are constantly telling us what terrific kids we have. We couldn’t agree more. Admittedly, it’s nice to hear it.

We have set up a monthly time to meet with them for dinner and games at our local coffee shop. We get together in the evening, eat (we go on half-price day), and then talk and play games for hours and hours. They often bring books or thoughtful tokens or something to share with the kids. They have given our kids their own plants to care for, have shared stories and information they thought our kids would like, and even bring books about places they’ve visited to talk about interesting places and people and artists, most recently Frank Lloyd Wright. They love that we’re homeschooling and like to share any information they can with our kids to help enrich them and their understanding. We’re very grateful for that.

Thing 1’s best friend’s grandmother has sewn with the girls, gotten them matching t-shirts, and taken them to see some community musical programs. Stuff like that makes me want to cry, we appreciate it so much. It’s “little things,” maybe, but to us, they’re big.

I also have a friend here in town who is a grandmother herself. She remembers every holiday with some kind of bag of goodies or present or thoughtful gesture for our kids. She sends them notes in the mail. She bakes them brownies sometimes. Her husband even dressed up as Santa when we visited them this past Christmas! She and I go out to lunch monthly together. She always asks about our kids and remembers their special events. Thing 2 especially likes her and always has. She used to lead a book club for him and his friends so that her granddaughter could have a special book club all her own (how awesome is that?!?) and Thing 2 has always spoken highly of it and how much he enjoys her and her thoughtfulness. She and I do a “double date” every summer – she with her grandson (who is a friend of Thing 2’s) and me with Thing 2. We go out to eat and to a movie or something along those lines. It’s fun and special and means a lot to us. She and her husband even joined us on a fun, local Christmas outing this past holiday and we all so loved spending the evening with them.

So, see, though it’s not at all the same, it’s something.


Take notes. I’ve seen and heard of some remarkable and creative things that grandparents do to maintain close relationships with their grandkids. Some of them are just so cool that I’ve got to write them down. I have the tendency to feel envious, so keeping notes on things I’d like to do someday helps direct it from helplessness to something I can do.

Here are some awesome things I’ve observed from friends who have shared with me over the years:

  • I have friends who have entire DAYS where they send their kids to grandma’s house while they get a ton done. I can’t even imagine. That sounds like a win-win-win and a time to feel guilt-free and productive. The kids are with their grandparents, the grandparents are with their grandkids, and you’re able to focus and get things done without feeling guilty that you’re not doing something with the kids. Wow.  
  • Date nights! We’ve done a few of these over the past 13+ years when grandparents have been in town. We don’t always do it when grandparents visit (because we want to visit with them, too!), but every once in a while, it’s pretty special. Years have gone by without us having been able to do this (instead, we get kids to bed and do “dates” at home – Chinese take-out and a movie or some such), but when we do, it’s pretty neat. Again, I almost feel weird, because I’m not used to it.
  • Showing up for births. My mom was in town for Thing 1’s birth. I know that meant a lot to her. I think when things get trickier is when subsequent children come along. I was a wreck about that – wanting someone I could really trust to be with Thing 1 while I was in the hospital giving birth to Thing 2. My mother-in-law saved the day on that one. My mother couldn’t commit to come, so we asked my MIL. I know she felt funny about it, but she completely saved our sanity, giving us much greater peace of mind. She even came a week early and made us meals every night, something I greatly appreciated since I was huge by then Mark was busy with medical school – it was a very nice treat.
  • My friend who meets me for lunch does individual dates with her grandkids. She has given amazingly thoughtful gifts to her grandkids that all ensure her involvement and presence. She gifted her oldest grandchild, when he turned 14, the gift of a monthly one-on-one lunch out with her. They walk together regularly anyway, so they often walk to the different restaurants, spend time talking and eating, and walk back together.
  • She also gave her daughter one of the coolest Christmas gifts I’ve ever heard of – she gave her a YEAR of weekly cleanings to help her daughter have more time with her kids. Wow!
  • Another one of my friends, just yesterday, told me a great idea. Her parents live over 2 hours away and make the drive weekly to spend weekends with their grandkids. She said if her kids don’t see their grandparents once a week that they would wonder what on earth was going on. Well, even though they drive 5 hours round trip weekly to visit their grandkids, they also send their oldest grandchild (he’s 14) a weekly news item from the newspaper. They cut something out of the Wall Street Journal that they think would interest him and they send it in the mail along with some spending money. When they visit, the grandfather takes each child on a walk where they talk, visit shops, and he buys them treats and things – he spends a good, long time with each child and then goes back to do the same with the next grandchild. How special!
  • My friend’s mother also buys pretty much all the clothing for her grandkids and then says, “Oh, you’re busy and it’s hard to shop with kids, so it’s just easier if I do it, plus I enjoy doing it.” My friend hasn’t bought any clothing for her kids in years!
  • I have another friend whose mother also buys much of the grandkids’ clothing, taking the children shopping with her when she goes. I suppose for those who love to shop, it’s a joy and not a chore. Personally, I don’t get it (blech to shopping!), but I can see how it’s a great benefit!
  • I have friends whose parents take all their grown children, in-laws, and grandchildren on big family vacations. I have friends who have gone to Disney, Mexico, Europe, on cruises, and the beach. Most everyone around here does annual or bi-annual week-long trips to the beach together.
  • Babysitting regularly while the children work. I suppose that one might be too “common” to put on the list, but it’s very meaningful, so it merits a spot. I’ve read many articles that talk about how in today’s day and age, many grandparents are helping to raise their grandchildren. In some cases, it is becoming more and more common for there to be 3 generations living under one roof, working together for house and home. Mark’s best friend from high school is married with 2 girls. His mother lives with them and cares for the house and the girls while her son and daughter-in-law work. I have several friends here who are in similar situations.
  • Having a stash of goodies at their house for kids to eat or use when they visit. When we take our dog for a walk, we see a couple of houses with signs that say things like “Grandkids always welcome” and “Grandma and Papa’s house for cookies, milk, hugs, kisses, and snuggles. Open Anytime.” And “Grandma never runs out of hugs or cookies.” Sure they’re chintzy, but they’re sweet and give you warm fuzzies. Who wouldn’t feel great walking in to a house with those kinds of signs?
  • My SIL’s parents built a big house for themselves with tons of extra rooms and yard space for kids and grandkids to enjoy. They even have a dedicated playroom with clubhouse as well as a built-in home theater! Snazzy. They’re the ones that made me think that downsizing isn’t necessarily the thing to do when older and retired.
  • There is a business owner in town who has a room set up just for her grandkids and they do regular sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. When she heard that our kids’ grandparents are on either coast, she about cried and then said that maybe our kids could go over sometime. She was just being polite, but it was nice nonetheless.
  • My mom sometimes Skypes with the kids and they play their instruments for her via the Internet. Now and then she also sends “just because” packages of books, homeschooling stuff, etc.
  • A friend of mine said that her parents don’t live close by but close enough for a long drive to get here. She said she can call her parents (they are divorced) any time and ask them to come see and spend time with her kids and she knows that either one of them will come just because she asked. Wow.
  • I’ve heard of far away grandparents who record themselves reading books out loud and send them to their grandkids so they can “read” them bedtime stories even from a distance. Such a cute idea.
  • One of my friends has a mother who regularly buys groceries, always including the grandkids’ favorite foods
  • Teaching grandkids new skills like fishing or sewing or baking by doing the activity together. I know Thing 1 loves baking pies with Mark’s mom.
  • Another friend of mine lives upstairs from her in-laws and every week on Friday night, the grandparents cook a big meal for everyone and they have “Family Dinner” together. I love love love that idea.
  • Because they live right downstairs, the little kids often go downstairs in the morning and ask their grandparents to make them eggs for breakfast. Their grandma often makes them cookies and fudge, too.
  • My one friend says that she doesn’t even have to ask her mother for help. Her mother anticipates her needs by looking at her calendar, noticing the busy times, thinking ahead, and just offering, “Hey, Monday looks really busy for you, so how about I drive a couple of the kids to their activities and make dinner that night?”
  • Keeping up on grandkids through blogs and/or Facebook.
  • Taking them to movies.
  • Attending local field trips together.
  • One of my friends got a Disney time share as a gift from her kids’ grandparents and they go down every 3 years to use it. Wow.
  • There is a grandma in our book club who has 8 grown children. She spends most of her summers (and other times of the year as well) driving all over the country to visit her grandchildren. This past fall/winter, she went out to visit one of her children to help with the young grandchildren since they had some work stuff going on. While she was finishing up there, another one of her children in another state had a grandmother-in-law pass away, so she drove down there to help with those grandchildren. When she was done there, one of her other children in yet another state had something else come up, so she drove out to them next! What was supposed to be a 1-2 week trip turned into almost 2 months!
  • My friends who do family dinners also go out to dinner together for every birthday in the family – that’s 14 birthdays a year, by the way.
  • Showing up to spend time with them for events or just because.
  • I know a grandma who takes her granddaughters out with her for mini-spa days where they get manicures and/or pedicures together.
  • Saving for college/a car for their grandkids. I’ve heard countless stories about this, too. Everyone approaches it differently, but the most common way I’ve heard is just putting aside a bit each month for each child over the years.



So I wrote most of the above on Thursday. Today is Friday and our family attended a workshop at a local library today all about writing memoirs. The room was FULL of older ladies, most of whom are grandmothers, so there were tons more ideas I heard today and thought I’d add to the list before hitting “publish.”

  • Memory boxes – a couple of the grandmas there today said they make “memory boxes” for each grandchild where they make a box and put a picture on it of themselves with each child and then they fill the box with stories about the child, cute things the child says, stories they’ve written for the child, programs from the child’s recitals and concerts and events, etc. Such a thoughtful idea!
  • Several of these women all said they write stories specifically for their grandchildren. That reminds me of Mark’s grandma – she has always done that (stories, poems, etc.) and continues to do so into her 90s!
  • The author teaching the class is 72 and she said she sends each grandchild roses when they turn 13.
  • Almost every grandma in the room was there to get ideas about and help with writing memoirs for their grandchildren.
  • One of the grandmas said that she had a granddaughter that was struggling with reading and the school was going to remediate her and her parents were concerned and upset, so the grandma offered to start a book club with her granddaughter. She got a list of books together and put together discussion questions and fun things for each book and did most of the book club for her granddaughter and her granddaughter’s friends by mail and email. The granddaughter’s reading improved so much that she was set for school. And she learned to have fun reading. I thought that idea was super sweet.
  • The woman teaching the class keeps a book for each grandchild filled with stories, memories, and funny things all about that child. When the child is a teenager, she visits with him or her and sits down and goes through the book with the child together.
  • She also makes DVDs and audio tapes of stories and interviews for them as well as written stories and memoirs.
  • The woman teaching the class said that she has 3 sons and 10 grandchildren. Every summer, she does a “Camp Nana” (something or other – don’t remember the name, but it was cute and clever) and all the grandkids go to her house for 1-2 weeks and she does a full-on summer camp of activities for them. She gives her own kids/in-laws some “couple time” and she spends those summer camp weeks doing all kinds of things with her grandkids. She asks them what kind of stuff they want to do and then incorporates it. This past year they said they wanted to write a book together, so they all did. Each grandchild made a page and she self-published it as one whole book and gave everyone a copy!
  • Another woman in the class is also in her 70s and is a college professor (she still teaches 1-2 classes/semester) and she mentioned something that isn’t specifically for her own grandchildren, but was still very thoughtful and sweet, so I wanted to mention it. She said she’s getting to the age where she’s losing friends as they leave this life. She had a friend who passed away recently, so she wrote a big, long letter to her friend’s grandchildren to let them know what a wonderful woman their grandmother was. I thought that was really thoughtful and very much going the extra mile.

What’s crazy is that after this workshop, we went home and had lunch and then I took the kids to the park and heard yet more stories about grandparents! I wasn’t even asking or looking for these; they just kept coming up! But I’ll stop before this gets any longer. Suffice it to say, this list is endless!!

So, back to my original closing from yesterday . . .

Whew, that’s quite a list! I’m sure I’m forgetting some and I’d love to hear more.

What are some of your favorite experiences with your grandparents? If you have children, what are some of your favorite things that your parents and in-laws do as grandparents for your children?

Edited on 9/6/16 to add this article. There are some good ideas in that one, too.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

ABC's of My Awesome Life (the Mark Edition)

One of my goals for the summer is to blog a bit more, so I am going to run with this one. Thanks to The Magic Violinist and Stacy for doing this and giving me a way to procrastinate so many things I really should be doing! I appreciate that, sincerely.

Ambition: World domination. Oh, but before that, I really want to publish the book Stacy and I wrote and finish a teleplay for one of our favorite TV shows and finish a screenplay idea I have.

Bad Habits: I procrastinate a lot. I don't mean to, but I do. I'm actively working on it. The fact that it is still listed as one of my "bad habits" should tell you something. :(

Celebrity Crushes: I've actually never been a huge celebrity crush kind of person, but Stacy laid all of her cards on the table, so here goes. My "laminated list." Kate Beckinsale; Evangeline Lilly; Catherine Zeta-Jones, the Zorro era as well as the "Ocean's Twelve" time period; Amanda Peet; and Keira Knightly. Man crush? If I had to pick, I'd go Harry Connick, Jr. because I'd love to be a musician like that guy. He's got serious talent, swagger, and likability.

Drink: Water, especially cold. It's clear, clean, pure, and so refreshing.

Education: High school, Bachelor's, and Doctorate degrees. If time and resources were no object, a Ph.D. in ethics, law degree, and Ph.D. in something totally unrelated like Revolutionary War history, focusing on the philosophies of the Founding Fathers all sound fascinating. Also, I wouldn't mind getting a degree in film scoring. That should do it.

Food: So good. Mexican is a cuisine I never tire of, but I will eat just about anything. As long as mayo and eggs don't appear in it, bring it on. I also love Japanese food--sushi, sashimi, shabu-shabu, whatever.

Guilty Pleasures: I won't continue the debate over whether or not these are guilty, but I'm with Thing 1 and Stacy on this one. Since I'm forced to pick one, however, I'll say that James Bond movies would be one of my "guilty" pleasures.

Hometown: I was raised in Northern California, but consider where we are in Pennsylvania my hometown right now. I think that term is problematic since things change so much through the years. Unless you've lived in the same place your entire life there comes a time when your hometown is more of a memory than a location. At least that's how I see it.

Ice Cream: Mint Chocolate Chip. Always has been. I like the all natural, white ice cream, though. That's changed since I was a kid. I don't need the green coloring any more.

Jonesing for: a big ol' Lalo's burrito. In Arizona that was our go-to place for Mexican food, and it was SO awesome. Once you've experienced Mexican food in the west nothing really measures up.

Kryptonite: My wife's coy smile. Do you need me to go to the store at midnight and get all the ingredients to make you (insert current craving here)? I'm there, gladly. :)

Look-a-like: My evil twin. He's to blame for anything wrong or annoying I've ever done in life. But seriously, I'm terrible at this so I don't even know what to say. Someone told me I looked like Sylvester Stallone in his "Tango and Cash" time, but I'm not sure if I should have been insulted.

Movie: Favorites are so tough for me. "Field of Dreams" is still a very sentimental favorite, but really, I like anything that is well-written and has a good payoff. Indie films often fit the bill.

Nickname: My wife calls me Sweetie, more of a pet name than a nickname, but that works. Otherwise, I cannot think of a single nickname. In middle school someone started calling me Fartus for some reason, and no, it was not for somewhat obvious reasons. Gladly that died out by the time I entered high school. Also, I was a lot taller than most of the kids in middle school so I didn't have too many people causing trouble for me.

Obsessions: Family, of course. Recently, the Song of Fire and Ice book series by George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones, etc.). I haven't read the fifth book yet because I really want to read some other things first, but my mind wanders there a lot when I think of what to read.

Perfume: I'm not much for those kinds of smells. Clean and fresh are good enough scents for me.

Quirk: Does alphabetizing CDs count? I can get hung up on patterns. When I climb stairs I often count them in my head as I go. Also, I pay attention to cracks on the sidewalk and will often try and either step on them or not, depending on the pattern I'm going for.

Regret: I don't really like to focus on the "would haves" and "could haves," but I agree with Stacy. We really should have gone to Europe. I'm happy with my life and think that career choices I made years ago have helped carve out this life, but sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had chosen to make music my career. I wouldn't want to be a touring musician but a local performer and composer type.

Starbucks: I like the free mp3 download cards you can get there. It's how I knew Dave Matthews' newest album had dropped. The Starbucks menu is definitely too confusing. Plus, what's with all the "Secret Starbucks" drinks out there. Apparently there is a whole secret menu of drinks that once appeared on the official menu in the past, but were removed, but can still be made by some baristas, but not all, but if you know how to make it you can tell your current barista how to do it, and he or she can make it. Isn't that a bit too much work? I also think they are a little overpriced. Let the complaints begin.

The Last Book You Read: All Men of Genius. It was the first steampunk novel I'd ever read. I really enjoyed it.

Unique Feature: Can't think of one. My legs are a bit shorter than you would think when you consider how tall I am. Sorry, no secret birthmarks or distinct moles. I know you are all disappointed.

Vacation: Simple family vacations are the best. Going to the beach is a nice way to spend a week, that's for sure.

Wine: If you're cooking with it, you've got to use the good stuff. What a nice flavor it adds.

X: Are we so uptight that we insist on including this letter and yet so lazy that we cop out by not assigning it an actual word. Here. I'll go for it. X-rays: They've not always been my friend. Fractured wrist, age 13. Fractured femur, age 14. Xenophobia: Not a fan. It's a bit ironic that it even exists in this country considering we are, for the most part, descendants of foreigners. Xylophones: Not as fun as a marimba. I like the wooden keys better than the metal ones. Xantham gum: Does anyone really know what this is? It's in a lot of foods.

Years: Really do play tricks on us. Why did the years pass so slowly when I was a kid, but now that I'm adult, they zip by without any regard to how I feel about it? Relativity is not just for time travel . . .

Zen: Is the ultimate in mindfulness. Finding complete and total happiness, contentment, peace, and balance in my daily life makes me feel like I am experiencing Zen.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ABCs of My Awesome Life

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. I love these prompts! I would like to blog every single day and (I often let) things always get in the way. But one of these prompts will make me stop what I'm doing and sit and write, write, write. So, thank you, Magic Violinist, for posting this on your blog today (I loved reading yours!). I have about 3,476,392 things to do today, but I will take a break and do this right now. Wheeee!

***Please note that if you haven't visited our blog in a while, you should scroll down past this post and check out the post below, because it shows video of The Magic Violinist playing her violin at her spring recital, and it's wonderful!***

Ambition: This one is tough. I am sincerely very happy in my life. I honestly try to live authentically to who I am, so I feel very satisfied in many ways. Something that is very important to me is having strong, solid relationships with my family, so I'm a big "Family First" person. I love being with my husband, kids, and dog, Scout. I do aim to write more and, you know, be organized in general. Ha!

Bad Habits: I am extremely distractible. I mean, it's bad. Like ADD-level bad. And it drives me absolutely bonkers. I also tend to put others before myself, often to my own detriment. Color me codependent. 

Celebrity Crushes: John Cusack, Michael Bublé, Adam Levine, Colin Firth, and Harry Connick, Jr. That's my laminated list. :) I also have a girl crush on Audrey Hepburn, but, then again, who doesn't. Oh, and Catherine Zeta Jones when she was in Zorro and before her plastic surgery.

Drink: Water. I love drinking water.

Education: High school, Bachelor's, and Master's degrees. I sometimes dream of getting a PhD in the Humanities and doing my dissertation on the transcendentalists. I also think Oxford sounds amazing. I love learning.

Food: I love sushi and seafood. I eat mostly fish and vegetables, but every once in a while, I love a good grilled cheeseburger. Oooh, I also love Mexican food. I really, really love food. Another dream job would be working as a food critic - I'd love to get paid to eat and write about it!

Guilty Pleasures: I'm with MV on this one - Why do we call these guilty pleasures again? Should we feel bad for enjoying life? No! I'd say blogging, reading news online, playing word/board games, texting, TV, and sushi. 

Hometown: I was raised in Massachusetts, but right on the border of Rhode Island where I also spent a lot of time, so I feel like I'm from both of those states. I've lived on 3 continents, in 3 countries, and in 4 states (5 if you count Rhode Island). Where we currently live is the longest I've lived any place since growing up in my hometown. We've been here for over 10 years. Sometimes that makes me feel a bit restless, but mostly I like being in one place, especially a nice, small town close to so many great big cities.

Ice Cream: Chocolate Peanut Butter (must be chocolate-based).

Jonesing for: At this moment, some sanity and the ability to focus/think straight/remember/find/organize stuff. Squirrel! 

Well, apparently writing prompts. And sushi.

Growing up, I was told that I had the face of the girl who played Kelly on 90210 (Jennie Garth). But the way she looked back in her 90210 days. NOT the way she looks post plastic surgery - yikes!

Movie: I love foreign films, indie films, and good, quirky movies that make you think. Bonus if it has an ambiguous ending. I'm also a big fan of movies from the 1980s.

Nickname: Boquinha, Little Miss, Stace, etc.

Obsessions: Family; TV shows like Gilmore Girls, Friends, Freaks and Geeks; good books; good food; writing, playing games . . .

Perfume: No thanks. I'm pretty smell sensitive and I can't stand the smell of perfume. When I am in an elevator and someone gets on all perfumed up, it's torture.

Quirk: I always eat my food so that there is exactly 1 bite of each thing left as I finish up (and then I eat those, too).

Regret: I don't think I have any. The only thing I can think of is that I really wish Mark and I had traveled Europe together when we first got married.

Starbucks: Is confusing. I never have any idea what/how to order there. Everyone looks like they know what they're doing, but I've talked to these people. They have no idea. They just have one favorite drink and stick with it. It's all they order. Everyone is embarrassed to admit that they don't get the menu either. Venti, Grande . . . why can't they just call it small, medium, and large like everyone else?

The Last Book You Read: Where'd You Go, Bernadette? And I really enjoyed it. I also loved Wonder. And I am currently reading The Fault In Our Stars and really enjoying that as well.

Unique Feature: I have a dimple near the corner of my eye. I've heard you get dimples when angels kiss you. My angel must've been drunk.

Vacation: I love going to the beach and doing things we all enjoy together. We all love exploring new places. Some of my favorite places to visit include Newport, RI; Dewey, DE; Concord, MA; Boston, MA; Mystic, CT; Atlanta, GA; San Francisco, CA; Jamestown, NY; New York City, NY; Washington, D.C.; and Harry Potter World, FL.

Wine: Cooking with it makes everything taste better.

X:  Letter #24.

Years: Go by really fast.

Zen: I love feeling Zen. Meditating, Yoga, the beach, reading, snuggling/playing together as a family, being outside . . . all these things help me feel zen.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spring Violin Recital

It's that time of year when things sort of wind down for the summer, only to be replaced with new activities and plans. Thing 1 had her spring recital yesterday and, as always, did a fantastic job. She's been working hard, especially in the past week leading up to the recital. I've posted the video here so you can watch those fingers fly! It's called "Perpetual Motion" and it's not hard to see why it has that title.
 (I apologize for any shakiness--I didn't think to take the tripod.)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Versatile Blogger Award

Thank you to my dear daughter, The Magic Violinist, for awarding me and Mark with this award.
Coming from her, that's a true honor.

Unlike some other blog awards, there are no questions to answer or things to post. We simply accept it and pass it on to a few of our favorite bloggers. So here goes:

Assuming tag backs are allowed, 
I award it to TMV, because hers is one of my very, very favorite blogs to follow.

I also award it to my wonderful son at I Don't Eat My Drumsticks - I love to hear his perspective on things. It is always honest, often unique, and generally hilarious.

I award it to my good friend at Seventy-Two Fishes - I get positively giddy whenever a real-life friend of mine decides to blog. Sadly, many of my friends don't blog. When seventytwofishes told me she was starting her own blog, I was thrilled.

 I award it to my husband here on our own blog, because I really do love it when he blogs.
Plus, he's my very best commenter and I appreciate that.

I would nominate so many others, but many of my favorite blogger friends have abandoned or nearly abandoned their blogs. :( 

That being said, I'm immensely grateful to my dear commenter friends.
Some of you blog. Some of you don't. 
But you all show your support through hitting a button and leaving a message. 
A simple thing to do, but one that is very meaningful to this blogger.
So, thank you.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Day at College

So, I'm ridiculously behind on the many, many things I'd like to share on here. Part of me wants to spend a lot of this summer blogging and posting pictures, and part of me thinks about going private with the blog and just updating it for ourselves (does anyone even read our blog anymore?).

Oh, speaking of . . . LMW, if you're still reading, I commented back to you on an old post that I'd love to communicate by email and put my contact info there - let me know if you got that. I would love to hear from you and get to know you better! :) 

Anyway, I'll post this short (ha! Just finished the post and came back up here to say, "Never mind!" As usual, it's long) one for today and then figure out what I'm doing.  

Seven years ago, I started a homeschool group in our area. It has grown like crazy and we've met some of our dearest friends through this group. It feels like an extended family to us here. It's always fun to see the group grow; and, every so often, I feel like we get some especially great gems that join the group. 

Well, in the past year, we've had yet another great addition to the group and we really enjoy our friendship with this family. Both the mom and dad are college professors and their son is a fantastic kid whom everyone loves. They are great people in and of themselves, but add to that that the mom started blogging recently and you just know I'm ecstatic.

So, my friend "seventytwofishes" is smart and interesting and fun. She's up for getting together whenever we can, she's a great mom, and we like a lot of the same books. We're also all big Amazing Race fans. She also happens to be a professor of writing and women's studies.Yes, writing. Not going to lie - I was pretty excited when I saw a college professor of writing, no less, join our homeschool group. 

And as if all that wasn't already cool enough (and have I mentioned she started a blog? Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!), she is super super super supportive of Thing 1 in her many writing endeavors, keeps us posted on local writing resources and events, and - get this - invited Thing 1 and me to spend a day on campus with her and attend some classes, including her writing class. For us, it was like being invited to Disneyland. Nerd Mecca. Thing 1 got SUPER excited about this opportunity, as did I. 

My friend's cute son, my friend, Thing 1, and me on campus

Well, on a beautiful spring day in April, we went down to her neighboring county, met at her house, and joined her for the day. We saw her office, sat in on her class (our favorite part!), hung out for her office hours, got a tour of the campus, visited the book store (where Thing 1 learned that some books cost more than $500 each), ate at the cafeteria, and got a feel for campus life. It was grand! On top of all that, she loaded Thing 1 up with huge piles of writing books (Thing 1 devours those continually) as well as an entire DVD course all about honing the craft of writing great sentences! Seriously, now we're talking Nerd Mecca on speed

Sitting in on class was fantastic. Thing 1 and I took notes. I was reminded how much I love college. I mean, I already know that - I loved college/grad school and I love learning - but sitting there brought back so much: class discussion, note taking, analyzing stories, learning, group work, books, backpacks, pencils, chalkboards . . . aaaahhhhh. We ate it all up and were left wanting more - not a bad thing.

Look closely - you can see Thing 1 and Thing 2 checking out the pond and birds and animals on campus

Talking about our day by the gazebo

Relaxing on campus - gorgeous day!
We took all of these pictures after Mark and Thing 2 met us on campus. See, while Thing 1 and I were lapping up college life, Mark and Thing 2 went to a local museum for the exhibit, "Did dinosaurs POOP?"

Thing 2 at the exhibit

A simulated dig with buried fossils

Thing 2 loves birds, especially eagles

Cute snowy owl!

At the museum
Mark and Thing 2 went out to lunch, and Thing 2 declared it to be some of the best pizza EVER
We talked a lot that day about college and learning and types of colleges (community, state, private, non-traditional, ivy league, etc.) and cost and education and life choices. I think that when our parents were young, it was a no brainer - go to college. When Mark and I were growing up, it was also a no brainer - go to college (though by the time we graduated, it was clear that graduate school would also be necessary for many fields). But nowadays?

While we lean heavily toward "college is good," we do not think it is so cut and dry anymore. The writing is on the wall - things are changing. Between technology and the astronomically rising costs of college education (along with a dearth of jobs), more varied opportunities are also arising. Many people are opting for trade schools or careers in computer-related fields or running their own businesses. There are many autodidacts in this world - the Internet makes that kind of learning and enrichment easy. Many courses online are free and accessible. More and more, except for some obvious exceptions, there are several different routes people can take to be successful in their chosen careers, including, but not limited to, college.

I love college and think it's a great place to go, learn, and meet people. The cost is scary. We know - we've had student loan debt for 14 years now. This past month we celebrated going from 6 figures of debt to 5 figures! Exciting, right? It's a lot to carry. And we're trying to do right by our kids and help them see all the pros and cons of various decisions. Yes, education is good and can most certainly help you be successful. But yeah, most people our age worry about the associated debt and how that factors into the equation.

College is not that far off for our kids. There's a lot to consider. They have friends who are starting college soon - some are taking out loans, some are getting grants, some are getting it funded by grandparents, some have a little saved, some have nothing saved. It's nearly impossible to graduate debt free anymore.

Education has also changed - we talked a lot about that that day as well. "No Child Left Behind" has majorly screwed up so much about our education system. Every professor I know, in various fields of study, all say the same thing - kids are entering college with shortened attentions spans (Facebook and Twitter and mobile devices, anyone?), consumed with worry about grades, entitled and whiny about how to get good grades, and completely focused on testing and just getting out with that diploma - hardly any of them are there to learn or even care to learn. It's all become rote and robotic and utilitarian. How very, very depressing.

But I do not want to end this post on a downer, because it's not - all of this is good discussion! And the point of this post is to say we had a GREAT day on campus. I'm so grateful to our friend for inviting us down there and making it so special. We had a wonderful time and it prompted so much good thought and discussion. She is so so thoughtful. In addition to all of this, she even got Thing 2 some of his very favorite seltzer waters. I always appreciate when people remember special little things - how thoughtful and sweet is that? It shows she listens and cares and is considerate. I love that about her.

It was so nice of her to invite us down, take time from her day, and spend it with us. The class was my favorite part - she's a great teacher who makes you think and critique and analyze. Her students are lucky to have her. I know that Thing 1 is using information she learned that day in her writing. Thank you, seventytwofishes, for inspiring her and encouraging her and helping to mentor her. And thank you soooo much for such a great day!