Sunday, November 6, 2016

"I Love Fall" Tag

Thanks to Nevillegirl for this tag. Seeing both she and The Magic Violinist do this prompt made me stop and enjoy and catch the blog tag bug. I miss blogging and I'm stopping what I'm doing right now (I tend to get hyper focused and it's difficult sometimes to pull myself out to do something fun for myself) to also participate.

Just one of the gorgeous views out the back of our house

What is your favorite fall month?

I like September because it often still feels like summer and that's when we go to the beach. I also love November when the trees are all beautiful and colorful and everyone is excited about NaNoWriMo and coffeeshops. :)

Do you have any fall traditions?

Our annual beach trip, Halloween, visiting The Renaissance Faire, eating out of pumpkins, trips to visit coffeeshops, starting up with our fall TV lineup, getting into more of a school groove, and NaNoWriMo all come to mind.

What music do you like to listen to in fall? 

I think, like The Magic Violinist, that I transition from more upbeat, pop "summer" songs to more folksy, melancholy, reflective songs. I also can't help but think of Gilmore Girls soundtrack music, because Stars Hollow is all about the seasons and I think fall is one of the first ones to come to mind when I picture it. Also, Harry Connick, Jr. reminds me of my freshman year at college and the fall time of year when I met and started to fall in love with Mark.

What is your favorite fall outfit?

I'm all about hoodies and cardigans when it gets chillier, but not freaking cold. I think jeans, a nice shirt, and a cardigan are pretty classic. I always miss giving up my sandals (and when inside I wear my soft slippers or fuzzy socks), and generally trade them out for boots.

What is your favorite fall scent?

Leaves, wood-burning stoves, and pumpkin/cinnamon scents all come to mind off the top of my head. Every year, we get a bag of those cinnamon-scented pine cones and they always make our mudroom smell festive. Oh, and probably coffee, because coffee shops and NaNoWriMo.

What books get you in the mood for fall?

Harry Potter and classics. Gothic novels come to mind (including Rebecca, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Jane Eyre) as well as familiar, cozy books like Little Women, The Secret Garden, and Anne of Green Gables.

Do you enjoy fall weather?

It's okay. I don't like being cold, so I prefer hot, summer days, but fall isn't as cold as winter, so.

What is your favorite fall food?

I don't know how to choose, but I'll say that as every season changes, I kind of burn out on the food of the outgoing season, so it's nice that we have changing seasons to get us eating different things, too. With fall comes pumpkin (I cook dinner in them for our family every fall), sliced apples dipped in caramel, chili, crockpot meals like chicken and dumplings, enchilada soup, taco soup, creamy vegetable soups, creamy chicken pot pie, pies, cobblers, crisps, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pasties, cinnamon rolls, and more. I think we tend to make a lot of Indian food at this time of year, too.

Apple pie or pumpkin pie?

Depends on my mood, but a small sliver of each is good, especially if they're homemade. I'm more about the savory foods, though. (And my favorite pie is probably peach pie).

Hot chocolate or warm apple cider?

I like both, though I probably prefer Hot Cocoa because it's not as sweet.

Do you like pumpkin spice lattes?

Yes, as long as they're not too sweet. I kind of prefer either mochas or straight coffee with milk and no sugar. Or tea. Or cocoa. I'm not a fan of anything super sweet. Chai can be nice in the fall and winter, too. Oh, and butterbeer!

Tea or coffee?

It depends. More often, green lemon tea with milk is my favorite. But sometimes a nice croissant in the morning with some milky coffee is also delicious. Kate and I recently attended a British afternoon cream tea that was so lovely! We tried different teas, scones, and clotted cream. It was all so good! I especially liked the Contessa Grey tea. Yum.

Do you like candy corn?

Not really, no.

What is your favorite past Halloween costume? 

Funny enough, I don't have many memories of dressing up for Halloween as a child, but as an adult, I've done more cosplaying for things like Harry Potter parties and the Renaissance Faire and steampunk events. I love steampunk outfits, because they're so awesome. I recently sort of morphed some steampunk and pop culture together and rocked a Gilmore Girls fangirl shirt with a steampunk skirt and boots and I gotta say, I felt pretty sexy in it.

Who/what did you dress as for Halloween last year?

I don't think I dressed up this past year for Halloween, though I did dress up for the Renaissance Faire stuff (steampunk again).

How do you plan to spend this Halloween?

Um, well, it's already passed, but I made dinner in individual pumpkins for our family and then met up with friends for group pictures. Mark took Max trick-or-treating with friends, and Kate handed out candy here at the house while reading Stephen King on the porch. How apropos!

What is your favorite Halloween candy?

Reese's peanut butter cups, duh.

Do you enjoy carving jack-o’-lanterns?

Sure. I think I enjoy the glowing finished project more than the process, though.

Do you like to visit creepy graveyards?

Not particularly, though I've enjoyed a couple of visits to some specific graveyards, including one in Jamestown, New York, on a trip to visit "I Love Lucy" sites (she's buried there, too) and I've been to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, MA twice and that's a super cool place to visit, because you can visit the graves of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Bronson Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, David Thoreau, and others at Authors' Ridge. Louisa May Alcott's grave often has little gifts of pencils and pens that people leave there. Emerson's often has leaves and twigs and rocks. When I was growing up, I used to ride my bike up the street. The road would turn from paved to dirt and a little farther up, I could visit an old, run-down cemetery with hard-to-read tombstones. I used to have fun exploring that by myself. 

Cats or bats?

I'm allergic to cats. We had a bat in our house once and while we were a little freaked out, the bat was super cute hanging out on our curtain rod.

What is your favorite scary movie?

I don't like scary movies.

Halloween or Thanksgiving?

Um, believe it or not, Halloween is probably edging out Thanksgiving for me, because my kids LOVE it. Max loves to dress up and is always so excited about it. Both of them enjoy cosplay and geeking out over favorite characters. And, you know, there's chocolate and candy and eating out of pumpkins. Thanksgiving is great, don't get me wrong, but the traditional meal isn't our favorite, so it's a lot of work for something we're so-so about. It can feel a bit lonesome for us, too, without visitors. When people come, it's more festive. We've had a few bummer Thanksgivings, so I don't know. We sometimes get creative and go rogue and do Mexican and play games. That's fun. Sometimes we get together with friends. Sometimes we do traditional stuff. It varies. I think NaNoWriMo overshadows Thanksgiving. I do like the gratitude traditions we have - nightly, the gratitude door (where we spend all November writing down things for which we're grateful), and the ABC gratitude list before Thanksgiving dinner.

What is your least favorite thing about fall?

When it starts getting cold. Brrr.

What is the best thing about your town during fall?

We live in a small town so it's GORGEOUS in the fall. This is, hands down, one of the most beautiful places I've ever lived. So many areas look like picture postcards and there are so many trees and the foliage is just gorgeous. Our view every day from our windows is of trees, trees, and more trees. Along a creek even! Driving around, walking around . . . it's all so pretty. We also love our local park and seeing the colors change and the leaves fall and the geese in the fields near the lovely creek . . . it's all so picturesque. The town does traditional things, too, like crock-pot cook-offs, fall festivals at the park, and pumpkin walks. And there's a real community feel about Halloween. Oh, and there are tons of farms, hayrides, pumpkin patches, campfires, and corn mazes. We've recently discovered the wonder of apple cider donuts, too. Yum! (Huh. Somehow we got back on food. Shocking.)

What is your favorite fall memory?

Well, that has to be meeting and developing a friendship (and then romance) with Mark our freshman year in college. We would talk for hours on end (still do) and we'd stay out late walking around together and playing Trivial Pursuit. We has a political science class together. We'd walk to classes together quite a bit and he'd always carry my bag for me. 4 years later, we got engaged in the fall, too. We started our business in the fall 9 years ago. We homeschool our kids, so there's always some educational excitement in the fall. We visit the Ren Faire, go to the beach, dress up for Halloween, look at the gorgeous fall leaves, do NaNoWriMo, etc. Lots of fun, fall memories. Oh, and now with fall trips to NYC for Broadway shows, well, that could be a really fun tradition we're starting. :)

Fall Semester 1992 (Dating)

Fall 1996 (Engagement Picture)

What is one thing you’d like to try during fall, but haven’t?

I have no idea. As a mom especially, I've done (and do) so many things! We do pumpkin patches, corn mazes (we even did a geeky one this year), fun foods, trick-or-treating, cosplay, NaNoWriMo, fall festivals, annual beach trips, hayrides, dinner in a pumpkin, mummy hot dogs, writing in coffee shops, fun fall drinks, campfires . . . so many things I didn't ever do as a kid (except trick-or-treating). I love being a mom and doing these things with my family!

In one sentence, why do you love fall?

I love fall because I love all the fun things we do together as a family!


This was fun! I tag Max at I Don't Eat My Drumsticks. I also tag anyone who would like to do this tag in the comments (if you don't have a blog).

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October Surprise

I started this post two weeks ago, then got sidetracked, then came back to it, then got sidetracked again. It's ironic, given the content of this post. Consider it a metaphor. I'm going to post it now, before I get sidetracked yet again.  

Apparently the October Surprise it's that I'm going to do a blog post. I can't believe I haven't posted since July! September and October have been whirlwind and there are times I feel like I can hardly catch my breath.

Everything feels so non-stop. We don't set out to have it be like this. Stuff just adds up. It's good things. Our lives are full and lovely. We are doing so many neat, interesting, fun things. I am capable of saying no, but sometimes I don't want to say no, because the lecture/play/presentation/event/exhibit look so good!

Thing 1 is loving her college classes (yes, the day has arrived where we're paying for both our kids' college and our own student loans!) and has such excellent professors. One of them recently sought her out between classes and told her that she was moved to tears and chills by a poem she'd submitted. The professor said she is going to check out poetry competitions and workshops in the area and find good stuff for Thing 1. How great is that?!? Another mentor!

She is also enjoying her job at the movie theater. She's been able to take Mark to a couple of movies, me to a movie, and next week she's taking Max and some friends (so, this already happened, because I wrote this days ago and then, surprise, got busy). She continues to work some shifts at the Renaissance Faire, too, but now that she's working two jobs, she sees quite a difference between the two (the movie theater is about a hundred times more organized), so the seasonal job at the Faire is losing some of its luster. It'll be nice to focus on her regular job once the Faire is over. As it is, we're already scaling back on hours at the Faire. It's crazy to think this is her 3rd year there already! I know that over the years, she's hoped that grandparents could come see her in action there, but that hasn't really panned out. Not sure she'll work there again next year. We'll see. Thing 2 is very much looking forward to working at the Faire, as he gets to start that next year! Woot! That's super cool because the Shire is one of his very favorite places.

We are also running around like crazy getting her ready for homecoming. She picked a stunning gown and is now on the hunt for shoes and a purse and a wrap and all that stuff. We barely got the dress a few days ago and once she has the shoes (hopefully today), we're getting her in for alterations early next week (it's already in) and then the dance is just a few days after that. I'm so grateful to the women in my life who are helping me with advice and hands-on help, including hair and make-up assistance on the day of!

The past month and a half has been super busy with the start up of our 11th year running our homeschool group. ELEVENTH! The families in the group are amazing me with all the wonderful things they're offering. Our group calendar is filled with so many fun learning and social opportunities and everyone is jumping in excitedly. This may be the best year yet! That being said, the start of every year is always really busy with registration, computer stuff, calendaring, spreadsheets, group maintenance, etc. and I'm not going to lie, I've been feeling burned out for a while. I'm hanging in there, because I want this for our kids, but I'm already eyeing turning it over to someone once our kids graduate. I'm certainly not rushing the time for that, though. I'm enjoying the ride. Homeschooling is one of the best decisions we've ever made.

Just in the past week and a half, both kids have had their own book clubs (as well as our own book club that we've hosted for over 10 years) as well as various learning and social opportunities like classes, picnics, instrument lessons, taekwondo, obstacle course club, a visit to a local farm show, sushi out with friends, a visit to an art gallery, listening to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speak (Thing 2 got to see him; Thing 1 had class), play dates, hobby clubs, D&D, and more. Thing 2 even won his first tournament! We're all so proud and happy for him! He also made a fantastic game that we've been beta testing. The Kings came to visit us (we've had a lot of out-of-town guests recently) and Mike was blown away at Max's skills. We're constantly amazed by his talents with that (like Kate's talent with writing) and it's always so reinforcing to hear great feedback from others who see it, too. So grateful for the support and encouragement of friends and family.

It's not always so crazy like this. We find that spring and fall especially seem to fill up and we feel like doing more (generally). Summer is its own thing where we relax in some ways and enjoy lazy days of summer somewhat (although this past year it was foreign exchange students and summer camps, and this year it's been visitors and summer camps, so what do I know). And winter tends to be a time of hibernation and holing up at home more. Even then, we have holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays, so sort of, not really, I guess. :P

I think it's simply how things get as kids get older. It's driving practice, dates, friends, social stuff, learning, college classes, SAT prep, jobs, etc. And then there's the normal day-to-day stuff like homeschooling and work and cooking and cleaning and walking the dog and laundry and errands and home projects and clothes shopping. You know, life.

And it's beautiful.

And yes, sometimes it's stressful. I'm keenly aware of how much we do without extended family support. I've had to stifle laughter (and/or tears, depending on the day) when people who don't know our situation suggest, "Send the kids to grandma's for the day!" or "Get your parents to give the kids a ride!" We've had well-meaning people helpfully share what they do - have siblings help out, their dads/brothers/cousins help build the deck (we're paying a contractor), they have their parents help with rides and shopping and car problems and general running around, or at the very least they take advantage of a home-cooked meal or go on a date! Excuse me for just a second . . .


Let's see, I have doubled back, missed appointments, been late, skipped events, gotten lost, and gone out of my way countless times to bring a key to Mark if he's gotten locked out or to pick him up when there have been car issues or when there's been some kind of mix-up or conflict or run from one thing to another with limited time or under stress. We simply hardly ever went on dates until the past few years. I mean, we'd get kids to bed and stay up and watch a movie or get take out, but an honest-to-goodness date where we go out for, say, an overnight special outing? Ha! Yeah, no. Haven't done that since having kids. Asked for help with that once and got turned down. (We are coming up on our 20th wedding anniversary, so we're doing it for the first time ever now that our kids are older, but we're paying a babysitter). My dad totally could've built us a deck, but let's face it, they had me way older, so even if he were around, he'd be 81 now, so that's not terribly realistic. Throughout my adult years, he has helped us with some home things, but not a lot - he was sick for all of our married life and now he's gone. So that means contractors. Alterations for a homecoming dress? I texted my cousin to ask how she went about finding alterations. The response? Their grandma took care of it. Of course. Yeah, that's sweet, but not an option. So, more driving around for alterations and paying a seamstress to do it. And when we're stressed to a breaking point and could just use a home-cooked meal? That's on us. Someone taking us out for a meal here in PA? Umm, not counting potluck BBQs, we haven't had such a treat since . . . I honestly can't remember when, but it's been a couple of years at least. It's generally something that happens when family visits and that's a once every year or two kind of thing. Every single meal of every single day is on us. We don't even have school lunches. And sometimes, I'm not going to lie, WE'RE. SO. TIRED.

Like today. I've had a tension headache for 3 straight days. I've had times where I simply break down and cry, because I'm so worn out. But most of the time, we simply keep going. Because we want good things for our kids, for our family. And life IS good. And it IS beautiful. And it's also incredibly challenging to do it all without much of a village, that's for sure. So we focus on our family and do the best we can and hope we're doing right by our kids. It's overwhelming and lonely and guilt-inducing at times. I know for a fact that we subconsciously try to make it up to the kids by doing extra and more - we see what grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins do for their families and we try to do all of that, too, on top of regular, parenting stuff. We know they're already missing out on those kinds of close relationships (what with distance and all), so we try to enrich our lives in other ways.

Anyway, didn't mean for this to turn all morose and depressing. Like I said at the beginning, life is so good. So very good. And we're happy. I'm just being real here that we're also very worn out and stressed sometimes, too.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

1,000 (or so)

I have been keeping an eye on the blog, trying to make sure I captured a particular post, so it could be celebrated. Yeah, I missed it somewhere.

Number 1,000.

That's a lot of posting. That's a lot of Stacy posting. I've contributed here and there, but this blog, largely a journal of our family's life, is all due to Stacy. I wanted to say a huge thank you to her for always making sure there's some record of all the things we are feeling and doing. So much of what she does goes unnoticed, unrecognized, and unrewarded. She is so many things to me, to our family, and to our friends, and I don't want her to spend any time feeling unappreciated.

She started blogging almost 10 years ago, and a lot has happened in that time. Let me share just a little of that:

*Two new houses, and two moves
*A new business
*A puppy
*Loss of several loved ones
*Many "roads less traveled" taken
*Thousands of miles logged on trips across the country, to Florida, New England, and other stops
*Several big cities visited (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and more)
*Hundreds of piano and violin lessons
*3 black belts in the family
*The evolution of several friendships
*A constant exposure to new people and experiences
*Binge-watching so many great TV shows
*So many Harry Potter stories and events
*Endless laughter
*Bittersweet milestones
*Embracing life as it comes
*Exchange students
*Countless house guests
*Dinner parties
*Games, games, and more games
*Home projects (oh, the projects!)
*A new car (yes, only one in 10 years)
*Baseball games
*Blizzards and snowball fights
*Beach trips
*Food. So. Much. Food.
*Fun holidays
*Fantastic birthdays
*Frustrations and venting
*Celebrations and cheering
*Lots of pictures
*Brutal honesty and vulnerability
*Kilts and steampunk outfits
*Long conversations
*Comfortable silences
*Love, love, and more love.

Thank you, Stacy, for all you've documented and shared! You are incredible!

My beautiful Boston girl

Monday, July 11, 2016


New fire pit
(well, old firepit, but we've made it a permanent place in the backyard).

New glasses and haircut.

New job. 
Before her first shift

After her first shift, where she got a nametag

My kids are growing up and I've truthfully never been so busy in my life. I feel like I haven't come up for air in months. Nothing means more to me than my family and I love, love, love these wonderful people. And Scout. Here's a picture of Scout.

Friday, July 1, 2016

This week's highs and lows


Picking Kate up from a week away at writers' camp. I missed her like crazy!

A welcome home dinner of chicken satay, coconut rice, and salad with mango and avocado

While Kate is awesome at getting the most out of any experience, this camp wasn't as great as the others she's attended. The kids attending weren't as into writing as kids she's met at other camps. She loves the classes and the teachers and learning and writing and having fun, but this camp isn't on the "must do again" list.


She started working the very next day. A 9-hour shift no less!


She was definitely tired after a week of camp and a long day of work. 


Our trip to DC on Sunday. We got to do something I've been wanting to do for a long time - take NO H8 pictures! This organization began as a loving, peaceful response to the hatred and marginalization inherent in California's Prop 8. It represents voices silenced by legislation like Prop 8 and other similar legislation around the world. Their mission is to promote love and respect for all human beings and that is something I can get behind.

It has significant symbolism for me personally, because Prop 8 was definitely a straw for me in my own personal life journey. It was a time when I knew I needed to leave being a part of an organization that didn't fight for the rights of the LGBT community, because even my membership felt like a complicit endorsement of hatred and discrimination toward an already-oppressed group of people. Leaving that organization has cost us friendships, strained family relationships, and invited judgment, but I wouldn't do anything differently, because despite all of that, a profound peace and authenticity has come into my life from living a life of principle, one that aligns with who I am and what I feel.

Kissing at Ford's Theater

It was amazing to be there with so many people also willing to stand up and not hide their support. It felt right and good to be a part of something that builds and connects rather than tears down and destroys. I'm very glad we could do this.

They were incredibly efficient, too, so the lines moved quickly and the photographer was amazing. We're so excited to get our pictures! Since it was so efficient and thanks to our awesome friends for playing with Scout for the day, we were able to do a couple more things in the city, including going next door to Ford's Theater where President Abraham Lincoln was shot.

Voting on the leadership quality they feel is the most important
After Ford's Theater, we walked back toward the metro via the HUGE barbecue street festival that was being held. We got so much free stuff this trip (free parking and free shuttle - sure, that's because the metro is being repaired, but still; a guy at the BBQ festival handed us free tickets which was a boon because it also allowed us to cut across rather than walking 7 extra giant blocks to get around it - especially good because Kate's feet were sore from all the walking at writers' camp; Ford's Theater was also free because apparently it's a national park now and we didn't know that, so that was a nice surprise). The BBQ people were awesome and they let us pass through without stamping our hands (because we were about to take pictures) and they recognized us when we got back so they let us right in! So friendly!

Max spotted a sign for lobster rolls at a restaurant we walked past, so Kate and I picked up two of those. We got to enjoy a nice chat with the guy from Boston who ran the place. We took our lobster rolls and ate those as well as some good BBQ goodness at the street festival. It was so great to be in a place with more diversity than our tiny town. We talked with people who live in DC and danced to an all-female band right alongside people on the streets. It was great. A gay man came up to us and asked about our NO H8 pictures and he thanked us twice very sincerely and was even a bit emotional about being supported like that. That was a sweet interaction.

If you look closely, you can see the Capitol in the background


Washing off the temporary NO H8 tattoos. I kept mine as long as I could right up until bedtime, and basked in the glow of a great day.


Working on and finishing a home project that I've been excited about for some time. A magnetized spice wall rack! Until now, all the spices have been crowded in a congested cupboard and cooking (something we do a lot) has involved various spice containers falling all over us while we access them. I saw something like this in the background of a picture someone posted on their blog, so I did a little research and we figured out how to make it happen! Also? I love working on projects as a family. This one even involved lots of rapping and singing ("Hamilton," of course)! And I'm so happy with the finished project! Foleys. We get the job done.

It's so pretty! And handy! And generally awesome. :) It made us smile the next morning to wake up and see it in the kitchen. I love that feeling you get when you wake up the next day after completing an awesome project and you see it and are renewedly happy about it. Bring on more cooking! This is especially handy since we're making Indian food this week and it requires a lot of spices (usually just about any spice starting with "C"). And yes, we've alphabetized this in addition to labeling them.


It's been an emotionally challenging week for me. I feel like I'm in a worse-before-it-gets-better kind of place. Sometimes I feel like I'm walking around in a haze. I'm incredibly exhausted. I feel like I've been running a race at high speed for years now. I'm not depressed and I'm not anxious (all the time anyway). It's something else entirely.


Taking my daughter around to follow up on places where she's applied for jobs as well as some fun volunteering positions.


Dealing with the rough side of that process - hiring freezes, rude interviewers, etc. She's such a great, hard-working, responsible kid. One manager was so rude, she didn't even allow a chance to find out how awesome Kate is. Her loss.


Looks like rude lady's loss is another's gain. Not 3 hours after the rude, dismissive interview, Kate got a call from another manager who is so eager to talk to Kate, that he had someone who doesn't usually handle the interviews call her right away to get her in this weekend! Woot!


Several repairs on the old van, including new brakes, new tires, and a new muffler. Those phone calls about cost from the mechanic always stress me out.


The new van is such a dream to drive. It's really wonderful. As usual, we didn't get a lot of extra bells and whistles, but even what's standard now is fancy for us. Plus it drives so smoothly!


On to July! This month brings another writers' camp (the really great one - great classes, kids who like to write, Kate's friends, etc.) and a several-week visit from out-of-state friends. Two of Kate's friends who came back in April will be spending a lot of time with her this month! Max has opted to not committing to too much stuff so he can play, ride bikes, swim, etc. A true kids' summertime! We've not scheduled a lot on purpose, but even the few things we have include fun stuff like games, anime, summer movies, smores around the fire pit, friends coming over, Harry Potter stuff, etc. And Hamilton. That's a given. Lots and lots of Hamilton playing in our house. All the time. So much Hamilton.