Friday, November 27, 2009

First Day on the Slopes

We took the girls skiing today for the first time. As Toby wrote here, it was a great success. I have so many memories of skiing when I was growing up in Vermont. Not too many of them involve 50 degree sunny days, but I have a lot of good ones nonetheless. It was fun to share something that I enjoy so much with the girls. I think we'll be spending a lot of time at Eldora this winter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My sister's status update today:

10 years ago today Caine and I got married in a Burnsville courthouse while chewing gum and holding baby Hannah......would do it all again.

I loved that. Just had to share it because I think it's such a great reminder that sometimes the unexpected challenges in life turn out to be the greatest blessings.

Monday, November 16, 2009


A few years ago, Lucy, Evie, Toby and I went through six stomach viruses in one winter. The next winter we suffered through five. One of them was so terrible and contagious that it seemed we passed it on to everyone we even came near, including my friend's relatives from Europe, who had to fly all the way back to Finland in a miserable state. During that particularly awful stomach flu, my dad called to say a package would be delivered to us the next day. I was hoping to somehow find a box full of warm chicken noodle soup, but what arrived was even better because it made us laugh.

He sent us a box full of "germs", or giant plush toy microbes. Cold was round but with jagged edges, stomach virus was long with a fuzzy trim. Flu, cough and and sore throat also came in the box. The girls loved them and swore they would help fight off any viruses.

We kept them, though they have been sitting in the bottom of the toy box for the last year. Then, last night, we needed them again. When Lucy began throwing up, she panicked that she couldn't breathe. She asked me what was happening. I thought about the stomach virus toy (named "Parkle" in our house, since we always call the stomach flu "the parkle bug". When I was little, for some reason I thought throw up looked like sparkles - apparently my parents fed me glitter - but couldn't say "s". The word "parkle" stuck.) and I asked Lucy if she remembered what he looked like. She nodded yes, still miserable. I explained that lots of mini versions of him were all in her belly and her body was just trying to get them out. This simple explanation made her feel a lot better. Today she dug Parkle out of the toy box to sleep with tonight. (And, as you can tell by the photo above, she is in much better spirits.)

In the past week, Toby has had the flu, Evie had a sore throat, Noni had a cough and cold, and then Lucy had the stomach flu. Hopefully, the stuffed germs will work as good luck charms in our household again. I'm wondering if I get this guy, if we can avoid H1N1 as well:

Brussels Sprouts Revisited

When I was younger, Brussels sprouts made me gag. I literally could not choke them down. I remember the dread I would feel when my mom placed them in front of me. Even our dog didn't like them so I had no escape. When I left home, I left Brussels sprouts and the thought of ever having to eat them again behind.

I started noticing Brussels sprouts again this fall because they keep placing huge stalks of them by the door of Whole Foods. The other night, I went to my friend Hilary's for dinner and she served them, pan seared. I warned her that I may not be able to eat them. Then I found myself asking for seconds and thirds.

I made them for dinner tonight and again, they were delicious. I made a side of peas for the girls, deciding that with this one vegetable, I wouldn't force them to even try it. Hopefully that way they won't wait until they are thirty-five to make Brussels sprouts a regular part of their diet. But they will definitely be in the vegetable rotation in our family every fall, when they are in season.

To cook them, just use olive oil or grape seed oil and sear them in a pan with a little bit of salt. You can also add garlic, lemon or oregano for more flavor. Not only do they taste good, but my mom was right to put them on our plates. They contain vitamin A, C, and folic acid and are supposed to prevent all sorts of cancers.

Bon apetit!

Parasomnia Activity

When I was in high school, a friend drank a bottle of Robitussin and spent the better part of the night wide awake, screaming that spiders were crawling all over her skin. I spent the night trying to convince her otherwise and to keep her quiet so that the dorm teacher wouldn't come to her room. I wasn't sure what rule she had actually broken, but it seemed like there was probably a policy against drinking an entire bottle of cough syrup. All in all, it was an unpleasant experience and, if I had ever thought about drinking a bottle of Robitussin before (pretty sure I hadn't), I definitely wasn't going to do so after that.

I was reminded of that evening today when Lucy woke up from napping on the couch and started screaming in terror. She has the stomach flu so I immediately thought that her head or stomach was hurting again. When I asked her what was wrong, she looked right at me, yet seemed to look through me, and continued to scream. She kept saying over and over again, "Don't let them get me!" And then, "I don't want to go home!" Her eyes were open but she was seeing something I couldn't see. She clung on to me, her body tense with fear. Every once and a while she would thrash away from me, screaming again. I did my best to hold onto her, finally realizing that she was experiencing night terrors.

According to, night terrors are "a disorder of incomplete arousal from deep sleep. Most of the brain is shut down, but certain motor (muscle movement) circuits are active when they should be quiet. Thrashing around, walking up and down in the crib, and seemingly terrified crying out are the result." Lucy has had night terrors before and it never fails to scare me. Usually, it happens at night. Somehow, in the brightly lit room, it felt even eerier to find her lost in a nightmare.

The worst part about having a child with night terrors is that you can't really do much. I held her and rocked her and it seemed to help a bit, but it is extremely difficult to wake her, and not even recommended to do so. Listening to her though, I know the terror is real, and it kills me not to be able to get her away from whoever was trying to get her in her dream.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. She is now lying on the couch watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and eating a grilled cheese sandwich. She has no recollection that she had a nightmare, only that she just woke up from a nap. Whoever was trying to get her has faded away, hopefully never to return.

As for me, I am breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that the nightmare has passed. And I'm breathing an even bigger sigh of gratitude, reminding myself that we have been fortunate enough so far to raise children whose nightmares have only occurred while they have been sleeping.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them - Vicki Baum

A few weeks ago at dinner, my friends Kelley and Hilary were talking about a dance class called Nia that they take at their gym. They insisted that I come sometime and I told them that I'd give it a try. Yesterday, Kelley emailed me that she was going to class today and so, this morning, arriving a little bit late, I suddenly found myself in a room full of twenty barefoot women, all shaking their booties.

I had never heard of Nia (which apparently stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Action, which makes it sound more like a course in medical school than a class for shaking your booty) before and I was a little intimidated to just get out there and shake it on the dance floor at 9 AM. Dancing for me has usually occurred at either weddings or dark bars, after numerous drinks in both cases. But I was there, Sexy Back was blaring from the speakers, and my friends were expecting me to dance so I headed out to the dance floor to give it a try.

In order to dance in a Nia class, you basically have to embrace your inner hippie. Think Dead Show but with a Justin Timberlake/Michael Jackson beat. The dance moves are a mix of yoga, martial arts, jazz, modern dance and whatever else you want to bring to the floor. The instructor was amazing. I could have watched her all morning, but instead had to focus on clumsily following her steps.

The result? I can't say that I looked graceful out there, but the class was so much fun. The world would truly be a better place if everyone woke up and spent seventy-five minutes laughing and dancing before going off to face the day. It was great exercise, but ultimately seemed more like a class in expressing joy.

Oh, and another benefit? After a week of having the Wiggles' Wake Up Jeff in my head all day, today I spent the day humming Sexy Back.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Children in the woods

A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest - but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move. - Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

The voice of nature is always encouraging - Henry David Thoreau

Last weekend, Noni was napping and Toby and I were both working around the house. The girls played for a little while and then, bored, turned on the television. It was a beautiful day outside, about 70 degrees and sunny, and Toby lamented that they should be able to just run outside, meet up with friends, and go play. I felt a pang of guilt that we were letting them watch television on a beautiful day and turned it off, telling them to go play in the yard.

It struck me then, for some reason, how different things are today than they were when I grew up. Of course, that statement has probably been said before in a million different ways about a million different things. People tend to be nostalgic about their own childhood. But the truth is that when I was eight years old, my parents would kick me outside whether it was beautiful out or not and often I wouldn't come home until dinner, when you'd hear shouts from parents all over the neighborhood calling out the front door for their kids to come home. Sometimes, I would go out with my sister and we'd meet up with neighborhood kids to build forts, ride our bikes or play on the beach. Just as often, I'd go by myself and climb on the cliffs by the lake or collect sea glass by the shipyard. Aside from The Cosby Show and The Smurfs, I don't have many memories of watching t.v. because we just didn't that often, but it wasn't because my parents were constantly coming up with activities for us to do. All they had to do was open the door and tell us to go.

I watched from the dining room window as Evie and Lucy climbed the tree in the front yard. They played outside for a while, but eventually became bored with limited space and no one else to play with and came back in. I could have called a friend to find other kids for them to play with, but that in itself is different from the way things used to be because it would require an extra effort on my part to set up a playdate and then the added responsibility of watching someone else's kids. The restrictions we put on our children's freedom and their ability to roam outside creates limits and challenges for both children and parents that never occurred before.

Yet I don't know how to change that because even as I was thinking about this, I didn't feel comfortable shooing Evie and Lucy out to wander around the neighborhood. When my parents sent us outside, they had the safety net of an entire neighborhood of kids our age wandering around outdoors. For better or worse, it was also a different era - one without car seats and bike helmets and 24-hour news cycles warning us about the dangers of our world. As much as I want them to have more freedom outside, I'm still not planning on letting my five-year-old wander around unsupervised.

As I contemplated what to do about getting the girls outside more, I decided it was time for me to read Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv's book about the growing "nature-deficit disorder" in our nation's children. He paints a disturbing picture of a generation of obsese children growing up in front of the computer and television screen, with no connection to the natural world. I am somewhat reassured as I read it knowing that we have done our best to get the girls outside as much as possible. When Evie was only two months old, Toby and I took her to West Virginia for a long weekend of hiking. Of course, she spent the weekend in the backpack (wearing a florescent orange hunting cap and listening to gun shots in the nearby woods since Toby and I hadn't figured out beforehand that November was hunting season), but as soon as her little legs could carry her, she was hiking up the trail on her own. We have continued that tradition, taking the girls on countless hikes as they have grown. Just this Saturday, we took them on a three hour hike at Eldorado.

Yet going on a hike isn't quite the same as freely spending time outside. When we are hiking, Toby and I are constantly moving them forward - occasionally stopping to listen to a bird or look at lichen on a rock, but still moving forward with a goal in mind. Plus, we are there with them. It isn't exactly their time to roam freely in nature.

Looking around our neighborhood, I am reassured that as the girls get older, I'll feel comfortable giving them more freedom to be out on their own. I often see groups of kids, from fifth grade on, biking or walking together outside, or even just sitting on the sidewalk, hanging out, just being together outside. I'm sure images of mountain lions and kidnappers will cross my mind when that day comes, but I'm hoping at that stage that I will feel comfortable kicking the girls out on a sunny day to go find their friends and to just be outside. For now, we'll have to be content that the time they spend outside will occur on playdates and hikes and days on the ski slope. And when I consider that Evie spent the hike this weekend collecting acorns and moss for a fairy house and that Lucy found over 100 "amazing and cool" sights to point out, I have to hope that, while they may not have all the freedoms that I had, they are still developing a love and appreciation for nature and the outdoors that they will carry with them for life.

Monday, November 2, 2009

100 Pages

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. - Joseph Cambell

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn't behave that way, you would never do anything. - John Irving

About a month ago, a friend of mine asked me if I'd like to join a writing club. She explained that there would just be three of us in it and we would inspire each other to write more each month. I loved the idea and immediately said yes. Then, as I walked home, fear and doubt began to creep in to my thoughts. What if I can't think of anything to write? What if they are better writers than I am? How am I going to find time to even do this? Not only that, but then, before our first meeting, she send out an email suggesting that we all sign up for nanowrimo (, or in other words, pledge to write a novel by our second meeting. I laughed out loud at the email and thought, there is no way I can write a novel in a month.

I have always wanted to write a novel. It doesn't have to be a novel that anyone reads. It doesn't have to be good. But it's always been on my list of Things I Want To Do. (A list which includes traveling to Vietnam, running a marathon in less than four hours and which doesn't include sky diving out of an airplane.) Yet it's very easy to find reasons not to write a novel. Like three kids for instance. Or a never-ending pile of laundry. But it occurred to me, as I went for a run after reading her email, that there will never be a perfect time for me to write a novel. The kids will grow older and I'll go back to work and there will still be the laundry, but then there will be papers to grade as well. It will always be easy to find an excuse. Plus, I love the idea behind nanowrimo. It's quantity over quality. It's a vow not to find excuses, but just to write at least 100 pages in a month, even if it's crap. And hopefully in that crap, there will be at least a few lines of beautiful writing that you want to keep.

And so, this month I will be writing. Probably not as much in my blog as usual, but I'll be on my computer typing away. While jumping out of an airplane has never been one of my goals, it feels strangely similar. When you set a goal for yourself, you always run the risk of failure. Yet I feel energized at even the thought of trying. And so, wish me luck. 100 pages, here I come!